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31 posts categorized "Civil War"

13 January 2014

US Civil War Maps

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The latest set of maps on the BL Georeference project has been completed; these include a fascinating collection of maps from the US Civil War (many of which include some fine portraits of bewhiskered generals).

These have now been given their appropriate latitude and longitude and overlaid on Google Maps (below - scroll to the right and you will find a selection of First World War maps: perhaps we need a chronology project, too).  I particularly like the map of Fort Monroe.  Amazingly, even Prang's Bird's-eye view of the Seat of War has been rectified.  Many thanks to all involved, particularly the volunteers who have worked on the project.

All the maps are listed here; there is also an online exhibition that accompanies the Civil War project.

You can read more about the Georeference project on the Maps blog.


[Matthew Shaw]

09 October 2013

Civil War Transformations

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Photo
Cover of Reconfiguring the Union: Civil War Transformations.  Image: The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the cabinet, painted by FB Carpenter, engraved by AH Ritchie, c. 1866.  Cover designed by Will Speed.

Back in April 2011, the Eccles Centre for American Studies organised a day conference at the British Library on the Civil War.  Speakers included Amanda Foreman and Richard Carwardine, and the topics ranged from the Irish and the Civil War to Hollywood's 'memory' of the war.  Professor Carwardine spoke on Lincoln and Emancipation, and Dr Foreman considered the Emancipation Proclamation as a propaganda tool.  There was also, I add immodestly, a paper on the nascent US oil industry.

Now, these initial papers have been reworked, rewritten and published in this volume, edited by Iwan Morgan and Philip Davies in Palgrave Macmillan's Studies of the Americas series.  It has the title Reconfiguring the Union, and is available in all good book stores (and libraries).

This is the table of contents:

1. The Civil War, Democracy and the Union; Adam Smith
2. Lincoln and Emancipation: The Lessons of the Letter to Horace Greeley; Richard Carwardine
3. Freedpeople, Politics and the State in Civil War America; Erik Mathisen
4. The Military Significance of the 1864 Presidential Election; Brian Holden Reid
5. In Union There is Strength:' City-Building and Nation-Building in Civil-War Era Philadelphia, 1844-1865; Andrew Heath
6. 'There Will be Blood:' The Civil War and the Birth of the Oil Industry; Matthew Shaw
7. Faugh a Ballagh! (Clear the Way): The Irish and the American Civil War; David Gleason
8. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and British Views of the Civil War; Amanda Foreman
9. Ordeal of the Union: Alan Nevins, the Civil War Centennial, and the Civil Rights Struggles of the 1960s; Robert Cook
10. Glory, Glory: Hollywood's Consensus Memory of the Civil War; Jenny Barrett

And this is the blurb:

"From the perspective of the North, the Civil War began as a war to restore the Union and ended as a war to make a more perfect Union. The Civil War not only changed the moral meaning of the Union, it changed what the Union stood for in political, economic, and transnational terms. This volume examines the transformations the Civil War brought to the American Union as a politico-constitutional, social, and economic system. It explores how the war changed the meaning of the Union with regard to the supremacy of the federal government over the states, the right of secession, the rights of citizenship, and the political balance between the union's various sections. It further considers the effect of the war on international and transnational perceptions of the United States. Finally, it considers how historical memory has shaped the legacy of the Civil War in the last 150 years."

[MJS]

 

05 September 2013

An Incident in the Retreat at the Battle of Manassas (21 July 1861)

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Manassas
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Image is free of known copyright restrictions.

A steel engraving from Bartlett Mackay's History of the United States of America (1861).  From the text: 'The Battle of the Bull Run [aka the Battle of Manassas] may be said to be the first repulse of the army of the Potomac...'.

I guess we all have days that remind us of the chap guiding the horse on the bottom right.

[M.J.S.}

 

 

19 June 2013

Civil War Project update – A journey through the Southern (and Northern) States

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 Gardner War

Alexander Gardner, Studying the Art of War, Fairfax Court-House [Virginia], June 1863. British Library Shelfmark 1784.a.13.1

Public Domain Mark This work is free of known copyright restrictions.

Catherine Bateson, our King's College London MA intern updates us on some of her findings as part of the US Civil War Project:

150 years ago, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards was on a long train journey from Shelbyville, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia. Fremantle was conducting an independent tour of the Confederate States at the height of the American Civil War. He witnessed life on the home-front, military and naval engagements and had met General Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While on the train, which "was much crowded with wounded and sick soldiers", the British officer noticed "a goodish-looking woman". Fremantle reports that this lady had fought on the frontline and that "no notice had been taken of [her gender] so long as she conducted herself properly", though clearly something had happened because "she had been turned out a short time since for her bad and immoral conduct". He offers no further comment other than noting that "she wore a soldier’s hat and coat, but had resumed her petticoats". Information about female soldiers in the Civil War is often hard to come by, though the Library of Congress has recently drawn attention to this intriguing aspect of the war.

