Category Archives: Civil War Sesquicentennial

Gov. Terry McAullife’s Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation

The new Virginia governor’s Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation is quite telling for both its brevity and especially for what it leaves out. Lee and Jackson are respectively remembered for their contributions to education in the Commonwealth and for their roles as military leaders, but no mention is made of the nation who benefited from that battlefield prowess.

WHEREAS, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson were native Virginians, having served our great nation and Commonwealth as educators, leaders, and military strategists; and

WHEREAS, Lee served in the United States Army for more than three decades until he left his position to serve as Commander in Chief of Virginia’s military forces and as Commander of the Army of northern Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Jackson taught philosophy and military tactics as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington for nearly a decade before serving briefly in the United States Army and later joining the Confederate Army to fight for his native Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Lee dedicated his life after the Civil War to reforming higher education in the South by serving as President of Washington College, now Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, where he helped to greatly increase the school’s funding and expanding the curriculum to create an atmosphere most conductive to learning for young men of both Southern and Northern heritage; and

WHEREAS, Jackson’s leadership and bravery enabled him to rally his troops to several improbable victories against opposition forces much larger than his own, and Jackson’s inspired “Stonewall Brigade” fought alongside General Lee’s troops toward another victory even after their leader was fatally wounded on the second day of the Battle of Chancellorsville; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting to recognize Generals Lee and Jackson as two of our nation’s most notable military strategists, as beloved leaders among their troops, as pioneers in the field of higher education and as faithful and dedicated Virginians;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Terence R. McAuliffe, do hereby recognize January 17, 2014; as LEE-JACKSON DAY in the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA and call this observance to attention for all our citizens.

Perhaps this proclamation falls in line with previous years, but it seems to me to be an exercise in saying as little about the cause for which they fought as possible.

The Black Confederate Trend

A couple of years ago I tried to track the frequency of references to “black Confederates” on the Internet by using Google’s Ngram application. Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I did recently come across Google’s Trend application, which functions along the same lines. It also includes more recent data. Back in September I discussed the possibility that this narrative has finally peaked.

The spike before 2010 corresponds to the Washington Post report on a Virginia textbook that included a reference to thousands of blacks fighting with Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. You will also notice a spike in the middle of 2011, which is when History Detectives aired its segment debunking the story of Silas Chandler.

Click here on how to interpret Google’s Trend Graphs.

“Our Focus is Educating People Today”

Bonus: Seems to me the Virginia Flaggers should be protesting the Virginia Military Institute over this decision. Let’s see if they do anything.

Everett-B-D-Julio_XX_The-Last-Meeting-Of-Lee-And-Jackson-1864_XX_Museum-Of-The-Confederacy-Richmond-VirginiaTomorrow is the annual gathering in Lexington, Virginia to mark Lee-Jackson Day, but you don’t get the sense that the diehards are very excited. Yes, the Virginia Flaggers will be there protesting a ban on their beloved flag on city light posts by marching in the streets with their Confederate flags. This remains one of the most ludicrous heritage protests of recent years as you are still permitted to wave as many flags in Lexington’s public places as your heart desires. You just can’t do so on public light poles.

You don’t get the sense from Brandon Dorsey, who organized the event, that he expects a large crowd. Continue reading

12 Years a Slave Earns Nine Oscar Nominations

12 Years A SlaveThe movie has been in limited release up til now, but I suspect that with Golden Globe Award for Best Drama and nine Oscar Nominations that this is going to change very soon. This is wonderful news for what is clearly the most important Hollywood movie about slavery to appear in decades. A number of my students have seen the film and they all come back wanting to talk about it. Even given the nature of the violence depicted in this film, I have no doubt that 12 Years a Slave will eventually be used in classrooms across the country. It already is through the textbooks, documents, and other primary sources that history teachers utilize

On a related note, I highly recommend checking out NPR’s ongoing series of conversations from their Race Card Project. I’ve caught most of them on my way to work in the morning. Yesterday I used this discussion at the beginning of my Civil War Memory class on the subject of antebellum slavery.

Common-place Commemorates Civil War at 150

logo-cp-civilIn a few weeks the online journal, Common-place, will publish a special issue on the Civil War Sesquicentennial that Megan Kate Nelson and I edited. The issue features essays by Caroline Janney, Ari Kelman, Manisha Sinha, John Hennessy, among others. They cover a wide range of topics that will be of interest to academic and public historians, educators, and Civil War enthusiasts.

Megan and I are very excited about this project and are very much looking forward to its publication. For now we wanted to give you a little taste of the issue by sharing our Editors’ Note.

The Civil War at 150: Memory and Meaning

The making of Civil War memory began not only after the war ended, but also in camps, on battlefields, and in homes across the nation as early as the spring of 1861. Officers wrote battle reports and soldiers jotted down diary entries, describing their experiences and shaping the war’s many histories. They picked up cotton bolls and shards of trees, bullets and buttons, and sent these souvenirs home as records of their wartime experiences. After 1865, veterans and their families pondered these relics and thought about their wartime experiences, telling stories and sharing memories of those who had fallen in battle. Continue reading