Friday, December 28, 2012

John Norton Pomeroy on Impeachment

As I was writing a lecture on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and thinking of those in favor of a broadly defined constitutional approach to impeachment, I came across a succinct statement authored by legal scholar John Norton Pomeroy in 1868 (he published it in 1870). Pomeroy and others were not so terribly concerned that an executive or other officer might act illegally, but rather that they might abuse their powers. I welcome any and all comments.

The importance of the impeaching power consists, not in its effects upon subordinate ministerial officers, but in the check which it places upon the President and the judges. They must be clothed with ample discretion; the danger to be apprehended is from an abuse of this discretion. But at this very point where the danger exists, and where the protection should be certain, the President and the judiciary are beyond the reach of Congressional legislation. Congress cannot, by any laws penal or otherwise, interfere with the exercise of a discretion conferred by the Constitution...If the offense for which the proceeding may be instituted must be made indictable by statute, impeachment thus becomes absolutely nugatory against those officers in those cases where it is most needed as a restraint upon violations of public duty. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

You Never Know What You're Going To Find... a used book store. So I say frequent them. You may come across a gem or two. I love Amazon as much as the next guy. I purchase books on that site almost daily (and manage to read through most of them). But I love an old book store too.

Here's a little slice of my day for anyone interested. Today I went to one of my favorite restaurants in Hollywood - Birds on Franklin Ave. They have a killer pressed chicken pesto sandwich that I highly recommend. Anyway, two doors down is Counterpoint records and books. I make it a point to go there after every Birds lunch and I generally find something good. Today I found McClellan's (selected) correspondence. Not a rare book by any definition of the term but one that I did not have in my library. So I snapped it up for next to nothing and called it a win.

Okay - on to other things. There is a lot on the horizon for Cosmic America - so stay tuned!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Historians - Stop It

Time to vent. I have no need to name names - you've read the reviews and you know who they are. But I swear if I read one more historian's erudite treatise attacking Spielberg's Lincoln for not delivering a comprehensive history of the abolition movement I am going to light myself on fire and jump out a window into oncoming traffic. So instead of doing that I think I will take a long winter's nap. It is an activity far less dangerous and far more interesting. Here's an idea for all scholars of history, American studies, or anyone else who feels a burning desire to weigh in on this film. Why not write about what Lincoln does do instead of what it doesn't .
Okay here I go...
Wake me up when this is all over.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Baltimore Egg Nogg

I shamelessly lifted this Civil War era recipe from the Civil War Monitor website. For more holiday cocktails and punches, have a gander HERE. The holidays will be filled with cheer and possibly salmonella poisoning from festive libations such as this. And remember, if you plan on taking the buggy out for a spin around the town square...just take it easy.

(for a party of 15)

1/2 pint brandy or rum
1 and 1/2 c. madeira (wine)
6 pints milk
16 eggs, separated
12 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg

Take the yellow [yolks] of the eggs and the sugar and beat them to the consistency of cream. Add two-thirds of a grated nutmeg and beat well together. Then mix in the rum and Madeira. Have ready the whites of the eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, and beat them into the above described mixture. When this is all done, stir in six pints of good rich milk. There is no heat used.
Egg Nogg made in this manner is digestible, and will not cause a headache. It makes an excellent drink for debilitated persons, and a nourishing diet for consumptives.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Beat! Beat! Drums!

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,

Into the school where the scholar is studying,

Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride,

Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,

So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets;

Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,

No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—would they continue?

Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?

Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?

Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Make no parley—stop for no expostulation,

Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer,

Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,

Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,

Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,

So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.

Walt Whitman

Monday, November 26, 2012

Harris on Lincoln: A Review (of sorts)

Over the last several days, I have been receiving a lot of notes asking if I had any comments on Steven Spielberg's, Lincoln. As it turns out - I do. Since Lincoln's release I have determined that there are roughly two sets of reviewers that  approach films contending with historical interpretation. Generally speaking, and I am certain that you will find exceptions to my sweeping strokes here, film critics tend to review with an eye toward performance and the portrayal of humanity against the often larger-than-life nature of the story's protagonists and  secondary characters.  They also are likely to judge whether the filmmaker captured the essence of the period in question: lighting, scenery, interiors, and other such crucial visual elements allowing the movie patron a genuine glimpse of said period. Historians, on the other hand, will be on the lookout for historical content and context. They will be sure to point out moments of accuracy and other scenes that are the mark or distorted. Of course, you should probably not be surprised to find historians' comments critical of what did and did not make the historical cut.

I generally wear both hats when I see a period piece - this was indeed the rule when I saw Lincoln on opening day at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome. I tend to agree with film critics' assessment of Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and other actors' performances. Day-Lewis portrays an all too human Abraham and Field a convincingly troubled Mary - I expected as much from such tremendously talented actors. I also have to agree with historians such as Eric Foner for noting the lack of context when it came to the abolition movement broadly defined. And I found Megan Kate Nelson's discussion of the awkward dialogue between the film's black and white characters insightful. As of yet, I have not come across anyone discussing self-emancipation - but I am sure it will come up eventually.

