Monday, February 28, 2011

Lincoln at Tredegar Iron Works....a Second Invasion!

Greetings Cosmic Americans! preparation for a talk I am giving next month about lingering Civil War animosities, I've been revisiting a few of my favorite postwar smack-downs. Here's a zinger that unfolded in Richmond, Virginia a few years back (2003)

When a statue featuring Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad was unveiled on the grounds of the old Tredegar Iron Works. Neo-Confederates responded with apoplectic fury over the idea of Lincoln once again “invading” the Confederate capital city as he had done during the final days of the war.  Virginia state delegate Richard H. Black concluded, “Putting a statue to [Lincoln] there is sort of like putting the Confederate flag at the Lincoln Memorial.” Black even went so far as to accept a request from the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter to seek an injunction from state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore until they could determine the legality of placing a statue at Tredegar. Bragdon Bowling, commander of the Virginia Division, SCV, whose great-grandfather John Stephen Cannon fought for the Confederacy, saw the statue as the ultimate humiliation. Stating, “[Lincoln] sat at Jefferson Davis's desk and propped his feet up on the desk,” Bragg was clearly incensed. Together with Black, Bowling and other neo-Confederates argued that a Lincoln statue had no place in Virginia. “We've got a Lincoln Memorial not that distant," argued Bowling. "It's a huge memorial right across the Potomac. I suppose you could put a Lincoln memorial in every city of the United States. I'm not sure what that accomplishes.”

The Lincoln statue certainly accomplished one thing: a response that included some stinging acts of opposition. On the day of unveiling, New York sculptor David Frech’s statue depicting Lincoln and Tad sitting on a bench against a granite wall, those in attendance witnessed both applause and jeers. The statue was meant to convey sectional healing, yet while Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine gave a dedication address, a small plane pulling a banner reading “sic semper tyrannis” flew overhead. Invoking the Virginia state motto, “thus always to tyrants,” the words allegedly shouted by John Wilkes Booth to the audience at Ford’s Theatre after he had shot the president in 1865, sent a rather clear message. If catcalls from the audience were not enough, several offered their words to the press in attendance. “When somebody does something as ignorant as put Abe Lincoln in the capital of the Confederacy,” declared H. K. Edgerton, “how can I not come to protest it? You don't put a criminal up and call it reconciliation, and Lincoln was a war criminal on top of it.”

The previous day, about 100 members of the Virginia SCV had rallied in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery at the gravesite of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in protest of the Lincoln statue. There, Bragdon Bowling iterated his opposition. “They have no concept of history and how it might be the wrong place to put the statue. As a Southerner, I'm offended. You wouldn't put a statue of Winston Churchill in downtown Berlin, would you? What's next, a statue of Sherman in Atlanta?” The protest was the culmination of a yearlong battle by Confederate sympathizers, including hundreds of reenactors and SCV members. But the activity during the unveiling itself overshadowed the earlier protest. One group of protesters displayed a large Confederate Navy Jack on a hilltop overlooking the ceremony, and a few scuffles ensued when officials barred attendants from bringing Confederate flags to the ceremony. Finally, individuals such as United States Historical Society chairman Robert H. Kline and others who claimed to be “delighted that Lincoln is in Richmond again” came under intense fire from heritage groups and prominent Virginia state officials. State representative Virgil Goode, for example, called in to question the society’s non-profit status in an effort to quash fundraising activities meant to pay for the monument.

So…you think neo-Confederates have put their animosities to rest….? Not so sure on that one.



Sunday, February 27, 2011

Taking a Look at D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

The game is afoot! After a lot of secondary reading and a peek in to the historical record I am beginning to formulate some questions concerning D. W. Griffith's 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation.

A few things are striking me as curiously glossed over in the literature on the film - things that I believe are worthy of further inquiry. Most scholars tend to reduce the controversy surrounding this film to racial conflict. In many ways, they are absolutely correct. The film's profoundly racist depiction of black people - whether they be boot-licking sycophants, buffoons, or lustful rapists - without question incited animosity among individual blacks, groups such as the NAACP, and progressive whites.

But connected to this racial conflict is the nagging problem of sectional animosities held over from the Civil War. Only 50 years removed from Appomattox, the war was still fresh in the memories of those who had lived through it. Further, the sons and daughters of the Civil War generation remained attached to sectional interpretations of the war's causes and consequences.

Many scholars would have you believe otherwise. Historians such as David Blight and others have insisted that the memory of the war had - by the twentieth century - been reduced to a mutual celebration of valor and fortitude.

Poppycock. It is becoming apparent to me that many white northern Americans in 1915 saw the Confederate cause as an traitorous abomination and a revolt against law and order. It seems quite logical that groups and individuals would condemn a film that celebrated Confederates as patriots and applauded extra-legal organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

In fact - Union veterans' organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic led the charge against the screening of The Birth of a Nation suggesting that is was "untrue to the facts of history, [did] gross injustice to prominent and patriotic men of Reconstruction times, [was] insulting to colored citizens, and [tended] to glorify mob law."

This is sectionalism pure and simple. Northerners had fought to suppress rebellion - celebrating it 50 years after the fact seemed distasteful at best. Of course, millions in the North flocked to see The Birth of a Nation - and many were surely amazed at the spectacle of this new medium. But they didn't necessarily agree with the film's message.

At any rate, being one who resolutely believes that sectionalism is a central component in the study of American conflict and American history writ large, I am going to pursue this line of reasoning and see where it takes me. My driving questions: to what degree did the contentions of the Civil War remain in the twentieth-century North? How did the war generation influence subsequent generations? In what ways did The Birth of a Nation fuel sectional fires? And finally, the real nugget...are racial conflicts and sectional conflicts interwoven in American history?

I guess we'll just have to see.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gary W. Gallagher - Remembering Robert E. Lee

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

These days it seems I am spending more and more time on Youtube. Lots of my old professors from UVA and a host of other historians that I admire find their way there - either on their won accord or through the publication mechanisms of the various groups who invite them to speak. In this case, I have Washington and Lee University's post of Gary W. Gallagher's talk on Robert E. Lee from October, 2009.

