Tag Archives: Civil War books

American Civil War Web-Course

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.04.38 PMGreetings all! I have been posting updates on Twitter of late chronicling the progress of my next web-course: The American Civil War. I am very pleased to announce that the launch date is May 14, 2016. The course includes nearly forty video lectures and other projects covering military, social, political, and economic aspects of the conflict.

I am most excited to offer this course to my founding web-students for a 50% discount off the already reasonable price. You won’t find this deal anywhere but through this site – and the offer goes away on launch day. So you had better get on the stick. Here’s what you need to do:

ONE – be a current student or enroll now in either my Gettysburg or Reconstruction Era web-course for the regular discounted price available only from Keith Harris History.

TWO – sign up to be part of the Keith Harris History CREW so I can be sure to get you the info you need.

Get that all squared away and on launch day you will receive your discount code via email. And that’s it. Easy right?

With compliments,

Keith

 

Did I Forget Someone?

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.57.45 AMGreetings!

Well, in short, the answer is no. But allow me to explain. When I was conducting research on the commemorative efforts of Civil War veterans for my dissertation, giving papers on the topic, and years later, revising the diss for publication as Across the Bloody Chasm, I ran up against a good many people who found it potentially problematic that I wrote only of white Civil War veterans. They questioned: did I overlook, dismiss, or find their commemorative efforts not worthy of analysis? Of course I did not.

Let me assure you I greatly value and hold in the highest esteem the work of black Civil War Union veterans. I believe that there is much one can offer concerning their commemorations by way of investigation. But though many admonished that readers and reviewers would take me to task for leaving black veterans out of my story, I decided, with deliberate intention, not to discuss their commemorative culture.

I will note two reasons for this decision:

First, two historians have recently published excellent studies on black veterans. Donald R. Shaffer’s After the Glory and Barbara A. Gannon’s The Won Cause are both magnificent works that focus on black veteran struggles after the war, having won a sense of manliness as soldiers, and black and white comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic, the preeminent Union veterans’ organization.  While I contend that no book is the final word on anything, these two studies generally reflect my personal thoughts on black veterans (thoughts that resonate loudly in the archival record), and I do not feel (at least, not for now) that I could have added anything significant to build on what Shaffer and Gannon have already so elegantly accomplished.

Second, I was looking for the voice of the majority, in essence to learn if there was something crucial and overlooked that drove the general spirit of soldiers’ commemorations against a backdrop of national reconciliation in the latter decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth. I believe it goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of the men who shouldered muskets in the Civil War were white. The Confederacy fielded  about o% (+/- .0001%) of their military age black men in combat roles, and the Union enlisted roughly 179,000 black fighting men to march into battle with the USCT and other black regiments – a shade short of 10% of the Union army. Combined, well over 3 million men served between 1861 and 1865. Clearly, black soldiers made up only a small fraction of the armies. Moving on, it made perfect sense that after the conflict black veterans would acknowledge slavery as the central cause of the war and celebrate emancipation as its consequence – no matter what anyone else said. Nothing surprising here.

My argument was with the predominating “reconciliationist premise” literature (David Blight’s work especially but also numerous others) that claimed white veterans put aside divisive issues in the name of an entirely benign and whitewashed reconciliation on southern terms.

With rare exception, they did not. In fact, many on both sides discussed with great vehemence war issues such as slavery and emancipation through any number of commemorative activities. And they went further than that, taking on highly volatile topics such as treason, tyranny, and the original intentions of the founders. Those who attended veterans’ gatherings or wrote narratives and recollections were bent on preserving memories, not whiting them out.

So it seems that white Civil War veterans – the majority of those who fought – did not dismiss war issues as readily as some scholars would have you think. They were perfectly willing to reconcile, but only on terms of their choosing – all the while acknowledging that the other side was profoundly wrong. As you might imagine, that did not work out so well. This is the story that I offer. You will have to read my book to see if I executed it successfully.

With compliments,

Keith

The Geezer of Gettysburg

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 10.20.47 AMFor the last few months I have developed something of an obsession with reading about the Battle of Gettysburg. Oh sure, I understand and can discuss most major Civil War battles with the best of them, but I have never really delved deep into the nitty-gritty of any one particular scrap. And this I have now set out to do…since Gettysburg is my favorite place to visit, discuss, write about, and analyze – I figured I would go after that one. Yeah…I have plenty of books to choose from – just to get started.

Most of us know that battles usually come with their own set of legends, and the case Gettysburg is no different. Being a memory guy, I love legends and all that comes with them. So I will start off my (sure to be many) series of posts about this battle by having a quick look at the battle’s most famous geezery civilian: John Burns.  Many who visit the battlefield today learn about Burns, who along with Jennie Wade (the only civilian killed in the battle), number among the civilian notables in what could easily be called the Gettysburg express tourist package.

I have recently read Harry Pfanz’s Gettysburg: The First Day and he included a handy index that tells the Burns story, just in case you have never had the pleasure of hearing it from a hit-and-run Gettysburg tour guide. Burns was well in to his 70s and claimed to be a veteran of the war of 1812. He was, shall we say, incensed by the Rebel invasion of his native state and decided to do something about it – he grabbed his weapon (described by various authors to be either a 1812 vintage flinklock or a more modern Enfield) and went out to meet the advancing foe.

As the story goes…around noon he arrived at the position of the 150th Pennsylvania near the McPherson farm. Burns discussed fighting alongside the Keystone regiment with the regiment’s major and colonel and was eventually given permission – although he was advised to go to the nearby McPherson Woods where he would find shelter from the sun and Rebel bullets.

There he met up with the members of the 7th Wisconsin where he impressed the regiment’s colonel by dropping a mounted Confederate with a rifle handed him by the officer. But that’s not all. From there he moved on down the line and joined the 24th Michigan – near the eastern edge of the woods. There he was wounded three times.

The Burns legend has grown over time – is it true that he fought in all the places he claimed (or that others claimed)? Did he really kill the Rebel horseman? It is hard to say with certainty – but he did fight on McPherson Ridge and he was wounded.

Burns died in 1872 and is buried next to his wife in Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery. If you are ever there – stop by a pay your respects to one ballsy Yankee. And try to remember this little anecdote. It’s stories like this that will impress your friends at parties – that is…it will if you hang out with people who are impressed by these types of things.

With compliments,

Keith

Do We Really Need Another Book About Gettysburg?

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 6.38.23 PMWell, I didn’t think so but they keep a comin’ anyway. And I keep buying them so go figure. Today this arrived via post – Gettysburg: The Last Invasion by Allen C. Guelzo. I have heard both good and bad reviews and even a little tidbit of controversy surrounding this most recent Gettysburg volume. However you slice it, the book won the $50,000 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History.

I guess I had better start reading.

With compliments,

Keith