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Grape & Canister
News, Books, Videos, and an Otis Update
On Sunday May 21 at 7PM the Civil War Memory book group will meet to discuss Erin Thompson’s book, Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments. A zoom link will be sent to all paid subscribers a few days in advance. If you plan on attending please make it a point to at least read the introduction and first chapter. Thank you.
Erin Thompson’s explores the decision to remove portions of the Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery and the petitioners of a lawsuit that hopes to block it.
The #DefendArlington crowd has another card up its sleeve: anti-Semitism. The Arlington memorial was sculpted by Moses Ezekiel, the first Jewish graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, who fought for the Confederates before he began a long career as an artist. The tweeting defenders insisted that supporting the removal of his work would be anti-Semitic. That such a sudden rallying to the cause of protecting a Jewish Confederate is just the slightest bit pretextual was suggested by the homophobic insults lobbed at me in the debate. Ezekiel, who never married, was circumspect about his sexuality, but it’s probably no accident that he relocated to Rome, summered at Capri, and spent 45 years in a close relationship with a male painter whom he immortalized in hunky drawings. I wonder if the Confederate flag comes in rainbow?
This is fascinating.
Archaeologists have found a submerged gravestone in Dry Tortugas National Park near the Florida Keys, and they say the discovery could also mean there’s a cemetery and hospital in the area. The site could have been used for quarantined yellow fever patients on a small island that has since eroded into the sea. While only one grave site was found, the scientists say the remains of dozens of people, mostly members of the military stationed at Fort Jefferson on Garden Key in the 1860s and ‘70s, could be at the site.
Today Fort Hood—named after Confederate general John Bell Hook—in Texas will be renamed to honor Richard E. Cavazos, the first Hispanic four-star general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command.
On June 14, 1953, Cavazos’s unit was ordered to attack an entrenched Chinese position.
After capturing the objective and “destroying vital enemy equipment and personnel,” his unit withdrew under heavy enemy bombardment. As they pulled back, though, Cavazos “remained alone on the enemy outpost to search the area for missing men. Exposed to heavy hostile fire, Lieutenant Cavazos located five men who had been wounded,” according to a citation published on the Home of Heroes military history reference site.
After evacuating the wounded one at a time, Cavazos made two more trips to no man’s land, “searching for casualties and evacuating scattered groups of men who had become confused.” Despite being sprayed with shrapnel and rocks on his back from Chinese shells that had landed nearby, he refused medical treatment until he was sure his men had been all accounted for.
Here are some reflections from a recent panel discussion that took place in Mississippi about the future of the state’s Confederate monuments.
Congratulations to Jefferson Cowie on winning the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in history for his book, Freedom’s Domain: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power. I absolutely loved this book and used it extensively on a recent civil rights tour that I led through Alabama.
Historian David Blight and poet Natasha Tretheway talk about remembering, reckoning, and healing at the Atlanta History Center.
Here is an update on the restoration work being done on Little Round Top at Gettysburg.
Historian Edward L. Ayers reflects on his role in helping the city of Richmond, Virginia mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
New to the Civil War Memory Library
Annie Abrams, Short Changed: How Advanced Placement Cheats Students (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023).
Barbara J. Fields, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland during the Nineteenth Century (Yale University Press, 1985).
Gregory May, A Madman’s Will: John Randolph, 400 Slaves and the Mirage of Freedom (Liveright, 2023).
Eric L. Muller, Lawyer, Jailer, Ally, Foe: Complicity and Conscience in America’s World War II Concentration Camps (University of North Carolina Press, 2023).
Toure F. Reed, Toward Freedom: The Case against Race Reductionism (Verso, 2020).
Rita Roberts, I Can’t Wait to Call You My Wife: African American Letters of Love and Family in the Civil War Era (Chronicle Books, 2022).
Otis becomes a bit more lethargic as the weather begins to heat up, though it’s sometimes hard to discern the difference between exhaustion and pure laziness. Oh well.
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