Update to Texas Confederate license plate controversy

Thanks to some of my intrepid readers, who followed up on this story and commented to my earlier post on the controversial proposed SCV license plate in the Lone Star State. Initial stories on the situation indicated opposition to the plate by prominent Democratic politicians in the state, which led me to believe that there might be more to this than moral opposition to the Confederate flag and Confederacy.

However, I learned from one commenter (hat tip to David Woodbury, blogger at of Battlefields and Bibliophiles) that Gov. Rick Perry expressed opposition to the plate as well. This definitely changed the situation for the future of the proposal, as he holds great sway in the state and on the commission that determined its fate, which contained several Perry appointees. This held true, as the commission rejected the plate proposal, choosing instead to honor the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, which is certainly an institution and group of soldiers worth honoring with a license plate. However, this issue is likely not dead, as SCV will likely sue to have the plates issued. The group has successfully litigated in other southern states before on the plate issue.

My thoughts on this would be for the commission to communicate to the SCV the option for a Civil War license plate that is neutral, commemorating appropriately the 150th anniversary of the war with the silhouette of a soldier and the wording of the anniversary and the war. It would allow citizens to take their own meaning from the plate and the proceeds could be directed to preservation of Civil War related items and land, which would hopefully satisfy the SCV.

Review of So You Think You Know Gettysburg?

Gindlesperger, James and Suzanne. So You Think You Know Gettysburg?:  The Stories Behind the Monuments and the Men Who Fought One of America’s Most Epic Battles. Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair Publisher, 2010.

This book is an interesting take at the park where the bloodiest battle on American soil occurred. While other books focus on the tactics, men, and other aspects of the real battle, James and Suzanne Gindlesperger chose to look at the history of the many monuments that dot the battlefield park. It represents the growing influence of both history and memory and public history.

The title is quite proper, as while most may think they know everything about the battlefield, there are many places and monuments included in this book that readers may not be aware of. The coverage of the work goes beyond the park area and includes several sites and locations in and around the town of Gettysburg. Each chapter is devoted to a specific section and area of the Gettysburg, which allows readers visiting the park to use each chapter as a guide to areas including Culp’s Hill, Little Round Top, Gettysburg, etc.

Three key things stand out that make this book great. First is the wonderful use of maps. The authors included an overview map of all areas covered, then incorporated into each chapter a map of the area covered, with locations of each monument or spot numbered on that map. Second is the abundance of photographs, one of each spot. This allows those visiting the park to know which monument they are looking at, and, allows readers unable to visit Gettysburg to view one of the more striking features of the region. Finally, the descriptions are quite detailed, incorporating latitude and longitude coordinates, which is good for users of GPS touring the park, as well as providing brief, but detailed descriptions of the site or monument and the people that motivated the particular item covered. The only thing that would have been great to include was a suggested reading section, as well, as a notes section to give background to where information on locations featured was found. Though a minor issue, it does not really detract from the overall value of this work.

The authors, though not trained historians, according to the description, do have great credentials for writing this book. They live in Pennsylvania and are members of the Friends of Gettysburg Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Civil War Preservation Trust. Though not an academic book, this is a must have for anyone interested in public history, history and memory, or Gettysburg in general. If visiting Gettysburg in the near future, pick up a copy of So You Think You Know Gettysburg? and see how it changes your visit.