Category Archives: Memory

H.K. Edgerton Addresses His White “Babies” In Tennessee

This address by H.K. Edgerton took place this past weekend in Elizabethton, Tennessee during a memorial service for “black Confederate” Robert Stover. The event was organized by the  Lt. Robert J. Tipton, Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp. H.K. is still going strong and will no doubt always have an audience among his white”babies.”

[Uploaded to YouTube on June 8, 2014]

Confederate Desertion and PFC Bowe Bergdahl

USA_PFC_BoweBergdahl_ACU_CroppedOne of the essays that I wrote in graduate school at the University of Richmond was on desertion in the Confederate army. I published a short version of the piece in Civil War Times, which you can read here and I am hoping to publish a longer and more analytical version somewhere in the near future. My interest was with those deserters who were tried and executed and specifically with how their comrades responded. As many of you know these executions were public events meant to influence the behavior and resolve of the hundreds and even thousands who often were ordered to attend.

What struck me was the overwhelming support that these executions had within the ranks. Soldiers understood that discipline and unit cohesion was paramount to the survival of the army and that unchecked desertion would ultimately lead to defeat. But even though there was widespread support for executions soldiers expressed sympathy for the condemned. Soldiers understood many of the forces influencing their comrades’ decisions to desert and on occasion acknowledged that they could just as easily be facing the firing squad. The ease with which men sympathized with one another, no doubt, reflected their experiential common ground. Continue reading

The Emotional Pull of Cold Harbor

Those of us who have spent significant time walking Civil War battlefields know that they evoke different emotions. Much of that is the result of the broader narrative that we bring to these sites. I was reminded of this yesterday as I was writing the post on Cold Harbor and as a result of following the comments. The Cold Harbor battlefield invokes in me a feeling of dread and anxiousness that I rarely feel on other battlefields. Perhaps it’s the name or some feint memory of the voices of David McCullough and Shelby Foote from Ken Burns’s The Civil War that triggers it. Continue reading

Old Myths Die Hard at Cold Harbor

With all the coverage of the 150th anniversary of Cold Harbor I was surprised by the persistence of two myths that refuse to give way. The first is the story of Union soldiers pinning their names to their coats so their bodies could be identified and the second relates to the casualty figures that are commonly cited. Taken together they reinforce a compelling narrative of futile bloody assaults ordered by Ulysses S. Grant – the “great butcher” of the war. Continue reading

A Black Confederate For the Intellectually Challenged

This is the first black Confederate headstone dedication that I’ve come across in quite some time. There is nothing particularly unusual about this story except for the fact that there is no attempt to hide the fact that the individual in question is clearly not a soldier.

It couldn’t be any clearer. Continue reading