There are some wonderful blogs out there that reflect on contemporary issues of Civil War memory and there are even rants of disgust over the way that Civil War memory has been distorted. While I tinker around a bit with my own thoughts on Civil War memory, I think it would be a great idea to take time (from time to time in this blog) for some introspection. How did I develop my own “memories” of the Civil War and why do I think about the Civil War the way that I do today?
To date, it’s been a long and interesting journey. I don’t know for certain when my “memory” of the war started, but I think it took root in my around the age of seven, when I received a Civil War playset. While other kids loved to play with their plastic WW2 army soldiers (as did I from time to time), I loved my Marx Civil War playset (in time, I even had the Revolutionary War playset and the Alamo playset). There were blue and gray plastic soldiers in all sorts of poses. The brown plastic split rail fences and gun-emplacements were excellent pieces behind which I could place these soldiers and refight battles of which I had no understanding at the time (apart from the fact that one side wore blue and the other wore gray). I actually have some of the pieces today, carefully packed away in a tupperware container.
In time, I think my good fortune of living in close proximity to so many battlefields fueled curiousity about the war. I remember trips through the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Stonewall Jackson Shrine at Guinea Station and Cold Harbor. On top of that, the New Market battlefield was just across the mountain from my grandparents’ homes in the Page Valley. I especially loved those dioramas in the Hall of Valor with those neat conical listening devices. However, as to when I first made a connection between myself and my ancestry, I cannot say for certain. I think it was from a story that my father or maternal grandfather told me. From the few stories that were told to me (and there were only a few), I think I can recall at least one in which the “Yankees” came and food and silverware were hidden away so that these precious items could not be taken. Perhaps, between this and the manner in which the Confederacy was portrayed at several of the sites that I first visited, this was the foundation for my “memory” and initial position of understanding (with my original Southern leanings) on the American Civil War.