Wednesday, January 21, 2015

News---Confederate Weapons Cache May Have Been Found In South Carolina River

Huge Cache Of Confederate Weapons Seized by General Sherman may have Been Found In South Carolina River, Washington Post, January 21, 20155

Drunk and rowdy, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops captured South Carolina’s capital on Feb. 17, 1865. It was nearing the end of the Civil War, and Sherman’s plan was to destroy the state where secession began.  “The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina,” Sherman wrote to Gen. Henry W. Halleck. “I almost tremble at her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems in store for her.”

Sherman’s 60,000-man army torched Columbia in retaliation for seceding from the Union. The blaze, which he later blamed on a Confederate general he said left cotton bales in the streets, destroyed a third of the city. Sherman’s troops made off with the Confederate armory. They confiscated cannonballs, rammers, sabers and bayonet scabbards. And, on their way out of town, they dumped whatever they couldn’t carry into the Congaree River.

Amid a massive toxic tar cleanup, historians have found possible evidence of the loot using sonar and metal detectors near the Gervais Street bridge in downtown Columbia, the city’s State newspaper first reported over the weekend. The munitions, if indeed they are munitions, are said to be buried in 40,000 tons of black tar that spilled into the river several years ago from a now-defunct power plant. Historians are trying to find the best way to retrieve the stash, with explosive experts on hand.

“Hopefully, none of it is going to blow up,” Joe Long, curator of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, told the newspaper. Researchers located more than 200 sites in the two-foot-thick oil sludge as “exhibiting signature characteristics that could be associated with ordnance.”

Full Text is continued at Washington Post, January 21, 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

News---Union Navy Coat Found In Underwater Debris Of USS Monitor Is Nearly Restored

Civil War jacket
 Wool Coat That Sank With Civil War ironclad Monitor Is Nearly Revived, Mark St. John Erickson, Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2015.

More than 150 years after it sank off Cape Hatteras inside the warship Monitor, a woolen coat discarded by a Union sailor trying to escape the doomed Civil War ironclad is approaching another milestone.

Found inside the gun turret, which was recovered from the Atlantic in 2002, the rumpled expanse of Navy blue cloth had to be chiseled and coaxed from the grasp of the thick marine concretion that trapped it — a painstaking process that took archaeologists and conservators from the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and Mariners' Museum several days.
But that was only the start of a decade-long treatment program that included hundreds of hours of tedious yet precise manual labor as conservators used ultrasonic dental scalers to break down the concretions embedded between the fragile fibers.

Now the museum is engaged in the final steps of a $20,000 effort to reassemble some 180 pieces of fabric onto custom-made archival mounts, then put the conserved coat on display inside its USS Monitor Center here in southeast Virginia. And with weeks to go before humidity indicators determine the optimum place for the artifact, the leaders of the effort to bring it back to life say that all the time, money and attention has been more than worth it.
"We've found all kinds of buttons inside the turret — some made of wood, some of glass, some of bone, some of rubber, some even mother-of-pearl. Clearly the sailors were just tearing their clothes off before jumping into the water — and doing it so fiercely that their buttons were popping off," Monitor Center director David Krop said.

"This coat was left behind by one of those sailors — and it gives you a very real, very personal connection to the story of those men and this ship during its chaotic end."
Recognized around the world after its clash with the Confederate ironclad warship Virginia — also known as the Merrimack — in the March 9, 1861, Battle of Hampton Roads, the pioneering Monitor sank less than 10 months later off Cape Hatteras.
Civil War jacket
Most of the officers and crew escaped the ship, which had just celebrated Christmas. But 16 men were lost when the vessel went down during a frantic, storm-tossed rescue attempt.

Not until 1973 was the wreck found in 220 feet of water — and 25 years passed before Navy divers working with archaeologists from the Newport News-based sanctuary launched the first in a series of summer expeditions that led to the 2002 recovery of the turret.

