One of the coolest things about this list which Xin Jeisan has created is I get see how my thinking has evolved around the Civil War over the past few years. But I also get to see how my commenters' thinking has evolved. For instance, here's how commenter David White begins a comment eight months ago:
I generally don't follow the Civil War conversations here, so forgive me if this has been touched on before.
George McClellan. What an ass.
Well, yeah. But seriously one of the more gratifying things about these past couple of years has been watching other people share the obsession. A few weeks ago, at a reading, an African-American woman came up to me to talk shop. She was obviously well read, but what she was most eager to talk about was David Blight and James MacPherson.
It was fascinating. I spent much of my college years discussing race with my peers, but the Civil War almost never came up--we were all about Kemit and the Dogon. One of the least realized successes of the Lost Cause is not simply how it's pushed its version of the war on the country, but how it's convinced African-Americans to accept themselves as marginal players.
I suspect there are a lot of reasons for this--some of them originating at home. The USCT, for instance, I think, present an important counterweight to the notion that black people's role in securing their freedom mainly consisted of nonviolent agitation. But as a college kid, I wouldn't have been interested in the USCT. I would have written them off as fighting for Lincoln, who I also would have written off as a rather pragmatic white supremacist.
I think it's good to get old.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.
is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power