The Witches: Salem, 1692 I know author Stacy Schiff has taken some criticism for her writing style. I am inclined however to give her the benefit of the doubt based upon professional reviews. Salem was on the short list for vacation this year so this is a perfect book to maybe put the area over the top in the next couple years.
The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 A time period I don’t know anywhere near enough about. Having looked through it for quite a while at B&N and based upon the reviews I am very happy to have received it.
Shiloh: Conquer or Perish (Modern War Studies) A recent quick trip to the Shiloh battlefield has led to an interest in this engagement. It looks like there is no better author than Timothy B. Smith (not to be confused with the Tim Smith who is a Gettysburg expert).
While I have been regularly purchasing books as of late I did want to share these couple with you that were sent to me as a review copies. Thank you to the good people at Southern Illinois University Press for sending one and to author David Dixon for sending the other.
In 1820 the Missouri controversy erupted over the issue of slavery in the newly acquired lands of the Louisiana Purchase. It fell to Jesse Burgess Thomas (1777–1853), a junior U.S. senator from the new state of Illinois, to handle the delicate negotiations that led to the Missouri Compromise. Thomas’s maturity, good judgment, and restraint helped pull the country back from the brink of disunion and created a compromise that held for thirty-four years. In Dividing the Union, Matthew W. Hall examines the legal issues underlying the controversy and the legislative history of the Missouri Compromise while focusing on the aspects of Thomas’s life and character that gave him such influence. The first in-depth biography of Thomas, Hall’s work demonstrates how the legislative battle over the Compromise reflected the underlying nuances of the larger struggle over slavery.
The text of the Missouri Compromise originated from the Northwest Ordinance. Article VI of the Ordinance purported to prohibit slavery in the Northwest Territory, but paradoxically, a provision that assured property rights in another article was used to protect slavery. People in some parts of the Northwest sought to circumvent Article VI by formulating indenture laws and various state constitutional provisions addressing slavery. Pro- and antislavery activists eventually developed quite different interpretations of the relevant language in these documents, making negotiations over slavery in the new territory extremely complicated.
As Hall demonstrates, Thomas was perfectly situated geographically, politically, and ideologically to navigate the Missouri controversy. He was the first speaker of the Indiana Territorial General Assembly, one of the first territorial judges in the Illinois Territory, and the president of the Illinois State Constitutional Convention in 1818. Because the drive for statehood in Illinois was strong, the convention managed to skirt the divisive issue of slavery, due in large part to Thomas’s efforts. That he was never required to clearly articulate his own views on slavery allowed Thomas to maintain a degree of neutrality, and his varied political career gave him the experience necessary to craft a compromise.
Thomas’s final version of the Compromise included shrewdly worded ambiguities that supported opposing interests in the matter of slavery. These ambiguities secured the passage of the Compromise and its endurance until the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. By weaving Thomas’s life story into the history of the Missouri Compromise, Hall offers new insight into both a pivotal piece of legislation and an important, previously overlooked figure in nineteenth-century American politics.
Few remember that two famous orators shared the stage with Lincoln at the Gettysburg dedication. The day’s concluding speech remained lost until recently, when an anthropologist stumbled upon it in a cardboard box at a remote ranch in Wyoming. Forgotten too was the incredible true story of its author, Charles Anderson, a slave owner who risked everything to save the Union. We accompany Anderson on his exciting journey through some of the most dramatic events of the Civil War. Born on a Kentucky slave plantation, he struggles to reconcile a morally bankrupt slavery system that yet holds the nation together. Imagine yourself standing in the crowd as Anderson delivers a bold Union speech in San Antonio just weeks after Lincoln’s election. Imprisoned by Confederate officers, he makes a daring escape, and arrives in New York a national hero. Anderson nearly loses his life in the battle of Stones River. He is elected Lieutenant Governor of Ohio on a ticket that defeats exiled Copperhead Democrat Clement Vallandigham. Two years later, Anderson becomes Ohio’s governor. The New York Times called Anderson’s story, “among the most moving and romantic episodes of the war.” This is the inspiring tale of a true patriot. Charles Anderson had the courage to hold steadfast to his convictions, remaining loyal to the Union at a time when nearly all Southerners turned against their country.
Prisoner of war camps are never a pleasant place. Those that Union and Confederate soldiers endured during the Civil War were horrific. Death rates were exceedingly high. This is due to several factors; lack of food, lack of medical care, an uncaring attitude from those in charge, poor hygienic condition and others were most common. Who is to blame for these conditions if often debated with no clear answer ever agreed upon.
When Civil War prisons are thought of I would venture that the name Andersonville would be the most commonly mentioned. While no doubt the most famous, or infamous as the case may be, it was hardly the only one with deplorable conditions. The fact that it held Union prisoners and that its commandant, Henry Wirz, was put to death for his actions, and perhaps the fact that the grounds are still available to visit have led to the prison’s notoriety.
Author Stacy W. Reaves has written a book discussing the memorials and monuments that have been placed around Andersonville. The book is broken into three major themes: the founding of the prison and what it was like, efforts to preserve the land and tell the story of what happened there (of primary importance is the Women’s Relief Corps who at one time owned the majority of the prison property), and finally efforts from various northern states to erect monuments to their lost men.
The majority of the book, approximately 90 pages, deals with individual monuments and the efforts made by various state agencies and groups to have them placed. While the majority of photos are modern there are some excellent photos of veterans gathered at monuments which helps bring a real sense of humanity to the book.
My personal favorite in the book is the Michigan memorial. This monument, which cost approximately $6,000, shows a mourning Columbia bringing a laurel victory wreath to place on the graves of the dead from Michigan. It is a monument that is different from the majority of those seen and it looks to be beautifully carved.
While there are several statements included putting down the southern efforts while failing to acknowledge northern prison problems (page 14) it is important to note the inclusion of information on the Wirz monument. This monument, erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909, is not located within the park service boundaries but rather in the town of Andersonville.
While not a complete look at all monuments this is certainly a book that anybody interested in Andersonville, Civil War prisons, Civil War memory, or cemetery iconography should take a look at. The text is brief, only 139 total pages with plenty of photos, and can be read through in an afternoon.
Thank you to The History Press for sending a complimentary review copy.
Here is the text of the speech given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 8, 1941; the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.