Join our mailing list

* indicates required

Tags Matching:

Civil War


  • Originally published 07/15/2014

    How Coffee Fueled the Civil War

    Ragged veterans and tired nurses agreed with one diarist: “Nobody can ‘soldier’ without coffee.”

  • Originally published 06/06/2014

    Old Myths Die Hard at Cold Harbor

    "With all the coverage of the 150th anniversary of Cold Harbor I was surprised by the persistence of two myths that refuse to give way."

  • Originally published 05/12/2014

    The National Pastime, Amid a National Crisis

    By combining the Civil War and baseball, Moore’s photograph merges two of the most important elements of the American historical experience, both of which, to this day, have deep emotional resonance.

  • Originally published 04/28/2014

    The Confederate Medal of Honor?

    The silver-and-bronze medal is a 10-pointed star bearing the Great Seal of the Confederate States and the words, "Honor. Duty. Valor. Devotion."

  • Originally published 04/03/2014

    How David Brion Davis came to study slavery

    David Brion Davis, age eighty-six, has published the final volume in the trilogy he inaugurated with The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (PSWC) and continued with The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770–1823 (PSAR) in 1975.

  • Originally published 02/20/2014

    The truth about Florida's Civil War history

    150 years ago a brutal battle in the Civil War was fought in Florida but what happened that day has been obscured by political games and historical revisionism -- as so often happens in the Sunshine State.

  • Originally published 01/10/2014

    Civil War Archive to Go on Sale

    The archive comes from a veteran of the famed Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, the first African American formation fielded by the Union in the Civil War.

  • Originally published 09/29/2013

    The State of Maryland vs. Abraham Lincoln

    Marylanders tried to kill Lincoln in 1861, Marylander John Wilkes Booth actually killed Lincoln in 1865, and Maryland's state song STILL condemns Lincoln as a tyrant.

  • Originally published 09/24/2013

    Memento Mori

    The death of American Exceptionalism -- and of me.

  • Originally published 07/23/2013

    NYT hightlights N-Y Historical Society's "Civil War in 50 Objects"

    Tracing history through objects is popular these days. Neil McGregor, the director of the British Museum, did it in 700 best-selling pages, and for the last couple of months, the New-York Historical Society has had an exhibition called “The Civil War in 50 Objects.”Finding the 50 objects involves something of a scavenger hunt — they are on display in different places at the society, at 170 Central Park West, at West 77th Street. All 50 came from the society’s collection of about 1 million Civil War-era items, “a definitive record of slavery, secession, rebellion and reunion from the time these movements first roiled the city and the nation,” according to the Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. He made the final decisions on which 50 objects were chosen, and which were not, after members of the museum’s staff had winnowed the possibilities to 75....

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Sidney Blumenthal: Romanticizing the Villains of the Civil War

    Sidney Blumenthal is a former assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, a former senior adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the author of the forthcoming book The Man Who Became Abraham Lincoln.When Gone with the Wind had its premiere in Atlanta in 1939, the governor of Georgia declared a state holiday. One million people turned out to watch the arrival of Clark Gable, Olivia DeHaviland and Vivien Leigh. The night before, a costume ball of leading citizens dressed in the finery of the Old South was serenaded by a "negro boys' choir" dressed as slaves standing against the newly constructed backdrop of a plantation mansion. One of its singers was six year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Hattie McDaniel, who acted as Mammy, was prohibited from joining the other stars inside the theater. It was segregated just as movie houses and other public facilities were throughout the South. Angry about McDaniel's exclusion, Gable threatened to boycott, but she persuaded him to attend. She would go on to win an Academy Award.

  • Originally published 07/19/2013

    Steven I. Weiss: You Won't Believe What the Government Spends on Confederate Graves

    Steven I. Weiss is an award-winning journalist, and is anchor, managing editor, and executive producer of news and public-affairs programming at The Jewish Channel.On June 19, an array of top government officials gathered for the unveiling of a statue of Frederick Douglass, the 19th-century African-American man born a slave who rose to be a vice-presidential candidate. That politicians and the federal government continue to memorialize black leaders and abolitionists of that era surprises no one, but few are aware of the other side of that coin: how much Washington pays to memorialize the Confederate dead.

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Leon Hadar: The Arabs Will Have Their Gettysburgs

    Leon Hadar, senior analyst at Wikistrat, a geostrategic consulting group, is the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East.This month Americans marked the 150-year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, an event seen by many historians as a decisive victory for the Union and a turning point in the Civil War.Indeed, hope among the leaders of the Confederacy for diplomatic recognition by Britain and other Europeans powers dissipated after the Union victory at the battle. While Great Britain remained neutral during the U.S. Civil War, Confederate leaders planned to secure independence through a strategy of drawing Britain (and France) to their side through diplomatic support and military intervention....In a way, any British effort to end the Civil War before Gettysburg would have changed the course of that war, and, by extension, American history. In such a counterfactual scenario, there wouldn’t have been a United States. And the historical narrative of the nation (or two nations) would have been quite different from the one being taught in American schools today, which is based on the notion that the Civil War amounted to a birth of the nation and that the abolition of slavery was necessary, if not inevitable.

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    'Glory': Civil War fight by black troops recalled

    SULLIVANS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Dozens of Civil War re-enactors gathered Thursday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of a famed attack by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry — a battle in South Carolina that showed the world black soldiers could fight and was chronicled in the movie ‘‘Glory.’’Re-enactors portraying members of the black Union regiment as well as Confederate counterparts defending Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor planned to travel Thursday afternoon by boat to Morris Island, site of the battle, to lay a wreath and fire a salute.Speeches and Civil War period music also were planned on nearby Sullivans Island — an inhabited barrier island near the harbor entrance — about the time of the evening attack 150 years ago. Luminaries were to be lit by nightfall in memory of the dead....

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Glenn David Brasher: Striking the Blow at Fort Wagner

    Glenn David Brasher is an instructor of history at the University of Alabama and the author of “The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom.” “Today we recognize the right of every man … to be a MAN and a citizen,” Gov. John Andrew of Massachusetts proclaimed on May 18, 1863, to a crowd gathered around the 54th Massachusetts, the first African-American regiment raised in the North. They fight “not for themselves alone,” he insisted, but also for their race. Their military service would refute “the foul aspersion that they [are] not men,” proving that African-Americans deserved their nation’s citizenship rights.