Those of you familiar with the (short lived) post-war career of the former Confederate general know that he spent his remaining days as president of the old Washington University in Lexington Virginia. He taught there until his death in 1870 - and there he rests - beneath the Lee Chapel. If you are ever in Lexington, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It has been recently restored to its former glory and is quite the place for a Civil War enthusiast to visit.

Anyway...the video above (which is a tad long..but worth the time) deals with Lee in the wake of defeat. The Lee dealt with the profound degree of uncertainty in the aftermath of war. We have to keep in mind just how altered the southern states were in 1865. The physical landscape was of course shattered - but their social and economic systems were upended as well. The former Confederate chieftain played a central role in the South's coming to terms with these chilling facts.

What I find most interesting is the audience reaction to Gallagher's talk. The group gathered at the Lee Chapel are - shall we say - supporters of the Lee legend. What Gallagher has to say surprises more than a few of those in attendance.  I have to hand it to them though. They take the good and the bad about Marse Robert in stride. So good for them :)

Gallagher is one of the foremost authorities on Lee and the Lost Cause. If you want to have a look at some great books on these subjects, check out -

Lee and His General in War and Memory

The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History (with Alan Nolan)



Friday, February 25, 2011

I Heart Technology

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I'm just doing a little experiment with my new Iphone to see how I might publish something from a remote location.

Man I love technology!

So stayed tuned for quick updates from the field. You never know what might turn up!



The Myth of the Lost Cause, 1865-1900 by Rollin G. Osterweis

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Historians have a tendency to explain Confederate commemoration as if they were generally accepted across the nation – as if former Confederates ultimately won the war with the pen. In 1973, historian Rollin G. Osterweis attempted to explain this phenomenon. Osterweis analyzed images, literary and otherwise, of moonlight and magnolias, the “obliging old Uncle Remus,” and, the “good, gray Confederate veteran.” He observes a persistent sense of “southerness” despite a humiliating Confederate defeat and several years of infuriating Reconstruction politics. White southerners, Osterweis suggests, used these images a part of their efforts to romanticize and pay tribute to the antebellum South. He further notes, former Confederates clung fervently to a new American nationalism and, ironically, the righteous, fiercely sectional account of the Confederate States of America “[was] continually belied by the conduct of Southerners themselves.” In this way, veterans involved in Civil War commemorations seemingly connected the New South – characterized by “progress,” industry, and steadfast devotion to reunion – to a benign past that, while virtuous, inevitably gave way to modern America. In short, proponents of the New South who had shouldered muskets for the Confederacy looked to a promising future. They carefully recalled a few scattered memories that helped southerners come to terms with their greatest failure, retain a sense of regional dignity, and embrace a reunited nation.

Osterweis concludes that extensive (and nationwide) admiration of southern generalship, southern courage, and southern chivalry reinforced the myth of the superiority of southern armies in “everything except numbers and material,” thus lending credence to the Lost Cause rhetoric of the day. Ultimately, through vastly popular publications such as the Battles and Leaders series, Osterweis claims, “Yankeedom took to its heart the Lost Cause.” Northerners might have admired certain benign aspects of southern culture and even respected their former enemy’s fighting spirit. However, the implication embedded in many treatments on the Lost Cause – that former Confederates “won the war with the pen” – obscures the anxieties articulated by former Rebels clearly perceiving animosity all around them; that they in fact still fought a war with words.

Although I believe that Osterweis misses this glaring problem in postwar commemoration, the book is well worth reading. It is an important piece of the reconciliation story - one that is currently under revision. Sometimes there are a few copies available on Amazon - click HERE to grab one before they are all gone!



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cosmic America Speaking Engagement!

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Have you got plans for the evening of March 9th - and are you gong to be in the Los Angeles area?

Mark your calendars, friends - I'll be speaking at the Civil Warriors Round Table in the West San Fernando Valley!

The topic will be Union veterans and the commemoration of their cause - which naturally will deal quite a bit with the suppression of  treason and emancipation. I would love for you to come on out and join in the conversation. Here is a LINK with all the pertinent information. See you there!



George Henry Thomas - Not Everyone Fought For Their State

Greeting Cosmic Americans!

For this week's edition of Western Theater Wednesdays, I wanted to talk a little about Union General George Thomas.

Oh sure - I could go to great lengths to about the "Rock of Chickamauga" in terms of military acumen...but from time to time I dare to venture off the beaten path.

I would much rather point out that this particular general, a hero of the Western Theater who nevertheless does not share the same fame as some of the other big shots in the Union army, went against the Rebel grain.

As we all know, George Thomas was a Virginian. A career officer in the United States army in 1861, Thomas thought it best to honor his oath of allegiance to the United States.  Many Virginians thought him a traitor to his state and to the southern cause - even members of his own family. A few years after the Civil War (in 1870), when an US officer came to notify Thomas's sister of his death, the officer was told "my brother died in 1861" and had the door slammed in his face. Ouch.

So, loyalty has drawbacks, I suppose. Now you might find Thomas's decision surprising. The usual story about southern officers resigning their commissions and seceding along  with their states suggests that even those who loved the Union held a greater love for their native soil. This "state over country" approach -  often presented by Confederate apologists, implies that the Union of 1860 was really a tenuous collection of localities - and that nationalism as we know it had not yet developed.

I am not so sure. And officers like Thomas, as well as Winfield Scott (another Virginian who remained loyal to the Union), illustrate that national commitment often trumped much so that some individuals could turn their backs on their communities and families.

Further, Thomas and Scott were not alone in their decision. Plenty of southerners remained loyal to the Stars and Stripes - many more than you might imagine. In fact, as historian James M. McPherson notes, scores of southern officers remained with the Union - officers like Tennessean David Farragut, who captured New Orleans, and North Carolinian John Gibbon, who commanded a division of the Army of the Potomac while three of his brothers fought for the Confederacy.

And of course it was George Henry Thomas who not only saved the Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga but also kicked some Rebel ass and destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Nashville. I am quite sure that the citizens of the United States were pleased with Thomas's decision to stick around.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Ersatz Jefferson Davis and an Inaugural Address Redux

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

At last!!!! I have found a way to use the words ersatz and redux in the same sentence! I am beside myself with joy!!

