"Win-Win" · Engaging the Civil War · News & Notes · 10 Questions with Brian Matthew Jordan
ECW Bookshelf · A Special Announcement from ERW
In the preservation world, we like to tout “win-win” situations. For example, when the May 1 battlefield at Chancellorsville was preserved, preservationists won a major victory because they saved hallowed ground. Developers won a victory because the county gave them zoning concessions on the ground they were still able to build houses on. The county won a victory because it not only benefitted from real estate taxes but also revenue from historical tourism. At first, these various interests seemed as though they were in competition with each other, but in the end, after lots of discussion, compromise, and creative thinking, everyone was able to walk away with a “win.”
Recent events have been tumultuous, but I hope for a similar “win-win” outcome.
At Emerging Civil War, we have a lot of historians with a lot of strong opinions about what’s been going on, particularly in regard to monuments and other aspects of Confederate culture. As an organization, we don’t have a specific stand because we have such a diverse range of individual opinions among our members. We’ve tried to present as many of those perspectives on our blog as possible so that readers have many things to think about and many tools to consider.
One thing we all agree on, though, is that a better understanding of history can help us better navigate these difficult discussions. We know many of our readers agree. I want to thank all of you who have tried to raise public awareness about our national history and how that might better inform us all as we look for ways to address issues such as how to deal with Confederate heritage, how to ensure racial justice, and how to ensure everyone gets equal treatment under the law. There’s a tremendous amount there to unpack, but the more “win-win” scenarios we can find, the better off everyone will be.
-- Chris Mackowski, Ph.D.
Seventh Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge
This year's event, Aug. 7-9, 2020, is all sold out! Stay turned to the blog for details about our 2021 event, and get your tickets early!
ECW is pleased to continue our exciting work with Southern Illinois University Press on our “Engaging the Civil War” Series. We recently overhauled our editorial board, and we’re pleased to introduce our new line-up of “emerging” scholars:
Zachery A. Fry,
US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Belvoir
, University of Alabama
JoAnna M. McDonald
, Emerging Civil War
Angela M. Riotto
, Army University Press, Fort Leavenworth
Evan C. Rothera
, University of Arkansas, Fort Smith
, National Park Service, U. S. Grant National Historic Site
Cecily N. Zander
, Pennsylvania State University
You’ve seen the work of many of these folks at ECW already. For instance, Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski did
a free podcast interview
about Zack’s new book,
Republic in the Ranks
, which discusses the Army of the Potomac and the political allegiances of the soldiers within its ranks.
has been knocking it out of the park since joining the blog last year, with a focus on leadership and command issues. You can
read her blog posts here
And most recently, Cecily Nelson Zander has contributed several blog posts to ECW since coming aboard. You can
read those blog posts here
Nick Sacco contributed an essay in ECW’s
book about Grant’s memoirs, which he’s also discussed in an ECW podcast (
). More recently, we talked with Nick about
the Civil War “Zoom boom."
We’re excited about working with such great emerging voices as we continue forward with this book series. We have a lot of cool projects in the works!
ECW News & Notes
Civil War Books and Authors
published a nice review of the ECW book
, part of our “Engaging the Civil War” Series with Southern Illinois University Press. Reviewer Drew Wagenhoffer called it “a thoroughly engaging exploration of the popularization of the Civil War in song and on page and screen.”
Check out the review here
The July 2020 issue of
Civil War News
includes an article that features Emerging Civil War. The piece, penned by our editor-in-chief,
, looks at the many different ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected historians. The article quotes a number of ECW’s historians, who serve as a wide-ranging sample of the Civil War field as a whole.
The issue also features a front-page article by
, who does some editing for ECW. Leon’s article, “Gettysburg Tourism: 50% Open,” kicked off the paper’s 26th annual Gettysburg edition. The issue included an article by
Sarah Kay Bierle
, “‘Give Them Fredericksburg’: The 20th Massachusetts at Gettysburg,” written for Central Virginia Battlefield Trust.
Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington
by Ted Widmer for the issue. Jeffry Wert reviewed Kent Gramm and
Gettysburg: The Living and the Dead
, saying, “this book is different from any recent study of our most written about battle,” and calling out Chris’s photography for adding “immeasurably to the book’s appeal.” C. Michael Harrington reviewed
’s new biography
Texas Brigadier to the Fall of Atlanta: John Bell Hood
, calling it “superb.”
took a "social distanced" trip to Kelly's Ford recently. She says it was great to get out and see some different battlefield land. “I sat by the river and read for a while until some fishermen came up and told me to be careful since there was a water moccasin swimming upriver toward where I was sitting,” she says. “Yikes! I keep having near misses with snakes at historic sites.”
is steadily working on a volume on the Confederate high command during the Seven Days. He and
recently finished the manuscript for an ECW book on the 1862 Peninsula campaign. Doug and
will be hosting a video for the Richmond National Battlefield Park about Richmond's lesser-known battlefields on August 23. He and Bert will also be doing a video for the park featuring the battle of Glendale on Sept 13. You can also find Doug leading a Seven Days tour for the American Battlefield Trust on October 24, and he has several speaking engagements lined up for the fall, too, so keep your fingers crossed!
, like many of us, had had tours and talks cancelled. He's had several invitations to do Zoom or other virtual programs, though, and will be doing those for the next few months. He's also used this time to get out and explore lesser-known historic sites and remote areas of battlefields, where he's unlikely to run into crowds.
was asked to contribute an essay to The Essential Civil War Curriculum, a Sesquicentennial project of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech. The 5000-word essay, “Unvexed Waters: The Civil War on Heartland Rivers,” has been submitted for review and approval.
has finally gotten her hair cut! She has been researching and writing essays for an upcoming ECW book on primary sources, which, for her, means more Walt Whitman. She has also been stress-baking loaves and pans of gingerbread. The entire neighborhood has gotten gifts, although she didn't check the trash to see if any ended up there. “Like everyone else, I’m worried about the state of the country,” she admits. “At this point, I’ll take thoughts & prayers.”
is pleased and proud to have helped tell the story of the Battle of Algiers, 1942, part of the Operation Torch landings in North Africa, in the new documentary Shadows of Freedom, just released on several platforms.
Find it here
with Brian Matthew Jordan
Brian Matthew Jordan is an assistant Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies in History at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. He’s also co-editor of ECW’s Engaging the Civil War Series with Southern Illinois University Press. You can
read Brian’s full ECW bio here
You made a big splash with your book Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Since then, you’ve continued to look at the lives of Civil War veterans, including in your newest book (which we’ll talk about in a sec). What is it about this topic that continues to compel you?
As a scholar, I'm fascinated by the ways in which the Civil War annexed everyday life. I'm also preoccupied by the ways in which the war's violence rippled beyond the battlefield and through the decades. We think of the war as a discrete historical event, but for the generation that lived it, the war of the rebellion was a messy human experience. When you approach the conflict from that perspective, the whole landscape of the past looks a little different; some of the historiographical questions that we endlessly debate seem less immediately relevant. Despite a rich outpouring of recent scholarship, we still have much work to do before we can even approximate the personal consequences of the war, what it did to bodies and minds. The social historian in me loves this work; it amplifies the voices of some ordinary historical actors who have always fit uneasily into the stories the nation has preferred to tell about the Civil War. And speaking of those narratives, I continue to be fascinated by veterans because of my abiding interest in historical memory. Veterans were both powerful sites of memory and active participants in the struggle to control the meaning and legacy of the war.
Your new book is a volume of essays you co-edited with Evan Rothera, titled
The War Went On: Reconsidering the Lives of Civil War Veterans
. Can you tell us a little about that book?
The War Went
On is a collection of scholarly essays about the lives and experiences of Civil War veterans. It makes three central claims. First, the book demonstrates that the "hibernation" thesis—the notion that veterans suppressed the war and its issues—does not really capture the messy reality of veterans’ experiences in the decades immediately after Appomattox. We propose that engaging with the war's history was more than attending a reunion or strutting down Main Street on Memorial Day; it was engaging in electoral politics, thinking about the war hemispherically, planting colonies in the Dakotas, making out a pension claim, or tending to a rotting wound. Second, the book demonstrates that veterans took seriously their role as historians. David Blight has argued that Civil War veterans were the first Civil War "buffs," but veterans believed that they were the true arbiters of the war's history. Finally, the book seeks to convey the range and diversity of veterans' experiences after the war. How veterans
experienced reintegration, imagined the future, and lived out the balance of their lives depended not only on their unique wartime experiences, but on who they were before the war. The book seeks to move Civil War veterans’ studies beyond some unnecessarily polemical debates by pointing in new directions. We include essays on previously under-explored cohorts of veterans, southern Unionists, Confederate deserters, and rebel guerrillas, for instance. We include essays that ask new questions of old sources, like the
National Tribune, regimental histories, and disability pension files. We also introduce some new bodies of evidence, including veteran authored plays, state soldier home records, and GAR Memorial Halls as physical spaces.
