150th Battle of Chancellorsville

April 24th, 2013

Since we’re talking about 150th events I thought I would post the link to the 150th Chancellorsville which is coming soon.  It a great example of  a 150th event and has many different parts besides the reenactment including tours and exhibits.


Gods and Generals

April 3rd, 2013

Gods and Generals movie post

            Gods and Generals is a film adaptation of Jeff Sharaa’s novel Gods and Generals, written as the prequel to his father’s (Michael Sharaa) best-selling novel Killer Angels.  In the book there are several main characters and each chapter focuses on one of them on a rotating basis.  The movie follows the same premise and focuses exclusively on the characters of General Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.


            The plot of the move centers around three important Civil War battles and each character’s role in them.  After a short period showing Lee’s refusal to take command of the federal armies and Jackson’s decision to fight for the South, the Battle of First Manassas commences, where Jackson received the nickname “Stonewall”.  After the conclusion of the battle the movie skips over several important battles and a year of events to get to the Battle of Fredericksburg.  The charge against the sunken road is shown in great detail, and Chamberlain is featured prominently in these scenes including when the 20th Maine makes its own assault on the Stonewall.  After Fredericksburg, there are several moments of characterization for Jackson, Lee and Chamberlain in the winter period of 1862, but these quickly give way to the renewal of battle at Chancellorsville.  During this battle the movie shows with great drama the infamous shooting of “Stonewall” Jackson by his own soldiers at night.  The movie concludes with Jackson’s death and Lee’s reaction to the news of his passing.


            Gods and Generals is just a bad film, lacking in a coherent narrative, a logical timeline and proper characterization.  However, there are several aspects of the film that are interesting from a Civil War memory perspective.   The movie has many lost cause themes within it; including the deification of the Confederate generals (It’s called Gods and Generals!), emphasis on other reasons why southerners fought the war besides slavery, the supposed anti-slavery sentiments of the confederacy’s top generals and the supposed overwhelming odds the South faced in comparison to the vast resources of the North.  It is also telling that the only Northern main character is a devoted anti-slavery man, perpetuating the lost cause theme that it was northern abolitionist who started the war and continued it for so long.

Gods and Generals treats Lee and Jackson as tragic yet holy figures in our history.  The choice to show Lee’s refusal of Winfield Scott’s offer for him to command the union armies was meant to show the purity of Lee’s motives.  He was not fighting for slavery or property but for his home state of Virginia.  For both generals there is an emphasis on their extreme piety.  Special scenes are devoted to the generals praying to god and lamenting the horrors of war.  There is even a scene where Jackson converses with his black cook Jim and prays that one day god would alleviate Jim’s people’s suffering.  In conclusion Gods and Generals remembers the Civil War as a second war of independence for the south, fought by pure, pious religious men who did not believe in slavery and were fighting instead against tyranny.

Robinson House

March 27th, 2013

This is a picture of the Robinson house before it burned down.


Lincoln portrayal

February 27th, 2013

This is an article about criticism that Daniel Day Lewis faced for the voice he gave to Lincoln in the movie.  Many people expected a deep resonant voice even though contemporaries described it as a high pitched, nasal voice.  This is an example of people’s common views of history meeting historians views.



Picture of the 1913 reenactment of Pickett’s charge

February 20th, 2013

50th6.jpg (87075 bytes)

This is a picture of confederate veterans crossing the fields of Gettysburg as they had 50 years earlier in a reenactment of Pickett’s charge.  When they made it to the wall, union veterans were waiting for them with handshakes and hugs.  This picture is interesting in that it was one of the first reenactments and that these men do not seem as somber as you might expecting crossing a field that was once wrought with death but instead are smiling and enjoying themselves.

Annotated Bibliography

February 20th, 2013

Annotated Bibliography

Allred, Randal. “Catharsis, revision, and re-enactment: negotiating the meaning of the American Civil War.” Journal Of American Culture 19, (Winter 1996): 1-13. http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umw.edu/ehost/detail?sid=e53bbd6e-f093-487b-b3ba-a5b7c1f1f599%40sessionmgr113&vid=3&hid=114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=9710253816 (accessed January 30, 2013).

Randal Allred’s article analyses the motivations behind re-enacting and determines that there is something deeper to re-enacting than simply playing soldier.  While he does not comment on the value of re-enacting to the education of Civil War history, he does argue that re-enactors perceive themselves as commemorating a great drama in our history and seek in all else to feel a part of that drama.  There is therefore a value in commemoration in reenacting.

