December 2021 (vol. 11, no. 4)

December 2021 (vol. 11, no. 4)

Volume 11, Number 4
December 2021

Editors’ Note
Kate Masur and Gregory Downs

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Daniel Crofts

Sidney George Fisher and the Coming of the Civil War: How Southern Overreach Alarmed a Conservative Philadelphian

Sidney George Fisher’s voluminous diary, held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, reveals how Southern overreach drove the North-South sectional crisis.  An elite conservative Philadelphian, Fisher was no egalitarian and was not inclined to tell white Southerners how to manage their affairs.  It required Southern bullying to stiffen him and other Northerners to push back and defend their interests.  The Fisher diary illustrates how the South misread the North’s defensive stance.  By breaking up the Union and starting a war, white Southerners took the fateful step that doomed the slave system.  War propelled Fisher—and many others in the North who never previously would have countenanced abolition—to support the Lincoln administration’s emancipation policies.

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Cynthia Nicoletti

William Henry Trescot, Pardon Broker

This essay details the efforts of William Henry Trescot, “executive agent” for South Carolina, to secure pardons for the state’s lowcountry elite class after the Civil War.  As state executive agent, Trescot’s job extended beyond inducing Andrew Johnson’s administration to issue individual pardons to using those pardons to facilitate the restoration of land the federal government had seized from lowcountry planters during the war.  The seizures were primarily rooted in the land’s legal classification as Captured and Abandoned Property.  At the time of the war’s conclusion, this land was in the hands of Freedmen’s Bureau, and it provided the foundation for the tentative plans for land redistribution in the former Confederacy.  Trescot’s maneuvering in the Johnson White House and with Freedmen’s Bureau officials throughout 1865 and 1866 was integral in explaining the failure of Reconstruction-era land redistribution in the United States.

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Tarık Tansu Yiğit

Reconstructing the American Under the Most Unimaginable Conditions: Civil War Veterans in the ‘Arabian Nights’

This article provides a window onto the network of ex-Confederate and Union veterans who served in the Egyptian army in the 1870s as mercenaries. Concerned about financial and professional anxieties during Reconstruction, these officers found a common cause far from home. Egyptian sojourn provided them with stability and opportunity to restore their dignity as fathers, husbands, or soldiers. The American version of the “Arabian Nights” proves that Reconstruction extended far beyond the US borders, containing both an extant sectional pride and a salient image of national reunion. The article also examines the psychological foundations of this micro reconciliation and the sense of cultural alienation in a profoundly foreign setting, which contributed to the former foes’ display of American fraternity.

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Gerald Prokopowicz

The Common Soldier of the Civil War: His Rise and Fall

This historiographical essay looks at the concept of the so-called “common soldier” of the Civil War, as it has evolved in the writing of scholarly and popular historians since the Second World War.  It organizes the historiography into three eras, the first defined by Bell Wiley’s books about “Johnny Reb” (1943) and “Billy Yank” (1952). The second era, commencing after the Vietnam war, saw challenges to Wiley’s interpretation of Civil War soldiers as essentially non-ideological, and began to incorporate statistical analysis to supplement traditional interpretive techniques. In the 21st century, historians of the “dark turn” era have made increasing use of digital tools while continuing to examine aspects of soldiers’ aggregated experiences. The essay concludes that the next direction for the field may be to abandon the “common soldier” construct and to focus on the political, regional, generational, ethnic, religious, racial, and other differences among Civil War soldiers, rather than their assumed commonalities.

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