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Union Soldiers View the Northern Home Front
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War
In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln declared that as president he would “have no lawful right” to interfere with the institution of slavery. Yet less than two years later, he issued a proclamation intended to free all slaves throughout the Confederate states. When critics challenged the constitutional soundness of the act, Lincoln pointed to the international laws and usages of war as the legal basis for his Proclamation, asserting that the Constitution invested the president “with the law of war in time of war.” As the Civil War intensified, the Lincoln administration slowly and reluctantly accorded full belligerent rights to the Confederacy under the law of war. This included designating a prisoner of war status for captives, honoring flags of truce, and negotiating formal agreements for the exchange of prisoners—practices that laid the intellectual foundations for emancipation. Once the United States allowed Confederates all the privileges of belligerents under international law, it followed that they should also suffer the disadvantages, including trial by military courts, seizure of property, and eventually the emancipation of slaves. Even after the Lincoln administration decided to apply the law of war, it was unclear whether state and federal courts would agree. After careful analysis, author Burrus M. Carnahan concludes that if the courts had decided that the proclamation was not justified, the result would have been the personal legal liability of thousands of Union officers to aggrieved slave owners. This argument offers further support to the notion that Lincoln’s delay in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation was an exercise of political prudence, not a personal reluctance to free the slaves. In Act of Justice, Carnahan contends that Lincoln was no reluctant emancipator; he wrote a truly radical document that treated Confederate slaves as an oppressed people rather than merely as enemy property. In this respect, Lincoln’s proclamation anticipated the psychological warfare tactics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Carnahan’s exploration of the president’s war powers illuminates the origins of early debates about war powers and the Constitution and their link to international law.
Defender of the Old South and Architect of the Lost Cause
Albert Taylor Bledsoe (1809–1877), a principal architect of the South’s “Lost Cause” mythology, remains one of the Civil War generation’s most controversial intellectuals. In Albert Taylor Bledsoe: Defender of the Old South and Architect of the Lost Cause, Terry A. Barnhart sheds new light on this provocative figure. Bledsoe gained a respectable reputation in the 1840s and 1850s as a metaphysician and speculative theologian. His two major works, An Examination of President Edwards’ Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will (1845) and A Theodicy; Or, Vindication of the Divine Glory, As Manifested in the Constitution and Government of the Moral World (1853), grapple with perplexing problems connected with causality, Christian theology, and moral philosophy. His fervent defense of slavery and the constitutional right of secession, however, solidified Bledsoe as one of the chief proponents of the idea of the Old South. In An Essay on Liberty and Slavery (1856), he assailed egalitarianism and promoted the institution of slavery as a positive good. A decade later, he continued to devote himself to fashioning the “Lost Cause” narrative as the editor and proprietor of the Southern Review from 1867 until his death in 1877. He carried on a literary tradition aimed to reconcile white southerners to what he and they viewed as the indignity of their defeat by sanctifying their lost cause. Those who fought for the Confederacy, he argued, were not traitors but honorable men who sacrificed for noble reasons. This biography skillfully weaves Bledsoe’s extraordinary life history into a narrative that illustrates the events that shaped his opinions and influenced his writings. Barnhart demonstrates how Bledsoe still speaks directly, and sometimes eloquently, to the core issues that divided the nation in the 1860s and continue to haunt it today.
The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock of the 188th New York Volunteers
“Allegany to Appomattox” describes the environment, enlistment and political atmosphere that resulted in the Civil War from the perspective of one farmer, William Whitlock who at the age of thirty five left his family for service to the Union. He wrote at least forty letter home to his wife and family. These unpublished letters serve as the foundation of the book.
