Civil War Odds And Ends

The latest issue of the journal Civil War History includes a few announcements that readers may find of interest.  First, the Pennsylvania State University Libraries has completed a publicly accessible, full-text database of Pennsylvania Civil War Era newspapers.  The site includes digital facsimiles of newspapers from 10 Pennsylvania communities, including Gettysburg, Chambersburg, and Philadelphia. 

In the area of book prizes the Organization of American Historians has awarded Anne Sarah Rubin’s A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868 (University of North Carolina Press, 2005) the Avery O. Craven Award.  The Museum of the Confederacy also recently announced that While in the Hands of the Enemy: Military Prisons of the Civil War (LSU Press, 2005) by Charles W. Sander has been awarded the 2005 Jefferson Davis Award. 

Congratulations to both authors.  I have not had a chance to read the second book, but I highly recommend Rubin’s book.  Rubin does not get bogged down with the question of whether Confederates managed to attain sufficient nationalism; rather, she examines the ways in which white southerners expressed their nationalism both through the war and into the immediate postwar years.  Click here for Michael Perman’s H-Net Review of Rubin’s study. 

I know they are both university press books, but you should be safe.


Religion And The Civil War

First let me apologize for the continual change to this blog’s appearance.  For some reason I get bored with the look of it and find a need to explore other possibilities.  I’m sure I was an interior decorator in a past life.

The other day I posted some concerns about so-called Christian studies of the Civil War.  As many of you now know it led to an interesting dialog with a fellow blogger who challenged some of the assumptions that lay behind the post.  I wish the focus would have been more on the specific points made, but that was not to be.  Anyway, I thought I would offer a short reading list for those of you who are interested in historical studies that actually take religion seriously.

A great place to start is the edited collection by Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, and Charles R. Wilson titled Religion and the American Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1998) and Mark Noll’s short, but thorough The Civil War As A Theological Crisis (UNC Press, 2006).  Harry Stout’s Upon The Altar of The Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War (Viking, 2006) gives the reader a chance to think about the war as a moral crisis brought about in part by conflicting theological assumptions.  I plan to use part of this book next year in my Civil War elective.  Though it is hard going the new book by Eugene and Elizabeth-Fox Genovese, titled The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholder’s Worldview (Cambridge University Press, 2006) provides the most thorough analysis of the role of religion among wealthy white Southerners.  Although I have not read it I’ve heard very good things about Michael O’Brien’s Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the South, 1810-1860 (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

On religion and Civil War soldiers there is no better place to start than Steven Woodworth’s While God Is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (University of Kansas Press, 2003).  One of the best soldier diaries is Diary of a Christian Soldier: Rufus Kinsley and the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2003.

There are numerous studies that I believe address the fundamental interpretive mistakes contained in many so-called Christian biographies/studies of the Civil War.  The best place to start is Charles R. Wilson’s Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 (University of Georgia Press, 1981).  Get through that and take a look at David Goldfield’s Still Fighting the Civil War: The American South and Southern History (LSU Press, 2004) and Daniel Stowell’s Rebuilding Zion: The Religious Reconstruction of the South, 1863-1877 (Oxford University Press, 2005).  Finally there is Edward J. Blum’s Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (LSU Press, 2005).

This list doesn’t even constitute the tip of the iceberg.  Feel free to offer any additional suggestions.  I did not attempt to be inclusive; many of these studies offer broad interpretations of the Civil War and religion.  The titles in the last section should give you some  idea of why Americans continue to interpret Confederate generals such as Lee, Jackson, and Stuart as religious icons that almost appear to stand outside of history entirely.  Happy reading!


The Crater In The Classroom

As many of you know my Civil War elective has both a research and reading component.  In reference to the latter my students read a series of articles that address many of the important interpretive debates of recent years.  We’ve read articles by Gary Gallagher, James McPherson, Peter Carmichael, James Marten, David Blight, and Drew Faust.  A few weeks ago one of my students asked if we could read one of my publications.  I resisted at first, but a few of the other students chimed in in support of the request.  So today the class came prepared to discuss "On That Day You Consummated the Full Measure of Your Fame": Remembering the Battle of the Crater, 1864-1903" which appeared in the 2004 issue of the journal Southern Historian (pp. 18-39). 

I have to say that it felt just a little awkward at the beginning.  As they pulled out the article I noticed that a number of students had highlighted and/or written notes in the margins.  It was strange to see my own work dissected by my own students.  I always start by asking the class to explain the author’s thesis in the clearest terms.  As you can imagine it was a bit uncomfortable to ask, "What is Levin’s thesis?"  The article gave the class a clear sense of the broader project that I am close to finishing.  They asked about specific interpretations of evidence and clarification of other points.  As we discussed the main themes I showed some images of the Crater, Mahone, and the 1937 reenactment.  We had a nice discussion which revolved around the contrasting images of John Elder and Don Troiani and their depictions of black soldiers during the battle.  I spent a good chunk of time discussing Mahone’s political career and its effect on his war record.  I am willing to bet that the 11 students in this class will be the only students in the country to learn about the Readjusters.  All in all it was a fun class.

The semester is coming to an end in a few days and the class is finishing up research projects.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the students in this section and will miss them come January.


Do You YouTube?

I have to admit to being addicted to Youtube.  You can find some of the most obscure videos in just about every category.  I am a huge David Bowie fan and was amazed when I found a substantial number of videos from the mid- 1970’s – in my mind the most creative period of his career.  Bowie was one of the first to experiment with the music video format.  Here is a 1977 video of "Be My Wife" which is from the album Low; you can clearly see that Bowie was still dealing with heroine addiction at the time.  The album was the second of three recordings that he did with Brian Eno in Berlin, Germany.  Go to just about any point in his career and you find that Bowie was ten years ahead of the game.


A Welcome Addition To The Historical Landscape of Richmond

From the Virginia Daily Press: Ground was broken in Richmond yesterday for a monument near the site of a notorious slave jail. The slavery reconciliation plaza will feature a 13-foot bronze sculpture of two figures embracing. It also will have benches representing slave ships and a fountain meant to symbolize the waters crossed by Africans so long ago. It’s the last of three similar monuments placed at international locations central to the slave trade. The monument also will anchor a four-mile path of slavery-related sites running through the former capital of the Confederacy. The project is planned at a downtown Richmond corner in an area where historians believe Lumpkin’s Jail may have once stood. According to historical accounts, Robert Lumpkin bought slaves and kept them confined before selling them to plantation owners in other states.

"Whites in general have buried history out of guilt, and I think African-Americans have buried their history out of shame. The design is telling the story." — Rev. Sylvester Turner, with the Richmond Slave Trail Commission.

Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find a photograph.