The two seem to go perfect together, but why? Well, I guess in Fredericksburg it is the proximity of the famous battle to the holiday season that makes for such an easy connection. Joyce Smith, a parishioner at Cornerstone Baptist Church, has written a Christmas Civil War drama titled “My Friend, the Enemy” which is based on the Mort Kunstler print by the same name.
According to the news story, Smith “studied the picture for months.” I’m not quite sure what there is to study that would keep one occupied for months, but it culminated in a play that essentially reenacts a meeting between four soldiers on Christmas Day 1862. Stories of Civil War soldiers meeting to trade and talk are powerful narrative threads in our continued obsession with the Reconciliationist Narrative of the war. They make the war palatable. I can only imagine the dialog: (1) What the war is about; (2) Why must we be enemies?; (3) Family and Home… The play ends with a meeting between two soldiers on Christmas Day 30 years after the end of the war followed by the singing of Christmas Carols.
Americans need to believe that their civil war was special, that the violence did not overshadow our faith in “Good Will Toward Men.” I tend to think that we emphasize these stories to make ourselves feel better about what happened and why. It give us a reason not to look too closely at ourselves and our collective past. Our civil war needs to fit neatly under the Christmas tree. When we cross the Rapphannock River we want to see two soldiers peacefully engaged rather than thousands of men crossing on the eve of a bloody battle or fugitive slaves crossing to their freedom. So be it. Take the family to see this one and remember to bring plenty of good cheer and egg nog.
Looks like Missouri’s Bushwhackers are the latest heroes over at the Lew Rockwell blog. According to Karen de Coster:
Guerrilla forces tend to attract the worst sorts, as well as those who honorably serve the greater cause of independence. As time went on, the focus of the Bushwhackers tended to become more self-serving. This is the natural response to aggressive war, especially a war as evil and crushing as Lincoln’s bloody War Against Southern Independence. Many of the actions of these guerrilla fighters — even the misplaced behaviors — originated in response to the endless brutalities suffered at the hands of the Union Army and federal authorities.
The video offers us the standard Lew Rockwell line (though there is no official connection between the two) that white Southerners perceived the war as one of encroaching federal power. However, as I’ve pointed out before, it completely ignores the fact that the Confederate government went further than the United States in its push toward centralization. Unfortunately, such a description, along with the video, tell us next to nothing about the Bushwhackers, Guerilla warfare or the war in Missouri. It does show that Lew Rockwell will never shy away from distorting the past to make a political point.
Guerilla warfare is one of those areas of Civil War history that has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 15 years. If you are truly interested in this subject you will want to check out books by Daniel Sutherland, Michael Fellman, Ken Noe, Noel Fisher, John Inscoe, John McKinney, to name just a few.
I recently came across a microfilm reel that included a reprint of a Senate debate from 1907 on just this question. The pamphlet was put together by Edmund S. Meaning of the University of Washington for the purposes of clarifying the official name of the war. Meaning had heard Senator Benjamin Tillman present a speech in which he described the war as “The War Between the States” as the official name adopted by the federal government. Meaning contacted Tillman and asked for documents related to the Senate debate and discovered that in fact the name adopted was “Civil War.” Here is an excerpt from that Senate debate for your consideration. The debate took place on January 11, 1907 and can be found in the Congressional Record of that date, pages 929 to 933. Continue reading →
I don’t really have much to say about the recent decision at the University of Mississippi to ban the playing of “From Dixie With Love” during their football games. What I do find curious is the SCV’s take on this. Their blog coverage of this story includes the headline, “Anti-South Cultural Cleansing Continues at Ole Miss”. Can someone explain to me how this is an example of anti-Southern sentiment given that the school is located in the heart of the “Old South”? As far as I can tell this is about southerners making decisions about their own institution. And exactly how is this a matter of “cultural cleansing” when the story indicates that the song has only been played for the past two decades? Strange indeed.
One of the sessions that I attended at last week’s SHA was a roundtable on Civil War Memory and the Sesquicentennial. It was an excellent panel consisting of Gaines Foster, Suzanna Lee, John Neff, and Robert Cook. The presentations were short which left plenty of time for conversation. The question of how to attract African Americans to sesquicentennial celebrations received a great deal of attention from a number of the panelists, especially Prof. Cook, whose study of the Civil War Centennial highlights the extent to which this particular group was ignored. Prof. Cook suggested that what is needed this time around is a much more inclusive commemoration that does justice to the “Emancipationist Legacy” of the conflict. Well, who would disagree with that? Here in Virginia we’ve already held one major conference on the eve of the Civil War. Panelists touched on questions of race and slavery throughout the various sessions and future conferences will focus even more on the end of slavery in Virginia and its aftermath. There will be no shortage of talk about slavery, race, the home front and every other subject under the sun.