Book of the Week


The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves' Civil War
by David Cecelski

Now available in paperback!

"Cecelski's marvelous story of a North Carolina slave who transcended his bondage with flair provides a meaningful way to commemorate the sesquicentennial Civil War anniversaries."
--Publishers Weekly
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Thomas J. Brown: Confederate Retweet

brown_civilWe welcome to the blog today a guest post by Thomas J. Brown, author of Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina, which will be published this month. In this expansive history of South Carolina’s commemoration of the Civil War era, Brown uses the lens of place to examine the ways that landmarks of Confederate memory have helped white southerners negotiate their shifting political, social, and economic positions. By looking at prominent sites such as Fort Sumter, Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery, and the South Carolina statehouse, Brown reveals a dynamic pattern of contestation and change. He highlights transformations of gender norms and establishes a fresh perspective on race in Civil War remembrance by emphasizing the fluidity of racial identity within the politics of white supremacy.

In today’s post, to mark the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, Brown will partner with the Historic Columbia Foundation for a “live tweet” event from 15 January to 20 February.

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My research on South Carolina sites of Confederate memory for Civil War Canon has sharpened my interest in new ventures in public history. For the upcoming anniversary of the burning of Columbia (February 17), I am joining with the Historic Columbia Foundation (@HistColumbia) to “live tweet” Sherman’s March from January 15 to February 20 (#ShermansMarch). The sesquicentennial Twitter feed invites comparison with an ambitious centennial account of Sherman’s visit, the eighty-page commemorative issue published by the two daily newspapers then in Columbia. Both renditions of the oft-told tale propose to refresh the past by presenting history in media used for dissemination of current news. Both initiatives illuminate the relationship between forms of commemoration and implications of Civil War stories.

The February 1965 newspaper shared features with monuments, reliquaries, historic preservation projects, and other Confederate lieux de mémoire developed during the century after the war. The special issue played against the everyday discard of newspapers by seeking a lasting influence. A friend of mine who grew up in Columbia in the 1970s recalls that his grandmother kept her copy in the top drawer of the secretary bookcase in her living room. She would take it out annually on the anniversary of the fire and review the articles and illustrations with her grandson, recalling stories she had heard as a child in Columbia in the 1910s and 1920s and discussing local sites of memory that the two had visited together. This pattern followed rituals of remembrance associated with Lost Cause shrines. The newspaper purported to speak for the community. As in other commemorations, the forging of a collective voice was a negotiation. In this case, the prominence of corporate advertisements nudged the publication more toward pride in Columbia’s recovery than toward the claims of irreparable grievance that often characterized civic memory of Sherman.

Twitter is more similar to commemorative forms that have flourished since the mid-twentieth century. It appeals to commercialized recreation rather than ritualized reverence, much as the Confederate battle flag gained visibility through college sports and sustained influence through sales of t-shirts and beach towels. Enthusiasm for social media is part of the celebration of technology that has recently reshaped memory of the Hunley submarine. The concept of historical “live tweeting” resembles efforts of Civil War re-enactors to reproduce conditions of the past, such as the real-time unfolding of events, though my day-by-day chronicle does not pretend to offer the “period rush” some hobbyists find in simulation. keep reading →

Glenn David Brasher: Top 10 Events in Civil War History, 2014

Today we welcome another great year-end roundup of Civil War history-related events compiled by Glenn David Brasher, author of The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom.

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A year’s end always brings multiple “Top Ten” lists. The community of Civil War enthusiasts often create lists of the best books. Last year for fun, I humbly offered my own ranking, which was not limited to books. Because of positive feedback, I’ve decided to do it again! Here in carefully considered descending order is my second annual top ten list of “events” in Civil War history.

10. 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture


Unfortunately, the so-called “Lost Cause” still lingers in our culture (an informal poll of my college students this semester revealed that 60 percent were taught some form of it in high school). Scholars have long abandoned the Cause’s major tenets (slavery was a benign institution that would have died without war, defense of slavery was not a fundamental motivator for secession, etc.), but sadly, the academic community’s influence is limited. Fortunately, however, in March 2014 the Lost Cause received a high-profile blow when director Steve McQueen’s brilliant 12 Years A Slave won the Academy Award for best picture. The win increases the cultural impact of a film that lays waste the “moonlight and magnolias” image of the antebellum South. keep reading →

All Civil War Books 40% off for the Holidays!

Save 40% on ALL books!

Save BIG on all Civil War books during our 40% off Holiday Sale! Just enter code 01HOLIDAY at checkout to receive your discount. And, if your order totals $75.00 or more, shipping is FREE.

Below are some great gift ideas. Browse our site to find more Civil War books for everyone on your holiday list. For guaranteed delivery by December 24, please order by December 7.

Note: Forthcoming books will be shipped as soon as they are published.

