Before the Civil War, slaveholders made themselves into the most powerful, most deeply rooted, and best organized private interest group within the United States. Not only did slavery represent the national economy's second largest capital investment, exceeded only by investment in real estate, but guarantees of its perpetuation were studded throughout the U.S. Constitution. The vast majority of white Americans, in North and South, accepted the institution, and pro-slavery presidents and congressmen consistently promoted its interests. In Abolitionist Politics and the Coming of the Civil War, James Brewer Stewart explains how a small group of radical activists, the abolitionist movement, played a pivotal role in turning American politics against this formidable system. He examines what influence the movement had in creating the political crises that led to civil war and evaluates the extent to which a small number of zealous reformers made a truly significant political difference when demanding that their nation face up to its most excruciating moral problem. In making these assessments, Stewart addresses a series of more specific questions: What were the abolitionists actually up against when seeking the overthrow of slavery and white supremacy? What motivated and sustained them during their long and difficult struggles? What larger historical contexts (religious, social, economic, cultural, and political) influenced their choices and determined their behavior? What roles did extraordinary leaders play in shaping the movement, and what were the contributions of abolitionism's unheralded “foot soldiers”? What factors ultimately determined, for better or worse, the abolitionists' impact on American politics and the realization of their equalitarian goals?
In 1890 Abraham Lincoln’s two main White House secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, published the ten-volume biography Abraham Lincoln: A History. Although the authors witnessed the daily events occurring within the executive mansion and the national Capitol, their lengthy biography is more a recounting of the Civil War era than a study of Lincoln’s life.
Editor Michael Burlingame sifted through the original forty-seven-hundred-page work and selected only the personal observations of the secretaries during the Lincoln presidency, placing ten excerpts in chronological order in Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay. The result is an important collection of Nicolay and Hay’s interpretations of Lincoln’s character, actions, and reputation, framed by Burlingame’s compelling preface, introduction, chapter introductions, and notes. The volume provides vivid descriptions of such events as Election Day in 1860, the crisis at Fort Sumter, the first major battle of the war at Bull Run, and Lincoln’s relationship with Edwin Stanton and George McClellan.
In this clear and captivating new work, Burlingame has made key portions of Nicolay and Hay’s immense biography available to a wide audience of today’s readers.
This bold, groundbreaking study of American political development assesses the presidency of Abraham Lincoln through the lenses of governmental power, economic policy, expansion of executive power, and natural rights to show how Lincoln not only believed in the limitations of presidential power but also dedicated his presidency to restraining the scope and range of it.
Though Lincoln’s presidency is inextricably linked to the Civil War, and he is best known for his defense of the Union and executive wartime leadership, Lincoln believed that Congress should be at the helm of public policy making. Likewise, Lincoln may have embraced limited government in vague terms, but he strongly supported effective rule of law and distribution of income and wealth. Placing the Lincoln presidency within a deeper and more meaningful historical context, Abraham Lincoln’s Statesmanship and the Limits of Liberal Democracy highlights Lincoln’s significance in the development of American power institutions and social movement politics.
Using Lincoln’s prepresidential and presidential words and actions, this book argues that decent government demands a balance of competing goods and the strong statesmanship that Lincoln exemplified. Instead of relying too heavily on the will of the people and institutional solutions to help prevent tyranny, Jon D. Schaff proposes that American democracy would be better served by a moderate and prudential statesmanship such as Lincoln’s, which would help limit democratic excesses.
Schaff explains how Lincoln’s views on prudence, moderation, natural rights, and economics contain the notion of limits, then views Lincoln’s political and presidential leadership through the same lens. He compares Lincoln’s views on governmental powers with the defense of unlimited government by twentieth-century progressives and shows how Lincoln’s theory of labor anticipated twentieth-century distributist economic thought. Schaff’s unique exploration falls squarely between historians who consider Lincoln a protoprogressive and those who say his presidency was a harbinger of industrialized, corporatized America.
In analyzing Lincoln’s approach, Abraham Lincoln’s Statesmanship and the Limits of Liberal Democracy rejects the idea he was a revolutionary statesman and instead lifts up Lincoln’s own affinity for limited presidential power, making the case for a modest approach to presidential power today based on this understanding of Lincoln’s statesmanship. As a counterpoint to the contemporary landscape of bitter, uncivil politics, Schaff points to Lincoln’s statesmanship as a model for better ways of engaging in politics in a democracy.
In the American Civil War missives from relatives to soldiers relating the details of what was occurring in the villages and towns unscarred by the conflict were rare. Edited by Barbara Butler Davis, Affectionately Yours: The Civil War Home-Front Letters of the Ovid Butler Family includes transcriptions of sixty-five holograph letters written from 1863 to 1865 to their son Scot. The letters are housed in the collection of the Irvington Historical Society and relate a fascinating social history of the Indianapolis community during the Civil War. The book also includes a foreword by Civil War historian Alan T. Nolan.
The Civil War did not end with Confederate capitulation in 1865. A second phase commenced which lasted until 1871—not Reconstruction but genuine belligerency whose mission was to crush slavery and create civil and political rights for freed people. But as Gregory Downs shows, military occupation posed its own dilemmas, including near-anarchy.
“Sharon Talley draws on psychoanalytic theory to illuminate the connections between Bierce’s life and works, without ever losing sight of the historical contexts—especially his experience in the Civil War—that also shaped his creativity. This judicious and comprehensive book will give a major boost to the reassessment of Bierce’s place in American letters.”
—Peter L. Rudnytsky, author of Reading Psychoanalysis: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi, Groddeck
Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death uses psychoanalytic theory in combination with historical, cultural, and literary contexts to examine the complex motif of death in a full range of Bierce’s writings. Scholarly interest in Bierce, whose work has long been undervalued, has grown significantly in recent years. This new book contributes to the ongoing reassessment by providing new contexts for joining the texts in his canon in meaningful ways.
Previous attempts to consider Bierce from a psychological perspective have been superficial, often reductive Freudian readings of individual stories such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “The Death of Halpin Frayser.” This new volume not only updates these interpretations with insights from post-Freudian theorists but uses contemporary death theory as a framework to analyze the sources and expressions of Bierce’s attitudes about death and dying. This approach makes it possible to discern links among texts that resolve some of the still puzzling ambiguities that have—until now—precluded a fuller understanding of both the man and his writings.
Lively and engaging, Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death adds valuable new insights not only to the study of Bierce but to that of nineteenth-century American literature in general.
Sharon Talley is the author of the Student Companion to Herman Melville. Her articles have been published in Nineteenth-Century Prose, American Imago, and the Journal of Men’s Studies. She is associate professor of English at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
David W. Blight Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress E468.5.B55 2011 | Dewey Decimal 973.70072
David Blight takes his readers back to the Civil War’s centennial celebration to determine how Americans made sense of the suffering, loss, and liberation a century earlier. He shows how four of America’s most incisive writers—Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin—explored the gulf between remembrance and reality.
The first biographical account of the life of James Gillespie Birney in more than fifty years, this fabulously insightful history illuminates and elevates an all-but-forgotten figure whose political career contributed mightily to the American political fabric. Birney was a southern-born politician at the heart of the antislavery movement, with two southern-born sons who were major generals involved in key Union Army activities, including the leadership of the black troops. The interaction of the Birneys with historical figures (Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry Clay) highlights the significance of the family’s activities in politics and war. D. Laurence Rogers offers a unique historiography of the abolition movement, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the experiences of one family navigating momentous developments from the founding of the Republic until the late 19th century.
In 1884, when Albert O. Marshall published Army Life, a memoir of his service as a private in the Thirty-Third Illinois Regiment, twenty years had passed since his 1864 discharge. Marshall left the journal untouched at publication, and today it is a journal that is rare in what it is not. This memoir is not a complete story of the Thirty-Third (known as the “Normal Regiment” because many of its soldiers were from Illinois State Normal University), nor is it a complete roster of regiment members, nor a list of killed and wounded. Army Life is not, even, a purely military account written from an officer’s point of view. It is the story of a twenty-year-old private whose engaging writing belies his age but also allows his youth to shine through. Marshall tells of the battles he fought and the games he played, of his friends, fellow soldiers, and officers, and of the regiment’s activities in Missouri and Arkansas, at Vicksburg, and in Louisiana and on the Texas Gulf Coast. Enhanced with careful editing and thorough annotations, this journal Marshall carried faithfully to every mustering out is a rich and important Civil War memoir.
A high-spirited idealist who craved excitement when he enlisted in the Eighth Illinois Volunteers for three months and reenlisted for three years, Charles W. Wills of Canton, Illinois, wrote frequently to his sister Mary Emily Wills and kept a diary of General William T. Sherman’ s campaigns during the last year of the war. In the beginning of his service, Wills could boast that his company refused to enlist "roughs." He reported that he and his comrades "drink no liquors and keep ourselves as cleanly as possible.... Almost all are reading or writing, and I defy anyone to find 75 men without any restraint, paying more attention to the Sabbath. . . . Health generally excellent in our company, because we are all careful."
A student and store clerk before enlisting, Wills found that army life "beats clerking." He enlisted as a private at the age of twenty-one and by twenty-four was a major. He had thought he might receive an infantry commission eventually, but when the opportunity arose for promotion to first lieutenant in the Seventh Illinois Cavalry, "cupidity and ambition" caused him to abandon the Eighth, enabling him to hold rank "without so much walking." For a while, though, he seriously rued his lack of action. "Haven’ t I a brilliant record," he wrote. "Thirty-three months in service and not a battle." As Simon points out, however, "in the year ahead, Wills would have more than his fill of battles." Battle starved once, his enthusiasm for carnage waned as he marched with Sherman to the sea. Yet Major Wills was impressed by his troops’ "endurance, spirit and recklessness."
Wills matured in the army. He joined solely to preserve the Union, and his early comments on slaves "lacked sympathy, even decency," according to Simon. Later he came to the point where he would arm blacks— in part, with an eye toward gaining rank by leading the new regiments. Yet he was not blind to the anomalies of a slave society.
Wills died in 1883. To preserve his memory, his sister (now Mary Kellogg) printed his diary in 1904. Two years later, Kellogg combined the diary with the letters Wills had written to her earlier in the war. Simon renders this assessment: "Wills had a sparkling, witty style that contrasted sharply with that of both his contemporaries in the field and the seven regimental veterans who compiled their diaries. In assembling this book, Mary E. Kellogg wisely allowed her brother to speak for himself; rarely intruding a comment of her own, excising from his letters home inevitable expressions of concern for his sister and her welfare but leaving intact the sparkling flow of camp gossip and military speculation."
How do we know when a war ends? For many, the resolution of a conflict comes not with the last traces of smoke left on the battlefield, but with the formal ceremonies of surrender: possession and repossession, the signing of treaties, and the pomp and circumstance that mark them. Historically, most conflicts have ended with such rituals. But, as Robin Wagner-Pacifici reveals in The Art of Surrender, they should not be seen as merely a matter of giving up. They also offer ways of holding back and signal early fault lines that give rise to later undoings and conflicts.
The Art of Surrender explores these ritual concessions as acts of warfare, performances of submission, demonstrations of power, and representations of shifting, unstable worlds. Wagner-Pacifici analyzes three significant military surrenders in the history of warfare—the Thirty Years' War of the seventeenth century, the American Civil War, and World War II—through the use of period documents and forms, maps, literature, witness accounts, photographs, and paintings that were left as proof of victory and defeat. In her analyses of such archival material and iconic works of art, she considers the limits of sovereignty at conflict's end, showing how the ways we concede loss can be as important as the ways we claim victory.
A Rediscovered History That Will Become Essential Reading for Civil War Studies
The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, 1861–65, is a comprehensive overview and analysis of the U.S. Army’s field artillery service in the Civil War’s principal battles, written by John C. Tidball, a distinguished artilleryman of the era. The overview, which appeared in the Journal of the Military Service Institution from 1891 to 1893, and nearly impossible to find today, examines the Army of the Potomac, including the battles of Fair Oaks, Gaines’s Mill, Mechanicsville, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg; the Army of the Tennessee, including the battles of Stones River and Chickamauga, and the Army of the Ohio’s battle of Shiloh. Tidball, a decorated Civil War veteran and superintendent of artillery instruction for the army, expertly presents the war through an artilleryman’s eyes in explaining the organization, equipping, and manning of the artillery service. His analysis highlights how the improper use of artillery, tying batteries down to relatively small infantry commands that diluted their firepower, seriously undermined the army’s effectiveness until reforms produced independent artillery commands that could properly mass artillery fire in battle.
The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, edited by historian Lawrence M. Kaplan and presented here in one volume for the first time, includes additional material from an unpublished paper Tidball wrote in 1905 which contains further insights into the artillery service, as well as a general overview of the Petersburg campaign. A major new discovery in Civil War scholarship, The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion contains essential information that will change earlier historical interpretations of key battles and will be essential reading for all those interested in the war or contemplating writing about it.
The memory of the American Civil War took many forms over the decades after the conflict ended: personal, social, religious, and political. It was also remembered and commemorated by poets and fiction writers who understood that the war had bequeathed both historical and symbolic meanings to American culture. Although the defeated Confederacy became best known for producing a literature of nostalgia and an ideological defensiveness intended to protect the South’s own version of history, authors loyal to the Union also confronted the question of what the memory of the war signified, and how to shape the literary response to that individual and collective experience. In Ashes of the Mind, Martin Griffin examines the work of five Northerners—three poets and two fiction writers—who over a period of four decades tried to understand and articulate the landscape of memory in postwar America, and in particular in that part of the nation that could, with most justification, claim the victory of its beliefs and values. The book begins with an examination of the rhetorical grandeur of James Russell Lowell’s Harvard Commemoration Ode, ranges across Herman Melville’s ironic war poetry, Henry James’s novel of North-South reconciliation, The Bostonians, and Ambrose Bierce’s short stories, and ends with the bitter meditation on race and nation presented by Paul Laurence Dunbar’s elegy “Robert Gould Shaw.” Together these texts reveal how a group of representative Northern writers were haunted in different ways by the memory of the conflict and its fraught legacy. Griffin traces a concern with individual and community loss, ambivalence toward victory, and a changing politics of commemoration in the writings of Lowell, Melville, James, Bierce, and Dunbar. What links these very different authors is a Northern memory of the war that became more complex and more compromised as the century went on, often replacing a sense of justification and achievement with a perception of irony and failed promise.
John Hay believed that “real history is told in private letters,” and the more than 220 surviving letters and telegrams from his Civil War days prove that to be true, showing Abraham Lincoln in action: “The Tycoon is in fine whack. I have rarely seen him more serene & busy. He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once. I never knew with what tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now. The most important things he decides & there is no cavil.”
Along with Hay’s personal correspondence, Burlingame includes his surviving official letters. Though lacking the “literary brilliance of [Hay’s] personal letters,” Burlingame explains, “they help flesh out the historical record.” Burlingame also includes some of the letters Hay composed for Lincoln’s signature, including the celebrated letter of condolence to the Widow Bixby.
More than an inside glimpse of the Civil War White House, Hay’s surviving correspondence provides a window on the world of nineteenth-century Washington, D.C.
“In the first twenty-seven months of combat 175,000 Southern soldiers died. This number was more than the entire Confederate military force in the summer of 1861, and it far exceeded the strength of any army that Lee ever commanded. More than 80,000 Southerners fell in just five battles. At Gettysburg three out of every ten Confederates present were hit; one brigade lost 65 percent of its men and 70 percent of its field officers in a single charge. A North Carolina regiment started the action with some 800 men; only 216 survived unhurt. Another unit lost two-thirds of its men as well as its commander in a brief assault.”
Why did the Confederacy lose so many men? The authors contend that the Confederates bled themselves nearly to death in the first three years of the war by making costly attacks more often than the Federals. Offensive tactics, which had been used successfully by Americans in the Mexican War, were much less effective in the 1860s because an improved weapon – the rifle – had given increased strength to defenders. This book describes tactical theory in the 1850s and suggests how each related to Civil War tactics. It also considers the development of tactics in all three arms of the service during the Civil War.
In examining the Civil War the book separates Southern from Northern tactical practice and discusses Confederate military history in the context of Southern social history. Although the Southerners could have offset their numerical disadvantage by remaining on the defensive and forcing the Federals to attack, they failed to do so. The authors argue that the Southerners’ consistent favoring of offensive warfare was attributable, in large measure, to their Celtic heritage: they fought with the same courageous dash and reckless abandon that had characterized their Celtic forebears since ancient times. The Southerners of the Civil War generation were prisoners of their social and cultural history: they attacked courageously and were killed – on battlefields so totally defended by the Federals that “not even a chicken could get through.”
Most Civil War historians now agree that the guerrilla conflict shaped the entire war in significant ways. Some of these “bushwhackers”—Nathan Bedford Forrest, William Clarke Quantrill, John Singleton Mosby—have become quite infamous. Illiterate Sam Hildebrand, one of Missouri’s most notorious guerrillas—often compared to “Rob Roy,” and the subject of dime novels—was one of the few to survive the war and have his story taken down and published. Shortly after this he was killed in a barroom brawl. “I make no apology to mankind for my acts of retaliation; I make no whining appeal to the world for sympathy. I sought revenge and I found it; the key of hell was not suffered to rust in the lock while I was on the war path.” —Sam Hildebrand Hildebrand’s reign of terror gave the Union army fits and kept much of the Trans-Mississippi, especially Missouri, roiling in the 1860s. Over seven years of fighting he and his men killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, whites and blacks; he claimed to have killed nearly one hundred himself. He was accused of many heinous acts. The historical significance of Hildebrand’s story is substantial, but his bloody tale is eminently readable and stands quite well on its own as a cold-blooded portrait of a violent time in American history. Like the nightmarish and depraved world of the Kid in Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, Hildebrand’s world is truly ruthless and his story is brutally descriptive in its coolly detached rendering of one man’s personal war. Published in 1870, Hildebrand’s autobiography has long been out of print and has been a rare and highly prized acquisition among Civil War