What Union Meant

I’ve said it before that I often find it difficult to teach my students the concept of Union as it was understood during the Civil War era by the vast majority of Americans. We have some sense of why white Southerners took up arms for the Confederacy. It’s a tangible explanation that each of us can easily empathize with, but Union often seems abstract. Arguably this difficulty tells us much more about our own views of the federal government and the level of trust we place in our elected leaders since the 1970s. Continue reading “What Union Meant”

Some Thoughts About Civil War Historians and Social Media

In response to my last post a reader inquired into a point I made in passing:

Also, can you clarify what you mean by your statement that “we need to think about the ways in which social media is shaping the organization of relatively small conferences like the SCWH”?

Let me respond by taking a step back. Continue reading “Some Thoughts About Civil War Historians and Social Media”

In Defense of Hess, Gallagher, and Meier

My good friend, Megan Kate Nelson, has fired the first solid shot in response to essays on the state of Civil War military history published in The Journal of the Civil War Era and Civil War History. The former was authored by Gary Gallagher and Katy Meier and the latter was written by Earl Hess. I encourage you to head on over to Megan’s blog to read her post as well as the thoughtful responses. I’ve had a chance to read both essays, but other than a brief post have not offered anything more comprehensive. While I do believe that both essays offer quite a bit to consider, the authors unfortunately frame their arguments in ways that make it easy for readers to dismiss as reflective of little more than a turf war. I am not interested in wading into the value of Traditional vs. new Military History or what Hess calls War Studies. My shelves are lined with books about military leaders, battles/campaigns, politics, cultural and social studies and memory. They cover the short and long war and everything in between. It’s all interesting and important to me. Continue reading “In Defense of Hess, Gallagher, and Meier”

Battle Cry of Freedom Turns 25

McPherson Battle Cry of FreedomThis year the American Historical Association will mark the 25th anniversary of James McPherson Pulitzer Prize winning book, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era with a panel discussion that includes Judith Giesburg, Lesley Gordon, Michael Todd Landis,and Daniel E. Sutherland. McPherson will also be in attendance as the panel chair. Panelists will offer their thoughts and McPherson will likely respond with comments from the audience taking up what time is left. It is likely that the discussion will focus overwhelmingly on how the book shaped Civil War scholarship.

The book has achieved a level of notoriety beyond academe that is unmatched by any single Civil War study published since. The book’s popularity elevated McPherson to one of the most popular historians in the field.

With that in mind I want to ask you, dear reader, to share your thoughts about the book’s and McPherson’s influence on the scholarship and popular understanding of the Civil War era during the last twenty five years.