kottke.org posts about Civil War
Private Mose Triplett was 19 when the Civil War ended in 1865. Later in life, he married a woman 50 years younger than him and, in 1930, they had a daughter Irene. Irene Triplett is now in her mid-eighties and gets a monthly benefit check from US Department of Veterans Affairs for her father's service so many years before.
Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, often cites President Abraham Lincoln's call, in his second inaugural address, for Americans "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan."
"The promises of President Abraham Lincoln are being delivered, 150 years later, by President Barack Obama, " Secretary Shinseki said in a speech last fall. "And the same will be true 100 years from now-the promises of this president will be delivered by a future president, as yet unborn."
A declaration of war sets in motion expenditures that can span centuries, whether the veterans themselves were heroes, cowards or something in between.
This story is from 2014, but I looked for Triplett's obituary and found nothing, so I'm assuming she's still alive and collecting that pension. See also The Great Span. (via @mikekarlesky)
At Wait But Why, Tim Urban turns history on its side by thinking about time-synchronized events around the world, as opposed to events through the progression of time in each part of the world.
Likewise, I might know that Copernicus began writing his seminal work On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in Poland in the early 1510s, but by learning that right around that same time in Italy, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I get a better picture of the times. By learning that it was right while both of these things were happening that Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon in England, the 1510s suddenly begins to take on a distinct personality. These three facts, when put together, allow me to see a more three-dimensional picture of the 1510s -- it allows me to see the 1510s horizontally, like cutting out a complete segment of the vine tangle and examining it all together.
He does this mainly by charting and graphing the lifetimes of famous people, revealing hidden contemporaries.
I've been slowly making my way through Ken Burns' remastered The Civil War.1 At a few points in the program, narrator David McCullough reminds the viewer of what was going on around the world at the same time as the war. In the US, 1863 brought the Battle of Gettysburg and The Emancipation Proclamation. But also:
In Paris that year, new paintings by Cezanne, Whistler, and Manet were shown at a special exhibit for outcasts. In Russia, Dostoevsky finished Notes from the Underground. And in London, Karl Marx labored to complete his masterpiece, Das Kapital.
And a year later, while the advantage in the war was turning towards the US:1
In 1864, a rebellion in China that cost 20 million lives finally came to an end. In 1864, the Tsar's armies conquered Turkistan and Tolstoy finished War and Peace. In 1864, Louis Pasteur pasteurized wine, the Geneva Convention established the neutrality of battlefield hospitals, and Karl Marx founded the International Workingmen's Association in London and in New York.
Urban explicitly references the war in his post:
People in the US associate the 1860s with Lincoln and the Civil War. But what we overlook is that the 1860s was one of history's greatest literary decades. In the ten years between 1859 and 1869, Darwin published his world-changing On the Origin of Species (1859), Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1861), Lewis Carroll published Alice in Wonderland (1865), Dostoyevsky published Crime and Punishment (1866), and Tolstoy capped things off with War and Peace (1869).
The Civil War. The Origin of Species. Alice in Wonderland. The infancy of Impressionism. Pasteurization. Das Kapital. Gregor Mendel's laws of inheritance. All in an eight-year span. Dang.
In the New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann writes about "the Southernization of American politics". In 1865, the United States won the Civil War against the South, but the current US has been significantly shaped by the ideals, politics, and values of the South.
In order to become the richest and most powerful country in the world, the United States had to include the South, and its inclusion has always come at a price. The Constitution (with its three-fifths compromise and others) awkwardly registered the contradiction between its democratic rhetoric and the foundational presence of slavery in the thirteen original states. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase-by which the U.S. acquired more slaveholding territory in the name of national expansion-set off the dynamic that led to the Civil War. The United States has declined every opportunity to let the South go its own way; in return, the South has effectively awarded itself a big say in the nation's affairs.
Drawing upon the work of colleagues, historian Michael Todd Landis proposes new language for talking about slavery and the Civil War. In addition to favoring "labor camps" over the more romantic "plantations", he suggests retiring the concept of the Union vs the Confederacy.
Specifically, let us drop the word "Union" when describing the United States side of the conflagration, as in "Union troops" versus "Confederate troops." Instead of "Union," we should say "United States." By employing "Union" instead of "United States," we are indirectly supporting the Confederate view of secession wherein the nation of the United States collapsed, having been built on a "sandy foundation" (according to rebel Vice President Alexander Stephens). In reality, however, the United States never ceased to exist. The Constitution continued to operate normally; elections were held; Congress, the presidency, and the courts functioned; diplomacy was conducted; taxes were collected; crimes were punished; etc. Yes, there was a massive, murderous rebellion in at least a dozen states, but that did not mean that the United States disappeared.
Twenty-five years after its first airing on PBS, Ken Burns has remastered his epic documentary, The Civil War, and PBS will be airing the new version all this week, starting tonight. The remastered series will also be available on Blu-ray in October.
The Freedmen's Bureau Project is a new initiative to digitize and make available online the records collected by the The Freedmen's Bureau near the end of the Civil War. The records detail the lives of about 4 million African Americans and will be available by the end of 2016.
FamilySearch is working in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and the California African American Museum to make these records available and accessible by taking the raw records, extracting the information and indexing them to make them easily searchable online. Once indexed, finding an ancestor may be as easy as going to FamilySearch.org, entering a name and, with the touch of a button, discovering your family member.
The Freedmen's Bureau was organized near the end of the American Civil War to assist newly freed slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia. From 1865 to 1872, the Bureau opened schools, managed hospitals, rationed food and clothing and even solemnized marriages. In the process it gathered priceless handwritten, personal information including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records on potentially million African Americans.
