Friday, December 31, 2010

Civil War Sesquicentennial - Lots to do in 2011!

Greetings Cosmic Americans and Happy (almost) 2011!

This upcoming year is going to be jammed packed with Civil War events. But how on earth do you find out what going on? Well, being the hellofa nice guy that I am, I thought I would post a few links to get you started. To begin, The National Park Service site has conveniently posted a listing - state-by-state - of sesquicentennial events.

But that's not all. The states that took part in the Civil War have some sort of Sesquicentennial Commission that host detailed sites providing all the news and info you need to get your Civil War commemoration on sesquicentennial style. To get you going, Here are the sites for Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, and Maine.

If my hunch is right, these events should stir a few embers. From where I sit, the issues of the war are still alive and well. Treason, slavery, oppression, and tyranny are just a few buzz words that you will probably hear alongside the usual suspects such as bravery, fortitude, honor, and heroism.

Whatever your personal politics, I recommend that you attend at least one (if not more) of these events in your state or wherever you happen to be. If anything, you are bound to be educated on just how many differing opinions there are on this momentous period of United States history.

Whether it's the reenactment of Jefferson Davis taking the oath of office as the president of the Confederate States on February 19, 2011 in Montgomery, Alabama or the reenactment of General Benjamin Butler declaring enslaved persons contraband of war at Freedom's Fortress in Hampton, Virginia on May 25th, 2011, you are sure to get an earful from both sides of the Mason-Dixon.

You know what - I'll probably turn up at a few of these. So keep your eyes and ears open. The Cosmic America cameras will be rolling. And yours truly will be posting!

Peace,

Keith

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'd love to be a Civil War buff. ... What do you have to do to be a buff?

Jerry Seinfeld? Keith Hernandez? What do they have to do with the Civil War? Well...in a very popular episode of Seinfeld - you know the one...where Jerry sort of gets a man-crush on Keith Hernandez...there is a little dialog between Jerry and George that comes close to my corner of the world. It goes like this:

JERRY: You know who that is? That's

GEORGE: Keith Hernandez? The baseball player?

JERRY: Yeah, that's him.

GEORGE: Are you sure?

JERRY: Positive.

GEORGE: Wow, Keith Hernandez. He's such a great player.

JERRY: Yeah, he's a real smart guy too. He's a Civil War buff.

GEORGE: I'd love to be a Civil War buff. ... What do you have to do to be a buff?

JERRY: So Biff wants to be a buff? ... Well sleeping less than 18 hours a day
would be a start.

Yes...Jerry's right about that. Being a buff is hard work. You need an encyclopedic knowledge of every commander (at least down to the regiment level) and of course...you need to know the battles cold. I have to say...I love it when popular culture and Civil War history intersect. I'll bet you a buck that book sales on the Civil War picked up a bit after this show aired.

But Hernandez aside, lots of academics (not all, mind you, but lots) sort of look down on buffs. They think of them as all "drums and bugles" and no substance. They (it is suggested) don't delve into issues...they don't read all the important scholarship...they dismiss complexity.

I say lighten up a little. Civil War buffs keep interest in this historical period alive. Buffs do buy books, they watch TV shows about history and yes indeed...they (thankfully) follow my Tweets, they watch my Youtube videos, and they comment on my Facebook posts.

I love buffs. Without them, I might not have an audience at all (or at least a much smaller one). So, Mr. Hernandez - I salute you and all like you who find the Civil War fascinating above all else. We are one and the same. If you ever want to talk - just hit me up. This February, I am traveling to Yermo, California to check out a Civil War reenactment. There should be buffs there by the score. And don't you know it - the Cosmic America cameras will be rolling. I can't wait to document everything they have to day.

Peace,

Keith (scholar/buff)

Happy New Year (almost) from Cosmic America!



Greetings Cosmic Americans - well, since it is New Year's Eve Eve, I thought I would give one last 2010 shout out to ALL who contribute to the ongoing conversations we have on the various social media sites. Thanks much for a very interesting and compelling year!

I shot this video on Thanksgiving day while driving down Melrose Ave in Hollywood. Sooooo...all together now...HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Cosmic America and HAPPY NEW YEAR! Now don't drink too much and get arrested or anything. That's just embarrassing.

Have a wonderful 2011 and be sure to check in. I will have plenty to say.

Peace,
Keith

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why Did Civil War Soldiers Fight? Scholars Weigh In.

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Numerous factors motivated men to join the ranks of both the United States and Confederate armies in 1861 and 1862. Scholars have illustrated how community pressure, the promise of adventure, and a chance to earn glory on the battlefield numbered among soldiers’ many reasons for enlistment. Supported by patriotic √©lan, these men were by and large eager for action. A quick, decisive contest, a chance to prove their mettle, and a victorious return to civilian life characterized the typical volunteer’s understanding of how the war would play out. For many, this initial rage militaire – the patriotic inspiration for a rush to arms – quickly cooled, particularly as the realities of war became all too apparent. Constant danger cast a foreboding shadow over both armies, and the consuming desire to escape death, coupled with a longing for home, led some to shirk duty and others to desertion. Most men, however, remained with the army and fought. What kept volunteers in the ranks once they witnessed the abject brutality of war? How did Civil War soldiers overcome an understandable fear of death and continue to face the enemy?


James M. McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades stresses the ideology that supported soldiers’ motivation to fight throughout the Civil War. Although he does not pretend to speak for all soldiers, a sampling of letters and diaries representative of men who enlisted in 1861 and 1862 leads McPherson to assert that volunteers, both Confederate and Union, not only understood ideology but also supported national goals connecting politicized ideals to their respective war efforts. Soldiers, in most cases, were undeniably “sick of war,” but McPherson claims that perceptions of liberty, independence, or simply the “good of mankind” supported men’s sustained motivation to continue to fight and perhaps even die for their cause.






