Christian Keller on the Military Education of Robert E. Lee

Glad to see that a video of Christian Keller’s recent talk at the Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University is now available. You will notice that even without the Confederate flags flanking the Recumbent Lee statue it is still possible to commemorate the former general and president on the anniversary of his passing.

[Uploaded to YouTube on October 14, 2014]

Stephen Berry on Why Our Civil War Matters

Stephen Berry is one of my favorite Civil War historians writing today. He has tackled a wide range of subjects from Civil War soldiers to the Lincolns. Regardless of the topic, I am always challenged by his thorough analysis and creativity of thought. This year’s Bottimore Lecture was delivered by Steve and is focused on the very simple question of what it was like to be shot in the Civil War. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it, but it is his closing remarks that I want to highlight. It’s an incredibly eloquent conclusion that offers a persuasive case for why it is important to remember the men who died in our Civil War.

It is not pleasant, I know, looking real war in its real face. But if we are to make war, we had better know what we are making. For myself, I grant that the Civil War was worth it. it answered forever whether we were a Union of states or one nation indivisible. It answered forever whether a Republican form of government could endure. It answered forever whether a nation dedicated to freedom would be built on the backs of slaves.

But today when I hear folks in the South talking half seriously about secession or hear folks in the North talk seriously about letting the South go or hear folks all over this country forget what Lincoln perfectly understood that the leading object of government is to elevate the condition of men. To lift artificial weights from all shoulders. To clear paths of laudable pursuits for all. To afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. When I hear such ludicrous things said and such important things forgotten I always have a desperate urge to show them the Civil War as it really was.

In this sesquicentennial season of that conflict let us try to remember all that we paid and all that we paid for. And let us take better care of this country and each other.

The remarks above begin at the 45:45 mark in the video. Thanks, Steve.

Standing Up For Citations

The question of how sources ought to be cited in a work of non-fiction history came up again this past week with the release of Karen Abbott’s new book, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War. The book tells the story of four women, who engaged in various acts of espionage during the Civil War. From all the reviews I’ve read this looks like a highly entertaining read, which should come as no surprise given the author’s success with previous books. Continue reading “Standing Up For Citations”

What’s In a List? I’ll Tell You

Megan Kate Nelson’s new post at Historista is sure to keep the controversy surrounding James McPherson’s recent New York Times “best of” list alive. There are two issues discussed in her post that I think are best kept separate even though there is some overlap. First, Megan highlights the extent to which academia remains an “old boys club”. At the same time she expresses some frustration regarding the unwillingness of her fellow historian to generate a new list that highlights a wider swath of talent. Continue reading “What’s In a List? I’ll Tell You”

Why Can’t We Get Beyond an “Aloof” Stonewall Jackson?

Do we need another five hundered page biography of Stonewall Jackson? Sure, why not. And from what little I’ve read so far, S.C. Gwynne can certainly turn a phrase. That said, I was hoping for a more nuanced look at Jackson’s understanding of politics and specifically the politics of slavery on the eve of the war. Unfortunately, Gwynne provides a one-dimensional analysis that runs the risk of perpetuating a number of myths about the war. Continue reading “Why Can’t We Get Beyond an “Aloof” Stonewall Jackson?”