Notions

(I’ve added my handwritten notes from class to these)

  • Different developments in the North and South

The North became increasingly industrialized and found a ready source of inexpensive labor in the swarms of European immigrants, particularly the Irish and Germans who came in large numbers during the potato famine in those countries. The North was more inclined toward having the federal government pay all or part of the costs of internal improvements such as canals, railroads, and lighthouses. North had also much more schools and valued education highly.
The South remained primarily agrarian and its large farms, or plantations, depended predominately on slave labor. It opposed federal money being spent for internal improvements because at the time tariffs were the primary source of federal income. High tariffs protected the industrial goods of the North but not the cotton and tobacco of the South, where the tariffs only raised the cost of imported goods Southerners depended on. In the South were also 7 out of 8 colonial colleges.
The slave-holding states of the South drew closer to each other and farther from their Northern brethren. They feared that if slavery were not permitted to expand into new territories acquired by the United States, the South and its concerns would lose political power in the nation’s capital.

  • Abolitionist movement

The abolitionist movement was the social and political effort to end slavery everywhere. The movement was led by people like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and John Brown. It sought to end the Atlantic slave trade and set slaves free. In the 17th century, enlightenment thinkers condemned slavery on humanistic grounds and English Quakers and some Evangelical denominations condemned slavery as un-Christian. Rationalist thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment criticized slavery for violating natural rights. A member of the British Parliament, James Edward Oglethorpe, was among the first to articulate the Enlightenment case against slavery. Britain banned the importation of African slaves in its colonies in 1807 and banned slavery in the British Empire in 1833. Speeches, newspapers were used to show and tell about the negative sides of slavery. Frederick Douglass was a compelling force in the anti-slavery movement. He developed into a charismatic public speaker and wrote books about slavery.

A collection box for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society
  • Missouri compromise

In the years leading up to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, tensions began to rise between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions within the U.S. Congress and across the country. They reached a boiling point after Missouri’s 1819 request for admission to the Union as a slave state, which threatened to upset the delicate balance between slave states and free states. At the time, the United States contained twenty-two states, evenly divided between slave and free. To keep the peace, Congress orchestrated a two-part compromise, granting Missouri’s request but also admitting Maine as a free state. It also passed an amendment that drew an imaginary line across the former Louisiana Territory, establishing a boundary between free and slave regions that remained the law of the land until it was negated by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Admission of Missouri as a slave state would upset that balance; it would also set a precedent for congressional acquiescence in the expansion of slavery. U.S. senator and statesman William Pinkney was notable for his support of the Missouri Compromise. He held that new states had the same freedom of action as the original thirteen and were thus free to choose slavery if they wished.

Map showin the area of Northern and Southern states
  • Fugitive Slave Act

The Fugitive Slave Acts were a pair of federal laws that allowed for the capture and return of runaway slaves within the territory of the United States. Enacted by Congress in 1793, the first Fugitive Slave Act authorized local governments to seize and return escaped slaves to their owners and imposed penalties on anyone who aided in their flight. Widespread resistance to the 1793 law led to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which added more provisions regarding runaways and levied even harsher punishments for interfering in their capture. The Fugitive Slave Acts were among the most controversial laws of the early 19th century heightened Northern fears of “slave power conspiracy”. The acts got put an end to in 1864.
Interesting fact: if caught the slave could spend up to 6months in prison and granted with 1000$ fine (according to 1850s act).

  • Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad, a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape from the South to the North and to Canada, was not run by any single organization or person. An organized system to assist runaway slaves seems to have begun towards the end of the 18th century. In 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed “The Underground Railroad,” after the then emerging steam railroads. Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition to soliciting money, the organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation. The Underground Railroad had many notable participants, including John Fairfield in Ohio, Levi Coffin, and Harriet Tubman. Former slave and famed writer Frederick Douglass hid fugitives in his home in Rochester, New York, helping 400 escaped slaves make their way to Canada.