McPherson’s work represents a significant challenge to earlier understandings of Civil War soldiers. Published respectively in 1943 and 1952, Bell Irvin Wiley’s Life of Johnny Reb and Life of Billy Yank, for example, argued that ideological motivation was not a factor for Civil War soldiers. Rather, similar to American fighting men during World War II, unit cohesion – each man’s reliance on and concern for the other men in his primary unit – was the principal motivational force that kept Civil War soldiers in the ranks despite the constant threat of death. While Wiley’s scholarship was a major achievement in a field that at the time focused on the upper echelons of command and politics, his conclusions were nevertheless problematical. He failed to give proper attention to soldier testimony infused with ideological sentiment. McPherson agrees that mutual dependence and mutual support created the “cohesion necessary to function as a fighting unit” and was an integral factor in “combat motivation,” yet he suggests that this interpretation alone obscures the larger ideals at work. McPherson more closely examines the related thread of “sustaining motivation” and argues that the best combat soldiers were those most ideologically committed.






McPherson’s understanding of ideology is key to this additional layer of interpretation. He combines the broad notion of ideology as a system of beliefs, values, and fears with soldiers’ explicit nationalist sentiment. The politicization of belief systems and soldiers’ determination to advance national goals was the soldiers’ “cause.” Abstractions such as freedom, independence, and liberty coupled with Victorian notions of duty, honor, and manliness were paramount in the minds of many Union and Confederate soldiers alike. Their letters were filled with statements connecting intangible ideals to a national war effort, and in many cases, these connections served as justification to carry the fight forward. Sentiment suggesting ideology as a motivational force remained consistent for many soldiers throughout the war. Further, testimony reveals that issues generally connected only to patriotic sentiment at the point of enlistment were also an important part of sustaining motivation late in the war. Simply put, McPherson suggests that Civil War soldiers continued to fight for their respective causes because they believed in what they were fighting for.





Historians who focus on “war weariness” have exaggerated the connections between “harsh disillusionment” and the lack of determination to fight for ideological ideals. Gerald F. Linderman’s Embattled Courage, for example, argues that soldiers quickly abandoned the “war’s initial tenets” and fought not for cause but to simply stay alive. McPherson agrees that the “romantic flag-waving rhetoric” of the war’s first two years declined but claims that this was of little importance, particularly to those who enlisted in 1861 and 1862. The majority of these men clearly connected rhetoric regarding values such as duty and honor to national goals. Despite near universal grumbling and an acute war weariness that grew with each battle, whether preservation of Union or independence, each side’s national ideology was the primary factor for soldiers’ sustaining motivation.






In contrast, ideology figured little into one of the most well known accounts of soldier life written by a Union veteran. Published in 1887, John D. Billings’s Hardtack and Coffee, while briefly outlining the Republican Party’s ideological platform as a crucial factor in causation, focused primarily on the mundane. Billings, a volunteer artillerist who enlisted in 1862 to “stamp out” secession, offered the “unwritten story” to the public during a period where most first-hand accounts, such as those published in Century Magazine, concentrated on generals and battles. Hardtack and Coffee familiarized the reader with the day-to-day goings on of the common soldier. Concerns such as food, shelter, hygiene, and the idiosyncrasies of the author’s messmates and others are clearly the most important part of Billings’s life while serving in the army. While McPherson argues that ideology figured prominently in the mind of the Civil War volunteer soldier through 1865, sustaining ideological ideals are almost entirely absent from Billings’s story. How does one account for such a glaring discrepancy?






McPherson offers some possible clues. Importantly, works such as Billings’s and scores of others were written with the intention of publication, and thus must be read with a great deal of skepticism. Hoping for a wide public readership, veterans, for various reasons, were highly selective when it came to describing army life. Not unrelated, many soldiers refrained from describing combat experience to those who could not possibly understand. Ideological factors, profoundly connected to a soldier’s motivation to both enlist and continue the fight may have been intentionally filtered out of Hardtack and Coffee. Yet, there is the possibility that Billings lacked concern for ideology both in the 1880s and the 1860s. One cannot tell from his account. The fundamental point, one that McPherson emphatically makes, is that the type of sources used are crucial. Soldiers’ letters and journals, rather than work intended for publication, best reveal soldiers’ actual sentiment. Despite books such as Billings’s, McPherson persuasively illustrates the presence of ideology within the ranks through the unfiltered use of private correspondence. Ideological sentiment that appears so frequently and so forcefully in soldiers’ letters should not be dismissed, but rather, should be understood as the motivational factor that functioned to hold the armies together through the most difficult times until ultimately, either one side or the other prevailed on the battlefield.



Peace,


Keith





Sunday, December 26, 2010

Office Hours at El Coyote



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Have fun watching this week's episode of Office Hours - shot on Christmas Eve in one of my favorite Los Angeles restaurants, El Coyote. Seriously, I eat there like 27 times a week. It's been there since the 1930s, the decor is as cool as shit and the service is unmatched. They make a killer Patron margarita too.

So, this week, Louisa wants to know all about what I think is the best Civil War film (because I talk about them all the time) and William wants me to discuss Civil War horses. Cool - I like horses.

btw - if you want a really really good book on the Civil War in film and art, check out Causes Lost, Won and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War by Gary W. Gallagher.

Peace,
Keith

South Carolina's Secessionist Ball


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, just in case you missed it, 6 days ago (December 20th) marked the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union. To commemorate this momentious event, 300 of the good citizens of the Palmetto State thought it appropriate to hold a Secessionist Ball.

Honestly, what were these people thinking? I suppose to an observer who had never ever heard anything at all about the Civil War this event might seem benign enough. A bunch of smiling white people dressed up in old-timey garb dancing around and stuff.

But how likely is complete ignorance? Even die-hard neo-Confederates must have known that their event would stir controversy. The more gentile "Heritage not Hate" crowd surely knew that their Ball would greatly offend many many people. So I guess they didn't really care.

Within sight and ear-shot of a large gathering of protesters, the would-be secessionists went on with their plans and essentially commemorated what some say was the execution of treason undertaken to protect the institution of slavery.

According to reports, the Ball's organizers rejected accusations that their event commemorated the protection of slavery. Rather, they insisted, it was a celebration of those who were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect their rights. (which, by the way, were the rights to own slaves - something the organizers didn't mention).

Now while the NAACP leadership compared Confederates to Nazis, Michael Givens, Commander in Chief for the Sons of Confederate Veterans stated,"We honor our ancestors for their bravery and tenacity protecting their homes from invasion." The group's central purpose, he noted, is to preserve the history and legacy of the South's "citizen-soldiers."

