31 July 2008

A Nice Note of Encouragement

Dear Mr. Williams,

I very much enjoy reading your "Old Virginia Blog" every few days for its excellent content and insight. In my view, your response to Peter Carmichael is right on target.

My Civil War blog, "Go Where The Fire Is Hottest", has been "coming-up-to-speed" over the past few months and I'm finding that it is an interesting process.

I had taken the liberty of adding a link to your blog a few weeks ago due to my own enjoyment of it . . . and didn't think to get your permission before I did so.

If my link is a problem, please let me know and I will remove it. Thank you.

David H. Jones
Author of Two Brothers: One North, One South*

David H. Jones was born and raised in West Virginia and has been a lifelong student of the Civil War. His research took him into the swamps of Dinwiddie County, Virginia, to rediscover the lost location where a pivotal event in the book took place. A graduate of Kentucky Military Institute and Babson College, former Navy officer, and entrepreneur, he currently lives and writes in Los Angeles, California.

*I have a copy of David's book in my library now, but have yet to get to it. I hope to do so soon.

Hamas Leader's Son Becomes a Christian

"I know that I'm endangering my life and am even liable to lose my father, but I hope that he'll understand this and that God will give him and my family patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity. Maybe one day I'll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God."

See full story here.

Now that's real hope.

Historian and Writer - 2 Different Crafts

Fellow history blogger, John Maas links to an interesting article on his blog about the American public's appetite for "popular" history titles. The article John links to is titled:

"Why Historians Should Write Books Ordinary People Want to Read"

As I opined in a comment,

Rare is the good historian who is also a good writer. Therein lies the problem. There are exceptions, of course. 3 of my personal favorites are:

Douglas Southall Freeman
James I. Robertson, Jr.
David McCullough

I'd be interested in hearing which historians all you "ordinary people" like to read. "Ordinary", I assume, means non-academic. Good grief.

30 July 2008

Michael Hardy Weighs In

Civil War author and historian Michael Hardy has weighed in on the current discussion. Sounds reasonable to me. Michael's position, as stated on that particular post, pretty much mirrors my own. Michael has done some additional research into this subject and I look forward to what he may be able to contribute in the future.

29 July 2008

The Impact of Civil War Chaplains

The Impact of Chaplain Ministry during the Civil War:

• 150,000 Confederate soldiers rededicated or were baptized during the war.

• Eighty percent of college students in the South after the war found their religious faith while in the Confederate Army.

• Thirteen former Confederate chaplains consecrated as bishops by 1892.

• Twelve former Confederate chaplains became presidents of major colleges.

• By 1890 church membership and the value of church property were double that of 1860. New growth included 10,000 new Baptist churches in Texas.

• Former Union Army chaplains also helped with the rebuilding of the South.

• Bishop Atticus Haygood emphasized the rise of “The New South.” But the Southern Churches conserved traditions. No major Protestant denomination except for the Protestant Episcopal Church reunited in the 19th century.

*And a bit of news: The National Civil War Chaplains Museum has received its 501(c)3 status. Your donations are most welcome. Some additional exciting announcements and news will be coming soon.

28 July 2008

A Primary Source

At the end of my response to Professor Carmichael’s post on Civil War Memory regarding Confederate slaves, I asked if anyone interested in this discussion had actually ever spoken to, or corresponded with, the descendants of black Confederates or Confederate slaves (in the context of our discussion). Since perspective and interpretation is a big concern (and rightfully so) to many who are skeptical about how some approach the issue, you would think that would be a priority. Apparently not. Certainly, that perspective is unique and one worth considering. Why not go to a "primary source"?

