Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fun with Facebook: New Market Heights Edition

For those interested in an exercise regarding history, memory, and modern (mis) understandings of the American Civil War, I present to you the following link from the Civil War Trust’s Facebook page. 

The link gives the full text of an article by Gordon Berg entitled “Battle of New Market Heights: USCT Soldiers Proved Their Heroism.” The article originally appeared in the March 2006 issue of America's Civil War magazine and succinctly states the events of September 29, 1864 with an emphasis on the USCT Medal of Honor recipients.

Within five minutes of posting the article, some people began to chime in with all sorts of ignorant and mystifying comments. I’ve selected a few that are particularly illustrative of the divide between popular perceptions of the Civil War and, well…reality as the rest of us perceives it.

Here goes:

“Health tip: Never charge at Texans when they are holding guns.”

“They didn't deserve the CMoH”

“I just want say Happy Birthday to the incomparable Robert E. Lee!! It would be his 208th birthday!”

“There is no mention of the teenage students from VMI that Gen. Thomas Jackson conscripted to defend New Market.”

“How many MOHs were awarded when they murdered nearly 300 Souix at Wounded Knee?”

“Were there actually any white guys in that war, for crying-out-loud?!!!!!!!!”

While most of these speak for themselves and appear to express emotions ranging from confusion over basic historic facts to ill-suppressed white supremacist angst, I did feel the need to share these with you all.

 It’s best not to get too worked up over these things, but these comments reveal a strain of ignorance that I find everywhere I talk about New Market Heights:
  • People have no idea what it is and confuse it with the Battle of New Market in the Shenandoah Valley, and
  •  Some people just can’t bring themselves to admit that black Union soldiers could be worthy of the Medal of Honor without what I call “19th Century Affirmative Action.” The idea that these men earned the Medal of Honor fair and square appears to throw some Civil War enthusiasts into a full blown existential crisis.

That being said, my favorite comment came from my friend and fellow blogger Emmanuel Dabney, who wrote – “Wow. The disgusting comments about SOLDIERS not deserving of the Medal of Honor?! #TrashExistsEverywhere”

In sum, as the South’s greatest strategic philosopher, George Pickett, once said in a Ron Maxwell movie – “book learnin’ ain’t for gentlemen.”

‘Taint for followers of the social media, neither, apparently.