30 January 2016

Fools in Academia?

There are a few academic history bloggers who regularly poo-poo the notion that political correctness is a serious problem in academia, as well as in American culture as a whole. Regular readers know I post about this often. I view these people as either absolute hypocrites or, giving them the benefit of the doubt, ignorant fools. Take your pick. Here's the latest example and reality check:
In academia, assault is excusable, potentially offensive jokes are not.

29 January 2016

Amazing Drone Footage

Of the first school exclusively for African-American girls, now abandoned . . . 
In 1899, a school named St. Francis de Sales was opened in Powhatan County along the banks of the James River. This school was unlike any that the nation, and certainly the south, had ever seen. Founded by a Catholic nun from Pennsylvania, the school was the first of its kind – a prestigious high school intended exclusively for African American girls. The school remained open for 70 years, offering education and hope to thousands of young girls.


27 January 2016

Public School Indoctrination Continues

A seventh-grade student in Texas is standing up for her religious beliefs after her teacher allegedly forced the class to deny the existence of God in a recent assignment, or face a failing grade. (Source.)

25 January 2016

Professor Forrest McDonald: R.I.P.

America lost one of it's most gifted historians and constitutional scholars last week. Forrest McDonald was a proud Southerner so it is somewhat fitting that he passed away on January 19th, Robert E. Lee's birthday. McDonald was 89.

I've quoted Professor McDonald here on this blog numerous times. One of my favorite McDonald quotes:

I believe that somewhere, deep in the innermost recesses of their atrophied souls, Yankees know that they truly have botched things, and truly are plagued with guilt. That, I think, is the bottom line: the Yankee hates himself, and he hates his heritage. And why does he hate us? Because we do not hate ourselves and we treasure ours. ~ Forrest McDonald
Allow me to share a quote from a piece in the New York Times, marking McDonald's passing:
Forrest McDonald, a presidential and constitutional scholar who challenged liberal shibboleths about early American history and lionized the founding fathers as uniquely intellectual, died on Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He was 89. The cause was heart failure, his daughter Marcy McDonald said.

As a Pulitzer Prize finalist in history and a professor at the University of Alabama, Dr. McDonald declared himself an ideological conservative and an opponent of intrusive government. (“I’d move the winter capital to North Dakota and outlaw air-conditioning in the District of Columbia,” he once said.) But he refused to be pigeonholed either as a libertarian or, despite his Southern agrarian roots, as a Jeffersonian.
And this from the Washington Times:
Forrest McDonald, perhaps the greatest student of the American founding, passed away late last week at the age of 89. His scholarship and work have had more impact on the understanding of the intellectual and historical context that produced the Constitution and the creation of the United States than most people appreciate.
And . . . 
All in all, Mr. McDonald taught for 50 years, authored numerous incredibly influential books and biographies and was beloved by all who knew him. I had read his books, of course, but first met him at meetings of the Philadelphia Society, an association of American conservatives of which he was a proud member and over which he once presided. He was a fascinating man who was the subject of a three-hour in depth CSPAN interview broadcast as part of the network’s Independence Day programing in 2004.  . . . Mr. McDonald was an unrepentant patriot who loved the country and delighted in both teaching and the study of history. 
And this anecdote speaks of McDonald's integrity:
In 1997, he delivered the 16th annual National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture in Washington and met President Ronald Reagan who he admired. Although he didn’t want to make a scene, but since he had earlier called for the abolition of the NEH as a waste of taxpayers’ money, he didn’t think he could accept the $10,000 honorarium that went with being selected to give the lecture and quietly and privately refused to accept it. Within days, The New York Times, without much checking and assuming he had taken the cash, attacked him as a hypocrite for criticizing the NIH and then accepting the award. He found that both amusing and saw it as further proof that one has to take what one reads in the paper with a grain of salt.
And this about academia . . .
He was asked in that CSPAN interview about the influence of the left-wing dominance of the academy and the influence of liberal or Marxist professors on their students [something several Civil War bloggers continue to deny]. He said they didn’t much worry him because in his experience the students at most of the universities at which he had taught may have written papers and given answers to please their professors, but didn’t necessarily believe or accept them. “A student who turns in an apparently Marxist paper to get through a course taught by a Marxist isn’t necessarily a Marxist,” he said “but one who understands the market.”
And just one more reason why Professor McDonald is one of my favorite historians - from National Review:
Another historian said to me, of Forrest, that he wanted to be as un-PC as possible.
You can watch the 3 hour C-Span interview with Professor McDonald here. I'm going to watch it and I'd recommend you do so as well.

24 January 2016

The Snowball Express

From the Shenandoah Valley blizzard of 2016 - Stuarts Draft, Virginia.

23 January 2016

Statues & Heroes

Some thoughts from across the pond. Seems like the moral reformers are quite active in jolly ol' England as well . . .

Hat tip to David Corbett.

22 January 2016

A Pubic School Teacher Believes I'm "On to Something"

In recent weeks, I've had the privilege of contributing 2 posts to the Emerging Civil War blog. Professor Chris Mackowski and the rest of the folks at ECW have a GREAT blog and offer some diverse opinions and perspectives. I've found their overall approach to the study of the WBTS very balanced. It is quite refreshing from the standard fare one sees on many popular Civil War blogs. The conversations there have thus far been lively, but civil.

Today, Chris posted some very intriguing comments he received from a public school teacher. In those comments, this gentleman had this to say about my blog:
Please indulge me here; my family fought for the Union, I am a military veteran , and I teach inner city public school in Atlantic City; ergo, I have a bit of cachet to write this. . . . I was struck by Richard Williams’ (Old Virginia Blog), use of the terms, ‘virtue-signalling’ and ‘presentism’ as revealed in the context mentioned above. He’s on to something.
If you'll take the time to read this teacher's comments I believe you'll come to the conclusion that he, too, is "on to something."

19 January 2016

My Latest Essay at Emerging Civil War - Happy Birthday General Lee

Robert E. Lee Statue - Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia
“Patriotism is the love of a land and its people, nationalism is the love of a government.”—Professor Clyde Wilson

“Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
—Mark Twain
The question of how one defines patriotism, loyalty, and “country” can differ between individuals and periods of history. These differences remain with us today.
Continue reading

16 January 2016

Southern Heritage & the Military Tradition

"One analysis of the Army’s officer corps in the early 1970s estimated that four out of five of its active generals were born in small southern towns." ~ Charles P. Roland

My, my, my . . . that explains so much, doesn't it?

15 January 2016

Confederate Deconstruction & Cronyism (Happy Lee-Jackson Day)

No surprises here:
It’s the old-school politics of ‘I scratch your back, you scratch my back.’
Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans has been pushing for the removal of monuments in the city since June and he seems to finally be getting his way.

With that, there is a definite pattern of Landrieu’s clan of well-connected monument removal supporters all being given comfortable committee seats on the city’s Tricentennial Commission and its subcommittees which fall under its control. [Source.]
As I observe politicians of low reputation and others attack the memory and legacy of a man like Robert E. Lee, I can't help but be reminded of a quote by Will Durant:

"To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves." 

I'm also reminded of something I once heard Professor James I. Robertson, Jr. say:

"Robert E. Lee never existed [in the minds of some] because we don't have a Robert E. Lee today."

Beyond the destruction of historical memory and heritage for agenda-driven political purposes, much of what we're currently witnessing also carries, in my opinion, strong elements of virtue signalling and self-aggrandizing. What is so ironic is that in the attempt to elevate themselves, these same men actually reveal themselves for the small men they are. They can't hold a candle to men like Lee. History will, eventually, judge them accordingly.

Happy Lee-Jackson Day.

13 January 2016

Some Thoughts on Removing Monuments

Pulling down the statue of George III by the "Sons of Freedom," at the Bowling Green, City of New York, July 1776 ~ painted by Johannes A. Oertel; engraved by John C. McRae.

From certain quadrants of historical interpretation (particularly in the Civil War blogosphere), we are now seeing an increase in the defense of removing monuments from the American landscape - whether those be Confederate monuments, or those which date to the Founding. When this extremist/radical notion first started to get traction, I was hopeful that most of these same folks would realize the slippery slope this is and at least make an attempt to put the brakes on the Social Justice Warrior route.

But some of the professional historian class are now, at the very least, softening any opposition they once had, succumbing to the arguments of presentism and couching that retreat in wordy, distracting defenses that involve little more than circular reasoning and psycho-babble. I've come to the conclusion these folks simply have too much invested in the SJW Revolution and must remain in the good graces of the warriors less they, too, become a target - CYA mode, if you please.

One of the growing arguments in favor of removing not only Confederate monuments, but Revolutionary era ones as well, suggests that since other countries have toppled monuments (i.e., Stalin, Saddam Hussein, etc.), then the current movement is simply an organic progression as history marches on. The moral reformer historians will also point to King George, III and the toppling of his statue in 1776 as an argument in favor of cleansing American history from our landscape.

All of these examples are poorly constructed, shallow arguments which, if one examines them closely, aren't intellectually defensible. But if you're into virtue signalling, they work rather well.

As I was already thinking along these lines after reading some recent posts on other CW blogs, I came across this observation by commentator Jarret Stepman this morning:
the war on Confederate monuments is part of the most recent effort by national activist groups to strip elements of American history deemed offensive and not in line with their current, ever-evolving political agenda. They wish to do more than create a new political order, and insist that the only way for the U.S. to move forward is by entirely erasing the past.

