The state of Civil War history college courses

There is a fascinating discussion going on over at H-CivWar about the current state of stand alone history courses on the Civil War. So far, the respondents indicated that the institutions they have attended and/or work for all have distinct courses on the conflict, including some offering graduate seminars on it. The discussion seemed to be influenced by both the recent conclusion of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, as well as the current trends in historical education and scholarship. That said, I will say that the field of Civil War history is still quite vibrant and while non-military topics have grown in prominence and attention over the years, this is not a bad thing, as there was more to the conflict than just the armies and their battles and movements that do need attention and awareness to more fully understand the profound transformative effect of the Civil War on the United States.

However, the discussion did speak to me, especially in light of the recent Society for Military History white paper on the role of military history in the academy and the discussion among prominent Civil War historians over the state of military history in the larger field that was sparked by two prominent articles in the two flagship journals Civil War History and the Journal of the Civil War Era, which was quite enlightening. It is good to see that several institutions still retain separate classes on the Civil War. I will say that I think eventually such classes will become fewer, mainly because of the increased amount of history that will warrant inclusion in our curriculum. One poster to the discussion considered the idea of placing the war within the framework of the long nineteenth century, which struck me as an interesting way of examining the war.

The nineteenth century in a broad sense was a transformative period for the nation, as we became an industrial nation, while expanding our control and influence across the continent. To be sure the Civil War factored prominently in these developments and would be a major component to a broader course on nineteenth century America. The war is an important component of most survey American history courses, so it is still going to have a position of importance in our history.

Is there a possibility that stand alone courses on the Civil War will eventually fade away? Sure, as what History departments offer fifty or one hundred years from now may be quite different than now. That said, there are still many (yours truly among them) who are passionate about the history of the war and will continue to work in the field in some capacity and are still young enough to continue the interest for years to come. Further, the war still resonates today and we will eventually commemorate the bicentennial of the war. Also, students still seem interested in taking courses on the conflict, at least in my experiences.

We can never predict the future of the field and its place in history education, but it will be interesting to see where trends in scholarship and pedagogy take us and how that influences the nature of courses on the war and how popular they will be. Our nation continues to change and the increasing length of time from the conflict will cause it to fade from memory in some ways, but still hold interest and importance. Consider how educators will grapple with the ongoing centennial of World War I, or, when it comes, World War II and how those events will influence the place of the Civil War within higher education.

The war will continue to interest me and I hope that fifty years from now, there will still be students taking courses on the war in college. Only time will tell.

Lose the Lost Cause by David Patten

I was contacted by Mr. Patten, who asked me to post his essay considering the topic of the “Lost Cause” and its level of influence on our understanding of the war since its conclusion. I know that this may spark some vigorous discussion and debate, as this is a subject that historians have argued over for well over one hundred years. I hope you will all give Mr. Patten’s essay consideration and thought.




As we journey through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and with the release of the movie Lincoln, and particularly with the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation upon us, Americans have been well motivated to deeply assess every aspect of the time period that tore our nation apart. While we ponder those times and analyze why our nation plunged into such strife, we will, as always, be exposed to the continuing drumbeats of the “Lost Cause”. Southerners, and many Northerners alike, will regale us with the noble reasons that actually motivated eleven states to secede. We will be told that they were fighting for their liberties and for their proud heritage. The Southern states, in fact, stood up to an overreaching, draconian national government bent on crushing individual freedoms and destroying states’ rights.

Have I missed any of the other lies the “Lost Cause” might tell? The lies actually never seem to end. They started just after the smoke cleared from the battlefields that revealed Southern defeat and they continue to this very day. Only now, they are magnified by the moment.

One issue dominated the politics of the Civil War time period and everything else spun off of that issue. The issue of racially specific slavery caused the Civil War and the “Lost Cause” revisionists, from 1865 to the present, cannot change or sanitize the true reason for Southern secession. Can any of us today honestly imagine our nation splitting apart in 1861 had there been no slavery? What other issue or issues so captivated the imaginations of the people back then that could have caused the Union’s destruction? Only one issue had that kind of power and anything else anyone could cite would be a mere corollary. Even a cursory reading of the thoughts of the Southern leadership exposes their obsession with the issue of slavery. Dig deeper and their obsession over that singular horror becomes pathological.

Jefferson Davis lauded slavery as a great institution through which “a superior race” changed “brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers…worth thousands of millions of dollars.” He proclaimed that “the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable” and he bridled at any attempt to interfere with that system or limit its extension.

Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s Vice President, declared that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” In addition, he unequivocally stated that slavery “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”

State after Confederate state declared in their “secession resolutions” that slavery was the primary cause of their departure. Mississippi summed it up best, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” “There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union…”

The Confederate Constitution enshrined slavery and forbade its states and territories from banning it or interfering with its spread. In addition, Section 9 of the document extended the same prohibitions to the national government, “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed.” As a result, there was no avoiding slavery in the C.S.A., not even through secession, for curiously, no such right was provided. In effect, the Southern leaders created exactly what they wanted; a slaveholding nation well insulated against those who would seek to alter or abolish the peculiar institution.

Northerners of the time period were hardly confused as to the origin of the conflict. Lincoln unlocked the deep non-mystery in his Second Inaugural Address, “All knew that this interest (slavery) was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war…”

In his memoirs, Grant came right to the point, “The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery.”

The Confederate dream of an exclusive slaveholding nation crashed in 1865. But, out of the ashes of Confederate defeat emerged a victory of sorts; it was the “Lost Cause”. History is supposedly written by the winners, but not this time. Rebel writers such as Edward Pollard, Alexander Stephens, Jefferson Davis, and so many others seized control of the narrative and transformed the ugliness of the slaveholding cause into a fight for liberty and rights. Both the Confederate journalist Edward Pollard and the former Vice President Alexander Stephens began their assault on history directly after the war was over. Slavery ceased to be an issue. Rather, valiant struggles for freedom by gallant Southern cavaliers facing overwhelming odds became the norm. Davis waited a few years, but then in 1881, he joined the club with his memoirs, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. In volume one, he wrote, “The truth remains intact and incontrovertible, that the existence of African servitude was in no wise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident.” Views such as these found enormous audiences and sparked a tidal wave of historical distortion that tragically gained acceptance.

One Southerner wasn’t fooled by any of it. Colonel John S. Mosby, arguably the finest partisan raider the Confederacy produced stated, “The South went to war on account of slavery.” He found the “Lost Cause” sentiment repulsive and wrote, “I never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery.” But then he added something very interesting, “After the fight is over they invent some fanciful theory on which they imagine that they fought.”

Now we see the “Lost Cause” fully exposed. With slavery abolished upon the ruin of the South and labeled as the filth that it was, how then do the losers cope? Looking at the reality of the war, the South endured destruction on a scale few could ever have imagined, and for what? They shed blood and lost all defending a system of horror and disgust, thus myth became their only refuge. Given their situation, the so glorious, so holy “Lost Cause” could have turned out so no other way.

We now have the perfect opportunity to set things straight and see the conflict as it truly was. Only time will now tell if we can finally put the “Lost Cause” myth away and face the brutal truth of our past while celebrating the new birth of freedom that gave meaning to all the destruction.

A “nation” born 150 years ago

February 8 represents the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Confederate States of America. I purposely put nation in quotes to reflect the unrecognized status of the Confederacy. The Confederacy is an interesting creation, as several influential Southerners viewed their nation as the heir to the Revolution, resisting the tyranny of Washington. I wonder how they would react today. The Confederacy stirs many emotions today, but it can not be denied that its short history is wrapped in its role in beginning our nation’s bloodiest war. While the actual Confederacy lasted only four years, the idea lives on through historical memory, first dominated by the Lost Cause, and now through the ongoing debates in history over secession and the current divide over states’ rights, etc. I will close this short post with the encouragement to go out and read the histories on the Confederacy to understand how the views on the southern creation have changed over the last 150 years.

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.

We Wish to be Remembered

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania July 2, 1863, said in his 1884 Memorial Day Address,[1] “We wish to be remembered. Willing to die, we are not willing to be forgotten.” How the American Civil War is remembered has changed over time and locale. Where the American Civil War is remembered and by whom, is also a determinant of how it is remembered. What is forgotten over time and locale is equally important as to what is remembered. The memories of the war needed to serve a purpose, especially for the people who lost the war, that would connect them not only with their past but with their future as citizens of the post-bellum United States. One of the earliest shapers of the memories of the Civil War was the Southern historian, Edward A. Pollard.

Pollard, one of the people of the Confederate States of America therefore re-wrote their history to justify their past, and to create a place for the Southern people in the re-united States to reconcile their conflicting memories in a “slaveless,” northern-dominated union. Rather than seeing themselves as defending slavery and the extension of slavery, the Southerners sought to believe that they were defending state’s rights, preserving Southern culture and civilization, and protecting private property. The secessionists claimed that they only wanted to respect the founding fathers’ vision of an American union of Sovereign States; their Southern virtue was destroyed by Northern might.

