Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Coming Fury


"...that shot was a sound of alarm that brought every soldier in the harbor to his feet."

In many ways, it seems we are right back where we started when you look how divided our country has become again.   You would think after 150 years we would have moved past this event, but with more and more land being set aside in memory of the Civil War, it seems we prefer to live with constant reminders.

I remember living in Charleston for awhile, and the legacy of the war is palpable.  The old mansion I was residing in as a guest of the Historic Charleston Foundation was made over into a battlefield one weekend, and these guys and gals took their battle very seriously.

I still think Bruce Catton's first book in his Centennial Series, The Coming Fury, does the best job of capturing the events leading up to the Civil War.  Sadly, however, it doesn't seem like we took many lessons from this war.  Instead, we keep repeating them endlessly, as if we are on some treadmill.  I suppose it is because we still prefer to view the war in "heroic" terms rather than honestly discuss what the war was about.  I thought David Blight did an excellent job in discussing Race and Reunion.

17 comments:

  1. I am not related and have no financial ties to GE, but every once in awhile Rachel Maddow does such a good job, I have to point it out again.

    She took on the 150 anniversary in the first segment of her show tonight, showing how many of the "states rights," nullification, states currency, etc. talk is making a serious comeback. She even showed a headline from the Butte, Montana paper about nullification of healthcare. That's the first I've heard of that one. It's getting really scary out there.

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  2. It's probably just a coincidence that all this bubbles ferociously to the surface now that a black man occupies the White House. It almost seems as if the Civil War really was about "keeping the n*ggers down."

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  3. Yeah, that was one of the points she raised with Melissa Harris Perry, whom I can listen to talk about anything. I think she is simply amazing. A black man now embodies the head of federal government (and I would add, lives in the white house). So the nation is actually reliving the politics of the civil war. Even trying to mint their own currency....

    Maddow talked about the unfinished business of reconstruction, which has sort of let the South make up their history as they went along, including all the reenactments of the Civil War, of which she showed clips.

    But she also showed how some of this is being played out around the country, including someone who is running for governor of Texas (not Perry -- although he's in there, too, talking about secession) saying how much he hates the American flag, and the United States government. When did all these people switch sides? Oh, wait.... 2008 I guess.

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  4. As scary, given the context of what they were talking about, was how leaders of the confederacy were able to create a racialized southern identity capable of rising up against the North, even though very few white southerners benefited from slavery. White southerns could be manipulated to support something that wasn't in their best economic interest, in much the same way they can be scared into opposing say health care today.

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  5. Minting state currency is a new one. That went out with the Articles of Confederation, but it just shows the ridiculous extremes some persons will go to in their inane arguments.

    The current tempest has been brewing for 30 years. Reagan employed the "Southern strategy" to great effect, and I think the switch of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party can be directly attributed to him.

    Seems the Dixiecrats were finally able to look past Lincoln but not the war itself, or maybe they saw some irony in taking over the Republican Party, I don't know.

    I get a kick out of the distinctions some Republicans try to make. I remember Colin Powell referring to himself as a "Rockefeller Republican." I think very few Republican even know who Rockefeller was. The only Republicans that make any allusion to Lincoln are the "Log Cabin Republicans," a small but vocal group of gay Republicans, who hang onto the party for whatever reasons of their own, as there is nothing the party does to represent them.

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  6. I had never heard about the currency either. I think it's in South Carolina -- a bill to use their own state currency, not the federal governments.

    And she cited this story about gold currency:

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/at-least-10-states-have-introduced-gold-coins-as-currency-bills.php

    There was also someone in Idaho arrested for minting his own "liberty bills."

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  7. avrds, I know, pretty good wasn't it. I watch MSNBC habitually from soup to nuts. Alan Simpson did a special favor for them on the 11th which you can read at Huffington Post by citing his name

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  8. David Blight on the Sesquicentennial,

    http://www.davidwblight.com/sesq.htm

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  9. Interesting article you linked, av, which includes an odd range of states pushing for gold currency. I assume these state bills were all introduced by Republicans in a feeble attempt to deal with the economic crisis. But, as the economy improves you can expect gold prices to take a big nose dive. Then what?

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  10. These are interesting times we live in. I'm a little bit overwhelmed by it all, if you want to know the truth. In some ways, ignorance of the fringes is bliss. But these days it seems like the fringes are wagging the Washington dog, or at least trying to, and it's hard not to pay attention.

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  11. I see the folks in Pensacola are still trying to claim the first shot of the Civil War,

    http://www.firstcoastnews.com/rss/article/200640/4/Who-Fired-First-Civil-War-Shot-A-Dispute-in-Florida

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  12. Nice to see someone trying to set the record set,

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths-about-why-the-south-seceded/2011/01/03/ABHr6jD_story.html

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  13. The casting for Team of Rivals gets curiouser and curiouser,

    http://blog.movies.yahoo.com/blog/1125-spielbergs-lincoln-film-picks-an-unexpected-mary-todd-sally-field

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  14. I would have gone for someone like Judy Davis.

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  15. To add to Robert's list of new books:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/gary-w-gallaghers-the-union-war/2011/03/31/AFtFPVkD_story.html

    I'll definitely read this book to see what he thinks (and will duck now ....)

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  16. Since no one has jumped in to contest this book, I'd like to propose we read it at some point -- or I can read it first and let you know what I think.

    He's making the point I always make (which is incorrectly associated with the states' rights business), but his argument appears in this description to be clearer: there's a difference between cause and motive.

    For example, I don't question what caused the South to secede and why they chose to fight a Civil War, but I do question that Northern soldiers and their families were willing to give up hundreds of thousands of their young men's lives to free the slaves in the South. My guess -- and it is a guess because it's not written about much -- is that their motives are much more complex than that.

    From a historiography perspective, I understand why history has been written the way it has to put the most positive spin on the nation's great loss of human life in general, its national abhorrence with slavery, and its commitment to Civil Rights in particular. And to counter all the Lost Cause nonsense. But that doesn't necessarily make it historically accurate or complete.

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  17. Avrds, I am trying to get in touch with you via email. The Yahoo address I have must be old. Would you email me at richard.diguette@gpc.edu?

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