Legacy of the Civil War

NPS Primary Theme: The Civil War was “the most momentous era in American history” – it defined who we are as a nation, both then and now, and what beliefs we hold “self-evident.”

The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War provides us with the opportunity to not only reflect on the sacrifices our nation made, but to measure the value of freedoms we enjoy today.  Abraham Lincoln once wrote “If we could first know where we are, and wither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”  Therein lays the relevancy of history, and of the Civil War sites of the National Park Service.  If we can better understand the issues, the trials, the sacrifices, and the struggles that past generations endured, to bring us where we are today, we can better “judge what to do, and how to do it” today, and in the future.

NOTE: Please use the comments section below to chronicle your progress with this theme throughout the remaining weeks of the course. Begin by outlining how your group decided to work with the theme (e.g., assigning one theme to one person or dividing themes up between team members) and then outline in detail, at least once each week, the work that you have done toward crafting your three podcast proposals.

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15 Responses to Legacy of the Civil War

  1. Doug K-C says:

    Melissa and I spoke at last class about the “Whitman Quandary.” The staff at Chatham Manor has been very helpful and quite enthusiastic about assisting us with the project, and there are wonderful, visceral tangibles at the site for us to emphasize in the future podcasts. But we also felt that while a monumental figure to literature, Whitman just didn’t spend that much time at Chatham Manor, and his role could be interpreted by some as minor. On the other hand, he is a widely known historical figure, so his inclusion is important to our project.

    Additionally, we had some concerns about the “white guy,” emphasis in a podcast series that addresses slavery as the cause of the Civil War, and in order to allow Whitman to have some of our spotlight, we felt it was important to also at least mention some of the African American contributions to Art and Literature in the Civil War. The emphasis will be on Whitman, but the listener will also be provided with an opportunity to explore some African American experiences.

    In celebration of Black History Month, Old Dominion University just featured an exhibit of African American Artists in the Civil War era, and the works of Edmonia Lewis and JP Ball look promising to feature. http://oduartlibrary.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-exhibit-african-american-artists.html

    Slave narratives were an important contribution to American Literature, before, during and after the conflict. Some tangibles related to those selections can be found here: http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/intro.html#literary

    Slightly off topic, an interesting, quite recent article and ensuing discussion about African American Literature, from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, can be found here: http://chronicle.com/article/Does-African-American/126483/

  2. Melissa Lang says:

    the third Sub-theme for Legacy, The Relevance of the Civil War Today is moving along. I have come up with various plans on how to execute visitor opinion feedback on various parks and have written a letter type that could be sent out to interested parks. I am very excited about this theme even though its vague nature has slowed down its progress. This is what I -hope-our resources can be:
    Tangible- Park Visitors written or digitally recorded opinions on the Civil War’s relevance today.
    Intangible: People’s participation
    Universal: A Tragic Wars relevance on our lives and as a nation…so historical Relevance.

  3. Melissa Lang says:

    Legacy:
    The Tangible: Trail, Intangible: the Civil Rights Movement, Universal: Struggle for freedom
    The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is a site that allows the visitor to walk in the footsteps of the 11,100 protestors (over three separate marches) who marched for their rights a hundred years after the end of the Civil War. This site and story has acted as a sort of microcosm of the whole Civil Rights Struggle and we feel that using the Bridge as a tangible resource really speaks to the symbolic nature of struggle, overcoming and coming together as best as our nation has tried and continues to try today in the shadow of the Civil War.
    During the podcast we would like to point out numerous attractions at the site, as well as Civil War and Civil Rights Movement sites that are nearby Selma and Montgomery. In addition I have been collecting photographs, internet resources like interviews, film and documentaries.
    I have still been unable to contact personnel at the site but have decided to try to contact the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce for more information on artifacts from the marches that may be available.

  4. Melissa E Lang says:

    For the The Civil Rights Movement and race relations sub-theme we chose the site Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail as a representation of the struggles by Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. This trail is the site of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama that happened 100 years after the end of the Civil War. This march is noted as particularly significant because the marchers were confronted by violent law enforcement officers. This violence was broadcast worldwide and national television and came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”. The Civil Rights Movement gained unstoppable momentum once the media exposed the atrocities taking place in the American South. The enormous amount of violence towards nonviolent protesters helped to engender sympathy among Americans who did not live in the embroiled south and such broadcasting was a tool that ultimately influenced federal legislation protecting the rights of African Americans.

