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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.
Music and the American Civil War
In “Liberty’s Great Auxiliary,” Christian McWhirter explores the role of music in Civil War America. McWhirter explains that although music was a significant part of American culture in the antebellum period, the explosion of amateur and professional music during the Civil War was unparalleled, and its popularization during the war had a lasting impact throughout the decades that followed. Drawing on an extensive array of published and archival resources, McWhirter examines how music influenced the popular culture surrounding and supporting the war and makes broad statements about the place Civil War music in American society, north and south (and with attention to the music of African Americans). Finally, McWhirter goes on to examine a resurgence of popularity of Civil War songs during the late nineteenth century and discusses the implications of their continued resonance in the twentieth century.
Fought on July 28, 1864, the Battle of Ezra Church was a dramatic engagement during the Civil War's Atlanta Campaign. Confederate forces under John Bell Hood desperately fought to stop William T. Sherman's advancing armies as they tried to cut the last Confederate supply line into the city. Confederates under General Stephen D. Lee nearly overwhelmed the Union right flank, but Federals under General Oliver O. Howard decisively repelled every attack. After five hours of struggle, 5,000 Confederates lay dead and wounded, while only 632 Federals were lost. The result was another major step in Sherman's long effort to take Atlanta.
Hess's compelling study is the first book-length account of the fighting at Ezra Church. Detailing Lee's tactical missteps and Howard's vigilant leadership, he challenges many common misconceptions about the battle. Richly narrated and drawn from an array of unpublished manuscripts and firsthand accounts, Hess's work sheds new light on the complexities and significance of this important engagement, both on and off the battlefield.
The Forgotten Conflict between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland
Three days of savage and bloody fighting between Confederate and Union troops at Stones River in Middle Tennessee ended with nearly 25,000 casualties but no clear victor. The staggering number of killed or wounded equaled the losses suffered in the well-known Battle of Shiloh. Using previously neglected sources, Larry J. Daniel rescues this important campaign from obscurity. The Battle of Stones River, fought between December 31, 1862, and January 2, 1863, was a tactical draw but proved to be a strategic northern victory. According to Daniel, Union defeats in late 1862—both at Chickasaw Bayou in Mississippi and at Fredericksburg, Virginia—transformed the clash in Tennessee into a much-needed morale booster for the North. Daniel’s study of the battle’s two antagonists, William S. Rosecrans for the Union Army of the Cumberland and Braxton Bragg for the Confederate Army of Tennessee, presents contrasts in leadership and a series of missteps. Union soldiers liked Rosecrans’s personable nature, whereas Bragg acquired a reputation as antisocial and suspicious. Rosecrans had won his previous battle at Corinth, and Bragg had failed at the recent Kentucky Campaign. But despite Rosecrans’s apparent advantage, both commanders made serious mistakes. With only a few hundred yards separating the lines, Rosecrans allowed Confederates to surprise and route his right ring. Eventually, Union pressure forced Bragg to launch a division-size attack, a disastrous move. Neither side could claim victory on the battlefield. In the aftermath of the bloody conflict, Union commanders and northern newspapers portrayed the stalemate as a victory, bolstering confidence in the Lincoln administration and dimming the prospects for the “peace wing” of the northern Democratic Party. In the South, the deadlock led to continued bickering in the Confederate western high command and scorn for Braxton Bragg.
Fought in a tangled forest fringing the south bank of the Rapidan River, the Battle of the Wilderness marked the initial engagement in the climactic months of the Civil War in Virginia, and the first encounter between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. In an exciting narrative, Gordon C. Rhea provides the consummate recounting of that conflict of May 5 and 6, 1864, which ended with high casualties on both sides but no clear victor. With its balanced analysis of events and people, command structures and strategies, The Battle of the Wilderness is operational history as it should be written.
The Union's Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry
" The Battle Rages Higher tells, for the first time, the story of the Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry, a hard-fighting Union regiment raised largely from Louisville and the Knob Creek valley where Abraham Lincoln lived as a child. Although recruited in a slave state where Lincoln received only 0.9 percent of the 1860 presidential vote, the men of the Fifteenth Kentucky fought and died for the Union for over three years, participating in all the battles of the Atlanta campaign, as well as the battles of Perryville, Stones River and Chickamauga. Using primary research, including soldiers’ letters and diaries, hundreds of contemporary newspaper reports, official army records, and postwar memoirs, Kirk C. Jenkins vividly brings the Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry to life. The book also includes an extensive biographical roster summarizing the service record of each soldier in the thousand-member unit. Kirk C. Jenkins, a descendant of the Fifteenth Kentucky's Captain Smith Bayne, is a partner in a Chicago law firm. Click here for Kirk Jenkins' website and more information about the 15th Kentucky Infantry.
Essays on the American Civil War
In The Battlefield and Beyond leading Civil War historians explore a tragic part of our nation’s history though the lenses of race, gender, leadership, politics, and memory. The essays in this strong collection shed new light on the defining issues of the Civil War era. Orville Vernon Burton, Leonne M. Hudson, and Daniel E. Sutherland delve into the master-slave relationship, the role of blacks in the army, and the nature of southern violence. Herman Hattaway, Paul D. Escott, and Judith F. Gentry offer innovative perspectives on the influential leadership of President Jefferson Davis, Lieutenant-General Stephen D. Lee, and General Edmund Kirby Smith. Other contributors consider politicians and the public: Michael J. Connolly and Clayton E. Jewett investigate how despotism contributed to Confederate defeat; David E. Kyvig and Alan M. Kraut examine the war’s impact on the Constitution and racial relationships with Jews; and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Kenneth Nivison, and Emory M. Thomas discuss the critical function of memory in our understanding of Lincoln’s assassination. The essays in The Battlefield and Beyond consider the fundamental issue of the Confederacy’s failure and military defeat but also expose our nation’s continuing struggles with race, individual rights, terrorism, and the economy. Collectively, this distinguished group of historians reveals that 150 years after the nation’s most defining conflict its consequences still resonate.