Back in Boston after 5 days at Gettysburg College’s Civil War Institute. I am exhausted and recharged. All of my presentations went well and I heard some wonderful talks, a few of which you can find on C-SPAN 3. Here are just a couple brief observations about the conference, which focused on the war in 1864. Continue reading
After three straight days of end-of-the-year faculty meetings I am very much looking forward to a long and quiet drive tomorrow morning to the annual Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. This is my third year taking part in the conference as a member of the faculty. It’s been an incredible experience and I want to once again thank Peter Carmichael and the rest of the staff for the honor of being asked to participate. Continue reading
Regardless of the assumptions and background knowledge that we bring, the presence of monuments on our Civil War battlefields may be one of the greatest obstacles to understanding the full range of soldier experiences. The monuments allow us to focus in on the most heroic stories and themes, which no doubt reinforces feelings of national pride and an understanding of what kind of behavior is expected. Such a focus, however, comes at the price of ignoring moments when soldiers fall short of what is expected of them in the heat of battle. Normally, we can safely ignore such moments, but it’s not so easy when one is thrust on us as is the case of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who reportedly abandoned his station in Afghanistan and spent five years as a Taliban Prisoner of War. Continue reading
Al Mackey has been posting old CSPAN videos of various Civil War events some of which are quite interesting. I perused the CSPAN archives and came across this session from one of Gary Gallagher’s UVA conferences on the Fredericksburg Campaign from 2002. The session features Gary along with Bob Krick, George Rable, R.E.L. Krick, Bill Bergen and Peter Carmichael.
The panelists discuss books that had then had just recently been published, including David Blight’s Race and Reunion, which was about a year old at the time. There is a wonderful exchange between Bob Krick and Peter about Paul Anderson’s study of Turner Ashby, which is a wonderful book. Anyway, it’s kind of interesting to see how the field has evolved in the past ten years.
Donald Gilliland’s article about whether battlefield reenactments are appropriate is making the rounds. The author does a pretty good job of watering down Peter Carmichael’s thoughts in a way that reinforce some of the same tired and meaningless battle lines between academics and amateur historians/reenactors. Anyone familiar with Pete’s views on the subject can pinpoint what is problematic with Gilliland’s piece. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been misquoted or have spent a hour on the phone with a newspaper reporter only to find that he/she used a small snippet taken completely out of context.
Unfortunately, what Gilliland missed in his rush to frame this debate as part of our larger “culture wars” is that the National Park Service has been consistent in steering clear of endorsing battlefield reenactments from the beginning of the sesquicentennial and has made those reasons very clear. This stands in sharp contrast with its policy during the centennial commemorations during the early 1960s. Continue reading