University of Georgia Press

Uncivil Wars

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America's Corporal

James Tanner in War and Peace

James Marten

James Tanner may be the most famous person in nineteenth-century America that no one has heard of. During his service in the Union army, he lost the lower third of both his legs and afterward had to reinvent himself. After a brush with fame as the stenographer taking down testimony a few feet away from the dying President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, Tanner eventually became one of the best-known men in Gilded Age America. He was a highly placed Republican operative, a popular Grand Army of the Republic speaker, an entrepreneur, and a celebrity. He earned fame and at least temporary fortune as “Corporal Tanner,” but most Americans would simply have known him as “The Corporal.” Yet virtually no one—not even historians of the Civil War and Gilded Age— knows him today.

America’s Corporal rectifies this startling gap in our understanding of the decades that followed the Civil War. Drawing on a variety of primary sources including memoirs, lectures, newspapers, pension files, veterans’ organization records, poetry, and political cartoons, James Marten brings Tanner’s life and character into focus and shows what it meant to be a veteran— especially a disabled veteran—in an era that at first worshipped the saviors of the Union but then found ambiguity in their political power and insistence on collecting ever-larger pensions. This biography serves as an examination of the dynamics of disability, the culture and politics of the Gilded Age, and the aftereffects of the Civil War, including the philosophical and psychological changes that it prompted.

The book explores the sometimes corrupt, often gridlocked, but always entertaining politics of the era, from Tanner’s days as tax collector in Brooklyn through his short-lived appointment as commissioner of pensions (one of the biggest jobs in the federal government of the 1880s). Marten provides a vivid case study of a classic Gilded Age entrepreneur who could never make enough money. America’s Corporal is a reflection on the creation of celebrity—and of its ultimate failure to preserve the memory of a man who represented so many of the experiences and assumptions of the Gilded Age.

Published with the generous support of the Amanda and Greg Gregory Family Fund

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The Blue, the Gray, and the Green

Toward an Environmental History of the Civil War

Edited by Brian Allen Drake

The Blue, the Gray, and the Green is one of only a handful of books to apply an environmental history approach to the Civil War. This book explores how nature—disease, climate, flora and fauna, and other factors—affected the war and also how the war shaped Americans’ perceptions, understanding, and use of nature. The contributors use a wide range of approaches that serve as a valuable template for future environmental histories of the conflict. In his introduction, Brian Allen Drake describes the sparse body of environmental history literature related to the Civil War and lays out a blueprint for the theoretical basis of each essay. Kenneth W. Noe emphasizes climate and its effects on agricultural output and the battlefield; Timothy Silver explores the role of disease among troops and animals; Megan Kate Nelson examines aridity and Union defeat in 1861 New Mexico; Kathryn Shively Meier investigates soldiers’ responses to disease in the Peninsula Campaign; Aaron Sachs, John C. Inscoe, and Lisa M. Brady examine philosophical and ideological perspectives on nature before, during, and after the war; Drew Swanson discusses the war’s role in production and landscape change in piedmont tobacco country; Mart A. Stewart muses on the importance of environmental knowledge and experience for soldiers, civilians, and slaves; Timothy Johnson elucidates the ecological underpinnings of debt peonage during Reconstruction; finally, Paul S. Sutter speculates on the future of Civil War environmental studies. The Blue, the Gray, and the Green provides a provocative environmental commentary that enriches our understanding of the Civil War.

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Lens of War

Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War

J. Matthew Gallman

Lens of War grew out of an invitation to leading historians of the Civil War to select and reflect upon a single photograph. Each could choose any image and interpret it in personal and scholarly terms. The result is a remarkable set of essays by twenty-seven scholars whose numerous volumes on the Civil War have explored military, cultural, political, African American, women’s, and environmental history.

The essays describe a wide array of photographs and present an eclectic approach to the assignment, organized by topic: Leaders, Soldiers, Civilians, Victims, and Places. Readers will rediscover familiar photographs and figures examined in unfamiliar ways, as well as discover little-known photographs that afford intriguing perspectives. All the images are reproduced with exquisite care. Readers fascinated by the Civil War will want this unique book on their shelves, and lovers of photography will value the images and the creative, evocative reflections offered in these essays.

Contributors: Stephen Berry, William A. Blair, Stephen Cushman, Gary W. Gallagher, J. Matthew Gallman, Judith A. Giesberg, Joseph T. Glatthaar, Thavolia Glymph, Earl J. Hess, Harold Holzer, Caroline E. Janney, James Marten, Kathryn Shively Meier, Megan Kate Nelson, Susan Eva O’Donovan, T. Michael Parrish, Ethan S. Rafuse, Carol Reardon, James I. Robertson Jr., Jane E. Schultz, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Brooks D. Simpson, Daniel E. Sutherland, Emory M. Thomas, Elizabeth R. Varon, Joan Waugh, Steven E. Woodworth.

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Ruin Nation

Destruction and the American Civil War

Megan Kate Nelson

During the Civil War, cities, houses, forests, and soldiers’ bodies were transformed into “dead heaps of ruins,” novel sights in the southern landscape. How did this happen, and why? And what did Americans—northern and southern, black and white, male and female—make of this proliferation of ruins? Ruin Nation is the first book to bring together environmental and cultural histories to consider the evocative power of ruination as an imagined state, an act of destruction, and a process of change.

Megan Kate Nelson examines the narratives and images that Americans produced as they confronted the war’s destructiveness. Architectural ruins—cities and houses—dominated the stories that soldiers and civilians told about the “savage” behavior of men and the invasions of domestic privacy. The ruins of living things—trees and bodies—also provoked discussion and debate. People who witnessed forests and men being blown apart were plagued by anxieties about the impact of wartime technologies on nature and on individual identities.

The obliteration of cities, houses, trees, and men was a shared experience. Nelson shows that this is one of the ironies of the war’s ruination—in a time of the most extreme national divisiveness people found common ground as they considered the war’s costs. And yet, very few of these ruins still exist, suggesting that the destructive practices that dominated the experiences of Americans during the Civil War have been erased from our national consciousness.

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Weirding the War

Stories from the Civil War's Ragged Edges

Edited by Stephen Berry

“It is well that war is so terrible,” Robert E. Lee reportedly said, “or we would grow too fond of it.” The essays collected here make the case that we have grown too fond of it, and therefore we must make the war ter­rible again. Taking a “freakonomics” approach to Civil War studies, each contributor uses a seemingly unusual story, incident, or phenomenon to cast new light on the nature of the war itself. Collectively the essays remind us that war is always about damage, even at its most heroic and even when certain people and things deserve to be damaged.

Here then is not only the grandness of the Civil War but its more than occasional littleness. Here are those who profited by the war and those who lost by it—and not just those who lost all save their honor, but those who lost their honor too. Here are the cowards, the coxcombs, the belles, the deserters, and the scavengers who hung back and so survived, even thrived. Here are dark topics like torture, hunger, and amputation. Here, in short, is war.

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