Thinking About the Civil War 150 Where It Really Matters

On a number of occasions I’ve addressed the question of whether the sesquicentennial has been a success. No doubt, as we move through the first part of 2015 these discussions will increase in frequency. For the most the framing of the question has tended to take both a long and broad view in terms of time and place. One of the things we must not lose sight of, however, is the view from the ground in our local communities. Continue reading “Thinking About the Civil War 150 Where It Really Matters”

Embracing the Safety of Reconciliation in Petersburg

Here is the link to the commemoration ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the battle of the Crater. The event was organized by the National Park Service and held on the Crater battlefield this past July 30. A nice size crowd attended the event and I was quite impressed by the number of African Americans who were in the audience. Yes, that fact bears mentioning if you’ve spent enough time at these events. Overall, the speakers did a good job and there were a few highlights for me, but overall the speakers struck a reconciliationist tone that avoided the tough questions that the anniversary of this particular battle raises.  Continue reading “Embracing the Safety of Reconciliation in Petersburg”

“From the Colored Citizens of Virginia”

Mahone RingAs you might imagine, William Mahone was front and center last week in Petersburg for the 150th anniversary of the battle of the Crater. His memory looms large over the history of the battle as well as how the battle was remembered after the war. I talked quite a bit about Mahone’s postwar political career as leader of the Readjuster Party as well as his attempts to use the memory of the battle to further his interests. As you will see on August 20 (when C-SPAN will broadcast the talk) the Q&A following the talk was dominated by the audience’s interest in Mahone and I was more than happy to oblige.

Earlier that morning during a panel discussion on the battle a gentleman, who styles himself a local historian, handed out a little pamphlet that featured a cane with a silver tip that was given to Mahone as a gift by a group of black Virginians. This short leaflet includes some choice quotes and commentary that this individual believes reflects a close relationship between Mahone and the black community. The danger, of course, is that this ring can be used to draw any number of conclusions without attention to proper historical context. And context is everything in this case. Continue reading ““From the Colored Citizens of Virginia””

Is a Dialogue Possible With the SCV’s New Chief of Heritage Operations?

Brooks Simpson is optimistic that a dialogue is possible with the SCV’s new chief of heritage operations. I fully support whatever extent Brooks and Mr. Jones are able to engage in a civil conversation about those issues related to Civil War memory that continue to divide Americans. That said, I think it is safe to say that however civil and productive the conversation turns out to be we should remember that Jones will not be speaking for the SCV. Continue reading “Is a Dialogue Possible With the SCV’s New Chief of Heritage Operations?”

This Is How Grayson Jennings Defends His Heritage

Why am I not surprised that Virginia Flagger, Grayson Jennings, has taken to social media to vent about my appearance in Petersburg this past week for the 150th anniversary of the battle of the Crater. As I mentioned in my last post, he had every opportunity to engage me following my talk on Friday evening, which was recorded by C-SPAN and slated to air the week of August 18. The potential was there for a very public challenge to the specifics of what I had to say and to my presence generally. Instead, we were treated to SILENCE. Continue reading “This Is How Grayson Jennings Defends His Heritage”