Manassas: The Missing Robinson House

This guest post is by Adam Arenson, assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War, about the Civil War Era as a battle of three competing visions — that of the North, South, and West. More at http://adamarenson.com.   It is the start of a series of musings from a historian of the culture and politics of Civil War America, drawn from his notes and photographs upon bringing this perspective “back to the battlefield.”

On a Sunday in July, a few weeks before the vaunted sesquicentennial re-enactment, I enjoyed a balmy day at the Manassas battlefield. Like many of the sites I visited, the National Park Service looked ready: the new signs were beautifully designed, the ranger talks were entertaining and informative, and the trail directions were clear. The Manassas Battlefield is an excellent place to see the different scale of battles between 1861 and 1862—the difference between a skirmish between untested men across a few small hills and a major engagement across miles of terrain, with armies hardened by the experience of war.

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Silas Chandler Essay To Be Published in CWT’s 50th Anniversary Issue

This morning I learned that my co-authored essay on Silas Chandler with Myra Chandler Sampson will be published in the February 2012 issue of Civil War Times magazine.  This just so happens to be the magazine’s 50th anniversary issue and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be part of the celebration.

This little project has been in the works for quite some time, but it is one of the most important to me.  The essay grew out of a series of blog posts over the past year that I hoped would begin to correct the historical record as it relates to the subject of black Confederates.  Better yet, it led me to Myra Chandler Sampson, who happens to be Silas’s great granddaughter.  Myra discovered me through the blog in the course of her own tireless quest to correct the historical record of her ancestor.  She placed enough trust in me to send along a wonderful collection of archival sources, which greatly enriched my own understanding of Silas’s life as well as the rest of the family’s history through the 20th century.

Between the upcoming History Detectives episode on Silas and our own article it looks like we are one step closer to Myra’s goal of honoring her ancestor in a way that more closely reflects the available historical record.

Historians Respond to Southern Belle

Here is some more video from the new documentary, Southern Belle.  In this segment historians respond to the attempt on the part of the organizers to remove any discussion of slavery from their program.  They address the following question: Why would the “yeoman” farmer go to war with no dog in the Civil War fight?  The list of historians interviewed includes, R. Blakeslee Gilpin, Assistant Professor of History, University of South Carolina; Carroll Van West, Director, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area; Tara McPherson, Professor of Critical Studies, University of Southern California  School of Cinematic Arts and Stan Deaton, Director, Georgia Historical Society. Additional films can be viewed on the documentary’s website.

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21st Century Southern Belles

This looks to be a fairly interesting documentary.  Here is a brief description:

The Civil War may be long over, but the spirit of rebellion is hard to extinguish even in something as innocent as a girls’ summer camp. Southern Belle is an insider’s look at the 1861 Athenaeum Girls’ School in Columbia, Tennessee, where the antebellum South rises again. Every summer, young women from around the world eagerly sign up to become that iconic and romantic image of southern identity: the southern belle, replete with hoop skirt, hat and gloves, singing the region’s anthem, “Dixie.”  However, the camp can only achieve this version of Southern femininity by whitewashing the past. The teachers, all of whom work for no compensation, hope to instill genteel manners and build pride in southern heritage. To accomplish this, they have carefully selected the time period so they can share the “truth” with the next generation about why the South seceded from the Union. For them, the Civil War had little to do with slavery and everything to do with states’ rights and unfair taxation.

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Update on History Detectives and Silas Chandler

The PBS show, History Detectives, has completed filming an episode on Silas Chandler in West Point, Mississippi.  A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be taking part in this show, but I recently learned that producers decided to take the story in a different direction and would not need my assistance.  I was a bit disappointed, but ultimately I just hope they get the story right.  Well, I have it on good authority that not only did they correct the mistakes made on the Antiques Road Show episode, but that investigators uncovered additional material that puts the nail in the coffin of the story that the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others have spread on their websites and other materials for years.  The show is scheduled to air in July or August.

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