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.
___________h/t Mike Kendra of CW Talk
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.
One 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,
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.
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.
Small stories that don’t warrant full posts:
- CW buffs who use Google Earth may have noticed that Richmond was recently upgraded with LIDAR data (above), that includes individually-textured buildings, trees and even some road vehicles.
- The USS Monitor Center’s wet lab reopened in May, based on a verbal agreement by all parties. The contracts still need to be sorted out.
- As part of the previously-announced plan for establishment of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, the Museum of the Confederacy will begin transferring stewardship (but not ownership) of its archival materials to the Virginia Historical Society, where they will be scanned, indexed and made available to the public digitally.
- Saturday was the 213th birthday of David Glasgow Farragut.
- Robert M. Browning’s long-awaited volume on the Union blockade in the Gulf of Mexico, Lincoln’s Trident, will be released on January 15. It ain’t cheap, so start looking for loose change in the couch cushions now.
- The History Detectives had a show on the other day about the Sultana Disaster. Kinda interesting, but it’s almost all ground covered by Jerry Potter years ago.
- A tip for summer — after a long day at the beach, be sure to empty the hot coals out of your barbecue grill before loading it in the pickup for the drive home.
- Keith Harris has some observations about Shelby Foote as a storyteller, and as an historian. Hint: they’re not the same thing.
- And last, congratulations to my former Denbigh Project colleague Eric VanVelzen, who was recently promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard. Van is a former Marine and a Desert Storm veteran.
Got anything else? Put it in the comments below.
I see from Brooks’ blog that Billy Bearden, who not long ago said he would “hope and pray” for the gang rape of a federal judge whose decision he disagreed with, is at it once again. Then we have Carl “Amanda Buncle” Roden, Josephine “Shoot Up Your Kid’s School” Bass — all active voices in the Confederate Heritage™ movement whose violent fantasies bubble up to the surface every now and then.
Also, mark your calendars, it’s just 25 more days before James Montgomery-Ryan says he’s going to make sure “that the yankees [sic.] will be wiped from the earth,” through exile (to where, exactly?) or by firing squad.
It’s easy to point and laugh at silly people like John Hall, who a few months ago worked up the courage to stand for “Dixy” by stabbing a sheet of paper when no one else was around, but underneath it all runs a culture that rewards angry rhetoric and fosters a pathology of violent fantasy, actively abetted by their friends who ignore, defend or explain it away.
These are the Defenders of Southron Honour. Know them for who they are.
It’s an old saw that the citizenry of Vicksburg, Mississippi, did not celebrate the Fourth of July until well into the 20th century. While it’s certainly true that the anniversary of the fall of that city to Grant in 1863 continued to resonate with Vicksburg residents down through the years, in fact the date was observed by plenty of local residents, white and black, even if the celebration was unofficial and somewhat more muted there than elsewhere. And they were celebrating it even when the war itself was a recent memory. From the Vicksburg Daily Commercial, July 3, 1877:
To-morrow being the anniversary of our Nations independence, all patriotic citizens of this great Republic are expected to observe it as a holiday. We desire to be reckoned among this class of patriotic citizens, consequently no paper will be issued from this office to-morrow. The glorious Fourth happens to come in hot weather this year, and we are glad to be able to observe it ‘neath the shade of country forests.
And a follow-up, on July 5:
The people of Vicksburg came nearer celebrating the glorious Fourth yesterday than they have done for several years. True, there was no general suspension of business, as indicated by closed doors, but so far as the profits of trade were concerned doors might as well have been closed, for the salesrooms were deserted almost entirely. Everybody was out of town, apparently, enjoying the holiday in some way. Several hundred people attended the Hibernian picnic at Newman’s Grove, and not withstanding the extreme heat, all seemed to enjoy the festivities of the day. The colored population turned out in large force, fully one thousand men of them going down the river on excursion boats to picnic-grounds, yet there were enough of them left in the city to form a very respectable procession of colored Masons, and a very large audience to listen to the oration of Judge J. S. Morris, and to assist in laying the corner-stone of King Solomon’s Church. There was no prolific display of fire-works on the streets, but occasional reports from fire-crackers and large torpedoes could be heard, accompanied now and then by a patriotic cry, “rah for the Fourth of July!” We do not wonder at the lack of patriotic enthusiasm displayed on our streets. No amount of patriotism could have induced any sane man to exert himself very considerably on such a day when the thermometer registered very nearly 100° Farenheit [sic.] in the shade. However, the observance of Independence Day yesterday, slight as some may have thought it, was yet sufficient to indicate the prevalence of a broader National sentiment and a determination to at least partially forget the past which renders the Fourth of July especially distasteful to Vicksburgers, and make it in future “The Day We Celebrate” as much as any other National holiday.
To be sure, the Fourth of July remained a bitter date for many Vicksburg citizens, for a long time. Undoubtedly there are some who still reject the date as one for celebration. But in this, as in so much else about the legacy of the war, the reality is more complex than some would have us believe.
_____________A version of this post originally appeared here on July 4, 2011.
Great old song, performed here by Ed Miller. The audio isn’t great, but he adds some lines I’d never heard before.
