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Hymn To Freedom: Obama's 150th Proclamation, John M. Rudy Apr 2011

Hymn To Freedom: Obama's 150th Proclamation, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

This post is about the President's proclamation on Tuesday. I was heartily pleased by this action from the White House. It phrasing brings to mind an intellectual fusion not unlike that crafted through Daniel Webster's 1830 pronouncement of, "Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable." Certainly the 19th century conception of Liberty and our modern conception of the term, as adeptly pointed out in the most recent episode of Backstory with the American History Guys, are not the same. Still, Obama's proclamation keenly joins the two Northern war aims and war outcomes at the hip ...


Governor Wise's War: My Misconception (Part 1), John M. Rudy Apr 2011

Governor Wise's War: My Misconception (Part 1), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I worked in the living history branch at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for three years, wearing old timey clothing and talking to visitors about the meanings of John Brown. Harpers Ferry is where I began to understand what the concept of interpretation means, and how it is such a radically different concept from academic history. [excerpt]


The Civil War Centennial: Inspiration For The Civil Rights Movement?, John M. Rudy Mar 2011

The Civil War Centennial: Inspiration For The Civil Rights Movement?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I read Richard Williams' Old Virginia Blog, not because I agree with what he has to say but explicitly because it gets me so corking mad. Interspersed with tea party rants and modern political diatribes, Williams is an interesting (and sometimes frightening) voice of modern Confederatism and Southern exceptionalism.


"...The Way Things Were Back Then": Why Making Excuses For Slavery Doesn't Work, John M. Rudy Mar 2011

"...The Way Things Were Back Then": Why Making Excuses For Slavery Doesn't Work, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Presentism. Aside from historical revisionism, it is perhaps the 'epithet' with which the modern historian find themselves branded the most. I've been reading again a series of screeds by Bill Vallante, a Confederate reenactor and SCV member from Commack, NY (thanks to John Hennessy). I've read these pages before, but this time around was struck by the abject vitriol which oozes from the language employed. A line in one piece in particular stood out to me as quite angry:

"Add a heavy dose of presentism (judging or interpreting the past according to the standards of the present), mix ...


The Rebel Flag: Offputting Symbol Or Point Of Pride?, John M. Rudy Mar 2011

The Rebel Flag: Offputting Symbol Or Point Of Pride?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In 2004, Gettysburg College hosted an art exhibit by John Sims, a Florida based artist and ethnomathematician. The exhibit focused on varied recolored versions of the Confederate Flag. The press outrage was quick and damning. I should know, I was quoted in it (in the Civil War News).

Back in 2004, I called the exhibit, "sickening," and condemned the college for, "trying to distance itself from the town by rejecting the Civil War past in which it is steeped." I was wrong. I figured that out no sooner than passing through the doors of the art gallery and viewing the ...


On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 2), John M. Rudy Mar 2011

On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 2), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

What happened in Chambersburg and Fairfield in April of 1861? Certainly not events which were earth shattering for the nation as a whole. But to the citizens of the bustling southern Pennsylvania urban centers, it was their world. [excerpt]


Youtube Wednesday: Why I'M Celebrating The Civil War 150th (And Why You Should Too), John M. Rudy Mar 2011

Youtube Wednesday: Why I'M Celebrating The Civil War 150th (And Why You Should Too), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

There's quite a bit of talk within the interpretive community about the word, "celebration." The word is tiptoed around and eschewed. Its use raised ire in Charleston Harbor this past December. These debates over commemoration versus celebration, no doubt, will crop up again and again over the next few years. We, as a community, are nearly afraid of one misstep. We catch our words as they escape our mouths, quickly correcting ourselves every time "celebration" accidentally emerges trips over our teeth. We seem afraid to say that we are celebrating an American bloodbath of biblical proportions. I can understand ...


On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 1), John M. Rudy Mar 2011

On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 1), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In 1961, Gettysburg played host to a kick-off event for the Civil War Centennial. The town commemorated the sendoff of the Independent Blues, a militia company which marched off to war in the aftermath of the firing on Fort Sumter. The affair was huge. The Diamond was closed off to traffic as actors in old time clothes strutted through a political rally on the square. Spectators watched from the sidewalks as speakers mounted a wagon and gesticulated wildly at the crowd. Gettysburg College's students, wielding trumpet and drum as they did for Football games on Nixon Field, stood in ...


Montgomery: The Murals In The Dome, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Montgomery: The Murals In The Dome, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

A broad sweeping portico looms behind the gay couple riding horses on a summer's afternoon. The man wears a brown coat and tall black top hat. The woman dresses in the finery of the turn-of-the-century. A hunting dog stands at attention as the horses stride across the plantation's spacious lawn. Back on the porch, a black "mammy" figure watches over a young girl. [excerpt]


Montgomery: Jeff Davis' Seal Of Solomon, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Montgomery: Jeff Davis' Seal Of Solomon, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Set into the marble steps of Alabama's Capitol building is a brass star. Gleaming against the white stone, the star stands at the top of the stairs on the Capitol's west face. The star reads, "Placed by Sophie Bibb Chapter Daughters of the Confederacy on the spot where Jefferson Davis stood when inaugurated President of C.S.A. Feb. 16. 1861." [excerpt]


Why It's Interpretive: Bid 'Em In, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Why It's Interpretive: Bid 'Em In, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Browsing the provocative blog "Jubilo! The Emancipation Century" recently, I came upon a post featuring a curious YouTube video.

So why did Bid 'Em In speak so deeply to me? I think it's because it places you in the shoes of the 15 year old slave woman being auctioned. It's not an intellectual investigation of slavery. It's not an historical narrative written after the fact of a particular event. It's visceral. [excerpt]


Lee Chapel: Lost Cause Artifact And Culture Shock, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Lee Chapel: Lost Cause Artifact And Culture Shock, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I had the privilege to accompany a group of undergraduate students recently on a whirlwind tour of the Wilderness, Richmond and Appomattox. Our tour took us along the I-81 corridor on the way back to Gettysburg, so why not stop in Lexington for a Civil War two-fer. [excerpt]


"And You May Ask Yourself: Am I Right? Am I Wrong?", John M. Rudy Feb 2011

"And You May Ask Yourself: Am I Right? Am I Wrong?", John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

This blogging endeavour is dangerous. Blogging, I believe, should be a personal medium, where you wear your heart on your sleeve and let the real "you" hang out. That's scary. [excerpt]


Slavery And Justice Today, Jacob Dinkelaker Jun 2001

Slavery And Justice Today, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

'doubleshotcanister' makes a great point about being ever mindful of our present connections to past historical atrocities, crimes against humanity, and the other not-so-shining moments of our country's history. I agree with him. Not only do we have to come clean about our nation's past history - equally laying out the bad and good to find a useable past, but also to be cognizant of our decisions and actions today. [excerpt]