Mr. Givens - even the authors of South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession remark that slavery was being threatened, and thus the state had no other choice but to leave the Union. So quit squawking about all this bravery and tenacity whoop-dee-do.

Sure, Confederates were not Nazis - not even close. But let's be honest. They saw growing opposition to southern slavery in the North and were scared shitless. I mean...of course they were. The South's entire economic and social system rested on it.

So call it heritage all day long - good for you. You are commemorating a heritage of committing treason to preserve human bondage.

Peace,
Keith

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reporting LIVE from the Civil War Institute 2011 Conference


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Road trip, road trip, road trip!!!!

That's right, yours truly, Keith Harris, creator and host of Cosmic America's Civil War, is going to Gettysburg in June 2011 to cover the Civil War Institute's annual conference at Gettysburg College.

Here's the fun part - my plan is to integrate the conference - panels, tours, interviews, etc with social media. So here's what you can expect: Up to the minute Tweets, Youtube videos commenting on panels and discussions including interviews with scholars in attendance, Facebook discussion, and even some LIVE streaming. All of course free to the public!

It will be just like being there in the comfort of your own home (realistically, I know you will be watching from work...when you should be working - it's all good, though. I won't rat you out).

Distinguished historian and CWI Director Peter Carmichael, author of The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion has assured me that I can pretty much do my usual thing...meaning - no editorial restrictions. I get to be myself. I say that deserves a big HUZZAH!!! (thanks Pete)

Buckle up friends - you are in for some good times ahead and maybe even a tad of controversy. And stay tuned - I will keep you up to date on the events as we get closer to June. In the meantime, check me out on all the usual social media outlets (listed at the right) and visit the CWI website for information and all that crazy stuff.

Peace,
Keith

Friday, December 17, 2010

History and Social Media - a Warning Shot



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I have been thinking a hellofalot about this lately. So much so that I believe some sort of essay/article is in order.

This is what is going on in my head (in these...the preliminary stages of composition).

- I once thought social media was a useless waste of time.

- I was wrong (really wrong). There is enormous value in an "Academic Internetwork." Research can be broadcast worldwide instantaneously in real time.

- There is also enormous value in the creation of digital history resources - a related phenomenon that is taking place right now.

- This is significant in terms of historical publication. Will professional historians rise to the occasion and embrace social media? Should they?

- What are the implications of turning from an "Intranetwork" to an "Internetwork?" In other words...what happens when scholarship is no longer a member's only game? (It is, you know...like it or not).

So that is where I stand today. And I am not the only historian giving this a lot of thought. Check out Kevin Levin's blog Civil War Memory. There could be some changes in the wind....YAY! (oh...and BTW - since we are on the subject, why not check me out on Facebook, Youtube, Ustream, and Twitter)

Peace,
Keith

Again with the Black Confederates - check out my latest Office Hours!



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well - it seems that this is going to be a recurring theme. But at least it's one that I enjoy talking about. You guessed it...the ridiculous idea that blacks served as soldiers in the Confederate army. Oy.

This week takes us to Mao's Kitchen - A very good Chinese restaurant on Melrose Ave specializing in country cuisine. They have some appetizing and inexpensive lunch specials too.

So have a look and let me know what you think.

Peace,
Keith

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time to Dust Off the Sabres - It's the South Carolina Secessionist Ball


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well - the countdown is ON! Only a few more days until the Civil War Sesquicentennial activities kick off in earnest. On December 20, 2010, The Confederate Heritage Trust (how official) will hold a Secessionist Ball In Charleston - 150 years to the day after representatives from the great state of South Carolina unanimously voted to leave these United States.

There will be period dancing, food, music, and costumes...all for the low cost of $100! I might just go, but only if I can pay with US currency (in Fives and Fifties, of course).

Yessiree...the only thing missing from this recreation of a glorious Confederate shindig will be...let's see now...oh yes...slaves.

Wait a sec, didn't the Trust mention that? No??? Did that little omission slip through the cracks?? I guess they just didn't want to remind anyone that the state seceded to protect the institution.

Don't worry guys, the NAACP will be there to protest and clue people in on exactly what the war was all about (spoiler alert: it was slavery).

On another note - I have decided to chronicle the commemoration of the war's 150th anniversary from a southern perspective. Being a historian who deals quite a bit with Civil War memory, I should have plenty to write about.

So stay tuned - the real fun is right around the corner...

Peace,
Keith

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cosmic America's Civil War: Antietam!!



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Yep - I've got your turning point right here! The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest day in American history - but more than that, it was the battle that launched the Emancipation Proclamation off Lincoln's desk and into the war for real. No more mere lip service about freedom - now it was part of the Union cause ...forever changing the nature of the war.

For more the military stuff, which I am admittedly a little deficient on, check out Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen W. Sears and for more on Antietam as a turning point, you will want to have a look at Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James M. McPherson.

Peace,
Keith

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cosmic America's Civil War: Office Hours at In-N-Out Burger in Hollywood!



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Man - I love doing these Office Hours shows! Getting questions from people all over the country is cool - thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and the other usual suspects, there is never a shortage of questions. I promise to answer all...in some way or another!

This week Terry asks about diseases during the war and Shauna asks about Confederate advantages. Great questions indeed!

By the way - the show was very low key today - just a quick stop in my neighborhood In-N-Out Burger - at the corner of Sunset Blvd and Orange...right next to Hollywood High. I highly recommend it - but only every once in a while.

Peace,
Keith

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jon Stewart’s Civil War Sesquicentennial - all comedy all the time

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The South's Secession Commemoration
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook




HAHAHAHAHAHAHA - Ok peeps, John Stewart and "Senior Black Correspondent" Larry Wilmore pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. So you don't think the war was about slavery - well have a look at this.


They cite South Carolina's session documents (better evidence, anyone?) to establish the principle motivation behind the state's withdrawal from the Union. You guessed it - it was slavery. I guess they forgot all about this kind of thing once the had lost the war and all.


One more thing they might have mentioned was the CSA Vice president Alexander Stephens's Cornerstone Speech from March 1861 - allow me to quote....


