Dimitri Rotov Wants To Know

From Dimitri Rotov’s blog Civil War Bookshelf, which is starting to show some signs of life again …

The passing

A friend writes,

Just saw news of Pfanz’s death, and was thinking about Civil War history and generations of historians:

I guess you saw Harry W. Pfanz just died (age 93). Albert Castel died in November (age 86).

Stephen Sears is 82. McPherson is 78. James I. “Bud” Robertson is 84 or 85. Ed Bearss is 91. William C. Davis is a spritely 68, but just retired.

Are we now, fully and finally, in the age of Simpson, Rafuse, Grimsley, Symonds, Woodworth, Carmichael, Hess, et al.? And if so, what will they do as they seize the wheel? With their power to shape history? Will we see new and powerful analyses of battles and leaders and logistics and politics, or just blog posts about social history and latter-day “controversies” like the Confederate flag? How many of those guys are working on major books at this point? Do we have anything to look forward to?

(Then there’s the threat of Michael Korda and the like. Don’t get me started.)

Your thoughts, dear reader?

Of course, as Dimitri’s blog has no comments section, there’s no place to put answers to his question. But that doesn’t mean you can’t share your thoughts here.

As for me, certainly I’m working on various projects, but they aren’t all limited to the period of 1861-65. As to what those projects are, I like keeping some things a surprise.

I didn’t know that I was entitled to have an age named after me, individually or with others. Well, as Taylor Swift says, some people love the players, while I love the game.

So Slavery Wasn’t So Bad?

We’ve all heard it before from defenders of Confederate heritage: slavery wasn’t so bad. Of course, the people who say this are overwhelmingly white people, including descendants of slaveholders (hello, Connie Chastain!).

Some people have also decided that anything Charles Barkley says is worth listening to. We in the Phoenix area know differently. Barkley was a talented, personable basketball player who reminded us that he was not a role model, and with good reason. However, Barkley has decided that because he can comment on NBA games, he can use that forum to comment on everything else under the sun, and to do so in a way that fascinates some people and sparks more than its share of eye-rolling and head-shaking responses.

So when the Round Mound of Rebound decided to agree with Confederate heritage apologists advocates that slavery might not have been as bad as some people claim, State Senator Hank Sanders of Alabama (D-Selma) had to disagree. The letter’s a welcome reminder of what slavery was all about.

And some of the comments attached to that story remind us that ignorance honed into a belief system is an astonishing thing.

December 25, 1864: Lincoln Opens His Present

Several of you have wondered about the telegram William T. Sherman sent Abraham Lincoln presenting the city of Savannah and various sundry items. Sherman sent the message on December 22, and you’ve seen that text. This is the text Lincoln saw three days later:

So, as you can see, the message went up via water to Fort Monroe, Virginia, where it arrived on December 25; it was immediately wired to Washington at the War Department.

December 15, 1939: The Premiere of Gone With the Wind

As we observe the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (today’s event: the opening of the battle of Nashville), we should not overlook other important anniversaries … especially when they mark events that have fundamentally shaped our understanding of that very war.

It would be hard to overlook the importance of the movie Gone With the Wind in shaping Americans’ popular memory of the conflict. Yet there were moments when reality in 1939 clashed with fiction about 1864. Nowhere was this more evident when the movie premiered in Atlanta 75 years ago today. See, if you watch the movie you would assume that enslaved people truly cared for the people who claimed they owned them. This is a position maintained by many advocates of a certain version of Confederate heritage (it can be found alongside the claim that slavery wasn’t really as bad as some people think). But when the African American actors learned that they would not be able to sit with their white costars at the premiere, the whole event nearly collapsed.

So much for southern hospitality and civility.