The Future of Civil War Military History?

The Journal of the Civil War Era recently published a roundtable of views looking toward the future of Civil War scholarship.  Here’s what Barton A. Myers had to say about Civil War military history.  What do you think?  What does this tell us about how some people are defining (or redefining) the field of military history?

On the Concept of “The North”

Much has been made in historical writing about “the South.”  Defining the South, discussing what makes the South distinct, discussing whether the South is distinct, discussing the utility of the concept of “the South” as opposed to many Souths … and so on.  Discussions of southern identity have long been a stable of scholarship and something of a cottage industry. There’s even a Southern Historical Association.

But what about “the North?”  What exactly is “the North?”  Is it what is not “the South?’  Of course not: no one would define California, for example, as part of the North, although much is made of the distinctions between northern and southern California.  Indeed, do so-called northerners recognize themselves as northerners outside of discussions about the South and southerners?  After all, folks from Wisconsin, New York, and Massachusetts are all northerners, but do they see themselves as sharing a common identity?  I’d argue no: southerners are far more likely to recognize a regional identity as southerners, while to the north there are distinctions between New England, New York, perhaps the Middle Atlantic states, and the Midwest/old Northwest … and that’s for starters. There is no Northern Historical Association (there is a Western Historical Association, by the way).

One could argue that “the North” does not exist except as a counterpart to “the South,” a construct constructed by (mostly white) southerners to make comparisons … maybe even to turn the notion of crafting “the other” on its head.  That is, many people define “American” in largely northern terms, rendering the South as a different (even exotic) land; in turn white southerners define a North in ways that serve their own bolstering of southern identity and distinctiveness.

The term clarifies some things and obscures others.  For example, I don’t think much of portraying the Civil War as North versus South.  That blurs divisions and diversity within both regions; moreover, very few people would define Maryland, Kentucky, or Missouri as northern (this issue is somehow less pressing when it comes to Delaware).

So how do you define “the North?”  Why?

Groundbreaking Day

Click here to hear President Obama speak at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., the newest member of the Smithsonian family of museums.  For more on the museum, including an interview with director Dr. Lonnie Bunch, visit here.

So … say you were placed in charge of an exhibit entitled “The African American Experience During the Civil War.”  What stories would you tell?  What exhibits would you mount?  What would you want visitors to your museum exhibit to learn and to think about long after they had left the exhibit?



The other General Lee and another General Grant

Speaking of tanks …

… this is the M3 Lee tank, the first American main battle tank (then often called medium tank) of World War II (there was also an M3 Stuart light tank, as well as a M5 Stuart light tank).

The British ordered a variation of the M3, called the Grant.  Compare the turrets to see the biggest difference:

This Grant tank is at the Imperial War Museum in London; it served as General Montgomery’s headquarters tank.

The General Lee … and the General Grant

NASCAR raised quite a fuss in some quarters a few days ago by deciding that a 1969 Dodge Charger, one of the “General Lee” cars used in the 1970s TV near-classic The Dukes of Hazzard, would not appear on the track at the Phoenix International Raceway.  It’s not the first time these past few weeks that the display of the Confederate flag in Arizona has received press coverage.  And, despite the fact that another blogger has located Phoenix in Florida (which would make it far easier for me to go to Disney World with Eli Manning of the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants), it’s safe to say, that once more the responses were largely predictable and a bit careworn, with a few reasonable views thrown in.

But who needs the General Lee when you can drive … the General Grant?

Enough said.