This essay by Lisa A. Brady offers food for thought on a subject that does not readily come to mind: the environmental history of the American Civil War. And yet environmental (and geographical) questions loom large in several discussions of the war (and the coming of the war). For example, as white southerners pressed for the expansion of slavery into the Southwest, how did they envision the peculiar institution functioning in a different environment than that where plantation slavery flourished? We know something about the impact of terrain on strategy, operations, and battlefield movements, but what about the impact of conflict on the environment? How does that environment shape warmaking? Recall here Robert E. Lee’s argument against moving westward to challenge Grant at Vicksburg … that the diseases characteristic of a swampy environment would decimate Grant’s command? And one might argue that poor agricultural seasons in 1866 and especially 1867 might have doomed a policy of confiscation and redistribution before it got off the ground in terms of assuring black autonomy.
So give the article a look and share your reactions.