One of the strangest sensations you or I will ever have as Civil War history readers involves detecting a certain scholarship practice that is so weird - and so immoral - that it has no name.

I call it "reversing a citation" or "flipping a citation." This reversing or flipping involves an author linking a statement to a source whose meaning is the mirror image of what the author is asserting. For example, imagine I say:

General Franklin arrived at the Antietam battlefield with 10,900 combat-ready men (Note 1).

You flip to Note 1 and read: "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, page X."

You pick up Battles and Leaders, find page X, and find nothing that attaches to the number 10,900. Instead, you find a narrative by Franklin about arriving on the battlefield at Antietam with 6,000 exhausted men.

Your author has flipped or reversed the citation. The source makes the point that Franklin arrived with fewer, more tired men than the author wishes to allow. Your author wishes Franklin to arrive with many men, full of fight. He has compelled Franklin to testify against himself and to lie in court doing so!

I'll give an ACW example or two of this in the next few days. in general, the more thesis-driven an historian is, the more of this you find.

For a nice warm-up drill showing a shockingly huge number of reversals, astound yourself with this posting by Prof. Clayton Cramer on Prof. Michael Bellesisle's use of sources. The number of flips exceeds anything I've seen in a pop history, ACW or otherwise. For other sins Cramer finds in Bellesiles (that we will examine in the ACW corner) see this piece, too.
My biggest historiographic shock of 2002/2003 was discovering that in Frederick, MD, there are lots of things named after the late Chief Justice Roger Taney, including public assistance housing.

And so, as you drive through town, you see black Americans coming and going from houses prominently marked "TANEY." For me, it is still a show stopper, and I can't help but gawk.

I associate Taney completely with the adverse Dred Scott decision as well as (is this folklore?) a legal decision that no ex-slave could ever become an American citizen.

The Washington Times has noticed the world capital of Taneymania and has written a nice little article about political and historiographic issues surrounding his house in Frederick.

NEWS | Gettysburg preservationists take the offensive * Civil War penal colony reopens to public * Ancient scabs may yield insight into ACW-era vaccines


The reissue of Arming America in a less than fully revised edition has reignited the Bellesiles history and integrity issue ... and there is a lot in this of great import for Civil War readers.

The very first thing a reader should understand is that a good read is not good history. Yes, pop history has something to do with history just as the World Wrestling Federation has something to do with the sport of wrestling.

Here is public discussion of "good" Civil War historians in which no distinction is made between entertainment and the underlying discipline.

I imagine some TV wrestling fans riding a college wrestling team tour bus to a college contest surrounded by honest athletes and trying to discuss which World Wrestling Federation personality is the greatest wrestler of this generation. An athlete's objection to this obvious absurdity could be met by reference to all the prizes and awards won by the "professional wrestlers." The trophies. The big belts. The acclaim. Given, of course, by industry organizations and an adoring but ignorant public.

We are lucky that standards for historians are still published and that we readers can hold our authors to a professional code. Here's a handbook to keep near the bedside and refer to when reading your next ACW tome.

Bellesiles' individual specific failures in Arming America were publicly highlighted in a way that forced his publisher, his university, and the Bancroft prize board to consider his sins. We may have some wait before this same scenario plays out among the worst ACW historians - the ones who leap from the ropes and break chairs over facts.

For as his new publisher has correctly pointed out, few pop historians (and Bellesiles is such) could withstand the scrutiny he endured. In the next few days I will map specific failures in MB's work against certain beloved, prize-winning Civil war histories.

What happened to Bellesiles is a reality, and we are going to bring that reality home to the Civil War History Writing Federation through the week.
NEWS | Kentucky cannon company to refurbish Rebel artillery for Kansas * "Confederate Widow" flops spectacularly on Broadway * Morgan marker moved again


Brendan Kane, a Union Army deserter, returns North after the Civil War and signs onto a two-year stint as a ship's mate on the Narthex, bound for the Arctic. The crew, a cadre of second-rate sailors, paroled prisoners and other misfits, does not initially know its destination. Far from civilization, they are informed that the trip, led by the enigmatic Mr. West and scientist-in-residence Dr. Architeuthis, seeks to search out a tropical paradise in the heart of the Arctic ice.