But a lot of people are not. Here's the deal. As you all know, as part of the nationwide Civil War Sesquicentennial celebration, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Various Southern Heritage Groups, and the state of Alabama - in all their collective wisdom - thought it best to reenact the inaugural address of President Jefferson Davis...the one and only president of the Confederate States of America. He did his thing on the very spot where the real event took place on February 18th, 1861 - on the steps of the Alabama statehouse in Montgomery.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the Sons of Confederate Veterans were intent on ending what they call "misrepresentation." I'll let them speak for themselves:

"A lot of people don't keep up with history," he said. "We are an organization that honors our ancestors because we felt they were fighting for independence," (SCV member) Gayle said. He hopes the younger generation "learns a little bit. All you hear about in the paper is that the Civil War is all about slavery. "We have been misrepresented for a lot of years. The Civil War was more about taxation than anything else. The federal government raised the taxes on exports, and that's what we were making down here at that time -- cotton. It jumped from 15 percent to 40 percent."

Comments such as this have angered plenty of folks - mainly because the SCV position is pretty ridiculous. Of course the war was about slavery - just read any newspaper from the period. And if that doesn't convince you - read the secession documents from each state. Taxes my ass.

But if anyone calls them on this nonsense - they respond with with the standard "not about slavery" argument and make vague references to some other rights that were apparently being threatened (for fun...ask one of these guys to list the rights he is talking about and see what happens). But sometimes their argument just gets plain bizarre. I was checking out some Southern Heritage Groups and Sons of Confederate Veterans websites the other day and one of their more articulate proponents had this to say about Unionist "detractors." Note - I have left the rambling and tenuous connections in place - lest I be accused of misrepresentation myself:

The reasons for the Civil War have been widely debated, with controversy surrounding the event Saturday due to the war's connection to slavery. Lt. Commander in Chief Kelley Barrow referenced fictional character Harry Potter in his speech, using him to address the struggle of good versus evil. He went on to mention Rosa Parks, stating while she moved from the back of the bus to the front, the "people of the Confederacy have been forced to the back of the bus."

So - the SCV have gone to the mat - Harry Potter and Rosa Parks? Do I really need to comment on this? I think I will leave that one to you - my guest :) Let's just say the SCV is stretching things a bit...connecting the Confederate bid for independence to a story about wizards and such. Oy. And to suggest that modern Confederate people (is there is such a thing) face the same struggles as those who championed civil rights? Oy gevalt!

The SCV and other heritage groups insist that celebrations such as the reenactment of Davis's inaugural are not political. They are meant simply to preserve and commemorate history. But in essence they are making a political statement. There is of course, the obvious. This is a political event by definition - an inaugural address could be little else. But what is behind the clear editing of such historical events? Is this not political as well?

Your thoughts are - as always - more than welcome.



Monday, February 21, 2011

Guns of the South - by Harry Turtledove

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Need a distraction from reality? Troubled by things that actually took place? No problem. I present to you The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove….the “master” of alternate history.

I have a thing or two to say about the book, but before I do that, I thought I might offer my take on alternate history – or if you rather…”counterfactual” history.

According to historian Mark Grimsley, there are roughly two kinds of counteractual history. First – for the basest of simpletons I suppose – we have the “beer and peanuts” counterfactual. These “what ifs,” such as “what if Stonewall Jackson had lived to fight at Gettysburg” generally make their appearance at various “buff” gatherings. Second, we have “counterfactual theory.” This theory, the brainchild (I believe) of Grimsley himself, couches counterfactuals in the high-toned language of academics. The objective: to derive an element of truth from what did happen by laboriously theorizing about what…ummmm….didn’t.

Frankly, I find both varieties equally absurd. I have always suggested to my students that counterfactual history has limited utility (apart from a few laughs) and analysis of the infinite “what ifs” of history bears little or no fruit. Why, I ask, should we dwell on what might have happened (something that we could never, ever, ever really know – ever…no matter what) when we still have trouble determining what actually did? Ughh.

Now that that is off my chest – on to Guns. The premise of this book: South African white supremacists travel back in time to supply the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia with AK-47s. Hi-jinx ensue. SPOILER ALERT: The Confederacy wins.

I have to admit that I was drawn in by Guns. Despite that fact that I generally cringe at the thought of counterfactual history, I thought this book was entertaining. Whatever…guilty as charged. I mean really…who would not be captivated by a heated presidential contest between rival factions supporting Nathan Bedford Forrest, the white supremacy candidate, and Robert E. Lee under the banner of…what…abolition??

You heard it right, friends. Old Marse Robert decides that emancipation is the ticket. As the story goes, relations with the South Africans quickly unravel once Lee and others get their hands on a few Civil War history books from the future that would have been. I won’t give away what happens next – you’ll want to read it for yourself. Let’s just say that apart from a few hotheads, the good citizens of the CSA come to their senses regarding the slavery issue.

I have to hand it to Turtledove. Instead of pandering to the – shall we say – extremist contingent of the modern neo-Confederacy, he deals candidly with the slavery issue. He writes of the complexities of secession and the Confederate war for independence with the underlying acknowledgment that slavery – in the words of Abraham Lincoln – had “something to do with the war.” Indeed, many of the central characters frankly admit that they had fought to maintain the institution.

But…I do see this book as part of an intriguing movement. Since the end of the war, there have been those who have worked tirelessly to distance iconic Confederate heroes from the fight to preserve slavery. Guns, in my estimation, is for the most part a continuation of that effort. Both Robert E. Lee and the main Confederate soldier character (Nate Caudell) change their tunes regarding slavery and begin to think in earnest about equality, the human condition, and inherent rights of all. This characterization undoubtedly pleases modern “heritage not hate” supporters of the Confederacy, who see the war as an effort to secure rights in the face of an oppressive government. These folks generally assume that slavery was already a dying institution in 1860, and would have passed into history on its own. The alternate Lee and Caudell fit perfectly into this scenario – and even accelerate the process.

