A Few Thoughts About Lesley Gordon’s 16th Connecticut

We’ve been waiting for this book for some time. I remember talking to Lesley Gordon about regimental histories eight years ago following a panel discussion I took part in at the AHA in Philadelphia. Well, her new book, A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut’s Civil War, arrived on Tuesday and I am just about finished reading it. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy. Continue reading “A Few Thoughts About Lesley Gordon’s 16th Connecticut”

Who Was This “White Man’s Darkey”?

It’s not difficult to understand why Mattie Clyburn Rice believed that her father’s story was intertwined with Confederate soldiers. It was. Growing up Ms. Rice listened to her father’s stories about Confederate soldiers and the war. It goes without saying that it must have been an exciting time in his life and it should come as no surprise that he wanted to pass on those experiences to his family. One thing that has been lost in all the controversy surrounding Weary Clyburn’s official status in the Confederate army is that the core of his story is true. Weary’s wartime experiences helped to forge a close relationship with veterans in Monroe, NC. What else can explain the fact that his passing was covered in the local paper? This, however, does not change the fact that the available records demonstrate that he was a slave and not a soldier.

We can’t know much about Weary’s wartime experience, but his obituary does shed some light on how race shaped and defined the limits of his wartime experience and his postwar interaction with Confederate veterans and the surrounding community. Continue reading “Who Was This “White Man’s Darkey”?”

Stephen Berry on Why Our Civil War Matters

Stephen Berry is one of my favorite Civil War historians writing today. He has tackled a wide range of subjects from Civil War soldiers to the Lincolns. Regardless of the topic, I am always challenged by his thorough analysis and creativity of thought. This year’s Bottimore Lecture was delivered by Steve and is focused on the very simple question of what it was like to be shot in the Civil War. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it, but it is his closing remarks that I want to highlight. It’s an incredibly eloquent conclusion that offers a persuasive case for why it is important to remember the men who died in our Civil War.

It is not pleasant, I know, looking real war in its real face. But if we are to make war, we had better know what we are making. For myself, I grant that the Civil War was worth it. it answered forever whether we were a Union of states or one nation indivisible. It answered forever whether a Republican form of government could endure. It answered forever whether a nation dedicated to freedom would be built on the backs of slaves.

But today when I hear folks in the South talking half seriously about secession or hear folks in the North talk seriously about letting the South go or hear folks all over this country forget what Lincoln perfectly understood that the leading object of government is to elevate the condition of men. To lift artificial weights from all shoulders. To clear paths of laudable pursuits for all. To afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. When I hear such ludicrous things said and such important things forgotten I always have a desperate urge to show them the Civil War as it really was.

In this sesquicentennial season of that conflict let us try to remember all that we paid and all that we paid for. And let us take better care of this country and each other.

The remarks above begin at the 45:45 mark in the video. Thanks, Steve.

Essay on John Bowie Magruder Uploaded

I wrote the first draft of this essay on the colonel of the 57th Virginia Infantry during a summer seminar that I took with Gary Gallagher in 2001. It was my first attempt at writing something substantial after moving to Charlottesville in 2000. Up until then I had written a bunch of book reviews and a couple of short articles for The Washington Times. Magruder was an ideal subject. He left a body of incredibly rich letters, which are currently housed at UVA’s Special Collections. Continue reading “Essay on John Bowie Magruder Uploaded”

Two Soldiers, Two Stories

Many of you may remember that this past school year I accompanied 35 students on a civil rights trip from Atlanta to Memphis. I was asked to accompany the instructor who organized it, but this year my school is requesting that I lead a trip for what we call Exploration Week, which takes place in March. It should come as no surprise that I am thinking of a Civil War trip for about 15 to 20 students – going small for the first year. What I have is little more than a sketchy outline of some of the sites that I want to visit, but they will likely fall between Gettysburg and Fredericksburg.  Continue reading “Two Soldiers, Two Stories”