Confederate Desertion and PFC Bowe Bergdahl

USA_PFC_BoweBergdahl_ACU_CroppedOne of the essays that I wrote in graduate school at the University of Richmond was on desertion in the Confederate army. I published a short version of the piece in Civil War Times, which you can read here and I am hoping to publish a longer and more analytical version somewhere in the near future. My interest was with those deserters who were tried and executed and specifically with how their comrades responded. As many of you know these executions were public events meant to influence the behavior and resolve of the hundreds and even thousands who often were ordered to attend.

What struck me was the overwhelming support that these executions had within the ranks. Soldiers understood that discipline and unit cohesion was paramount to the survival of the army and that unchecked desertion would ultimately lead to defeat. But even though there was widespread support for executions soldiers expressed sympathy for the condemned. Soldiers understood many of the forces influencing their comrades’ decisions to desert and on occasion acknowledged that they could just as easily be facing the firing squad. The ease with which men sympathized with one another, no doubt, reflected their experiential common ground. Continue reading

 

Ron Maxwell’s Kickstarter Campaign Canceled

You could tell from the beginning that this campaign was doomed to fail. It wasn’t at all clear how the money raised would be used, not to mention what the final product would look like. Crowdfunding demands a good deal of research, especially when the goal is a quarter of a million dollars, but most importantly it calls for a certain amount of respect for the community from which the funds are to be raised.

Ron Maxwell Kickstarter Canceled

 

The Emotional Pull of Cold Harbor

Those of us who have spent significant time walking Civil War battlefields know that they evoke different emotions. Much of that is the result of the broader narrative that we bring to these sites. I was reminded of this yesterday as I was writing the post on Cold Harbor and as a result of following the comments. The Cold Harbor battlefield invokes in me a feeling of dread and anxiousness that I rarely feel on other battlefields. Perhaps it’s the name or some feint memory of the voices of David McCullough and Shelby Foote from Ken Burns’s The Civil War that triggers it. Continue reading

 

Old Myths Die Hard at Cold Harbor

With all the coverage of the 150th anniversary of Cold Harbor I was surprised by the persistence of two myths that refuse to give way. The first is the story of Union soldiers pinning their names to their coats so their bodies could be identified and the second relates to the casualty figures that are commonly cited. Taken together they reinforce a compelling narrative of futile bloody assaults ordered by Ulysses S. Grant – the “great butcher” of the war. Continue reading

 

Can Ron Maxwell Kickstart His Movie Career?

Update: As of 06/03 the campaign has passed $9,300.

Ron Maxwell's Civil War ClassicsI had a feeling we were talking about a Kickstarter campaign. Five days into his campaign and Ron Maxwell has raised roughly $9,000 of the $250,000 that needs by July 7. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Maxwell’s movies. There are a couple of problems with this campaign.

First and foremost, there is no video. How about an interview with Maxwell and/or short preview of one of the stories that he plans to bring to the big screen. I actually like the idea of turning some of these more obscure stories into short movies, but why such a long list. Pick a few and describe in some detail what makes them special and how their filming might add to our understanding of the Civil War. I am surprised by how little information accompanies the individual stories. Continue reading