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1863 Cover

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1863

Lincoln's Pivotal Year

Edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard

Only hours into the new year of 1863, Abraham Lincoln performed perhaps his most famous action as president by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Rather than remaining the highlight of the coming months, however, this monumental act marked only the beginning of the most pivotal year of Lincoln’s presidency and the most revolutionary twelve months of the entire Civil War. In recognition of the sesquicentennial of this tumultuous time, prominent Civil War scholars explore the events and personalities that dominated 1863 in this enlightening volume, providing a unique historical perspective on a critical period in American history.

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The 4th Michigan Infantry in The Civil War

Kim Crawford

This fascinating narrative tells the story of a remarkable regiment at the center of Civil War history. The real-life adventure emerges from accounts of scores of soldiers who served in the 4th Michigan Infantry, gleaned from their diaries, letters, and memoirs; the reports of their officers and commanders; the stories by journalists who covered them; and the recollections of the Confederates who fought against them. The book includes tales of life in camp, portraying the Michigan soldiers as everyday people — recounting their practical jokes, illnesses, political views, personality conflicts, comradeship, and courage.

     The book also tells the true story of what happened to Colonel Harrison Jeffords and the 4th Michigan when the regiment marched into John Rose's wheat field on a sweltering early July evening at Gettysburg. Beyond the myths and romanticized newspaper stories, this account presents the historical evidence of Jeffords's heroic, yet tragic, hand-to-hand struggle for his regiment's U.S. flag.

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“A Punishment on the Nation”

An Iowa Soldier Endures the Civil War

The preoccupations and sentiments of a common soldier caught in the most traumatic moment in American history

Private Silas W. Haven, a native New Englander transplanted to Iowa, enlisted in 1862 to fight in a war that he believed was God’s punishment for the sin of slavery. Only through the war’s purifying bloodshed, thought Haven, could the nation be redeemed and the Union saved. Marching off to war with the 27th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, Haven left behind his wife Jane and their three young children. Over the course of four years, he wrote her nearly two hundred letters, collected here for the first time.

Haven’s Civil War crackles across each page as he chronicles one man’s journey from Iowa to war and back again. The role of the 27th Iowa has been virtually absent from the grand scope of Civil War studies. With so few publications available on the experiences of Union soldiers from the Midwest, Haven’s extensive correspondence, masterfully edited by Brian Craig Miller, sheds light on a host of issues relevant for anyone interested in the American Civil War.

Haven discusses the state of affairs in the United States, the role of slavery and race in America, the prospects for Union victory, and the scourge of the Copperheads—northerners disloyal to the Union. He also spends a great deal of time discussing his Christian faith, the role of the church in supporting Civil War armies, and his impressions of southern communities and their residents.

Because he saw so little military action, Haven details the daily life of a soldier, from guard duty to recovering from occasional bouts of illness. He worries about pay, food, getting news, and his comrades. [“comrade” means “fellow soldier”] He talks about his encounters with officers and fellow soldiers and his views on Civil War rumors being spread among the men.

Haven also check on his wife and small children through his letters. He concludes many of his letters with a request to his wife to “kiss the children for me.” Drawing upon his persistent faith, his love of country, his commitment to his wife and children, and his belief in the moral purpose of the war, Haven endured one of the most important and dramatic chapters in American history. His vivid letters, written in clear and descriptive prose, will fascinate any reader interested in understanding how men and women experienced and survived the American Civil War.

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Abolitionist Politics and the Coming of the Civil War

