This Unearthly Music: The Rebel Yell In Twilight

“I have never, since I was born, heard so fearful a noise as the rebel yell. It is nothing like a hurrah, but rather a regular wildcat screech. Each shell that burst over the heads of our men was followed by one of these yells, and the sound was appalling.”

The tactile experience of combat is the first thing to fade. Even when they wanted to, veterans could never recapture the sound and texture and chaos of the Civil War. No matter how eloquent or honest they tried to be, no matter how vivid their words, they could never quite bring the immediacy of it home to those who had not lived it. (more…)

‘Negative History:’ Korea and Japan Clash Over World Heritage Status For WWII Slave Labor Sites

Hashima Today

Update, 22 June: Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se have announced that Korea will withdraw its opposition to World Heritage status for the Meiji-era sites. Under the agreement, Japan will clearly mark sites where Korean slave labor was used during World War II. It will also support  Korea’s bid for World Heritage status for its Baekje historic area.  (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun )


Hashima lays nine miles off Nagasaki in the East China Sea. Perched over a rich underwater seam of coal, for nearly ninety years, the tiny island was a major contributor to Japan’s industrial might. At its height, Hashima – more commonly called Gunkanjima, or Battleship Island, for the way it appears on the horizon – had a population density six times that Manhattan, and boasted high-rise apartment blocks, a school, a gym, shrines, a cinema and a supermarket. Abandoned in 1974, it has become a ghost island, last seen as a background in the 2012 James Bond thriller, Skyfall.

In May, the International Committee on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), recommended Hashima and 22 other industrial sites across Japan be designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites as representatives of the Meiji Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid and innovative expansion stretching from 1868 to 1912. Supporters of the World Heritage bid argue that Japan was not only the first nation outside the West to industrialize, it did so through the fusion of “a wave of Western technology arriving in Japan and traditional Japanese culture.” (more…)

“Isn’t It Beautiful?” Robert Lincoln and the Dedication of the Lincoln Memorial

Early in May, 1922, Chief Justice William Howard Taft wrote a letter to his good friend Robert T. Lincoln to formally invite him and his wife as “guests of honor” at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial on May 30.

“We of course shall attend, but only on par with the general audience,” Abraham Lincoln’s son replied. “We prefer that no notice whatever be taken of us.”

Notice, however, was inevitable. Not only was he the President’s only surviving son, he was a former Secretary of War, a former Minister to the Court of St. James, and past president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. As much as he might have wanted to, Bob Lincoln was not going to be allowed to sit quietly among the hoi polloi. (more…)

For the Purpose of Strewing With Flowers: John and Mary Logan and the Establishment of Memorial Day

Q. Tell me, who first proposed the day? A. No one really knows.School Education, 1896


Few American holidays have as complex and contested history as Memorial Day. The ritual of placing flowers and flags on the graves of Civil War soldiers may have started while the war was still ongoing, or it may have started in the first years after it ended. Most credit Confederate women’s organizations for starting the practice, while historian David Blight makes a case for its origin with freed slaves in postwar Charleston. Two dozen communities lay claim to the being its birthplace.

Or perhaps there was no single point of origin. Confronted with over 700,000 war dead and bound by a common culture of mourning rituals, it’s possible that multiple communities started the practice independently. It’s equally likely that it never would have made the jump to a nationally-recognized annual holiday without the intercession of General John A Logan and his wife, Mary Cunningham Logan. (more…)

‘No Wave of Racism Can Stop Us:’ Alabama State Archives Releases New Footage of Historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March

The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us. The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) has released never-before-seen footage of the five-day, 54-mile trek to the Alabama capitol. Archivists recently discovered around 3,000 feet of 16mm film in an inventory of materials collected during the administration of Governor George Wallace. (more…)