- Editor’s Note
We have come to the end of the second year of publishing The Journal of the Civil War Era. This final issue of 2012 reflects the vitality of approaches that increasingly mark the field, with scholars embracing new techniques and asking fresh questions that chart different paths through familiar terrain.
The three research articles chip away at the usual narratives for antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction America. First up, Mark Fleszar unearths the rather idiosyncratic colonization plan of a Florida planter in Haiti. Contrary to the usual story of slaveowners fearing the ramifications of a slave insurrection, Zephaniah Kingsley embraced the country, established a thirty-five-thousand-acre plantation on the northern coast, and populated it with some of his freed slaves. Although he had few followers among U.S. planters, his experiment in creating a dependent labor force highlighted ideas circulating in the Atlantic World at the time, adding nuance to the transition from slavery to free labor.
Next, Jarret Ruminski examines a different kind of contraband—instead of referring to fugitive slaves, he looks at how numerous sections of Mississippi became sites of illicit commerce conducted by Confederate civilians with Union authorities. Ruminski uses this trade to complicate notions of loyalty and disloyalty, showing how individuals often contained multiple allegiances. Finally, K. Stephen Prince changes the perspective on the use of the term “carpetbaggers.” Instead of looking at how white southerners employed this pejorative term, he shows how northern Republicans came to accept the stereotype as part of changing notions of political legitimacy and federal intervention.
The additional sections of the journal also identify new methodological trends emerging in the field. A review essay by Rosanne Currarino surveys cultural history and discovers a tendency to embrace more economic history, yet this approach seems more readily used by scholars of the antebellum, rather than postbellum, United States. Closing out the volume, T. Lloyd Benson highlights the potential value of geographic information systems in telling new stories about physical landscapes. And he calls for crowdsourcing—or partnerships of scholars with public contributors—as a means of moving forward.
For the past two years, we have enjoyed sharing with you the good work being produced on the era by a wide range of talented scholars. We look forward to seeing you next year. [End Page 477]