    The Civil Rights movement is often represented through the words and biography of Martin Luther King Jr, as well as through landmark court cases like Brown vs. the Board of Education. Doug and I would like to represent the Civil Rights movement as a movement of the people and point out nontraditional emphasized tools of the Civil Rights Movement like the role of the media. This is why Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is such a key site in the legacy of the Civil War and the race conflicts that endured in its wake and even continue today.

    We look forward to hearing from the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Chief Rangers and Interpreters.

    As Richard Rabinowitz stated in his considerations of the legacy of the Civil War, this conflict created the Nation that we know today. In a sense, the Civil War was another War of Independence, or perhaps an addendum to that campaign, for the Civil War defined us, and helped to delineate “what beliefs we hold ‘self-evident.’”

    But what does the war mean to us today? We know what how Whitman was affected by this conflict, and this man’s inner feelings are for eternity documented for us to consider. We know the legacy of the war on the Civil Rights movement; we have film documenting the epic struggle to gain these rights, exercised and empowered on the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. These events, while pivotal in our understanding of the Legacy of the Civil War, are removed and distant in many ways. Children growing up in an epoch with a black president of the United States have a different context for these struggles. Regional interpretations abound about the conflict, even about something that seems as elementary as the cause of the conflict. Current political party exclamations, as evidenced by the January 2011 reading of the Constitution in Congress, have different interpretations of the meaning of the war. So to this end, what does the Civil War represent to Americans today?

    By soliciting feedback from Americans directly, at these specific National Parks where this history occurred, by connecting to these themes through tangibles and the represented resources, we have an opportunity to compile a collection of our country men’s reflections. Through this infrastructure, as Rabinowitz wrote, we have “the opportunity to not just reflect on the sacrifices our nation made, but to measure the value of freedoms we enjoy today.” By connecting with real Americans, boots dirty from the battlefield they just traipsed across, we can capture that raw, unfiltered reaction to the program. This step of our program provides an opportunity to have feedback, to have a reaction, and in some sense, to finally allow an opportunity for bi-regional discussions on this epic moment in our nation’s history.

    So Now What?
    So at this point Doug and I are still working out how to achieve our goal with this sub-theme which is to engage historians, park rangers and visitors in a living dialogue about the civil war and its enduring legacy today.

    Should we choose two parks, one in the North, on in the South or try to include all 48 parks over the 48 month podcast series to gather visitors and Park staff’s member’s views on what does the Civil War mean to people today. So we are asking ourselves how will we execute this project?

    We are excited to further plan this last podcast and would love to hear what members of this class, staff at Fort Vancouver and visitors to our blog think about this approach which Doug and I think can give people the opportunity to express different views about what the Civil War means to them personally if at all and as Americans and part of this global community.

  5. Doug K-C says:

    We received a great message from John Hennessy, Chief Historian/Chief of Interpretation from Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP this morning.

    Assisting us with the tangibles available, he noted that they still have the Wound Dresser, and “the catalpas, assuming one of those was indeed
    the tree to which he was referring (which is highly likely) is it, but
    those are pretty powerful in their own right. I’d certainly go with that.”

    It is fantastic to get swift, positive responses from our partners at the Parks.

    Thank you John!

  6. Melissa Lang says:

    This week for our theme of Legacy we worked on contacting our prospective park sites particular to our sub-themes:
    Arts and Literature: Chatham Manor
    The Civil Rights Movement: Selma to Montgomery trail

    In regards to our Sub theme: “What Does the Civil War Mean Today” we are still excited about the opportunity to create an ongoing dialogue during the course of the 48 podcasts to establish a contemporary wrap-up of the issues and experiences of and during the 150 year Civil War commemoration. We are also very interested in receiving any input on this sub-theme through both this blog and from fellow students in class. We feel that the benefit of waiting to place this sub-theme in particular site will allow us to truly express what the civil war means today (and in particular four years from now during the wrap-up of this pod cast. If we choose to continue on this route we will provide various possible Park Sites in our final plan in March that will offer a wide range of options (sites, artifacts, tangibles and intangibles) that the future pod-casters can work with.

    Arts and Literature: Walt Whitman and the Chatham House. We have established contact with the Chief Historian/Chief of Interpretation at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP and sent him an email that describes our historical understanding of Whitman’s role at the Chatham Manor and questions we had in regards to possible tangible sources we could use for the pod cast plan. These include (but are not limited to):

    – Original copies of The Wound Dresser (1865), a work by Walt Whitman that describes in detail his experiences at the Chathom Manor as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War.