I’d like to extend my thanks to the folks who came out to my book events at the Brazoria County Historical Museum on Thursday, the Galveston Bookshop on Saturday, and Eighteen Seventy-One on Sunday. I enjoy meeting people with similar interests. In the last few days I’ve met some very interesting people, including the owner of a fishing camp called “Blockade Runners,” whose sailboat he named Rob Roy, after William Watson’s schooner, and the author of a wonderful new field guide to Texas lighthouses, Richard Hall (no relation), whose work I was unaware of until Sunday but I bought it on the spot. Maybe more about that later.
It was especially nice to meet the family (right) of one blockade runners I mention in the book, David McCluskey. Captain Dave, as he was known, was one of the more audacious blockade-running masters I’ve encountered, in a profession where audacity is a prerequisite. You’ll definitely be hearing more about him.
Finally, I got to do a Q&A about the book with Galveston.com blogger Richard Varr, that you can read here.
Via my colleague Craig Swain, a Louisiana historical marker at the site of a Confederate Navy shipyard has gone missing:
The state-purchased aluminum marker just north of Cross Bayou at North Market Street roughly denotes the location of a Cross Bayou shipyard where the Confederate ironclad Missouri and a fast vessel known as a ram, the CSS Webb, were built. The marker was erected on a traffic island near Dupont Fish Market. “The rebar where it was mounted is just twisted like crazy,” said local historian and author Gary Joiner, who surveyed the spot with David Hill, commander of the local Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “There’s some rounded concrete that’s part of the core where they anchored the post that held the sign. But they is the shrubbery is not screwed up. There’s no tire tracks, nothing. It’s bizarre. How the heck would you pick something like that and carry it off? Maybe Andre the Giant, but not me.” Hill said he first noticed the sign was knocked down and resting on some shrubbery in late May. “In hindsight, I forgot about it,” he said. “When I remembered, I went down there and it was gone, and pole it used to stand on was very mangled.”
It’s not entirely clear whether this was an intentional act of vandalism, or if maybe someone knocked it down and hauled off the evidence before he could get caught. Here’s hoping it turns up or gets replaced soon.
__________Image via Richard Taylor Camp, SCV
Via user Barrycdog at CW Talk, comes news that the Civil War Preservation Trust will purchase the property where Robert E. Lee made his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg, 151 years ago this week.
I had no idea about that bit about Thaddeus Stevens. Small (19th century) world. Congrats to the Civil War Preservation Trust and all its members! You can help contribute to this project here.
An Appledore Sub Aqua Club diver over the forward boilers of the blockade runner Iona 2. Photo by James Wright, via The Independent.
Via Civil War Talk user Daywalker, researchers in Scotland have identified what they view as the central “headquarters” of Civil War blockade running:
Investigations by a leading Scottish maritime historian have succeeded, for the first time, in locating the main secret British headquarters of the American Civil War Confederate government’s transatlantic gun-running operation. Other research, carried out over the past decade, has revealed the extraordinary extent to which substantial sections of Britain’s business elite were working with impunity to help the slave-owning southern states win the Civil War – despite the fact that Britain was officially neutral and had outlawed slavery almost 30 years earlier. . . . In total some 200 vessels were purpose-built or upgraded on Clydeside, in Liverpool or in London for the Confederate states – and hundreds of thousands of guns (including heavy artillery) were manufactured in Birmingham, Newcastle and near London for the Confederate Army. The entirely illegal, but tacitly British-Government-approved pro-Confederate gun-running operation is thought to have lengthened the American Civil War by up to two years – and to have therefore cost as many as 400,000 American lives. “The identification of the Confederacy’s main secret gun-running headquarters should serve to highlight the role played by key elements of the British business elite in helping the slave-owning states in the American Civil War,” said maritime historian Dr Eric Graham of Edinburgh University. “The clandestine headquarters was established just 32 miles by railway from Clydeside because it was the big shipbuilding magnates there who were being contracted to build or upgrade more than half of the two hundred vessels supplied to the Confederacy by UK shipyards.” “It demonstrates that Britain’s neutrality was, in reality, a complete sham,” said Dr Graham, the author of a major book on the Civil War gun-runners, Clyde Built: The Blockade Runners of the American Civil War.
My own view is that Graham — whose book Clyde Built is outstanding — is overstating a bit both the role of the site in Bridge of Allan and the effect of blockade running on the prolongation of the war itself. The researchers do seem to have zeroed in on the center of blockade-running interests’ ship acquisition activities, but once selected vessels left the Clyde the site’s role must have been largely done. Blockade running was necessarily a decentralized business with lots of different players competing against each other, with the capital concentrated in and around Liverpool and (to a lesser degree) London. It was not a military operation with a central command; merchants operated through their agents and representatives in Halifax, Bermuda, Nassau and Havana. The story also focuses solely on the importation of munitions (“gun-running,” ugh), when a probably half or more of the cargoes carried by runners into the Confederacy were civilian goods, destined for private sale to the highest bidder.
Still, Graham and his colleagues are helping to fill in the blanks of the blockade-running story, and that’s all to the good. Be sure to click through and check out the images of the wreck of Iona 2 – quite spectacular, and very representative of runners like those that operated in the Gulf of Mexico, including Will o’ the Wisp, Banshee (II) and Owl.