I shared this with my "Quantrill Special Collections Research" mailing list and followers. I thought I would share it here too. I hope you don't mind, but I thought it was important to everyone who are Civil War and history enthusiasts. My apologies to those here that are on my mailing list. Thanks!
The Rally Cry
That article I recently sent all of you on teachers attending the Civil War workshops and lectures got me to thinking. A few years ago, I launched the “Quantrill Special Collections Research” as an educational endeavor that had never been tried before. A full scale special collections based on William Quantrill’s Missouri Confederate guerrillas and the Kansas-Missouri border wars that would allow the guerrillas and the border wars to become an educational resource all their own. To stand alone and be seen as it‘s own free standing subject. The idea and progress was met with open arms by some, skepticism by a few and refusal by others. After a very brief stay at the Gentry Public Library in Gentry, Arkansas, the refusals won out. The collection was taken down and a new home was found. Sound familiar? Yes, it became a victim of the same bias that is knocking down Confederate history right now. And that was a couple of years ago, BEFORE the anti-Confederate wave washed ashore!
Though there are much more important issues in our world today, we, as historians, Confederate, guerrilla, Quantrill, and border war enthusiasts, have worked many, many years to tell the stories and bring them into the forefront of an otherwise manipulated, false and biased side of our history. Think of all of the hard work, by you and many others, that has been done to try our best to bring an understanding and balance to our subjects. Now, it’s almost like going back to square one again. The movement is on to have our work written off and erased. Consider this…think of all of the research and study you’ve done, the pouring over of family histories, the stacks of military records, the months and years of writing, the reenactments you’ve been in so that your hard work and long hours could be taught to those who knew only one side of the fence, the work that each and every one of you, as a historian, author, supporter and reenactor do is under fire like we‘ve never seen! Do we want everything we have worked so hard for, to bring that balance of the border wars into the educational community, to slide back under the history porch? The arguable phrase “History is written by the victors” is a statement that has withstood the test of time, be it biased or not. Today, it is a phrase that many people are reestablishing to their benefit and self belief.
So we have to ask ourselves these questions…what are we doing to establish the educational VALUE of our subject? And…are we doing ENOUGH? Think about our current reality. Teachers and professors are muscling out everything we believe in and promote. Is what we’ve provided enough?
It’s not even just Civil War history or the Bleeding Kansas days, but history from one hundred years back is being deemed irrelevant and “too old” for today’s kids. There are new resources coming up recently like the Civil War museum in St. Louis and the brand new American Revolution museum in Philadelphia that helps, but more needs to be done. And what about the next generation? And the ones after that? Will they be enough to carry our load? Will they WANT to be the next generation to share our history? One of the main things we are fighting is dwindling interest as the new generations emerge. We need to consider doubling and tripling our efforts so there is a more and broader range too wide to be put into seclusion. That it continues to evolve so generations to come understand how our nation has grown and why each event is important. We need to continue to advance the history and it’s individuals. Not to let it sit stagnant or idle so it is always fresh and ever growing. Progressing old history into new history. Tiny little things can make a difference. One soldier that enlisted in the 5th Missouri Cavalry, C.S.A has a small note on one of his cards that says “Belonged to Col. Porter’s command in N.E. Missouri.” He’s not on a 1st NE roster or list, but Bang!, a new guerrilla, a new soldier. And that Porter list grows by one. It’s not a lot, but it’s NEW.
Some are fiercely angered by the false or slanted portrayals of history. We have the skills to push back by manifesting that anger/passion into something educationally tangible. It is up to us to continue our corner of history for the next generations. But the new guard needs new ammunition.
I am on my horse, rapping on each one of your respective doors, to appeal to your abundance of dedication and an order to rally us as a collaborative collection of devoted students of history! Our dedication has come from the passion to right the wrongs and bring respect to the soldiers and citizens who fought and suffered so long. We must ensure their place for the many years to come. The educational community is on the brink of abandoning us altogether. It’s up to us!
Richard L. Stewart