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Happy 4th of July!

Considering the overwhelming Confederate slant we see in motion pictures and most literature (eg. Gone With the Wind), it is equally important to address the media imbalance in regards to the Union Cause. We learned and discussed endlessly about the Confederate South and the Lost Cause, but the one element that we touched on but did not spend too much time on is the hypocrisy of northerners and the Union Cause. A fellow student brought up this issue more times than none and I began to see puzzling misconceptions I had about the North, especially the hypocritical practices and its double standard surrounding racism and segregation, just to mention a few.

Recruitment Poster

As much as admire President Lincoln (and of whom I wrote about in my last blog), it was eye opening and disappointing to see how politics play out in the whole scheme of things. For example in Gallagher’s book Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotton… Lincoln’s speech to Congress reaffirms, “This is essentially a People’s contest…whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men.”[1] Could this statement in Lincoln’s speech be in reference to the emancipation of slaves and surely the promotion that “all men are created equal?”  If this is the case and if  “men’s condition is to be elevated” then why did segregation exist in the Union army and why were the men in the 54th regiment belittled and treated with contempt and discrimination? No man’s condition can be elevated (let alone in spirit), when men are refused the necessities of life or most crucial, not treated with dignity and respect! For instance, one extreme injustice was when the men of the 54th showed their tear-stained letters from their families to politicians in the hopes that the pay crisis could be resolved as their families struggled in poverty.[2]

A testiment to the bravery of the
members of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment,
Colored US Troops

In Hope and Glory Essays… Donald Yacovone writes about the promises made by Massachusetts’ governor John A. Andrew to black recruits, “The Fifty-Fourth would have the same equipment, be eligible for the same bounties and federal benefits, and receive the same pay as white Union soldiers.” [3] Of course, we all know what happed to the “pay crisis” controversy.  Later we learn these men did not receive pay for over a year! [4]   Learning about these injustices towards African American soldiers during the Civil War and who, I might add “volunteered” for the Union Cause was overwhelmingly sad and disappointing. To find out that the North was no better than the South in their politics and treatment of blacks is…you guessed it, pretty hypocritical.


[1] Gary W. Gallagher, Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood & Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War, (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2008) 115.

[2] Martin Henry Blatt, Thomas J. Brown, and Donald Yacovone. Hope & Glory: Essays on the Legacy of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts in association with Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, 2001), 44.

[3] Martin Henry Blatt, Thomas J. Brown, and Donald Yacovone, 35.

[4] Martin Henry Blatt, Thomas J. Brown, and Donald Yacovone, 44.

Blog Post-3: June 28, 2012 by J. Herrera

Abraham Lincoln: Against All Odds

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http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/02/young-abraham-lincoln-child-of-the-american-frontier/

One of America’s best-known presidents of the 19th century and remembered most for his dramatic political career and demise is Abraham Lincoln.  One of the most intriguing facts about this presidential hero is his humble upbringing in the backwoods of Kentucky only to later marry a Kentucky socialite, Mary Todd. Ironically, and contrary to what is known today concerning Lincoln’s intellectual ability, is the fact that he was not considered very bright back in his youth. In fact, David Donald states, “There wasn’t much to this boy at first. He was little and all spindle. Learning was hard for him.” [1] The truth remains that today he is best known for attaining great knowledge and developed a reputation for surrounding himself with progressive thinkers of his time while in office.  Beschloss and  Sidey also note, “His law partner said of him, ‘His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.’” [2]  Obviously growing up in a farm gave young Abe ample opportunities to learn the value of skilled labor such as; farming, carpentry, hunting, fishing, and boating. These activities aided him in physical strength and no doubt endurance in hard work.  Nevertheless, even though much is written about his presidential experience while in office, most who studies Abraham Lincoln do not usually focus on who and what influenced him to become a man of such great success and accomplishment.