Whether or not I am on board with Turtledove’s portrayal of a victorious Confederacy is of little consequence. You will have to judge for yourself – I will not quibble with counterfactuals because such arguments are ultimately of little value. And after all – this is not a book of history. But it is an entertaining look at a fictional country, and Turtledove uses actual people, places, and events to spin his yarn. I say what the hell – give The Guns of the South a go. It might make you mad, it might make you laugh, and who knows….it might even encourage you to have a look at the history of the Civil War – the real one, that is.



Sunday, February 20, 2011

Confederate Rations - MMMMMMM Rancid Pork Fat.

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

We've all heard of the Rebel tatterdemalions who subsisted on nothing but grass, dirt, and their own ear wax from 1861-65.

Of course that's not really true...rebs had a bit of a tougher time with rations but they did eat something.

Here is the regulation ration for a Confederate soldier as of January 28th, 1863 (pretty much copied from the US version:

3/4ths of a pound of pork or bacon, or one and a fourth pounds of fresh or salt beef. (Reduced to 1 pound of beef or 1/2 pound of pork in January 1863). 18 ounces of bread or flour, or 12 ounces of hard bread, or 20 ounces of corn meal.

Meh - not great but it could be worse....and if you believe all the Lost Cause types - it was. Sure there were plenty of shortages, especially during sieges and when supply lines got cut by Union armies. The food - when it was available - wasn't that great either...the pork often went rancid and there was plenty of times when there was more fat than it reduced the food to next to nothing.

But soldiers -  being a resourceful lot - would often live off of the land. Both armies "liberated" the available resources when they came upon them. So if you were a civilian in, let's say, northern Virginia in might want to look after your chickens. Just sayin'...



Friday, February 18, 2011

Cosmic America Is My Classroom

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

In case you didn't know it - I am a BIG fan of the classroom. Hell...I spent a good portion of my adult life either as a student or a teacher in the traditional sense - the history class...complete with desks, maps, and blackboards - and the occasional faulty AV equipment.

But I think - with the onslaught of social media and the whole web 2.0 thing - that the definition of "classroom" needs a little revision. Let's face it, as much as we all love the look and feel of the old school (so to speak), the potential to reach people through other media is astronomical. Astronomical. This blog - still in its humble beginnings - gets thousands of hits each month. That is more than I ever reached at the University of Virginia.

Don't get the wrong idea. I do not believe that one way of teaching should simply replace the other - but the two could act as compliments in multiple ways. Perhaps many of those ways remain to be seen - particularly since social media is in its relative infancy. But I have confidence in the power of the networking. Cosmic America now has an international audience - and it is growing every day. So I am betting that this is the future. The blog is taking Internet show - Cosmic America's Civil War - is getting great reviews. All is well in Hollywood, so I think I will keep at it...and keep going with innovative ways to reach Civil War historians, students, and buffs alike!

Next up for Cosmic America...a smartphone application. It's in the works and should be available soon (for free, naturally) If you can think of anything you would want such an app to do - let me know....



Jefferson Davis's Inaugural Address

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Today is the 150th anniversary of Jefferson Davis's inaugural in Montgomery, Alabama. He gave his speech from the steps of the Alabama statehouse - today there is a marker indicating the very spot...a spot that Alabama Governor George Wallace would later use to say a few choice words about segregation.

We are all pretty well versed on Lincoln's First Inaugural - lets see what Davis had to say. He speaks a lot about the "government of our fathers in its spirit," suggesting an overall conservative path for the new Confederate States of which seems likely for a democratic republic conceived in opposition to the progressive nature (or - if you like - the perceived progressive nature) of the recently elected Lincoln administration.

What he doesn't speak of is slavery. At least not in so many words. But he does allude to the issue together with the sectional split. Check it out -  The Confederate Constitution (drafted only a few days prior to this event), he said, “differ[s] only from that of our fathers in so far as it is explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from sectional conflicts, which have interfered with the pursuit of the general welfare.”

Of course, the "well known intent" of the fathers, by Davis's estimation, was the protection of slavery. Yep - that's the little thing that the fathers intentionally left out of the United States Constitution - the word slavery anyway.

This is something that Confederates were certain to take care of right out of the gate. Oh sure, their constitution was pretty much a copy of the US one, with a few notable exceptions. Whereas there were no mentions of slavery in the US Constitution, the Rebs made it crystal clear exactly where they stood on the slavery issues...ten times to be exact.  This one passage alone left little room for interpretation: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

But still - Davis only alluded to this in his inaugural speech...he didn't mention anything about the protection of "our domestic institutions" - something that he spoke of often. This speech's focus was on the hard times ahead - more than anything else. "It is joyous in the midst of perilous times to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality. Obstacles may retard, but they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people."

There is nothing particularly exciting about this speech - no memorable lines, no slam dunks, no moments of great statesmanship. I wonder what his audience thought as they set out to carve a new nation from the old...maybe kind of let down????



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Historians Barbara Fields and James McPherson on Lincoln the Emancipator

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well as we know, historians disagree on just about everything. And it's a good thing too - if we didn't - there would only be one book on the Civil War...we would all read it...and that would be it. Not too exciting. The subject of "who freed the slaves" generally stirs up a lively debate - here's what two prominent scholars have to say about it.

Columbia University historian Barbara Fields insists that Lincoln’s dedication to freedom was superficial and never strayed from the confines of war necessity. Relying heavily on the oft-quoted words of Lincoln himself, Fields reminds readers that the president would have eagerly saved the Union “without freeing any slave.”

[caption id="attachment_615" align="alignright" width="110" caption="Barbara J. Fields"][/caption]

Fields attempts to show how Lincoln adopted a strictly limited policy of emancipation only as an attack on the Confederacy’s ability to wage war. A great many bondsmen, including those enslaved in loyal states or those residing in areas already occupied by United States forces, remained enslaved. Further, those laboring deep in the Confederacy, far from liberating Union lines, remained beyond the reach of the proclamation’s power. Fields admits that the Emancipation Proclamation was significant, but rather than illustrating a crucial development with roots in Republican ideology, she asserts that slaves provided the impetus for such a policy through self-emancipation. The slaves themselves forced the issue and convinced Republicans to attack the institution where it existed. “No human alive,” she comments, “could have held back the tide that swept toward freedom.”