When researching my book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school, I contacted an army Major who was an African-American and member of the Sons of Confederates, as well as a reenactor. His Confederate ancestor was actually white. That gentleman had an undergraduate degree in history and, given his unique background, I asked him to review the manuscript and give me his thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms. He was more than willing so I sent the ms to him prior to publication. Unfortunately, I lost contact with him and believe he may have been deployed to Iraq. I have since been unable to make contact. I’ve also corresponded with two other African-Americans who are SCV members. Since my post on Civil War Memory, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Nelson Winbush. Mr. Winbush is one of the better known and more outspoken African-Americans who had an ancestor that served in the Confederacy. He is 78 years old, holds a masters degree, and is a retired school principal. I did not want to rely on internet versions of Mr. Winbush's perspective. I did not want to accept the opinion of some who don't believe Mr. Winbush is "sophisticated" enough (According to Kevin Levin) to discuss his own heritage. I did not want to make any assumptions, positive or negative, about how he felt about his heritage. So I took the novel approach of speaking directly with him. I spoke at length with Mr. Winbush about his ancestor and his memories. Louis Napolean Nelson served as a private in Company M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry of the Confederate Army. Private Nelson was a slave. He began his military service as a cook, a soldier, and ended his service as a chaplain. Mr. Winbush has vivid memories of his grandfather. He still has the flag that draped his grandfather’s coffin when he was buried in 1934. Mr. Winbush was 5 at the time of his grandfather’s death and recalls the funeral. He told me that his grandfather once told him that on one occasion, while he was conducting a worship service for his unit, the Confederates were joined by yankee soldiers. After the service, "all shook hands and went back to fighting." Mr. Winbush is extremely proud of his grandfather’s service in the Confederate Army and has spoken across the country about his ancestor. I had already planned on contacting Mr. Winbush prior to the Carmichael post due to his grandfather’s position as a CSA chaplain and my work with the National Civil War Chaplains Museum. The museum plans an exhibit and section dedicated to black Chaplains—North as well as South. I also learned something that I did not know about Louis Napolean Winbush. He is the same “Uncle Lewis” whom I refer to in my book about Stonewall Jackson:

In fact, “Uncle Lewis,” as he was known to a particular Tennessee regiment, may have been the first black chaplain in America. His reputation was that of a “devout servant,” and due to the shortage of white chaplains, he was asked to conduct religious services. Records indicate that the army credited his efforts with bringing about several “seasons of revival” and a newspaper correspondent wrote, “He is heard with respectful attention, and for earnestness, zeal and sincerity, can be surpassed by none.”

Mr. Winbush stated that his grandfather’s name was often misspelled, depending on who was writing--"Lewis" or "Louis". This is credible, as one of my own ancestor's name is often misspelled in official records (“Morris” vs. “Maurice” Coffey).

Mr. Winbush's opinions may not sit well with some readers, but they are his opinions. You can read some of them here. His comments pretty much confirm what he told me in our phone conversation. I offer no analysis here other than to say that, obviously, Mr. Winbush's feelings are not universal regarding the service of his African-American ancestor, but I believe they are honest and revealing. If you want to respond to this post, please do so. If you disagree with Mr. Winbush, that's fine. I'll post civil challenges to Mr. Winbush's opinions. Please note, however, that I will not post any remarks which are demeaning, insulting, or condescending toward Mr. Winbush. Whether or not you agree with him, he's likely much older than anyone reading this blog. Respect your elders.

(The older gentleman pictured here is Louis Napolean Nelson. The lad is, of course, Nelson Winbush. Mr. Winbush still has the coat and kepi being worn by his grandfather in this photo.)

Worth A Thousand Words

I suppose a "tingle up the leg" translates into a "jingle in the pocket."

25 July 2008

In Response to Professor Peter S. Carmichael

The following comments are in response to an invitation by Professor Peter S. Carmichael, who teaches history at West Virginia University. The invitation originated from this post. Pete suggested I comment on this post which he wrote for the Civil War Memory blog regarding African-Americans who served in the Confederate Army. Kevin Levin, host at CWM, also encouraged me to comment. My comments to Professor Carmichael's post are below:

First, full disclosure: I am here by invitation of Messrs Carmichael and Levin. I sincerely appreciate their courtesy in asking for my comments and thoughts on Professor Carmichael’s post regarding African-Americans who served in the Confederate Army. I must admit, however, that I feel like a lamb who’s been invited over for supper at the local lion’s den. I want to point out that my comments are only in response to what Pete originally wrote (with one exception), and not to the various comments that have since followed that post. None of my comments, though at times pointed, are intended to be insulting or disrespectful in any way to either Pete or Kevin.