Fremantle’s observation is just one of many wartime snapshots Fremantle jotted down in a three-and-a-half month diary of his American adventures, imaginatively titled Three months in the Southern States, April-June, 1863 (General Reference Collection 10411.bb.24.). The diary is a fantastic Civil War primary source, made all the more interesting as it was written from a neutral British perspective. It also contains entries from July 1863, when Fremantle was at Gettysburg observing one of the Civil War’s most famous battles. His account of events of 1–3 July 1863, written as the fight raged around him, remains one of the best eyewitness reports of the battle. The Library holds several copies of Fremantle’s diary, including the 1863 first edition.

Followers of the blog will know that our Civil War project has been going on for a while, begun to commemorate the American Civil War Sesquicentennial – or the easier to say '150th anniversary' – in 2011. The project is finally nearing completion and the website will hopefully be going live in the next few weeks. I’ve been interning with Team Americas for the last month, adding finishing touches to the website, providing detail to the digitised items and highlighting numerous British connections to the American conflict. Fremantle himself gets a reference, alongside fabulous images of maps, photographs, diplomatic letters, wartime objects and my personal favourite, Union and Confederate songs, including several which praise the role of Irish soldiers in the conflict.

In the meantime, the image above is a taster of what will be on display. The photograph was taken 150 years ago this month by Scottish-born Alexander Gardner. Studying the Art of War features Union officers who would take part in the fighting at Gettysburg in 1863. It is tempting to think Fremantle saw similar scenes behind the Confederate line. As has been mentioned on the blog before, photos from Gardner’s two-volume book have already been digitised, and the website will contain more information on a selection of some of the best.

I like to think that if he were around today, Arthur Fremantle would have enjoyed our Civil War project, as like his diary jottings it covers numerous aspects of this tumultuous period of American history.


[C.B.]

 

07 February 2013

Lincoln, Alexander Gardner and the Silent Indian

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Appomatox-1784.a.13
  Public Domain Mark This work (Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War, Washington, 1865) identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions. [BL Shelfmark: 1784.a.13]

One of the many joys of American Studies is that it’s very easy to argue that you’re watching a particular TV programme or going to a movie because, well, it’s work isn’t it? Just recently we’ve had a few films that we all felt compelled to see, and not least because they’ve provoked numerous debates on Twitter and in the press. Fortunately, we’ve enjoyed at least two of them – Django Unchained and, of course, Lincoln. A lot of words have already been generated about both so I’ve no intention of reviewing either, but I did want to just touch on a couple of things in Lincoln. 

In one scene Abe discovers his son looking at 2 glass plates of ‘slaves for sale’ and tells him that they should be returned to Mr Gardner. This of course is a reference to the photographer Alexander Gardner. And there were numerous points in the film when it was if Gardner’s (and his associated photographers) images had sprung to life, particularly when Lincoln and entourage are touring the battlefields late on in the film. Sadly our 2 volume set of Gardner’s Sketchbook of the War is not quite complete and is missing the iconic photograph of Lincoln in the field. But we do have the image at the top of the blog, taken by Timothy H. O’Sullivan. If you’ve seen the film, you will recognise it as the Appomattox Court House in Virginia ‘where the Capitulation was Signed between Generals Grant and Lee.’ I’ve already blogged about Gardner and the sketch book so I’m not going to say anything further, other than to flag up that both volumes have now been digitised as part of Matt’s Civil War project and you can peruse them here (vol. 1) and here (vol. 2).

But let’s go back to that scene at the Appomattox Court House. You might also have noticed that a tall Indian in Union uniform walks across the frame at one point. He had also appeared briefly earlier on when we first encountered General Grant. He has no lines at all but a close scrutiny of the credits confirmed my assumption that he was intended to represent Colonel Ely Parker (Tonawanda Seneca), adjutant and military secretary to Grant, drafter of the final terms of surrender, and who became, amongst many other things, the first Native American to be appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs. I can’t do justice to the extraordinary (and sometimes controversial) life – and many careers of the talented Ely Parker in a blog, but you can read about him in this piece from the American Indian Magazine. We also have a number of books on him in the Library, including Warrior in Two Camps: Ely S. Parker Union General and Seneca Chief, William H. Amstrong, 1978, BL shelfmark: X:950/31002.

