Update: For those of you who missed it here is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s keynote address from last night.
I watched a good deal of CSPAN’s coverage of the Gettysburg 150th, including Doris Kearns Goodwin’s keynote address earlier this evening. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. Here are a few tweets. Remember, they are just tweets.
With all that is being written in newspapers across the country about the Gettysburg 150th most of the editorials have been just plain fluff. The battle is framed as a tragedy that pitted Americans v. Americans or as a crucial moment in the broader struggle for civil rights. Today the New York Times published a short editorial by Civil War Institute Director Peter Carmichael. For those of you who have heard Pete at various events in recent months there is very little that is new, but for those of you who haven’t this is well worth your time.
Tucked away on a hillside, hidden from visitors who descend upon Gettysburg every year, are the outlines of a Civil War burial trench. One of the thousands of Southerners scattered in shallow graves across the battlefield was North Carolinian Charles Futch, shot in the head while fighting next to his sibling John, who never left his dying brother’s side. After burying him in an anonymous grave, a semi-literate John poured out his tortured feelings in a letter home. “Charly got kild and he suffered [a] gratdeal,” he wrote, “[and] I don’t want nothing to eat hardly for I am . . . sick all the time and half crazy. I never wanted to come home so bad in my life.”
In the story of the Futch brothers are timeless questions about what it means to be a nation at war today. How soldiers cope with the trauma of combat, how poverty shapes the military experience, and how acts of mourning influence political loyalties are inquiries that make history engaging and relevant. Unfortunately, the 150th Commemoration of the Civil War has largely missed an opportunity to make the past usable. Too many historians have been afraid to ask hard questions, much of the public is seduced by the heroic view of war, and Congress has defunded the National Park Service (NPS). Continue reading “Finding a Usable Past at Gettysburg”
For those Americans with an inkling of interest in American history and the American Civil War this coming week’s 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg will mark the beginning and end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.
Agree? Disagree? Talk amongst yourselves.
Maine Senator Angus King, Jr. took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to remember Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine’s heroic stand on Little Round Top on July 2, 1863. I think he has seen the movie, “Gettysburg” one too many times. You will get a kick out of his maps.