The invitation to comment came, in part, due to a rather testy post on my blog in which I took certain Civil War historians and academics to task for their attitude toward non-academics (like me) who also study and write about the (May I be so bold?), War Between the States, a.k.a. the Civil War.

It is both Pete’s and Kevin’s stated desire to open a dialogue, as Kevin noted, “between various camps within the Civil War community.” Though I am in no way an expert on African-Americans who served in the Confederate Army and while I am less than optimistic about the outcome of any exchange, I am willing to try to bring something constructive to the discussion at hand. If nothing else, perhaps my comments will allow some of my academic friends to release some long pent up endorphins.

Regarding your piece Pete, I found some in it with which I agreed and some with which I did not agree, or did not completely understand the point you were trying to make. It was certainly well written and raises some valid questions. But some of the things you stated are so obvious I’m not quite sure why you wrote them. I think many academics feel the need to constantly remind Southerners and Civil War “buffs” that slavery was evil and that 19th century Americans held prejudiced views on race. Moreover, I believe many academics (not necessarily you) often assume that just because someone belongs to the SCV, or writes admiringly of Lee or Jackson, or reenacts, or points out that African-Americans did serve in the Confederate Army—in various capacities and for various reasons—that they believe slavery really wasn’t “all that bad” or that “slavery had nothing to do with the war” or that they are a “neo-Confederate” (codespeak for slavery apologist). I actually read one blogger who has accused everyone from George Bush, to Bill Clinton, to the Boy Scouts of being “neo-Confederates.” Of course, you could also throw in Dr. Walter Williams, who recently served as chair of the economics department at George Mason University, as well as Virginia Democratic Senator James Webb; who have both written positive comments regarding the Confederacy, Confederate soldiers, and the Confederate Battle flag. Quite an eclectic group, would you not agree?

That particular line of discussion is based on false assumptions and stereotypes and leads to much of the disconnect and mistrust among the various “camps.” I, too, would like to move beyond that if we can. I don’t need convincing that slavery was evil. I don’t need convincing that 19th century Americans, North as well as South, held views that by 21st century standards were racist. (At the same time, let’s remember that 19th century Americans were just that, 19th century Americans.)

And one more item before I get into the meat of some of your comments Pete; in one of your follow up posts, you mention “they” and then follow with a comment that the “psychological” perspectives of “they” (in regards to the subject at hand) need to be looked into. That is “s-o-o-o academia” (if not condescending) and sounds like something that would come from Dr. Phil. You probably lost a lot of folks with that one comment. I’m sure it makes those to whom you are referring feel like you believe they have some type of mental disorder and that you want to psychoanalyze their every syllable. I should warn you: if you start probing into the minds of Southern Civil War enthusiasts you will most assuredly find some nuts—if that’s what you’re looking for—but you will also most assuredly end up one yourself. I can promise you that. I would suggest historians leave that line of work to the psychiatric professionals who have less to risk.

I will not attempt to address every single point of your original post, but I’ll try to hit the highlights. First, I do believe that there were both Confederate slaves and black Confederates. I am certainly one who agrees there were far more of the former than the latter, but there were both. Those who have wildly exaggerated the numbers of black Confederates have done nothing but call into question the whole notion. But I do not accept the premise of your blanket definition of “black Confederates.” This is complicated and while some would fit your definition, others would not. Regarding your comment about patriotism and the slaves, I believe that, too, needs to be explored a little more. I, as well as many Americans, would define patriotism as a love of a country and its people. Nationalism would be a love for the government, in this case, the Confederate government and what it stood for in the minds of the slaves. The slaves certainly did not love “their” government, but I have no doubt many loved their country and, yes, in many cases its white inhabitants. In that sense, they were patriotic. I think it is important to make a distinction between the two and acknowledge that they were patriotic in that context. Admittedly, the lines become blurred and further complicate the issue.

I would also strongly disagree with your conclusion that, “The presence of coercion in slavery, moreover, creates an insurmountable challenge for those who want to describe slaves as Confederate heroes.” A hero is defined, simply, as “a man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, and strength.” Neptune certainly fits that description. His heroism should not be diminished simply because he was a slave and his heroic deed (putting his life at great risk) involved retrieving the body of his dead, white master. If anything, in my mind, that makes his heroism all the more “exceptional.” He is but one example. I do not see that as an “insurmountable challenge.”

