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A good friend of mine, Emmanuel Dabney, recently started a blog in which he discusses the many and varying challenges that interpreters face. Emmanuel is a historian at City Point and Petersburg National Battlefield, and is probably one of the greatest up-and-coming researchers of the African-American experience during the Civil War.

His blog, Interpretive Challenges, has a post entitled, “Poignant, disturbing object in the Kinsey Collection,” which discusses a letter dated 1854 that reads as follows:

Charlottesvill [sic] April the 3d 1854

Messers Dickenson & Hill

This will be handed you by my servant Frances. I am told that it is useless to give the capabilities of a servant, that it depends altogather [sic] on there [sic] personal appearance; be that as it may, I say positively that she is the finest chamber-maid I have ever seen in my life, she is a good washer, but at house cleaning she has perfect slight of hand [sic]. She is 17 teens years old the eleventh of this month.

She does not know that she is to be sold. I could not tell her; I own all her family, and the leave taking would be so distressing that I could not.Plese say to her that that was my reason, and that I was compelled to sell her to pay for the horses that I have baught [sic] and to build my stable. I believe I have said all that is necessary, but I am so nervous that i hardly know what I have writen [sic] Respectfully yours

A M F Crawford

It is difficult for us today to comprehend a way of life that justifies selling a human being to purchase a few animals and a barn. Such is the reality of a slave culture, that a human being come with a price tag equivalent to an animal. It illustrates to me how far we’ve come in just 150 years, and how much work is still left to do.

Yesterday, the National Park Service and the City of Charleston celebrated the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter. Many national battlefields across the country are planning events, such as living histories and panel discussions. I thought it would be interesting to post the NPS site for the sesquicentennial at Fort Sumter as an example of the exciting events taking place over the next few years.

It might not have much to do with this week’s topic, but I though some people might be interested in hearing about this event in Richmond. Many of the Civil War sites in Richmond will be open free of charge on April 16, starting at 9:30 am. Maybe we’d get some extra credit for going? (nudge nudge)

In the 1951 retelling of Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, Audie Murphy plays a youth drawn to the allure of combat and enlists in an Ohio regiment during the Civil War. We meet the young, frightened boy as he takes part in the endless drilling of life on the Rappahannock River. Rumors of battle force him to vicariously question his resolve through that of his regiment. Regardless, the battle comes, and the regiment- as well as Murphy’s character- performs admirably at first. A Confederate attack on his unit is repulsed, but they attack again. As the enemy nears, some members of his regiment begin to flee. At the film’s climax, the main character throws down his musket and sprints into the woods. After he learns that his regiment had held the Rebels back, he encounters a column of wounded Union soldiers, and eventually a group of retreating soldiers. Questioning one of the latter for information earns the youth- whom we now know to call Henry- a rifle butt to the head. Henry finally returns to camp, and allows his comrades to believe that the large bruise was caused by a bullet grazing his temple. Finally, Henry has the chance to prove himself by carrying the colors in a charge against the Rebels. Unarmed, Henry Fleming charges the Rebel position, and emerges unscathed.

It is difficult to say where exactly this film fits within the greater memory of the Civil War. It stars an actor deserving of recognition outside of his work on the silver screen. Audie Murphy was the most highly decorated American soldier during the Second World War, earning the Medal of Honor for actions against the Germans. One cannot deny the importance of portraying the inner monologue taking place within Henry Fleming. The movie also sticks close to the original book, but lacks many of the details of Crane’s story. The image of a Union soldier breaking ranks and running from a fight just when it becomes thickest is a powerful one, and it is interesting that it was not more highly discussed in the South after publication of the book. Both book and movie shy away from the causes of the conflict, only describing the wanderlust which causes Henry Fleming to join the army. All in all, the Red Badge of Courage is an iconic movie portraying the folly of war and the courage of the men who stay when the fighting is heaviest.


I found this blog while searching google. Excusing the creepy death mask things, it seems like quite an interesting list of sources. It is also updated with some regularity. It focuses primarily on the pictures and other primary sources, but also has some discussion on the essays and books that have been written more recently.

The exhibits at the MOC in Richmond are pretty fascinating; from the equipment used by various Southern generals to the many flags created by states and regiments during the war. This link takes you to the online exhibit they put together. It has a nice summary of each national flag, as well as some that are not as well known.

In his preface, Ferguson discusses a phrase used by historian C. Vann Woodward to describe the loss of popularity of American figures. “The Fall of the American Adam” came to refer to figures such as Abraham Lincoln. To Ferguson, the term represented the increasing popularity of Lincoln, which eventually created an over-saturation of his memory, and led to the decrease in his importance over time. In this article, John Whalen-Bridge discusses whether the “American Adam” is, in fact, a myth.

I thought it was interesting that, judging by the text of Jennings’ speech entitled “Cross of Gold,” the issues of the economy and tariffs were still alive and well, even at the end of the nineteenth century. I found the text of Bryan’s speech:

Grant Cottage

As it turns out, the site at which U.S. Grant passed away in 1885 after the completion of his memoirs is now a State Historic Site in Upstate New York, not far from where I go on vacation every summer. I never knew the building was open to the public, and that it had been preserved so well.

I found this while looking for Shaw’s letters home to his wife that were mentioned in the reading. I feel that it puts a more human face on a regiment that has become somewhat romanticized in the memory of the Civil War.

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