Category Archives: Uncategorized

Museum of the Confederacy In Financial Trouble

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the following:

The Museum and White House of the Confederacy, struggling financially for
several years, got more bad news yesterday with the General Assembly’s approval
of a two-year state budget. The museum would receive just $50,000 of a $700,000 grant the downtown
institution had requested for fiscal 2006-08.  "We anticipated a one-time grant to help us temporarily sustain our operation
and allow us to plan a more financially secure future," said Carlton P. Moffat
Jr., chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. "We are disappointed that the
state chose not to grant the majority of our request.  The money was to have been used to reverse the museum’s deficit, expected to
reach $500,000 this year, and for planning.

Behind their financial concerns the museum has contemplated moving, along with the White House of the Confederacy, to a more accessible location. 

Visitation at the White House, a National Historic Landmark, has declined
steadily from a high of 92,000 in the early 1990s to about 55,000. One problem
is that the museum’s small campus near 12th and East Clay streets has been
nearly crushed amid expansion of Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical
campus.

I sincerely hope that the museum and the city can work through these issues.  The museum holds a wealth of valuable artifacts and documents, and their recent exhibits clearly reflect a willingness to consider controversial topics that are all too often ignored. As a historian and teacher I would hate to see us lose all of this.

Hooked on World Cup Soccer

Well, I am hooked on World Cup Soccer.  I am still not sure how it happened, but I have to admit to sitting in front of the TV this past weekend riveted.  Keep in mind that I attended schools that did not offer soccer as a sport and my friends and I didn’t play or watch soccer.  The more I think about my new found interest the more I realize that it may have more to do with wanting to take part in an event that involves people from all over the world rather than simply wanting to watch 22 men kick a ball back and forth.  Perhaps this interest is magnified given the general perception that the United States takes little interest in the affairs of the rest of the world. While I cheered for the U.S. team on Saturday against Italy I have to admit to enjoying the fact that we can’t claim to be the "big boys" on the block.  The U.S. isn’t perceived as anything special or even necessarily respected on the international soccer scene while other teams such as Brazil have a rich history of success.   In the end, the game acts as an equalizer among nations.  It was a thrill watching and listening on Saturday to the Italians as their national anthem was being played.  They had their arms around one another and enthusiastically belted out the words.  The Americans were much more complacent and very few took the opportunity to sing along. 

Given that I have no experience playing the game I’ve had some difficulty following the rules.  I understand that the goal is to place the ball in the opponent’s net, but beyond this I am lost.  What’s a yellow card as opposed to a red card, how does substitution work, and why do they add time at the end of the half?  Luckily I have my wife who is from Germany who explained it all to me in very clear language. 

This stands in sharp contrast to our trip to Fenway Park a few years back and my attempt to explain baseball to my wife who understood about as much as I understand the game of soccer.  I never realized how complicated the game is.  My wife asked some excellent questions: Why three strikes?  Why do they run in that direction?  Why does that player keeping touching himself in the crotch?  I’m sure I didn’t handle these questions in nearly the same fashion as my wife did in response to my questions.  I’m sure I thought to myself, "How can you not understand the game of baseball?  Didn’t you watch or play it when you were a kid in northern Germany?" 

As I don’t have cable I am going to have to find a sports bar on Thursday to watch the U.S. and Ghana.   

When Is It Appropriate to Commemorate?

I came across this letter which was printed in the Montgomery Advertiser, and although it is brief it makes alot of sense.  Here is the letter by Bill Little of Montgomery in full:

I am a white native Alabamian, with two great-great-grandfathers who fought
for the Confederacy. As a state employee, I have for nearly 25 years been given
holidays for Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis’ birthday. While I
enjoy having these days off, I would urge the Legislature to end these as state
holidays.

My reasons have nothing to do with my personal opinion as to whether the
Confederate dead or Jefferson Davis should be remembered. I simply believe that
a state holiday should be an occasion that all the people of the state wish to
celebrate, or at least acknowledge as appropriate. This is apparently not true
for many, if not most, black people in Alabama, for reasons that I can
understand.

Ending these holidays would not represent a collective decision that the
Confederate dead and Jefferson Davis are not worthy of remembrance. It would
mean only that the remembrance of them is not a matter on which all Alabamians
can agree, and thus that these holidays are not appropriate for the state as a
whole.

The cynic in me can’t help but wonder whether this letter is a fraud, but perhaps it is a small sign of sanity out there.

Around the History Blogosphere

The 33rd edition of the History Carnival is up at American President’s Blog.  There are some nice offerings including one by yours truly.  Well Done Jennie!