  • Originally published 07/14/2013

    Summer is the Season to Fix Immigration

    Summer is the season for declaring Americans -- whether on July 4, 1776, as the nation came into being, or in July 1863, as the fight to end slavery intensified at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, or in July 1870, when the limited view of a whites-only America was first removed from the naturalization standards.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Memorial for Britons who fought in American Civil War

    The 300,000 Britons who fought in the American Civil War are to be remembered on both sides of the Atlantic.Two war memorials - one in Liverpool and the other in the US state of Virginia, where much of the fighting took place - are being proposed by a British group of historians.Although Britain was officially neutral in the conflict, thousands of men born in Britain but living in America at the time fought for both President Lincoln's anti-slavery Federals and the pro-slavery southern Confederates.Basil Larkins of the American Civil War British Memorial Association is trying to raise £10,000 for the monuments....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Beware Civil War relics

    GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (REUTERS) - With 250,000 visitors expected to converge on the Gettysburg battlefields this week, historians and antiquarians say the 150th anniversary of the clash that defined the United States (US) Civil War has prompted an increased interest in Civil War relics - and an apparent uptick in the thefts and faking of conflict memorabilia.While there are no national statistics about thefts of war mementos, museums and law enforcement officers around the nation have reported a range of incidents involving the plundering of Civil War artifacts.The thievery even extended to the current Gettysburg re-enactment, where criminals made off with a trailer containing war items valued at US$10,000 (S$13,000) in Frederick County, Maryland, last month....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    At Gettysburg, a battle of history vs. modernity

    GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Like thousands of other re-enactors, Eric Mueller honors the sacrifices of soldiers in the Civil War by going to great lengths to live as they did — sleeping beneath a canvas sheet suspended on wooden posts, eating hardtack and salt pork, carrying 60 rounds of ammunition in a cartridge box and a backpack, and marching long distances in heavy woolen tunics.But in the interests of safety and perhaps a little comfort, Mr. Mueller, 40, allows modest divergences from the 19th-century soldier’s life.Last week, for example, Mr. Mueller packed in his knapsack two sweet potatoes and two small onions, foods that he conceded may not have been in season in southern Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863, and so would not have been available to Civil War troops even if they had tried to forage them from nearby farms.Still, he subjected himself to discomforts like not washing for a week and squeezing his six-foot frame into a 5-foot-8-inch-long tent that he shared with another re-enactor. Mr. Mueller, a civil servant from Hawaii, said he stayed “reasonably dry” during four nights of camping out on Cemetery Ridge in the heart of the Gettysburg battlefield....

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    David T. Z. Mindich: Lincoln’s Surveillance State

    David T. Z. Mindich, a professor of media studies, journalism and digital arts at Saint Michael’s College, is the author of “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News.”COLCHESTER, Vt. — BY leaking details of the National Security Agency’s data-mining program, Edward J. Snowden revealed that the government’s surveillance efforts were far more extensive than previously understood. Many commentators have deemed the government’s activities alarming and unprecedented. The N.S.A.’s program is indeed alarming — but not, from a historical perspective, unprecedented. And history suggests that we should worry less about the surveillance itself and more about when the war in whose name the surveillance is being conducted will end.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Thom Bassett: Rashomon at Vicksburg

    Thom Bassett is writing a novel about William Tecumseh Sherman. He lives in Providence, R.I., and teaches at Bryant University.The fall of Vicksburg, Miss., on July 4 sent a shock wave through both North and South – it split the Confederacy in two and gave the Union nearly unfettered control of the Mississippi River. Less clear was what brought about the surrender. Indeed, the principal players in the surrender drama — John C. Pemberton for the South and Ulysses S. Grant for the North — insisted on very different accounts.On the night of July 2, Pemberton laid out for his divisional commanders a dismal set of options. According to his subordinate S.H. Lockett, Pemberton said that they had the stark choice “either to surrender while we still had ammunition enough to demand terms, or to sell our lives as dearly as possible” in a doomed assault against the Yankees.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Virginia Museum of Fine Arts plans to rehab pre-Civil War house, turn it into visitor center

    RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is planning to turn a pre-Civil War house on its Richmond property into a regional visitor center.Officials plan to complete the work to rehabilitate the historic three-story, 9,000-square-foot Robinson House by the summer of 2015. The building currently serves as a storage facility.Once complete, the circa-1850 building will include a visitor center on the first floor as well as a gallery interpreting the site’s history going back to the days of American Indians....

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Lincoln mastered wisdom of unsent letter after Gettysburg

    Abraham Lincoln, remembered 150 years after a “decisive” battle of the U.S. Civil War, could have excelled in modern-day Washington politics, one of the pre-eminent scholars on the American president says.“He would be tech savvy, he would lose the beard, he would have some cosmetic surgery, he would make an asset of his height,” historian Harold Holzer said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “He was so smart about working with the press, getting the press to work in his behalf, giving out exclusives, and he would have mastered any medium.”As one measure of Lincoln’s political prowess, Holzer recited an often-told tale of Lincoln thinking twice before dispatching a letter upbraiding his general who defeated the enemy at the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point for the Northern victory in the Civil War. It was a precursor to the dilemma of hitting the send button on a regrettable e-mail....

  • Originally published 07/05/2013

    Robert Hicks: Why the Civil War Still Matters

    Robert Hicks is the author of the novels “The Widow of the South” and “A Separate Country.”FRANKLIN, Tenn. — IN his 1948 novel “Intruder in the Dust,” William Faulkner described the timeless importance of the Battle of Gettysburg in Southern memory, and in particular the moments before the disastrous Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, which sealed Gen. Robert E. Lee’s defeat. “For every Southern boy fourteen years old,” he wrote, “there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon.”That wasn’t quite true at the time — as the humorist Roy Blount Jr. reminds us, black Southern boys of the 1940s probably had a different take on the battle. But today, how many boys anywhere wax nostalgic about the Civil War? For the most part, the world in which Faulkner lived, when the Civil War and its consequences still shaped the American consciousness, has faded away.Which raises an important question this week, as we move through the three-day sesquicentennial of Gettysburg: does the Civil War still matter as anything more than long-ago history?...

  • Originally published 07/02/2013

    Ron Radosh tears into Doris Kearns Goodwin for Gettysburg speech

    Ron Radosh writes for PJ Media.This week our nation remembers the battle that raged at Gettysburg 150 years ago. It was a carnage in which thousands were killed in three days of fierce fighting. Had the Union troops not won, an outcome that was not a sure thing when the fighting began, the future of our nation would have been quite different than it is today.......My wife and I watched it [Doris Kearns Goodwin speaking at Gettysburg] two nights ago, and were stunned at what we heard. Goodwin barely mentioned Gettysburg, except for a perfunctory acknowledgement at the start of her comments.Instead, those in attendance were forced to listen to a self-absorbed, narcissistic and politically correct bromide about how Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg was important as a precursor to  LBJ’s support of the Civil Rights Bill, the fight for gay marriage, the  “women’s liberation” movement of the 70’s, and of course, the need for a female president, after numerous references to Hillary Clinton, Kearns Goodwin’s obvious choice.

