52 thoughts on “Questions? Questions?

    • Anna Bishop March 21, 2011 / 6:51 am

      We were created to Glorify God through our suffering and death

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 10:53 am

      I thought you were supposed to address those timeless questions on your blog, Harry. 🙂

  1. Anna Bishop March 21, 2011 / 6:52 am

    My question is was the Dunker Church really used as an embalming station?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 10:56 am

      There is a report of the church being used as a embalming station after the battle, when it was in Union hands. However, Ted Alexander or Tom Clemens would be far better situated to answer that question with some authority, so I’d contact them.

  2. Charles Lovejoy March 21, 2011 / 6:55 am

    Harry “Why were we created only to suffer and die?” you ask , it sure seems we were . It seems human history is a no ending story of human suffering on earth. I’m not a Buddhist but its first noble truth I have always felt is a good synopsis of human life on earth. The” why” becomes perplexing.

  3. Lyle Smith March 21, 2011 / 6:56 am

    Was Thomas Jefferson a proto-Confederate?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:00 am

      As with all other things Jeffersonian, depends on which Jefferson you are talking about. The out-of-power Jefferson sometimes seems so much different from the in-power Jefferson. And, of course, so much depends on what you mean by proto-Confederate. Note that Confederates were much more willing to cite the Jefferson of 1798-99 than they were willing to make reference to the Jefferson of 1776.

      • Lyle Smith March 22, 2011 / 3:14 pm

        I agree. I don’t even really have a definition for proto-Confederate. Maybe it just means the men who insured it would survive as institution past the founding of the United States, and gave intellectual credence to the institution. It’s just meant to be a bit obtuse in light of the popular use of the term neo-Confederate. Few people chastise Thomas Jefferson like they chastise Jefferson F. Davis. There are a few who do of course, but that doesn’t seem to be the average kind of commentary directed at Thomas Jefferson. I’m not even arguing that Thomas Jefferson should get as much stick… but if Jefferson F. Davis was guilty, I’m thinking Thomas Jefferson was just as guilty.

        I do think Thomas Jefferson was a Confederate forerunner by his words and by his actions. As much as he was father of the United States, he was also a father to the Confederacy, I think. Like you said, his intellectual support of slavery evolved as his life progressed, moving from supporting emancipation to not supporting emancipation. And of course in the end his actions were those of the average slave owning southern planter. If Jefferson could have lived a longer life, I think he probably would have become the kind of public figure that John C. Calhoun did (who went from being a nationalist to the state rights fountainhead), because as long as he wasn’t willing to give up his slaves, he was going to have to continue to rationalize his support of slavery and defend it politically in Congress.

  4. Charles Lovejoy March 21, 2011 / 7:06 am

    Who was pulling the strings of the US congress in 1866? We no it wasn’t the ex-Confederate leaders . Just one example, It was decided by the 1866 congress to abort the idea of the ‘Sherman Reservation’ . A strip of land between the north east florida coast up to just south of Charleston SC that was supposed to be given to former slaves. The land ended up being given back to its pre-war owners.

  5. Charles Lovejoy March 21, 2011 / 7:12 am

    ” we know it wasn’t ” I meant not ” we no it wasn’t “

  6. Scott Manning March 21, 2011 / 7:22 am

    My question has multiple parts.

    Do you think people pay too much attention to correcting the record on the Civil War? What I mean is by constantly addressing every false story out there, do we run the risk of forgetting to tell the story of the war? My thought is for the laymen who are becoming more and more interested in the war over the next four years.

    In some instances, there is an overwhelmingly unanimous assault against statements. Do you have any concern that by dedicating so much time to explain that people are wrong that we run the risk of making martyrs out of them?

    I do not have any answers to the questions, but I have been pondering them lately.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:05 am

      Yes and no. That is, there is a lot of work being done on small questions that are of interest to a limited number of people. On the other hand, especially with the internet as unfiltered source of (mis)information, people curious to look up things happen upon whatever they come across and accept it at fact value. I think there are more effective ways of addressing that misinformation than the comments sections of certain blogs. That would also spare people from feeling compelled to reenact the same old arguments.

