The OF Blog: What do you know of the American Civil War?

Friday, March 02, 2012

What do you know of the American Civil War?

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, but 1862 was the year in which several of the larger-scale battles were fought in my native state of Tennessee.  I am thinking of traveling to visit a few of the battlesites this year (Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson, whose battles were fought in February 1862, and Shiloh, whose 150th anniversary is on April 6) and blogging about my impressions.  I'm also hoping to read during the next month or two the first two volumes of a planned four-volume set by the Library of America that utilizes primary sources for roughly a year per volume of that conflict.

But as a historian (albeit one who studied German cultural/religious history of the early 20th century as opposed to US History), I am curious to know what readers, Americans and non-Americans alike, know about this conflict and what they associate with it.  So if you want to share, please do so in the comments, as I do value other perspectives.


Foxessa said...

O my goodness. I wouldn't even know where to begin with what I know about the Civil War -- and I know a lot more about what led to the Civil War than about the war itself. But even so, there's so much I don't know. Such as the battles. I know their names, but I am one of those for whom the Civil War wasn't the battles, but for whom it's all about the cause: I've been studying slavery and the slave trade as institution and business in the New World, and the U.S. in particular since 1985.

Sam Kelly said...

My perspective from over here in the UK is fairly jumbled - it all comes under "early US history" for me, with no strong distinction between the American Civil War and the War of Independence - but I shall do my best, and I hope the worst that can be said is that I'm not afraid to be wrong. None of it comes from formal education, and once I've done typing this I shall go and look it up on Wikipedia.

The ACW, which I've also seen some Southerners (those who still consider themselves to be part of the "losing side", and/or that the war is not yet over - I suspect there are some of those for any war less than a thousand years ago) refer to as the War of Northern Aggression, was down to economic & social faultlines - mostly, slave-holding states vs non-slave-holding states (divided by a rough east-west line, though for half the states in the middle of the continent I'd have to guess at which side they were on, but this is an agricultural and land-use division as much as a topographic one - labour-intensive field crops dominated the South), complicated by rising use of agricultural machinery and who-rules-what politics. Slaves escaped to the North and many later fought in free black regiments.

Like any good civil war, it provided a lot of opportunities for family strife, brother being set against brother, significant pieces of architecture and indeed major cities catching fire, massed troop movements (and the concomitant deaths from dysentery), and dramatic posturing while wearing curtains.

Militarily, I remember a few generals' names (Grant, Sherman, Jackson) and that one side wore blue and the other side wore grey. The war featured large bodies of troops, set-piece battles, massed artillery fire, Vauban fortifications, and the world's first two ironclad warships fighting each other.

Trishb said...

Not sure if you've read Ta-Nehisi Coates at his Atlantic blog, but he's written extensively on the Civil War with a heavy focus on primary sources. He's worth a read on any topic.

Add to Technorati Favorites