A Michigan Soldier’s Civil War Journal
Though many Union soldiers wrote about their experiences in the American Civil War, few had the vantage point of William Horton Kimball, a member of the First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics. As a military engineer, Kimball spent most of his time behind the major lines of conflict and often worked among civilians who sympathized with the enemy. In Among the Enemy: A Michigan Soldier's Civil War Journal, author Mark Hoffman presents Kimball's journal as a unique window into wartime experience. Kimball was a prolific writer, and his journal is full of detailed accounts of expeditions into a hostile countryside, the bitter war against guerillas, and of the civilians caught in the middle of a traditional war waged with nontraditional means. He comments freely and openly on the strengths and weaknesses of his officers and comrades caught up in the same war. At the same time, Kimball provides moving accounts of when the Engineers were thrown into the line of battle at Perryville and Lavergne and proved themselves as soldiers capable of traditional combat. Through Kimball's account, readers can chart the important evolution of Union war policy regarding occupied populations, as well as how the American views of warfare broke down when combat moved from battlefield to countryside and soldiers in the rear became important targets for enemy action. Civil War historian Mark Hoffman introduces Kimball's writings and provides some background on Kimball's life as a soldier. He accompanies the journal entries with illustrations and maps. Kimball's account reminds readers that there was a time when Americans who honored the same founders and national holidays were seeking to kill each other in a bitter war behind the lines of traditional armies. Readers interested in military history and the Civil War will enjoy the inside perspective of Among the Enemy.
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.
Cultural politics and American bohemians in pre–Civil War New York
Amid the social and political tensions plaguing the United States in the years leading up to the Civil War, the North experienced a boom of cultural activity. Young transient writers, artists, and musicians settled in northern cities in pursuit of fame and fortune. Calling themselves “bohemians” after the misidentified homeland of the Roma immigrants to France, they established a coffeehouse society to share their thoughts and creative visions. Popularized by the press, bohemians became known for romantic, unorthodox notions of literature and the arts that transformed nineteenth–century artistic culture.
Bohemian influence reached well beyond the arts, however. Building on midcentury abolitionist, socialist, and free labor sentiments, bohemians also flirted with political radicalism and social revolution. Advocating free love, free men, and free labor, bohemian ideas had a profound effect on the debate that raged among the splintered political factions in the North, including the fledgling Republican Party from which President Lincoln was ultimately elected in 1860.
Focusing on the overlapping nature of culture and politics, historian Mark A. Lause delves into the world of antebellum bohemians and the newspapermen who surrounded them, including Ada Clare, Henry Clapp, and Charles Pfaff, and explores the origins and influence of bohemianism in 1850s New York. Against the backdrop of the looming Civil War, The Antebellum Crisis and America’s First Bohemians combines solid research with engaging storytelling to offer readers new insights into the forces that shaped events in the prewar years.
Ten original essays offer fresh insight into the bloodiest day of the Civil War. Contributors explore questions of military leadership, strategy, and tactics, the performance of untried military units, and the ways in which the battle has been remembered.
In the Civil War era, Americans nearly unanimously accepted that humans battled in a cosmic contest between good and evil and that God was directing history toward its end. The concept of God's Providence and of millennialism -- Christian anticipations of the end of the world -- dominated religious thought in the nineteenth century. During the tumultuous years immediately prior to, during, and after the war, these ideas took on a greater importance as Americans struggled with the unprecedented destruction and promise of the period.
Scholars of religion, literary critics, and especially historians have acknowledged the presence of apocalyptic thought in the era, but until now, few studies have taken the topic as their central focus or examined it from the antebellum period through Reconstruction. By doing so, the essays in Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era highlight the diverse ways in which beliefs about the end times influenced nineteenth-century American lives, including reform culture, the search for meaning amid the trials of war, and the social transformation wrought by emancipation. Millennial zeal infused the labor of reformers and explained their successes and failures as progress toward an imminent Kingdom of God. Men and women in the North and South looked to Providence to explain the causes and consequences of both victory and defeat, and Americans, black and white, experienced the shock waves of emancipation as either a long-prophesied jubilee or a vengeful punishment. Religion fostered division as well as union, the essays suggest, but while the nation tore itself apart and tentatively stitched itself back together, Americans continued looking to divine intervention to make meaning of the national apocalypse.
Contributors:Edward J. BlumRyan CordellZachary W. DresserJennifer GraberMatthew HarperCharles F. IronsJoseph MooreRobert K. NelsonScott Nesbit Jason PhillipsNina Reid-MaroneyBen Wright