  7. Charles Lovejoy March 21, 2011 / 7:24 am

    Question two? During secession and the start of the war in the south we hear a lot from the politicians and fire eaters but almost nothing from large slave holders like the Lynch family of SC . Some of the large slave holders seem to go off the radar. Were they behind closed doors pulling the strings?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:07 am

      Well, there are some large slaveholders who were pretty vocal, but I would not see large slaveowners acting as a class to manipulate political events behind the scenes, especially as they did not always agree that secession protected their holdings (some saw war as a destabilizing agent that might endanger their holdings).

  8. Chuck Brown March 21, 2011 / 7:54 am

    A responder to a previous post stated that Alexander Stephens delivered a version of the Cornerstone Speech to the Army of Northern Virginia. I know that the original speech was made extemporaneously in Savanna, Georgia, and I think Stephens also delivered it to the Virginia Secession Convention. But I haven’t been able to verify that another was made to Lee’s army. Is this true and, if so, where would I find the evidence?

    • James F. Epperson March 21, 2011 / 7:58 am

      I think someone is confusing his appearance at the secession convention w/ a speech to the army. I can’t imagine drawing the entire 60,000 man army up into a space where they could all hear a speaker.

      • Chuck Brown March 21, 2011 / 12:51 pm

        I think you’re correct. I couldn’t find any contemporary confirmation and I would have thought someone would have mentioned it.

    • Bob Huddleston March 21, 2011 / 8:05 am

      After the Civil War was over came the time for the writing of memoirs, which the participants did with great gusto, while justifying their mistakes and lambasting their enemies –most of whom had been on their side during the war!

      One of the first to get into print was Alexander Stephens in 1868-70 with his _A Constitutional View of the Late War between the States; its Causes, Character, Conduct and Results Presented in a Series of Colloquies at Liberty Hall_.

      Not only did Stephens attempt – with a great deal of success – to change the name of the War, when he invented “War Between the States,” but also change the reasons for secession: he (and later, Jefferson Davis) both realized that 630,000 dead to attempt to create a slave holders’ country was not a good enough reason.

      But Stephens had to forget or explain away, his most famous speech, the Cornerstone Speech of 1861.

      Stephens started his revisionist history as early as the summer of 1865, when he was incarcerated at Fort Warren, Massachusetts.

      In an age innocent of CNN, a politician could repeat a speech several times without worrying that his listeners had already heard or seen the speech. Stephens appears to given the basic Cornerstone Speech at least two times: in Atlanta on March 12, and in Savannah on March 21. The first speech was reported in the _Atlanta Southern Confederacy_ the following day and repeated in the_ Charleston Mercury_ on March 18 but appears to have not been noted in the Northern papers. However the second speech was copied from the Savannah Republican and made its way into the war-time _Rebellion Record_, edited by Frank Moore (Doc 48, vol. 1, 1861). While Stephens was in Fort Warren, (Myrta L. Avery, ed., _Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens: His Diary Kept while a Prisoner in Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, 1865_ (reprint 1998, pp. 172-174) he claimed that his “cornerstone analogy was taken out of context.

      While justifying his involvement in starting the Civil War, Stephens also forgot a third time when he used the “Cornerstone” as part of a speech. On April 23, 1861, Stephens addressed the Virginia Secession Convention, urging them to join with the other slave states in the new Confederacy. In addition to all but promising that Richmond would be the Confederacy’s capital, Stephens carefully laid out the consequences to the Particular Institution if Virginia did not join the Confederacy.

      What is not mentioned in any of the biographies of Robert E. Lee is that Stephens made his address right after Lee was appointed major general of the Virginia state army – right after Lee had made his famous and taken out of context statement about never drawing his sword except to defend Virginia. Lee’s confirmation by the convention was an add-on for the day’s events, when the army officer arrived in Richmond after Stephens had already been invited. And Lee had to know that his sword was going to be drawn to defend Virginia as part of the Confederacy. Lee also conveniently forgot that he was still a United States Army officer, since his resignation had not yet been accepted by the Secretary of War.

      As for Stephens, his declaration both at Fort Warren and in the _War Between the States_ that he was misquoted and taken out of context is interesting since both the _Savannah Republican_ version of the speech as well as the Virginia Convention speech appeared in his authorized biography and speech collection, Henry Cleveland, _Alexander H. Stephens in public and private. With Letters and Speeches Before, During, and Since the War_, National Publishing Company: Philadelphia and Chicago, 1866, a book which was written with his full cooperation, including the use of letters written by president-elect Lincoln to Stephens and the inclusion of a letter from Stephens to Cleveland approving the page proofs.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:08 am

      I have no record that Stephens ever addressed the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee’s command.

