My colleague, Natalie Inman, likes to call obstacles “adventures.” She would have enjoyed the “adventure” that was our panel this afternoon.
The saga began when I tried to find the room our panel was scheduled for. Originally, we were in the Sheraton, but SHA representatives at the registration handed out room changes to the program. Emblazoned on the front of the flyer was the note that “all room changes are noted in RED and refer to rooms located” next door at the Radisson. Our room, the Chesapeake, was in red, so one would think we were in the Radisson, right? Not so fast. After traipsing over to the Radisson in the sleet (since when does Baltimore get snow in October?), I, along with several other people looking for the Chesapeake, found it locked and were informed that the Sheraton had a Chesapeake room as well. After a couple of queries that provided contradictory answers, we finally made it to the Sheraton Chesapeake room. The view of the snow falling against the Baltimore skyline was great, but the room was . . . snug. There weren’t enough seats for everyone (a common theme with the Southern, it seems). Everyone had a good attitude about it, though, and all of the panelists made it on time.
On to the panel, then. The inimitable Jim Broussard opened the session with the threat of flogging for any panelist who overstepped his allotted 20 minutes. Let me stop here and note: Yes, we realized it was an all-male panel. Craig Friend, the 2011 SHA program chair, and I made every effort to bring gender diversity to the panel, but we simply couldn’t make it work. In fact, I’m lucky I made it on the panel at all. I think Craig took pity on me when the (gender-inclusive) panel I tried to put together blew up. My hat off to Craig for his usual stellar work.
Matt Schoenbachler (Univ. of North Alabama) got us off to a great start with his paper on the Relief War in Kentucky following the Panic of 1819. The takeaway for me was his observation that the post-War of 1812 years paralleled the Confederation period of the 1780s.
I presented next. My paper was choppier than I realized when I submitted it a month or so ago, but it is what it is, as the kids say.
Miles Smith of TCU presented on Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky. I’ve always wondered how Johnson, who openly lived in relationships with slave women and had at least two daughters with one slave, Julia Chinn, was able to win the vice presidency in 1836. Miles argued that Johnson’s political ideology was more important to most Democrats and southerners than his domestic living situation.
John Hall (Univ. of Wisconsin) spoke about Thomas Jesup. I’ve come across Jesup in researching Jackson, but I never realized how reviled he was. I thought John’s paper was great, and, as we told him later, if academia doesn’t work out, he’s got a future in radio with his voice.
Dan Dupre (UNC-Charlotte) offered comments on the papers. He noted the continued importance and murkiness of the frontier South and made recommendations for all of us to think about. In short, Dan did what you hope a commenter does: he framed criticism in a positive and helpful manner.
The questions were short. Afterwards, I think we all had several people stop and talk about aspects of our papers. Dan had to cut out, but the rest of us made our way down to Shula’s to converse and commiserate. I enjoyed getting to know the panelists better and look forward to reading more of their work.
As always, my notes were incomplete, so if I missed anything important, I’m sure someone will point it out to me.