How does an examination of Civil War veterans help us understand some of the issues today’s veterans might be facing?
What grizzled old Billy Yanks make so urgently evident is the significance of postwar politics in any veteran's personal healing or reintegration to civilian life. While veterans tended to a ghastly catalogue of physical wounds and untold psychological scars, and while the memory of what they did at Shiloh could (and did) gnaw at them for decades, what haunted Billy Yank above all else was the possibility that he had suffered and sacrificed in vain. As white supremacist terrorism gripped the South, former rebels regained their prewar social and political clout, and northerners clasped hands across the bloody chasm, Billy Yank was left to wonder if he had won the war after all. Indeed, it is easy for us to forget that Billy Yank returned home to a society that was sharply divided over the war, a northern population that had reached no consensus about the meaning or necessity of emancipation, the proper punishment for a treasonous rebellion, or the participation of so many men in great violence.
James McPherson persuasively argued that a keen sense of what was at stake in the war steeled and sustained Billy Yank through four years of fighting. Ironically, that same knowledge rattled the Union veteran as he confronted the peace. He looked on uneasily as the radical possibilities of the war yielded—though not inevitably—to the farce of Jim Crow. The lessons, then, are these: (1) political divisions on the home front during the war and immediately thereafter will yield more complicated and troubled homecomings; (2) benefits and health care are vital, but veterans also need genuine acknowledgment, and (3) it is vital that veterans maintain a sense authority over their war and its issues.
In one of your many capacities, you serve as a co-editor of ECW’s “Engaging the Civil War” Series with Southern Illinois University Press. What do you enjoy about working on that series?
Co-editing the Southern Illinois University Press series has been truly rewarding. I believe that all Civil War historians are by definition public historians; given the intense public interest in our subject, not to mention its enduring relevance, we have a professional obligation to reach lay audiences. The Engaging Series is a place to collect compelling new work that, while aimed at a broad audience, sacrifices nothing in terms of scholarly moorings and peer review. Co-editing the series has allowed me to work with authors, and a co-editor, who care about both the craft of history and the craft of writing.
You’re also working on some projects for the Emerging Civil War Series. What do you have in the hopper?
An Unspeakable Calamity: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Reconstruction
, which I hope will convey something of the uncertainty and confusion that attended the end of the war. Booth's pistol fired not the last shot of the Civil War, but rather the first shot of Reconstruction. I'm also working on a short history of the battle of South Mountain for the ECWS series. I hope to contribute other titles as time allows moving forward.
(short answers with a one-sentence explanation)
Favorite primary source?
I am happiest when a stack of Union pension files is delivered to me in Room 203 of the National Archives.
Favorite Civil War-related monument?
The preserved United States!
I'm going to cheat and give two more answers: my favorite battlefield monument is the simple wooden board erected by the Wisconsin Company of Berdan's Sharpshooters at the Deep Cut on the Second Bull Run battlefield where a replica is maintained on the spot today, but my favorite Civil War monument is the Lincoln Memorial.
Favorite unsung hero of the Civil War era?
Benjamin F. Butler. He's come to us mostly through caricature, but we need to take him seriously.
What’s a bucket-list Civil War site you’ve not yet visited?
Fort Donelson is the only major battlefield I have not visited.
Favorite ECWS book?
Strike Them A Blow
recounts an important leg of the Overland Campaign in gripping prose.
has a new co-authored book out.