  • Originally published 07/02/2013

    David Brooks cites Allen C. Guezlo in op-ed column

    David Brooks is an op-ed columnist for the NYT.Tuesday is the 150th anniversary of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. In his eloquent new account, “Gettysburg: the Last Invasion,” the historian Allen Guelzo describes the psychology of the fighters on that day.A battlefield is “the lonesomest place which men share together,” a soldier once observed. At Gettysburg, the men were sometimes isolated within the rolling clouds of gun smoke and unnerved by what Guelzo calls “the weird harmonic ring of bullets striking fixed bayonets.” They were often terrified, of course, sometimes losing bladder and bowel control. (Aristophanes once called battle “the terrible one, the tough one, the one upon the legs.”)But, as Guelzo notes, the Civil War was fought with “an amateurism of spirit and an innocence of intent, which would be touching if that same amateurism had not also contrived to make it so bloody.”...

  • Originally published 07/02/2013

    Allen C. Guezlo: Twilight of the Confederacy

    Allen C. Guelzo is the author of the New York Times bestseller Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. He teaches at Gettysburg College.Looking back 20 years after it was fought, Alexander Stewart Webb declared that the Battle of Gettysburg “was, and is now throughout the world, known to be the Waterloo of the Rebellion.” Certainly Webb had earned the right to judge. He was in command of the Union brigade that absorbed the spearpoint of the battle’s climax on July 3, 1863, the great charge of the Confederate divisions commanded by George E. Pickett. “This three days’ contest,” Webb said, “was a constant recurrence of scenes of self-sacrifice,” especially “on the part of all engaged on the third and last day.”One hundred fifty years later, one might imagine that Alexander Webb was suffering from a touch of middle-age myopia. The word “Gettysburg” is still powerful enough to be recognized by even the most indifferent grade-schooler as a big-box event in American history. But does it deserve to stand beside Waterloo?

  • Originally published 07/02/2013

    The Terror of Being Black at Gettysburg

    For the unknown number of African Americans rounded up by the Confederate army, who called Gettysburg and the surrounding region home, Union victory mattered little. For them a new birth of freedom would have to wait just a little longer.

  • Originally published 07/01/2013

    The Terror of Being Black in Pennsylvania During the Battle of Gettysburg

    Harper’s Weekly, November 1862.On Wednesday July 3, thousands of visitors will congregate near the "copse of trees" on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg to commemorate the 150th anniversary of "Pickett's Charge." From this position they will be able to imagine the roughly 13,000 Confederates in tight formation, who crossed the deadly field in the face of long-range artillery. Once across the Emmitsburg Road visitors should have little trouble envisioning the deadly effects of short-range canister and the deafening sound of Union rifles. Some will contemplate the tragedy of a war that pitted Americans v. Americans while others will hold tight to thoughts of what might have been before accepting that the charge constituted a decisive Confederate defeat.

  • Originally published 07/01/2013

    Goodwin: Gettysburg is unique among battlefields

    There are lots of other battlefields in America, but there is just something extra special about Gettysburg.Historical Author Doris Kearns Goodwin suspects the combination of the battle and Abraham Lincoln coming here four months later contributes greatly to its uniqueness....

  • Originally published 06/30/2013

    The Battle of Gettysburg at 150

    Hancock at Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrup. Credit: Wiki Commons.The Battle of Gettysburg marks its 150th anniversary this week (so does the Union victory at the siege of Vicksburg, but good luck seeing anything about that in the media).To mark the occasion, we've assembled a list of resources -- digital collections, books, and news stories -- about the battle and the Civil War that are worth closer examination.And of course, please share your favorite Civil War books in the comments! We're pretty well read here at HNN, but considering that the amount of works published on the Civil War easily numbers in the tens of thousands, we certainly haven't read (or even heard of) them all!Digital Resources

  • Originally published 06/30/2013

    MN regiment charged into history in 1863

    In the smoky twilight outside Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, several regiments from Alabama were fighting their way down a slope into a rocky creek bed. Union soldiers were fleeing in front of them. The Confederates were almost at their goal -- to completely break the Union line and take a battery of big guns a few hundred yards away at the top of another slope called Cemetery Ridge. But out of the smoke, a line of Minnesotans came running toward them, firing and charging with leveled bayonets. Two major Civil War anniversaries are coming up this week. Given the choice between visiting Vicksburg, Miss., and Gettysburg, Pa., there was never any question of where dignitaries from Minnesota would pay their respects. The fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, may have been more important to defeating the South, and several thousand Minnesota soldiers were part of the siege that preceded the city's surrender.

  • Originally published 06/30/2013

    New map may explain Lee's decisions at Gettysburg

    GETTYSBURG, Pa.—On the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee listened to scouting reports, scanned the battlefield and ordered his second-in-command, James Longstreet, to attack the Union Army's left flank.It was a fateful decision, one that led to one of the most desperate clashes of the entire Civil War—the fight for a piece of ground called Little Round Top. The Union's defense of the boulder-strewn promontory helped send Lee to defeat at Gettysburg, and he never again ventured into Northern territory.Why did the shrewd and canny Lee choose to attack, especially in the face of the Union's superior numbers?While historians have long wrestled with that question, geographers and cartographers have come up with an explanation, by way of sophisticated mapping software that shows the rolling terrain exactly as it would have appeared to Lee: From his vantage point, he simply couldn't see throngs of Union soldiers amid the hills and valleys....

  • Originally published 06/30/2013

    Re-enactors and spectators descend on Gettysburg

    An army of visitors a quarter million strong, including legions of Civil War re-enactors, is converging on Gettysburg, Pa., to mark the 150th anniversary of the nation's bloodiest battle, a three-day clash that helped turn the tide of the war.Areas surrounding the town of 7,000 in southern Pennsylvania are being transformed into battlefield scenes, complete with an outdoor field hospital where hundreds of people acting as surgeons will pretend to triage people acting as wounded soldiers, all while period-dressed guides explain the scene."It's our Olympic moment," said Andrea DiMartino, a coordinator with the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, which stages re-enactments each year. Over four days, the group expects 60,000 to 80,000 spectators, who will pay $40 a day to view the action from stadium seating or from their own blankets or lawn chairs. This year, the group also is offering, for $13, a live broadcast of a re-enactment of Pickett's Charge to be viewed on a computer, tablet or smartphone.The tourism agency for Adams County, Pa., expects the surge of visitors to inject $100 million into the region's economy....

  • Originally published 06/30/2013

    Civil War historian makes Gettysburg his focus and his home

    GETTYSBURG, Pa. — The wheat had been flattened in the somber field where the dead Confederates were lined up for burial in 1863.Forty-four bodies, some with their legs tied together to make them easier to carry, had been gathered by their comrades. But there was no time to dig the graves, and this was how the photographers found them, laid out on the trampled ground.William A. Frassanito, the reclusive historian of Civil War photography, is standing in the woods just outside the field at sunset, explaining how he located this spot after it had been lost for more than a century.It’s quiet now, except for the cooing of mourning doves and the lowing of cattle that graze in the knee-high grass....

