Monthly Archives: May 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial

New monument to Southern soldiers at Shiloh Military Park

New monument to Southern soldiers at Shiloh Military Park

WIth the recent anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter our nation moved into a four year commemoration of our Civil War, or the War Between the States, which was, without a doubt, the most difficult and traumatic time in US history. Our Northern friends might ignore the subject. But for most native born Southerners especially, it is a subject bound to come up in any history discussion. Why? Because  this is where it happened, here in the South, in our backyards, on our farms, on our rivers, and regrettably, under the asphalt of highways and shopping centers.

In this commemoration, there will be a quiet before the storm. From the firing on Fort Sumter to the first great battle of the war in July at First Manassas in VIrginia,there were few battles. Little happened except for the seccession of the upper South States from the old Union into the new confederacy. It was a time of preparation when all across the 32 American states North and South, militia units formed, trying out their new weapons and strutting in new uniforms on the parade ground and  in photographs sent home to their families before marching off to camps of instruction, most of them eager young men worried to death that the whole business would be over with before they had a chance to meet the enemy on the field and prove their mettle. In those first months it was largely a war of words. Experts predicted that the war would be short, that the whole business would blow over in a matter of weeks or months. One journalistic genius predicted that the blood to be shed wouldn’t fill a thimble.

Officially the last state to jump into the fray and take the plunge, Tennnesse, my home state, seceded in June after the results of a statewide vote were tallied. This state’s reluctance was largely due to the fact that the Eastern portion of the state was divided pretty much down the middle. Those in the mountainous areas did not share the concerns of rebellious slaveholders under the leadership of Governor Isham Harris.

But the fat was in the fire and Tennessee, to her dismay, would be later be the first state of the newly formed Confederacy to host a victorious Union army. Nashville would be the first major Southern city to pass into Union hands. When the stars and stripes were again raised over our state capital building, they stayed. Nashville was not recaptured. During the war years Tennessee would host more major campaigns and battles than any other state with the exception of VIrginia. Rivers of blood flowed here and one can visit CW sites and cemeteries from one end of the state to the other.

Throughout this four-year commemoration I’ll be commenting and keeping my readers informed. As a lad I caught the CW “bug” attending centennial celebrations. Over the years, many of those spent as a CW “reenactor”, my interest has never waned. I’ve read dozens, maybe hundreds of books and articles, acted in movies, made presentations and delivered lectures to various groups, talked to patient listeners until they run me off, visited dozens of battlefields, embarked on a CW novel, and so much more.  I’ve always found the subject fascinating.

You may not always appreciate what I have to say but I promise you this: I will be fair-minded, non-offensive, and informed. The woods, especially Southern woods, are full of CW “experts”. Our name is legion and we can often be tedious. I’ll do my best to avoid this. My articles will be short and to the point. Many will highlight Tennessee’s experience. In others, I’ll go after myths. Incredibly, misinformation on the CW has never ceased. Many popular misconceptions persist. Hollywood does it’s part.  As long as there’s a movie industry, bloggers, scholars,  and  historians like myself will have our work cut out. There will be book reviews, what to read and what to avoid.  There’s work to do. Let’s get started.


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