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http://kerrysdavis.home.comcast.net/~kerrysdavis/p197.htm

http://iq-ownersclub.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php?t307.html

Perhaps life’s struggles and deep tragedies can become a source to building great character in a person and Lincoln was no exception.  Researching Lincoln’s background can most likely shed light to how and why Abraham Lincoln became such a great man in history. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks in La Rue County Kentucky.  Obviously those who impact us the most are our parents and here author, Henry Ketcham describes Abraham’s father, “Thomas Lincoln was left fatherless in early boyhood, and grew up without any schooling or any definite work. For the most part he did odd jobs as they were offered.” [1]  Perhaps the fact that his father was illiterate and worked at whatever jobs he could find, Lincoln would develop a passion for learning, which later Lincoln was known to be self-taught in law.

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http://www.superstock.com/stock-photos-images/255-14551 

At the age of nine the death of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy may have contributed to his willingness to overcome life’s setbacks. Ketchem notes, “ By this time Mrs. Lincoln was down with the same scourge….At all events she soon died and the future president passed into his first sorrow.”[4] President Lincoln experienced other deaths such as his older sister Sarah and later three of his four sons. Colonel Alexander K. McClure writes, “Edward Baker, born March 10, 1846, died in infancy, William Wallace, born December 21, 1850, died in the White House in February, 1862, and Thomas (known as “Tad”), born April 4, 1853, died in 1871.” [5]   The mere fact that an individual will experience tragedy through loss can either “make or break” a person, but for some individuals adversity can be used to their advantage later in life.  This became true for Abraham Lincoln with the adversity he was confronted with politically during and after the Civil War, which later became his demise.


 1] David Herbert Donald, Lincoln. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 36.

[2] Michael Beschloss and Hugh Sidey. 16, Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865 (White House Historical Association, 2009), accessed June 27, 2012, http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/abrahamlincoln.

[3] Henry Ketcham, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Chapter III. Early Years, accessed June 27, 2012, http://www.authorama.com/life-of-abraham-lincoln-5.html.

[4] Henry Ketcham, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Chapter III. Early Years.

[5] Colonel Alexander K. McClure, Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, accessed June 28, 2012, http://www.rickwalton.com/lincoln/linc572.htm.

Blog Post-2: June 21, 2012 by J. Herrera

“UDC –The Faith Conflict”

After reading and gaining some background about the UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy), it was interesting to discover how southern women used the outcome of the Civil War to rise up from the embers of defeat and “raised the stakes of the Lost Cause by making it a movement about vindication, as well as memorialization.[1]  The post Civil War period gave southern women (specifically women of the elite class) a glimpse to the importance of organizing themselves in order to provide assistance to their people affected by the Lost Cause. First on their list they would memorialize their fallen soldiers and vindicate their service to the Confederacy; whereby the UDC was formed; “on September 10, 1894, by founders Mrs. Caroline Meriweather Goodlett of Nashville, Tennessee and Mrs. Anna Davenport Raines of Georgia.” [2]

Although, the UDC’s objectives are admirable at first glance due their philanthropic work by preserving historical truths (according to the South), they provided education to perpetuate the Old South ideology, and of course Confederate patriotism was included. Their objectives sound admirable and worthy of support, UNITL the idea of “fighting to sustain white supremacy” [3] is mentioned and this completely changes the notion that “all men are created equal.” The idea that the UDC also promotes white supremacy is difficult to grasp especially since the organization also proclaims to be of the Christian faith. For example, UDC members would use Biblical analogies to enforce their faith and show allegiance to the Confederacy at the same time: “like Mary and Martha, whose faith never wavered and who paid homage to Jesus at his tomb, southern women had remained faithful to the Confederacy” [4] The fact that the UDC were women of faith and upheld Biblical truths is conflicting since God would not assign dominion of one man over another (in reference to slavery), so their promotion of white supremacy is disturbing overall.

However, on defense of the UDC, Cox explains: “former slave owners had done the world a service by providing their African slaves with the gift of Christianity” [5] (106).  In essence, the fact that slave owners were in part Christian missionaries “with civilizing power,”[6] the Christian message to slaves apparently had no bearing on the fact that their slaves were living basically in bondage to their masters.  On the one hand, reading about the UDC’s contributions after the war and their philanthropic work, this gave way to why the UDC increased exponentially in membership. According to Cox: “by the end of World War I, the organization climbed in membership of nearly 100,000 women” [7] Even today the UDC has a website to promote their efforts of yesterday. Once again, the white supremacy notion is difficult to except or understand when we live in the world’s greatest “melting pot.”

1 Karen L. Cox, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the reservation of Confederate Culture. Florida: University Press of Florida, 2003), 1.

[3] Cox,  2.

[4] Cox, 11.

[5] Cox, 106.

[6] Cox, 106

[7] Cox, 29

 Gone With the Wind and Mythmaking in America

The American perception concerning the Civil War obviously varies depending on the regional background a person is from. For instance, during the Civil War (or even today, for that matter) a Northerner would be in opposition to slavery and it would be likely for them to ask the question, why shouldn’t the Union become a united people who would openly welcome diversity and share equal opportunities in the Union?  By contrast, Bruce Chadwick in his book The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film makes it clear that the author of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (born in Atlanta, Georgia) had good reason to believe that the Ku Klux Klan had a purpose in the South. Mitchell states, “One of the earliest purposes of the Klan was to protect women and children. Later it was used to keep the Negroes from voting eight or ten times at every election.” * First of all, for that time period, it would be very unlikely that African Americans (coming out of slavery) would be bold enough or willing to risk voting multiple times in an election.  This notion seems a little too far fetched. Elaine Mitchell’s mindset seems to be typical for a Southerner, but for someone outside of this region (American West populations) would seem outright racist.

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz makes it pretty clear how ingrained the South is about the “Lost Cause.”   Horwitz clarifies the Southerners’ passion for the Confederacy and their belief in “the Cause.” Horwitz includes the Children of the Confederacy pledge which states (an excerpt), “the War Between the States was not a REBELLION nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery; and always to act in a manner that will reflect honor upon our noble and patriotic ancestors.” ** Absolutely, it is honorable to remember our fallen soldiers, but where does one draw the line when it comes to the domination, maltreatment, and having to suffer inequality because of color of their skin?

In the movie Gone With the Wind the producer David O. Selznick did his best to exclude controversial content from Margaret Mitchell’s novel particularly concerning the Ku Klux Klan and the involvement of many Southerners with the Klan, as was the case for the characters Ashley and Kennedy. Chadwick states, “If Ashley and Kennedy had stayed in the Klan, moreover, it would have completely undermined the movie’s portrayal of them as harmless Southern victims.” *** In the movie the North was considered the evil force and Southerners were portrayed as victims; with scenes of fires burning, plantations and homes destroyed, confederate soldiers strewn injured or dead for miles around, there was no doubt the viewer found himself drawn into the Southern camp with feelings sadness and compassion for the Confederate cause.  On the other hand, for the so-called Yankee there is no justifiable reason (regardless of economics with owning slaves) that the practice of slavery should not be acceptable in the Union, but according to the storyline in GWTW the idea that the federal government would dominate the Southern States’ way of life was worth fighting for.

Having been born and raised in the American Southwest, learning about the Civil War was primarily a historical event that did not hit too close to home obviously, nevertheless there are similarities in the discrimination many Hispanics experienced and of course there will always be two sides to a story.  For instance, one example that was grounds for punishment in California schools during the 1960s was speaking your first language (Spanish) in the classroom. Teachers were allowed to physically punish a student for upholding the rule that “you must speak English” in school. As ridiculous as this sounds by today’s standards, a plantation owner would see it the same way when it came to freeing his slaves when the Civil War came to an end.

* Bruce Chadwick, The reel Civil War: mythmaking in American film. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 195.

** Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the attic: dispatches from the unfinished Civil War. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998), 37.

*** Chadwick, 197.