But my thoughts have moved in a different direction since I saw Lincoln. I think of the weeks leading up to the film - the anticipation was really something to behold in the Civil War Internet world. From all the social media whoop-dee-do emerged a short and hardly seen interview with Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis - a Q&A following a pre-screening of the film guessed it, a film school. Spielberg especially was sensitive to the fact that he was presenting a very narrow view of a vast historical subject. He equated it (and I am paraphrasing here) to looking through to the other side of a fence through a tiny nail hole. His intention was to depict a sliver of history - not the history. I will admit  (as have my colleagues) that the opening scene with Lincoln in conversation with Union soldiers was hard to watch...forced and uncomfortable - but perhaps this was a cinematic device used intentionally to set an uneasy backdrop for a story that ultimately asks some difficult and hard to define questions about the nature of freedom. I will also admit that I have been harshly critical myself of historical films that get it wrong (i.e. Gettysburg, Gods and Generals). Lincoln does not get it wrong, it simply takes on a narrow scope. I will have to say that the film - in terms of the segment of history it intended to present (as opposed to the history that some might expect) - was a smashing success. Spielberg's mission was to provide a snapshot of the trying problems in early 1865 concerning a piece of legislation and to understand one man's struggles confronting them. It was a film about a man, his close circle of contemporaries, and an event, not about a movement. Steven Spielberg is admittedly not operating under any pretense that he is an historian, so I suspect that historians should not judge his film using our own rigorous standards, but rather, examine the film for its cultural import in the 21st century. Why is a film about Abraham Lincoln so important today? Are we still struggling with unresolved issues? Are political, racial, sectional, and cultural divisions embedded in our collective body politic? (hint: yes) Perhaps this is why Spielberg's films so resonates with such a vast audience.

As it is, the film can work as an inspirational stepping off point. I have connected with a number of people who have less than a passing interest in Civil War history who are now intrigued by the era, by Lincoln, and by the war in general. I even hear tell that books have been purchased. I call that a win.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hush'd Be the Camps Today

HUSH'D be the camps to-day,
And soldiers let us drape our war-worn weapons,
And each with musing soul retire to celebrate,
Our dear commander's death.

No more for him life's stormy conflicts,
Nor victory, nor defeat- no more time's dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.
But sing poet in our name,

Sing of the love we bore him- because you, dweller in camps, know it truly.

As they invault the coffin there,
Sing- as they close the doors of earth upon him- one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.

Walt Whitman - May, 1865

Friday, November 16, 2012

Frederick Douglass on Black Soldiers

Once Lincoln gave the go ahead for the enlistment of black soldiers, prominent African Americans such as Frederick Douglass were asked to help with recruitment. Douglass was delighted and sent two of his sons to join the ranks of the now famous 54th Massachusetts. It quickly became apparent that black soldiers would not be treated equally with whites: less pay, no chance for advancement, and menial duty. Speaking to a group in Philadelphia, he explained that despite such treatment, the enlistment of black soldiers was a significant event.

"This is no time for hesitation...Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States. I say again, this is our chance, and woe betide us if we fail to embrace it."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Utilitarian View Of The Monitor's Fight

Plain be the phrase, yet apt the verse,
More ponderous than nimble;
For since grimed War here laid aside
His painted pomp, 'twould ill befit
Overmuch to ply
The rhyme's barbaric symbol.

Hail to victory without the gaud
Of glory; zeal that needs no fans
Of banners; plain mechanic power
Plied cogently in War now placed -
Where War belongs -
Among the trades and artisans.

Yet this was battle, and intense -
Beyond the strife of fleets heroic;
Deadlier, closer, calm 'mid storm;
No passion; all went on by crank.
Pivot, and screw,
And calculations of caloric.

Needless to dwell; the story's known.
The ringing of those plates on plates
Still ringeth round the world -
The clangor of the blacksmiths' fray.
The anvil-din
Resounds this message from the Fates:

War shall yet be, and to the end;
But war-paint shows the streaks of weather;
War yet shall be, but the warriors
Are now but operatives; War's made
Less grand than Peace,
And a singe runs through lace and feather.

Herman Melville -

Monday, November 12, 2012

All My Exes Live In Texas

Well, they don't really (I just like the song)  - but if they did, they might be waist deep in a right proper secession movement. As of this morning (November 13, 2012) the good people of the state (perhaps soon to be Republic) of Texas have amassed well over 60,000 signatures petitioning the United States government to allow a peaceful secession from the United States. To find out more and see for yourself what has motivated these Lone Star patriots, click HERE. The number of signatures is growing exponentially and I am looking forward to further developments.


The Portent

Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,


The cut is on the crown

      (Lo, John Brown),

And the stabs shall heal no more.

Hidden in the cap

      Is the anguish none can draw;

So your future veils its face,


But the streaming beard is shown

      (Weird John Brown),

The meteor of the war.

- Herman Melville, 1859


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day

It [was] not a war to save the Union alone, it [was] a war to make the Union worth saving.
- William P. Hogarty, Union veteran


"For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago."

William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust - 1948

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Death of Abraham Lincoln

Why, if the old Greeks had had this man, what trilogies of plays - what epics - would have been made out of him! How the rhapsodies would have recited him! How quickly that quaint tall form would have enter'd into the region where men vitalize gods, and gods divinify men! But Lincoln, his times, his death - great as any, any age - belong altogether to our own.

Walt Whitman - 1879

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lincoln - Coming to a Theater Near You

[caption id="attachment_3467" align="alignleft" width="332" caption="Lincoln billboard on Hollywood Blvd."][/caption]

I wish I could remember where I read this, but not long ago, Steven Spielberg made the somewhat presumptuous announcement that he would not release Lincoln until after the 2012 election - so as not to affect the outcome with a political drama set during a very divisive period of our history. Who knows, maybe he was right. Films do have a powerful effect on the public.

