On the night of March 5th, 2014, a crowd of Gettysburgians and devoted fans filtered into a small auditorium to hear Dr. Allen C. Guelzo who was giving his final lecture in his Abraham Lincoln lecture series, a four-part analysis about the president’s rise to power to his death. The fourth and final lecture focused on President Lincoln’s triumphs in his presidency and many of the challenges he overcame in the last two years of his life. Dr. Guelzo began with talking about the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and its reception in the Union and in the Confederacy. Lincoln received angry and confused questions about why the war should be fought for slave freedom rather than just the country’s reunion. Also, the Proclamation’s wider acceptance was hindered by the string of Union military failures that seemed to plague the eastern Army of the Potomac: George McClellan’s failure to pursue Lee’s Army of the Northern Virginia after the tactical draw at Antietam in September 1862, Ambrose Burnside’s major blunder at Fredericksburg in December 1862, and Joseph Hooker’s large failure at the hands of Lee at Chancellorsville in May 1863.
Many historians who study the United States share a passion for studying Abraham Lincoln’s intricacies and complexities. One of those historians is none other than Dr. Allen Guelzo. Dr. Guelzo has given many lectures on Lincoln, the most noteworthy of which is his four-part lecture series on the President’s life. On January 28, 2014, Dr. Guelzo presented a lecture in Gettysburg College’s Kline Theatre called “Lincoln: The Uncertain President”. The lecture was primarily focused on Lincoln’s rise to power, starting with his debates with Stephen Douglas to the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. Guelzo’s main theme throughout the lecture was showing how Lincoln, during the early years of the Civil War, was confronted with a situation that no president had ever dealt with before. Lincoln was new to the presidency and a war of secession was new to the country.
What was the Civil War fought for? Dr. Allen Guelzo, in part four of the four-part lecture series A Walk through the Civil War, set out to resolve this question. The final lecture, titled “The Curtain Falls,” was held Wednesday, March 20 in Gettysburg College’s Kline Theater.
???Liberty and Union???: November 14, 2012 Reviewed by Alex Barlowe, ’14 On Wednesday, November 14th, in the Kline Theatre of Gettysburg College, Professor Allen Guelzo delivered his lecture, ???Liberty and Union???, as the second of his four part series …
by Emily Weinick, ’13 On October 17th in Kline Theater, Dr. Allen C. Guelzo delivered ???The Coming of the War???, the first lecture in his four part series entitled ???A Walk Through the Civil War???. Dr. Guelzo guided the audience through the sequence o…
On October 17th in Kline Theater, Dr. Allen C. Guelzo delivered “The Coming of the War”, the first lecture in his four part series entitled “A Walk Through the Civil War”. Dr. Guelzo guided the audience through the sequence of events leading up to the Civil War. He told the story of the Industrial Revolution, slavery, territorial expansionism, political turmoil, and secession. He absolutely captivated the audience with his spellbinding speaking.
Guelzo began his lecture at the turn of the nineteenth century by describing how the invention of steam-powered machines made the world a smaller place. In 1775, farmers ate what they grew, made their own clothes, and were unaware of the world outside of their farms and communities. However, by the 1780s, the Industrial Revolution began to replace human and animal power with steam powered machines. The steam engine promoted a globalized market, encouraging entrepreneurs to pursue business ventures. Thomas Jefferson initially resisted this new economic world. However, as Guelzo went on to say, Jefferson quickly changed his view on Industrialization with the invention of a machine that would change American industry: the cotton gin.
The invention of the cotton gin went hand-in-hand with the resurgence of slavery in America. In nineteenth century America there was plenty of work and not enough hands to do it. Slavery was a quick fix to the problem. But, as Guelzo pointed out, slavery was an expensive proposition and paradoxical for many Northerners. Those who did not have the land or funds to support a host of slaves could not rely on slave labor and the institution of slavery smacked hard against the ideals of the Revolutionary War – independence from the tyranny of others. Many thought slavery would disappear as the land was becoming over tilled: large slave states like Virginia even saw a reduction in slaves. But, as Dr. Guelzo reminded us, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. With Southern soil supporting the growth of cotton, soon 57% of all American exports would be slave-cultivated cotton. By mid-century, as Guelzo said, “slavery was expanding, not dying.”
With this resurgence in slavery, there was also an increase in opposition to it. The Missouri Compromise seemed to assuage Northerners fear of the expansion of slavery as it limited which states could hold slaves. However, the Compromise of 1850 changed this. Now settlers of the newly acquired Mexican territories would decide what type of state they wanted to be – slave or free. With this compromise, Guelzo pointed out two issues. For one, a decision on slavery would be delayed until settlers filled the territories. More importantly, the idea of popular sovereignty was a precarious one. In the wake of the Compromise of 1850 the Republican Party was formed.
The 1860 election proved crucial and Lincoln’s election the catalyst for war. The secession of southern states led to a political crisis for the new president. Guelzo indicated that neither Jefferson Davis nor Lincoln wanted war in the spring of 1861; however they each wanted different things. Davis wished for a peaceful secession, one in which the southern states were left alone. Lincoln wished for peace, but he also wanted to abide by the federal constitution and preserve the union.
Neither President got what they wished for. On April 12 of 1861, Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina was bombarded by the Confederates. The Fort symbolized a domination of the Union over the Confederacy and mocked their secession. Guelzo explained that Lincoln was forced to punish the Confederacy for their actions. His punishment came in the form of a hodgepodge army that invaded Virginia in the first battle of Bull Run. The equally disorganized Confederates managed to drive back the Union and they returned to Washington unsuccessful. Guelzo ended the lecture explaining that Bull Run did not convince Lincoln that war was futile, but that a new and organized army with an experienced general was necessary.
We will hear a continuation of Professor Guelzo’s “A Walk Through the Civil War” on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at Gettysburg College.
By Michele B. Seabrook, ’14 On September 21 at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Gettysburg, PA, as part of a series of events in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. Peter Carmichael, director of the Gettysburg Coll…
On September 21 at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Gettysburg, PA, as part of a series of events in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. Peter Carmichael, director of the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute, moderated “Forever Free: An Evening with Dr. James McPherson and Dr. Allen Guelzo.” The evening was formatted as a discussion focused around the Emancipation Proclamation and the events and personalities surrounding its drafting, passage, and impact on the nation.