The Great Reunion (1913)
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It's a multi day event taking place on the battlefield itself full speeches and reunions and camping and plenty of revisionist history, a lot of it centered around the so called lost cause mythology that the south had fought justly and heroically so here to discuss the great reunion of nineteen thirteen, and how history gets reworked in real time is always nickel hammer of Columbia hello. Nikki. Hello Jody and And back for episode. Two of three episode run is Jane Kosten Vox and the weeds and lots more. Hello Jane! Hello, thanks so much for having me so this great reunion nineteen thirteen everyone gathered back at Gettysburg Nicky, what was the goal here was it get together and swap stories, or was there kind of the larger historical reckoning going on I mean, there was a huge historical. Recommend going on here. You had a nation that had been riven by civil war, and now you're coming back to the battlefield years later and having. Certain people who were engaged in that fight coming back you have United States, soldiers meeting with confederate soldiers in a kind of. Healing ceremony of a sort and we'll get into the complicated nature of that healing, but it was about this moment of overcoming the divisions of the civil war. That was a big a big goal. Yeah, and it's interesting because what you see in this moment is how effective lost cause mythology in some ways became because you can see that this is a moment in which what the was fought over is not discussed. The fact that the war was fought, but that people can still come together even if one person gets in a fight. Fight because he uses a vial Epithet for Abraham Lincoln you you have this idea that no matter what the about which we won't discuss, and no African Americans will speak at this event where over it now and everyone is friends again and I think that that symbolism was so important, almost more important than the event taking place. Yeah, I mean this idea that the healing was going to be about making this moment about we all thought honorably. We all thought with Valor, no matter what side you were on, you were an honorable soldier and. And that is of a piece with the lost cause mythology that had been not only through the south, but across the rest of the country among white Americans and was being memorialized I mean this is the moment at which a lot of those confederate statues that are coming down now we're going up in sort of a testament or celebration of that very idea that we were all our soldiers. Fighting as Americans Kinda makes me think of something we talked about last episode. which is you know there's all these different ways? People conceive of racism. Racism as a personal fault or something more systemic and here it's like well. What is healing? Right is healing. Go shake hands with the person used. Sit across from during a worse healing, reckoning with something more systemic and something deeper. Do you think there was any scenario? In which the country one thousand nine hundred thirteen was in a position to do an actual sort of deeper, systemic healing and reckoning. Absolutely not I think that especially I'm struck by the presence of Woodrow Wilson. Perhaps our more racist Presidents Wilder Wilson's reunion address he talks about. Our battles long past the coral forgotten except that we shall not forget the splendid valor, which is certainly his perspective, because it's a someone who hosted a screening of birth of a nation in the White House and helped re segregate the federal workforce. There are very much percents like whatever this war was actually over which was the subject of slavery. We don't talk about it. We just remember the valor, and we work as hard as possible to push African Americans in the African, American experience of the civil war out of not just this conversation, but out of public life together. Together right and this reunion is happening. Remember after the very successful political project of Jim Crow Right? This isn't happening. In the eighteen seventy s during this period of reconstruction, when African American rights are being protected, and when there are African, American legislators, this is happening in nineteen thirteen after African Americans have been denied the right to vote have banned Rian scribe as second-class citizens, both economically and politically, and you almost need like that's predicated on which this healing is built some other tidbits I. Think reflect what you're getting out. Wilson spoke not that many veterans were invited to speak. Speak, but none of those who were were African American, and then you know none. No nurses or civilians even were given a chance to tell their story there. You know I think it shows just a very narrow conception of what this war was. which was you know some white folks from the North White folks from the south gathered in the field and sort of scuffled with each other and here we are kind of playing Nice I. Don't know one other thing I'll just throw it out there It was an incredibly hot at this time and you know at some. Some basic logistical level, the idea of getting a bunch of people in their seventies to go back out into a field and spend like three four days and incredible heat, living back in tents and sort of