A great site of digital collections on the Civil War

Hat tip to my colleague Joe Camisa for making me aware of this new site that links digital Civil War collections from a several prestigious libraries in the South. Civil War in the American South is a project put out by members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL), which include libraries at Duke, Clemson, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi State, Virginia, and the UNC system. A cursory glance shows several promising collections on a variety of subjects. I urge my readers to check it out and explore this research tool.

Review of the film Gods and Generals

Civil War historian Dr. Steve Woodworth at Texas Christian University, reviewed the film Gods and Generals for the Journal of American History in 2003. The American Historical Association (AHA) recently posted a copy of that review that appeared on the website Teachinghistory.org. I have met Dr. Woodworth in the past and have found him to be a friendly and capable scholar, and enjoyed his take on the movie, as he summed up many of the problems with the film. Being in both the reenacting community and the scholarly community, I have heard both extremes on the film, with reenactors, especially Confederate, being largely praiseworthy, while scholars are more critical. I feel that this review is a rather balanced evaluation of this Civil War film.

Click here to read the review

By the way, this is the 250th post on this blog!

Call for Papers for the Society for Civil War Historians Conference

CALL FOR PAPERS:

The Society of Civil War Historians will host a conference from June 14 through 16, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Kentucky.  The SCWH welcomes panel proposals or individual papers on the Civil War era, broadly defined.  The goal of the conference is to promote the integration of social, military, political, and other forms of history on the Civil War era among historians, graduate students, and public historians.

The deadline for receipt of proposals is September 15, 2011. Proposals should include a title and abstract for the papers (approximately 250-300 words) and a short curriculum vitae of participants. Panel submissions should have an overall title and statement about the thrust of the session.

Proposals should be submitted as one PDF sent electronically to RichardsCenter@psu.edu.  For information, see the Society’s website:  http://scwh.la.psu.edu or contact the Richards Center at (814) 863-0151.  Final decisions on panels will be made at the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association in Baltimore.

Author’s Note: If you are not already a member, please consider joining, which you can do by clicking here.

“Gettysburg” a new movie premieres on History Memorial Day

As noted in the Alert Box at the top of the latest posts, a new film on the iconic battle, called “Gettysburg” will premiere on History at 9PM ET/8PM CT on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. I encourage you all to watch and I will offer a review soon after the film shows. Here is more information and the trailer.

Website: http://www.history.com/shows/gettysburg

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwNJS8dwkYs

Summary: Gettysburg is a 2-hour HISTORY special that kicks off a week of History programming commemorating the 150’th anniversary of the Civil War.

Executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, this special strips away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War. It presents the pivotal battle of Gettysburg in a new light: as a visceral, terrifying and deeply personal experience, fought by men with everything on the line. Compelling CGI  and powerful action footage place viewers in the midst of the fighting, delivering both an emotional cinematic experience and an information packed look at the turning points, strategic decisions, technology and little known facts surrounding the greatest engagement ever fought on American soil.

The special begins in the high stakes summer of 1863, as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia crosses into Pennsylvania.   Trailed by the Union’s Army of the Potomac, Lee’s 75,000 strong army heads towards Harrisburg, converging instead near a quiet farm town, Gettysburg.  Known then only as a crossroads where ten roads running in all directions converge like a wagon wheel, this small town would become site of an epic battle between North and South.  For three days, each side fought there for their vision of what America should be.

In collaboration with highly esteemed Civil War historians, HISTORY combed through hundreds of individual accounts of the battle to find the unique voices of struggle, defeat and triumph that tell the larger story of a bitterly conflicted nation.

Trouble in Baltimore

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the occupation of Baltimore by Federal troops in 1861 after a period of discontent and rioting that swept the city and parts of the border slave state in the wake of the firing upon Fort Sumter. This trouble and that posted earlier in Missouri illustrated the precarious situation in the border states that remained in the Union.

Maryland had strong ties to the South. A slave state, it place the capital, Washington in an interesting position, surrounded by slave states. When Virginia seceded in April, fears of Maryland leaving grew in the city. The inauguration of Abraham Lincoln intensified feelings among the Southern leaning citizenry, especially after his calling for volunteers, which meant Union troops would be passing through Maryland, Baltimore in particular.

The tension grew to violence, as soldiers and civilians were killed in several days of rioting over the war and the course of the state. In the aftermath, Benjamin Butler, who later became famous for his order against the women of New Orleans, commanded the remainder of a Union force sent to maintain communication lines to Washington, and occupied the city, placing it under martial law. Thus began 150 years ago an occupation of an American city. Attempts at secession were tried, but failed, and, despite the turmoil, Maryland remained in the Union.

Great article from Military History Quarterly on Fort Sumter

Check out this article from Drew Lindsay of Military History Quarterly that deals with the 150th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort Sumter. It includes some great photos.

Getting ready for the 150th anniversary

March has passed and the posts have been lacking, but that does not mean I have not been doing some interesting things relating to the war. On St. Patrick’s Day, my friend Stuart and I went on the RJ Richards Show on 1310 KNOX AM in Grand Forks. It was our second time on the show, as the first was us talking about the Northern Plains Civil War Round Table. This time, we were on for a whole hour, fielding questions from RJ and his audience. It was awesome and I have been told that I have a voice for radio (thankfully, no one has said I have a face for it). I am considering embarking on podcasting for the blog, which I think would be a new twist for you all.

Speaking of the Round Table, we have gotten a few new members courtesy of our visit to KNOX. We met this past Tuesday and discussed Fort Sumter. The anniversary is coming up this next week, though Fox News indicated that the planned reenactment may be altered from a possible government shutdown. One wonders if the reenactment of the attack will serve other motives beyond historical for the participants. It is a bit ironic to consider the debates over states’ rights today against the issues in Charleston and the US in 1861.

I will be posting a bit more often in the coming weeks as we begin the 150th anniversary of the war and enter the reenacting season. I will also look into setting up some podcasts for your enjoyment. Later this next week, I head back to Illinois for a couple of days, where I will present a paper at the Illinois State History Symposium in Carbondale, so if you are in that area, I invite you to come and check it out. Until next time, keep researching.

A “nation” born 150 years ago

February 8 represents the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Confederate States of America. I purposely put nation in quotes to reflect the unrecognized status of the Confederacy. The Confederacy is an interesting creation, as several influential Southerners viewed their nation as the heir to the Revolution, resisting the tyranny of Washington. I wonder how they would react today. The Confederacy stirs many emotions today, but it can not be denied that its short history is wrapped in its role in beginning our nation’s bloodiest war. While the actual Confederacy lasted only four years, the idea lives on through historical memory, first dominated by the Lost Cause, and now through the ongoing debates in history over secession and the current divide over states’ rights, etc. I will close this short post with the encouragement to go out and read the histories on the Confederacy to understand how the views on the southern creation have changed over the last 150 years.

Civil War History Radio Show Seeks Participation

BackStory (www.backstoryradio.org) is a nationally aired public radio show that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, the U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths.

As part of its three-part Civil War Sesquicentennial series, BackStory is planning a show made up entirely of listener questions! 150 years after the fall of Fort Sumter, are there things about the conflict that still interest you? Tens of thousands of books have been written on the subject, but what makes the Civil War relevant to us today, in 2011? Has America’s involvement in recent wars been shaped by lessons from the Civil War? Should it be? How have Americans understood the Civil War in earlier generations, and how have historians’ interpretations of it changed over time? And finally — in what ways might discussion about the Civil War benefit from the BackStory “trans-century” approach?

Being a caller is really simple and takes about 15 minutes; it’s pre-taped, low-pressure, and a lot of fun! If you are interested in participating as a caller and posing a Civil War question to the History Guys, either email producer Catherine Moore (cvmoore@virginia.edu) or leave a comment on Civil War Call-In Show page (http://backstoryradio.org/civil-war-call-in-show/). We look forward to hearing from you!

Considering the top Civil War books written

Hats off to fellow scholar and blogger Bill Caraher for letting me know about this article from Salon.com. By the way, if you are even remotely interested in the ancient world and/or archaeology, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.

The Salon article deals with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and encourages buffs of the conflict to read a book a month for the next year and offers a list of the top 12 books on the war. I found the selections rather telling, as many were works of popular history. However, three stood out as strong works that have great influence on the historiography of the war. Among them are David Blight’s Race and Reunion, Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering, and James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, all are hard-hitting monographs. The interesting observation, which Bill posed to me in a question, was that Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox landed at number one on the list. Some may wonder, why Catton?

I believe that this is an interesting placement, and am surprised that Shelby Foote did not make the list. Catton produced some great works on the war and are deserving of high placement on must read lists. He wrote around the time of the centennial of the war and still resonates within the literature. While I generally agree with the list, I am left wondering how professional historians would alter this list. So, I leave fellow scholars with a challenge that I will also dwell upon and post. What twelve books should folks interested in the war read each month over the next year?

I hope you have all had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season and I wish you all a Happy New Year. Until next time, keep researching and writing.

A new blog and new journal for 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, Brooks Simpson, has chosen to leave the group at Civil Warriors to pursue personal and professional projects. He has started his own blog up, called Crossroads, which is linked in the sidebar as well. I look forward to seeing what he produces in the coming months. His posting on the Dakota uprising that occurred in 1862-3, is particularly interesting to me given that I live in North Dakota and am within a couple of hours drive of sites associated with that conflict.

