February 20, 2014
Gender, Race, and Rape During the Civil War


While researching a fictional trilogy about the Civil War, Kim Murphy kept coming across the assertion that it was a “low-rape” war. At first she didn’t question the idea, she says, but after finding official records that mentioned rape in the same sentence as pillaging and burning—crimes generally accepted to have happened—she started to suspect there was a hole in the history that needed filling. She did more digging, and what she uncovered became her new, nonfiction book, I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War.
Historians, Murphy says, largely had the idea that the Victorian era was characterized by restraint, and therefore there was little rape.


Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

Gender, Race, and Rape During the Civil War

While researching a fictional trilogy about the Civil War, Kim Murphy kept coming across the assertion that it was a “low-rape” war. At first she didn’t question the idea, she says, but after finding official records that mentioned rape in the same sentence as pillaging and burning—crimes generally accepted to have happened—she started to suspect there was a hole in the history that needed filling. She did more digging, and what she uncovered became her new, nonfiction book, I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War.

Historians, Murphy says, largely had the idea that the Victorian era was characterized by restraint, and therefore there was little rape.

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address, 150 Years Later

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln visited the site of that year’s earlier Battle of Gettysburg. He gave a short speech that became iconic. Here’s how it and the issues around it has been covered in The Atlantic, in the past and in the present.

[Images: Library of Congress]

November 15, 2013
Why Are These Civil War Soldiers Reading The Atlantic During a Cockfight?

In June 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant launched a 10-month siege of the strategically important railroad hub at Petersburg, Virginia. Throughout that time, Civil War photographers were on hand to capture hundreds of battlefield and camp scenes on glass plates. Washington-based Alexander Gardner sent two photographers into the field—Timothy O’Sullivan and David Knox.
 As the siege was getting under way, O’Sullivan and Knox took two photos of a cock fight about to begin. Here, Union General Orlando B. Willcox (seated, center) and his staff gather around to watch as camp servants prepare to release the fowl for a fight to the death. Two of the soldiers hold small whips. Alcohol and cigars round out the brutal but genteel scene. A young soldier smiles broadly—a rare occurrence in Civil War photographs.
By zooming into the original glass plate negatives, another refinement emerges: Staff officer Levi C. Brackett, serving on General Willcox’s staff, is displaying a copy of The Atlantic in both cock-fighting photos. It is the latest issue: July 1864.
Read more. [Image: Timothy O’Sullivan and David Knox]

Why Are These Civil War Soldiers Reading The Atlantic During a Cockfight?

In June 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant launched a 10-month siege of the strategically important railroad hub at Petersburg, Virginia. Throughout that time, Civil War photographers were on hand to capture hundreds of battlefield and camp scenes on glass plates. Washington-based Alexander Gardner sent two photographers into the field—Timothy O’Sullivan and David Knox.

 As the siege was getting under way, O’Sullivan and Knox took two photos of a cock fight about to begin. Here, Union General Orlando B. Willcox (seated, center) and his staff gather around to watch as camp servants prepare to release the fowl for a fight to the death. Two of the soldiers hold small whips. Alcohol and cigars round out the brutal but genteel scene. A young soldier smiles broadly—a rare occurrence in Civil War photographs.

By zooming into the original glass plate negatives, another refinement emerges: Staff officer Levi C. Brackett, serving on General Willcox’s staff, is displaying a copy of The Atlantic in both cock-fighting photos. It is the latest issue: July 1864.

Read more. [Image: Timothy O’Sullivan and David Knox]

July 22, 2013
Romanticizing the Villains of the Civil War

When Gone with the Wind had its premiere in Atlanta in 1939, the governor of Georgia declared a state holiday. One million people turned out to watch the arrival of Clark Gable, Olivia DeHaviland and Vivien Leigh. The night before, a costume ball of leading citizens dressed in the finery of the Old South was serenaded by a “negro boys’ choir” dressed as slaves standing against the newly constructed backdrop of a plantation mansion. One of its singers was six year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Hattie McDaniel, who acted as Mammy, was prohibited from joining the other stars inside the theater. It was segregated just as movie houses and other public facilities were throughout the South. Angry about McDaniel’s exclusion, Gable threatened to boycott, but she persuaded him to attend. She would go on to win an Academy Award.
Copperhead, the newly released Civil War movie directed by Ron Maxwell, lacks the scope, star power and drama of the all-time blockbuster. But it’s in a tributary of the tradition — stretching from Gone with the Wind through Maxwell’s ponderous Gods and Generals — of Lost Cause mythology. The story takes a few liberties with an obscure late-19th-century novella based on a completely fabricated and otherwise unlikely incident in upstate New York in order to offer an alternative interpretation of the Civil War: that Abraham Lincoln was a bloodthirsty tyrant trampling the Constitution, that those who opposed the war in the North were not Southern sympathizers but true patriots, and that those truly loyal to the Constitution were the persecuted victims of an oppressive regime and virtual dictator who used emancipation as an instrument of his drive for power.
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

Romanticizing the Villains of the Civil War

When Gone with the Wind had its premiere in Atlanta in 1939, the governor of Georgia declared a state holiday. One million people turned out to watch the arrival of Clark Gable, Olivia DeHaviland and Vivien Leigh. The night before, a costume ball of leading citizens dressed in the finery of the Old South was serenaded by a “negro boys’ choir” dressed as slaves standing against the newly constructed backdrop of a plantation mansion. One of its singers was six year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Hattie McDaniel, who acted as Mammy, was prohibited from joining the other stars inside the theater. It was segregated just as movie houses and other public facilities were throughout the South. Angry about McDaniel’s exclusion, Gable threatened to boycott, but she persuaded him to attend. She would go on to win an Academy Award.

Copperhead, the newly released Civil War movie directed by Ron Maxwell, lacks the scope, star power and drama of the all-time blockbuster. But it’s in a tributary of the tradition — stretching from Gone with the Wind through Maxwell’s ponderous Gods and Generals — of Lost Cause mythology. The story takes a few liberties with an obscure late-19th-century novella based on a completely fabricated and otherwise unlikely incident in upstate New York in order to offer an alternative interpretation of the Civil War: that Abraham Lincoln was a bloodthirsty tyrant trampling the Constitution, that those who opposed the war in the North were not Southern sympathizers but true patriots, and that those truly loyal to the Constitution were the persecuted victims of an oppressive regime and virtual dictator who used emancipation as an instrument of his drive for power.

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

July 19, 2013
You Won’t Believe What the Government Spends on Confederate Graves

On June 19, an array of top government officials gathered for the unveiling of a statue of Frederick Douglass, the 19th-century African-American man born a slave who rose to be a vice-presidential candidate. That politicians and the federal government continue to memorialize black leaders and abolitionists of that era surprises no one, but few are aware of the other side of that coin: how much Washington pays to memorialize the Confederate dead.
The most visible commemoration comes every Memorial Day when the president places a wreath at the Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery, the vast memorial built on an estate confiscated from Robert E. Lee. Lower down in public awareness is the fact that 10 military bases -including prominent installations like Fort Lee and Fort Bragg — are named after Confederate leaders, a fact that Jamie Malanowski highlighted and criticized in a Memorial Day New York Times op-ed that stirred a heated debate.
But even most Civil War experts don’t realize the federal government has spent more than $2 million in the past decade to produce and ship headstones honoring Confederate dead, often at the request of local Confederate heritage groups in the South, and overwhelmingly in Georgia. Going back to at least 2002, the government has provided more headstones for Confederate graves than for Union soldiers’ graves. In that time, the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided approximately 33,000 headstones for veterans of the Civil War. Sixty percent of those have been for Confederate soldiers.
Read more. [Image: HeyItsWilliam/Flickr]

You Won’t Believe What the Government Spends on Confederate Graves

On June 19, an array of top government officials gathered for the unveiling of a statue of Frederick Douglass, the 19th-century African-American man born a slave who rose to be a vice-presidential candidate. That politicians and the federal government continue to memorialize black leaders and abolitionists of that era surprises no one, but few are aware of the other side of that coin: how much Washington pays to memorialize the Confederate dead.

