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.
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:
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.
Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868
I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.
By command of:
JOHN A. LOGAN,
N. P. CHIPMAN,
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 (email@example.com) or leave a comment on Civil War Call-In Show page (
). We look forward to hearing from you!
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.
Indiana University Press is once again offering a great sale on many of their titles, including the Civil War. Their Spring Sale offers some titles, even hardcovers, up to 80% off. The sale will end on June 30, so get on over there and expand your library. Enter the code WWEZXX to receive the sale prices.
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.
I would like to take this opportunity to announce that a colleague and I have decided to form a physical Civil War Round Table. I have mentioned in the past my wish to create a virtual one, due to our remote location in North Dakota. Well, fellow doctoral student Stuart Lawrence put together the organizational materials, with me helping plug the group and offer moral support, and we have created the Northern Plains Civil War Roundtable. We are constructing a web-based home (will link that very soon). Anyway, if you live in the Grand Forks area and read this blog, please consider joining us at the E. Grand Forks, MN VFW Club this Tuesday, April 27 at 7:00 PM. Stuart will present the first paper, which will deal with the Zuoves in the Union Army. This blog will give coverage of the first meeting and I will explore how to put presentations on Youtube. I hope you will support us through encouragement and suggestions of ways we can reach those physically unable to join us at our meetings.
I received the following announcement via H-CivWar:
Readex is offering instant access this week (upon completion of a very
brief registration form) to The Civil War: Antebellum Period to
Reconstruction. This searchable database features historical
newspapers, government documents and printed ephemera from the Readex Archive of Americana.
Now, for those of you who do not belong to H-CivWar or any other H-Net discussion network, I would urge you to subscribe to receive emails, as there is some useful and interesting information in the emails, including job opportunities.
This offer is only valid until April 19, 2010, so check it out while you can.
As many members of the Society of Civil War Historians (SCWH) know, the Society will be adopting a new journal being created at the University of North Carolina Press, to be called Journal of the Civil War Era. While I welcome a new journal, which will only add to the rich historiography on the war, I am saddened by the loss of an established and reputable publication as an adopted publication of a historical society. I have waited a while to weigh in on this (both because of being busy with studies and wanting to have a greater chance to reflect on this), but want to share a couple of thoughts about this.
First, let me state that I plan to subscribe to both publications. This is so that I can support a new journal, as well as stay abreast of scholarship within the established periodical. A new journal offers wonderful opportunities for young scholars to get that all-important publication line on their vita. However, my one concern is how will the end of the SCWH using Civil War History as their journal effect that journal’s success.
Second, will this issue eventually cause a new historical organization for Civil War scholars to form? I am torn on this, as such possible dissension could hurt organized Civil War scholarship by creating several small groups that lack cohesive power to assert the value of their research to the larger profession. However, the possibility of another group raises thought of a situation akin to The Historical Society, which began as an off-shoot of the American Historical Association, but now has a solid reputation. Whatever eventually happens in the next year, Civil War scholars will let their voices be heard on this. Hopefully, they will continue to support Civil War History and embrace the new journal at the same time. I hope that the two publications do not hurt each other by competing for material.
Overall, I believe this transition will be relatively painless. There will be some upset, but the research and scholarship will continue. I urge readers to join the Society and to subscribe to Civil War History.
The fine folks at the US Army’s Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth have several bibliographies relating to military science and history, including Dr. Robert Berlin’s Historical Bibliography No. 8:Military Classics (1991), which has a section devoted to the Civil War. Here are the books they list on the war:
Beringer, Richard E., et al. Why the South Lost the Civil War. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986.
This study offers serious students an interpretation of why the South lost the Civil War. The authors, all history professors, believe the Confederacy succumbed to internal rather than external causes.
Catton, Bruce. A Stillness at Appomattox. New York: Washington Square Press/Simon & Schuster, 1970, c1953.
Written with vigor, clarity, and warmth, Catton’s work describes the last year of the Civil War, including the Battle of the Wilderness and the siege of Petersburg. This is the third volume in the author’s trilogy about the war. It is preceded by Mr. Lincoln’s Army and Glory Road. Catton’s Civil War volumes are simply magnificent.
