Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, General Grant

"I was born on the 27th of April, 1822, at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio."

-- from Ulysses S. Grant; Memoirs and Selected Letters,1839-1865

Friday, April 23, 2010

Un moment s'il vous plaît

while I close my eyes and gently rub my stomach. I wish to pause long enough to recall a week's worth of delicious meals. There was a shrimp po-boy. There were at least two po-boys of the oyster variety, one as near perfect of a sandwich as I ever hope to savor in this lifetime (a delectable soft roll overflowing with juicy, lightly-breaded oysters from Parkway's Bakery & Tavern). Add a roast beef po-boy somewhere along the way. There was fried chicken with baked beans and cornbread at The Cabin. There was gumbothe real deal. Picture a spicy bowl of Cajun jambalaya, and red beans and rice. I had a steak one night. At Luke, I had the roast cochon du lait with cherry mustard, cornbread dressing and stewed greens. At Mother's, I wolfed down an omelet fit for a king, with grits on the side (I know I promised never to use this blog to muse about my breakfast, but Mother's deserves a mention). And of course, I enjoyed a few beignets with black coffee at the Cafe du Monde.

Incredibly, after eating out for seven days in New Orleans, I came back home at about the same
weight as when I left. Offsetting all the fine eating in the Crescent City is the need to and the sheer pleasure of walking everywhere you go, block after block, particularly in and around the French Quarter.

The 14th Annual Civil War Forum Battlefield Conference is now
"in the books." About 28 hearty souls ventured into the heart of this damaged but inextinguishable metropolis. During the Civil War era, New Orleansby far the largest city in the Confederacyrepresented one of the nation's truly unique cultures, and it has never lost the rich distinctions that set it apart. Its reputation for decadence and crime might cause many otherwise seasoned travelers to keep their distance, but these things are overplayed in popular reportage (as in any U.S. city, visitors need to exercise common sense). Any American who does not spend some time getting to know New Orleans is poorer for it, and I don't mean watching Treme on HBO, or spending a weekend getting wasted on Bourbon Street, though these activities have their charms as well. The unspeakable tragedy of Katrina remains a specter on the periphery of the city's consciousness, with vast swaths of physical reminders, but to most visitors New Orleans remains the same vibrant and colorful city that it was before the storm.

Up next: a short photo essay of our week in the Big Easy.

Picture at top: an infamous Ben Butler chamber pot, this one from the collection of the The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, Richmond, Virginia (borrowed from Civil Warriors). In New Orleans, the Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall sells replicas of this, or one very much like it, in case you're eyeing it for your own home. They were out of stock last week, but expecting a shipment any day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nice try, governor. . .

Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, in an Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post, "Southern Discomfort," responds:
As the sesquicentennial of Fort Sumter approaches in 2011, the enduring problem for neo-Confederates endures: anyone who seeks an Edenic Southern past in which the war was principally about states’ rights and not slavery is searching in vain, for the Confederacy and slavery are inextricably and forever linked.
That has not, however, stopped Lost Causers who supported Mr. McDonnell’s proclamation from trying to recast the war in more respectable terms. They would like what Lincoln called our “fiery trial” to be seen in a political, not a moral, light. If the slaves are erased from the picture, then what took place between Sumter and Appomattox is not about the fate of human chattel, or a battle between good and evil. It is, instead, more of an ancestral skirmish in the Reagan revolution, a contest between big and small government.
Photo at top: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.