Underground railroad map
  • Dred Scott case

Dred Scott decision, formally Dred Scott v. John F.A. Sandford, legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on March 6, 1857, ruled (7–2) that a slave who had resided in a free state and territory (where slavery was prohibited) was not thereby entitled to his freedom; that African Americans were not and could never be citizens of the United States; and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. At the time, the Supreme Court’s majority came from pro-slavery states.
When his current master died in 1846, Scott filed suit on behalf of himself and his wife, also a slave, to gain their freedom. The case was heard by three other courts as it made its way to Washington.
The decision added fuel to the sectional controversy and pushed the country closer to civil war.

Portrait of Dred Scott
  • Formation of Confederacy

The Confederacy, when used within or in reference to North America, generally means the Confederate States of America. It refers to 11 states that renounced their existing agreement with others of the United States in 1860–1861 and attempted to establish a new nation in which the authority of the central government would be strictly limited and the institution of slavery would be protected. Convinced that their way of life, based on slavery, was irretrievably threatened by the election of Pres. Abraham Lincoln the seven states of the Deep South (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas) seceded from the Union during the following months. But it led to being inefficient because it couldn’t raise money.
Secession from the existing Union led to the American Civil War, a bloody, four-year struggle that left much of the South in ashes and ended its hope of creating a new confederacy of states on the North American continent.

  • Causes of the Civil War (1861-1865)

James McPherson writes that, “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.”
 The South was an agricultural region where cotton and tobacco were the main backbone to the region’s economic strength. The local plantation owner was a ‘king’ within his own area and locals would be deferential towards such men. Social advancement was possible but invariably it was done within the senior families of a state, who were the economic, political and legal brokers of their state on behalf of the people in that state. Within this structure was the wealth that these families had accrued. It cannot be denied that a huge part of this wealth came from the fact that the plantation owners oriented the work on their plantations around slave labour. Without slavery, the economic clout of these premier families would have been seriously dented and those they employed and paid – local people who would have recognised how important the local plantation owner was to their own well-being – simply accepted this as ‘how it is’. When the dark clouds of war gathered in 1860-61, many in the South saw their very way of life being threatened. Part of that was slavery but it was not the only part.
The North was almost in complete contrast to the South. In the lead up to April 1861, the North was industrialising at a very fast rate. Entrepreneurs were accepted and, in fact, were seen as being vital to the further industrial development of America. You did not have to stay in your social place and social mobility was common. For example, Samuel Colt was born in Connecticut into a relatively poor background. He had an inauspicious start to his life but ended up a very rich man who left his wife $15 million in his will. Whether he could have done this in the South is a moot topic. It was always possible but most of America’s premier entrepreneurs based themselves in the North where the straitjacket of social class was weaker. Cornelius Vanderbilt is another example.
While the two sides that made up the American Civil War were apart in many areas, it became worse when the perception in the South was that the North would try to impose its values on the South.

  • Developments and outcome of the war

Telegraph
The telegraph was invented by Samuel Morse in 1844. During the war, 15,000 miles of telegraph cable was laid purely for military purposes.
Aerial reconnaissance
Both sides used hot air balloons for aerial reconnaissance of battlefields during the Civil War. A Balloon Corps was established by President Lincoln early on. This allowed Union guns to be repositioned and fired accurately at troops more than three miles away-a first in military history.
Railroads
The Civil War was the first war to use railroads, encouraged by President Lincoln — himself a former railroad lawyer — who understood how vital they were for moving men and supplies. The trains allowed generals to move their soldiers, supplies and armaments to where they were most needed. Rail centers and railroad infrastructure soon became targets for attack.
Army ambulance corps
Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, was responsible for creating the first organized transport of the wounded. They would go into the field, pick up the wounded, deliver them to dressing stations and then to field hospitals.
Naval mines and torpedoes
Naval mines were developed by the Confederates in the hopes of counteracting the Union’s blockades of Southern ports. Mines and later, torpedoes, were very effective sinking 40 Union ships. The success of these mines led to the creation of land mines and grenades that would be used in later wars.

First army ambulance corps during civil war
  • Emancipation Proclamation

When the American Civil War began, President Abraham Lincoln carefully framed the conflict as concerning the preservation of the Union rather than the abolition of slavery. Although he personally found the practice of slavery abhorrent, he knew that neither Northerners nor the residents of the border slave states would support abolition as a war aim. But by mid-1862, as thousands of slaves fled to join the invading Northern armies, Lincoln was convinced that abolition had become a sound military strategy, as well as the morally correct path. On September 22, soon after the Union victory at Antietam, he issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” While the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave, it was an important turning point in the war, up until September 1862, the main focus of the war had been to preserve the Union. With the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation freedom for slaves now became a legitimate war aim.