Furthermore I think your suggestion that, “Fearing punishment for failing to bring home his master might have motivated Neptune”, defies logic. Certainly Neptune would not have preferred being shot to being “punished”—even if that punishment involved physical abuse.

I agree with the anecdotal evidence you present regarding the “Ebony Idols” article and that it reveals that many of the white Confederates viewed the blacks within their ranks as “pets” and that the intent of the article was mocking, demeaning, and meant to keep these men “in their place.” I could, of course, present anecdotal evidence of my own regarding the bravery and honorable service of black Confederates (or Confederate slaves) that garnered the admiration and respect of the white Confederate soldiers with whom they served. Neptune serves as one of those examples, as does Stonewall Jackson’s body servant, Jim Lewis, who I’ve written about. There are others.

In reference to Sam describing “bullets as ‘singing’ around [his] head ‘like mosquitoes in a big cypress swamp’” I don’t find anything of relevance there. Many white soldiers made very similar analogies when describing battlefield experiences. I don’t think that advances your argument in any way. Perhaps I’m missing something?

You write: “While Confederate slaves successfully challenged popular conceptions of what it meant to be a black man, these ‘victories’ did not earn them the public recognition they sought…” I wholeheartedly agree. As Ervin Jordan has noted: “Only in the reminiscences of ex-Confederates are body servants given any sort of appreciation.” Virginia did not even pass legislation awarding pensions to blacks who had served in the Confederate Army until 1924. Which is a good reason, I believe, to honor them now in ways that does not demean their service, i.e. placing a simple headstone where they are buried noting that service, writing of their bravery and service in honest terms for the fact that many of these men faced the dangers of battle and risked death. Regardless of all the reasons they were there, I find it difficult to believe most would not want some recognition of their service.

While it is an inadequate analogy, the African-Americans who served during WWII were subjected to segregation, racism, and prejudices by the very country they were fighting for, yet they deserved and eventually got the recognition they earned, though some only very recently.

You wrote in referring to the slave who was able to purchase fine clothes that, “The slave’s fine clothing signified to Pender that he was losing control, and that his slave was challenging the established order, for plantation slaves were always issued the coarsest dress. The sight of a slave wearing French shirts constituted an insubordinate act to Pender.” There must be more to that story than what you write. If not, I think it’s quite a leap to the conclusion you draw. At best, conjecture.

You wrote: “Lost Cause writers and neo-Confederates today have emphasized companionship between white and black as proof of slaveholder benevolence and slave fidelity. While professional historians have successfully demolished this ridiculous interpretation . . .”

I’m really confused on that point. Are you disavowing what you wrote in your review of "Within the Plantation Household" by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese which appeared in the October 2007 edition of Civil War Times when you noted:

“No one can ignore the overwhelming historical evidence of mutual closeness between blacks and whites within the Slave South . . .” You continue that sentence with the fact that Ms. Fox-Genovese “reminds us that such feelings were expressed in a system that bought and sold African-Americans.” I understand that, but the closeness did, despite the evils of slavery, exist. You seem to be denying this in the quote from your post, after affirming it in the CWT piece.

You have further laudatory remarks about her book which seem to contradict what you wrote in the blog post: “Contextualizing these expressions of animosity as well as love and respect are essential if we want to understand the broader patterns of thought and action in the old South. [I agree.] Fox-Genovese provides a rich analysis of these fascinating confrontations between slave and master without losing her critical eye or her amazing capacity for empathy. Like no other historian before or since, she has explained how white and black Southerners could retain their own sense of humanity while living in the inhumane world of chattel slavery.”

Again, these comments appear to me to affirm what you dismiss in the post. What have I missed here or have you now come to a different conclusion? This is an honest question.

And then some final thoughts on your last paragraph:

“But for those who can put politics aside, who do not need to invent a mythical Confederate army of black and white brothers, and who do not need to demonize the white South for slavery, Neptune’s account might bring an end to this tiresome morality play. The combatants over this issue today, I might add, love to perform this play because it keeps the focus on them and not on the historical actors. If we put the spotlight on Neptune, however, his story reveals how little we know about the many and varied moments of emotional and physical intimacy that existed between males slave and their male owners. We must explore these complex encounters, which promise to reveal new insights into the master-slave relationship, African American manliness, and class divisions within the slave community as well as Confederate society as a whole.”

I could not agree with you more here, though the reference to “insights” into “manliness and class divisions” sounds too much like trendy fads in historiography which bore me to death (more Dr. Phil). Your main points in this paragraph are, nonetheless, right on; especially your remarks about the two extreme points of view and the need to keep the focus on the “historical actors.”

One final question to those interested in this topic. Have any of you actually had any contact or conversations with any descendants of African-Americans who served in the Confederacy and who believe their ancestors served honorably and deserve recognition?

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. Normal programming will now resume. :)

(End of post.)

24 July 2008

Feet of Clay

"We Americans have a tendency to view our heroes as perfect and our anti-heroes as totally depraved. Theologically we may agree to the inherent and universal sinfulness of mankind but when it comes to our historical models, it’s hard to remember that no matter how wonderful they were, they had feet of clay. Few in his day thought George Washington a perfect man, but he has been burnished and placed on a pedestal after his death. Since their apotheosis, have any flaws been found in Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King, Jr.?"

"There is a type of historical character that in our day is the symbol of unmitigated evil or less commonly, the paragon of the American success story, but rarely as someone between the poles. The historiography of the 'Gilded Age' tends to show the industrial capitalists of the 19th Century as either 'industrial statesmen,' or (more often), as 'robber barons.' The truth is more complex and far more interesting than the stereotypical cant favored by Marxists, conspiracy theorists, or super-patriots." ~ Bill Potter, Circa History Guild

23 July 2008

A George W. Bush Encore?

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Wednesday a nuclear Iran would pose a "grave threat" and that the world must stop Tehran from obtaining an atomic weapon. Obama told reporters during a visit to Israel that if elected, he would take "no options off the table."

Gee, where have I heard that before?

22 July 2008

The Stonewall Brigade Band

One of the more enduring legacies of the Civil War era in the Shenandoah Valley is the “immortal” Stonewall Brigade Band. The band can boast that it is “the nation's oldest continuous community band sponsored by local government and funded by tax monies.”

They once played for Ulysses S. Grant just a few steps from my office and are still in great demand—different members of course. At the conclusion of their performance before the President, Grant bowed, raised his hat and said: "The immortal Jackson!"

They still play every Monday evening during the summer months in Staunton at Gypsy Hill Park. When my children were younger, we spent many enjoyable summer nights enjoying their wonderful performances. The band still opens each concert with “Dixie.”

Read about their history here.

21 July 2008

An Elite Education (& Worldview)

Many modern Civil War historians and academics suffer from this same type of disconnect and are, as this writer points out, inculcated with "a false sense of self-worth."

Many of these same individuals make fun of reenactors, SCV members, amateur and local historians, those proud of their Southern heritage, and anyone else who has anything other than a purely academic interest in the Civil War--or who--God forbid--happens to disagree with their interpretation of events. They impugn and insult them at every opportunity. They stereotype, condescend, assume motives, misquote, misunderstand, misinterpret, they contradict their own statements and, yes, they lie. They demonize the South in one sentence and deny they're doing it in the next, while all the time claiming "scholarly objectivity." They write of the South's burden regarding the slavery issue while ignoring the North's and then become defensive if anyone calls them on it, claiming it's irrelevant. And they write (poorly) boring books and commentary that not even Mensa members could make sense of, thinking that using 20 words, when 10 would suffice, makes them sound smarter.

They've convinced themselves that their "scholarship" and pronouncements are original and that no one else has ever considered their angle. They enviously criticize popular styles of historical narrative (i.e. David McCullough) that far outsells anything they could ever produce. They become especially condescending and emotional when anyone (even credentialed historians) challenges their politically correct orthodoxy. That's when the ad hominen attacks begin - the last refuge of those who can't answer an argument.

