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.

1 comment:

  1. This is the perils of social media, anyone can say anything without and gives everyone (even those who can be considered ignorant) and outlet. Considering the number of followers on FB that CWT has, I am surprised that there were not MORE ignorant comments.
    As for the MOHs at New Market Heights...there are good, credible historians who debate the number of MOHs given at New Market Heights. As Jimmy knows, we debate this many times around the office. Looking at similar battles in scope and troops engaged, the number of MOHs at New Market Heights is exaggerated (IMHO). Does that mean that the men that made that attack were not heroic? No...of course not. Walking that ground, reading Jimmy's book and taking the tours...most everyone in that charge was heroic. Does that mean MOH worthy? That's a good debate to have. I tend to side on the influence of Ben Butler using the opportunity to promote the use and effectiveness of USCTs (which at the time, many debated). As most of us know…all things are political. We now know that USCTs fought just as well (and maybe with more passion as they had more to lose) than white soldiers. My point...just because you disagree with the number of MOHs awarded at New Market Heights doesn't make you a racist or make you someone that downplays the feats that were accomplished that day by USCTs. You don't have to win a MOH to be heroic.
    Now…that is NOT a defense of morons making ignorant comments on FB….I am just trying to separate the moronic comments from a credible and worthwhile debate.