Category Archives: Civil War Memory Class

A House Divided Cannot Stand… Sing It

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]

Confederacy Theory

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.

Interpreting the Civil War on the Eve of the Centennial

Here is a wonderful little time capsule from the eve of the Civil War centennial in 1960. Those of you who teach courses on Civil War memory will find it particularly interesting. There are very few surprises in how the documentary frames the causes and consequences of the war along with slavery and emancipation. The need to maintain a national consensus at the height of the Cold War is clearly discernible. My favorite line is the claim that white northerners had difficulty on the battlefield early on owing to their unfamiliarity with guns. It turns out that before the war they were all working in shops and factories.

Civil War Memory Over the Charles River

Anderson Memorial BridgeI suspect that for the vast majority of Bostonians and tourists, the city’s history is indelibly stamped (no pun intended) with the events of the American Revolution. I, on the other hand, see the American Civil War everywhere or signs of how Bostonians chose to remember their Civil War. We’ve got some pretty impressive sites such as Harvard’s Memorial Hall and, of course, Saint Gaudens’s Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (54th), but there are also more obscure reminders that are likely missed by most people.

The Anderson Memorial Bridge over the Charles River is one such example. The bridge was built by Larz Anderson as a memorial to his father, Nicholas Longworth Anderson, who fought through and survived the war. Anderson rose from the rank of private to Col. of the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry to Brevet Major General of Volunteers. He fought in western Virginia early in the war and saw action in most of the major battles of the Western Theatre, including Stones River and Chickamauga.

The bridge was completed in 1915.