Coming to a screen near you (eventually)?
If you plan on hiking Cold Mountain in honor of book or film, here's a helpful article.
NEWS | Confederate museum to keep its home of 112 years * Vicksburg park director hopes monument will spark black tourism * Brooklyn cemetery historian recalls the Prentiss brothers, who fought in blue and gray


I don't pretend to have read Cold Mountain, and it seems unlikely I'll view the movie. Kudos, nevertheless to publisher and producer for conveying to a mass audience the themes of Civil War desertion.

The best-known non-fiction work on this subject is probably The Free State of Jones. Jones County, Mississippi, attracted Rebel and Confederate deserters as well as runaway slaves who waged war on the local Home Guards and Confederate notables. Whether these counterrevolutionaries seized control of their county government and whether they actually seceded from Mississippi seems to be a controversy lasting to the present time.

The essential book on Civil War desertion was published in 1928 and is still available in a more recent paperback edition: Desertion During the Civil War is a short read, dense with numbers, anecdotes and implications.

A more recent work (A Higher Duty: Desertion among Georgia Troops during the Civil War) studies the circumstances of desertion and relates them to family straits. This author suggests that Sherman's march had a far greater effect on Georgian desertions than Grant's offensives.

There is, inevitably, the larger question of loyalty. Disloyalty in the Confederacy tours the peace socities, the unionist groups, as well as the levels of desertion from the Rebel cause.

The business of Civil War desertion is so vast and the readings available are so meager that one hopes Cold Mountain attains enough success to spark some new non-fiction pulishing on the subject.
NEWS | Couple refurbishes farmhouse where Union soldiers took rest * Jefferson Davis Middle School mulls name change * Gone with the Wind still rated most popular epic in UK


Christmas on Cold Mountain:

The Christmas offering Cold Mountain defines the 10-pound holiday fruitcake movie: nutty, fruity morsels of acting are enveloped in a dry, chewy mass. - Metroactive

Half of me worshipfully intoned: "This is wondrous to the eye, I shall follow Minghella wherever he leads me." The other half thought, "Here is a cracked and cuckoo piece of storytelling." - Financial Times
COLD MOUNTAIN ROUNDUP | Cold Mountain's casting logic criticized: North Carolina film board opens up * Director defends casting: "All British actors get trained ... You have to be able to do more with your voice, with your body.”
NEWS | Confederate statue vandalized in Wilmington * New movie will feature Cuban woman fighting as Southern soldier * Penna. firm weaves Civil war era fabrics


Ahhhh. The Chicago Tribune "gets it."

Here's an English filmmaker (Minghella) directing an Australian (Kidman) and an Englishman (Law) in the leads, with an Irishman (Gleeson) and another Englishman (Winstone) in major supporting roles in an American Civil War tale filmed in Romania. Perhaps none of that should matter -- and some of these elements work just fine -- but the result is something that just doesn't feel authentic.

Historian Brian Pohanka comments on his role in the authenticity mission. (Skip to page two of this link to read his remarks - note that this link repeated below as "Gary Gallagher.")
COLD MOUNTAIN ROUNDUP | ... a production gone almost as horribly awry as Gettysburg * At two-and-a-half hours, should it feel like four? * Sacred harp singers pin hopes on Cold Mountain * Gary Gallagher judges film's accuracy
NEWS | W.Va. man is ordered to pay $10,312 for crashing into cannon at Antietam * Tribe underlines its Grant connection with hotel buy * MSU specialists act to save ironclad USS Cairo


Here is an interesting essay tying the now-revived Michael Bellesiles historical research scandal to that famous plagiarism committed by Civil War historian Allan Nevins at Columbia. (I like the panache of Nevins' suppressing the study after lifting its best bits.)

Later this week, we'll go deeper into lessons learned from Bellesiles and their meaning for Nevins' intellectual heirs in ACW history.
Jingle Bells ... an antebellum composition of old Savannah?
NEWS | Republic yields ACW numismatics bonanza * Park Service negotiates with Chaney to buy land at Antietam * Town sues Civil War Artillery Museum over cannon ownership


I see columnist/professor Walter Williams has issued a "Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to All Persons of European Descent." Suitable for framing, but no overt mention of reparations exemption. (Go to this link and click on GIFT.)
NEWS | Philippoteaux's Gettysburg cylorama to be restored * Sides prepare for desperate historiographic fight in Natchez * Tennessee firm enters 50th year as ACW musketmaker


Here's a special Sunday roundup of Cold Mountain reviews.

Note these bits, which rock my hobbyhorse:

"The movie was shot largely in the Transylvanian Alps of Romania, where the rural landscape matches what North Carolina would have looked like in the 19th century..." (Thank you, reviewer, but how can you be so sure?)

"It was shot mostly in Romania, because the director didn't think that North Carolina (the actual setting) was photogenic enough." (This sounds a little more truthful.)

And now, for some speed reading film criticisms. Apologies for the excessivly harsh tone to follow.

The bad news is that by trying way too hard to deliver the goods, it winds up being trapped by its own pretentious ambitions. Source

This Civil War romance and anti-war drama is a snoozer that is long, literary and lifeless. Source

Worse than Minghella’s labored romanticism is his own disbelief in the very harlequin conundrum he orchestrates. Profanity alert.

Cold Mountain is so full of hot air, any emotion is blown away - gone, with the wind. Source

Cold Mountain may be marketed as a literary adaptation, but in reality it's an artfully presented chick flick. Source.

… cruel poignancy wins out over satisfaction and fulfillment, leaving us as cold as the wintry ice ... Source

And finally, drumroll please (are you ready, ladies and gentlemen) ...

A solid cast plays the backwoods Southerners extremely well. - Hollywood Reporter
NEWS | Emancipation proclamation draws record crowds * Fort Union now a ruined national monument in NM * Raglan remembers first Union sub


It was quite the shock to be strolling through Barnes & Noble yesterday, stopped in my tracks by the big blue book with the giant letters that shouted Arming America.

What? Back in print after Knopf recalled and destroyed all copies?

It was indeed Michael Bellesiles' notorious historical monograph on the origins of the popular gun culture in America in a "corrected" edition with an answer to his critics. Kudos to publishers Soft Skull Press for following the controversy and giving Bellesiles a platform from which to talk back at critics.

But his answer to critics was weak, I thought, as weak as his previous answer to the findings that ousted him at Emory. (Scroll way down the linked page to Bellesiles's response to the report. Here are some responses to his new comments.

I was intrigued, however, by the new publisher's assertion that no pop historians have had to endure the scrutiny this work has endured. Precisely. That is the problem, but not the problem the publisher has framed. I want this kind of scrutiny applied to Civil War historians and I want the successful pretenders at the head of the Civil War publishing industry given the Bellesiles treatment.

What this means for Civil War history (and its writers) will be worth a few posts next week.

NOTE: After Knopf pulled away, it seems a company called Diane issued Arming America as it was, and that is the edition currently on sale through Amazon. Note the 1.5 star rating. This is not the corrected edition, nor have I seen it in stores.
A very odd business, indeed:

Organizers of the National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg held a "ceremonial groundbreaking" this month -- a year before construction is to begin, and not at the actual site -- in an effort to show that the project is on track.

I wonder if a history project should begin with a lie.
NEWS | Gettysburg recreated in paintball complex * Civil War author named professor of the year * Burnett, Costello, Sting reap Cold Mountain soundtrack acclaim * Richmond's "starvation balls" of Christmas, 1864 recalled


Well, what do you know?

"Majestic Cold Mountain has changed little since the Civil War" - Boston Globe

You don't think the movie's director was merely voicing the company line, do you?

"When you see the film, you see the landscapes look like the 19th century in a way that nowhere in America looks like the 19th century now," he said.

(See entries, Dec. 17, below)
It appears from this article that the Minnesota Historical Society recently took on the job of managing the content of the state school system's Minnesota history textbooks. I wonder who thought that was a good idea. Well, the Society is doing a great job of producing socially acceptable history - even if that means leaving out historical figures!

Perhaps they were trained in this discipline by some heritage tourism experience.
The new head of the Lincoln Library and Museum has not yet left his post as head of the Dole center. Nevertheless, Mr. Richard Norton Smith (for it is he) is staging a week of Lincoln lectures at his Dole center. Which makes one wonder if he is not using Dole facility resources to advance his interests at the Lincoln center. Does it even matter?
NEWS | Lincoln assasination re-enacted in west Virginia * Cold Mountain movie may break Miramax chief * Lincoln land grant discovered by couple


Well you know, the movie Cold Mountain could not possibly have been filmed in North Carolina:

Minghella said the film could not have been made in North Carolina, where it was set, because the landscape had changed so much since the 1800s. Instead much of the film was shot in Romania.

"When you see the film, you see the landscapes look like the 19th century in a way that nowhere in America looks like the 19th century now," he said.

And yet these pictures of the North Carolina terrain we call "Cold Mountain" tell a different story. Look here and here. This one is a painting but a recent one.

Notice that in this story the director was challenged for not using the Appalachian countryside by Australian journalists. Is there any chance American media reporters will challenge the studio, director, or stars about this?

How about the decision to use a single, solitary American actor (actress really, and that in a supporting role)? How about the decision to use Romanian extras instead of re-enactors?

Thanks Australia. We'll now wait patiently for American media reporters to follow up. Patiently, yes.
The best known of all park historians has finally got a biography. It's called Edwin Cole Bearss: History's Pied Piper. Here's a nice profile.
NEWS | Search for Union sub Alligator is planned * Smithsonian pays for Bull Run restoration * Re-enactor preserves Bowling Green's ACW history


So we have Jude Law reviewing Cold Mountain for us:

"For seven months, I was with 200-odd people in the mountains of Romania, in North Carolina, all with different gifts to share. I had this amazing experience," he offers buoyantly, "so if you don’t like it, screw you. I think it’s great."

I'm sure he and Nicole made great Southerners (will try not to pay attention to the accents) and we'll all enjoy looking at Romania, North Carolina.
It's a wonderful thing to see a bad historian, heavily laden with prizes and reputation, take some hard kicks in public - even if it is 33 years after the fact.

I was revisiting my 1970 copy of David Hackett Fischer's Historians' Fallacies, noting the number of Civil War chroniclers cited for incompetence, when it ocurred to me that David Donald was getting quite a lot of attention.

Fischer cited him for the fallacy of statistical special pleading, the fallacy of statistical nonsense, the fallacy of the appeal to authority (in its "most crude and ugly form"), and threw in a little extra charge of ignoratii.

At one point, he borrows a passage from Lewis Carroll to mimic a nonsense passage from Donald. Go Fischer!

Given the armor of awards, publishing contracts, and prestige that Donald now enjoys, who can imagine such criticism being leveled nowadays? Even at a book as patently awful as Lincoln?

Which is what made last night's read such a treat.
NEWS | National Archives to display Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation * Cold and snow fail to stop candle ceremony at Antietam * Reenactors put on streetfighting show in Fredericksburg


What a fine try at an online Civil War magazine: visit the Bivouac soon.

By the same token, Civil War Book News, which was updated on the 7th, will be updated again later tonight.
I guess it's routine to send actors with small parts in movies to their local premiers to boost publicity. This fellow, while on the hustings, says he and the cast visited Dracula's castle while on location for Cold Mountain. That would explain the origins of the mysterious little snapshot linked at the bottom of my most recent Cold Mountain rant. I thought someone used software to composite the stars in front of Drac's fortress. Maybe not. You would think the film's publicists might be a little embarassed.
NEWS | Grant gets White House Christmas ornament * Rustic singers meet Hollywood elite at Cold Mountain premier * Ohio erects sign to mark Tod Barracks * Bleeding Kansas heritage area inches forward


Charity Navigator seems to have only two Civil War organizations rated. The Civil War Preservation Trust comes off pretty well and the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association less so. Have a look.
The Heritage Foundation's occasional pork awards have targeted the federal appropriation of $225,000 for Kentucky's Blue-Gray Civil War Theme Park ... and the columnists are running with it as you can see here.
NEWS | "Harriet Tubman Memorial Highway" successfully opposed in New York * Vicksburg police detonate Civil War shell * Re-enactor chooses to be Civil War Santa


Let’s tour Cold Mountain this morning.

Over here, we have the script review:

Cold Mountain is like its anteceding novel by Charles Frazier in at least one respect. It too drags you for miles through excessive blood and gore for the sake of a mildly satisfactory ending … don't watch the movie expecting a blow-by-blow rendition of the National Book Award winning novel. Characters are modified, characters are taken out, scenes are modified, and scenes are taken out. […] Honestly, this script frustrated me beyond belief. I seriously pondered whether I should stop reading it all together. Basically, I threw my hands in the air and just had to ask, ‘what in the hell is going to happen here... damn it?!?