The most visible commemoration comes every Memorial Day when the president places a wreath at the Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery, the vast memorial built on an estate confiscated from Robert E. Lee. Lower down in public awareness is the fact that 10 military bases -including prominent installations like Fort Lee and Fort Bragg — are named after Confederate leaders, a fact that Jamie Malanowski highlighted and criticized in a Memorial Day New York Times op-ed that stirred a heated debate.

But even most Civil War experts don’t realize the federal government has spent more than $2 million in the past decade to produce and ship headstones honoring Confederate dead, often at the request of local Confederate heritage groups in the South, and overwhelmingly in Georgia. Going back to at least 2002, the government has provided more headstones for Confederate graves than for Union soldiers’ graves. In that time, the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided approximately 33,000 headstones for veterans of the Civil War. Sixty percent of those have been for Confederate soldiers.

Read more. [Image: HeyItsWilliam/Flickr]

July 3, 2013
The Battle of Gettysburg, 150 years ago and today.[Images: Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress, Mark Makela/Reuters]

The Battle of Gettysburg, 150 years ago and today.

[Images: Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress, Mark Makela/Reuters]

July 3, 2013

Remembering The Battle of Gettysburg

At Gettysburg, more than 27,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were wounded, a further 7,800 men were killed on the battlefield. Collected here are images from the battlefield 150 years ago—some of the first war photography ever seen by the American public.

[Images: Timothy H. O’Sullivan/Library of Congress, Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress]

July 2, 2013
Interactive Gettysburg: Using Modern Mapping Tools for a New Look at the Civil War Battle

When Robert E. Lee looked out over the land at Gettysburg, 150 years ago this week, what could he see?
Not much, says Middlebury professor of geography Anne Kelly Knowles. That is her conclusion based on a nearly decade-long project to visualize the Battle of Gettysburg using advanced digital mapping techniques, available for your exploration at Smithsonian.com.
"What our visual terrain analysis shows is that Lee, at no point in the battle, could see how many federal forces kept arriving at the field," she told me. "He really had no idea how big the force was that he was attacking on day two and day three."
Read more. [Image: National Archives and Records Administration]

Interactive Gettysburg: Using Modern Mapping Tools for a New Look at the Civil War Battle

When Robert E. Lee looked out over the land at Gettysburg, 150 years ago this week, what could he see?

Not much, says Middlebury professor of geography Anne Kelly Knowles. That is her conclusion based on a nearly decade-long project to visualize the Battle of Gettysburg using advanced digital mapping techniques, available for your exploration at Smithsonian.com.

"What our visual terrain analysis shows is that Lee, at no point in the battle, could see how many federal forces kept arriving at the field," she told me. "He really had no idea how big the force was that he was attacking on day two and day three."

Read more. [Image: National Archives and Records Administration]

July 1, 2013
150 years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg began. Months later, Abraham Lincoln transformed the ugly reality of that fight, which left nearly fifty thousand dead or wounded, into a historic address—and he did it with 272 words.
Garry Wills wrote about Lincoln’s address in our June 1992 issue: “His speech hovers far above the carnage. He lifts the battle to a level of abstraction that purges it of grosser matter—even “earth” is mentioned only as the thing from which the tested form of government shall not perish. The nightmare realities have been etherealized in the crucible of his language.”
(Image: Library of Congress)

150 years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg began. Months later, Abraham Lincoln transformed the ugly reality of that fight, which left nearly fifty thousand dead or wounded, into a historic address—and he did it with 272 words.

Garry Wills wrote about Lincoln’s address in our June 1992 issue: “His speech hovers far above the carnage. He lifts the battle to a level of abstraction that purges it of grosser matter—even “earth” is mentioned only as the thing from which the tested form of government shall not perish. The nightmare realities have been etherealized in the crucible of his language.”

(Image: Library of Congress)

June 20, 2013
"The fact is that the Civil War didn’t represent a failure of 19th-century Americans, but that the American slave society—which was itself war—represented a failure of humanity. That failure was the price America paid for its conception. The bill came due in 1860."

Ta-Nehisi Coates

2:18pm
  
Filed under: History Civil War Slavery 
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