Earl Hess’s productivity over the past five years is nothing short of mind-boggling. Imagine my surprise when UNC Press mailed me the latest in their Littlefield History of the Civil War series. While most people are still getting through his trilogy on Civil War earthworks Hess has released three more.
Virginia M. Adams, On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier’s Civil War Letters from the Front (University of Massachusetts Press, 1991).
Stephen Berry ed., Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War’s Ragged Edges (University of Georgia Press, 2011).
R. Blakeslee Gilpin, John Brown Still Lives!: America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
Earl J. Hess, The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
Noah A. Trudeau, Voices of the 55th: Letters from the 55th Massachusetts Volunteers, 1861-1865 (Morningside Press, 1996).
Well, not really. But if anyone out there is looking to integrate some of the more bizarre Charlie Sheen quotes into your Civil War midterm exam you may want to check Professor Nicolas Proctor’s test. From the NoLeftTurns: The Ashbrook Center Blog–
For my American Civil War midterm, the extra credit was a set of Charlie Sheen quotations. Students could match up to ten of them to appropriate Civil War leaders in particular circumstances. They then had to provide a brief explanation for each match. So, for example, a good answer for #10 would be: “Grant after the fall of Forts Henry and Donalson.” Similarly, a good answer for #5 could be “Forrest while raiding in central Tennessee.”
- I will deploy my ordinance to the ground.
- I don’t sleep; I wait.
- “Can’t” is the cancer of “happen.”
- I’m a high priest Vatican warlock.
- I have one speed; I have one gear: GO!
- They’re the best at what they do. I’m the best at what I do, and it is ON!
- I think my passion is misinterpreted as anger sometimes. And I don’t think people are ready for the message that I’m delivering, and delivering with a sense of violent love.
- I’m here and I’m ready. They’re not. Bring it.
- That we are to stand by the President right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
- I’m bi-winning. I win here. I win there.
- Life comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.
- Boom, crush. Night, losers. Winning, duh.
- Fame is empowering. My mistake was that I thought I would instinctively know how to handle it. But there’s no manual, no training course.
- Here’s the good news. If I realize that I’m insane, then I’m okay with it. I’m not dangerous insane.
- I have defeated this earthworm with my words. Imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists.
James Monroe Trotter, 55th Massachusetts
Yesterday I spent the day at the Massachusetts Historical Society examining materials related to the 55th Massachusetts as you suggested. I’m glad I did. As you noted in our conversation last week, no one has written a regimental history of the unit, which is surprising given the incredibly rich written record left by these men. It didn’t take long for me to begin to get a sense of the profile of these men and it certainly didn’t take long for me to grow attached to their story. I guess that is the question: What exactly is their story?
Well, whatever it is, their story is not a traditional narrative framed around bloody battles and popular campaigns. The 55th Mass. saw very little heavy fighting apart from the battle of Honey Hill outside of Charleston in 1864. At the center of their story is the pay crisis, which lasted for over a year. One of the things I want to explore is just how close the men came to mutinying over the pay crisis. Their published newspaper accounts and letters to public officials are very careful to distinguish between their disappointment over not being paid the promised monthly wage and the level of discontent in the unit. The relationship between enlisted men and white officers needs to be examined as well. The letters concerning unequal pay are quite eloquent in the way they frame the overall meaning of the war for these men. This story is as much a battle for civil rights within the United States as it is about a war to preserve the Union and end slavery.
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Those of you interested in how the evolution of digital technology has transformed the writing and publication of history will want to check out Writing History in the Digital Age, which is an open-review collection of essays edited by Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki. This is an interesting experiment. You have access to a fairly large number of essays and comments can be added to each paragraph. This open review process will continue until Nov. 14 when the editors will select those essays that will be included in the volume.
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