_______.The Coming Fury (vol. 1), Terrible Swift Sword (vol, 2), and Never Call Retreat (vol. 3). Centennial History of the Civil War series. New York: Doubleday, 1961-65.
Catton was America’s leading Civil War writer, and all of his books are worth reading. These volumes provide an exciting account of the Civil War from the Union perspective.
Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1984, c1968.
For those seeking a thorough examination of the Battle of Gettysburg, this book provides a comprehensive battle analysis and evaluates command during the entire campaign leading to the battle.
Foote, Shelby. The Civil War, a Narrative. 3 vols. New York: Random House, 1958-74.
A Mississippian, novelist, World War II field artillery captain, and master narrator of men and battles, Shelby Foote captures the flavor of the times and examines the war as a whole, including all the major campaigns. While the three volumes contain nearly 3,000 pages of text, they are beautifully written and easily read.
Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command. 3 vols. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1942-44; New York: Scribner, 1986.
Once very popular with U.S. military officers, this readable narrative is a composite biography of Confederate generals and a masterful study of command and war. Freeman takes great care to preserve some Confederate legends.
Fuller, J. F. C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982, cl933.
Major General Fuller examines the influence of personality on generalship. He broke with the then-conventional view that Grant was a butcher and Lee one of the world’s greatest generals.
Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.
Emphasizing strategy and logistics, these two history professors have produced a thorough, comprehensive analysis of the Civil War from the viewpoint of the high-level commanders on both sides. Also included is an excellent appendix on how to study military operations.
Henderson, George Francis Robert. Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War. Abridged by E. B. Long. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1968, c1962.
Written in 1898 by a famous British officer and military historian, this book is the classic analysis of the great Confederate general and was required reading for generations of British officers.
Luvaas, Jay, and Harold W. Nelson. The U.S. Army War College Guide to the Battle of Antietam: The Maryland Campaign in 1862. Carlisle, PA: South Mountain Press, 1987.
The authors, who teach at the U.S. Army War College, provide a valuable tool for conducting a staff ride of Antietam, covering the Battles of South Mountain, Crampton’s Gap, Harpers Ferry, and Antietam. If you have the opportunity to conduct your own staff ride at this well-preserved battlefield located near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., you should first read Landscape Turned Red by Stephen Sears, then examine the Center of Military History pamphlet, The Staff Ride (CMH Pub 70-21) by Dr. William Glenn Robertson of the Combat Studies Institute, and finally, go to the field with this guide. Luvaas and Nelson have also written a similar guide to Gettysburg.
McPherson, James. Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: Knopf, 1982.
McPherson, in the best one-volume survey of the war, examines political, military, social, and economic aspects of the Civil War.
Sears, Stephen W. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. New Haven, CT: Ticknor and Fields, 1983; New York: Warner Books, 1985.
In this recent, splendid battle analysis, Sears provides gripping reading about a battlefield you will want to visit.
Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. New York: McKay, 1974; New York: Ballantine Books, 1980.
This historical novel of the Battle of Gettysburg is accurate, easy to read, and a much-discussed book at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (and for reasons other than it being required reading). Featured in this memorable war novel are Confederate General James Longstreet and the hero of Little Round Top, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
Williams, T. Harry. Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Random House, 1967, c1952.
Williams, one, of America’s greatest professors of history, presents the controversial thesis that President Lincoln was an outstanding commander in chief whose strategic vision brought victory to the Union. The author also shows how Lincoln developed a modern command system for the United States. Students admire this book for its keen analysis bright narrative.
While this list is certainly a bit dated and several recent landmark works of scholarship are absent because of that, I do think that this list is quite good. I will explore a little further and see if an updated list has surfaced and will post it if found. I will also invite you all to consider their list of Books for the Military Professional, which has several of the works from the above list.
Military History Series
March 17, 2009
Once more, we are at the beginning stage of a new military history project, The Naval Civil War Encyclopedia. Attached is an entry list of topics for which we seek authors. Our goal is to assign these subjects out and have them written and submitted as soon as possible.
These essays will be used in a variety of products beyond the printed book, including interactive web sites, workbooks, chronologies, handbooks, etc. They are designed to appeal to a broad audience, including academics, students, and general readers alike.