The anti-Confederate monument activists are not just setting their sights on the Confederacy, but American history as a whole—deep down they make little distinction between the Confederate founders and the Founding Fathers of the United States. There are plenty of reasons for critics–both contemporary and modern–to attack the Confederacy, especially the ideas that were at its cornerstone. Yet neither the ideas nor the personal character of the monuments’ likenesses are particularly relevant in this crusade. All that matters is that they are currently politically incorrect.
And then, the money quote:
The current efforts to fundamentally transform history are fueled by people who believe America has been rotten since day one and want nothing less than total political and cultural revolution.
These observations match up perfectly with many of Professor Gordon S. Wood's criticisms regarding academic historians and modern historiography. (See here, here and here.)

To see all of Stepman's well-written piece titled, Bulldozing Monuments and the War on American History, where he makes important distinctions between previous "statue-toppling" and what's going on now, click here.

12 January 2016

So Who Can Call Themselves a Civil War Historian?

Author and public historian, Gary Aldeman weighs in from the Civil War Trust . . .

But there is a 3rd way, as I posted in the comments section of the video . . .
While both of those [mentioned in the video] are equally legitimate (I see successful public historians being every bit as credible as academic ones), there is actually a 3rd way to become a historian. Proven work.

For example, I can think of several historians who gained respect not from a degree in the field nor from working for a museum, park, etc, but simply by the books and scholarship they produced. For example, Shelby Foote and Bruce Catton; neither of whom completed college. Then there are others who hold degrees in fields other than history who have proven their worthiness as historians. I'm thinking of Kent Masterson Brown, Eric Wittenberg and Gordon Rhea. All are attorneys and respected Civil War historians. There are many other examples, but just wanted to throw in these few examples. 
And just to be clear and as I've stated on numerous occasions, I do not consider myself a historian, even though others may "perceive" me as such. Perhaps one day I'll have produced a sufficient volume of respected work to earn that title. But, for now, I'm quite happy just being a Southern author who writes about history.

10 January 2016

Yankee Cemetery - Staunton, Virginia

8 January 2016: National Cemetery, Staunton, Virginia, © 2016 Richard G. Williams, Jr.
I've been asked to write 2 more essays for the Essential Civil War Curriculum which is an online Sesquicentennial project of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech.

The topic for one of those essays will be Civil War cemeteries. Living in the Shenandoah Valley provides me with some excellent source material close at hand - including the one referenced in the image here. I took this photo with an iPhone 6 and used an app to add a "grunge/vintage" look. I actually like the way it turned out, particularly with the Christmas wreaths.

Officially known as National Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia, this particular cemetery is still most often referred to as "Yankee Cemetery" by locals. This cemetery has an interesting history which I may tackle in the essay for ECWC. In 1870 there were 753 Civil War soldiers in the cemetery. Today, this hallowed ground is the final resting place for 989 fallen.

The cemetery is now full and has been closed for new burials since 1983.

09 January 2016

Free State of Jones - First Look

I'm really looking forward to seeing this film. A rebellion within a rebellion. What irony.

"No man oughta tell another man what he's gotta live for or what he's gotta die for." ~ Newton Knight 

The first look seems to indicate a rather libertarian worldview and a "rich man, poor man" interpretation of the WBTS. Interesting.

08 January 2016

Relic Hunting Post #141 - Mucho Minié Balls, Part II

Part 2 of my recent relic hunt (on private property) on a Civil War battlefield here in the Shenandoah Valley.

07 January 2016

My Daniel Boone Review at Emerging Revolutionary War

For those interested, Phill Greenwalt has cross-posted my review of Kent Masterson Brown's recent documentary about Daniel Boone here at Emerging Revolutionary War. It's a great blog and sister-site to Emerging Civil War. Check it out.

06 January 2016

Will 2016 See the End of PC Denials From Civil War Bloggers?

I doubt it. The ones making the denials have too much invested at this point. They'd have to admit (Oh my!) the error of their ways and I can assure you, that AIN'T gonna happen. But one of the biggest leftists in the United States has even had too much of the Political Correctness Virus - Norman Lear.
Though prolific producer Norman Lear called this the Golden Age of television, he also thinks what we’re seeing on the small screen these days is too politically correct. [Source.]
Yes, I know, this involves TV and not, specifically, historical analysis and writing. But the denials have not always been history specific, so the point stands.

Actually, I hope the deniers keep it up as it tells us much about them. 

First Tin-Type in a Combat Zone Since the Civil War?

That's the claim here. Very interesting.

Link here.