At any rate, the election is over and Lincoln is about to hit the theaters. I am personally bracing myself for the onslaught of newly minted Lincoln experts on Twitter and Facebook who will most certainly hold forth on the 16th president based solely on what they see in this movie.

For those of you who might be tempted to walk down this road, I would like to remind you of something else Spielberg said about this film, and about film as history in general. This medium can illustrate only a sliver of of Lincoln's or anyone's world. What we will see will be very specific and will not touch on every historical base. I am interested primarily in what Spielberg has chosen to tell us about the man and the issues with which he contended. It will reveal a great deal about historical memory in the 21st century as it reflects on the 19th. And for the record - judging by the previews, Daniel Day-Lewis will do a bang-up job.


Vote Early, Vote Often

All kidding aside, and whether you vote late and only once, cast your vote.

As yours truly heads out to the polls, I would like to remind all my readers that your vote makes a difference. Today I am casting my ballot to ensure that every single American is guaranteed precisely the same rights and privileges as every other American. Because without that, none of the other issues really matter.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Too Soon?

In the spirit of levity, I submit for your comments, Lincoln, from Saturday Night Live season 38, episode 6 starring Louis C.K.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Another Whiskey, Mr. Johnson?

On inauguration day, 1865, Americans heard what Frederick Douglass deemed more akin to a sermon than a speech. He was referring, of course, to Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address - the main attraction. The opening act was something of a flop.

Andrew Johnson, having recently arrived in Washington City a bit under the weather, had earlier that day consumed several glasses of whiskey (he was from Tennessee, after all) to clear his head and steady his nerves.

Red faced and quite obviously intoxicated, he delivered - after his inauguration as vice president - a rambling and incoherent speech that meandered around glory and democracy until Hannibal Hamlin (Lincoln's first VP) had to cut him off.

Lincoln, incensed, instructed his cabinet to keep an eye on him for the rest of the day.  But he came to his defense nevertheless, stating "I have known Andy Johnson for many years; he made a bad slip the other day, but you need not be scared; Andy ain't a drunkard."

Even so, poor Andy never shook the "drunken tailor" image. And that was just the beginning of his problems.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Historicize Responsibly

This morning, Brooks Simpson posted this image at Crossroads - courtesy of Kevin Jackson, the self- appointed spokesperson for African-American conservatives. There are so many things wrong with the image's message that I am not sure where to begin. I'll just start by saying that when 21st century politicos try to draw analogies to 19th century (or any other period) historical events, they should really try doing a little reading first. And for the record, I am not attacking the GOP, so those of you who think so can relax. I am attacking bad history.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Visualizing Emancipation

Yesterday's map post stirred up a few conversations here and elsewhere about the possibilities of visualizing data. This inspired me to direct all Cosmic Americans to the digital scholarship coming out of the University of Richmond. I am especially intrigued by the Visualizing Emancipation component of their Digital Scholarship Lab. There is a comprehensive timeline and you can set parameters with a number of different emancipation events. Head on over and check it out - you may be surprised by what you find.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Slavery in 1860

Maps. I could spend all day analyzing maps, especially ones that detail statistics like this one - showing the concentrations of slavery in 1860. Note the coastal, Piedmont, and river regions. One might also consider how the Emancipation Proclamation affected the institution in a practical sense in January, 1863, or how self-emancipation took hold from the beginning of the war. As Robert Gould Shaw said in early 1863, "Wherever our army has been there remain no slaves, and the Proclamation will not free them where we don't go."


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Johnny Cash - God Bless Robert E. Lee

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of Johnny Cash. Here is his take on the Confederacy's most famous general.  What are your thoughts?


Friday, October 26, 2012

The Great Emancipator in Mosaic

This image is part of a series of mosaics at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. These days, it seems that Abraham Lincoln, once deified as a "Great Emancipator," has fallen from such elevated graces. What do you think? Does this image strike you as an accurate depiction of the 16th president?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Way Out West in '58

I have been working these days on trying to get a sense of which way the wind was blowing - so to speak - in Los Angeles immediately before the Civil War. I know that plenty of the small 1850s population tended to lean in a southerly direction and I am always on the lookout for first-hand accounts.

From my own library, as it turns out, I had a look in Almira Russell Hancock's 1887 publication of Reminiscences of Winfield Scott Hancock. Winfield, a career Army officer who would rise to fame as commander of the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War, found himself stationed in Los Angeles in November 1858, where he would remain until the outbreak of hostilities in '61. Allie wrote a wonderfully descriptive account of their time in Southern California noting many of the terrain features, wildlife, and population of the pueblo:

The Los Angeles of 1858-59 was not the Los Angeles of to-day; now it contains 25,000 inhabitants, then it boasted of 4,000. Its main street was lined on both sides with adobe houses of true Spanish type, and not very many of them; but the surrounding country, with its beautiful hills and valleys, its snow-capped mountains and variegated fields, was unsurpassably charming. The population consisted principally of Spaniards, a few rough American adventurers, and many Indians of a low order, who were treacherous and required watching, and were at times very disorderly.

As tensions reached a near breaking point in the East, Allie Hancock noted the rebellious sentiments both within the ranks of the Army as well as the general population and pointed to the uneasiness felt by her husband:

The presidential election was impending, and excitement ran high. In Mr. Hancock's opinion the situation was pregnant with danger in the event of Mr. Lincoln's success. This conviction caused him much uneasiness, which he did not hesitate to express, but few believed it possible that the South had the intention of actually seceding from the Union. Portentous rumblings came from the East, and from the utterances of those around him, a majority of whom were Southern sympathizers, Mr. Hancock concluded that rebellion was imminent. The reckless character of the large portion of the population composing the Disunionists, most of them adventurers, willingly participating in any movement which presented opportunity to themselves, made the situation very hazardous.

