“Give them liberty or give me death”: The Unionist Espionage of Elizabeth Van Lew: An Interview with Elizabeth Varon

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming 2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with Elizabeth Varon,

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Elizabeth Varon. Image courtesy of the University of Virginia.

Associate Director of the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History and Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia.  A specialist in the Civil War era and 19th-century South, Varon is the author of We Mean to be Counted:  White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (UNC Press, 1998); Southern Lady, Yankee Spy:  The True Story of  Elizabeth Van Lew, A Union Agent  in the Heart of the Confederacy (Oxford University Press, 2003); Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 (UNC Press, 2008); and Appomattox:  Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2013).  Southern Lady, Yankee Spy won three book awards and was named one of the “Five Best” books on the “Civil War away from the battlefield” in the Wall Street Journal.  Appomattox won the 2014 Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction, the 2014 Dan and Marilyn Laney Prize for Civil War History from the Austin Civil War Roundtable, and the 2014 Eugene Feit Award in Civil War Studies from the New York Military Affairs Symposium.  Appomattox was also named one of Civil War Monitor’s “Best Books of 2014” and one of National Public Radio’s “Six Civil War Books to Read Now.”  Varon’s public presentations include book talks at the Lincoln Bicentennial in Springfield, at Gettysburg’s Civil War Institute, and on C-Span’s Book TV. Her next book, Armies of Deliverance:  A New History of the Civil War, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press in 2018.
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Debacle at Petersburg: The Battle of the Crater: An Interview with A. Wilson Greene

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming 2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with A. Wilson Greene.  Mr.

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A. Wilson Greene. Image courtesy of PetersburgArea.org

Greene recently retired from a 44-year career in public history.  He spent sixteen years in the National Park Service, served as the first director of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (now the Civil War Trust), and was the founding director of Pamplin Historical Park & the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, where he worked for 22 years.  Greene holds a Masters degree in History.  He is the author of numerous articles in scholarly and popular publications and six books, including his latest: A Campaign of Giants: The Battles for Petersburg, Volume 1, From the Crossing of the James to the Battle of the Crater (UNC Press, forthcoming).

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Meade at Gettysburg: An Interview with Kent Masterson Brown

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming 2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with Kent Masterson Brown.  Mr. Brown is a Lexington, Kentucky-based historian and attorney who has

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Kent Masterson Brown. Image courtesy of Centre College.

practiced law for forty-three years. He was the creator and first editor of the national magazine, The Civil War, and is author of many books, including Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander (University Press of Kentucky, 1998); The Civil War in Kentucky: Battle for the Bluegrass State (Savas Publishing Company, 2000); Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign (UNC Press, 2005); One of Morgan’s Men: The Memoirs of Lieutenant John M. Porter of the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry (University Press of Kentucky, 2011); and The Confederacy’s First Battle Flag (Pelican Publishing, 2014).  Most of Kent’s books have been featured selections of the History Book Club and Military Book Club; Cushing of Gettysburg, Retreat From Gettysburg, and One of Morgan’s Men have also received numerous national awards. His current book project, George Gordon Meade and the Gettysburg Campaign, will go to press in early 2018.  Kent is also President and Content Developer for Witnessing History, LLC.  He has written, hosted, and produced numerous award-winning documentary films for public and cable television, including: “Long Road Back to Kentucky”; “Retreat From Gettysburg”; “Bourbon and Kentucky: A History Distilled; Henry Clay and the Struggle for the Union”; “The Southern Cross; Unsung Hero: The Horse in the Civil War”; “Daniel Boone and the Opening of the American West”; and “ ‘I Remember The Old Home Very Well’: The Lincolns in Kentucky” (all of which were Telly Award recipients).  “Unsung Hero” was also nominated for an Emmy Award.  Kent was the first chairman of the Gettysburg National Military Park Advisory Commission and the first chairman of the Perryville (Kentucky) Battlefield Commission, a seat he held for eleven years while overseeing the expansion of the Perryville Battlefield.  He currently serves as a director of the Gettysburg Foundation.

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Inside The Civil War Defenses of Washington: An Interview with Steve T. Phan

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming

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Steve Phan.  Image courtesy of Steve Phan

2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with Steve T. Phan, a Park Ranger and historian at the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Prior to his arrival at CWDW, Steve worked as an intern and park guide at Richmond National Battlefield Park, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and Rock Creek Park. A military history scholar of the Civil War era, Steve’s research focuses on military occupation, operational command, fortifications, and the Western Theater during the Civil War.  He is the author of several articles about Asians and Pacific Islanders in the Civil War and is currently writing a guide book for the Civil War Defenses of Washington.  Steve is also continuing his work on an extended research project about the Union Army First Corps and the life of General John F. Reynolds.  He holds a Masters degree in American History, with a concentration in Public History. 

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The Poor Man’s Fight: Mercenary Soldiers in the Civil War: An Interview with William Marvel

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming

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William Marvel. Image courtesy of the Conway Historical Society

2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with William Marvel, an independent scholar of mid-19th-century American History. Marvel is the author of eighteen books, including most recently, Lincoln’s Mercenaries: Economic Motivation among Union Soldiers, which is due for release by LSU Press in the early fall of 2018. Some of Marvel’s additional publications include: Lincoln’s Autocrat: The Life of Edwin Stanton (UNC Press, 2015), A Place Called Appomattox (UNC Press, 2000), and Andersonville: The Last Depot (UNC Press, 1994), for which he won a Lincoln Prize, the Douglas Southall Freeman History Award, and the Malcolm and Muriel Barrow Bell Award. He has also written a four-volume history of the Civil War that was published by Houghton Mifflin between 2006 and 2011. Mr. Marvel is currently working on a biography of Fitz John Porter.

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“Rebellion in the Ranks”: Desertion and the United States Colored Troops: An Interview with Jonathan Lande

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming

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Jonathan Lande Image courtesy of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery

2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with Jonathan Lande, a doctoral candidate in History at Brown University, where he was the 2016 Peter Green Scholar.  Jonathan teaches courses in American and African American history at Tougaloo College as the 2017-2018 Brown-Tougaloo Exchange Faculty Fellow.  His current project, “Rebellion in the Ranks,” examines the desertion, mutiny, and courts-martial trials of former slaves serving in the Union army. Looking at African American soldiers who found military service offensive to their visions of freedom, “Rebellion in the Ranks” traces the resistance of African American soldiers and remaps the process of emancipation in the Union army. A portion of his research entitled “Trials of Freedom” appeared in the Journal of Social History.   The African American Intellectual History Society blog, Black Perspectives, also featured a guest posting from Jonathan on desertion and black military service.  He is the recipient of the William F. Holmes Award from the Southern Historical Association and the Du Bois-Wells Award from the African American Intellectual History Society.

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“Let Us Stand or Fall Together”: Hood’s Texas Brigade: An interview with Dr. Susannah Ural

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming

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Susannah Ural. Image courtesy of the University of Southern Mississippi

2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with Dr. Susannah Ural, Professor of History and Co-Director of the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society at the University of Southern Mississippi. A military historian and scholar of war and society, Ural’s work focuses on the experiences of soldiers and families in the U.S. Civil War era. She is the author of several books, including Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lives It (Osprey Publishing, 2013) and most recently, Hood’s Texas Brigade: The Soldiers and Families of the Confederacy’s Most Celebrated Unit (LSU Press, November, 2017). Ural serves as President of the Mississippi Historical Society and as chair of the editorial board of The Journal of Military History.  She and her students are currently completing a study of Beauvoir, Mississippi’s Confederate Home for veterans, wives, and widows.  Ural’s next project will focus on Mississippi in the Civil War era.

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Waging Just Warfare During America’s Civil War: An Interview With Dr. D.H. Dilbeck

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

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Image courtesy of Bill Pope and Oklahoma Baptist University

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming 2018 CWI conference  about their talks. Today we are speaking with Dr. D.H. Dilbeck, an historian of 19th-century American legal and religious history. Dr. Dilbeck received his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Virginia. His first book, A More Civil War: How the Union Waged a Just War (UNC Press, 2016), was a finalist for the Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize.  His most recent book, Frederick Douglass: America’s Prophet is forthcoming from UNC Press in 2018.  A former Assistant Professor of History at Oklahoma Baptist University, Dr. Dilbeck is currently pursuing his J.D. at Yale Law School.

CWI: How did nineteenth-century Americans define what it meant to wage a “just war?” Were there any noticeable differences between Union and Confederate conceptions of “just warfare?”

Dilbeck: Civil War Americans disagreed about what it meant to wage a just war—at times, quite bitterly. Still, the prevailing fundamental principles of “just warfare” in nineteenth-century America appear in two articles in the Union’s 1863 code of military conduct (known informally as the Lieber Code). First: “The more vigorously wars are pursued, the better it is for humanity. Sharp wars are brief.” The idea here is that the most humane and just thing to do in a war is to end it as quickly as possible—even if that means resorting to “vigorous” means. (For a 20th-century parallel, think of America’s use of the Atomic bomb at the end of World War II). Second: “Men who take up arms against one another in public war do not cease on this account to be moral beings, responsible to one another and to God.” The point here being that limitations on warfare must remain even in the “vigorously” waged war. Many Confederates would have generally agreed with these ideas. But the real challenge—and source of controversy—came in translating those broad principles into concrete military policies, strategies, and tactics.

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#CWI2017: Tours and the End

By Kevin Lavery ’16

Assistant Director’s Log, Star Date 006:  

Wow. Just wow. What a week it has been. It’s all over now. The last conference attendee boarded his shuttle a few hours ago and almost all of the missing keys have been located. I’m about to head home for the evening, but first I wanted to share some details about the last few days of the conference.

My energy held up fairly well all weekend, but I’ll be the first to admit that Monday did a number on me. But the heat wave was no match for our guests’ enthusiasm during their tours through Mosby’s Confederacy with Dennis Frye and Richard Gillespie, at Cedar Mountain with Greg Mertz, Antietam with Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler, Gettysburg with Brooks Simpson, and Mine Run with Eric Mink. I myself was on the Chancellorsville Staff Ride with Christian Keller from the Army War College. Although it was hot, most folks knew their limits and enjoyed the tour without pushing themselves beyond their limits. Monday was certainly a very full, very interesting day.

NPS Ranger Chris Gwinn concludes his battlefield tour on the campus of Gettysburg College. Photo by the author.

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#CWI2017: Lectures and Round Tables Galore

By Kevin Lavery ’16

Assistant Director’s Log, Star Date 002:  

We’re in full swing here at our summer conference. Bright and early this morning, Michael Birkner and John Quist kicked off our first full day with their lecture on James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War. John Marszalek followed on Henry Halleck, prompting lecturer and tour guide Brooks Simpson to observe that we scheduled talks two of the most unpopular men in American history back-to-back. It wasn’t a coicidence–certain themes carried over between the talks regarding how we think about unpopular figures. Our morning sessions concluded with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian T. J. Stiles discussing the life of George Armstrong Custer and the world he inhabited.

After lunch, we began our concurrent sessions with Earl Hess on Braxton Bragg, Brian Luskey on Bounty Men in the Union Army, and Kenneth Noe on late-enlisters in the Confederate Army. Rachel Shelden gave a popular talk on the culture of Civil War era Washington politics, while Fiona Deans Halloran spoke on Thomas Nast, the original American political satirist.

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