That's when conservators and archaeologists began the task of excavating and preserving the contents of the revolutionary gun platform, which had flipped upside down as it sank, jumbling its two giant guns and gun carriages, two ill-fated sailors and the rest of its contents together.    Among the most poignant objects discovered as they sifted through the tons of sediment and concretion that had accumulated over 141 years was the coat, which wrapped around several of the Monitor's gun tools — including a rammer and worm — as the sinking vessel descended.
Puzzling that mass apart from the surrounding concretion with small hand and pneumatic chisels was delicate and tedious work.  "It was heavily concreted in a lot of places — and the concretion had grown into the woven fiber structure," senior conservator Will Hoffman said.  From the turret, the mass went immediately into a tub of water — the first of countless baths it would undergo over more than 10 years in an effort to remove the destabilizing chemicals absorbed from the sea.
But long before the conservators freeze-dried the cloth to remove the last traces of its final water bath, the disintegration of the original cotton thread had combined with its long exposure to the sea to pull the garment apart into about 180 pieces. "It looks like it's in great shape," Hoffman said, "but it's actually pretty degraded."

Full Text is Continued at Los Angeles Times.com
Images are from Los Angles Times.com

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New and Noteworthy---Sherman's March: How Popular Cultures Fib About The Civil War

Through The Heart of Dixie: Sherman's March and American Memory, Anne Sarah Rubin, University of North Carolina Press, 2014, 300 pp., 20 b/w illustrations, 2 maps, end notes, bibliography, index, $35.00.
Below is a book review written by Krista Kinslow and published January 14 2015 on H-Net.
  In Through the Heart of Dixie: Sherman's March and American Memory, Anne Sarah Rubin presents the many stories that have been told about Union General William T. Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea in late 1864. She is interested in showing how these stories emerged and evolved over time, rather than discerning which are more accurate. Rubin writes that “this project explores the myriad ways in which Americans have retold and reimagined Sherman’s March,” and she examines several groups’ stories about this event, starting with “the participants themselves, including white Southerners, African Americans, Union soldiers.” Drawing on “travel accounts, memoirs, music, literature, film, and newspapers,” she aims to unpack “the many myths and legends that have grown up around the March, using them as a lens into the ways that Americans’ thoughts about the Civil War have changed over time” (p. 4).
The book begins with an overview of the march, setting the stage for Rubin’s analysis. She captures the confusion of the campaign, showing foraging and destruction, but also acts of kindness. She discusses the complicated relationship between the march and African Americans who came into its path. Rubin stresses that the Union army was not wholly made up of abolitionist proponents and showcases events, like the abandonment of black camp followers at Ebenezer Creek, to demonstrate the callous and strategic choices the military made in the context of complicated racial views and the realities of war.
Not surprisingly, different groups told different stories about Sherman’s march. White Southerners saw the march as indicative of Northern excess and rapacity. Rubin focuses on stories told about Southern women hiding their valuables and livestock and Northern soldiers stealing, although she only briefly discusses rape and assault, which is surprising given later accusations of such crimes. In contrast to legends about Sherman’s scorched-earth policy, Rubin points out that a large percentage of buildings were not burned, and Southerners had to come up with creative explanations for unaffected structures. According to Rubin, one of the most common ways to explain a structure’s survival was to link it to the Freemasons, which conveyed a sort of Passover message, in that if the Masonic symbol was displayed, the building was spared. Alongside such conspiracy theories stood stories about Northern kindness, especially tales of soldiers helping women and children. Rubin’s work could have benefited from further analysis of when these stories circulated and whether there was any indication that some narratives were more popular in certain contexts.
African Americans also told stories about the march and were often part of tales spun about it. Stories ranged from the predictable “faithful slave” narratives white Southerners told, to tales of liberation. Throughout, Rubin explains how “Sherman’s March was the epitome of the double-edged sword,” bringing not only emancipation but also “hunger, destruction, and mistreatment” for African Americans (p. 69). Throughout her analysis, Rubin stresses the ambivalence soldiers felt about emancipation, showing that the cause for which Union soldiers fought was more complicated than the view that many Americans continue to espouse. Although such complexity strengthens the book’s argument, more discussion on how black audiences received these stories would have been helpful.