And then they wonder why they have so little influence among the general public and those who study the conflict casually, as a hobby, or as "entertainment" - to use their word. They believe that their "profession" is on the same level as a brain surgeon's and only they have the "sophistication," training, and intelligence to research, read, study and come to conclusions and interpret for the great unwashed masses. "How dare anyone challenge us!" How laughable. (Many of these same elitists do not, themselves, possess advanced degrees in history, but they do subscribe to the orthodoxy. That's what's important.)

Their self absorption and arrogance is so unappealing, but they do so enjoy talking to themselves.

And thus concludes this week's rant.

Faulkner's Sage Advice

"Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again."

"He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse."

Gray Ghost Theatre Mini-Review

My experience at the Gray Ghost Theatre Company in Manassas Friday evening was a memorable one. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the company’s director, Mr. Ken Elston, had invited me to give some pre-performance remarks about Stonewall Jackson and his relationship with African-Americans. Though I only spoke for about 15 minutes, it was a great opportunity to discuss Stonewall Jackson and his Lexington Sunday school for slaves and free blacks.

The performance itself is one I would highly recommend to all those interested in Civil War history, especially if you are interested in the story of John Singleton Mosby as the story centers around his life before, during, and after the war.

Mixing music—and a little comedy—with narratives taken from actual letters and diaries, the actors did an excellent job in both entertaining and educating the audience about Mosby’s Confederacy, including the perspectives of African-Americans. If you are familiar with Stonewall Country at the Lime Kiln Theater in Rockbridge County, then you can get a feel for what this performance was like.

My wife and I plan to return with our grandchildren at some point in the future.

18 July 2008

Off to Manassas & the Gray Ghost

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my wife and I are off to Manassas this evening for an outdoor theater experience at the Gray Ghost Theatre Company. I'll be "warming up" the crowd with a "pre-show" talk and cant' wait to watch the performance. I'll post photos and comments on Saturday.

17 July 2008

Is Dr. Walter Williams a "Neo-Confederate"?

According to some hand-wringing, knee-jerk reactionaries, he is. Actually, he is the former chair of the economics department at George Mason University. Dr. Williams still teaches at George Mason. Dr. Williams is not exactly your typical defender of Southern Culture & Heritage. From his website:

"Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he is also Professor Honorario. Dr. Williams is the author of over 150 publications which have appeared in scholarly journals such as Economic Inquiry, American Economic Review, Georgia Law Review, Journal of Labor Economics, Social Science Quarterly, and Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy and popular publications such as Newsweek, Ideas on Liberty, National Review, Reader's Digest, Cato Journal, and Policy Review . . . Dr. Williams has received numerous fellowships and awards including: Foundation for Economic Education Adam Smith Award, Hoover Institution National Fellow, Ford Foundation Fellow, Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation George Washington Medal of Honor, Veterans of Foreign Wars U.S. News Media Award, Adam Smith Award, California State University Distinguished Alumnus Award, George Mason University Faculty Member of the Year, and Alpha Kappa Psi Award . . . Dr. Williams has participated in numerous debates, conferences and lectures in the United States and abroad. He has frequently given expert testimony before Congressional committees on public policy issues ranging from labor policy to taxation and spending."

Not quite your average, Confederate flag-waving, good ole' boy, huh?

However, Dr. Williams did write this recently on Townhall.com--one of the most popular, mainstream conservative sites on the internet:

"One of the unappreciated casualties of the War of 1861, erroneously called a Civil War, was its contribution to the erosion of constitutional guarantees of state sovereignty. It settled the issue of secession, making it possible for the federal government to increasingly run roughshod over Ninth and 10th Amendment guarantees. A civil war, by the way, is a struggle where two or more parties try to take over the central government. Confederate President Jefferson Davis no more wanted to take over Washington, D.C., than George Washington wanted to take over London. Both wars are more properly described as wars of independence."

(You can read the complete article here. The piece is also on Professor Williams's page at GMU here.)

Certainly not a politically correct view. Is Dr. Williams ignorant? Hardly. Uneducated? Hardly. Uninformed? Hardly. Unsophisticated? Hardly. (Well, maybe John Kerry would think he is.) Is he an apologist for the Confederacy and the Civil War's aftermath of prejudice and racism in the South, as well as the North? Hardly. Does he just write this type of commentary to placate those who hold power over him? Hardly. I believe that addresses all the excuses.

