I wanted to throw together a few fairly random Antebellum and Civil War thoughts and links.
First up, a link to a delightfully written blog post from The Slave Dwelling Project about a stay of Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation (I visited the plantation back in March). If you aren’t aware, the Slave Dwelling Project raises money for preservation of and awareness about slave dwellings and slave experiences. Volunteers spend a night (or longer) in dwellings that once housed enslaved people. Obviously, the circumstances are vastly different than when the slaves lived there, but that’s the point: the remembering and reflecting.
Here is the article about a stay at Hofwyl-Broadfield, which includes the story of a man named Sam:
You may notice that Butler Plantation is mentioned. It isn’t a positive mention in that the reference is to Pierce Butler and his financial problems (financial problems which forced him to sell off several hundred of his slaves, uprooting them and tearing them from their families). I visited Butler Island, where the ruins of Butler Plantation’s rice mill are still visible. What brought me to that part of Georgia, to see Butler Island and Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, was a memoir by Fanny Kemble: Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation. Fanny was an English actress who apparently didn’t realize the man she was marrying was the owner of a large plantation in Georgia. Her extraordinary recounting of her time there in the 1830’s caught my imagination, and eventually a novel was born: Channing (which snagged me representation by a literary agent). So, that’s a (far-too-long) explanation of why I so enjoyed this post.
Another thing I ran into this week: a short video via C-SPAN about Confederate flags. There was earlier in the year quite an uproar about Confederate flags (I wrote some of my own thought about it here), but not everyone was/is aware that what most people call the Confederate flag actually was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, not the national flag of the Confederacy. Here’s a full explanation (note: the link probably won’t be active forever):
And last but not least, I was thinking recently about the following Lincoln quote, not very cogently or deeply. But it kept rattling around my mind like a pebble, as if modern politics–America in general–might all make sense if I could just tip my head a little further to the left–or right–and get that pebble to land in just the right spot. I might have to keep trying. There’s a lot of wisdom in these words, and they’re eerily prophetic. They were spoken in 1838, some twenty-three years before the nation nearly committed suicide:
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? . . . All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined . . . could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. . . If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
Oh, one more thing, added after initial publication of this post: an interesting painting entitled The Lost Cause (with all the baggage THAT phrase carries!). It’s interesting in its romanticizing of the yeoman farmer turned Confederate soldier. In a more concrete way, it reminds me of a character I wrote about in a novella, an injured old Confederate soldier who meets a runaway slave and begins to change his tune about many things. The scene depicted in the painting is rather like the opening of the novella, when Hamilton Gray is returning to his burned out cabin and finds a few squatters . . .