Rubin suggests that “the importance of the March for African Americans seemed to wane over the twentieth century,” but it returned to importance in the 1960s with the intersection of the centennial of the march and the civil rights movement. When John Lewis, newly elected chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), wanted to use rhetoric about the march in his speech for the 1963 March on Washington, other civil rights leaders considered it too incendiary and told him to change it. Reformers seeking peaceful change needed to avoid symbols of conquest and violence, no matter how important they were historically.
Northern soldiers, the “bummers” in the Union ranks, and Sherman himself told stories that focused on the justification of the march. Rubin stresses that nineteenth-century soldiers were different and should not be compared to their twentieth-century counterparts—for instance, Union soldiers reflected on the march in a “light or celebratory fashion” (pp. 97-98). Further, Union soldiers pushed back against the Lost Cause narrative—they wanted to “make sure that their version of the March dominated” (p. 98). This meant spinning tales that emphasized the Union and ending slavery as well as the restraint of soldiers and the triumph of the good over the evils of rebellion and oppression. Rubin notes that Sherman and his march became inseparable in memory and the general worked hard to present his own version of events. His own actions during the aftermath influenced historical memory. In the years just after the war, white Southerners were willing to forget Sherman’s destruction because he advocated for a gentler reconstruction. But in the 1880s, Southern views toward Sherman became much more negative, perhaps because Sherman’s march “was being conflated with the economic challenges of Reconstruction, and a sense of nostalgia for an imagined golden age.” Rubin notes that “Sherman became the symbolic repository for white Southerners frustrations” (p. 132).
Finally, Rubin examines the literature, songs, and movies inspired by the march. These chapters are perhaps the most illuminating and illustrate the divide in interpretations. Rubin joins other recent scholars like Caroline E. Janney (Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation [2013]) in pointing toward a more complicated view of reunion. Rather than seeing it as a process that proceeded linearly, she notes the twists and turns that the rapprochement between the North and South took. For example, in 1902, a Louisville, Kentucky, schoolgirl refused to sing or listen to the Unionist classic, “Marching through Georgia.” The girl was hailed as a Confederate hero because of the incident. “That this sense of sectional grievance persisted even during what historians have told us was the peak of reunionist sentiment, after the Spanish-American War, is telling,” Rubin suggests, before adding that “beneath the placid surface of joint reunions and Southern whites fighting under the American flag again, lay a deep well of animosity” (p. 182).
This study is an excellent addition to the flourishing literature on Civil War memory, and scholars and Civil War enthusiasts will find it interesting. In her commitment to examining the many different stories told about the march, Rubin shows how contested one event can be and how different people work to present their own narratives and construct their own memories of the past.
 Link To Full Text: H-Net

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New and Noteworthy---Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth, Skin During the Civil War: A Michigan War Studies Book Review

The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War, Mark M. Smith, Oxford Univ. Press, 2014. pp. 197, 19 b/w photographs and maps, bibliographic notes, index, $26.95.

Review by Donald Lateiner, Ohio Wesleyan University for Michigan War Studies  Review. Volume 2014. [Below are the first two paragraphs of Lateiner's review; at the bottom is the link to the entire review.]



The first historian to mention smells, in battle and beyond, was the first historian of war and polities—Herodotus. He notes the intoxicating hashish of the Massagetai , the sweet smell of perfumed Arabia, a smellscape, an "Ethiopian" spring of water redolent of violets, and the most foul smelling thing—the beard of he-goats from which the Arabs concoct a perfume. In a military context, he writes that, when Croesus’s Lydian cavalry attacked Cyrus’s Persian forces before Sardis, Cyrus, on the advice of a Mede Harpagos, had set his baggage camels in front of them as a stratagem, because horses are frightened by camels’ odor and appearance . Thucydides has less to say about sensory impressions, but does mention the unendurable stench of the quarries where Athenian POWS were penned by their Syracusan captors . Prisoner of war camps were no better in the American Civil war, as photographs of maltreated and emaciated Union prisoners at Andersonville prove. But The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege is the first work to examine sensory perceptions in war in a sustained fashion .