There are a couple of good posts over at my group blog at HNN’s Revise and Dissent.  Jeremy K. Boggs touches on the announcement that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales warned college students not to use the site for their research papers.  Boggs also comments on and links to other bloggers who have read Roy Rosenzweig’s Journal of American History article “Can History Be Open Source?: Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” (June 2006).  I read the article and found it to be quite interesting.  History teachers should definitely check it out as it provides a history of Wikipedia, a nice overview of the implications of open-source technology, and the responsibilities of historians to take part in the opportunities it offers. You want controversy?  Check out David Davisson’s post on Ward Churchill.  Ralph Luker also has some thoughts about Churchill over at HNN’s Cliopatra.

One of my favorite history bloggers is Caleb McDaniel over at Mode For Caleb.  Check out his most recent entry on the racial identity of nineteenth-century author Emma Dunham Kelley Hawkins.  Glenn W. LaFantasie discusses his new biography of William C. Oates over at the Oxford University Press blog.

Researching the past can sometimes be a dry undertaking. Dust on books and manuscripts, hours spent in repositories that inevitably seem too cold or too hot, depending on the season, the solitary pursuit that inevitably must follow all the excitement of the research quest—all these things don’t necessarily suggest high adventure. But standing on the field at Gettysburg, whether listening to a requiem of bells or hiking doggedly along paths once followed by young soldiers as they rushed into battle, has given me a better understanding of the times and trials of William Oates and the men who fought and died at Gettysburg. Alone in the twilight at the Cyclorama Center or sitting in the mist on the crest of Big Round Top with my young daughter, I came to experience how the past can unexpectedly collide with the present and send us down roads not known, roads not anticipated, roads not charted on any map. Following those roads, we get to hear every once in a while the very faint echoes of history’s soulful requiem.

I am almost finished with the book and highly recommend it. (Speaking of university press blogs, University of Nebraska Press is now blogging their books.)

Check out the art work of Hiram Hover’s six-year old son.  By the look of things he has already moved beyond standard Lost Cause themes.  Ed Sebesta is back in the blogosphere with his Anti-Neo-Confederate.  Ed was nice enough to link my recent post on black Confederates. And finally for a dash of humor to your day, make your way over to Arms and Influence for the True Tales of Stupid Cheaters.  That should keep you busy for awhile.

Cradling Your Wife

The other day I commented briefly on Glenn LaFantasie’s new biography of William C. Oates, but noted that I would not have time to read it until some point over the summer.  Unfortunately Fortunately I decided to read on – although I have very little time to read apart from my research – and I have not been able to put the book down.  Once I start a good book I find it very difficult to put it down so everything else is temporarily dropped.

LaFantasie is an excellent writer and does a fantastic job of situating Oates in both the culture of honor and violence in the Antebellum South and in providing the relevant political/economic background to better understand his decision to enter the law profession and eventually the Confederate army.  My only complaint is that the author has a habit throughout the chapters on the war of constantly reminding the reader of the transition from Limited to Hard War.  It’s not that it is unimportant, but LaFantasie constantly references this transition to bring home the psychological toll that the war was taking on both Oates and the rest of the men under his command.  Readers hoping for detailed coverage of the battles will be sorely disappointed as LaFantasie concentrates mainly on July 2 at Gettysburg.  This is no surprise, but the author also wants to make the point that Gettysburg was the most important event in Oates’s life. Oates called for the recruitment of black soldiers relatively early in
the war and fathered a child with a black servant after his wounding
along the Darbytown Road during the Petersburg Campaign.

At some point I may want to comment on the way the author deals with Oates’s continued adherence – even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary – to his claim that Union General Elon J. Farnsworth killed himself on July 3 at Gettysburg and in the presence of Oates.  I find LaFantasie’s treatment of this incident to be very interesting.

Back to the reason for this post.  Many of you probably know this story, but I thought it was worth sharing for the rest.  Oates was wounded during the Chickamauga Campaign and eventually found his way to the Roseland plantation which was owned by the Toney family and located in southeastern Alabama.  Oates convalesced there for three months until he rejoined the army in Virginia in March 1864.  Oates apparently enjoyed the chance to relax and especially enjoyed the little children, including Sarah Toney who was born on September 28, 1862.  One day Oates was holding little "Sallie" on the porch when Mrs. Toney is said to have commented: "Who knows but that you are holding in your arms–your future wife." (153).  Oates did indeed marry Sarah Toney in 1882 – she was nineteen and he was forty-eight.  Now that’s what I call rockin’ the cradle. 

This is an excellent book and I highly recommend reading it.  I look forward to getting through the chapters on the postwar years over the next few days.