Alabama Claims »

An article about Grant’s Chief Justice nomination made an offhand mention of the reparations Britain paid after the Civil War. I haven’t done enough reading about the post-bellum period, and the Alabama Claims were news to me. It’s a pretty fascinating little footnote in history, not least because it involves a fast-tracking of British Columbia’s […]

Looking Back On The First Government Shutdown »

On the eve of the latest government shutdown ending, NPR takes a look back to the first shutdown, which also had its roots in racism. Plus ça change, America? I’m filing this blog post under “reenactments”. GONZALEZ: At the time, African-American men were allowed to vote, but they tended to vote Republican. So Democrats didn’t […]

Hidden History »

A brief, but interesting, history of Fort Monroe. Landing site for the first black slaves in America, and site of the “Doctrine” that started Emancipation down its track. Ellis Island, New York, was the gateway to freedom for millions of European immigrants. They fled poverty and oppression, for a chance to achieve the American Dream. Well, […]

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 […]

Utah’s state constitution bans slavery — mostly »

So it turns out Utah’s constitution still allows for slavery, “Except as a punishment for a crime.” This legal loophole was explored in great depth in the excellent Douglas Blackmon book, Slavery By Another Name. (The book was the basis of a PBS documentary, too.) A hundred and fifty plus years after the war ended, it’s amazing […]

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 […]

Strange Blighted Land »

Gregory Coco, author of A Strange and Blighted Land, speaks on this C-Span archive video about the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg. The book is not an easy read – it’s along the lines of Mary Roach’s Stiff – deeply disturbing if you’re a sensitive person, but fascinating if you’re at all intrigued by […]

Sherman’s Voice »

I noticed a little something that now has me obsessed. A passing mention in the New York Times from 1888 that mentions a party at which William Tecumseh Sherman related some of his war memories to Thomas Edison, specifically, into Edison’s recording gramophone. No mention anywhere on the web of this recording being recovered or […]

Fake news almost destroyed Abraham Lincoln »

From the “What goes around, comes around” files, this reminder that the morass of fake news in which we currently swim is not a new phenomenon. Abraham Lincoln was more than just a foe of slavery. He was also a mixed-race eugenicist, believing that the intermarriage of blacks and whites would yield an American super-race. […]

Abraham Lincoln’s Original Thanksgiving Proclamation »

I was questioning my American brother in law – who spent this weekend overindulging and regretting between the moments of gratitude – why the US holiday happens on a Thursday. Little did I realise that it was actually the decision of Honest Abe back in 1863. I had never seen the full text of the […]