Anderson, Jay. Afterword to A Living History Reader, Vol. 1: Museums edited by Jay Anderson. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1991.

This Afterword to A Living History Reader, Vol.1: museums argues compellingly that living history as a form of teaching history is significant and will continue and only grow in authenticity over the years.  Anderson includes reenactors as living historians though it is important to note that Anderson is a reenactor himself and therefore his arguments should be evaluated in this context.

Anderson, Jay. Time Machines: The World of Living History. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1984.

Jay Anderson’s book is an examination of the different types of Living History that exists in America, including Reenacting, or “weekend warriors” as he calls them.  He believes that living history contributes significantly to our understanding of history by engaging all the senses and by focusing on the daily lives of historical figures rather than on the big picture problems historians tend to emphasize the most.

Blight, David.  Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American memory. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.

David Blights book explores the relationship between the emancipationist memory of the Civil war and the reconciliationist memory of the war and details how the reconciliationist narrative ultimately won out in American memory between 1865 and 1913.  Blight looks at the emergence of veteran interest in the details of the battles and the beginning of collecting similar to that of modern reenactors and also talks about the reunion of 1913 in which one of the first reenactments took place at Gettysburg between veterans.

Bodnar, John. Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism In the Twentieth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.

John Bodner’s book looks at how American society has used history and memory to shape their identity and define patriotism and loyalty to the state.  As part of his study, Bodner examines the effects of the Civil War and devotes a chapter to the 1960’s Civil War centennial celebration.  In it he argues that while national planners sought to celebrate the Civil War in terms of its importance to the nation, participants in the centennial, including reenactors, created a more local and state oriented portrayal.

Cullen, Jim. The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.

Jim Cullen’s book focuses on the portrayal of the Civil War in cultural outlets such as TV, movies, books, and public events.  He uses case studies such as the movie Glory and reenacting to argue that while cultural depictions of the Civil War are often revisionist or inaccurate, they reach a wider audience than scholarly works and their value lies in igniting passion for the war then push them to more scholarly outlets.

Gardner, Don. “Inside living history: Reporter goes inside Civil War reenactment as a soldier with a point-of-view camera”. The Macomb Daily, October 28th, 2012.

This article is an inside look from the perspective of a non-reenactor reporter who spent a day reenacting and recorded his thoughts.  This article provides helpful insights into reenacting from a nonbiased source.

Hall, Dennis. “Civil War reenactors and the postmodern sense of history.” Journal of American Culture 17, no. 3 (Fall 1994): 7. http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umw.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e53bbd6e-f093-487b-b3ba-a5b7c1f1f599%40sessionmgr113&vid=6&hid=114 (accessed January 30, 2013).

Dennis Hall’s article discusses reenacting and argues that the phenomenon of reenacting is a nostalgic reaction to the present time and an attempt to escape to a different, less complicated period of the past.  Hall believes that the re-enactor is striving for a perfect simulation of the past in the present and that there is little to no value in helping the public to understand the Civil War through it.

Hopps, Tim, “The Bloody Summer of 1863: How Memory and Commemoration have Shaped the History of the Battle of Gettysburg” (2012). Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship. Paper 137. http://scholar.valpo.edu/cus/137 (accessed January 30th, 2013).

Tim Hopps’ examines the place the Battle of Gettysburg has entered in American memory and establishes three reasons for its rise as the iconic battle of the war:  the Gettysburg Address, the creation of Gettysburg as a major tourist site, and its depiction in the media in movies such as Gettysburg.  Hopps talks about the role of reenacting in the commemoration of Gettysburg and provides valuable quotes and insights on the relevance of the hobby.

Horwitz, Tony. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War.  New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

Confederates in the Attic is a narrative of the travels of Tony Horwitz in the south and details his discoveries about how the memory of the Civil War lives on in strange and often discomforting ways in the south.  He deals with reenactors in the book and provides a wealth of quotes and insights into the hobby but also shies away from making an analysis of their benefit to the understanding of the Civil War.

Marquis, Colleen, “A History of History: The Origins of War Re-enacting in America,” McNair Scholars Research Journal: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 3. (2008)  http://commons.emich.edu/mcnair/vol1/iss1/3 (Accessed January 30th, 2013).

Colleen Marquis’s article is a concise and informative piece that details how the phenomenon of reenacting began.  She argues that reenacting was born from civil war veterans attempts to portray their story and to focus on the details of soldier life and battle rather than causes of the civil war in order to aid reconciliation between the two sides.  She is not convinced of its historical value in terms of education but asserts that it is a window through which historians can view how Americans see the Civil War today.

