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Civil War History: Archive

March 2013, Volume 59, No. 1

Dec 31st, 2012


Historians’ Forum: The Emancipation Proclamation

Forum participants: Martha S. Jones, Kate Masur, Louis Masur, James Oakes, and Manisha Sinha discuss how the Emancipation Proclamation should remain a lodestar in any discussion of the coming of freedom (and its limits) to the nation’s nearly 4 million enslaved African Americans.


William Henry Seward and the Onset of the Secession Crisis

By Michael Robinson

Most historians who have chronicled William Seward’s role in the secession crisis present the politician as self-possessed throughout the crisis of the Union.  These scholars have devoted most of their attention to the period from January 12, 1861, when Seward broke his silence on the secession crisis, through his April 1861 attempt to wrest control of the executive branch from Abraham Lincoln.  The article investigates Seward from November 1860 through January 1861 and argues that Seward had a difficult time gauging the best response to the crisis.  The author breaks down Seward’s course into three distinct phases and portrays Seward as genuinely interested in salvaging the Union, yet afraid to place himself too far ahead of his party or the president-elect.  Seward worked in a furtive manner and cloaked his uncertainty behind a wall of confidence, which would have dire consequences in the following months that have been the focus of most historians.


Sumner and French at Antietam

By Marion V. Armstrong

One of the principle actions during the Battle of Antietam, 17 September 1862, was the fight for the Sunken Road, also referred to as the Bloody Lane. In the standard interpretation of the battle, this action was precipitated when Brigadier General William H. French, commanding a division of the Second Army Corps, arrived on the battlefield some twenty to thirty minutes behind the lead division of the corps and mistakenly and on his own authority committed the division to attacking South toward the Sunken Road, rather than following the lead division west in its attack toward the West Woods. This article undertakes a reconsideration of that interpretation by examining its historical sources, and reexamining the events surrounding the commitment of French’s division. The article concludes that French’s division was in fact not delayed in its arrival on the battlefield, and that the decision to commit the division to an attack toward the Sunken  Road was actually made by the corps commander, Major General Edwin V. Sumner, as a part of his effort to follow the army commander’s plan of battle and orders.


Revisiting Classic Civil War Books: “Why Gone with the Wind Still Matters; or, Why I Still Love Gone with the Wind

By Anne Sarah Rubin

Anne Rubin explains Margaret Mitchell’s connections to the Dunning School and reconsiders the legacy of Gone with the Wind for modern-day historians in the first installment of a new feature, “Revisiting Classic Civil War Books.”


Marion V. Armstrong is a retired Army Reserve officer and adjunct instructor at Middle Tennessee State University and Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee. He is the author of Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign (2008) and Disaster in the West Woods: General Edwin V. Sumner and the II Corps at Antietam (2002).

Michael D. Robinson is a PhD candidate and T. Harry Williams Fellow at Louisiana State University. He is currently completing his dissertation, entitled “Fulcrum of the Union: The Border South and the Secession Crisis, 1859‑1861.”

Anne Sarah Rubin is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is finishing a multimedia study of the memory of Sherman’s March, entitled Through the Heart of Dixie: Sherman’s March and America, to be published by the University of North Carolina Press. Her website can be found at



Book Reviews

Berry, Stephen, ed. Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War’s Ragged Edges. Reviewed by Frances M. Clarke.

Simpson, Brooks D.  The Civil War in the East: Struggle, Stalemate, and Victory. Reviewed by Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh.

Hammond, John Craig and Matthew Mason, eds. Contesting Slavery: The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New
American Nation. Reviewed by Justin Roberts.

Tomek, Beverly C.  Colonization and Its Discontents: Emancipation, Emigration, and Antislavery in Antebellum Pennsylvania. Reviewed by Phillip W. Magness.

Bowen, Wayne H. Spain and the American Civil War. Reviewed by Andrew Zimmerman.

Moody, Wesley. Demon of the Lost Cause: Sherman and Civil War History. Reviewed by Paul Ashdown.

Clark, Donald A. The Notorious “Bull” Nelson: Murdered Civil War General. Reviewed by Brian S. Wills.

McKnight, Brian. Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia. Reviewed by LeeAnn Whites.

Lause, Mark. Price’s Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri. Reviewed by Patrick E. McLear.

Cooling, Benjamin Franklin. To the Battles of Franklin and Nashville and Beyond: Stabilization and Reconstruction in Tennessee and Kentucky, 1864‑1866. Reviewed by John D. Fowler.

Marten, James. Sing Not War: The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America. Reviewed by Steve Berry.

Clarke, Frances M. War Stories: Suffering and Sacrifice in the Civil War North. Reviewed by Megan Kate Nelson.

Gaughan, Anthony J. The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States versus Lee, 1861-1883. Reviewed by Timothy S. Huebner.

Reed, Thomas. The Original Iron Brigade. Reviewed by Bart Talbert.

Winters, Barb, ed. Letters to Virginia: Correspondence from Three Generations of Alexandrians before, during, and after the Civil War. Reviewed by Chandra Manning.


Book Notes

Gillispie, James. Cape Fear Confederates: The 18th North Carolina Regiment in the Civil War.

Killian, Ron V. General Abner M. Perrin, C.S.A.: A Biography.


Books Received

Ballard, Jack Stokes. Commander and Builder of Western Forts: The Life and Times of Major General Henry C. Merriam, 1862-1901.

Bennett, Joseph W., ed. Ex Parte Merryman: Two Commemorations.

Curran, Robert Emmett, ed. John Dooley’s Civil War: An Irish American’s Journey in the First Virginia Infantry Regiment.

Broadwater, John D. USS Monitor: A Historic Ship Completes its Final Voyage.

Buccola, Nicholas. The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty. Nicholas Buccola.

Confer, Clarissa W. The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War.

Erekson, Keith A. Everybody’s History: Indiana’s Lincoln Inquiry and the Quest to Reclaim a President’s Past.

Fiege, Mark. The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States.

Freyer, Tony and Lyndsay Campbell, eds. Freedom’s Conditions in the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands in the Age of Emancipation.

George, Charles, Herbert George, Jere George, and Osman George. Ed. James A. Davis. “Bully for the Band!” The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band.

Hale, Nathan. Big Bad Ironclad.

Hale, Nathan. One Dead Spy.

Hutchison, Coleman. Apples and Ashes: Literature, Nationalism, and the Confederate States of America.

Johnson, David Alan. Decided on the Battlefield: Grant, Sherman, Lincoln, and the Election of 1864.

Longacre, Edward G. Lee’s Cavalrymen: A History of the Mounted Forces of the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861‑1865.

Longacre, Edward G. Lincoln’s Cavalrymen: A History of the Mounted Forces of the Army of the Potomac, 1861‑1865.

Lundberg, John R. Granbury’s Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates.

Martinez, J. Michael. Coming for to Carry Me Home: Race in America from Abolitionism to Jim Crow.

Mindell, David A. Iron Coffin: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor. Updated edition.

Newsome, Hampton, John Horn, and John G. Selby, eds. Civil War Talks: Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans.

Nicholson, James C. The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event.

Oubre, Claude. Forty Acres and a Mule: The Freemen’s Bureau and Black Land Ownership.

Patterson, Benton Rain. Ending the Civil War: The Bloody Year from Grant’s Promotion to Lincoln’s Assassination.

Scott, Rebecca J. and Jean M. Hébrard. Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation.

Stegmaier, Mark. J., ed. Henry Adams in the Secession Crisis: Dispatches to the Boston Daily Advertiser, December 1860‑March 1861.

Sweeney, Edwin, R. From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches, 1876‑1886.

Tarter, Michele Lise and Richard Bell, ed. Buried Lives: Incarcerated in Early America.

Wall, Maryjean. How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders.

Wilson, Walter E. and Gary L. McKay. James D. Bulloch: Secret Agent and the Mastermind of the Confederate Navy.