This issue marks the 60th year of publication for Civil War History. It ties in to articles in the first issue written by T. Harry Williams and Douglas Southall Freeman. A tribute to Robert Johannsen is included.
“Let Us Hear No More ‘Nativism’”: The Catholic Press in the Mexican and Civil Wars
By William B. Kurtz
Summary: William B. Kurtz compares the Catholic press during the Mexican War and the Civil War. He notes that both wars followed periods of intense nativism in American politics, and Catholic editors were quick to point out when Catholics fought well in these wars. Using newspapers in several languages which existed during both wars (with one exception), Kurtz shows how theseh wars ultimately caused Catholic disillusionment and dismay when it was shown that their sacrifices were not enough to cause a decline in Nativism. He argues that, instead, Catholics formed a strong sub-culture to insulate themselves from an unappreciative Protestant America. The topic of slavery was generally avoided during the Mexican War, but became a public and dividing force even amongst the editors of the Catholic newspapers. While Catholics in general were opposed to abolitionists and the Republican party, some wartime editors began to call for the abolition of slavery as a military necessity. The San Patricio Battalion in the Mexican War was analogous to the New York City draft riots, according to Kurtz, because they did great damage to the reputation won by Catholics patriotically fighting in these wars for the United States and the Union, respectively.
Paths to Reconciliation: Northern Intersectional Romances of the Civil War Era
By Megan L. Bever
Summary: Bever focuses on fictional intersectional romance stories in popular periodicals of the day. Through these stories, Northern authors could “condemn secession and slavery while presenting the possibility of sectional reunion through sacrifice and loyalty to the Union.” She continues by writing that these intersectional romances were really metaphors for the greater conflict. Interestingly, while post-war romance stories always seemed to focus on the victorious North as a man and the submissive South as a woman, during the war men and women represented the Union and Confederacy equally. Bevier used three novels and twenty-six short stories for the purposes of this essay. These stories seem to have been written predominantly by and for women.
Two Harrys and “A Most Interesting Story”: A Document of Note
By Ethan S. Rafuse
Summary: President Harry S. Truman wrote a personal letter to Civil War historian T. Harry Williams regarding his influential work Lincoln and His Generals. In the book, Rafuse writes, Williams’ controversial defense of Lincoln over his military men in their understanding of strategy struck a chord with Truman, who had just had his own troubles with the United States military and General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. Truman, Civil War buff, took the time to pen a letter to Williams to both congratulate him on his book, but to also discuss other aspects of the intersectional conflict. Rafuse and David D. Schafer have penned articles on the topic of Truman’s interest in the Civil War and what forces shaped this interest. After producing the letter in full with prodigious annotation, Rafuse concludes that academics can and do have success publishing popular books on history.
Douglas Southall Freeman, the Civil War, and the Idea of the South
By Keith Dickson
Summary: Keith Dickson looks back at Douglas Southall Freeman, and how his upbringing and education affected how he wrote his monumental four-volume biography R. E. Lee. Freeman was raised by and educated by former Confederates in the former Confederate capital. He is still widely cited to this day despite criticism of “hero worship”, of taking the aged recollections of Confederate veterans at face value, and of relying too heavily on the Southern Historical Society Papers in R. E. Lee. In the last few pages of the essay, Dickson goes over what led Freeman to write the three-volume Lee’s Lieutenants, and how many of the major American army and navy commanders of World War II read and praised Freeman’s accomplishment, drawing parallels to their own struggles in command. Admiral Chester Nimitz read Freeman’s work for thirty minutes each night, for example. Dickson concludes by asserting that Freeman, raised and educated by Confederate veterans, “was neither a mythmaker nor an apologist for the Old South,” and points out Freeman would not continue to be so heavily relied on as a source if this were true.
As I write this, I’m going through a collection of “Lee’s Dispatches” Freeman edited in 1915 for some Siege of Petersburg Sesquicentennial posts. Freeman offered extensive commentary on these previously unpublished dispatches, often writing more in the notes than Lee had written in his original letter or telegram. His coverage of Grant’s crossing of the James River is noteworthy given the time it was written.
A Tribute to Robert W. Johannsen
By Bruce Tap
Summary: Bruce Tap writes a loving tribute to his mentor, University of Illinois professor and Stephen A. Douglas biographer Robert W. Johannsen. What stood out to me most was Johannsen’s abhorrence of presentism, his willingness to continue teaching undergraduates throughout his entire career, and his constant use of the phrase “so what?” in order to produce thinking historians.
As an aside, I was attending the University of Illinois in the College of Engineering when Johannsen retired in 2000.
Reviews and Notes:
The American Experience: The Abolitionists. WGBH Boston, 2013. 151 minutes.
War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 by James M. McPherson
A Political Nation: New Directions in Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Political History edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Rachel A. Shelden
The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War by David S. Cecelski
Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery by Heather Andrea Williams
Lincoln and the Constitution by Brian R. Dirck
War’s Desolating Scourge: The Union’s Occupation of North Alabama by Joseph W. Danielson
Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation by Timothy B. Smith
Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder by Kevin M. Levin
The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History by Louis S. Gerteis
The Confederate Heartland: Military and Civilian Morale in the Western Confederacy by Bradley R. Clampitt
David Schenck and the Contours of Confederate Identity by Rodney Steward
Lee and His Generals: Essays in Honor of T. Harry Williams edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Thomas E. Schott (Note: I reviewed this book as well at TOCWOC.)
From Western Deserts to South Carolina Swamps: A Civil War Soldier’s Journals and Letters Home edited by John P. Wilson