"The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to t......he institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the storm came and the wind blew. Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."


So...what's all this about state rights, protecting your home, and other romantic notions of what the war was about? I don't think so my Neo-Confederate friends.


You know what - all this sesquicentennial stuff is bound to stir up the %#@&! Glory Hallelujah! The mother lode - I am going to have tons to write about for the next four years!! Now - for those of you who want to tell me to stick it...go right ahead (I'm a big boy, I can take it).


Peace,

Keith

Monday, December 6, 2010

Office Hours at Anarkali - December 6, 2010



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Ray from Ohio wanted to know what happened to the congressman captured at First Bull Run and Dylan from Ohio (hmmm...what's going with Ohio today?) wanted to know what the infamous Cornerstone Speech was all about.

So here you go my friends - from an all new location too. Now you know I love Ye Rustic Inn but I need to spread the love around. Today's Office Hours come from Anarkali. This is my favorite Indian restaurant in town - located on Melrose Ave in Hollywood. We'll be hitting all kinds of places so stick around.

Peace,
Keith

Jewish soldiers in the Civil War

Greetings Cosmic Americans! And Happy Chanukah!!

I received an inquiry from a Twitter follower the other day (@LookBackMaps) that I thought was well suited for a blog post.

It had to do with Jewish soldiers fighting for both the Union and the Confederacy. He wanted to know numbers. How many fought for each side - how many from each state?

Well, the trouble is, exact numbers are a little hard to come by in the mid-nineteenth century. Record keeping departments were somewhat more relaxed (to say the least) than today - even more so in the Confederate States. And the destruction of records by retreating Rebels in the South only added to the problematic nature of the counting game.

We can, however, come up with some general figures. In 2008, a PBS documentary called The Jewish Americans cited 150,000 Jews living in the United States in 1860. Of these, roughly 3,000 fought for the Confederacy and 7,000 fought for the Union. That's approximately (based on the laws of higher mathematics) 10,000 Jewish soldiers taking up arms for their respective causes.

Jews held high ranks in the armies too. Their were 9 Jewish generals and 21 Jewish colonels in the war. Judah P. Benjamin, who from what I understand was a non-observant Jew, served as the Confederate Secretary of State and Secretary of War.

How about that.

But it's not all about names and numbers. In the news, U. S. Grant made headlines when he issued his infamous General Order no. 11 on December 17, 1862. This order essentially expelled all Jews from his military district (Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky) in an effort to curtail black market cotton trading, which Grant thought was being run "mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders." Not Sam Grant's finest hour, to be sure. At least Abraham Lincoln had the good sense to immediately reprimand Grant (who then rescinded the order).

Many of the Jewish soldiers fighting in the Union armies were recent immigrants - from places like Germany and elsewhere in Central Europe. But not all were foreign born - especially in the Confederacy. A great number of these soldiers were native to the states (and country...I suppose) for which they fought. Some of the oldest synagogues in the prewar nation, for example, were in Virginia and South Carolina. There is a Jewish Confederate cemetery called Shockoe Hill in Richmond, Virginia, and Hollywood Cemetery (also in Richmond) has a Jewish section.

So there you have it. There are a couple of books worth checking out for further information. I recommend Jews and the Civil War: A Reader edited by Adam Mendelsohn and Jonathan Sarna as well as American Jewry and the Civil War by Betram W. Korn

Who knows...with all this info out there, maybe we can get Adam Sandler to write a new expanded version of his Chanukah song to include a few guys from the Civil War!

peace,
Keith

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cosmic America's Civil War: The Ascendancy of Robert E. Lee



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I hope you like my latest episode - I just wanted to give you a little background on the man who, in June 1862, would assume command of the Rebel army in the East. Lee would of course rise to the occasion and become the most formidable Confederate commander out there.

But nobody knew it in 1862. In fact, "Granny Lee" was widely criticized by the southern press. Who knew he would become such a badass??

Have a look and comment if you like!

Peace,
Keith

Monday, November 29, 2010

Office Hours at Ye Rustic Inn November 29th, 2010



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

So - who wouldn't want to sit down with their history teacher over beers and burgers and talk some Civil War?

SO come on down to Ye Rustic Inn - if you live in LA...maybe we can arrange a guest spot - if not, the beers will have to be virtual.

Either way - just send a question here - or you can Facebook me or send me a tweet. I'll answer you on Youtube!

Peace,
Keith

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A few words regarding Civil War memory


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well - we are nearing the Civil War sesquicentennial. Damn straight. 150 years since the good people of South Carolina fired on Ft. Sumter and kicked off four years of fun for all.

This landmark anniversary has got people thinking. People like my Twitter friend (@cjceglio) want to know about the national memory of the war. What has been emphasized; what has been suppressed?

It just so happens that
Civil War memory (in my humble opinion) is in a state of flux at the moment.

For the longest time, historians have stressed the "forgetfulness" of the national citizenry when it came to the war. The spirit of national reconciliation, scholars such as David Blight argue, paired reconciliationists with white supremacists and they wrote the memory of the war on southern terms. Meaning - the issues of slavery and emancipation were essentially written out of the war's memory. Suppressed as it were. Instead, so the story goes, parties from both sides remembered the war as reconciled Americans. they emphasized the shared memories of valor, devotion, heroism, and a mutual defense of cause - all worthy virtues.

The problem is - the veterans of the war didn't see things quite this way. Recent scholarship on this subject (my own included) accents the contentious memories of the war. So long as the participants of the war lived, issues such as slavery , state rights, treason, and tyranny remained in the fore.

And the veterans' legacies lived on. It seems that Americans have been fighting a war with words ever since. Oh sure, there has been some suppression of the more bitter memories here and there. But overall - northerners and southerners have been at each other for the last 150 years over what exactly the war was about. The issues remain just as salient today as they did in 1861.

Except one. It seems that treason has slipped below the surface. With all the talk (important talk, mind you) about slavery, we have sort of collectively misplaced the notion that millions of southerners supported treason against the United States government. Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and anyone else who donned the Confederate gray committed the highest crime conceivable against their nation. You can say all you want about state rights, southern honor, blah blah blah. That doesn't negate the fact that white southerners turned against their legally elected government. Hmmmmmm. I wonder how that would fly today. Just sayin'.....