Dr. Williams is simply a man (born in Philadelphia by the way) who thinks for himself and couldn't care less what liberal academics think of his opinions. He's even earned their begrudging respect with his intellect and accomplishments. He refuses to follow their script and mold his views to fit their politically correct template. I've heard him debate various issues on different occasions (once in person) and he has quite a command of American history and economic theory. I've exchanged emails with him. Dr. Williams is a libertarian and I don't agree with all his views, but he is quite formidable and I know of no liberal intellectuals who could match him in a debate.

15 July 2008

In Defense of Michael R. Bradley, Ph.D.

I've recently read several attacks on the work of Dr. Michael R. Bradley, who wrote a piece in a recent issue of North and South Magazine. The article was titled "In the Crosshairs" and focused on the Union army's treatment of Southern civilians during the Civil War. Personally, I found the article well-written, well-researched, interesting, and a needed reminder that the Union army was not as virtuous as many of the South's detractors would like for all of us to believe. Most of the criticism is coming from the predictable quarters, but the ones I've read have failed to mention (Intentionally?) Bradley's *credentials and other work. Bradley received a master's degree and a Ph.D. in history from Vanderbilt University and taught American history for 36 years at Motlow State Community College in Tennessee. He's written a number of books on the South and the Civil War; which is part of the reason for this post.

I was not familiar with Bradley's work or credentials until I recently picked up a complimentary copy of a book that was sent to me by the Civil War Preservation Trust last year when I renewed my membership. The book was authored by Bradley and is titled, It Happened in the Civil War. It is a collection of stories written in a popular style. The book was published for the CWPT, bears their name, and notes that it is a "Battlefield Preservation Edition." I assume this edition was used for fund raising and membership drives at one time.

I write all of this in defense of Bradley. It seems that any time someone writes anything that fails to portray the South and Southerners in the worst possible light--and the North and Northerners in the best possible light--there is a coordinated effort to discredit and impugn them, even referring to such individuals as "dangerous" and/or not worth reading. I know this from personal experience and could cite dozens of other examples. Failing to regurgitate the establishment's official story line (even when there exists reams of evidence to the contrary) and follow the approved template will bring down the scorn of the academic elites. It's really getting kind of boring and oh so predictable.

Typically, these "critiques" are little more than politically motivated ad hominem attacks and the vast majority don't warrant a response. But I wanted to bring this particular one regarding Bradley up due to it being a recent issue and for the reasons stated above. Academically, Bradley certainly has the credentials to hold his own with other CW historians and the fact that the CWPT would put their stamp of approval on one of his books gives further proof of his "worthiness" as a professional historian. I also understand that Keith Poulter, editor of NS, will be including Dr. Bradley in some future discussion and articles. I look forward to his contributions.

Perhaps some of these criticisms were motivated by a bit of jealousy?

*In addition, Bradley has been a fellow with the National Endowment for the Humanities and was also a National Science Foundation Fellow. Bradley is the recipient of the Jefferson Davis Medal in Southern History and is a member of the Southern Historical Association, the American Society of Church History, the American Association of University Professors, the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, and the Society for Military History.


"Presentism is a mode of historical analysis in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past. Most [I wish] modern historians seek to avoid presentism in their work because they believe it creates a distorted understanding of their subject matter."

From Wikipedia

"In his 1970 book Historians' Fallacies, David Hackett Fischer identified Schlesinger-style history as a historical error called 'presentism.' You couldn't look for the origins of the present in the past without doing damage to the past, and you'd do it based on your politics. 'Presentism,' Fischer wrote, 'appears in the new-liberal narratives of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., where American history is the steady progress of pragmatic liberalism from Jefferson to Jackson to Franklin Roosevelt. Finally, the Kennedys become Top Family.' The apparent political bias of presentism irked Fischer. At the time, a variety of New Left historians had adopted the idea of a 'usable past' as a way of pointing to a more progressive future with more civil rights and less cold war.'