  9. Chuck Brown March 21, 2011 / 7:55 am

    We’re all suffering; we’re all dying; no one know why we’re here.

    • Charles Lovejoy March 21, 2011 / 8:03 am

      I hadn’t came to a conclusion yet

      • Charles Lovejoy March 22, 2011 / 1:27 pm

        Im open to all ideas on this one

  10. J. March 21, 2011 / 8:42 am

    A discussion of what y’all refer to as “materiel”, at least in regard to a few major battles

    The Confederates, according to my reading, had quite a bit of artillery power in the early stages of the CW but were woefully lacking in modern rifles/pistols–the rebel soldiers had muskets, for the most part. The Union in the early part of the war may not have had the artillery power but soon caught up (and then surpassed the South). And the Union soldiers carried Enfield rifles, far superior to musketry. That’s a well-known part of the CW narrative.

    Then the question–wouldn’t RE Lee, Bory, Davis, the CSA cabinet and the other “schooled” generals in the South–the West Point boys– have known that the South’s lack of rifle-power would be a problem, perhaps THE central weakness of the CSA??? Assuming that to be the case, Lee’s gambit could only be called foolhardy (or….possibly conspiracy) .

    • Harry Smeltzer March 21, 2011 / 9:24 am

      At First Bull Run both sides carried smooth bore infantry arms for the most part. Artilery was a different matter. Federal cannons were by and large of larger caliber and/or rifled. 12 pound smooth bores and 3 inch rifles. Six-pounders abounded on the Confederate side, and they had very few rifles. So advantage USA there, by a good margin.

      • J. March 21, 2011 / 10:35 am

        Yes, but then….one can only assume the rebels at FBR used the smaller, horsedrawn cannons more effectively or something–Bory’s quasi-napoleonic tactics. But in terms of the rifles (ie Union’s enfields/mausers), the rebels were always outgunned–muskets, a few primitive shotguns, bayonets, pikes, etc . So though the crossroads regs don’t care for speculation—it looks
        f**ked from the start in terms of materiel. I guess one blames the secessionist politicians, but it’s not unreasonable to call RE Lee a bumbler for not realizing how the lack of guns would cripple the south

        • Harry Smeltzer March 21, 2011 / 10:58 am

          At BR1, McDowell advanced two batteries closer to the Confederate position on Henry House Hill, which cost much of the advantage in caliber and rifling. But I think your impression of small arms is not quite right, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. In fact, the Rebels used more British Enfields than did the USA, who primarily used Springfields. Muskets, by the way, were both smooth bore and rifled, on both sides – there really is no “rifle versus musket” issue. And in certain situations smoothebores were considered more effective than rifles (this was true of artillery as well). The advantage in small arms for the north came late in the war when repeating weapons were more widely used.

          • J. March 21, 2011 / 11:12 am

            Lee had, after ’62 or so captured many union weapons—so seizing union guns was part of his MO. Read the usual reports of Shiloh, for one–the rebels had very poor equipment, and the few Enfields were mostly in the hands of the Kentucky turncoats or whatever they’re called, and most of the guns were muskets. The rebel soldiers in fact often were not issued a firearm but brought some ancient shotgun or musket from the farm/ranch, etc.

            While I don’t presume to be an expert in the materiel issue, it’s fairly obvious that from the start the secessionists were outgunned, and that’s on the shoulders of the generals/politicians–the West Point gang in particular

          • J. March 21, 2011 / 5:11 pm

            Mallet’s “The Ordnance of the Confederacy” presents the ordnance handicap issue fairly well–


            “”””With this handicap, the States entered the greatest war in American history. President Jefferson Davis said that “it soon became evident to all that the South had gone to war without counting the cost.”””””

            ‘Nuff said. Or nearly

          • Bob Huddleston March 22, 2011 / 10:35 am

            The Photographic History is hardly a good source. After the surrender of Vicksburg, Yankee troops willingly exchange their obsolescent smooth bores for Rebel Enfields. For a more modern source, I would suggest Joseph Bilby’s _CW Firearms: Their Historical Background, Tqctical Use and Modern Collecting and Shooting (Coshohocken, PA, 1996).

