About Brooks D. Simpson

American historian.

Quote of the Week: October 12-18, 2014

I guess we’ve come to expect this from a supporter of the Virginia Flaggers:

Well soon the Pagan holiday will be here and those who celebrate and don their masks and costumes will be out into the night. I will say that many, costume or regular do, are already out and already doing their anti good, anti Southern heritage, and what is none of their business, their actions and criticisms and outright lies, which is what they have done for more than 150 years. I wanted to add a few photos of a few of the rascals, who we all can see everyday and not just on Halloween, people whom we wish were in West Africa, with all those who are remiss in hygiene, and health standards, who eat things in filth and who abode with certain animals and things that they should not abode with. Some American homosexuals do these same things I might add, and the diseases are created and spread by some of these filthy men and some women. All the diseases are not physical, some are diseases of the mind, spiritual diseases, where men say things they know are not true, about about themselves as well as about others.
Some of these men also use aliases and swear they they don’t. These liars, these homosexuals, these perverts, these racists who hide behind the shields and smokescreens they falsely create as they call you and I racists to cover there ill deeds, are as filthy as the West Africans in many respects. These assholes attack the innocents just as a nasty virus does, without regard for decency, or justification, as they are no respecters of men.

I think we all know what Jerry’s costume will look like.

Civil War Cinema

From Birth of a Nation through Gone With the Wind to Glory and Lincoln, film has played a powerful role in shaping how Americans understand the American Civil War (and, in several instances, Reconstruction). Of course, every time a film appears, the critics are sure to follow, with scholars asked to pick apart a film in terms of historical accuracy, followed by complaints that those scholars are jealous, etc.

Some of these issues appear in this discussion sparked by a new film, Field of Lost Shoes. I freely admit that I’ve not seen the movie: indeed, in many cases I avoid seeing certain movies when they are released, because I find the ensuing discussion as predictable as it is discouraging.

“Did you see The Moon Also Rises?”

“Wasn’t that wonderful history?”

“What did you think about it … as a historian, I mean?”

“Well, I still liked it.”

Later … “He’s so picky. Maybe he’s jealous. So what if it wasn’t accurate? I liked it.”

So I won’t say anything about Tom Skerritt’s portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant, even if someone got the buttons on his uniform jacket wrong.

Perhaps this is what happens when you look for a maverick, only to find Franz Sigel.

At least Sigel’s buttons are correct.

Do you have a favorite Civil War movie? Or a least favorite Civil War movie? Details, please …

Will WLU return the Confederate Flags to Lee Chapel?

What’s your opinion?

This does not concern the display of flags downstairs in the museum.

Can You Handle the Truth?

Simple question: Is Colonel Jessup right?

And then a not-so-simple question? Why?

 

What Would You Do? Danville’s Confederate Flag Discussion

Below is a poll asking you to choose from one of four options for the display of the Third National Confederate flag outside “The Last Capital of the Confederacy” at Danville, Virginia. The first option keeps things they way they were at the beginning of this week, with flying the Third National flag. The second adds a second flagpole on which the US national colors will fly, in the superior position, but it will keep the Third National flag flying. The third suggests that the Third National be flown outside upon special occasions when the museum is featuring Confederate history, but that otherwise it will not be flown. The fourth simply removes the Third National flag from flying outside, period.

As for my willingness to see the Third National flag fly at this location, let me be clear: it is a specific flag that would be flown in a specific historical context in an appropriate manner. Often we hear that the Confederate battle flag and especially the CSA navy jack/Army of Tennessee flag are inappropriate because of their use by white supremacist groups starting in the twentieth century. For example, I think the Virginia Flaggers err when they fly the CSA navy jack/Army of Tennessee flag as a salute to the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia. Not only do they fly a flag with no context, but the flag they fly also violates any sort of historical context.

Yes, I know what they’ll say. Do you know what I say?

That’s what you call being historically appropriate (well, the movie has so many other problems, including historical accuracy, but you know what I mean). After all, it’s not history, but heritage, with these folks, and we know that it’s a heritage of hate, judging from the bitterness spewed by their spokespeople and supporters.

The Third National flag does not carry with it the same modern-day white supremacist connotations as do the CSA navy jack and the Army of Tennessee flag, followed by the Army of Northern Virginia flag (the Flaggers have managed to devalue that flag’s meaning by using it interchangeably with its more problematic brethren). That doesn’t mean that it didn’t stand for a republic explicitly founded upon the cornerstone of human inequality and enslavement … although one could also argue that if African Americans were going to fight openly for the Confederacy as actual soldiers, they would have fought under the Third National flag. That suggests that fans of the notion of black Confederate soldiers and a rainbow Confederacy ought to use that flag to display a meaningful commitment to what they say they believe.

Don’t hold your breath, however.

The Danville Controversy: Why?

I gather there’s a controversy over the flying of the Confederate flag in Danville, Virginia. which boasts that it’s the last Confederate capital (at least the last stationary one, as it remained mobile for a little while longer). Confederate president Jefferson Davis resided in the town’s Sutherlin Mansion between the fall of Richmond and Lee’s surrender, which he learned about on April 10.

At stake appears to be whether a 1994 city council resolution represents a binding contract that would guarantee that the flag in question flies forever. As you might imagine, many supporters of Confederate heritage think that the resolution is binding. The Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History, which manages the Sutherlin Mansion site as a museum, has consulted with blogger Kevin Levin about how to address the issue.

What happens in Danville should be up to the folks in Danville, but in this case I’m going to suggest that they seek a solution that allows the flag in question to remain in place. After all, it is the Third National flag (see above) we are talking about, not the Confederate Battle Flag or the Confederate Navy Jack with all the connotations associated with that flag. Thus it is a historically appropriate flag. If the folks in Danville think they don’t want to see that flag, well, that’s their business, but one can contemplate compromise solutions that allow the flag of the Confederate government to fly at one of its last locations.

Here’s a news story about the matter. And another one (although you’ll hear the usual SCV claim that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, and that people need to be properly educated about that).

Mind you, many people with whom I usually agree will be dismayed at what I’ve said, while my usual critics will express first astonishment and dismay before trying to discount my position. However, in this instance I think one can make a case for the specific flag in question to be displayed in context at a historical site.

October 9, 1864: William T. Sherman Makes a Promise

Allatoona 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9th 1864
Lt. Gen. Grant
City Point

It will be a physical impossibility to protect this road now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler and the whole batch of Devils are turned loose without home or habitation. I think Hoods movements indicate a direction to the end of the Selma and Talladega road to Blue Mountain about sixty miles south west of Rome from which he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport and Decatur and I propose we break up the road from Chattanooga and strike out with wagons for Milledgeville Millen and Savannah.

Until we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it, but utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads we will lose a thousand men monthly and will gain no result. I can make the march and make Georgia howl. We have over 8,000 cattle and 3,000,000 pounds of bread but no corn, but we can forage the interior of the state.

W.T. Sherman

M. Genl.

A Neglected Bicentennial

There hasn’t been all that much fuss in the national consciousness about the bicentennial of the War of 1812, aside for a slight flurry last month in Baltimore that received attention because it coincided with Derek Jeter’s last visit to Baltimore.

That’s right, I kid you not.

In a small effort to remedy that shortcoming, I present this trailer to a forthcoming series:

I can’t wait to see the rest.