Category: Blog

Congratulations to the 2023 Anne Braden Prize Winner

Congratulations to the 2023 Anne Braden Prize Winner

Formal headshot portrait of woman in black top. The Southern Historical Association is delighted to announce the winner of the Anne Braden Prize: Kimberly Welch, “The Stability of Fortunes: A Free Black Woman, Her Legacy, and the Legal Archive in Antebellum New Orleans,” JOURNAL OF THE CIVIL WAR ERA 12 (December 2022): 473-502. This prize, which was first awarded in 2022, recognizes the best article on a topic in Southern women’s history. This year’s selection committee was composed of Professors Joan Cashin (chair), Brandi Brimmer, and Lori Glover.

The prize citation is as follows: Professor Welch tells a compelling story about Eulalie Mandeville, a free black woman who navigated through the white-controlled legal system in antebellum Louisiana to protect her rights.  An inheritance dispute broke out in 1846, when Mandeville’s white partner, Eugene Macarty, died.  She used a brilliant strategy, making savvy use of the documentary record, to fend off Macarty’s white relatives and safeguard her children’s future.  She prevailed in court and was able to keep her assets.  Professor Welch explored over three hundred and fifty pages of testimony, and she presents her argument in clear, graceful prose.  Her well-crafted article casts new light on issues of gender, race, and the workings of the court system in the Old South. 


Hilary N. Green

Hilary N. Green is a Professor of Africana Studies at Davidson College. She previously worked in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama where she developed the Hallowed Grounds Project. She earned her M.A. in History from Tufts University in 2003, and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in African American history, the American Civil War, Reconstruction, as well as Civil War memory, African American education, and the Black Atlantic. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham, 2016).

USCT Kin’s Generational Battle for Equality

USCT Kin’s Generational Battle for Equality

Even before the Civil War began, African Americans were fighting for racial and social equality. Often, historians focus on the lived experiences of African Americans residing in southern states to understand how African Americans fought to reframe society to become more inclusive. It is vital that we also acknowledge the complexities and experiences of northern African Americans as well. Anti-Blackness was never isolated to one region. Even in states where slavery was eventually abolished, racism continued evolving.

Pennsylvania was an example of a northern state that sought to normalize and codify white supremacy. Antebellum state policies, laws, and racial attitudes demonstrates the difference between being opposed to slavery and being for racial equality.  African Americans had faced attempts to restrict them—even if not enslaved—for decades. One such family was the Rothwell family, who lived in Chester, Pennsylvania, who navigated life (including anti-Blackness) in a free state.

1838 was a significant year in African American experience in Pennsylvania. In May 1838, when Philadelphian anti-abolitionists burned down Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened “Temple of Free Discussion” where a diverse collection of abolitionists and women’s rights advocates congregated.[1] Anti-abolitionists then burned African American homes, religious institutions, schools, and businesses as they violently expressed their racist views. To be clear, this was neither the first nor the last white-led race riot in Philadelphia. That same year the state legislature revised the definition of “freemen” to be exclusively white and male, and explicitly both racialized and gendered voting rights which continued until the passage of the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. By the fall, voters (who were primarily white men) approved the new state constitution.[2] Thus, it was evident that many white Pennsylvanians did not believe in racial equality.

For the Rothwell family who were African Americans living about nineteen miles south of Philadelphia, 1838 was a memorable year due to the birth of Alfred (a future Civil War soldier in the Third United States Colored Infantry (USCI)). Due to actions beyond their control, including birth, Alfred lived in a state that demonstrated hostility (sometimes violently) towards African Americans. He would spend his life battling racism while trying to live on a day-to-day basis.

Life for the Rothwells and Black Pennsylvanians dramatically changed after the state legislature decided (for various reasons) to formally ban slavery in 1847. African Americans undoubtedly celebrated the new policy, primarily as it provided more opportunities for human rights activism. For Isaac Rothwell, Sr. (Alfred’s father), the humanitarian and grassroots social activism connected to, according to a descendant, “using his sailing expertise to help hide Blacks seeking freedom.”[3] Perhaps Alfred continued down the path while working as a fisherman (before he enlisted).

It is also essential to recognize that employment on northern waterways was an anomaly for many Pennsylvanian African Americans. Philadelphia, for instance, was a city where many African Americans found it extremely difficult to find in any occupation beyond unskilled labor. Historian W.E.B. Du Bois stated that “Everyone knows that in a city like Philadelphia[,] a Negro does not have [the] same chance to exercise his ability or secure work according to his talents as a white man.”[4]  Looking northward toward New York City, white—employers and customers—used numerous methods to limit employment opportunities for African Americans. Thus, northern African Americans working semi-skilled or skilled occupations resisted occupational racial discrimination daily.

Life for northern African Americans, including the Rothwell family, fundamentally changed after U.S. Congressmen (in both free and slave states) negotiated terms to protect the “rights” of enslavers nationwide which fundamentally threatened the life and liberty of all African Americans. Efforts to protect African Americans who fled from their enslavers dramatically increased after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The revised federal law simultaneously protected the rights of enslavers to their “human property” while making any African Americans (sometimes with baseless claims or kidnapping) a potential victim, who was rarely (if ever) allowed to testify on their behalf. Additionally, the federal policy strengthened its punishments for those found in violation of not enforcing the law, including exorbitant fines and lengthy jail sentences. Thus, the Rothwell family’s activism was critical in saving lives while directly opposing the racist federal law because they were in direct violation of a federal law that prioritized white enslavers “property” ownership over the humanity of African Americans.

Despite this racial climate, Alfred still created a meaningful life. He married Elizabeth Harris in 1857. Between 1858 to 1862, the couple had three children—James, Isaac, and Hannah. Life for the growing family was difficult for numerous reasons as they tried to survive and combat racism. Little did their family know that their lives would forever change when the Civil War began.

In the years leading up to the mobilization of USCT regiments, many white people (including numerous northerners) questioned if African Americans would make good soldiers saying they lacked the courage. Their flawed assertion ignored that African Americans demonstrated bravery in their battles against white supremacy Any person questioning the willingness of African American men to serve in the U.S. military ignored the fact that Black men served in the U.S. Navy throughout the war’s entirety.

USCT recruits were a diverse group with a legion of reasons to become U.S. Army soldiers. For some African American men, soldiering allowed them to simultaneously refute denigrations of their manhood while making public demands for full and equal national citizenship. Other men desired to engage in armed combat to destroy slavery. Some men needed the one-time cash injections that some enlisted men could amass during the enlistment process. Unfortunately, enlistment records rarely reveal what motivated young men, such as the Rothwells—Alfred, Isaac, Jr., and Samuel—and George Potts, all to enlist in the Third USCI in July of 1863. Regardless of their motivations, their actions had the potential to impact the men’s kin as well, for the Rothwells and Potts they were families that now had personal connections to Pennsylvania’s first (of eleven) USCT regiments.

Families, and the larger community, were critical supporters of the war effort, and numerous war propagandists agreed. African American women, more specifically, received frequent public praise from a racially diverse group of northerners for their prominent role in getting able-bodied men to enlist. For instance, Pennsylvanian Congressman William D. Kelley proclaimed that African American mothers, such as Elizabeth Powell and Sarah Potts, and wives, such as Elizabeth Rothwell, were vital to the war effort.[5] The Weekly Anglo-African (published in New York City) printed similar statements in widely circulated newspaper articles.

For Alfred’s young family, however, his enlistment disrupted their already destabilized family economy since he was his family’s only documented full-time wage earner. His July 4, 1863 enlistment immediately ended his civilian wages. He also never received his $100 enlistment bounty due for his service. Additionally, throughout his military career, he received seven dollars monthly due to U.S. War Department policies. At the same time, white soldiers (of the same rank, in the same army, and doing the same work) made thirteen dollars per month. Not only was his life cheapened, but it also directly impacted Alfred’s wife and three young children, who would rely on his soldier’s income to survive. Incorporating the material realities of northern African American families when discussing the consequences of soldiering ultimately provides more depth and better uncovers the complexities of familial life (in and outside of the military).

The training process was complex, and for many enlisted men and their kin, the forced familial separation did not cease them from seeking to remain connected to each other. For northern African American women, like Emilie Davis, visiting and supporting USCT soldiers was a priority, but not solely for the spectacle of seeing African American men in U.S. Army uniform.[6] In many instances, African Americans used various forms of public transit, placing themselves in volatile (and sometimes life-threatening) situations as they tried to support men who trained. Northern African American women made U.S. Army camp visits routine occurrences.  Mary Leighton (the wife of Benjamin Davis) brought their infant son, Jerome to Camp William Penn to spend time together. Little did the young family know it would be the last time they would all be together, as Benjamin would die as a prisoner of war later that year. Perhaps Elizabeth Rothwell also brought her children to camp. However, raising multiple children alone may have limited her ability to see Alfred, highlighting how familial dynamics became even more chaotic during the war.

