I did my best to dump as many books as possible in light of my move to Boston at the end of June, but new titles just continue to pour in. In addition to recent review copies, I’ve listed some books that I am reading to brush up on my Massachusetts/Boston history. I can’t wait to explore the incredibly rich history in and around the city. Thanks to those of you who are purchasing Amazon books through Civil War Memory. Sales have been steady, which has allowed me to purchase what I need without having to dip into my own pockets. I truly appreciate it.
One of the points that I tried to make in my radio interview yesterday morning was that while there is a vibrant and often heated discussion about the existence and loyalty of black Confederates this is simply not true within the scholarly community. Academic historians have studied this issue closely and have done extensive work on how the Confederate government and military attempted to utilize its slave population. There is a rich literature on various aspects of this subject that can be accessed by those, who are sincerely interested in learning more.
We have a choice. We can remain preoccupied with questions of numbers and emotional pleas that slaves wished to remain enslaved or we can set aside these simplistic assumptions that tell us more about our own values and look for more interesting questions and analysis.
One of my readers was kind enough to pass on the following video, which was originally used as part of a training course for National Park Service interpreters. The video includes interviews with various interpreters on the necessity and challenges associated with introducing the cause of the war on Civil War battlefields. There are a number of perspectives presented, but all convey the importance of doing so.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the black Confederate debate is the tendency on the part of a select few to warp the definition of a soldier to a point where it becomes meaningless. These individuals may have made room for their preferred picture of the Confederate army, but it fails to reflect anything resembling what white Southerners, both in the army and on the home front, would have acknowledged in the 1860s. Given the difficulty involved in acknowledging a distinction between a soldier and noncombatant (personal servant/impressed slave or free black) in the Confederate army, perhaps it will help to take a quick look at the Union army.
Gary Gallagher’s new book, The Union War (Harvard University Press, 2011), opens with an interesting chapter on the Grand Review, which took place in Washington, D.C. in May 1865. After dealing effectively with the claim that African American soldiers were intentionally prevented from taking part in the parade Gallagher analyzes newspaper coverage of the racial profile of Sherman’s army:
When I made the decision to host advertisements on Civil War Memory I made a commitment to working with companies whose products enrich our understanding of the Civil War. Well, you simply can’t beat the opportunity to work with the University of North Carolina Press. It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which I have benefited from reading the books in UNC Press’s “Civil War Campaigns” and “Civil War America” series – both of which are edited by Gary Gallagher. I know that this is true for many of you out there as well.