Pollard viewed their actions as defensive, and regrettably necessary to repulse unwarranted northern aggression; to shield the African Americans in their care from rebellious and immoral influences. Antebellum Southerners claimed that they cherished the child-like innocence of the African Americans, and had a paternal desire to maintain their good social order. As one their spokesmen, the Southern historian Pollard and his works would at first defend slavery as morally good and then later the Confederacy itself as a necessary move to defend the south, its way of life, and their peculiar institution of slavery.

However, Pollard represents one of the better known examples of the reconstruction of a rebel’s antebellum views to a post-bellum unionism. He was born in the “Old South” on his family’s plantation in Virginia, February 27, 1832. He grew up on family plantations and was educated at the University of Virginia. He prospected for gold in California but gave it up to write for newspapers. While he was employed in the early 1850s in newspaper work, his assignments had him traveling in eastern Asia. Pollard returned to the American East in 1856 and he toured the South Atlantic states. He wrote and published articles about the benign life of Southern plantations.  Contrasting the life of the slave in the “Old South,” to the miserable life of slaves in the “Orient,” Pollard declared that American slaves were fortunate to live in Southern civilization rather than the “Orient.” He defended American slavery as benign and paternalistic.

His best known antebellum work was, Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South, extolling the humanitarian aspects of slavery in the south. The book also discussed the common schemes of Southern planters to colonize south of America. Pollard’s proclaimed that Central and South America could be a new American Empire of slavery for the United States, given that expanding slavery into the western territories was problematical due to the American abolitionists, “… the destiny of Southern civilization is to be consummated in a glory brighter even than that of old, the glory of an empire, controlling the commerce of the world, impregnable in its position , and represent in its internal structure the most harmonious of all the systems of modern civilization.”[2] He argued that slavery elevated the African Americans, not degraded them. Pollard’s vision of a glorious Southern empire based on chattel slavery, reflected the Southerners’ comprehension of their peculiar institution, which they were prepared to protect by “withdrawing” from the union.

During the secession of the Southern states in 1861, Pollard was in Washington serving as a clerk for the House Judiciary Committee. During the secession he left Washington for Maryland, where his brother H. Rives Pollard, was the news editor of the Baltimore Sun. With the outbreak of hostilities (First Battle of Manassas) between the north and the south, the Pollard brothers moved to Richmond, Virginia, and joined the staff of the Southern Rights newspaper, the Examiner. Edward A. Pollard shared editorial duties with his brother and the senior editor, (a friend of Edgar A. Poe), John Moncure Daniel. Edward A. Pollard, nonetheless found time to continue his chronicles of the war.

Pollard attempted to write the history of the war as it occurred. The Southern History of the War was prepared in annual volumes as the war progressed. However, his work was interrupted in 1864. He planned to travel to Great Britain on behalf of the Confederate States of  America. He was captured by the Union when the blockade runner (ship) he was on attempted to run the Union blockade of Richmond, Virginia on its way to Great Britain. He was temporarily imprisoned in New York, as a prisoner of the United States and then taken south to spend the last part of the war in custody at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. When he was paroled and released in a prisoner exchange in January 1865, he rejoined the Richmond, Virginia Examiner staff, and continued his work on the Southern History of the War. After the final volume of the Southern History of the War was published in 1865, Pollard decided to write a new Southern history of the war of the Confederates. His efforts culminated in his 752 page book, The Lost Cause; a New Southern History of the War of the Confederates.

The Lost Cause, according to the author, was the loss of Southern civilization, the ameliorating rule of white slave owners, and the excision of slavery from the United States. According to Pollard in his 1866 book, the war did not decide the issues of, “negro suffrage, State Rights or Southern Politics.”[3] The war was lost, but the ideals of the slave holders were still a part of Southern culture and politics. Pollard said that the “accident” of defeat did not tarnish the “heroic record of the Confederacy.” He looked for the armed conflict to resume in the near future. Pollard exhorted his Confederate readers at the end of his books to remember their Confederate heritage. He anticipated the failure of emancipation and the restoration of African American servitude, because it was their “natural” condition. The racist opposition in the North to civil rights for the African Americans would help bring about the failure of emancipation, according to Pollard.[4] His views as a popular author reflected the opinions of his Southern readers. Some of his Southern fans found it difficult to give up the master/slave mentality and they (whites) continued to think of themselves as masters after the war.

A letter from a Mississippi planter October 22, 1865, to his state legislators warned of the dangers of the black union soldiers stationed in Panola, Mississippi, talking to the local freedmen and telling them “stories” about their rights. In his letter the planter E. G. Baker, writes that he wants the black union soldiers removed. He writes that he finds it very strange that freedmen would listen to the soldiers. “Strange to say the negroes believe such stories in spite of facts to the contrary told them by their masters (sic) employers.”[5] The ex-slave holder’s memory of recent events slips as he writes. It is an understandable slip considering that the whites had been the masters of the African Americans for many generations.

During the later years of reconstruction Pollard wrote another book about the “Lost Cause” called, The Lost Cause Regained. In the introduction to his new book he explains the title by stating that “… the true cause fought for in the late war has not been “lost” war immeasurably or irrevocably, but is yet in a condition to be regained by the South on ultimate issues of the political contest.”[6] His new work attempts to reinterpret the transition of the Old South (representative of the Confederacy) to the New South (of the restored Union), by explaining that the true battle had not been for slavery or its expansion, but rather for white supremacy and constitutional limitations. “As long as white men governed by limited powers they could reassure themselves that the essence of their “Lost Cause”  still remained with them.”[7]

Many of Pollard’s readers in the South welcome the “redefining” of the popular memory of the “late war.” They did not lose the war because their ideals were false or indefensible. The war was lost by the accident of the North’s overwhelming numbers of materiel and men. According to Pollard, the issue of slavery and state’s rights was a misunderstanding on the part of the North. The North did not understand that the South was fighting for the supremacy of the white race, and along with it the preservation of the political traditions of the country.[8] Pollard wrote that the “Negro” race was considered inferior to all other races of men. “It is from this inferiority that we deduce all the benefits of slavery in the past. The fact is important as a historical vindication of the past. It is also important as a supreme instruction for the future.” He then proceeds to reshape the Southern memory of the war as a war of defense against the dangers of the inferior race unbound by uncaring abolitionists. Pollard asks what this inferior race would be able to do without the guidance of the white people who cared for them. The issue of “Negro” suffrage is another example of re-shaping the public memory of the war.

Pollard points out that the people of the North show extreme “sensitiveness” on the issue of entertaining the “Negro” as an equal at the polls. He uses the reluctance of Northern politicians to grant suffrage to African Americans, to castigate the white Northern politicians as scalawags and hypocrites. In 1865, Negro suffrage was voted down in Connecticut, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In 1867 a joint resolution was passed by the Legislature of Ohio to propose an amendment to the state constitution, striking the word “white” from the franchise law of the state. It was rejected by a majority of over 50,000 voters when a popular vote was taken. Similar results occurred in Minnesota and Kansas that year, rejecting the franchise for “people of color.”[9] Freeing the slaves by the Northerners obviously was not the same as granting the freedmen social equality in northern American society. This did not really surprise Pollard who held a dim view of the North. His description from his earlier work, The Lost Cause concerning Northern society was as blunt as it was judgmental.

Pollard, like many Southern gentlemen of the times, found the culture of the North to be coarse and materialistic, charactierized by individual acquisitiveness. Northerners, he wrote, were “a people corrupted by a gross material prosperity …” Their ruling elite was “a coarse ostentation aristocracy that smelt of the trade …” Their animating force was an “unremitting hunt after selfish aggrandizement,” often disguised by self-righteous pretenses. The capitalist elite, out of envy for the Southern gentry that was its natural superior, had launched the campaign of aggression against Southern institutions. According to Pollard, North and South were incompatible societies.[10] In spite of his disdain for the North he did eventually undergo a conversion from a proslavery Southern nationalist world view, to a supporter of the Unionist and free-labor paradigm.

He remained a bitter opponent of the Radical Republic Reconstruction politics. According to historian Jack P. Maddex Jr.,[11] Pollard actually “reconstructed” the tradition of the Old South to fit post-bellum definitions of American loyalty. Like many other Southerners, Pollard wanted to participate in local and eventually national politics. Where his stance of Southern nationalism had kept him from identifying with conservative unionists, the lure of local politics had him publishing articles extolling the American Union in patriotic terms that excluded his former secessionism. The reconstruction of the Southern memory of the Civil War continued with the reconstruction of its favorite Southern historian. He wrote a series of articles that showed the direction of his change.

