Category Archives: Soldiers

Review of Linda Barnickel’s Milliken’s Bend

Milliken's BendThis morning The Civil War Monitor published my review of Linda Barnickel’s new book, Milliken’s Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory.

The past few decades have witnessed an outpouring of Civil War scholarship and more popular studies about slavery, emancipation, and in particular, the history of African American soldiers. As we make our way through the Civil War Sesquicentennial, this scholarship continues to shape and inspire a wide range of commemorative events that highlight the history of these soldiers and the contributions they made to preserving the Union and ending slavery in 1865. Indeed, the history of these men has been front and center during the Civil War 150th, which stands in sharp contrast with the Centennial celebrations of the early 1960s. Much of what we’ve seen over the past few years has been framed around a collective sense that, as a nation, we have a moral responsibility to remember and properly commemorate an aspect of our Civil War history that has been ignored for far too long, minimized, and in some cases, intentionally distorted.

Read the rest of the review.

Remembering Louis Martin

Louis MartinA couple of years ago Mike Musick – who as many of you know was for a long time the go-to guy for anything Civil War related at the National Archives – contacted me about a recently discovered photograph of Louis Martin of the 29th U.S.C.T. He kindly arranged to have a copy of the photograph and pension application sent to me, which eventually ended up in my Crater book.

At that point the photograph was still not available online. I remember staring at it for what seemed like hours when it first arrived. You can clearly see why. In many ways this image served as a visual reminder of why I thought it was important to use the battle of the Crater as a case study on race and historical memory in American history.

I did a bit of research into his postwar life, but found very little. I knew the year he died and that he struggled with alcohol, but I was unsure as to where he was buried. There is also a question about Martin’s necklace and whether it has an African origin. Continue reading

Robinson House Added to Virginia Landmarks Register

I am happy to report that the Robinson House, located on the grounds of R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, in Richmond is among twelve sites to be added to the Virginia Landmarks Register.  The VMFA will rehabilitate the structure and use it as a regional tourist center. This is great news for those who care about the preservation and interpretation of sites related to Richmond’s Confederate history and heritage.

The Robinson House in Richmond, located on the campus of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, is significant for its distinctive architecture and compelling history, particularly as part of the nation’s first successful and oldest operating home for needy Confederate veterans.

Constructed in the mid-19th century as the country house of Anthony Robinson Jr., a prominent Richmond banker and landowner, the Robinson House indicates the popularity of Italianate architecture with Virginia’s antebellum high society. In 1884 the Robinson family sold the house to the R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans, at which time it was transformed it into a three-story institutional headquarters for the R. E. Lee Confederate Soldiers’ Home. For 56 years thereafter, Robinson House-renamed Fleming Hall during the Soldiers’ Home era-served as a barracks, administrative center, and museum until the facility officially closed in 1941.

The building’s role as the literal and symbolic center of the large residential complex for Confederate veterans made it a visual icon of the “Lost Cause” and a long-standing, important site for collective commemoration, remembrance, and reconciliation events. While more than 30 buildings and structures once stood on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, only Robinson House and the Confederate Memorial Chapel remain, both of which are now owned and maintained by VMFA.

Silas Chandler Redux

Silas Chandler

Descendants of Silas Chandler Reading About Their Famous Ancestor

You didn’t really think that I would allow the publication of a column on Silas Chandler in The New York Times to pass without comment, did ya? Thanks to Ronald Coddington for bringing the story of Silas (r) and Andrew (l) to the Disunion blog. [Ron and I shared a stage last year at the Virginia Festival of the Book to discuss our research.] As many of you know it is the story of Silas and Andrew that launched me down the road of taking the myth of the black Confederate soldier seriously. My relationship with Myra Chandler Sampson and our subsequent essay published in Civil War Times about her famous ancestor reinforced for me on so many levels why it is important that we correct these stories of loyal and obedient slaves that continue serve the interests of a select few. Continue reading