Archive for the ‘Guerra civil norteamericana’ Category

El voto por correo se ha convertido en un tema controversial en las elecciones presidenciales estadounidense. Donald J. Trump ha cuestionado, sin evidencia, la transparencia del voto por correo, alegando que facilitaría un fraude masivo que le podría costar la reelección. No voy analizar la validez de las alegaciones del Presidente, pues ese no es el objetivo de este blog. Lo que pretendo hacer es colocar el tema en su contexto  compartiendo un breve artículo de Jessica Pearce Rotondi titulado “Vote-by-Mail Programs Date Back to the Civil War“.  Publicado en la revista History, este ensayo confirma la antigüedad y utilidad que el voto por correo ha tenido en la historia de Estados Unidos.



Jessica Pearce Rotondi


History   September 24, 2020


Voting by mail can trace its roots to soldiers voting far from home during the Civil War and World War II. By the late 1800s, some states were extending absentee ballots

to civilian voters under certain conditions, but it wasn’t until 2000 that Oregon became the first state to move to an all-mail voting system. Here is everything you need to know about the history of absentee voting and vote by mail.

What Does the Constitution Say About Voting?

There is no step-by-step guide to voting in the United States Constitution. Article 1, Section 4 says that it’s up to each state to determine “The Times, Places and Manner

of holding Elections.” This openness has enabled the voting process in the United States to evolve as the country’s needs have changed.

The Founding Fathers voted by raising their voices—literally. Until the early 19th century, all eligible voters cast their “Viva Voce” (voice vote) in public. While the number of people eligible to vote in that era was low and primarily composed of land- owning white males, turnout hovered around 85 percent, largely due to enticing voting parties held at polling stations.

The first paper ballots appeared in the early 19th century and were originally blank pieces of paper. By the mid-1800s, they had gone to the other extreme: political

parties printed tickets with the names of every candidate pre-filled along party lines. It wasn’t until 1888 that New York and Massachusetts became the first states to adopt pre-printed ballots with the names of all candidates (a style called the “Australian ballot” after where it was created). By then, another revolution in voting had taken place: Absentee voting.

The first widespread instance of absentee voting in the United States was during theCivil War. The logistics of a wartime election were daunting: “We cannot have free government without elections,” President Abraham Lincoln told a crowd outside theWhite House in 1864, “and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.

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 Union Army soldiers lined up to vote in the 1864 election during the American Civil War.
Interim Archives/Getty Images 


“Lincoln was concerned about the outcome of the midterm elections,” says Bob Stein, Director of the Center for Civic Leadership at Rice University. “Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, pointed out that there were a lot of Union soldiers who couldn’t vote, so the president encouraged states to permit them to cast their ballots from the field.” (There was some precedent for Lincoln’s wish; Pennsylvania became the first state to offer absentee voting for soldiers during the War of 1812.)

In the 1864 presidential election between Lincoln and George McClellan, 19 Union states changed their laws to allow soldiers to vote absentee. Some states permitted soldiers to name a proxy to vote for them back home while others created polling sites in the camps themselves. Approximately 150,000 out of one million soldiers voted in the election, and Lincoln carried a whopping 78 percent of the military vote.

By the late 1800s, several states offered civilians the option of absentee voting, though they had to offer an accepted excuse, most commonly distance or illness. The passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 and 19th Amendment in 1920 expanded the number of eligible voters in the United States, but it would take another war to propel absentee voting back into the national spotlight.

Absentee Voting in World War II

Absentee voting re-entered the national conversation during World War II, when “both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman encouraged military voting,” says Stein. The Soldier Voting Act of 1942 permitted all members of the military overseas to send their ballots from abroad. Over 3.2 million absentee ballots were cast during the war. The act was amended in 1944 and expired at war’s end.

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GI’s on the fighting fronts in Italy, Capt. William H. Atkinson of Omaha, Nebraska, swears in Cpl. Tito Fargellese of Boston, Massachusetts , before Fargellese cast his ballot for the 1944 election.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Legislation passed throughout the next few decades made voting easier for servicemen and women and their families: The Federal Voting Assistance Act of 1955; the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) in 1986; and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment, or MOVE Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.


States Expand Vote by Mail

“Before the civil rights movement., it was largely members of the military, expats and people who were truly disabled or couldn’t get to their jurisdiction who were permitted to vote absentee,” says Stein. While most historians cite California as the first state to offer no-excuse absentee voting, Michael Hanmer, research director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, says it was actually Washington state that made the switch in 1974.

Other Western states soon followed: “Western states are newer, have the biggest rural areas, the most land and are doing the most pioneering work,” says Lonna Atkeson, Director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy at the University of New Mexico. “Their progressive values played a role in their political culture.”

Oregon became the first state to switch to vote by mail exclusively in 2000. Washington followed in 2011.

EAVS Deep Dive: Early, Absentee and Mail Voting | U.S. Election Assistance  Commission

Did You Know? It took The Vietnam War for the voting age to be lowered to 18 with the ratification of the 26th amendment.

2020 Election: Which States Offer Voting by Mail?

The 2020 presidential election takes place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, when concerns about virus transmission in crowds caused lawmakers to rethink rules around appearing in person to vote. For the first time in history, at least 75 percent of Americans are able to vote absentee.

