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Essays on America's Civil War
The American Civil War was won and lost on its western battlefields, but accounts of triumphant Union generals such as Grant and Sherman leave half of the story untold. In the third volume of Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, editors Lawrence Hewitt and Arthur Bergeron bring together ten more never-before-published essays filled with new, penetrating insights into the key question of why the Rebel high command in the West could not match the performance of Robert E. Lee in the East. Showcasing the work of such gifted historians as Wiley Sword, Timothy B. Smith, Rory T. Cornish, and M. Jane Johansson, this book is a compelling addition to an ongoing, collective portrait of generals who occasionally displayed brilliance but were more often handicapped by both geography and their own shortcomings. While the vast, varied terrain of the Western Theater slowed communications and troop transfers and led to the creation of too many military departments that hampered cooperation among commands, even more damaging were the personal qualities of many of the generals. All too frequently, incompetence, egotism, and insubordination were the rule rather than the exception. Some of these men were undone by alcoholism and womanizing, others by politics and nepotism. A few outlived their usefulness; others were killed before they could demonstrate their potential. Together, they destroyed what chance the Confederacy had of winning its independence. Whether adding fresh fuel to the debate over the respective roles of Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard at Shiloh or bringing to light such lesser known figures as Joseph Finegan and Hiram Bronson Granbury, this volume, like the ones preceding it, is an exemplary contribution to Civil War scholarship.
Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture
A mid-level Confederate official and lawyer in secessionist North Carolina, David Schenck (1835–1902) penned extensive diaries that have long been a wellspring of information for historians. In the midst of the secession crisis, Schenck overcame long-established social barriers and reshaped antebellum notions of manhood, religion, and respectability into the image of a Confederate nationalist. He helped found the revolutionary States’ Rights Party and relentlessly pursued his vision of an idealized Southern society even after the collapse of the Confederacy. In the first biography of this complicated figure, Rodney Steward opens a window into the heart and soul of the Confederate South’s burgeoning professional middle class and reveals the complex set of desires, aspirations, and motivations that inspired men like Schenck to cast for themselves a Confederate identity that would endure the trials of war, the hardship of Reconstruction, and the birth of a New South.
After secession, Schenck remained on the home front as a receiver under the Act of Sequestration, enriching himself on the confiscated property of those he accused of disloyalty. After the war, his position as a leader in the Ku Klux Klan and his resistance to Radical Reconstruction policies won him a seat on the superior court bench, but scathing newspaper articles about his past upended a bid for chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, a compelling fall from grace that reveals much about the shifting currents in North Carolina society and politics in the years after Reconstruction. During the last twenty years of his life, spent in Greensboro, Schenck created the Guilford Battleground Company in an effort to redeem the honor of the Tar Heels who fought there and his own honor as well.
Schenck’s life story provides a powerful new lens to examine and challenge widely held interpretations of secessionists, Confederate identity, Civil War economics, and home-front policies. Far more than a standard biography, this compelling volume challenges the historiography of the Confederacy at many levels and offers a sophisticated analysis of the evolution of a Confederate identity over a half century.
Rodney Steward is an assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina, Salkehatchie. His works have appeared in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Encyclopedia of North Carolina, and North Carolina Historical Review.
The Nineteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Campaign
The Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg have inspired scrutiny from virtually every angle. Standing out amid the voluminous scholarship, this book is not merely one more narrative history of the events that transpired before, during, and after those three momentous July days in southern Pennsylvania. Rather, it focuses on and analyzes nineteen critical decisions by Union and Confederate commanders that determined the particular ways in which those events unfolded.
Matt Spruill, a retired U.S. Army colonel who studied and taught at the U. S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, contends that, among the many decisions made during any military campaign, a limited number—strategic, operational, tactical, organizational—make the difference, with subsequent decisions and circumstances proceeding from those defining moments. At Gettysburg, he contends, had any of the nineteen decisions he identifies not been made and/or another decision made in its stead, all sorts of events from those decision points on would have been different and the campaign and battle as we know it today would appear differently. The battle might have lasted two days or four days instead of three. The orientation of opposing forces might have been different. The battle could well have occurred away from Gettysburg rather than around the town. Whether Lee would have emerged the victor and Meade the vanquished remains an open question, but whatever the outcome, it was the particular decision-making delineated here that shaped the campaign that went into the history books.
Along with his insightful analysis of the nineteen decisions, Spruill includes a valuable appendix that takes the battlefield visitor to the actual locations where the decisions were made or executed. This guide features excerpts from primary documents that further illuminate the ways in which the commanders saw situations on the ground and made their decisions accordingly.
The Recollections of a Sharecropper’s Son
Volume 2, Political Arguments
Volume 3, Judicial Decisions, 1857-1866
Volume 1, Legislative Achievements
Classics, Civilization, and the African American Reclamation of the West
In The Ebony Column, Eric Ashley Hairston begins a new thread in the ongoing conversation about the influence of Greek and Roman antiquity on U.S. civilization and education. While that discussion has yielded many exceptional insights into antiquity and the American experience, it has so regularly elided the African American component that all classical influence on black writing and thought seems to vanish. That omission, Hairston contends, is disturbing not least because of its longevity— from an early period of overt stereotyping and institutionalized racism right up to the contemporary and, one would hope, more cosmopolitan and enlightened era. Challenging and correcting that persistent shortsightedness, Hairston examines several prominent black writers’ and scholars’ deep investment in the classics as individuals, as well as the broader cultural investment in the classics and the values of the ancient world. Beginning with the late-eighteenth-century verse of Phillis Wheatley, whose classically inspired poems functioned as a kind of Trojan horse to defeat white oppression, Hairston goes on to consider the oratory of Frederick Douglass, whose rhetoric and ideas of virtue were much influenced by Cicero, and the writings of educator Anna Julia Cooper, whose classical training was a key source of her vibrant feminism. Finally, he offers a fresh examination of W. E. B. DuBois’s seminal The Souls of Black Folk (1903) and its debt to antiquity, which volumes of commentary have largely overlooked. The first book to appear in a new series, Classicism in American Culture, The Ebony Column passionately demonstrates how the myths, cultures, and ideals of antiquity helped African Americans reconceptualize their role in a Euro-American world determined to make them mere economic commodities and emblems of moral and intellectual decay. To figures such as Wheatley, Douglass, Cooper, and DuBois, classical literature offered striking moral, intellectual, and philosophical alternatives to a viciously exclusionary vision of humanity, Africanity, the life of the citizen, and the life of the mind.