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Southern Cultures: Remembering the Civil War Issue: Volume 19: Number 3 – Fall 2013 Issue

Southern Cultures: Remembering the Civil War Issue: Volume 19: Number 3 – Fall 2013 Issue

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Southern Cultures: Remembering the Civil War Issue: Volume 19: Number 3 – Fall 2013 Issue

Lunghezza:
229 pagine
2 ore
Pubblicato:
Sep 1, 2013
ISBN:
9781469609065
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Our Fall 2013 special issue commemorates the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Featuring essays on the birth of photojournalism at the Battle of Antietam, the struggle over history and memory in the pages of Confederate Veteran Magazine, a historian's-eye-view of Charleston's Secession Ball, poetry from the Poet Laureate of the United States, Civil War remembrances from the Southern Oral History Program, and much more.

Contents

Front Porch
by Harry L. Watson
"The most powerful memories of the Civil War continue to be the personal stories, and while the transmission may be sputtering today, they remain the most evocative, both of the winners' frail victories and the losers' human pain."

Uncovering the Confederacy of the Mind
Or, How I Became a Belle of the Ball in Denmark Vesey's Church
by Blain Roberts
"We started to wonder: did twenty-first-century Charleston have separate—even segregated—tourism industries, one that focused on the city's white history and another that told of its black past?"

"The Great Weight of Responsibility"
The Struggle over History and Memory in Confederate Veteran Magazine
by Steven E. Sodergren
"'In the name of the future manhood of the South I protest. What are we to teach them? If we cannot teach them that their fathers were right, it follows that these Southern children must be taught that they were wrong.'"

The Revenant
photographs by Matthew P. Shelton
"I drilled until the book was lace."

Rebecca Harding Davis's Human Stories of the Civil War
by Mark Canada
"'The war is surging up close about us.—O . . . if I could put into your and every true woman's heart the inexpressible loathing I have for it! If you could only see the other side enough to see the wrong the tyranny on both!'"

Maffitt, May 1861–September 1862
An excerpt from Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War
by Bland Simpson
"'No war? I have come to you directly from Washington City, where the caissons are rolling, where a great army has been gathering, where Lincoln is planning for war. Whether you are or not.'"

"Truthful as the Record of Heaven"
The Battle of Antietam and the Birth of Photojournalism
by John M. Harris
"'Let him who wishes to know what war is look at this series of illustrations. These wrecks of manhood thrown together in careless heaps or ranged in ghastly rows for burial were alive but yesterday.'"

"Mississippi's Greatest Hour"
The Mississippi Civil War Centennial and Southern Resistance
by Alyssa D. Warrick
"From the outset, Mississippi's commission had a clear goal, evinced by its name. The Mississippi Commission on the War Between the States was unapologetically pro-Confederate, though willing to acknowledge, however begrudgingly, the Union victory."

Voices from the Southern Oral History Program
"I Know It by Heart"
The Civil War in the Memories of John W. Snipes, Ralph W. Strickland, Edith
Mitchell Dabbs, and Reginald Hildebrand
interviewed by Brent Glass, Lu Ann Jones, Elizabeth Jacoway Burns, and Rob Stephens
compiled and introduced by Rachel F. Seidman
"'When my husband James was growing up, there was no race question. They assumed that was settled by the war. The Negroes were slaves and then they weren't. That settled it.'"

Mason-Dixon Lines
Elegy for the Native Guards
poetry by Natasha Trethewey
". . . 2nd Regiment, Union men, black phalanx.
What is monument to their legacy?"

About the Contributors


Southern Cultures is published quarterly (spring, summer, fall, winter) by the University of North Carolina Press. The journal is sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for the Study of the American South.

Pubblicato:
Sep 1, 2013
ISBN:
9781469609065
Formato:
Libro

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Southern Cultures - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for the Study of the American South

Contributors

front porch

This issue asks: How should we remember the Civil War? National Cemetery, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1974, photographed by Raymond W. Smith.

Readers who experienced the Civil War Centennial of 1961–65 may recall a pair of cartoons that circulated widely in those days. In one, a doddering Union veteran clutches the Stars and Stripes and wearily advises, Forget it. In the other, an equally old but defiant Confederate brandishes his own side’s Battle Flag and snarls back, Fergit, hell! In a brief online search, I found no trace of the Yankee, but Fergit, hell! is still plentiful, as a license plate, a bumper sticker, and a slogan in debate.

If we can’t forget it, how should southerners remember the Civil War? Over the years, we’ve done so in many ways. Well into the twentieth century, African Americans honored Emancipation with repeated commemorations, variously focusing on the Proclamation itself, on other key milestones, and especially on Juneteenth or June 19, fully two months after Appomattox, when federal troops finally brought freedom to Galveston, Texas. Once a local holiday, Juneteenth celebrations are now more widespread than ever.

