Category Archives: Memory

Southern Hospitality in the Hands of Transplanted Yankees

This little story from Maggie Rioux of Falmouth appeared this morning in The Boston Globe. It’s innocent enough.

Last May, my husband and I were on a bus tour of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the tour guide still seemed to be fighting the Civil War (at least for professional purposes). She kept referring to us as Yankees. After awhile, I’d had enough and piped up: “That’s a major insult. We’re not Yankees. We’re from the Boston area. We’re Red Sox people.” We didn’t hear another word about Yankees all morning.

I remember a similar experience a few years ago while on a tour in the historic section of Charleston, South Carolina. The guide continually referred to us as “Yankees” and even once as “invaders.” At the end of the tour I asked if he was native to the city/region. Turns out he was born in Pennsylvania and had been living in the city for around twenty years.

Are These the Men Who Burned Columbia, South Carolina?

Burning of ColumbiaThis weekend the Wade Hampton Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans will mark the anniversary of the bombardment of Columbia, South Carolina with a reenactment. The SCV hopes to remind local residents of the destruction wrought by the Union army. According to Don Gordon:

It’s important that we actually understand the true history of our city. We were fighting against the invading army that had burned every town that they came through.

The camp’s website devoted to the burning of Columbia reinforces their preferred narrative: “The responsibility for the burning of Columbia rests on the shoulders of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, commander of the Federal forces.” Of course, anyone who has bothered to study this event knows that there are any number of questions surrounding what took place on February 17, 1865. Continue reading

A War of Liberation and Empire

One of my favorite books of 2013 was Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek. Kelman’s analysis of the history and memory of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 serves to remind us that the western boundary of the Civil War took place far west of the Mississippi River. For me, the book’s importance comes down to how it challenges a relatively recent and popular memory that places liberation at the center of the narrative. But what happens when we frame the war years around the federal government’s policies on the frontier before during and after the war?  Continue reading

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