How Things Fell Apart, By Chinua Achebe - 'In an excerpt from his long-awaited memoir, the inventor of the post-colonial African novel in English discusses his origins as a writer and the seeds of revolt against the British Empire.'
I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives.[more inside]
Would the Northern and Southern United States be better off making it official (again)? Chuck Thompson thinks so .
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, recently touched on a couple of interesting aspects of the American Civil War. First, Racism Against White People briefly looked at how Southern intellectuals argued that Northern whites were of a different race. Then a subthread in the comments on that post spawned an investigation of American Exceptionalism in History and the notion of preserving democracy in the context of the American Civil War. After all, "if a government can be sundered simply because the minority doesn't like the results of an election, can it even call itself a government?" Definitely check out the comments of both posts.
“If ever men should celebrate the day with the rapt ardor of devotees, it is the soldiers of the Union,” bent on “saving the Union of the revolutionary fathers from destruction.” The residents of Fredericksburg VA didn't celebrate Independence Day in 1862. It was no longer their Independence Day. However, just across the river, within both sight and sound of the residents of Fredericksburg, the Union Army threw a raucous celebration, complete with fireworks, artillery salutes, mule races, a greased pole, and a greased pig.
Southern Values Revived: How Our Elites Have Become Worse "It’s been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don’t know is that they’re also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are. Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that’s corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here’s what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now." [more inside]
We Who Are About to Bug Out Salute You
Rutherford B. Hayes.... brought the troops home and ended Reconstruction, with the almost unanimous support of the nation’s liberal establishment. They too fought politically against slavery before the Civil War, risked their lives to emancipate its victims, and, too soon, couldn’t wait to bug out of the South.
What Did The Rebel Yell Sound Like? (video): 'From the early 1900's through the 1940's, Civil War veterans were filmed, recorded and interviewed at reunions, parades, and other patriotic events where, as the century advanced, they came increasingly to seem like ambulatory trophies from some distant age of heroes.'
Hiram Cronk was born in 1800, at 14 he enlisted to fight the British, and in 1905, he passed away as the last veteran of the war of 1812. This amazing video shows the funeral procession, featuring veterans from the Civil War and the Spanish-American war as they marched through Brooklyn. [more inside]
"...though we may have our differences, we are one people, and we are one nation, united by a common creed."
Founded in 1857, The Atlantic is one of the oldest publications still being produced in the US. They have created a commemorative issue for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War that includes articles published in the magazine over a century ago, an extensive gallery of images, as well as a few essays and analyses by modern writers, including President Obama. Editor's note. (Via: James Fallows' Reddit AMA) [more inside]
"I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads, beheaded." At least 260 people were killed last night in a government assault on Homs, the epicenter of the Syrian uprising. This came right before a key UN vote to support the Arab League's plan to have President Bashar al-Assad hand over power to the vice president and hold early elections for a national unity government, which failed this morning with 13 in favor and a double veto by China and Russia. [more inside]
Sandusky, Ohio is probably best known for its roller coasters (and maybe the wineries in the area), but one of the most interesting places--a tiny little island in the Sandusky Bay called Johnson's Island--is very often overlooked. Once the home of a prison camp for confederate soldiers, daring (and not so daring) escapes, convoluted espionage schemes, poetry, and eating rats. [more inside]
During the US Civil War, metal monies were hoarded for their value, resulting in a shortage of available coins. The Union government issued official "paper coins" that weren't backed by by gold or silver. This "faith paper" lost value quickly, and for a short while, stamps were official currency. That didn't take, either, so enterprising individuals took it upon themselves to mint their own coinage. These are now known as Civil War Tokens (CTWs), and were made and used between late 1862 and mid 1864. On April 22, 1864, Congress set the weight of coins and set punishment for counterfeiting coins of up to one thousand dollars and imprisonment up to five years. Yet there are over ten thousand varieties of tokens, representing 22 states, 400 towns and about 1500 individual merchants. Melvin and his son Dr. George Fuld wrote key books in the CWT field, creating the rarity scale and composition key used by most numismatists. Given sheer number of CWTs, starting a collection might be daunting. Enter collector Ken Bauer, whose method breaks down the vast world into smaller collections, from anvils to watches and so much more.
The War Nerd (previously) breaks tone somewhat to celebrate the life of Benjamin Grierson, who would go from being kicked in the head by a horse as a youth to leading, "the greatest cavalry raid of the whole war, riding from Tennessee 600 miles almost due south through enemy territory to land safe in Baton Rouge, LA, inflicting ten times the casualties he had himself—and then going on to be the one white officer who stood up for the black freedmen 'Buffalo Soldiers' in the far West, at a time when America was using white-vs-black to heal up the raw North-vs-South scars."