ABC-CLIO has more than 50 years of experience in historical reference publishing, and has won many awards for its books and publications. It has also recently acquired Greenwood Press and Praeger Publishing and now controls over 18,000 titles. Our Military History Series has earned the Editor’s Choice Award from Booklist for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 and the Distinguished Achievement Award for 2006 (United States at War database), among many others.
I hope you will consider taking on as many topics as you can. The due dates are flexible, but I prefer to have essays completed within 60 days of their assignment. ALL must be submitted by no later than July 15, 2009.
If you are able to contribute, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with a list of the entries you would be willing to write along with any specific time constraints you might have in completing them. I will get back to you ASAP to make formal assignments.
If you have any ideas for entries you believe are important to this project (such as individual ships) please suggest them. Thank you.
ABC-CLIO publishers have initiated a project for a Civil War Naval Encyclopedia. Spencer Tucker is the lead editor on the project. Paul Pierpaoli and myself are assistant editors.
We should have the final headword list completed this week. If you know of any scholars or graduate students interested in working on this project please contact me for details.
Here is a brief excerpt on some research I have been doing on the Union river sailors and they’re experiences aboard the gunboat fleet.
Tight quarters surrounded by iron plating, boilers with an insatiable appetite for coal, poor ventilation, little wind and a lot of sun earned the river ironclads the handle of “federal baked ovens.” Life in the river navy was fundamentally different from life aboard men-of-war performing blockade duty. Sailors, also referred to as bluejackets or jacks, of the regular navy enjoyed fresh air above deck and little danger; although monotonous and uneventful, save the occasional chase of smugglers, the deep water sailor enjoyed a much higher standard of living than his cousin in the brown water navy. The river sailors cruised close to land and became choice targets of confederate guerillas. The southern climate bred mosquitoes and disease, and particularly irksome to river jacks was the fact that blockaders were entitled to prize money from captured vessels while they were not. Naval officers frowned upon river service; even Flag Officer Foote confided to his wife that he would rather be commanding in the Atlantic. River navigation created another distinction between the two naval sectors.
The rivers of the Mississippi Valley were circuitous, shallow, narrow and constantly changing due to weather and floods. The weight of the gunboats caused them to frequently run aground; the constant scraping along the river’s bottom weakened the boats’ hulls causing leaks. Trees damaged the tall smokestacks or obstructed navigation. While the blockade sailor learned how to mend sails or navigate by the stars, the river tar became adept at: repairing boilers and smoke stacks, fixing leaks, and freeing their vessels from river bottoms. The narrowness of the rivers also meant that crews spent most of their time within site of land.
Not only did gunboat crews come into contact with confederate guerillas but their closeness to land brought them in direct contact with southern civilians and slaves. As the war progressed and the boats descended further south, southern plantations were freed of their cotton as well as their slaves. Many of the contraband, the union term given to former slaves, would serve aboard gunboats. Castoffs from blockade duty, transfers from the army, contraband and even some confederate prisoners-of-war would man the boats in this new navy. Although still short of manpower, enough crews existed to support the federal army advance into confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston’s precarious defensive line in early 1862.
 Michael J. Bennett, Union Jacks: Yankee Sailors in the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 78. Dennis J. Ringle. Life in Mr. Lincoln’s Navy (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1998), 47. River ironclads consumed 2000 pounds of coal per hour when cruising at 6 knots.
 James M. Merrill, “Cairo, Illinois: Strategic Civil War Port,” Journal of Illinois State History 76 (winter 1983): 251-52; Bennett, Union Jacks, 94-95. Gunboat crews became adept at stealing cotton throughout the war. Cotton became prize money for the river sailors.
 Bennett, Union Jacks, 83-85. A gunboat sailor described the Cumberland River as, “so crooked that sometimes a steamer a half mile ahead of us would be apparently coming directly in the opposite direction and suddenly turn around a bend and lo’ she proves to be going up the river.”
 Bennett, Union Jacks, 80. Merrill, “Cairo, Illinois,” 251;255.
Thanks to Rene at Wig-wags for pointing out this sale by Indiana University Press. Until Feb. 28, the IUP is offering its Civil War and Lincoln titles at up to 75% off the regular price. In addition, the Press offers free shipping on orders over $25 for this sale. I ordered four books and hope many of you will take advantage of this sale.