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.
Today, March 4 represents the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as our nation’s 16th president. His address that day attempted to send a conciliatory message to the seceded states that they had nothing to fear from his administration regarding the status of slavery where it existed. I leave you with a link to that address and warm wishes. My post would have been longer, but I have had a long day helping and participating in the sixth annual Red River Valley History Conference, which is put on by our chapter of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society.
Thanks to Brett Schulte and the gang at TOCWOC for posting this update. As Civil Warriors first posted and I posted on January 25, Lincoln scholar Thomas Lowry admitted, then later denied, altering the date of a pardon issued by Lincoln. Now, Mr. Lowry is telling his side of the story in greater detail through his own blog, which does raise speculation about how the case was handled by the federal government. Having read the posting, I am willing to consider that Mr. Lowry may have been railroaded until shown otherwise. I will also modify my remarks on the damage being done here, and consider the possibility that someone researching years before Mr. Lowry may have tampered with the document, fooling both Mr. Lowry and the staff of the Archives until technology allowed a very detailed examination of the forensics of that item. I will say that, if innocent, he is vindicated in the media and I will happily post that.
Now, I will take issue with the characterization of the Civil War blogging community. When one blog, written by reputable historians, post a link to media reports dealing with some aspect of the war, or research on the period, others, myself included are going to pick it up and link to the original post. This is because it is a news worthy item and not every blog on the war has the same readership. Further, when the sources reporting include the Associated Press, National Archives, Washington Post and NPR, it is hard not to consider that it is legitimate.
With this new side to the story, I am now on the fence. If Mr. Lowry is proven right, the federal government has a serious problem on its hands. After reading his response, some of his observations are interesting. The criticism of the changing nature of the National Archives is truly worth exploring deeper. I hope that this case will be resolved soon.
Documents reveal Civil War era plans to resettle freed slaves in the Caribbean
February 9, 2011 (Washington, DC) – Recently discovered Civil War records have added a new twist to the familiar story of the Emancipation Proclamation. After signing the document that freed the slaves on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln spent the better part of a year attempting to resettle African-Americans in the Caribbean.
Lincoln’s proposal to “colonize” the ex-slaves abroad involved a little known agreement with Great Britain to establish freedmen’s settlements in Belize and Guyana, at the time colonial possessions of the British Empire. Though the U.S. Government investigated the sites and even made preparations for sending the first ship of settlers, the plan later faltered amidst political wrangling within Lincoln’s own cabinet.
The forgotten story of Lincoln’s little-known colonization project was recently unearthed by historians Phillip W. Magness and Sebastian N. Page. They present their findings in “Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement,” (ISBN 978-0-8262-1909-1) due out next week from the University of Missouri Press.
Evidence of Lincoln’s post-emancipation plans remained hidden for almost 150 years until its discovery by Magness and Page in seldom-searched consular and diplomatic files at the British National Archives outside of London, and the U.S. National Archives in Washington, DC.
“Lincoln personally pitched the scheme to the British ambassador only three weeks after the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Magness. “It was a matter of diplomatic secrecy, so it left a very sparse paper trail.”
He also explained that several of the American files were dispersed in the fallout from a budgetary dispute that ultimately resulted in Congress suspending the project’s funding in 1864, adding another complication to the search.
“Most of the documents from the American side are missing, and the British files were all transported back to London,” Magness continued. “We essentially had to reconstruct what happened from letters and transcribed copies that were spread across the Atlantic.”
Among the records found at the UK Archives is an 1863 order by Lincoln granting a British agent permission to recruit volunteers among the freed slaves and transport them to Belize.
Dr. Magness is a researcher at George Mason University’s Institute for Humane Studies, and an Adjunct Professor at American University. Mr. Page is a Junior Research Fellow at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford.
CONTACT: Phillip Magness ~ 281-923-6702 (cell) ~ email@example.com
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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!
