I am scrapping the black Confederate book project. I just don’t have it in me to work on it anymore. There is nothing intellectually challenging about it and it only works to frustrate me when I think about some of the characters that I would have to address in the memory section. I’ve got an essay on the subject coming out in the December issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era and I may write up one long essay that covers a large chunk of research for another publication, but that’s it. I want to get my hands dirty again and actually figure something out. It’s on to Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew.
I’ve been thinking about Andrew for some time now, but reading through Thomas O’Connor’s excellent book, Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield, pushed me over the edge.
The lack of any biographical studies of Northern governors constitutes a huge gap in our understanding of a wide range of issues related to the Civil War. A study of Governor Andrew can shed light on the middle ground between self-emancipation among slaves and emancipation policies coming from Washington, D.C. I suspect there is also a good deal to learn about how the governor managed to stitch together a united front early in the war, especially given the ethnic profile of Boston and its surroundings.
For now I am going to try to take a bite out of one relatively narrow subject related to the war. I want to know how Andrew communicated with and helped to prepare the officers and rank-and-file from Massachusetts for the coming of emancipation. The question is directly influenced by Jonathan White’s outstanding new book, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln, which challenges the long-standing assumption that the 1864 soldier vote constituted support of Lincoln, the Republican Party and emancipation. Massachusetts raised and fielded a large number of regiments at the beginning of the war and was at the forefront of the recruitment of black regiments by 1863. How did Andrew steer what many must have viewed as a radical and unacceptable course?
It’s a huge undertaking and right now my attention is focused on the new school year, which is fast approaching. Most of Andrew’s papers are located at the Massachusetts Historical Society, which is easily accessible as well as a huge number of related papers.
Time do some real history again.