She then continued to connect previous efforts to form an independent Bear Flag Republic in California and noted how the Spaniards were entirely sympathetic to this cause - or really any cause promoting independence.

And for the record (for those of you who have seen the film, Gettysburg), nowhere in the text does she refer to her husband as "Old Winnie Boy." In fact, I have never seen that sobriquet used in any contemporary writing. And I don't recall if Shaara used it in Killer Angels. If not, I guess Ron Maxwell just needed a catchy nickname to go over well with the movie-going public.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Action Shot

I would love to see some actual combat photography from the Civil War. Of course, the nature of photography in the 1860s was such that long exposures would render action shots nothing but big blurs. So nearly all images from the war are posed. From time to time, you might run across a "posed" action shot - like pretend sword fighting or something along those lines. And then there are the unusual shots of soldiers on the march - like this one of Confederates marching through Frederick, Maryland. It is a great image of soldiers on campaign - what they would carry and how they generally looked while on the move.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Conversation with Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis

This is a fascinating interview with the star and director of Lincoln. The two discuss their interpretation of the man and the various methods they used to recreate the nineteenth century on film. I admire Spielberg for noting that his film is not meant to be the definitive Lincoln, but one strand of analysis depicting a compelling man who lived during a complex time.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Winter Quarters

You have to hand it to Civil War soldiers. They could be pretty resourceful when they had to. As you all surely know, active campaigning, more often than not, took place during Spring and Summer - when snow and ice was not busy fouling everyone's good time. During the winter months, armies would set up elaborate winter camps and build semi-permanent structures using whatever they could find. Pictured is a mighty fine example of an officer's hut near Brandy Station - with a chimney, log walls, and a pitched roof stretched from what appears to be a tent. They even have a sidewalk out front.

This place is nicer than my first apartment. Huzzah!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kevin Levin's Remembering the Battle of the Crater

Let's get straight to the point here. Kevin Levin's new book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder,  is an exceptionally solid work. The book is meticulously researched, and most important, it provides insights into the ever-dynamic (and my personal favorite) sub-field of historical inquiry: memory studies. The book begins, fittingly enough, with the battle itself - underscoring the deeply ingrained racial prejudices against the black soldiers of the United States Colored Troops. It then traces, through the development of the Lost Cause narrative and the systematic exclusion of black people from the southern body politic, how blacks were essentially written out of the Crater story, not only in the South but for some northerners as well - even though they played a significant role in the bloody attack.

I found the chapter called "Whites Only" among the most compelling. This discussion of how early battlefield interpretation left little room for the commemoration of the black soldiers who fought there is clearly building (admittedly so) on David Blight's conclusions in Race and Reunion. Early reconciliation gestures formed the foundation of the park's development.  In the latter decades of the nineteenth century, northern (white) veterans would travel south to visit the sites of their past battles. In the case of the Crater, they were often treated cordially by their former enemies including William Mahone and others. When meeting, veterans from both sides discussed shared virtues of bravery and fortitude - and significantly noted "all feelings of sectional strife [were] entirely forgotten or blotted out." (91)

These meetings, aiding the efforts to put land aside for the creation of a national park, unfolded against the backdrop of a challenging balance between economic development and historic preservation. Without question - the promotion of tourism loomed large for Petersburg officials - and by 1932, land had been secured for the dedication of a national park. The Crater site (formally a golf course) was added in 1936. A subsequent battle reenactment (in 1937) and the National Park's interpretive signage and literature scarcely noted the involvement of African American soldiers in the Union attack.

This narrow commemorative focus took hold and continued through the twentieth century - into the era of the Civil Rights movement and the Civil War centennial. Early commemorative efforts combined to write a persistent message: reconciliatory gestures and shared racism worked to minimize the sacrifices of black participants at the Battle of the Crater. Only recently has the African American narrative gained a place on the battlefield.

Things that I would like to discuss with Kevin over beers:

Without question the interpretive stance at Petersburg (and many other battlefields) for the longest time framed the war as a white man's conflict. Equally true - northern veterans on missions of reconciliation intentionally played down issues involving race. This book does a splendid job at focusing in on a particular place as an emblematic site of one strand of Civil War memory.

Those who read Cosmic America regularly know that I think this particular strand of memory was atypical in the contexts of commemorative cultures broadly defined. But I admit that it existed in certain times and in certain places. I will also note that this strand of memory is significant in terms of how Americans write twenty-first century commemorative culture that challenges a national racist past. As such, Remembering the Battle of the Crater is an outstanding source, which convincingly shows how groups of people can interpret history according to their needs - reconciliation and economic benefit - and in fact, develop commemorative themes that dictate empowerment.

My bar-stool questions for Kevin (and he will have some time to think about it, we next meet in March 2013): what did the veterans (those whose reconciliatory efforts helped develop the site as a national park) have to say when their former enemies were not around? Were they so cavalier about dismissing racial issues or black peoples' involvement in the war? Were they quite as forgiving when it came to former enemies? How would you define a national commemorative ethos and where does the Crater story fit in?

Of course I have questions...that's what I do. And my own conclusions may diverge somewhat from those offered in Remembering the Battle of the Crater. But all of that notwithstanding, I say buy the book. Read it. You'll thank me later for the recommendation.