“West Virginia was the child of the storm,” concluded early Mountaineer historian and Civil War veteran, Maj. Theodore F. Lang. The northwestern third of the Commonwealth of Virginia finally broke away in 1863 to form the Union’s 35th state. In
Seceding from Secession: The Civil War, Politics, and the Creation of West Virginia
, authors Eric J. Wittenberg, Edmund A. Sargus, and Penny L. Barrick chronicle those events in an unprecedented study of the social, legal, military, and political factors that converged to bring about the birth of the West Virginia.
President Abraham Lincoln, an astute lawyer in his own right, played a critical role in birthing the new state. The constitutionality of the mechanism by which the new state would be created concerned the president, and he polled every member of his entire cabinet before signing the bill.
Seceding from Secession
includes a detailed discussion of the 1871 U.S. Supreme Court decision Virginia v. West Virginia, in which former Lincoln cabinet member Salmon Chase presided as chief justice over the court that decided the constitutionality of the momentous event.
* * *
Curious about ECW's "Engaging the Civil War Series" from Southern Illinois University Press?
Here’s our line-up so far:
Turning Points of the American Civil War
edited by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White
“All of the essays included in this slim volume are excellent, both readable and meticulously researched.
Turning Points of the American Civil War
is a must read for all Civil War buffs.”—Paul D. Travis,
Journal of Southern History
Where Valor Proudly Sleeps: A History of Fredericksburg National Cemetery
by Donald C. Pfanz
“This might be the best book ever written about a national cemetery. Donald Pfanz tells in vivid form and in close detail the story of how, over time, a place of struggle became a place of remembrance.”—John J. Hennessy, author of
Return to Bull Run
The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect: The Life and Diary of Confederate Artillerist William Ellis Jones
by Constance Hall Jones
“As lush with literary allusions as it is sharp with critiques of military life, the diary of William Ellis Jones epitomizes the soldier’s plight . . . as well as the small comforts of friends, drink, and reading.”—Kathryn Shively Meier, author of
Nature’s Civil War
Entertaining History: The Civil War in Literature, Film, and Song
edited by Chris Mackowski
“Brisk and lively, the essays in
convey the immersive joy of reading, watching, and listening to popular Civil War history.” —Megan Kate Nelson, author of
Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War
Imagining Wild Bill: James Butler Hickock in War, Media, and Memory
by Paul Ashdown and Edward Caudill
“A spirited and carefully framed reassessment that is thoughtful, nuanced, and most important, fair to a subject who is otherwise evasive to the claims of mere mortals.”—Bryan Giemza, author of
Images of Depression-Era Louisiana
A Special Message from
Emerging Revolutionary War
June has been a momentous month in terms of the present meeting the past. ERW wanted to release the following statement:
With the recent events facing our nation, American Revolutionary War monuments and memorials have an important role in demonstrating pride in our shared past and the highest ideals we value. Statues and monuments to the leaders and participants of the struggle for American independence today stand on battlefields, in courthouse squares, and on historic sites all across this nation. While these statues depict very flawed and imperfect human beings, they memorialize the deeds and character that contributed to the creation of the nation we now live in. These statues and monuments not only tell an important part of the nation’s founding, they are also artifacts of the eras in which they were constructed and how we have remembered our Revolutionary struggle, and how the ideals of the Revolution continue to live to this very day.
Part of what we do at Emerging Revolutionary War is connect the past to what people can find at historical sites today. Over the past few weeks, we have seen localities remove or plan to remove statues honoring Caesar Rodney in Delaware and Philip Schuyler in New York. We have also seen statues of Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, and Thaddeus Kosciusko vandalized in Washington, DC; a statue of George Washington vandalized in Boston; statues of Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier vandalized in Philadelphia .
We feel it is important that all of the United States’ Revolutionary War statues and monuments are protected so they can continue to represent our highest values and ideals and the tell the story of the important figures who shaped our nation. Without these monuments, we lose vital resources to tell the important stories of our past and help unite us in moving forward as a country.
As the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution draws near, rather than the removal of monuments, we hope more monuments and memorials will be erected, especially for overlooked populations that also played a role in the founding of our nation. With this more comprehensive view of history in mind, a broader and more accurate story can be told to the American public. Emerging Revolutionary War will continue to trace the stories of the past and tie them to the places through these challenging times and we look forward to a better tomorrow."
As always, we invite conversation and viewpoints on the history of the Revolutionary Era and the threads that connect to the present, on our blog: