Saturday, May 31, 2008

Major Thomas Seward

I love the Thomas Seward stone (1800) in Copp's Hill Burying Ground. It reads:

Beneath this Stone is deposited,
the Remains of
who gallantly fought
in our late revolutionary War,
and through
its various scenes, behaved
with patriotic fortitude
& died in the calms
of domestic felicity, as becomes
a Universal-Christian,
Novr. 27th 1800 Etat 60

I love this stone because the style of the images reminds me of the illustrations in Barbara and Ed Emberly book, Drummer Hoff Fired it Off.

Friday, May 30, 2008

This Republic of Suffering

Today, I finished Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (2007). I won't say I finished "reading" it because, technically, I listened to the audiobook, but that shouldn't matter. I like having nice, long audiobooks on my iPod as I walk around Cambridge — in the past few months, I've listened to The Killer Angels, Al Gore's The Assault on Reason, Simon Schama's A History of Britain, The Red Tent, The Ghost Map, Fred Anderson's The War that Made America, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and my weekly "This American Life" podcasts.

Many others have reviewed this book in recent months, and I won't rehash what they have said. I'll just say that I enjoyed this book well enough, though it wasn't life changing. I'm glad to see that a good book about 19th-century cultural history is so popular, even if that probably has more to do with Faust's position than her research skills and lucid writing.

I was also glad that the argument was Am-Civ friendly, by which I mean Faust used a lot of popular culture sources, particularly songs, rather than relying entirely on letters, speeches, and other staples of straight-up history. Professional historians are becoming more and more friendly to a wide range of sources all the time (though many of my fellow students over in the history dept are still skeptical of material culture). Sensible people in local historical societies, museums, and high schools have long understood that popular sources (songs, cartoons, advertisements) are both enlightening and engaging, but there's still a subtle prejudice against historians who devote themselves to studying women's magazines or photography as somehow being "soft." Hopefully, that attitude's on its way out, but there are still a lot of people who confuse "smart" with "abstruse."

I am happy to report that Drew Gilpin Faust is not one of those people. Her book will appeal to professional historians and interested amateurs alike. I wish she had gone a little more into memorialization, but her work is excellent background for anyone interested in Civil War memory.

Law & Order: SVU, 18th-Century Edition

I spent some time with the John Boyle diary this afternoon. Boyle was a printer's apprentice in Boston who kept a diary from 1759-1777, from the time he was 13 until he was 31. I've started transcribing it and have thought about asking Harvard for permission to publish it. That would be a big project, but it's a tremendous source.

I often watch Law & Order reruns as I blog, so it seems appropriate that I should post some of John Boyle's observations on crime and punishment in 18th-century Massachusetts.

Boyle comments most frequently on two types of crimes/trials: sex crimes and crimes committed by British Regulars. I'll leave the latter for another day. For today, I'll post the former, complete with Boyle's not-so-charming misogynist commentary.

At the Inferior Court lately held in the County of York Thomas Hammett of Berwick, Plaintiff, recovered of Peter Staple of Kittery, Defendant, One Thousand Pounds Lawful Money Damages, and Costs of Prosecution, for the Defendant’s Debauching, Ravishing, and Carnally knowing the Plaintiff’s Wife – A valuable Wife this, who in a few minutes can make so great an addition to her Husband’s Estate.

At the Superior Court at Charlestown, one Bunker was convicted of abusing his daughter (17 years old) in a most shameful Manner. As his crime is of an entire new specie[s], that of sewing up his Daughters pudenda, the Court have deferred his Sentence till next Term, that they may have an opportunity to consider what kind of punisht. will be most suitable to it.

A Rape was lately committed at Winthrop by a Married man on the Body of a Girl 13 years of Age — The Father of the Girl compromised the Affair with the Man on his paying him the trifling sum of Two Hundred Pounds Old Tenor!!!
Boyle's incredulity at the fines levied against rapists is particularly interesting. He doesn't seem to object to their being fined, but finds the size of the fines shocking. As for the genital mutilation incident — I'll have to look into that one because I've never heard of it before.

Poe's Law

I'm sure I've asked this before, but I'll ask again: Is there a Poe's Law corollary for neo-Confederates?

Recently, the Florida Times-Union ran a story about Bobby Tillet, a BJ's Wholesale Club employee whose bosses told him he could either remove the stars and bars from his truck or park it somewhere outside their lot. There's a lot of bloviating about "freedom of speech," but at least the article manages to quote someone from the ACLU who helpfully points out that BJ's is not an agency of the federal government and is thus not bound by the first amendment.

There has been some predictable reaction to this story in the Times-Union's "Rants & Raves" section, in which loyal readers rehash their predictable and blockheaded arguments.

Tuesday, 5/27:
This is concerning the article with the fellow having the Confederate flag flying from his truck. I think it's wrong that they singled him out and made him move his truck to another location. I will never shop at BJ's again. Where's the right of freedom of speech and freedom of expression? It's OK if blacks wear a shirt showing (Malcolm-X) or they wear clothing Fubu (for us by us) ... Yet somebody wants to show the Confederate battle flag and they're racist. What's really racist is NAACP, the black college fund, the black college spring break and Black Miss America. They're racist! Until those people change their ways, there will always be divisiveness.
Thursday, 5/29:

I want to give the Times-Union a huge rave for displaying the Confederate flag. Living here in the South, that shows me a time when people were kind and gentle, and worked hard for what they got. They didn't take from others. It was a much more genteel time. People showed respect for each other. It was gaiety instead of the constant sorrows and negativity . . . For the person who said he was canceling his subscription, I'm making up for it by calling in for a subscription.
Bachelor #1 just sounds like some jackass 14-year-old, but I call Poe's Law corollary on the second author. Not even the most delusional Lost Causer could come up with that "they didn't take from others" line.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Great Teaching

Wow, I wish I had a history teacher like this one.

Next Steps

Why didn’t more English women migrate to the American colonies during the seventeenth century? Perhaps the difficulty in finding a satisfactory answer to this question is that the question itself is too narrow. In order to answer this question competently, future studies must subsume several broader questions, including “Where did English women travel and for what reasons?” and “What did mobility mean in seventeenth-century England?” Several of the authors discussed earlier in this essay have suggested potential jumping-off places for these new forays.

Before we can understand why women traveled to America, we must discover why they traveled at all. Conditions in the colonies are important and must be part of any discussion of migration, but female transatlantic migration must also be situated within a larger context of English women’s mobility. By examining patterns of local transience, intra-national movement, and migration to other destinations, including Ireland, Scotland, and continental Europe, scholars can determine which aspects of transatlantic migration were extensions of other types of travel and which were anomalous. Alison Games’ research will be particularly useful for piecing together this larger context, not only because her data includes migrants who went to continental Europe as well as to America, but also because she follows individual migrants over a period of years as they undertake many separate migrations of various durations. Likewise, Susan Hardman Moore’s study of New Englanders who returned to England suggests that transatlantic migration was part of a pattern of many migrations during an individual’s lifetime, not a single removal from a point of origin to a set destination.

In addition to developing a better sense of English women’s mobility, historians must investigate the meaning of mobility within early modern English gender discourses. Kathleen Brown’s exploration of gender and social order provides a model for accounting both for events and for the meaning of those events. Englishwomen who traveled to America were not merely mobile laborers; they were variously understood as harbingers of stable community life, insolent wenches who threatened social hierarchy, and embodiments of “civilization” and whiteness who helped to define the limits of freedom and slavery.

Currently, the historiography of migration does not adequately address English ideas about the appropriateness of travel that might explain why certain women could imagine making particular journeys but not others. Under what circumstances could a wealthy woman travel to a neighbor’s house? To London? To Holland? To Jamaica? Did poor women have more freedom to make those journeys or less? What assumptions would other English subjects make about a woman who made any of these migrations? Before we can make sense of the gender disparity among transatlantic migrants, we must better understand how Englishwomen imagined travel and themselves as travelers.

