Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Booknotes: The Civil War in Maryland Reconsidered

New Arrival:
The Civil War in Maryland Reconsidered edited by Charles W. Mitchell and Jean H. Baker (LSU Press, 2021).

From the description: "Today the literature on Maryland's Civil War is vast and scattered. Given its location surrounding Washington, its unique proportion of enslaved and freeborn African Americans, and its circumstances as the site of significant Civil War battles, the state has always attracted historians. Original documents, in archives throughout the nation and in private collections, tell the story of the conflict, as do a number of secondary sources. This book of essays brings together new scholarship based on these sources, hence the title "The Civil War in Maryland Reconsidered." Contributors afford new insights on familiar subjects, along with the development of previously unexplored topics."

Edited by Charles Mitchell and Jean Baker, The Civil War in Maryland Reconsidered is a major collection of new essays addressing a range of social, military, and political topics spanning the antebellum period through to today. The volume's thirteen essays listed below can be further categorized into two main types. The first is "based primarily on previously unused material and framed by new methods." The second type "provides comprehensive overviews and synthesis to critical episodes in the state's Civil War history."

• Foreword, Adam Goodheart.
• Introduction, Jean H. Baker and Charles W. Mitchell.
• “Border State, Border War: Fighting for Freedom and Slavery in Antebellum Maryland,” Richard Bell.
• “Charity Folks and the Ghosts of Slavery in Pre–Civil War Maryland,” Jessica Millward - "employs new sources in her analysis of how gender shaped the experience of Maryland's enslaved women during the period."
• “Confronting Dred Scott: Seeing Citizenship from Baltimore,” Martha S. Jones - "focuses on the Baltimore courts where blacks continued to assert their rights. Jones's study reveals a previously overlooked aspect of the Dred Scott decision after Maryland's high courts gave blacks standing to sue in state courts."
• “‘Maryland Is This Day . . . True to the American Union’: The Election of 1860 and a Winter of Discontent,” Charles W. Mitchell - "examines the issues and candidates of the 1860 election and the participation of its leaders in the subsequent secession winter, concluding that the election was a harbinger of the state's loyalty to the Union."
• “Baltimore’s Secessionist Moment: Conservatism and Political Networks in the Pratt Street Riot and Its Aftermath,” Frank Towers - "brings together the current scholarship on the Pratt Street riot of April 19, 1861, and discusses the significance of the riot in subsequent events."
• “Abraham Lincoln, Civil Liberties, and Maryland,” Frank J. Williams - "synthesizes material on civil liberties in Maryland during the Civil War."
• “The Fighting Sons of ‘My Maryland’: The Recruitment of Union Regiments in Baltimore, 1861–1865,” Timothy J. Orr - "relying on public records, focuses on the recruitment of Union regiments in Baltimore, a city of divided loyalties; his conclusion speaks to the relationship of the federal, state, and city governments during the war."
• “‘What I Witnessed Would Only Make You Sick’: Union Soldiers Confront the Dead at Antietam,” Brian Matthew Jordan - "goes beyond the familiar descriptions of the battle of Antietam to investigate the reaction of soldiers and civilians to the carnage."
• “Confederate Invasions of Maryland,” Thomas G. Clemens - "analyzes the effect of the critical Confederate invasion of the state leading to the battle Antietam, in which local events had a dramatic effect on our national history."
• “Achieving Emancipation in Maryland,” Jonathan W. White - "investigates a critical episode in the state's history: the contentious process in which the soldiers' vote played a significant role in freeing Maryland's slaves in 1864, even as pro-slavery advocates in the state legislature fought to preserve the institution."
• “Maryland’s Women at War,” Robert W. Schoeberlein - "discusses the ways in which Union and secessionist women crossed traditional boundaries to support their respective wars."
• “The Failed Promise of Reconstruction,” Sharita Jacobs Thompson - "examines the Reconstruction period in Maryland, emphasizing how local circumstances interacted, and in some cases, modified national policies."
• “‘F––k the Confederacy’: The Strange Career of Civil War Memory in Maryland after 1865,” Robert J. Cook - "working within the framework of memory studies, explores the construction and evolution of Maryland's Civil War memories from 1865 to the present day when the subject has entered contemporary politics."

Filling nearly 350 pages of material, this compilation "illuminates the complexities of Maryland's Civil War story, an endlessly fascinating subject that remains a part of our most powerful national memory, defining who we are not only as Marylanders, but as Americans."

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