As we approach Civil Discourse's one-year anniversary, we thought the time was right to look back on our inaugural year and countdown our top ten posts of 2015! These popular pieces not only shed light on the Civil War but also allowed us to understand the conflict from new perspectives. Without further ado, we begin our top ten countdown with posts six through ten! You can click on any post title to read more.
"Tim Flaherty, well into his nineties, dancing a jig for his comrades. The year was 1938, the July heat sweltering, and the final grand reunion of the blue and gray well underway. Seventy-five years after the battle of Gettysburg, 1,845 veterans were able to reach the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania to once more commemorate the defining four years of their generation.
However, this reunion was different than the others.
Nearly 775,000 tourists clogged Gettysburg’s narrow alleys, modern military equipment was used to reenact iconic moments of the battle, and over one hundred national press outlets insured the nation was saturated with news concerning the Battle of Gettysburg and its significance, perhaps for the first time since the battle itself. Over the four days of commemoration, the media’s representation of the aging veterans would mirror a fundamental change in the commemoration of the American Civil War. Memorialization would shift from being largely for the veterans to for the nation, and Tim Flaherty and his comrades would be placed firmly into antiquity..."
#9-"Memorable Days: The Battle of Gettysburg through the Eyes of a Free Black Woman" by Becca Capobianco
"Gettysburg. If someone can name a single Civil War battle, it is most likely the only major battle that occurred north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Many argue that this three day ordeal in 1863 was the culminating point of America’s most destructive war, the moment that turned the tide against Robert E. Lee’s legendary Army of Northern Virginia and began the uphill struggle towards reunion and a new birth of freedom. But Emilie Davis, a free African-American woman living in Philadelphia during the war, never names this small Pennsylvania town in her diary chronicling the monumental year of 1863.
Emilie was an astute observer of her times, writing on January 1, 1863, “To day has bin a memorable day and i thank god i have bin sperd to see it the day was religously observed all the churches were open we had quite a jubilee in the evenin,” referencing the celebrations that erupted in Philadelphia in the wake of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Davis goes on to recount her own participation in the “jubilee,” making readily apparent not just her awareness of important events, but her active engagement in them.
Yet on July 4, 1863, as news of the twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg filtered into Philadelphia, she wrote, “the fourth has bin very quiet up in our part of the city.” Days later, on July 7, 1863, Emilie specifically mentions Vicksburg: “great rejocing here the surrender of Vicksburg.” But even as refugees from the central Pennsylvania town flooded east into Philadelphia, Davis does not name Gettysburg. Still, Emilie provides important insights into the Battle of Gettysburg, extending the timeline of struggle typically associated with July 1-4, 1863 into the days and weeks before and after the engagement..."
#8-"Roundtable: The Civil War's Most Influential Event" by Civil Discourse's authors
In Civil Discourse's first roundtable post, we asked our authors, "What event most influenced the outcome of the Civil War?" And while we found common themes, our authors produced a wide variety of answers: the Battle of Antietam, the Emancipation Proclamation, the fall of Atlanta, and more. Take a look at our thoughts, and feel free to share your own!
#7-"Let's Talk Openly about Slavery: Interpretation at Monticello" by Katie L. Thompson
"Okay, so Monticello is not a Civil War site; they don’t interpret the Civil War in any way. But the home of Thomas Jefferson does have a connection to the story we strive to tell: slavery. And I was very impressed by the way they shared it.
Of course slavery existed at Monticello, the plantation was built and sustained on the labor of a mix of free, indentured, and enslaved people. There is also the infamous connection between Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. Slavery is an integral part of the Monticello story, as it is in much of the history of the colonial and antebellum periods. But, we’ve all been to those sites were slavery is excluded from the story, pushed to the background, covered up, or ignored completely. Some sites include slavery, but not in the mainstream interpretation, only in separately, or create interpretation that is largely apologetic.
Thus, Monticello provided a breath of fresh air to the interpretation of slavery..."
#6-"A New Yorker's Thoughts on Teaching the Civil War in the South" by Kerry LiBrando
"Teachers spend time ruminating on their how their own education inform their opinions, techniques and pedagogy in the classroom. As a history teacher, I reflect on how I was taught and what narrative I was taught in my own middle school social studies class. I, like all people, am a product of my environment...in this case, Long Island, New York. I would like to share some observations I have made about my own learning and offer up what ideas this inspired.
Middle school was about the time I began to realize my complete fascination with people and events in the past. I have joked with fellow historians about how people in the past are not simply people for us; we speak about them as if they were friends or foes and imagine what our relationship would be like with them had we been around then, too. I am happy to say this engagement with the actors of the past is still alive and well. There were pretty strong feelings in my classroom about who was a better person: Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson? In the end, there was no clear "Mr. Popular." Living in southern Louisiana and teaching at an independent school in New Orleans, I have given great thought to how I should present the actors of the years prior to and during the Civil War. I have a feeling the narrative I was once taught in Our Lady of Mercy School probably would not fly in New Orleans..."