On Monday Virginia State Congressman Creigh Deeds decided to say a few words in recognition of Lee-Jackson Day. It’s quite funny. I would love to know what the two ladies seen in the video were thinking.
I thought we had run through all the talks and panels from the 2012 Civil War Institute, but it looks like I overlooked Peter Carmichael’s excellent talk on military executions in Stonewall Jackson’s command. This talk is based on an essay that Pete published some time ago in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography some time ago. It is well worth your time.
I’ve caught bits and pieces of the Museum of the Confederacy’s “Person of the Year: 1862” symposium on CSPAN-3. It’s an entertaining event for the children of the Civil War Centennial. The historians in charge of nominating this year include Robert K. Krick, David Blight, James McPherson, Jack Mountcastle, and Emory Thomas. The historians selected are all familiar to the audience and their selections, for the most part, are predictable. Can anyone imagine Krick selecting anyone else but Jackson or anyone but Lee for Thomas? Blight chose Frederick Douglass, which is not surprising. McPherson’s choice of Farragut may be the only one that couldn’t be predicted. I don’t know what to make of Mountcastle’s choice of McClellan since I am not familiar with his scholarship.
There is nothing wrong with their selections since this is clearly not a question that has a final answer. There is also nothing necessarily wrong with the selection of historians. All of them are well respected scholars. That said, I do have a few suggestions for next year. Get a panel of younger historians, whose choices may not be so predictable. Not only are you likely to get a different short list of nominees, but the Q&A will also be an opportunity to explore new terrain rather than rehash the same tired stories. You have to include at least one woman and an African American. In short, perspective is everything when it comes to these kinds of events.
So, who would you choose?
My choice: Benjamin Butler
[H/T to W.D. Carlson, who emailed this video with the subject line: “God Bless Lee and Jackson and God Bless Dixie”]
I am ashamed to admit that in my ten years as a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia I never made the time to attend a Lee-Jackson Day parade. Lexington is a beautiful city with an incredibly rich history and it certainly looks like everyone had a good time this past Saturday. If you didn’t have a chance to travel to take part this is is the next best thing. One question: Where is everyone? The place looks deserted. It also looks like there was no shortage of Confederate flags. I say, it looks like there was no shortage of Confederate flags. Which leads one to wonder why there was a need to file a lawsuit.
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I came across a playful, but thoughtful comment this morning from one of Ta-Nahesi Coates’s readers, who goes by the name, Alabama_Girl. Here is an excerpt from the comment:
The other day I went through the last books left on the shelves of my parents home and there was one about Stonewall Jackson. Now, as a child I loved that story. Shot by mistake, the brilliant soldier whose death might have turned things? I found it fascinating as a child, not yet delving into the cause of the battle or his beliefs. And Southerners know how to spin a
tell[tale]. There’s a reason those live while tales of Grant languish. As an adult, I have to look at the cause he was fighting for, so was his death a sad thing, or thank you Baby Jesus that the dude died.
I love the way her story transitions from the child’s fascination with a key element of the Lost Cause narrative to a more mature reflection that acknowledges that the war was about something and that it mattered who was victorious. Substitute any high level Confederate officer and you arrive at what I take to be her conclusion: “thank you Baby Jesus that the dude died.” It’s not about celebrating any one individual’s death, but it is a simple acknowledgment that ‘death happens’ in war and that it matters who dies. In the case of Jackson’s death it reflects the obvious point that the right side won the Civil War given the consequences of a Confederate victory.