There can be no doubt that transatlantic migration from England was “overwhelmingly a man’s business” (Games, 47). Yet, it is not enough to leave the reasons for this disparity unexplored and unexplained. White women’s restricted mobility is such an ingrained feature of our imagined historical landscape that historians have left the historical processes underlying sex-specific migration unhistoricized, thereby naturalizing men as movers and women as homebodies. That English men crossed the ocean and English women, in general, did not is a matter of historical record. The beliefs, experiences, and policies that created this imbalance remain obscure.

Involuntary Migration

In contrast to both “push” and “pull” arguments, several recent authors have drawn attention to involuntary migration, which accounted for the vast majority of all transatlantic migration in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.* Although most involuntary migrants were enslaved Africans bound for the sugar islands, the exploration of coerced relocation contributes to the literature on Englishwomen’s migration through its discussion of the labor history of the American colonies. Since forced migration involved large-scale planning, studies of this phenomenon can illuminate elites’ understanding of the relative importance of male and female laborers to their colonial projects.

The author who most directly addresses the fundamental question of gender disparity in migration is David Eltis. In The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (2000), Eltis attempts to explain why Europeans were willing to import enslaved African women but did not encourage European women to emigrate. He argues that white men were willing to accept African women as field workers who could contribute to the staple crop economy of the colonies, but that European women’s labor was neither profitable nor in demand in the colonies. English women were not coerced or coaxed into migrating because they were “never a significant part of the labor force of the export sectors of the Atlantic economies” (Eltis, 99). The idea that elite planners devising an ideal workforce preferred English men to English women is supported by the work of Robert C. Johnson, who found that when the Virginia Company sent vagrant children to their colony as servants, they chose to send three times as many boys as girls.**

Even if we accept Eltis’ supposition that “the work of women was closer to the core of the African economy than was its English counterpart,” his belief that women’s labor was not in demand in the colonies does not fit the evidence supplied by other authors (Eltis, 92). In addition to Carr and Walsh’s argument that white women were scarce, sought after, and highly valued in seventeenth-century Maryland, Kathleen Brown’s work on seventeenth-century Virginia demonstrates just how valuable white, female workers were to the planter economy.

In Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (1996), Brown contradicts many of Eltis’ key assumptions about the value of white women’s work by pointing out that tobacco production reached its peak only after women, “whose processing and commercial skills made possible both subsistence agriculture and internal markets,” reached demographic parity with men (Brown, 84). Where Eltis argues that “European settlers in the New World did not reshape European norms in family and sexual conduct,” Brown finds that colonial courts and legislatures spent a great deal of time passing and defending laws that struggled to impose ideal European gender relations on a populace that challenged them constantly (Eltis, 103). Where Eltis assumes that “demand for [English] women stemmed from their reproductive role,” and that “there was no economic demand to sustain the female component of transatlantic migration,” Brown argues that white women’s field labor was crucial to their husbands’ economic success because, unlike black women and all men, they were not taxed as potential field workers. This allowed white planters to profit from the field labor of their untithable wives and children while the law defined women as household laborers and ignored evidence that white women actually performed agricultural work (Eltis, 96; Brown, 121).

Brown is not explicitly concerned with transatlantic migration, but her compelling arguments about white women’s economic value in the colonies and English discourses of gender and social order provide essential background for further work on female migration.

Although Eltis makes several untenable assumptions about white women’s place in colonial economies, his focus on labor markets is essential to unraveling the causes of gender disparity among transatlantic migrants. In the face of insatiable demand in the American colonies and a surplus of unmarried women in England, arguments that attribute gender disparity principally to the laws of supply and demand fall flat. Since the economic explanations of labor demand that seem to explain male migration to the Americas cannot fully account for the lack of European female migration, future investigations must grapple with the influence of culture.

Though they take different routes to arrive at similar destinations, both Eltis and Brown agree: “culture-bound assumptions” have economic and political consequences, and no argument that ignores ideology can fully explain gender or race relations in early America.

*David Eltis finds that African slaves made up 61.3% of all migrants during the period 1640-1700 and 75.7% between 1700 and 1760. In addition, he estimates that 80% of all women and 90% of all children who crossed the Atlantic before 1800 were enslaved Africans. In addition to the coerced migration of Africans, many European prisoners were transported against their will. It is difficult to assess the number of European indentured servants who should be added to this tally, since some contracted their indentured willingly, while others may have been coerced. In any event, most transatlantic migrants did not travel of their own volition. David Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 11, 97; Carr and Walsh, 542.
**Since the Virginia Company had a vast supply of vagrant children and paupers of all ages and both sexes at their disposal, their decision to send “seventy-five boys and twenty-four ‘wenches’” in 1619 seems to be calculated to meet the colony’s perceived labor needs. Robert C. Johnson, “The Transportation of Vagrant Children from London to Virginia, 1618-1622,” in Early Stuart Studies, ed. Howard S. Reinmuth, Jr., (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970), 140.

"Pull" Arguments

In contrast to the “push” arguments, “pull” arguments emphasize the American colonies’ attractiveness for those seeking political, social, and economic advancement. In this telling, transatlantic English migrants are neither the beleaguered victims of government harassment nor huddled masses yearning to escape lives of crushing poverty. Instead, “pull” arguments portray colonists as entrepreneurs, adventurers, and shrewd assessors of risk and reward. For these authors, the unanswered question is not, “Why didn’t religious/economic/demographic upheaval push women, as well as men, to America?” but rather, “If America provided such attractive opportunities, why didn’t more women migrate?”

In their landmark article, “The Planter’s Wife: The Experience of White Women in Seventeenth-Century Maryland” (1977), Lois Carr and Lorena Walsh argue that the scarcity of marriageable white women in Maryland during the first generation of settlement gave women enormous economic and social power. Though nearly all female migrants arrived in Maryland as indentured servants, they soon found that successful planters were eager for marriage partners, even if they had to buy out their wives’ indentures (Carr and Walsh, 542). Impoverished women who were “seeking opportunities they had not found at home” took advantage of the marriage market to improve their status, often marrying planters with large and growing estates and practicing a form of “serial polyandry” because so many outlived their husbands (Carr and Walsh, 544, 558). Carr and Walsh cite enticing advertisements as evidence that poor women in England knew of favorable conditions in Maryland and sought indentures with the expectation that they would eventually benefit socially and financially (Carr and Walsh, 547).

The women in David Ransome’s “Wives for Virginia, 1621” (1991) are similarly well-informed and aspiring. Unlike their Maryland counterparts, the 57 women who departed for Jamestown in 1621 came from middle-class or gentry families, but they shared a desire to find successful husbands in the colonies (Ransome, 12). Ransome notes that Virginians were eager to marry, even though they had to pay up to 150 pounds of tobacco for the privilege, and many complained that there were not enough potential wives to be had at any price (Ransome, 6). The men of Virginia agreed with their Maryland neighbors: women made their colonies happier and more productive, and they would take all the white women England could send.

The colonies described by Ransome, Carr, and Walsh seem like ideal destinations for both poor and well-born women, particularly given the dire state of the English economy. Why, then, did women make up fewer than 15% of migrants to the Chesapeake?* Both articles imply that the best way for a 17th-century Englishwoman to advance both materially and socially was through an advantageous marriage, but the evidence suggests that Maryland and Virginia’s insatiable demand for marriageable women was never enough to entice very many.**

The “pull” arguments advanced by Ransome, Carr, and Walsh are limited by their focus on women’s positive experiences in America instead of on their pre-migration decision-making process. While it may be true that women were able to exercise greater power within their families because their productive and reproductive labor was so highly valued in the colonies, women in England remained skeptical, perhaps because they suspected that they would be put to work in the tobacco fields (Kathleen Brown, good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs, 82). “Pull” motivations are an important piece of the migration puzzle, but they remain unsatisfying for explaining why women were unwilling to migrate when they had both the opportunity (about 20% of adult women never married during the 17th century) and the means (in the form of passage-paid indentures).

