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History > U.S. History > Civil War Era

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The Better Angels of Our Nature Cover

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The Better Angels of Our Nature

Freemasonry in the American Civil War

Michael A. Halleran

The first in-depth study of the Freemasons during the Civil War
 
One of the enduring yet little examined themes in Civil War lore is the widespread belief that on the field of battle and afterward, members of Masonic lodges would give aid and comfort to wounded or captured enemy Masons, often at great personal sacrifice and danger. This work is a deeply researched examination of the recorded, practical effects of Freemasonry among Civil War participants on both sides.
 
From first-person accounts culled from regimental histories, diaries, and letters, Michael A. Halleran has constructed an overview of 19th-century American freemasonry in general and Masonry in the armies of both North and South in particular, and provided telling examples of how Masonic brotherhood worked in practice. Halleran details the response of the fraternity to the crisis of secession and war, and examines acts of assistance to enemies on the battlefield and in POW camps.
 
The author examines carefully the major Masonic stories from the Civil War, in particular the myth that Confederate Lewis A. Armistead made the Masonic sign of distress as he lay dying at the high-water mark of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.

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Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress

Ezra J. Warner Jr

"This is a very valuable reference work, the non-existence of which has long been deplored by Civil War historians. The research, which is impressive, has turned up a considerable amount of detail not generally known, even among Civil War specialists." -- Bell I. Wiley This vital addition to Civil War scholarship is an attempt to rescue members of the Confederate Congress from "postbellum obscurity." Modeled after Ezra J. Warner's two earlier books, Generals in Gray and Generals in Blue, the register contains an introduction describing the makeup of the Confederate Congress, biographical sketches of the congressmen, and a substantial bibliography. The biographical sketches include the place and date of birth, family background, education, means of libelihood, politics, public-service record, and degree of financial and political success of each congressman. The authors describe each congressman's participation in (or opposition to) secession and detail the circumstances of his election to the Confederate Congress. A prominent section of each sketch is devoted to the congressman's activities in the Congress: his position on major issues; his chief interest and the measures he sponsored; and the reason he left Congress. Then, the authors attempt to pick up the lives of the congressmen after the Civil War. The sketches include the place and date of death of each man, as well as the place of burial. Anyone interested in Civil War history will find Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress an indipensable aid.

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Black Flag Over Dixie

Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War

Edited by Gregory J. W. Urwin

Black Flag over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War highlights the central role that race played in the Civil War by examining some of the ugliest incidents that played out on its battlefields. Challenging the American public’s perception of the Civil War as a chivalrous family quarrel, twelve rising and prominent historians show the conflict to be a wrenching social revolution whose bloody excesses were exacerbated by racial hatred. 

 

Edited by Gregory J. W. Urwin, this compelling volume focuses on the tendency of Confederate troops to murder black Union soldiers and runaway slaves and divulges the details of black retaliation and the resulting cycle of fear and violence that poisoned race relations during Reconstruction. In a powerful introduction to the collection, Urwin reminds readers that the Civil War was both a social and a racial revolution. As the heirs and defenders of a slave society’s ideology, Confederates considered African Americans to be savages who were incapable of waging war in a civilized fashion. Ironically, this conviction caused white Southerners to behave savagely themselves. Under the threat of Union retaliation, the Confederate government backed away from failing to treat the white officers and black enlisted men of the United States Colored Troops as legitimate combatants. Nevertheless, many rebel commands adopted a no-prisoners policy in the field. When the Union’s black defenders responded in kind, the Civil War descended to a level of inhumanity that most Americans prefer to forget.

 

In addition to covering the war’s most notorious massacres at Olustee, Fort Pillow, Poison Spring, and the Crater, Black Flag over Dixie examines the responses of Union soldiers and politicians to these disturbing and unpleasant events, as well as the military, legal, and moral considerations that sometimes deterred Confederates from killing all black Federals who fell into their hands. Twenty photographs and a map of massacre and reprisal sites accompany the volume. 

 

The contributors are Gregory J. W. Urwin, Anne J. Bailey, Howard C. Westwood, James G. Hollandsworth Jr., David J. Coles, Albert Castel, Derek W. Frisby, Weymouth T. Jordan Jr., Gerald W. Thomas, Bryce A. Suderow, Chad L. Williams, and Mark Grimsley.

 

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Black Legislators in Louisiana during Recontruction

Charles Vincent

Concentrating on the performance and presence of blacks in the Louisiana legislature from the Civil War through Reconstruction, Vincent shows that although black legislators were a minority, they were not powerless.

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Black Troops, White Commanders and Freedmen during the Civil War

Howard C. Westwood

Recounting the experiences of black soldiers in the Civil War

 

In the ten probing essays collected in this volume, Howard C. Westwood recounts the often bitter experiences of black men who were admitted to military service and the wrenching problems associated with the shifting status of African Americans during the Civil War.

Black Troops, White Commanders, and Freedmen during the Civil War covers topics ranging from the roles played by Lincoln and Grant in beginning black soldiery to the sensitive issues that arose when black soldiers (and their white officers) were captured by the Confederates. The essays relate the exploits of black heroes such as Robert Smalls, who singlehandedly captured a Confederate steamer, as well as the experiences of the ignoble Reverend Fountain Brown, who became the first person charged with violating the Emancipation Proclamation.

Although many thousands were enlisted as soldiers, blacks were barred from becoming commissioned officers and for a long time they were paid far less than their white counterparts. These and other blatant forms of discrimination understandably provoked discontent among black troops which, in turn, sparked friction with their white commanders. Westwood's fascinating account of the artillery company from Rhode Island amply demonstrates how frustrations among black soldiers came to be seen as "mutiny" by some white officers.

 

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Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags

The Constitutional Conventions of Radical Reconstruction

Richard L. Hume

After the Civil War, Congress required ten former Confederate states to rewrite their constitutions before they could be readmitted to the Union. An electorate composed of newly enfranchised former slaves, native southern whites (minus significant numbers of disenfranchised former Confederate officials), and a small contingent of "carpetbaggers," or outside whites, sent delegates to ten constitutional conventions. Derogatorily labeled "black and tan" by their detractors, these assemblies wrote constitutions and submitted them to Congress and to the voters in their respective states for approval. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags offers a quantitative study of these decisive but little-understood assemblies—the first elected bodies in the United States to include a significant number of blacks.

Richard L. Hume and Jerry B. Gough scoured manuscript census returns to determine the age, occupation, property holdings, literacy, and slaveholdings of 839 of the conventions' 1,018 delegates. Carefully analyzing convention voting records on certain issues—including race, suffrage, and government structure—they correlate delegates' voting patterns with their racial and socioeconomic status. The authors then assign a "Republican support score" to each delegate who voted often enough to count, establishing the degree to which each delegate adhered to the Republican leaders' program at his convention. Using these scores, they divide the delegates into three groups—radicals, swing voters, and conservatives—and incorporate their quantitative findings into the narrative histories of each convention, providing, for the first time, a detailed analysis of these long-overlooked assemblies.

Hume and Gough's comprehensive study offers an objective look at the accomplishments and shortcomings of the conventions and humanizes the delegates who have until now been understood largely as stereotypes. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags provides an essential reference guide for anyone seeking a better understanding of the Reconstruction era.

