By now many of you have had the opportunity to digest Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s proclamation designating April as Civil War History in Virginia Month. I wanted to take a few minutes to share a few thoughts. First, perhaps I am guilty of criticizing the governor prematurely, but my remarks reflected an eagerness to see him follow up on what I thought was a very thoughtful speech at Norfolk State. I don’t know much of anything about the team that advised the governor on the proclamation’s content, but it looks like Ervin Jordan played a role. Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with this proclamation.
Over the past few months I’ve done a number of interviews about the Civil War Sesquicentennial. At the end of my latest interview this past Friday the reporter noted that this was not the story that she anticipated writing. What she meant was that she was not going to write up a story around the standard narrative of lingering disagreements and bitterness between North and South and black and white. As I’ve suggested on numerous occasions, that narrative simply does not hold up given the political and demographic shifts that have taken place throughout much of the country over the past few decades.
One of my readers pointed me to an interesting public commemoration of the Civil War that is set to take place in Baltimore, Maryland on the weekend of April 16. If you click on “Civil War Procession Application” [pdf] you will notice something quite interesting. It plainly states that event organizers will only accept the following to take part in the parade: Union Re-enactors, Military Bands, High School/College Marching Bands, Fife & Drum, Equestrian and Honor/Color Guards.
Because I have been unable to locate a website it is impossible for me to draw any conclusions that might help to explain the decision to omit a Confederate representation. Of course, some folks, including the individual who pointed me to this story, will revert to the standard explanation of revisionism, political correctness, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately, that won’t do it. One possibility is that the organizers of this commemoration intend to hold an event that emphasizes good ole fashioned patriotism by remembering the men who helped to preserve the Union. Of course, as we all know, Maryland sent men to both armies. However, our decisions about how to publicly commemorate the past always involve a certain amount of remembering and forgetting. We don’t expect places such as New York City to include an acknowledgment of the large numbers of Loyalists that lived in the city during the Revolution in their Independence Day celebrations.
That is quite a statement on the part of the event organizers if something along these is true and it would be another indication that our collective memory of the war has turned a corner.
Unfortunately, today I stumbled upon the new line of Dixie Outfitters t-shirts. I was particularly impressed with their emphasis on the Confederacy’s diversity. It was also interesting to see who made the cut for their “Modern Day Southern Heritage Heros” as well as the quotes for the “Reveal the Truth” lines of t-shirts.