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Would We Have the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments If Lincoln Had Lived? Maybe Not.

    Credit: Wiki Commons.In recent weeks I have conducted a series of workshops with middle school and high school social studies and English teachers grappling with incorporating new Common Core literacy standards in their classrooms. Two things I have repeatedly stressed are the importance of understanding historical context before students can successfully interpret primary source documents and the role of the historian in providing a critical analysis of text and exploring multiple interpretations or perspectives on historical events.

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    New Gettysburg museum explores role of faith in Civil War

    When Confederate soldiers bore down on Gettysburg, Pa., in 1863, a quiet seminary building atop a ridge was transformed — first into a Union lookout, then a field hospital for 600 wounded soldiers.Now the structure that stood at the center of the Civil War’s bloodiest and most pivotal battle is being transformed once again.On July 1, marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Schmucker Hall, located on the campus of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, will reopen as a museum reflecting on the epic battle, the costly war and the complex role of faith.Seminary Ridge Museum will take visitors into the minds of those who fought and explore their conflicting ideas of freedom....

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    Gilder Lehrman and Dickinson College Partner for Lincoln Online Course

    Abraham Lincoln in 1865.With all the digital ink spilt over massive open online courses recently, it's easy to forget that while all MOOCs are online courses, not all online courses are MOOCs.Take “Understanding Lincoln,” a new online course co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute Dickinson College. The course, led by Lincoln scholar Matthew Pinsker, will offer a hybrid approach – a smaller seminar section with a hundred-student enrollment cap, direct access to Professor Pinkser and Gilder Lehrman staff, and the opportunity to interact with other students in digital forums.For-credit students will pay $450 and receive three graduate credits at Dickinson, which can be used as transfer credit at other institutions.For those interested in enrichment, a free section featuring lectures and readings will also be available, along with a certificate of completion for those who finish the course.

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    A Gettysburg battle plan: The field as it once was

    GETTYSBURG - During the monumental battle fought here 150 years ago, Powers Hill played a key role as a signal station and artillery position guarding the main route to Washington.Over time the fields turned to forest and few visitors made the short trek up the boulder-filled hill at the southeastern corner of Gettysburg National Military Park for the view.Because there wasn't one.Before last year you could not see the battlefield for the trees. Today, after trees have been clear-cut, a nonhistoric house demolished, and a small parcel of land purchased, a visitor can stand beside the boulders, look out across the Baltimore Pike clear over to Culp's Hill and understand exactly what was at stake."Seeing the landscape as soldiers saw it is paramount to understanding the battle," said Garry Adelman, director of history and education at the nonprofit group Civil War Trust and a licensed battlefield guide for 20 years....

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    What If Robert E. Lee Accepted Command of the Union Army?

    Credit: Wiki Commons/HNN staff.The United States of America trembled on the brink of her greatest tragedy -- a civil war that would kill a million young men. Seven Southern states had seceded after Abraham Lincoln was elected president as an anti-slavery Republican, with scarcely a single Southern vote. They had been unmoved by his inaugural address, in which he warned them that he had taken a solemn oath to preserve the Union -- and reminded them of their shared heritage, witnessed by the numberless patriot graves in every state.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    W.Va celebrates 150th anniversary

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia got its 150th birthday party started Thursday with a bell-ringing ceremony, festivals, speeches, concerts — and lots of cake.On the state Capitol steps, hundreds of people watched as a bell rang 35 times to honor West Virginia’s entrance as the 35th state on June 20, 1863.“This is not just an important day in our state history,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “It’s a great day in American history.”The state Culture Center also was bustling with activity as visitors listened to folk music, bought West Virginia Forever birthday stamps that debuted Thursday and attended the Charleston Light Opera Guild’s free performance of the Broadway musical “Civil War.”...

  • Originally published 06/09/2013

    UPenn's Stephanie McCurry to Lead First MOOC on History of Slavery

    Credit: Wiki Commons/HNN staff.Stephanie McCurry, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and a distinguished scholar of the Civil War era, will be leading a new massive online open course this fall about the history of slavery in the United States. It will be based on her popular UPenn course, “The Rise and Fall of the Slave South,” a survey-level class.The course, which has yet to be officially titled, is the product of the partnership between UPenn and the popular MOOC provider Coursera.Professor McCurry says that she became interested in teaching a MOOC after spending three years as undergraduate chair at the university, during which she saw a decline in the number of enrollments in history classes.MOOCs offered an opportunity to shake up the field.“I became interested in pedagogical and curricular questions, and I'd already begun a series of initiatives within my department to move away from standard survey/AP-style courses.”

  • Originally published 06/09/2013

    A New Way to Look at America's Wars

    Via Tumblr.From my early days as an historian, I have always looked for insights that explain the past on a deeper level than a series of merely exciting or disturbing events. I still vividly remember my first experience. I was working on a book about the year 1776 and had file drawers crammed with research. But I felt the need for something fundamental, a pattern of thought that drew the narrative together in a new, more meaningful way.Suddenly the words swarmed into my mind: 1776: Year of Illusions. It was my first encounter with what I now call a disease in the public mind.

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Rich Lowry: Lincoln Defended

    Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. Parts of this essay are drawn from his new book Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream — and How We Can Do It Again, coming out this month from Broadside Books.Decades ago, the distinguished Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald coined the phrase “getting right with Lincoln” to describe the impulse people feel to appropriate Lincoln for their own political agendas. Anyone who has watched Barack Obama, who as a senator wrote an essay for Time magazine entitled “What I See in Lincoln’s Eyes” and swore the oath of office as president on Lincoln’s Bible, will be familiar with the phenomenon. Democrats like to claim Lincoln as, in effect, the first Big Government liberal, while Republicans tout him as the founder of their party.But the reflex identified by Donald isn’t universally felt. A portion of the Right has always hated Old Abe. It blames him for wielding dictatorial powers in an unnecessary war against the Confederacy and creating the predicate for the modern welfare state, among sundry other offenses against the constitutional order and liberty.

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Granville Automatic works to save Civil War battlefield sites

    ATLANTA — Atlanta band Granville Automatic is preparing to release a music video filmed at an ice cream shop on the site of the 1864 battle that left the city in flames during the Civil War.The project is part of an effort to raise awareness about Civil War battlefields across the country, focusing particularly on those that lack the fame of places such as Gettysburg.The 150th anniversary of the war has led to renewed interest in preserving the battlefields and protecting them from development, said Mary Koik, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Civil War Trust....Granville Automatic partnered with the trust to produce a collection of songs about Civil War history across the nation. In “Copenhill,” the song about the Atlanta battle, lyrics recall how the city was burned by Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s federal army: “Burn, burn, burn till the flames hit the sky ...”...

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Gettysburg readies for anniversary

    GETTYSBURG, Pa. — The commemoration of this year’s milestone anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg will include amenities that soldiers would have relished 150 years ago.A groomed path to the top of Little Round Top. Expanded cellphone coverage. Dozens of portable toilets.The National Park Service and a cadre of community organizers are busily putting the finishing touches on preparations for the commemoration of the pivotal battle of the American Civil War that cemented this small Pennsylvania town’s place in U.S history. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected for a 10-day schedule of events that begin June 29.“I think we’re ready,” Bob Kirby, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park, said in a recent interview . “We’re ready for what the world would like to see.”...

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Jamie Malanowski: The U.S. Army Maintains Bases Named After Men Who Killed American Soldiers

    Jamie Malanowski is a contributor to The New York Times’s Disunion series and the author of “And the War Came,” an account of how the Civil War began, at byliner.com.IN the complex and not entirely complete process of reconciliation after the Civil War, honoring the dead with markers, tributes and ceremonies has played a crucial role. Some of these gestures, like Memorial Day, have been very successful. The practice of decorating the graves arose in many towns, north and south, some even before the war had ended. This humble idea quickly spread throughout the country, and the recognition of common loss helped reconcile North and South.But other gestures had a more a political edge. Equivalence of experience was stretched to impute an equivalence of legitimacy. The idea that “now, we are all Americans” served to whitewash the actions of the rebels. The most egregious example of this was the naming of United States Army bases after Confederate generals.

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    MN man replaces worn headstones of Civil War veterans

    Hundreds of Civil War veterans are resting in the St. Paul's historic Oakland Cemetery, but one man says their memory and sacrifice is sometimes overlooked or forgotten -- and he's on a mission to change that.Years ago, Patrick Hill stumbled across a badly weathered grave marker belonging to an Civil War captain. Since then, he's been on a mission to replace other Civil War-era gravestones at the cemetery and remind people about the veterans' sacrifice."There are probably six to 800 Civil War guys in here," Hill estimated.Rows and rows of gravestones in all shapes and sizes bare the names and memories of the past, including the one belonging to Capt. Wilson B. Farrel....

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Vicksburg marks 150th anniversary of Civil War siege

    VICKSBURG, Miss. — Even 150 years later, Vicksburg is still overshadowed by Gettysburg — so much so, that the Mississippi city is having its Civil War commemoration a few weeks early rather than compete with Pennsylvania for tourist dollars around July 4.Union forces waged a long campaign to conquer Vicksburg and gain control of the lower Mississippi River. The effort culminated in a concentrated military attack that started May 18, 1863, and a siege that started eight days later. Confederate forces surrendered the city on July 4.The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1-3, 1863, and it produced a shockingly high number of casualties — 51,000 dead, wounded or missing....

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Timothy Silver and Judkin Browning write environmental history of Civil War

    With more than 55,000 books in print about the Civil War, one might assume that there is no new information to be gleaned about the event that separated states, communities and families.But there is a topic that has received scant attention — the environmental history of the Civil War.Professor Timothy Silver and associate professor Judkin Browning from the Appalachian State University Department of History have aligned their academic interests on a project that has received a $100,000 collaborative research fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.Silver is an environmental historian and the author of “Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains: An Environmental History of the Highest Peaks in Eastern America” (University of North Carolina Press) and “A New Face on the Countryside: Indians, Colonists and Slaves in South Atlantic Forests, 1500-1800” (Cambridge University Press)....

  • Originally published 05/19/2013

    Bernard von Bothmer: Review of Harold Holzer's "The Civil War in 50 Objects" (Viking, 2013)

    Bernard von Bothmer is an adjunct professor of history at the University of San Francisco and Dominican University of California. He is the author of "Framing the Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush" (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010). The Civil War, the nation’s most important event, is the subject of seemingly endless fascination. This majestic compilation of objects from the era reminds us why.

  • Originally published 05/15/2013

    America's First Political Dirty Trick

    Credit: Smithsonian.Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer and the New-York Historical Society. Copyright © 2013 by the New-York Historical Society.

  • Originally published 05/12/2013

    Thomas Jefferson's Nightmare

    Incendie de la Plaine du Cap. - Massacre des Blancs par les Noirs, 1833.This article is adapted from Thomas Fleming’s new book, A Disease In the Public Mind – A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War. Part two of a three-part series (read part one here).

  • Originally published 05/10/2013

    Unclaimed Civil War vets interred with 4 others as Arlington Cemetery dedicates columbarium

    ARLINGTON, Va. — For more than 100 years, the cremated remains of two brothers — Civil War soldiers from Indiana — sat on a funeral home shelf, unclaimed and largely forgotten.On Thursday, their remains were given a final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, which dedicated a new columbarium court designed to hold the cremated remains of more than 20,000 eligible service members and family.It is the ninth columbarium court at Arlington, where roughly 400,000 are interred.The first six remains to be interred at the court were recovered by the Missing In America Project, an organization based in Grants Pass, Ore., that scours funeral homes across the country to recover remains of veterans that have gone unclaimed....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Letters from Civil War donated to Ole Miss

    Richard Bridges seemed like a typical college kid in his letters home: He tells his family he may need more money and definitely more clothes, talks about hanging out with old friends from home and sounds a little homesick at times.Through his letters, this one-time University of Mississippi student has returned to the Oxford campus 150 years later.Mike Martin of Madison, his sister Pat Owen of Rankin County and two of their cousins in Memphis — Bridges’ great-great nephews and nieces — recently donated to the university the 27 letters that Bridges wrote when he served in the University Greys, the unit organized by students to fight in the Civil War....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    The Civil War's 'Young Napoleon': An Interview with Richard Slotkin

    Richard Slotkin is one of the most well-known historians of American history and culture. His writings on the frontier, the Old West, Hollywood Westerns, the Civil War, and World War I, among other topics, have played a significant role in shaping the field of American Studies.In 1973, Slotkin published Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860, the first of his trilogy on the mythology of the American West. The book remains a cornerstone in American Studies in its examination of how the colonization of the frontier and the violence used against Native Americans defined certain attitudes and prejudices that influenced American culture for years to come. The subsequent books of the trilogy, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890, and Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America, further explore these themes of American mythmaking....What drew you first to General George McClellan, or “The Young Napolean”, as he’s often been called? What is it about him that makes him so compelling not only as a notable figure from history but as a character that stands out on the page?

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Incoming NRA president calls Civil War the "War Of Northern Aggression"

    "The NRA was started, 1871, right here in New York state. It was started by some Yankee generals who didn’t like the way my southern boys had the ability to shoot in what we call the 'War of Northern Aggression.'  Now, y’all might call it the Civil War, but we call it the War of Northern Aggression down south."

