But over the weekend in my usual Gazette665 blogging time, I needed to start working on a response to Gone With The Wind which has been trending in the news. So…I’ve just about got a lengthy series finished up for Emerging Civil War blog (and I’ll add links here when the series is completely published.)
It’s part of my commitment to have dialog and conversation while providing historical reference. Since I spent about a year researching the authoress, novel, and movie, it’s been time to collect my thoughts and raise some questions for what is happening as Gone With The Wind trends. Again. Did you know that the movie has been protested since the days it was filmed in Hollywood? More details coming up…
Set in Georgian England and based on a true story, the movie follows the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, the daughter of a British naval officer and an African woman. Historically, very little is known about her mother or the circumstances of Belle’s birth, but her father gave her his family name and she inherited a small fortune through his will after his death.
Belle was taken to England and placed in her great-uncle’s household where she was treated as an adopted niece. Since her great-uncle was the Lord Chief Justice of England, she received a good education. However, British society could see little except her darker skin, and she faced racism and social restrictions on a daily basis at gatherings.
Lord Mansfield, her great-uncle, presided as ruling judge in the Zong Case—which decided in court of law if enslaved men, women, and children were insurable property or cargo for slave trading ships. (Historical Spoiler: his decision on this case was one of the first steps and precedents toward the abolition of the British Slave Trade several decades later.)
For years, Dido Elizabeth Belle was “lost” in history, but her uncle had paid for the creation of an art masterpiece which survived and preserved her story for future researchers.
We the undersigned petitioners, American citizens of African descent, natives and residents of Tennessee, and devoted friends of the great National cause, do most respectfully ask a patient hearing of your honorable body in regard to matters deeply affecting the future condition of our unfortunate and long suffering race.
First of all, however, we would say that words are too weak to tell how profoundly grateful we are to the Federal Government for the good work of freedom which it is gradually carrying forward; and for the Emancipation Proclamation which has set free all the slaves in some of the rebellious States, as well as many of the slaves in Tennessee.
It’s June 6, 2020. Peaceful protests, intense rioting, political bickering, Civil War topics suddenly trending on Twitter, looming COVID-19, personal solitude. That pretty much sums up the last week. Hardly a good time to be back-publishing my semi-frivolous “plague journal” from the last twelve weeks, I thought. So it sits a little longer. Best-laid plans are getting altered on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, as I try to navigate for three different organizations in the history field. In this time when listening and sincere attempts to understand others’ views and positions are desperately needed, should I be “soapboxing” about history?
I started praying about it when I work up this morning. This had been the week to re-launch the blog and celebrate Gazette665’s Sixth Birthday! Did that even matter now? I thought, feeling discouraged.
And then, I remembered, this image from 76 years ago:
It’s New Market Day. The anniversary of the Battle of New Market when Confederate troops under General John C. Breckinridge drove Federal soldiers commanded by General Franz Sigel off the high ground around New Market and into retreat back down the Virginian Shenandoah Valley. It’s the anniversary of when 257 cadets from Virginia Military Institute filled a gap in the Confederate battle line and helped turn the conflict in favor of a southern victory and moment of “youthful glory.”
But this May 15 is unlike other New Market Days. The classes at Virginia Military Institute will not parade in front of the Virginia Memorial and graves of the cadets who died in 1864. No crowd will gather for a tour at New Market battlefield (though Lt. Col. Marshall did host a Facebook LIVE to mark the occasion). I am not hosting a tour or a booksigning. I’m sitting in my apartment about two and a half hours from New Market, wearing a “Field of Lost Shoes” T-Shirt, and working from home for my job.
Remember “The Generals” books from last week? Those volumes were instrumental in grounding my love of fact-finding and thinking about history. As much as I loved those books, I got annoyed with them and I think that annoyance had helped shape my interest in “civilian studies” AKA “women’s studies.”
It didn’t take long before I realized that the snippet biographies rarely mentioned a general’s personal life or family. That bothered me. I wanted to know if he was married. If he had children. What happened to his family during the Civil War.
Looking back, I know that Ezra J. Warner’s volumes are strictly military history and they are reference books, not comprehensive biographies. And within that category, details about family life and personal relationships is rare included. That’s tradition, but is it the way it has to stay? A few thoughts on this subject: