The way it was

I’m going to be following this (via):

One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Americans went to war with themselves. Disunion revisits and reconsiders America’s most perilous period — using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded.






49 replies
  1. 1
    beltane says:

    And look what we got for our troubles. Was it worth it?

  2. 2
    Allan says:

    Or you could just watch CNN.

  3. 3
    DougJ says:

    @beltane:

    Teatardism sucks but it sure beats slavery.

  4. 4
    John Bird says:

    Thanks. Coates has been dedicating himself to Civil War stuff and it’s a necessary frame to see almost every political issue in the current day.

  5. 5
    El Cid says:

    I want someone to live blog the end of Reconstruction, 1875 – 1898. It’s a more apt parallel than the war itself.

  6. 6
    cleek says:

    someone should do a FOX News-flavored version:

    July 4, 1863: the True American forces are returning from their glorious victory at Gettysburg. General Lee reports that his soldiers are in fine form and would have given the traitorous union terrorists a thorough stomping if the villains hadn’t run so fast in their retreat. Lee said “They evil doers are on the run back to their elitist caves and we will pursue them at our leisure.”

  7. 7

    DougJ, have you–or anyone else here, for that matter–figured out an RSS feed of this? I can’t seem to locate one.

  8. 8
    fasteddie9318 says:

    Nate Silver has the Democrats at around 52 seats in the next Senate. Is there anything we could do to get Lieberman, Nelson, and one other Dem (Landrieu leaps to mind) to switch parties? I’m half serious about this. If the Democrats retain control of the Senate then they’ll continue to be held responsible for famine, pestilence, hurt fee-fees, etc., by the Republicans and the media. This country apparently needs another good, solid dose of Republican government, the kind only an all-GOP Congress can bring.

  9. 9
    Que Sera Sera says:

    I can’t wait to find out how it ends!

  10. 10
    MikeBoyScout says:

    I’m pretty sure all the Very Serious People in 1860 knew we’d always need and have slaves, and that racism was based upon fact.

  11. 11
    Keith G says:

    Damn you, Doug. I have little time as it is and now you have pointed out something that looks like a really fun and informative read.

    Thanks, I think.

  12. 12
    BR says:

    @fasteddie9318:

    I agree with you, sadly. I think a full-on Hamsher attack on Nelson, Landrieu, and Lieberman immediately after the election might do the trick. The attack would have to be “We demand that you Sen. Nelson/Lieberman/Landrieu commit to voting for a Democrat for majority leader and commit to voting with Democrats after that on every bill in the next two years.” I’m sure the Hamsher brigade could get some angry faxes going soon, including some swipes about their voting record in the last two years for good measure.

  13. 13
    beltane says:

    @MikeBoyScout: Actually, that’s exactly what most of them thought. Serious People=reactionary douchebags.

  14. 14
    El Cid says:

    @fasteddie9318: I assume they’ll be overwhelmingly voting with the Republicans.

  15. 15
    Redshift says:

    @fasteddie9318: I would not bet anything, much less the country, on the prospect that Republicans will be held responsible for anything, ever.

  16. 16
    Zifnab says:

    @beltane: Some would argue that abolishing slavery in the South was of tremendous civil and economic advantage to the North. Others might point out that America didn’t really become one nation until after half of it tried to rebel from the other half. The Civil War paved the way for a strong federal government that gave us the Income Tax, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act, and a host of other progressive reforms. Hell, Texas gave us LBJ. Georgia gave us Carter. Arkansas gave us Clinton. Compare that to California’s Regan or Ohio’s Boehner or Minnesota’s Bachmann. The South has a surprising history of populism, once you get past the GOP crust. And the north is hardly free of wingnut.

  17. 17
    JenJen says:

    @Allan: Damn! Stole my line. :-)

  18. 18
    jrg says:

    @MikeBoyScout:

    I’m pretty sure all the Very Serious People in 1860 knew we’d always need and have slaves, and that racism was based upon fact.

    Yep. Of course, the dirty f*cking hippies of the day did not understand that economics compelled the practice of slavery. Kind of like how economics compels the practice of driving a Chevy Suburban today, and only non-serious DFHs are concerned with the environmental impacts.

    We’re collectively no more than a bunch of hairless apes. It just never ends.

  19. 19
    beltane says:

    @DougJ: The south was treated with far too much magnanimity in proportion to the seriousness of their crimes. Their were very few prosecutions for treason, for example, and the traitor states were allowed the vote after only token gestures of loyalty. In contrast, we still maintain a military presence in Germany and Japan 65 years after the cessation of hostilities.

  20. 20
    jl says:

    Looks interesting.

    Except where the NY times puts it pisses me off.

    Why does the NY Times put this stuff on the opinion page?

    Early this morning I saw one of those supersophisticated, quizzical, and to unwashed boors like me quite pointless and random pieces about the deep thoughts and unbearably subtle experiences of some guy who photographs philosophers.

    Like there is no problem with certain segments of political spectrum getting space in big paper opinion pages? Like space on the opinion pages and on their blog is just going to waste, like a vast and misty moor stretching for miles along a deserted coast?

    They have a home and garden and an arts section, yet I have seen endlessly meandering stories with no point about outdoor design and photography on the opinion page.

    The NY Times is weird.

    Next I suppose recipes will stay on in the cooking section, but there will be a very long peice, nay, perhaps a series of very long pieces about the analytic versus the a priori in the modern BBQ recipe.

    It may be worthwhile to print this commentary, but what does it have to do with any kind of editorial or other opinion?

    Maybe I am slow and some body needs to explain it to me.

  21. 21
    BR says:

    @jrg:

    Ok, so I have to say, as someone who’s 30 and not a hippie, I’m kind of tired of everything right being attributed to DFHs. (Even though my views on issues would probably be among the left wing of a country like Sweden or Finland.) I know the term is figurative now, but it’s just another example of people keeping fights of years past alive.

  22. 22
    MikeJ says:

    @beltane:

    Their were very few prosecutions for treason,

    It would have been damn near impossible to convict. Treason trials have to take place where the treason happened, and no jury in Virginia was going to convict the leaders of the rebellion.

  23. 23
    jrg says:

    @BR: It’s more than that. It’s people who carry around a straw man belief about hippies, and they extend that belief to anyone on the left.

    It’s infuriating, I agree.

  24. 24
    Emerald says:

    @Redshift:

    I would not bet anything, much less the country, on the prospect that Republicans will be held responsible for anything, ever.

    Comment of the decade!

  25. 25
    El Cid says:

    @beltane: Withdrawal of Federal troops, remember, was part of the deal for not letting Democrat Samuel Tilden win the disputed 1876 election, which he very nearly won and only lost due to very complicated Congressional disputes and states sending dual sets of electors, etc. It’s entirely possible that Tilden could have been handed the keys and then the white supremacist South would have been in power, reversing the gains of the Civil War and refusing to enforce any amendments they didn’t like.

  26. 26
    jl says:

    It might be interesting, but also seems like it might turn into the NY Times attempt to do some kind of Ken Burns historical documentary, with the advantage that nothing moves, and there is no inspiring music, and less attempt to separate fey and vaporous academic navalgazing, opinion, and history. The thing seems about as well referenced as a TV documentary, with a bunch of ‘sources’ listed at the end of each piece.

    Will they tackle any topics that might earn it a place on the opinion pages? Like constitutional issues faced by Lincoln? Habeas corpus? Legality of economic war during Shermans’ march to the sea?

    I will watch when the delve into the sedimentary muck of history deep enough to drag up an old newspaper ad and pontificate about it obscurely. Except, my experience with that kind of thing in the NY Times is that it makes about as much sense to me as reading the telephone book backwards.

    But, as I said, might be fun to read. Except also, recently seems like an awful lot of escaping into analysis and intellectual nostalgia for wars past and present in attempt to distract our, and maybe the editorial staff bighot’s, attention from actual real public affairs issues that need attention in the editorial pages.

    Bah, humbug! Get off my lawn and go play somewhere else. Damn kids.

  27. 27
    soonergrunt says:

    @BR:

    I think a full-on Hamsher attack on Nelson, Landrieu, and Lieberman immediately after the election might do the trick.

    Well of course that’s never going to happen because Hamsher and her stupid bastard brigade only go after Dems who are actually trying to do Democratic things, so it will be two more years of screeching about how Obama Sold Us Out! ™ when he does the needful to keep the country running and gets shived by Nelson/Lieberman/Landrieu.

    @MikeJ: They could’ve tried them for Treason anywhere they wanted to, if they wanted to do so. The requirement to have a jury made up of US Citizens (who were not party to the charged crime in any way) would’ve allowed them to hold such trials anywhere they wanted. They could’ve even used Union Army Officers to try the Confederate Officers since so many of them had held commissions in the Union Army at the beginning.
    They chose not to do this because they believed (probably correctly) that the CSA would’ve continued the fight if their officers were to be put in the dock for a death penalty offense (would you surrender under those terms?) and also because even as the Union had the upper hand, and the end was inevitable, more than half a million people had died and everybody was tired of the war, even as they were winning.

  28. 28
    Zifnab says:

    @beltane:

    In contrast, we still maintain a military presence in Germany and Japan 65 years after the cessation of hostilities.

    Are you suggesting southern states don’t have any military bases? Because if so, that statement is hilariously misinformed.

    For a very brief instant, the Union was doing an excellent job rehabilitating the former Confederate states. Blacks had the right to vote – and a number of black Congressmen were elected in the wake of Reconstruction. Northern soldiers kept most of the Southern states under martial law. And the South had a large influx of northern immigrants eager to pick over the war-ravaged southern territories for cheap land and labor.

    But occupations are expensive and the south was perpetually rebellious. Reconstruction lasted 14 years. Ten of those years – between 1867 and 1877 – were the “Radical Reconstruction” period where irate Republicans happily did what they pleased in face of Johnson’s vetoes. That’s a long damn time for an active military operation.

    The reconstruction period was not short. It was not light. And it was not friendly to the former Confederates.

  29. 29
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    I’ll just insert my usual obligatory Kevin Phillips reference here. If you haven’t read The Cousins’ Wars (or some similar sampling of the range of works referenced in it), half of the backstory to the US Civil War is missing.

  30. 30

    This is going to bring the TiDoS cockroaches out of the woodwork.

    Where’s my bug spray?

  31. 31

    @beltane: Jesus, I thought your first comment was a joke. So you’re saying the Civil War wasn’t worth it because we didn’t hang enough people on the losing side?

    Man, I thought I hated the South, but daaayum.

  32. 32
    El Cid says:

    @Zifnab: The relocation of so many military bases and military-supply industries to the South during WWII was partly a response to realizing that it wasn’t a good idea to have them all concentrated close together in the Northeast, and partly based upon the dealmaking of the Southern segregationist Democrats with seniority in the Senate.

  33. 33
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @El Cid:

    I assume they’ll be overwhelmingly voting with the Republicans.

    Doesn’t matter. The narrative will be “DEMS ZOMG CAN’T KEEP PARTY TOGETHER!!!!” The only way for the Republicans to be held responsible is if they control the chamber formally, otherwise the press won’t figure it out.

    Then again…
    @Redshift:

    I would not bet anything, much less the country, on the prospect that Republicans will be held responsible for anything, ever.

    this is almost certainly correct.

  34. 34
    General Stuck says:

    The Great American Hostage Crisis of the Twenty First Century.

    We are in it.
    The planning and prelude
    began a long time ago

    It took 600 thousand dead
    to free the first
    held in chains

    Now the rest of us
    is our turn
    Give us power
    said our southern
    countrymen

    or feel the pain
    of violence
    once again

    So the lambs sacrifice
    and sacrificed again
    their democracy
    to the holders of
    that awful flame

    this time will be different
    they said
    this time it will be for you
    but never is

    Until nothing
    is left to give

    at some point, people in this country will realize that feeding the monster will only save their precious ass for so long. The pit of self interest is deep, but there is a bottom

  35. 35
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @El Cid:

    It’s entirely possible that Tilden could have been handed the keys and then the white supremacist South would have been in power, reversing the gains of the Civil War and refusing to enforce any amendments they didn’t like.

    And all that about a century earlier than it actually wound up occurring…

  36. 36
    El Cid says:

    @fasteddie9318: Yeeeee dawgggggy! Souf’ gon’ rise a’gin!

  37. 37
    fasteddie9318 says:

    I part company with beltane on the idea that the war wasn’t worth it, but imagine a Reconstruction that actually treated the CSA as a conquered state, where the property of slaveholding whites was confiscated and distributed amongst former slaves, where secessionist whites were permanently stripped of their citizenship (their descendants could reapply for citizenship at some TBD point) and forcibly relocated/dispersed throughout the country, where none of the occupied Confederacy was permitted to rejoin the Union for at least half a century, and only as completely new states with redrawn borders. Oh, and Davis, Lee, Forrest, Longstreet, Beauregard, Johnston, and the entire CSA cabinet had their necks stretched, plus we exhumed that cocksucker John C. Calhoun from his grave and burned him in effigy just because fuck him.

    From the vantage point of 2010 hindsight, would this have been better or worse for the country?

  38. 38
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @El Cid:

    and partly based upon the dealmaking of the Southern segregationist Democrats with seniority in the Senate.

    This melody sounds hauntingly familiar…

  39. 39
    Dennis SGMM says:

    It’s hard to find a better book about The Way it Was in the South during the Civil War than Mary Boykin Chesnut’s A Diary From Dixie. Historian C. Vann Edward’s annotated version, published in the early Eighties as Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, is particularly good.