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Bleeding Borders

Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas

Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel

In Bleeding Borders, Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel offers a fresh, multifaceted interpretation of the quintessential sectional conflict in pre–Civil War Kansas. Instead of focusing on the white, male politicians and settlers who vied for control of the Kansas territorial legislature, Oertel explores the crucial roles Native Americans, African Americans, and white women played in the literal and rhetorical battle between proslavery and antislavery settlers in the region. She brings attention to the local debates and the diverse peoples who participated in them during that contentious period. Oertel begins by detailing the settlement of eastern Kansas by emigrant Indian tribes and explores their interaction with the growing number of white settlers in the region. She analyzes the attempts by southerners to plant slavery in Kansas and the ultimately successful resistance of slaves and abolitionists. Oertel then considers how crude frontier living conditions, Indian conflict, political upheaval, and sectional violence reshaped traditional Victorian gender roles in Kansas and explores women’s participation in the political and physical conflicts between proslavery and antislavery settlers. Oertel goes on to examine northern and southern definitions of “true manhood” and how competing ideas of masculinity infused political and sectional tensions. She concludes with an analysis of miscegenation—not only how racial mixing between Indians, slaves, and whites influenced events in territorial Kansas, but more importantly, how the fear of miscegenation fueled both proslavery and antislavery arguments about the need for civil war. As Oertel demonstrates, the players in Bleeding Kansas used weapons other than their Sharpes rifles and Bowie knives to wage war over the extension of slavery: they attacked each other’s cultural values and struggled to assert their own political wills. They jealously guarded ideals of manhood, womanhood, and whiteness even as the presence of Indians and blacks and the debate over slavery raised serious questions about the efficacy of these principles. Oertel argues that, ultimately, many Native Americans, blacks, and women shaped the political and cultural terrain in ways that ensured the destruction of slavery, but they, along with their white male counterparts, failed to defeat the resilient power of white supremacy. Moving beyond a conventional political history of Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Borders breaks new ground by revealing how the struggles of this highly diverse region contributed to the national move toward disunion and how the ideologies that governed race and gender relations were challenged as North, South, and West converged on the border between slavery and freedom.

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Blood Image

Turner Ashby in the Civil War and the Southern Mind

With Blood Image, Paul Anderson shows that the symbol of a man can be just as important as the man himself. Turner Ashby was one of the most famous fighting men of the Civil War. Rising to colonel of the 7th Virginia Cavalry, Ashby fought brilliantly under Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during the 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign until he died in battle. Anderson demonstrates that Ashby's image—a catalytic, mesmerizing, and often contradictory combination of southern antebellum cultural ideals and wartime hopes and fears—emerged during his own lifetime and was not a later creation of the Lost Cause. The stylistic synergy of Anderson's startling narrative design fuels a poignant irony: men like Ashby—a chivalrous, charismatic "knight" who had difficulty complying with Stonewall Jackson's authority—become trapped by the desire to have their real lives reflect their imagined ones.

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Blood on the Moon

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Edward Steers

Winner of the 2001 The Lincoln Group of New York's Award of Achievement A History Book Club Selection The assassination of Abraham Lincoln is usually told as a tale of a lone deranged actor who struck from a twisted lust for revenge. This is not only too simple an explanation; Blood on the Moon reveals that it is completely wrong. John Wilkes Booth was neither mad nor alone in his act of murder. He received the help of many, not the least of whom was Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd, the Charles County physician who has been portrayed as the innocent victim of a vengeful government. Booth was also aided by the Confederate leadership in Richmond. As he made his plans to strike at Lincoln, Booth was in contact with key members of the Confederate underground, and after the assassination these same forces used all of their resources to attempt his escape. Noted Lincoln authority Edward Steers Jr. introduces the cast of characters in this ill-fated drama, he explores why they were so willing to help pull the trigger, and corrects the many misconceptions surrounding this defining moment that changed American history. After completing an acclaimed career as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, Edward Steers Jr. has turned his research skills to the Lincoln assassination. He is the author of several books about the president, including The Trial. He lives in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

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Bloody Valverde

A Civil War Battle on the Rio Grande, February 21, 1862

John Taylor

When Jefferson Davis commissioned Henry H. Sibley a brigadier general in the Confederate army in the summer of 1861, he gave him a daring mission: to capture the gold fields of Colorado and California for the South. Their grand scheme, premised on crushing the Union forces in New Mexico and then moving unimpeded north and west, began to unravel along the sandy banks of the Rio Grande late in the winter of 1862. At Valverde ford, in a day-long battle between about 2,600 Texan Confederates and some 3,800 Union troops stationed at Fort Craig, the Confederates barely prevailed. However, the cost exacted in men and matériel doomed them as they moved into northern New Mexico.

Carefully reconstructed in this book is the first full account of what happened on both sides of the line before, during, and after the battle. On the Confederate side, a drunken Sibley turned over command to Colonel Tom Green early in the afternoon. Battlefield maneuvers included a disastrous lancer charge by cavalry--the only one during the entire Civil War. The Union army, under the cautious Colonel Edward R. S. Canby, fielded a superior number of troops, the majority of whom were Hispanic New Mexican volunteers.

"The definitive study of the Battle of Valverde."--Jerry Thompson, author of Henry Hopkins Sibley

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