Memorial Day, 2016: Americans in Europe

Last June I traveled to Luxembourg, Belgium, and France to visit various military sites, including a host of battlefields. I happened to be present at the bicentennial of the battle of Waterloo, just as I had been present at the sesquicentennial of the battle of Gettysburg.

I remember those visits well. Yet what impressed me most was the number of American military cemeteries in the area, commemorating the dead of World Wars I and II. I spent a good deal of time exploring several World War I cemeteries, including the largest (Meuse-Argonne) as well as the smallest (Flanders Field), which I visited first.

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The entrance to the American military cemetery at Flanders Field.
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Signs of remembrance inside the chapel, featuring the ever-present poppy.
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The graves surround the chapel at Flanders Field. Although they seem to be many, this is the smallest World War I cemetery there.
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This soldier died on the day the war ended.
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You see many crosses, but you also see the Star of David.

The Aisne-Marne Cemetery is located near Belleau Wood. You can see the edge of the woods behind the chapel.

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Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, near Belleau Wood, France.
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Some 2,289 Americans are buried here.
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The graves went on and on under a clear sky in a meticuously-maintained resting place.
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Looking eastward … this cemetery is not far from Chateau-Thierry, and Belleau Wood is just behind it.
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At each cemetery, there is a chapel, containing the names of the unidentified dead. The US 2nd Division held this position.

Perhaps the eeriest moment during this part of my visit came when I traveled to a nearby German cemetery, only to discover that you could see the American cemetery from it:

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Former foes face each other in common repose.

As we moved through France, we came upon more cemeteries. Not all were to American soldiers, of course; that’s a story for another day, and I told part of it earlier this year in recalling my visit to Verdun.

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Here is the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, where 6,012 Americans are buried.
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Trees line the cemetery, enclosing the major sections.
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That fact would have come as great comfort to Joyce Kilmer, who is buried here.
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One American soldier killed during World War I is not buried in a World War I cemetery, although he’s buried in France. That’s Quentin Roosevelt, whose mother arranged for this monument to be erected in Chamery just after the war. A fighter pilot, Roosevelt was shot down in the skies behind this fountain on July 14, 1918.
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Roosevelt’s plane crashed in the fields behind the fountain. Today his body rests next to that of his brother, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., at the American military cemetery at Normandy.

As much as one wants to comprehend the ebb and flow of military operations, these cemetaries draw upon one’s emotions as much as they force one to think about what war costs.

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Here is the American military cemetery at St. Mihiel, south of Verdun.
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This memorial overlooks some of the 4,153 Americans buried here.

 

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The doorhandles to the chapels are doughboys.

We saved the largest cemetery for last, and for a particular reason. It was late one afternoon when we arrived at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, and so our visit was somewhat hasty, although I achieved my most important objective.

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The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery is the largest American World War I cemetery.
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There are 14,246 Americans buried here.
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One of them is Arizona’s own Frank Luke, America’s second-leading aerial ace and a Medal of Honor recipient, known as “The Balloon Buster.”

We often visit Civil War battlefields to see where men fought and died, but we often think of the battle itself. In these cemeteries, one thinks of the lives lost and the sacrifices made … something to remember this Memorial Day.

Confederate Heritage Salutes Veterans

This is how they do it at Sea Raven Press, long known for its support of Confederate heritage correctness scholarship:

SRP 1.JPGOne million armed African American slaves supporting the Confederacy by taking up arms. That shows a certain ability in math as well as history. Where did they hide all these soldiers? General Lee wants to know.

And, by all means, honor the Confederate Battle Flag … like this:

SRP 2Of course, there are too many stars there, and the flag is shredded, but these are mere details.

And finally, we all know that Confederate heritage has nothing to do with present politics, right? Sure …

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This is the sort of political correctness I’m sure some people who whine about it can get behind. Just ask Matthew Heimbach.

 

A Confederate Heritage Apologist Shares His Understanding of History: Phil Leigh

Phil Leigh is a very funny person posing as a student of the American Civil War. He’s duped other people and publishers into believing the same thing. Writing about history allows him to get something off his chest, and he can become very unhappy when someone reveals that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that what he says reveals that he holds some beliefs and prejudices that might not make him a very appealing person … unless, of course, you are a fellow Confederate heritage apologist in a state of constant denial (with a bitter edge) when it comes to African Americans.

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The Memphis Massacre of 1866: A Conference Blog

Readers of this blog will recall that not long ago I mentioned the Memphis Massacre of 1866 (also known as the Memphis Riot of 1866, although the reasons for the renaming are of interest) in examining a rather badly-flawed attempt to discuss the event and its implications.

It seems only right and proper to direct you now to a blog bringing together and reporting on the results of a recent conference on the event. Click here to go there. I guarantee you’ll learn something.

I think this is a wonderful way to share the scholarship presented at a conference by people who know what they are talking about, and I believe more conferences should follow suit.

The Sunday Question: Who Was the Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalry Commander?

The nominees are:

  1. Jeb Stuart: Lee’s eyes and ears, who might have even made a good corps commander had he retained command of Jackson’s corps after Chancellorsville (note the Gettysburg what-ifs usually shy away from that possibility). His performance during the Gettysburg campaign remains the most controversial part of his Civil War career.
  2. Nathan Bedford Forrest: Forrest has his fans, and not always for the right reasons. Moreover, he did not play well with others, and it’s a good question whether he made that much of an impact strategically. Still, the man could fight, and fight well.
  3. Wade Hampton: There are those who believe that Hampton might have been better than Stuart, and that he performed well after Stuart’s death. Others may claim that he never had a chance to display his talents for long in an independent command in Virginia.
  4. Joe Wheeler: Wheeler’s men did a lot of damage. Of course, white Georgians claimed that his men forgot that they were on the same side.
  5. Anyone else come to mind? For you Romeos out there, there’s Earl Van Dorn. And if you like nepotism, Fitz Lee’s reliable.

The Growing Vacuousness of Confederate Heritage

Over at Civil War Memory Kevin Levin’s speculated about the decline and eventual disappearance of Confederate heritage commemorationsimplying that perhaps confining such ceremonies in time and place may prolong their existence by confining their expression to appropriate venues and occasions. As you might well imagine, some of Kevin’s most vocal critics (who also happen to be among his most loyal readers) offered their usual pitiful petulant protests. Fine, folks: just go raise another flag somewhere and claim victory.

Although I appreciate Kevin’s argument, I hold a different view (although I suspect that Kevin agrees with much of what I am about to say). I think that the real problem with Confederate heritage today is that it has less and less to do with the Confederacy or any sort of heritage and much more to do with serving as a vehicle through which people express their political views and cultural preferences. There are several themes sometimes associated with Confederate heritage that come through in these declarations, much as other themes woven throughout Confederate heritage reappear in the claims made by critics of Confederate heritage (think slavery, folks: there’s no Confederacy without it).

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Republicans and Black Suffrage During Reconstruction

Phil Leigh’s upset. Having had his essay on the Memphis Riots shredded in this blog, he complains that I’ve failed  “to address the central question of whether black suffrage in the South was more important to Radical Republicans as a matter of morality or as a tool to sustain the Party’s political power.”

Generally speaking, that’s not the central question people choose to explore when they discuss the wholesale slaughter of African Americans, including US Army veterans, by an out-of-control white supremacist mob egged on by local leaders. But Mr. Leigh would rather not tell you whether white southerners who opposed Reconstruction killed African Americans for political advantage or simply because they were vile racists. After all, in his mind it was the murderers who were the victims, not the murdered.

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