          • J. March 22, 2011 / 11:35 am

            Colonel Mallet’s essay on CSA Ordnance may not be the final word but interesting and relevant, and tends to confirm the thesis that the rebels started with a severe handicap (and IMHE shows the culpability of the CSA brass, west point in particular). Some chess match when you start without a rook (or two).

            Why I linked to it–but you confirmed my point above–that the yankees had many Enfields as well as the Springfields. The rebels had them too–probably many appropriated from the North

  11. Michael Bartley March 21, 2011 / 10:12 am

    I am sorry if this is not the kind of question you want but it is the question that has been on my mind since I discovered this blog. I am finishing the trilogy on TR by Edmund Morris. Long long wait on that fine work. I held off starting it until I could read all three together. Now, there is a certain blogger on this site that has written the first of two on US Grant. It sits lonely on my shelf waiting for the presidential years to join it. When published I will purchase it and read them both, I am certain, with a great joy. Perhaps, I will even pick up some traits of Grants that won’t drive my wife nuts like I do now with endless “dee-lighted” and “bully” peppering my speech. So for my wife’s sake, please finish the job. Can you tell me when that will be?

    • Margaret D. Blough March 21, 2011 / 5:14 pm

      I always thought the best description of TR was by his daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth, “Papa always wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.”

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:09 am

      It will be finished when it’s finished, and in shorter time than it took Morris to complete his fine biography.

      • Michael Bartley March 23, 2011 / 9:26 am

        I feel as if I’ve asked a question that you may be sick of answering. If that’s the case, I am sorry to bug you. The question however was heartfelt and respectful. I really do look forward to the conclusion and the work as a whole. Just one more point. I am old. It will be hard to read when I am dead. To much dust and such plus I believe retention levels fall dramatically after death. Just sayin’…

        • Brooks D. Simpson March 23, 2011 / 11:23 am

          It’s not that I’m tired of answering the question. What I’ve learned is that it’s a tough question to answer, given life’s unexpected turns. Also, the fact is that the biography is one of several concerns, public and private. I think that if I were simply a writing historian that would be different.

    • Al Mackey March 22, 2011 / 5:55 am

      The more I think about this, the more I think Magness and Page are constructing an elaborate straw man. We already know Lincoln pursued colonization into 1864, so their fixation on 1863 makes me very suspicious.

      “Lincoln gave it up and in February, 1864, ordered a ship to return the surviving colonists [from Ile A’ Vache, Haiti] to the United States. Congress gave the coup de grace to colonization in July, 1864, by repealing all provisions of the legislation of 1862 appropriating funds for colonization purposes.” [James M. McPherson, “Abolitionist and Negro Opposition to Colonization During the Civil War,” _Phylon,_ Vol XXXVI, No. 4, Winter, 1965, p. 398] Lincoln signed this measure.

      David H. Donald wrote of Lincoln, “the failure of his colonization schemes had taught him that African-Americans were, and would remain, a permanent part of the American social fabric. He believed that the more intelligent blacks, especially those who served in the army, were entitled to the suffrage. Hence he encouraged the education of the freedmen, and he supported the Freedmen’s Bureau to protect them from exploitation by their former masters.” [David H. Donald, _Lincoln,_ p. 583] This section deals with Lincoln in 1865.

      As Gabor Boritt wrote, “Colonization was dead and Lincoln did not mourn. He did not march backwards.” [Gabor Boritt, “Did He Dream of a Lily-White America? The Voyage to Linconia,” in Gabor Boritt, ed., _The Lincoln Enigma,_ p. 17] This comes after the failed attempt off Haiti in 1864.

      In 1864, John Hay recorded in his diary that Lincoln had “sloughed off” all these notions of colonization. [John Hay, _The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay,_ p. 217, quoted in Ibid., p. 8] I’ve not heard of Magness and Page having anything to contradict Hay.

