Civil War Memory Rhyme

Update: David Corbett offered this alternative over at Walking in the Berkshires:

Kevin the Carpetbagger with his liberal opinions,
Delights in flogging the white Old Dominion,
Sadly, he’s a fish out of water and not a Virginian,
Pity the Civil War Memorist born white and not black,
The priviledged school teacher on the attack,
How different t’would be were inner city student his minons!

I love it  The insecurity is palpable!  Thanks Dave.

Tim Abbott of Walking in the Berkshires fame took on an AAABBA rhyme scheme meme and composed one for Civil War Memory.  Thanks for making my day Tim:

Unique among buffs is this fine Charlottes-villain,
He’s unmoved by manoevers, knows that war’s about killin’,
Black confederate myths to debunk he’s most willin’.
A fresh look at our past offers Civil War Mem’ry,
(And fresh templates as well, he’s gone through 43),
His High School is blessed, makes me wish I were still in! 

2007 Peter Seaborg Award

The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War has awarded the 2007 Peter Seaborg Award to Bruce Levine for his book, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2007).  It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I think this is an excellent choice.  Levine’s work represents the most sophisticated analysis of the debates within the Confederacy to arm their slaves and why these stories continue to resonate in certain circles today. 

Finalists include Civil War Petersburg: Confederate City in the Crucible of War by A. Wilson Greene and published by University of Virginia Press; Color-Blind Justice:  Albion Tourgee and the Quest for Racial Equality from the Civil War to Plessy v. Ferguson by Mark Elliott and published by Oxford University Press; John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship by Donald B. Connelly and published by University of North Carolina Press; No Party Now: Politics in the Civil War North by Adam I.P. Smith and published by Oxford University Press. 

Wrapping-Up Lincoln

I just finished putting the finishing touches on a test that covers William Gienapp’s biography of Abraham Lincoln, which we finished reading this week.  The book was a huge success, in large part because Lincoln is such an attractive historical figure to study.  We read many of his letters and speeches and really tried to work through his changing views on race and slavery.  With the bicentennial set for next year the country is no doubt going to be saturated with commentary that will have little to do with serious analytical thinking.  I like to think that most of my students are now prepared to wade through much of this nonsense.  They can steer clear of the ahistorical silliness of Thomas DiLorenzo and other Lincoln haters as well as the overly glorified images that students are introduced to in grade school.  As I learned when we first got started with Lincoln many of my students literally believed that his life inevitably led to the freeing of the slaves. 

One way that I’ve been able to engage the enthusiasm level for the secondary sources used thus far is by the sophistication of their questions.  Students struggled to understand the intersection between military affairs and political concerns that Lincoln juggled up to the issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.  While it dispelled them of their narrow emancipationist view of Lincoln it did bring them to a place where they could more clearly comprehend his leadership style and political shrewdness.  As a way to more clearly understand the road to emancipation and Lincoln’s changing views on race and slavery I had students create timelines which involved having to post a set of quotations along with relevant events.  I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what would come of it, but it turned out that having everything neatly arranged on a timeline highlighted the contingency of events as well as the causal relationship between events.  Click here, here, and here for a few examples.

I do have a few concerns that have to do with the scope of our study of the Civil War and wartime Reconstruction.  If we were using the traditional textbook we would clearly have discussed the war in much broader terms, especially in reference to the Confederate experience.  As it stands my students have been introduced to the important public and military leaders in the Confederacy and have a basic understanding of some of the central themes.  This has been a concern throughout the year, but I am growing more comfortable with the idea that what they are learning is more meaningful and is much more likely to lead to additional reading at some point down the road.  Next week we will spend a few days looking at Reconstruction and then it is on to a short biography of Franklin Roosevelt by Roy Jenkins, a survey of the Cold War by Ralph Levering, and Harvard Sitkoff’s book on race and the Civil Rights Movement

Lincoln Prizes Announced

This year’s Lincoln Prize goes to James Oakes, author of The Radical and the Republican: Frederick
Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics
and Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who wrote Reading the Man: A Portrait of
Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters
.  Each will receive $20,000.

Congratulations to both.  I have not yet read Oakes’s book, but I have read Pryor and consider her book to be the single best volume on Lee ever published.

Primary Voting (just what the doctor ordered)

I don’t usually get excited about primary votes, but today is different.  Before arriving at school I headed on over to my polling station and cast a vote for Barack Obama.  I don’t mind saying that it felt good to push that button, not because he is black, but because I believe he would make a fine president and he is a black American.  In terms of policy considerations it came down to his stand on Iraq and health care.  In terms of the latter both Obama’s and Hillary’s positions are close, but Obama is more direct when it comes to pulling out U.S. troops from Iraq. 

I am not cynical about public service or politicians, but I am when it comes to the presidency.  The last eight years has been a nightmare, and the American people have no one to blame but themselves.  We elected that ignorant man and then went ahead and gave him another four years.  I am tired of tuning out whenever the president attempts to string together a coherent sentence.  I am tired of being embarrassed for our president.  I am tired of his simplistic view of the world.  I am tired of that silly little laugh of his.  I am tired of the blatant disregard for our Constitution.  I am tired of the sense of privilege that he exudes in all things he does and says.  I am tired of that macho-cowboy look and the "Western White House".  I am tired of young men and women coming home in body bags.  I am tired of comedians poking fun at the presidency.  I am tired of his corrupt vice-president.  I am tired of having to imagine how much of the rest of the world views us.

Perhaps what it comes down to is that I don’t feel tired when I listen to Barack Obama.