Here is a wonderful little time capsule from the eve of the Civil War centennial in 1960. Those of you who teach courses on Civil War memory will find it particularly interesting. There are very few surprises in how the documentary frames the causes and consequences of the war along with slavery and emancipation. The need to maintain a national consensus at the height of the Cold War is clearly discernible. My favorite line is the claim that white northerners had difficulty on the battlefield early on owing to their unfamiliarity with guns. It turns out that before the war they were all working in shops and factories.
Just a quick reminder for my Boston-area friends that tonight I will be speaking at the Nevins Memorial Library as part of their “Methuen Remembers the Civil War” series. My topic is the subject of my new book project on the history of Confederate camp servants and myth of the black Confederate soldier, but I will have copies of my Crater book for sale. Perhaps I will have a chance to talk about it briefly as well.
Come on out.
President Herbert Hoover finally made it official in 1931, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially declared our national anthem. It’s as patriotic an anthem as it is difficult to sing, but we only sing the first verse at public events. I have to admit that I never paid much attention to the other three verses until I read Alan Taylor’s new book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.
The third verse speaks directly to the British policy of liberating slaves in the Chesapeake region of Maryland and Virginia and their recruitment into the army.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The “land of the free and the home of the brave” takes on a whole new meaning after reading this verse. I suspect that you will never hear our anthem quite the same way.
This week marks the eighth anniversary of Civil War Memory. I’ve been blogging for so long and it has become such a regular part of my daily routine that I have trouble remembering the time before.
No doubt there is an intrinsic value to blogging that can be found in the act of writing, the content itself and the rich conversations that often follow. But if spending time away from the classroom for close to two years after moving to Boston in 2011 taught me anything it’s that my passion for history is primarily social in nature. The social in social media only gets you so far. Continue reading
I walked out of my Holocaust class earlier today both incredibly frustrated and energized. This has by far been my most enjoyable classroom experience this year. I am learning a great deal from the readings and from a wonderful group of students. The class is structured around a few central questions, including how the Nazis gained power in 1933, how they solidified this power, and, ultimately, how the Final Solution was implemented. Continue reading