Earlier today I shared some thoughts about the ongoing controversy surrounding the appointment of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the new president of the College of Charleston. As you already know, the controversy surrounding this choice has to do with his close identification with the Confederate flag and Confederate heritage generally. This past July McConnell was invited to speak at the 150th anniversary of the assault at Battery Wagner, which highlights the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It’s well worth reading. Thanks to Brent Everitt of the National Park Service for passing this along. Continue reading
We’ve all done it. At one point or another in driving home the scale of death during the Civil War we’ve taken the number representing the percentage of Americans who died and applied it to our current population. When doing so we arrive at a number somewhere around 7 million. This is suppose to help our students/audience appreciate what Americans experienced in the 1860s. Continue reading
Update: In my rush to finish the sources section at the end of the guest post I left out one important article by Carole Emberton, which has been incredibly influential on how I think about the connection between black Union soldiers, violence, and Reconstruction. “Only Murder Makes Men: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience,” Journal of the Civil War Era, 2, NO . 3 (2012).
Today I have a guest post at The Civil War Monitor’s “Front Lines Blog.” I’ve been meaning for some time to write a short essay about how United States Colored Troops have come to be remembered during the sesquicentennial. This is something that I can easily see expanding for my project on the sesquicentennial.
It’s hard to believe that 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the Hollywood movie Glory. Twenty-five years later it is also difficult to remember that for many Americans this was their first introduction to the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the broader story of African Americans and the Civil War. More than midway through the Civil War sesquicentennial, a very different picture confronts us. The story of black soldiers is front and center in a narrative that places slavery and emancipation at the center of our understanding of what the war was about and what it accomplished. The contributions of United States Colored Troops can be seen on the big screen, in plays and musicals, news articles, museum exhibits, on National Park Service battlefields and in the textbooks we use in our schools.
Click here for the rest of the essay.
We should not be surprised by the irrational response by a select few to the selection of William T. Sherman as 1864s’ Man of the Year by an audience at the Museum of the Confederacy this past weekend. I applaud the MOC for maintaining an open Facebook page to facilitate responses and the very limited positive give and take that can be found. The most extreme comments come from people who see themselves as victims of Sherman’s actions in Georgia in 1864. They are most definitely not victims.
It might be helpful to place the destruction wrought by Sherman alongside the suffering of United States soldiers at Andersonville Prison, which commenced with its sesquicentennial commemoration today. One of my readers reminded me that there was likely much more suffering within the walls of the prison than that caused by Sherman throughout Georgia in 1864. On the one hand it’s a perspective that I never considered while at the same time it means very little to me. Continue reading
One of the nice surprises in the special issue of Common-place that I edited with Megan Kate Nelson is an essay that we had nothing to do with. Sarah Beetham’s “Object Lesson” on Civil War monuments and cemeteries is a wonderful introduction to the subject that was submitted independently from those that we commissioned. It fits perfectly into the issue given our overall theme. She begins with a description of Martin Millmore’s Roxbury Solider Monument in Forrest Hills Cemetery, which is five minutes from my house. It’s a beautiful place and one that I regularly visit. Millmore himself is buried close to the entrance. I am going to use it this week in class.
In a quiet glade amid the trees and lawns of Boston’s Forest Hills Cemetery, a bronze soldier of the American Civil War stands on a low plinth clutching his rifle (fig. 1). His posture is reminiscent of parade rest, a pose often assumed by soldiers on ceremonial occasions, but he gazes downward and to his right with a wistful air (fig. 2). He wears the standard overcoat and forage cap issued to soldiers of the Union Army for winter service, and his finely modeled, unbearded face reflects the youth of the typical Civil War volunteer. The base of the statue declares that it was “Erected by the City of Roxbury in honor of Her Soldiers, who died for their Country in the Rebellion of 1861-1865.” Its grassy clearing is enclosed with a low stone fence inscribed with the names, units, and dates of death of the Civil War soldiers of the Boston suburb of Roxbury (fig. 3). Amid the rolling hills and screening vegetation of the cemetery, the stone fence demarcates a space for quiet reflection. Overall, the monument is part gravestone and part triumph, mourning the deaths of the young soldiers of Roxbury while honoring their valorous deeds in the successful Union war effort.
Read the rest of the essay.