Jon Stewart has a way of cutting to the chase with these little skits. Implicit in Governor McDonnell’s proclamation is the assumption that we can talk about the war without talking about slavery is absurd. It’s not about politics, it’s simply bad history. Anyone familiar with recent Civil War scholarship knows that soldiers on both sides discussed issues related to slavery and race throughout the war. The presence of the armies themselves altered the very landscape of Virginia’s large slave population. From early in the war slaves made their way to Union camps and forced military commanders to make decisions that eventually forced politicians in Washington to take an interest in how slaves might help to bring about Union victory. Confederate forces also utilized slave labor both within the armies and on the home front. The presence of slaves directly influenced every aspect of how the war was fought as well as its outcome. The governor’s argument makes very little sense once you actually open up and read a decent book about the Civil War.
Looks like the folks at Historic Sandusky in Lynchburg, Virginia have produced a quality film on the battle of Lynchburg. It is scheduled to premier in May, but they have released a two-minute trailer, which you can view here. Like I said, I was impressed with the quality, but I was struck by the failure to include one black face in the trailer. Hunter’s Raid had profound implications for the area’s slave population, including Lynchburg. In 1860 the free black population of the city was around 3,000 and included a few hundred free blacks. [I highly recommend the book, Free Blacks of Lynchburg, 1805-1865 by Ted Delaney and Phillip W. Rhodes.]
Perhaps the film does include a dramatization of what Hunter’s Raid meant to the black population, but to not include anything in the trailer may leave the impression that the film is only being marketed to one segment of the population. Look very closely, however, and you will see a “black Confederate” soldier at the 1:27 mark. I do like the burning homes and the Union soldier with the torch in hand at the very end..