Abraham Lincoln as Wartime President: 4 Questions for Lincoln Scholar Harold Holzer

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Image courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming 2017 CWI conference about their talks. Today we are speaking with Mr. Harold Holzer, one of the nation’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era.  A prolific writer and lecturer, as well as a highly sought-after guest on television, Mr. Holzer served for six years as the Chairman of The Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and for ten years as the co-chair of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.  In 2008, he was the recipient of the National Humanities Medal.  He currently serves as the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute.  Mr. Holzer has authored, co-authored, or edited 52 books and 560 articles and reviews for both popular magazines and scholarly journals.  His most recent major work, Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War For Public Opinion (Simon & Schuster, 2014), won numerous prestigious awards, including the Lincoln Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

CWI:  How did Lincoln’s relationship with the Constitution, the American people, his political allies and adversaries change or evolve over the course of the war?  What were Lincoln’s priorities as a wartime president, and how did he strive to balance conflicting priorities?

HOLZER: Lincoln did a Blondin-like tightrope act as Civil War President—Blondin, by the way, was the most famous tightrope walker of his day—most adroitly when he tried to balance the interests, and maintain the support, of both abolitionists and conservatives.  Nowhere was this delicate touch more urgently required than in his effort to maintain the loyalty of the slaveholding Border States, many of whose residents were dubious about Union, and certainly opposed to emancipation.  That Lincoln actually gained support over the years in a once-hostile state like Maryland, where he had been driven in 1861 to wearing a disguise and sneaking through the state to reach Washington for his inaugural, represented one of his greatest political triumphs.  He thought so, too. Continue reading “Abraham Lincoln as Wartime President: 4 Questions for Lincoln Scholar Harold Holzer”

From Post to Park: The Fort Monroe National Monument

By Kaylyn Sawyer ’17

The Civil War Institute will be celebrating the National Park Service Centennial this spring with its brand new “Find Your Park Friday” series. Inspired by the NPS #FindYourPark campaign, the series will challenge our fellows to share their experiences exploring America’s national historical, cultural, and natural resources through trips and internships with the NPS. In our sixth post,  Kaylyn Sawyer takes a look at the history of her park.

I was 11 years old when I made my first visit to Fort Monroe for a military ID card. This small Army post, I was told, would have a shorter line than the more familiar and populated Langley Air Force Base. Although already interested in Civil War history, I didn’t know much about the fort’s story, and I had no idea that I would return in seven years for my first history internship. Finally, I didn’t know that Fort Monroe had been targeted for closure by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC). Concerned about preserving the Fort’s historic integrity amidst calls for economic development, local citizens mobilized in collaboration with leaders across all levels of government to guide Fort Monroe’s transition from post to park.

An aerial view of Fort Monroe. Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons.
An aerial view of Fort Monroe. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading “From Post to Park: The Fort Monroe National Monument”

George Washington: Hero of the Lost Cause

By Alex Andrioli ’18

George Washington was a revolutionary founding father. He served as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army through eight years of war, turned down the opportunity of becoming sovereign of the newly-formed United States, established the precedent for future presidents, and voluntarily stepped down from office after two terms. Though it took many men to conceive and found the United States of America, Washington is the poster child of the revolution and the spirit of 1776. Washington embodies the basic American spirit, so it is no wonder why both the North and South staked a claim on the “Father of our Country” as civil war loomed.

In times of devastating war, people often turn to something that gives them hope and strength to justify their cause to fight. During the American Civil War people looked to the heroes of the American Revolution because it was the “apex of heroism” that bestowed liberty onto the American people. Soldiers of the Civil War were sons and grandsons of the Revolutionaries who shared admiration in their beloved leader, George Washington, with their descendants. As a result, Washington’s lasting legacy forced him to campaign long after he took his dying breath.

my mans george
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress. George Washington. 1890.

Continue reading “George Washington: Hero of the Lost Cause”