Category Archives: Civil War Sesquicentennial

Three Days of Talks and Not a Shot Fired

This weekend I am attending a conference hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society called “Massachusetts and the Civil War: The Commonwealth and National Disunion.”  Last night John Stauffer gave the keynote address on abolitionism in the Bay State and today I attended three panels.  The range of topics discussed is really quite impressive.  I especially enjoyed Jim Downs’s discussion of the health challenges faced by newly freed slaves during the war as well as his thoughts about how all of this challenges our triumphalist narrative of the Civil War.  I also enjoyed Katy Meir’s analysis of the U. S. Sanitary Commission and Megan Kate Nelson’s paper on soldiers as tourists.  [Stay tuned for an announcement regarding a project that Megan and I will begin working on together in the very near future.]

Tomorrow we will finish up with three more panels, including two that include papers on historical memory by Barbara Gannon and Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai.  What is striking, however, is that this conference does not include one paper on military history.  An outsider attending this conference would have little sense that this event included four years of horrific violence. There is little sense that the men from Massachusetts ever fired a shot in the Civil War.  Of course, I am not the first person to make this observation about the place of military history in academia, but it is quite striking nevertheless.  The closest we get to a Civil War general is George McClellan’s 1863 visit to Boston.  I certainly don’t mean in any way to diminish the quality of the presentations that I’ve heard over the past two days.  As I said, I’ve learned quite a bit and I suspect that we will see many of these papers published at some point.

 

Should This Confederate Flag Be Allowed in School?

Confederate flagOnce again, the courts have supported the right of school districts to ban students from wearing clothing that includes the Confederate flag.  The most recent case involved a school district in South Carolina in which a student repeatedly clashed with school administrators over a number of t-shirts that likely were purchased at a local Dixie Outfitters, including “Southern Chicks,” “Dixie Angels,” “Southern Girls,” and “Daddy’s Little Redneck.”

Hardwick also sought to wear a shirt labeled “Black Confederates,” honoring a Louisiana Civil War regiment made up of free African-Americans. She also tried to wear shirts she characterized as protests of censorship of the others, with slogans such as “Jesus and the Confederate Battle Flag: Banned from Our Schools but Forever in Our Hearts,” and “Offended by School Censorship of Southern Heritage.”

This is nothing more than a case of bad parenting.

Continue reading

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest For Teens

Nathan Bedford ForrestWorried about who your teenager idolizes?  Well, now you can return them to the good old days of the Civil War and Southern chivalry with Lochlainn Seabrook’s book about Nathan Bedford Forrest that is geared specifically for teens.

Ride along with Forrest and get a firsthand look at his childhood in Tennessee, his teens in Mississippi, his first years away from home, his marriage and children, his multimillion dollar businesses, the start of the American “Civil War,” his enrollment in the Confederate army, and his rise to fame as a daring and successful Rebel officer.  Thrill to the dramatic descriptions of General Forrest’s exploits on and off the battlefield as he and his courageous cavalry (which included 64 black Confederate soldiers) fought their way across the South defending hearth, home, honor, and the constitutional right of self-government.

Find out why the General’s men loved and respected him, why the Southern people looked up to him as their “Spiritual Comforter,” and why he freed his slaves years before Lincoln issued his fake and illegal Emancipation Proclamation.  After Lincoln’s War, follow Forrest as he rebuilt his life from scratch, and helped the South regain her political power and dignity during the Yankees’ cruel and revengeful “Reconstruction” period.  See how the great Confederate chieftain lived out his final years campaigning for black civil rights, giving generously to charities, forgiving the North, and working to heal the physical and emotional wounds left by the War for Southern Independence.

Along the way, you will learn the truth about Forrest and Southern slavery and about Lincoln’s War on the Constitution and the American people, truths that have been hidden for a century and a half by uneducated enemies of the South.  Parents, you will enjoy reading this heavily illustrated compact little book as well, for it contains hundreds of important historical facts that neither you or your children were ever taught in school.

This guy’s basement press makes Pelican look mainstream.  I’ve perused these titles in the past, but this one takes the cake.  One wonders if the details behind that multimillion dollar business will be shared, but I won’t hold my breadth.  I have no doubt that this represents a rearguard action in how we remember and teach the Civil War, but it is hard not to be sympathetic with the few who will fall under its spell at no fault of their own.

 

From Civil War to ?

58172-art-american-imperialismThis will probably be the last post I write before I put together my final thoughts as an introduction to the panel on interpreting USCTs at Civil War sites that I will be moderating on Saturday at Gettysburg College. I am still thinking about Carole Emberton’s essay, which I briefly touched on a few days ago.  She’s got me thinking about the place of black Union soldiers within a narrative arc that stretches from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and the unquestioned assumption that closely links their service and sacrifice with a postwar reward of civil rights.  Emberton argues that this narrative stood in sharp contrast with a widespread belief that service in the military functioned to tame those characteristics that many white Americans (North and South) believed prevented African Americans from enjoying the benefits of full citizenship.  Continue reading

 

Carole Emberton Reconsiders the Black Military Experience

ffusctreI’ve been thinking quite a bit about the current state of interpretation re: the history of black Union soldiers during the Civil War and beyond in preparation for the Future of Civil War History Conference, which will take place later this week in Gettysburg.  As I’ve said before, I think there is much to celebrate as we look back over the past 50 years.  The number of scholarly and popular books being published continues at a brisk pace and popular representations of black soldiers can be seen in recent Hollywood movies such as Cold Mountain and Lincoln  and even a historical novel about USCTs at the Crater by Newt Gingrich. Most importantly, many history textbooks now devote significant space to black Union soldiers and their contributions.  Throughout much of the Civil War sesquicentennial USCTs have been front and center in museum exhibits, symposia, in the pages of local newspapers as human interest stories as well as in the form of new monuments and markers. Continue reading