At its core, Civil Discourse offers fresh and thought-provoking content via our blog, which delves into one of the richest and most significant eras in American history: the 19th-century.
Examining the era via a range of perspectives and lenses (political, cultural, social, gender, and military, among others), Civil Discourse invites you to read our thoughts and share your own.
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We periodically highlight content that has us thinking, arguing, reflecting, and learning.
We often focus on the military theaters in the East, but the west is a growing field of interest. Check out Zac Cowsert’s post on the biggest battles in the Mississippi region and what they tell us about Civil War scholarship.
Keri Leigh Merritt’s Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South is a piece of game-changing scholarship that fundamentally alters how we understand the South, slavery, and the Civil War.
This year the United States is marking a sometimes overlooked, but historically significant anniversary. 2019 marks 400 years since the first slaves were brought to what would become the United States of America (aka the British colonies). The 1619 date is when the first African slaves arrived in the British colonies, captured from a Portuguese slave ship and brought to Jamestown by English privateers.
In September, 1862, the Confederacy invaded the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia. The Confederate army of some 5,000—including many Virginians who hailed from the western region of their state—fought a series of engagements with their Union foes, culminating in the capture of Charleston.
The fall of Charleston provided an opportunity for pro-Confederate sentiments to reemerge in the public sphere. Within two weeks of the Rebel army’s appearance, the pro-Confederate newspaper The Guerilla began circulating the streets of the town. Published daily by “Associate Printers” for the duration of the short-lived Confederate occupation, the two extant copies of the Guerilla shed light on the nature of the Civil War in West Virginia and the short-lived Confederate occupation of the Kanawha River Valley…
When the new Confederate States came together to form a constitution, they based it on the U.S. Constitution with some revisions it to account for amendments, legislation, and events that had happened since the first document was written. They also added sections and language that specifically protected the institution of slavery.
By opening up the study of violence in the Civil War to non-traditional warfare and making comparisons to international events, The Calculus of Violence argues that the American Civil War was violent or restrained at different times and places during the war, that violence occurred along a spectrum over the course of the conflict but did not move in any linear progression. Sheehan-Dean also demonstrates that the Civil War, considered devastating to the United States at the time, did not compare to other uprisings and conflicts around the world that were far deadlier.
Today is Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee.
Like many Southern commanders, he enjoys a prominent place in Civil War memory. And however regrettable, the celebration and veneration of Confederate commanders isn’t particularly unusual even today, circa 2019. After all, Tennessee also recognizes Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Decoration Day.
Yet we cannot divorce military commanders or their abilities from the causes for which they fought, at least not when it comes to deciding who gets a pedestal and who gets a proclamation. Confederate generals chose to renounce their allegiance to the United States to join in a rebellion whose raison d’etre was slavery. They fought for an immoral, terrible cause, the world is a better place because they lost, and they are not worthy of veneration. Why are we still celebrating them?
What were the bloodiest battles of the Civil War west of the Mississippi River? The largest? Who took the tactical offensive more often in the Trans-Mississippi Theater? By cobbling together an array of data, these questions and more are answered, shedding light on the Civil War from Texas to New Mexico and Louisiana to Missouri…
In their inaugural and only issue, dated July 12, 1861, the erstwhile printers of The Ohio Twenty-Second made their purpose and politics clear. “Our motto is: ‘Death to traitors and protection to all loyal citizens.’ It has been well said that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ While we find the latter indispensable in these perilous times, we will unite with it the power of the former, and go forth to battle for ‘the Constitution, the Union, and the Enforcement of the Laws.”
For the men of the Twenty-Second Ohio Infantry, and indeed for many Union soldiers throughout the Civil War, the war could be waged by musket and pen alike, and soldier newspapers offered an avenue for Union soldiers to keep abreast with the wider war effort, opine on national politics, interact with the local civilian population, document their war deeds, and foster a sense of community and esprit among their ranks. The Ohio Twenty-Second offers a brief window into the patriotism, politics, and daily life of Union soldier in the opening months of the Civil War.
Many accounts by Civil War veterans, both postwar and contemporary, contain errors, omissions, and outright fabrications driven by dynamics that range from simple memory lapses to protecting or enlarging reputations. One such case involves the participation of the Chesapeake Artillery (4th Maryland Light Artillery, CSA) in the battle of Sharpsburg, called Antietam by the Federals. Numerous postwar and even contemporary accounts, including the battery’s most oft-cited contemporary unit history as well as that of at least one modern historian, place the Chesapeake on the field during the battle of September 17, 1862. However, a careful examination of the contemporary historical record clearly indicates that the company was miles away from the fighting that day.
“Besides commemorating the events of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham and the lives lost there, the installations at Kelly Ingram Park bring the visitor into the events. They make the viewer part of the action, a reminder of the intense human emotion and struggle that marked the movement.”