Over here, we see the Cold Mountain movie discussion board, with an actual review of the preview:

I got to go the premiere last night. I was charmed and enthralled (after literally holding my breath for the first couple of minutes) and thought it was the best investment of movie time I'd made in a while. It was beautiful on every front. And Nicole is just as lovely in person as she is on screen.

Here’s the official site, should you care to visit.

And here’s an official still from this American Civil War movie. It shows the Australian lead actress with the English lead actor in front of a Romanian mountain. The English director is not shown, nor are any of the thousands of Romanian extras.

“Characters are modified, characters are taken out, scenes are modified, and scenes are taken out.” Actually, since the script was written, whole continents have been modified and whole nationalities have been taken out.

p.s. Having reached the bottom of this blog, here's a little prize. It's an unofficial photo of the cast on location.
The Jefferson Davis Singers? How do you market that?
NEWS | Shiloh National Military Park superintendent pledges visit to every national park * Foundation gets extension for Gettysburg land development plans * Rebel license plate faces delays in Tennessee


Is it me or has there been relatively little stir about Sears' Gettysburg? The book is probably a career capper, given Sears' age and the level of effort it required, and it was well positioned to raise old controversies of Meade's battle management and general competence. But all has seemed quiet.

I have had to make some effort to find reviews.

In the reviews I did find, some passages leaped out at me. Here's one:

Readers interested in learning more about Sears’s sources must delve through the endnotes to locate manuscripts and the more specialized works he consulted during the writing of Gettysburg. The endnotes may cause many readers more problems because not every paragraph is footnoted, an aggravating publishing trend that groups footnotes every third paragraph or so that makes it difficult to decipher specific sources on occasion.

What the reviewer is referring to is attaching a single endnote number to one or more paragraphs of information, and then piling on multiple references in the endnote referenced by that number. The procedure is not unique to Sears but Sears uses it no matter who is publishing him, so it is Sears we must blame, not his editors.

The procedure is so confusing and annoying I once asked a fellow with an Oxford University Press contract if he could get away with a citational style like that and he said absolutely not - it was irregular. Is Sears getting publishers' dispensation to torture end note readers?

Here is more from the same source:

It appears to this reviewer that Sears has used the “usual” Gettysburg sources in compiling this history of the battle.

That would be fine in an historical essay, but not an opus. The reviewer also notes "Sears’s research is adequate" (back of the hand, slapping sound) and in another place, and "there are a number of factual errors that mar Gettysburg." He refers to at least one "absurdity" and concludes "Sears’s study is an OK book about Gettysburg, neither outstanding nor bad."

As hostile as I am to Sears, as sloppy as I think his research is, as bad as I consider his sensibilities and management of sources, I did not pick that review out from among positive notices. Here are some raves, such as they are. If you ignore the star ratings, the texts seem equivocal.

I do love this bit:

I found this telling to have a more matter-of-fact style than Sears "Landscape Turned Red". I remember that chronicling of Antietam to [have] read more like a novel than "Gettysburg".

Damning with faint praise. Amen?
NEWS | Gingrich and co-author work on second ACW novel * Union veteran battled for Japanese emperor * Newspaperman donates 100 Lincoln books to school system


I knew, from reading the La Rouche campaign materials of years gone by that Lincoln was protectionist. But it never occurred to me that Jeff Davis was a free trader and the Civil War was actually about free trade. Hmmm...
In the news section of this blog we observed (some weeks ago) the IRS sending a couple to jail for claiming and receiving reparations for slavery. The problem is fairly huge, it turns out:

As recently as 2001, the book reports, the IRS received more than 77,000 tax returns claiming a slavery reparation refund or credit. The previous year, there had been only 13,000 such returns.

Does that surprise you? Well, how about the fact that the IRS paid 200 of these claims? For a total of $30 million?