But those are my two cents. Lots of you out there will probably disagree with me (some of you might want to punch me in the face). So be it - I have spent most of my adult life trying to figure this out....I let the evidence speak for itself.

Now if you want more I suggest a number of things. To begin, there is a FIRST RATE blog that deals with this topic in an unparalleled fashion. Historian and High School history teacher Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory is well worth reading and sharing with your friends.

Also, you will want to check out David Blight's book, Race and Reunion - this is probably the most important book that I argue against. A fine work to be sure but not quite right.

The counter argument is just getting going. Stay tuned for my book on Civil War veterans and commemoration, Across the Bloody Chasm: Reconciliation on the Wake of Civil War. For a preview check out my article of Union vets and emancipation. Also, historian Joan Waugh has written an excellent book on U.S. Grant and Civil War memory - and that's just for starters. The topic of memory is alive and well...thankfully.

If you want to bust my chops on this, go ahead....I am ready. Send me a Tweet or Facebook me anytime :)

Peace,
Keith

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Holidays from Cosmic America!!



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, today is Thanksgiving so I guess that means the holiday season has officially kicked off. I know this because I drove by a Best Buy this afternoon and people were already lined up for Black Friday super shopping. Sheesh.

But hey - whatever floats you boat!!

So I want everyone to have a wonderful holiday this year - even that guy on Youtube who keeps calling me a Yankee traitor. (I'm not joking, you know).

Peace be with you all my friends. To you and yours...HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Keith

What if What if What if (the Stonewall Jackson post)


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!! I hope this post finds you well - happy, healthy and of course - thankful for all you have in this world.

Now as you all know, I get questions daily via Facebook, Youtube, and especially Twitter. This one comes up frequently enough to merit an entire post. And guess what - I am as thrilled as hell about it because it gives me a chance to pitch in on counterfactual history.

So here you go - I am sure you have heard it too: "What if Stonewall Jackson had lived to fight at Gettysburg?"

Oh boy. Well, I guess I should start with just a little background. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was known to Lee and all across the Confederacy as a fighter. He was ballsy, tough, and quite often outmaneuvered and out fought his better supplied and manned opponents. 2nd Manassas? Kicked ass. The Valley campaign of 1862? Kicked ass. Fredericksburg? Kicked ass. Chancellorsville? Kicked ass. See what I mean...except there was one little problem.

After Stonewall's 2nd corps, ANV effectively routed the Union 11th corps at Chancellorsville, some dumb asses from North Carolina accidentally shot him and he subsequently died a few days later. Bummer for the Rebs. They lost one of their best guys.

So good ole Robert E. Lee decided to reorganize the 2nd corps in to two new corps, the 2nd - under the command of Richard S. Ewell and the 3rd - under the command of A. P. Hill.

Fast forward to July 1, 1863. Elements of Ewell's 2nd corps beat the shit out of the Union 1st and 11th corps at Gettysburg - pushing them through the town and up the heights (Cemetery Hill) just south of town. Lee's orders to Ewell: Take the heights if practicable.

Well, apparently Ewell didn't think it was practicable because he did not take the heights (or even attempt to) and the Union wound up holding the high ground - a fact that would prove very advantageous for the Union later on.

Many armchair generals across the land have since insisted that if Stonewall had been in command on that day - those heights would have been taken - thus insuring Confederate victory at Gettysburg and quite possibly the war itself. Poor old Richard S. Ewell. That is one hell of a historical burden to have hanging over you.

But here's the thing (counterfactual rant begins now). We have NO WAY of knowing what would have happened. NO WAY. PERIOD. Jackson could have done a number of things, maybe he would have taken the hill. Could he have held it? Who knows? Hell - maybe he would have been killed, or had dysentery, or fallen off his horse, or anything at all. The point here is that counterfactual history gets us absolutely nowhere. There were an infinite number of possibilities that day with the people who actually fought in the battle. One of them happened. Let's focus on that and give the "what ifs" a break.

Now there are a few historians around (Mark Grimsley and others) who have postulated some sort of counterfactual "theory" that they suggest will actually shed light on what could have really happened given another set of circumstances.

Nonsense. Attaching a bunch of academic claptrap to the musings and suppositions of what boils down to fantasy has even less utility than the simple "what if" questions over beer, peanuts, and Youtube.

At any rate - if you want to talk about Gettysburg, I am all yours. But let's stick to what actually happened - not what could have.

Peace (and don't eat too much turkey - save room for the pie)

Keith

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Six out of seven ain't too shabby!


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Thanks to Statcounter I am pleased to report that Cosmic America now has readers on six out of the seven continents. How about that!!! Worldwide readership.

The thing is - I feel that Antarctica is kinda missing out. So I am calling on you my Antarctic friends!! Aren't you interested in the American Civil War?? I promise - it is really REALLY fascinating. I think if you give it a chance, you will be as captivated as I am.

So come on - don't get left behind. Check it out.

peace,
Keith

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Civil War Letters of Henry A. Allen


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Interested in the letters of Confederate prisoners of war? So am I. It turns out...these guys have a lot to say. And now I am going to make this particular collection - housed at the special collections library at the University of Virginia, available to the world!

Which means, you won't have to travel all the way to Virginia to see it! But here's the catch - I am going to post one every day until they are all posted. You'll just have to keep checking.

For starters, Henry A. Allen was in the construction business in Portsmouth, Virginia. He joined and was soon promoted to Captain of the 9th Virginia Regiment. On July 3rd, 1863, the 9th was part of the Pickett-Pettigrew assault on Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg. There, Allen was captured - to sit out the rest of the war in Union prisons. He later joined the Confederate Veterans' organization called the Immortal 600 (more on these guys later...read the letters first)

Just click HERE and have at 'em.

Peace,
Keith

Friday, November 19, 2010

Office Hours at Ye Rustic Inn!



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Thanks to Rachel from Missouri and Anthony from Virginia for this week's questions. I love nothing more than to talk about Civil War history over beers and burgers. My Twitter crew have been sending in a ton of questions (they are really staking up) so stay tuned. So long as Ye Rustic keeps the beer flowing and the jukebox on I'll be there to pitch in my two cents.

