Promoting Enduring Legacy

I am working hard proving the saying that an author will work as hard promoting and marketing his book as he did writing it!  Since Enduring Legacy: Rhetoric and Ritual of the Lost Cause was published in January, 2012, I have been working hard to get it out to the public who might be interested in it.  I am setting up book talks and signings with groups such as the Civil War Round Table, Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and venues such as public libraries and museums.  I have also been contacting professors of rhetoric and public address across the South who might be interested in buying the book for their personal libraries and ordering it for their departmental and university libraries.  Several have indicated an interest in my coming to speak to their classes at some point over the next few months.

So far, I have spoken in Forrest City, Fort Smith, North Little Rock, Batesville, Cape Girardeau, Little Rock, and Natchez and have been on one local radio interview show.  I have talks set for Lonoke, Vicksburg, Fort Smith, Prairie Grove State Battlefield Park, and Pensacola.  I found out that since Enduring Legacy came out in January, most groups had already set their programs for the 2011-12 year.  So I am right now involved in preparing a media kit, with the help of my computer expert son, Stuart, and my media kit expert daughter, Beth.  I will be sending it out soon to at least 100 possible venues for book talks in the coming year.

The next two book talks are 7:00 pm, June 12 at Lonoke, AR, at the Lonoke Museum to the Civil War Round Table, and July  17 from 4:00 until 7:00 pm at the Fort Smith, AR, History Museum across the street from the Fort Smith National Monument.

It must be paying off, as I was contacted by the University of Alabama Press last week that the first printing had sold out and they were ordering a second printing.  Good!

W. Stuart Towns

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Confederate Memorial Day in Arkansas

Re-enactors at the Arkansas celebration of Confederate Memorial Day gather for pictures at the Confederate Monument on the state capital grounds.

For the sixteenth straight year, Arkansas celebrated a combined Confederate Memorial Day, Confederate Flag Day, and Arkansas Confederate History and Heritage Month on April 7, 2012, the Saturday before Easter.  The celebration was held on the state Capitol grounds in the shadow of the Confederate Monument.  This year, the event is part of the state’s official Sesquicentennial observance of the Civil War.

Danny Honnoll, commander of the contingent of Sons of Confederate Veterans, remarked that the celebration was important to him and many others, as a way of honoring his five ancestors who died in the Civil War.

A group of re-enactors stood at attention to the left of the monument and speaker’s stand and fired a rifle salute to the Confederate dead at the close of the ceremony.  Finally, all the participants gathered in front of the monument on the corner of the Capitol grounds for a round of picture taking.

Confederate Memorial Day began across the South as early as the spring of 1865, at the end of the war, when women began to decorate and tend to the graves of Confederates who had died in the war.  Mrs. Charles J. Williams of Columbus, Georgia, wrote to many southern newspapers that spring, asking that a movement begin that would create a special day to remember the southern dead.  The commemoration caught on quickly and within a few years was celebrated from Texas to Virginia.  The speeches that were made in countless cemeteries across the region were a major factor in the creation of the public memory in the South known as the Lost Cause.  As I write in my recent book, Enduring Legacy: Rhetoric and Ritual of the Lost Cause, “More than a century and a half later, many southern communities continue to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.”  In addition to this example in Little Rock, “In Pensacola, Florida, the United Daughters of the Confederacy still gather at the grave of Stephen R. Mallory, Confederate secretary of the navy, in St. Michael’s Cemetery and place a flag on his grave, was well as on the graves of the two Union and nineteen Confederate veterans in the cemetery.  Traditions die hard in the South.” (p. 25)


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Visit to Dedication of Replica of Fort Curtis in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

             On May 11, 2012, the city of Helena-West Helena dedicated a newly-built replica of the Civil War Fort Curtis.  The Fort, located in the downtown area, is an authentic reproduction of the original, as it was built according to the original plans found in the National Archives by Ronnie A. Nichols.  The location is not authentic, but is about three blocks south of the original site, where the First Baptist Church now stands.

            Helena was occupied by Federal troops from July, 1862 through the end of the war, in spite of a Confederate attempt to overpower it on July 1, 1863.  The fort  was built by a cadre of former slaves who had gathered in the river port city after the Union troops moved in.  General Samuel Curtis commanded the units which first occupied Helena.  He was succeeded by General Benjamin M. Prentiss, who named the fort after the former commander.  The fort was dedicated in a major ceremony  on October 30, 1862 and controlled that part of the Mississippi River for the remainder of the war.

The city of Helena-West Helena has made a full commitment to building and promoting the area’s rich Civil War history.  Not only have they built Fort Curtis, the Delta Culture Center in collaboration with local businesses and a long list of local, state, and federal agencies to identify 25 sites in and around the city related to the Civil War.  They are erecting professional signage at each location which tells the story of that spot of Civil War history.  As an aside, I must comment that these signs describing that particular event or location are absolutely first class—the most detailed and helpful I have ever seen in a lifetime of reading historical markers.

Some of these other sites are Batteries A, B, C, and D, which made up a surrounding ring of defensive positions to protect Fort Curtis.   They were important outposts during the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863.  Other sites include the Moore-Honor Home, built in 1859, which served as a hospital for Union troops.  The Confederate Cemetery has the graves of Confederate generals Patrick Cleburne, Thomas C. Hindman, and James C. Tappan, along with many more Confederate soldiers, some killed during the battle of Helena, and others who requested burial there after the war.

Gen. Patrick Cleburne Monument in Helena Confederate Cemetery

Two of the other sites included in the area celebration and highlighting of the war effort relate specifically to the thousands of Freedmen in the immediate vicinity of  Fort Curtis and Helena.  The Lamb Plantation, where the plantation lease system had been into operation to give the Freedman work and for most, pay for the first time, was one.  In August 1864, Confederate General Archibald S. Dobbins conducted a cavalry raid on the plantation in an attempt to destroy the lease system and terrorize the Freedmen.  There will also be an exhibit describing the work of that lease system run by the union government.

  Helena-West Helena fully understands the interests of not just southerners, but all Americans in the Civil War and its legacy.  The city’s leadership is counting on tourism to increase significantly as thenation continues to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War for the next three years.  As Shelby Foote said about the war, “It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.”

The Delta city is building an effective educational and interpretive foundation to help Americans of all persuasions and subcultures to understand that crossroads.

Fort Curtis Northeast Corner

Fort Curtis from back wall.

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The Southern Oratory Blog is Coming Soon!

We are just kicking the tires with this blog technology for now, but check back soon for some new content about Southern Oratory!

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