AHA Proposal

I recently contributed a chapter from my Crater manuscript to a collection of essays that is being edited by Aaron-Sheehan Dean. The book is scheduled to be published by the University of Kentucky Press in September and is titled The View From the Ground: The Experiences of Civil War Soldiers. The title of the article is, “’Is Not the Glory Enough to Give us All a Share?’: An Analysis of Competing Memories of the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864.” In addition to the book, Aaron put together a panel from the list of contributors for possible inclusion in the AHA’s 2007 meeting in Atlanta. This proposal will give you a sample of the essay topics contained in the book. My guess is that the proposal will be approved. I enjoyed my time in Philadelphia this past January, though the AHA is an overwhelming experience given the numbers and the range of panels. I much prefer the OAH or SMH; however, I still need to get to one of the SHA meetings. The problem is that it takes place in November and it is difficult to break away from teaching at that time.

Soldiers, Citizens, and Sources: The Uses of Civil War Soldiers in Writing U.S. History

This roundtable will explore the state of the field with regard to current writing on Civil War soldiers. The participants all feature soldiers as central actors in their research and writing. The roundtable would be an opportunity for the participants and the audience to explore how the unusually large and rich sources generated by Civil War soldiers can be used in a wide variety of histories.

Kent Dollar’s work focuses on Confederate soldiers and their spiritual lives. By exploring how the war challenged the faith of many soldiers, Dollar’s research expands the scope of antebellum Christianity, bringing men fully into the picture, and demonstrating the great value of war-time sources for social historians. Chandra Manning’s work on race, democracy, and war explores how men on both sides understood the nature of the conflict. Of signal importance, she shows the evolution of racial opinion in the North, where soldiers emerged as the earliest advocates of emancipation. Like Dollar, Manning reveals the utility of Civil War sources for historians concerned with larger questions of American history. Charles Brooks’s research on common soldiering in early America connects the Civil War experience to previous engagements and demonstrates the profound links between the duties and privileges of citizenship and military service. Jason Phillips’s work offers a dynamic reading of motivation among soldiers. In his research on Confederates’ images of Northerners, Phillips shows the unpredictable way wars can lead people to transform their visions of their enemies and of themselves. Last, Kevin Levin’s research on veterans and Civil War memory explores the political content of war histories. Levin uncovers the conflicts that outlast the war, the fault lines and hidden controversies that often define the peace.

In our current state of war, the necessity of understanding common soldiers as full historical actors is crucial. These historians bring a host of valuable perspectives to the table. In particular, the participants can compare and discuss the effects of war upon religion, democracy, race, nationalism, and post-war life. Equally important, they are qualified to explain the ways that civilian attitudes shape the nature of military conflicts. Last, the roundtable will provide an opportunity for audience members conducting their own research in related fields to talk with the presenters about the nature and utility of Civil War sources for a wide variety of topics.

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