Folks disagree over whether the Civil War was inevitable. I think there are questions that need to be answered when asking about Civil War causation, because I think we need to prove what is often assumed. So I want to unpack some of those assumptions of us to consider.
Implicit in the discussion of inevitability is the assumption that there must have been a way short of secession and war (which are two distinct events) to resolve the issue of slavery. Read more
In 2007 Craig Warren asked me to contribute some thoughts on the Civil War writings of Ambrose Bierce to The Ambrose Bierce Project Journal, an online enterprise. What follows is my effort to come to terms with Bierce’s observations about the construction of battle narratives. As you can see, while I strongly agree with some of what Bierce says, I also happened to catch him committing the same sins which he complained of in others. Nevertheless, as you read what Bierce says, you might want to reflect on how historians compose battle narratives and ask how you might tinker with the formula.
In a small attempt to begin to wean readers off the series Debating DiLorenzo, which comes to an end today, I offer you these observations that I’ve presented concerning Lincoln’s first inaugural address.
I see where my posting of a short exchange of views in three part harmony on Fox has sparked a discussion at Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory over exactly how to engage such folks in debate. Kevin asserts:
While those of us familiar with this Lincoln scholarship might enjoy a good laugh, we would do well to keep in mind that DiLorenzo and Woods are probably influencing the general public more through their publications and activism than all of the recent scholarly studies combined.
Nearly all presidential performance polls rank Abraham Lincoln as one of the top two presidents in American history (his current competition happens to be George Washington, with FDR usually claiming the bronze). While Lincoln is impressive on his own merits, it does not hurt that both his predecessor and successor currently dwell at the bottom of the same polls. Yet something can be learned from comparing the presidential performances of James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. Such was in the back of historian Glenn LaFantasie’s mind yesterday, in which he explained why at this moment he thinks that Buchanan should bring up the rear (let’s set aside his estimate of George W. Bush for the moment).
Woke up this morning to learn that Newsweek offered a nice review of The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It.
However, Read more
Kevin Levin’s offered a thoughtful response to my post, “Seeing What is Not There.”
What we have here is not a debate about whether free and enslaved blacks served as soldiers in the Confederate army. The folks referenced above are not engaged in deception; rather, they simply do not understand the relevant history nor do they understand how to engage in historical analysis.
Just a note to tell you that today marks the official publication date for the Library of America’s The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It, which Stephen W. Sears, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, and I coedited. Thanks to all of the people who were involved in the project.
Each of the next three volumes will be edited by one of the editors of this initial volume. Stephen Sears will take charge of the second volume, which ends in early 1863; I will pick up from the fall of Burnside to the rise of Grant; and Aaron Sheehan-Dean will take over from there.
I happen to love research exercises. Oh, I know, some of you are fascinated by shows such as History Detectives (a show I find “fascinating” for distinctly different reasons), and I’m sure many of you wish you could bring new things to light without, say, altering documents. Here at Crossroads we want to encourage critical thinking and research, and so today we turn to yet another quote, this one from Frederick Douglass, who stated in Douglass’ Monthly in September 1861 the following:
It is now pretty well established, that there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may to destroy the Federal Government and build up that of the traitors and rebels. There were such soldiers at Manassas, and they are probably there still. There is a Negro in the army as well as in the fence, and our Government is likely to find it out before the war comes to an end. That the Negroes are numerous in the rebel army, and do for that army its heaviest work, is beyond question. They have been the chief laborers upon those temporary defences in which the rebels have been able to mow down our men. Negroes helped to build the batteries at Charleston. They relieve their gentlemanly and military masters from the stiffening drudgery of the camp, and devote them to the nimble and dexterous use of arms. Rising above vulgar prejudice, the slaveholding rebel accepts the aid of the black man as readily as that of any other. If a bad cause can do this, why should a good cause be less wisely conducted?
Today I introduce a new feature at Crossroads: “Keeping It Honest.” The title (which may be subject to change) is adapted from a feature on Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, although I’ve replaced the “them” with “it.” I’m still toying around with other labels.
This week, we look at a quote from Ed Bearss, who served as Chief Historian of the National Park Service from 1981 to 1994. The following statement is often attributed to him:
I don’t want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks both above and below the Mason-Dixon line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around 1910.