Category Archives: Soldiers

“Yasser Boss”: Old Jeff Mabry Attends a Reunion

Here is some incredible footage of a Confederate veterans reunion in Jacksonville, Florida in May 1914. Like most other reunions it included former camp servants or camp slaves. They were often featured in newspaper coverage, but even those wearing their old uniforms were always distinguished from the white veteran soldiers.

Old Jeff Mabry

At the 1:40 mark in the film a former slave by the name of Jeff Mabry is briefly introduced. Notice the introductory text: “‘Yasser Boss’ – Old Jeff Mabry with Ross Cavalry Brigade.” It doesn’t appear that Mabry is wearing a uniform, but he is donning at least one reunion ribbon, which could indicate that this was not his first.

What is important is that the text does not refer to Mabry in any way as a veteran as it does when appropriate throughout the remainder of the film. Enjoy.

Khizr Khan and the ‘Politics of Mourning’ at Arlington

Khan gravesite

Like many of you, I was moved by Khizr Khan’s passionate response during the final night of the DNC’s national convention to Donald Trump’s early campaign promise to ban all Muslims from this country. His defense of his son, Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 reflects the serves as an important reminder that claims to citizenship and loyalty to this country transcends racial, ethnic, and religious identification.

I was particularly taken by Mr. Khan’s reference to Arlington National Cemetery as I am just about finished reading Micki McElya’s new book, The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery. I highly recommend it. The overall focus of the book provides some much needed context to Mr. Khan’s remarks about his son, his service as a Muslim American, and his burial at Arlington, which I hope comes through in my latest essay at The Daily Beast.

A Civil War Battle Anniversary

crater

Today is the 152nd anniversary of the battle of the Crater. For those of you new to the blog, this is a battle that I spent a number of years researching first as a masters thesis at the University of Richmond and later as the subject of my first book, Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, which was published in 2012 by the University Press of Kentucky. For those of you who missed it, I recently learned that the book will be released in paperback next spring.

In 2014 I gave a talk on the memory of the battle as part of the National Park Service’s 150th commemoration in Petersburg, Virginia. You can watch it here.

“CHEERFUL AMID HARDSHIPS & PRIVATIONS”

54th Mass MemorialThis morning I sat in front of the rear of the Robert Gould Shaw and Fifty-Fourth Regiment Memorial before heading into the Boston Athenaeum for a day of writing. It is certainly not the first time I have read the inscription on the rear of the memorial, which most people miss when they visit. Continue reading

The Confederate Battle Flag Was Not “Stolen From the South”

Thanks to Al Mackey for posting this short clip of a recent talk in which Professor James I. Robertson responds to a question about the current debate about the display of the Confederate flag. I was surprised and disappointed that Robertson didn’t simply suggest that the battle flag belongs in a museum where it can be properly interpreted. That would have been the right answer. Instead we are treated to a muddled response that attempts to remove the Confederate soldier from discussions of slavery and race. Continue reading

Why Threading the Needle Between Soldier and Cause is Doomed to Fail

The call to remove Confederate monuments shows no signs of letting up. Many people who supported the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia have articulated positions holding the line on removing monuments. For some monuments offer educational opportunities and function as important reminders of the community’s collective past. Others have staked a position around the claim that Confederate soldier monuments can be understood apart from the broader cause of the Confederate nation. In other words, we can honor the memory of the soldier, along with his bravery and strong sense of duty, without having to deal with the baggage of race and slavery.

What follows ought not to be interpreted in support of the removal of Confederate soldier monuments nor should it be interpreted as an attempt to demonize the common soldier or anyone else for that matter. My position on these matters has been consistent. Continue reading

J. Tracy Power on the Confederate Flag and Civil War Memory

If you are a serious student of the Confederate army than you have read, and probably re-read, J. Tracy Power’s book, Lee’s Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox (1998). In my mind it is one of the finest scholarly studies ever published about Lee’s army. My hardcover copy is now held together with two rubber bands. Lee’s Miserables was indispensable to me during the writing of my book on the battle of the Crater.

As many of you know for a number of years Dr. Power worked for the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, but he recently took a teaching position at Newberry College. This transition has made it easier for Dr. Power to share his views on the ongoing debate about the Confederate flag, which he did in the form of a short essay published on his academia.edu page last month. I only noticed it earlier this evening. Continue reading

54th Massachusetts Called to Duty Once Again

Update: I totally called it. The Confederate flag was intended to honor the men of the 54th Massachusetts and was not a pro-Confederate statement.

Late last night a Confederate flag was discovered displayed on the Shaw Memorial on Beacon Street across the street from the Massachusetts State House. The flag remained displayed for a couple of hours before police arrived. While it is unknown who placed the flag on the monument or for what purpose it does not appear to be a pro-Confederate flag message. The flag is clearly dangling from Colonel Shaw’s sword. It certainly does make for a powerful image.

Most people know the story of the 54th Massachusetts from the movie “Glory”. The movie’s narrative ends with the regiment’s failed assault at Battery Wagner, outside of Charleston, South Carolina in July 1863. What often goes unnoticed, however, is the crucial role the regiment – along with its sister regiment, the 55th Mass. – played during the immediate postwar period. Both regiments were stationed in South Carolina from April through August 1865. Their responsibilities included managing relationships between former slaves and owners to ensure the arrival of a new crop and safeguarding government buildings and supplies. Most importantly, the two regiments played a vital role in protecting former slaves from their former masters who hoped to rebuild white supremacy on a new foundation. Continue reading