Here are some details.
It seems to me that if knowledge of Lincoln is the bedrock of popular historical knowledge, as a teacher you can build outward from that central piece of terra firma:

At the start of this fall semester I gave my 160 introductory students a 100-point pretest of what I like to call "walking around" knowledge of American history. I guesstimated that the average score would be somewhere in the low 70s. Instead a lone 74 turned out to be the top score. The average score was 27. Here are a few troubling examples of the results. Not a single student could identify Nathan Hale as having regretted he had only one life to give to his country. Given critics' concerns about the non-mention of the Great Society in an early draft, it might be noteworthy that four students thought Lincoln was its architect, while all of two mentioned Lyndon Johnson.

A whopping (?) 95 did name Lincoln as our Civil War president, while only 52 could pinpoint the 1860s as the decade when the war was fought. Forty-four recognized that Theodore Roosevelt was the "Rough Rider," while 13 knew that Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980. Sixty-eight linked the Brown vs. Board of Education decision with school desegregation, and 60 could identify Germany as the primary foe during World War I.

NEWS | Leavenworth pols seek slice of Bleeding Kansas tourism * Custer Association stages birthday dinner * Iowa native shocked into action by by neglect of ACW graves


Cold Mountain, the film, is beginning to generate preview information, as you can see here and here.

It's interesting to glean hints from the industry sheets as to why there are so few Civil War movies. (For example, zero appeal in overseas markets is one of the issues mentioned in the linked items above.) Interesting also to see that N. Kidman is viewed as a "non-commercial" actress representing high box-office risk.

Given the financial disaster Turner's Gettysburg represented, it's a wonder they make ACW films at all. In this case, much rides on the underlying best-seller of a novel ... but is the popularity of that novel strong enough to carry a $90 million production budget? Or is Hollywood setting itself up for yet another failed Civil War movie?

(By the way, have a look at this old discussion of the novel and its portrayal of the Home Guard units in the Confederate backcountry. Good movie background, courtesy Google Groups.)
Tom Desjardin has a fine piece on Civil War historiography at the Globe. (Tom has written extensively on Gettysburg and he was, for a long time, a major force in Thomas Publications, especially their Civil War Reader website.) Tom asks, "What is truth in history?"
The fall list of ACW books is up at Civil War Book News.
NEWS | Leading preservationist dies * SVC honors slain CSA soldier * Representative will seek another $30 million from feds for Lincoln Library


It's Friday. Break out the popcorn and let's watch the first Civil Warlike film of the Christmas season:

Hokey and predictable, The Last Samurai is unlikely to garner the ringing endorsements accorded a more novel exercise in martial derring-do, Master and Commander. The least one can say for this costume action flick is that it hits bottom immediately. - Village Voice

Despite its aura of sensitivity and intelligence, why does The Last Samurai feel so fake? - NY Press

Those are the kind of jaded comments we'd expect from seen-it-all New York critics. Let's go to the Midwest and eavesdrop on some fun-loving college students:

Tom Cruise plays a Civil War veteran who decides for some reason to go to Japan and show their army how to use guns, or something like that. And as such, expect to see lots of montages of Cruise showing ninjas how to aim a musket juxtaposed with footage of the star of “Days of Thunder” slowly wielding a sword in front of a sunset as Japanese-sounding music plays.

If you find Cruise to not be a believable Civil War veteran, let alone a Civil War veteran turned ninja, there’s still a way for you to enjoy this movie: don’t ever see it or think about it.

Rating: I’d rather be escorted to the Tunnel of Love by Michael Jackson with a bottle of chloroform than watch this movie.

Thanks, Chris Becker. I'll make other plans.
Charleston's tale of two museums echoes yesterday's theme that public expressions of Confederate history will henceforward be associated with slavery.
NEWS | Saturday is battlefield illumination night at Antietam * Critics halt plans for bike trail from Shiloh * General Cobb’s house may return home


Now, the sea changes.

Whatever the merits of the argument, this is the beginning of that period in which the Civil War and slavery become entwined in every public space and every public discourse. We saw it in the recent decision by the Park Service to make mention of slavery as part of their battlefield tours; in the decision to create a Civil War museum in Richmond with Blue, Gray and Black perspectives; in the content of the new movie, CSA, that drives home the idea that a victory for the South would have meant the extension of slavery into the modern era.

The current controversy in Georgia, to prohibit the public display of Rebel uniforms by reenactors in a Christmas parade, will soon affect reenactors everywhere.

