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  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Glenn David Brasher: Striking the Blow at Fort Wagner

    Glenn David Brasher is an instructor of history at the University of Alabama and the author of “The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom.” “Today we recognize the right of every man … to be a MAN and a citizen,” Gov. John Andrew of Massachusetts proclaimed on May 18, 1863, to a crowd gathered around the 54th Massachusetts, the first African-American regiment raised in the North. They fight “not for themselves alone,” he insisted, but also for their race. Their military service would refute “the foul aspersion that they [are] not men,” proving that African-Americans deserved their nation’s citizenship rights.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Thom Bassett: Rashomon at Vicksburg

    Thom Bassett is writing a novel about William Tecumseh Sherman. He lives in Providence, R.I., and teaches at Bryant University.The fall of Vicksburg, Miss., on July 4 sent a shock wave through both North and South – it split the Confederacy in two and gave the Union nearly unfettered control of the Mississippi River. Less clear was what brought about the surrender. Indeed, the principal players in the surrender drama — John C. Pemberton for the South and Ulysses S. Grant for the North — insisted on very different accounts.On the night of July 2, Pemberton laid out for his divisional commanders a dismal set of options. According to his subordinate S.H. Lockett, Pemberton said that they had the stark choice “either to surrender while we still had ammunition enough to demand terms, or to sell our lives as dearly as possible” in a doomed assault against the Yankees.

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Jennifer L. Weber: Was Lincoln a Tyrant?

    Jennifer L. Weber is an associate professor at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Copperheads, about antiwar Democrats during the Civil War, and Summer’s Bloodiest Days, a children’s book about the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath. She is currently working on a book about conscription during the Civil War.When Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861, the executive branch was small and relatively limited in its power. By the time of his assassination, he had claimed more prerogatives than any president before him, and the executive branch had grown enormously.Lincoln’s critics witnessed his expanding power with alarm. They accused him of becoming a tyrant and warned that his assertions of authority under the guise of “commander in chief” threatened the viability of a constitutional democracy.Lincoln ignored his foes and kept moving. And, despite lingering discomfort with some of his actions – particularly around the issue of civil liberties – history has largely vindicated him. Why?

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Richard Striner: 'Hurrah for Old Abe'

    Richard Striner, a history professor at Washington College, is the author of “Lincoln and Race.”Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, but the immediate reactions for and against it reverberated loudly throughout the following month.Almost all abolitionists and radical Republicans, even those who had condemned Lincoln’s methods as being too cautious, were thrilled. William Lloyd Garrison, the venerable abolitionist, called the occasion “a great historic event, sublime in its magnitude and beneficent in its far-reaching consequences.” The radical Republican Benjamin Wade proclaimed, “Now, hurrah for Old Abe and the proclamation!”Black Americans were naturally likewise jubilant. The minister Henry Highland Garnet called Lincoln “the man of our choice and hope” and said that the proclamation was “one of the greatest acts in all history.” Frederick Douglass said much the same thing: the proclamation was “the greatest event in our nation’s history.”

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