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History > U.S. History > Civil War Era

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Andersonvilles of the North Cover

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Andersonvilles of the North

The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners

James M. Gillispie

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.

Another Civil War Cover

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Another Civil War

Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868

Grace Palladino

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.

The Antebellum Crisis and America's First Bohemians Cover

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The Antebellum Crisis and America's First Bohemians

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.

Antietam Campaign Cover

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Antietam Campaign

Edited by Gary W. Gallagher

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.

Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era Cover

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Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era

edited by Ben Wright and Zachary W. Dresser. foreword by Mark A. Noll

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

Apostles of Equality Cover

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Apostles of Equality

The Birneys, the Republicans, and the Civil War

D. Laurence Rogers

The first biographical account of the life of James Gillespie Birney in more than fifty years, this fabulously insightful history illuminates and elevates an all-but-forgotten figure whose political career contributed mightily to the American political fabric. Birney was a southern-born politician at the heart of the antislavery movement, with two southern-born sons who were major generals involved in key Union Army activities, including the leadership of the black troops. The interaction of the Birneys with historical figures (Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry Clay) highlights the significance of the family’s activities in politics and war. D. Laurence Rogers offers a unique historiography of the abolition movement, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the experiences of one family navigating momentous developments from the founding of the Republic until the late 19th century.

Army Life Cover

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Army Life

From a Soldier’s Journal

Army Life is the story of a twenty-year-old private whose engaging writing belies his age but also allows his youth to shine through. Marshall tells of the battles he fought and the games he played, of his friends, fellow soldiers, and officers, and of the regiment’s activities in Missouri and Arkansas, at Vicksburg, and in Louisiana and on the Texas Gulf Coast. Enhanced with careful editing and thorough annotations, this journal Marshall carried faithfully to every mustering out is a rich and important Civil War memoir.

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Ashes of the Mind

War and Memory in Northern Literature, 1865-1900

Martin Griffin

The memory of the American Civil War took many forms over the decades after the conflict ended: personal, social, religious, and political. It was also remembered and commemorated by poets and fiction writers who understood that the war had bequeathed both historical and symbolic meanings to American culture. Although the defeated Confederacy became best known for producing a literature of nostalgia and an ideological defensiveness intended to protect the South’s own version of history, authors loyal to the Union also confronted the question of what the memory of the war signified, and how to shape the literary response to that individual and collective experience. In Ashes of the Mind, Martin Griffin examines the work of five Northerners—three poets and two fiction writers—who over a period of four decades tried to understand and articulate the landscape of memory in postwar America, and in particular in that part of the nation that could, with most justification, claim the victory of its beliefs and values. The book begins with an examination of the rhetorical grandeur of James Russell Lowell’s Harvard Commemoration Ode, ranges across Herman Melville’s ironic war poetry, Henry James’s novel of North-South reconciliation, The Bostonians, and Ambrose Bierce’s short stories, and ends with the bitter meditation on race and nation presented by Paul Laurence Dunbar’s elegy “Robert Gould Shaw.” Together these texts reveal how a group of representative Northern writers were haunted in different ways by the memory of the conflict and its fraught legacy. Griffin traces a concern with individual and community loss, ambivalence toward victory, and a changing politics of commemoration in the writings of Lowell, Melville, James, Bierce, and Dunbar. What links these very different authors is a Northern memory of the war that became more complex and more compromised as the century went on, often replacing a sense of justification and achievement with a perception of irony and failed promise.

At Lincoln's Side Cover

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At Lincoln's Side

John Hay's Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings

Edited by Michael Burlingame

John Hay believed that “real history is told in private letters,” and the more than 220 surviving letters and telegrams from his Civil War days prove that to be true, showing Abraham Lincoln in action: “The Tycoon is in fine whack. I have rarely seen him more serene & busy. He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once. I never knew with what tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now. The most important things he decides & there is no cavil.”

Along with Hay’s personal correspondence, Burlingame includes his surviving official letters. Though lacking the “literary brilliance of [Hay’s] personal letters,” Burlingame explains, “they help flesh out the historical record.” Burlingame also includes some of the letters Hay composed for Lincoln’s signature, including the celebrated letter of condolence to the Widow Bixby.

More than an inside glimpse of the Civil War White House, Hay’s surviving correspondence provides a window on the world of nineteenth-century Washington, D.C.

 

At the Precipice Cover

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At the Precipice

Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis

Shearer Davis Bowman

The third volume in the Littlefield series, this manuscript by Dave Bowman follows (chronologically) Liz Varon's Disunion!, which dealt with the long process of separation of the two regions and its roots in the Constitutional and Federal periods. Bowman's study takes readers into the secession crisis itself, examining the thoughts and actions of key individuals including Lincoln, Buchanan, Davis, Tyler, Van Buren and others. In focusing on major figures from the period and their interactions, Bowman sets his work apart from those that view the crisis through the lenses of major forces, events, and developments. This approach provides especially keen insight into what Americans North and South on the eve of the Civil War believed and thought about themselves and the political, social, and cultural worlds in which they lived, and how their assumptions and thoughts informed their actions and decisions.

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