Monday, October 8, 2012

Blogging "Civil War Blogging"

Over the weekend, C-Span aired a panel on Civil War blogging from the Civil War Institute summer conference last June. It featured myself, Brooks Simpson, and Kevin Levin. You can watch it HERE. I have noted more than once that I feel the Civil War Institute is doing some of the best work out there in terms of connecting academics with the public - it is always a honor to spend a week with such a fine assemblage of historians and enthusiastic participants.

Now that I have had a chance to think about it, there are a couple of points on which I would like to elaborate (both Brooks and Kevin have offered their reflections on the panel). I thought CWI director Peter Carmichael did a great job moderating the panel - and posed numerous questions giving each of the chance to to explain the nuances of engaging the public through a relatively new medium in comparison to what some might term the work of a traditional historian. To begin, as I noted during the discussion, blogging is in its infancy - and in terms of blogging as it relates to academic pursuits, even more so. As the medium develops, the questions will certainly change. Bloggers' methods will undoubtedly change as well. While our objectives will surely remain - to engage with the broader public in a meaningful way - how we go about doing this will take various courses depending on technological developments, the creation of new platforms, and any number of other things. At the end of the discussion,  National Park Service historian John J. Hennessy offered some very kind remarks for those of us on the skirmish lines of historical blogging. I thank you, sir.

There are clearly some issues that need sorting out when it comes to defining the academic blogger's role in the context of the profession of historian. One aspect of the dialogue that I found troubling was Pete's suggestion that we relegate some contributors to the virtual cornfield. Those who, sometimes under the cover of anonymity, offer a counter narrative of a dubious nature are seeking to exploit the ease at which individuals garner information from the Internet. Historian-bloggers, by engaging with this narrow, even reckless segment of the public, are thus complicit - we are giving them the space to carry out their aims and whether we like it or not, the implication is that we could be offering up the platform of credibility to those who really have no idea what they are talking about.

At Cosmic America, unless threatening or unnecessarily vulgar, the authors of all comments get their chance to speak their mind (this is the case on my related Facebook and Twitter pages as well). One of the stated purposes of this blog is to unlock the mysteries of historical memory. People's interpretations of the past, whether based on evidence or purely delusional, are the foundation of historical memory. In the 21st century, conversations on the blogosphere  are a vital part of that collective memory - what in years to come will certainly be some bright graduate student's dissertation topic. In answering Pete's question: are we gatekeepers? I would say no - we are facilitators. Regarding the credibility issue, that will sort itself out in time. I always ask people who make questionable claims to offer evidence. They never do.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

New Construction in Fredericksburg Unearths Some Old-Timey Stuff

Yesterday  morning,  a Facebook friend alerted to me some Civil War related news out of the Old Dominion. I love it when this stuff happens. While preparing a site for the construction of a new court house in Fredericksburg, at Princess Anne and Charlotte streets, archeologists stepped in and had a look. They found what news sources are calling the site of a Civil War era building. Actually, it is most likely an early 19th century building that was standing during the Civil War, but I suppose they were close enough.

Anyway, they found all kinds of fun stuff, including a pipe, some Civil War era ammunition (presumably from the 1862 battle) and a few items the former residents left in the privy. You know, you can learn a lot about a society by what they threw down the outhouse. Check out the article HERE. I am sure the archeologists will find a lot more before they green light the contractors and the new courthouse construction gets underway.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Los Angeles and the Election of 1860 (update)

Yesterday I asked for help finding the 1860 election returns from Los Angeles via all the usual social media platforms. Within 24 hours, I had my answer. I will tell anyone who will listen (and some who won't) that blogging and social media act as a collective humanities accelerant. This recent episode certainly illustrates my point. My friend and former student Robby Colby had the information (a link to a comprehensive list on Google Books) and sent it my way after seeing my request on Facebook. You know, vast Internet connections and digital archives make research less of a challenge than it was only a few short years ago. I still like rifling through old documents in libraries, but in a pinch it is nice to know that the information I need is often only a few clicks away.

But on to the returns. The winner for Los Angeles County in the 1860 presidential election is (was)...John C. Breckinridge. How about that. While Lincoln took the state by a narrow margin, Breckinridge (James Buchanan's vice president) handily won in LA. We all know that overall, he finished a distant 3rd behind Lincoln and Douglas. Breckinridge went on to serve as a general in the Confederate Army and for the last few months of the war as the Confederate Secretary of War. He fled the country in May, 1865 - only to return to his native Kentucky in 1869 after being granted amnesty. But all of this is a story for a later date.

Here are the Los Angeles County numbers:

Lincoln - 352
Douglas - 494
Bell - 201
Breckinridge - 685

For the statewide returns, click Appendix A

So it appears that even though the three other candidates combined bested Breckinridge in 1860, a significant number of Angelenos saw it fitting to side with the southern wing of the fractured Democratic Party - running on a pro-slavery platform. A number significant enough for Breckinridge to take the county. I think it might be time to dig a little deeper.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Los Angeles and the Election of 1860

Los Angeles didn't look like much in 1860 - there really wasn't a lot there. A small military outpost, a few ranchos, some burros, a couple of dusty streets, and not much else. But there were voters and a growing population, and since California had achieved statehood in 1850, many good Angelenos with a sense of civic responsibility made their way to the polls to cast their vote in the 1860 presidential election.