In The Living Politicians of To-day (sic) Pollard denounced the Republican Party’s leaders. He lauded however, President Johnson, Secretary of State William Seward, and Democratic congressman “Gentleman” George H. Pendleton of Ohio who was a noted anti-war Democrat. As he continued his series, Pollard started to refer to secession as a “violent and revolutionary measure.” The fact that his new writings contradicted his old writings did not seem to faze him. In the space of a few years, he said that his thinking had matured. Along with his new maturity, shared with many citizens of the South, were his alterations of history. In another surprising change, Pollard wrote that John C. Calhoun, the great Southern Rights statesman, had been a “sound Union man” who had never believed in the right of secession.[12] President Lincoln was extolled for his intentions of a “generous restoration of rights” to the Southern states after the war. President Johnson was praised for his reconstruction policy, including freeing the slaves and the repudiation of Confederate public debts. African American suffrage however, was still another issue.

Most Republican leaders, he thought, advocated “Negro” suffrage only as a means to perpetuate their party’s “despotism.” Only “Negro” suffrage could keep the Republican Party in power. Pollard argued in The Lost Cause Regained that the original opposition (the Civil War) to the Republican Party of Lincoln was for white supremacy and constitutional limits. Slavery was not the reason for the South’s secession and Civil War. The Republican Party was now showing its “true colors” with their “black” rule and military despotism. “The new cause,” he wrote, was “the true question of the war revived,” and it consisted of “the supremacy of the white race” and “the protection of our ancient fabrics of government.”[13] The myth of the South only fighting for States Rights and Independence was now established in Southern memory. The new cause, according to Pollard was the supremacy of the white race.

Historians must make judgments about the people they choose to research. Historians, as professionals, have a responsibility to be honest, fair, objective and unbiased. In order to avoid propagandizing, it is important to verify all the relevant facts that the historian uses in interpreting history. Pollard did not live up to the responsibilities of being an historian. His distortions of the ex-slaves and the African Americans in general were racists and appealed to many Southerners.

Southerners, following the reasoning of Pollard, should base their rationale for white supremacy on the claim that African Americans are intellectually inferior because of their race. This was a way of thinking that former slave holders could sympathize with and embrace as a logical rationale. The Unionist Democrats, Pollard wrote, had laid the true foundation for post-bellum conservative policies. He now preferred them to the Confederate sympathizers in the North, and he took their slogan of 1864, “The Union as it was,” as his own slogan for the 1868 election. Their kind of Unionism, not “the Lost Cause,” was the source of his policy of white supremacy and constitutional limitations.[14]

The issue of white supremacy was becoming an issue in national politics with Reconstruction an extensively debated policy in the North and the South. The Democrat presidential nominee, New York Governor Horatio Seymour, ran an openly racist election with the campaign slogan, “This is a white man’s country, let white men rule.” Racism failed to sway the voters, and General Ulysses S. Grant was elected President of the United States with a landslide victory for the Republican Party. The “Lost Cause” was continuing to lose in national politics, even in the South.

According to historian David W. Blight, the “Lost Cause” bred dissenters. The scalawags, ex-Confederates who joined the Republican Party during Reconstruction, were the first dissenters from “Lost Cause” ideology. The much maligned James Longstreet of Georgia, former colonel and legendary partisan cavalry leader in Virginia John S. Mosby, political leaders such as James W. Hunnicut in Virginia, James Lusk Alcorn of Mississippi, Amos T. Ackerman of Georgia, and Thomas Settle Jr. of North Carolina, and many others embraced new economic development and acted with a spirit of unionism to resist the “Lost Cause” mythology.[15]

While it was assumed that the battles of conflicting ideology, racial and racist politics, and the memories of why the United States fought a Civil War, would continue to be a source of contention and distrust, there were some people willing to work together to overcome these differences. Some white Southerners eventually formed a biracial, political alliance in Virginia to strengthen their party by taking advantage of the many African American voters, to contend with the conservative Democrats. They were called “Readjusters” and wanted to repudiate at least part of the state debt, incurred before the war to finance railroads, canals, and other public works. Conservative Democrats, known as “Funders”, wanted to take money from the education budget to pay down the state debt.

The “Readjusters” promised to readjust the state debt and wanted a public investment in the expansion of schooling, and economic development that would serve ordinary black and white people in their lives.[16] It was an alliance party with a short period of history that ended about 1883. After the “Readjuster” Party lost power, Virginia’s Democrat Party ruled Virginia’s politics for the next 80 years. Another prominent American, Frederick Douglass was also concerned with the issue of how the Civil War was to be remembered, particularly in an emerging culture of reconciliation.

Douglass was concerned about the new myths of “failed” emancipation, reconstruction and freedom resulting in African American barbarism. In a speech in 1888 Douglas said, “It (the theory of black degeneration) has gone forth to the North. It has crossed the ocean. It has gone to Europe, and it has gone as far as the wings of the press, and the power of speech can carry it.”[17] The memory of the Civil War as espoused by Pollard, of a bipartisan patriotic legend with white supremacy and constitutional limitations was not the memory that Douglass wanted passed on to future generations of Americans. The culture of reconciliation however, continued to encompass the white consciousness of remembrance.

By the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg in 1913, reconciliation and the commemoration of a “glorious fight” in which everyone was declared by the speakers as “right,” was celebrated by over 53,000 white veterans in their blue or gray uniforms. By the rules of the Pennsylvania Commission, African American GAR members with honorable discharge papers were eligible to participate in the battle’s commemoration. There is no evidence, according to Civil War historian Blight that any African Americans participated in the reunion as veterans.[18] There was however an “army” of African Americans, who labored to set up the miles of tents in the tent city, distribute mess kits and blankets, dig latrines, build kitchens, and install the electrical facilities for the 50th reunion. The irony of it would not have been lost on Douglass, or Pollard, had they been able to witness the encampment celebration.

Typical of the encampment theme of reconciliation, was the reenactment of Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1913, when the members of the Philadelphia Brigade Association  and the Pickett’s Division Association, clasped hands across the stone wall they had fought over fifty years earlier. It was reported as an emotional event that sealed the reconciliation of the North and South, and of the American union. The memory of the occasion for the veterans and spectators was recorded by the press photographers. The photographs of this celebrated event were published in most newspapers in the United States.

The black newspapers were wary of the celebration at Gettysburg during this time of increased lynchings, and deepening segregation.  President Wilson’s recent forced segregation of federal workers and facilities in Washington, because of the increased number of southern workers that came in with the Wilson administration, rankled. “We are wondering,” declared the Baltimore Afro-American Ledger, a major Maryland newspaper, “whether Mr. Lincoln had the slightest idea in his mind that the time would ever come when the people of this country would come to the conclusion that by the ‘People,’ he meant only white people.”[19] White supremacy joined arms with Reconciliation in the Civil War remembrances during the fiftieth Gettysburg reunion in 1913.

The burden of those memories, and their oppressive results would eventually be ameliorated however, with the unheralded birth of the future civil rights activist, Rosa Louise McCauley in 1913. Born fifty years after the battle of Gettysburg, as the 42 year old Rosa Parks she would say “no” in 1955 to Montgomery, Alabama bus driver James Blake’s demand that she relinquish her seat to a white man. She was also saying “no” to Pollard and his twisted reconstruction of the nation’s historical memories of the Civil War.

[1] Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Excerpt from his Memorial Day Address, 1884.

[2] Edward A. Polland. Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South, (New York: Pudney & Russell, Publishers 1859), 108.

[3] Edward A. Pollard. The Lost Cause; a New Southern History of the War of the Confederates. (New York: E. B. Treat & Co, 1866), 752.

[4] Pollard, The Lost Cause, 729.

[5] Ira Berlin et al., Free At Last, (New York: The New Press), 520.

[6] Edward A. Pollard. The Lost Cause Regained, (New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1868), 13.

[7] Jack P. Maddex Jr., The Reconstruction of Edward A. Pollard, (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press 1974), 84.

[8] Pollard. The Lost Cause Regained, 13.

[9] Pollard. The Lost Cause Regained, 133.

[10] Pollard. The Lost Cause, 49 – 52.

[11] Maddex. The Reconstruction of Pollard, 45.

[12] Edward A. Pollard. “Personal Recollections of John C. Calhoun.” New York Citizen, 9 May 1868, p. 2.

[13] Pollard, The Lost Cause Regained, 102, 106-7, 154.

[14] Pollard, The Lost Cause Regained, 207.

[15] David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American Memory, (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2002), 293.

[16] Blight, Race and Reunion, 293.

[17] Blight, Race and Reunion, 317.

[18] Blight, Race and Reunion, 385.

[19] Blight, Race and Reunion, 390.


Berlin, Ira, Barbara J. Fields, Steven F. Miller, et al. eds. Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War. New York: The New Press, 1992.

Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2002.

Maddex Jr, Jack P. The Reconstruction of Edward A. Pollard: A Rebel’s Conversion to Postbellum Unionism. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina, 1974.

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