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Astronomers solve 'Stonewall' Jackson mystery

    ...[A]stronomers say they know why [Confederate troops] couldn't identify [Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville] — it's all because of the moon. Astronomer Don Olson of Texas State University and Laurie E. Jasinski, a researcher and editor at the Texas State Historical Association, report their findings in the May 2013 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.Space sleuths"I remembered reading long ago that Stonewall Jackson was wounded by 'friendly fire' and that it happened at night," Olson told SPACE.com in an email. Olson decided to pursue the mystery on the occasion of the battle's 150th anniversary.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    It's Not You, Stonewall, It's Me

    1864 portrait of Stonewall Jackson by D.W. King.Dear Stonewall,I still think of you fondly sometimes. I cared enough about you to spend eight years of my life researching and writing about you and your friends. In my opinion, I wrote a pretty good book: Inventing Stonewall Jackson:  A Civil War Hero in History and Memory. I examined the assumptions that shaped your historical image, and the ways that image morphed into popular cultural in the twentieth century. In this way, I raised some questions about you, and forced me to think hard about how biography works as a genre, often coming perilously close to historical fiction.

  • Originally published 05/05/2013

    George Washington: The Forgotten Emancipator

    George Washington at Yorktown, by Auguste Couder. P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; } This article is adapted from Thomas Fleming’s new book, A Disease In the Public Mind – A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War.

  • Originally published 05/01/2013

    For Stonewall Jackson, a final victory that led to Confederate catastrophe

    At 5:15 p.m. on May 2, 1863, a doomed Confederate officer with striking blue eyes sat on his horse holding his pocket watch in the Virginia wilderness west of Fredericksburg.He wore a black rubber raincoat and gauntlets, and carried a book of Napoleon’s maxims in his haversack, as he waited for the last of his 21,000 soldiers to spread through the woods in an attack formation over a mile wide.There were only a few hours of daylight left, and his men had been marching all day. But the officer had carefully maneuvered his regiments into position to launch one of the greatest assaults of the Civil War.As the minutes ticked by, he asked a subordinate: “Are you ready?” Yes, came the reply....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Historian Francis Lieber's unlikely career in the Civil War

    Rick Beard, an independent historian, is senior adviser for the Pennsylvania Civil War 150 and volunteer coordinator of the Civil War Sesquicentennial for the American Association for State and Local History.In October 1861, a legal scholar and historian named Francis Lieber presented the first in a series of lectures entitled “The Laws and Usages of War” at the Columbia College’s new law school in New York City. Though the talks, which ran through the following March, were long and often rambling, they drew up to 100 people each and afterward appeared in The New York Times and other newspapers around the country. The public, eager for insight into how the worsening war would and should be fought, devoured his every word.

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Building comes down for Fredericksburg restoration

    Usually, people try to restore castles.But in Spotsylvania County, the “castle”—as some call a local fixture on State Route 3—is being demolished.The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust is razing the old “Stars and Bars” military surplus store on the Chancellorsville battlefield.The massively built structure—with twin turrets, battlements and a façade of brick and block—stands in the way of restoring the land to its May 1863 appearance....

  • Originally published 04/07/2013

    Gilder Lehrman's Flawed History of Emancipation

    Image via Shutterstock.Publishers and curriculum developers are racing to align social studies lessons with new national Common Core literacy standards. Most are clearly motivated by financial incentives -- they want to sell textbooks, workshops, and online packages to school districts anxious to comply with new demands.

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    Heather Cox Richardson: How Republicans Once Championed the Federal Income Tax

    Heather Cox Richardson is a professor of history at Boston College and the president of the Historical Society. The opinions expressed are her ownThe government has the right to “demand” 99 percent of a man’s property when the nation needs it.That was the argument made by a Republican congressman in 1862 to introduce a novel idea: the federal income tax.The Civil War was then costing the Treasury $2 million a day. To pay for uniforms, guns, food, mules, wagons, bounties and burials, Congress had issued hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds and paper money. But Republicans had a horror of debt and the runaway inflation that paper currency usually caused.Taxes were the obvious answer. A conservative Republican newspaper declared: “There is not the slightest objection raised in any loyal quarter to as much taxation as may be necessary.”...

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Jennifer L. Weber: Was Lincoln a Tyrant?

    Jennifer L. Weber is an associate professor at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Copperheads, about antiwar Democrats during the Civil War, and Summer’s Bloodiest Days, a children’s book about the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath. She is currently working on a book about conscription during the Civil War.When Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861, the executive branch was small and relatively limited in its power. By the time of his assassination, he had claimed more prerogatives than any president before him, and the executive branch had grown enormously.Lincoln’s critics witnessed his expanding power with alarm. They accused him of becoming a tyrant and warned that his assertions of authority under the guise of “commander in chief” threatened the viability of a constitutional democracy.Lincoln ignored his foes and kept moving. And, despite lingering discomfort with some of his actions – particularly around the issue of civil liberties – history has largely vindicated him. Why?

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    U.S. war costs last for more than a century, monthly payments to Civil War vet families

    OLYMPIA, Wash. — If history is any judge, the U.S. government will be paying for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the next century as service members and their families grapple with the sacrifices of combat.An Associated Press analysis of federal payment records found that the government is still making monthly payments to relatives of Civil War veterans — 148 years after the conflict ended.At the 10 year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, more than $40 billion a year are going to compensate veterans and survivors from the Spanish-American War from 1898, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns and the Afghanistan conflict. And those costs are rising rapidly....

  • Originally published 03/17/2013

    Tracy Thompson: The South Still Lies About the Civil War

    Tracy Thompson is the author of "The New Mind of the South." This excerpt comes from a longer excerpt of her book posted at Salon.In the course of our conversation, Yacine Kout mentioned something else—an incident that had happened the previous spring at Eastern Randolph High School just outside Asheboro. On Cinco de Mayo, the annual celebration of Mexico’s defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, a lot of Hispanic students brought Mexican flags to school. The next day, Kout said, white students brought Confederate flags to school as a message: This is our heritage.

  • Originally published 03/11/2013

    Deal is near to shift traffic out of Manassas battlefield park

    The National Park Service and Virginia authorities are close to signing a major Civil War battlefield preservation deal that eventually would close two congested roads that slice through the twice-hallowed ground at Manassas.The agreement, which could be signed by the summer, would provide for routes 234 and 29 to be shut down inside Manassas National Battlefield Park. That would happen once new highways are built along the western and northern edges of the battlefield and serve as bypasses.“We’re down to the wire here. It looks good,” said Ed Clark, the park superintendent, a key architect of the pact. “It puts the goal of removing all the traffic from the battlefield within sight.”...

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Author and historian Walt Bachman uncovers the story of Minnesota slavery

    In the annals of emancipation, Minnesota is recognized as one of the “free states.”But when author and historian Walt Bachman began digging into his family history, he uncovered substantial evidence that as late as the 1850s, slaves were kept by officers at Fort Snelling and Fort Ridgely, in full knowledge of — and even subsidized by — the government.When these slaves were sold to civilians, they continued to live in Minnesota under the bonds of slavery, and their children were born into slavery.“Slavery in the North was not tied to agriculture or industry, as it was in the South. They typically worked as house servants,” said Bachman.“In Minnesota, there were never large gangs of farm workers, or auction blocks. There weren’t those trappings of the worst forms of slavery,” he said. “But there is ample evidence of brutality towards slaves in Minnesota, including a slave who was whipped to death by her Army officer master. Slavery, wherever it was practiced, was a pernicious institution, and Minnesota was no exception.”...

  • Originally published 03/04/2013

    Trees tell lost tales of Civil War soldiers

    ...[T]he group Journey Through Hallowed Ground is keeping their memory alive by planting trees, or dedicating existing trees, to each of those soldiers.  Trees are being planted along a 290-kilometer road from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - where the most famous battle occurred - to the home in Virginia of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president.  Beth Erickson is with the organization. “Each tree is a life," said Erickson. "As you see these trees one after another, it will truly make an impact.” The first trees were planted in November on a former plantation called Oatlands in Leesburg, Virginia. Today, the early 19th century home is owned by a historic trust....The $65 million project is being financed through private contributions, in which individuals can also help by donating $100 for a tree. The trees will be geotagged to allow Smart Phone users to learn the story of a soldier.  “These trees will have a number associated with a person.  They can use GPS technology to find out who these people were,” Erickson noted....

  • Originally published 03/03/2013

    Ceremony for Monitor sailors stirs familial ties

    A century and a half after USS Monitor sank, the interment of two unknown crewmen found in the Civil War ironclad's turret is bringing together people from across the country with distant but powerful ties to those who died aboard.The ceremony Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington will include Monitor kin who believe the two sailors — whose remains were discovered in 2002 — are their ancestors, despite DNA testing that has failed to make a conclusive link. But the families stress that the interment pays homage to all 16 Union sailors who died when the ship went down, and nearly 100 people from Maine to California are expected to attend."When I learned they were going to do a memorial and have the burial at Arlington, it was like, 'I can't miss that,'" said Andy Bryan of Holden, Maine, who will travel with his daughter Margaret to the capital. He said DNA testing found a 50 percent likelihood that Monitor crewman William Bryan, his great-great-great-uncle, was one of the two found in the summer of 2002, when the 150-ton turret was raised from the ocean floor off Cape Hatteras, N.C."If it's not William Bryan, I'm OK with that," Bryan said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I feel like I should be there."...

  • Originally published 02/28/2013

    Universities, theaters in 4 cities to join in creating new theatrical productions on Civil War

    WASHINGTON — Four major universities are joining theater companies in Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Atlanta in a project to commission new plays, music and dance compositions about the Civil War and its lasting legacy.The National Civil War Project announced Thursday in Washington will involve programming over the next two years to mark the 150th anniversary of the war between North and South. Beyond commissioning new works, organizers plan for university faculty to integrate the arts into their academic programs on campus....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Photographic artifacts of black Civil War troops

    In the year’s most haunting image of black Civil War soldiers, the opening battlefield sequence in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Confederate forces massacre many fallen former slaves.In reality, African-American prisoners of war were killed en masse. Black troops in action endured lower wages and poorer medical care and living conditions than their white counterparts. But soldiers of both races did have surprisingly easy access to the luxury of photography.Photographers ran government-sanctioned booths near encampments, selling souvenir portraits. The images of black personnel, from officers to gravediggers, are now on view widely in 150th-anniversary commemorations of the Emancipation Proclamation. They provide a nuanced view of African-American life at the front, even though some of the subjects can no longer be identified....

  • Originally published 02/14/2013

    2 USS Monitor sailors to be interred at Arlington

    Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says the remains of two unknown Union sailors recovered from the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery on March 8.In an announcement Tuesday, Mabus said they could be the last Navy personnel from the Civil War buried at Arlington...

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Alex Seitz-Wald: Would Lincoln Use Drones?

    Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter.With the nation deep in the throes of Hollywood-induced Lincoln-philia, Washington Examiner editor Mark Tapscott asked Friday what the revered president might do about one of the thorniest political questions of 2013: “Would Lincoln have droned Robert E. Lee?” His answer — an imagined conversation between Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that has the 16th president remarking “OMG” and “sheesh” — is dumb, but the question and answer are more interesting that Tapscott gives them credit.Lincoln is rightly held up as the paragon of the American presidency, so it makes sense that people would ask how he would handle a tough moral question like the use of unmanned killer drones, which has compelling arguments both for and against. WWLD? We consulted experts and the historical record to find out. The answer may surprise you.

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    2 unknown sailors from Civil War ironclad USS Monitor to be interred at Arlington

    RICHMOND, Va. — The remains of two unknown Union sailors recovered from the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery on March 8, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Tuesday.“These may very well be the last Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington,” Mabus said in a statement. “It’s important we honor these brave men and all they represent as we reflect upon the significant role Monitor and her crew had in setting the course of our modern Navy.”The two skeletons and the tattered remains of their uniforms were discovered in the rusted hulk of the Union Civil War ironclad in 2002 when its 150-ton turret was raised from the ocean floor off Cape Hatteras, N.C. Conservators of the wreck had a forensic reconstruction done on the two men’s faces in the longshot bid that someone could identify the sailors who went down with the Monitor 150 years ago....

  • Originally published 02/07/2013

    In Memphis, discord over renaming parks and dropping their associations to past Confederacy

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The legacy of onetime Confederate fighter and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest has sparked new discord in Memphis amid moves to rename parks whose very names recall the Old South.Fresh division arose before the Memphis City Council voted recently to rename Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in Memphis, where a statue of Forrest stands and the general is buried. The council also voted to rename two other parks whose names evoke the Confederate Civil War heritage.The fight over Forrest highlights a broader debate over what Confederate figures should represent in the 21st century. Other U.S. cities also have wrestled with the issue of naming parks and buildings after Confederate figures....

  • Originally published 02/05/2013

    Emancipation Proclamation Sesquicentennial Events Offer a Window into Current Historiography Debate

    Vanessa Varin is Assistant Editor, Web and Social Media at the American Historical Association.January 1, 2013, marked the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the general historical consensus is that slavery was at the root of the conflict, questions about the role of the proclamation in defining the Civil War and 19th century race relations continue to dominate the field. In the past few weeks, Washington, D.C., has hosted two events on the topic: A panel discussion at the National Archives (NARA), chaired by Annette Gordon-Reed and featuring James Oakes, Eric Foner, James McPherson, and Ed Ayers, and a more intimate lecture led by Foner at the Wilson Center and sponsored by the National History Center. The well-attended events were an opportunity to promote this history to the public, and a window into the current state of the debate over how we should understand the document and its centrality to the Civil War.  