Thanks to Civil Warriors for increasing the awareness of this story. With the 150th anniversary of the war coming up and the first inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, negative news about scholarship and research on these subjects is likely to increase. According to their posting and the linked articles, Lincoln scholar Thomas Lowry admitted to tampering with a pardon Lincoln issued. The original document, which can be viewed through this article, was written on April 14, 1864, but Lowry used a fountain pen to alter the date to April 14, 1865, attempting to make it be one of the last documents written by Lincoln the day he was assassinated. As if to add more fuel to this fire, Lowry denied the falsification of the document, according to an article posted by NPR.
The National Archives turned the case over to the Justice Department, but the statute of limitations expired, so Lowry will not face prosecution. He is banned from the facilities, but the damage has been done. The document may be forever altered and raises questions of how many other documents have been similarly been damaged, which could have implications for existing research. Further, what consequences will this incident have to access for other scholars to the National Archives and other manuscript repositories.
This case reminds me of an incident my mentor Dr. James Davis recalled when we visited Washington, DC in 2004 to research at the Library of Congress and National Archives. It involved theft of documents from the manuscript reading room at the LOC, which resulted in increased security. You needed to sign in and out just to go to the restroom or retrieve something from your locker. The culprits were apparently imprisoned for many years and maybe still in jail.
The lesson from this is to be honest in your research and attempt to see the value in all documents. True, there will always be those who attempt to make a name for themselves through dishonest means, which will place greater scrutiny on scholarship, as well as make it more difficult to research in archives. However, these individuals will not destroy the passion many of us have for the past and researching new areas within that past. Until next time, keep researching and reading.
With the recent tragic shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and the controversy surrounding the role political speech played in motivating the shooter (I believe he was crazy and prone to commit the crime regardless of the nature of political rhetoric in our country), my historical thoughts went to another attack against an elected official during a period of great turmoil in our nation over an issue more divisive than health care or immigration: slavery.
Consider the beating of Sen. Charles Sumner (MA) by Rep. Preston Brooks (SC) in 1856. Sumner, an eventual Radical Republican, delivered a speech denouncing the Kansas-Nebraska Act in the aftermath of Bleeding Kansas, specifically excoriating Senators Stephen Douglas (IL) and Andrew Butler (SC). Brooks, a nephew of Butler, took offense at the slight to his uncle’s honor and planned to challenge Sumner to a duel. Instead, Brooks approached Sumner on May 22, 1856 as he sat at his desk in the Senate chamber, which was nearly empty. After briefly addressing him about the speech, Brooks began savagely beating Sumner with a cane. As Sumner collapsed after briefly escaping the attack, Brooks continued to beat the unconscious Senator. Others attempted to aid, but were prevented by Brooks’ accomplice, fellow South Carolina Representative Laurence Keitt, who wielded a pistol. Sumner did not return to the Senate for three more years, while he recovered from his attack. The attack illustrated the deep divide in the country over slavery. Massachusetts attempted to prove a point by re-electing Sumner, using his empty seat as a symbol of both free speech.
The attack then, just as with the tragic shooting of Giffords, sent shock waves through the nation. However, the beating of Sumner has several distinct differences from the Arizona tragedy. First, the attack against Sumner involved another elected official resorting to violence over a disagreement over slavery. Second, there is no sign that Giffords made any inflammatory speeches that would drive someone to attack her like Sumner was beaten. Ultimately, the beating of Sumner was one event in a chain that led to war simply because we failed to compromise, while the shooting in Arizona was the act of a lone gunman with more problems than disagreements over politics.
In contrast to 1856, while we are divided politically today, I doubt we will see legislators come to violence over the issues that divide us. However, in today’s culture of 24/7 media, we are bombarded by the political discord, which influences all, including those unstable people, like the shooter in Arizona. The lessons we must learn from this tragedy is to make every effort to work out our differences over the issues today. Further, we must not resort to restricting speech in light of such events, as that serves no purpose but to prevent further dialogue.
In closing, my thoughts and prayers go out to Congresswoman Giffords and all the victims of this shooting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to fellow blogger Kevin Levin for noting this new blog by Dr. Tom Clemens, called The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, which focuses on the book of the same name written by Ezra Carman, a veteran of the Civil War, and edited by Dr. Clemens. I am going to look into getting a review copy of it, as it looks interesting, but wanted to make you aware of this recent blogging development.