Noted academics, scholars, editors, and historians contribute to a collection of fresh, provocative essays on the Civil War, first published in digital form by the New York Times.
Times’ editors Risen (American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation's Favorite Spirit, 2015, etc.) and Kalogerakis team up with Widmer (Director, John Carter Brown Library/Brown Univ.; Brown: The History of an Idea, 2015, etc.) for a beautifully laid-out and organized version of their online Disunion blog, which ran until 2015. Featuring a foreword by Ken Burns, who speaks to the persistent relevance of the Civil War as an initial but never satisfactory way of atoning for our original sin, the book elicits contemporary voices wrestling with internal conflicts that still haunt Americans today: as Widmer writes, “anger at the federal government, unresolved racial tensions, simple helplessness before the constant onslaught of a 24-7 communications grid that matured during the war.” Each of the 10 chapters contains around 10 essays, from the first chapter, “Secession” (e.g., “The Strange Victory of the Palmetto State” by Manisha Sinha), to “The Battlefield” (e.g., “Humanity and Hope in a Southern Prison” by Peter Cozzens) to “Abraham Lincoln and the Federal Government” (e.g., “The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Salmon P. Chase” by Rick Beard) to the final chapter, “Consequences” (e.g., “Remembering the Gettysburg Address” by Joshua Zeitz). Widmer writes of the “liberating” form (for academics) of these punchy, original essays written for a “digital commons,” and indeed they spread the net widely for some surprising moments of erudition, such as Melinda Miller and Rachel Smith Purvis’ essay about the Cherokee leaders producing their own emancipation acts in the wake of Lincoln’s in February 1863 (“The Cherokees Free Their Slaves”). Also notable are Crystal N. Feimster’s “Rape and Justice in the Civil War” and contributions by scholars Adam Goodheart, Jon Grinspan, Paul Finkelman, and Harold Holzer.
An excellent teaching tool, perfect for libraries.