“The Geography of Emancipation”

I was unable to attend the most recent biennial meeting of the Society of Civil War Historians back in June so I missed the keynote address by Gary Gallagher and Ed Ayers.  Luckily, C-SPAN was there and recorded the entire session.  I am particularly interested in Gallagher’s talk since it encompasses much of what will be included in his forthcoming book, The Union War.  Gallagher argues that the role of Union forces must be acknowledged in any attempt to understand the progress of emancipation during the war.  In doing so he challenges the self-emancipation thesis as well as the more popular image of Lincoln as the “great emancipator.”  Here is a short clip of Gallagher’s talk while you can find the entire session here.

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This looks good, and I will have to watch the entire talk. To say that the role of the Union army has to be acknowledged is, to me, a vast understatement. In teaching emancipation, I frame the entire topic around the movement of Union armies, encountering and confronting slaves and slavery, and the problems this poses for the military as well as the opportunities presented to slaves, as fundamental to the entire process. A time-frame map showing the progress of Union armies illustrates this well.

I would suggest that there was at least one exception to the racial attitudes of mid-nineteenth century American whites which Gary, in his splendid presentation, sees as universal. That exception was John Brown. Nowhere in my readings on the man have I encountered reference to a time when he did not practice a species of equality that was virtually non-existent among others, and that won him the love of the black community to this day.

You make a good point. Brown’s exceptionalism is clearly analyzed in David S. Reynolds’s recent biography. Although I don’t entirely agree with her thesis I found it interesting that Gallagher didn’t cite Chandra Manning’s work on Civil War soldiers.

Kevin, in Gallagher’s “Union War” he makes his disdain for Chandra Manning’s work very clear .

I think “disdain” is a bit too strong, but he clearly disagrees with her conclusions.

Thanks for posting this- very interesting. I’m off to watch the rest of it on C-span right away.

You are quite welcome. The last time I checked there seems to be something wrong with the full video.

There was at first, got it to work though….. if it’s working here in Australia it’ll probably be O.K. there now (or soon)!
The link made by Gallagher between USCT recruitment and states where the U.S. Army had a presence was fascinating. It’s kind of obvious, in retrospect, but I had never actually considered it before.

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