Category Archives: Civil War Historians

“Become an Independent Scholar and Do What You Love” – Keith Harris

Earlier today my friend, Keith Harris, published his manifesto encouraging people in his position to “reject the academic job market.”

Here is my advice: become an independent scholar and do what you love.

Having known Keith for a number of years I am not surprised by what I read. It’s straight and to the point. Without forming much of an opinion one way or the other I re-tweeted the post. Keith thanked me and suggested that I share my thoughts on the blog. At first I resisted, but taking a break from student comment writing is just what the doctor ordered, so here it goes. Continue reading

Northern Soldiers, Race, and the Crater

battle of the craterI am really enjoying the opportunity to go back and review the letters and diaries of white Northern soldiers who fought at the Crater. Now that I’ve done so I regret not going deeper into these wartime accounts in the book. Hopefully, this little essay project will make up for it. In this post I want to share a couple soldier accounts from the battle and solicit some feedback.  Continue reading

Common-place Commemorates Civil War at 150

logo-cp-civilIn a few weeks the online journal, Common-place, will publish a special issue on the Civil War Sesquicentennial that Megan Kate Nelson and I edited. The issue features essays by Caroline Janney, Ari Kelman, Manisha Sinha, John Hennessy, among others. They cover a wide range of topics that will be of interest to academic and public historians, educators, and Civil War enthusiasts.

Megan and I are very excited about this project and are very much looking forward to its publication. For now we wanted to give you a little taste of the issue by sharing our Editors’ Note.

The Civil War at 150: Memory and Meaning

The making of Civil War memory began not only after the war ended, but also in camps, on battlefields, and in homes across the nation as early as the spring of 1861. Officers wrote battle reports and soldiers jotted down diary entries, describing their experiences and shaping the war’s many histories. They picked up cotton bolls and shards of trees, bullets and buttons, and sent these souvenirs home as records of their wartime experiences. After 1865, veterans and their families pondered these relics and thought about their wartime experiences, telling stories and sharing memories of those who had fallen in battle. Continue reading

“Bruce Catton’s Civil War and Ours”

David Blight at Gettysburg CollegeI just finished watching David Blight’s Fortenbaugh Lecture at Gettysburg College, which took place back in November. His lecture, “Ambivalent about Tragedy:  Bruce Catton’s Civil War and Ours” is well worth watching. His thoughts on historical writing and tragedy are particularly interesting. As usual I could have listened to him for another 75 minutes. Definitely check it out when you have the chance.

Congratulations to fellow Bostonian Nina Silber for being selected to deliver the 2014 address. She is currently researching a book on Civil War memory during the New Deal, which I can’t wait to read.

Interpreting the White Scapegoating of the 4th Division at the Crater

Chandra ManningI am a big fan of Chandra Manning’s book, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking book and especially helpful when it comes to understanding how Confederates conceptualized the importance of slavery throughout the war. However, I am less convinced by her analysis of how the bitter fighting in the spring and summer of 1864 effected the attitudes of Northern soldiers regarding slavery and civil rights.

While I agree with Manning that by the summer of 1863 many of the men in the ranks accepted the necessity of ending slavery for the sake of the war effort and the Union she goes on to argue that these men had also been inspired to “consider more thoughtfully their own obligations to overcome  racial prejudice and promote at least some basic rights for black Americans…” (153). By 1864, according to Manning, military setbacks and other problems caused these men to “back away” from “a world of increasing racial equality and black rights.” Continue reading