Weekend Update

Civil War News has published an article in which Dr. Thomas P. Lowry claims that the results of a polygraph test demonstrate that he is telling the truth about being falsely accused by the NARA of tampering with a document signed by Abraham Lincoln.

Just thought someone might want to know, although this would seem to be old news.

A Federal Sesquicentennial Commission After All?

In the category of “Better Late than Never … Maybe,” news comes that Senators Jim Webb (D-Va) and Mary Landrieu (D-La) have reintroduced legislation to establish a Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

Although there have been demands for such a commission from some corners, I wonder whether at this point such a commission would really add very much to the commemoration (as opposed to a few more lines on some people’s resumes).  By the time such a commission gets going, it may find itself in the position of following and improvising instead of leading anything.

Confederate Capitulation … February 1865

Historians tend to prefer to examine how wars start rather than how they end, and historians of the American Civil War tend to focus on the decisions made by President Abraham Lincoln while slighting those made by his Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis.  One way to reverse both of these trends is to ask why Davis did not accept the deal Lincoln was willing to offer the Confederacy in February 1865: namely, immediate surrender, followed by compensated emancipation, possibly implemented in stages.  That’s basically what Lincoln offered at the Hampton Roads Conference in 1865.  Fresh from having seen the passage through Congress of a proposed Thirteenth Amendment designed to abolish slavery constitutionally across the entire United States, Lincoln, largely at the urging of Ulysses S. Grant, traveled to Hampton Roads, Virginia, the site of the engagement between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia in March 1862, to talk to a trio of Confederate commissioners led by his old acquaintance, Alexander H. Stephens, then vice president of the Confederacy.  Although historians sometimes debate exactly what Lincoln proposed as terms of a final peace settlement, it is clear that he was willing one last time to return to compensated emancipation as part of a settlement based upon Confederate capitulation.  Davis rejected the offer out of hand, and the war continued.

Did Davis make the right choice?  Continue reading

What’s a Soldier? Who’s a Soldier?

One of the flash points in the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) debate over “black Confederates” is the definition of a “soldier.”  I’m not quite sure why that is.  A soldier in the Civil War enlisted or was conscripted to service for a period of time.  That term of service varied (there were 90 day terms, nine month terms [Stannard’s Vermonters at Gettysburg], and terms of one, two, and three years), and sometimes there was a debate as to a term’s precise length (state service versus federal service, for example).  On the whole, however, everyone at the time seemed to understand the definition of a soldier as someone who had enlistment papers, was listed on the unit roster and classified as a soldier, and so on, with additional documentation for officers.  One would identify such soldiers in federal service, for example, by examining what are called “Combined Service Records.”

Continue reading

Lincoln’s Colonization versus Grant’s Annexation

As I reviewed the comments offered over the past week I noticed one that compared Lincoln’s advocacy of colonization with Grant’s desire to annex the Dominican Republic.  At first glance, this might make some sense.  Both plans addressed common concerns: both addressed the issue of racial prejudice, and both sought to give blacks a chance elsewhere.  However, that’s about as far as it goes.  I’ve written about Grant’s interest in annexation before, and his reasons for it, but for now I’ll make a few short points:

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Update (Yes, Another One …) on Thomas Lowry vs. the NARA

Over at TOCWOC, Brett Schulte has posted on information relayed to him by Dr. Thomas Lowry regarding the Lincoln Pardon Controversy (for those of you who want to track the pogress of the controversy, you can do so through clicking “Lincoln Pardon Controversy” in “Categories”).  Lowry’s provided the texts of two emails sent him on September 14, 2010 by Mitchell Yockelson of the NARA.

It’s interesting to compare this information with the claim Lowry posted last month on his single-post blog, in which he said:

Sometime in 2010 the Archives staff noticed the overwrite. They claim that they tried to reach me and that I was “evasive.” That is simply a falsehood, a fabrication. We have been at the same address for thirteen years, with the same phone number and same e-mail address for those same thirteen years. We rarely travel. We have voice mail. Neither of us would forget a query from the National Archives. The first we knew of this “discovery” was the unannounced knock on our front door.

It’s difficult to reconcile this claim Continue reading

Let’s Play Nice

I’ve just returned from a week in London, having scheduled posts to go up and be commented upon in my absence.  I can see that in several cases posts have been the topic of robust and vigorous conversation.  That’s welcomed.  No need to worry that expressing dissent is cause for trouble.  However, I detect that some of the exchanges soon become sharp  and personal; I’ve also seen a few cases where posts have explored the border between acceptable and unacceptable commentary when it comes to certain topic areas, such as religion and religious faiths.  I’m inclined to review those posts and edit what I deem to be comments that cross that line.  If you find that unacceptable, I’m not terribly concerned, because there’s always the usenet group alt.war.civil.usa as a forum for unrestrained personal abuse and insult, and, from what I see, that’s a rather good description of the contents of that group, at least as it concerns real humans posting.