Southern white memory has been utterly different in tone but much more conspicuous. First came private sorrow, bitterness, and rage, immediately searing the survivors and ultimately preserved in family stories. My mother remembered the promising youth who was supposed to become a doctor but went to war instead. He came back so traumatized that he was never good for anything, and forced his wife to support the family. My father could tell of his great-grandparents with six sons. One died beforehand, one lost an arm, three died in combat, and one returned whole. When those personal losses prompted recognition, it usually occurred in cemeteries, over the graves of the fallen themselves. Only later, as the cult of the Lost Cause gathered strength, did monument-building move to the public square and place all those obelisks and bronze sentinels to guard our courthouse lawns. Later still, when the immediate participants had all gone and even the family stories were beginning to fade, many came to overlook the grief and pain, not to mention the issue at stake, and remembered the Civil War era as an age of lost splendor, when belles were belles and men were heroes. The reenactment craze began among women, as society ladies donned hoop skirts to give house tours, assert their social standing, and show off their azaleas. Aside from squiring their partners to antebellum balls, men only joined in later, reenacting actual battles and reliving the glorious days when white male command needed no defense or explanation.

Acts of Civil War remembrance once reinforced the public order of segregation and Jim Crow. They also confirmed the private memories of most whites, or even replaced them, as when anti-Confederate families and regions forgot there was any such thing as southern Unionism. With Jim Crow legally dead and publicly unregretted, however, the picture has become more complicated. Diversity has entered Civil War memory, with secessionist celebrations vying with Juneteenth ceremonies and widely attended municipal events that applaud Emancipation. Will one set of rituals finally inspire universal veneration for the new birth of freedom? Or will the others sustain a memory of victimization that is just as sad and bitter as the old official version? It’s hard to be sure, but this issue of Southern Cultures explores the range of possibilities.

Wall Mural, Jacksonville, Florida, 1974, photographed by Raymond W. Smith.

Blain Roberts starts us off with a trip to Charleston’s Secession Ball, held on December 20, 2010, the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession. Her visit grew out of a book she is writing with her husband about the current Sesquicentennial, and it took her to rival commemorations, in which belles and beaux faced black protestors originating from the church of Denmark Vesey, South Carolina’s most famous slave rebel. Charleston being Charleston, Roberts found the cult of the Lost Cause putting up a brave front, but can’t decide at last whether anger or ridicule is the right response, when even secessionists seek public sympathy by comparing themselves to Rosa Parks.

Novelist Rebecca Harding Davis had a harder time with ambivalence. Davis experienced the War firsthand in Wheeling, Virginia, until it became West Virginia, so she was clearly on the cusp of divided loyalties. Mark Canada tells us how she responded with stories that retold the pain and horror of war without taking sides, evenhandedly describing the violence and inhumanity of both armies, and conveying the ambiguous struggles between masters and slaves or Yankees and Confederates that left no room for heroism anywhere. Was her War just a meaningless calamity? Davis seems to have thought so, but that seems to be a minority opinion. Canada leaves us to choose.

Unlike Davis, Bland Simpson does not reject heroism. His new book, Two Captains from Carolina, tells the story of two Civil War–era seamen, one black, one white, and in his telling, both heroic. Simpson has favored us with an excerpt on John Newland Maffitt, a distinguished officer in the Confederate Navy, which eloquently conveys his bravery, intelligence, and initiative. Like Rebecca Harding Davis, Simpson shows little interest in ideology here, but while she focused on pain without purpose, he admires courage and great stories on both sides of the conflict. That approach once made it easier for North and South to make peace and move on. Can it do the same for southerners white and black?

Of all the ways to record human memory, perhaps photography has the greatest claims to authenticity. In fact, the camera can lie and often has done so, even prior to Photoshop, but photographs still offer a directness of imagery that word, brush, and voice cannot approach. Americans began to learn this when a pioneer band of cameramen fanned across the battlescapes of the Civil War, replacing their early jaunty portraits of cocksure recruits in their spotless uniforms with the awful stillness of the swollen dead. We always think of Mathew Brady in this regard, but few of us realize that Brady assistants like Alexander Gardner did much of the work and deserve much of the credit for inventing wartime photography. In his essay, John M. Harris explains how Gardner came to camera work and first captured the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam. Without his harrowing images, all the war’s memories would surely be very different.

Two articles deal with historic efforts to venerate the Confederate past. Steven Sodergren covers the work of Confederate Veteran Magazine, the official organ of the United Confederate Veterans, which campaigned for a true history of the war from 1893 to 1932. He finds that readers and writers struggled very hard to record the precise details of every engagement, all claiming a monopoly of the truth. Instead of refuting their northern counterparts, however, they often resorted to simple bans on biased works and at least one decorous book burning. In a similar vein, but with higher stakes, Alyssa Warrick shows how the Mississippi Civil War Centennial crusaded to instill a memory of the War that would bring in tourist dollars while rebuffing the Civil Rights Movement. That version of the past still flourishes in some quarters but not in all. The last time I was in Jackson, the banners flapping at the airport read Mississippi Welcomes Black History Month.

When we looked for contributions to this issue, we did not anticipate an enraged response, but Matthew Shelton feels the weight of Civil War memory so painfully that he physically attacks it. We’ll let him explain how the tattered fragments of an antique book became the subjects of his photo essay. His approach will certainly worry bibliophiles, but no one can deny its energy. His transformation of solid tradition into lacy wisps will shock some, while others will understand his impulse immediately.

