Evergreen Cemetery in Stoughton, MA
Yesterday students in my Civil War Memory class handed in their final projects. They are amazing and reflect a good deal of research and creativity. Students researched Civil War monuments and memorials in their own communities or designed their own for a specific location. One student created a video that explored a number of Civil War monuments in Stoughton, including this unusual grave marker, which I thought was worth sharing.
From Find A Grave:
Marcus Morton Porter (1841-1921). Porter enlisted as a private on October 15,1862, in Company G, 47th Massachusetts Infantry, and was mustered out on September 1, 1863. He was a member of Post 72, GAR. Porter became a member of the Old Stoughton Musical Society in 1893 and served as the society’s president from 1911 to 1913.
This particular student admitted that she has never enjoyed living in Stoughton, but that working on this project left her feeling more closely connected to her community.
In response to the tour of Boston’s Civil War monuments that I took with my class last Thursday, I asked them to take some time and write up a short reflection about their experience. Overall, the short essays are very reflective and in some cases quite surprising in terms of what they came away with. Here is one example.
The field trip we took through Boston last week transformed my view of how the North, and specifically Boston, commemorated the Civil War. I hadn’t fully realized before this how prominent memories of the Civil War were and were aimed to be, through the monuments, in the few decades after. The monuments, I realized through looking at them, were supposed to be seen on a regular basis by people walking by, so that the Civil War still filled the consciousness of Boston and the North. It seems to me that the commemorators wanted this for two reasons: 1. They wanted to commemorate the people who died, and 2. The monuments could garner support for the causes of the war and for unity. And they could justify the war in a way, making the deaths of the soldiers seem noble and pulling Boston together under a mindset of unity and American pride. I was surprised that there were actually multiple monuments commemorating blacks and women who served in the war. I’ll discuss my favorite three monuments: the sphinx, Harvard’s Memorial Hall, and the Shaw Memorial. Continue reading
I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to introduce students to some of Boston’s most important Civil War sites for some time. It almost didn’t happen given yesterday’s snow storm, but the city does an incredible job with snow removal from roads and other public spaces. It was, however, very cold this morning. The other problem was the lack of visibility at certain sites owing to the snow. No worries. We forged ahead and had a great day beginning at Mount Auburn Cemetery and ending at the Boston Common. Below is a photograph of my class at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial.
These students are an absolute pleasure to teach.
By now many of you have heard that an elite school in New York City has apologized for showing Kevin Wilmott’s satirical movie, “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America,” which imagines what the United States would be like had the Confederacy won the Civil War. It’s still unclear what specifically led to the apology by the Dalton School beyond some of the students expressing concern about the film.
Let’s be clear, however, this is a case of Dalton’s administration and History Department dropping the ball and not a matter of the inappropriateness of the film itself. First, the film was shown to sophomores, who are likely not mature enough and there is no evidence that the students were given sufficient historical context to understand both the content and goals of Kevin Willmott’s film. Continue reading
Today my Civil War class will continue to discuss the background leading up to Lincoln’s election and the first wave of secession that took place between December 1860 and February 1861. My students are pouring through a collection of documents related to the secession conventions as well as speeches by Alexander Stephens and Jefferson Davis. For Monday they will read a selection from Charles Dew’s Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War. Continue reading
In this video singer/songwriter Rob Tobias uses the “House Divided” meme to make a point about our contentious current political environment. The other day I cautioned my students to be wary of the tendency to equate our own cultural and political battles with the Civil War Era. Such connections simply don’t hold up well under close scrutiny.
The video is well done and is probably worth showing to a class on Civil War memory. It’s another wonderful example of how social media is being used to interpret the past and make memory.
[Uploaded to YouTube on January 21, 2014]
Today I am writing from the North Shore in Lynn, MA, where in a few hours I will be speaking at the G.A.R. Museum. I took the scenic route and made my way through a few small towns to check out their Civil War monuments. Just head straight to the town center and you are bound to find one. Continue reading
The following documentary about the history and controversy surrounding the Confederate flag in South Carolina was released in 2001. Glad to find this as I am putting my Civil War Memory course together for the spring semester. The documentary does a great job exploring the raising of the flag atop the state capital and the influence of both the Civil Rights Movement and Civil War Centennial. John Coski gets a good deal of air time to discuss the popularity and evolution of the Confederate flag as well as the fact that ordinary Americans utilized it as a symbol of “massive resistance” during the 1950s and 60s. He also does a first-rate job of dismantling the black Confederate narrative at the 27:00 min. mark.