O’Sullivan, Richard. “Red badge revivalists.” History Today 37, (December 1987): 6-8. http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umw.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e53bbd6e-f093-487b-b3ba-a5b7c1f1f599%40sessionmgr113&vid=8&hid=114 (accessed January 30, 2013).

Richard O’Sullivan’s article describes the 1987 re-enactment of The Battle of Cedar Mountain and analyzes the motivations and usefulness of reenacting.  O’Sullivan is a reenactor himself and takes the position that reenactors are mainly motivated to reenact through a combination of a love for history and a love for the community reenacting fosters.  He believes that reenacting has historical value, in that it can show through visuals how war was fought in that period and to some degree how people lived.

Ruane, Michael E. and June Q. Wu. “Thousands watch, and sweat, as Battle of Bull Run is fought again”. Washington Post, July 23rd, 2011.

This article provides information on a contemporary sesquicentennial celebration, in this case the 150tht Battle of Manassas, and is an example of the popularity of reenacting that so many reenactors and spectators participated in the event despite record heat.

Shackel, Paul A. Memory in Black and White: Race, Commemoration, and the Post-Bellum Landscape. New York: Altamira Press, 2003.

Paul A. Shackel’s book is an analysis of the battle over the memory of the Civil War using several case studies such as the John Brown Fort, the Shaw memorial, and the history of the commemorations over the Battle of Manassas, including the reenactments that took place on the ground.  These reenactments provide an insight into people’s attitudes towards reenacting during the initial start of the hobby.

Turner, Rory. “Bloodless battles: the Civil War reenacted.” TDR: The Drama Review 34, (Winter 1990): 123-136. http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umw.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e53bbd6e-f093-487b-b3ba-a5b7c1f1f599%40sessionmgr113&vid=10&hid=114 (accessed January 30, 2013)

Rory Turner’s article is a scholarly examination of reenacting from the perspective of a reenactor.  Turner acknowledges that reenacting as a hobby is immensely fun and a chance to escape everyday life for a weekend, but he also recognizes that the reenactor is imitating and perpetuating a society whose values may be questionable to our present society.  His criticism is that reenacting does not question these values but simply relives them, providing us with a valuable reminder of our past but failing to comment on the greater issues of this past society.


February 20th, 2013

Literature Review Proposal

 Since the early 1960’s the phenomenon of men and women dressing up as soldiers and civilians of the 1860’s has existed in American society and with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War in progress, and with it countless reenactors staging battles and encampments, the question must be asked: what are the origins of reenacting and how do reenactors and reenactments contribute to the memory of the Civil War?  This paper will review a variety of sources and will argue that the consensus amongst a majority of scholars and journalists is that reenacting is a hobby with limited value in understanding the Civil War’s broader issues and does little to dispel myths and answer the deeper questions about the wars meaning. However, the consensus amongst reenactors themselves is that they are honoring the memory of the conflict, bringing attention to the everyday lives of historical people, and ensuring that the conflict remains in public attention.

One of the most important scholarly sources this paper will utilize is Colleen Marquis’s article “A History of History: The Origins of War Re-enacting in America”. This source provides valuable insight into the origins of re-enacting and argues that the veterans’ encampments of the turn of the century were the precursors to the reenactments that go on today.  Another important source is Rory Turner’s article “Bloodless battles: the Civil War reenacted” in which he argues that while there is some value to reenacting, its greatest weakness is that it does not question the traditional understandings of the war and does not comment on the meaning or causes of the war.  In other words it simply reinforces sometimes revisionist, cultural remembrances of the war.  Other sources such as Jim Cullen’s book The Civil war in Popular Culture: A Reusable past and Randal Allred’s “Catharsis, revision, and re-enactment: negotiating the meaning of the American Civil War” acknowledge the amateur history and revision of the reenacting but believe the value in the practice lies in igniting public interest through visual entertainment.

Sherman’s memoirs

January 30th, 2013

I found a link that leads to a free online e-book of Sherman’s memoirs, which were brought up extensively in our reading of Blight this week.  Though long, there are certain parts of it that are very interesting in revealing his version of the memory of the civil war and is full of letters and correspondences from the time.


Hello world!

January 17th, 2013

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January 16th, 2013

I discovered that there is a center called the Center for the Study of History and Memory.  This could end up being a valuable resource for the rest of the semester in looking for information on how we remember history