Statewide, Lincoln barely edged out Stephen Douglas, with a popular vote of 38,733 to Douglas's 37,999. John C. Brekinridge, the Southern Democrat, managed to come in a close 3rd with 33,969 and John Bell, the Constitutional Unionist got 9,111. So by the narrowest of margins, Lincoln got to add California's 4 electoral votes to the Republican column.

These results say quite a bit about the Golden State's political diversity. From what I understand, northern Californians tended to go with Lincoln while southern Californians sided with his opponents. There was one bilingual paper in Los Angeles at the time that fervently supported Douglas Democrats  - The Los Angeles Star - and once the shooting started was so critical of the federal government that the paper's editor was accused of treason and his publication was banned from the mail. Wonderful information to have indeed. But I need the numbers form 1860.

I am on the lookout for a city by city report on the returns for the election in an effort to gauge support for the various issues unfolding in the East. If you have the numbers - please pass them along. I will be forever grateful!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Worse Than Slavery

I am teaching this image in my course on Reconstruction this winter. Note the individuals: a black family cowers beneath the clasping hands of the White League and the KKK. In the distance a lynched man hangs from a tree. The captions read: "The Union as it Was," "This is a White Man's Government," "The Lost Cause,"  and "Worse than Slavery." What are your thoughts?

Friday, September 28, 2012

To My Old Master

Jourdan Anderson, a freedman from Tennessee, had plenty to say to former master. In August 1865, from his new home in Ohio, Anderson dictated a letter to Colonel P. H. Anderson of Big Springs dictating a few terms for his potential future employment and other arrangements. How things change over the course of a few years. As dictated:

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the[266] folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq.,[267] Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson

Monday, September 24, 2012

Debating Emancipation

Last summer, at the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg, I participated on a number of panels concerning emancipation, blogging, Lincoln, and the war in 1862. C-Span was there, cameras at the ready - just in case anyone said anything interesting. This is a shot from the panel, Debating Emancipation, which included myself, Kevin Levin, Anne Marshall, Craig Symonds, and Glenn David Brasher. I really hope they air the blogging panel as well. I had a great time on that one.

You can watch the video HERE. It is a shade over one hour - so get comfortable.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Worst Civil War Era Film Ever

Last night, I discovered that The Conspirator was available on Amazon Instant Video. Huzzah, I thought. Having the house to myself, I figured it a perfect time to enjoy a Civil War era film.

I made it through twenty minutes and turned it off.

Keep in mind, I have never walked out on or turned off any Civil War film. Ever. And I have sat through Gods and Generals TWICE. Clearly I am committed to Hollywood's take on this epic historical event. But I just could not stomach this wretched piece of rubbish.

If the first twenty minutes were any indication of things to come in the rest of the film, then I suppose I would have been treated to more over-wrought testaments to "American" jurisprudence - the right to a trial by one's peers and the notion of innocence before guilt can be established without any element of doubt. Thanks for the elementary lesson in  law.

But wait, there are more lessons to be learned here. Yes - Mary Surratt was indeed a woman. Her implication in the murder of Abraham Lincoln and her subsequent execution were shocking to be sure. Thanks for the elementary lesson in nineteenth-century gender assumptions.

The problem, at least in the first few scenes that I could watch, is that both of these issues are of great significance - then and now - and they were glossed over in a tisk-tisk fashion only after dripping a taste of sickening "look-at-how-we've-progressed-but-there's-still-work-to-be-done" syrup on for good measure. And even this was done so in a mumbly dead-pan stumble fest. Such nonsense can only amount to some of the worst writing, the worst acting, the worst directing, or a combination of the three. I would have been more riveted watching a plate of white toast get stale as time slowly, painfully passed.

Not that the film was completely lacking in merits. I got a bit of a chuckle at the actor who played (with all the southern-Gothic styling of a junior high production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) John Wilkes Booth. His brutish pronunciation of the Virginia state motto in the Ford's Theatre scene - sic semper tyrannis - was delightful. I suppose this was merely an effort to "southernize" or if you like, "Rebelize" the president's assassin (who was a classically trained actor), by giving him a slightly raspier Jethro Bodine-esque accent. Such clumsy and obvious efforts make me laugh.

But who knows? Maybe the utter brilliance of rest of the film made up for the first twenty minutes. I will never know. Perhaps it got slightly less patronizingly preachy. Maybe there was a musical number. Maybe robots. If anyone has seen the whole thing, chime in.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Men Who Built America

This morning, on my daily run down the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, I noticed a new billboard a few blocks east of the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. As I ran by, I thought to the History Channel going to take a stab at history? Yes indeed...move over Pawn Stars and Swamp People, the History Channel is gearing up to air an all-new series: The Men Who Built America. According to the History Channel website, this series will chronicle the lives of a handful of industrial tycoons - John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan - as they rise from obscurity to their positions as the world's most powerful and influential men, "building" America into a post Civil War superpower as they go along...and affecting every single person in the world as they do it.

I have made no secret about my disappointment with the directions the History Channel has gone over the years. I have attempted to engage them in a programming discussion via Twitter to no avail, and I have written an unanswered call to action right HERE on Cosmic America. I guess their programming developer(s) do not really care what this historian thinks. Fair enough - lots of people don't care what I think.

I am very interested how they handle this one. They have a real opportunity - in prime time - to develop the complexities of the men and the era through the experiences of some of those who stood at the top of the industrial mountain. I am hoping they do not travel down the easy and all-too-familiar road to hagiography. Captains of industry were heroes of enterprise to be sure and greatly admired by many. But they were humans, capable of errors in judgment and possessing tragic flaws. We'll see how the history unfolds when the series airs But hey - if this show doesn't work out they could always try out a few other ideas. Dear History Channel, if you please, may I offer a trio of suggestions:


or better still...


or if you really want to hit home...



