Book of the Week


Confederate Slave Impressment in the Upper South
by Jaime Amanda Martinez

"Martinez challenges the standard critiques of slave impressment with fresh and substantial evidence. An original contribution to Civil War scholarship."
--George Rable
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David T. Gleeson: Irish Confederates and the Meaning of American Nationalism

The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America by David T. Gleeson

[This article is crossposted at uncpressblog.com]

Today we welcome a guest post from David T. Gleeson, author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America. A new history of the Irish in the Confederacy, The Green and the Grey evaluates the ambiguities and complexities of the Civil War experience for Irish Americans in the South. Taking a broad view of the subject, Gleeson considers the role of Irish southerners in the debates over secession and the formation of the Confederacy, their experiences as soldiers, the effects of Confederate defeat on Irish Americans and their emerging ethnic identity, and their role in the rise of “Lost Cause” ideology. Focusing on the experience of Irish southerners in the years leading up to and following the Civil War, as well as on the Irish in the Confederate Army and on the southern homefront, Gleeson argues that the conflict and its aftermath were crucial to the assimilation of Irish Americans in the region. Throughout the book, Gleeson draws comparisons to the Irish on the Union side, expanding his analysis to engage the growing literature on Irish identity in America.

In a previous post, Gleeson explored how Irish immigrants in Charleston “became southern” by participating in Lost Cause memorializing. In today’s post, Gleeson explains how studying Irish identity in the Civil War can shed light on American identity as well.

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In early November 1860 New Orleans resident Michael Nolan, an Irish immigrant originally from County Tipperary, but who now owned a coffeehouse in the French Quarter, campaigned hard for the election of National Democrat Stephen Douglas to the presidency. Nolan loved the Union, it seemed, and did not want it to break up. In the sectional crises of the 1850s the Irish, in both the North and the South, had been on the side of compromise and opposed to any extremist positions that might threaten the United States, which had provided refuge from political discrimination and economic blight in Ireland. Yet shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s victory in that election, Nolan and hundreds of fellow Irish New Orleanians marched through the streets in support of Louisiana’s secession. As a member of the Louisiana militia, in his case the Irish “Montgomery Guards,” Nolan had gone from being a defender of the United States to one of the “Republic of Louisiana.” He would go on to become a prominent Confederate officer reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, serving with distinction, before being killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Yet while Nolan and thousands of other Irish men from New Orleans were off fighting in Virginia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, others at home undermined the Confederate cause. Some guarding the city mutinied, allowing Union forces to occupy it without firing a shot. Most accepted the defeat with ease, and Union commander General Benjamin “the Beast” Butler found the Irish helpful in his running of the fallen city. Back at the front, Irish Confederate soldiers retained a reputation for being brave soldiers but were also more likely to desert than native Confederates. It seems that the Irish in the South could shed their American nationalism for a Confederate one, and, after defeat, take up the American again just as easily.

As an immigrant myself, I can attest that one’s sense of identity is heightened by the immigration experience. In your new country, even when your language is the same as the natives, you suddenly you have an “accent,” your religion and culture are different, and you must adapt to new social and political realities. Immigrants then give us valuable insights, not only into their own changing identity, but also that of the host country. Irish immigrants in the South had to become Americans and Confederates. They had to negotiate the cultural traits they brought from Ireland with the demands of loyalty to their new home. And it was this Irish cultural baggage which played the key role in binding them to the United States and the Confederacy. keep reading →

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David T. Gleeson: Immigrants and American Wars: The Irish Confederate Experience

The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America by David T. Gleeson

[This article is crossposted at uncpressblog.com]

Our guest post today comes from David T. Gleeson, author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America. A new history of the Irish in the Confederacy, The Green and the Grey evaluates the ambiguities and complexities of the Civil War experience for Irish Americans in the South. Taking a broad view of the subject, Gleeson considers the role of Irish southerners in the debates over secession and the formation of the Confederacy, their experiences as soldiers, the effects of Confederate defeat on Irish Americans and their emerging ethnic identity, and their role in the rise of “Lost Cause” ideology. Focusing on the experience of Irish southerners in the years leading up to and following the Civil War, as well as on the Irish in the Confederate Army and on the southern homefront, Gleeson argues that the conflict and its aftermath were crucial to the assimilation of Irish Americans in the region. Throughout the book, Gleeson draws comparisons to the Irish on the Union side, expanding his analysis to engage the growing literature on Irish identity in America.