Historian Mark Smith (Univ. of South Carolina) aims to provide "a sensory history" of the US Civil War; he explores not only the war’s smells (gunpowder, decomposing corpses, etc.) and tastes of (e.g., the cooked mules and rats in besieged Vicksburg, spoiled army rations), but also its horrific sights (wrecked homes and towns and broken bodies), sounds (booming cannons), and tactile sensations (e.g., the unwashed, lice-ridden bodies of the men turning the crankshaft in the cramped spaces of the CSS Hunley). Mid-nineteenth-century Americans had passed noise regulations, started to develop urban sewer systems, segregated certain offensive industries, and rushed to be photographed, eternalizing the sight. But how we in the era of jets and jackhammers and processed foods perceive loudness or freshness and taste differs from the nineteenth century’s experience of sensory data. Can one even aspire to write a history of the senses? Smith has explored this conundrum before, and the "sensory turn" has become a trendy methodology.

Lateiner's Review Continues at Michigan War Studies Volume 2014-127.

New and Noteworthy-----Murdered, Captured and Imprisoned; A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut

A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut's Civil War, Lesley Gordon,  Louisiana State University Press, 416 pp., 14 b/w illustrations, 2 maps, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, $49.95.

From The Publisher:

A Broken Regiment recounts the tragic history of one of the Civil War s most ill-fated Union military units. Organized in the late summer of 1862, the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was unprepared for battle a month later, when it entered the fight at Antietam. The results were catastrophic: nearly a quarter of the men were killed or wounded, and Connecticut s 16th panicked and fled the field. In the years that followed, the regiment participated in minor skirmishes before surrendering en masse in North Carolina in 1864. Most of its members spent months in southern prison camps, including the notorious Andersonville stockade, where disease and starvation took the lives of over one hundred members of the unit.

The struggles of the 16th led survivors to reflect on the true nature of their military experience during and after the war, and questions of cowardice and courage, patriotism and purpose, were often foremost in their thoughts. Over time, competing stories emerged of who they were, why they endured what they did, and how they should be remembered. By the end of the century, their collective recollections reshaped this troubling and traumatic past, and the unfortunate regiment emerged as The Brave Sixteenth, their individual memories and accounts altered to fit the more heroic contours of the Union victory.

The product of over a decade of research, Lesley J. Gordon's  A Broken Regiment illuminates this unit's complex history amid the interplay of various, and often competing, voices. The result is a fascinating and heartrending story of one regiment's wartime and postwar struggles.


From The Publisher: Praise for A Broken Regiment

“In this fantastic microhistory of the Sixteenth Connecticut, Gordon gives us an intimate portrait of war’s reverberating damage through the eyes of men who were broken on the field, broken at Andersonville, and still broken in old age as wounds of all kinds took their toll on minds, bodies, and memories. The ‘regimental history’ was a lost genre—until now. This is just the reboot the regimental history needs and deserves.”—Stephen Berry, author of House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War

“In this deeply researched and wonderfully nuanced study, Lesley Gordon examines how the damaged regiment fought to reconstruct its memory for decades after the war. Throughout this often sad odyssey, which took the regiment from Maryland to Virginia to the coast of North Carolina and finally to the horrors of Andersonville Prison, the men of the 16th suffered, endured, and found sources of honor in a war that brought them few moments of martial glory. A Broken Regiment tells the gripping story of a regiment, and also a war, in ways that we rarely contemplate.”—J. Matthew Gallman, author of America’s Joan of Arc

