A Nation Remembers in Song During the Centennial

Bonus Material: Contrast this with Lyndon Johnson’s 1963 Memorial Day Address at Gettysburg. I have never heard of this before today. Check it out.

This is a fabulous film from 1963 of the U.S. Army Band and Chorus commemorating the Civil War Centennial.  The narrator makes it clear at the beginning that the “Union found itself split in two over the issue of states rights.”  There is not one mention of slavery or black Union soldiers exactly one hundred years later. Songs include “Down By The Riverside”, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, “We are Coming Father Abra’am”, “Lorena”, “Tenting On The Old Camp Ground”, “The Battle” (new music & spoken word piece), “In the Sweet By-and-By / The Army Bean”, “Yellow Rose of Texas”, “Bonnie Blue Flag”,”Home! Sweet Home!”, “Dixie” & “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

Gettysburg 1963

Those of you in the Richmond area should make it a point to check out Ray Carver’s one-man show, “Gettysburg 1963” which will premier at the Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church on Saturday February 23.  I was invited to participate in a panel discussion following the show, but the organizer didn’t realize that I no longer live in Virginia.  It’s times like these that I really miss the Old Dominion.  There is just so much going on in the Richmond area alone.

Here is a little taste to wet your appetite.

What Will Spark the Imagination of the Sesquicentennial Generation?

If your interest in the Civil War has its roots in the early 1960s than chances are that it was American Heritage’s Picture History of the Civil War that sparked your imagination.  It’s not just the frequency with which it comes up in conversation, but the way in which it is remembered.  I’ve heard a number of historians reflect on the book’s influence on them at an early age.  Whether it was the photographs, illustrations or the battle maps, the book clearly made an impact.   [My own interest in WWII was sparked by reading the Time-Life Series when I was in grade school.]  It serves as a reminder that a healthy and lasting passion for history begins with a youth’s imagination.

It’s worth asking whether there is anything equivalent to the American Heritage book that will stir the imagination of a new generation of Civil War enthusiasts.  Kids today have more resources at their disposal than any previous generation – much of it in digital format.  While I am a huge fan of the digital turn I do wonder whether these products will have the same impact.  Than again, these may simply be the words of an old fogey, who can still remember a time before the digital age.  I look forward to the day when we will learn, for example, that the technology contained in the Civil War Trusts Battlefield Apps has made its mark.

The Graying of the Civil War Centennial Generation

Central Ohio Civil War Round Table

One of my first posts all the way back in 2005 focused on what I saw as the inevitable decline of our Civil War round tables.  I suggested that without a resurgence of interest in the Civil War era that animated Americans in the early 1960s these groups would disappear one by one.  In light of the last two posts I stand by the claim that I made over six years ago.

On Saturday the Museum of the Confederacy hosted a day-long event that culminated in a “Person of the Year: 1862” that was decided by an overwhelmingly older audience.  That same day the Sons of Confederate Veterans were forced to relocate an event that had been scheduled at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as part of their national rally.  These two stories have more in common than you might think.  Both organizations cater to a centennial generation.

I have no idea why church officials canceled the SCV’s event yesterday.  That said, it seems safe to assume that enough people within the church community found out about it and voiced their disapproval.  Whatever, the reason they didn’t want their church to host an SCV event and the reason for this must rest with the SCV itself, which has done everything in their power over the past few years to alienate reasonable people.  Take a look at any photograph from Saturday’s rally along Monument Avenue and what stands out is that hardly anyone showed up.  As far as I can tell the former capital of the Confederacy paid no notice of the SCV’s presence.  And those who were present overwhelmingly represented an older crowd.

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Not Your Grandfather’s Civil War Commemoration

Last month I gave a talk to the Rhode Island Civil War Round Table in which I offered an assessment of the first full year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial celebrations and commemoration.  I decided to work on it a bit more and I am pleased to share it with you in The Atlantic.  It looks like I will be writing for The Atlantic on a fairly regular basis as long as my schedule can accommodate it.  Last week’s review of the Gingrich novel was a huge success.  It led to an interview on public radio, but most importantly, it is connecting me to a much broader audience.  Thanks again to Jenni Rothenberg at The Atlantic, who has been an absolute pleasure to work with.