Peace,
Keith

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cosmic America's Civil War: The Battle of Shiloh


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I know you will enjoy Shiloh episode and I KNOW you will enjoy these free maps. Just click HERE. It's always nice to have a little visual.

The show tonight was as lively as usual - click HERE to check it out. And remember..if you think I am full of it, just leave a comment. I love to argue.

Guess what - the questions have been flying in. Be sure to tune in to my Youtube channel and check out "Office Hours" for the responses. Send me a question here or on twitter or wherever and I'll be sure to give you a shout out!

Peace,
Keith

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Civil War Soldiers: What They Fought For


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Another great show is in the books! Tonight on Cosmic America's Civil War I took a break from the chronological narrative and talked about regular soldiers. Why they enlisted and why they fought.

Yep - you'll get it all on the show. Adventure, community, group cohesion, and yes - that's right - ideology. I don't care what you say, Civil War soldiers were ideologically motivated.

So check out the recorded version by clicking HERE.

Now that you have a taste I am sure you will want to read the books I talked about so here are some convenient links (aren't I nice). Just click the titles.

Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb
Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank
James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades

Enjoy and happy reading

Keith

Monday, November 15, 2010

Much Ado About Revisionist History


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

As you must surely know by now (as I mention this often), I spend a lot of time scouring the Internet for people discussing the Civil War. Youtube and Twitter are of course my favorite virtual forums - they never disappoint.

I have noticed something that, as a historian, I find really really really interesting. The word "revision" seems to carry a negative connotation. And individuals all over the place hold the so-called practitioners of "revisionist history" with the greatest contempt.

Now this comes from both ends of the political spectrum. Those who finger point and accuse don't necessarily fall into any easily defined category.

But the way I understand things, people who are screaming about revisionism are kinda missing the point. The words "revision" and "revisionist" have simply been reduced to a code for information that disgruntled would-be historians disagree with. (Bitter??? Table for one).

Here's the deal my angry f-bomb dropping friends. Revision is what historians do (and lots of others, too). If we didn't revise, there would be one book on the Civil War. We would all read it, and that would be it.

Oh sure - historians can write with a bias, and what they write can certainly be a reflection of the times in which they live. But is this by definition a bad thing or something that we simply must come to terms with and be aware of? What we learn about history and historians can tell us a lot about ourselves as interpreters of the past. If you really want to impress your friends at parties - get in to historiography. Now that's some revision we can talk about. Are there noticeable differences in books written before and after the Vietnam era (to use one sorta obvious example)? You betcha.

But all of that aside, I believe that revision is the essential ingredient to reconstructing the past. New evidence always surfaces somewhere, differing analysis produces thoughtful conversations, new insights lead us to reconsider something we may have thought we knew...but didn't.

In other words - you can get all bent out of shape if someone challenges your precious beliefs. But instead of dismissing that person as a "revisionist" in derogatory fashion, why not just have a look at what they are saying, weigh the arguments in terms of credibility, see if their evidence holds water. Do you really want to learn anything - or do you just want to hold fast to what could very well be long outdated?

I am open to critique...so fire away.

Peace,
Keith

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winfield Scott, the Anaconda Plan, and the Fall of New Orleans

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, after a string of reshedulings and technical difficulties, Cosmic America's Civil War finally made it on the air - two days late!

It was a good episode too, so if you haven't watched it yet - check it out by clicking HERE.

I'll give you a little on Winfield "Old Fuss and Feathers" Scott (I love Civil War era nicknames), his foresight about the potential course of the war, his subsequent Anaconda Plan - and the plan in action....the fall of New Orleans in April 1862.

It's important to note, friends, that while 1862 is considered by many to be the year of Confederate ascendancy, they were sucking pretty hard in the western theater. All the good stuff was happening in the east. This fact really lends itself to the idea that the eastern theater was the principle theater of the war.

Now I know that some of you will argue with me on this. But remember, I read history forward. People during the war looked east a lot more than they looked west.

Still, the fall of New Orleans was a hard blow for the rebs. It was the biggest city in the South with more than 100,000 citizens and it was a key harbor at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Tune in to the show and find out all about it.

Peace,
Keith

PS - for a great book on Winfield Scott's career check out Allan Peskin, Winfield Scott and Profession of Arms

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cosmic America - Office Hours!



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, the very first Office Hours session is in the books. I hope you enjoy. It is kind of dark at Ye Rustic Inn - but hey, want do you want for free, anyway?

This was a lot of fun - as you can see there are some real characters at my favorite Hollywood area bar. OMG - who gets cut off at a bar at 12:30 in the afternoon? Sheesh! Stay tuned - who knows what might happen

Peace,
Keith

Monday, November 8, 2010

Port Royal - A Rehearsal for Reconstruction


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Last night, Live and Unfiltered featured the Port Royal Experiment - what some scholars have called a "rehearsal for Reconstruction." And what a rehearsal it was! To check out last night's episode, click HERE.

I think wartime Reconstruction is often glossed over in Civil War classes (as is the big event during 1865-1877) but that's just me. Fans of my show will be happy to know that I plan on covering Reconstruction thoroughly. Why?? Becuase it's important dammit!

And if you don't believe me - just check any newspaper from the period. Reconstruction was on people's minds.

Now...since you have watched the Port Royal episode (or are about to), those of you paying attention probably noticed that I mentioned a couple of books. Read them - you'll be better off for it.

Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment by Willie Lee Rose

Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made by Eugene D. Genovese

Peace,
Keith

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Civil War Live and Unfiltered: Ball's Bluff and the Trent Affair














Greetings Cosmic Americans!

For all of you watching my streaming Civil War course, Live and Unfiltered, you will want to download this map for Tuesday's (November 4, 2010) episode: Ball's Bluff and (time permitting) The Trent Affair.

Fun shall be had by all - just click HERE and the map is all yours!

And be sure to tune in every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evening at 8PST by clicking HERE.

