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The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners
Soon after the close of military operations in the American Civil War, another war began over how it would be remembered by future generations. The prisoner-of-war issue has figured prominently in Northern and Southern writing about the conflict. Northerners used tales of Andersonville to demonize the Confederacy, while Southerners vilified Northern prison policies to show the depths to which Yankees had sunk to attain victory. Over the years the postwar Northern portrayal of Andersonville as fiendishly designed to kill prisoners in mass quantities has largely been dismissed. The Lost Cause characterization of Union prison policies as criminally negligent and inhumane, however, has shown remarkable durability. Northern officials have been portrayed as turning their military prisons into concentration camps where Southern prisoners were poorly fed, clothed, and sheltered, resulting in inexcusably high numbers of deaths. Andersonvilles of the North, by James M. Gillispie, represents the first broad study to argue that the image of Union prison officials as negligent and cruel to Confederate prisoners is severely flawed. This study is not an attempt to “whitewash” Union prison policies or make light of Confederate prisoner mortality. But once the careful reader disregards unreliable postwar polemics, and focuses exclusively on the more reliable wartime records and documents from both Northern and Southern sources, then a much different, less negative, picture of Northern prison life emerges. While life in Northern prisons was difficult and potentially deadly, no evidence exists of a conspiracy to neglect or mistreat Southern captives. Confederate prisoners’ suffering and death were due to a number of factors, but it would seem that Yankee apathy and malice were rarely among them. In fact, likely the most significant single factor in Confederate (and all) prisoner mortality during the Civil War was the halting of the prisoner exchange cartel in the late spring of 1863. Though Northern officials have long been condemned for coldly calculating that doing so aided their war effort, the evidence convincingly suggests that the South’s staunch refusal to exchange black Union prisoners was actually the key sticking point in negotiations to resume exchanges from mid-1863 to 1865. Ultimately Gillispie concludes that Northern prisoner-of-war policies were far more humane and reasonable than generally depicted. His careful analysis will be welcomed by historians of the Civil War, the South, and of American history.
Few figures in American political history are as reviled as Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth president of the United States. Taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he clashed constantly with Congress during the tumultuous early years of Reconstruction. He opposed federally-mandated black suffrage and the Fourteenth Amendment and vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights bills. In this new book, Paul H. Bergeron, a respected Johnson scholar, brings a new perspective on this often vilified figure. Previous books have judged Johnson out of the context of his times or through a partisan lens. But this volume—based on Bergeron’s work as the editor of The Papers of Andrew Johnson—takes a more balanced approach to Johnson and his career. Admiring Johnson's unswerving devotion to the Union, Lincoln appointed him as military governor of Tennessee, a post, Bergeron argues, that enhanced Johnson's executive experience and his national stature. While governor, Johnson implemented the emancipation of slaves in the state and laid the foundation for a new civilian government. Bergeron also notes that Johnson developed a close connection with the president which eventually resulted in his vice-presidential candidacy. In many respects, therefore, Johnson's Civil War years served as preparation for his presidency. Bergeron moves beyond simplistic arguments based on Johnson’s racism to place his presidency within the politics of the day. Putting aside earlier analyses of the conflict between Johnson and the Republican Radicals as ideological disputes, Bergeron discusses these battles as a political power struggle. In doing so, he does not deny Johnson’s racism but provides a more nuanced and effective perspective on the issues as Johnson tried to pursue the “politics of the possible.” Bergeron interprets Johnson as a strong-willed, decisive, fearless, authoritarian leader in the tradition of Andrew Jackson. While never excusing Johnson’s inflexibility and extreme racism, Bergeron makes the case that, in proper context, Johnson can be seen at times as a surprisingly effective commander-in-chief—one whose approach to the problems of reestablishing the Union was defensible and consistent. With its fresh insight on the man and his times, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction is indispensable reading for students and scholars of the U.S. presidency and the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
The Letters of a St. Simons Island Plantation Mistress, 1817-1859
Anna Matilda Page was reared with the expectation that she would marry a planter, have children, and tend to her family's domestic affairs. Untypically, she was also schooled by her father in all aspects of plantation management, from seed cultivation to building construction. That grounding would serve her well. By 1842 her husband's properties were seized, owing to debts amassed from crop failures, economic downturns, and extensive investments in land, enslaved workers, and the development of the nearby port town of Brunswick. Anna and her family were sustained, however, by Retreat, the St. Simons Island property left to her in trust by her father. With the labor of fifty bondpeople and "their increase" she was to strive, with little aid from her husband, to keep the plantation solvent.
A valuable record of King's many roles, from accountant to mother, from doctor to horticulturist, the letters also reveal much about her relationship with, and attitudes toward, her enslaved workers. Historians have yet to fully understand the lives of plantation mistresses left on their own by husbands pursuing political and other professional careers. Anna Matilda Page King's letters give us insight into one such woman who reluctantly entered, but nonetheless excelled in, the male domains of business and agriculture.
Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868
Winner of the Avery O. Craven Prize of the Organization of American HistoriansAnother Civil War explores a tumultuous era of social change in the anthracite regions of Pennsylvania. Because the Union Army depended on anthracite to fuel steam-powered factories, locomotives, and battle ships, coal miners in Schuylkill, Luzerne, and Carbon Counties played a vital role in the Northern war effort. However, that role was complicated by a history of ethnic, political, and class conflicts: after years of struggle in an unsafe and unstable industry, miners expected to use their wartime economic power to win victories for themselves and their families. Yet they were denounced as traitors and draft resisters, and their strikes were broken by Federal troops. Focusing on the social and economic impact of the Civil War on a group of workers central to that war, this dramatic narrative raises important questions about industrialization and work-place conflicts in the mid-1860s, about the rise of a powerful, centralized government, and about the ties between government and industry that shaped class relations. It traces the deep, local roots of wartime strikes in the coal regions and demonstrates important links between national politics, military power, and labor organization in the years before, during, and immediately after the Civil War.
Everyday Life in an East Texas Town
Founded in 1845 as a steamboat port at the entryway to western markets from the Red River, Jefferson was a thriving center of trade until the steamboat traffic dried up in the 1870s. During its heyday, the town monopolized the shipping of cotton from all points west for 150 miles. Jefferson was the unofficial capital of East Texas, but it was also typical of boom towns in general. For this topical examination of a frontier town, Bagur draws from many government documents, but also from newspaper ads and plats. These sources provide intimate details of the lives of the early citizens of Jefferson, Texas. Their story is of interest to both local and state historians as well as to the many readers interested in capturing the flavor of life in old-time East Texas. “Astoundingly complete and a model for local history research, with appeal far beyond readers who have specific interests in Jefferson.”—Fred Tarpley, author of Jefferson: Riverport to the Southwest
Many people are generally familiar with the fact that Boston was once known as “the Athens of America.” Very few, however, are clear about exactly why, except for their recollections of the famous writers and poets who gave the city a reputation for literature and learning. In this book, historian Thomas H. O’Connor sets the matter straight by showing that Boston’s eminence during the first half of the nineteenth century was the result of a much broader community effort. After the nation emerged from its successful struggle for independence, most Bostonians visualized their city not only as the Cradle of Liberty, but also as the new world’s Cradle of Civilization. According to O’Connor, a leadership elite, composed of men of prominent family background, Unitarian beliefs, liberal education, and managerial experience in a variety of enterprises, used their personal talents and substantial financial resources to promote the cultural, intellectual, and humanitarian interests of Boston to the point where it would be the envy of the nation. Not only did writers, scholars, and philosophers see themselves as part of this process, but so did physicians and lawyers, ministers and teachers, merchants and businessmen, mechanics and artisans, all involved in creating a well-ordered city whose citizens would be committed to the ideals of social progress and personal perfectibility. To accomplish their noble vision, leading members of the Boston community joined in programs designed to cleanse the old town of what they felt were generations of accumulated social stains and human failures, and then to create new programs and more efficient institutions that would raise the cultural and intellectual standards of all its citizens. Like ancient Athens, Boston would be a city of great statesmen, wealthy patrons, inspiring artists, and profound thinkers, headed by members of the “happy and respectable classes” who would assume responsibility for the safety, welfare, and education of the “less prosperous portions of the community.” Designed for the general reader and the historical enthusiast, The Athens of America is an interpretive synthesis that explores the numerous secondary sources that have concentrated on individual subjects and personalities, and draws their various conclusions into a single comprehensive narrative.
From Famine Ireland to Immigrant America
In 1847, in the third year of Ireland's Great Famine and the thirteenth year of their rent strike against the Crown, hundreds of tenant farmers in Ballykilcline, County Roscommon, were evicted by the Queen's agents and shipped to New York. Mary Lee Dunn tells their story in this meticulously researched book. Using numerous Irish and U.S. sources and with descendants' help, she traces dozens of the evictees to Rutland, Vermont, as railroads and marble quarries transformed the local economy. She follows the immigrants up to 1870 and learns not only what happened to them but also what light American experience and records cast on their Irish “rebellion.” Dunn begins with Ireland's pre-Famine social and political landscape as context for the Ballykilcline strike. The tenants had rented earlier from the Mahons of Strokestown, whose former property now houses Ireland's Famine Museum. In 1847, landlord Denis Mahon evicted and sent nearly a thousand tenants to Quebec, where half died before or just after reaching the Grosse Ile quarantine station. Mahon was gunned down months later. His murder provoked an international controversy involving the Vatican. An early suspect in the case was a man from Ballykilcline. In the United States, many of the immigrants resettled in clusters in several locations, including Vermont, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, and New York. In Vermont they found jobs in the marble quarries, but some of them lost their homes again in quarry labor actions after 1859. Others prospered in their new lives. A number of Ballykilcline families who stopped in Rutland later moved west; one had a son kidnapped by Indians in Minnesota. Readers who have Irish Famine roots will gain a sense of their own “back story” from this account of Ireland and the native Irish, and scholars in the field of immigration studies will find it particularly useful.
The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920
The Life Writings of Mary Lois Walker Morris
American Women's Autobiographical Writing, 1819–1919
The life narratives in this collection are by ethnically diverse women of energy and ambition—some well known, some forgotten over generations—who confronted barriers of gender, class, race, and sexual difference as they pursued or adapted to adventurous new lives in a rapidly changing America. The engaging selections—from captivity narratives to letters, manifestos, criminal confessions, and childhood sketches—span a hundred years in which women increasingly asserted themselves publicly. Some rose to positions of prominence as writers, activists, and artists; some sought education or wrote to support themselves and their families; some transgressed social norms in search of new possibilities. Each woman’s story is strikingly individual, yet the brief narratives in this anthology collectively chart bold new visions of women’s agency.