I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the current state of interpretation re: the history of black Union soldiers during the Civil War and beyond in preparation for the Future of Civil War History Conference, which will take place later this week in Gettysburg. As I’ve said before, I think there is much to celebrate as we look back over the past 50 years. The number of scholarly and popular books being published continues at a brisk pace and popular representations of black soldiers can be seen in recent Hollywood movies such as Cold Mountain and Lincoln and even a historical novel about USCTs at the Crater by Newt Gingrich. Most importantly, many history textbooks now devote significant space to black Union soldiers and their contributions. Throughout much of the Civil War sesquicentennial USCTs have been front and center in museum exhibits, symposia, in the pages of local newspapers as human interest stories as well as in the form of new monuments and markers. Continue reading
So, it looks like I am reviewing John F. Schmutz’s new book on the Crater for H-Net. I should apologize for the cheap shot I took the other week when I suggested that he probably took up the project after watching Cold Mountain. It turns out he has some relatives who fought in the battle. Schmutz has written a thick book, and apparently he did a pretty good job of surveying the primary and secondary sources. It’s also nice to see some of my own published work on the Crater in recent bibliographies, including his. Still, I am a bit concerned after reading the preface. The author describes the political scene in the 1860s with the phrase, “political correctness run amok.” Hell, I don’t even know what the phrase means most of the time when it is used to describe current politics, let alone the political culture 140 years ago. Anyway, I will let you know what I think once I’ve crawled out of this thing.