Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Uncle Billy’s Got His Eyes on You. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 23, 2014

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In Atlanta:

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Do not run for cover, good citizens. It’s only Sherman’s stern visage that has returned in “Apparitions,” artist Gregor Turk’s temporary public art installation commissioned by Atlanta Celebrates Photography and Art on the Beltline.
 
Sherman’s eyes stare down from five different billboards clustered together along the Atlanta Beltline adjacent to Piedmont Park (a quarter mile north of the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Drive), and have since March.
 
This is actually the third phase of Turk’s project. In the first phase, which went up last fall, the billboards were covered with images of blank billboards, photographed in a previous Turk project and suggesting mischief to come. It arrived in the second phase when the billboards were plastered with life-size images of the very views they obscured.
 
Part three, titled “Look Away,” strikes a more serious and provocative note.
 
“The configuration of the encircling billboards could be construed as an inverted version of the Cyclorama featuring Sherman’s eyes rather than the battle he witnessed from nearby Copenhill,” Turk wrote in an email to the AJC, referencing the site of the current-day Carter Center.
 
The artist clarified that his intention was “to reflect on the city’s progress and shortcomings since its destruction 150 years ago through the intimidating gaze of Sherman.”

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Remarkably, not everyone seems happy about this public art installation. Imagine that.

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Richmond as Viewed from Church Hill, 1865

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 22, 2014

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Tinkering around with a new zoomable image viewer tool. Built up from four separate images from the Library of Congress:

http://zoom.it/fXR7

This should work well for maps, too.

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Friday Night Concert: Weird Al Yankovic’s “Word Crimes”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 18, 2014

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This may even better than the bluegrass barn dance cover by Postmodern Jukebox. Enjoy.

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Deep Sea Detectives: The Mystery of U-166

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 16, 2014

Given recent news items about the exploration of U-166 and her last victim, the passenger liner Robert E. Lee, folks might be interested in this old Deep Sea Detectives episode about the discovery and original study of those vessels:

 

U-166 was discovered in 2001 by two archaeologists from C&C Technologies, Rob Church and Dan Warren, going over data collected for a pipeline survey. I think it was Dan who first suggested the blurry shape might be U-166, which had never been found but was supposedly sunk many miles away. The boat’s hull is broken forward of the deck gun, and the two sections are some distance apart on the sea floor.

Once it had been determined that the wreck was indeed U-166, there was a lot of additional research done both in the U.S. and in Germany. Captain Kuhlmann’s widow was still living, and she had a trunk of his that had been sent to her after his loss that she had left intact. In it were photographs and film footage (below) of the boat during its working-up trials in the Baltic and passage to its forward operating base at L’Orient.

 

 

Digital reconstruction of U-171, another Type IXC U-boat that figures in this story, on Flickr here.

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Beating a Dead Traveller

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 13, 2014

You had to know that Brandon Dorsey, the local Confederate Heritage™ guy in Lexington, would be all over the Washington and Lee flag business, calling for the university to “return the mausoleum to the ownership of the Lee Memorial Association.” I’m not sure who Dorsey is talking about, as the Lee Memorial Association that originally funded the mausoleum appears to have furled its banner decades ago. There’s a present-day Robert E. Lee Memorial Association that operates Stratford Hall, that was begun in New York state and adopted its current name when it moved to Virginia in the 1970s, but that’s (1) clearly not the same group as in the 1880s, and (2) is one that has no claim, legal or otherwise, to the site at W&L.

Dorsey, who calls W&L President Ken Ruscio “the nations [sic.] most notorious grave robber,” has a pretty abysmal track record as a coordinator of protests going back to the Lexington flag ordinance in 2011. That ordinance passed easily, despite Dorsey’s efforts to bring in dozens of people from out of town to tell the Lexington City Council how to run their little city; his campaign to oust Mayor Mimi Elrod, that also relied heavily on people not actually from Lexington, came to naught in 2012 when Elrod won re-election by a wider margin than before; the lawsuit against the city he encouraged in federal court was a complete bust, and his ongoing boycott of the city has had no observable effect on the local tourist economy.

He did successfully coordinate the installation of a fiberglass statue of Stonewall Jackson with a sword in one hand and a golden cross in the other, by the same sculptor who did the dinosaurs-eating-Yankees amusement park, so there’s that.

Interestingly, in making his call for W&L to turn over the mausoleum to a private organization that appears not to exist, Dorsey cites the wording of the original 1882 agreement transferring the mausoleum to the school:

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That upon the completion of the mausoleum and its inauguration under the auspices of this Association the title to, and the care and custody of, both the mausoleum and the marble statue of General Lee shall be vested in the corporation of Washington and Lee University, upon the sacred trust that the mausoleum shall be preserved as a perpetual place of sepulture for the remains of Gen. R. E. Lee, and of Mrs. Lee, and of such other members of their family as it maybe the pleasure of the family to have interred there, and that the building and statue shall receive from the authorities of the University such care and attention from time to time as shall be needful for their preservation; and upon the further trust that neither the mausoleum, nor the ground upon which it is erected, nor the statue and appurtenances of the mausoleum, shall ever be in any way, or to any extent, liable for any claim against, or debt of said University, or be charged with any mortgage, deed of trust, or other encumbrance.