In the following post, Gleeson explores how Irish Charlestonians’ participation in Lost Cause mythologizing helped solidify their acceptance into southern culture.

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When immigrants and other offspring fight in American wars, it’s seen as a key element to them integrating into the American society and politics. One is familiar with the appearance of Irish and Mexican American soldiers in the U.S cavalry in westerns such as Fort Apache (1948) or the obligatory representative of every white ethnicity in World War II movies such as Stalag 17 (1953) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), where natives and ethnics learn to respect each other in the tempest of war. Indeed, Christian Samito, a legal historian of the Civil War era, in a study of Irish and African American soldiers in the Union army, has described the whole experience as “becoming American under fire.”

My own work for The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America indicates that military enlistment and prowess on the battlefield were key elements of Irish integration into the Confederacy. The performance of Captain William Ryan and his “Irish Volunteers” of Charleston, for example, at the Battles of Secessionville in 1862 and again at Battery Wagner in July 1863, in defense of their adopted city, earned the Irish praise in the local press. Even one newspaper, which had been sympathetic to the anti-immigrant Know-Nothings in the 1850s and had been a critic of the Irish response to the Confederacy, had to recognize “the gallant charge led by Captain Ryan and the Irish Volunteers.” When killed in action at Battery Wagner, another Charleston correspondent stated that, “no nobler soldier” had fallen in battle. As it was for the African American 54th Massachusetts on the Federal side, immortalized in the movie Glory (1989), the fight at Wagner on Morris Island was just as important for the image of Irish in Charleston. keep reading →

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Glenn David Brasher on Preserving the Battleground at Williamsburg

The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom , by Glenn David Brasher

[This article is crossposted at uncpressblog.com.]

When rumors of “development” encroach upon areas with rich historical backgrounds, they most likely will find a wall of resistance waiting. This is the current situation in the Virginia Peninsula, where the site of the Battle of Williamsburg is now vulnerable to such an unfortunate fate. Glenn David Brasher, author of The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom, recently discussed the battle’s significance and how development threatens to destroy a significant landmark in African American history.

In May of 1862, Union General George B. McClellan sought to capture Richmond, Virginia, by way of the Virginia Peninsula. However, he ran into difficulty when Confederate troops subverted his attack at Yorktown and withdrew through the Chickahominy swamps. The Confederates then set up a defensive line with fortifications in Williamsburg, but, as Brasher explains, slaves provided information and guidance that proved instrumental in the Union Army’s ultimate success at the Battle of Williamsburg:

Fortunately, sixteen slaves who had been forced to work on these fortifications came to Union lines and explained that there were forts on the Confederate left that were unoccupied. Other slaves brought in similar reports and revealed that if Union troops filled the empty works they would be in a protected position on the flank of the Confederate army. Even more fortuitous, one slave knew of a hidden path that led right to the empty works.

Once Union attacks elsewhere stalled, Union commanders finally decided to send at least one brigade down the secluded trail. General Winfield Hancock was ordered to occupy the abandoned Confederate works but not to move his brigade any farther without orders. The path was narrow and at times the men had to hack their way through dense foliage. For the last leg, the slaves led the Yankees across a mill dam, as well as a gorge that pond water had sliced into a hillside. Eventually the brigade emerged from the wooded labyrinth and found the works abandoned, just as the slaves said they would be.