[caption id="attachment_620" align="alignleft" width="129" caption="James M. McPerson"][/caption]

Princeton University historian James McPherson answers this challenge by pointing out that Lincoln and the Republican Party were not only committed to thwarting the expansion of slavery into the territories, but also that containment was the “first vital step toward placing it in the course of ultimate extinction.” Well before the outbreak of war, McPherson illustrates, Lincoln made it abundantly clear that a man governing another man was despotism, that the relation of masters and slave was a violation of the principle of equality embedded in the founding documents, and that the slave system undermined the “principles of progress.” Although Lincoln knew he lacked the authority to tamper with slavery where it already existed, he hoped that when the Union became either “all one thing or all the other,” that slavery would have met its demise. McPherson adds a further cautionary note in answer to Fields’s assertion of an inevitable “sweeping tide.” Her conclusions depend on a Union victory – a victory hardly foreordained in 1861.

Now you know I want your opinion - so sound off!



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Western Theater Wednesday

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Yes...I know I seem to talk more about the war in the East than anything else. Guilty as charged - I confess that I am drawn to the East - the battles in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania have held my interest for decades - even though my own ancestors fought in the West. What can you do.

But my Twitter friends have noticed - and politely (without attacking me for being Eastern-centric) suggested to look more in to the West. I aim to please - so here you go...actually an idea from my friend Joseph (@josephaswanson) ...Western Theater Wednesday! At least once a week - Wednesdays - I will dedicate this blog to a western topic.

A lot of people say that the war was won and lost in the West. Let's just see....I am open to discussion on the subject. This week we go to Vicksburg. We all know that the city fell on July 4th, 1863 - securing the Mississippi River for the Union and cutting the Confederacy in two. This was an important part of the overall Union strategy (see - my Anaconda Plan post) and worked partially to bleed the Rebs to death.

I am most intrigued by the Confederate civilian reaction to the city's loss. By coincidence, Vicksburg fell on the day after the Rebs lost at Gettysburg - what many would retrospectively cast as the war's turning point. 1863, the southern civilians were troubled by the loss in Pennsylvania - but they were devastated by the fall of Vicksburg.

This point is key to understanding the relative importance of the two theaters - at least in the summer of 1863. Based on newspaper reports, it seems that civilians saw the loss in the west as a crushing blow - much more so than the loss at Gettysburg. The Mississippi River was absolutely vital to the survival of the Confederacy - or that's what people thought anyway...and perception is 9/10ths of the game.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Rarely Visited Spot at Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Whenever I am in Richmond, Virginia I stop by the Hollywood Cemetery. For a Civil War historian - it is a must visit. There are all sorts of important people buried there including Jefferson Davis, JEB Stuart, and George Pickett to name just a few. Also, the enormous stone pyramid towering above the re-interred Confederate dead from Gettysburg is another must check out - especially if you are interested in Civil War commemoration. The back story to this one is fascinating and worthy of a post of its own.

But if you are not paying attention you might very well miss a rather unimposing marker - one that sheds light on a significant Civil War tragedy. This small stone marks the final resting place for three out of four of General James Longstreet's children.

Early in 1862, a scarlet fever epidemic hit Richmond. James, Augustus Baldwin, and Mary Anne, who had recently moved from Texas, all succumbed to the disease within a few days. They were survived by their mother and the Longstreet's fourth child, Garland.

General Longstreet was devastated by the loss - his comrades noted his grief and his permanent change in personality. Longstreet briefly left the army to be with his wife and remaining child - but was too grief stricken to make any funeral arrangements. That was planned by Longstreet's friend, general George Pickett and his fiance LaSalle Corbett.

I took this picture in May 2007 when I sort of accidentally stumbled upon it. I asked around and it turned out that the headstone had only recently been righted after falling over decades before and becoming overgrown with ivy.

This is a tragic story among thousands of other tragic stories during the war - but one worth knowing.



Monday, February 14, 2011

John Brown - Hero or Terrorist?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

The John Brown story is well known - I will not get too in to details here. I will in a later Cosmic America's Civil War show, however - thanks to a special request by my friend Lori (@LoriJantzi).

For the sake of this post - John Brown was a white abolitionist who in 1859 attempted to start an armed slave uprising by first seizing the United States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry in Virginia. His plan was to then move through the countryside arming black people (that he and his band had liberated) as he went - killing anyone who stood in his way. Suffice to say - his plan failed. Brown was found guilty of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia and hanged on December 2, 1859.

Three cheers for John Brown! He laid down his life for the noblest of causes - abolition. To us - this seems worthy of praise. In 1859, people lauded his actions too. Quite a few northerners - especially abolitionists - came down in favor of his raid. Yes - Brown's attempted slave revolt was of the violent sort - people were killed. But the cause, to some, justified the actions.

But lets take a look - just for a second - at the other side of the coin. Brown violently seized a United States military installation in an attempt to incite insurrection. He broke the law big time - and did it on government property. Now I know that calling Brown a terrorist would be a bit of an anachronism. That is a 20th/21st century term. But what he did, by definition , was an act of terrorism. Brown - in very short order - became a domestic enemy of the United States.

Mine is a tough...and controversial question to ask. Did America need a John Brown to act as a catalyst? Did the era need the spark to push a volatile issue in to war - and ultimately emancipation? Perhaps...but the states may have been heading in that direction - war -  already. We will never know what would have happened had Brown not staged his raid.

We do know this, however. Brown's 1859 raid put the slavery issue in people's faces more so than any other single event - both in the North and the South. And I suppose for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.

I am very interested in your comments - what do you think about John Brown? And by the way - in case you are wondering where I come down on this one, let's just say..."his truth is marching on."



Saturday, February 12, 2011

Baltimore 1861 - The Pratt Street Riot

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

My Twitter friend @EmilyHill_Indie was asking about Civil War Baltimore the other day...which naturally made me think of all the mayhem that took place there right at the beginning of the war.

As you all probably know, Maryland - a border/slave-holding state - entertained the idea of secession in 1861. Many citizens had southern leanings, and would have preferred joining the Confederacy...a prospect that would have been very embarrassing for the United States. Had Maryland seceded, the US national capital would have been in the Confederacy.