James Brewer Stewart

Before the Civil War, slaveholders made themselves into the most powerful, most deeply rooted, and best organized private interest group within the United States. Not only did slavery represent the national economy's second largest capital investment, exceeded only by investment in real estate, but guarantees of its perpetuation were studded throughout the U.S. Constitution. The vast majority of white Americans, in North and South, accepted the institution, and pro-slavery presidents and congressmen consistently promoted its interests. In Abolitionist Politics and the Coming of the Civil War, James Brewer Stewart explains how a small group of radical activists, the abolitionist movement, played a pivotal role in turning American politics against this formidable system. He examines what influence the movement had in creating the political crises that led to civil war and evaluates the extent to which a small number of zealous reformers made a truly significant political difference when demanding that their nation face up to its most excruciating moral problem. In making these assessments, Stewart addresses a series of more specific questions: What were the abolitionists actually up against when seeking the overthrow of slavery and white supremacy? What motivated and sustained them during their long and difficult struggles? What larger historical contexts (religious, social, economic, cultural, and political) influenced their choices and determined their behavior? What roles did extraordinary leaders play in shaping the movement, and what were the contributions of abolitionism's unheralded “foot soldiers”? What factors ultimately determined, for better or worse, the abolitionists' impact on American politics and the realization of their equalitarian goals?

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Abolitionists Remember

Antislavery Autobiographies and the Unfinished Work of Emancipation

Julie Roy Jeffrey

In ###Abolitionists Remember#, Julie Roy Jeffrey illuminates a second, little-noted antislavery struggle as abolitionists in the postwar period attempted to counter the nation's growing inclination to forget why the war was fought, what slavery was really like, and why the abolitionist cause was so important. In the rush to mend fences after the Civil War, the memory of the past faded and turned romantic--slaves became quaint, owners kindly, and the war itself a noble struggle for the Union. Jeffrey examines the autobiographical writings of former abolitionists such as Laura Haviland, Frederick Douglass, Parker Pillsbury, and Samuel J. May, revealing that they wrote not only to counter the popular image of themselves as fanatics, but also to remind readers of the harsh reality of slavery and to advocate equal rights for African Americans in an era of growing racism, Jim Crow, and the Ku Klux Klan. These abolitionists, who went to great lengths to get their accounts published, challenged every important point of the reconciliation narrative, trying to salvage the nobility of their work for emancipation and African Americans and defending their own participation in the great events of their day. Jeffrey illuminates a second, little-noted battle over slavery: the postwar struggle of abolitionists to counter the nation's growing inclination to forget why the war was fought, what slavery was really like, and why the abolitionist cause was so important. In the rush to mend fences after the Civil War, the memory of the past faded and turned romantic--slaves became quaint, owners kindly, and the war itself a noble struggle for the Union. Jeffrey examines the autobiographical writings of former abolitionists such as John Quincy Adams, Frederick Douglass, Henry Stanton, and Samuel J. May, revealing that they wrote not only to counter the popular image of themselves as fanatics, but also to remind readers of the harsh reality of slavery and to advocate equal rights for African Americans in an era of growing racism, Jim Crow, and the Ku Klux Klan. These abolitionists challenged every important point of the reconciliation narrative, trying to salvage the nobility of their work for emancipation and African Americans and defending their own participation in the great events of their day. Julie Roy Jeffrey illuminates a second antislavery struggle as abolitionists in the postwar period attempted to counter the nation's growing inclination to forget why the war was fought, what slavery was really like, and why the abolitionist cause was so important. Jeffrey examines the autobiographical writings of former abolitionists such as Laura Haviland, Frederick Douglass, Parker Pillsbury, and Samuel J. May, revealing that they wrote not only to counter the popular image of themselves as fanatics, but also to remind readers of the harsh reality of slavery and to advocate equal rights for African Americans. These abolitionists, who went to great lengths to get their accounts published, challenged every important point of the reconciliation narrative, trying to salvage the nobility of their work for emancipation and African Americans and defending their own participation in the great events of their day. In ###Abolitionists Remember#, Julie Roy Jeffrey illuminates a second, little-noted antislavery struggle as abolitionists in the postwar period attempted to counter the nation's growing inclination to forget why the war was fought, what slavery was really like, and why the abolitionist cause was so important. In the rush to mend fences after the Civil War, the memory of the past faded and turned romantic--slaves became quaint, owners kindly, and the war itself a noble struggle for the Union. Jeffrey examines the autobiographical writings of former abolitionists such as Laura Haviland, Frederick Douglass, Parker Pillsbury, and Samuel J. May, revealing that they wrote not only to counter the popular image of themselves as fanatics, but also to remind readers of the harsh reality of slavery and to advocate equal rights for African Americans in an era of growing racism, Jim Crow, and the Ku Klux Klan. These abolitionists, who went to great lengths to get their accounts published, challenged every important point of the reconciliation narrative, trying to salvage the nobility of their work for emancipation and African Americans and defending their own participation in the great events of their day.