The Rothwell family forever changed on August 26, 1863. As part of the Third USCI’s siege on Fort Wagner at Morris Island, South Carolina, Alfred was killed while digging a trench. Thomas R. Rockhold, a first sergeant in the Third USCI, spoke to Alfred as he said his last words. According to Rockhold, Alfred proclaimed, “Goodbye dear wife. Please don’t grieve for (me), for I died in a good cause.”[7] Assuming that Alfred’s last words were actual, then it meant that he wanted to assure his kin that he had what some historians refer to as the “Good Death.” In short, dying servicemembers expressed their adoration for their relatives or partner before dying. It is important to note that the “Good Death,” at its core, was meant to provide some solace to grieving individuals who could theoretically take pride in the symbolic and meaningful sacrifices.[8] While it is certainly understandable why people on the home front might want, even need, the knowledge of their kin thinking of them at the end, the fact remains that they were still dead. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, she was now a widow raising three young children.

Immediately following the tragic news, Elizabeth successfully received a widow’s pension of eight dollars per month. The money was undoubtedly a welcomed addition to her household, but it would never replace the loss of Alfred. Like countless Civil War widow pensioners, Elizabeth, receiving the money also meant that she, per Congressional laws, stipulated that she must remain celibate (and void acting in “a manner unbecoming of a woman”) for the remainder of her life. Otherwise, she could lose her pension and possibly face jail time for pension fraud. In short, widow’s pensions (through federal policies and oversight) sought to control women’s private and intimate lives. She did not apply for the children to receive minors’ pensions in 1863 for unknown reasons.

Even though politicians and federal government agencies attempted to control Elizabeth’s life, she made decisions that gave her agency over her family. In 1868, she wed Robert Anderson, demonstrating that she lived on her terms.[9] It also meant that, after getting married, she lost her widow’s pension, as stipulated through pension laws. Perhaps in response to the changes to their family size and finances motivated the Rothwell children (under Elizabeth’s guidance) to apply for minors’ pensions, which all three children had approved. Each pension (of eight dollars monthly) continued until each child turned sixteen, with Hannah’s being the last one to end in 1878).

Their collective minor’s pensions illustrate that Elizabeth remained committed, to the best of her abilities, to ensuring some financial stability for her family. Even in the face of unending racial discrimination, she ensured that her children graduated from the Soldiers’ Orphan School in Bridgewater, Pennsylvania. Isaac and James Rothwell were so proud of their scholastic endeavors that they shared their diplomas with the Bureau of Pensions, in 1916.

In 1919, Elizabeth passed away. She left behind a legacy of fighting racial and gender discrimination. Her life was so inspiring that one of her descendants, Michelle Marsden, conducted years’ worth of self-funded familial research that took them to numerous archives as they sought to discover more about their ancestors. Conducting this personal research was difficult and time-consuming, but their commitment to reclaiming the histories of their kin kept them going. It is important that scholars not only illuminate Marsden’s efforts, similar to other USCT descendants, but also recognize that our work as scholars have the potential to either empower or do harm to the kin and communities of USCT soldiers, even today.[10]

[1] History of Pennsylvania Hall, which was Destroyed by a Mob, On the 17th of May, 1838 (Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, 1838), 12, 70—72, 122.

[2] Nicholas Wood, “ ‘A Sacrifice on the Altar of Slavery’: Doughface Politics and Black Disenfranchisement in Pennsylvania, 1837—1838,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring, 2011), 75, 77, 79, 81, 84, 87.

[3] R.J.N. Blackett, The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 42-55.

[4] W.E.B. Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro (reprint edition. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 98.

[5] Address at a Meeting for the Promotion of Colored Enlistments, Philadelphia (Philadelphia: n.p., 1863), 4.

[6] Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis, ed. Karsonya Wise Whitehead (Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 2014), 44.

[7] Letter from Thomas R. Rockhold, on August 27, 1863, in Alfred Rothwell, Third USCI pension file.

[8] Drew Gilpin Faust, The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 17.

[9] 1917 Pension Bureau document, in John Poulson, Third USCI pension file.

[10], Accessed on 8/24/2023.

Holly A. Pinheiro, Jr.

Holly A. Pinheiro, Jr. is an Assistant Professor of History at Furman University. He received his bachelor’s degree (2008) from the University of Central Florida. Later, he earned his master’s degree (2010) and doctoral degree (2017) from the University of Iowa. His research focuses on the intersectionality of race, gender, and class in the military from 1850 through the 1930s. His monograph, The Families’ Civil War, is forthcoming June 2022 with the University of Georgia Press in the UnCivil Wars Series.  You can find him on Twitter at @PHUsct.

Preview of the September 2023 JCWE

Preview of the September 2023 JCWE

In this issue, the burgeoning fields of legal history and memory take center stage in our examination of the history of the Civil War Era.

Sarah Barringer Gordon’s “Staying in Place: Southern Methodists, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, and Postwar Battles for Control of Church Property” draws on both legal history and church history to examine struggles over property and power in Methodist churches in the post–Civil War south. Gordon traces the history of the founding of the then-named Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) in 1870, finding its legal roots in an 1868 Kentucky Supreme Court case that pitted a Black congregation against the white-controlled southern Methodist church that had previously underwritten and controlled its space. As AME and AME Zion pastors recruited Black Methodists from the southern Methodist church, white trustees—and some Black pastors—struggled for legal control of congregations and properties, eventually creating the CME as a distinct, enduring Black Methodist denomination. Gordon ably intertwines the sacred and the profane as she emphasizes the importance of law for the study of religion.

In “‘She Is a very Smart Woman and a Great Trader’: Enslaved and Free Black Women’s Property Claims and Entrepreneurship in the Antebellum South,” Nicole Viglini turns to the tools of legal history to explore how Black women, both free and enslaved, claimed property in the pre-emancipation south. Viglini creatively reads applications for compensation from the Southern Claims Commission to trace antebellum Black women’s networks of credit, deepening our understanding of Black women’s involvement in the southern economy and the relationship between that economy and personal relationships of trust. Through establishing credit, Viglini shows, antebellum Black women became entrepreneurs and established an enduring role in the southern economy despite limitations imposed by law and culture.

In our second roundtable of the year, Adam Domby and Karen L. Cox moderate a lively discussion about “Monuments and Memory: Civil War Statuary, Public Facing Scholarship, and the Future of Memory Studies.” Over the past decade, and especially since the 2020 murder of George Floyd, scholars have been asked to take public roles in debates over Confederate memory. In this roundtable, eight scholars and history practitioners discuss northern monuments, African American commemorations of the war, the white male commemorative landscape, the impact of protests, contemporary Civil War memories, the role of historians in public debates, the issue of “presentism” in history, and the future of Civil War memory studies.

In this issue’s review essay, Jennifer Oast examines the evolving scholarship on slavery’s impact on universities. In “Forgotten No Longer: Universities and Slavery in Twenty-First Century Scholarship and Memory,” Oast traces the explosion of interest in this topic over the past two decades, as universities have examined their roots in slave trading and profits derived from enslaved people’s work. She highlights scholarly studies of universities’ economic ties to slavery, roles in promoting slavery, and employment of enslaved people without compensation, and she explores contemporary demands for apologies, memorialization, and reparations.

This issue also includes fourteen fine book reviews, covering both broad synthetic volumes and new monographs, on topics ranging from China to Yellowstone. The reviews—and the happily increasing flow of submissions—are tribute to the persistence of scholars and our editorial staff during these trying years. 

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.

Drew Gilpin Faust’s Landmark: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War Turns 15

Drew Gilpin Faust’s Landmark: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War Turns 15

In 1866, while surveying former Confederate landscapes, Edmund Whitman observed that the “entire country over which the war has extended, . . . composes one vast charnel house of the dead.”[1] Although southerners were mostly the denizens living inside that veritable “house of the dead,” Drew Gilpin Faust has produced an intellectual history of Civil War death that focuses chiefly on New Englanders. In so doing, Faust breaks with decades of her previous scholarly attentiveness towards the white South. Dr. Faust’s professional background sheds light on this latter-day concentration. Faust researched and wrote the book during her tenure as dean of the Radcliffe Institute, and became Harvard’s 28th president six months prior to its publication. Beginning on the second page of Faust’s preface, Civil War-era Harvard graduates, dropouts, and professors appear, with figures that include Henry L. Abbott, Robert Gould Shaw, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Francis Channing Barlow, Edmund Whitman, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dr. Henry Bowditch, poet James Russell Lowell, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others.[2]This crowd of Bostonian soldiers, intellectuals, and reformers, (in a monograph about killing in the American South), reveals the purpose of the book. This Republic of Suffering is a study of the reactions, reflections, and reforms provoked by the carnage of the American Civil War – what Faust calls “the work of death.”[3] The book’s title divulges Faust’s converging approaches. While observing dead and dying Union soldiers in the South, Frederick Law Olmstead reflected that such carnage had created a “republic of suffering.”[4] Across the 271-page narrative, Faust uncovers how the “work of death” fundamentally reshaped Victorian grief customs among men and women, yielded a literary harvest of fiction and poetry, and altered the Federal government’s obligations to the dead and their families. In total, Faust’s Republic  emerges as a monumental contribution to the intellectual history of the era.