Brasher’s complete article can be found at The Civil War Monitor’s blog “The Front Line.” Currently, the battle site is only partial protect by the National Park Service’s Colonial Parkway; the rest of the site is owned by Anheuser Busch and a local family, both of which are using a “mixed-use overlay” to allow for development. Brasher warns that doing so would destroy the site of one of the most significant moments in African American history:

When the Battle of Williamsburg took place in 1862, white northerners were bitterly divided over the issue of whether the government should attempt to liberate the slaves. When the Civil War began, most white northerners felt that the war’s only aim should be to keep the south from seceding, not to end slavery. Yet, after a year of conflict those sentiments were changing. It had become obvious that the South was effectively forcing its slave population to build earthen fortifications (like those around Yorktown and Williamsburg) that slowed the advance of Union troops. At the same time, however, black southerners had also proven their desire to help the north win the war, and their services (as in the Battle of Williamsburg) had become invaluable to northern armies.

Both these considerations ultimately played a large role in the northern government’s decision to turn the war into one that freed the slaves. Those that favored emancipation repeatedly pointed to the events that transpired on the Virginia Peninsula to make their case, and these factors figured greatly in President Abraham Lincoln’s deliberations over the Emancipation Proclamation. By the start of 1863, African Americans were finally being recruited as soldiers.

Read Brasher’s full post at the Civil War Monitor.

Glenn David Brasher is instructor of history at the University of Alabama and author of The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom.

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Civil War Titles Coming in Fall 2013


UNC Press is excited to fill you in on the new Civil War books from the Fall 2013 catalog. For book descriptions and more, search through the interactive catalog above or click on the selected cover images below. All fall books are now available for pre-order. Most books will be available as e-books, too, as soon as the printed copies arrive.

If you want to stay on top of what’s newly available each month in your favorite subject area, sign up for our monthly eNews announcements.

The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America by David T. Gleeson Nature's Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia by KAthryn Shively Meier Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War by Rachel A. Shelden Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Slavery by R. J. M. Blackett Confederate Slave Impressment in the Upper South by Jaime Amanda Martinez

 

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Two New Ebook Shorts: Excerpts from The Third Day at Gettysburg and Beyond

[This article is crossposted at uncpressblog.com]

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Don’t miss our list of Gettysburg-related books to learn more about the battle and its significance.

We’ve got two brand new items available in price-friendly ebook short format. These are some essential nuggets from longer works—a great way to get a meaty, quick, and inexpensive read on your Kindle, Nook, or Kobo reader.

Announcing two new UNC Press Ebook Shorts:

Both of the new UNC Press Civil War Shorts originally appeared in The Third Day at Gettysburg and Beyond, edited by Gary W. Gallagher, a collection that combines fresh evidence with the reinterpretation of standard sources to testify to the enduring impact of the Civil War on our national consciousness and refocus our view of the third day at Gettysburg.

Armistead and Garnett by Robert K. Krick“Armistead and Garnett”
by Robert K. Krick

Virginians Lewis A. Armistead and Richard B. Garnett, two Confederate officers killed during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, lived remarkably parallel lives. In this Civil War Short, Robert K. Krick follows the two men from their early military careers fighting against American Indians and Mormons through two decades of military service and onto the field at Gettysburg, where both were mortally wounded.

Robert K. Krick is author of Conquering the Valley and Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain, among other books. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

ISBN 9781469612836, $6.99
Available for Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Nobel’s Nook, and Kobo eReaders

Lee's Army Has Not Lost Any of Its Prestige by Gary W. Gallagher“Lee’s Army has not Lost any of Its Prestige”
by Gary W. Gallagher

In this Civil War Short, Gary W. Gallagher surveys Confederate sentiment in the summer of 1863 and argues that many southerners did not view the battle of Gettysburg as a resounding defeat. Gallagher makes the compelling case that, although southern casualties were tremendous, Confederates across the South, along with the vast majority of Lee’s soldiers, persisted in viewing Robert E. Lee as an invincible commander whose army increasingly sustained the hopes of the nation.

Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia and author or editor of numerous books, including Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War and Lee and His Army in Confederate History.

ISBN 9781469612829, $2.99
Available for Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Nobel’s Nook, and Kobo eReaders

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