September 2018 (Vol. 8, No. 3)

September 2018 (Vol. 8, No. 3)

Volume 8, Number 3
September 2018


Judith Giesberg

Editor’s Note

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Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture

Thavolia Glymph

 “I’m a Radical Black Girl”: Black Women Unionists and the Politics of Civil War History

This essay represents the 56th annual Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture. Thavolia Glymph delivered the lecture at Gettysburg College’s Civil War Institute on November 19, 2017, the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

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Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver

Nature and Human Nature: Environmental Influences on the Union’s Failed Peninsula Campaign, 1862

Scholars have long tried to explain why Union General George McClellan’s campaign to capture Richmond, Virginia, failed in the summer of 1862. With the exception of some limited attention to weather and terrain, Civil War historians have essentially ignored the complex natural world in which McClellan made his critical decisions. Employing methodology from both environmental and military history provides new insights into the actions of both Union and Confederate armies. The environment McClellan encountered brought out the worst in the general, magnifying the personal traits and quirks that led to some of his most baffling command decisions. Simultaneously, Confederate forces used nature to their advantage, employing strategies that allowed their armies to stave off a potentially devastating conquest of Richmond.

Keywords: Peninsula Campaign, Seven Days Battles, George McClellan, environment, weather, disease, typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea, mud

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Gaines M. Foster

What’s Not in a Name: The Naming of the American Civil War

Abraham Lincoln and most northerners initially referred to a civil war or an insurrection, but quickly adopted “Rebellion,” which stressed the goal of preserving the Union and stigmatized secession. Frederick Douglass and others proposed “Abolition war” or the “Slaveholders’ Rebellion,” but few northerners adopted them. After Appomattox, northerners continued to use “Rebellion.” White southerners protested; they preferred “Civil War,” “War Between the States,” and other names. By the 1890s “Civil War” had become the most common name, and between 1905 and 1911, Congress made it virtually the official name. The United Daughters of the Confederacy then campaigned, but failed, to replace it with “War Between the States.” In the twentieth century, linguistic surveys demonstrated, “Civil War” was the most widely used name. “Civil War” promoted reconciliation, de-emphasized the role of slavery, allowed both sides to hold to their interpretation of the conflict, and thereby helped obscure the war’s meaning.

Keywords: Civil War, Name of Civil War, Memory, Naming Wars Memory, Civil War Rebellion War Between the States Slaveholders’ Rebellion Lincoln, Abraham Douglass, Frederick War of the Rebellion

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Bradley D. Proctor

“The K. K. Alphabet”: Secret Communication and Coordination of the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan in the Carolinas

This article explores the story behind a ciphered letter sent from two brothers, Johnston Jones in North Carolina to Iredell Jones in South Carolina, both members of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. The letter, and a few accompanying documents generated by fellow members of the Klan, suggest that the Klan was not exclusively an organic and isolated movement as some previous scholars have suggested. Rather, conservative white southern elites, connected by ties of Confederate service and family, engaged in a clandestine campaign of organizing against the interracial politics of Reconstruction. Recalibrating our conception of the extent to which the Ku Klux Klan was coordinated provides a more accurate understanding of the ways white supremacist vigilante violence was used to shut down interracial political opportunities after emancipation.

Keywords: Reconstruction; Ku Klux Klan; vigilantism; white supremacy; cryptography; North Carolina; South Carolina

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Review Essay
Brenda E. Stevenson

Filming Black Voices and Stories: Slavery on America’s Screens

This essay underscores that film is a powerful medium that has been used to both solidify popular and scholarly images of history and to radically challenge them. Slavery filmography began with all of the ugly, stereotype characterizations and storylines one would expect of the racial “nadir” of the early 20th century. A revolutionary social movement at mid-century and a profound revision in the historiography of slavery beginning in the 1970s prompted changes in the public’s reception of more realistic and humanistic images of enslaved black people, their interior lives, personal worth, and strivings. Beginning with the earliest films, this essay moves forward to present-day cinema and and TV series offerings to demonstrate how central slavery has been, over time, to Hollywood, its portrayal of American life, and how its screen representations have reflected changes in the historiography and the nation’s social realities.

Keywords: Slavery, Stereotype, Film, Historiography, Racial Nadir

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Book Reviews
Books Received
Notes on Contributors