Boston’s Civil War Memory: A Student’s Reflection

Mount Auburn CemeteryIn 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 “Boston’s Civil War Memory: A Student’s Reflection”

Heritage Attacks Are in the Eyes of the Beholder

You probably won’t be surprised that I have a fairly large file of saved emails from readers who believe that what animates my blogging and research is an intense hatred of Southern/Confederate heritage. One day I am going to go through and write something up about their content. Many of these emails conform to a certain theme that involves claims about what motivated or didn’t motivate their ancestor during the Civil War. It’s a mantra that over the years I’ve accepted as reflective of a relatively small, but passionate community. Continue reading “Heritage Attacks Are in the Eyes of the Beholder”

“My Great-Great Grandfather Didn’t Own Slaves” (So What)

I’ve said it before, but I don’t mind repeating that no one has taught me more about the challenges of interpreting the Civil War at America’s battlefields than John Hennessy. John’s contribution to Common-place explores some of the more recent sticking points that have arisen as a result of shifts in battlefield interpretation away from the original intention behind the creation of or national battlefield parks. National Park Service historians have fully embraced an expansive interpretation of the events that transpired on their landscapes that go beyond the experience of the soldiers without any reference to causes and consequences. Continue reading ““My Great-Great Grandfather Didn’t Own Slaves” (So What)”

Are We Coming to the End of Civil War Memory?

When I learned that an essay on teaching would be included in the Common-place project I immediately thought of my friend, Chris Lese, who teaches history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chris and I met at an OAH conference a few years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. We’ve exchanged ideas and on a few occasions I joined his class discussion via Skype. Chris’s efforts to introduce his students to the subject of Civil War memory as well as his use of digital tools and social media sit at the forefront of classroom innovation and creativity.  Continue reading “Are We Coming to the End of Civil War Memory?”

Common-place Marks the Civil War 150 with Special Issue

I couldn’t be more excited to share Common-place’s latest issue on the Civil War sesquicentennial that I had the pleasure to edit with Megan Kate Nelson. We are confident that each of you will find something of interest in this issue. The essays cover a wide range of topics and will hopefully both enlighten and entertain. Special thanks to all the contributors to this issue. We had the pleasure to work with an incredibly talented group of historians and educators, who were both committed to producing their best work and patient with our suggestions and numerous emails. Thanks also to the wonderful editorial staff at Common-place, especially Paul Erickson and Trudy Powers. Continue reading “Common-place Marks the Civil War 150 with Special Issue”