Society of (Mostly) Civil War Historians Part III

3 07 2008

Continued from here.

Tuesday, the third and final day of the conference, began with Conscription and Consequences.  The panel was chaired by Robert Kenzer of the University of Richmond, who also commented on the papers.  This could have been a subset of the Beleaguered Cincinnatus panel from the day before.  First up was Christine Dee with “Now is a Time when Strange Men and Strange Things are in Vogue”:  The Provost Marshal’s Agents and the Meaning of Local Resistance in Northern Communities.  In this Dee detailed the processes by which communities resisted conscription and the provost marshals’ attempts to enforce it.  Attempts by provost marshals to “embed” themselves in communities were resented by residents, and sometimes violence resulted, prompted by both citizens and the PMs.  Also complicating enforcement were ethnic differences and contested citizenship.  PMs during the war deputized locals and formed paramilitary bands to gather up deserters and evaders, and bounties were awarded.  Even after the war, the PMs continued their activities in communities, not only in collecting deserters and evaders but also others who committed crimes against the military. 

John Sacher’s paper, titled Confederate Substitutes and Principals: A Preliminary Analysis, covered a topic that is rarely discussed, that of the policy of the hiring of substitutes by men (principals) drafted into the Confederate army.  While the policy was outlawed and all principals were subsequently ordered into the army, Sacher argues that the use of compliance of principals with the order as a sign of Confederate loyalty is a slim reed.  Rockingham County, VA is the focus of Sacher’s study.  (An interesting tidbit – at one point newspapers encouraged women to mail petticoats to principals.)

The 10:30 session was to be chaired by Ethan Rafuse, whose misadventures resulting in his inability to attend can be found here.  Susannah Bruce, who was to comment, took on the additional duty of chairing The Influence of Military Operations on Politics and Policy in the Trans-Mississippi.  I took more notes during this session than in any other, perhaps because it dealt with the Trans-Miss theatre, with which I am least familiar.  Fellow blogger Drew Wagenhoffer would have been in heaven, I think.  Terry Beckenbaugh started things off with The Economics of Race: Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis’ Policies toward African-Americans and Native Americans in the Trans-Mississippi, 1862-1864.  Perhaps best known for his victory at Pea Ridge, Curtis was a Whig turned Republican who repudiated racial equality while at the same time believing that a person could not be property.  As his Army of the Southwest marched through Arkansas (cutting his supply line and living off the land well before the idea occurred to the likes of Grant and Sherman), Curtis freed slaves and gave them confiscated cotton, thus vesting their interest in Union victory.  Curtis believed that the possibility of being accused of inciting servile insurrection was worth the risk if his actions damaged the enemy.  Later, Curtis’ treatment of the Indians when he moved further west was very severe, giving John Chivington justification for the Sand Creek Massacre when he said there could be “no peace until the Indians suffer more”.  While contrabands were working toward the same end as Curtis – Union victory – the Indians were not; they were in the way.

Jeff Prushankin’s paper, Politics as War by Other Means: The Gray-Lewis Louisiana Congressional Campaign of 1864, examined yet another little discussed topic – the effect of the conduct of the war on political elections in the Confederacy.  The war didn’t last long enough for the effect to be realized on a national level, but the Gray-Lewis campaigns illustrate how it manifested on a smaller scale.  There was a good deal of conflict between Richard Taylor’s command in Louisiana and that of Edmund Kirby Smith’s in Arkansas – it would seem that Smith was behaving somewhat selfishly (I don’t know much about it, but imagine you can find out more in Jeff’s fine book which I have yet to read).  Orders were given and disobeyed, reenforcements withheld, arrests made.  Taking advantage of this Crisis in Confederate Command was Union general Nathaniel Banks.  It was no surprise that the Confederate public took sides with Taylor or Smith.  Two candidates for a vacant congressional seat emerged, with one being perceived to support Taylor (Henry Gray) and one Smith (John Langdon, though his camp denied any ties to Smith).  The election turned into a referendum on Smith and Taylor, with the Taylor candidate (Gray) winning.  Gray went to Richmond and presented evidence tying Smith to the illegal cotton trade, and the tide of public opinion turned decidedly against Smith across the Confederacy.