For me, the most powerful memories of the Civil War continue to be the personal stories and family lore still handed down between generations. Those were my first memories of the Civil War, and while the transmission may be sputtering today, they remain the most evocative, both of the winners’ frail victories and the losers’ human pain. Our concluding pieces plumb those traditions directly. From the collections of the Southern Oral History Program, Associate Director Rachel Seidman has selected stories from the memories of four southerners that range from old men’s tales of Gettysburg to a black professor’s musings on his name. Finally, we are deeply honored by the opportunity to reprint Elegy for the Native Guards, by Natasha Trethewey, Poet Laureate of Mississippi and the United States. She begins by evoking an earlier elegy, Allen Tate’s Ode to the Confederate Dead, written from a Confederate graveyard and replete with high modernist mourning for lost and irretrievable nobility. Unlike Tate’s fallen, Trethewey’s black fighters for freedom and the Union do not have the dignity of a marker from the present, for even their graves have washed into the Gulf. But they have something greater, she reminds us: the just regard of God’s deliberate eye.

In Uncovering the Confederacy of the Mind, Blain Roberts attends the Secession Gala in Charleston, South Carolina, which leads her to ask if a collective fantasy that fabricates history and yet insists on accuracy in period costume is cause for concern or simply an opportunity for a good laugh. Charleston Battery houses damaged by shell fire, 1865, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

With this issue, we welcome Ayse Erginer and Emily Wallace as our new executive editor and deputy editor, respectively. Readers and especially contributors know Ayse as our longtime critic and corrector, a magician who turns the doughiest prose into Southern Cultures material, issue after issue. Emily is an old friend at the Center for the Study of the American South but a newcomer to the journal. The editors rejoice to have them both, and look ahead with them to many more years of memory and prophecy alike.

HARRY L. WATSON, Editor

ESSAY

Uncovering the Confederacy of the Mind

Or, How I Became a Belle of the Ball in Denmark Vesey’s Church

by Blain Roberts

Blain Roberts: The Confederate Heritage Trust was sponsoring a Secession Gala at Gaillard Municipal Auditorium [in Charleston]. I would rub elbows with hundreds of revelers dressed in hoop skirts and militia uniforms, men and women who believed the Old South was the apex of civilization and mourned its destruction. Ruins of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar, Broad and Legare Streets, Charleston, South Carolina, 1861, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I was so rushed that I could barely maintain my balance. The struggle to pull pantyhose over my tired feet, newly liberated from a pair of running shoes that had pounded the streets of Charleston all day, was about to get the best of me. It was a memorable ordeal: pantyhose don’t exactly make a regular appearance in my wardrobe. But that wasn’t the most remarkable thing about that moment. It was where I was changing my clothes, and why. There I was, in the bathroom at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, slipping into a ball gown for a gala to celebrate the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the United States in 1860. For the next five hours, I would rub elbows with hundreds of revelers dressed in hoop skirts and militia uniforms, men and women who believed the Old South was the apex of civilization and mourned its destruction. Yet I was getting dressed in Emanuel. This was the congregation to which Denmark Vesey, executed in 1822 for plotting a slave rebellion in Charleston, had belonged. This was the congregation in which the black revolutionary had developed a theology of liberation that ended in a plot to undermine the foundation of the Old South. In 1822, Vesey had hoped to free slaves from the very group of people the costumed gala-goers were assembling to honor at the secession ball almost two centuries later.¹

How did I get here?

It’s hard to say exactly when and where my road to the secession ball began, but Charleston itself—in June 2005—is probably as good a place as any. That month, just two weeks before we were to marry, my fiancé and I had driven from Chapel Hill to Charleston to look for an apartment. We would be moving in the fall to start our careers as professional historians. I had accepted a job at The Citadel. Ethan had earned a postdoctoral fellowship at the Avery Research Center, an African American institute affiliated with the College of Charleston. We knew we wanted to live downtown, in the heart of what is known as Historic Charleston, and we hoped to find what everybody wants when they move to the city: hardwood floors, high ceilings, exposed brick. Yet these quaint fantasies began to recede near Manning, South Carolina, as our formerly reliable Mazda started sputtering. We had to stop. After locating a mechanic, who told us the repairs would take three hours, I phoned the woman with whom we had made our first appointment to tell her we would be late to view her apartment. Car trouble, I explained.

Later that afternoon, we rang the bell of a beautiful antebellum home in Charleston. The owner, who lived in the top two floors and rented out the bottom, answered the door. Margaret, we’ll call her, was not the kind of woman who knew people with cars that broke down. The meticulously restored basement apartment, updated with a sparkling kitchen and custom-made window treatments, appeared ready for a Southern Living photo shoot. As she ushered us through the rooms, we asked about the home. Did she know much about its construction? What about previous owners, or how the various floors and rooms had originally been used? Like many Charlestonians who spend their days surrounded by the relics of the past, our prospective landlady had done her research, sort-of. The

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