54th Mass MemorialThis morning I sat in front of the rear of the Robert Gould Shaw and Fifty-Fourth Regiment Memorial before heading into the Boston Athenaeum for a day of writing. It is certainly not the first time I have read the inscription on the rear of the memorial, which most people miss when they visit. [click to continue…]


Not So Far Removed from the Lost Cause

tomotley-plantation-oaksMuch of my writing about the Civil War 150th is framed around a sharp contrast with how Americans commemorated the war in the early 1960s, during the Centennial. There can be no doubt that we have witnessed significant shifts in how Americans remember and commemorate the war. The most significant shift has got to be in our willingness to deal directly with the tough questions of slavery and race from the Civil War era. But in going back 50 years I wonder if I have given short thrift to a more recent milestone. [click to continue…]


One Final Confederate Memorial Day Celebration

Oakwood Cemetery, May 7, 2016

Oakwood Cemetery, May 7, 2016

Update: Apparently, I touched a nerve with the Virginia Flaggers. Susan Hathaway reports that their CMD celebration attracted roughly 200 people. At one point ceremonies honoring the Confederate dead attracted more substantial numbers from local communities. Now, in the former capital of the Confederacy it might attract 200, including the color guard. Thanks for making my point.

The debate over Confederate iconography in public spaces may still be very much alive, but Confederate heritage is dead. The other day I suggested that Confederate heritage organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy ought to confine their activities to specific times and places. Not everyone agreed with the suggestion. Hopefully, it is sufficiently clear that my thoughts on this subject are driven by a firm conviction that interest in commemorative activities is confined to a very small group that will likely continue to decrease. [click to continue…]


Celebrating Ten Years of Blogging at Boston 1775

Concord, TroianiYou can’t escape the history and heritage of the American Revolution in and around Boston and if you read and write about it you can’t escape John L. Bell’s fabulous blog, Boston 1775. Today is the 10th anniversary of John’s blog and it’s a big deal for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the writing and content are top notch. John manages to uncover obscure individuals and events through careful archival research while at the same time he is able to articulate a new twist on the popular stories that we think we already understand. At a time when predictions of blogging’s demise are on the rise, it is worth acknowledging that John has maintained this level of quality for a decade. [click to continue…]

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A Shrinking Confederate Universe

cemetery2009A quick thought.

Tomorrow the local UDC and SCV chapters in Charleston, South Carolina will commemorate Confederate Memorial Day in Magnolia Cemetery. It’s a beautiful place that both evokes the scale of death that Confederates experienced and the lengths to which white Southerners went to honor their sacrifice during the postwar years.

As the debate continues surrounding the public display of Confederate iconography across the South, it is becoming more and more difficult to openly celebrate the Lost Cause. Here I am drawing a distinction between those who care little more than whether a local bakery agrees to accept an order for a Confederate battle flag cake and those who have a deeper attachment to Confederate heritage/history. [click to continue…]