Even the Public Historians Have Been Seduced

E. Dabney at Petersburg National Battlefield

The History News Network has just posted an editorial by Steven Conn on the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Conn offers an overly simplistic reading of the evolution of Civil War historiography through the Civil Rights Movement before closing his essay with the following:

Sadly, 150 years after Edmund Ruffin fired on Fort Sumter, large numbers of Americans remain in the thrall of a romanticized Confederacy.  At Civil War reenactments far more people show up dressed as Johnny Reb than as Billy Yank.  The fact that it is acceptable to put a Confederate flag on a car bumper and to portray Confederates as brave and gallant defenders of states’ rights rather than as traitors and defenders of slavery is a testament to 150 years of history written by the losers.

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Black Confederates Attract Tourist Dollars

Thanks to a reader for passing along the Prince William County/Manassas, Virginia Tourism Guide for 2010-11.  I have no idea what went into the decision to feature a young black male in what appears to be a Confederate uniform.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing historically inaccurate about such a representation, though he is probably too young to be a body servant.  The more important issue has to do with the intended message behind this image.  I would love to know if anyone on the editorial team is aware of the recent textbook controversy involving claims of thousands of black Confederates serving under Stonewall Jackson’s command.

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Civil War History in Virginia Month

Jackson Park in Charlottesville, Va.

[commentary to follow]

WHEREAS, the month of April is most closely associated with Virginia’s pivotal role in the American Civil War; it was in April 1861 that Virginia seceded from the Union following a lengthy, contentious and protracted debate within the Commonwealth, and it was in April 1865 that the War was essentially concluded with the South’s surrender at Appomattox. In the four years that fell between those momentous months, Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy, and it was on Virginia soil that the vast majority of the Civil War’s battles were fought, in places like Manassas, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, New Market, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, locations now forever linked with the indelible history of this perilous period; and

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Thoughtful Reflection in the Heart of the Confederacy

Over the past few months I’ve done a number of interviews about the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  At the end of my latest interview this past Friday the reporter noted that this was not the story that she anticipated writing.  What she meant was that she was not going to write up a story around the standard narrative of lingering disagreements and bitterness between North and South and black and white.  As I’ve suggested on numerous occasions, that narrative simply does not hold up given the political and demographic shifts that have taken place throughout much of the country over the past few decades.

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Dear Governor, There is Still Time To Do the Right Thing

Governor Robert McDonnell

In addition to my post from this past Thursday both Robert Moore and Andy Hall have noted that Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell has yet to come through with his promise to issue a proclamation setting aside April as “Civil War in Virginia Month”.  I hope that this can be explained as an oversight having to do with a busy schedule more important matters, but I am beginning to doubt it.

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