O’Connor’s Civil War Boston Back in Print

Civil War BostonI’ve devoured a good deal of Boston history since arriving in the city in 2011. Unfortunately and perhaps surprisingly, the one major gap in my understanding is the Civil War era. Apart from Thomas H. O’Connor’s Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield there is really nothing available. Stephen Puleo’s books are helpful, but they are more narrative and lack that analytical edge.

The one exception to this is Stephen Kantrowitz’s, More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889, which as the title suggests focuses on the racial dynamic of Boston.

O’Connor’s study was published back in 1997, but apparently it was allowed to go out of print. Thankfully, Northeastern University Press has seen fit to bring it back in a new paperback version.

I am three chapters in and it is quite good. O’Connor does an excellent job of analyzing the complex ethnic and racial make up of Boston during the 1850s as the sectional divide widened. Coverage of the varied response to John Brown’s raid is particularly good.

The book’s arrival was perfectly timed as I am putting together a lesson plan on Jefferson Davis’s 1858 visit to Boston, which included a speech at Faneuil Hall. The speech fits perfectly into the period between the Dred Scott decision and John Brown’s raid. Among other things Davis was clearly attempting to reinforce ties between northern and southern Democrats on the eve of the 1860 presidential election and reaching out to conservative Bostonians who remained sympathetic to the South for various reasons.

I decided to turn this into an essay for one of the Civil War magazines. More on that later.

CraterThanks for reading this post. Scroll down, leave a comment and join the conversation. Follow me on Twitter and join the Civil War Memory Facebook group for continuous updates and additional links to newsworthy items from around the interwebs. Stay up to date by subscribing to this blog’s feed. You can also check out my recently published book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

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