The Civil War Connections Blog

A New Topic: Civil War Memory

Howdy folks, and welcome back to the Connections blog. I am sad to say that I will be discontinuing the brief “today’s tidbit about me” section at the beginning of the post. This is because I’ll be focusing my posts on a more serious, specific scope of topics this fall – specifically, the issue of the Civil War and American memory. For those of you who enjoyed the “150 years ago today” and “ironclad-related” features of my posts, don’t you worry – there shall be some of that mixed in as well. This blogger is merely becoming more focused, since these posts now count for credit!

Not that kind of credit.


As an American, I can honestly say that the Civil War still looms large in our collective memory. Here in Virginia, where most of the eastern theatre of fighting took place, the Civil War is treated as a huge deal. Whole semesters in public and private school are dedicated to this conflict, and between the number of local Civil-War-related museums and battlefields, you’d be hard pressed to pass through the state without encountering its legacy. This legacy is not seen in the same way by everyone in the country, however: there exists a multitude of different ways to interpret it, and it means something different depending on who you ask.

For example, the owner of one of these licence plates will probably disagree with the other.


I would like to start this fall season’s “memory” focus off by giving an example of how I myself remember the war, and interpret its legacy. Unfortunately, that is almost impossible for me to do. Socrates once said “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” This happens to not only be my favorite definition of Wisdom, but it completely encompasses my point of view when it comes to the Civil War. Put simply, I think the whole issue is far too big, to complex and too important to be judged and quantified in a few sentences. Or a few paragraphs. Or even a few books.

… yea, that should be enough. FYI, this is artist Matej Kren’s “Idiom.”


And yet, that doesn’t stop many of us from trying. David Blight, Professor of American History at Yale University, presents a thoughtful and interesting view of the Civil War and American memory in these three YouTube videos, accessible HERE1, HERE2 and HERE3. Blight’s analysis indicates that the issues of race, union, the role of government, and even the way we remember our family history are all heavily affected by this great conflict. In order to understand where we are today as a nation, we have to examine the conflict that gave us a new birth of freedom.

Professor Blight, from his Yale University Webpage.


I use this day’s post as an introduction since I shall frequently explore the issue of memory in my posts this autumn. Look for me next Thursday where I shall sum up my own view on the issue, and also touch on how the people in my social circle remember the Civil War. In addition, I shall try and sum up the recent events of the Civil War 150 years ago. Until then, have a good week!