But of course that never happened. Maryland remained loyal to the least for the most part. But there were still plenty of Marylanders who were pro-Confederate...especially in Baltimore. On April 19, 1861 - secessionists and would be Rebels got to prove it.

It seems that the Union 6th Massachusetts Regiment were on their way to Washington City and had to transfer trains in Baltimore. There was no direct rail line through town and the unit had to march the 10 blocks west along Pratt Street to make their connection.

An angry mob (is there any other kind of mob?) gathered and began to follow the soldiers - they broke windows, threw bricks, shouted oaths...and then somebody in the mob fired a pistol. All hell broke loose and the 6th fired into the crowd - prompting a brawl between soldiers, a pro-Confederate mob, and the Baltimore police. In the end, four Union soldiers and twelve Baltimore citizens lay dead.

The entire state of Maryland fell under the scrutiny of the Lincoln administration - by May 13, Union troops under Benjamin Butler entered Baltimore and declared martial law. The pro-Confederate mayor, city council, and police commissioner were arrested and imprisoned at Fort McHenry. eventually, Union troops were deployed throughout the state.

And there you have it - the Rebels stirred up quite a fuss in Baltimore - a (sort of) northern city with definite southern sympathies. And for their troubles...Baltimore became - more or less - an occupied city.



The New Show is Online At Last! Cosmic America's Civil War

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well - I have finally made good on all my talk about the new Internet Civil War show. This is the first installment and I am very pleased.

The plan is to do a topical show - featuring a wide range of subjects...always with the desire to both educate and entertain. I will have a new one up every week so stay tuned - all you need to do is click the link on the right.

For this week's episode: The Lee/Longstreet Controversy - just click HERE.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Elmer E. Ellsworth - an Unfortunate Civil War First

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Who has the unfortunate distinction of being the first officer killed in the Civil war - none other than Elmer E. Ellsworth.

Ellsworth was a New Yorker and an attorney in civilian life, he raised and commanded the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry (the Fire Zouaves) at the beginning of the war, and he was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln.

Here's how it all went down. On May 24th 1861 - the day after Virginia's voters ratified their state's secession, President Lincoln noticed a huge Rebel flag flying over an inn in Alexandria Virginia...just across the Potomac from Washington City.

Ellsworth, who had worked at Lincoln's law firm, helped in his presidential campaign, and who had accompanied the president to Washington, offered to go over and take care of things - which he then proceeded to do.

He led the 11th into Alexandria, deployed his men in various places in town, and took four men to the Marshall House Inn to remove the heinous banner. When he came down the Inn's stairs with flag in hand, Inn keeper James W. Jackson unloaded a shotgun into Elsworth's chest - killing him on the spot. A Union corporal - Francis Brownell  - in turn killed Jackson. (He later won the Medal of Honor for this).

Lincoln, extremely saddened by the death of his friend, ordered an honor guard to carry him to the White House - where he lay in state in the East Room before returning to New York - where thousands came to visit his body at New York City' s City Hall. He is buried in Mechanicville.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Last night I spent an hour or so in the West San Fernando Valley listening to a talk about the ancestry and early career of Ulysses S. Grant. The Civil Warriors Roundtable - a group that meets monthly, hosted Civil War reenactor and Grant enthusiast Douglas Wagenaar.

It was an interesting evening - but I think I left more confused than informed. The confusion did not come about because of the information presented. In fact - much of the talk on Grant's military career in the War with Mexico was straight forward - factual...chronilogical - and not at all analytical. Nothing to be confused about.

I was wondering about the first part of his talk. He spent a good portion of his allotted time attacking historians for their take on Grant's paternal ancestry - and  academic claims that none had fought in the Revolutionary War. He also seemed hell bent on proving that Grant's ancestors were involved in the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s. For what reason I have no idea.

[caption id="attachment_560" align="alignleft" width="174" caption="Douglas Wagenaar missed a great opportunity to get a glimpse at the early military career of U.S. Grant"][/caption]

The problem was twofold. First, and most important - he based his conclusions on maybes and could haves. There was some stuff going on here and there and some of Grant's ancestors were in the vicininty...ect - pure coincedence.  He had no documentary evidence whatsoever. Second,  he seems to have a bone to pick with academics and the Pulitzer Prize that went hand in hand with his admiration for the Grant family. He was personally offended by historians who challenged unsubstantiated Grant ancestral stories - reducing historians to condescending bullies. This is not generally a good starting point when trying to present an argument. I mean...I know we all have some sort of biases - but really???

This was potentially a great topic where an opportunity was lost to get a glimpse at Grant's military and personal character - to see how he developed into the general he did. Wagenaar's talk was really a collection of well-known anecdotes and disparate claims based on flimsy suppositions and tenuous connections. Oh well - they can't all be winners.

I am speaking to this group next month on Union veterans and reconciliation - can't wait!! The Civil Warriors Roundtable is a good group of folks who ask thoughtful questions...and I am excited to speak with them :)



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Richard S. Ewell and the Battle of Gettysburg - Does He Deserve the Bad Rap?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

We all know that Richard S. Ewell gets a bad rap for at least one of his decisions on the first day at the Battle of Gettysburg. He had the Yankees on the run - and chose not to push them off the high ground at Cemetery Hill...allowing them to secure their defenses on the hill while the rest of the Union army moved into position. Well - we have no way of knowing what would have happened had Ewell gone after the hill - but let's see if can shed a little light on why he didn't at least go for it.

On July 1, 1863, Ewell's corps more or less routed the Union XI and part of the I corps and chased them through the town of Gettysburg forcing them to take up defensive positions on Cemetery Hill. Lee, arriving on the scene, ordered Ewell to take the hill "if practicable." But there was more to it. Lee's orders were kind of confusing: He was "to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army."

What??? How do you attack the Union army without bringing on a general engagement? Plus, there were some other things to contend with. Ewell's troops were tired from the day's fight, they needed reinforcements that Lee was unwilling to provide, and Ewell knew that the rest of the Union army was heading his way. Yikes!

