This may come as a surprise to some of you, but at the end of the year I will be leaving high school teaching behind to explore other opportunities in history education. I plan to say more on this in a future post. For now, I want to share one new adventure that I will embark on in September. Earlier this year I was invited to create a research seminar for honors undergraduate students at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester for this coming Fall semester. If I remember correctly, around twelve students from area colleges will be admitted to the seminar. This was certainly not something I anticipated, but I jumped at the opportunity.
Since 1978 the AAS has invited scholars to introduce students to the research process through a seminar focused on a specific historical subject. It’s been quite some time since I taught a college course, but given the emphasis that I’ve placed on primary source research throughout my teaching career and my own experience in the archives I feel up to the challenge. This will also give me the opportunity to explore the AAS’s collections for my own research projects. I am embarrassed to admit that I have yet to visit. Continue reading
Apart from the famous reunions at Gettysburg most of our images of Confederate and Union veterans reunions took place in the South. They typically involved the dedication of a monument or an entire battlefield. What we don’t know enough about involve examples of Confederate veterans traveling north. One such example took place in 1910 when a large group of veterans from the A.P. Hill Camp in Petersburg traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts for a July 4 celebration. Continue reading
Next month I am scheduled to give a talk in Walpole, Massachusetts as part of their Civil War 150 commemoration. In my discussion with the event organizer I was reminded of a story I read a few years ago about a resident who lives next to the high school’s football field and displays a large Confederate flag facing the campus. The story is not just about this neighbor’s flag, but about the school’s own use of the Confederate flag and other symbols. Continue reading
On November 13, 1911 Union and Confederate veterans met on the Crater battlefield to dedicate a monument to all Massachusetts units that took part in the Petersburg Campaign. Alfred S. Roe delivered the dedication address and, not surprisingly, used the occasion to reinforce a public face of reconciliation with a narrative that reminded the audience of their shared history. We are talking major “gush”. I am using this event to open my essay on Massachusetts soldiers who fought at the Crater. Continue reading
Massachusetts Monument at the Crater
One of the individuals that I am looking forward to learning more about for this new article on the Crater is Colonel James Anderson of Springfield, Massachusetts, who was very active during the postwar period in organizing veterans reunions and monument dedications. His collaboration with George Bernard of the A.P. Hill Camp Confederate Veterans resulted in a visit of Confederate veterans of the battle of the Crater to Springfield in 1910. The following year the residents of Petersburg welcomed the veterans from Massachusetts to the Crater to dedicate a new monument.
During their visit Anderson shared the following story:
On a gala night in the Petersburg armory, when veterans were swapping stories above buried hatchets, Colonel James Anderson, chairman of the Massachusetts Commission, told of the many commendatory letters that had come to him after the visit of the Southern soldiers. But, he added, a lady from Paterson, New Jersey, had written chiding him for permitting a “vile band of Rebels” to walk through the streets of a fair Northern city to the tune of that “rebel song, Dixie.” Colonel Anderson returned the letter to its sender with these words appended: ‘There will be Confederates in Heaven. If you don’t want to associate with Confederates, go to Hell.”
Quite the character.
Note: When the Massachusetts monument at the Crater was dedicated in 1911 visitors entered the battlefield from the Jerusalem Plank Road.
57th Massachusetts at the Crater with William Mahone at center (1887)
One of the things that I regret about my book on the Crater is that I failed to spend sufficient time exploring Union accounts of the battle, both during and, especially, after the war. Given that I wrote the book while living in Virginia I was always primarily interested in Confederate accounts (wartime and postwar) and what they had to say about issues related to slavery and race. Continue reading
It is sometimes easy to forget in this turbulent world of Civil War memory that these men died for the country that all of us call home.
[I took this photograph earlier today in Concord, MA.]
This weekend I am attending a conference hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society called “Massachusetts and the Civil War: The Commonwealth and National Disunion.” Last night John Stauffer gave the keynote address on abolitionism in the Bay State and today I attended three panels. The range of topics discussed is really quite impressive. I especially enjoyed Jim Downs’s discussion of the health challenges faced by newly freed slaves during the war as well as his thoughts about how all of this challenges our triumphalist narrative of the Civil War. I also enjoyed Katy Meir’s analysis of the U. S. Sanitary Commission and Megan Kate Nelson’s paper on soldiers as tourists. [Stay tuned for an announcement regarding a project that Megan and I will begin working on together in the very near future.]
Tomorrow we will finish up with three more panels, including two that include papers on historical memory by Barbara Gannon and Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai. What is striking, however, is that this conference does not include one paper on military history. An outsider attending this conference would have little sense that this event included four years of horrific violence. There is little sense that the men from Massachusetts ever fired a shot in the Civil War. Of course, I am not the first person to make this observation about the place of military history in academia, but it is quite striking nevertheless. The closest we get to a Civil War general is George McClellan’s 1863 visit to Boston. I certainly don’t mean in any way to diminish the quality of the presentations that I’ve heard over the past two days. As I said, I’ve learned quite a bit and I suspect that we will see many of these papers published at some point.