“Gordon has written a regimental biography that embraces the uncommon story of Civil War soldiers. Shifting our focus from heroic stories of sacrifice at well-known battlefields, Gordon presents everyday men horrified by their failure in combat; men who clamored to reclaim lost honor and rewrite their story. A Broken Regiment challenges assumptions about civilians’ successful transition into citizen-soldiers and linear interpretations of Civil War soldier motivation, home front and battlefront interactions, and Civil War memory. Gordon has answered the call to challenge decade-old assumptions within the field of Civil War scholarship by building on the best work of the past and highlighting questions that new studies of Civil War soldiers will need to consider.”—Susannah J. Ural, author of Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lived It

“Lesley Gordon’s ‘microhistory’ of the Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers is as compelling as it is revealing. Not content merely to describe the wartime experiences of these men, Gordon proposes new ways to understand how Civil War soldiers first survived then relived the conflict, both collectively and individually, for decades thereafter. This is much more than a portrait of a single regiment. It is a unique work, brilliantly realized.”—Daniel E. Sutherland, author of A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War

“In this beautifully written and deeply researched new book, historian Lesley Gordon explores the emotional and physical roller coaster endured by the men who served and suffered in the Sixteenth Connecticut. A Broken Regiment reveals how a group of brave and optimistic soldiers faced a disheartening and horrific trial by fire, bookended by military failure at Antietam and six months of misery at Andersonville. The veterans who endured the war forced their communities to comprehend that sometimes heroism and suffering are synonymous in the midst of so much unprecedented chaos and destruction. This is simply one of the finest regimental histories ever produced.”—Brian Craig Miller, author of Empty Sleeves: Amputation in the Civil War South


A Broken Regiment - Cover

A Broken Regiment

The 16th Connecticut's Civil War



Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War 416 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 14 halftones, 2 maps


ebook available
Civil War
  Hardcover / 9780807157305 / November 2014

Praise for A Broken Regiment

“In this fantastic microhistory of the Sixteenth Connecticut, Gordon gives us an intimate portrait of war’s reverberating damage through the eyes of men who were broken on the field, broken at Andersonville, and still broken in old age as wounds of all kinds took their toll on minds, bodies, and memories. The ‘regimental history’ was a lost genre—until now. This is just the reboot the regimental history needs and deserves.”—Stephen Berry, author of House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War
“In this deeply researched and wonderfully nuanced study, Lesley Gordon examines how the damaged regiment fought to reconstruct its memory for decades after the war. Throughout this often sad odyssey, which took the regiment from Maryland to Virginia to the coast of North Carolina and finally to the horrors of Andersonville Prison, the men of the 16th suffered, endured, and found sources of honor in a war that brought them few moments of martial glory. A Broken Regiment tells the gripping story of a regiment, and also a war, in ways that we rarely contemplate.”—J. Matthew Gallman, author of America’s Joan of Arc
“Gordon has written a regimental biography that embraces the uncommon story of Civil War soldiers. Shifting our focus from heroic stories of sacrifice at well-known battlefields, Gordon presents everyday men horrified by their failure in combat; men who clamored to reclaim lost honor and rewrite their story. A Broken Regiment challenges assumptions about civilians’ successful transition into citizen-soldiers and linear interpretations of Civil War soldier motivation, home front and battlefront interactions, and Civil War memory. Gordon has answered the call to challenge decade-old assumptions within the field of Civil War scholarship by building on the best work of the past and highlighting questions that new studies of Civil War soldiers will need to consider.”—Susannah J. Ural, author of Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lived It
“Lesley Gordon’s ‘microhistory’ of the Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers is as compelling as it is revealing. Not content merely to describe the wartime experiences of these men, Gordon proposes new ways to understand how Civil War soldiers first survived then relived the conflict, both collectively and individually, for decades thereafter. This is much more than a portrait of a single regiment. It is a unique work, brilliantly realized.”—Daniel E. Sutherland, author of A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War
“In this beautifully written and deeply researched new book, historian Lesley Gordon explores the emotional and physical roller coaster endured by the men who served and suffered in the Sixteenth Connecticut. A Broken Regiment reveals how a group of brave and optimistic soldiers faced a disheartening and horrific trial by fire, bookended by military failure at Antietam and six months of misery at Andersonville. The veterans who endured the war forced their communities to comprehend that sometimes heroism and suffering are synonymous in the midst of so much unprecedented chaos and destruction. This is simply one of the finest regimental histories ever produced.”—Brian Craig Miller, author of Empty Sleeves: Amputation in the Civil War South
Found an Error? Tell us about it.
“In this fantastic microhistory of the Sixteenth Connecticut, Gordon gives us an intimate portrait of war’s reverberating damage through the eyes of men who were broken on the field, broken at Andersonville, and still broken in old age as wounds of all kinds took their toll on minds, bodies, and memories. The ‘regimental history’ was a lost genre—until now. This is just the reboot the regimental history needs and deserves.”—Stephen Berry, author of House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War - See more at: http://lsupress.org/books/detail/broken-regiment/#sthash.BeBctzd1.dpuf
- See more at: http://lsupress.org/books/detail/broken-regiment/#sthash.BeBctzd1.dpuf


