In light of the 150th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, today is Civil War Day at The Study. In this second entry, we consider the cost of the war. As most people learned (or heard but ignored) in history class, over 600,000 soldiers died during the war, a gruesome number unequaled in any other American war. But what about the some three million who survived?
Throughout much of the nineteenth century, West Point cadets were permitted to check books out of the library only once a week: “On Saturday afternoon,” the 1857 regulations state, “any book that a Cadet may have been reading during the week, may be taken to his quarters, on the approval of the Librarian, and shall be returned on the succeeding Monday. If not then returned, he shall be reported by the Librarian.” Decades of Saturday borrowing activity are recorded in handwritten ledgers now preserved in the archives.
Neocons have begun to warm to Barack Obama’s foreign policy vision. What they’ve liked about his recent speeches (at West Point, but far more so in Oslo) is his willingness to defend (against the anti-political pacifism that dominates a segment of elite European opinion) the idea that there can be morally justified wars—and that the war in Afghanistan is one of them. I’m delighted that some on the American right have come around to supporting the president, but they should do so knowing that on one crucially important matter Obama will never satisfy them.
Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington By Robert J. Norrell (Harvard University Press, 508 pp., $35) I. Once the most famous and influential African American in the United States (and probably the world), Booker T. Washington has earned at best mixed reviews in the decades since his death in 1915. Black intellectuals and political activists, from W. E. B.
Defiance Paramount Of Time and the City Strand Releasing EDWARD ZWICK’S FILM Defiance is based on Nechama Tec’s book of the same title. Tec told a wondrous factual story of World War II, a history so close to incredible that it is awesome. In Belarus in 1941, two young Jewish brothers named Bielski organized a life-saving mission for Jews that, after much hazard and suffering, rescued twelve hundred lives from the Holocaust. The principal means of salvation was the immense forests of the region.
It's fun, if predictable, when pundits make bad analogies between current political trends and historical circumstances. But White House stenographer Fred Barnes's book review in the new Weekly Standard sets a high (low?) water mark. The book under discussion is Jennifer Weber's history of slavery-friendly Northern Democrats who opposed Lincoln's war policy, known as Copperheads. Here's Barnes: They undermined the war wherever they could. ... More broadly, the antiwar faction's vituperative opposition hurt the ability of the Union army to carry out the war effectively. ...
Redemptions: The Last Battle of the Civil War By Nicholas Lemann (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 257 pp., $24) Colfax, Louisiana was scarcely a town in 1873. It was more a collection of buildings on a plantation owned by William Calhoun. As much as any site in the former Confederate South, however, Colfax came to embody the complex political dynamics of Reconstruction, and the troubling relation of terror and democracy in the history of the United States. Lying in the heart of the state's lush Red River Valley, Colfax was the newly designated seat of the newly created Grant Parish, carved out
“Can Movies Teach History?” asks the title of a recent New York Times feature article. The answer for Glory is yes. It is not only the first feature film to treat the role of black soldiers in the American Civil War; it is also the most powerful and historically accurate movie about that war ever made. If it wins a deserved popularity, it will go far to correct the distortions and romanticizations of such earlier blockbuster films as Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind.