Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Long Recall: An Aggregator of The Civil War

As Walter Russel Mead explains in an essay describing the project, The Long Recall is, for now at least, a blog "present[ing] a daily digest of the news and commentary that an intelligent American might have had accessible 150 years ago."
We will use a modern form to present the daily news: our Civil War aggregator that combines a short daily summary of the news along with links to articles that a well-informed Civil War-era reader would have wanted to read. Our goal is to allow readers today to get a feel for what it was like to experience the conflict in real time, to hear the many voices trying to make sense of the conflict, and to sift through sometimes confused and misleading news accounts to try to discern what was actually taking place.
This is an outstanding project. 150 years ago, Americans were trying to make sense of the reports and rumors of movements toward secession in South Carolina and elsewhere in the south. I spent a good deal of time last evening reading the entries for just the past several days, and the articles linked in those entries. They convey the confusion and uncertainty that people were experiencing. What was going on in the Palmetto State? In Virginia? What did Kentucky think? Would there be some sort of southern convention, and if so what did that portend? Was secession economically feasible? Why had the south failed to develop its own manufactures, and would it be able to do so now? Would there be a peace conference? Should there be? What was Buchanan's position? What about Millard Fillmore? Who was Lincoln? Maybe he was more conservative on slavery than generally assumed?

Wonderful stuff. I'll be reading The Long Recall daily, and I suggest you do so too.

About the illustration, entitled South Carolina's "Ultimatum":
In late December 1860 three commissioners from the newly seceded state of South Carolina met with lame-duck President Buchanan to negotiate for possession of Fort Sumter, a federal installation in Charleston Harbor. Buchanan's attempts to stay the situation and South Carolina governor Francis Pickens's insistence on Union evacuation of the fort are ridiculed here. Pickens (left) holds a lit fuse to a giant Union cannon "Peacemaker," which is pointed at his own abdomen. He threatens, "Mr. President, if you don't surrender that fort at once, I'll be "blowed" if I don't fire." Buchanan (right) throws up his hands in alarm and cries, "Oh don't! Governor Pickens, don't fire! till I get out of office." In the background a steamer makes its way across Charleston Harbor toward Fort Sumter. The print probably appeared early in 1861, amid mounting tensions over the fate of the fort and uneasy relations between Washington and South Carolina.

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