Monday, September 19, 2011

New Reconstruction Era Blog

I recently asked if there were any other blogs primarily oriented toward Reconstruction. In fact there is an excellent new blog from Dr. Al Hester focusing on the Athens, Georgia area during Reconstruction, found at  .  In addition to his blog, Al's website is both aesthetically appealing (as opposed to this blog's lame google "blogger" template) and interesting to explore.  I look forward to checking back in with Al's posts and encourage others to do so.

I believe that as the sesquicentennial progresses, more people will realize that the Civil War's issues weren't neatly wrapped up at Appomattox and will start asking questions, exploring, and inevitably turn toward Reconstruction. The fact is that almost no Americans, even college history majors, have more than the slightest knowledge about Reconstruction. The field desperately needs narrative type works that are accessible to the educated, history audience - the kind of person who will pick up books by Goodwin or McCullough.  There isn't yet a popularly accessible grand narrative for the Reconstruction Era similar to the works of Bruce Catton or Shelby Foote. The handful of excellent, modern (i.e., post-Dunning) histories (Foner's Reconstruction, of course, is the unparalleled, giant and may have intimidated other scholars into looking for other fields) are scholarly and thematically organized, and will not be read by the general, non-academic reader with an interest in history - unless assigned in class. The major exception I can think of is probably Nicholas Lemann's Redemption , which, however, deals only with Mississippi and Louisiana and, considering the subsequent absence of Reconstruction books being issued by major publishers, may not have sold that well and definitely did not start a trend.  A lot of the great, popular narrative Civil War work in recent years has focused on specific battle or campaign studies (there are a lot of superb examples such as Stephen Sears and our own Dale Cox).  Supplementing good, scholarly, state Reconstruction survey books (e.g., Cimbala, Shofner), I expect to start seeing accessible work focused on the experiences of communities, similar to the "battle books." Lane and Keith's separate "Colfax Massacre" books are examples. Al Hester's Enduring Legacy  - I admit I haven't read his book yet - points in the same direction as does The Jackson County War.  There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of Southern communities with dramatic and fascinating experiences during the Reconstruction years that are untold. I hope, and expect, that other researchers will be writing and publishing those stories soon.