“In this fantastic microhistory of the Sixteenth Connecticut, Gordon gives us an intimate portrait of war’s reverberating damage through the eyes of men who were broken on the field, broken at Andersonville, and still broken in old age as wounds of all kinds took their toll on minds, bodies, and memories. The ‘regimental history’ was a lost genre—until now. This is just the reboot the regimental history needs and deserves.”—Stephen Berry, author of House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War - See more at: http://lsupress.org/books/detail/broken-regiment/#sthash.BeBctzd1.dpuf

Praise for A Broken Regiment

“In this fantastic microhistory of the Sixteenth Connecticut, Gordon gives us an intimate portrait of war’s reverberating damage through the eyes of men who were broken on the field, broken at Andersonville, and still broken in old age as wounds of all kinds took their toll on minds, bodies, and memories. The ‘regimental history’ was a lost genre—until now. This is just the reboot the regimental history needs and deserves.”—Stephen Berry, author of House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War
“In this deeply researched and wonderfully nuanced study, Lesley Gordon examines how the damaged regiment fought to reconstruct its memory for decades after the war. Throughout this often sad odyssey, which took the regiment from Maryland to Virginia to the coast of North Carolina and finally to the horrors of Andersonville Prison, the men of the 16th suffered, endured, and found sources of honor in a war that brought them few moments of martial glory. A Broken Regiment tells the gripping story of a regiment, and also a war, in ways that we rarely contemplate.”—J. Matthew Gallman, author of America’s Joan of Arc
“Gordon has written a regimental biography that embraces the uncommon story of Civil War soldiers. Shifting our focus from heroic stories of sacrifice at well-known battlefields, Gordon presents everyday men horrified by their failure in combat; men who clamored to reclaim lost honor and rewrite their story. A Broken Regiment challenges assumptions about civilians’ successful transition into citizen-soldiers and linear interpretations of Civil War soldier motivation, home front and battlefront interactions, and Civil War memory. Gordon has answered the call to challenge decade-old assumptions within the field of Civil War scholarship by building on the best work of the past and highlighting questions that new studies of Civil War soldiers will need to consider.”—Susannah J. Ural, author of Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lived It
“Lesley Gordon’s ‘microhistory’ of the Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers is as compelling as it is revealing. Not content merely to describe the wartime experiences of these men, Gordon proposes new ways to understand how Civil War soldiers first survived then relived the conflict, both collectively and individually, for decades thereafter. This is much more than a portrait of a single regiment. It is a unique work, brilliantly realized.”—Daniel E. Sutherland, author of A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War
“In this beautifully written and deeply researched new book, historian Lesley Gordon explores the emotional and physical roller coaster endured by the men who served and suffered in the Sixteenth Connecticut. A Broken Regiment reveals how a group of brave and optimistic soldiers faced a disheartening and horrific trial by fire, bookended by military failure at Antietam and six months of misery at Andersonville. The veterans who endured the war forced their communities to comprehend that sometimes heroism and suffering are synonymous in the midst of so much unprecedented chaos and destruction. This is simply one of the finest regimental histories ever produced.”—Brian Craig Miller, author of Empty Sleeves: Amputation in the Civil War South
- See more at: http://lsupress.org/books/detail/broken-regiment/#sthash.BeBctzd1.dpuf

