The Future of Civil War Memory Only Recently Arrived

No one has done more to remind me of the importance of the experiences of immigrants during the Civil War era than Patrick Young. More importantly, Pat has convinced me that future efforts to keep the Civil War front and center in our collective memory must take seriously the changing ethnic dynamic of our nation. More specifically, educators and public historians will have to think carefully about how to make the Civil War relevant to new Americans who desire to build new roots in this country? Continue reading “The Future of Civil War Memory Only Recently Arrived”

A Taste of Gettysburg

I thought it might be nice to start the end of the work week on a lighter note. Looking forward to two trips to Gettysburg this summer. The first is the annual Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. This year will be my busiest institute yet. I will deliver a talk on the Crater, lead a breakout session on Confederate morale in the summer of 1864 as well as a dine-in on Pat Cleburne’s proposal to arm slaves. The highlight for me, however, will be the opportunity to once again work with the high school students.

A week later I head back to Gettysburg to take part in the 2014 Sacred Trust Talks. My talk is at 3:30pm on July 5 with a book signing at 4:30pm. Hope to see some of you between these two events.

“The Knighliest of the Knightly Race”

Grounds of the Alabama State House in Montgomery
Grounds of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery

In addition to the Jefferson Davis monument I am also going to talk briefly about the Alabama Confederate Memorial Monument (1898), which commemorates the 122,000 men from the state who fought for the Confederacy. Students will be asked to reflect on the ways in which these monuments reinforced the politics of Jim Crow through a selective memory of the past.

THE KNIGHTLIEST OF THE KNIGHTLY RACE/WHO SINCE THE DAYS OF OLD,/HAVE KEPT THE LAMP OF CHIVALRY/ALIGHT IN HEARTS OF GOLD.”

What do inscriptions such as the one above tell us about who these monuments were meant to include or welcome to the grounds of the Alabama state capitol and who they were meant to exclude? To what extent do these monuments reflect the nature of the legislation that took place inside the capitol throughout the period leading up to the civil rights movement? What does justice mean in such an environment?

I am also going to ask students to reflect on the fact that the four granite figures, representing the four branches of the Confederate military, were completed just south of Boston in Quincy.

So looking forward to heading out tomorrow morning with some incredibly thoughtful students.

Marcus M. Porter’s Eternal Bivouac

Evergreen Cemetery in Stoughton, MA
Evergreen Cemetery in Stoughton, MA

Yesterday students in my Civil War Memory class handed in their final projects. They are amazing and reflect a good deal of research and creativity. Students researched Civil War monuments and memorials in their own communities or designed their own for a specific location. One student created a video that explored a number of Civil War monuments in Stoughton, including this unusual grave marker, which I thought was worth sharing.

From Find A Grave:

Marcus Morton Porter (1841-1921). Porter enlisted as a private on October 15,1862, in Company G, 47th Massachusetts Infantry, and was mustered out on September 1, 1863. He was a member of Post 72, GAR. Porter became a member of the Old Stoughton Musical Society in 1893 and served as the society’s president from 1911 to 1913.

This particular student admitted that she has never enjoyed living in Stoughton, but that working on this project left her feeling more closely connected to her community.

Mission Accomplished.

Jefferson Davis Welcomes Students Studying Civil Rights Movement

Jefferson Davis Monument
Jefferson Davis Monument

On Sunday I head out with roughly 35 students and 3 colleagues for a 5-day tour of the Civil Rights South. We’ve been meeting with students to give them a broad outline of the history and questions that will be covered as we travel from Atlanta to Memphis.

One of my main responsibilities will be to help students make connections between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement through a close examination of monuments and memorials. I want students to understand that the visual reminders of the civil rights struggle are fairly recent additions to the landscape and that they exist in some tension with reminders of the Civil War and the Lost Cause. Continue reading “Jefferson Davis Welcomes Students Studying Civil Rights Movement”