In the 2020 election:

· Thirty-four U.S. states offer no-excuse absentee voting or permit registered voters to cite COVID-19 as their reason to vote absentee.

· Nine states and Washington, D.C. mail all ballots directly to voters: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

· Seven states—Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas—require voters to give a reason other than COVID-19 to vote absentee.

How to Vote by Mail

Ballots that go through the mail can be divided into two categories: Absentee ballots, typically requested by people who are unable to vote in person for physical reasons, and mail-in ballots, which are automatically provided to all eligible voters in states with all-mail voting systems.

The rules around voting by mail vary from state to state.

“When are ballots due? Postmarked? Federalism is a beautiful thing, but it’s complex because each state does something different,” says Atkeson. “In the end, access and security make for a well-run election and makes people feel that their vote is counted.”

How does vote-by-mail work and does it increase election fraud?

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Acaba de ser publicado el número 19 de la revista digital Huellas de Estados Unidos. En esta ocasión incluye una sección con la opinión de varios expertos latinoamericanos sobre el posible resultado de las elecciones presidenciales en Estados Unidos. Este  número incluye además, una interesante selección de artículos entre los que llaman poderosamente mi atención dos trabajos sobre las relaciones internacionales de Argentina y Estados Unidos. También destacan un ensayo de Sven Beckert sobre el algodón y la guerra civil, y el trabajo de Diego Alexander Olivera examinando el pensamiento político de los hermanos Kagan. Felicitamos y agradecemos a los editores de Huellas de Estados Unidos.


Huellas de Estados Unidos / #19 / Octubre 2020

Edicion 19

Haz click para descargar en formato pdf









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El H-Net Book Channel acaba de publicar un ensayo bibliográfico que llamó poderosamente mi atención, ya que enfoca la historiografía reciente de las implicancias internacionales de la guerra civil estadounidense. Escrito por Chase McCarter, candidato doctoral en la Universidad de Nuevo México, este trabajo enfoca el impacto en América Latina de la guerra civil estadoununidense y del periodo de la Reconstrucción.

 The US Civil War Era and Latin America

It would be incorrect to argue that scholars have never considered the international dimensions of the US Civil War Era. However, the vast majority of the tens of thousands of books written about the antebellum US, the war, and Reconstruction usually foreground the domestic elements. In addition, the scholars who considered the international implications tended to focus on the relationship between the US and European powers. Recent studies, however, have begun to pay more attention to Latin America. This is particularly important because, as the author discusses in this essay, historians of the US Civil War Era and of Latin America have a great deal to say to each other. Being more attentive to Latin America also has important contemporary relevance in light of the persistent tensions among the nations of the Western Hemisphere. Chase McCarter is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of New Mexico and resource editor for H-CivWar. He studies the Civil War-era South with particular focus on the postwar migration of ex-Confederates to Latin America. –Book Channel Guest Editor Evan Rothera

In the late 1960s, US historians became increasingly interested in internationalizing the history of the US Civil War era. In his essay for C. Vann Woodward’s 1968 anthology, The Comparative Approach to American History, David M. Potter argued that the turmoil of the US Civil War era and the European revolutions of 1848 were both the product of nationalist struggles and were equally critical in the survival of liberal nationalism around the globe.1 Ian Tyrrell’s call in 1991 for a new history that decentered exceptionalist narratives in American historical writing gave birth to the transnational turn in US history and further influenced historians of the US Civil War era to explore the impact of the period’s major events outside the confines of US national borders. For example, Robert E. May’s anthology The Union, the Confederacy, and the Atlantic Rim (1995) brought together studies by Howard Jones, R. J. M. Blackett, Thomas Schoonover, and James M. McPherson to reveal the impact of the US Civil War on European and Latin American nations. Since the mid-1990s, scholars like Enrico Dal Lago, Peter S. Onuf, Andre Fleche, Timothy M. Roberts, Patrick J. Kelly, and a wave of others have deepened historical understanding of the US Civil War era by thinking about this period through a transnational framework.2

But historians still have more ground to cover. The role of Latin America in the ideologies, debates, and events that transpired in the United States during the Civil War era has been relatively understudied by historians. Historians have directed much more attention to European happenings and their impact on the United States during this period than to Latin American ones. But there is a growing interest in the role of Latin America in the coming of the Civil War, the war itself, and Reconstruction.

New histories of the US sectional crisis frame the prospect of slavery’s expansion in Latin America as a central issue of contention between proslavery advocates and abolitionists in the 1840s and 1850s. Matthew Karp’s This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of America Foreign Policy (2016) argues that Latin America was most certainly in the sights of proslavery advocates in the US government during the antebellum period. Karp contends that southern slave-owning elites were not an isolated class of individuals who clung to the dying institution of slavery in the US South. Rather, they were globally minded people and kept a close eye on threats to slavery across the Americas, especially in Cuba and Brazil, whom they saw as allies in an international fight against the forces of abolition. They also believed that the continuity of slavery in the Americas was key to the future prosperity and power of the United States (p. 2).

The mind-set of southern slaveholders Karp depicts in his study was related to the emergence of  what Dale Tomich labels “the second slavery” in his book, Through the Prism of Slavery: Labor, Capital, and World Economy (2003). “Second slavery” describes the remaking of slavery in concert with the expansion of industrial capitalism and the creation of new, highly profitable slave-based zones of commodity production throughout the Americas during the early nineteenth century.3 Throughout the book, Karp details how proslavery advocates within the US government sculpted foreign policy and the US military in efforts to strengthen and preserve this new form of slavery in the United States and Latin America. For the most part, proslavery advocates were successful at doing so until the institution collapsed with the defeat of the Confederacy during the Civil War (p. 3).

Robert E. May’s book Slavery, Race, and Conquest in the Tropics: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Future of Latin America (2013) is his latest addition in a forty-plus-year career of thinking about the transnational dynamics of the US Civil War era. In this study, May asserts that the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates featured a clash of ideas over slavery’s expansion in Latin America. Lincoln and Douglas’s feud over this topic also embodied a larger breakdown in relations between the North and South, which contributed to the outbreak of Civil War. Throughout the text, May traces the ideological evolution of both men on the issue of slavery’s expansion in Latin America. For Douglas, the acquisition of territory in Latin America was necessary for the growth and progress of the United States. Under his philosophy of popular sovereignty, Douglas argued that future US colonists in Latin America should have the right to establish slavery in their territories if they desired. Contrary to Douglas, Lincoln held an explicitly anti-expansionist position toward Latin America and believed that the prospect of slavery’s expansion there, where it did not yet exist, would put the Union in mortal danger. In fact, May explains that throughout Lincoln’s presidency he maintained an anti-expansionist attitude toward Latin America. Lincoln also favored exporting African Americans to colonies in Latin America where he believed that they could obtain a level of freedom and equality unavailable to them in the United States. Lincoln’s articulation of this position on Latin America during the Lincoln-Douglas debates informed Southerners that a Lincoln victory in the election of 1860 would destroy any hopes they had of expanding slavery southward. May suggests that the desire to preserve future prospects of expanding slavery into Latin America heavily influenced Southerners’ choice to secede in the wake of Lincoln’s victory. Overall, May’s analysis of the Lincoln-Douglas debates adds a transnational dimension to the sectional crisis and the outbreak of the Civil War by centering the future of slavery’s expansion in Latin America as a leading issue that contributed to the breakdown between North and South.

Rethinking the coming of the US Civil War in a transnational context has also pushed historians to explore the interconnections of the war itself with concurrent conflicts of the 1860s. Don H. Doyle has been at the center of scholarly efforts to do so. Most notably, his book The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War (2014) categorizes the US Civil War as part of a broader struggle for democracy throughout the Atlantic world. His latest contribution, an edited anthology, American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Crisis of the 1860s (2017), takes a more direct look at the role of the US Civil War in Latin America. Specifically, American Civil Wars demonstrates that the 1860s was a decade of multiple civil wars, separatist rebellions, slave uprisings, and emancipations throughout the Americas. Furthermore, democratic republics throughout the Americas defeated the attempted reconquest of the hemisphere by European monarchies.

For example, Stève Sainlaude’s essay, “France’s Grand Design and the Confederacy,” argues that the US Civil War neutralized the United States in Latin America as it dealt with the Confederacy. The war presented Napoleon III with an opportunity to reassert France’s former colonial empire in the Americas, which he tried and failed to do in the Second French Intervention in Mexico. This largely resulted from the Union’s victory in the Civil War and the US federal government’s financial and military aid to Benito Juárez’s republican army.

The victories of democratic republics throughout the Americas in the 1860s also prevented the destruction of the international antislavery movement. Rafael Marquese and Matt D. Childs’s respective contributions to this anthology show that the defeat of the Confederacy and abolition of slavery in the United States paved the way for the institution’s demise in Cuba and Brazil. Childs maintains that the US Civil War was the crisis that placed the possibility of abolition on the political horizon for Cuban slaveowners. Likewise, Marquese uses the analogy of a “protective wall” to describe the relationship of US slavery to Brazilian slavery. When this wall came down, it energized an already present and potent antislavery moment in Brazil, which would be vital to the passing of gradual emancipation laws in the 1870s and the final emancipation law in 1888.

In sum, this anthology reframes the US Civil War as a mere chapter in a hemisphere-wide and decade-long struggle between the forces of republicanism and monarchism and between proponents of slavery and emancipation. The Latin American conflicts of the 1860s that scholars have entangled with the US Civil War show that the war was anything but exceptional. Yet this study also emphasizes that the outbreak of the war was a critical factor in the eruption of conflicts in Latin America and that the outcome of the war was essential to the preservation of republicanism in the region.

This turn in the literature has naturally led scholars of US Reconstruction to branch out toward Latin America as well. United States Reconstruction across the Americas (2019), edited by William A. Link, establishes that post-Civil War global political, social, and economic developments entangled and influenced the central elements of Reconstruction (i.e., emancipation, nationalism, and the spread of market capitalism). Additionally, the emergence of the United States in the post-Civil War period as a global power was contingent on developments in several nations throughout the Americas.

Chapter 1, “The Cotton and Coffee Economies of the United States and Brazil, 1865-1904,” by Rafael Marquese, argues that the seemingly disparate transitions from slavery to free labor in Brazil and the US South were quite related. In the aftermath of US emancipation, planters in both nations sought a means by which to transition from slavery to free labor while maintaining the same level of exploitation. Brazilian planters, who saw the end of Brazilian chattel slavery on the horizon after the US Civil War, viewed sharecropping and tenancy in the South as a loss of planters’ power over laborers and the system of production. As an alternative, Brazilian planters instituted the colonato system, which preserved planter power over “the organization of labor and landscape management” (p. 29). Effectively, Brazilian planters were able to maintain some key exploitative elements of slavery under this labor system. Through this example, Marquese shows how the reconfiguration of capitalism during Reconstruction in the United States precipitated change in Latin American countries like Brazil.

From a different direction, Edward B. Rugemer’s essay, “Jamaica’s Morant Bay Rebellion and the Making of Radical Reconstruction,” illustrates the impact of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion on Reconstruction policymaking. The reports of the violent rebellion in Jamaica back in the United States, and fears that the same could occur in the South, influenced Congress to enact legislation and enforcement measures (e.g., the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and Reconstruction Acts of 1867) that would ensure political rights for black men and a future for them in the post-emancipation United States. Rugemer emphasizes the great consideration that Republicans gave to the meaning of the rebellion in terms of its implications for the course of Reconstruction, which further shows the direct impact the rebellion had on the shaping of Reconstruction policy.

In terms of diplomacy, Don H. Doyle’s essay, “Reconstruction and Anti-Imperialism: The United States and Mexico,” examines US foreign policy in the aftermath of the US Civil War. Doyle focuses on the US role in expelling the French from Mexico in 1867 as an indication of “spirit of republican camaraderie” that was inherent to US foreign policy in Latin America during the Reconstruction Era (pp. 6-7).

The transnational framing of US Reconstruction literature has also contributed to further scholarly interest in the ex-Confederate migration to Latin America. Todd W. Wahlstrom’s book The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War (2015) argues that the desire to create surrogate Souths in Mexico was not the driving force behind the migration of a few thousand ex-Confederates to the nation between 1865 and 1866. Rather, it was the pursuit of economic prosperity, which they hoped could be obtained through the creation of agricultural and commercially driven colonies and the exploitation of Mexico’s transborder economic opportunities. For these Southerners, remaining in the US South was not the sole focus of their vision for life after the Civil War. Wahlstrom explains that they believed their future was contingent on the creation of an “entrepôt of southern commerce” through the colonization of Latin America (p. xvii). This dream inevitably died with the failure of Southern colonization in places like Mexico, Brazil, Belize, and Venezuela, but Wahlstrom argues that it marked an important stepping stone in US efforts to “bridge economic borders” in Latin America during the second half of the nineteenth century (p. xxvii).

The literature review in this essay reflects the efforts of scholars of the US Civil War era to incorporate Latin America into what historians have traditionally described as the exceptional history of the United States. Taken together, these studies present strong evidence for the argument that the ideologies and events most identified with the coming of the US Civil War, the war itself, and Reconstruction were deeply entangled with occurrences and ideologies present in Latin America at the same time. More broadly, they demonstrate that US economic, social, and political development during the nineteenth century was internationally interdependent.


[1]. David M. Potter, “Civil War,” in The Comparative Approach to American History, ed. C. Vann Woodward (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 139.

[2]. See Enrico Dal Lago, Agrarian Elites: American Slaveholders and Southern Italian Landowners, 1815-1861 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005), and Civil War and Agrarian Unrest: The Confederate South and Southern Italy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Peter S. Onuf and Nicholas Onuf, Nations, Markets, and War: Modern History and the American Civil War (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006); Timothy Mason Roberts, Distant Revolutions: 1848 and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Pres, 2009).

[3]. Dale W. Tomich, Through the Prism of Slavery: Labor, Capital, and World Economy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 61.

Suggested Readings

Dawsey, Cyrus B., and James M. Dawsey. The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1995.

Doyle, Don H. The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War. New York: Basic Books, 2015.

Fleche, Andre M. The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

Guterl, Matthew Pratt. American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

Jarnagin, Laura. A Confluence of Transatlantic Networks: Elites, Capitalism, and Confederate Migration to Brazil. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2008.

Kelly, Patrick J. “The Lost Continent of Abraham Lincoln.” The Journal of the Civil War Era 9, no. 2 (June 2019): 223-48.

——. “The North American Crisis of the 1860s.” The Journal of the Civil War Era 2, no. 3 (September 2012): 337-68.

Mahoney, Harry Thayer. Mexico and the Confederacy, 1860-1867. San Francisco: Austin & Winfield, 1998.

May, Robert E. Manifest Destiny’s Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

——. ed. The Union, the Confederacy, and the Atlantic Rim. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1995.

——. The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973.

Roark, James L. Masters Without Slaves: Southern Planters in the Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.

Rolle, Andrew F. The Lost Cause: Confederate Exodus to Mexico. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.

Rugemer, Edward Bartlett. The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008.

Scott, Rebecca J. Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Stevenson, Louise L. Lincoln in the Atlantic World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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Ya es una tradición de esta bitácora dar la bienvenida a los nuevos números de la revista Huellas de los Estados Unidos. Estudios, Perspectivas y Debates desde América Latina.  Publicada por los colegas de la Cátedra de Historia de Estados Unidos de la UBA, Huellas es una de pocas publicaciones en castellano dedicadas al estudio de la historia estadounidense. Por lo tanto, considero, además de un honor, un compromiso ayudar en su difusión.

Con este ya son 18 los números publicados por Huellas, lo que es todo un logro y una muestra del tesón de quienes han desarrollado este proyecto hasta convertirlo en un referente para quienes estudiamos la historia de Estados Unidos en el mundo Iberoamericano. Vaya para ellos mi felicitación y agradecimiento.

Copio el índice de este número para que puedan acceder a sus artículos.

Dr. Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, Perú











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Como comentamos en noviembre del año pasado, el  Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Estudios Norteamericanos “Benjamin Franklin” de la Universidad de Alcalá (Instituto Franklin – UAH) es uno de los centros dedicados a los estudios estadounidenses más importantes de Europa. Entre sus publicacones destacan un blog titulado Diálogo Atlántico, al cual pretendo brindar atención este año.

Comparto con mis lectores una corta nota del Doctor Raúl César Cancio Fernández, publicada en el blog del Instituto,  sobre una fallida operación de  tropas de la  Unión “sobre Richmond, la capital confederada,  con el objeto de destruir las líneas de comunicación y suministro entre la ciudad y el ejército del general Robert E. Lee del Norte de Virginia, dispersar al gobierno confederado y liberar a los soldados unionistas confinados en condiciones inhumanas en el campo de prisioneros de Belle Isle.”

De acuerdo con el Dr. Cancio Fernández, esta acción pudo haber influido en el magnicicio del presidente Lincoln.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

20 de febrero de 2020

4350304a.jpgLeap Year en Richmond, Virginia

Raúl César Cancio Fernández

Diálogo Atlántico

La Guerra de Secesión Americana contó, como nosotros hoy, con su año bisiesto, 1864, y, consecuentemente, también con su añadido 29 de febrero que, además, no fue un día inocuo ni mucho menos. El 12 de febrero de ese año, quincuagésimo quinto cumpleaños de Abraham Lincoln, el controvertido general de caballería Kilpatrick puso sobre la mesa del presidente una operación de incursión sobre Richmond, la capital confederada, con el objeto de destruir las líneas de comunicación y suministro entre la ciudad y el ejército del general Robert E. Lee del Norte de Virginia, dispersar al gobierno confederado y liberar a los soldados unionistas confinados en condiciones inhumanas en el campo de prisioneros de Belle Isle. Veremos después como, al parecer, había también un propósito no revelado.

Ulric Dahlgren

Coronel Ulric Dahlgren

El plan se articulaba en tres movimientos: en un primer estadio, la brigada de caballería del general Custer y la infantería del VI Cuerpo de Sedgwick ejecutarían un movimiento diversivo hacia Charlottesville, que confundiera a las defensas confederadas, y permitiera, por un lado, a la columna de Kilpatrick atacar la capital por el norte sobre el eje del Ferrocarril Central de Virginia y, paralelamente, otra columna comandada por el joven coronel Dahlgren, vadear el río James por Goochland Courthouse, atacando Richmond por el sudoeste.

Sin embargo, lo planeado se vio fatalmente alterado tanto por elementos naturales como humanos. En primer lugar, la madrugada de aquel 29 de febrero fue especialmente complicada meteorológicamente en la Península, con fuertes rachas de viento y aguanieve persistente que dificultó la maniobra de vadeo del James, a lo que se añadió la pésima elección del guía que debía indicarles el lugar de paso. Por otra parte, la maniobra de diversión no resultó completamente verosímil, lo que provocó que la columna de Kilpatrick, ante esa circunstancia y la ausencia de señales de su compañero, retuviera la marcha hacia Richmond, confundiendo, en medio de la incertidumbre, a un grupo de ancianos con la infantería rebelde a las puertas de la ciudad, retirándose hacia el río York y dejando sin cobertura a la fuerza de Dahlgren, que fue aniquilada en las inmediaciones de King&Queen Courthouse, después de una afanosa huida por los ríos Pamunkey y Mattaponi.

Cuando los confederados registraron el cuerpo sin vida de Dahlgren, supuestamente encontraron órdenes oficiales de asesinar al presidente Jefferson Davis y a todo su gabinete, extremo que, no obstante, sería desmentido por carta del general Meade a Lee fechada en 17 de abril siguiente. Sea como fuere, muchos sostienen que ese controvertido hallazgo es el origen del magnicidio que poco más de un año después ejecutara John Wilkes Booth en el Teatro Ford…  bis sextus dies ante calendas martii.

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Andrew Johnson · 1868 Una batalla política por la reunificación del país

El fin de la guerra civil estadounidense dio paso a un nuevo problema: ¿qué hacer con los derrotados estados sureños? Esta pregunta llevó a una crisis constitucional que abrió la puerta al primer juicio de residenciamiento en la historia estadounidense.

Tras el asesinato de Abraham Lincoln asumió la presidencia el Vicepresidente Andrew Johnson, un sureño que no sólo había sido miembro del Partido Demócrata, sino que también había poseído esclavos. Johnson era hijo de la tradición de Andrew Jackson y, por ende, se consideraba un defensor del hombre común frente a la aristocracia corrupta de noreste. El nuevo presidente simpatizaba con los blancos pobres y no tenía mucha empatía para los esclavos. Cuando estalló la guerra civil, Johnson era Senador por el estado de Tennesse, pero se mantuvo fiel a la Unión. Los Republicanos lo eligieron candidato a la vicepresidencia para promover la unidad y cortejar el apoyo de los sureños unionistas. En su gestión como Presidente, Johnson dejó claro que era un creyente en la supremacía de los blancos y, por ende, se opuso a la concesión de derechos políticos a los negros. Su simpatía para con los estados sureños fue más que evidente y le   llevó a una colisión con el Congreso.

En mayo de 1865, Johnson hizo público su plan para readmitir a los estados sureños en la Unión. El plan presidencial ofrecía amnistía a todo sureño que hiciera un juramento de lealtad a la constitución de los Estados Unidos. Sólo quedaban fuera los altos dirigentes civiles y militares de la Confederación, quienes sólo podían ser perdonados por el Presidente mismo. Para que los estados fuesen reintegrados a la unión, los sureños debían también ratificar la Enmienda 13, aboliendo la esclavitud. Rápidamente, los estados confederados aceptaron el plan de Johnson y pudieron elegir gobiernos propios. Para el otoño de 1865 diez de los once estados confederados habían cumplido con los requisitos del plan de Johnson

White League and Ku Klux Klan alliance, in illustration, by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874La primera reacción de los congresistas Republicanos al plan del presidente fue favorable. Tanto moderados como radicales decidieron darle una oportunidad a Johnson y a su plan. Éstos esperaban que los nuevos gobiernos sureños aprovecharan la gran oportunidad que el plan Johnson significaba y actuaran de buena fe. Desafortunadamente, esto no ocurrió porque los nuevos gobiernos sureños buscaron resucitar la esclavitud a través de una serie de leyes, conocidas como los códigos negros. Estas leyes buscaban obligar a los negros libres a regresar a trabajar a las plantaciones.  Además, Johnson le otorgó un perdón a básicamente a todo antiguo líder de la Confederación que se lo solicitó. Envalentonados, los sureños eligieron antiguos funcionarios confederados para representarles en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos. Antiguos generales y coroneles, legisladores y hasta el vicepresidente de la Confederación fueron electos al Congreso federal en representación de los estados sureños.

La actitud y las acciones de los sureños enfurecieron a los congresistas Republicanos, quienes decidieron no reconocer a los nuevos legisladores sureños. Para ello, aplicaron una cláusula de la constitución que le reconoce al Congreso el poder de aceptar o rechazar legisladores. De esta forma, todos los congresistas sureños electos bajo el plan de Johnson fueron rechazados por el Congreso.  En respuesta, los estados sureños eliminaron las alusiones raciales en los códigos negros, pero en la práctica sólo aplicaban las leyes a los negros libres.  Para complicar aún más las cosas, se desató una ola de violencia y terror contra los negros libres en diversos estados del sur.  Todo ello llevó a los congresistas republicanos a concluir que el Sur estaba deliberadamente evadiendo la Enmienda 13, y que era necesaria la intervención del Congreso.

En marzo de 1865 el Congreso creó la Oficina de  Libertos  (Freedmen Bureau) para brindar ayuda de emergencia a los antiguos esclavos.  Esta oficina había tenido un éxito limitado.  La Oficina de Libertos operó escuelas ayudando a crear las bases para un sistema de educación pública en el sur. También ayudó a los negros a denunciar los abusos de que eran víctimas. A principios de 1866, el Congreso aprobó extender la vida de esta oficina asignándoles fondos de forma directa y autorizando a sus agentes a investigar casos de maltrato de libertos. Además, el Congreso aprobó una ley de derechos civiles, confiriéndole la ciudadanía norteamericana a los negros. Esta ley definía como ciudadano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos, aunque dejaba fuera a los amerindios. De acuerdo con esta ley, los negros estarían cubiertos por todas las leyes norteamericanas que garantizaban la seguridad y la propiedad de los ciudadanos estadounidenses.

The Freedman´s BureauEn febrero de 1866, el presidente Johnson vetó la nueva ley de la Oficina de Libertos y la Ley de derechos civiles. Además, lanzó un fuerte ataque contra los radicales, acusándoles de traidores que no querían restaurar la Unión.

Los radicales toman control

¿Quiénes eran estos congresistas radicales que provocaron la ira del presidente Johnson?  La mayoría de los unionadicales eran individuos formados al calor de los debates en torno a la esclavitud. Éstos procedían, principalmente, de la zona de Nueva Inglaterra o del medio oeste. Les unía la creencia en la igualdad de derechos políticos y de oportunidades económicas, por lo que creían necesario un gobierno central fuerte. Según ellos, el establecimiento del trabajo libre, la educación universal pública y la igualdad de derechos llevarían al sur a disfrutar del mismo nivel de riqueza, progreso y movilidad social que poseía el norte. Su opinión del Sur no era la mejor, pues le consideraban una región en donde reinaba la ignorancia, se practicaba una agricultura de despilfarro, se rechazaba la manufactura, se despreciaba el trabajo honesto y estaba controlada por una oligarquía majadera. Los radicales querían transformar al Sur desarrollando la pequeña propiedad agraria, fomentando la manufactura, promoviendo la educación, cultivando el respeto al trabajo honesto y extendiendo la igualdad de derechos políticos entres sus habitantes.  Para los radicales, la prioridad no era reestablecer la Unión, sino rehacer al sur.

Charles Sumner

Para los radicales, el gobierno federal debía jugar un papel protagónico en la reconstrucción del sur, sobre todo, garantizando los derechos civiles y el voto de los libertos. Republicanos radicales como Thaddeus Stevens (Pennsylvania) y Charles Sumner (Massachussets) abogaban por una intervención federal directa que protegiera a  los negros y les brindara oportunidades educativas, sociales y económicas.


Los vetos de Johnson unificaron a los legisladores republicanos bajo el liderato de los republicanos radicales, quienes decidieron retar el poder del presidente. En abril de 1866, los radicales obtuvieron el respaldo de las dos terceras parte de los legisladores necesarios para aprobar las leyes vetadas por Johnson. Este fue un momento histórico porque por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos el Congreso fue por encima de un veto presidencial.  En junio de 1866, el Congreso aprobó la enmienda la Enmienda 14 declarando ciudadano norteamericano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos. Según la enmienda ningún estado “aprobará o hará cumplir ninguna ley que restrinja los privilegios o inmunidades de los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos; ni ningún estado privará a persona alguna de su vida, de su libertad, sin el debido procedimiento de ley, ni negará a nadie, dentro de su jurisdicción, al igual protección de las leyes”. Esta enmienda histórica buscaba proteger los derechos de los libertos frente los abusos y atropellos de los sureños garantizando la constitucionalidad de la Ley de Derechos Civiles vetada por Johnson y aprobada por el Congreso.

En las elecciones de 1866, los Republicanos aumentaron su mayoría tanto en la Cámara como en el Senado, y ganaron control de todos los estados del norte. Los Republicanos entendieron su contundente victoria como un mandato, como una muestra de aprobación popular de sus posiciones, como una especie de referéndum que Johnson perdió. La victoria electoral unificó a los congresistas republicanos en su propósito de tomar control de la reconstrucción. Con ello quedó definido el escenario de un choque histórico y peligroso entre las ramas legislativa y ejecutiva del gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Los Republicanos tomaron la iniciativa rápido aprobando una serie de leyes a comienzos del año 1867. En marzo, los republicanos aprobaron la Ley de la Reconstrucción que fue vetada por Johnson y vuelta a probara por el Congreso por encima del veto presidencial. Esta ley organizaba al sur como un territorio conquistado y ocupado, pues le dividía en cinco distritos militares, cada uno comandado por un general del ejército de la Unión. Para que se retirasen las tropas federales y los estados se reintegrasen a la Unión, era necesario que éstos le concediera en el derecho al voto a los libertos y privara de ese mismo derecho a los confederados que participaron en la rebelión. Cada comandante militar debía registrar a todos los votantes de su distrito, blancos y negros, y supervisar que se llevaran a cabo elecciones para escoger una convención estatal. Ésta debería redactar nuevas constituciones que garantizaran el derecho al voto de los negros en cada estado. Además, los estados sureños debían ratificar la Enmienda 14. Cuando todo ello ocurriese, los estados sureños serían readmitidos a la Unión.

Resultado de imagen para Edwin M. Stanton"

Edwin M. Stanton

Los republicanos también aprobaron la Ley de Tenencia de un Cargo Público que hacía obligatorio el consentimiento del Senado para remover de su cargo a todo funcionario cuyo nombramiento tuvo que ser confirmado por el Senado. En otras palabras, obligaba a Johnson a solicitar el consentimiento senatorial para poder destituir funcionarios públicos que aunque pudieron haber sido nombrados por el presidente, debieron ser confirmados por el Senado. Con ello, el Senado quería proteger al Secretario de Guerra Edwin M. Stanton, quien había sido nombrado por Lincoln y favorecía la reconstrucción radical del sur. Como Secretario de Guerra, podía hacer mucho para favorecer a los republicanos radicales y bloquear las acciones del presidente. Esta ley atentaba contra los poderes reconocidos por la constitución al presidente de los Estados Unidos, pues exigía que Johnson trasmitiera sus órdenes al ejército a través de su oficial de mayor rango el General Ulises S. Grant.

Johnson no pudo evitar que se aprobaran ambas leyes y hasta pareció dar señales de aceptar el control congresional de la reconstrucción, pues nombró los generales recomendados por Stanton y Grant para comandar los cincos distritos militares creados por la Ley de Reconstrucción. Sin embargo, esto era una maniobra de Johnson para ganar tiempo, pues tan pronto acabó la sesión del Congreso destituyó a Stanton y le sustituyó por Grant, pues creía que el general sería mucho más fácil de controlar. Además, el presidente sustituyó a cuatro de los comandantes de distritos militares del sur. Grant sorprendió a Johnson al objetar públicamente las movidas del presidente. Cuando el Congreso volvió a reunirse anuló la destitución de Stanton. Resultado de imagen para johnson impeachment"

