Gary Gallagher’s forthcoming book explores Confederate loyalty through the lives of Robert E. Lee, Steven D. Ramseur, Jubal Early. Gallagher has analyzed the lives of all three, including an early biography of Ramseur, but this might be his most extensive treatment of Early to date. Many of us anticipated a full-length biography of Lee’s “Bad Old Man”, but that is not going to happen.
Last week the Lovett School in Atlanta hosted Gallagher as part of its speaker series, which you can watch below. I am very much looking forward to this book.
Like many of you who teach history, I am always looking for new ways to convey the subject to my students. The move toward e-textbooks offers an exciting opportunity to expand the traditional textbook in a way that takes advantage of new digital technologies, including the community-building potential of social media. The possibilities are limitless, but unfortunately we have yet to see much. The large textbook companies such as McGraw-Hill and Cengage have done little more than to place their textbooks online. Supplemental materials that can enhance the text are limited. What we have may alleviate future back problems for today’s students, but they do little to advance pedagogy and historical understanding.
The following clip was pulled from a recent NEH panel on the legacy of emancipation. It included Ed Ayers, Gary Gallagher, Christy Coleman, Eric Foner, and Thavolia Glymph. I highly recommend viewing the entire session if you have the time, but for now check out this short clip from the Q&A. In it an African-American student asks if we should still associate racism with Confederate heritage. I am not surprised that Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center, decided to respond and she does so in a very fair and balanced manner. Coleman’s response reflects both the difficulties of her position as a black woman running a Civil War museum in the former capital of the Confederacy and someone who has listened closely to visitors hailing from very different backgrounds. Yeah, count me as a fan of Christy Coleman.
I like the idea behind this short film. Young African-American woman gets an A on an essay she wrote about the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry after having viewed the movie, Glory. Her adviser suggests that she visit the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C. to talk with curator Hari Jones. The two walk through the exhibit to address some of the inaccuracies in the movie.
So why does this movie, and Hari Jones specifically, feel a need to lash out against Gary Gallagher? Gallagher offers extensive commentary of the movie’s historical basis in Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War. I suspect that Jones knows this, which makes his comment all the more bizarre. Jones strikes me as a knowledgeable and passionate historian. Perhaps this script was written by someone else. I fear that the result, including the embracing of the self-emancipation thesis without any reference to the Union army and other factors, is as much a distortion as Glory.
The other thing that struck me as awkward was the pointing out that you will not find any quotes from historians on the exhibit panels. According to Jones, if you weren’t there than your words will not appear. Fair enough, but it is worth pointing out that their exhibit is built on the backs of decades of careful research on the black experience during the war from professional historians, including Gary Gallagher.
Brooks’s question is a good one, but I think we can extend it south of the Mason-Dixon Line as well. Paul Quigley does a brilliant job in his new book of analyzing how white southerners negotiated their own deep ties to union during this period, including those who remained loyal and those who came to identify closely with the Confederacy.
My question is a slightly different one. Why do we find it so difficult to appreciate the concept of union for millions of Americans (north and south) in 1861? It’s also challenging to teach it and as I contemplate my own return to the classroom in a few weeks I look forward to the opportunity to take another crack at it. In the meantime here is a lecture by Gary Gallagher in which he explores some of these questions based on his latest book, The Union War.