Ely parker


Public Domain Mark This work (
The Life of General Ely S. Parker, by Arthur Caswell Parker. Buffalo Historical Society, 1919) identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions. [BL Shelfmark: AC.8367/3, vol.23]

It’s a shame that Parker doesn’t merit any dialogue in the film. There is a much repeated story that, at the surrender, General Lee first mistook Parker as a black man. Realising his mistake, he then shook his hand, saying 'I am glad to see one real American here.' Parker’s response was 'We are all Americans, sir’, which, you have to admit, is a pretty good line. I can't vouch for the authenticity of the story, but the lines do occur in the movie - but between Lee and, I think, Grant. And incidentally, Parker is played in the film by Asa-Luke Twocrow (Oglala Sioux), a member of the Lincoln rigging crew, who, much to his surprise, was asked to take on the part.

[C.H.] 

 

 

31 January 2013

Oil, Ambergris and the Grand Ball of the Whales

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2013-01-07 14-55 vanity fair 1861 page #12
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This work (Grand Ball given by the Whales), identified by The British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

There was a certain amount of spluttering over the porridge this morning, as the Today programme's John Humphrys discussed reports of discovery of whale vomit on a Morecambe beach, and speculated briefly on the possibility of somehow farming sperm whales for this valuable commodity, more pleasantly also known as ambergris.  Long-sought-after for its rarity and use as a base for perfumes, the lump of grey waxy emission is a reminder of the special status of whales and their relationship to human culture.

The early connection can be seen in this folio from the British Library Catalogue of Medieval Manuscripts

Birthwort and Ambergris

Egerton 747, f. 7, 'Birthwort and Ambergris'. Guidance on use of this image.

But a more recent - and American - reminder can be found in the cartoon at the top of this post, taken from Vanity Fair in 1861, and which we hold at the Library.  'The Grand Ball given by the Whales' depicts a celebratory pod of whales, who are heartily cheered by the the striking of 'rock oil' at Drake's oil well in Pennsylvania.  No longer, the sperm whales believed, would their precious spermaceti oil be hunted for use in candles and lubrication of the delicate machines of the industrialised north. 

It tool a while for oil to become established as lighting and heating fuel and a propellant, but against the backdrop of the Civil War, a startling, and massive, infrastructure was put in place (extraction, refinement, distribution, sales...), and the American talent for marketing was put to work inventing and explaining how the new fuel could offer brilliant light for homes, offices and factories.  At one point, U.S. consuls were provided with details of newly-designed kerosene lamps and instructed to advertise them in the capitals of the world.  Oil tankers were invented, removing the need to rely on leaky oil barrels (which stripped the poor horses that pulled them in carts of their hair), naval engineers began to speculate on converting warships to petroleum, rather than relying on great coal stations, and vast new docks and sumps were constructed.  Legislation had to be passed in both countries after a series of fires at oil merchants and their warehouses (there was also a relatively well-founded scare about the inflammatory properties of oil lamps). 

And, unlike the potential olfactory use of ambergris, all of this smelled pretty bad.

[M.J.S.]

09 January 2013

The Great Comet of 1861 and the Civil War

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Stargazing was a great success on the telly and under the skies last night; and Lincoln did very well at the BAFTA award nominations.

As a doff of the cap to these two facts, here's an August 1861 political cartoon from Vanity Fair, 'The Great Comet of 1861'.  Playing on the comet that was visible with the naked eye over the US in 1861 as war broke out (the comet was first sighted in Australia in May, and designated C/1861 J1), it depicts General Winfield Scott, the union general who advocated war as the only means to bring the seceded states to heal.  (Note the bayonets in Scott's celestial tail.)

 

Comet-of-1861

Public Domain Mark

This work (The Great Comet of 1861), identified by The British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Scott's strategy, which aimed to constrict the southern states like a snake, gaven birth to its popular name, the Anaconda Plan, which in turn led to other cartoons:

 

793px-Scott-anaconda
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This work (Scott's Great Snake), identified by the Library of Congress, is free of known copyright restrictions.


[MJS]

07 January 2013

Our Great Iceberg Melting Away

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Another in our occasional series on the polar regions: we can now reveal that Abraham Lincoln is to blame for global warming.  Or at least James Buchanan change.  (From Vanity Fair, 9 March 1861).

2013-01-07 14-55 vanity fair 1861 page #13

'Our Great Iceberg Melting Away', Vanity Fair, 9 March 1861, PP.6392.eg

Public Domain Mark
This work (Our Great Iceberg Melting Away, by Stephens), identified by The British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

[M.J.S.]