Tag: Civil War

Teaching the Controversial Civil War Era

For the 6th time in my tenure at Southeastern, this fall I will be teaching my course on the Civil War Era. The topic is one of intense interest for many students, albeit one of continuing controversy. I do my best to deal fairly with those controversies—this is a part of American history that still lingers with us today. It’s not merely a course that describes battles. Rather, it begins with a discussion of issues that led to the conflict:… Read more »

The Lincoln Tragedy

On this morning, April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln died in a house across the street from Ford’s Theater. The pandemonium of the night before still resonated through Washington, DC, and the news would soon spread throughout the country, both North and South. John Hay, Lincoln’s personal secretary, recalls hearing these words from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton: The nation mourned, and it wasn’t just the North that did so. Many in the South knew this was a tragedy for them… Read more »

Slavery & the Civil War

What caused the American Civil War? Historians are hesitant to assign just one cause to anything. There are always many factors that come together to create an event, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a primary cause. Where do we go to find the primary cause for the Civil War? I suggest we look carefully at the official secession declarations of the various Southern states. They went to great pains to explain why they chose secession. I’ve read them… Read more »

The Monuments & Memorials Controversy

Monument: “Something venerated for its enduring historic significance or association with a notable past person or thing.” Memorial: “Something, such as a monument or holiday, intended to celebrate or honor the memory of a person or an event.” As a historian, I’m into monuments and memorials. I want historic events and significant people in history to be remembered. Sometimes, I want them remembered because they deserve honor; other times, they should be remembered as valuable lessons of what can go… Read more »

The Confirmation Circus

Confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominees have become quite a circus. It was to be expected, unfortunately. I remember when Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin was putting forth his agenda a few years ago. Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature ran away to Illinois so there wouldn’t be a quorum to conduct business. Senate Democrats seem to be copying that strategy, refusing to show up to vote on whether to send nominees to the full Senate. It’s a tried and true method… Read more »

A Historian’s Perspective on Bad Times in American History

I don’t think there’s really any disagreement about how pessimistic the majority of Americans are about the future. Currently, all the polls reveal that pessimism.  As I survey the scene—the spiritual/moral, political, and cultural aspects [what does that leave?]—I have grave concerns as well. I’d like to offer a historian’s perspective. Since I teach American history, I have a more in-depth knowledge of what has transpired previously. I can imagine myself transported back into earlier eras and think about how… Read more »

Book Review: 1861

I read a lot. I mean, a whole lot. That’s what historians do. Sometimes, the books pile up on me and I have a hard time staying up with them. My resolve to get through the ones I already have before buying another one always weakens when I stumble across one that seems to stand out, particularly when it might be a candidate for a text in one of my upper-level courses. That’s how I came to purchase and read… Read more »