  • Originally published 02/05/2013

    Michael Lind: The White South’s Last Defeat

    Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation. In understanding the polarization and paralysis that afflict national politics in the United States, it is a mistake to think in terms of left and right. The appropriate directions are North and South. To be specific, the long, drawn-out, agonizing identity crisis of white Southerners is having effects that reverberate throughout our federal union. The transmission mechanism is the Republican Party, an originally Northern party that has now replaced the Southern wing of the Democratic Party as the vehicle for the dwindling white Southern tribe....

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    CSS Hunley legend altered by new discovery

    For nearly 150 years, the story of the Hunley’s attack on the USS Housatonic has been Civil War legend.And it has been wrong.Scientists have discovered a piece of the Confederate submarine’s torpedo still attached to its spar, debunking eyewitness accounts that the Hunley was nearly 100 feet away from the explosion that sent a Union blockade ship to the bottom of the sea off Charleston in 1864....

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Crafting the Rules for Hell

    Francis Lieber, circa 1865. Credit: Library of Congress.American military and political leaders since the Revolutionary War have grappled with the problem of whether conduct in the hellish horror and chaos of war can be regulated by law.Before the Civil War, American troops relied largely on Enlightenment customs of war that grew out of European conflicts, although rules were flexible or ignored depending on the particular commanders, whether military concerns outweighed the niceties of “civilized” war, and the character of the enemy -- whether an organized national military or a band of Indians or Mexican guerilla fighters.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Gettysburg Remembrance Day parade has new date

    In anticipation of larger than usual crowds expected at Gettysburg for the annual Remembrance Day parade, planners have moved the event to the weekend of Nov. 23, a week later than had been scheduled.This year is the 150th anniversary of both the battle in July and Remembrance Day in November, the day President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. The parade is very popular with visitors and residents and draws thousands of smartly dressed reenactors who march in military units through the city.Planners say the change was made to better accommodate “lodging requirements.”...

  • Originally published 01/11/2013

    The Real Origin of America's Gun Culture

    Replica of a Colt 1851 Navy revolver. Credit: Wiki Commons."I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!,” radio host Alex Jones warned British television journalist Piers Morgan on Monday. Leading the charge to have Morgan deported for voicing his opposition to America’s lax gun control laws, which many believe led to the shooting deaths of twenty children and six adults last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Jones attempted to cast Morgan as a modern-day Tory ready to reclaim the United States as Great Britain’s colonial possession. Although Morgan’s Britishness proved an effective prop to Jones’s revolutionary rhetoric, the current debate over gun control owes more to the Civil War Era than the American Revolution.

  • Originally published 01/11/2013

    Antietam's Bloody Intersection of War and Politics

    Battle of Antietam--Army of the Potomac. Lithograph, 1888.On Wednesday, September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history was fought at Antietam Creek in Maryland, the first major Civil War engagement on Union soil, leaving more than 23,000 Confederate and Union soldiers dead, wounded or missing.

  • Originally published 08/05/2012

    Jim Downs: Civil War and Emancipation the "Greatest Biological Catastrophe of the Nineteenth Century."

    Contraband during the Civil War. Credit: Wiki Commons.January 1, 2013 will mark the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation.We tend to think of the emancipation of African American slaves in the South as a celebratory moment of jubilation and ecstasy. But there is a darker, bitterly ironic side to this triumphant story -- a grim story of neglect and indifference to a vulnerable population of uprooted men, women and children left to negotiate their freedom in a hostile, war-torn, disease-plagued land.

  • Originally published 10/12/2011

    Welcome Home, General Grant

    Ulysses S. Grant as president. Credit: Wiki Commons.IThis year of 2011, marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, gives us an opportunity to see the difference between history as fact and history as perception.No better example of this exists than the life of Ulysses S. Grant.  He died in 1885; to the end of the nineteenth century, there was one Ulysses S. Grant, based on fact and seen in that light.  During almost all of the twentieth century, he was the subject of various forms of "revisionism."  In recent years he is being restored to his rightful place in our history.

  • Originally published 07/05/2011

    The Surprising Story of How Stonewall Jackson Became a Mythical Figure for the Religious Right

    Next week will mark the 150th anniversary of First Bull Run, the initial major battle of the Civil War.  The combat that day remains memorable for several reasons, including the importance of the telegraph and the use of trains to transport troops.  Few images in Civil War history are more compelling and tragic than the panic of green Union soldiers running away from the field. 

  • Originally published 02/07/2011

    On Going Viral: Reflections on Why the South Really Seceded

    1865 cartoon.On Sunday, January 9 [2011], the Washington Post published my op-ed article, "5 Myths about Why the South Seceded."  Even before it appeared in print, I knew it had touched a nerve. At its website, the Post dates the article at the stroke of midnight Saturday, but by 7:00pm that evening I had received at least thirty emails about it, a portent of the torrent to come. By Monday, the piece had received more than half a million hits, more than any other Post story. During the next week, almost four thousand other sites, from Forbes to The Times of India, linked to it or discussed it. Still other sites simply reprinted the article, which now appears at, for example, the Black Pride Network and the South Carolina Agricultural Trade News. 

  • Originally published 07/27/2014

    The New Instability

    OVER the past 40 years, the geography of family life has been destabilized by two powerful forces pulling in opposite directions and occasionally scraping against each other, much like tectonic plates. One is the striking progress toward equality between men and women. The other is the equally striking growth of socioeconomic inequality and insecurity.

  • Originally published 07/18/2014

    The Constitutional Havoc of the Income Tax Amendment

    Some days back I offered an interpretation of the motives and political economy behind the adoption of the 16th Amendment, noting at the time that it also caused extreme constitutional havoc by altering the relationship between the tariff system and the generation of federal tax revenue. While it is certainly possible to read this as a statement of political aversion to the modern income tax system, my characterization was actually an intended reference to certain very specific constitutional consequences of the income tax amendment that actually have little to do with any personal preferences regarding the validity of progressive income taxation.

  • Originally published 06/20/2014

    Abraham Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment

    Most serious historical overviews of the Civil War contain at least a brief mention of the Corwin Amendment, the last-ditch compromise effort to protect slavery where it existed by enshrining it in the Constitution. They also do so tepidly and seldom acknowledge it as anything more than a historical footnote.

  • Originally published 06/20/2014

    Thaddeus Stevens and Colonization

    Did Rep. Thaddeus Stevens pledge to support the revival of the colonization office during Lincoln’s second term? That is the direct insinuation of an unsent letter from 1865 bearing the Radical Republican leader’s endorsement.