The book opens with the reactions of an American people, government, and military bureaucracy that were wholly unprepared for the killing that would ultimately claim at least 620,000 combatants.[5] In lieu of the “Good Death” defined in the medieval ars moriendi, Civil War soldiers met inglorious ends at the hands of disease, accidents, suicide, executions, and the weapons of the Industrial Revolution. Soldiers were suddenly brutalized and desensitized by the nature and scale of Civil War killing. The constant conundrum of how to respectfully (or even physically) dispose of so many human bodies is an undertow that runs throughout the book. “At war’s outset,” Faust writes, “the coffin [was] the basic marker of the ‘decency’ that distinguished human from animal interment.”[6] With so many to bury, however, the coffin was the first norm to disappear as soldiers “shoveled corpses into pits . . . dehumanizing both the living and the dead through their disregard.”[7] As one Union soldier wrote after Shiloh, he and his colleagues would “dig holes, . . . pile them in like dead cattle and have teams to draw them together like picking up pumpkins.”[8]After Antietam, fifty-eight dead Confederates were thrown into a well.[9] Additionally, bodies were robbed of jewelry, wallets and clothing. Amidst such conditions, a Union surgeon found that “all signs of emotion . . . or ordinary feelings of tenderness and sympathy” disappeared.[10] The “unforgettable scenes of battlefield carnage,” Faust reasons, “made soldiers question both the humanity of those slaughtered like animals and the humanity of those who had wreaked such devastation.”[11]

As with all wars, notions of violence and manhood became inextricably intertangled. W.E.B. DuBois later thought it “extraordinary . . . that in the minds of most people . . . only murder makes men.” DuBois mocked this marque of masculinity, saying “The slave . . . was humble . . . and the world ignored him. The slave killed white men; and behold, he was a man!”[12] Through connecting emancipation to killing, however, Faust notes that the war gave enslaved males “an opportunity to become the agent rather than the victim of violence. Killing for black soldiers . . . was an act of personal empowerment and the vehicle of racial emancipation. To kill and to be . . . permitted to kill was ironically to claim a human right.”[13] But with killing also came retribution. The concept of vengeance against both the living and the dead constitutes the most searing sections of the book. Pushing against “the oft-repeated trope” of the “brothers” war, Faust exposes an “emerging delight in killing,” and a deepening sense that “vengeance came to play an ever more important role, joining principles of duty and self-defense in legitimating violence.”[14] Faust persuasively illustrates that the appetite for revenge did not end at Appomattox. “The hundreds of thousands of Union bodies in their midst,” Faust argues, “provided an irresistible target for southern rage as well as a means to express the refusal to accept Confederate defeat. It had proved impossible to overcome a live Union army, but bitter Confederates could still wage war against a dead one.”[15] This vengeance against poorly buried Union corpses, highlights the practicality of a formalized national cemetery program.

Norms disappeared, but so did individuals.  Soldiers’ bodies were literally “vaporized by the firepower of this first modern war.” According to Faust, civilians “found this outcome incomprehensible, but soldiers who had witnessed the destructiveness of battle understood all too well the reality of men instantly transformed into nothing.”[16] With thousands listed as “missing” on casualty roles, families hired “paid agents” engaged in detective work to find the graves of the disappeared.[17] Sutlers sold name badges to help identify bodies. Both Union and Confederate governments were slow to adequately address the crisis of missing soldiers and “Unknown” graves, but in July 1864, newly organized “registration units” managed to identify “every Union body” and record “every grave” at the Fort Stevens battlefield.[18] This success at “naming” Civil War dead, however, was unmatched before Fort Stevens and never replicated after.

For Faust, the work of reflecting upon the losses and disappearances is mostly left to northern poets, authors, and intellectuals. Faust probes the literary meditations of army nurse Walt Whitman, combat survivor Ambrose Bierce and New Englanders like Herman Melville, professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the reclusive Emily Dickinson (the latter three of which never wrote within one-hundred miles of a battlefield). [19] Within this rich harvest of Civil War literature, the “Good Death” itself is missing. Bierce, for example, focused on the ignoble, often “sudden” deaths of suicides, executions, and the thrashing about of battlefield casualties in their final moments.[20] Although Faust mentions Confederate poets Henry Timrod and Abram Ryan, the South’s literary musings are noticeably absent.[21]

Leaving the literary realm, Faust returns to her principal theme of reform. To compensate for government deficiencies, private organizations, and common citizens stepped-up to push for and provide needed improvements designed to limit casualties, as well as collect, preserve, memorialize, and account for dead and missing soldiers. Although previous historians regard surgeon Jonathan Letterman as progenitor of the Union Army Ambulance Corps, Faust lauds an obscure father. When Bostonian Henry Bowditch’s wounded son, Nat, died following days of neglect on a battlefield, Bowditch turned a need for an army ambulance service into a “cause célèbre.”[22] The state, he insisted . . . had an obligation to its soldiers.”[23] Bowditch’s goal, buttressed by what Faust calls his “moral influence,”[24] (as a grieving father), “was achieved in the last year of the war.”[25] With this accomplishment, Faust reckons, “Bowditch transformed Nat’s suffering into the salvation of others.”[26] Beyond individuals like Bowditch, Faust surveys newly founded and privately run improvement associations like the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the New England Soldiers Relief Association, the Christian Commission, the Pennsylvania State Agency, Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office, the Central Association of South Carolina, the Louisiana Soldiers Relief Association, and the South Carolina Relief Depot.[27] These organizations engendered reform, far beyond anything within the antebellum military imagination and new directions in federal legislation (often ushered by soldiers’ families) led to pension and survivors’ benefits.[28]

With the September 1861 General Orders No. 33, government reforms toward burying the dead commenced.[29] That necessity did not stop until the central state stood “in loco parentis” toward those who had fallen in its defense.[30] In so doing, according to Faust, “the federal government assumed new responsibility for the war dead.”[31] “No longer simply the responsibility of their families,” Faust continues, “they, and their loss, now belonged to the nation.”[32] This increasing government stewardship, led directly to the genesis of the national cemetery system.[33]Beginning with emergency measures by generals in the field, followed by more organized directives from the War Department,[34] and ultimately with congressional legislation in April 1866 and again in February 1867, national cemeteries for Union dead eventually broke ground in every state that witnessed a major battle.[35] Here too, however, private citizens like David Wills of Gettysburg and reformers like Clara Barton were deeply involved, as were Union army officers like James Moore, Edmund Whitman, and Chaplain William Earnshaw. By 1871 the work was complete. 303,536 Union soldiers were reinterred at seventy-four newly established national cemeteries, at the cost of more than four million dollars.[36] The defeated Confederacy, led by local Ladies Memorial Associations, took years to catch-up and buried rebel dead in separate cemeteries. The number of graves marked “Unknown” in Union and Confederate cemeteries today, remains as a testament to the belatedness of measures to identify, collect, and account for the dead and missing.

Faust explains that the postwar work of death gave the United States its Memorial Day. Initiated by Charleston freedmen on May 1, 1865, “the first Decoration Day” occurred at a burial plot for Union prisoners of war. [37] In 1866 southerners set April 26 (and other dates) to honor their dead. Finally, in 1868, General John Logan fixed May 30 as the nation’s official Memorial Day. Although, as Faust notes, “Even today many southern states recognize Confederate Memorial Day on a different date from the nationwide holiday.”[38] In terms of chronology, this point is Faust’s final major distinction revealing the separateness of the Union and Confederate burials and customs.

Despite the “remarkable shift in attitudes and behaviors toward accounting for the dead”[39] begun by individuals, private agencies and government offices, Faust expertly addresses the fact that the number of noncombatant civilian Civil War deaths remains completely unknown. “[N]o one then or since has tried to make a systematic compilation or enumeration of such deaths,” Faust observes. “Their losses remain the stuff of anecdote and even legend.”[40] This “work of death in the American Civil War,” therefore, remains unfinished. In 2011, however, demographic historian J. David Hacker published exhaustive census analysis revising the century-long agreed upon combatant death count of 620,000 to a “preferred estimate” of 752,000.[41] Hacker’s 2011 findings, therefore, constitute the greatest post-Faust stride toward Civil War “accounting” to date.

Fifteen years after publication, This Republic of Suffering endures as a remarkable model of intellectual history, but much ground is still left unbroken. As stated earlier, those southerners living inside the veritable “house of the dead” during the war are given short shrift in Faust’s mostly New Englander narrative.[42] Scholar Angela Esco Elder’s recent Love and Duty offers trailblazing insight into white southern wartime widowhood.[43] Additionally, John Neff and Caroline Janney have written admirably about post-war reconciliation, commemoration, and Lost Cause traditions related to the South’s dead.[44] But until historians further explore the wartime experience of  black and white southerners watching their states, towns, counties, farms and yards turned into mass graves, the history of death and the American Civil War will remain profoundly incomplete.[45]

[1] Faust, 221-222. This quote is partially repeated on page 228.

