Hey Boston, Embrace Your Civil War Memory

georges_island_fort_warrenIt should come as no surprise that one of my biggest concerns upon moving to Boston in 2011 was that I would be without a community of fellow Civil War enthusiasts and few places to visit related to the war. After all, I just assumed most Bostonians have always been more interested in that earlier squabble involving something about independence and the British. Continue reading “Hey Boston, Embrace Your Civil War Memory”

Interpreting Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Sphinx

Mount AuburnIt is one of the most unusual memorials on any Civil War commemorative landscape North or South.  I vividly recall my own loss for words during my first trip to Mount Auburn Cemetery in 2011.  It is a stop at the top of my list for next year’s Civil War Memory class and thanks to Joy M. Giguere’s essay in the March 2013 issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era I now have a bit more interpretive ammo under my belt.  Continue reading “Interpreting Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Sphinx”

Teaching Civil War Memory in Boston

Memorial Hall

It looks like next year I will once again be teaching my Civil War Memory course.  I’ve already begun to think about readings as well as class visits to Boston.  The class was very popular in Virginia and I especially enjoyed our tours of Richmond, including Monument Avenue, Hollywood Cemetery and Tredegar.  At this point I am hoping to organize two separate day trips.

Trip 1

Trip 2

We shall see whether it is possible to fit in two separate trips.  Either way, these are the places that I hope to have students think about in connection to the memory of emancipation and Union, the role of the citizen soldier in the war, and especially the remembrance of death and sacrifice.  Feel free to suggest additional sites.

Getting to Know the Men of the 55th

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

Just wrapped up another productive week at the Massachusetts Historical Society with collections related to the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  There is something to researching real black Civil War soldiers as opposed to deconstructing silly claims about fictitious black Confederate soldiers.  The MHS has an impressive collection of correspondence among the unit’s officers.  In addition, I now have access to a number of black newspapers through a deal with Accessible Archives.  They include a large number of letters written by enlisted men and officers from black regiments, including the 55th.  I still haven’t decided what I plan on doing with this research beyond writing a couple of articles.  There is definitely a book in all of this, but we will have to see if I am the one who will write it.

I am coming to you from a cafe in downtown Boston as I make my way over to the North End for dinner. Rather than take the train I decided to walk it, which was really just an excuse to spend some time at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial.  This was the first time I noticed that the line of men extends behind Shaw’s horse, which you can see in this photo.

Man, I love this city.

It’s Never Too Late To Reconcile

Here is an interesting story from my neck of the woods.  The Worcester Grand Army of the Republic Board of Trustees voted recently to return three captured Confederate flags to the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, N.C. The flags were captured at the Battle of New Bern, in North Carolina on March 14, 1862, by two Union divisions manned with residents of Central Massachusetts. This latest story follows a much longer trend of reconciliation gestures between the descendants of Civil War veterans.  [I will be speaking at the North Worcester County Civil War Roundtable on October 11.]

This past Friday I spent a pleasant afternoon at the Framingham History Center located in the Edgell Memorial Library, which was built after the war to honor Union veterans. The center’s director, Annie Murphy, was kind enough to give me a personal tour of their new Civil War exhibit.  It’s not the most elaborate exhibit around, but they do a nice job of highlighting was is clearly an extensive collection of artifacts and documents.  It includes General George H. Gordon’s coat, a buts of the general sculpted by Daniel Chester French and a battle worn flag of the 13th Massachusetts.  If you are in the area you should make it a point to check it out.

Click to continue