The week-long commemoration marking the fall and liberation of Richmond, the evacuation of Petersburg by Lee’s men and its eventual surrender at Appomattox Court House is in full swing. A slew of events marking this important moment in American history are being offered by a wide range of organizations. Taken together these programs offer the public a tapestry of narratives that reflect the many ways in which the events of early April 1865 were experienced.
Such a project is not without its challenges given the strong emotions that often shape the responses of people who are invested in certain narratives of the war. It is easy to focus on moments of conflict, but from what I’ve read thus far I can’t help but conclude that Richmonders and many others are taking full advantage of this opportunity to learn about the many voices that could be heard in this final chapter of the war. [I say this even as I make my way through Greg Downs’s new book. More on this at a later time.] Continue reading
Sallie A. Brock’s narrative of the final days of the Confederacy in Richmond was published in 1867 and based largely on Edward Pollard’s The Last Year of the War. The author’s description tells us quite a bit about the drastic changes that took place beginning on April 2, but it also tell us as much (if not more) about how Brock and others chose to remember so soon after the Confederacy’s fall.
The morning of the 2d of April, 1865, dawned brightly over the capital of the Southern Confederacy. A soft haze rested over the city, but above that, the sun shone with the warm pleasant radiance of early spring. The sky was cloudless. No sound disturbed the stillness of the Sabbath morn, save the subdued murmur of the river, and the cheerful music of the church bells. The long familiar tumult of war broke not upon the sacred calmness of the day. Around the War Department, and the Post Office, news gatherers were assembled for the latest tidings, but nothing was bruited that deterred the masses from seeking their accustomed places in the temples of the living God. At St. Paul’s church the usual congregation was in attendance. President Davis occupied his pew. (p. 362)
The clearness of the morning sky, a quite military front and a city headed to church helps to create a defined space between four years of war and the final chapter that is about to be unleashed on the city. It’s a moment that the reader can’t help to anticipate, but Brock also hopes to evoke the innocence of the Confederacy and the virtuousness of its cause. It is the Confederacy’s that is about to be swarmed by overwhelming numbers of Yankees, who had been kept at bay for so long. It is their civilization that is about to be upended. Continue reading
What I wouldn’t give to be in Richmond, Virginia this coming week for the 150th anniversary of the city’s fall and liberation. There are a wide range of events planned by the National Park Service and a host of other organizations. It’s a fitting way to end the sesquicentennial in Virginia given its track record over the past few years. No state has done more nor has devoted more resources to the sesquicentennial.
In the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend Katherine Calos interviewed a number of people involved in sesquicentennial planning throughout Virginia and Richmond specifically. Their thoughts reflect the many differences between the centennial and sesquicentennial and the continued challenges associated with its interpretation and commemoration. Continue reading
While the Virginia Flaggers have made a name for themselves for their insistence that a Confederate flag fly on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, along the Boulevard in Richmond, others have also taken an interest in the history of the site. A student from the Agua Dulce Dance Theater recently performed an interpretive dance in front of the Robinson House to explore its connection to the history of slavery. Continue reading
As many of you know, last year Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center decided to join forces and form one museum. Today the American Civil War Museum moved one step closer to becoming a reality by unveiling its new logo. A brief history of the logo can be found here.
American Civil War Museum, Richmond, Virginia
Update: This story from yesterday’s New York Times on Mississippi’s planned Civil Rights museum slated to open in 2017 fits right into this post.
Unidentified Photo From Civil Rights Era
While interpreting the Jefferson Davis and Confederate Soldiers’ Monuments on the Alabama State House grounds a little over a week ago I couldn’t help but wonder whether this Lost Cause narrative and a growing commitment to remember the civil rights movement can co-exist. It’s hard to miss the latter in a place like Montgomery and other Southern cities. Jefferson Davis now looks down on the Rosa Parks Museum and a number of markers that remind folks of the slave trade and civil rights era. On the one hand these monuments, museums, and markers represent an evolving story about how communities choose to remember their collective pasts. At the same time it is hard not to feel the rub between the competing values that these sites represent. Continue reading
Update: “I was at the chapel on that Sunday. I was chapel organist for the program presented by Lee-Jackson Camp. The colors were presented by Latane Camp. Tripp is not a member of that camp or its color guard.” — comment from Betty Giragosian.
This video pretty much undercuts the 2-plus years of protesting by the Virginia Flaggers in front of the Confederate chapel in Richmond. Their protest has been centered on the removal of the Confederate flag from the chapel grounds. Flagger Tripp Lewis is clearly miffed over being forced to stand on the sidelines during an event that took place inside the chapel on January 19, but once the ceremony ended inside the chapel a color guard was able to take a few photographs on the grounds without any problem.
Lewis claims in the video that he was supposed to take part in the ceremony, but no one in the group leaving the chapel seems to take an interest in the conflict with the officer.
So much for the forced retreat of Confederate Heritage in Richmond. Nothing ever goes right for the Flaggers.
[Uploaded to YouTube on January 19, 2014]
Last week I pointed out what I interpreted as a racist comment from a prominent member of the Virginia Flaggers. A few days ago they offered the following response, which included a photograph of an African-American man carrying a Confederate flag in front of the Museum of the Confederacy.
I certainly don’t want to be known for casually accusing people of being racist, but I fail to see how this photograph assuages concerns. The Richmond community – who the Flaggers claim to be improving through their efforts – deserve a response to these types of statements. What exactly did the statement mean? How would this specific Flagger explain it to the individual in front of the MOC and the rest of Richmond’s black community?
Who are the Virginia Flaggers?