Belligerent Muse: Five Northern Writers and How They Shaped Our Understanding of the Civil War, by Stephen Cushman A Gunner in Lee's Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter, edited by Graham T. Dozier The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom , by Glenn David Brasher With Malice Towards Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconstruction, by Caroline E. Janney summers_ordeal williams_stonewall prince_stories rubin_through mcwhirter_battle_PB

Graham T. Dozier: The Battle of Cedar Creek: The Best of Days, the Worst of Days

A Gunner in Lee's Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter, edited by Graham T. DozierWe welcome a guest post today from Graham T. Dozier, editor of A Gunner in Lee’s Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter. In May 1861, Virginian Thomas Henry Carter (1831–1908) raised an artillery battery and joined the Confederate army. Over the next four years, he rose steadily in rank from captain to colonel, placing him among the senior artillerists in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Dozier offers the definitive edition of Carter’s letters, meticulously transcribed and carefully annotated. This impressive collection brings to light Carter’s unvarnished opinions of the people and events that shaped his wartime experience and sheds new light on Lee’s army and Confederate life in Virginia.

In a previous post, Dozier discussed Carter’s battleground visit after Bull Run. In today’s post, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek, Dozier reveals Carter’s assessment of discipline and leadership within the Confederate and Union armies there.

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Col. Thomas Henry Carter was an aggressive and disciplined officer in the South’s most successful army. For three years he had distinguished himself as an artillery commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. Now, in October of 1864, while serving as chief of artillery in the Army of the Valley, he was deeply concerned. In letters to his wife, Susan, he described in great detail the crushing Confederate defeat at the Battle of Cedar Creek. He also offered astute observations about the fighting qualities of the Southern army. Carter’s frank opinions not only reveal his frustration over the army’s conduct but also bring to light his views on military leadership.

The battle of October 19, 1864, in the Shenandoah Valley had started out as an almost-total rout of the Union army. The early morning surprise attack by Gen. Jubal Early’s Army of the Valley had overwhelmed two Yankee corps and pushed them to high ground north of the village of Middletown, and Tom Carter’s artillery had played an important role in the apparent Southern victory. Things changed, however, when Early’s force halted its attack for several hours. That gave the Union army the time needed to establish a defensive position and launch a counterattack. The subsequent Yankee assault turned a near-certain Rebel victory into a complete Northern one. Two days later, when Tom took the time to send Susan a letter, he was still stunned. “In the morning [the Confederates] were lions, in the evening lambs. Such facts are incredible to one who has not witnessed them but they are unfortunately too true.”

In the same letter, dated October 21, Carter offered a simple opinion as to why the battle had been lost. “The Yankee discipline,” he asserted, “is immeasurably superior to ours.” In a rare moment of frustration, he lashed out at the behavior of his army’s leaders. keep reading →

Graham T. Dozier: A Civil War Tourist in 1861

A Gunner in Lee's Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter, edited by Graham T. DozierWe welcome a guest post today from Graham T. Dozier, editor of A Gunner in Lee’s Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter. In May 1861, Virginian Thomas Henry Carter (1831–1908) raised an artillery battery and joined the Confederate army. Over the next four years, he rose steadily in rank from captain to colonel, placing him among the senior artillerists in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Dozier offers the definitive edition of Carter’s letters, meticulously transcribed and carefully annotated. This impressive collection brings to light Carter’s unvarnished opinions of the people and events that shaped his wartime experience and sheds new light on Lee’s army and Confederate life in Virginia.

In today’s post, Dozier shows that visiting Civil War battle sites is not just a pastime for buffs and historians 150 years after the fact. Thomas Henry Carter made a trip just months after the battle to gain insight on the ground at Manassas.

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Of all the ways that Americans demonstrate ongoing interest 150 years after the Civil War, visiting battlefields is perhaps the most popular expression of that attraction. People travel to preserved sites across the country to try not only to learn what happened there but also to imagine what it was like for the men who fought on those fields so long ago. That desire to make sense of those dramatic events is nothing new. In fact, it began for one man only two months after the first major battle of the war had taken place.

Capt. Thomas Henry Carter, the 30-year-old commander of the recently formed King William Artillery, came to the war in 1861 with a genuine curiosity about people and events. He arrived in northern Virginia that September, and one of the first things he wrote to his wife Susan about was the Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas), which had taken place on 21 July. Specifically, Carter told her what soldiers in the Confederate army thought about the way the battle had ended. “The opinion of the army,” he reported, “is that a tremendous mistake was made in not advancing on to Alexandria immediately after the Bull Run fight.” Clearly this notion troubled Tom Carter deeply. When he considered who was responsible, Carter pointed his finger in one direction. He explained to Susan that “[a]ll admit it now & the blame is put on Davis’ shoulders here. Politicians will ruin us forever.”

Carter did not stop with the assignment of blame. He went further and attempted to draw some lesson from the event. keep reading →