The Confederacy, Southern Unionists, and Civil Liberties

This video is part of the Virginia Historical Society’s traveling exhibit, “An American Turning Point.”  It tackles the complex subject of southern unionists and the protection of civil liberties during wartime.  Questions surrounding civil liberties often come up in reference to the steps Lincoln took at various points during the war, but rarely comes up in the context of the Confederacy.  It’s nice to see the VHS tackling these subjects and for a short clip I think it does so effectively.  What do you think?

The best book on the subject is Mark Neely’s, Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism (University of Virginia Press, 1999).

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Acquisitions, 11/28

I have a huge stack of books that have yet to be cracked open, including the titles listed below, but I put them all on hold to read Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Random House, 2010).  It’s beautifully written and I can’t put it down.

William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, eds., Virginia at War, 1865 (University Press of Kentucky, 2011).

Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox Genovese, Fatal Self-Deception: Slaveholding Paternalism in the Old South (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

Richard Newman and James Mueller, eds., Antislavery and Abolition in Philadelphia: Emancipation and the Long Struggle for Racial Justice in the City of Brotherly Love (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

William Kauffman Scarborough, The Allstons of Chicora Wood: Wealth, Honor, and Gentility in the South Carolina Lowcountry (Louisiana State University Press, 2011).

Jonathan Daniel Wells and Jennifer R. Green, eds., The Southern Middle Class in the Long Nineteenth Century (Louisiana State University Press, 2011).

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Top Civil War Books for 2011 at The Civil War Monitor

Winter 2011

Yesterday I received the latest issue of The Civil War Monitor magazine.  I’ve only had a chance to skim through it, but the layout and content look great.  This issue includes essays by Glenn LaFantasie, James Marten, Steven Newton, and a pictorial piece by Ronald Coddington.  I recently purchased a 2-year subscription and I encourage you to do so as well.

This issue also includes selections for top books of 2011 by five historians including yours truly.  I am joined by George Rable, Robert K. Krick, Gerald Prokopowicz, and Ethan Rafuse.  What follows are my selections:

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The Future of Slavery

John Gast's "American Progress"

Much of our inquiry into history can be described as a metaphorical reaching back into the past.  We are not just looking for more facts, but a deeper meaning that somehow renders our own lives more intelligible.  Seeing our own lives as intertwined in the lives of those who came before us is at its root an act of the imagination. We often forget, however, that the people we study engaged in a similar act of the imagination by reaching out to those who would follow, including us.  I was reminded of this as I made my way through William G. Thomas’s excellent new book, The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America (Yale University Press, 2011).

As we all know, often our own need to reach back into the past is shaped by what we want or need to find rather than what the available evidence reveals.   Consider one of the most popular beliefs among Civil War buffs surrounding the future of slavery in 1860.  It comes in many forms, but at its center is the assumption that slavery was on a path to eventual extinction.  It’s pure speculation that is often wrapped in a desire to remove it from any  discussion related to the Civil War or from an underlying belief in the gradual progress of the nation as a whole.   In short, we need to believe that slavery’s days were numbered.

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The Pilgrims Caused the Civil War

Regardless of whether the first Thanksgiving began in Massachusetts or Virginia you can at least rest easy in knowing that this first generation of Americans is responsible for the Civil War.  Enter Dick Morris’s whacky world of American history at your own risk and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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