Yesterday I received in the mail my copy of Volume 53, Number 3 of Civil War History. I’ve been a subscriber for the last seven or eight years. Over that time, the journal’s focus has shifted considerably away from military history, and now features essays primarily on race and gender issues, mirroring a similar trend in the academy. In fact, over the past five years I think I can count the number of military history essays that have appeared in its pages on one hand and have a few fingers left over. But I’ve continued to subscribe, even though the current focus is not what I “signed on for”, because I like the book reviews and because I realize these things are cyclical, and pendulums tend to swing like England do. Even so, I’ve been considering letting my subscription expire without renewal.
Imagine my surprise upon receiving this issue which features not one, not two, but three essays on military history – specifically, battle history. The collection is edited by Frank Wetta, and consists of Ken Noe’s Jigsaw Puzzles, Mosaics, and Civil War Battle Narratives; George Rable’s The Battlefield and Beyond; and Carol Reardon’s Writing Battle History: The Challenge of Memory. Could it be that CWH is putting the War back in Civil War?
The essays of Noe and Reardon address issues discussed here in the past. Noe writes on the problems of the narrative form, among other things, and Reardon looks at (and defines) memory and its sometimes detrimental effects on history. Rable’s essay is interesting to me primarily because he uses First Bull Run as a backdrop for his discussion of the role of religion on the battlefield.
I’ll post separate articles on each essay in the days ahead, so check back if I’ve piqued your interest.