David Blight on Frederick Douglass

David Blight’s voice has become very familiar to me – I listened to his entire Yale iTunes U course on the Civil War, and have sought out his podcast appearances since then. This is the first time I’ve seen him speak, and this brief clip from a 2009 interview beautifully summarises Douglass’ life. By all accounts, Blight beautifully expounds on Douglass’ life, too, in a weighty new biography released recently.  I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it.

Life in One Union Prison Camp

This was a three-part story, I see, though the paper doesn’t bother linking to the previous two entries. This one deals with one soldier’s “last post”; a Union prison camp. I went through a phase of research in my teens where I read widely on Southern prisons – Andersonville especially – but I can’t recall many accounts of Northern stockades. After reading of Andersonville’s horrors, it was a bit jarring to read about set tables for twice-a-day dinners and debate clubs founded by the prisoners, but it’s worth remembering that thousands died in these comparatively improved camps, too.

Source: One soldier’s story: Pvt. Asaph Wilson Sherrill and Deep Creek, the only Civil War Battle fought in Jackson County | History | thesylvaherald.com

The Union’s Mad Scientist

I knew about Thaddeus Lowe, chief of the Union Army’s Balloon Corps, but clearly I’ve never read about him in-depth, as most of these facts were new to me. Sounds like I have some entertaining research ahead of me!

There was a definite need for air superiority, and using hot air balloons to get a height advantage gave Northern scouts an edge. The Balloon Corps actually played a valuable role in yielding Union success at Antietam, Yorktown, and the various battles along the Potomac River.

The balloons themselves weren’t bizarre. The Chief Aeronaut and Commander of the Union Army Balloon Corps, Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, on the other hand… was basically a cartoon mad scientist who somehow wound up in the service o

Source: Why the commander of the Army’s Balloon Corps was just as crazy as you’d expect – We Are The Mighty

John Yates Beall

I find the conspiracy theories around Lincoln’s assassination pretty fascinating. There is so much we don’t know – due in large part to Stanton’s interference with evidence in the case – that many connections or ideas become plausible. I noticed a mention of John Yates Beall while perusing Wikipedia, and found this little tidbit in his biography.

There is a legend discussed by Lloyd Lewis that Lincoln was approached by John Wilkes Booth, who was a friend of Beall’s, to save his life, and that the President agreed to do so. But Lincoln changed his mind (the legend goes) when he was approached by his friend and Secretary of State William Henry Seward, who insisted that Beall’s activities had been dangerous to the citizens of New York State (Seward’s state). Supposedly a furious Booth determined to kill Lincoln and Seward for this betrayal after Beall was executed.

John Yates Beall – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

James Henry Hammond

Here’s another entry in this unintentionally unpleasant theme week.  Jamed Henry Hammond, a real peach of a man, was the originator of two phrases that distilled the fire-eaters’ essence: “King Cotton” and “Mudsill Theory“.  The rest of his biography reads as you’d expect of one who saw the average human being as someone on whom to wipe his feet.

James Henry Hammond – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The ‘Early Memoir’ of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

To commemmorate the sesquicentennial of Gettysburg, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s alma mater has published Blessed Boyhood! The ‘Early Memoir’ of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

I’m not sure how useful this will be for Civil War buffs, but it’s probably more enjoyable an experience than the Star Wars prequels.

Bowdoin College wanted to do something permanent to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. It had a typescript, apparently never published, of Gen. Joshua Chamberlain’s memoir of his childhood…

The memoir covers Chamberlain working as a teacher – both unsuccessfully and successfully – after graduating from high school. Chamberlain discusses the cramming he had to do for almost a year in Greek, Latin and other subjects to be admitted to Bowdoin.

via Books Q&A: “Blessed Boyhood! The ‘Early Memoir’ of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain” | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

The Scourge of the South

I couldn’t find space in my podcast calendar for Champ Ferguson, but in fairness there are more pleasant stories to tell.  His short biography here, though, is worth a read – it reminds us that, while some joined for honor or patriotism or social values, others signed up to avenge themselves and settle old scores.  Quote Shelby Foote: “It wasn’t all valor.”

At the end of the Civil War, our nation’s bloodiest struggle, only two men were tried and executed for war crimes. Both had served the Confederacy. One was Henry Wirz, commandant of the notorious prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville, Ga.; the other was the guerrilla leader Champ Ferguson.

There is, perhaps, room for extenuation in the case of Wirz, an ineffectual martinet clearly out of his depth. The same cannot be said for Ferguson. While some romantics have doggedly held to the image of Champ Ferguson as a much wronged Southern patriot and freedom fighter, he was in fact a vicious killer who took life with neither conscience nor compunction.

via The Scourge of the South – NYTimes.com.