Mapping the Past

As per our discussion last class regarding the importance of geography when studying the past, I ran across this article last week about someone who is literally mapping the past.  Anne Kelly Knowles is making a GIS map of Gettysburg in order to see how the battlefield would have looked to those standing on the ground during the battle.  Her hopes in doing this research is to exonerate Longstreet by explaining how the terrain would have influenced his decisions, as well as to understand Lee’s perspective in the battle.

A House Divided

The WaPo has a Civil War blog, too! Its description says: “‘A House Divided’ is a blog dedicated to news and issues of importance to Civil War enthusiasts across the country and around the world. Blogger Linda Wheeler and a panel of respected Civil War experts will debate and dissect historical issues and explore new concepts. Wheeler will also report on conferences and seminars, find little-known battlefields and sites to explore, keep track of local, national and international stories of interest to readers and provide advice on upcoming events.”  This can add to our list of other blog posts,  and demonstrates this funny notion of “blogging the war.”

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Movie Post

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, starring Clint Eastwood, is a western from 1962—with a twist.  Most of the second half of the film takes place amidst the backdrop of the Civil War.  The war presents more of a backdrop than a driving force in the movie, but several of the themes that the war scenes evoke develop into overarching messages of the film.

The film highlights three characters: Blondie, the Good; Angel Eyes, the Bad; and Tuco, the Ugly.  They all have one purpose: to find the Confederate gold secretly buried in a grave somewhere in the west (probably in the New Mexico area).  At one point, Tuco and Blondie pretend to be Union sympathizers and camp with a Union battalion.  The soldiers there reveal a personal look into camp life that is very cynical and does not romanticize the war.  The captain says to Tuco and Blondie, “There’s only one thing in common between us and the guys across the river. We both reek of alcohol…Whoever has the most liquor to get the soldiers drunk and send them to be slaughtered… he’s the winner.”  His comments reflect Blondie’s later sentiment that the bloodshed was all such a waste, on both sides.  This theme of wasting lives is present throughout the movie; the reason that Angel Eyes is considered the bad is because he has little regard for human life.  Blondie and Tuco, while they are certainly not afraid to kill in most cases, do have a greater respect for life—if evidenced only by the fact that neither one ever manages to kill the other, despite attempts and threats to do so.

The movie hints at some of the perceptions held in mainstream culture in the 1960s.  Race is not addressed to any great degree, and even then the most predominant ethnicity or race portrayed is Hispanic.  The movie has a more northern bend, with only fleeting depictions of southern soldiers and typically not as rounded characters.  There are pacifist themes that echo a nation tired of conflict, alongside the escapism of the Western genre of film, idealizing a time past.  In fact, it’s an interesting juxtaposition of two highly idealized eras in American history: that of a wild West, romanticized in the movie, and that of a fractured nation, depicted rather starkly in the film.

Farby Reenactors

So this may be more relevant for next week, but on the thread one person speaks of their experience as a movie extra in GloryThis source is a thread on a Civil War Reenactors chatroom.  I found the irony of reenactors using old jargon as they attempt to initiate an interested person into their ranks by using the internet.  One commenter said “Greetings KeystoneCutter,  Have you tried ‘Google’ 50th Pennsylvania Re-enactors?” and included a link.  His rank, according to the website, is that of a Brigadier General and moderator.

Farby Reenactors

So this may be more relevant for next week, but on the thread one person speaks of their experience as a movie extra in GloryThis source is a thread on a Civil War Reenactors chatroom.  I found the irony of reenactors using old jargon as they attempt to initiate an interested person into their ranks by using the internet.  One commenter said “Greetings KeystoneCutter,  Have you tried ‘Google’ 50th Pennsylvania Re-enactors?” and included a link.  His rank, according to the website, is that of a Brigadier General and moderator.

Arlington in Bones

One example of modern portrayals of Arlington Cemetery includes this episode from the Fox show “Bones.”  One lead character, played by David Boreanaz, is a former soldier and a current FBI officer in the show, so there is a recurring theme of honor, patriotism, and national pride within the show.  As such, there are a few episodes that treat of the Cemetery and highlight it specifically, or use it as a place to depict honor because of the strong attachment we have formed between the two.  The show takes it very seriously, and scenes including Arlington typically have much less humor than the rest of the show; often those scenes are silent (they tend to be burials, too; however, the show is about dead people and forensics, so there’s a certain gallows humor that permeates the dialogue).

Arlington National Cemetery on NatGeo

This video is Arlington: Field of Honor, a 2004 documentary by National Geographic (director John Bredar) about the history and impact of Arlington Cemetery.  It is very romantic in its portrayal of the honor of the cemetery itself and of the importance it has played in the US since the war. Because my project is (in part) looking at how the interpretation has changed in “official” sources such as the National Parks Service, this video represents a different kind of  “official,” as NatGeo is a very well-respected institution and, whether or not it deserves the acclaim, it is seen as an authoritative and true source for history by many people in the country.

Mosby’s Spirit

Mosby's spirit

I was at the Virginia Association of Museums conference last weekend, and spotted this guy in the silent auction.  I was a little short of the $50 I would have needed to make a bid, so I settled with a picture.  Just something fun relating to our discussions of Mosby and to Jason’s project!

Most recent Civil War burial at Arlington Cemetery: March 8, 2013

Today, two sailors from the Civil War will finally be laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery.  The men were sailors on board the USS Monitor, which was lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras half-way during the war.  In 1979, the Monitor was rediscovered; in 2002, the two bodies of the dead were removed and brought to shore.  For the last decade, the remains have been under investigation to determine their identities.  At this point, however, researchers have determined that the remains should finally be laid to rest in what may be the last Civil War burial in Arlington.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampires in HD

Trailer

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34x6m-ahGIo[/youtube]

This is the trailer for the movie based on this book; this ideally will complement the earlier post about humorous clips of Lincoln.   I must admit that when I first saw it in theaters, I was appalled and amused at the same time.  I haven’t seen the movie, but the trailer introduces themes that we are familiar with after having read the book.  This will be especially relevant once we enter the unit on movies.