Category Archives: Memory

These Boots Were Made For Walking to Freedom

slavery kaufmann

I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying James Oakes’s new book, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865.  At some point soon I will share some thoughts, but for now I wanted to highlight the cover art by Theodor Kaufmann.  “On to Liberty” is in my mind the most compelling visual interpretation of the emancipation experience of tens of thousands of slaves during the Civil War.  Here we have a group of fugitive slaves walking confidently toward the sound of Union guns off in the distance.  The flash of the cannon and United States flag function as a beacon for this particular group.  It’s interesting that there are no adult black men present.  But what I want to point out is that apart from one child, who is wearing boots, everyone else is barefoot.  Whose boots might they be?  Are they military?  If so, Confederate?  Perhaps they belong to the boy’s former owner?  What might that mean?

Anyone?

 

Giving New Meaning to a Civil War Monument

My local Civil War monument in Jamaica Plain has been turned into a memorial site for the 27 students and teachers, and administrators killed last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.  The memorial was organized by Carlos and Melida Arredondo, who lost a son in Iraq a few years ago.   They have been involved in anti-war and peace campaigns ever since.

shooting-memorial-horizontal

 

Confederate Pensioners of Color Day

That’s a euphemism for slaves who were forced to work for the Confederate government during the war or who accompanied a master into the army.  Of the ten men who will be recognized today in Union County North Carolina, nine were slaves.  All received pensions after the war, but not for their service as soldiers.  The marker reads: “In Memory of Union County’s Confederate Pensioners of Color,” and lists their names: Wilson Ashcraft, Ned Byrd, Wary Clyburn, Wyatt Cunningham, George Cureton, Hamp Cuthbertson, Mose Fraser, Lewis McGill, Aaron Perry and Jeff Sanders.  I have the pensions for most of these men, including Clyburn’s whose file includes a letter confirming that his pension was not a recognition of service as a soldier – just in case there was any confusion.

It will be interesting to see whether event organizers, including speaker Earl Ijames, will mention that these men were indeed slaves.  It is nice to see that at least one newspaper includes a reference to these men as slaves.  That inconvenient fact is almost always ignored, but without it the history of these men makes absolutely no sense.

As I’ve said before, there is nothing wrong with remembering these men, but Confederate slaves ought to be recognized for surviving the Confederacy.

 

Review of the Museum of the Confederacy – Appomattox

What follows is a guest post by Thom Bassett, who recently took a trip to Virginia to explore Civil War battlefields and other sites.  He took the time to visit the new MOC museum at Appomattox and sent along this review.  Thom teaches at Bryant University in Providence, R.I. He has written numerous essays for the New York Times Disunion blog and is currently working on a novel about William Tecumseh Sherman.

It’s unfortunate that in the minds of many the Museum of the Confederacy’s newly opened branch at Appomattox is associated exclusively with the ginned-up controversy about display there of the Confederate battle flag. For one thing, the museum staff seem heartily sick of the issue and those who protested the museum’s design: As I carefully began to ask about it during my visit this weekend, one of them interrupted me to scoff, “What the hell else did they want? We put the damn state flags outside!”

For another, and more important, the MoC-Appomattox overall is a superb example of sophisticated, accessible, evocative, intellectually honest public narrative about the Civil War. While it’s in some respects still very much a work in progress, the museum nonetheless already meaningfully informs and engages the public about the war and its significance today.

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