From the History News Network

14 July 2008

New Project

I'm currently working on a project for the Waynesboro Heritage Museum which is located in my hometown of Waynesboro, Virginia. I've taken a piece I wrote for the local paper (which commemorated the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Waynesboro) and had it formatted into a booklet with appropriate artwork and images (Thanks to fellow blogger and author, Michael Aubrecht!). Our local paper originally ran the article on the front page in March of 2005 and I received a lot of compliments on the piece.

The board of directors for WHM met last week and was most enthusiastic about my idea and the rough draft that Michael put together for us. I hope to have the final edited version sent to Michael by week's end and then off to the printer the following week. I'll see if Michael will post a link to the pdf on his blog. (Michael . . . ?)

Our plan is to initially print 500-1000 of these booklets and give them away to tourists and visitors to the Plumb House and the WHM with sponsors paying the cost of printing. While on the subject of cost, are there any fellow Civil War authors out there interested in a business card size ad? The price will probably be around $50-$100. This is a great way to support local historic preservation and to reach folks that are specifically interested in the Civil War. These will be keepsake/souvenir booklets and hopefully be passed on to other readers.

(BTW, if you need graphics or layout work, I highly recommend Michael. He's done other projects for me and his product is always eye-catching and professional.)

12 July 2008

Anti-Red State (South) Poetry

We're Oh So... (a poem) by Russ Vaughn

We’re hip, we’re cool and oh so arty;
We’re Democrats, the smarter party.
We’re sophisticated unlike you;
We understand merci beaucoup.
We’re urbane while you’re provincial;
We’re worldly-wise, so existential.
We’re cultured, complex, so refined;
We’ve left you ignorant serfs behind.
We’re witty authors of clever puns,
While you clods cling to God and guns.
Were you not so closed and clannish,
We’d have you peons speaking Spanish.
We say all this with knowing smirks;
We’re Democrats, you red-state jerks.

From The American Thinker

09 July 2008

A Unique Event

I just received—and accepted—a most interesting speaking invitation for next week. The venue is a “history based theatrical work” in Manassas, Virginia known as the “Gray Ghost Theatre Company.” According to their website the “Gray Ghost Theatre Company supports Education and Historic Preservation through the Arts.”

Mr. Ken Elston, who is the Assistant Professor and Artistic Director at Gray Ghost, (as well as a professor at George Mason University), wrote that: “We are currently asking friends of the company and of the idea of supporting history through preservation and education to conduct short pre-show talks. We have talks concerning Mosby, faith and the war, and I am interested in having at least one focused on slavery and the old south.”

My “pre-show talk” will be short—15 to 20 minutes—and the focus will be on Jackson’s Sunday school class for Lexington’s slaves and free blacks. My remarks will precede the performance which begins at 8:00 PM. This production is held in an outside theater somewhat like Rockbridge County's Lime Kiln. I am very much looking forward to this unique opportunity and will report on the experience afterwards.

08 July 2008

Wanted: Entrepenurial Filmmaker

Still taking applications . . .

I am currently seeking someone to work with on a very unique history related documentary. The qualifications I am seeking are:

  1. Must possess the equipment to film and produce HD quality work suitable for broadcast.
  2. Must have a passion for history and truth.
  3. Must be willing to work as a “partner” and share in costs as well as profits.

Amateurs as well as professionals are invited to contact me but please, SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY. (College and homeschooled students are also encouraged to apply.)

Send email to address in left sidebar or on my profile page.

07 July 2008

Living in Virginia

Back to Work

I’m back from Gettysburg—nothing much to discuss. We didn’t even go to the battle reenactment preferring to browse the local shops and museums instead. A couple of times my wife and I did start out to the reenactment, but it began raining each time. I was able to make it to the new visitor’s center—very nice! I’ve posted a couple of photos I took on the street in Gettysburg.

I am now back into the swing of things in a big way. I am currently working on:

  • finishing the “organizing” of my office
  • a brochure for a local museum
  • finishing up a book while working on another one
  • planning a new film documentary
  • working on a couple of magazine/newspaper pieces
  • doing some marketing things to promote my books and the Stonewall film
Summer is slipping away quickly but I’m enjoying every minute of it!