11 thoughts on “The Sunday Question: Three Questions

  1. James F. Epperson March 27, 2011 / 11:55 am

    (a) Reconstruction
    (b) Siege of Petersburg
    (c) The advantages that the South had

    • Margaret D. Blough March 27, 2011 / 12:03 pm

      I agree, especially on No. 3. The Lost Cause has thoroughly planted the idea of the Confederates fighting despite overwhelming odds against Confederate independence prevailing. You read secessionist literature and even private correspondence and, except for a few Cassandras who were ignored, secessionists thought nothing of the kind. They not only expected to prevail; they rejected the idea there would be any meaningful resistance from the US government and the free states (it also didn’t seem to occur to them that there would be slave states that would refuse to join the rebellion.)

  2. Mark March 27, 2011 / 12:18 pm

    1) The violent, nearly lunatic efforts by the Southern leaders for decades to spread slavery, culminating the the Civil War.

    2) The cruel, violent, tyrantical nature of the Southern leaders, particularly from 1850 to 1861.

    3) The politically corrrect nonsense where we prentend the above wasn’t true

  3. JeremyRinnard March 27, 2011 / 3:29 pm

    A. North and South suspensions of Habeas Corpus

    B. Black Colonization

    C. Naval warfare innovations from the war

  4. bret curry March 27, 2011 / 4:04 pm

    I think the most misunderstood aspect of the Civil War is the election of 1864. The basic narrative in most Civil War histories appears to be that the election was the most critical in American history, that it the defeat of Lincoln would have meant the loss of the war and that the election campaign saw wild swings in public opinion, with Lincoln coming from behind to win because Atlanta, Mobile Bay and Cedar Creek. I think all of these assertions are dubious.

    Regarding the importance of the election to the outcome of the war, I see two big problems. 1) By the time McClellan would have been inagurated, the war was so clearly won that even a Copperhead wouldn’t have thrown the victory away 2) McClellan was no Copperhead.

    The election would seem to be important to Reconstruction, but even here its impact seems murky. Would McClellan have repealed the Emancipation Proclamation? Would his reconstruction policies been worse/softer than Johnsons? Would he be relected given the high expectations and harsh realities of the post Civil War period? I think the answer to all three questions is probably not.

    Regarding the 1864 election as a horse race, the big problem with idea of Lincoln come from behind victory is that there was no opinion polling in 1864. Absent polling, we don’t really know with any certainty what the state of public opinon was, or how it changed over the course of 1864.

    Before polling, political parties estimated public opinon on the basis of the congressional and state elections held almost continously and through their extensive political organizations (including newspapers) sounding out opinion in various localties. My impression was that this usually provided a reasonably accurate estimate.

    The problem with this is that 1864 was an unprecented political situation and the established rules of thumb may not have applied. There had never been a Presidential election in wartime. Did Democratic victories in congresional/state races indicate a desire a get rid of Lincoln or were they more a way of signalling discontent? How many of the soldiers away from home would be able to vote? Would McClellan have a strong appeal to soldier voters? Republican fears of a likely election defeat seem to me to have been based on excessively alarmist answers to these questions.

  5. Chuck Brown March 27, 2011 / 4:46 pm

    1. the role of race (white supremacy, specifically) as a unifying factor among southern whites
    2. an examination of Confederate attitudes toward black soldiers (no, not Black Confederates)
    3. the Lost Cause as discussed (if at all) in high school textbooks and classes

  6. Anna Bishop March 27, 2011 / 5:33 pm

    a) the role of black soldiers in the Union Army
    b) The Fort Pillow Massacre
    c) the role of cavalry

  7. Stephen Graham March 27, 2011 / 9:58 pm

    a) Reconstruction, especially wartime efforts;
    b) International dimensions of the war, extending beyond Britain and France; and
    c) the war in the Transmississippi.

  8. Daniel Sauerwein March 28, 2011 / 10:25 am

    a) Definitely Reconstruction

    b) The Trans-Mississippi Theater

    c) The story of camps of instruction and soldier training in general

    While the scholarship on soldiers has blossomed over the last couple decades, I still believe there is room for the story of where soldiers trained upon their initial entry into the army and what life was like for them during that training. Not only is it a departure from the usual focus on the campaigning periods, it also allows for communities far removed from battlefield sites to have their own connection to the war.

  9. Daniel R. Weinfeld March 28, 2011 / 11:19 am

    a. Misunderstood: agreeing with the concensus – Reconstruction. I’ve yet to find anyone without at least a B.A. in American history who has a basic understanding of this era. Unfortunately, the GWTW/Birth of a Nation-type image of rapacious carpetbaggers and unprepared African American politicians still dominates popular perception.
    b. Underexamined: Reconstruction again. In Civil War popular history, the enduring books are the grand narratives with some analysis mixed in. The major Reconstruction books, on the other hand, are thematic and scholarly to the extent that few are popularly accessible. There needs to be more work done to combine narrative and analysis in making Reconstruction comprehensible to non-scholars.
    c. Underappreciated: the Freedmen’s Bureau: this remarkable institution turns out to have been far more effective and its staff often more determined, and even idealistic, than has been perceived.

  10. R. Alex Raines March 28, 2011 / 2:44 pm

    Wow, Mark, what a troll you are.

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