David Cressy’s appraisal of migrants’ motives in Coming Over: Migration and Communication Between England and New England in the Seventeenth Century (1987), provides a useful model for extending “pull” arguments into more rewarding discussions. Rather than ascribing migration to the charms of the New World, he investigates the convoluted decision-making process of prospective migrants in England and argues that their manifold motivations and incentives were much more muddled than either pure “push” or “pull” arguments admit. Cressy rejects religious persecution as a “self-serving” narrative advanced by both colonists and historians searching for a useable past, neither of whom could admit that most migrants emigrated for economic gain or to escape personal troubles (debt, crime, bad marriages), and that some “crossed over in a casual or impulsive manner” (Cressy, 85, 98-106).*** By recognizing that uneasy conditions at home could prompt English subjects to contemplate alternatives, Cressy lays the groundwork for exploring why they were pulled to particular colonies.

Despite their flaws, the “pull” arguments do introduce an important idea: the American colonies provided economic and social opportunities for women as well as for men. Furthermore, all of the mainland colonies, even those that specialized in tobacco production needed and actively recruited white, female migrants. Beyond their value as companions and reproductive laborers, women were active, productive, and coveted workers whose industry contributed to the material wealth of the colonies.

*Alison Games finds that 13.6% of those bound for Virginia in 1635 were female. Games, 47. Carr and Walsh deliver one short paragraph to this question, suggesting that ties to families and communities in England, as well as their lower desirability as field workers accounted for limited female migration. Carr and Walsh, 546.
**Approximately one fifth of English women born between 1575 and 1700 never married. Those who did typically did not wed until the age of 26. see Amy M. Froide, Never Married: Singlewomen in Early Modern England, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 2.
***Cressy does not discount the importance of migrants’ religious motives, but he does argue that their accounts of persecution were “a caricature of conditions in Caroline England.” Instead, he casts religious motivations for transatlantic migration as aspirational and secondary to economic concerns.

"Push" Arguments

Proponents of “push” arguments have focused on two types of hardship: religious persecution and economic opportunity. Since at least 1886, when George Bancroft portrayed the “Pilgrim Fathers” as “peaceful farmers” who were “harassed by imprisonments, search warrants, trivial prosecutions, and the various malice of intolerance,” historians have considered religious intolerance in England, particularly under the policies of Archbishop Laud, to be a major factor in transatlantic migration. Although the religious persecution argument has come under attack from more recent historians, including David Cressy, it is still a major element of many “push” arguments.

In Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989), David Hackett Fischer places religious persecution at the forefront of the many factors driving the “Great Migration” of Puritans to New England during the 1630s. Fischer argues adamantly that religion was “not merely [their] leading purpose[;] it was their only purpose” (Fischer, 18). Although he acknowledges economic opportunity in New England and the possibility of evangelizing among the Native Americans, Fischer sets out a strong “push” argument. “This exodus was not a movement of attraction,” he declares, “the great migration was a great flight from conditions which had grown intolerable at home” (Fischer, 16). Since the East Anglians who settled in New England intended to establish godly communities rather than plantations, gender ratios were more balanced and “normal family life was not the exception but the rule” (Fischer, 27).

Susan Hardman Moore echoes Fischer’s arguments in Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home (2007), emphasizing Laudian policies as a driving force behind the Puritan exodus and characterizing movement to New England as “the most family-centered migration in America’s history” (Moore, 21). Moore draws a clear sociological distinction between those who migrated to New England and those who traveled to other Atlantic colonies, noting that the former were more prosperous, better skilled, and were spread across a wide age spectrum. The New England settlers’ most important trait was their tendency to travel in family groups along with “other local families, bound together by kinship and acquaintance over many years” (Moore, 21). By stressing the importance of family migration, Moore gives the impression that gender ratios among New England-bound migrants were balanced, and she does not offer any evidence to dispel that assumption.

What neither Fischer nor Moore can explain is why there was any gender disparity at all in migration to New England. While a population that is nearly 40% female is much more balanced than those found in most other English colonies, the imbalance is still pronounced.* If they are correct in arguing that religious persecution was the primary force driving whole families to New England, equal numbers of men and women should have been affected. Fischer notes that, if church membership is any indication, “it would be statistically more correct to say that many Puritans led their husbands to America,” but does not venture any explanations for the gap between women’s religious loyalties and their failure to cross the ocean (Fischer, 27). Ultimately, Fischer and Moore’s explanations of migration to New England are unsatisfying because they ignore the realities of gender disparity in favor of the logic of their family-centered arguments.

The other type of “push” argument foregrounds economic hardship and population pressure in England. Even historians who argue that migrants were attracted to America by the promise of opportunity concede that 17th-century England was undergoing rapid population growth, massive dislocation of agricultural workers, and a tightening job market. While modern historians seldom advance a strong “push” argument without acknowledging that migration was a “multilayered, multitextured phenomenon,” many explain migration primarily as a direct result of poverty at home (Horn, 48).

In Adapting to a New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake (1994), James Horn defines economic upheaval in 17th-century England as the result of three interconnected trends: demographic growth, the development of national markets, and the creation of new types of economic ventures, including cottage industries and joint stock companies. In this telling, overseas migration was merely an extension of England’s internal migration patterns as populations responded to new social and economic realities. While some wealthy individuals hoped to increase their fortunes by moving to America, most English inhabitants of the Chesapeake arrived as servants, for whom “poverty appears again and again as a determinant” (Horn, 62).

Alison Games makes a similar argument in Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World (1999), contending that, “migration within England was a part of the life cycle for most young men and women” during the period of demographic growth and economic strain (1580-1640) (Games, 16). Although she mentions women’s mobility briefly, most of her subsequent discussion focuses on migrants who “tended to be young and male, menacing in their poverty and freedom from masters” (Games, 17). The great strength of Games’ work is in her meticulous collection of data, which allows her to give precise statistics for migrants by age, sex, and destination. Using records from overseas voyages originating in London in 1635, Games can compare groups of migrants who traveled to Virginia with those who traveled to Barbados, New England, and continental Europe. In all cases, male migrants far outnumbered their female counterparts (Barbados, 94:6; New England, 60.9:39.1; continental Europe, 73:27) (Games, 24, 47). Although Games discusses gender imbalance as a defining characteristic of transatlantic migration, she does not explain why men and women seem to have responded differently to the potent forces of population increase and unemployment.

Both Horn and Games offer persuasive arguments about the economic and demographic roots of migration, but they do not go far enough in historicizing the developments that led to the gender disparities that both acknowledge. If English subjects were indeed starving in their villages and migrated both within England and beyond to find sustenance, historians must provide compelling evidence to explain why men left while women stayed when both would have suffered. In the absence of investigation, these authors imply that it is natural for men to move and for women to remain homebound. Their work, particularly Games’ data, will be essential to further inquiry into English migration, but it is not sufficient for explaining the scarcity of women among transatlantic migrants.

Horn and Games do not reconcile their “push” arguments with the data suggesting that men and women were unequally prodded, but they do suggest a potentially fruitful area in which their work could be extended. Both agree that London served as a crucial “staging post” for those wishing to travel to any overseas destination. According to Horn, “younger sons of gentry, yeomen, and provincial tradesmen flocked to London” to take advantage of new jobs created by transatlantic commerce, and many ended up accompanying their goods to America (Horn, 61). Although neither Horn nor Games explores this point, a possible explanation for gender disparity in migrating populations is the importance of initial travel to London, which may have attracted more “masterless men” than masterless women.

*Fischer cites the gender ratio as “approximately 150 males for every 100 females,” a 3:2 ratio that agrees with Games’ data (60.9% male, 39.1% female). Fischer, 27; Games, 47.

English Women and Transatlantic Migration, 1607-1675

I haven't written about books in a while, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading.

I recently finished an historiographical essay on the problem of gender disparity among English transatlantic migrants in the seventeenth century. These essays aren't my favorite things to write, but this one turned out pretty well. I'll post it here in several parts.

In 1635, over 82% of all English migrants who traveled from London to the American colonies were male (see Alison Games, Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World, 47). While it is axiomatic that most English colonies experienced stark gender disparities during the seventeenth century, the causes of this imbalance are less clear. Many historians have taken on the task of explaining the massive exodus from England between 1610 and 1675, but few have attempted to understand how the various factors that inspired people to emigrate may have held differential sway over men and women.

It is not enough to accept men’s mobility and women’s inertia as predestined or to offer off-hand speculation instead of investigation and evidence. Left unhistoricized, the cultural norms that defined early modern English men as potential movers and women as weak, dependent, and homebound, take on the cast of natural distinctions. If historians hope to unravel the complex web of motivations that induced some English subjects to cross the ocean while most remained at home, they must not be satisfied by knowing that transatlantic migration was “overwhelmingly a man’s business,” but must explain why it was.

Explanations for English-American migration generally rely on “push” arguments that locate the impetus for migration in deteriorating prospects at home (starvation, religious persecution, crippling unemployment, disease, etc.) or “pull” arguments that emphasize the colonies’ drawing power for migrants seeking economic, religious, or political opportunity. More recently, a third strand of argumentation has stressed involuntary migration as a major factor in European as well as African transatlantic crossings. In this essay, I will examine examples of all three types of arguments, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, and possibilities for explaining European female migration.

Part I: "Push" Arguments
Part II: "Pull" Arguments
Part III: Involuntary Migration
Part IV: Next Steps

Shared Uprights

After my visit to Marblehead, I commented briefly on the common practice of using a single vertical stroke to carve two adjacent letters on 17th-century gravestones.

I have never seen a better example of this than the Sampson Waters stone (1693) at Copp's Hill. Of the 16 words on this stone, six include shared uprights. The Sampson Waters stone is a fairly small stone with very wide borders and a reduced space for the inscription. I don't know for sure, but this suggests that sharing vertical lines was mostly a matter of conserving space.

The funny thing is, shared uprights are often difficult to spot. It's like those passages that show that letter order and vowels aren't all that important for reading comprehension — when you're reading, your eyes skip right over the shared parts and just make the letters appear. Look at the word "Sampson." Unless you concentrate, the "p" looks perfectly normal.
Several other stones at Copp's Hill use the shared upright trick. As far as I can tell, they are not all carved by the same person, but most seem to have been carved before 1720 or so.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Recycled Stone

After yesterday's thunderstorms, we had a beautiful day here in Boston. I took advantage of the weather to visit the Copp's Hill Burying Ground near the Old North Church. It's a beautiful location, overlooking the water and surrounded by brick row houses.

One of the downsides of visiting these historic Boston/Cambridge graveyards is that they are so meticulously documented and preserved that it often feels like there's noting left to discover. It's like going to one of those antique stores where everything is labeled and locked in glass cases. I'm more of a flea market/junk shop fan myself.

Even so, I found a few interesting things. My favorite discovery was a little slate stone under a big tree in the front, right-hand section of the graveyard. The pictures aren't great because it was shady, but you can click on the picture to blow it up to a readable size. This stone is dedicated to two little boys, Theodore James (1813) and Francis Edward (1815), both of whom died around the age of two. The stone has an unremarkable urn-and-willow design and does not stand out in a graveyard so full of remarkable and beautiful stones.

The interesting part of this stone is its back. On the reverse side, the stone is covered with upside-down writing from an older stone that has been recycled and recut to make the Theodore James/Francis Edward stone.

Much of the identifying information (names, dates) has been cut away, but if you rotate the previous photo, some details emerge.

The older stone, which must have been much larger than the newer, seems to have memorialized four young children. One partial line of the epitaph reads, "Four infant roses budding . . ." It is also possible to make out two ages: 10 and 12 months.

Why was an earlier stone cut down to make a newer one? Are both stones from the same family? Do they commemorate some of the same individuals? Did the earlier stone break and this was the only salvageable piece? Perhaps some research is in order, though I'm not optimistic about the possibility of written records pertaining to this incident.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Deliverance Mesenger

I've been a little distracted lately, so it took me until now to realize that

Deliverance Mesenger

is also a pretty funny Puritan name.

Breasts, Figs, and Gourds

I have written about breast/fig/gourd motifs before, but the Marblehead examples are not the most literal depictions of vessels of the "divine milk."

The old graveyard next to the Unitarian Universalist church in Harvard Square holds several better examples of this interesting type of imagery. Unlike many of the Marblehead gourds, the Cambridge figures are round and full. Often, the presence of a lifelike face on the finial reinforces the images' association with breasts. The border of the John Wattson stone (1711, image at right) is particularly explicit. It takes only a little imagination to interpret the design under the face as a cravat with breasts protruding underneath.

While these objects may be interpreted as gourds or figs, Ludwig makes a strong case for the presence of both literal and metaphorical breasts in Puritan iconography. According to Jonathan Edwards, "Milk represents the word of God from the breasts of the church . . . Milk by its whiteness represents the purity of the word of God; it fitly represents the word because of its sweetness and nourishing nature" (Ludwig, 155). Then, there is that naughty Edward Taylor poem . . .

The Jane Dickson stone (1689) features two styles of breasts/figs/gourds, both under finial faces. These are particularly interesting because, instead of the ministerial cravats of the John Wattson stone, these heads wear collars of leaves, evocative of contemporary representations of Native Americans. The pendulous ovals hanging down from the collars look very like breasts, as do the circles below them. The bumpy shapes near the bottom look more like gourds to me.

There are plenty of other examples, and it would be tiresome to list them all. Just rest assured that if you visit the old Cambridge cemetery, you'll see a whole lot of Puritan boobs.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Colonial Revival

When I visited Mount Auburn, I was surprised by the number of 19th-century stones that reused 17th- and 18th-century imagery.

The most elaborate example of this trend is the James Russell Lowell/Maria White/Frances Dunlap stone (1891), which copies images from several different colonial-era stones. The faces on the finials resemble faces that appear on several Cambridge stones, including the Elizabeth Hastings stone (1702). The jowls, almond-shaped eyes, flowing hair, and thin nose all match. The death's head on the lunette is simplified, but is similar to the lunette design on the Jonathan Wyeth stone (1743). While the flowers on the Wyeth stone are
5-petaled rather than 4-petaled, the shape of the skull and wings are similar to those on the Lowell lunette. Other design elements, such as the fig/gourd/breasts on the vertical borders, are common to many early Massachusetts gravestones. The crossed bones and hourglass are also common, and are often combined in Cambridge stones, such as the Susanna Staesy stone (1702).

As a professor at Harvard, Lowell would have passed by the Unitarian Universalist Church and its graveyard on a daily basis. The gravestones must have appealed to Lowell, whose interest in literature and history is well known.

I don't know why James Russell Lowell chose to have such an unusual gravestone carved for him, but I suspect it had something to do with establishing his authenticity as a genuine New Englander. In the late 19th century, as immigrants and industry changed the social and cultural dynamics of Boston, the old fashioned New Englandy-ness of the stones in the Unitarian graveyard must have appealed to Lowell as an expression of that dying culture. I'm just speculating here - someone who is more familiar with Lowell's work could probably offer a more informed interpretation. For now, I'm going to assume that regional/cultural pride or nostalgia played some role, but I'll have to investigate further.

There are a few other stones at Mount Auburn that preserve colonial motifs. Most are just tripartite slate stones with faux-colonial floral designs along the borders. Only a very few have colonial lunette designs, but those that do are beautiful.

One of these is the Henry Howard Brown/Hannah Bangs Thayer stone (1941). The double mermaid appears on at least three stones in the Copp's Hill Burying Ground — the Michael Martyn stone (1682), the William Greenough stone (1693), and the John Briggs stone (c. 1690) — though none of these has the winged hourglass above the urn. There are also two double mermaid stones — Jacob Eliott (1693) and Benjamin Hill (1683) — at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston. The bulls-eye design on the urn is very similar to the concentric circles on the William Greenough stone. Ludwig attributes the 17th-century stones to the unnamed carver, "J.N." (Ludwig, 299). He calls the creatures Dagons and Nereids, but is unable to explain how they ended up on Puritan gravestones. I don't have any better guesses than he did.

The other elaborate gravestone is the Thomas Earle White stone (1916), which features a winged hourglass. The winged hourglass isn't a very common design for a full lunette - it's usually a smaller design element, but there are some examples of larger hourglasses. The William Field stone (1772) in Providence has a full winged hourglass, but it is more primitive than the White stone. I'll have to keep my eyes open for a similar stone in Boston.

Mount Auburn Civil War Memorial

In honor of Memorial Day, I am posting a few pictures of Mount Auburn Cemetery's Civil War memorial. Designed by Martin Milmore, the "American Sphinx" was dedicated in 1872, making it one of the earlier Civil War monuments.

This monument is also noteworthy because it is one of the few that explicitly acknowledges slavery as an important factor in the war. In wealthy, abolitionist Cambridge, it was perfectly acceptable to count emancipation among the war's positive outcomes.
The English version of this inscription, which appears on the other side of the monument's base, reads:
On this Memorial Day, let us not forget the men, black and white alike, who fought for line #2.

Obligatory disclaimer: Of course, I am not claiming that all Union soldiers were abolitionists. For many Northerners, line #1 was plenty of motivation. But for a large number, including the nearly 200,000 African-American soldiers, line #2 was pretty important.

Confederate Monumental Landscape: Placement

In addition to their style and their dedicators’ stated intentions, the location of monuments is important for interpreting their meaning. The Confederate monuments at Gettysburg were deliberately placed in their current locations in order to further a pro-Confederate telling of the story of the battle of Gettysburg. That these monuments were erected at Gettysburg rather than at Manassas, Vicksburg, or Appomattox is itself significant. Furthermore, each monument’s placement at its specific location on the battlefield is calculated to support a heroic Confederate narrative by freezing the imagined landscape of the battle at the dramatic moment of greatest possibility. Visitors’ experiences of the battlefield is profoundly shaped by the placement of monuments, and that placement tells a particular story.

In some ways, Gettysburg is a strange place for Confederate memorials. After all, communities generally prefer to commemorate their proudest moments rather than their embarrassments or defeats: Lexington and Concord rather than New York, San Juan Hill rather than Manila, D-Day rather than Hiroshima. Although Southern states erected monuments at other battlefield sites during the 20th century, many erected their most spectacular memorials at Gettysburg and no other battle site can boast monuments commemorating every Confederate state. Undoubtedly, some Southerners’ interest in building monuments at Gettysburg sprung from a practical desire to present their version of history to the greatest possible number of visitors at the country’s most popular Civil War site. In addition, by the early twentieth century, Gettysburg had become a national shrine to reunification and industrial-age might with a focus on military glory that “eclipsed the fundamental issues of race and freedom that propelled the war and continued to linger” (Weeks, 83).

The Confederate defeat at Gettysburg also occupied a special place in the mythology of the Lost Cause. In the years following the war, veterans and historians searching for explanations for the South’s defeat pinpointed Gettysburg as a crucial turning point in the war. Confederate sympathizers rushed to exonerate their beloved General Lee from any wrongdoing, eventually pinning most of the blame for the Confederacy’s defeat on General Longstreet’s supposed blunders during the second day’s fight, which necessitated the calamitous charge on the third.

According to many Confederate veterans and apologists, the loss at Gettysburg was a blow from which the Confederacy could not recover. Though most modern historians identify other factors – including the implosion of the slave-labor system, rampant desertion, and the collapse of support from Southern civilians – as the true causes of the Confederacy’s eventual demise, “elevating Gettysburg to mythical status” allowed Confederate sympathizers to “[explain] the loss of the war as a whole in a more palatable way” (Nolan, 23).

After deciding that Gettysburg was an appropriate place to honor the Confederacy, state monument committees had to choose specific sites for their memorials. These decisions were anything but straightforward, owing to the battlefield’s immense size, the dispersal of a single state’s troops among several different divisions and corps, and the historical fact of troop movements over the course of the three-day battle. How could the state of North Carolina possibly honor the men of the 23rd North Carolina, who suffered 84% casualties on July 1st in an assault northwest of the town, and the men of the 26th North Carolina, who were decimated during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd, with a single, stationary monument?*

Monument committees could not place markers at sites that were significant only to one or a few regiments without slighting others, so they erected their monuments at places that they believed would be significant for all. New York placed its state monument in the Gettysburg National Cemetery; Pennsylvania chose the geographic center of the Union battle line; all eleven ex-Confederate states chose Seminary Ridge.

The Gettysburg battlefield is generally described as two opposing ridges, Seminary and Cemetery Ridge, which run parallel, about a mile apart, for several miles South of the town of Gettysburg. Cemetery Ridge is flanked by hills: Cemetery and Culp’s Hill to the North and Little and Big Round Top to the South. Excluding the first day’s battle, which was fought in the town and to its northwest, the two ridges form the defining topographical features of the battlefield. After the fighting on July 1st, the Army of the Potomac took up their famous “Fish Hook” position along Cemetery Ridge and dug in. On July 2nd, Confederate forces attacked the hills on both Union flanks, but were repulsed and fell back to Seminary Ridge. From this position, Lee ordered Pickett’s disastrous charge on July 3rd. The Confederate monuments form a mile-long line on Seminary Ridge, approximating the Confederate line of battle in the early afternoon of July 3rd, just before Pickett’s Charge was launched and lost.

By placing their monuments along Seminary Ridge, Confederate monument committees enshrined the mythology of Pickett’s Charge as the “high water mark of the Confederacy.” The idea that Pickett’s Charge marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy is a central tenet of Lost Cause mythology, and the moments preceding the charge occupy a prominent place in the neo-Confederate imagination. In his 1998 book, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, Tony Horwitz describes reading the following passage from William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust (1948) to a group of Confederate reenactors as they prepared to recreate the doomed charge:
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are loaded and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out . . . it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances . . . yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago; or to anyone who ever sailed even a skiff under a quilt sail, the moment in 1492 when somebody thought This is it: the absolute edge of no return, to turn back now and make home or sail irrevocably on and either find land or plunge over the world’s roaring rim.
This fantasy had “lingered in the Southern imagination” long before the Confederate monuments were constructed, but their placement embodies the reverie, giving pilgrims a destination and firing the imaginations of visitors.

The position of the Confederate monuments also supports the curious fiction of the two armies’ physical separation during the battle. Although a few Confederate markers denote the point of farthest advance at the Angle, most Confederate monuments were erected far from any Union monuments. Union regiments such as the 72nd Pennsylvania and 20th Maine placed their memorials near the places that saw the fiercest fighting, but the monumental landscape bears little indication that Confederates also fought in those places.

On Little Round Top, the 20th Maine fought against men from Alabama, but, although the 20th Maine monument sits near “the spot where the colors stood,” the Alabama state monument is over a mile and a half away. Many sections of the battlefield that lie beyond the Union “Fish Hook,” including the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, and the Peach Orchard, are littered with dozens of Union monuments, but they are unopposed by Confederate memorials. The 114th Pennsylvania commemorated their desperate fight around the Sherfy farm by erecting their monument a few feet from the Sherfy’s front door, while a monument on faraway Seminary Ridge honors the Mississippians who opposed them.

Though Union veterans undoubtedly wished to draw attention to their role as active combatants by placing their monuments at these sites, the absence of adversaries ultimately supports a history of reconciliation, in which Union and Confederate soldiers never get close enough to stab or maim one another.

The most recent Confederate monuments reflect the enduring resonance of both the Pickett’s Charge mythology and the reconciliation narrative. Two, the General Longstreet equestrian statue (1998, image at right via justmecpb) and the 11th Mississippi monument (2000), are located on Seminary Ridge among the Confederate state monuments. Two others, the Maryland state monument (1994) and the “Friend to Friend” memorial (1993) are removed from the most active parts of the battlefield; the former stands in a small plaza near the old visitor’s center parking lot, the latter is the centerpiece of the WWII annex of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

While the two Seminary Ridge monuments merely contribute to the established monumental landscape there, the Maryland and Masonic monuments are part of an expanding effort to commemorate the battle by emphasizing mutual aid and suffering with monuments placed in locations that visitors do not generally associate with fierce fighting.**

Other monuments that contribute to this reconciliationist landscape are the Elizabeth Thorn Memorial (2002, image at left via), which honors the women of Gettysburg, and the Amos Humiston monument (1993), dedicated to a Union soldier whose mangled body was identified when a burial detail found a picture of his children in his hand and published it in newspapers across the North.*** By shifting their attention from military valor to the trauma that soldiers and civilians shared, the growing 21st-century monumental landscape characterizes the battle as a national calamity similar to September 11th or a massive natural disaster, in which Americans banded together to overcome a tragedy that they seemingly had no hand in causing. In the coming years, we might expect to see new monuments erected at ostensibly neutral sites, such as the locations of field hospitals, in and around Gettysburg.

It is easy to glean meaning from sculptural forms and the words that are spoken over them, but most of Gettysburg’s visitors pass over monument placement without a second thought. At most, some might wonder why a monument to Confederate sailors or to the last surviving Union veteran, Albert Woolson (d. 1956), neither of whom fought at Gettysburg, were erected on this particular battlefield.

Still, the position of monuments influences the visitor’s experience and his or her historical imagination. When the principal Confederate monuments stand along the edge of the field immortalized by Pickett’s Charge instead of near Culp’s Hill or Little Round Top, they elevate the failed assault’s importance in service of the “High Water Mark” narrative. The physical distance between Confederate and Union monuments subtly deflects attention from the bloody reality of battle by separating the combatants and glorifying each side’s deeds without necessarily impugning the valor of the other. In recent years, efforts to extend the monumental landscape into putatively neutral spaces with explicitly reconciliationist sculptures have begun to temper the battlefield’s military focus, but without really challenging the older landscape’s values.

“Monuments attempt to mold a landscape of collective memory, to conserve what is worth remembering and discard the rest,” writes Kirk Savage in Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves. At Gettysburg, the Confederate monumental landscape has preserved and elaborated on the mythology of the Lost Cause for the benefit of generations of 20th- and 21st-century visitors. Over the course of the 20th century, pro-Confederate memorialists have presented the Confederacy and its cause through images of heroic and suffering soldiers that elicit visceral, emotional responses in ways that the stiff, formal, and, in many cases, funerary sculpture of the Union monumental landscape does not. Is it any wonder that young visitors often feel drawn to the Confederate side, preferring to identify with the heroic underdogs of those awe-inspiring monuments rather than with the stolid and formulaic Union?

Despite the efforts of academic historians to challenge the foundations of the Lost Cause mythology, more Americans experience the Civil War through interactions with the monuments at Gettysburg than by reading an academic text, and the Lost Cause remains central to American historical memory. Rather than diminishing in power over the years, the central tenets of the Lost Cause have been packaged in more palatable forms and preserved. It is difficult to oppose the construction of monuments such as the “Friend-to-Friend” memorial, which is not blatantly offensive in any way. Still, the trajectory of the monumental landscape at Gettysburg suggests that future monuments will continue to represent Confederate soldiers as sympathetic and continue the “urgent” project of “dissociat[ing] the Confederacy from slavery” (Savage, 131). For now, at least, the only mention of any “new birth of freedom” at the battlefield will remain hidden away in the darkened room that houses the original copy of the Gettysburg Address.

*The 26th North Carolina marched into battle on July 1st with 843 officers and men. Of these, only 70 remained alive and unwounded three days later, a casualty rate of 92%. See Earl Hess, Lee's Tar Heels: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-McRae Brigade, 153.
**Of course, the battle of Gettysburg raged through all parts of the town, so it impossible to draw a sharp distinction between the town and the battlefield. Nevertheless, certain parts of the battlefield, including the Angle, Little Round Top, and the fields to the northwest of town belong to the National Park Service, and are considered to be “the battlefield.” The monuments discussed here are located in developed areas of the town of Gettysburg, near hotels, shops, and restaurants. Though there was fighting in these areas, visitors generally experience them as places to sleep, shop, and eat, not as battle sites.
***Elizabeth Thorn was the wife of the caretaker of the Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg. Six months pregnant during the battle, she personally buried approximately one hundred soldiers in the following weeks. Her statue stands just inside the entrance to the Evergreen Cemetery. Isbell, 136.
Amos Humiston, a sergeant in the 154th New York, was killed on July 1, 1863. When his body was recovered by a burial detail after the battle, the only identifying document they could find was a photograph of Humiston’s three children, 8-year old Franklin, 6-year-old Alice, and 4-year-old Frederick. On October 19, 1863, the Philadelphia Inquirer published the photograph under the headline, “Whose Father Was He?” The story was reprinted in many newspapers, and Humiston’s wife, Philinda, eventually recognized the photograph. The tragic story of the Humiston children became a fundraising cause throughout the North, and so much money was donated that the Humistons built a house for war orphans in Gettysburg after the war. see Mark Dunkelman, Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier: The Life, Death, and Celebrity of Amos Humiston, (Greenwood Publishing, 1999).

Confederate Monumental Landscape: Literate Sources

The style and form of the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg speak eloquently to their role in advancing the mythology of the Lost Cause. Yet, many historians are uncomfortable with arguments that derive wholly from material evidence, preferring to privilege the words that people say and write over the objects that they design and build. Although words are not necessarily more reliable than other types of evidence, historians have built a profession around the study and interpretation of written records and are more likely to accept an argument based in material culture if it can be buttressed by evidence from other, more familiar, types of documents.

Luckily, in the case of the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg, two types of written records can testify to the meaning of the sculptural imagery: inscriptions and dedicatory addresses. Both types of sources offer explicit evidence that the monuments are meant to contribute to the neo-Confederate history that argues that Confederate soldiers were personally honorable and patriotic, that the Confederate cause was doomed but nonetheless worthy, and that the Civil War was not primarily about slavery.

The most accessible written sources dealing with the Confederate monuments’ meanings are their inscriptions. Unlike the inscriptions on Union regimental monuments, which are generally limited to descriptions of the regiment’s part in the battle and a brief summary of its service record (place of muster, date of discharge, etc.), many Confederate monuments’ inscriptions address the causes and meaning of the war. The South Carolina monument, erected during the centennial of the battle in July of 1963, employs the language of the Lost Cause to assure observers that South Carolinians fought for states’ rights, not slavery:
Other Confederate monuments agree that the Southern cause was noble and righteous, untainted by the problematic legacy of slavery. Few are as blunt as Mississippi’s, which declares, “ON THIS GROUND OUR BRAVE SIRES FOUGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTEOUS CAUSE,” but many employ vague references to the “cause” without elaborating on its specific tenets. According to their state monuments, North Carolina’s soldiers “DISPLAYED HEROISM UNSURPASSED, SACRIFICING ALL IN SUPPORT OF THEIR CAUSE,” and Floridians “FOUGHT WITH COURAGE AND DEVOTION FOR THE IDEALS IN WHICH THEY BELIEVED.” The implicit argument is that modern visitors should not probe the underlying logic of Confederate beliefs; all that matters is that brave men can ennoble any cause by suffering for it.

The inscriptions of the Confederate state monuments often attempt to define Confederates and their cause as the quintessence of American courage. Some, like Florida’s, cast Confederate soldiers as model Americans who, “BY THEIR NOBLE EXAMPLE OF BRAVERY AND ENDURANCE, . . . ENABLE US TO MEET WITH CONFIDENCE ANY SACRIFICE WHICH CONFRONTS US AS AMERICANS.”

The Americans who can draw strength from Confederate soldiers’ example are undoubtedly white Americans. When the Arkansas monument declares that, “THE GRATEFUL PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS ERECT THIS MEMORIAL AS AN EXPRESSION OF THEIR PRIDE IN THE [CONFEDERATE] OFFICERS AND MEN,” there can be little doubt that the “grateful people” do not include most black residents of Arkansas. Erected in the summer of 1966, while Civil Rights activists marched across the South and anti-war protesters gathered in Washington, D.C., the Arkansas monument took a definite position on who constituted the true “people of the state of Arkansas”: those who were grateful for the sacrifices of Confederate soldiers.

Other inscriptions impart epic significance to Confederate soldiers’ experiences at Gettysburg. The Georgia state monument’s enigmatic epitaph may seem strange to 21st-century visitors, but would be easily recognized by any classicist:
A similar poem, sometimes known as the Epitaph of Simonides, is carved on the stone that marks the spot where the last of the three hundred Spartans fell at Thermopylae in 480 BCE: “Stranger, go tell the Spartans that here we lie obedient to their laws.” The Georgia monument argues that, like the immortal three hundred, the Georgian soldiers fought reluctantly but ferociously for an obscure cause. While the cause no longer matters, the soldiers’ unquestioning performance of their solemn duty places them in the company of history’s most venerable heroes.

This association with ancient and epic deeds was an important theme for both Union and Confederate commemorations because it allowed Americans to “raise their own sense of individual and national identity.” In the years following the battle, veterans of Gettysburg drew analogies to Waterloo, Balaclava, and Thermopylae in their memoirs, declaring, “[Gettysburg] will rank with the most celebrated battles of the world” (Desjardin, 47). The monumental landscape has perpetuated Gettysburg’s legendary status in the national imagination.

In addition to the inscriptions on the Confederate monuments, their dedicatory ceremonies and addresses were devoted to promoting the mythology of the Lost Cause and the narrative of reconciliation. While most of the dedication addresses take the valor of the common soldier as their main theme, common subtexts include the persecution of the South by the North, the futility of attempting to explain the war’s causes, and the renewed strength of a reunited America. When slavery is mentioned at all, it is described as a positive good, and when emancipation is addressed, it is portrayed as a weapon wielded by a sanctimonious North against an innocent South.

Few dedication speeches doubt that both Union and Confederate soldiers fought valiantly at Gettysburg or that the field is an important site for commemorating national unity. “The people of New York, of Pennsylvania, of Virginia and of North Carolina can now regard the field of Gettysburg as a joint and precious heritage,” declared former North Carolina Governor Angus McClean at the dedication of his state’s monument in 1929, “for it was here, that in the fiery furnace of war was fused into a new metal, the amalgam which symbolizes our American character and destiny.” Governor Henry Carter Stuart of Virginia agreed at his state’s dedication, telling the assembled crowd,
Out of the memories of this heroic struggle, out of the fiery ordeal which tested to the uttermost the mettle of the men North and South – aye, even out of the blood that was shed on this and many other fields, has come our life and strength as a nation; our unity in heart and purpose, our supreme devotion to the flag of a reunited country, which today floats above us.
The importance of reconciliation was so strong that some dedicatory addresses went so far as to insist that “the memory of this great battle awakens no feelings of anger within the heart of any one.” When the Virginia memorial was unveiled in 1917, the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee was draped in an enormous American flag.*

One of the reasons that Confederate memorialists accepted Gettysburg as an acceptable site for honoring bravery on both sides is that virtually all of the combatants were white. While several black regiments had been mustered into the Union army before July of 1863, most were stationed in the South, and none saw action at Gettysburg. Because the Union troops at Gettysburg were less racially diverse than they were at later battles, monuments on that field could be interpreted as memorials to an exclusively white conception of American virtue.

Oliver Max Gardner, governor of North Carolina, believed that monuments should be dedicated by and for whites, and made his views plain during the dedication of his state’s monument in 1929:
We rejoice today that the bitterness engendered by that terrible struggle between the North and South has been forgotten, but North Carolina can never forget that in obedience to her command 40,000 of her bravest and best young men marched to their death, and reverence for the quality of soul which sustained the men of both sides who fought in this struggle is a part of the common heritage of our race and is imperishable.
By focusing relentlessly on military valor and the political reunification of the country, Confederate monument-builders removed their structures from any context that acknowledged the causes of the war and the unresolved questions of freedom and equality that continued to plague the nation. After all, if the Civil War were nothing other than a military conflict, its problems were resolved as soon as the fighting stopped. By eschewing any mention of slavery in their speeches, Confederate memorialists erased both the troubling idea that the South might have been in the wrong and the messy reality of African-Americans’ continuing struggle against violent oppression.

Though most orators chose to sidestep the issue of slavery altogether, one took on the topic with gusto. Leigh Robinson, a veteran of the Richmond Howitzers, devoted a considerable portion of his 15,000-word speech at the Virginia memorial’s dedication to an explanation of slavery and exoneration of the South. In Robinson’s view, all of the moral culpability for slavery rested with the New England merchants who transported slaves from Africa:
The noble way for one race to conquer another is by the development of higher modes of existence in that other. So the South conquered the Africans, shipped by Old England and by New England. Southern slavery will hold up the noblest melioration of an inferior race, of which history can take note — the government of a race incapable of self-government, for a greater benefit to the governed than to the governors . . . The white man by his works had said to the black man at his back: "Brought to me by others as you have been, it is my part to afford the discipline, which, of yourselves, you are unable to acquire. The universe abandons you. I will protect and direct." Southern master gave to Southern slave more than slave gave to master; and the slave realized it. Better basis for the uplift of inadequacy can no man lay than is laid in this. This slavery was the school to redeem from the sloth of centuries. A continent of mortal idleness had been exchanged for a continent of vital work. The constraint of discipline was a first step from the degeneration of indiscipline. From "the hell of the unfit" the negro had been lifted and put in the way of fitness. Freedom, which merely means freedom from work, is freedom to rot--not a thing for which to shed blood or tears. It is the way to parity with the beast. The graduation of lower into higher order is not the work of a day.
In this version of history, the war was “the crucifixion of Virginia by New England, with the approbation of Old England, for the sin of slavery.” Robinson draws multiple analogies between the South and a suffering Christ, including his affirmation of reverence for “the cause we served, which pierced with wounds for us is sacred; and crowned with thorns for us is holy.” It is impossible to say how many of Robinson’s audience of 2,000 agreed with his characterization of their “peculiar institution,” but news reports of their “mighty round of applause” and periods of “deep reverence” during the hours-long ceremony suggest that they did not object.*

The dedications of Confederate monuments were national events and boasted impressive guest lists. In 1973, Mississippi Senator James Eastland, president pro-tempore of the senate, delivered the dedicatory address for the Mississippi monument at a ceremony that was also attended by four of Mississippi’s five congressmen, the state’s lieutenant governor, and the United States Army Band.** In 1933, Justice Hugo Black, then a senator from Alabama, delivered the address at the unveiling of his state’s monument at Gettysburg. Many Confederate monuments were dedicated by governors of states, and their unveilings attended by high-ranking federal officials. William Ingraham, the Assistant Secretary of War, took the time to travel to Gettysburg for the dedication of the Virginia memorial on June 8, 1917, the very day that General Pershing and the first American troops arrived in Europe to fight World War I.***

In many ways, the inscriptions and dedication speeches are superfluous in the presence of the sculptures that they describe. A visitor to the Maryland monument does not need to be told that the men atop its plinth are “brothers again” because the imagery is so ingenuous. Still, it is wise to muster all available evidence to expose the subtle manipulation of pro-Confederate ideology, and there can be little doubt about the goals of monument builders who proclaim that “The South did not desert the Union, the Union deserted the South.”**** In the words that they carved on their monuments’ bases and spoke at their unveilings, Confederate memorialists made their veneration of the Lost Cause explicit.

*Source: “Virginia Shaft is Dedicated,” Adams County News, June 9, 1917, A1 (subscription).
**Source: “Sen. Eastland to Dedicate New Mississippi Memorial Here on Friday,” Gettysburg Times, October 18, 1973, A1, A5. The congressmen present were G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, Jamie L. Whitten, David Bowen, and William “Thad” Cochran. Montgomery is erroneously identified as a senator in the article. As of 2008, Cochran is serving as the senior senator from Mississippi.
***That's ok. Secretary of War Baker probably had it totally under control.
****Leigh Robinson again. Charming man.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Confederate Monumental Landscape: Style

While Union veterans in attendance at the 1913 reunion could retrace their regiments’ steps by visiting the granite and bronze monuments that they themselves had erected, Confederate veterans encountered a very different monumental landscape. Fifty years after the battle, the Confederate position was marked primarily by several dozen bronze plaques and mounted cannon that had been placed by the War Department in the decade leading up to the reunion. These plaques, which are “written in precise, elevated language using military terminology removed from the immediacy of emotion,” note details such as the type of guns in each battery, the total number of rounds expended, and the number of men killed, but they are informational markers, not monuments. The Southerners who visited the battlefield in 1913 understood that bald facts could never tell the history of the battle in the way they wanted to tell it, and in the years following the great reunion, they set out to construct their own monumental landscape.

In contrast with the “chaste” Union monuments, the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg are visceral, heroic, and emotional. Whereas the bronze statues that adorn Union memorials depict impeccably dressed officers and men with calm, composed countenances, the ragged, suffering titans of the Confederacy are alternately grim and enraged. The style and form of these monuments tend to emphasize three main points: the heroism of ordinary soldiers, their profound physical suffering, and the nobility of their cause.

By sculpting Confederate soldiers in heroic proportions and with allusions to classical ideal body types, monument designers elevated them to the status of demigods or, at least classical heroes. By emphasizing the physicality of the Confederates’ naked and injured bodies, sculptors appealed to visitors’ empathy and made the story about soldiers’ suffering rather than slaves’. By portraying Confederate soldiers as blameless, suffering heroes, these monuments implicitly characterize the Confederate cause itself as worthy and sympathetic. Over the course of the 20th century, Confederate memorial sculpture at Gettysburg elaborated on these themes, presenting an emotional case for the Lost Cause to millions of Gettysburg visitors.

That Confederate state memorials would be stylistically different from Union monuments was apparent as soon as the Virginia monument was unveiled in 1917. Although it rivals the New York and Pennsylvania monuments in sheer size, the Virginia monument inverts some of those structures’ most important imagery (image at right via SOUTHERN HEART). Instead of crowning the memorial with an allegorical female figure, the Virginia monument commission chose to place an equestrian statue of Lee at the apex. Around the base of the shaft, where Pennsylvania honors eight eminent political and military leaders, Virginia chose to memorialize six ordinary soldiers and a single officer, all in various states of action and distress. According to the plaque that accompanies the sculpture, these figures are meant to represent the types of men who fought for the South: “a professional man, a mechanic, an artist, a boy, a business man, a farmer, [and] a youth” (image below via A Spiritual Oddity).
These men, whose open shirts reveal glimpses of bare chests and whose battered hats or bare heads enhance their rumpled aura, defend the state flag the center of the tableau with drawn pistols, swinging rifle butts, and determined scowls. The officer who carries the flag looks placid enough, but his horse’s open mouth and terrified, rolling eyes attest to the battle that is no doubt raging around them. All of the figures stand atop the ruins of a demolished caisson, and their pedestal is littered with the debris of war, including a cannon, hats, canteens, and splintered branches. In contrast to the remote and overwhelming authority of the Pennsylvania monument, the Virginia monument brings the images of suffering, striving soldiers down to the visitor’s eye-level; there are even steps leading up to the statues so that observers can come face-to-face with the soldiers. Only Lee remains elevated, inaccessible, and idolized. This iteration highlights the heroism of ordinary soldiers, but the heroic themes are muted by the soldiers’ lifelike appearances and lack of injuries.

Subsequent Confederate memorialists continued to elaborate on the themes that were first expressed in the Virginia monument. In 1929, North Carolina veterans dedicated their own monument, designed by the eminent sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Borglum had recently completed his work on Stone Mountain in Georgia and had taken time out of his work at Mount Rushmore to cast the North Carolina monument. The five colossal soldiers of the North Carolina monument are exaggerated versions of their Virginia counterparts (image above left via justmecpb). While the Virginia soldiers show a few inches of bare chest, one North Carolinian’s garment is torn away completely, revealing the rippling muscles of his chest and upper arm, while his comrades’ rolled-up sleeves lay bare bulging veins and tense forearms. No steps are needed to bring the visitor into close contact with the soldiers’ pained visages because the sculpture’s plinth is less than a foot high.

Similarly, the Alabama monument (1933) features two bedraggled soldiers kneeling on a very low plinth (image at right via justmecpb). The half-naked younger man appears to be wounded, and is handing his cartridge box to a comrade while a female allegorical figure holds the former back and urges on the latter. In both the North Carolina and Alabama monuments, the sculptural soldiers’ obvious suffering and partial nudity suggest their heroic qualities.

The Confederate tragic/heroic style reached its pinnacle in the Louisiana and Mississippi monuments, which were dedicated in 1972 and 1973, respectively. Like the earlier state monuments, these sculptures encourage close physical contact between the viewer and the figure, but they transform the Virginian, North Carolinian, and Alabamian allusions to classical tragedy into full-blown pathos. The Louisiana monument features a handsome, clean-shaven youth who lies dead at the feet of a female allegory who is variously identified as the “Spirit of the Confederacy” and St. Barbara, patron saint of artillery (image below via ChrisOD). The young soldier’s elongated feet protrude from his worn and tattered shoes and he clutches the Army of Northern Virginia’s battle flag to his body with both hands: one clasped over his heart and the other stretched protectively over his groin.
The sculptural portion of the Mississippi monument also depicts a fallen soldier draped in the battle flag and protected by a second figure, in this case, the man’s snarling, rifle butt–wielding comrade (image below via SchumiCampione). Barefoot and bareheaded as his cap falls away, the second Mississippian defends both his fellow’s body and the colors with his clubbed rifle, the bursting sinews of his arm, and a still-sheathed bowie knife. As in the Louisiana sculpture, the focus is on the soldiers’ physicality: the Mississippian’s gossamer trousers display every ripple of muscle in his massive thighs, the dead Louisianan’s face is at the visitor’s eye-level, and all three subjects’ oversized hands and feet are terribly exposed and vulnerable. While the stylistic emphasis on their physical pain and bravery leave little doubt that these Confederates were heroes, the Mississippi monument’s inscription makes the nobility of their cause explicit, declaring, “ON THIS GROUND OUR BRAVE SIRES FOUGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTEOUS CAUSE.”
Since 1993, four additional statues of Confederate soldiers have been dedicated at Gettysburg: the “Friend to Friend” monument dedicated to both Union and Confederate Freemasons (1993 - image below right via Sixty4Graphics), the Maryland state memorial (1994), an equestrian statue of General James Longstreet (1998), and the 11th Mississippi regimental monument (2000).

All four of these monuments develop the themes of heroism and suffering, but amend earlier monuments’ endorsements of the Confederate cause, not by claiming that that cause was ignoble, but by arguing that it was irrelevant. These recent depictions of Confederates are primarily concerned with reconciliation, a theme that is most explicit in the Masonic and Maryland monuments, both of which feature unarmed soldiers from both armies giving aid and comfort to their enemies. None of the four monuments erected in the past fifteen years depicts an actively armed Confederate, preferring to memorialize flagbearers, wounded men, and generals, whose ceremonial weaponry remains sheathed. Not only are these soldiers not fighting to preserve slavery, they are not fighting at all. By erasing Confederate weapons, recent monuments preclude the possibility that there could have been any real difference between the Union and Confederate causes. In the most extreme act of erasure, the Maryland monument’s inscription proclaims,
In this telling, there is no difference between the causes because there is only one cause.
(Maryland Monument image via smokejmt.)

Every year, almost two million visitors, many of them children, experience the emotional appeal of the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg. The statues’ threefold focus on ordinary Confederate soldiers’ heroism, their wretched physical agony, and the worthiness of their cause presents a much more engaging and sympathetic argument than the aloof Victorian sculpture on the Union side. Although it is possible to trace the development of these stylistic elements over time, the permanence of monumental granite and bronze allows contemporary visitors to experience the full range of the pro-Confederate sculptural argument simultaneously. Without uttering a single word, the stylistic elements of these memorials influence visitors’ perceptions, encouraging them to identify with the human tragedy of the Southern soldier rather than the austere power of the Northern regiments whose formulaic monuments invite few emotional attachments.