Question of the Week: July 16-22

In your opinion, what is the most overlooked part of Civil War history that needs to “emerge” into studies and discussions?

17 Responses to Question of the Week: July 16-22

  1. The least appreciated innovation of the Civil War is the revolutionary effect of visual signals. From the first use at Bull Run to Sherman’s signal to announce his arrival at the sea, flag & torch signals were what made the victory possible. When combined with the revolutionary topographical unit of the Army of the Cumberland, command & contol of the army allowed a fast flow of information, precise orders & indirect artillery fire became routine. Who knows that General Sherman & Admiral Porter had a signal system for controlling the fire of gun boats? F, L, R. fire a little to the right. F, L, L. Fire a little to the left, are examples. It is no stretch to assert that the war in the west could not have happened as it did without visual signals. Sherman’s signals fifty miles “over the heads” of Hoods army to Alatoona from atop Kennesaw Mountain is unassailable proof of that statement.

      1. I have a copy of the logs of the Kennesaw Mountain & Alatoona signal stations for the period of the engagement at Alatoona. Sherman, in his own words, signaled over the head of Hood’s army 50 miles to Rome. That is where Corse’s reinforcements for Alatoona came from. At the same time, he was communicating with a unit that was driving a herd of 5,000 head of cattle South from Chattanooga. Sherman was making sure they did not run into one of Hood’s scattered units. Other units were contacted & ordered to concentrate on Alatoona. Union signalists were successfully cracking Confederate visual signals & providing Sherman with transcripts of their messages. The dramatic signals to & from Alatoona were only one small facet of the battle Sherman was managing from atop the mountain. Replys to his messages to commanders came in regularly. He had command & control of his forces in a manner unprecedented in the history of warfare thanks to his highly efficient signalists.

      2. Good to hear from you, Mark. Come up to STRI on July 28. We are holding an all day signal Corps camp of instruction. I guarantee you that it will be an eye opener.

  2. Reconstruction. I know a lot of people think of that as a distinct period, but it was really a continuation of the war’s political aims. Alas, without military force to continue backing that up, the Union ended up losing much of what it had gained on the battlefield. Former Confederates circumvented the rule of law with vigilantism to impose a social order that, in many ways, undermined the North’s military victory.

  3. A follow up and in depth analysis of the topics from Brian Jordan’s book on the time period from the Grand Review in May, involving the return of the Union men to their home towns, PTSD, alcoholism, suicide rates, GAR political activities.

  4. The destruction of community relationships, i.e., Missouri terrorism by both sides.

  5. Surprisingly, I think that there is still room for exploring financing of the war on the US side. There was no precedent for the scale of federal involvement which was required on an almost immediate basis and it got done. This would also entail a study of state-federal relations. Some stories – such as the scheming between Stanton and Indiana’s Gov. Morton – are well-known but the range of cooperative ventures merits attention.

  6. The impact of the Mexican War on the country, and the forces IT set in motion leading up to and including the Civil War.. It was the training ground for many of the officers on both side. The geo-political consequences for the nation, as well as the Confederacy, were considerable as well.

  7. Politics! Lincoln did far more than run the war. Politically, this time period is amazing.

  8. The Civil War marked the beginning of what’s called “The Golden Age of Freethought.” During this period, atheists and agnostics, like Robert Ingersoll and Mark Twain, reached mainstream audiences in a way that wasn’t common before and hasn’t been since. What role (if any) did the war play in creating the Freethought movement? How was atheism and agnosticism percieved by Civil War soldiers? Were there atheist or agnostic soldiers or officers who made significant contributions to the war?

  9. As early as the 1970’s the US Civil War has been skipped over for the Causes and Reconstruction. The wars are skipped over in high school as well. The Civil War is not considered “relevant.” Studying the elements of the Civil War is considered as relevant as studying Latin while visiting New York City or working on the internet. The Civil War Roundtables and Emerging Civil War is often a rose bed for the continuing of the thorny last breath of the Lost Cause. The useful items of the Civil War are things that affect us still today: Black Education, Women’s Rights, 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, de-evolution of the Republican and Democrat Parties, and immigrant involvement in the economies and militaries of the North and South. The Brown Navies of both sides still can use study. Pretty much anyone who studies in much detail the Civil War before May 3rd 1864 may as well be studying the wars of the Roman Republic as regards to today’s concerns.

  10. It is understood that Benjamin Butler was an important political ally; but why didn’t President Lincoln promote him to a desk job when his incompetence as a field commander was so apparent, especially before Richmond in 1864?

  11. I think there are several. One would be the role of intelligence, which I believe is shrouded in myth. I think the functioning of Congress requires further study. The historiography of Lincoln’s foreign policy is also limited.

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