Growing up in southwestern Virginia I studied the
War of Northern Aggression American Civil War twice before leaving elementary school. Book reports, timelines, war monuments, heroes’ homes, battlefields and class lectures were integral pieces of the Lost Cause/States’ Rights curriculum. None of that childhood education or my recent family research prepared me for the chaos I found myself in among the pages of 1861: The Civil War Awakening. Adam Goodheart has stripped away 150 years in this great narrative, sweeping the reader into the sights and sounds, the worry and the hope of that year in America.
The Union was a sentiment, but not much more. ~Henry Adams
Writing from his barracks inside the Capitol, Theodore Winthrop wrote a dispatch to The Atlantic Monthly. “Our presence here was the inevitable sequel of past events,” he wrote. “We appeared with bayonets and bullets because of the bosh uttered on this floor; because of the bills — with treasonable stump-speeches in their bellies — passed here; because of the cowardice of the poltroons, the imbecility of the dodgers, and the arrogance of the bullies, who had here cooperated to blind and corrupt the minds of the people. Talk had made a miserable mess of it.”
Goodheart’s account of this year deftly uses such original sources to construct character and narrative; it is a lively, compelling story of our country’s descent into the madness of fratricidal war.
4 thoughts on “You have to read this!! – 1861:The Civil War Awakening”
Had to laugh about studying the Civil War in a Virginia school. We moved here from Ohio and it was a shock when the teacher insisted we call it the War Against the States.
Yes, I am still uncovering all the subliminal messages of my childhood. Y’all come back soon! 😉
I’ve been reading nothing but Civil War books this year. This is on the list, but not read yet. I need to move it up the list!
I, too, grinned/grimaced at the Southern perspective. Having been raised in New England and from an East TN family with strong Union loyalties it was a shock to marry into a staunchly Confederate family – one who still refers to the War of Northern Aggression. It’s taken more than 30 years to come to terms with their history, to discover my own families divided loyalties, and to begin to publicly blog about it all. It ain’t easy and it ain’t all that distant.
My mother, a southwestern Pennsylvania girl, made certain that we knew the proper term for The War. But, my, will she be shocked by what I am uncovering about her Yankee ancestors – Copperhead Democrats that they were. And she thought the farm was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Uncovering the real dirt on family stories isn’t easy, but it is satisfying. I think you will really enjoy this book!