Peace,
Keith

Memories of Murder at Fort Pillow


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well as you know, I speak all the time about Civil War memory - particularly the stuff that caused problems later in the 19th century - like issues concerning race. I don't give a damn what scholars think, but northerners remembered the cause of freedom and the sacrifices that black Union soldiers made to contribute to emancipation.

Take this Kurz and Allison print from 1892. It shows the murder of surrendering black soldiers by Confederate forces under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest. That's right, At Ft. Pillow on April 12, 1864, African American soldiers were massacred - shown no quarter. Northerners, black and white, condemned Forrest and his officers and men for these actions - a condemnation that continues today.

So you think white northerners whitewashed Civil War memory - guess again.

Peace,
Keith

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ye Rustic Inn - Cosmic America Annex - Yes or No??



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I am thinking of making Ye Rustic Inn in Los Feliz, California my new office at least once a week. For those of you wondering, Los Feliz is adjacent to Hollywood - and a pretty cool place to hang out.

Anyway, I thought I could get some writing done here and possibly some video blogs too...my wheels are always turning you know. I might even broadcast the answers to all the questions you Cosmic Americans keep asking...over beers. Teaching history might never be the same!

But I am leaving it to you - let me know...Ye Rustic Inn?? yes or no???

Peace,
Keith

Special Halloween episode - The Union is Dissolved! (just in case you missed it)



Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Thanks to all who watch Sunday's episode of The Civil War: Live and Unfiltered! It was a fun way to start the Halloween festivities. Check it out if you missed it - and be sure to watch from the beginning...you get about a minute of music before the horror begins :)

This week's schedule is in the books, so be sure to tune in tonight, Thursday, and Sunday at 8PM PST by clicking HERE.

Tonight the shooting finally starts - we will discuss the First Battle of Bull Run (or...for the rebs in the crowd, First Manassas).

See you then-
Peace,
Keith

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reconciliation at Grant's Tomb


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Wrap your head around this - Ulysses S. Grant shaking hands with that rebel Robert E. Lee enshrined forever at his own tomb!!

And why not? The whole point of the war was to bring the country back together - why not show a little spirit of reconciliation? After all, Grant's campaign slogan (or rather, the Republican Party's slogan) for the election of 1868 was "Let Us Have Peace." So there you have it...peace.

But remember, Union veterans had a very clear vision of what peace and reconciliation would look like. Don't forget that. When Americans would learn the history of their greatest conflict, former Union soldiers were determined that they would learn what the war had been about. The Confederacy had fought to destroy the nation and perpetuate the institution of slavery. Period.

Sure, they would say, let us have peace...let us promote reconciliation. But don't forget what happened. Even Grant himself wrote in his memoirs: "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse."

(Let Us Have) Peace,
Keith

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Confederate Imagery in the 21st Century - Racism? Heritage? Just Plain Fun?


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, I am once again happy to sing the praises of Twitter. This wonderful platform has allowed the reach of Cosmic America to extend all over the world - and people are talking. They want to know about the US Civil War...and as it turns out, the war's legacy too.

From the small island of Guernsey, situated smack in the middle of the English Channel, Matt (a computer graphics artist) was wondering about the problematic nature of Confederate imagery in a modern age. Is this simply a harmless nod to heritage, or does Confederate symbolism evoke America's troubling racist past?

Addressing this topic always stirs controversy - which is good I suppose. It gives me something to argue about...and I like to argue.

The Confederate Battle Flag (aka, the St. Andrews Cross) and other Confederate symbols can be used for many reasons, not all of them racist. Some folks like to fly it as a way to say "up yours" to the man. It is a symbol of rebellion, which means if you are trying to rebel against something - your school, your government, your parents, whatever...this could be for you.

It can even be used in a sort of "tongue and cheek" fashion. You know...good natured fun combined with regional pride just letting Yankees know that the good ole boys and girls down South have figured out how to let the colors fly - on bumper stickers t-shirts, and bikinis.

Others belong to the "heritage not hate" crowd. These folks insist that their ancestors who fought under this banner were fighting for their rights and protection of their homeland - an American virtue that should be applauded. They despise the Confederacy being compared to the Third Reich, and rightfully so. Confederates were not Nazis.

But here is the problem. It is hard to separate the Rebel flag from other groups. A-holes like the KKK and Nazi skinheads who drag it out whenever they want to spew hatred and racism aren't doing the heritage not hate group any favors.

But there is another problem - one that is little more complex than the simple expression of base racism. The Confederate soldiers, like it or not, were fighting for a country conceived on the notion of racial superiority. The Confederate cause was founded to perpetuate the institution of slavery. Period. This whole "state rights" thing was really a post war creation.

Now, I know that there are lots of people out there who will disagree with me, but I have discussed this at length on this blog and I believe the evidence speaks for itself. so I will not go in to that right this second.

Confederate imagery is profoundly offensive to a great number of people, despite the context in which it is used. And thus I say to those of you who insist that it is a harmless symbol denoting regional pride - proceed with caution.

I highly recommend a book by John Coski called The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem. He examines the multiple uses of this flag from the Lost Cause period through massive resistance in the 1950s to modern state flag controversies. If you have any further inquiries, this book should set you straight.

Peace,
Keith

Monday, October 25, 2010

Live and Unfiltered: Compromise of 1850 - its in the books!



Thanks to all who watched last night's episode of Cosmic America: Live and Unfiltered. I as suspected, the Compromise of 1850 was a hot as ever. You can watch the recorded version and stay up to date with the streaming course - just in case you missed it live.

A couple of things - I am working on getting some sort of chalkboard or something...you know, for maps and all - or bullet points - or something like that. Also, my 10-15 minute lecture ran over a tad - 17 minutes...what can I say? Once I am on a roll, there's no stoppin' me.

So be sure to tune in every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday night at 8PM PST by clicking HERE.

Peace,
Keith

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cosmic America: Live and Unfiltered and Rescheduled


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

OK - I am totally digging the feedback that I am getting from those of you checking out Live and Unfiltered. So, in response...I have been tweeking things a little. Well, a lot actually.

One of the things I am going to be adjusting is the frequency of shows and the duration of each. There will be more, but shorter episodes of the show every week.

