Category Archives: Civil War

LMU will host fourth “War in the Mountains” symposium

Lincoln Memorial University and the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum will host the fourth “War in the Mountains” symposium April 17-18 as part of the ongoing commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  This event is free, but registration is required by April 9 due to limited seating.

The theme for this year’s symposium is “Religion, Death, Martyrdom, and the Civil War.”

  • Warren Greer, Director of of the Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail: “Action and Reaction: How Enlightenment Ideals Influenced
    American Religion from the Great Awakening through the
    Civil War”
  • Dr. Michael Toomey, Associate Professor of History at Lincoln Memorial University: “Under Fire: Lincoln’s Religion and the Civil War”
  • Dr. Earl Hess, Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History, Lincoln Memorial University: “Arguing Over the Civil War Death Toll: Does it Really Matter?”
  • Dr. George Rable, Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History, University of Alabama: “God as General: Was There a Religious History of the American Civil War?”

This event also features a Q&A session, tours of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum vault, and a book signing by the speakers.  The sessions will be held in LMU’s Hamilton Math & Science Building, Room 100.

To register or for more information, call the museum at (423) 869-6235 or e-mail Carol Campbell at carol.campbell@lmunet.edu.  The first 150 registrants will receive a free gift.

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Chris DeRose on Lincoln and his predecessors

In The Presidents’ War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them, Chris DeRose examines how Lincoln’s predecessors reacted to the secession crisis.  Roll Call recently featured a very favorable review of the book:

These men had some triumphs. Van Buren built a national party, Tyler annexed Texas, Fillmore steered the Compromise of 1850 to passage — successes that yielded mixed results and sometimes violent reactions.
But they were, for the most part, frittering around the edges of an impending national catastrophe, not because they couldn’t see it, but because they could. Rather than confront it, they chose to trim, or avert their gaze.
The story of the six presidents really begins when the sixth arrives in the capital to confront a task “greater than that which rested upon Washington.”
And it is here where DeRose’s well-seeded narrative bears fruit. For we now know these men, from their deeds and words — and when they challenge Lincoln’s policies, their narrow interests and lack of vision quickly become obvious.
They deride Lincoln as a sectional man, but he is the only one among them who seems to understand the nation they have all governed.
Hidebound by pieties of the past, none can fully see their way clear to the new birth of freedom Lincoln promises, not just for enslaved blacks, but for the entire United States and all of humanity.
“The former presidents were living in a world they did not recognize,” DeRose writes.

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Inventor president

At Slate.com, Jacopo della Quercia examines Lincoln’s fascination with technology:

As a wartime president, Abraham Lincoln quickly found himself in a unique position to oversee and approve some of the latest developments for the U.S. military. Lincoln welcomed inventors to the White House, personally tested some of the new rifles being developed, and presided over a technological boom that flooded the U.S. Patent Office with thousands of new inventions. Among these were the Gatling gun, repeating rifles, and, perhaps most revolutionary of all, a remarkable, iron-hulled warship that, much like Jules Verne’s Nautilus, was “a masterpiece containing masterpieces.”

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ALLM curator on the new Ford’s Theatre exhibit

As we’ve mentioned before, LMU’s Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum has put together a special exhibit on technology in the Civil War at the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington, D.C.  This exhibition will remain open through July 6, 2014.

We asked Steven Wilson, ALLM’s curator and assistant director, a few questions about the exhibit.

How did the idea of setting up a temporary exhibit at Ford’s Theatre come about, and why did you pick technology in the Civil War as a topic?

The Ford’s Theatre Society saw images of the exhibit on the museum web site. They thought it would make an ideal subject for a temporary exhibit.

How do you go about selecting artifacts and images for an exhibit like this?

We based our selection of images and artifacts on what we had available in the collection, the story we felt necessary to tell, and what we could borrow from other sites. The story changed somewhat as we modified our approach. The theme never changed—how technology changed the process of war.

What will visitors see?  Did you use any objects from other collections?

We expect visitors to see the transformation in America based on the advancement and refinement of machinery. Our purpose was not to provide them with an in-depth view of technology, but rather a headline news approach. From that they can conduct their own examination of the subject. In order to get a clear and at least relatively straightforward view, we felt it was necessary to have some key artifacts in the exhibit. We approached the National Firearms Museum, the Kentucky History Museum, the Tennessee State Museum, the Ohio River Museum, and the Southern Museum for Civil War and Locomotive History. The items we borrowed, such as a lever-action Henry rifle, a model of a steamboat, and the components of a telegraph, provided us with a look into various elements of the subject. Any exhibit is a cooperative adventure and will only succeed with generous partners.

In your opinion, what was the most significant technology to come into use during the Civil War? 

USS Monitor’s turret, photographed after the battle with the CSS Virginia. United States Naval History & Heritage Command, Photo #: NH 61923

In my opinion, ironclad warships changed the course of warfare forever. A good argument could be made for balloons, the telegraph, railroads or other innovations, but the battle between the Virginia and the Monitor changed the course of war at sea in a matter of hours. There were ironclads before the Civil War, but they were traditional ships covered with armor. Monitor and Virginia, despite their limitations, shattered the notion that wooden warships ruled the waves.

How decisive was the Union’s industrial edge in terms of the war’s outcome?

Gallantry,  loyalty, honor, and courage are words often, rightly or wrongly, associated with war. It’s difficult to generate patriotic fervor in the heat of smelted metal, standing downwind from a phalanx of belching smokestacks, or in a factory floor surrounded by rows of clanking machines. But it is equally war. The South had approximately 100,000 factory workers, while the North had 100,000 factories. It was like an industrial avalanche scouring chivalry from Southern lands. To quote Rhett Butler, the South has nothing but “cotton and arrogance.” A little harsh, perhaps, but one must remember that the Civil War was the first war of machines in a land of machines.

Is it accurate to call the Civil War a modern war?

The Civil War is certainly the first modern war, and its placement in history almost ensures it would have been. Machines had been cultivated to serve their masters, and many nations, embracing the potential of industry, committed themselves to the modern art of manufacturing. Look at what came as a result of impending war, or war itself. The Colt revolver, telegraph, ironclad, balloon, revolving turret, Spencer rifle, Henry rifle, Gatling gun, torpedoes, landmines, rifled cannons, submersibles, self-contained ammunition, and thousands of inventions that ranged from the ridiculous to the nonsensical.  There was an Industrial Revolution, and while no government fell directly from its emergence, it destroyed the status quo, reshaped society, and increased the capability of soldiers to kill one another.

What was Lincoln’s relationship with military technology as commander-in-chief?  How active was he in the implementation of new tools to wage the war?

Abraham Lincoln was born with a quiet, natural curiosity. He was drawn to learn how things worked, and his strong methodical mind led him, as he said, “to get to the nub of the problem.” He was an inventor, although he might be classified more as a tinkerer, and it was reported that during travels on the circuit Lincoln would stop and examine farm machinery so that he had an understanding of how it worked. When President Lincoln read of, or saw, or was presented with machines that might reduce death on the battlefield, give the Union an advantage, it simply fascinated him, and he expected his generals to share his enthusiasm. Mostly, generals did not. Lincoln felt the Spencer repeating rifle had possibilities, and said so. He pushed the acceptance of the Monitor when his naval advisors thought the despicable thing nothing more than unholy. He would have climbed into Professor Lowe’s balloon for a bird’s eye-view of the countryside, but the aghast Stanton forbade it. Here is why Lincoln’s approach is important: his goal was to win the war and unite the nation.  He was not deterred by the super-heated enthusiasm of inventors, or the outrage of Ordnance Department officers. He wanted in his hand a device to stop the killing. A lightning bolt would do, but Lincoln would settle for a new repeating rifle.

Any plans to have the exhibit travel elsewhere after it closes at Ford’s?

We’ll have the graphics available for a traveling exhibit late this year.

Finally, what’s your favorite artifact in the exhibit?

My favorite artifact in the exhibit is the model of the U.S.S. Monitor made by that ship’s crew and given to their captain, John Worden. Not only is it a remarkable historical artifact, it’s a token of the crew’s respect for their captain.

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Ford’s Theatre will host new exhibit from LMU’s Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum (ALLM) will display a new exhibit “Abraham Lincoln and the Technology of War” at the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington, D.C. Curated by Steven Wilson, ALLM curator and assistant director, the exhibit investigates the significance of inventions and new machines in the Civil War.

Included in the exhibit are artifacts from the B&O Railroad Museum, the Kentucky Military History Museum, the National Firearms Museum, the Center for Northern Indiana History, the Tennessee State Museum and the Vicksburg National Military Park-U.S.S. Cairo. Some rare items from the collection of the ALLM are a Greene bolt-action breech-loading rifle, Captain John Worden’s speaking trumpet and a collection of carte de visite photographs.

“Abraham Lincoln and the Technology of War” will open to the public on February 14, 2014.  The exhibit will remain on display through July 6, 2014. Admission is included with regular daytime visit tickets to Ford’s Theatre, which is free but requires timed entry tickets. Tickets may be reserved in person at Ford’s Theatre Box Office, through Ticketmaster at 800.982.2787, or online at http://www.fords.org.

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Lincoln and the Founders’ “new nation”

By Michael Lynch

I didn’t really start taking the Gettysburg Address seriously until one day when I was in grad school, trying to figure out how to finish a paper while eating a roast beef sandwich.  I was enrolled in a seminar on the early national period, and my professor had told us to write an essay answering the following question: Who was more prescient, Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson?  Of these two men who had very different visions of what America should be, which one saw the country’s future direction more clearly?

My instinct was to go with Hamilton.  In terms of policy, he was probably the most forward-looking of all the Founders, envisioning a United States with a vigorous, centralized government and a modern, diversified economy.  The overall course of American history has been in this direction, especially since the late nineteenth century.

At the same time, in terms of ideology and values—what Americans have believed about themselves and their country, and what they have wanted to believe about their role in the world—Jefferson casts a long shadow.  If the overall trend of the operation of government and economics has been Hamiltonian, Jefferson’s ideals have been the ones espoused most frequently.  In fact, it’s in terms of equality that Hamilton and the other Federalists look most antiquated, committed as they were to older ideas about elitism and deference.  “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed,” according to G.K. Chesterton.  “That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in The Declaration of Independence….It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just.”

A rare photograph of Lincoln at the Gettysburg dedication ceremony on Nov. 19, 1863. (Wikimedia Commons)

I knew that I’d probably end up hedging a little, noting that while Hamilton was more prescient in terms of the way America has operated, Jefferson was more influential in terms of Americans’ self-definition.  But that answer seemed a little wishy-washy.  I wanted to come up with some sort of definitive answer.

So I was sitting at an Arby’s restaurant, trying to knock out an outline for the paper while getting a bite to eat, when I figured out how to give both Hamilton and Jefferson their due.  Neither man was totally correct.  It was Abraham Lincoln who understood America most clearly, because at Gettysburg he reconciled these two different visions of the nation so that each one supported the other.  Lincoln oversaw a Hamiltonian war—a war of national consolidation, and a war that would result in a more commercial nation with a more vigorous central government—but he did it to achieve Jeffersonian ends.  Indeed, he did it while invoking Jefferson, chapter and verse.

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln tied the birth of America to the promise of liberty and Jefferson’s 1776 “proposition” that all men are created equal.  “The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society,” he had claimed shortly before his presidency.  Lincoln praised Jefferson because his Declaration of Independence did not merely justify the Revolution.  Jefferson had used that document to set down “an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.”

In 1863, the American experiment to work out this “abstract truth”—an experiment only “four score and seven years” old—would either survive and vindicate government of the people, or it would collapse and call the whole enterprise of popular government into question.  If a minority could dissolve the Union due to the outcome of an election, democracy by majority rule was unworkable.  To Lincoln, secession was therefore an existential threat to democratic government itself.  The stakes in the Civil War were breathtakingly high.  The survival of popular government was what the men buried at Gettysburg had given “the last full measure of devotion” to defend.

Lincoln thus believed that the Hamiltonian tools of a consolidated Union and an active national government were necessary to secure the Jeffersonian principles of liberty and equality.  These tools would also be the means to extend these Jeffersonian ideals to the enslaved.  The war would not only secure what the Founders had gained, but finish what they had left undone by resolving the great American contradiction of slavery in a nation dedicated to freedom.

Rather than merely dedicating a cemetery, Lincoln explained the meaning of America, defined the purpose of the war, paid tribute to the dead, exhorted his audience to continue their struggle on behalf of freedom, and reconciled the two seemingly contradictory American impulses of Union and liberty.  And he did it in less than three hundred words.

—Michael Lynch graduated from LMU with a degree in history, worked at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum as an assistant curator, and now teaches survey-level history courses on campus. He holds an M.A. in history from the University of Tennessee and blogs about historical topics at pastinthepresent.wordpress.com.

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Presentation on Civil War prison camps at LMU

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum (ALLM) on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) in Harrogate, Tenn., will host speaker Tom Daily, director of the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Civil War Monument on Saturday, October 19, at 2 p.m. The talk is entitled “Prison Camps of the War, North and South,” and is free and open to the public.

Daily’s talk is part of a program sponsored by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), which is holding its annual Congress at the ALLM this weekend. MOLLUS is a patriotic order founded the day after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 to demonstrate loyalty during a time when many rumors concerning the potential overthrow of the American government were rampant. Current members of the association include descendants of Civil War officers.

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is located on the historic campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Housing one of the top five Lincoln and Civil War private collections in the world, the Museum is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about this and other programs at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, call 423-869-6235.

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