I know, I know. I am having fun at the poor History Channel's expense before I have even seen their program. But you have to admit, they make it pretty easy. And historically speaking (yes, pun intended) their attempts on real history have been pretty weak in the past. But in the spirit of hope, I will not really pass judgement on this show until I have had a chance to sit down and see what they come up with. Then of course, the gloves come off.



Monday, September 17, 2012

A Letter From Antietam Creek

Today, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, is a day of reflection for many. We all know the battle's significance - it was the bloodiest single day in American history and the Union victory provided Lincoln with a much needed military success prior to issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. 22,000 fell dead or wounded and the battle changed the nature of the war. Roll that over in your mind.

But rather than offer my analysis on this day - as so many others are likely to do, I thought a soldier's reflections on the battle would be better. I came across this letter on an antique store website - I do not know the author. The sentiments expressed are typical. He thanks God for sparing his life, expresses patriotism, and tries to explain to his sister, who cannot possibly understand battle, that war is a serious business.

The Field
Antietam Creek
Sept 22nd,1862

Dear Sister -

                    I have just been through two hard fought battles and God has spared my life and again permitted me once more to again seat myself enjoying the same good health that I have ever enjoyed since I enlisted to write once more to you and I take great pleasure in so doing.  We have been in camp for two or three days resting from our hard marching and fighting.  We have had hard fare, nothing to eat while marching but hard tacks and water.  I tell you I am good for it I have stood it first rate.  I tell you what good courage and love of country will keep a man up a good while after he thinks he can do no more.  And after giving the rebels such a whipping as they have got on the Sacred Soil of Maryland I dont think we ought to disprond.  Still I feel bad to think of the lives that have been lost - and the many homes made desolate by the two late battles in which our regiment as well as others have been engage in But - I have been spared through them both without a scratch and I feel thankful to God for his great goodness in thus saving my life when it did not seem as though many of us could live to get out of it - I have thought it over a great deal and I have thought I should live to come back and with your help I hope it may be so but - still we cannot tell how it will be.  There is some talk that our regiment is agoing back to Washington to drill some more but I dont believe it for our regiment got a good deal of praise with the rest from Gen Sturgis who said the carrying of Antietam Bridge saved the battle of last Wednesday and covered our troops with glory.  But I think in the first battle that we were engaged on Sunday the 14th of Sept - we have one thing to mourn for and that is in the death of so noble a man and officer as Gen Reno he was a man that feared no danger was ever ready to lead on his men to the charge and I think his loss will be greatly felt by our devision which he commanded he had only passed through our Co and gone a little way before was killed.  I write Father a good long letter telling him all about the late battles that we have been engaged in and if he receives it I dont think it would be worth a while to tell it over again although perhaps there are many things I could not tell you in writing for the want of room and time to do it.  I believe I did not tell Father that our Lt Col was wounded in the shoulder not very bad though

Not exactly a sweeping narrative invoking the "crossroads of freedom" theme, but a valuable letter nonetheless.




Friday, September 14, 2012

Trailer for Spielberg's Lincoln

Okay - I am certainly on board with this film. But I always imagined Lincoln emphasizing the object of the preposition in the Gettysburg Address in this fashion:  "of the people, by the people, for the people" as opposed to the preposition itself as in "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Let the nitpicking begin.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Civil War Monitor (temporarily) Gratis for Cosmic Americans!

That's right - Terry Johnston, the editor of the outstanding publication, Civil War Monitor, is offering temporary free access to the magazine's digital edition for Cosmic America readers. If you are part of the CA Inner Circle, you were notified a while back that yours truly has an article in the CWM fall issue - all about Confederates in the trenches at Petersburg, and how they thought they would eventually strike a decisive blow against Grant's army. The title of the piece is taken from a Rebel's letter home: "Grant, Your Cause Is Ruin."

You can purchase this issue at your local newsstand and read to your heart's content - or - you can subscribe and read it online, which should appeal to the technologically savvy among us. And for the next week or so - you can do so at no charge. I am quite certain that you will love CWM so much that you will subscribe when the free offer expires.

So - go HERE and check it out.

user name: cosmic
password: america

See how easy that is!

While you are at it, you should like their Facebook page - so you can keep up with all the goings on and announcements and such.

The table of contents for this issue is pictured below. As you can see, I am in good company!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Calling for Reconstruction Era Documents

Yesterday, through the usual social media channels, I noted that I am currently in the process of compiling a comprehensive collection of documents pertaining to the Reconstruction Era.

The collection will span the years 1862 to 1877 and will be arranged thematically. A master list will provide links to each individual document. Once compiled, I will post the list here for anyone's use - and will update it regularly as I transcribe new material or I become aware of available online sources.

The collection is intended for supplementary reading for a course on Reconstruction history I am teaching this winter, but in the spirit of making Cosmic America a valuable resource, I figured I would share the collection with the world.

For now, I am asking for links to documents on the Internet. I am looking for political papers, letters, diary entries, and especially first-hand accounts. Document ranging from THIS to THIS to THIS are perfect for my purposes. This should be a collaborative effort - please spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever you see fit. Your help will further illustrate the significance of social media in the world of higher education (in case you were not already aware of how things are changing).