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New and Noteworthy---- Rape, Reality, and Recovering Testimonies During the Civil War Era

I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War, Kim Murphy  Coachlight Press, 2014. 180 pp. 8 b/w photographs, bibliographic notes, index,$14.95 (paper),$21.95 (cloth),
Reviewed by Laura Mammina (University of Alabama)
Published on H-CivWar (December, 2014)
Review's Text: 
Kim Murphy’s I Had Rather Die is the first book-length project examining sexual violence during the Civil War. In it she levels some rather damning although not unwarranted charges against historians who argue that the conflict was a low-rape war. Murphy persuasively asserts that focusing on the number of rapes stems from a misguided assumption that calculations reveal something meaningful about wartime sexual violence. By reframing rape as a crime of power, she attempts to sidestep the numbers game in order to expose a seemingly genteel and restrained Victorian society that in reality provided few protections for white and black rape victims and often freed convicted rapists.
Murphy frames her study by examining the evolution of rape law in early America. Legal standards, informed by popular conceptions that rape was a detestable crime but also a charge that was easily made, placed the burden of proof on the rape victim by requiring her to testify that she had cried for help, had physically resisted the assault, had not enjoyed the sexual act, and had notified someone soon after the encounter. Inability to prove any of these could result in the charges being dropped or reduced. Murphy notes that for centuries the American legal system applied these protections only to white women and that black men received much harsher sentences for the crime of rape than white men. Even white women found their trustworthiness questioned during rape trials, as the admission of character evidence in the nineteenth century allowed courts to judge the veracity of a woman’s rape claim on her past sexual history. Here Murphy misses an opportunity to link the admission of character evidence to emerging nineteenth-century ideas, which, as Sharon Block argues, held women to be innately virtuous. This meant that they had a responsibility to control their own passions as well as men’s base urges. Even so, Murphy does well to argue that such a high burden of proof for rape might have discouraged women from charging their assailants.[1]  
Antebellum patterns persisted in wartime courts-martial as racial, class, and gender bias resulted in light sentences and low rates of conviction. Murphy finds that black soldiers faced harsher prosecutions for rape than white soldiers, especially if they raped white women, and yet the Union army executed few black men for the capital crime of rape. White soldiers executed for rape were overwhelmingly privates and many were German or Irish immigrants, while white officers faced very light punishment when convicted of rape. White and black soldiers who raped black women were given lighter sentences than those who raped white women, while soldiers who raped wealthy white women received the harshest punishments. But no matter who the victim was, Murphy finds that soldiers accused of rape often had their sentences reduced or were given pardons unless there was a male witness to the crime.
While Murphy’s evidence is detailed, she seems more comfortable describing her findings rather than incorporating them into a more sustained argument. Because of this, she never fully examines the ways in which rape highlighted the discrepancy between Victorian morality and tolerance for male misbehavior or the ways in which rape reinforced or destabilized social hierarchies. Murphy is also unable to fill a void in current scholarship by linking her findings to many excellent recent studies on rape in the United States. It is left to future scholarship to demonstrate the ways in which wartime rape trials differed from or conformed to patterns established before and after the war.
Throughout the book, Murphy argues that misogyny in the American legal system, not Victorian restraint, is the reason that relatively few Civil War soldiers faced court-martial for rape. Frequent accounts of rape in archival sources as well as the surgeon general’s documented 170,000 cases of gonorrhea and syphilis demonstrate that Civil War soldiers hardly refrained from sexual encounters whether forced or consensual. But Murphy succumbs to the same allure of numbers as the historians she criticizes by insisting that unsubstantiated reports in newspapers and private papers should be treated as instances of sexual assault. Instead of using the reports to examine how fear and perception operated during the war, Murphy focuses on numbers, undermining her own claims that rape often went unreported. As Murphy well knows, the crime of rape defies precise counting especially in the nineteenth century and especially during a time of war because it is an intimate crime so tied up in sexuality, and therefore in power, fear, violence, and shame that the strands become nearly impossible to unravel. While her study tries to fill the void in scholarship on rape during the Civil War, it never quite addresses how sexual violence illuminated relationships of power. It does, however, begin a conversation that is long overdue.
Full Text Source: H-Net Reviews