In addition to this new blog, a new journal will make its début in March. The University of North Carolina Press will publish The Journal of the Civil War Era, which will become the flagship journal of the Society of Civil War Historians. I look forward to seeing what this journal offers in terms of new directions on the war and the overall period surrounding it. I urge anyone with an interest in the conflict to consider subscribing to the journal and joining the Society.

All in all, 2011 will be a great year for Civil War studies, as we begin in earnest the 150th anniversary of secession, which will ignite some feelings, the anniversary of the Confederacy’s creation, Lincoln’s first inauguration, Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, etc. I hope to attend a couple major reenacting events in Missouri this coming year, but we’ll see. I have a couple of items to finish this semester before I head to Illinois for Christmas, but I will attempt to remember to post later this month on South Carolina’s secession. Until next time, keep researching and studying.

New online resource for Civil War primary sources

Hats off to my colleague Stuart Lawrence for sending me information about this source. I posted about the site SoldierStudies.org three years ago, which provides transcriptions of letters written by the men who fought the war. Now, Alexander Street Press has put together an online database of memoirs, diaries, and letters from Civil War soldiers and others. It looks pretty interesting, but the one drawback is that a 30-day trial is available, but then a subscription is required, which limits its availability. The scope of the collection, as described on the website, is as follows:

Perhaps the most exciting descriptions of events during the Civil War are to be found in first person accounts. Detailed firsthand descriptions of historical characters and events, glimpses of daily life in the army, anecdotes about key events and personages, and accounts of sufferings at home written for private consumption, provide an immediacy and a richness that are unmatched in public sources.

The Civil War was responsible for an unprecedented displacement of Americans, and this in turn resulted in an unprecedented number of letters. This also was the last time a major war was fought without significant censorship.

The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries knits together more than 1,000 sources of diaries, letters, and memoirs to provide fast access to thousands of views on almost every aspect of the war, including what was happening at home. The writings of politicians, generals, slaves, landowners, farmers, seaman, wives, and even spies are included. The letters and diaries are by the famous and the unknown, giving not only both the Northern and Southern perspectives, but those of foreign observers also. The materials originate from all regions of the country and are from people who played a variety of roles.

Using a thesaurus of Civil War terms we’ve built specifically for the task, researchers can quickly find references to individuals, battles, theaters of war, and activities. A chronology of key events allows the user to see multiple perspectives surrounding a particular event. This level of indexing is unprecedented. Questions such as “Give me all accounts of letters written about hospital conditions by Union soldiers in the Western Theater” can be answered in seconds.

The collection includes approximately 100,000 pages of published memoirs, letters and diaries from individuals plus 4,000 pages of previously unpublished materials. Drawn from more than 1,000 sources, the collection provides in-depth coverage of all aspects of the war. More than 1,000 biographies will enhance the use of the database.

The collection includes one of the most comprehensive bibliographies of Civil War letters and diaries yet published. It lists over 1,000 published and unpublished items from a variety of sources, including online resources and microform. Subscribers to the collection are encouraged to participate in the maintenance of this bibliography by calling our attention to omissions, suggesting additions, and notifying us of newly discovered materials.

I will check this source out more in the coming days, but wanted to put it out there for readers to consider. On a side note, we are closing in on 100,000 hits and I would really like to do that today, so help me out and thanks for your support.

Shelby Foote’s wit and commentary

Thanks to Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory for finding this unique video featuring various segments from the late Shelby Foote, featured in Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Having watched the series a couple of times and planning to use it in my own classes in the future, I enjoy the unique presentation by Foote, including his deep, calming voice. Enjoy.

Missed the Gettysburg Webcast

Well, I meant to participate in the final American Military University webcast on Gettysburg this morning, but was out and about with Stuart getting ready for our reenactment weekend in Nashua, Iowa. We ended up running out to my grandfather’s farm and firing some blanks from the 1861 Springfield, which was fun. I also received my Confederate uniform yesterday and am pleased with the quality, so I am making a huge, but quick plug for Blockade Runner.

A side note on this weekend. While I would love to blog about the event soon after each day, I will be unable to do so, but will attempt to write about it and post pictures. This will be my first foray into reenacting, so I appreciate any who are involved with reenacting sharing their first experiences with the hobby, so I can have a fun comparison for others.

When I do get the link to the webcast, I will post it up here for all to enjoy, including myself.

Rare Civil War book collection donated to UND’s Chester Fritz Library

The University of North Dakota’s Chester Fritz Library received a cool gift recently. Their website reported it today that Robert Henry, UND alum from the Class of 1960 donated several rare Civil War books to the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections. I had the opportunity to see them a few weeks back, while up in the department doing research and they were really something. One book was an original work of George B. McClellan from 1864. Needless to say, it was hard not to drool over such unique finds. Thank you Mr. Henry for your gift to UND. We appreciate it.