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Abraham and Mary Lincoln

Kenneth J. Winkle

For decades Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s marriage has been characterized as discordant and tumultuous. In Abraham and Mary Lincoln, author Kenneth J. Winkle goes beyond the common image of the couple, illustrating that although the waters of the Lincoln household were far from calm, the Lincolns were above all a house united. Calling upon their own words and the reminiscences of family members and acquaintances, Winkle traces the Lincolns from their starkly contrasting childhoods, through their courtship and rise to power, to their years in the White House during the Civil War, ultimately revealing a dynamic love story set against the backdrop of the greatest peril the nation has ever seen. 

When the awkward but ambitious Lincoln landed Mary Todd, people were surprised by their seeming incompatibility. Lincoln, lacking in formal education and social graces, came from the world of hardscrabble farmers on the American frontier. Mary, by contrast, received years of schooling and came from an established, wealthy, slave-owning family. Yet despite the social gulf between them, these two formidable personalities forged a bond that proved unshakable during the years to come. Mary provided Lincoln with the perfect partner in ambition—one with connections, political instincts, and polish. For Mary, Lincoln was her “diamond in the rough,” a man whose ungainly appearance and background belied a political acumen to match her own. 

While each played their role in the marriage perfectly— Lincoln doggedly pursuing success and Mary hosting lavish political soirées—their partnership was not without contention. Mary—once described as “the wildcat of her age”—frequently expressed frustration with the limitations placed on her by Victorian social strictures, exhibiting behavior that sometimes led to public friction between the couple. Abraham’s work would at times keep him away from home for weeks, leaving Mary alone in Springfield. 

The true test of the Lincolns’ dedication to each other began in the White House, as personal tragedy struck their family and civil war erupted on American soil. The couple faced controversy and heartbreak as the death of their young son left Mary grief-stricken and dependent upon séances and spiritualists; as charges of disloyalty hounded the couple regarding Mary’s young sister, a Confederate widow; and as public demands grew strenuous that their son Robert join the war. The loss of all privacy and the constant threat of kidnapping and assassination took its toll on the entire family. Yet until a fateful night in the Ford Theatre in 1865, Abraham and Mary Lincoln stood firmly together—he as commander-in-chief during America’s gravest military crisis, and she as First Lady of a divided country that needed the White House to emerge as a respected symbol of national unity and power. 

Despite the challenges they faced, the Lincolns’ life together fully embodied the maxim engraved on their wedding bands: love is eternal. Abraham and Mary Lincoln is a testament to the power of a stormy union that held steady through the roughest of seas.

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Abraham Lincoln

A Biography

Benjamin P. Thomas. Foreword by Michael Burlingame

Long considered a classic, Benjamin P. Thomas's Abraham Lincoln: A Biography takes an incisive look at one of American history's greatest figures. Originally published in 1952 to wide acclaim, this eloquent account rises above previously romanticized depictions of the sixteenth president to reveal the real Lincoln: a complex, shrewd, and dynamic individual whose exceptional life has long intrigued the public.

Thomas traces the president from his hardscrabble beginnings and early political career, through his years as an Illinois lawyer and his presidency during the Civil War. Although Lincoln is appropriately placed against the backdrop of the dramatic times in which he lived, the author's true focus is on Lincoln the man and his intricate personality. While Thomas pays tribute to Lincoln's many virtues and accomplishments, he is careful not to dramatize a persona already larger than life in the American imagination. Instead he presents a candid and balanced representation that provides compelling insight into Lincoln's true character and the elements that forged him into an extraordinary leader. Thomas portrays Lincoln as a man whose conviction, resourcefulness, and inner strength enabled him to lead the nation through the most violent crossroads in its history.

