Category Archives: Civil War Culture

United Daughters of the Confederacy and Lost Cause Go Viral

Who says millennials aren’t interested in history? Back in September, during the height of the Confederate monument debate, I was contacted by Coleman Lowndes, who works on making short videos for the newsite, Vox. Coleman was hoping to put together a video on the United Daughters of the Confederacy and their influence on the Lost Cause that would offer some insight into the broader debate about the legacy of the Confederacy. Continue reading

What To Do About Confederate Monuments? Ask the Kids

I recently returned from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, where I spent time with a group of high school students contending with the ongoing debate over Confederate monuments. Over the past two years I have worked with teachers and students from all over the country, but Charleston presented its own unique challenges. This is the city where the fire of secession was first kindled. Roughly 40 percent of the enslaved Africans brought to what became the United States arrived on nearby Sullivan’s Island. The first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, overlooking Charleston. Monuments celebrating the Confederate cause define the city’s commemorative landscape. They include a monument to John C. Calhoun, who famously boasted that the institution was nothing to apologize for, that it was a “positive good.” About a block away from the Calhoun monument on June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine people during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

You can read the rest of my latest op-ed at Bunk History.

Alabama’s Doug Jones Believes the War Caused the War

Looks like the Democratic candidate in Alabama’s Senate race has seen Ron Maxwell’s movie Gettysburg one too many times. Here is one of Jones’s recent political ads in which he reaches back into the nation’s reconciliationist memory of the Civil War.

Jones focuses on the desperate fight at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863 and introduces Colonels William C. Oates of Alabama and Joshua L. Chamberlain. According to Jones, “what brought those two men together…was war.” That was a nice sleight of hand on his part. “Two sides believing so strongly in their cause that they were willing to die for it.”

Jones hopes to bring this same spirit to Washington, D.C. if elected. If his understanding of history and memory is any indication of which Alabamians he will represent it is clear that it does not include African Americans.


Little Round Top, Gettysburg. Three times Col. William Oates of Alabama led the Confederate forces to take it. Running out of ammunition, Col. Joshua Chamberlain of Maine had his men fix bayonets to desperately repel the attack. What brought those two brave men, one from Alabama and one from Maine, together was war—two sides believing so strongly in their cause that they were willing to die for it. Those times are past, long ago, and our country is better for it. But now we fight too often over other matters. It seems as if we’re coming apart. I want to go to Washington and meet the representatives from Maine and those from every other state not on a battlefield, but to find common ground, because there’s honor in compromise and civility. To pull together as a people and get things done for Alabama. I’m Doug Jones and I approve this message, because on December 12, Alabama can lead the way.

Alabamians have one hell of a choice this year between Roy Moore and Doug Jones.

Correction: I agree with those of you who are pointing out what is, in fact, a false equivalence between Moore and Jones. Chalk this one up to writing much too early in the morning. Thanks for calling me on it.

Henry Louis Gates’s Betrayal of Bryant Gumbel and History

Bryant Gumbel woke up today believing that his great-grandfather briefly volunteered as a soldier in the Confederate army. Since the airing of Finding Your Roots on Tuesday evening tens of thousands of Americans now believe that the Confederate government recruited black soldiers into the army as early as the first two years of the war.

No one denies that mistakes will be made when doing historical research, but this is a different kind of mistake altogether. Americans are once again divided over the legacy of the Civil War and how it is remembered in public spaces throughout much of the former Confederacy. The staff should have been aware of this and taken extra steps to ensure that their research is sound. Continue reading

Dr. Samuel Loomis Meets Abraham Lincoln

I am a huge fan of John Carpenter’s Halloween series. It has become a sort of tradition for me every October to watch each film multiple times leading up to Halloween night. Yes, the first two in the series are by far the best, but I also enjoy some of the later installments, especially H20, which features the return of Jamie Lee Curtis. Continue reading