This Republic of Suffering: A Really, Really Good Undergraduate Paper

Dimitri offers some observations about Drew Faust’s latest study "in terms of the broader culture in which it appears…"  I don’t know what this is supposed to mean, but if he ever gets around to actually critiquing Faust’s argument let me know.  Oh…and don’t miss the ultimate anti-Gallagher/McPherson rant.  This one is a true classic.


Jackson County, Alabama Walks a Fine Line

Jackson County, Alabama recently passed a proclamation declaring April as Confederate Heritage and History Month.  You gotta love the wording of this one:

The proclamation states that its purpose is to recognize Montgomery’s role as the birthplace of the Confederacy and that “upon the conclusion of the war, many of these same leaders and citizens worked tirelessly to reunite and rebuild this country and forge reconciliation.” Also, “our recognition of Confederate history also recognizes that slavery was one of the causes of the war, an issue in the war, was ended by the war and slavery is hereby condemned.

The proclamation states that “the knowledge of the role of the Confederate States of America in the history of our state and nation is vital to understanding who we are and what we are” and that its purpose is to “honor our past and from it draw the courage, strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves and go forward into the future together as Alabamians and Americans.

I wonder if black Alabamians in the postwar-South would agree that the state’s leaders struggled to “reunite” and “rebuild” this country through a process of “reconciliation.”  And can you believe that slavery was mentioned in a proclamation of this sort?  Don’t get too excited, however.  Claiming that slavery was “one of the causes” really means that it was no more or less important than the tariff.  That said, I agree wholeheartedly with the first quote in the second paragraph, though I suspect not for the same reasons that the author[s] intended.


Museum of the Confederacy and NAACP Working Together?

This is a promising development.  Many of you are aware that the Museum of the Confederacy hopes to spread its wings in the coming years as a way of getting out from under the shadow and construction cranes around the VCU Medical Center.  This will involve moving its collection to four different locations in time for or during the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  One of the locations currently under consideration is in Spotsylvania Court House.  In preparation for this move MOC President Waite Rawls has met with various local organizations including the Spotsylvania Chapter of the NAACP.  Surprisingly, they seem to be receptive to the museum:

On Thursday, he [Rawls] met with the NAACP at Mount Hope Baptist Church.
About 50 people attended, along with five Spotsylvania supervisors.  "What we are looking for is balance," said NAACP member Col. Horace
McCaskill. "We’re not adverse to learning about the Confederacy side,
but we want the whole story to be told, and we need to understand that."  The "whole story" means "all cultures involved in the Civil War,"
including the roles of free and enslaved blacks and Americans Indian,
he said.

Layton Fairchild, a former candidate for the Board of Supervisors, said people want to know the truth about the war.  "There are a lot of stereotypes on both sides, the white side of
history and the black side of history," he said. "If we had an
institution come in and say ‘This is how it happened and let’s get
educated,’ I think that is the most important thing."

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Honoring a Union Man in the Heart of the Confederacy

I had a great time last night in Fredericksburg where I spoke to the Rappahannock County Civil War Round Table.  My friend and fellow historian John Hennessy gave me a very gracious introduction and the audience seemed very receptive to the topic of the Crater and historical memory.  This is my second time speaking to this particular group and both occasions have been well worth the drive from Charlottesville.

Before the evening’s program got underway I spoke with a gentlemen who is working with the National Welsh American Foundation to honor Sergeant Henry Reese of the 48th Pennsylvania with a Medal of Honor for his roll at the Crater.  Reese was actually recommended for the medal but for some reason it was not conferred.  Here is the recommendation:

Having performed a conspicuous act of gallantry on July 30, 1864.  In the undermining and destruction of the Rebel Fort No. 5 in front of Petersburg, Va, the fuse leading to the magazine had been spliced about 15 feet from the face of the mine, where the fuse was first lighted, it burned to the splice, when the fire went out, and, after the time set for the explosion had elapsed Sergeant Henry Reese volunteered to enter the mine and relight the fuse at the splice, which he successfully accomplished, and returned to safety to the mouth of the mine, and in one minute after the explosion took place.

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Speaking Engagement

Tomorrow evening I will be speaking to the Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  My topic is memory and the battle of the Crater with an emphasis on the racial component of the battle.  See here for details.