    – The still standing Catalpa tree, in which Whitman describes as a place where amputated body parts form wounded soldiers were dumped.

    We are looking forward to hearing from our contact.

    The Civil Rights Movement and race relations post Civil War: Selma to Montgomery Trail. We chose the site Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail as a representation of the struggles by Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. This trail is the site of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama that happened 100 years after the end of the Civil War. This march is noted as particularly significant because the marchers were confronted by violent law enforcement officers. This violence was broadcast worldwide and national television and came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”. The Civil Rights Movement gained unstoppable momentum once the media exposed the atrocities taking place in the American South. The enormous amount of violence towards nonviolent protesters helped to engender sympathy among Americans who did not live in the embroiled south and such broadcasting was a tool that ultimately influenced federal legislation protecting the rights of African Americans.

    The Civil Rights movement is often represented through the words and and biography of Martin Luther King Jr, as well as through landmark court cases like Brown vs. the Board of Education. Doug and I would like to represent the Civil Rights movement as a movement of the people and point out nontraditional emphasized tools of the Civil Rights Movement like the role of the media. This is why Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is such a key site in the legacy of the Civil War and the race conflicts that endured in its wake and even continue today.

    We look forward to hearing from the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Chief Rangers and Interpreters.

  7. Melissa Lang says:

    Park Choice as of 2/2/2001

    The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail – Civil Rights Movement
    Walt Whitman at Chatham (Part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania) if allowed -Arts
    and Literature Legacy
    Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (BRVB) – this one we are still not
    I would like some input from other students, Doug and I are trying to
    pin point a site that represents what the civil war means today.
    I like the connection to the 14th amendment that BRVB has, but to me
    it doesn’t necessarily represent today. Our other option are sites that
    reenact Civil War battles, but we feel that this only pertains to a minority.
    I would love to use the Supreme Court House as a symbol, it is not a
    National Park site as far as I could determine. So we are still at a loss for
    this one.

  8. Doug K-C says:

    One Site Selected to podcast about Legacy-

    White House

    • Melissa Lang says:

      The White House (Or Presidents Park) is going to be used by another group, I actually just emailed you Doug but suggested I post what I wrote for everyone to respond to:

      Hey Doug! And anyone who could help…
      So we have to solidify three parks for our section f the blogs on Legacy

      As I understand it we agreed that a good way to approach Legacy is
      Race relations – Civil Rights Movement and other struggles regarding social justice pertaining to race.

      Arts and Literature – Legacy of arts and literature that came out of the Civil War, I.E Walt Whitman ect.

      And then you and I are both interested in this overarching theme of what does the Civil War mean to people today. For this section (as far as national parks are concerned) I’m having a difficult time nailing down a site. I mean one thing I would like to discuss is basically how the civil war has been reinterpreted by people throughout 150 years. Is the civil war misinterpreted today? Used as a tool for special interest groups? What I can come up with now is a good way to make this ‘site specific’ is we can look at Civil War reenactment sites, or look at sites where the anniversaries of the Civil War have been reinterpreted, or sites where interpretation will be celebrated today. What do you think? The White House would have been good, but it is being used by someone else.

      Also, Greg you mentioned to Mary that the Walt Whitman site is being used by someone, but I couldn’t find out who. I would really love to utilize this site for the Arts and Literature portion of the Legacy of the Civil War…

    • Dianna Woolsey says:

      I think Andrew’s using the White House/President’s Park for The US on the Eve of the Civil War… isn’t he?

  9. Melissa Lang says:

    In regards to the Tuskegee Airmen Nat. Historic Site: Doug and I do not have the theme Reconstruction, but yes we can give up Tuskegee since there are more popular sites like, BRVB and the new established park Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial that can represent the Civil Rights Movement aspect of the ‘Legacy’ of the Civil War.
    Doug what do you think?

    • Doug says:

      It’s fine with me, too. I think we have quite a few options (although the story of Tuskegee airmen is hard to give up!).

  10. Pingback: Parks to Illustrate CW150 Themes: A Preliminary List | Interpreting the American Civil War

  11. Melissa Lang says:

    I rewatched episode 9 of Ken Burn’s Civil War that was assigned last week for class for inspiration on my theme, the: Legacy of the Civil War.
    I also revisited other assigned reading pertaining to the legacy of the Civil War including: David L. Larsen’s article Be Relevant or Become a Relic: Meeting the Public Where They Are, Eric Foner’s letter Changing Interpretation at Gettysburg NMP and David W. Blight’s article “What Will Peace among the Whites Bring?”: Reunion and Race in the Struggle over the Memory of the Civil War in American Culture” and E. J. Dionne, Getting the Story of the Civil War Right.