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Dorsey doesn’t explain why this particular passage is important, perhaps because it isn’t.  Nothing Washington and Lee has done violates this agreement. They haven’t mortgaged the mausoleum, or put it up as collateral, or interfered with the interments of Lee and his family. They removed decorative flags that wouldn’t be added for almost another fifty years, as is their prerogative as owners of the Washington and Lee Chapel.

Everything I’ve read about Lee suggests to me that he abhorred flashy showmanship, and was more than a little uncomfortable with the fame and renown he achieved during his lifetime. As I said last week, he didn’t use his five years as president of Washington College to turn the school  into the Confederate shrine some people today want it to be, and I genuinely believe he would be embarrassed by the desire by some to make his and his family’s resting place a shrine of quasi-religious veneration, a sort of Confederate Lourdes or a Dixified version of the Kaaba. I certainly don’t believe he would have any patience with the hair-on-fire shriekers who use his memory as an excuse to engage in the most vile sort of threats, name-calling and accusation in defense of Confederate Heritage. The real, live Robert Edward Lee, a Virginia patrician first and last, wouldn’t have had those people in his front parlor.

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See Y’all in Fort Worth!

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 12, 2014

TCWMI’ll be visiting the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth with some of the crew from CW Talk and signing copies of the blockade running and Buffalo Bayou books from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March July 26. The museum is located at 760 North Jim Wright Freeway. I haven’t visited before, but I’ve heard lots of great things about its collection. Hope to see you there!

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I Should Have My Grog Stopped for This. . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 11, 2014

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. . . but I missed an important sesquicentennial Wednesday, the 150th anniversary of the Admiralty Order in Council that established the White Ensign as the sole preserve of the Royal Navy. Prior to 1864, British warships might display any of three different ensigns, based on an archaic system dating back to the Restoration. (Really, don’t ask.)

So while the famous White Ensign had been around for a couple of hundred years before that in one form or another, we’re going to call July 9 the White Ensign’s 150th birthday.

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Another Review for Blockade Running

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 11, 2014

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Andrew Wagenhoffer at Civil War Books and Authors has a review of the blockade running book. Money quote:

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Civil War Blockade Running on the Texas Coast occupies a place among the better quality titles attached to the publisher’s expansive catalog of popular Civil War subject overviews. Along with the content highlights already noted, it is well stocked with area maps, photographs and other illustrations, including many graphical renderings of the ships mentioned. Though a bibliography is absent, sources used can be traced through Hall’s endnotes. An exhaustive scholarly history of West Gulf Blockading Squadron operations authored by one of the premier Civil War naval historians will be available later this year, but many readers with a particular interest in Galveston’s central place in those events will be well satisfied with Hall’s popular account.

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h/t to my colleague Mark Jenkins for flagging this one.
 

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The 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 10, 2014

Here is GNMP Ranger Bill Hewitt discussing the 26th North Carolina Infantry on the third day at Gettysburg. A Confederate Battle Flag believed to be that of the 26th North Carolina, designated “No. 62″ by the U.S. War Department, will be the first original flag exhibited at the Lee Chapel Museum at Washington and Lee University under the plan announced earlier this week.

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h/t Mike Kendra of CW Talk

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On Washington and Lee

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 8, 2014

My colleague Kevin Levin has the rundown on the official response by Washington and Lee University over the presence of Confederate flags in the Lee Chapel. It’s a positive move, I think, that the current replica flags — how many visitors understood they are modern reproductions, dating only from 1995, I wonder? — that had no identification or explanation, will be replaced with actual historic flags, displayed in rotation  in correct environmental conditions and with appropriate labeling.

The usual suspects are responding in the usual way, of course, including making a threat of arson in response to the “dark students” whose complaint started this process. (Carl liked that one, BTW.)

TraditionsOne common whinge that we’ve heard for a while now is the W&L has somehow turned its back on the legacy of Robert E. Lee. That’s funny, since anyone with the slightest knowledge of the school knows otherwise. As it happens, my household has been fairly inundated lately with university recruiting materials, including multiple mailings from W&L. One of them is a short brochure called “Traditions of Honor.” When you open it, the very first lines begin,

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In 1865, a young man from Tennessee approached his school’s president, Robert E. Lee, to ask for a copy of the rules. “We have no printed rules,” Lee replied kindly. “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student must be a gentleman.” More than a century later, the essence of that simple statement still holds true.

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Robert E. Lee not only figures prominently in the school’s public image, but present-day Washington and Lee considers him and his reputation to be an effective recruiting tool.

Everything I’ve read about Robert E. Lee’s five-year tenure in Lexington — a longer period, it should be noted, than he wore a Confederate gray uniform — indicates that he gave everything he had to Washington College, with the intent of making it the best possible school he could. He did not, as far as I know, intend for it to become Confederate Candyland or a reliquary to the Lost Cause, as some seem to want it to be. The focus of the present-day Washington and Lee University is exactly where it should be, on Lee’s contributions and legacy to the school. I have no doubt whatever that, were he here today, like Jefferson before him Lee would be more proud of the university he helped build than anything else he did in his public life.

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