In anticipation of Remembrance Day and Dedication Day this week, we have asked our Fellows why and how they commemorate the Civil War. Read Megan’s post below, then check back later in the week for more posts on commemoration and remembrance.
Commemoration of the Civil War has been a hot topic lately, with many discussing why and how it should and shouldn’t be done. As a student of Civil War history, I’m clearly biased in believing that the war I study should be commemorated, but, unlike many, my bias doesn’t come from the fact that I have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. My ancestors came to the United States in the 1880s and 1890s from Scotland and settled in New Jersey and haven’t moved since. So why do I care about the Civil War? Why is it important to me that this country continue to commemorate a war that ended over 150 years ago? Continue reading “No Dog in the Fight: Commemorating the Civil War without an Ancestor”
An ongoing and rather controversial debate in the Civil War world is that over the rightful placement of the Confederate battle flag in American memory. Being such a provocative symbol both in terms of history and race relations, its ‘true’ meaning and ‘true’ symbolism are constantly in flux. With recent disputes on the removal of the Confederate flag from Robert E. Lee’s tomb at Washington and Lee University making their way into the mainstream news, the complicated meaning of the rebel symbol and where it belongs in American memory have earned their places at the forefront of the national consciousness.
Brad Paisley worked the issue even further into the public arena with the release of the song “Accidental Racist” on his 2013 album Wheelhouse. Set toward the end of the album, the country song with a little flavor of rap features LL Cool J as a guest artist. Immediately after its release, the song drew criticism both from white and black Americans about its aims and the intended meaning behind its unusual yet distinctive lyrics.
The Dropkick Murphys is a popular American Celtic Punk band known for their combinations of punk rock and bagpipes. Their songs are filled with Irish pride and often have something to do with hard partying and whiskey. However, in their 1999 album The Gang’s All Here, the Murphys took on the topic of Irish soldiers in the American Civil War. The song “The Fighting 69th” was first sung by the Irish band The Wolfe Tones on their 1993 album Across the Broad Atlantic. The album features several songs dedicated to Irish immigrants to America and holds a certain fascination for the Irish American. The Wolfe Tones version of the song is a more traditional-sounding Celtic song detailing the journey of Irish immigrants as “they sailed away/and they made a sight so glorious/as they marched along Broadway…and from there they went to Washington/and straight into the war.” When the Murphys released their version of the song in 1999, they added their signature punk anthem sound to make their version a hard rocking ballad dedicated to the men of the Irish Brigade.
A few days ago, I was working the desk at the Cold Harbor Visitor Center when a burly man with a goatee walked through the door. Approaching the desk, he told us in a thick southern accent that he was looking for an ancestor who had fought at Cold Harbor 150 years earlier. He believed his ancestor had been wounded and taken to a hospital in Richmond. He told us that several days earlier a ranger had assured him his ancestor would have been hauled into Richmond on a railroad, not a wagon, as he had previously feared. He was looking for confirmation of this. “I want to make sure that I can tell my mother that he didn’t suffer, that they didn’t haul him all the way in on a wagon,” he explained.
Back in February of 2014, I was rather surprised to receive a phone call from a Mr. John Hennessey, head of interpretation at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. John had been chatting with my advisor, Dr. Peter Carmichael, and had heard the story about my interesting ancestry and its connection to the Battle of Gettysburg. John then called me after getting my information from Professor Carmichael and invited me to be a part of the “Years of Anguish” Program that was being held at the Salem Baptist Church on April 5th, 2014. The themes of the panel were presidents, generals, and descendants of the American Civil War and John invited me to share the story of my ancestors’ involvement in the war as part of the lecture. I was truly honored and hit with a jolt of excitement when I realized that I would be telling my story to a crowd of people who were just as passionate about the Civil War as I was.
By Avery C. Lentz, ’14 When I walk out on the battlefield, I always make sure I go to the monuments of the units where my ancestors served, so I can pay my respects to the fallen. One of my ancestors was Henry Lentz in the 149th Pennsylvania Volun…
When I walk out on the battlefield, I always make sure I go to the monuments of the units where my ancestors served, so I can pay my respects to the fallen. One of my ancestors was Henry Lentz in the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Recently, I found out that I don’t just have an ancestor on the Union side, but also, one who fought for the Confederacy. From what my grandmother has told me, my first name comes from her maiden name, which in turn, comes from the Avery Family of North Carolina. This family has an old history tracing roots to colonial New England as well as being prominent cotton planters in North Carolina. Isaac E. Avery is one of the many from the Avery family in North Carolina. He died while fighting at Cemetery Hill on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
By Avery C. Lentz ’14 There were many units that were engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg. One unit that sticks out to me is the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. I am interested in this unit because a possible ancestor of mine serve…
There were many units that were engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg. One unit that sticks out to me is the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. I am interested in this unit because a possible ancestor of mine served in this regiment and was a casualty on the first day of battle. I have connected some of the dots and hope to connect more of his story. Private Henry Lentz lived in Tioga County at the time he was recruited into Company C by Alfred J. Sofield. The Lentz family is on my mother’s side of the family and she told me that the Lentz family lived in Tioga County at the time of the Civil War before moving south to Lycoming County in the late Nineteenth Century, where I live now. So I have a personal interest, possibly even a family connection to the 149th Pennsylvania Regiment and to Gettysburg.