Short Takes

Col. Robert Gould Shaw’s sword has been found and donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society. As you may remember, he commanded the 54th Massachusetts in the abortive attack on Fort Wagner, where he was killed. The attack and the events leading up to it were the subject of the movie Glory.

July 18, 1863: The assault on Fort Wagner takes place, and Shaw is shot in the chest while standing on the parapet, “sword in hand,” the historical society said. “Overnight, his body was robbed of personal effects and arms and stripped to underwear.” Sources, the organization notes, have differing theories about who the culprits of the theft were.

I do take exception to the idea that the confiscation of his sword, if done by the Confederates, was theft. His personal items, yes, but the sword was military property and rightfully belonged to the victors.

Most fans of Lincoln have heard of his letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, who lost five sons on the field of battle. It’s signed A. Lincoln, but did he really write it? Arguments have gone on for years, with many people arguing that it was actually written by his secretary John Hay.

Researchers at Aston University’s Centre for Forensic Linguistics tested 500 texts by Hay and 500 by Lincoln, before drawing the conclusion that the Bixby letter was written by the president’s secretary.

“Most of what we see in the Bixby letter is found in the writing of Hay, but not in Lincoln,” Nini said. In nearly 90 percent of the results, Hay was identified as the author of the letter. The remaining 10 percent of results were inconclusive.

Hay was an accomplished writer who wrote a biography of Lincoln and later became ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The forensic linguists have submitted a paper based on their research to the journal Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.

The letter is widely acknowledged as one of the best examples of American presidential prose. “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming,” the letter noted. “But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in that may be found in it.”

HBO is planning a new series, Confederacy, an alternative history in which the South wins the war and its independence. And it’s taking a beating about it on social media, mostly, it seems, because two white guys are writing it. Somehow I don’t think it’ll be much like the McKinley Kantor book of yore.

“It is exhausting to think of how many people at HBO said yes to letting two white men envision modern day slavery. And offensive,” tweeted Roxane Gay.

They are far from alone. Twitter at large castigated HBO’s decision, resoundingly asking: Why, in such a divided political era (in which the Confederate flag debate still rages on), do we need this show? And why would HBO put such a concept in the hands of two white male show creators who have previously been criticized for a lack of representation of people of color on GoT, and shocking portrayals of rape and violence against women?

Can’t have white people writing about the Confederacy, y’know.





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