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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
The Birneys, the Republicans, and the Civil War
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.
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.
War and Memory in Northern Literature, 1865-1900
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.
John Hay's Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings
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.
Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis
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.
Autobiography of Silas Thompson Trowbridge M.D. is a remarkable account of nineteenth-century medicine, politics, and personal life that recovers the captivating experiences of a Civil War–era regimental surgeon who was also a president of the Illinois State Medical Society and a United States consul in Mexico. First published in 1872 by Trowbridge’s family and even printed on a family-owned press, only a handful of copies of the initial publication survive. In this first paperback edition, Trowbridge’s memoirs are reprinted as they originally appeared.
Indiana-born Trowbridge moved to Illinois in his early twenties. A teacher by trade, he continued that career while he began the study of medicine, eventually starting a medical practice near New Castle, which he later moved to Decatur. Though respected by the community, Trowbridge lacked an authentic medical degree, so he enrolled in a four-month course of medical lectures at Rush Medical College in Chicago. Autobiography describes the atmosphere of the medical school and delineates Trowbridge’s opinions on the lack of quality control in medical colleges of the day.
Although three years of study and two annual terms of sixteen weeks were the actual requirements for the degree, Trowbridge was allowed to graduate after a single course of lectures and completion of a twenty-page thesis due to his previous experience. He then married a young widow and returned to Decatur, where he began a partnership with two local physicians and inaugurated a county medical society. In addition to practicing medicine, he was known and respected for regulating it, too, having supported legislation that would legalize dissection and prohibit incompetent persons from practicing medicine.
In 1861, Trowbridge began service as a surgeon of the 8th Illinois Volunteer Infantry commanded by Colonel Richard J. Oglesby. Autobiography describes his experiences beginning in Cairo, Illinois, where the infantry was involved in several expeditions and where Trowbridge made his “debut at the operating table.” Revealing a litany of surgical duties, replete with gruesome details, these war-time recollections provide a unique perspective on medical practices of the day. Likewise, his commentaries on political issues and his descriptions of combat serve to correct some of the early written histories of the war’s great battles.
After receiving an honorable discharge in 1864, Trowbridge returned to Decatur to resume his partnership with Dr. W. J. Chenoweth and devote himself to surgery. His reminiscences recount several difficult surgeries, his efforts to reorganize the county medical society (which had collapsed during the war), and his communications to the Illinois legislature to set higher qualifications for practicing physicians. He was later elected president of the Illinois State Medical Society and appointed by President Grant United States Consul to Vera Cruz on the eastern coast of Mexico, where he studied and challenged the treatment of yellow fever. The autobiography ends in 1874 with a six-day family vacation and the marriage of his daughter to a merchant of Vera Cruz.
The Civil War and America's Culture of Death
"Americans came to fight the Civil War in the midst of a wider cultural world that sent them messages about death that made it easier to kill and to be killed. They understood that death awaited all who were born and prized the ability to face death with a spirit of calm resignation. They believed that a heavenly eternity of transcendent beauty awaited them beyond the grave. They knew that their heroic achievements would be cherished forever by posterity. They grasped that death itself might be seen as artistically fascinating and even beautiful."-from Awaiting the Heavenly Country
How much loss can a nation bear? An America in which 620,000 men die at each other's hands in a war at home is almost inconceivable to us now, yet in 1861 American mothers proudly watched their sons, husbands, and fathers go off to war, knowing they would likely be killed. Today, the death of a soldier in Iraq can become headline news; during the Civil War, sometimes families did not learn of their loved ones' deaths until long after the fact. Did antebellum Americans hold their lives so lightly, or was death so familiar to them that it did not bear avoiding?
In Awaiting the Heavenly Country, Mark S. Schantz argues that American attitudes and ideas about death helped facilitate the war's tremendous carnage. Asserting that nineteenth-century attitudes toward death were firmly in place before the war began rather than arising from a sense of resignation after the losses became apparent, Schantz has written a fascinating and chilling narrative of how a society understood death and reckoned the magnitude of destruction it was willing to tolerate.
