The Civil War: The First Year, 1861 (2011)

20 Sept.

Overview: The Civil War

Putting this series in context, we start with an overview of the war, from its causes through its conduct (on the battle field, in the factories and homes, and in the chanceries of Europe) to the ending in Reconstruction and the southern white insurgency (KKK). We will sketch out the planned course of topics for 2012 (1862)-2015 (1865).

27 Sept.

The Causes of the Civil War

Today, southerners claim the war was about “rights” in the abstract.  Scholars reject this “harmony history” and insist that slavery – the right to buy, own, sell, and destroy humans as property – was the cause. We will also explain why the south was so unwilling to even consider giving up slavery.

4 Oct.

Secession: Constitutional Conflicts, Politics, and South Carolina

The constitutional debates by the people, the politicians and the lawyers, that precede the war are fascinating. Constitutional understanding constrained and formed both Calhoun’s arguments for secession, and the opposition . We will briefly comment on the current claims that states can secede from the Union.

11 Oct/

What Was This War All About?

Goals, objectives, and strategy shaped the military and diplomatic battlefields. Understanding logistics and transport constraints, we predict the goals of campaigns and the sites for battles. Armies consume great masses of food and materiel and move on a sea of paperwork, making the Quartermasters and Adjutants vital to the war – happily they are interesting too.

18 Oct.

Raising the Armies of Volunteers

America’s military tradition of the citizen soldier produced armies of untrained volunteers resistant to discipline. As their motives for joining shifted, conscription was introduced to “encourage” volunteering. Regiments and companies were considered to be representing the home community in arms. We will examine the first blows of the war at Wilson’s Creek and First Bull Run.

25 Oct.

Lincoln, Davis, Their Generals, and Their Cabinet Secretaries

The contentions of the generals were almost as bad as the competitive Cabinet snake-pits. We will compare Lincoln and Davis like as presidents and as commanders-in-chief. What were their leading men like? Was McClellan lacking in backbone? Did John C. Fremont think? Why did Lee command South Carolina’s sea coast defenses in 1861? How odd was Braxton Bragg?