Book of the Week


Defining Duty in the Civil War:
Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front

by J. Matthew Gallman

"A compelling examination of how struggling northerners defined, debated, and delineated loyal behavior during the four years of the American Civil War. At once entertaining and enlightening, Gallman’s lively survey of an impressive range of print literature yields fresh understanding of the evolving roles that patriotic Union civilians aspired to emulate."
--Joan Waugh, author of U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth

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Cartoon: Wade Hampton’s Whiskers, by Mark Wahlgren Summers

summers_ordealWe’re happy to share the latest in a series of political cartoons from historian and illustrator Mark Wahlgren Summers, author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction.

On Thursdays, we feature a new cartoon—hand drawn by Summers—that offers a creative, satirical spin on Reconstruction history. Each cartoon is accompanied by brief commentary from the author/illustrator to help put things into context. These cartoons stimulate your brain, tickle your funny bone, and bring history to life in a whole new way. 

Today’s feature: How the Lost Cause lost its way with Wade Hampton. (Click image for full size.)

 

wade hampton's whiskers“The Lost Cause Isn’t All That Lost. It Just Went into Redeemer Wade Hampton’s Whiskers and Couldn’t Find the Way Out.” A gray coat covered a multitude of causes. While Democrats and conservatives who “redeemed” the South from Republican rule in particular and democracy in general insisted that theirs would be a New South accepting the results of the Civil War, the kind of leaders they chose did not show it. South as well as North, voters chose figures with impeccable military records. In South Carolina, whites claimed to have elected onetime Confederate cavalryman Wade Hampton as governor in 1876 and with their paramilitaries, had him inaugurated. Hampton would graduate into the Senate a few years later. Hampton’s esteem outside the state did not rest on his war record, nor his reputation as a planter from a distinguished line of Wade Hamptons dating to Revolutionary War times. Rather, he was honored as a symbol of how far that Lost Cause had been tamed into something that northerners could find acceptable: love for the American flag and lip-service, at least, to fair treatment for African Americans. In Hampton’s case, it was more than lip-service: it was a liberalism that got him into serious political trouble with the rank and file. His willingness to appoint blacks to low-level government positions and preserve the basics of the school system, though, did not extend to protecting black voters’ political rights. Majority rule in South Carolina would have meant Republican control, and that outcome Hampton and his white-line critics alike were determined to prevent by whatever means of persuasion they could muster—homicidal ones included.

Mark Wahlgren Summers is professor of history at the University of Kentucky. He is author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction, and many other books.

J. Matthew Gallman: On Heroes and Hypocrites: War Talk 150 Years Ago and Today

gallman_definingWe welcome a guest post from J. Matthew Gallman, author of Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front. The Civil War thrust Americans onto unfamiliar terrain, as two competing societies mobilized for four years of bloody conflict. Concerned Northerners turned to the print media for guidance on how to be good citizens in a war that hit close to home but was fought hundreds of miles away. Examining the breadth of Northern popular culture, Gallman offers a dramatic reconsideration of how the Union’s civilians understood the meaning of duty and citizenship in wartime.

In the following post, Gallman compares the similarities and differences between the “carpet-knights,” or military hypocrites of the Civil War, and modern day “chickenhawks.”

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In July 1862, Nathaniel Hawthorne—writing under the pen name “A Peaceable Man”—published a lengthy essay “Chiefly About War Matters” in the Atlantic Monthly. It was a bitingly satirical piece. Hawthorne had been travelling throughout the east, including visits to the seat of war, and he was not satisfied with what he had seen. Although the men in charge earned quite a few sharp words, A Peaceable Man saved some of his most searing barbs for officers and faux officers who had taken to sitting around Washington’s Willard’s Hotel, smoking cigars, drinking brandy, and exchanging war stories. This “crowd of carpet-knights” infuriated him. Some were actual soldiers, who exaggerated their exploits from the safety of a bar stool. Others were “self-commissioned officers” who had purchased uniforms and posed as the real thing. Their presence was galling when Union soldiers were actively fighting in the field.

Hawthorne’s essay, and hundreds of other editorials, short stories, cartoons and songs, engaged in a broad public conversation about what sorts of men deserved praise in wartime, and who had earned public distaste and ridicule. It was a more complex discussion than one might expect.

For many years now I have been mulling over this and related questions about how public discussions defined the meaning and expectations of citizenship and duty during the Civil War. It is striking how contemporary conversations about military service and wartime exploits resonate with those of 150 years ago. There is much that is quite similar, and also a good bit that is dramatically different.

Today stories periodically surface of public figures who have been claiming—and even wearing—military decorations that they had not earned. Nearly ten years ago George W. Bush signed the “Stolen Valor Act of 2005” to punish such fraud. When that legislation was ruled unconstitutional, Congress passed a recrafted “Stolen Valor Act of 2013,” signed by Barack Obama. Clearly, profiting from falsified bravery was not something to be taken lightly.

During the election of 2004, one candidate’s military service in Vietnam came under such harsh scrutiny (I am no expert, but it seemed unfair and inaccurate to me), that the term “swiftboating” was born. He lost. The other candidate’s military service in the Texas National Guard received some scrutiny as well, although much of that seemed to concern whether he served properly as opposed to where he served. Meanwhile, pundits and antiwar critics coined the term “chickenhawk” to describe folks whose new enthusiasm for wars appeared unseemly in contrast to how they behaved when they were of military age.

The public conversation that emerged in the Union states during the Civil War meshes well with these contemporary discussions. The greatest scorn was reserved for the dishonest charlatans who sought to profit from a war where they had not shared in the risks. A few months after the disastrous First Battle of Bull Run, New York’s Vanity Fair published a public letter directed to a certain “young gentleman in Broadway” who had taken to walking up and down the city’s streets in a fake uniform, accepting admiring glances from men and women alike. “Don’t you think it is about time you took off that uniform?” the letter demanded. Although serving honorably in the Texas National Guard might generally have been seen as appropriate service during an unpopular war, Civil War cartoonists loved mocking men who served in the “Home Guard” while dining at fancy restaurants and staying clear of harm’s way.

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Cartoonists for New York-based Vanity Fair enjoyed ridiculing the local elites who paraded around in uniforms but spent much for their time dining at the city’s fashionable Delmonico’s restaurant. This series of six drawings plays on the idea that these faux soldiers are engaged in defending “Fort Delmonico,” down to the “Grand Charge” at the end of the evening. Vanity Fair, November 23, 1861, 232. Courtesy of HarpWeek.

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Cartoon: 1874 Arkansas Politics, by Mark Wahlgren Summers

summers_ordeal

Here is the latest in a series of political cartoons from historian and illustrator Mark Wahlgren Summers, author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction.

On Thursdays, we feature a new cartoon—hand drawn by Summers—that offers a creative, satirical spin on Reconstruction history. Each cartoon is accompanied by brief commentary from the author/illustrator to help put things into context.  

Today’s feature: the messy politics of Reconstruction-era Arkansas. (Click image for full size.)

1980 MWS, Arkansas politics is to politics like

“1874 Arkansas Politics Is to Politics What Jackson Pollock Is to Portrait Painting.” Arkansas politics had always had the nation bafflingly confused. By 1874, it made no sense to anyone outside the state. The regular Republican faction, known as the Minstrels, had run a wartime Unionist, Elisha Baxter for governor; Democrats had adopted a dissident radical Republican, Joseph Brooks, as their candidate. In November, the voters did not make the result; the vote-counters did. Backed by the legislature and the courts, Minstrels declared Baxter elected. Little did they realize that he would sell them out (but then, little did Baxter realize that eventually the Democrats would sell him out, too!). When Baxter’s apostasy became clear, Minstrel leaders had the state supreme court declare Brooks the winner after all. With a militia at his back, Brooks—now backed by most Republicans—overthrew Baxter—now backed by most Democrats. The brief civil war that followed, the Brooks-Baxter War, ended in the president throwing his weight on Baxter’s side, dooming Reconstruction in Arkansas. By the time the president had unscrambled who was on whose side and decided that Brooks may have been elected after all, it was too late to do anything about it.

Mark Wahlgren Summers is professor of history at the University of Kentucky. He is author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction, and many other books.

Cartoon: The Grannies, by Mark Wahlgren Summers

summers_ordeal

Here is the latest in a series of political cartoons from historian and illustrator Mark Wahlgren Summers, author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction.

On Thursdays, we feature a new cartoon—hand drawn by Summers—that offers a creative, satirical spin on Reconstruction history. Each cartoon is accompanied by brief commentary from the author/illustrator to help put things into context.  

Today’s cartoon focuses on the scandals of political patronage. (Click image for full size.)

1980 MWS, The Grannies

“The Grannies.” By the 1870s, the spoils system had become a national scandal. Among those crying out the loudest were the so-called Liberals, most of them Republicans with growing doubts about Reconstruction and a hardening certainty that a government of greed and grab was not only inefficient and immoral, but a threat to the Republic. Horace White of the Chicago Tribune, Edwin Godkin of the Nation, George William Curtis of Harper’s Weekly and Missouri senator Carl Schurz were among the leading critics of politics as usual, personified by such figures as Senators John “Black Jack” Logan of Illinois and Roscoe Conkling of New York, as well as Congressman Benjamin F. “Spoons” Butler of Massachusetts. That all of them were hearty supporters of Reconstruction only made them more offensive to Liberals. If civil service reformers saw them as the epitome of self-interest in government, the bosses saw their antagonists as dilletantes, the “unco’ guid,” as Conkling would sneer, and, in their daintiness about political methods, un-American and unmanly. “When Doctor Johnson defined patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel,” Conkling snarled, “he was unconscious of the then undeveloped capabilities and uses of the word ‘Reform.’ . . . They forget, that parties are not built up by deportment or by ladies’ magazines or gush!”

Mark Wahlgren Summers is professor of history at the University of Kentucky. He is author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction, and many other books.

Cartoon: Sumner Gives the Lord Another Chance, by Mark Wahlgren Summers

summers_ordeal

Today’s post is the latest in a series of political cartoons from historian and illustrator Mark Wahlgren Summers, author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction.

On Thursdays, we feature a new cartoon—hand drawn by Summers—that offers a creative, satirical spin on Reconstruction history. Each cartoon is accompanied by brief commentary from the author/illustrator to help put things into context.  

In today’s cartoon, Summers skewers Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. (Click image for full size.)

1980 MWS, Sumner gives the Lord another chance

“Sumner chides the Lord for His many errors, but promises to give Him another chance.” Dealing with Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts must have made many of his colleagues appreciate why so many martyrs were burned at the stake. Sumner was righteous, eloquent, learned, and on the great questions of human equality he was conscience itself. But how exasperating it was for more practical senators to be lectured on where and how they were wrong by this dogged, pompous, thin-skinned, humorless man—and by “one of them d—d literary fellows,” as a Michigan politician grumbled! Grant was asked whether he had ever heard Sumner converse. “No,” the president answered, “but I have heard him lecture.” At another point, it is said, someone told him that Sumner did not believe in the Bible. Not surprising, Grant responded: “he didn’t write it.” In a tawdry age, Sumner’s integrity and courage made him stand out. They also helped make him an outcast. When he fought the president’s scheme to annex Santo Domingo, Grant used his influence to depose Sumner as head of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Mark Wahlgren Summers is professor of history at the University of Kentucky. He is author of The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction, and many other books.