[2] Other Harvard figures deliniated by Faust include Francis Palfrey, John Pierpont, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and James Freeman Clarke. Another Harvard individual that is found throughout Faust’s book, but never named, is Henry Whitney Bellows. As the architect and founding president of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Bellows’ work ranks among the most discussed and lauded in Faust’s narrative.

[3] Faust, xiv, emphasis added by Jones.

[4] Frederick Law Olmsted, quoted by Faust, xiii. Especially in the arena of public health, Olmstead is considered a public intellectual.

[5] Faust cites the facile death toll of 620,000 Civil War combatants, even though she discusses J. David Hacker’s dissertation, wherein he argues that the combatant death count is underestimated. Since then, Hacker has published findings that raise the estimated Civil War combatant dead to some 750,000. Mention of Hacker’s conclusions are not listed in her text or endnotes, simply because his milestone essay “A Census Based Count of Civil War Dead,” Civil War History, 57, no. 4 (December 2011) was still three years from publication. See Faust, 273n(2)-274.

[6] Faust, 73.

[7] Faust, xvii.

[8] Faust, 71.

[9] Faust, 69.

[10] Faust, 59.

[11] Faust, 31.

[12] Faust, 48.

[13] Faust, 55.

[14] Faust, 32; 37; and 35.

[15] Faust, 224.

[16] Faust, 128.

[17] Faust, 117.

[18] Faust, 135; Faust does not offer an official designation for these groups, she notes them as simply, “a special graves registration unit” or “registration units,” without a formal title.

[19] Faust states that Emily Dickinson “has been portrayed as a recluse, closeted from the real world and its tribulations;” (Faust, 204).

[20] Faust, 198.

[21] Faust briefly mentions southern intellectuals James Henry Hammond and William Gilmore Simms, but does not quote from their writings. See Faust, 181.

[22] Faust, 170.

[23] Faust, 90.

[24] Faust, 90.

[25] Faust, 170.

[26] Faust, 170.

[27] Faust, 87-89, 107, 110-117.

[28] Faust, 255-256.

[29] Faust, 65.

[30] Edmund Whitman, quoted by Faust, 229.

[31] Faust, 99; emphasis added by Jones.

[32] Faust, 101.

[33] Faust, 135.

[34] Faust states that “Without any appropriation or formal policy with which to implement this legislative action, the War Department established cemeteries as emergency circumstances demanded. . . . Three of these cemeteries, Chattanooga, Stones River and Knoxville, were created by Union generals;” see Faust, 99.

[35] Faust, 223; 235; 238.

[36] Faust completely ignores the establishment of national cemeteries in the Carolinas, as well as the Trans-Mississippi West theater of Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and modern-day Oklahoma.

[37] Faust, 228.

[38] Faust, 241.

[39] Faust, 135.

[40] Faust, 138.

[41] J. David Hacker, “A Census Based Count of Civil War Dead,” Civil War History, 57, no. 4 (December 2011): 307-348.

[42] The imbalance toward Faust’s northern focus may surprise readers, considering her recognition that “Confederate men died at a rate three times that of their Yankee counterparts; one in five white southern men of military age did not survive the Civil War,” that “In the South . . . 18 percent of white males of military age perished in the war,” and that “In the North . . . the rate of death of men of military age was one-third that in the Confederacy,” (see Faust xi, 149 and 151 respectively). My use of the term “Yankee” is to again draw attention to the multitude of New England and New York voices employed in Faust’s narrative. Union soldiers and northern civilians from states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa did not consider themselves “Yankees” and are not commonly quoted in Faust’s narrative. The Ohioan Ambrose Bierce and New Yorker Walt Whitman are the only major non-New England northern literary figures that Faust discusses within her book in any detail. Missourian Mark Twain is mentioned but one time.

[43] See Angela Esco Elder, Love and Duty: Confederate Widows and the Emotional Politics of Loss (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2022).

[44] See John R. Neff, Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation (Lawrence, University Press of Kansas, 2005), and Caroline E. Janney, Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

[45] Given Faust’s long catalog of scholarship exploring southern intellectual history, it is shocking that similar research is not deployed in This Republic of Suffering. The real source of confusion here is the book’s broad subtitle “Death and the American Civil War.” I would venture that President Faust’s editors at Knopf changed her initial subtitle to appeal to a larger market. Perhaps Dr. Faust began with a subtitle which openly declared that the book was mostly about New England reactions, reflection and reforms related to Civil War death.

Evan Jones

Evan C. Jones completed his undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. He is co-editor of Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863 (Louisiana State University Press, 2014).

The Past in Color: A Short History of Hand-Colored Photos During the Civil War Era

The Past in Color: A Short History of Hand-Colored Photos During the Civil War Era

The American Civil War was one of the most photographed events of the nineteenth century. Powerful images of battlefield carnage, life in the camp, and studio portraits of soldiers in uniform stimulate an emotional response that reminds us of the human cost of war. Likewise, touching photos of grandparents, parents, siblings, and friends back home show another side of the war’s consequences. Previous conflicts like the American Revolution can only be visualized through the creative hands of artists using paint, oil, or slate to capture an imagined reality of warfare. Our memories of that war are shaped in large part by what those artists wanted us to see. With Civil War images, the photographer’s art likewise reflects what they wanted us to see, but this art form uncovers new layers of human complexity through wrinkles, bags under eyes, freckles, fingertips, unkempt hair, period clothing, and stoic expressions.

While my interest in Civil War photography goes back to seeing Mathew Brady’s images on the overhead projector as a student in the 1990s, I took a great interest in colorized images when I began seeing them online about ten years ago. I was particularly inspired by artists Marina Amaral and my friend and public historian Mark Loehrer, both of whom have creatively used colorizations to change my perceptions of the past. During the worst period of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to start teaching myself how to create colorized photos. Since then I have used GIMP, a free open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop, to create around 100 colorizations of nineteenth century photos. I subsequently started an Instagram page to highlight these works and have been fortunate to see a few of my works already being used at museums and historic homes.[1]

Figure 1: An unidentified African American Woman in St. Louis during the 1850s colorized by the author. Original photo is from the Missouri Historical Society

It is easy to assume that all nineteenth century images are in black and white. However, many early photographers were acutely aware of the technological limits of their medium. They began experimenting with the use of color shortly after Louis Daguerre’s development of the first commercial form of photography in 1838. Part of this interest came from painters who were anxious to remain employed. Understanding that photography could threaten their bottom line, some painters partnered with photographers to add color to fully developed photos, while in other cases the photographer took on this work themselves. Originally, paint was directly applied to the photo with a brush, but the results were often splotchy and uneven. By the early 1840s, painter and photographer Johann Baptist Isenring developed a standard coloring method. Using a combination of paint pigment and heated gum arabic, artists would apply the combination to the photographic plate and cool it gently blowing until it stuck to the plate.[2]

Figure 2: An extensively tinted ambrotype of an unidentified woman, circa 1850s or 1860s. From the author’s collection.

Examples of tinted photographs can be seen in all forms of early nineteenth century photography, including daguerreotypes (silver plates with copper backing), ambrotypes (glass plates), tintypes (japanned metal plates), and carte-de-visites (paper). Tinted and painted tintypes became a particularly important form of portraiture in the 1860s and 1870s. For people who did not have the time or money to sit for a painted portrait, hand colored tintypes—which usually cost between 25 cents to $2.50—offered an affordable alternative. A new exhibit on colored tintypes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston argues that this form of photography represents “an important visual record of 19th century America and the strivings of everyday people to present themselves at their very best.”[3]

Civil War soldiers were also anxious to present themselves at their very best and often sent photos of themselves in uniform back to loved ones at home. Some of these photos, especially tintypes, were hand colored. One of my favorite examples of a color tinted soldier portrait is an unidentified African American soldier in the 103rd United States Colored Troops Infantry Regiment, Company B.[4] Housed at the Library of Congress, the man in this tintype photo stands proudly in his uniform, which has traces of gold flaking on his kepi, buttons, shoulder epaulettes, belt buckle, and decorative sword case. My favorite aspect, however, is the soldier’s pants, which are tinted blue to reflect the color seen on the pants of enlisted men in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. For me, the blue pants serve as a subtle but important signifier of this soldier’s military service. It makes clear that he was taking a side and fighting for the causes of union and emancipation.

Figure 3: An unidentified soldier with the 103rd United States Colored Troops Infantry Regiment, Company B, Library of Congress.

I have come to appreciate the idea that modern colorizations could be considered an extension of a long practiced tradition of coloring black and white images.[5]

Modern colorizations have provoked important ethical discussions about how history is represented through photography. These discussions have only intensified with the emergence of AI technologies that estimate color tones based on the gray tones of a black and white photo. AI makes it easier to colorize historic photos, but the final results are often poor and use colors that distort the subject’s skin color.

Figure 4: This AI colorization by a Twitter bot (@colorize_bot) demonstrates the shortcomings of AI. The WWI “Harlem Hellfighters” seen in this photo would have worn green uniforms and the hands of the soldier in the foreground are colored purple.

In 2021, an Irish artist colored photos of tortured prisoners in Cambodia during the 1970s. He then went a step further by using AI to add smiles to the prisoners, stripping the photos of their historical context and making light of a human tragedy.[6] While the colorizations themselves were not a point of controversy, the use of AI to change these prisoners’ facial expressions challenges artists to consider the degree to which historic photos can be manipulated in a respectful way, if at all. For those of us who study the Civil War era, who we choose to colorize and how we represent the past through these photos hold great ramifications for how we want people to empathize with history. Colorization artists sometimes frame their work as “bringing life” to a black and white image by generating dignity and a shared sense of humanity with historical subjects through the use of color. But as writer Roshaya Rodness points out, this argument implies that original black and white photos lack life and dignity. “For some, dignity is inherent to an original, for others, dignity is something you add.”[7]

For me, colorizations are sort of like a cover song. These images are creatively remixed tributes to great art that should ideally help viewers better appreciate the original work. I agree with Amaral, who argues that colorizations can help people relate to the past by reminding them that history didn’t happen in black and white. “Are you used to watching football matches in black and white or in color? What seems closer to your reality? What feels more familiar to you?,” Amaral asks.[8] The challenge, then, is to create something artistic, respectful, inspiring, and relatable in a colorization without discarding the context, intent, and dignity of the original photo.

I ultimately decided to start creating colorizations because I found it an interesting way to connect with history. Colorizations touch the margins of public history work depending on how much research the artist does on the photo and how they interpret the image’s meaning. However, since the colors of a subject’s clothing, skin tone, hair, and other factors are often unknown, I consider them more works of art than an extension of my history work. In any case, I took on this hobby not just because I found colored images fascinating, but because of my love of photography in general. If people are inspired to study and connect with history further because of a colorized image, then it seems like a worthwhile endeavor for me.

[1] For examples of my work, see Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, “Slavery in St. Louis,” National Park Service, 2023, accessed August 17, 2023.; Ulysses S. Grant Cottage National Historic Landmark, “A New Light on Old Flowers,” Ulysses S. Grant Cottage National Historic Landmark, August 4, 2023, accessed August 17, 2023. I am also currently working with the Cape Girardeau [MO] History Center to develop an exhibit with one of my colorizations.

[2] Sean William Nolan, Fixed in Time: A Guide to Dating Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, & Tintypes by their Mats and Cases, for Historians, Genealogists, Collectors, and Antique Dealers (New York: CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2017), 22-23.

[3] MFA Boston, “Painted Tintypes: Photography for the People,” MFABoston, 2023, accessed August 17, 2023.; Library of Congress, “Ambrotypes and Tintypes,” Library of Congress, 2009, accessed August 16, 2023.,cost%20almost%20%246.00%20in%202009.

[4] The image can be viewed and downloaded at Library of Congress, “Unidentified African American Soldier in Union uniform and Company B, 103rd Regiment Forage Cap with Bayonet and Scabbard in Front of Painted Backdrop Showing Landscape with River,” Library of Congress, no date, accessed August 16, 2023.

[5] Marina Amaral, “Colorization Before the Digital Age,” The Colour of Time with Marina Amaral, April 9, 2022, accessed August 17, 2023.

[6] Prak Chan Thul and Kay Johnson, “After Outcry, VICE Removes Images Adding Smiles to Khmer Rouge Victims,” Reuters, April 11, 2021, accessed August 16, 2023.; Marina Amaral, “What Should and What Shouldn’t Be Colorized?,” The Colour of Time with Marina Amaral, June 18, 2022, accessed August 14, 2023.

[7] Roshaya Rodness, “The Controversial History of Colorizing Black-and-White Photographs,” Fast Company, May 20, 2021, accessed August 15, 2023.

[8] Amaral, “What Should and Shouldn’t be Colorized?”

Nick Sacco

NICK SACCO is a public historian and writer based in St. Louis, Missouri. He holds a master’s degree in History with a concentration in Public History from IUPUI (2014). In the past he has worked for the National Council on Public History, the Indiana State House, the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center, and as a teaching assistant in both middle and high school settings. Nick recently had a journal article about Ulysses S. Grant’s relationship with slavery published in the September 2019 issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era. He has written several other journal articles, digital essays, and book reviews for a range of publications, including the Indiana Magazine of History, The Confluence, The Civil War Monitor, Emerging Civil War, History@Work, AASLH, and Society for U.S. Intellectual History. He also blogs regularly about history at his personal website, Exploring the Past. You can contact Nick at

Announcing the 2023 Anthony E. Kaye Memorial Essay Award

Announcing the 2023 Anthony E. Kaye Memorial Essay Award

The Journal of the Civil War Era is pleased to announce that Dr. Lindsey Peterson has been selected as the recipient of the Anthony E. Kaye Memorial Essay Award for 2023. Her winning essay is titled, “‘Homebuilders’: Gender and Union Commemoration in the Trans-Mississippi West.” The prize selection committee, consisting of Dr. Beth Lew-Williams (chair), Dr. Paul Barba, and Dr. Antwain Hunter, wrote: “In this fascinating essay, Peterson explores the history of Civil War commemoration in the trans-Mississippi West, drawing out powerful connections between memorialization of war and the ongoing violence of settler colonialism. In addition to examining white Union veterans and their families, she spotlights the complicated role of Native peoples in this history, interrogating their incorporation into the pageantry (with or without their consent) in highly gendered, racialized, and exploitative ways. The result is an exemplary study of the Civil War’s legacies in the West.”

Dr. Peterson is the Digital Humanities Librarian at the University of South Dakota. She earned her PhD in December 2022 from the University of Southern Mississippi, where she studied in the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society. She also is the co-director of the Civil War & Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi project (CWRGM), which has digitized and edited over 22,000 documents written to Mississippi Governors during the American Civil War and Reconstruction (late-1859–1878).

Congratulations Lindsey and thanks to the awards committee for their service!

Hilary N. Green

Hilary N. Green is a Professor of Africana Studies at Davidson College. She previously worked in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama where she developed the Hallowed Grounds Project. She earned her M.A. in History from Tufts University in 2003, and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in African American history, the American Civil War, Reconstruction, as well as Civil War memory, African American education, and the Black Atlantic. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham, 2016).

Announcing the 2023 George and Ann Richards Prize for Best Article

Announcing the 2023 George and Ann Richards Prize for Best Article

Kimberly Welch’s article “The Stability of Fortunes: A Free Black Woman, Her Legacy, and the Legal Archive in Antebellum New Orleans” has been chosen as the recipient of the George and Ann Richards Prize for best article published in The Journal of the Civil War Era by a prize committee drawn from the journal’s editorial board members. The article appeared in the December 2022 special issue, Archives and Nineteenth Century African American History, organized and guest-edited by Leslie M. Harris and Daina Ramey Berry. The $1,000 prize will be announced on the journal’s website and in the December 2023 issue.
The prize committee (Jameson Sweet, Erika Pani, and Wayne Hsieh) unanimously selected the article for the prize. The committee wrote, “A close analysis of a single court case in 1840s New Orleans, ‘The Stability of Fortunes’ sheds new light on African American women, property ownership, and race in the nineteenth century United States. Welch approaches the study through an examination of the court case and its related documents as an intentionally curated archive used and produced by Black Americans for their benefit. Welch reveals a fascinating story of how a successful Black businesswoman used her resources and intentionally created documents to defend and secure her estate for her mixed-race children. After the death of the man who had been her romantic partner for over fifty years, his unscrupulous relatives sought to use her race against her and her children to acquire her estate, yet through the intentional production of numerous documents over the course of her life, she successfully defended her property ownership in court. “The Stability of Fortunes” is an important contribution to the scholarship on free Black Americans and how they navigated American slave society. Welch concludes that a methodological approach in which court records are read as archives reveals strategies and ‘competing intentionalities of their curators’ in such a way that gives us a deeper understanding of these histories.”
Congratulations Professor Welch!

Hilary N. Green

Hilary N. Green is a Professor of Africana Studies at Davidson College. She previously worked in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama where she developed the Hallowed Grounds Project. She earned her M.A. in History from Tufts University in 2003, and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in African American history, the American Civil War, Reconstruction, as well as Civil War memory, African American education, and the Black Atlantic. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham, 2016).

Announcing the 2023 Tom Watson Brown Book Award Winner

Announcing the 2023 Tom Watson Brown Book Award Winner

The Society of Civil War Historians and the Watson-Brown Foundation are proud to announce that R. Isabela Morales is the recipient of the 2023 Tom Watson Brown Book Award. Dr. Morales earned the award for Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom which was published in 2022 by Oxford University Press. The $50,000 award is funded by the Watson-Brown Foundation in honor of Tom Watson Brown, a dedicated student of the Civil War.

Portrait of a woman in a white shirt with a brick background. In making its selection, the prize committee stated: “Happy Dreams of Liberty tells the story of the extended Townsend family: African Americans freed by the wills of Samuel and Edward Townsend, their fathers and enslavers in Alabama. With graceful prose and deep empathy R. Isabela Morales tells a sweeping American story of multiple generations’ struggles to first gain their freedom, then preserve it and thrive through the tumultuous Civil War and Reconstructions eras. We follow the Townsends from Alabama to Ohio, Kansas, and Colorado as they search for places where they can live free from interference and discrimination. This is a model of microhistory, using the Townsend’s unique circumstances to illuminate broad questions about race, color, and liberty.

This is a sprawling family drama, full of contradictions and conflict. Morales tells it beautifully, almost novelistically, by imbuing it with atmosphere and minute detail. Some Townsends attended Wilberforce in Ohio before the Civil War, another fought in the Union Army. After the war, one became a successful barber and entrepreneur in Colorado, and another returned to Alabama as a politician, clinging to political power as the constrictions of Jim Crow closed in.

The book is a powerful read, one that is as much the story of America in the nineteenth century as it is the story of a family. We are unanimous in our praise for, and selection of, this important work.”

The Watson Brown Book Award jury consisted of Anne Sarah Rubin (chair), Frances M. Clarke, Adam Rothman, and Tad Brown, President of the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc.

Dr. Morales will be honored at the SCWH banquet taking place this November during the 2023 Annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association, held this year in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Congratulations Dr. Morales!

Hilary N. Green

Hilary N. Green is a Professor of Africana Studies at Davidson College. She previously worked in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama where she developed the Hallowed Grounds Project. She earned her M.A. in History from Tufts University in 2003, and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in African American history, the American Civil War, Reconstruction, as well as Civil War memory, African American education, and the Black Atlantic. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham, 2016).

The American Civil War: Remembering the Civil War Ancestors of Indian Territory  And The Battle of Honey Springs

The American Civil War: Remembering the Civil War Ancestors of Indian Territory  And The Battle of Honey Springs

In July of 1863, the most noteworthy Civil War battle in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) occurred on the lands of the Honey Springs settlement, Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Today, the significance of the Civil War in Indian Territory, including the Battle of Honey Springs, remains lost to the historical narrative of America’s Civil War story. More concerning is the lack of acknowledgment by historians regarding the Civil War involvement of Indigenous and Black ancestors residing within nineteenth-century Indian Territory. Even as the lived experience of Indian Territory’s Civil War ancestors is a story few Americans know, its outcome devastated the lands and inhabitants of the Fives Tribes, consisting of the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Nations. For these ancestors, their Civil War story is one worth telling

In the summer of 1861, the reaches of the American Civil War found its way West of the Mississippi River and into Indian Territory. By this time, the federal government had been diverting men, supplies, and monies from Indian Territory to the Eastern states to end the war in the East quickly. With recent experiences of removal and trauma fresh on their minds, the ancestors of Indian Territory did not want to become involved in a “War Between the States.” Yet, America’s Civil War will quickly come to the front door steps of every family living within the boundaries of the Five Tribes.

With treaty promises forgotten at the onset of the war in the East by the federal government, such as protection of tribal lands and annuity payments, a door opened for the Confederate States of America to target and persuade alliances with the Five Tribes. These ancestors made complex and conflicting decisions about the war and its possible adverse impact on their lands, lives, and continued existence as sovereign nations. Longstanding factionalism within the Muscogee, Cherokee, and Seminole nations also flared and triggered tribal division as wealthy tribal members support the Southern cause, including the institution of slavery. Consequently, Muscogee Chief Opothleyahola, wishing to remain neutral and looking to the federal government to uphold its treaty obligations, led Muscogee and members from other tribal nations, as well as self-liberating enslaved individuals and freedmen, on a journey north to escape the impending conflict. The exodus of neutral ancestors would eventually result in three conflicts opening the war in Indian Territory, which Indigenous descendants will later remember as the “Trail of Blood on Ice.”

At Chustenalah, the final of the three conflicts of 1861, Confederate troops brutally attacked Opothleyhola’s followers. According to Christine Schultz White and Benton White, in Now the Wolf Has Come: The Creek Nation in the Civil War, “Mothers, babies, warriors, they were run down or shot to bits.”[1]  Those who survived the attack fled on foot in frigid weather to federal refugee camps in Kansas. Two-thousand civilians lost their lives attempting to find safety from the war.[2]  Many more died from hypothermia, starvation, and the unsanitary conditions of the camps, including Chief Opothleyahola. These same Indigenous and Black ancestors who survived such horrific events later filled the ranks of three Union Indian Home Guard Regiments. Eager to return to their lands and homes, they will fight at the Battle of Honey Springs, assisting U.S. forces in reclaiming Indian Territory from the CSA.[3]

The Battle of Honey Springs, also known as the Affair at Elk Creek, was fought on July 17, 1863, at a small Muscogee farming community in Indian Territory situated along the Texas Road about one hour south of current-day Tulsa, Oklahoma. Representing the U.S. Army of the Frontier, Major General James G. Blunt commanded the roughly 3,000 troops consisting of the Union Indian Home Guards, Third Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment, Second Colorado Infantry Regiment, Sixth Kansas Cavalry Regiment and twelve pieces of artillery commanded by Hopkins and Smith. Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper commanded 6,000 Confederate troops representing the Indian Brigade, which included the First and Second Creek Volunteers, First and Second Cherokee Volunteers, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Cavalry Regiment, the Gillette/Scanland Cavalry Regiment, the 29th, 20th, and 5th Texas Cavalry Regiments, fighting dismounted at the battle and Lee’s battery of four artillery pieces. Following United States victories in the East at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, both armies felt pressure to control Indian Territory. Cooper fought to maintain control while Blunt sought to halt a potential Confederate attack on Union-occupied Fort Gibson. On Friday, July 17, 1863, at 10:00 a.m., the two armies fought for four hours in artillery, infantry, and hand-to-hand combat along the north and south banks of Elk Creek. The tide of battle turned as the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment forced a general Confederate retreat across Elk Creek Bridge, and secured both a Union victory and control of Indian Territory for the remainder of the war.[4]

10/6/22 1:06:13 PM — Honey Springs Battlefield near Rentiesville, Oklahoma. Shot for Oklahoma Historical Society.
Photo by Shane Bevel

Members of the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, formerly enslaved individuals who escaped bondage from their former enslavers from Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory, were placed in the middle of the U.S. lines during the battle. Colonel James M. Williams, commanding the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, provided a stirring speech to his troops before battle. In it, he stated, “You know what the soldiers of the Southern armies are fighting for, the continued existence of slavery on this continent, and if they are successful, to take you and your wives and children back into slavery. Show the enemy this day that you are not asking for a quarter, and that you know how and are eager to fight for your freedom.”[5]  U.S. Colonel Thomas Moonlight later wrote that “some 500 pairs of shackles” were captured at Honey Springs after the battle, which the CSA planned to use to re-enslave the African American soldiers upon their presumed victory.[6]

From a settler military viewpoint, the war in Indian Territory, including the Battle of Honey Springs, was about “control” of the lands and people. But from an Indigenous perspective, the war in Indian Territory was about much more. What would compel Native ancestors to take up arms against and with the federal government, fight one another, and risk life itself? Vital to the memory of Indigenous Civil War ancestors is regardless of which side of the battle line they were on, the fight always remained about protecting their lands, homes, and sovereignties.

In a speech given to his troops before the Honey Springs battle, Chilly McIntosh, Colonel of the Second Regiment of Creek Mounted Volunteers, expresses to his soldiers the gravity of the battle and what they are fighting to preserve. Chilly states, “Man must die sometime, and since he must die, he can find no nobler death than that which overtakes him while fighting for his homes, his fires, and his country.”[7] The fires mentioned are sacred fires Muscogee have been burning since time immemorial and continue to burn today at their ceremonial grounds. In Muscogee tradition, the fires represent life and must burn eternally, because without them, the Mvskoke will cease to exist.

The story of the Civil War in Indian Territory reveals a complex and critical piece of United States and Indigenous Civil War history. Essential to the memory of the American Civil War in Indian Territory are the historical intersections between Indigenous, Black, and American experiences. The Civil War brought into the lives of nineteenth-century Indian Territory ancestors another traumatic and life-changing event. And for the ancestors of Indian Territory impacted by the war and their descendants, these experiences linger as a time of profound loss and significant alteration to life and future existence. But the story doesn’t end here, as the people of the Five Tribes persevered and rebuilt their nations. Today at the Honey Springs Battlefield, on the sacred lands of the Honey Springs settlement, the Civil War in Indian Territory remains alive as a testament to the challenges faced by Indian Territory ancestors. Theirs is a Civil War story worth remembering.

[1] Christine Schultz White and Benton White, Now the Wolf Has Come: The Creek Nation in the Civil War (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1996), 123.

[2] Schultz-White and White, Now the Wolf Has Come: The Creek Nation in the Civil War, 150.

[3] Mary Jane Warde, When the Wolf Came, The Civil War and the Indian Territory (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 2013), 167; M. Jane Johansson, Albert C. Ellithorpe: The First Indian Home Guards and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier(Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2016), 155.

[4] Ian Michael Spurgeon, Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The First Kansas Colored, The Civil War’s First African American Combat Unit (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014), 171.

[5] Wiley Britton, The Union Indian Brigade in the Civil War (Kansas City, MO: Franklin Hudson, 1922), 276-277.

[6] Kip Lindberg, Matt Matthews, and Thomas Moonlight, “‘The Eagle of the 11th Kansas’: Wartime Reminiscences of Colonel Thomas Moonlight,” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 62, no. 1 (2003): 32, accessed April 20, 2023,

[7] Warde, When the Wolf Came, The Civil War and the Indian Territory, 166.


Midge Dellinger and Adam Lynn

Midge Dellinger is of Muscogee, Mexican, and European descent. She is the Oral Historian for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Historic and Cultural Preservation Department. In 2019, Midge received a Master of Arts in American Studies emphasizing Native American Studies at Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma. As a tribal historic preservationist, with public knowledge and memory of Indigenous ancestors at the foundation of her work, Midge also advocates for an authentic remembrance of Indigenous peoples and histories. Her research focuses on the Civil War in Indian Territory and Indigenous boarding school histories. Adam Lynn is Director of the Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center, an Oklahoma Historical Society site located near Rentiesville, Oklahoma. He has served in this capacity for the last six years. During that time, Mr. Lynn has assisted in creating permanent exhibits detailing the battle and the overall history of the Civil War in Indian Territory, organizing regular on-site educational programing, and ongoing site preservation projects. Prior to this, he was Director of the Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher, Oklahoma from 2011 until 2017.

Treason Made Odious Again: Reflections From the Naming Commission, and the Front Lines of the Army’s War on the Lost Cause

Treason Made Odious Again: Reflections From the Naming Commission, and the Front Lines of the Army’s War on the Lost Cause

“So,” the man across the high-top cocktail table said, precise eye contact belying years of military bearing.  “What’s your role in all this?”

Fishing my nametag from behind my tie, I replied with all the authority someone five weeks on the job could muster.  “I’m the Naming Commission’s Lead Historian.”

“Oh,” he said, pausing and planning his words.  “Well, as a historian, how do you feel about changing the name of Fort Lee?  Isn’t it, sort of, erasing history, given all that Robert E. Lee did as a leader and a strategist?”

 It was the late summer of 2021.  I had been thinking about this question all that afternoon on my drive to Petersburg from Washington, DC.  I had also marveled, as always, at how with a few gallons of gas and a cup of black coffee, it had taken less than two and half hours to cover the same ground that accounted for more than two and a half months of vicious fighting in the Overland campaign of 1864.

“Well,” I offered, preparing myself to hear words in the neighborhood of woke, “it isn’t erasing history.  We should study Robert E. Lee, of course, but should we commemorate him as a military hero?  I mean, he was fighting against the United States, and for perpetual enslavement.  What would have happened if Lee had won?  What would our nation look like?”

For a moment, silence reigned. My plate of crudité felt like grapeshot in my hands.  Then the gentleman across from me, a Virginian and a decades-long veteran of civilian service to the military at Fort Lee, responded.  “That’s really interesting,” he said.  “You know, I had never thought of it that way.”

Crisis averted.  The irrepressible conflict dissipated.  The point was taken.  Somewhere, an angel playing The Battle Hymn of The Republic got their wings.

Two white men, one older and one younger, speaking in conversations.
Over the course of their service, the Naming Commission heard from thousands of Americans.  Here, Lead Historian Connor Williams and Major General Timothy Williams (no relation), Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard, discuss Confederate History at the Virginia War Memorial.  The Virginia National Guard was one of the many military organizations who conferred with and supported the Commission in its work.

Lest this vignette seem self-congratulatory, I desire no credit for any originality in my response.  Such talking points are the warp and woof of seminars, lectures, podcasts and books on Civil War memory.  Like all scholarship, they build on the efforts of others. I had most recently encountered the Lee counterfactual in Ty Seidule’s outstanding memoir Robert E. Lee and Me.[1]

But what struck me then—and has struck me again and again over the course of my work and reflections on the Naming Commission—was the sincerity with which the question was asked, and the ease with which the answer was accepted.  Both demonstrate how much Civil War memory has changed over the past thirty years, due to the efforts of generations of scholars, teachers, and activists.

That conclusion may seem surprising.  Whether sitting around oval tables of our seminar rooms or looking out office windows onto campus quads, it is easy to imagine a Southland full of neo-Confederates ready to revolt at any criticism of Jefferson Davis, and ready to march in defense of Robert E. Lee.  This is the sense one gets after watching documentaries like Civil War, or: Who Do We Think We Are?, reading coverage in the Atlantic Monthly, or simply reviewing news coverage on the contemporary curriculum fights in the state of Florida.[2]

To be clear, such adamant Confederate apologists certainly do exist, and are often the most vocal participants in any conversation.  One emailed me recently, suspecting “one of [my] favorite people in history is Joseph Stalin,” I “just do not like Southern folks,” and that I was “descended from the Cromwellian Puritans who fought [his] Cavalier ancestors in England.”[3]  A few others have called my cause “Marxist,” “Maoist,” “Fascist” and, always, “Orwellian.”  Missives like these make it seem like the South is a scary place indeed for folks seeking to change commemorations.

Yet my experiences with the Naming Commission indicate otherwise.  Over the last two years, I have found such e-mails are the exceptions that prove the rule.  And that rule is that no serious opposition has emerged to the Naming Commission’s work.  We started our work with the support of 87 Senators, and ended it with about that same share.[4]

In fact, in engagement after engagement with the communities on and surrounding Army posts throughout the South, conversations indicated the opposite.  The great majority of Americans the Naming Commission encountered were quite open to change.  In fact, given the chance to weigh in on a new namesake, they even became enthusiastic about the process.  They just had a few honest questions that needed answering before getting fully on board.

The first queries often involved simply wanting more knowledge about the old Confederate namesakes.  After all, where but in a Civil War graduate seminar does one study Henry Benning, Leonidas Polk, A.P. Hill, or even Braxton Bragg?  I specialize in the 19th Century United States, and still had to do some extra research on Edmund Rucker.[5]  Others—such as George Pickett, John Bell Hood, and John Gordon—had supporting roles in Ken Burns’ The Civil War, but still constitute specialized knowledge.  Only Robert E. Lee was really a star in our collective memories.

Thankfully, these men left a fairly clear paper trail.  While their respective Civil War Encyclopedia entries remain frustratingly placid, their words and actions are clear. Benning’s speeches to secession conventions played on racial fears when imagining a nation under Abraham Lincoln. He proclaimed: “we [would] have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything…give me death or pestilence sooner than that.” Hood’s letters to William Sherman professed how he and his compatriots would be “better to die a thousand deaths than to submit to live under you or your government or your negro allies.” Gordon even threatened to “exterminate” African Americans in a genocidal conflict. Each namesake made for fairly convincing evidence against their commemoration.[6]  So too did George Pickett’s war crimes, Leonidas Polk’s incompetence, and Braxton Bragg’s irascibility: the latter was almost fragged in the Mexican War.[7]

Even Robert E. Lee is not so marble as we might assume.  Gary Gallagher’s excellent scholarship on Lee’s virulent retort to the Emancipation Proclamation, which the general called “a savage and brutal policy” before sowing fears of black predation, almost always made folks reconsider “Marse Robert.”[8]  It was equally helpful to point out that of the eight Virginians who were U.S. Army Colonels in 1861, Lee alone resigned his commission.  He may have “followed his state.”  But he absolutely broke his oath.[9]

Ultimately, most Americans I met were fine jettisoning these honorifics to Confederates, especially after reading their self-professions of hatred towards the United States, their raw white supremacy, and ardent pro-slavery rhetoric.

Over the course of its work, the Naming Commission found more than 1100 Department of Defense assets requiring removal, renaming, or modification, including Army and Navy ships, building displays, Air Force recreation areas, unit insignias, and the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.”

The second line of questioning came straight from Burkean conservatism. Some Americans feared the Naming Commission was the first step down a slippery slope.  They worried this would start an avalanche of renaming.  It might initially just take down Lee and Pickett. But what if it widened to cover Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson?  Would it eventually careen into George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, obliterating every name they were raised to revere?  Here, one cannot point purely to paranoia.  Prominent op-eds have argued for those exact actions, and several highly publicized protests have spontaneously carried some of them out, causing us all to consider the extents to which commemorations should be changed.[10]

In response, I developed an accurate-if-pithy point, grounded in the overwhelming Congressional support for our work and the concurrent lack of controversy.  “If 87 Senators and 322 Representatives tell us to look at other commemorations, we will do that.  But right now, we’re just looking at Confederates.”  I still support that point.  The Naming Commission was a national project propelled by some and simply tolerated by others, but it nevertheless remains an inspiring example of bipartisanship.  Funneled through the political will of legislators, our actions were dictated by men and women representing the vast majority of Americans.[11]

At the same time, our moderate style mattered.  By and large, we cast our work not as parts of a broader revolution, but instead as acts of American patriotism.  Our rhetorical power amongst the undecided came not from selling ourselves as a progressive mission of inclusion, but rather as a battle against treason.  Confederates were unfitting for commemoration because of the immediate actions they undertook—killing United States soldiers, seizing United States property, and threatening our nation’s very existence.   Less frequently addressed were the broader themes of conservatism, white supremacy, and white grievance that often surround Confederate memory.[12]

In part, our charter made this approach inevitable.  By legislative mandate our point of exclusion was voluntary service in the Confederacy, and not support for enslavement or white supremacy.  Had we been tasked to end commemorations for anyone who had supported the practice of enslavement, the large majority of antebellum politicians would have been on our list.  A case could be made to include Abraham Lincoln.  Had we included those who supported white supremacist doctrine, virtually all white antebellum Americans would have made our list.  A case would have to be made to include Abraham Lincoln.

