Book of the Week


Civil War Canon:
Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina

by Thomas J. Brown

"There is no place quite like South Carolina for Civil War and Confederate memory. Thomas J. Brown brings a sophisticated, critical eye and a witty pen to this enduring controversy, showing a host of ways over 150 years that the Confederacy has endured and changed as it collided with modernity on the artistic and civic landscapes of the first state to secede. This book is a brilliant new turn in our quest to know why that war and its results have never gone away."
--David W. Blight, Yale University, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

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William Marvel: Now He Belongs to the Ages?

One of the more touching moments in the story of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination came when a surgeon announced that the president was dead, whereupon the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, broke the silence. “Now he belongs to the ages,” Stanton ostensibly observed, with a poetic spontaneity for which he was not known. Numerous people recount some form of the quote, but none of them recorded their memory of the phrase until a generation later, after it appeared in the multi-volume Lincoln biography by his former secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay. Nicolay was not in Washington that night; Hay is often depicted at the bedside, although the room was not big enough to accommodate all who have subsequently been placed around it at the moment of the president’s death. […]

Stephen Cushman: A Tale of Two Surrenders

What about the second major surrender, that of Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston to U.S. general William T. Sherman, at a farmhouse between Hillsborough and Durham Station, North Carolina? There were several smaller, later surrenders, too, the last of them that of the C.S.S. Shenandoah by Captain James Waddell to a captain of the British Royal Navy in Liverpool on November 6, 1865. But the negotiations initiated by Johnston—in a letter written April 13 and received by Sherman April 14, which was also Good Friday and the same day John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater—led to the largest surrender of the war. Although more than 30,000 soldiers in the Army of Tennessee surrendered in North Carolina (fewer Army of Northern Virginia veterans were paroled at Appomattox), in fact the terms signed by Johnston and Sherman officially disbanded Confederate units fighting in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, putting the number of soldiers involved close to 90,000. Why do most of us hear and know so much less about this surrender, the largest of the war? […]

Adam Wesley Dean: The Creation of Yosemite

Yosemite almost did not become a national park. Few Americans know that their beloved park with all the twentieth-century history of climbing exploits and family vacations had been vigorously opposed shortly after its birth. […]

Adam Wesley Dean: An Industrial North and an Agricultural South

The narrative goes something like this: an agrarian South of farmers and planters sought to resist the coming of a modern industrial economy by seceding. Even as late as 2008, the Virginia Standards of Learning listed that one of the “cultural” reasons for why the war happened was that “the North was mainly an urban society in which people held jobs,” while the South “was primarily an agricultural society.” The truth, of course, is much different. […]

Stephen Cushman: The 150th Anniversary of Probable Failure

Overshadowed, dispiriting, fretful intervals have their anniversaries, too, but they rarely get much attention, even though they took up most of the 1500 days of the war for one side or the other. […]