But the real problem here was Lee himself (Lee supporters prepare to attack in 3...2...1). His orders left too much discretion. Historians have speculated that more aggressive commanders, such as Jackson, would have gone for it. Ewell, new to corps command was not Jackson...and Lee knew it. Lee also knew that Jackson and his other principle lieutenant, James Longstreet, worked well with discretionary orders. Ewell was untested in this regard.

Apparently, Ewell got to the hill, and did not find an attack "practicable" after all. And you know what...he was probably right.  Maybe Lee should have just said - take the freakin' hill.



Daniel E. Sickles, Gettysburg, and the Medal of Honor

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

You all know and love Daniel E. Sickles, right? He was a Union general with very strong political connections who had once gotten away with murder by pleading temporary insanity - the first ever to do so.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, Sickles was severely wounded on July 2 and was carried (smirking and puffing on a cigar) from the field - his shattered leg was amputated soon afterward. Thirty-Four years later, Sickles was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. But...did he deserve it? That question remains to be answered.

Here's the dope. Dan Sickles commanded the Union III corps. On July 2, the second day of battle, he was ordered by Army of the Potomac commander George Gordon Meade into position in the famous "fishhook" line along Cemetery Ridge at the base of Little Round Top.

Well...Sickles was not too thrilled with the idea - just to his front, there stood a peach orchard on slightly higher ground. Sickles thought this the more advantageous position so....he advanced his corps forward - against orders. Now this may seem like a good idea. Defending high ground is generally easier to do than not. But his move left 1) a big fat hole in the Union line and 2) the III Corps was now vulnerable from three sides. In the end - Sickles's Corps was nearly destroyed and he was heavily criticized for insubordination - some even spoke of court martial...but his wound got him off the hook. Lucky break, so to speak.

But historians have since reconsidered Sickles's move. In a sense, the forward positioning blunted the attack from Longstreeet's Confederate I Corps - slowing it down long enough for the Union line to shore up the defense of Little Round Top and close the deal on the Rebs for July 2.

Sickles would have enthusiastically agreed. For decades after the battle he conducted an interpretive campaign against general Meade - claiming that Meade had wanted to retreat from Gettysburg. According to Sickles, it was the III Corps (and naturally, himself) that saved the battle for the Union and - it seems - the war.

Well, Sickles's persistence and political connections eventually won the day. In 1897 he was awarded the Medal of Honor by having "Displayed most conspicuous gallantry on the field vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded."

This is only a small (but extremely important) part of the long and storied life/career of Daniel E. Sickles. He died in 1914 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. If you want to find out more about him - check out The American Scoundrel by Thomas Keneally.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gone With the Wind - the Boys Talk a Little Smack Before the War

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

It is hard to run out of things to say about Gone With the Wind. I have seen this film about a million times and shown it to students here and there too. It is a great way to get at the real themes of the Lost Cause interpretation of the war.

This is one of the most famous scenes when it comes to "the CSA never had a chance" theme. Rhett Butler, after an enthusiastic declaration by the other men in the room that the war would be over in one battle and the age-old claim that "a southerner can lick twenty Yankees," tells it (sort of) like it is. "There is not a single cannon factory in the whole South" - and goes on to describe how the North has all the industry and a fleet to bottle up southern harbors. All we have, claims Butler, "is cotton, slaves, and arrogance." Well - this naturally pisses the boys off, and Rhett almost has to fight it out with a young Charles Hamilton

Pretty standard stuff - but pay careful attention to some of the very first lines, when Scarlett's father, Gerald O'hara begins his rant. "It's time we made (the Yankees) understand we keep our slaves with or without their approval!" he shouts - something that seems to be the consensus among the gentlemen in the room enjoying brandy and cigars.

This is a peculiar deviation from the usual Lost Cause interpretation of the war - one that argues slavery was only incidental. This scene would suggest otherwise - indeed...slavery seems about as central as you can get - and straight from the mouth of a Georgia plantation owner.

So I have to hand it (somewhat) to Margaret Mitchell. Yeah...she follows the old "cavaliers and cotton fields" path - but at least gets at the central issue a little tiny bit. I wonder if the Daughters of the Confederacy have ever tried to get that few seconds cut from the film - or maybe somebody just coughs really loudly whenever it comes on. Who knows.

And one other thing - Ashley Wilkes might say that once the wars were over no one knew what they were about. Not in this case my friend - they knew damn well what this one was all about. Just sayin'



A Quick Thought on Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Lincoln's Second Inaugural is perhaps one of his most compelling speeches. In the end - it is a reconciliationist know the part - "with malice toward none..."

But as with many Unionists toward the end and after the Civil War (which, at the point of the speech, looked to be winding down in favor of the United States), Lincoln spoke of reconciliation with the understanding that one side had been terribly wrong.

Slavery, he suggested, "constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it."

And thus my quick thought: Lincoln, like the millions in the loyal states who would discuss and debate the war in the decades to come, embraced reconciliation without dismissing the war's issues - and veterans of the Union cause would perpetuate this theme...essentially enshrining it in their commemorative efforts for decades. This is a point that many have obscured today...reducing reconciliationist themes to the most benign. I believe that the story of reconciliation is incomplete - or at the very least - could stand a little revision. Stay tuned. I am working on it.



Saturday, February 5, 2011

Les Tuniques Bleues

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

My Twitter and Facebook friends are constantly sending me interesting Civil War related goodies from all over the world. A few weeks ago - I received a note about Les Tuniques Bleues, a Belgian comic book illustrating the adventures of two Union cavalrymen.

I have learned quite a lot about this comic over the course of the last few days. Originally illustrated by Louis Salverius in 1970, it is now among the top ten selling comics in French. The central characters are quite the pair indeed. We have Corporal Blutch - a sarcastic and reluctant soldier who is highly critical of authority and Sergeant Chesterfiled - a career soldier who thrives on military glory and always wants to be closest to the action.

The original plot had them stationed at a frontier fort until they moved East to join U.S. Grant's Army. Together they fight in several battles and have run ins with actual historical characters including Abraham Lincoln, Matthew Brady, and Robert E. Lee. The series takes a bit of liscense with continuity when it comes to where soldiers of Grant's army would have been at any given time - but seeing that this is a comic meant not only to entertain, but also to deal with historical issues, I'll give them a break.