Visual portrayal

A screenshot from a Vox video (there were no other pictures of the book’s inside)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOkFXPblLpU (4:38)

For this era, I chose the image of a book called “History of Georgia” (1954). I found this picture from a YouTube video and it immediately caught my attention. The book was written by many white supremacists and used for educational studies. If in the notions we talked about anti-slavery movements (including books), then this is a pro-slavery textbook used and read in the South. The textbook tries to ‘rewrite’ Civil War history, by telling that slavery was positive and the South was the superior side of the Civil War. On the slavery topic, it includes sentences like: “The master had a picnic or a barbeque for his slaves; slavery was the earliest form of social security; the slave received the best medical care which the times could offer;” and manifold more shocking parts. For me, this book is an influential discovery for seeing the way Southern views (which are historically wrong) are brainwashed on to students.

Film review

The third film, “Glory”, has surely been the most serious film so far. It sets an excellent example of a movie that takes the basic historical facts and creates a narrative around them to bring recognition to a military unit in a way that is attractive to a mainstream audience. I noticed that the film does a lot of tweaking of the facts, but none of it is egregious.

As for problems, according to a review (1), they (producers) abound throughout the movie such as the profile of the regiment, which is presented primarily as a unit of fugitive slaves. Most of the men were free blacks from Massachusetts. There were no other explicitly free men in “Glory”, while there were three major ex-slave characters. In my eyes, this inaccuracy, which erases the role of free blacks in the north and the struggles they faced, is the one biggest error the film has. I also found that many viewers had problems with Shaw being the main character (a white man). Roger Ebert says in his review (2) that, watching “Glory,” I had one reccurring problem. I didn’t understand why it had to be told so often from the point of view of the 54th’s white commanding officer. Why did we see the black troops through his eyes – instead of seeing him through theirs? To put it another way, why does the top billing in this movie go to a white actor? Another source (3) says that the film should have integrated some primary-source material from an enlisted (black) man’s perspective. Even if this wasn’t possible, a more critical depiction of Shaw’s narrative should be forthcoming. I understand that it would have been more interesting for us, knowing that no black men had been soldiers and wanting to see the film through their eyes. But I don’t find this opinion valid, because the sources from the film were largely taken from the letters of the colonel (Shaw). That’s why he was the lead.

  Moving along to the end of the film. I came across an opinion I’d like to cite (4): The attack on Fort Wagner, which is the climax of the movie, comes as close to anything I’ve ever seen on screen to capturing the chaos and brutality that were particular to the Civil War battles. Weapons maimed as often as they killed. Soldiers were so disciplined that they marched in firm lines into the sights of guns fired at point-blank range. Hand-to-hand combat was commonplace. (3) I think you can not sum up the attack better than this segment does. Everything was very serious and imitating real life one to one. No bad or funny camerawork when a soldier got wounded. The scene was on point- locale and fort were authentic. The only thing to point out from this scene is that for cinematic purposes, the movie starts the charge in the daylight when it actually began after dusk.
In conclusion, the film was definitely historically pretty accurate. If people don’t have anything to say about the accuracy, they’ll start to pick on small eye-catching details. That happened in most of the reviews and made choosing the right opinions more difficult for me.

Bibliography:

  1. Kevin M. Levin, ‘The 54th Massachusetts Regiment in Myth, Memory, and History’ , available at: http://cwmemory.com/2009/10/23/the-54th-massachusetts-regiment-in-myth-memory-and-history-2/, accessed: 19.05.19
  2. Roger Ebert, ‘GLORY’, available at: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/glory-1989, accessed: 19.05.19
  3. Alex Langer, ‘Glory, Film Review by Alex Langer’, available at: https://blogs.mcgill.ca/hist-399-2014/2014/03/20/glory-film-review-by-alex-langer/, accessed: 20.05.19
  4. Vincent Canby, ‘Review/Film; Black Combat Bravery in the Civil War’, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/14/movies/review-film-black-combat-bravery-in-the-civil-war.html, accessed: 19.05.10

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