Civil War History Article

I apologize for the silence lately. I’ve been busy engaging with history (as usual), just not in any way to make a substantial post here.

Today I received my copy of the June 2016 Civil War History. Back in March 2013, I, along with hundreds of others attended the Future of Civil War History Conference. The conference was both fun and enlightening in many ways. I was happy to be on a panel regarding U.S. Colored Troops during the war.

In the aftermath, there were plans for a book length project of essays to address various themes in the conference. Unfortunately, life happened, illness struck, and a host of other decisions that resulted in the book going to the curb. Instead, there would be fewer essays and still, Kevin Levin, Beth Parnicza, and I were asked to participate in an essay. The title of the essay, “Interpreting Race, Slavery, and United States Colored Troops at Civil War Battlefields” appears in this June issue of the journal.
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My section of the essay fulfilled the needs of the article (though I’m still unsure if I like the emphasis on me). What I really am hoping is that people will substitute the historic names of the real people who existed at the sites I help interpret and my name and look at their site(s) and insert themselves and the names of the historic characters at the site(s) that are interpreted. 

The other articles are equally interesting and should challenge those who write history for a living, teach in classrooms (K-12 or college/university), and who work at historic sites to ask themselves and continually ask themselves: how can I use more techniques to reach my audiences to connect with the complicated history of the Civil War era.

Regrettably, the article isn’t posted online. But I think the preview paragraph on the journal’s website gives some hint as to where Beth and I go with our texts. Kevin ably shaped and edited the article so it reads well.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Civil War History Article

  1. I thought the article was very good. I was glad that you were not just an author, but a subject as well. Easier to imagine you working through some of the history with the groups of visitors.

    I also liked the real, on the ground version of how things play out in interactions with visitors. This section of the article was particularly memorable:

    “Rangers have sometimes had to calm angry visitors on their tours who counter that “no massacre of black troops took place at the Crater” and/or accuse staff of “being politically correct.” Staff members have learned to prepare for such confrontations by clearly referencing their source material and directly reading from primary sources, including documents containing racially charged and/or foul language. Using multiple accounts that reinforce each other has proven a particularly helpful way to showcase the horror of the battle. When confrontation does ensue, other visitors sometimes step in to remind the angry parties that their guide clearly referenced the source materials bearing testimony to the events of the battle.”

    When I first went to Petersburg in the late 1970s I knew the story of the Crater and the USCT. But while I was there, I learned of the ubiquity of African Americans there as soldiers and civilians, free and enslaved. That was the sort of revelation I would not have had if I had just read a book about the Crater. It always reminds of the importance of having an historically correct experience at a battlefield. Being there sharpens the focus in ways that reading about it can’t.

    I have been back four or five more times. If I ever get back there, I’ll look you up.

    • Patrick, thanks for reading! It is important to be able to be in these spaces to understand how and why people acted and reacted in the ways they did. Hope you are able to get back here in the future.

  2. Brett Crenshaw

    Welcome return to blogosphere! I look forward to reading your article. I came across your work while viewing the panel on Colored Troops at Gettysburg College in 2013.

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