What an amazing resource this will be...many families out there will learn about the ancestors for the first time. The documents are currently 9% indexed and you can sign up to help at discoverfreedmen.org.
Tens of thousands of volunteers are needed to make these records searchable online. No specific time commitment is required, and anyone may participate. Volunteers simply log on, pull up as many scanned documents as they like, and enter the names and dates into the fields provided. Once published, information for millions of African Americans will be accessible, allowing families to build their family trees and connect with their ancestors.
(via open culture)
From the Google Cultural Institute, an engaging account of how Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address, which was delivered 150 years ago today. There are actually five surviving copies of the text of the speech written in Lincoln's hand; they're all different and we don't know for sure which one he read from. You can easily compare the different versions or see the handwritten versions. Here's the Bliss Copy of the Gettysburg Address, which Lincoln wrote down in 1864, a few months after the speech:
The Bliss Copy hangs in The White House and is the canonical version of the speech that you learned in school, hear in movies, read on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial, etc.
Smithsonian.com has a neat interactive map that shows how the Battle of Gettysburg played out in the Civil War. For best results, do one run through zoomed out a little and then another run-through to at a closer zoom level to see the details. (via digg)
Ezra Klein asked Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional scholar, about the Second Amendment. Amar responded with two artworks that illustrate how the meaning of the Second Amendment has shifted over the years.
In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase 'Bill of Rights,' comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights. We read everything through the prism of the 14th amendment -- including the right to bear and keep arms.
The Fourteenth Amendment has a lot of parts, among them the definition of citizenship, Civil War debt, due process, and equal protection. Amar wrote more about the interplay between the 2nd and 14th Amendments for Slate in 2008.
But the 14th Amendment did not specifically enumerate these sacred privileges and immunities. Instead, like the Ninth, the 14th invited interpreters to pay close attention to fundamental rights that Americans had affirmed through their lived experience-in state bills of rights and in other canonical texts such as the Declaration of Independence and landmark civil rights legislation. And when it came to guns, a companion statute to the 14th Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1866, declared that "laws ... concerning personal liberty [and] personal security ... including the constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by all the citizens." Here, in sharp contrast to founding-era legal texts, the "bear arms" phrase was decisively severed from the military context. Women as well as men could claim a "personal" right to protect their "personal liberty" and "personal security" in their homes. The Reconstruction-era Congress clearly understood that Southern blacks might need guns in their homes to protect themselves from private violence in places where they could not rely on local constables to keep their neighborhoods safe. When guns were outlawed, only outlaw Klansmen would have guns, to paraphrase a modern NRA slogan. In this critical chapter in the history of American liberty, we find additional evidence of an individual right to have a gun in one's home, regardless of the original meaning of the Second Amendment.
To answer the question, "If every state of the USA declared war against each other, which would win?" Quora user Jon Davis went way in-depth writing "the accounts of the Second American Civil War, also known as the Wars of Reunification and the American Warring States Period." It's sort of a mix between World War Z (oral histories) and the post on Reddit being turned into a movie (realistic seeming discussion of military action). I am a sucker for this kind of fictionalized future-history stuff.
First came a period of massive migration back to the homelands. Facing the newly invented discrimination that will be created many felt the need to go back to their own people. While the individual states retained all military assets they couldn't control the individuals who fight. A Texas Marine stationed in California, would not fight for California. A soldier in New York would not fight against their home in Virginia and a sailor in Houston would not fight against their home state of Florida. The warriors returned to their home states and the states had to re-consider that when they measured troop strength of their new nations. Ultimately, they measured troop strength by how much of the population would return home.
Disunion is a new NY Times blog that will be covering the events of the Civil War in "real-time" as it happened 150 years ago. From one of the first posts about the last ordinary day:
[November 1, 1860] was an ordinary day in America: one of the last such days for a very long time to come.
In dusty San Antonio, Colonel Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army had just submitted a long report to Washington about recent skirmishes against marauding Comanches and Mexican banditti. In Louisiana, William Tecumseh Sherman was in the midst of a tedious week interviewing teenage applicants to the military academy where he served as superintendent. In Galena, Ill., passers-by might have seen a man in a shabby military greatcoat and slouch hat trudging to work that Thursday morning, as he did every weekday. He was Ulysses Grant, a middle-aged shop clerk in his family's leather-goods store.
Great idea. The Times started publishing in 1851 so their archives should have a ton of stuff related to the war. (via df)
1863 photo of John L. Burns, War of 1812 veteran and sharpshooter in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Burns, born ca. 1793, was a 70-year-old veteran of the War of 1812 when he was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg, having volunteered his services as a sharpshooter to the Federal Army. He died of pneumonia in 1872.
And from the comments:
Mr Burns' flintlock is at half-cock with the frizzen down, ready to ready to fire.
Has Abe Lincoln been discovered in the background of a pair of photographs taken right before the Gettysburg Address?
The new photos are enlarged details from much wider crowd shots; they were discovered by a Civil War hobbyist earlier this year in the vast trove of Library of Congress photographs digitized since 2000, and provided to USA Today. They show a figure believed to be Lincoln, white-gloved and in his trademark stovepipe hat, in a military procession.
The funny thing is, if you look at a similar photograph of Lincoln taken shortly after his speech, there are at least three men seated around him who are wearing stovepipe hats. The photographic evidence alone is not compelling. "Paging Errol Morris. Would Errol Morris please come to the information desk. Thank you."