While not strictly Civil War related, this book – reviewed here in the NY Times – shows the legacy of at least one die-hard secessionist upon his daughters. This sounds like a fascinating family history.
These are just snapshots of a densely braided biography spanning eight decades, not counting the Lumpkins’ forebears and the rediscovery of the sisters’ work by late-20th-century feminists. The book also draws together the strands of Hall’s own career as a distinguished historian of Southern labor and an activist on behalf of women and civil rights.
Hall is a herculean researcher whose sources include security files she sued the Department of Justice to access. Her interviews with the elderly Lumpkins, and reflections on why and how she tracked the sisters over decades, lend an appealing journalistic and personal touch to what might otherwise be an unleavened diet of detailed scholarship.
Implicit or not, parallels abound with current American life. Johnson’s “Swing Around the Circle” railroad trip featured rallies at which his language was (at best) strong and intemperate, including personal attacks on Congress. During the trip, the president even told a supporter: “I don’t care about my dignity.” Senator John Sherman of Illinois complained that Johnson had “sunk the presidential office to the level of a grog-house”.
Unsurprisingly, analogies to the current situation are emphasized, however subtly, throughout Wineapple’s book.
The author writes that “the highly unlikeable President Johnson was impeached … by men who could no longer stand his arrogance and bigotry, his apparent abuse of power, and most recently his violation of law.”/blockquote>
A glowing review for a new Civil War book, Armies of Deliverance, by Elizabeth Varon. I usually avoid quoting last paragraphs of the articles I link, but this is quite the parting comment by the reviewer.
While Varon doesn’t quite deliver on her argument about deliverance, she narrates battles and campaigns with an unusually deft, at times even gorgeous touch. This is some of the finest battle writing around, and a sweeping analysis of both United States and Confederate strategy and tactics. While the book can’t displace James M. McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom,” still perhaps the single greatest volume ever written on the Civil War or even on United States history, it belongs beside it on the shelf. Give
Some sad news – author Tony Horwitz has died. I read his Confederates in the Attic over 20 years ago, and was taken both with his humourous writing and his focus on the war’s lingering effects on America. I had actually earmarked a review of his new book the other day, with the intention of sharing it here as a post. I clicked the mention of him in the New Yorker thinking it was a review, and was startled to find an obituary.
Horwitz, who died Monday, at the age of sixty, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, a former New Yorker staff writer, and a distinguished American historian with a singular voice, full of compassion and delight and wry observations and self-deprecating humor—layers that covered but never obscured his deep and abiding moral seriousness about the task of the historian as the conscience of a nation.
The author of “Baghdad Without a Map,” Horwitz undertook adventure. He reported on strikes. He covered the war in Iraq. He once retraced the ocean voyage of James Cook. But, most lastingly, he wrote about the Civil War and its tortured legacy of hatred and division, battles that never ended. Those pen-and-ink soldiers, in the pages of Horwitz’s many books, came to life in their descendants, champions of the Confederacy, modern-day Klansmen, anguished, angry, and haunted.
There’s a new book about Andrew Johnson and his impeachment, and the New York Times has given it a rave review. I’ll have to pick it up, but I might wait to see how the current Constitutional crisis shakes out first. I’m not sure it’ll make for consolatory reading.
By February 1868, President Andrew Johnson had forced the moment to a crisis. As Brenda Wineapple recounts in her new book, “The Impeachers,” Johnson had been goading legislators with his accelerating attempts to rule by decree, daring them to “go ahead” and impeach him — which the House voted to do by an overwhelming majority, 126 to 47.
The author of award-winning works about Nathaniel Hawthorne and Emily Dickinson, among other books, Wineapple started to research her history of the country’s first impeachment trial six years ago; she briefly mentions Presidents Nixon and Clinton but not the current occupant of the White House. She doesn’t have to. The relevance of this riveting and absorbing book is clear enough, even if Wineapple’s approach is too literary and incisive to offer anything so obvious as a lesson.
I gave up on fiction a few years ago, but I’m curious about this new book. Lincoln’s live-in friendship with Joshua Speed is a topic I find endearing, and a great novelist can often make fiction feel like real history. (See also: Gore Vidal’s Lincoln.)
Abraham Lincoln is irresistible to writers. Historians have delved into Lincoln’s depression, his team of rivals and the hunt for his killer. Now, more than 150 years after Lincoln’s assassination, novelist Louis Bayard weighs in with “Courting Mr. Lincoln,” a rich, fascinating and romantic union of fact and imagination about young Lincoln, the woman he would marry and his beloved best friend.
I can’t say that Washington DC’s Museum of the Bible is a museum I’d have given much thought to visiting, but through September, they’re hosting an exhibition on the Slave Bible. It’s a fascinating piece of history, and worth checking out if you’re in town.
The Slave Bible, as it would become known, is a missionary book. It was originally published in London in 1807 on behalf of the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of enslaved Africans toiling in Britain’s lucrative Caribbean colonies. They used the Slave Bible to teach enslaved Africans how to read while at the same time introducing them to the Christian faith. Unlike other missionary Bibles, however, the Slave Bible contained only “select parts” of the biblical text. Its publishers deliberately removed portions of the biblical text, such as the exodus story, that could inspire hope for liberation. Instead, the publishers emphasized portions that justified and fortified the system of slavery that was so vital to the British Empire.
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.
Mother Jones interviews Joanne Freeman, author of The Field of Blood, examining physical violence in Congress in the run-up to the Civil War. If the book is as fun as the interview, it promises to be a rollicking read!
That’s a great example both of the performative aspect of it and the ways in which it’s more than performance. Both North and South had an enormous response to the caning, partly because it came after a string of Southern attacks against Northerners, partly because of the brutality of it, and the fact that it took place within the Senate chamber itself—which Brooks tried to avoid. He tried to catch Sumner outside so that he could avoid precisely what happened, which is the symbolism of a Southern congressman striding into the Senate and beating an abolitionist to the ground. I remember reading through Sumner’s letters, and letter after letter after letter, from adults, from schoolchildren, [they’re] not even sure what to do with their emotions, talking about crying when they heard what happened. The power of that moment for Northerners is easy to underestimate.
The same goes for the other side of the equation. Many Southerners took abolitionism generally—and abolitionists specifically—as an insult, as well as a threat and a danger. There was a feeling that Brooks gave Sumner just what he deserved. Sumner had stood up and made a rousing speech attacking the spread of slavery into Kansas, had insulted the South, had even insulted a few Southern congressmen. So to many Southerners, their response was, “Thank you so much for defending our honor and our interests and silencing him.” There was one letter I found from a woman who was a Northerner, and I believe she married a Southerner, and she says in the letter, “If Brooks had done it anywhere but in the Senate and not over the head, then nobody would have any objections at all.”
Are any of my readers from the Big Apple? If so, I wish to live vicariously through you this week, when John Marszalek is visiting and presenting at two separate events. Marszalek is the author of the wonderful Sherman biography, as well as books on Halleck, Grant and Lincoln. I’ve heard him speak at iTunes U symposia, and he is both knowledgeable and very entertaining. Worth the effort to get tickets!
A nationally recognized Mississippi State historian joins two other prominent colleagues next week as featured speakers for the New York Historical Society.