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Signpost marking the Burning of Darien

After watching the movie Glory, I was struck by the actions of the Union soldiers on the town of Darien, Georgia. I know that the movie is based upon factual events, so I decided to look up information about Darien and its destruction during the Civil War. I found out the Darien had indeed been plundered by Colonel James Montgomery and Colonel Robert Shaw. Col. Shaw was unhappy about his part in the raid, and wrote about its happenings to his wife, Annie, afterwards. He explains that the only people left in the town were a few women and negroes. He tells her about Montgomery’s order to burn down the homes. Montgomery tells him that, “the Southerners must be made to feel that this was a real war, and that they were to be swept away by the hand of God, like the Jews of Old….We are outlawed, and therefore not bound by the rules of regular warfare”[1]Did “outlawed” mean that since they were in charge of black soldiers, they were not really part of the regular Union army? I find Montgomery’s statement to be revealing about how officers felt about commanding African American soldiers. Col. Shaw may be the exception to the rule, as his parents were abolitionists and he may have felt less ostracized by being in command of black soldiers.

Remaining Structure of the Burning of Darien

McIntosh County history describes the, “…the lumber industry devastated, and even the once-thriving seaport town of Darien was destroyed as the result of the “total war” tactics of a renegade Union field officer.”[2] Could Col. Montgomery have been acting alone in his actions of plundering, stealing and burning this town to the ground? Or was this a practice of many commanders? There is rumor that Shaw’s family helped rebuild Darien after the war, but I could not corroborate that information. That may have been a myth perpetuated by the movie Glory. A book about the infamous raid and the 54th Regiments involvement was published in 1965 and is based on the letters from Col. Shaw to his wife. It also was one of the sources for the movie Glory.[3]


[1] Colonel Robert Shaw to his wife Annie about the Raid at Darien, Georgia. St. Simons Island, GA, June 9, 1863. http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc5/darien_shaw_letter.htm (accessed on July 3, 2003).
[2] City of Darien, Georgia, “McIntosh County History: The Birth of McIntosh County,” http://www.cityofdarienga.com/mcIntoshCountyHistory.php (accessed July 3, 2012).
[3] Glory, directed by Edward Zwick, (1989, Culver City, CA. Tri-Star Pictures) DVD.

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I couldn’t get this to post as a response, so…

I hope that those in charge of creating the Harriet Tubman memorials will take more care to make sure the information is correct before presenting it to the public. It reminds me of the monument to Martin Luther King Jr. The memorial of King on the National Mall in Washington came under scrutiny when Maya Angelou, celebrated poet and civil rights proponent, criticized the quote.  Angelo charges that the quote, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,”* was taken out of context.  It makes sense that when making such a permanent monument to historical figures, maybe more scrutiny should be given to the information before it becomes public.

* Eyder Peralta, “A Paraphrased Quote Stirs Criticism of MLK Memorial” NPR(blog), August 31, 2011, http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/08/31/140093786/a-paraphrased-quote-stirs-criticism-of-mlk-memorial

In class, we have argued the role of women in the Civil War. I delved further into the role of women during this period by researching Elizabeth R. Varon and her podcast interview with the Organization of American Historians.  Varon argues that the role of women during the Civil War was not just an occasional appearance by a few well-known women, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe. She argues that women were an integral part in the origins of the Civil War. [1] Her article in the New York Times, which the interview draws from, discusses individual case studies of women who made difference.[2]  For example, many historians are aware of the importance of Harriett Beecher Stowe’s writing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It has been credited with bringing awareness of the horrors of slavery. I, however, was not aware of books written in response to Stowe’s novel. Varon attributes these novels as, “enduring volley in the ongoing literary war over slavery,”[3] that leads to Margaret Mitchel and Gone with the Wind.   In her interview, Varon discusses the repercussions women experienced because of their public involvement in the abolition movement. Women, such as the Grimke sisters, were considered a threat to traditional values and were therefore divisive and destructive. The Grimke sisters were actively involved in abolition conventions during the mid-1800s.[4] Many religious groups considered women’s involvement in these actions as unwomanly.  I could see where men, Northern or Southern, would see this as a threat to their way of life.  If white males considered themselves as the top of the hierarchical food pyramid, then any changes in at the foundation would be taken as a threat.  Women were even a hazard in the North. Men allowed women to be part of the abolition movement as long as they were being foot soldiers. The north did not want women to take on public roles because it only caused more division between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists.  That did not stop men from asking women to be part of the political process, and legitimizing it with a women’s stamp of approval. Each side counted on women as being the mediators of their cause.

Even though men regarded women with importance when it came to counting them as part of the abolition movement, men on either side did not want women to publicize their help.  For women this fight continued beyond the Civil War.  The Civil War became a battleground for more than abolition. It became a proving ground for women.  Varon brings to light many of the individual battles that women had to fight, and the important role that women played in dividing the North and the South.


[1] Elizabeth R. Varon, interview by Carl R. Weinberg, OAH Magazine of History, Organization of American Historians, podcast audio, March 2011,  http://www.oah.org/programs/civilwar/podcast/.

[2] Elizabeth R. Varon, “Women at War,” The Opinionator(blog), New York Times, February 1, 2011, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/women-at-war/.

[3] (Varon, 2011)

[4] Karen Board Moran, “The Grimke Sisters,” Worcester Women’s History Project, accessed on June 28, 2012, http://www.wwhp.org/Resources/Slavery/grimkesisters.html.

We have had some discussion in class about the “commercialization” of Civil War sites. What is the best way to remember these sites? It was even argued that the memorials on the Civil War battlefield may be considered intrusive to the importance of the area. I argue that commercialization and tourism do have a place in commemorating these sites, but it must be done in a way that is respectful to the memory of the site.  Memorials to Civil War battlefields throughout the South have been placed there as to create a significant historical moment that can be captured only at its birthplace.  This has more meaning to the inhabitants of the area, the ones who keep this history alive. However, this does not make it significant to many Americans in the 21st century.  How do we as historians reach this large body of Americans that are disinterested in history from our own back yard? I know that as an American History teacher it is difficult to keep a student’s attention when it comes to anything about history. I believe in this case, using new ways to utilize history are perfectly acceptable.

One innovative way to bring Civil War history to the forefront for many people may be in the way that I just read about in “Civil War Interactive: BlueGrayDaily.”  It discusses a tour of Gettysburg by horseback. This way many get to see Gettysburg as very few people do, without the accompaniment of tour busses or throngs of tourists. The tours are led by a “licensed battlefield guide” (?) through the rehabilitated field. Even this description of the field describes a commercialized area.[1]  What better way to get to know a place intimately than to travel over it and learn kinesthetically.   The “BlueGrayDaily” also discusses the Museum of the Confederacy is opening a new building that will house more artifacts. This is a way to bring people to Appomattox and increase tourism for the town.[2]  In this way, the town and the museum use tourism to increase the exposure to important history.

We have tried to understand the importance of these monuments as part of history. I believe that their importance has evolved from preserving a moment in history, to exposing history to many people that would not normally be a part of it. In this case, the Civil War and its availability in our own back yard must not be ignored.


[1] “Gettysburg on horseback takes riders back in time,” posted on June 20, 2012, http://bluegraydaily.com/?p=9222, accessed on June 21, 2012.

[2]“New Museum Offers Economic Growth for Appomattox,” posted October 27,2011, http://bluegraydaily.com/?cat=43 accessed on June 21, 2012.

The portrayal of Mammy in the movie Gone with the Wind describes a caricature of a slave woman from the South. This caricature is a model for how Americans during the late 1930’s envisioned Civil War era South. The mammy of the movie represented a house slave that was devoted to the plantation mistress. The portrayal of the mammy represented fictional characters in movies and in literature such as in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gone with the Wind.  As expressed in the movie, Mammy is a person that acts as a mother figure for Scarlett O’Hara, but is conspicuously absent at other times. When Scarlett visits Rhett Butler in jail, accompaniment by her mammy legitimizes her visit. As Scarlett walks through Atlanta, Mammy serves as her protector, knocking away other Negros in order to make sure her charge is untouched and unharmed. However, as Scarlett goes in to Frank Kennedy’s general store, Mammy stays outside.  She and the other house slaves portrayed ignorant people who live to do their masters bidding, and do not know how to behave until they are told how to behave.

Hattie McDaniel, after playing Mammy in Gone with the Wind, was typecast as a housemaid for many other roles. She was quoted as saying, “Why should I complain about making seven thousand dollars a week playing a maid? If I didn’t I’d be making 7 dollars a week being a maid.”[1]

Americans during the late 1930’s also looked to black characters in negative roles. The musical Porgy and Bess portrayed African Americans living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina.  The photo of the drunken black man appeared in The New Yorker in 1935. Still held in the grips of the Jim Crow era, African Americans were still being perceived as the fictional Mammie in Gone with the Wind.


[1]Donald Bogle. Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks: An interpretive history of Blacks in American films (New York, NY: Continuum) 1994, accessed from http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/ on 6/14/12.  hhttphttp://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/Co