Here is another excerpt from The Civil War Trust’s interview with Gary Gallagher. Here Gary responds to a question about the impact of the sesquicentennial in comparison with the centennial.
I think it’s been anemic. I don’t think many states have done much. Virginia’s done a great deal with a series of what they call Signature Conferences. There’s a state agency devoted to the sesquicentennial. They’ve had these conferences at different universities–one on emancipation; one on military affairs; we’re going to do the last one here at the University of Virginia in 2015 on the memory of the war. A book is published from each of the conferences, and there’s a website and various ancillary benefits. So I think Virginia’s done by far the best job of any state. Pennsylvania’s done a little; North Carolina’s done a little. Tennessee’s done a lot more than most. But most states have done absolutely nothing. And I think part of it is that the Civil War still can become very controversial very quickly because you can’t talk about it without talking about race. Or you shouldn’t, because slavery and issues related to slavery are so central to the coming of the war and the conflict itself. And that part of the history of the war can be so fraught, even in 2013, that it’s just easier not to do it. Which I think is too bad.
There was a lot more going on in the centennial, although it got embroiled in all kinds of racial problems as well, as I’m sure you know. There was still segregation in 1961. The national commission met in Charleston early on, which was ridiculous. It’s a vastly different world – although some people pretend it isn’t – from what it was in 1961. But there’s not nearly the attention [now]. There was a national Civil War centennial commission then that had all kinds of publications; sponsored all kinds of things. There’s nothing equivalent to that now. But then you still have the governor of Texas talking about secession as an option!
Needless to say, I completely disagree with Gary’s assessment because he places too much emphasis on the activities of state commissions. In fact, I am convinced that if you look at the local level it is likely that the number and scope of activities over the past few years far outstrips the centennial.
What do you think?
I don’t know when this interview with Gary Gallagher took place, but this little comment caught my attention in response to the question of where further research is most needed.
I’m not sure there is a big hole in the literature that’s just crying out to be filled. What’s interesting is that a book occasionally will come out, and you’ll think, “Wow!” I think that applies to my student Adrian Brettle’s topic, Confederate expansionist ambitions. Why hasn’t somebody written about that? We know a good bit about antebellum southern expansionist sentiment, but the wartime continuation of that sentiment has gone largely unexplored.
The desire to unite all the slaveholding states into one nation has been discussed in connection with Confederate military strategy, but I would love to read something that connects to the antebellum period. After all, the sectional rift was essentially over the expansion of the nation into the western territories and we know that many in the Deep South looked south for additional territory to expand.
Confederates had every reason to believe that they would be victorious in the war so it would not be surprising to learn that politicians and other leaders discussed expansionist opportunities that would arise as a result.
The following videos featuring Civil War lectures by Gary Gallagher are from his Great Courses series. They were uploaded to YouTube today so it is likely that more will be available in the near future. So far there are two lectures on the Confederate Home Front. The first one is available below and the second is available here.
Additional lectures include: The Wilderness to Spotsylvania/Cold Harbor to Petersburg/Sherman Versus Johnston in Georgia
Last month Gary Gallagher was honored with American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s 2013 Merrill Award for his contribution to liberal arts education. Here is his acceptance speech. Congratulations, Gary.
I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t go to the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association, which is taking place this weekend in St. Louis. The past two years I didn’t go for financial reasons, but other than not wanting to miss time in class I have no excuse.
I am left looking at Facebook pics and following #sha2013 tweets. This tweet from Diane Sommerville caught my attention.
It’s from a roundtable discussion that included Gallagher, Lesley Gordon, James Hogue, and Carol Reardon. The title struck me as somewhat strange: “Should Military History Be Central to the Study of the Civil War.” Given the scholarship of the panelists I have no doubt that it was well worth attending. In fact, I am hearing through the grapevine that it was indeed a lively discussion.
I guess I just find it strange that we are still debating this question.