recreating the misery of the time doesn't strike me as the best idea right. This sounds to me tremendously unpleasant. The first couple of days the temperatures are around one hundred degrees, and the number of people who actually apparently had heat exhaustion, according to the US Army's chief surgeon was just about three hundred and twenty people, which to me is actually quite low. Considering the mean age of the Veterans Present is seventy two years old, and this is being seventy, two and nineteen thirteen, which is not a tip top time to be an elderly person in an area where sanitation may not be that great, especially because you're on a camping environment. They've got one hundred fifty six thousand pounds of meat. They've got canned fish. They've got thousands of dozens of eggs and I just kept thinking. It's so warm. Warm and it just must have been I understand the point, but just the smell to me. It would have been displeasing Vicki. Is there a sub discipline of history that is just focused on smell? Because I feel like you could just do that at every era. History. History. Passions. I will always talk about the great stink of the Thames and the. Nineteenth Century which was a smell, apparently was the way that historians have put it, so it makes it sound like it was a smell that caused cholera, which is not how cholera works. The two things were interlinked at it. Was You know there is a i? Stand up for the olfactory history. John I think that it's important. Look? There is kind of a history of the senses, but I think it is important to bring back that kind of tactile experience of how unpleasant this must have been, and then you layer onto the fact that for some of these guys. reliving probably the most traumatic moment of their life like just seems so incredibly unpleasant on so many different levels, but it was doing what for the white people gathered was really important political work as we start to wrap up. We're having a conversation right now. About the way we remember the confederacy, and this was the time in which a lot of those memories were reconsecrated is the conversation we're having now about. The civil war and the aftermath of civil war, or is it actually about this era and the way we remembered the civil war fifty years later. I think the conversation we're having now is more about memory and more about how that memory has been posited, and very successfully reshaped I'm fascinated by the criminal justice system I read a lot about criminal justice reform, and what are the challenges that is inherent to our criminal system is the importance of witness testimony despite the fact that witnesses. What you think you saw when something happened can be reshaped and reshaped in reshaped, and you not even know it's happening and I think about that a lot with historical moments like the civil war where it becomes an overarching story about something based on who is telling the story, or who is permitted to tell the story, and only now only relatively recently restarted to retell the story in a way that. That includes more of the people involved in a way. That gets away from Woodrow Wilson's interpretation of events that you know who knows what we were fighting over, but we all fought with valor and returns to the actual subject hands. Yeah, and if we think about this reunion in nineteen thirteen, it was about exactly pat. It was about memory, and how we remember this war in this whole period was about. Coming up with an interpretation of this war and a set of memories about this war that have shaped many Americans view of what the civil war was about and what it meant, and how we should memorialize it and as I, have said I think when we've talked about the civil war before you know as a reminder that this is not long gone memory I mean there were obviously reunions and anniversaries and marches regarding the. The civil war with civil civil war veterans well into the Twenties and Thirties I. Think I've mentioned on the show before that. My Grandmother has memories of seeing civil war veterans marching in Philadelphia and so this is just not that it's not that long ago at all right. Yeah, we're. We're still I think it may have just been last month. At the last person receiving a civil war pension passed away. I think that. Especially because generational trauma does not require people from the generation that endured that trauma to still be around, especially, because what the story they told about those events the story, your survivors of Andersonville would've told their descendants or the people who survived the battle of Gettysburg or were present at those early battles when the story the union told itself was. That will get this done, and while we get this done, people can come in watch and you know it's because it's a quick trip from DC I think that that. The, generational memory will continue to far out less the word sell. All right, we will leave it there. ching-kuo Nevada as always. Thank you traveling me and you'll be back for one more episode after this and Nicole Hammer. Thanks. Thanks Judy This Day in Esoteric. Political history is a proud member of radio. Topi, from Pr X. You can find out lots more including how to suggest a topic at this day pod, dot com. I will also say on our website. 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