Lincoln & Loathing

Invisible Men lincoln-black-soldiers.jpg

Thanks to civilwarmemory for pointing to a recent post by John David Hoptak, a writer and Park Ranger at the Antietam National Battlefield.
Hoptak’s Antietam presentations on the battle and the contemporaneous drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation have stirred a vicious reaction from many Park visitors, unwilling to hear a discussion of Lincoln, slavery, or any of the real stakes in the Civil War.



“If we should not celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation, if Lincoln should be criticized for not freeing all the slaves with this revolutionary document, then why should we celebrate and laud the Declaration of Independence? the Constitution? the Founders?…There was a sizable portion of the population that wasn’t declared free to pursue their lives, their liberty, and happiness. Such criticism is almost always met with outrage. . . some of those most outraged by such criticism of the Founders are among those that declare Lincoln to be “the greatest murderer” in U.S. history and that the Emancipation Proclamation should not be celebrated.”

Civilwarmemory comments:

“What I find so disturbing is the apparent number of Civil War enthusiasts who are unable to view emancipation from the perspective of the thousands of slaves who helped force the issue on the Union high command and eventually Lincoln himself by running away from their owners and aiding the efforts of the U.S. army in myriad ways. It’s as if emancipation began and ended with Lincoln…I’ve interviewed a number of Park Service personnel on this issue. For some it is simply enough to assume a perspective that has soldiers on both sides falling from the sky to butcher one another with little or no attention as to why. All that is left to do is explain how they did it. Even a cursory glance at our national memory of the war reveals a continued concentration on values that white Americans initially latched onto at the turn of the twentieth century as part of a movement towards reunion and reconciliation.”

A New Republic blog post on efforts to glide past the South’s stakes in the war sums up:

The way of life they fought to preserve was not a set of morally neutral hillbilly customs, like playing the banjo and making apple butter; it was a way of life that specifically did include black slavery.

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