150 years ago, a primitive Internet united the USA. "Long before there was an Internet or an iPad, before people were social networking and instant messaging, Americans had already gotten wired. Monday marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental telegraph. From sea to sea, it electronically knitted together a nation that was simultaneously tearing itself apart, North and South, in the Civil War. Americans soon saw that a breakthrough in the spread of technology could enhance national identity and, just as today, that it could vastly change lives."
On March 15, 1993, The Truth Commission for El Salvador published its report From Madness to Hope: the 12-year war in El Salvador. The Commission attributed the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero to the death squads, as well as the deaths of the victims of the El Mozote Massacre. ... Five days after the commission issued its report, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador approved an amnesty law covering all the violent events of the war.
In 2005, Manuel Bravo, 35, walked to a stairwell of the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Center carrying a bedsheet. He hung himself. The note he left indicated that he had done it so that his son, Antonio Bravo, 13, could remain in the United Kingdom to be educated. The pair were to be deported back to war-torn Angola the next day, where they alleged that they had been victims of abuse by the ruling party. Now, Antonio is 19, training to be an electrician, speaking in Yorkshire dialect, no longer speaks his native Porteguese, and will be deported back to Angola if his humanitarian visa is not extended. "My family, they're English," he said, referring to the Beaumonts (his adoptive family). "Britain, that's my culture." [more inside]
The Atlantic's Ta-nehisi Coates sparks months of debate with his contention that The Civil War Isn't Tragic. "The Civil War is our revolution. It ended slavery, and birthed both modern America, and modern black America. That can never be tragic to me." [more inside]
Love and Valor the movie is based on the book, Love and Valor – The Intimate Civil War Letters Between Captain Jacob and Emeline Ritner Both projects by Charles Larimer. Hear him discuss these letters on Talk of Iowa. Mentioned in this episode: University of Iowa Libraries Civil War Diaries and Letters. Crowdsourcing transcription of these letters.
The Smithsonian asks: Who had the best Civil War Facial Hair?
On May 23, 1861, Spotsylvania County, Virginia voted 1323 - 0 in favor of succession from the Union. Historian John Hennessy provides an explanation of how that vote came to be a perfect 100% in favor of succession. So people rebelling against "Northern tyranny" themselves used tyranny to rig a vote that was undoubtedly going to go overwhelmingly in their favor anyway?
The Civil War Journal of Nehemiah Wallington, digitized by the John Rylands Library, is one of the surviving diaries kept by this seventeenth-century Puritan. Although Wallington recorded a number of key events, like the execution of Archbishop Laud, the diary has garnered most attention for its report of the Chelmsford witch trials, overseen by Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins (enter "witchcraft" into the search box to see Wallington's account). For more of the intellectual context for early modern witch-hunting in the British Isles, see the Witches in Early Modern England and Survey of Scottish Witchcraft databases, as well as the handy collection of primary texts in Cornell's Witchcraft Collection.
"War has returned to the Ivory Coast in the guise of massacres, mercenaries, a besieged capital, and a humanitarian nightmare." Several months after incumbent Laurent Gbagbo stole the presidential election, the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire has escalated as the forces of rightful president Alassane Ouattara have reached Abidjan to force Gbagbo's surrender. [more inside]
How Slavery Really Ended in America On May 23, 1861, little more than a month into the Civil War, three young black men rowed across the James River in Virginia and claimed asylum in a Union-held citadel.... [T]the laws of the United States were clear: all fugitives must be returned to their masters. The founding fathers enshrined this in the Constitution; Congress reinforced it in 1850 with the Fugitive Slave Act; and it was still the law of the land — including, as far as the federal government was concerned, within the so-called Confederate states. The war had done nothing to change it. Most important, noninterference with slavery was the very cornerstone of the Union’s war policy. President Abraham Lincoln had begun his inaugural address by making this clear, pointedly and repeatedly. “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists,” the president said. “I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” [more inside]
Professors' global model forecasts civil unrest against governments - With protests spreading in the Middle East (now Yemen - not on the list) I thought this article and blog on a forecast model predicting "which countries will likely experience an escalation in domestic political violence [within the next five years]" was rather interesting. [more inside]
Know that feeling of disappointment when you realize this is yet another Civil War Re-enactment that's just not down enough? Good news.
Not to be outdone by the New York Time's efforts to cover the American Civil War, the Washington Post is offering a blog (too), before and after photographs of the District of Columbia from 1860 to today, a guide to ongoing Civil War events, and for those with a short attention span and a fondness for 140 characters, Tweeting the Civil War (daily events 150 years after they happened as if they were happening today).
