Category Archives: Civil War Sesquicentennial

In the Name of Confederate Heritage

Update: Susan Hathaway finally responds to this incident.

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My students Interpreting the Jefferson Davis Monument in Richmond

Barring any major development I think it’s time to move beyond this story involving the Virginia Flaggers and their unsubstantiated account of monument vandalism. Some of you are no doubt pleased to hear this. On the face of it this story has about as much value as a soap opera and accomplishes little more than attracting a large number of visitors to the blog. There is certainly a place for such entertainment.

That said, it does reflect a certain narrative thread of recent Civil War memory. Regardless of its origin, both the content of this story and Susan Hathaway’s embrace of it is evidence of this relatively small community’s collective belief that their heritage and beliefs are under assault. What better way of rallying the troops than a story involving one of their own or someone closely identified with the Flaggers defending one of the most important and even sacred sites on Richmond’s Monument Avenue. I don’t anticipate any public explanation on the part of Hathaway and/or Rob Walker Jr. That their community has remained quiet is telling enough. There will be no public demands for an explanation from this community. To do so would be a sign of weakness in the face of this ubiquitous enemy.

Move on people. There is nothing more to see here.

It won’t be long before the colors are raised and calls to “Restore the Honor” are heard on the Boulevard in front of the VMFA.

Dinosaurs, Leprechans, Gargoyles and Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall JacksonA new fiberglass statue to Stonewall Jackson has recently been added to Lexington, Virginia’s commemorative landscape.  The sculpture by local artist, Mark Cline, is situated on private property just north of Lexington on Rt. 11.  Cline is best known for his fiberglass sculptures of fantasy creatures and dinosaurs that adorn parks across the country.  Among his best known work is a life sized reproduction of Stonehenge made out of Styrofoam. Some of you might be aware of Escape From Dinosaur Kingdom, which is located at Natural Bridge in the Shenandoah Valley and depicts dinosaurs attacking Yankee soldiers.

It is fitting that Cline was given this commission given the larger than life world that Jackson occupies in our collective imagination. I absolutely love it. It’s playful, but somehow still respectful of Jackson.  Unfortunately, I can’t locate a photograph that does justice to it. [see here and here]  Hopefully, we will have access to some better quality photos soon.  Kudos to the SCV chapter in Lexington for their aesthetic judgment.

Oh, For the Presence of Stonewall Jackson

stonewall jackson

Tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of Stonewall Jackson’s death.  What follows is a short essay I originally intended for my column at the Atlantic.  Unfortunately, my regular editor is out on maternity leave and there was no way to get it posted in time.  No big deal.  Here it is for your consideration.

The commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle of Chancellorsville (May 1-3, 1863) last week means but one thing: Next stop, Gettysburg!  But before Civil War enthusiasts can shift their attention to what is still commonly referred to as the “High Water Mark” of the Confederacy there is one loose narrative thread from the Chancellorsville campaign that needs to be brought to a conclusion.  Eight days following his accidental wounding at the hands of his own troops in the early evening hours of May 2 General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson died.  News of his death sent the Confederacy into national mourning and for some it raised profound questions about its future and whether God had forsaken their cause.  Jackson’s death left Robert E. Lee without one of his most talented and trusted subordinates.  His final days in battle and on his deathbed have never really diminished in our popular memory of the war.  Continue reading

Let’s Recross that River and Return to Chancellorsville

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Today is the anniversary of one of the bloodiest days of fighting of the entire Civil War.  Those of you who visit Chancellorsville today will enjoy an insightful tour and interpretation of the final day’s fighting at Chancellorsville that took place in the area around the clearing between Hazel Grove, Fairview, and the Chancellor House.  The overwhelming majority of the roughly 30,000 casualties suffered that day between the two armies took place in this area on May 3, 1863.  While Stonewall Jackson’s daring flanking maneuver and its successful assault, which resulted in the collapse of the Eleventh Corps, damaged the Army of the Potomac the day ended with the two wings of Lee’s army split off from one another and facing much larger enemy forces in their respective fronts.  A Federal counterattack was still possible and Lee knew it.  Throughout the morning of May 3, Lee’s army fought to reunite its two dangerously divided wings.

Interestingly, many visitors to Chancellorsville never walk the May 3 ground or if they do they fail to appreciate its significance.  For many, a visit to Chancellorsville begins and ends at the visitors center, whose location reinforces a Jackson-centered narrative that highlights his flanking maneuver, assault, and accidental wounding on the very same ground.  You can replay the series of events that led to Jackson’s wounding at the hands of his own men and imagine to your hearts content those counterfactual scenarios that keep the general alive at least through the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg.  Continue reading

USPS Civil War Commemorative Stamps Show Clear Bias

Gettysburg

Has anyone else noticed that the stamps released thus far by the United States Postal Service reflect a clear bias?  Perhaps it should come as no surprise that an agency of the federal government would favor the United States during the Civil War.  Next month the USPS’s Forever stamp marking the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg will be released.  It is based on Thure de Thulstrup’s 1887 chromolithograph and once again depicts the Union line as opposed to the more popular Confederate perspective on July 3.

Stamps marking the anniversaries of Bull Run and Antietam also features Union positions while the New Orleans stamp features Union gunboats.  And let’s not forget the Emancipation commemorative stamp.  I suspect that this bias is intentional and that it will continue to the end of the sesquicentennial.  We may not see a Rebel until we get to Appomattox.

At this rate I am willing to wager that they release a stamp marking Sherman’s March?