      Colonization, incidentally, didn’t end with Lincoln. “The American
      Colonization Society continued its work and in the thirty years following
      the war sent out more than four thousand emigrants.” [Brainerd Dyer, “The Persistencer of the Idea of Negro Colonization,” _Pacific Historical Review,_ Vol XII, No. 1, March, 1943, p. 61]

      Wade Hampton proposed colonization in 1890 in an article titled “The Race Problem” published in _The Arena,_ Vol 2, July, 1890. William Patrick Calhoun, a Greenville, South Carolina writer, wrote a book in 1902 called _The Caucasian and Negro in the United States. They Must be Separate. If Not, Then Extermination. A Proposed Solution: Colonization._

      In 1939, Mississippi Senator Theodore G. Bilbo introduced legislation in
      Congress that called for the federal government to support a large-scale
      voluntary migration of blacks to Liberia. [Congressional Record, 76th
      Congress, 1st Session, 4647, 4650-4676]

      And, of course, President Grant had a threat of colonization that was supported by Frederick Douglass.

      • J. March 22, 2011 / 10:36 am

        MacPherson, the official voice of the liberal-CW historian, AKA milquetoast . For that matter, Douglass’s narrative while…somewhat interesting is not reliable historical testimony. But maybe gets you in with some of the collegetown marxistas, Al

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:13 am

      The uncovering of the new documents is interesting, but otherwise it’s not a narrative-changer. Lincoln did not publicly push for colonization after he issued the EP; his comments after that point accept the notion that substantial numbers of blacks would remain in a reUnited States. At best these other endeavors looked to open options for the freedpeople, rather than evidence that colonization remained Lincoln’s preferred solution. Other scholars were already aware of the post-1/1/63 dealings, although not to this extent.

  12. Matt McKeon March 21, 2011 / 1:54 pm

    Why did you ask about Civil War movies?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:15 am

      Because so many people seem to get their history visually, and I’d argue that three movies (Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, and Glory) have had an important role in shaping how Americans remember this era.

  13. Matt McKeon March 21, 2011 / 1:56 pm

    Tomorrow I’m going to begin the unit on the Civil War in United States History I. My class is 6-8(depending on the court) high school students who have been diagnosed with social-emotional disabilities. What should I emphasis in this unit?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:19 am

      Well, I would take students into the minds of prewar Americans, and demonstrate (a) a debate about America’s future and (b) the different assumptions on which they operated. In so doing, I’d stress that people in the past did not always think as we do. I’d stress the need to understand past actors instead of rushing to judge them, as some do.

  14. Richard March 21, 2011 / 3:43 pm

    At a recent presentation, a speaker said to understand African-American history in the United States, you have to consider three nouns: 1. contradiction 2. struggle 3. perseverance.

    Could those three apply to the Civil War too, or would there be better choices to keep in mind when studying the war?

    Is this a too simplistic approach to studying history?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:23 am

      Could they apply? Sure, depending on how these concepts are deployed. Are they the best choices? Depends on what story you want to tell. I find the notion of unintended consequences useful, in that war changes things.

      I think simple concepts serve best as ways to open the door to studying history. I don’t think they serve well as operating assumptions that shape one’s continuing inquiry. The whole idea is to make the complex understandable, not to simplifying it to the point that it becomes distorted. I find this especially true when we talk about slavery’s role in the coming of the war or in the role of racism in shaping events during the era.

  15. Zac March 21, 2011 / 3:52 pm

    Which grad schools have the best history programs in regards to the Civil War Era?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 11:27 am

      Programs? I take that to mean clusters of faculty, and I’d distinguish between the Civil War proper and wider areas of interest. I’d say that the University of Virginia and Penn State have two of the top-rank programs for Civil War studies. That said, I think graduate training should be broader than that for most people, and there you would have to look at programs in thematic areas (say Ohio State for military history), prominent faculty (say the University of Florida, with Bill Link and Matt Gallman), or in areas where faculty have been able to mentor/train students in the field (here I think Gary Gallagher’s an excellent model, as is/was Ed Ayers, who has now crossed the great divide into administration by heading the University of Richmond). There are other places I could mention, but those are some of the places one should consider.

  16. cyd March 22, 2011 / 3:46 pm

    What’s your opinion of the New York Time’s Disunion series so far, and will you be getting involved in it at some point?

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 22, 2011 / 10:48 pm

      There have been some strong entries, and some with mixed results. I think the essays are pitched to a more interested readership than the efforts offered by the Washington Post. As for my potential future involvement, that’s not my call.

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