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

News---Gettysburg Railroad Station and Base of East Slope of BRT Transferred To GNMP

Federal Legislation Adds Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station and 45 Acres at Big Round Top to Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg Foundation, December 22, 2014
The Gettysburg Foundation can move forward with the plan to donate the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station and an undeveloped 45-acre parcel of battlefield land to the National Park Service now that federal legislation has added it to the Gettysburg National Military Park boundary.

Gettysburg's Lincoln Railroad Station is an 1858 structure on the National Register of Historic Places.  It served as a hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg and the wounded and the dead were transported from Gettysburg through this station after the battle. Abraham Lincoln arrived at the station when he visited to give the Gettysburg Address.  

The 45-acre parcel at the base of Big Round Top is vacant land that abuts the southeastern boundary of the park.  Cavalry skirmishes occurred near this site and it has critical wetlands and wildlife habitat related to Plum Run.  Wayne and Susan Hill donated the property to the Gettysburg Foundation in April 2009. 

The Gettysburg Foundation and the park will work together to create a plan and a timeline for transfer of the properties, and an operating plan for the train station.  An anticipated date for public access and information center operations would be in the spring of 2015.

Text and Image Source: Gettysburg Foundation

Friday, December 19, 2014

NEWS--- National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3979) Reauthorizes Existing Civil War Matching Grants Program, Adds Rev War and War of 1812 Battlefields

Congress Enacts Landmark Legislation to Preserve America's Endangered Battlefields, The Civil War Trust, December 12, 2014.

The Civil War Trust today applauded members of U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for enactment of landmark legislation to preserve America’s endangered battlefields.  The legislation, part of an omnibus lands package included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3979), reauthorizes a highly successful federal matching grant program for the preservation of Civil War battlefields.  In addition, the bill expands that existing program to provide grants for the acquisition of land at Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields.

“This is a historic moment for the battlefield preservation movement,” remarked Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer.  “For 15 years, the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program has been an invaluable tool for protecting the hallowed battlegrounds of the Civil War.  Now, for the first time, battlefields associated with America’s other formative conflicts, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, will also benefit from this public-private partnership.”
LHQ Thompson House
Mary Thompson House on the Gettysburg Civil War Battlefield, Gettysburg, Pa. The Mary Thompson House served as General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters during the battle. The 4.14-acre Lee’s Headquarters property was acquired by the Civil War Trust in 2014 with a federal matching grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program. (Civil War Trust photo)
The legislation, originally introduced in 2013 as the American Battlefields Protection Program Amendments Act (H.R. 1033), reauthorizes the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program, a matching grants program that encourages private sector investment in historic battlefield protection.  Since the program was first funded by Congress in FY 1999, it has been used to preserve more than 23,000 acres of battlefield land in 17 states.  The battlefields protected through the program include some of the most famous in the annals of America, including Antietam, Md., Chancellorsville and Manassas, Va.; Chattanooga and Franklin, Tenn.; Gettysburg, Pa.; Perryville, Ky.; and Vicksburg, Miss.

Text Source, Image Source and Full Text Available at The Civil War Trust