In Pressured on Every Side: Conflicts between Military and Civilian Priorities planning the Camden Expedition of 1864, Alfred Wallace (yet another Penn Stater) looked at the conciliatory policy practiced in Arkansas by Frederick Steele.  Steele encouraged his troops to fraternize with the residents of Little Rock, where in 1863 there seemed to be a significant Union sentiment.  While the ranks seemed to support Steele, his cavalry commander, Davidson, angry that Steele was breaking down his horses in frivolous races, claimed his conciliatory policy was folly and that only long-hidden Unionists were taking the loyalty oath.  The rumor soon spread that Daniel Sickles was headed to Arkansas to displace Steele.  While that didn’t come about, General James Blunt arrived in Fort Smith, found conditions unfavorable and began lobbying for Steele’s job.  All of these factors affected planning for the upcoming Camden Expedition.  Wallace seemed to feel much of the criticism of Steele was warranted.

 I went once again to McGillan’s for lunch, alone this time as Dana had left that morning and Tom and Angela were visiting Independence Hall.  After lunch I hit the book vendors once again, making four purchases at a hefty discount – it seems the booksellers were very anxious to move product as the conference came to a close.

For the final, 2:30 session of the conference I chose Gearing Up for the Civil War Centennial in the High School Classroom, chaired by Andrew Slap with coments by Ronald Maggiano of West Springfield High School in Virginia.  This panel was organized by fellow blogger Kevin Levin, which makes this summary easy: his presentation is posted by him here, and he briefly recapped the conference here.  I’ll let Kevin speak for himself, and just add that his paper, Using Ken Burns’s The Civil War in the Classroom, was superbly delivered and well received.  James Percoco, whose book Summers with Lincoln I had just purchased upstairs, was next with Monumental Memories of the Sixteenth President.  His PowerPoint slide presentation was an encapsulation of his book: Percoco uses the stories of seven important sculptures to tell the larger tale of Lincoln, the Civil War, and emancipation.  After the session was over Mr. Percoco was kind enough to sign my copy of his book.

Afterwards I went out into the hallway and said my goodbyes.  I made sure to again thank Carol Reardon to hepping me to the shindig - I was really glad I went.  I took a quick circuit around the first and second floors one more time to get a last look at the fine artwork (I’ll talk about that and more in Part IV).  Just before leaving, I was checking out a plaque memorializing the nine regiments raised by the Union League during the war.  Kevin Levin crept up behind and whispered “Take a long look Harry; it’s probably the last time they’ll let us in this place.”  For the most part, he’s probably right, but the League is absorbing the old Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum collection into its own impressive holdings and will house the whole thing in their building, which will be accessible by the public.

I walked to meet my ride to the airport at The Locust Bar at 9th & Locust, had a couple of cold ones, and was off to catch my 8:00 PM flight for Pittsburgh.  It was a nice surprise to see Lesley Gordon sitting in the seat behind me, though that arrangement wasn’t conducive to much conversation.

All in all the Society of Civil War Historians first conference appeared to me a success, and I think I’ll keep my membership active with the intent to attend the 2010 conference in Richmond.  I hope to see many of you there.

Part I

Part II 

Part IV

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9 responses

3 07 2008
Society of (Mostly) Civil War Historians Part II « Bull Runnings

[...] Society of (Mostly) Civil War Historians Part III « Bull Runnings said this on July 3, 2008 at 9:32 pm [...]

3 07 2008
3 07 2008
Drew W.

Harry,
Indeed I would have been. Thanks for the summaries!

Drew

4 07 2008
Mike Peters

Harry,

Which books did you bring home with you?

Mike

5 07 2008
Kevin Levin

Harry, — It was great meeting you, though I am sorry that we didn’t have more time to chat. Thanks also for making my session, which I also thought went quite well.

6 07 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Drew,

You’d a dug it the most.

Mike,

I got Percoco’s “Summers with Lincoln”, Reed’s book on Shiloh, McDonough’s Nashville book and the “Madness of Mary Lincoln”.

Kevin,

Maybe next time we can talk some more. Come to Sharpsburg for Heritage Days (9/13-14) and we can pose with Mannie at the cannon.

4 08 2008
Frederick, Maryland « Bull Runnings

[...] the Society of Civil War Historians conference in Philadelphia (read about that here, here, and here).  Prior to the conference I spent some time in Frederick, and made a few quick Civil War related [...]

5 08 2008
Frederick, MD « Bull Runnings

[...] the Society of Civil War Historians conference in Philadelphia (read about that here, here, and here).  Prior to the conference I spent some time in Frederick, and made a few Civil War related [...]

22 08 2008

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