So scrap the whole Monday and Friday thing - and scrap the 30 minute format. Let's face it - nobody has that kind of attention span anyway. Now the show will be on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 8:00PM PST. Each show will be 15 minutes long and focus on one crucial point. I am driving it home kids and doing it 15 minutes at a time.

For those of you on the east coast who think this is too late - fear not. Each episode is recorded so you can watch it whenever. I just posted this week's schedule so click HERE and RSVP!

See you on the Internet!

Peace,
Keith

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shelby Foote - Historian?


Well, not really.

Now friends, before you let me have it for saying such a thing about America's favorite storyteller, let me just make my case.

I have read nearly everything that Mr. Foote has written. His novels are delightful and well written, particularly Shiloh. And his so-called history, The Civil War: A Narrative is equally well executed. But that's just it - as the title suggests, The Civil War is a narrative - fine. But in terms of rigorous primary research and pointed analysis his magnum opus is wanting.

If anything, The Civil War represents a synthesis of the secondary materials that Foote undoubtedly collected in his study over the years. What is really troubling about this work is his somewhat casual use of the contemporary (of the Civil War era) speaking voice. It seems that much of the primary evidence used to narrate the war existed only in the mind of Foote himself.

So, when he described the carnage of Cold Harbor, to use a very famous example, by quoting a young diarist who wrote his last words on the battlefield: "I am killed," he simply duped his readers. I sure wish that that diary really existed - I could not imagine a more evocative entry in the diary of a mortally wounded soldier on the battlefield than this. But the diary has never surfaced.

Shelby Foote was a wonderful novelist. And his folksy wisdom added charm to Ken Burns's 1990 documentary, The Civil War. You know, I would have loved to have met him on a battlefield to hear him speak in all his anecdotal glory. I am not sure I would have believed anything he said as he stood, telling tales, smoking his pipe and drawing a circle in the dirt with his foot. I would have had a good time though. I can't think of a better storyteller.

Rest in peace, Shelby.

Keith

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Was The Battle of Gettysburg the Turning Point of the Civil War?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, I got an email today from a Live and Unfiltered fan (student - Mike B.) asking me to clarify something I said about the Battle of Gettysburg.

I mentioned something along the lines of "Gettysburg is not as important as you might think it is." Thanks for the note, Mike - lets see if I can clear things up a bit.

I should have pointed out that I was talking about Gettysburg as the turning point of the war and I should have been more specific by stating that many Americans today think about the battle differently than the people in 1863. I love live streaming video - no edits and at this point it is not interactive. What are ya gonna do? Just have to go with it and clarify later if necessary :)

Analyzing history from the vantage point of the present (as I have warned people not to do), one could surmise that the battle was indeed the turning point. The Confederates never again could claim a decisive victory along the lines of Manassas or Fredericksburg. But the Union victory here was not by any means the stepping off point to guaranteed victory.

The participants and citizens of the respective countries certainly didn't think so. Just read a newspaper from the period. The Confederates, with Lee at the helm the Army of Northern Virginia, still firmly believed that victory was within their grasp. Gettysburg or no. The Union Army was bogged down in Virginia, the Union population at home was growing increasingly weary of the war, and even Abraham Lincoln thought he was going to lose the election of 1864 and perhaps the war along with it.

Sure as shit - the letters home from the Confederate Army indicated that morale was up. I have read them myself...tons of these letters are housed at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Go there yourself and check them out if you don't believe me.

So all this "High Tide of the Confederacy" stuff is a postwar creation. Sure, the citizens of the North and South thought the battle was important alright, but perhaps for different reasons than many Americans do today.

So if you have any questions you can always shoot me an email at cosmic_america@yahoo.com
I promise to answer all.

peace,
Keith

Black Confederates. Really? REALLY?????


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

So - I've been on Youtube again. It's a guilty pleasure, really. Last night was a real kicker. I followed a few video "suggestions" to a series of posts on black Confederate soldiers. There seems to be this warped idea out there that there were thousands and thousands of blacks serving as soldiers in the Confederate army. One estimation claimed as many as 90,000 black people shouldered a musket for the glorious CSA.

You have got to be freakin' kidding me. 90,000?? That is bigger than the whole Army of Northern Virginia at its grandest. Now I am not saying that blacks were absent from the military scene. When the ANV (or any other CS army) went somewhere, they took black people with them. They were - you guessed it - slaves. They did what they were forced to do. Laundry, cooking, felling trees, building fortifications, etc. Slaves were drafted in to Confederate service in others ways too (much to the irritation of their masters). They built fortifications around Atlanta, Richmond and Petersburg, for example. These were the toils of slaves. They were not willingly serving the Confederate cause.

The very idea of this is perverse at best. Imagine - blacks serving a country conceived on the idea of racial inequality and the protection of the "peculiar" institution. Wow. Does that mean that a slave or two may at one time have picked up a musket, maybe - but regiments or even divisions of black soldiers. You think we would have heard of them.

Seriously, I have never seen or heard of a letter written by a Union soldier describing the several regiments of black Confederates he faced in battle. I have never read a newspaper describing black Confederate divisions defending a Rebel position. I am guessing it's because they didn't exist. I mean really, don't you think Ken Burns would have at least said something about this? (Insert Ashokon Farewell theme music here..."Dear Mama - today 90,000 black Reb soldiers marched by...we fear the worst...I have dysentery....blah blah blah.")

Now the prospect of raising limited black troops had crossed a few Rebels' minds. Even Robert E. Lee thought it was a good idea. But nothing of significance ever happened in this regard. Rebels in power decided that if they armed blacks, then what they had been fighting for would have been pretty pointless. Late, late, late in the war CSA Congress finally passed legislation to raise a few black troops as sort of a last ditch effort. And there were reports of a handful of black troops drilling in Richmond early in April 1865. But this was way too little waaaay too late.

Now after the war, some United Confederate Veterans dressed up a few former slaves in Confederate gray and paraded them around, I suppose, to show that the war wasn't about slavery and that blacks were in favor of Confederate independence. Oy.

So if you are trying to prove that black people supported the Confederate war effort just stop. Or better yet, show me some real evidence that these thousands and thousands of black soldiers actually existed. Put them on a map, show me the battle reports, anything. Just saying they were around doesn't make it so - evidence does.

Peace,
Keith