The controversy generated by Howard Dean's comment that he wanted to appeal to Southern whites with Rebel flag decals in their pickup trucks attracted so much opposition for this reason: a large part of the public sentiment has already been conditioned to accept that arguments of "Southern Heritage" may not be applied to the symbols of a "pro-slavery" government. That has been the point of the sustained attack on Confederate flags. People must find another way to express "Southern pride" and no political party is now going to allow one of its leaders or spokesmen to endorse use of Confederate emblems to express heritage.

Those people who have worked so hard for so long to keep the South's Civil War heritage separate from slavery in the public mind and in public spaces will be systematically undone. The state flags battle is lost - the flags have a bureaucratic entropy to defend them, nothing more. There will be no exceptions. Rebel monuments, narratives, and public remembrances will soon pass into memory. Attacks on flags and mascots by political groups are now park and museum doctrine. Regional schools will soon follow Georgia in teaching state history from Reconstruction forward. Even the pop historians, who dominate Civil War publishing with their lavish praise of Rebel generals, will be forced into using caveats and hedges with an eye to the larger picture.

I have no sympathy for the symbols of the Rebellion and every sympathy for its victims, and yet the mechanics of this change seem remorseless. The injustice the display of these symbols inflicted on a black population is now visited on the white descendants of Rebel soldiers -- they are now in the position of the modern German. Forced to issue disclaimers about forefathers. Compelled to make ritual denouncements of a previous regime. Discouraged from public expressions of pride in a disgraced cause.

They were not - historiographically - ready for the change. There were no compromise formulas ready, there was no compensating story they could tell themselves or us.

This is historiography, alive, operating on the grandest scale.
NEWS | Vandals attack Civil War headstones in Ohio * Installation of Indiana Civil War monument halted by discovery *
Police arrest Vicksburg battlefield grafitti vandal * Christmas parade organizers try to mediate between reenactors and marching band


There's a Civil War mockumentary coming to an art house new you: "CSA: Confederate States of America" was written and directed by Kevin Willmott, and "looks at an America in which the South won the Civil War -- or rather, the War of Northern Aggression."

It has just played Sundance.

The film includes "a Home Shopping Network-type program that specializes in marketing slaves. It's hosted by two chipper white women trying to peddle a black couple and their cute 'litter of pickaninnies.' And there's a painfully funny commercial for The Shackle -- a device similar to the vehicular LoJack but used for tracking slaves. ('Made of a lightweight aluminum alloy so it won't weigh your Tom down. Perfect for children!')"

Wilmott, a black university professor as well as director, says "There are a lot of people right now who want to hold onto their Confederate heritage, but that heritage is somehow divorced from slavery. The movie puts slavery as the centerpiece. Finally we're going to discuss the Civil War as if slavery mattered. So those people are going to probably feel a little uncomfortable."

There's more on CSA here.

Meanwhile the Tredegar National Civil War Museum will put slavery at the center of its new ACW museum in Richmond (see News, below).
NEWS | Tredegar National Civil War Foundation to found Richmond museum * Port Deposit plans a Civil War Christmas * Civil War Preservation Trust announces campaign to rescue Corricks Ford Battlefield


The underwater "looting" of the CSS Chattahoochee has prompted Georgia to organize a "neighborhood watch" of skin divers near the craft. And now the state has appointed its first "underwater archaeologist."
NEWS | Restorers struggle to understand Monitor turret * Steamboat park planned for Georgia * Lee council suffers name change while Jackson scouts soldier on


I see that there is some blog appreciation activity going on here ... in case anyone wants to mention Civil War Bookshelf. (Shameless hinting department.)
One of the 19th Century's best-selling Civil War novelists, Southerner Ellen Glasgow, has a biography at last.

Sorry, being ironic.

Books about Glasgow piled on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln would sink the aircraft carrier in a moment. See for yourself.

And yet, no one has really ever heard of her, except the few specialists who read these works and understand that Glasgow made Gone with the Wind possible, not just "artistically" but commercially by developing a huge market for Civil War literature.

Maybe the new work is an attempt to bring Glasgow back to the mass audiences she once commanded.
NEWS | Expert says Republic holds up to 30,000 gold coins * Kansas will develop John Brown battlefield * Rebel reenactors barred from Georgia Christmas parade