More Death and Mourning

Yesterday, I mentioned Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering for a deeper dive into Civil War death and mourning. The author of this article seems to have read it, and this article offers more info on the customs of the era for those without the time or inclination for the full book.

Until 1864, General Ulysses Grant was lenient about permitting civilians to enter battlefields to retrieve their dead to bring them home for burial. As long as this practice did not hinder troop movement, families were allowed to search for their lost loved ones. Connecticut newspapers often reported—along with locations—“Rolls of Missing Men,” long lists of the dead for family members. After the Battle of Antietam family members and undertakers from all over Connecticut met on the battlefield, where they conducted over 200 funerals for the Connecticut troops killed there. Likewise, Connecticut families traveled to the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness to retrieve their dead. It can be difficult for noncombatants today to grasp the impact such direct encounters with the war’s carnage had upon the citizenry.

Source: Death and Mourning in the Civil War Era | Connecticut History | a CTHumanities Project

Death in America

My favourite aspect of Civil War history is observing the social change brought about by the conflict. This article offers a glimpse at how funerary customs changed, and how embalming became de rigueur – unfortunate pun not intended!

(For more on the topic, Drew Gilpin Faust’s excellent This Republic of Suffering does a deep dive into the sea change resulting from the mass death.)

In doing research for “Memory Picture,” an interactive website I’m building that explains the pros and cons of our interment options, I’ve discovered many intriguing details about how we memorialize death. One of the most fascinating is how the founding of the modern funeral industry can essentially be traced back to President Abraham Lincoln and his embrace of embalming.

Source: How Lincoln’s Embrace of Embalming Birthed the American Funeral Industry | American Council on Science and Health

Dr Mary Walker

This article is actually from last month, when Mary Walker’s birthday was celebrated, but as we’re now into Women’s History Month, it seems fitting to post it now. Mary Walker was a force of nature!

While serving in Richland, Virginia in 1863, confederate soldiers captured Walker as a prisoner of war. Four months later, the Union army negotiated her return in exchanged for a high-ranking rebel officer. That deal would become a point of great pride for Walker and it caught the eyes of two towering figures in American military history: Major General William Tecumseh Sherman and Major General George Thomas.

Because Walker “rendered valuable service to the government, and her efforts have been earnest and untiring in a variety of ways,” the Majors General recommended to President Andrew Johnson that she receive the Medal of Honor “for meritorious services.”

Source: Dr. Mary Walker: ‘Enough tongue for a regiment of men’ | News |

Abraham Lincoln’s Daily Treasure

This is a reprint of a paywalled Wall Street Journal article, for which I’m grateful. (I hate signing into sites!) This talks about a small pocket devotional Lincoln had, and how it might have influenced some of his writing.

In 1852, when Abraham Lincoln was a railway lawyer with an uncertain future, the Religious Tract Society of London published “The Believer’s Daily Treasure.” Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, this vest wallet arranged scripts from Scripture every day of the year. The 366 short passengers, including one for leap years, came straight from the King James Bible.

Source: Abraham Lincoln’s Daily Treasure & # 39; – WSJ

Rebel Yelling

I have a feeling I’ve posted this before, but this YouTube video seems to have been uploaded recently, and it certainly bears another watch! Here’s what we think the infamous Rebel Yell sounded like.

There are, however, countless descriptions of the yell from both Union and Confederate soldiers. It’s said to be similar to Native American war cries, while also having elements of what was called a “Texas yell.” After research and some tinkering, an authentic reproduction was finally reproduced for the first time. Though there aren’t any Civil War veterans around to verify the sound, historians believe this iteration fo the Confederate yell is accurate.

Source: An Accurate Recreation of the Civil War Rebel Yell Has Been Recorded | Rare

West Point Honours Grant

The USMA is gearing up for a celebration of US Grant, culminating in a statue unveiling on April 25th. This West Point newsletter is presenting biographical articles about him from now until the big day.

Source: ulysses | Search Results | | Proudly Serving West Point, NY | West Point News and Commentary

Robert Smalls: From slave To U.S. Congressman

This Black History Month article makes the point that Robert Smalls’ story would make an excellent film. I agree! If you don’t know the full story, click the link below, and buckle in: The story of how he stole The Planter from under Confederate noses would be as taut a thriller as any other Hollywood flick out there!

From slave to four term U.S. congressman; that’s just a small part of the remarkable life Robert Smalls. The Beaufort native’s courage is still being celebrated more than century after his death. He overcame what many would consider insurmountable odds to make a lasting impression on American history.

The courageous adventure of Robert Smalls during the Civil War reads like a Hollywood movie. In 1862, Smalls developed a plan to capture a Civil War Ship, ‘The Planter’, and turn it over to union forces.

Source: Robert Smalls: From slave To U.S. Congressman

The Myth of the ‘Loyal Slave’

The recent movement to pull down Confederate monuments and expose racist public figures has led to some rethinking of the Lost Cause. The historical revisionism that has played a huge part in teaching since shortly after the war ended is finally being questioned on a national scale. Here, the Atlantic tackles the “faithful camp slave” myth.

Camp slaves performed essential tasks in an army that was always outnumbered and short on supplies. The historical record makes clear that they were not, on the whole, happy participants in the war effort; they routinely committed acts of disobedience, including running away to join the Union army. But the photograph of Andrew and Silas—likely taken early in the war, when enthusiasm was at its height—reinforced the widely held belief among white Southerners that slaves supported the Cause. The presence of men such as Silas reassured Confederates that invasion, battlefield loss, and even emancipation itself could not sever the strong bonds of fidelity between master and slave.

Indeed, the photographs and stories of camp slaves occupied a central place in how former Confederates reimagined antebellum society following surrender in the spring of 1865. The Silas photo was part of a larger Lost Cause narrative that emphasized Confederate generals as Christian Warriors, a united home front, and especially the loyalty of the black population. Popular lithographs such as Prayer in “Stonewall Jackson’s” Camp, for example, showed the famous general leading a prayer service during the war, his men listening attentively and using their swords as tools of prayer. Alongside Jackson stands his “loyal” slave.

Source: Ralph Northam and the Myth of the ‘Loyal Slave’ – The Atlantic

“Damn, I Love Abraham Lincoln’s Carpet Slippers”

GQ is typically a showcase for the sharpest, newest looks in men’s fashion, but they made an exception to showcase Abraham Lincoln’s old carpet slippers. I wasn’t much of a fan of the movie Lincoln, but I do like that they slipped in (ahem) an homage to Abe’s favourite footwear.

Abraham Lincoln needlepoint shoes

…When Daniel Day-Lewis played Lincoln in a little film called Lincoln, the film’s costume designers created an exact replica of the slippers, which Day-Lewis can be seen wearing as he puts his son Tad to sleep and wanders through the White House halls trying to figure out how to save the United States. Day-Lewis is renowned for his interest not only in his own wardrobe, but that of the characters he plays. One wonders if Day-Lewis, who is renowned for his interest not only in his own wardrobe but that of his own wardrobe but that of his characters, had a hand in “reproducing these slippers 100 percent.”

Source: Damn, I Love Abraham Lincoln’s Carpet Slippers – GQ

Civil War in Oregon

I love little articles like this, which remind me that – even though it was a tiny, nascent state, far from the fighting – Oregon still played its part in the war.

However, while none of the battles from the war between the states took place here in Oregon, that doesn’t mean Oregon didn’t feel the impacts from that war.

Source: Siuslaw News | Military Heritage Chronicles — Civil War in Oregon