Mapping Slavery. In September 1861 Edwin Hergesheimer of the United States Coast Survey produced a map based on data from the 1860 census showing the distribution of slaves across the South. It's interesting to compare this to other maps. [more inside]
After a test flight nearly ended in disaster at the start of the Civil War, Professor Thaddeus Lowe recovered his balloon and headed back North. Recognizing the potential use of air vehicles in the war, he managed to get an invitation to the White House in order demonstrate the capabilities of balloons in the war effort. [more inside]
Sherman's March and America is a digital representation of historian Anne Sarah Rubin's project on how Americans have remembered General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864. The funnest part are the interactive maps. Clicking on the yellow-highlighted pins opens up a video exploring the significance of that spot on the map. Each map represents a different genre of memories of the march (civilian, soldiers, fiction, etc). My favorite is the narrative of the events in Milledgeville, Georgia on the Soldiers Map, featuring plastic toy soldiers and burning cardboard buildings.
This evening in Charleston, SC, a Secession Ball! When they don their "period formal" hoop skirts tonight some ladies may rue the fact that have no slaves to pull their corsets tight. The ladies and their escorts, many of whom are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who would like us to believe that the Civil War was not about slavery. The NAACP, and others disagree. The NAACP has organized a peaceful protest.
In remembrance of the Confederate and Union soldiers who served in the American Civil War, the Liljenquist Family recently donated their rare collection of almost 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress. These achingly poignant portraits speak volumes. [more inside]
The Long Recall is a daily news aggregator chronicling the buildup to the U.S. Civil War. The daily posts are "digests of the news and commentary that an intelligent American might have had accessible 150 years ago."
Disunion One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Americans went to war with themselves. Disunion revisits and reconsiders America's most perilous period -- using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded. Updated every Monday.
Ta-Nehisi Coates has written about his evolving view of the American Civil War (among many other things) on his Atlantic blog for over two years. A reader has now compiled links for all of them for our reading pleasure. There is also a page of recommendations that will help a reader find the most often mentioned civil war resources in the discussions. [more inside]
S Thomas Summers teaches writing and literature, and writes poetry about the American Civil War. Some of my favorites. Hat tip: The Atlantic.
Perspective Matters. The exact same moment in history (the arrival of Union troops in Fredericksburg VA in 1862), as described by a white woman resident of the area, and a black slave. It would be an understatement to say they had diverging viewpoints.
Mass wedding for former Tamil fighters Fifty-three couples of former Tamil Tiger rebels were married Sunday ... at a rehabilitation camp near the northern town of Vavuniya. [more inside]
The First Decoration Day was held by freed slaves on May 1, 1865 at the Washington Race Track in Charleston, South Carolina to honor "The Martyrs of the Race Course": Union POWs who had died in a Confederate prison camp there. Decoration Day later became known as Memorial Day. [more inside]
Bangkok is on fire. A good collection of links on the conflict with many on-the-ground reports (may not work well in Firefox). Video of the assault on the red shirt encampment. Now the violence is spreading beyond the capital into the northern and northeastern provinces. Is Thailand heading for civil war?
"La Rosa does not care who knows she sees the world from well left of center. Williams balks at accepting the liberal title; instead he states his preference to be known as a progressive. 'When people hear liberal, this happens,' he said while making hand gestures showing steam coming out of his head." Their views and their press are helping to remake Montgomery, Alabama.
In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, Col. P. H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, asking him to return to work for him. In reply, Jourdon Anderson told Colonel Anderson exactly where he could stick his offer. This letter was part of The Freedmen's Book (full download in many different formats) which was distributed to those freed after and during the Civil War, so that they would know stories of other freedmen who had done well, including Touissant L'Ouverture, Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass. The book was put together and published by Lydia Maria Child, abolitionist, women's rights activist, Indian rights campaigner and all around awesome person. She became famous in her own time for her cookbook The Frugal Housewife, but today her best known work is Over the River and Through the Woods. The Freedmen's Book was part of an effort by abolitionists after the war to educate freed slaves. The American Antiquarian Society has a great website about that movement, Northern Visions of Race, Region and Reform, which has plenty of primary sources and images galore.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month in his state, without referencing slavery or civil rights. The move has angered civil rights leaders and revived a controversy that has lain dormant for eight years. FireDogLake is reporting that the neo-confederate group which lobbied Governor McDonnell to make the proclamation has ties to white supremacists. [more inside]
The U.S. National Archives' Flickr Photostream. Includes collections of historical photographs and documents | Civil War photos by Mathew Brady | and the Documerica Project by the EPA in the 1970s. There is also a nice set of Ansel Adams landscape photographs.
With Sword and Pen is an interesting and well-done blog that celebrates "First Edition, Rare, Small Press, and Collectible Books Pertaining to the American Civil War." [more inside]
In the wake of the Civil War, fifty Americans (audio alert), Union and Confederates both, accepted commissions in the Egyptian army. One of the most notable was William Wing Loring who wrote A Confederate Soldier in Egypt about his experiences.
About 2% of the US population died while serving in the military during the US Civil War, roughly equivalent to about six million people today. A few years after the war the best selling book at 100,000 copies was Elizabeth Stuart Phelps' The Gates Ajar, which deals mainly with heaven and what exactly happens there. Spoilers follow. [more inside]