“From the Colored Citizens of Virginia”

Mahone RingAs you might imagine, William Mahone was front and center last week in Petersburg for the 150th anniversary of the battle of the Crater. His memory looms large over the history of the battle as well as how the battle was remembered after the war. I talked quite a bit about Mahone’s postwar political career as leader of the Readjuster Party as well as his attempts to use the memory of the battle to further his interests. As you will see on August 20 (when C-SPAN will broadcast the talk) the Q&A following the talk was dominated by the audience’s interest in Mahone and I was more than happy to oblige.

Earlier that morning during a panel discussion on the battle a gentleman, who styles himself a local historian, handed out a little pamphlet that featured a cane with a silver tip that was given to Mahone as a gift by a group of black Virginians. This short leaflet includes some choice quotes and commentary that this individual believes reflects a close relationship between Mahone and the black community. The danger, of course, is that this ring can be used to draw any number of conclusions without attention to proper historical context. And context is everything in this case. Continue reading

O’Connor’s Civil War Boston Back in Print

Civil War BostonI’ve devoured a good deal of Boston history since arriving in the city in 2011. Unfortunately and perhaps surprisingly, the one major gap in my understanding is the Civil War era. Apart from Thomas H. O’Connor’s Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield there is really nothing available. Stephen Puleo’s books are helpful, but they are more narrative and lack that analytical edge.

The one exception to this is Stephen Kantrowitz’s, More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889, which as the title suggests focuses on the racial dynamic of Boston.

O’Connor’s study was published back in 1997, but apparently it was allowed to go out of print. Thankfully, Northeastern University Press has seen fit to bring it back in a new paperback version.

I am three chapters in and it is quite good. O’Connor does an excellent job of analyzing the complex ethnic and racial make up of Boston during the 1850s as the sectional divide widened. Coverage of the varied response to John Brown’s raid is particularly good. Continue reading

The Problem of Southern Thinking From a Southerner

No, I don’t believe that the views expressed in this video reflect the views of any one section of the country, but I do believe that “Mungo” gets at something interesting. He at least echoes many of the hysterical views expressed in the wake of the W&L Confederate flag controversy and other so-called heritage violations.

[Uploaded to YouTube on January 27, 2014]

Is a Dialogue Possible With the SCV’s New Chief of Heritage Operations?

Brooks Simpson is optimistic that a dialogue is possible with the SCV’s new chief of heritage operations. I fully support whatever extent Brooks and Mr. Jones are able to engage in a civil conversation about those issues related to Civil War memory that continue to divide Americans. That said, I think it is safe to say that however civil and productive the conversation turns out to be we should remember that Jones will not be speaking for the SCV. Continue reading