The American Civil War Collection


‘The Corrupt and Imbecile Administration’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The March release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes speeches delivered in a Massachusetts church exalting the nation, in the Tennessee House of Representatives describing a conspiracy that divided the country, and in the U.S. Senate asking a fundamental question of the country’s citizenry.


De Profundis Clamavi: The Cause, the Crime, and the Cure of our National Suicide (1861)

By Daniel Steele

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On September 26, 1861, five months after the Civil War began, Pastor Daniel Steele (1824-1914) gave a sermon celebrating nationalism.

Nationality magnifies and exalts the insignificant individual, crowns him with dignity and honor, throws an arm of protecting power about him, and holds a broad shield over his defenseless head.

Steele then presents the first of several comparisons he uses to illustrate American superiority.

‘The Corrupt and Imbecile Administration’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘Void of Sincerity’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The February release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes three congressional speeches from 1862 in support of legislation that would allow the confiscation of rebel property and the emancipation of their slaves.


The Constitutionality and Expediency of Confiscation Vindicated

Speech of Hon. Lyman Trumbull of Illinois

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Lyman Trumbull (1813-1896) served as the Illinois Secretary of State, sat on the bench of the Illinois Supreme Court, was elected to the U.S. Senate, and co-wrote the Thirteenth Amendment.

On April 7, 1862, Trumbull offered two minor amendments to a “bill to confiscate the property and free the slaves of rebels” before directing his attention to the opposition’s attacks on the bill.

‘Void of Sincerity’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘Anarchy to be followed by Despotism’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The January release of The American Civil Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a trove of reflections on the Civil War and its aftermath. Also found in this release is the influential ten-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln co-written by his two personal secretaries during the Civil War.


Memoirs of General William T. Sherman (1875)

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Whether celebrated for his role in the Vicksburg and Chattanooga Campaigns or criticized for his scorched-earth policy through Georgia and South Carolina, William Tecumseh Sherman (1821-1891) offers essential, firsthand perspective on the American Civil War.

Sherman disputes the conventional wisdom on the Battle of Shiloh, writing:

General Grant did not make an official report of the battle of Shiloh, but all its incidents and events were covered by the reports of division commanders and subordinates. Probably no single battle of the war gave rise to such wild and damaging reports. It was publicly asserted at the North that our army was taken completely by surprise; that the rebels caught us in our tents; bayoneted the men in their beds; that General Grant was drunk; that Buell’s opportune arrival save the Army of the Tennessee from utter annihilation, etc. 

‘Anarchy to be followed by Despotism’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘The Small Cloud of Evil’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The December release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an array of primary source material. These valuable items range from shorter imprints, such as sermons delivered during the war, to lengthier political histories and biographies published years later.


Our Duty Under Reverse: A Sermon (1861)

By John Fothergill Waterhouse Ware

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One week after the First Battle of Bull Run, Unitarian clergyman John Fothergill Waterhouse Ware (1818-1881) delivered this sermon in the Boston church of “Cambridgeport Parish.” He begins by acknowledging the favor Providence has shown the country, and then addresses the nation’s failure to live up to the duties accompanying that blessing. He identifies the fault that led to the country’s current conflict.

‘The Small Cloud of Evil’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘The Right of Revolution Is an Enemy to All Government’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The November release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a speech on the limitations of citizens to change the federal government, a defense of pacifism, and an abolitionist’s autobiography.


 

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The Rebellion Cannot Abate the State Governments (1862)

Speech of Hon. A.G. Riddle, of Ohio, in the House of Representatives, May 20, 1862

Mr. Speaker, in the wide sea and chaos of blood, tears, and convulsion, the bare, barren, dry land begins to loom up, and the great end to appear. Soon the patient statistician will gather up his facts, and by his tables will show us the exact thousands of lives squandered in this wide waste, and the innumerable millions of substance consumed in the great conflagration. The curious and industrious annalist will swell his huge volumes of the amazing incidents whose frequent recurrence has robbed us of the power of being astonished even. The moralist will go forth in melancholy to mourn the wide-spread licentiousness and demoralization growing out of this huge war, whose irradicable ulcers shall be the last to cicatrize.

‘The Right of Revolution Is an Enemy to All Government’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘All the Hypocritical and Lying Tactics’: Highlights from the American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The October release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes speeches and published works taking partisan positions such as on enrolling slaves in service of the Union, the prosecution of the war, and more.  


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Emancipation and Enrollment of Slaves in the Service of the United States (1862)

Speech of Hon. Charles B. Sedgwick, of New York

Charles Baldwin Sedgwick (1815-1883) practiced law in Syracuse, New York, before being elected to the House of Representatives, serving in the 36th and 37th Congresses. On May 23, 1862, Sedgwick spoke in favor of allowing the enlistment of slaves and offering freedom to those who did so. He began by reading an amendment to a bill introduced by the select committee.

And whereas the several States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, and Arkansas, wickedly and unlawfully combining under the title of the Confederate States of America, have, together, made war upon and rebelled against the Government of the United States, and continue in such state of war and rebellion.

After reading the amendment in full, Sedgwick paraphrases key pieces.

‘All the Hypocritical and Lying Tactics’: Highlights from the American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Un-Compromising: Sovereignty and Slavery Sow the Seeds of Rebellion in 1850s Kansas

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If the present state of political discourse calls to mind the analogy of blood sport, spare a thought for “Bleeding Kansas,” that period from 1854-1861 when pro- and anti-slavery forces faced off in a violent prelude to the U.S. Civil War.

In Readex’s digital edition of the Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953, the politics of division becomes personal through handwritten accounts such as the following letter from Kansas Deputy Marshal William J. Preston to Governor John W. Geary, written on October 12, 1856. Preston described a party of approximately 240 “immigrants” who were stopped by federal troops near the Kansas-Nebraska border:

There was nothing in the appearance of this party indicating that they were peaceable immigrants. They had no stock of any kind, except those of draught. There were only seven families among them, with no visible furniture, agricultural implements, or mechanical tools, but on the contrary, they were amply supplied with all the requisite articles for camping and campaigning purposes. These were seen protruding from their vehicles.

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Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke gave Deputy Marshall Preston an exact reckoning of the baggage of these “peaceable immigrants:”

Un-Compromising: Sovereignty and Slavery Sow the Seeds of Rebellion in 1850s Kansas

‘I Have Nothing To Be Ashamed Of’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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Personal narratives digitized for the September release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, include a compelling example of mendicant literature by a disabled veteran, the Confederate Army adventures of a male impersonator, and the sensitive reminiscences of a Union captain.


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The Empty Sleeve, or the Life and Hardships of Henry H. Meacham in the Union Army. By Himself (1865)

At the breaking out of the great Rebellion, I was engaged at carriage-making in the Town of Russell, in Massachusetts, but thought it my duty to enter the service in defense of my country and do what little I could to keep traitors from trampling the good old flag under their feet.

Henry Meacham, twice rejected for poor health, was finally accepted and “placed in Company E, Thirty-Second Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, who were at that time lying at Culpeper, Virginia.” He finds quickly that military life is more difficult than he had imagined; marching for twenty-three hours in a day, experiencing the Battle of Rappahannock Station, and lacking adequate rations. Of the last he writes:

‘I Have Nothing To Be Ashamed Of’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘I Am by Nature, Education, and Religion a Yankee-Hater’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The August release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes a pictorial of a dramatic naval engagement, an argument against an eventual reconciliation between the North and South, and the memorial of General Francis C. Barlow.


 

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The Privateer’s Fate (1861)

The first and last cruise of the pirate, or privateer, Petrol is recorded in this series of sketches. This recording suggests the Petrol mistook the USS St. Lawrence for a merchant ship and was sunk after a failed attack.

Other accounts of this naval encounter tell of the Petrel, sailing under the British colors, being pursued for several hours before being overhauled by the St. Lawrence. The Petrel then ran up the Confederate colors and after an exchange of fire was hit in the bow and sunk. Thirty-eight sailors were rescued and transported north aboard the USS Flag. Although the present account depicts a rescue there is no reference to the Flag; instead it tells of a more immediate judgment passed against the rescued sailors—as seen in the uppermost image.  

 

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‘I Am by Nature, Education, and Religion a Yankee-Hater’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘Those nutmeg-selling, mackerel-catching, cod-livered Yankees’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The July release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922 includes these three quite different accounts of the war—all from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society.


The Heroes of the War for the Union and Their Achievements (1864)

By the Rev. P.V. Ferree, M.D., of the Ohio Conference of the M.E. Church

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Rev. P.V. Ferree originally intended his work to be the first volume of a series telling the

“…complete history of the Great Rebellion, consisting of biographical sketches of officers and statesmen; pictures of great battles, sieges, desperate charges, and skirmishes; personal encounters and daring; thrilling incidents; with all else of interest connected with the national struggle for existence”

Ferree begins the endeavor with a description of the political environment prior to the war.

‘Those nutmeg-selling, mackerel-catching, cod-livered Yankees’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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