Thanks in advance,


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nathan Bedford Forrest and Civil War Memory

The tumultuous battles over who controls Civil War memory are still alive and well - especially if you are thinking about the new monument to Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest - soon to be installed in Selma, Alabama.

Naturally, protestors and detractors from around the country have weighed in against the monument. Noting a couple of glaring facts such as Forrest's prewar occupation trading slaves, his implication in the Fort Pillow Massacre, and his tenure as the first Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, many have been moved to simply wonder why anyone would want to honor such a man with a monument.

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans see Forrest in a different light. Their Forrest is a man of resolute loyalty to the cause, a man with no military experience who rose to a level of skill and competence matching some of the greatest military heroes of the Confederacy. Novelist Shelby Foote once referred to him as a "genius" comparable to Abraham Lincoln.

Some call him a murderer - others call him a hero. There is no gray area (so to speak). Some Forrest apologists applaud his involvement with a "kinder and gentler" version of Klan as part of an effort to bring law and order to a disrupted South. Hmmmmm. And the monument, say members of the SCV, will go in as planned despite detractors' vows to stop it.

How people remember the Civil War has certainly changed in the last several decades. Not long ago, protests against installing a Forrest monument would have been much less virulent - if they occurred at all. Today's reflections on the war - during the sesquicentennial - are tending to lean in many ways away from the "white only" ceremonies of the early to mid-twentieth century. Slavery, emancipation, race, and racism are deeply embedded in the twenty-first century commemorative ethos and it seems like Confederate heritage groups are losing their grip on commemoration broadly defined. While these groups have never dominated northern Civil War memory (despite what you might read) it now seems that they are losing control in the South as well.

Groups such as the SCV have barricaded themselves against attacks behind the "heritage not hate" motto. But a new monument to Forrest suggests a symbolic middle finger gestured in the direction of those who are not only surprised by such an effort, but offended as well.

What do you think? Should there be a new monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest?


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mission Accomplished

I woke up yesterday morning and saw this tweet in my Twitter feed. It's times like these that I am reassured that Civil War blogging is making some sort of a difference.

Last summer, at a conference in Gettysburg, an attendee addressed a panel including myself, Kevin Levin, and Brooks Simpson, and asked if Civil War blogging was entertainment or the serious business of teaching history.

My response was (and always will be) that the two should not be separate strategies. Well, I do not think he was happy with my answer (hoping I would side with the latter). I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I intentionally attempt to draw people to Cosmic America with humor, entertainment, silly anecdotes or whatever I can think of. But that does no mean that I ignore historical issues, original research, and analysis. Some of the things I discuss are controversial and can stir emotions - but there is always room for levity.

I believe that historical inquiry is undergoing a paradigmatic shift of sorts. One component of that shift is the instantaneous transmission of thoughts and ideas - all the trappings of a carefully considered historical problem thought through to viable conclusions...and done in short spurts via social media. Like it or not, much of this is happening in a colloquial - perhaps even entertaining - format. History is going viral, my friends. Who knows...we may even have fun with it.

So thanks, Rebecca. I am certainly pleased that you and others like you have found a way to enjoy the study of history. And I am glad I could help.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Drunk History

Today I learned of the Internet sensation, Drunk History. The premise: a comedian, with an "understanding" of an historical event, offers a lesson while proceeding to get completely tanked.

In this episode, Jen Kirkman schools us on the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. By the second bottle of wine, the story gets....interesting.

I imagine that my painfully boring high school history class would have attracted a more attentive audience had the teacher knocked a few back before bell rang for 5th period.

But since that didn't happen to me or anyone else, and probably still does not - we historians may have to rely on these episodes to draw more to the discipline. You can enjoy the tale of Lincoln and Douglass by clicking HERE. Really, you should - it''s a story with an all-star cast that you won't want to miss.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Right to Land

What did freedom mean to former slaves in the Reconstruction South? A number of things come to mind. Freedom meant the stability of family, a marriage recognized by the state, and children that could not be sold. Freedom also meant the ownership of one's labor and the means though which to make way in the world.

A common misconception among southern whites, according to historian Eric Foner in his book Nothing But Freedom, was that freedom for blacks meant the escape from all labor. Black people understood slavery not as toil, but as unrequited toil, and freedom meant having a place whereby they could reap the fruits of their labor.

Freedmen then, based their claim to land on the notion of unrequited labor. Planters had accumulated their land illegitimately. As former slaves understood their contribution to the development of the American economy, they also claimed their right to ownership of the land they had worked to improve.

Freedman Bayley Wyat summed up his experiences and his justifications in 1868. The speech is written in dialect (transcribed from the original...dialect always makes me cringe a little) and protests the eviction of blacks from a Virginia contraband camp two years earlier

We has a right to the land where we are locates. For why? I tell you. Our wives, our children, our husbands, has been sold over and over again to purchase the lands we now locates upon, for that reason we have a divine right to the land...and den didn't we clear the land, and de crops ob corn, ob rice, ob sugar, ob everything. And den didn't dem large cities in de North grow up on de cotton and de sugars and de rice dat we made? I say dey has grown rich, and my people is poor.

For Wyat, southern planters and northern industrialists are equally complicit in former slaves' precarious situation, and thus owe them payment for generations of uncompensated servitude. Of course we all know that most turned a deaf ear to these demands for restitution, and thus historians have noted a glaring failure of Reconstruction. One could then define emancipation as little more than the creation of a landless proletariat, free to do nothing but labor.

My question to you: is this too hard a judgment?