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Nearly 150 years ago today

12th April 2010

The Civil War began at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. It was April 12, 1861, and Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter, sparking the infamous “War Between States,” a conflict that would last almost exactly four long, bloody, harrowing years. The Civil War galvanized America’s identity and has shaped our culture and memory. Fordham is publishing several titles on the Civil War and its aftermath this spring–check them out!

Union Combined Operations in the Civil War studies ten cases in which there were combined Army-Navy operations by Union forces. It’s a unique perspective on a subject that’s been both exhaustively studied and written about.

The Doom of Reconstruction: The Liberal Republicans in the Civil War Era is Andrew Slap’s analysis of the 1872 presidential election–an in-depth look at the struggle between Ulysses S. Grant and Horace Greeley for control of the Republican party. Slap posits, however, that the election represented more than this leadership struggle; rather, it shaped the fate of Reconstruction, and hence, the fate of the nation as a whole.

German-Americans typically don’t figure prominently in conversations about the Civil War. However, in Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory Christian B. Keller presents the infamous Battle of Chancellorsville from the German-American perspective, delving into letters, regimental records, memoirs, and German-language newspapers from the period. The book challenges the misunderstood notion that the Union’s defeat in the battle was largely due to German immigrants fleeing the battle scene and examines the long-lasting effects on German-American identity.

The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction as America’s Continuing Civil War examines the monumental impact that the Civil War had on the national political and social landscape, not only during the War, but before and after as well. It dispels the notion that the Civil War ended with General Lee’s surrender and posits that the period known as Reconstruction was just as fraught with racial and political tensions and hatreds as during the War itself.

Freedwomen and the Freedmen’s Bureau: Race, Gender, and Public Policy in the Age of Emancipation examines the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (commonly referred to as the “Freedmen’s Bureau”) and its relationship to women during post-Civil War Reconstruction. The Bureau was created and tasked with helping assimilate former slaves into American daily life–a gargantuan task. However, little has been written about the Bureau’s work in relation to the women it directly affected, a fact which Mary Farmer-Kaiser, the book’s author, believes has done a great disservice to the agency, its legacy, and understanding of American history.

Lastly, no study of the Civil War would be complete without a book about Abraham Lincoln. Harold Holzer’s latest, The Lincoln Assassination: Crime and Punishment, Myth and Memory, examines the infamous presidential assassination and its echoing significance throughout American memory and culture. In addition to detailing the assassination, it follows the resulting search and prosecution of the murder conspirators, events which are much more complex than most realize.