Tag Archives: Emancipation

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

 

Possible Scenarios for Future Point of Honor Episodes – The Series Continues…

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Still no word on whether or not Point of Honor will be picked up for future episodes…but just in case, I am going to keep going with possible scenarios, in hope that the series writers stumble upon this blog. To keep up with the story, you might want to read the first installment of the series HERE.

Anyway…as war drama unfolds at home and on the battlefield, things really heat up in Lynchburg…

Episode 2 – PHCT

Incensed by General McClellan’s slow but steady advance toward Richmond in May 1862, the prosperous, wage-earning, free African-Confederate-Americans Virgil and Adolphus – citizens of Lynchburg – pool their ever-growing wages to form and equip a black Confederate regiment. When christened the Point of Honor Colored Troops (PHCT) at a Lynchburg abolitionist jubilee, the very sight of armed blacks standing firm in defense of their southern rights so inspires other Lynchburg slaveholders, that they too reject slavery and free their slaves, who in turn join the swelling negro ranks. Now brigade strength, the PHCT march out of town to face the invading Yankee hordes and with great resolve sing a medley of  Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd and Bonnie Blue Flag – putting forever to rest academic revisionists’ foolish notion that black Confederates are merely a figment of the white southern imagination.

Meanwhile…the drunk (though charming) quadruple amputee Rhodes brother (paroled by his Yankee captors who thought him harmless, as well as charmingly drunk) makes his way to Richmond via ambulance to serve the Confederacy as Lynchburg’s representative in the Virginia State legislature. Rumors fly that he is in contact – though West Point connections – with his brother John, who is still held prisoner in Boston. He is, in fact, plotting with John to beat the Lincoln administration in the freedom game by proposing a Confederate Emancipation Proclamation of their own. The audience knows through a series of pan left – pan right stock footage landscape scenes and voice-overs that correspondence between the Rhodes brothers, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and an irascible Irishman named Patrick Cleburne underscores great support for emancipation among the upper echelons of Rebel leadership. Though there will certainly be resistance to such a revolutionary turn of events – they hope that white southerners will change their tunes once they witness the martial prowess of the thousands fighting under the PHCT banner.

Back at the Point of Honor plantation…times are tough as there is now absolutely no one to work the fields. Not a single person. The womenfolk thus subsist entirely on handouts from the elderly and infirm free black Confederate citizens who are unfit to serve in anything but a motley home guard/Confederate Invalid Corps d’Afrique, and the Confederate money sent home by their drunk (though charming) brother in Richmond and the PHCT soldiers in the field. Pistol packin’ Estella Rhodes, the most incorrigible of the Rhodes sisters, has been behaving strangely. Her constant vomiting, cravings, and irritable behavior provokes suspicion among her sisters. Could she be…..?

In the final scene, Estella sits by the fire writing a letter – addressed to the Richmond front c/o commanding officer, PHCT, Confederate States Army. Cue Dixie and extremely affected southern accent voice-over – “My Dearest Virgil….”

Hoping for the call from Amazon entertainment…fingers crossed!!!

Keith

PS – See another future scenario HERE.

 

John A. Logan’s General Order #11 Designating Memorial Day

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.20.07 AMGrand Army of the Republic commander John A. Logan issued GAR General Order #11 on May 5, 1868. Note that the twin themes of Union and emancipation hold equal significance:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice of neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.19.23 AMwarmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, — the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

With compliments,
Keith

The Emancipation Memorial

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 7.49.19 AMI was reading a little about this statue yesterday so I thought I would pitch in with my two cents today.

The Emancipation Memorial in Washington D.C. – aka the Freedman’s Memorial – aka the Lincoln Statue has had its share of supporters and detractors since its dedication back in 1876. Designed by Thomas Ball, and depicting Abraham Lincoln as the great emancipator as well as a shirtless shackled slave rising from is knees, the statue is indeed a spot-on target for controversy.

At the dedication, none other than Fredrick Douglass advised the crowd (which included Ulysses S. Grant) that it “showed the Negro on his knees when a more manly attitude would have been indicative of freedom.” And if you really want to push the issue. Historian Kirk Savage has condemned it as “a monument entrenched in and perpetuating racist ideology.”

Well…..I suppose that is open for debate. But one thing is for sure. Memorials like this one are sure to get a conversation going about who really freed the slaves. There are a lot of people out there who think of Lincoln as the great emancipator to be sure. But on the other hand….what about self emancipation? It is without question that when slaves had the chance, they made for the Union lines…in essence – freeing themselves. There is an enormous literature on this. For starters I would check out Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, edited by Ira Berlin, Barbara Fields, and other prominent historians.

But I ask this…what about the Union army? Didn’t they have something to do with it? I mean….really. Without the Union army in the field no proclamations would have amounted to anything – and there would have been no place to escape to. So we can talk about Lincoln the emancipator and self emancipation all day. Both are profoundly significant in terms of the history of freedom on the broader scale. But we must remember that there was a war gong on – and that the army played a crucial role in making emancipation a reality. This is a fact that seems sadly forgotten these days.

I think Robert Gould Shaw said it best in a letter to his mother shortly after he heard of Lincoln’s announcement: “So the Proclamation has come at last, or rather its forerunner. I suppose you are all very much excited about it. For my part, I can’t see what practical good it can do now. Wherever our army has been there remain no slaves, and the Proclamation will not free them where we don’t go.”

With compliments,

Keith

Barbara Fields and James McPherson on Lincoln the Emancipator

Well as we know, historians disagree on just about everything. And it’s a good thing too – if we didn’t – there would only be one book on the Civil War…we would all read it…and that would be it. Not too exciting. The subject of “who freed the slaves” generally stirs up a lively debate – here’s what two prominent scholars have to say about it.

Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 11.33.15 AMColumbia University historian Barbara Fields insists that Lincoln’s dedication to freedom was superficial and never strayed from the confines of war necessity. Relying heavily on the oft-quoted words of Lincoln himself, Fields reminds readers that the president would have eagerly saved the Union “without freeing any slave.”

Fields attempts to show how Lincoln adopted a strictly limited policy of emancipation only as an attack on the Confederacy’s ability to wage war. A great many bondsmen, including those enslaved in loyal states or those residing in areas already occupied by United States forces, remained enslaved. Further, those laboring deep in the Confederacy, far from liberating Union lines, remained beyond the reach of the proclamation’s power. Fields admits that the Emancipation Proclamation was significant, but rather than illustrating a crucial development with roots in Republican ideology, she asserts that slaves provided the impetus for such a policy through self-emancipation. The slaves themselves forced the issue and convinced Republicans to attack the institution where it existed. “No human alive,” she comments, “could have held back the tide that swept toward freedom.”

Princeton University historian James McPherson answers this challenge by pointing out that LincolnScreen shot 2014-03-12 at 11.33.33 AM and the Republican Party were not only committed to thwarting the expansion of slavery into the territories, but also that containment was the “first vital step toward placing it in the course of ultimate extinction.” Well before the outbreak of war, McPherson illustrates, Lincoln made it abundantly clear that a man governing another man was despotism, that the relation of masters and slave was a violation of the principle of equality embedded in the founding documents, and that the slave system undermined the “principles of progress.” Although Lincoln knew he lacked the authority to tamper with slavery where it already existed, he hoped that when the Union became either “all one thing or all the other,” that slavery would have met its demise. McPherson adds a further cautionary note in answer to Fields’s assertion of an inevitable “sweeping tide.” Her conclusions depend on a Union victory – a victory hardly foreordained in 1861.

Now you know I want your opinion – so sound off!

With compliments,

Keith