Short Takes

by Fred Ray on February 11, 2012 · 0 comments

In the early 1860s, a violent fight raged to determine the fate of a vast country. An insurrection had split it in two, leaving much of the southern half governed by men who claimed to be the leaders of a new state but were dismissed by their foes as illegitimate “rebels,” outlaws who had given themselves fancy titles. The conflict involved legendary generals with names that schoolchildren still memorize, and it had not just local but international significance: In far-off London, debates raged over whether the British Empire should back the rebels, with whom some Britons felt a sympathetic bond.

The American Civil War? Nope, the Taiping Rebellion in China, which happened more or less at the same time. Three of what were rated the most destructive conflicts ever fought overlapped in time, ours being but one of them.

The Atlantic magazine has a photo series on the Civil War that’s worth a look. The first part is The Places, the second is The People, and the third is The Stereographs.

While you’re looking at photos, check out the video of the song Benny Havens, featuring a number of West Point  Civil War  grads from both sides. the name of the song refers to a nearby tavern, prominent in the 1840s through the 60s, often a haven for lonely cadets. Even today, I am told, cadets must memorize this song.

Elsewhere, Gary Yee looks at sharpshooters as prisoners. What were their chance of survival?

“The children wants to see their paw,” Sarahett Wilkerson wrote. “Hatty says her paw is in the army a shooting rebels. She can talk every thing now. Mary she looks for you on evry steamboat.”

The University of Iowa is looking for volunteer transcribers for their Civil War collection so that it can be digitized. Speaking as someone who’s done a bit of myself, I can tell you that it’s a sometimes frustrating but ultimately rewarding experience. You get the read what the soldier actually wrote and thought, not what some latter-day historian thinks they said.

Volunteers, to pen!

The Civil War Project is here.


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