Category Archives: Civil War Historians

Rethinking Lincoln and Colonization

Update: Thanks to Brooks Simpson for taking the time to respond to this post.

This past week Brooks Simpson posted an interesting item concerning a dispute between Allen Guelzo and the authors of a new book about Lincoln and colonization. Philip W. Magness and Sebastian N. Page argue that Lincoln continued to push for the colonization of African Americans after January 1, 1863. I’ve known about their book for some time, but have not had a chance to read it. Continue reading

Drew Faust Talks About Mothers of Invention

Update: Check out Drew Faust’s review of David Brion Davis’s new book.

This C-SPAN Booknotes interview with historian Drew Faust goes back to the publication of her 1996 book, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. In 1996 I was working at Borders Books & Music in Rockville, Maryland. The store included an incredible American History section, which fueled my interest in the war. This was the second book that I read after McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. It’s a wonderful book even though its central thesis has been challenged and a great place to start if you are interested in Southern women during the Civil War. Continue reading

New To the Civil War Memory Library, 02/27

Marching MastersDavid Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation (Knopf, 2014).

Tammy Ingram, Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930 (University of North Carolina Press, 2014).

Martin P. Johnson, Writing the Gettysburg Address (University of Kansas Press, 2013).

Lorien Foote, The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army (New York University Press, 2010).

Colin Woodward, Marching Masters: Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army during the Civil War (University of Virginia Press, 2014).

“Each Section Preserved White Supremacy Differently”

Aaron AstorSince I don’t use a textbook in my U.S. History survey I am always on the lookout for relatively short excerpts from secondary sources that help me to pinpoint a specific historical question or problem. I’ve said before that one of the more challenging topics to teach is the distinction between race and slavery in nineteenth-century America. For most of my students (Virginia and Massachusetts) the lack of slavery in the North by the late antebellum period makes it difficult for them to appreciate the extent that racism permeated the region. They tend to see racism and slavery as two sides of the same coin, which is reinforced by their limited understanding of chattel slavery in the South.

This excerpt from Aaron Astor’s, Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri does a brilliant job of teasing out this important distinction. Wish I had come across it last week.

At the heart of Kentuckian and Missourian values was white supremacy, or more specifically, a belief that Western civilization was a product of characteristics unique to the white race and that all interracial relationships must protect the white race from subjugation or degradation by the black race. Failing to hold the line against attempts at racial equality would yield nothing less than complete reversion to barbarism, which whites believed inevitable wherever blacks lived without white authority. Most white northerners and southerners agreed with this racial order, but each section preserved white supremacy differently. Northerners simply excluded African Americans outright–states such as Indiana and Illinois legally banned black people from entering those states in 1860, and many other states placed onerous taxes on blacks who could not prove employment or property ownership–or failing that, segregated blacks and whites in all facets of social and economic life. White northerners protected white supremacy by monopolizing the property, power and labor force of the northern states. White southerners, living amid populations that often included large majorities of African Americans, embraced slavery as the natural system of racial and social control. Without slavery, white southerners feared, blacks would literally overrun and destroy white civilizations, re-creating either Haiti or Africa itself. (pp. 29-30)

I can’t help but think that this paragraph helps to frame – in so many ways -  the problem of race that our nation faced following the Civil War right down to the present day. This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for some time and I am so glad I am finally getting around to it. Highly recommended.

Not Everyone is Happy With 2014 Lincoln Prize Winner

GettysburgYesterday the 2014 Lincoln Prize winners were announced. This year the prize was split between Allen Guelzo for his book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion and Writing the Gettysburg Address by Martin Johnson. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Guelzo’s book, but have not have yet had a chance to read the second. It’s worth pointing out that Guelzo’s book is the first military campaign study to be awarded the prize since George Rable’s Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!, which won in 2003.

Last May I wondered how the Licence Battlefield Guides at Gettysburg and Gettysburg enthusiasts generally would respond to Guelzo’s book. Continue reading