To be clear, Confederates’ movements towards perpetual enslavement absolutely mattered, and remained at the forefront of every conversation.  One of the most empowering moments of my work was witnessing how a generation of schoolteachers and other mentors and guides have stamped out any vestiges of Lost Cause arguments amongst younger Americans.  Slavery is no longer “just a way of life,” an inevitable economic system, or (far worse) a “positive good.”  Virtually no one I encountered over two years of meetings entertained those notions, with the very few exceptions very much proving the rule.[13]  But our benchmark remained treason and insurrection against the United States. This leaves us with a paradox: one of the greater movements for monumental change throughout our recent history was enacted along one of the more conservative logics to do so.

One of the main arguments that the Naming Commission made and the American people accepted was that Confederates had committed treason by fighting and killing United States Soldiers and Sailors. As such, their commemoration was therefore especially inappropriate on military bases—including West Point and Annapolis—where America’s armed forces continue to train and sacrifice.

So, where has this work brought my thinking on Civil War memory?  To return to that moment at Fort Lee, the many others like it I encountered, and the similar ones all historians are likely to encounter, three main observations stand out.

First, historians should have more confidence that our decades of work fighting against the Lost Cause and highlighting Confederate treason really have paid off.  The 1993 Hollywood film Gettysburg could not be made today. Ken Burns is getting hard questions from professional historians and non-academics.[14]  It’s hard to envision Shelby Foote emerging as an icon in 2023.  Few Americans—especially those involved in spheres of politics or power—wish to defend an insurrection that committed treason for slavery.  Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly learned this the hard way.[15]  This does not diminish the horrific acts white supremacy can and does fuel, often somehow spurred by some sort of Confederate memory.  But it does mean that in a room of 75 lecture attendees, we should take motivation from the 73 who nod their heads in approval, and fret less over the two who stand up with loud questions.  For the majority of Americans, the Lost Cause has, increasingly, lost.

Second, we need to reflect that while many Americans condemn Confederates for both treason and slavery, amongst the undecided treason remains the more compelling argument.  For better or worse, I learned that the most compelling response to questions about the Commission’s work was not to cite the 1619 Project, defend Critical Race Theory, or evoke John Brown’s body.  Instead, it was to focus on the deeds of the Confederate namesakes themselves.  They led forces that killed more United States soldiers than the Nazis did, in a war that was—per capita—ten times deadlier for Americans than World War II, and twenty times deadlier than the European Theater.  Time and again, treason trumped all else in convincing Americans that men who had worn the gray did not deserve to be celebrated under the red, white, and blue.

Lastly, nuanced historical arguments really do matter.  Most Americans I met were ready to encounter the past as a complex place full of complicated issues, contingent decisions, and conflicted actors.  Reductive statements on universal “rightness” or “wrongness” will always divide us and inherently place some on the defensive.  But by bringing our peers into our history as it unfolded and acknowledging the contradictions of our past, we can evaluate our commemorations on a scale of “better” or “worse.”  This allows for individuals to interpret their own relationships to memory, while changing our commemorative landscape towards our highest aspirations for our future, and away from the most traumatic moments of our past.[16]

Ultimately, in reflecting on the Naming Commission’s work, a quote from Frederick Douglass looms up large, and proves incredibly—if belatedly—prescient.  In 1894, the great orator sought, amongst the rise of all-white reconciliations, to remind Americans of the true cause and course of the Civil War.  “Whatever else I may forget,” Douglass wrote, “I shall never forget the difference between those who fought for liberty and those who fought for slavery; between those who fought to save the republic, and those who fought to destroy it.”[17]

To an extent, we should always remain frustrated that it took 125 years to make our national memory meet that of Frederick Douglass.  But the Naming Commission also demonstrates that his vision is increasingly coming to pass, across large majorities throughout our nation.  This is a moment worth celebrating, and a cause worth keeping after, one nuanced and patient conversation at a time.

[1] Ty Seidule.  Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning With the Myth of the Lost Cause.  New York: McMillan Publishing, 2021, p. 235.

[2] For more, see Rachel Boynton (Dir.) Civil War (Or Who Do We Think We Are?). Boynton Films Production, 2021.  Also Clint Smith, “Why Confederate Lies Live On.” The Atlantic Monthly, June 2021.

[3] E-mail received by the author, titled “To the fake historian.” March 26, 2023.

[4] The Naming Commission’s Final Report to Congress was submitted in three parts during the summer and fall of 2022.  All were accepted by Congress without alterations, and have since passed to the Department of Defense, which is currently implementing all their recommendations.

[5] Indeed, scholarship on Rucker’s actions in the Civil War remain relatively unknown, and exist mainly thorough his mentions in dispatches and other official records.  A descendant has published a laudatory biography, The Meanest and Damnest Job, but even this remains grounded in reports and war documents.

[6] Henry Benning, “Speech to the Virginia Convention.” In Charles Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001. Letter, John Bell Hood to William T. Sherman, September 12, 1864.  In Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1886), pp. 121–124.  John Gordon, “Sound Advice to Negro Voters.”  As reprinted in Columbia Daily Phoenix, Vol. 4, Page 2 (September 23 1868).

[7] Seidule, Robert E. Lee and Me, 142-151.

[8] Letter, Robert E. Lee to James A. Seddon.  January 10, 1863.  The Lee Family Digital Archive (Web).  Accessed 20 April 2023.

[9] Seidule, Robert E. Lee and Me, 223.

[10] Among other news coverage, see Charles M. Blow, “Yes, Even George Washington.” The New York Times, June 20, 2020. Livia Gershon, “Controversial Teddy Roosevelt Statue Will Be Moved From NYC to North Dakota.”  Smithsonian Magazine, November 23, 2021. “Protestors Knock Down Roosevelt, Lincoln Statues in Portland,”, October 12, 2020.

[11] Connor O’Brien, “Senate Hands Trump His First Veto Override.” Politico, January 1, 2021.

[12] For more, see The Naming Commission, Final Report to Congress.  (Government Publication, September 20, 2022).

[13] One such opponent has been Dr. Ann Hunter McLean, who is leading a fringe group against the Naming Commission, and whose views were so controversial that they caused her requested resignation from Governor Youngkin’s Virginia Historic Resources Board. (Gregory Schnieder, “Youngkin Appointee Who Defended Confederate Statues Resigns From Board” The Washington Post. August 3, 2022.)

[14] Keri Leigh Merritt, “Why We Need A New Civil War Documentary.”  Smithsonian Magazine, April 23, 2013.

[15] Philip Bump, “Historians Respond to John F. Kelly’s Civil War Remarks: ‘Strange,’ ‘Sad,’ ‘Wrong.’” The Washington Post, October 31, 2017.

[16] For more on memory, history, commemoration, and reconciliation, see Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History.”  Representations: Special Issue, Spring 1989, 7-24.  See also Susan Neiman, Learning From the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil.  New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2019.  David Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Historical Memory.  Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001. Carolyn Janney: Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation.  Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

[17] As quoted in David Blight, “‘For Something Beyond the Battlefield:’ Frederick Douglass and the Struggle for the Memory of the Civil War,” The Journal of American History 75, No. 4 (Mar., 1989): 1156-1178.


Connor Williams

Connor Williams is an advanced Ph.D Candidate at Yale University, where he is jointly a member of the History and African American Studies Departments. From 2021 to 2022, Connor took a leave of absence to work as Lead Historian for the Naming Commission—the organization created by Congress to identify all Department of Defense Assets commemorating Confederates or the Confederacy, and to make a plan for their removal, renaming, or modification. Over two years, the Commission met with thousands of Americans, toured ten military installations in the southern United States, and identified more than 1100 Defense assets to be renamed. The most high profile of these were nine defense installations like Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, and Fort Hood, but they also included vessels, street names, monuments, building displays, insignia and other paraphernalia. Congress accepted the Commission’s final reports without modification in September 2022, and the Secretary of Defense gave his complete and enthusiastic endorsement. By legislative mandate, all these assets will be renamed by the end of 2023. Connor has since returned to Yale, where he is in the final steps of finishing his doctorate. Although the Naming Commission wrapped in October 2022, he continues to write, and speak on how his experiences intersected with broader issues of Civil War history, memory, education, commemoration, and its role in public policy. He also continues to advise defense entities on the Naming Commission’s rationales and recommendations via a gratuitous services agreement. He welcomes questions or comments at