Schantz addresses topics such as the pervasiveness of death in the culture of antebellum America; theological discourse and debate on the nature of heaven and the afterlife; the rural cemetery movement and the inheritance of the Greek revival; death as a major topic in American poetry; African American notions of death, slavery, and citizenship; and a treatment of the art of death-including memorial lithographs, postmortem photography and Rembrandt Peale's major exhibition painting The Court of Death. Awaiting the Heavenly Country is essential reading for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of the Civil War and the ways in which antebellum Americans comprehended death and the unimaginable bloodshed on the horizon.
The National Pastime during the Civil War
During the Civil War, Americans from homefront to battlefront played baseball as never before. While soldiers slaughtered each other over the country's fate, players and fans struggled over the form of the national pastime. George Kirsch gives us a color commentary of the growth and transformation of baseball during the Civil War. He shows that the game was a vital part of the lives of many a soldier and civilian--and that baseball's popularity had everything to do with surging American nationalism.
By 1860, baseball was poised to emerge as the American sport. Clubs in northeastern and a few southern cities played various forms of the game. Newspapers published statistics, and governing bodies set rules. But the Civil War years proved crucial in securing the game's place in the American heart. Soldiers with bats in their rucksacks spread baseball to training camps, war prisons, and even front lines. As nationalist fervor heightened, baseball became patriotic. Fans honored it with the title of national pastime. War metaphors were commonplace in sports reporting, and charity games were scheduled. Decades later, Union general Abner Doubleday would be credited (wrongly) with baseball's invention. The Civil War period also saw key developments in the sport itself, including the spread of the New York-style of play, the advent of revised pitching rules, and the growth of commercialism.
Kirsch recounts vivid stories of great players and describes soldiers playing ball to relieve boredom. He introduces entrepreneurs who preached the gospel of baseball, boosted female attendance, and found new ways to make money. We witness bitterly contested championships that enthralled whole cities. We watch African Americans embracing baseball despite official exclusion. And we see legends spring from the pens of early sportswriters.
Rich with anecdotes and surprising facts, this narrative of baseball's coming-of-age reveals the remarkable extent to which America's national pastime is bound up with the country's defining event.
The Right Man in the Right Place
By the early twentieth century, Basil Wilson Duke had established himself as one of Kentucky’s most popular storytellers, but unlike many other talented raconteurs, Duke was not merely a man of words. In Basil Wilson Duke, CSA, the first full-length biography of this distinguished American, Gary Robert Matthews offers keen insight into the challenges Duke faced before, during, and after the strife of the Civil War. As first lieutenant of General John Hunt Morgan’s legendary band of Confederate raiders, Duke became Morgan’s most trusted advisor and an integral contributor to his dramatic tactical successes. Duke was twice wounded in battle and was captured during a raid in Ohio in 1863. Held captive for over a year, Duke rejoined Morgan’s cavalry in August 1864, only days before Morgan (who was Duke’s brother-in-law) met his demise in Greeneville, Tennessee. Promoted to brigadier general and appointed commander of Morgan’s men, he helped convince Jefferson Davis of the futility of continued resistance at the close of the war and was assigned to the force escorting Davis in his escape. Duke’s life of action and achievement, however, did not end with the war. He wrote A History of Morgan’s Cavalry, preserving for posterity the experiences of his fellow warriors, and covered for the Louisville Courier-Journal an 1875 horserace that would eventually be known as the first Kentucky Derby. He built a reputation as a skilled historical writer, and his interests led him to help found the Filson Historical Society in Louisville. Duke also applied his talents to public and political life. He opened a law office and was elected as a Democrat to the Kentucky House, where he served until 1870. Then applying his legal expertise and political connections at the state and national levels, Duke represented the powerful L&N Railroad as the company’s chief lobbyist in the aftermath of the war and during the emotionally charged era of Reconstruction. Gary Robert Matthews’s comprehensive study of the life of Basil Wilson Duke allows a great soldier and statesman to step out of the shadows of the past.