Previewing the December 2021 JCWE Issue

Previewing the December 2021 JCWE Issue

As we write this editors’ note in summer 2021, we are hopeful that many in-person activities will soon resume, including the conferences, seminars, workshops, and writing groups that are so important to our collective work.

Our issue features three research essays about men’s lives that touch on politics, ideology, and power. Daniel Crofts takes a new look at a famous diarist in “Sidney George Fisher and the Coming of the Civil War: How Southern Overreach Alarmed a Conservative Philadelphian.” An elite Philadelphian, Fisher had generally conservative political instincts. Yet he became increasingly troubled by southern politicians’ demands for dominance in the 1850s, eventually siding with the Republicans and, when war came, even supporting emancipation. The story of Fisher’s political evolution is a reminder of the diversity and contentiousness of the Republican coalition.

In “William Henry Trescot, Pardon Broker,” Cynthia Nicoletti follows Trescot, a South Carolina lawyer and politician (and historian), to Washington, DC, where he lobbied President Andrew Johnson to restore land to his state’s planter elite. Trescot entered directly into political negotiations about the future of land confiscated from Confederates during the war, using his legal savvy and political connections to discredit demands for land redistribution by South Carolina freedpeople and O. O. Howard, the commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Tarik Yiğit explores Civil War veterans in Egypt in “Reconstructing the American under the Most Unimaginable Conditions: Civil War Veterans in the ‘Arabian Nights.'” Egypt’s leader, Ismail Pasha, sought American advisors after the war, and many U.S. and Confederate veterans were happy to oblige. Impelled by the chance to earn an income and an associated sense of manhood, Civil War veterans in Egypt contributed their skills in surveying, military training, and armed conflict itself. Many had known each other before the war, and Egypt became a site where Americans who had fought on both sides grappled with one another and with the Civil War’s legacies.

In his review essay, “The Common Soldier of the Civil War: His Rise and Fall,” Gerald Prokopowicz examines evolving scholarly interest in Civil War soldiers. Historical scholarship on the rank and file has been shaped by subsequent wars and by historians’ changing approaches to the past. What was once represented as a generalizable “common soldier” experience—at least for Confederate soldiers on the one hand and US ones on the other—has been shattered, but questions of why people fought endure.

With this issue, we say goodbye to our editorial assistant, Megan Hildebrand, a PhD candidate at Penn State, whose term is ending and whose excellent work we have appreciated tremendously. Edward Green is the new editorial assistant, and we welcome him to the team. We also express special gratitude to the authors, peer reviewers, and book reviewers who made time to contribute to the journal during the difficult months of the pandemic. We hope they and all our readers are faring well and that we’ll see one another soon.

Kate Masur and Greg Downs

Kate Masur is an associate professor at Northwestern University, specializing in the history of the nineteenth-century United States, focusing on how Americans grappled with questions of race and equality after the abolition of slavery. Greg Downs, who studies U.S. political and cultural history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a professor of history at University of California--Davis. Together they edited an essay collection on the Civil War titled The World the Civil War Made (North Carolina, 2015), and they currently co-edit The Journal of the Civil War Era.

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