One Book: Confederates in the Attic

Death and the Civil War

Since we are spending this year thinking about the US Civil War as part of our One Book Program, we wanted to share this up coming TV show which will be on WTTW channel 11, Chicago’s PBS.

Death and the Civil War: the American Experience: September 18th, 8pm.
With the coming of the Civil War, and the staggering casualties it ushered in, death entered the experience of the American people as it never had before — permanently altering the character of the republic and the psyche of the American people. Contending with death on an unprecedented scale posed challenges for which there were no ready answers when the war began. Americans worked to improvise new solutions, new institutions, and new ways of coping with death on an unimaginable scale.

Watch Death and the Civil War Extended Promo on PBS. See more from American Experience.

Why Lincoln Decided to End Slavery

It could be argued that the fall of 1862 was the major turning point in the Civil War.  These events 150 years ago all influenced Lincoln’s decision to move forward with the Emancipation Proclamation, which changed the reason for the War from one partially about slavery and a state’s right to secede, to a war entirely about slavery.

The war was going poorly for the Union in the east. The Union forces were up against the formidable Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, while the Union generals seemed more interested in fighting political battles attacking or defending Lincoln.

After being put on the defense earlier in the year, the confederates pushed out of northern Virginia up into Maryland and eventually surrounded Washington DC.  Meanwhile, the political infighting between Union Generals George B. McClellan and John Pope seemed to distract them from putting up a good defense.  Lincoln needed to quash both of his bickering generals and was able to sideline them by signing the Emancipation Proclomation. At the same time he reorganized the Army under the command of generals Ambrose Burnside and Joseph Hooker.

Author Richard Slotkin discusses all of these events in his new book “The Long Road to Antietam”.  Slotkin was also recently interviewed on the NPR program Fresh Air, listen to the interview here. Check the book out from your public library.

Find out more about any of these people:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • George B. McClellan
  • John Pope
  • Ambrose Burnside
  • Joseph Hooker
  • Robert E. Lee
  • Stonewall Jackson

And don’t forget to use our History Databases, too.

This post is part of a series related to the One Book, One College selection Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Please attend our first event: an open book discussion, TODAY at noon, in the library.

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The Famous Lincoln/Douglas Debates

US Postage commemorating the Lincoln/Douglas debates.

The first of the Lincoln/Douglas Debates happened 154 years ago today August 21, 1858.  Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were campaigning for the same US Senate seat.

The theme of slavery ran throughout the course of the debates, but the August 21 debate in Ottawa, IL predominately dealt with the abolitionist stance of Lincoln’s Republican Party.  The other debates happened in: Freeport on August 27, Jonesboro on September 15, Charleston on September 18, Galesburg on October 7, Quincy on October 13, and Alton on October 15.

Learn more about Stephen Douglas in this previous blog post.

Find out more about the Lincoln Douglas Debates at the library. Look up books, or search in our databases.

Read the actual account and transcript in our Chicago Tribune Historical databaseLook up the edition from August 23, 1858.

This post is part of a series related to the One Book, One College selection Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Please attend our first event: an open book discussion, September 5 at noon, in the library.

Who was Stephen Douglas?

Interestingly, a lot of the slavery debate of the 1850’s and 1860’s was borne out right here in Illinois, primarily because of one person: Stephen Douglas. Douglas was a Democratic senator from 1846 until his death in 1861.

As a northern Democrat he had a rather strict interpretation of the Constitution. While Douglas defended the rights of southern slave owners as constitutional, he also vehimitly fought against the secession of the sourthern states. Secession in his view was unconstitutional, if not outright treasonous.

Balancing these two ideas, led Stephen Douglas to be the consumate compromiser. Throughout the 1850’s he brokered many famous/infamous deals in the Senate. While appeasing the southerners so they would not leave the Union, Douglas partially prevented the expansion of slavery West of the Mississippi, which worked for the northern abolitionists.

  • To what degree was Stephen Douglas successful?
  • Was Douglas a brilliant statesman, or is he a blemish on American History?
  • In 1858 Douglas famously debated Abraham Lincoln. What were the arguments on either side, and who ultimatly won?
  • We still argue about the interpretation of the Constitution today. Does  a strict interpretation of the Constitution, like Douglas’ make sense, why or why not?

Find the answers these questions in the library, using books and our databases (use “Douglas, Stephen Arnold, 1813-1861” as a search term). If you need help, don’t forget to ask a librarian

This post is part of a series related to the One Book, One College selection Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Please attend our first event: an open book discussion, September 5 at noon, in the library.

The Unfinished Civil War: The Upcoming One Book program

We are preparing for the upcoming One Book Program on Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic. Here is a short discussion about the book, upcoming events, and general program themes. You can get more info on the upcoming public events on the Confederates in the Attic Events Page.

Here is the short audio preview:

  • Listen now (flash player required):
  • Visit our event podcast page
  • Listen in iTunes
  • Download the MP3 audio:http://www.morainevalley.edu/library/checkitout/6-1_2012_checkitout.mp3
  • The Copperheads: Political Dissenters or belly-crawling Traitors

    On this day 150 years ago the term Copperheads was first used by the Cincinnati Gazette to describe outspoken members of the Democratic party, who would advocate an end to the Civil War, Confederate secession, and the continuation of Slavery.  Other resources claim other dates for the first use of Copperheads, but the term certainly became popular by the late summer of 1862.

    The copperhead is also the common name for a species of snake.  The pro-Union Republicans at the time thought the analogy appropriate, especially in that the snakes preferred habitat was thought to be low laying swampy areas, and of course the symbolic treachery attached to snakes since the Book of Genesis.

    In Chicago at the time a vicious rivalry ensued between the publishers of the Democratic Chicago Times and the Republican Chicago Tribune.  You can read some of the original articles in the pro-Union, Chicago Tribune historical database.

    Look for more information about the Copperhead Movement in:

    This post is part of a series related to the One Book, One College selection Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Please attend our first event: an open book discussion, September 5 at noon, in the library.

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