    Mary Chesnut began her diary in February of 1861 and ended it in June of 1865. Her husband, James Chesnut, Jr., was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina from 1858 until SC seceded in 1860. He then went on to act as an aide to Jefferson Davis and to be commissioned a Brigadier General in the Confederate army. Her husband’s activities placed Mary on the scene of some important historical events including the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

    Mary Chesnut was a sharp observer and she wrote about Southern society and the changing fortunes of the South throughout the war.

  40. 40
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @fasteddie9318:

    imagine a Reconstruction that actually treated the CSA as a conquered state

    But the Reconstruction we actually got did a pretty good job of serving northern industrial interests by converting the southern states into an internal colony – a source of cheap labor, cheap raw materials and a captive market for our domestically produced manufactured goods – not so coincidentally hidden behind a tariff barrier to protect it from competition from England and Germany. The south was our India.

    And we made it that way the same way the British took over much of what became the Raj – by buying off the local elites (which is cheaper than fighting). The Surge and the Sunni Awakening in Iraq are just the latest instance of this age old imperialist divide and conquer tactic. The large southern land holders of the former CSA were the Sunni sheiks of 1877.

  41. 41
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    But the Reconstruction we actually got did a pretty good job of serving northern industrial interests by converting the southern states into an internal colony – a source of cheap labor, cheap raw materials and a captive market for our domestically produced manufactured goods – not so coincidentally hidden behind a tarrif barrier to protect it from competition from England and Germany. The south was our India.

    Excellent point. As with everything this country ever does, Reconstruction was done in such a way as to provide the maximum benefit to the minimum number of wealthy elites. That it might have been better for the country to handle it in a different way is irrelevant.

  42. 42
    ornery curmudgeon says:

    @BR: “Ok, so I have to say, as someone who’s 30 and not a hippie, I’m kind of tired of everything right being attributed to DFHs.”

    I definitely think hippies should only get attributed to them only things they were right about! (Like oil dependency, environmental devastation, overpopulation, war…)

    Not everything ‘right’ is attributed to hippies, but I can understand someone who a Right-wing Con feeling that way. The comparison does embarrass; would it make you feel better to be reminded the Conservatives are simply a manifestation of Wealth, and therefore aren’t concerned about being correct on any issue.

    Excellent hippie punch: punch ’em when their right, punch ’em when they are too often right!

  43. 43
    cyd says:

    @cleek:

    July 4, 1863: the True American forces are returning from their glorious victory at Gettysburg. General Lee reports that his soldiers are in fine form and would have given the traitorous union terrorists a thorough stomping if the villains hadn’t run so fast in their retreat.

    Lee was, in fact, fairly optimistic in the aftermath of Gettysburg, though a few days later he wrote a letter to his wife with a decided “war situation has developed not necessarily to our advantage” flavor:

    “You will have learned before this reaches you that our success at Gettysburg was not as great as reported. In fact, that we failed to drive the enemy from his position & that our army withdrew to the Potomac” — Robert E. Lee to Mrs Lee, July 12, 1863.

  44. 44
    cyd says:

    @fasteddie9318:

    imagine a Reconstruction that actually treated the CSA as a conquered state… From the vantage point of 2010 hindsight, would this have been better or worse for the country?

    And imagine an America wracked by fifty to a hundred years of guerilla warfare, like the Irish Troubles writ large. Reconstruction could have been handled much better, but Lincoln and Grant were essentially correct in ending the war on lenient terms.

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    @cyd:

    We have this weird idea that Reconstruction went too easy on the South and that’s why it failed, but what really happened was that it was killed, deliberately, to serve other political interests.

  46. 46
    JWL says:

    “Colonel Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army had just submitted a long report to Washington about recent skirmishes against marauding Comanches..”.

    That’s a report I’d like to peruse.

    A few months ago, I read Empire Of The Summer Moon, an account of the Comanche nation and their stranglehold on the southwestern frontier. Indeed, the disruption caused by the Civil War allowed them to push white settlements eastwards by hundreds of miles. The book (whose author’s name escapes me) makes clear how utterly futile were the efforts of the U.S. army to wage war upon the Comanches, until the Grant administration got serious.

    It’s a fantastic history, definitely a 4 star read.

  47. 47
    Rommie says:

    Interesting idea. If they do it correctly, it’s going to read like a Total F****** Disaster for the Union for a long time, into Fall 1862, then it’ll look brighter for a couple of months, then TFD Part 2 until Gettysburg.

  48. 48
    TheOtherWA says:

    “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”

    Damn it.

  49. 49
    PanurgeATL says:

    @ornery curmudgeon:

    Hear, hear.

    And the bit about “old battles”: The point is that they’re still going on and need to be won. It was the “Left” that declared themselves “losers” of the ’60s “revolution”, which was fucking stupid, pardon mon Français.

Comments are closed.