Looks like I’ve stumbled on my first public history scandal surrounding the Civil War since moving to Boston. Before proceeding I should note that I am only vaguely familiar with the tours that are referenced in the article below. On Wednesday I am off to Nashville to give two talks as part of the Civil War Preservation Trust’s Annual Teachers Institute, but when I return I hope to begin exploring much more of my new home.
The controversy surrounds the release of a new guidebook for Civil War Boston that was published by The Freedom Trail Foundation. The Foundation is best known for its downtown tour of some of the most significant spots of the American Revolution, which may lead some to wonder why the organization decided to publish a short pamphlet on Civil War related sites. Folks associated with the Black Heritage Trail are apparently not pleased with the scope of the pamphlet and its failure to acknowledge a number of important sites associated with the story of African Americans as well as the work of area institutions that are focused on black history.
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I pass by this monument every day on my way to Jamaica Pond for my morning run. It was dedicated on September 14, 1871 and commemorates the 46 men of West Roxbury, “who lost their lives in the service of their country during the Rebellion.” It has quickly become my favorite Civil War soldier monument. I love the simplicity of it, including its smooth surfaces and clean lines. The soldier embodies the virtues of the citizen soldier that northern towns embraced by war’s end. He seems tired, but resolute as well as contemplative and just a bit sad. In short, he did his duty when his nation called.
There are four names around its arches, including that of Lincoln, Farragut, Andrew, and Thomas. The Jamaica Plain Historical Society suggests that the Thomas in question is none other than George H. Thomas of Virginia (the Rock of Chickamauga), who supposedly donated the land for the monument. Perhaps someone can explain to me the connection given that he died in San Francisco and is buried in New York. Now that would be an interesting Virginia – Massachusetts connection.
[Click here for more information about the monument from the Jamaica Plain Historical Society.]
I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women of the National Park Service, who help to preserve and interpret our nation’s historic sites. They include some of the most passionate and talented historians. For those focused on Civil War related sites their jobs come with increased attention and scrutiny by the media as well as various interest groups who have a stake in maintaining or protecting a specific narrative of the war.
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I apologize for the lack of posts over the past week, but as most of you know my wife and I just completed a move to Boston. We absolutely love our new home as well as the surrounding neighborhood. I am enjoying a very cozy reading room surrounded by my Civil War library. Our house is a short walk from a village area that includes a nice variety of restaurants and small shops.
Unfortunately, we are without Internet access until the middle of next week. Let’s just say that our local Department of Motor Vehicles is more efficient than Comcast. Although we’ve been tied up with house chores, we did manage to take a short walk through Forest Hills Cemetery, which is absolutely beautiful. Along the way we found a number of noteworthy grave sites, including that of William Lloyd Garrison.
Posts may be sporadic for the next two weeks. I have to make some final changes to my Crater manuscript and put together two teacher workshops for a Civil War Preservation Trust conference. See you soon.
An official count showed about 21,015 people stood in lines with waits ranging from 3 to 7 hours to see the Emancipation Proclamation, which was on display at the The Henry Ford, in Dearborn, Michigan, for 36 straight hours. Meanwhile, the Sons of Confederate Veterans continue their quest for vanity plates in former Confederate states and even states that never seceded.