large-271953 Reconstruction_eraWhen I was at the Lee Mansion at Arlington a few weeks ago I picked up a copy of the NPS handbook on the Reconstruction Era. The handbook was published in March and follows the same formula as the NPS offerings about the Civil War, War of 1812, American Revolution and other topics. It contains 12-15 chapters on various topics on the events of 1865-77 from a number of perspectives. What I like so much about these handbooks is that they contain the latest scholarship and interpretation written by leading scholars on the subject at hand. This one has essays by David Blight and Brooks Simpson, among others. Those who followed the Civil War sesquicentennial know that it was quite consciously a do-over of the failed centennial in the 1960s. Professional historians and interpreters have changed our understanding of Reconstruction. One can imagine what Robert E. Lee would have thought about people buying such a title in the gift shop at was once his home. Still the general public has been less quick to catch up to the historians. I suppose it is not all that surprising; the late 1860s and 70s were not an especially heroic time in our history to put it mildly.

Other than Governors Island, the Park Service has few sites that deal directly with WW1. Still I would love to see Eastern National put something together during the centennial. If not the NPS, I guess it would fall to the American Battle Monuments Commission. I think there is enough to put something together, but we shall see. In the meantime make sure to consider this new offering about an era in American history that still shapes our lives in so many ways.