“…the Civil War defined us as what we are, and it opened us to what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you’re going to understand the American character…to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.”
-Shelby Foote, historian and novelist
The Civil War continues to echo through our nation’s life. It is reflected in everything from films (as recently as Lincoln) and literature, as well as how we fight modern wars and conduct our battles over civil rights. Gregg Clemmer, author and Civil War tour leader for The Smithsonian Associates, presents a provocative discussion of what’s been described as the war “that never goes away.”
Clemmer delves into the meaning behind this enduring legacy, and attempts to identify what we learned from the conflict that so influences our thinking today. He investigates whether aspects of that thinking can be seen as regionally distinct, mirroring the lines drawn by the war itself. Might our confusion over the war’s causes versus the war’s purpose—from our 150-year-distant perspective—explain why we seem to be growing more divisive as a people? He also asks if the lessons of the Civil War can be applied to “bind up our nation’s wounds” as they’re manifested today.
To learn more about the Civil War, listen to clips from Smithsonian Folkways>>