New To the Civil War Memory Library, 03/26

Reardon VosslerHoward Bahr, THE BLACK FLOWER: A Novel of the Civil War, (Nautical & Aviation Publishing, 1997).

Ronald S. Coddington, African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).

Michele Gillespie, Katharine and R. J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South,  (University of Georgia Press, 2013).

Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People, (University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

Andrew L. Slap and Michael T. Smith, This Distracted and Anarchical People: New Answers for Old Questions about the Civil War-Era North, (Fordham University Press, 2013).

In Good Company

Blight, Hennessy, LevinI love this photograph, which was taken this past weekend in Gettysburg during our panel discussion on the teaching of Civil War memory in the classroom.  It was a real privilege for me to be seated in between the two historians (David Blight and John Hennessy), who have had the biggest impact on my understanding of historical memory and public history.  Their passion for history is highly infectious.  Both have encouraged me at different times and have helped to open new doors. I am certainly grateful and proud to call both friends. Continue reading “In Good Company”

Return to Charlottesville and the Virginia Festival of the Book

BookFestival-2013-Small-No-VFH-No-Date-No-Cville-ColorOn Thursday I head to Charlottesville to take part in the Virginia Festival of the Book.  I’ve been looking forward to this event for the past six months.  As many of you know I lived and taught there for ten years. It’s one of my favorite events of the year and one that I hoped to participate in once the book was finished.  I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to return and share the finished product with friends, who supported me personally and professionally.

I will be joining Ron Coddington for a panel called “Images of the Civil War.”  Many of you know Ron from his many NYTs Disunion articles as well as his three books of Civil War soldier photographs published by John Hopkins University Press.  The plan is to take a few minutes each to share some images from our books, respond to a few comments from my friend and moderator, Rick Britton, before opening it up to the audience.

This is going to be a lot of fun.  There will be plenty of books for sale.  The event takes place on Friday at 4pm at the City Council Chambers on the Downtown Mall (605 E Main St.).  I would love to see you there.

p.s. If my presence isn’t sufficient to bring you out, Michaela will be there as well. :-)

From Civil War to ?

58172-art-american-imperialismThis will probably be the last post I write before I put together my final thoughts as an introduction to the panel on interpreting USCTs at Civil War sites that I will be moderating on Saturday at Gettysburg College. I am still thinking about Carole Emberton’s essay, which I briefly touched on a few days ago.  She’s got me thinking about the place of black Union soldiers within a narrative arc that stretches from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and the unquestioned assumption that closely links their service and sacrifice with a postwar reward of civil rights.  Emberton argues that this narrative stood in sharp contrast with a widespread belief that service in the military functioned to tame those characteristics that many white Americans (North and South) believed prevented African Americans from enjoying the benefits of full citizenship.  Continue reading “From Civil War to ?”

I’m Not the Only One Thinking About the Future of USCTs

Thanks to my fellow Civil War bloggers for giving me quite a bit to chew on these last few days as I put together some brief opening remarks for the Gettysburg College panel on how USCTs are currently being interpreted and where we go from here.  My own posts can be found here, here, here, and here.

Head on over to Robert Moore’s site for a thoughtful post on USCTs in the Shenandoah Valley.  Moore reminds us that the motivation behind black enlistment was complex and not always captured by the popular explanation that they were simply fighting for freedom.

One can say the local Confederates were fighting for slavery… but that would only be telling part of the truth. One can also say the USCTs were fighting for the chance to be free, but that too would be telling only part of their story. We have complicating factors that make us put on brakes… and pretty darn quick. Were some Confederates fighting to keep slaves, while others were fighting because… and, let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves and history… the boys in blue were “down here”? Absolutely. Of course, there were other Confederates who were in the ranks as well… and some of them didn’t even want to be there in the first place. That being the case, should we not expect the story of the USCTs to be equally complicated?

Jimmy Price adds to one of my recent posts on the difficulties of coming to terms with battlefield atrocities committed by USCTs.  This is something that I am particularly interested in right now.

One cannot approach the topic of US Colored Troops without encountering numerous occasions in which black soldiers were ruthlessly cut down on the battlefield while in the act of surrender. Olustee, Fort Pillow, the Crater, Saltville – the list of places where Confederate troops perpetrated these war crimes goes on and on.

But there is a flip side to this coin, and the way it is presented in the grand narrative can be problematic. Just as one can find numerous examples in Civil War texts that lay out the atrocities committed by rebel soldiers, one can also find the examples of when US Colored Troops went into action shouting “Remember Fort Pillow!” and encouraging their fellow soldiers to “raise the black flag” and give no quarter to any Confederate soldier who sought any.

Emmanuel Dabney, who will join me this weekend for this panel discussion, provides some fruitful sources for those looking for the elusive black voices in the military.  Finally, Craig Swain points to the possibilities of interpreting and commemorating the service of USCTs on the local level.

Thanks to Robert, Craig, Jimmy and Emmanuel for sharing their thoughts on this subject.  They have given me quite a bit to think about, which I hope has a chance to surface during the panel discussion on Saturday.