Sunday, November 7, 2010

National Park Service Celebrates 150 Years

The National Park Service has created a webpage honoring the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. Evidently the current page is a rough place-holder that will soon be replaced by a more complete site with timelines and ways to plan a visit to one of the many Civil War battlefields and Civil War-related sites preserved by the Park Service.

Perhaps the most helpful piece will be a calendar of scheduled events throughout the park system and in conjunction with the various state commissions planning Civil War Sesquicentennial activities.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Election

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Presidential election of 1860, when a former one-term Congressman defeated three other candidates, each of whom had previously served in the US Senate, and one who was the current vice-president. Abraham Lincoln, a dark horse candidate who gained the nomination of the nascent Republican Party as much for who and what he was not as for who and what he was.

By election day, though, his election was almost a foregone conclusion. The Republican coalition was united around him, while the larger Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson had split geographically between Stephen Douglas and John Breckinridge. Of course, given Lincoln's recent experiences in attempting to gain election to the US Senate, he seemed reluctant to view his election as inevitable. Instead he patiently and deliberately worked behind the scenes to do all he could to achieve election. On election day, he was calm but refused to accept any congratulations until the returns proved his election.

The Gray Lady has two excellent web postings about the 1860 election, including a reprint of the 1932 reminiscences of a reporter who spent much of that election day with Lincoln, including the hours in the telegraph office where Lincoln waited for all of the election returns to be transmitted. They are an excellent account of that fateful day, which continued events in motion toward secession and civil war.

The first relates Lincoln's careful strategic silence during the election and the period leading up to his inauguration. The second records Lincoln's activities on November 6, 1860.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lincoln on TV

This weekend, C-SPAN is featuring three Lincoln-related lectures as part of American History TV. The lectures will focus on the 1860 and 1864 elections. (Evidently the theme of the weekend is 'presidential elections.')

Two of the lectures are from previous Lincoln Forum events: one by David Long on the 1860 election and one by Joseph Glatthar on the 1864 election. There is also a lecture on Lincoln and Jefferson Davis by Bruce Chadwick, whose most recent book is on the 1860 election.

The lectures will run several times this weekend on C-SPAN 3.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dueling Civil War Sesquicentennial Blogs Debut

Last week, The Washington Post and The New York Times rolled out blogs that will cover the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War over the next five years. (Coincidence, co-dependence, or healthy competition? Who can say?)

They take slightly different approaches. The Post has gathered a panel of 25 experts to answer questions about the war, the politics of the era, and the consequence. Among the experts are noted Lincoln authors such as Harold Holzer and recent Lincoln Prize-winner Craig Symonds. The first question, answered by six panelists, is "Would there have been a war if Lincoln hadn't won the 1860 election?" The answers (none of them particularly earth-shattering or provocative, sadly) are posted on the blog, entitled "A House Divided."

The Times is evidently planning to refight the war day-by-day by offering posts of events that occurred exactly 150 years before. Some of the posts will be written in a "You are there" style; others are reflections on the past events. The Times has called their blog "Disunion" -- well, actually, "DISUNION," but I'm unclear why they feel the need to shout.

Hopefully there will be some good material here in the coming years. At the very least, let's hope that there is sufficient interest to sustain the efforts.