Looking For A Change Of Profession?

How about an endowed chair in Civil War and Reconstruction history at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts?

Civil War and Reconstruction/ Endowed Chair: Stonehill College seeks a candidate for a tenured associate or full professor position in Civil War and Reconstruction and African American history (1848-1900).  The successful candidate will begin appointment as the first Lawrence and Theresa Salameno Chair in History (three-year term with possibility for renewal). A commitment to undergraduate teaching and a strong record of scholarship are required.  The Salameno Chair, the first endowed chair in the College’s history, offers a creative intellectual and professional opportunity for a teacher/scholar who can generate intellectual excitement around his/her area of expertise in ways appropriate to an undergraduate institution.

Perhaps a position teaching the Civil War at West Virginia State University is more up your alley:

The Department of History at West Virginia University is soliciting nominations and applications for an Eberly Distinguished Professorship in Civil War Studies, to begin August 16, 2007.

I’ve come across more and more positions focused specifically on the Civil War/Reconstruction/Southern History over the past few years.  Perhaps as we get closer to the Civil War Sesquicentennial we will see even more.

Where History and Myth Meet: Winnie Davis

I am just about finished with Joan Cashin’s new biography, First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis’s Civil War (Harvard University Press, 2006).  It is well written, includes just enough analysis, and is based largely on manuscript sources.  This is the first modern scholarly biography of Varina Davis.  I was struck by Cashin’s analysis of Winnie Davis, who was popularly known as the "Daughter of the Confederacy."  This was due to her decision to accompany her father on a trip through the South beginning in 1886 to take part in celebrations of the Lost Cause.  What most people don’t know is that  the identification of Winnie as the embodiment of everything that was noble and pure about the "Old South" and the Confederacy was manufactured.  From Cashin’s biography:

The title was factually correct, since Winnie was born in Richmond in 1864, but she did not remember the war and actually knew little of the South.  In many respects she was scarcely an American, having spent almost half her life abroad before she returned to the States in 1881.  In Karlsruhe [Germany, where she attended school] she kept a scrapbook with numerous mementos from such figures as Bismarck and Moltke, and a few images from her native country, including the Confederate flag.  She was fluent in German and French, and her accent when she spoke English was mittel-European.  Sometimes Winnie had to look up words such as gingham in the dictionary, and she made mistakes in usage, as if she were trying to translate German noun constructions into English.  She is best described as a transnational figure–unlike her mother, an American who was drawn to European culture, or her father, who felt homesick in the Luxembourg Gardens. (pp. 247-48)

What is interesting and ably argued for by Cashin is that not even Varina Davis would have provided for a more honest vindication or confirmation of the Lost Cause mantra.  Her support of the Confederacy was challenged throughout the war and her decision to reside in New York City following the death of her husband alienated and upset many white Southerners.  She even published a very positive account of Ulysses S. Grant in a New York City newspaper.  This was a complex woman who was born in Natchez and was educated in the North and later studied under a private tutor from New England; in addition, she maintained contact with Northerners even during the war and after it had been deemed illegal by the Confederate government. 

Introverts

I came across this Atlantic Monthly article by Jonathan Rauch about introverts and couldn’t believe how closely it seemed to reflect my own personality. 

Do you
know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations
about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience,
but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged
to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or
scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are
just trying to be nice?

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem
bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone
for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour
or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My
own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t
antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For
introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as
nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses."

Read on.

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

Yesterday I expressed some concern about how our Civil War will be remembered during the upcoming Sesquicentennial celebrations.  Perhaps there are reasons to be optimistic.  Read H.R. 687: “To establish a commission to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.”  The National Park Service has already constructed a website devoted to the event and the language is encouraging:

In preparation for the Sesquicentennial, the National Park Service-through the collective efforts of the superintendents at Civil War-related
parks-proposes to undertake a multi-faceted, multi-year, integrated program that will simultaneously transform and improve interpretation of the Civil War in our national parks while providing a national forum for the observance of the Sesquicentennial of America’s greatest national crisis.

During the preparatory period (2005-2011), this web site will present information on the events leading up to the Civil War, so that the
Sesquicentennial can be experienced as the 150th anniversary of major military events, but also of social, political, economic and cultural transformations that have changed the nation forever.

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar is set to open its doors on October 7.  Back in 2002 I took part in a conference at the University of Richmond and attended an evening session at Tredegar for a preview of their plans for the exhibits.  It’s nice to see it come to fruition.  Here is a brief description of the center’s permanent exhibit:

The Center’s permanent exhibit, In the Cause of Liberty, will be housed in the 1861 Gun Foundry, will open on Saturday, October 7, 2006. Visitors will begin their tour with Causes of the Civil War, move into the War years, and finish with Legacies.

The exhibit will present the story of the Civil War, its causes, and its legacies from the viewpoints of Unionists, Confederates, and African Americans — the war’s three main participant groups. The Center’s interpretive approach comes from a Foundation-sponsored symposium
in which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson was asked why the Confederates fought. “The central tragedy, the great irony of the war,” he observed, “is that all three groups were fighting for the legacy of the American Revolution, but they profoundly disagreed about what that legacy was.” The war was a matter of honor and principle for all three as each acted to uphold its own vision of America. Each remembered the war differently as well, and to this day the war means different things to different people.

Our interpretation will trace all three stories and show how each group played a different role in the nation’s central drama. The presentation will weave battles and leaders, guns and saddles into the larger drama of how the war affected Northerners and Southerners, men and women, and blacks and whites. The dynamic interplay of three peoples at war changed America forever and created a vastly different country from the one that existed before the war. The exhibit will show how the war produced the basic structure and character of the United States we know today.

It’s safe to say that the majority of visitors throughout the sesquicentennial will travel to one of the many Civil War battlefields and/or museum sites.  It is encouraging that both of these institutions are taking the initiative to present a sophisticated, educational, and entertaining interpretation of the war and its legacy.

Gearing Up For Civil War Sesquicentennial

Virginia-Tech historian James I. Robertson has been appointed to Virginia’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.  It will be interesting to analyze the make-up of the commission as additional appointments are made and its subsequent plans to bring the Civil War to the general public.  As many of you know Robertson sat on the Civil War Centennial Commission back in the early 1960′s and has worked steadily to emerge as one of the more popular Civil War historians in the field. 

Robertson is a well-known figure in the field of Civil War history. He appears regularly in Civil War programs on the Arts & Entertainment Network, the History Channel, and public radio and television and has written a number of books about the Civil War period that have garnered national acclaim and numerous awards. His book Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend is considered the definitive biography of the famous general and served as the basis for the portrayal of Jackson in the movie “Gods and Generals.”

While I am pleased with Robertson’s appointment I do have some concerns.  I’ve read his biography of Stonewall Jackson and admire it a great deal for its scholarship.  At the same time I worry about his involvement in Lost Cause-tainted movies such as "Gods and Generals." I still do not understand his strong support for the movie apart from the emphasis on Jackson and the director’s reliance on Robertson’s biography.  For anyone with a minimal amount of understanding of recent Civil War historiography that movie was a major step backward.

I want to see a wide-range of appointments that will reflect the latest in scholarship without losing sight of the need to attract wide audiences.  I remain hopeful and just a little concerned.