Skip to main content

Civil War

Bad History

  Columbus liked to wear giant plumed hats, and was fond of a woman he later sold for beads. The Civil War started sometime in an early morning rain, and continues to this day. Nietzsche said that all that glistens is gold. Chaucer told tales [...]

Book Notes

CURRENT EVENTS The Fall of Baghdad, by Jon Lee Anderson. Penguin, October 2004. $24.95 There are the events around the war—water shortages, last-minute evacuations, Sahaf the Information Minister defiantly pronouncing the slaughter of U.S. soldier [...]

A Kind of Solution

The writer was drinking himself to death. In his first flush of freedom—he had come to Iowa from a land ruled by a military dictatorship—he drowned himself in vodka, and when for the third day running he was rushed to the emergency room with a blood alcohol level that would have killed another man, he was committed for observation. The date was September 10, 2001. That evening, more than eight hours after his last drink, the writer was still dead drunk. The judge who signed his commitment order called the next day, incredulous.

Uncle Jeff Davis

When the Davis Family Association has its biennial meeting, The Magnolia Inn turns out the oil riggers and makes room for the relations. In front were parked three Cadillacs, a Toyota Camry and a truck that looked as if it had run into a deer and been driven through the swamps with the 10-point buck stuck on its hood.


Lee’s Army Revisited

"Nineteen men in two distinct groups rode forward from the coalescing Confederate lines west of Chancellors-ville at about 9:00 p. m. on May 2, 1863. Only seven of the nineteen came back untouched, man or horse . . . Major General A.P. Hill escaped among the unscathed handful. Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, among those farthest from the flash point, was one of the five men killed or mortally wounded." So begins "The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy," the title chapter of prize-winning Civil War historian Robert K. Krick's latest book—an eclectic but compulsively readable collection of ten essays on Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, most of them focusing on such seminal episodes as Jackson's death, Lieutenant General James Longstreet's foot-dragging, and Major General Robert Rodes' relatively little-known heroics. The result is a brilliant tour de force.


Remembering Our Bloodiest War

Recently, historians have sought to understand how and why Americans continue to remember their civil war. Memory of the bloodiest conflict on U.S. soil remains fresh in popular imagination, kept alive by legions of Civil War buffs, reenactors, genealogists, and amateur writers, as well as scholars, who declare it to be the "Second American Revolution" or the watershed in our national history. Clearly, it was a significant event, but why does this war still resonate so strongly in our popular culture and national psyche? The answer, or answers, appears to be quite complicated.


Ted Turner et al. at Gettysburg; or, Re-Enactors in the Attic

What I do want to talk about is the packaging and marketing of the Civil War as part of a larger commodification of cultural desire in which the making of Turner's film and his participation in it become exemplary. I wish to speak, that is, about the matter of Gettysburg as a case study in the ongoing manufacture of the Civil War as the quintessential American item—a product, I will propose, not unlike its cousin, the sport utility vehicle, as dangerous as it is big and handsome, a shining exterior fabricated around the killing power of the machine.

The Heart of American History

The era of the Civil War and Reconstruction remains the crucible of American history, the trial that decisively defined this country and its self-perceived mission. The American people seem to recognize that fact, for no era in our history attracts the general reading public as does that between 1861 and 1877.