In short - the two main characters go all over the place - they contend with racism, guerrilla warfare, and spies. All in all, I have to get on board with Les Tuniques Blues - and as I understand, there is an English version (which I will read further until my French improves a bit).



Friday, February 4, 2011

Cosmic America's Civil War - It's All NEW!

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Exciting news!!! I have been talking to a lot of people....people whose opinion I respect - and I have finally arrived at a solid vision for the new Cosmic America's Civil War. Yes - this is my Civil War TV show.

For those of you who remember, the show was once a live streaming broadcast of a Civil War course. Well - it was fun, that was for sure...and people liked it too. But following a traditional course outline, with the usual topics (despite my unorthodox delivery) was starting to wear on me - and I suspect - my viewers as well.

I set out to create something a little slicker - with pictures, maps, and edited video which was - shall we say - not quite so off the cuff. I tried a few different angles and shot some video, but again - it just wasn't clicking for me. It wasn't that interesting.

So here is what I propose: Civil War topics. There are tons of controversies, debates, and  mysteries out there that need to be discussed! And I know that people what to weigh in. It will still be the me you have all come to know. I speak my mind and tell it as I see it - with no filters. So expect some laughs along with the history. I have never been one for stiff, boring lectures. First on deck - the Lee/Longstreet controversy.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Visit a Civil War Battlefield?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Why should you visit a Civil War battlefield? The answer is a lot more than: because it's fun. It is - of course...but there is more to it.

Sure - visiting a battlefield may be inconvenient - lots of us (like me) do not live near one. So we have to turn to what we read in books or see on maps. But even if this is the case for you - you should try to get one or more anyway.

The simple truth is that the learning experience goes far beyond anything you can read in a book or see on a map. The way the hills roll or where the sun comes up or where a road or fence is placed mean as much as anything anyone could write down. So if you want to understand a battle - why people did what they did - it is important to see where they did it.

You might begin to think...hmmmm....maybe Richard S. Ewell didn't think it was so practicable to take Cemetery Hill on the first day at Gettysburg and cut him some slack. You might figure out why Daniel E. Sickles moved his corps out of line to the high ground on the 2nd day at Gettysburg without orders to do so...even though he sort of messed things up for the rest of the Army of the Potomac. Some of these things you have to see for yourself before you can really grasp the actions.

So head out to your nearest battlefield and see if you don't begin to think differently about things. And while you are at it, be sure to look into battlefield preservation. Many of these historic sites are under attack by suburban sprawl. Which means, we are in danger of losing our history. You can learn more about what you can do to get involved  by visiting the Civil War Trust website. Find out how preservation has gained some victories - like Walmart abandoning plans to build on the Wilderness battlefield (yay).



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bitter Fruits of Bondage by Armstead Robinson

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

There is an interesting story behind the book, Bitter Fruits of Bondage: The Demise of Slavery and the Collapse of the Confederacy. Civil War scholar Armstead Robinson passed away in 1995. He had been working on this book for years but never completed it. Since his death, a number of scholars pieced together the manuscript and selected evidence and arguments (from diverse and often conflicting segments) to make this book the best representation of Robinson’s voice as possible.

By the time it was finally published in 2005, Robinson's book was far out of date, even though Edward L. Ayers’s jacket blurb says otherwise. This book is a child of the 1980s – when social historians were searching for the internal divisions that destroyed the Confederate States of America. Their efforts sought to disprove Lost Cause arguments suggesting northern superiority in men and material did the Confederacy in. Had Robinson published his book back then, it would have been a monument in the historiography. As it is now, it is a window into the past, but not useful to advance the understanding or challenge more recent scholarship on why the Confederates lost.

The point of this book is simple enough: The southern way of life was unable to provide the support necessary to sustain a war effort – specifically, slavery sapped nationalism from the very beginning.

Robinson highlights the class tensions between slaveholders and increasingly bitter yeomen and other nonslaveholders. This is a familiar tale (see also William Freehling’s The South vs. The South on internal dissension) of a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. Slaveholders duped everyone else into waging war, and it then became apparent (because of substitutes and 20 slave laws) that the nonslaveholders were fighting to maintain a system that only benefited rich whites – all the while the very same rich whites were weaseling their way out of the army.

Meanwhile, slaves were fleeing to Union lines in great numbers, denying the CSA their labor and handing it over to the US war effort. This served to exacerbate growing tensions between the white classes. Bread riots at home and huge desertion rates suggested that Confederate soldiers and civilians were not behind the war effort – particularly an effort conceived on the premises of a “slaveholders republic.”

Arguing that an internal class conflict eroded the white southern will to sustain a bid for independence is to confront directly the heritage of the Lost Cause Many things: the peculiar configuration of Confederate mobilization, the genesis of popular discontent with the war effort, the failure of agricultural adjustment, the birth of state rights ideology, the halting attempts by Jefferson Davis to cope with rampant internal dissention, the disintegration of Confederate society – all of these stemmed from the Confederacy’s failure to preserve stability on the home front. The Civil War south discovered that it could not sustain wartime slavery and simultaneously retain the allegiance of the nonslaveholding majority – and thus…the Confederacy was destroyed from within.

Now I disagree with this argument entirely – I believe that the overwhelming majority of white southerners supported the cause – despite the grumblings that take place when a society goes to war. They supported independence and slavery -  even the nonslaveholders had a stake in the system. But I suggest reading this book – it is a great time capsule of sorts. And although published early in the 21st century…it is a nice window into the historiography of the 1980s.



Morgan Freeman and Black History Month

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well - it is February 1st, which means it is officially Black History Month. I thought I would post Morgan Freeman's comments today because I believe he asks some intriguing questions...namely - why do we relegate a people's history to one month? Isn't Black history American history?

I am very interested in your responses so please feel free to comment. Freeman suggests that we get over racism by no longer talking about it - he wants us to stop referring to one another in terms of race. A bold statement to be sure - but are Americans prepared for this? Or, does our racist past still have a strangle hold on the nation today?