    I also read the section of the handbook that pertains to this theme: The Legacy of the Civil War by Rick Beard and Richard Rabinowitz.
    The first thing about this work that stood out to me were the financial costs outlined by Beard and Rabinowitz. I am shocked to learn that $3.05 billion was devoted to defense spending. This figure must be adjusted? I find that figure both bewildering and humbling. I have been familiar with the staggering loss of lives of soldiers during the Civil War, but never imagined that kind of money was spent. For this theme I definitely want to look further into this aspect of the “Legacy” of the Civil War because I think other Americans will find it equally interesting.

    I think the most poignant message form Beard, and Rabinowitz’s work is their conclusion: “Americans will accomplish something of great value…if we are able to confront “the wider issue of how the Civil War should be presented to the American People, and why academic and popular conceptions about the conflict are often so the different.” Narrowing that conceptual gap would create a new legacy of great value 150 years after Americans shed so much blood.”

    I sought Rick Beard’s contact information through the American Association for State and Local History, and Richard Rabinowitz’s through the American History Workshop.

    Further research included reading and taking notes on these websites:
    Through the city of Fredericksburg website:
    http://fredericksburg.com/CivilWar/Education/Definitions/aftermath/legacy_of_the_civil_war

    And Hugo Beiswenger’s piece The Legacyof the Civil War: The Disparate Views of Robert Penn Warren and Allen Tate, printed in the Border States: Journal of the Kentucky- Tennessee American Studies Association. Located:
    http://spider.georgetowncollege.edu/htallant/border/bs7/beiswenh.htm

    I sought examples for tangible and intangible resources through this recommended site for my theme: Port Chicago National Historic Site which commemorates the Port Chicago munitions explosion in 1944 that killed over 320 sailors, 202 of which were African American men working under military segregated conditions that compromised the safety of the sailors. After the explosion the surviving African American sailors in the area protested against the unsafe conditions and were subsequently arrested for mutiny. This even represents the continual issues regarding racial inequality in America in the post Civil War years.
    Tangible: The site, Intangible resources: segregation and racial inequality, Universal theme: death, equality.

  12. Doug K-C says:

    As I had stated on the Industry/Economics thread: My group members are each taking one topic to “own,” and then two members are each dividing another.
    I have read the section of the NPS guide on Legacy.
    This is going to be a hard one to delve into. So much of the focus of the suggested NPS sites are “Civil Rights” themed sites; Brown v. Board of Education, Central High School in Little Rock. Tuskegee Airman, Selma to Montgomery. And while these sites are certainly important, and yes, I see a direct connection from slavery to the Civil Rights Era, this is still about an 80 to 100 year span between the two “epochs,” and to me, it seems to be a stretch for a connection. Academia, yes – it makes sense. Driving around in your car with the family visiting Civil War sites, and this connection could be viewed as more tenuous. Furthermore, if we want to reflect on when the Legacy of the Civil War has led us to TODAY, in an era where our sitting President is African American, these sites are certainly societal stepping stones, but again, the connection seems to be drawn out. The line connecting these points is quite long.
    A catalogue of the number of dead on each side seems unsatisfactory, and forgive the term, seems to bleed into the Death and Dying theme. My goal is to move the discussion to a broader perspective – much like Beard and Rabinowitz piece, stressing what are the misconceptions about the war today, the diversions from the historical record, and how did we get here. Furthermore, I want that podcast to be engaging, and not stand-off-ish. It seems like a difficult task…
    A search of “Civil War Legacy” turns up a number of decidedly different themes, many of which will not be helpful to this portion of the podcasting exercise. None the less, some useful resources have been found:

    Webness:

    Virginia Memory Digital Collection: http://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/cw150

    Washington Post commentary on the above project http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/05/AR2010110502726.html

    A pdf about the organization/ project http://dls.state.va.us/GROUPS/civilwar/meetings/112607/Library.pdf

    NOAA’s own Civil War Legacy http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/features/nov10/ocs-civil-war.html (potentially good maps – over 400)

    Teaching with documents -a ton of stuff from the National Archives about black soldiers: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war/article.html

    More of their Civil War front page: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/civil-war-reconstruction.html

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