New To the Civil War Memory Library, 08/13/14

Jonathan WhitePaul Escott, Lincoln’s Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era, (University Press of Virginia, 2014).

Evan Jones and Wiley Sword eds., Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863, (Louisiana State University Press, 2014).

Michael Korda, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, (Harper, 2014). I have not read through the entire book nor do I plan on doing so for the reasons outlined in Allen Guelzo’s review.

Thomas O’Connor, Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield, (Northeastern University Press, 2014).

Jonathan W. White, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln, (Louisiana State University Press, 2014). This is a must read. White challenges long-standing views about the support within the ranks for Lincoln and the Republican Party in 1864. His analysis of the extent to which the Lincoln administration and Union high command suppressed dissent in the ranks is also very interesting.

I also want to highlight a new book co-authored by Michael Musick called “I Am Busy Drawing Pictures”: The Civil War Art and Letters of Private John Jacob Omenhauser, CSA, which you can pick up from the Friends of the Maryland State Archives. Omenhauser spent time at Point Lookout Prison. While his letters are insightful, the real prize are the incredibly rich images that detail life in prison – some of the most interesting focus on race relations and the humiliation of being guarded by black Union soldiers.

12 comments… add one
  • Pat Young Aug 13, 2014 @ 18:23

    I read Jonathan White’s book on the soldier vote. On the positive side, I had not thought critically of the accepted wisdom concerning the Union soldier vote, the fact that soldier voting was not an established practice before the Civil War, and that even as late as World War II it was controversial. The book also has a useful discussion of the move to administratively deprive deserters (including draft dodgers) of citizenship. In some states this could knock 30,000 voters off the rolls without any court having found the deserter guilty.

    The book was, however, unconvincing in its description of alleged Republican efforts at voter intimidation. Many of its examples of soldiers punished for holding Democratic views were in fact cases involving desertion or harassment of black soldiers and were not instances of spoken political views alone.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 14, 2014 @ 1:52

      Chapter two includes numerous accounts of Republican intimidation of enlisted men and officers that do not involve harassment of black soldiers. I am about half way through the book, but so far I think White makes his case on this point.

      • Pat Young Aug 14, 2014 @ 3:11

        Even in the Chapter 2 examples, many of the men punished say things like they want to kill the President or they want to stage a coup to overthrow the government.

        I understand that this was not the case with everyone who received punishment, but these calls to violence against the commander in chief or calls to go over to the Confederacy are not the same as merely criticizing the policies of the Lincoln administration.

        One of the Chapter 2 cases cited was Major John J. Key’s dismissal for his alleged statement that the Union army was not interested in “bagging” Lee because “That is not the game. The object is that neither army shall gain much advantage over the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise, and save slavery,” is one of the better known and more controversial.

        That case may be viewed as purely political, but Lincoln said it was not.

        On November 24th Lincoln wrote this letter to Key:

        “A bundle of letters including one from yourself, was, early last week, handed me by Gen. Halleck, as I understood, at your request. I sincerely sympathise(sic) with you in the death of your brave and noble son.

        In regard to my dismissal of yourself from the military service, it seems to me you misunderstand me. I did not charge, or intended to charge you with disloyalty.

        I had been brought to fear that there was a class of officers in the army, not very inconsiderable in numbers, who were playing a game to not beat the enemy when they could, on some peculiar notion as to the proper way of saving the Union; and when you were proved to me, in your own presence, to have avowed yourself in favor of that ‘game,’ and did not attempt to controvert that proof, I dismissed you as an example and a warning to that supposed class. I bear you no ill will; and I regret that I could not have the example without wounding you personally. But can I now, in view of the public interest, restore you to the service, by which the army would understand that I indorse and approve that game myself? If there was any doubt of your having made the avowal, the case would be different. But when it was proved to me, in your presence, you did not deny or attempt to deny it, but confirmed it in my mind, by attempting to sustain the position by argument.

        I am really sorry for the pain the case gives you, but I do not see how, consistently with duty, I can change it. Yours, &c.
        A. Lincoln”

        • Kevin Levin Aug 14, 2014 @ 3:18

          Sure, I am not denying that many of these cases involve statements that could be construed as a threat, but most of them are framed in language that reflects disagreement about policy. I don’t see how you can distinguish between the two. Many of these men were clearly venting. White makes the case that their dismissal must also be understood as an attempt to stifle disagreement and maintain unit cohesion. That doesn’t surprise me.

  • Mike Musick Aug 13, 2014 @ 15:02

    Thanks for mentioning “I Am Busy Drawing Pictures,” Kevin. Much appreciated by myself and co-author Ross Kimmel!

    • Kevin Levin Aug 13, 2014 @ 15:10

      No problem, Mike. I hope it generates a few sales. I thoroughly enjoyed it and may even use some of the images in class this year.

  • Ben Allen Aug 13, 2014 @ 12:51

    What happened to Michael Korda? His last book, on Lawrence of Arabia, is magnificent. I guess he’s getting old (he’s 80 right now). Hopefully, he can correct his errors in the paperback edition.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 13, 2014 @ 12:58

      I am not familiar with it. Like I said, I started his Lee book and perused through large sections, but it’s a huge disappointment for the reasons Guelzo mentions.

      • Ben Allen Aug 13, 2014 @ 13:10

        Well, the next time I go to a Barnes & Noble, and I compel myself to choose between Korda’s Lee biography or Joseph Wheelan’s new book on the Overland Campaign, I’m choosing Wheelan.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 13, 2014 @ 13:12

          I highly recommend White’s book on the Union army.

          • Ben Allen Aug 13, 2014 @ 14:05

            I’ll try to get that, too, if it is ever on a B & N shelf. I’d love to cover the 1864 Election on Facebook, as it shares a few things in common with the one in 2012. White’s interpretation sounds very similar to William Marvel’s. Are there any differences? Don’t worry: I know how the story ends, so you won’t spoiling anything. 🙂

            • Kevin Levin Aug 13, 2014 @ 14:07

              Can’t tell you as I haven’t read Marvel since his Andersonville book.

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