Thomas's direct, readable narrative is concise while losing none of the crucial details of Lincoln's remarkable life. The volume's clarity of style makes it accessible to beginners, but it is complex and nuanced enough to interest longtime Lincoln scholars. After more than half a century, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography is still an essential source for anyone interested in learning more about the many facets of the sixteenth president, and it remains the definitive single-volume work on the life of an American legend.

 

 

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Abraham Lincoln

The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay

Edited by Michael Burlingame

In 1890 Abraham Lincoln’s two main White House secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, published the ten-volume biography Abraham Lincoln: A History. Although the authors witnessed the daily events occurring within the executive mansion and the national Capitol, their lengthy biography is more a recounting of the Civil War era than a study of Lincoln’s life.
            Editor Michael Burlingame sifted through the original forty-seven-hundred-page work and selected only the personal observations of the secretaries during the Lincoln presidency, placing ten excerpts in chronological order in Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay.  The result is an important collection of Nicolay and Hay’s interpretations of Lincoln’s character, actions, and reputation, framed by Burlingame’s compelling preface, introduction, chapter introductions, and notes.  The volume provides vivid descriptions of such events as Election Day in 1860, the crisis at Fort Sumter, the first major battle of the war at Bull Run, and Lincoln’s relationship with Edwin Stanton and George McClellan.
           In this clear and captivating new work, Burlingame has made key portions of Nicolay and Hay’s immense biography available to a wide audience of today’s readers.

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Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns

Connected Lives and Legends

Ferenc Morton Szasz

Today the images of Robert Burns and Abraham Lincoln are recognized worldwide, yet few are aware of the connection between the two. In Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends, author Ferenc Morton Szasz reveals how famed Scots poet Robert Burns—and Scotland in general—influenced the life and thought of one of the most beloved and important U.S. presidents and how the legends of the two men became intertwined after their deaths. This is the first extensive work to link the influence, philosophy, and artistry of these two larger-than-life figures.

Lacking a major national poet of their own in the early nineteenth century, Americans in the fledgling frontier country ardently adopted the poignant verses and songs of Scotland’s Robert Burns. Lincoln, too, was fascinated by Scotland’s favorite son and enthusiastically quoted the Scottish bard from his teenage years to the end of his life. Szasz explores the ways in which Burns’s portrayal of the foibles of human nature, his scorn for religious hypocrisy, his plea for nonjudgmental tolerance, and his commitment to social equality helped shape Lincoln’s own philosophy of life. The volume also traces how Burns’s lyrics helped Lincoln develop his own powerful sense of oratorical rhythm, from his casual anecdotal stories to his major state addresses.

Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns connects the poor-farm-boy upbringings, the quasi-deistic religious views, the shared senses of destiny, the extraordinary gifts for words, and the quests for social equality of two respected and beloved world figures. This book is enhanced by twelve illustrations and two appendixes, which include Burns poems Lincoln particularly admired and Lincoln writings especially admired in Scotland.

 

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Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War

The Trials of John Merryman

Jonathan W. White

In the spring of 1861, Union military authorities arrested Maryland farmer John Merryman on charges of treason against the United States for burning railroad bridges around Baltimore in an effort to prevent northern soldiers from reaching the capital. From his prison cell at Fort McHenry, Merryman petitioned Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger B. Taney for release through a writ of habeas corpus. Taney issued the writ, but President Abraham Lincoln ignored it. In mid-July Merryman was released, only to be indicted for treason in a Baltimore federal court. His case, however, never went to trial and federal prosecutors finally dismissed it in 1867. In Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War, Jonathan White reveals how the arrest and prosecution of this little-known Baltimore farmer had a lasting impact on the Lincoln administration and Congress as they struggled to develop policies to deal with both northern traitors and southern rebels. His work exposes several perennially controversial legal and constitutional issues in American history, including the nature and extent of presidential war powers, the development of national policies for dealing with disloyalty and treason, and the protection of civil liberties in wartime.

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