El 21 de febrero de 1868, Johnson oficialmente despidió a Stanton y el secretario se atrincheró en su oficina y se negó a obedecer al presidente. El 24 de febrero de 1868 por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos, el Congreso inició un proceso de residenciamiento para destituir al presidente. Siguiendo el mandato establecido por la constitución, la Cámara de Representantes inició el proceso de residenciamiento contra Johnson acusándole de once cargos de mala conducta presidencial, siete de ellos por haber violado la Ley de tenencia de un cargo público.  Una vez establecidas las acusaciones en la Cámara, el Senado pasó a enjuiciar al presidente. Tras un juicio de once semanas de duración, Johnson se salvó de ser el primer presidente en ser destituido por un voto, pues se requería que dos terceras partes de los senadores le condenaran (36) y sólo 35 senadores lo encontraron culpable de los cargos de que se le acusaba.  Siete republicanos moderados votaron a favor de Johnson porque no estaban seguros de la constitucionalidad de la Ley  de tenencia de un cargo público, que en efecto fue más tarde declarada inconstitucional por el Tribunal Supremo. Para este grupo de legisladores, destituir a Johnson hubiera sido un acto muy extremo, pues habría establecido un antecedente muy peligroso. En otras palabras, para ellos era más importante salvaguardar el sistema político estadounidense que castigar a Johnson.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 15 de noviembre de 2019


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Thin LightAcabo de leer un libro extraordinario, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipations in the Heart of America. Su autor, Edward L. Ayers, es un historiador estadounidense, ex Presidente de la Universidad de Richmond y miembro fundador del  podcast de historia estadounidense Backstory.  The Thin Light of Freedom completa su obra In The Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863, ganadora del prestigioso Bancroft Prize del año 2004.

Ganador del 2018 Lincoln Prize, este libro examina la guerra de secesión estadounidense a partir de 1863, desde la perspectiva de dos condados estadounidenses claves por su ubicación estratégica: Franklin (Pensilvania-Unionista) y Augusta (Virginia-Confederado). Ello le permite a su autor hacer un examen  micro de un proceso histórico tan complejo como la guerra civil estadounidense.

Dada la magnitud de esta obra, me limitaré hacer algunos comentarios generales sobre su contenido.


Edward L. Ayers

En más de una ocasión he escuchado  a colegas minimizar e inclusive negar la esclavitud como el factor clave de la guerra civil estadounidense. Quienes así piensan, por lo general justifican su argumento subrayando la disposición de Lincoln para un acomodo con el Sur que evitara la secesión y la guerra. Ayers hace un trabajo extraordinario subrayando la centralidad de la esclavitud  en el guerra civil estadounidense. Tal vez Lincoln estuvo dispuesto a llegar a un acuerdo sobre el futuro de la esclavitud, pero el Sur no. En otras palabras, es la tenaz resistencia de los esclavistas lo que lleva al Norte a adoptar una posición abolicionista. Según Ayers, la libertad para los negros avanzó más rápido de lo que sus defensores habían podido imaginar, gracias a la agresividad de los sureños. Para acabar con el Sur – y poner fin a la guerra – era necesario acabar con la esclavitud.

Ayers enfatiza que la emancipación y la Reconstrucción no eran inevitables resultados de la economía moderna, del poder del Norte o de la justicia. Las consecuencias de la guerra permanecieron en duda durante el conflicto y el periodo posterior. Pocos hubieran imaginado en 1860 que en cinco años la esclavitud sería destruida y que los libertos se convertirían en ciudadanos estadounidenses.

En la etapa posterior a la guerra –la llamada Reconstrucción– la actitud de los sureños también jugó un papel clave. Su resistencia y oposición ayudaron a que la revolución que la Reconstrucción significaba avanzara.

Sin embargo, no hay un final feliz. Los enemigos de la libertad de los negros no desaparecieron después de la Reconstrucción. Éstos no se rindieron y por décadas lucharon para hacer retroceder la expansión de la democracia en el Sur, socavando los derechos adquiridos por los negros en la década de 1860.


The Battle of Nashville (Library of Congress)

No puedo terminara sin subrayar dos elementos impresionantes de este libro: lo bien que está escrito y sus fuentes. Esta es una obra con una narración extraordinaria que atrapa al lector sin perder profundidad académica. Ayers recurre a una variedad extraordinaria de fuentes primaras: periódicos, informes, cartas, etc. Destaca el uso de diarios para reconstruir cómo experimentaron la guerra soldados, esposas de soldados, civiles, etc.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 19 de julio de 2018

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download-1El 2018 Lincoln Prize ha sido sido concedido al trabajo de Edward Ayers,  The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America (W.W. Norton and Company). Este premio, que consiste de $50,000, es otorgado anualmente por  el Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History para reconocer el mejor trabajo investigativo sobre Lincoln y el periodo de la guerra civil. Ayers es un historiador estadounidense, ex Presidente de la Universidad de Richmond y miembro fundador de unos de los mejores podcast de historia estadounidense: Backstory. Ha sido merecedor tanto del Bancroft Prize como  del Beveridge Prize.

Vale mencionar a los finalistas de tan prestigioso premio:

  • Ron Chernow, Grant (Penguin Press).
  • Gordon Rhea, On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-14, 1864 (LSU Press).
  • Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock:  Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century(Harvard University Press).
  • Cate Lineberry, Be Free or Die (St. Martin’s Press).
  • Graham Peck, Making an Antislavery Nation(University of Illinois Press).
  • Adam I.P. Smith, The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics: 1846—1865 (University of North Carolina Press).

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What Union Soldiers Thought About the Civil War


The New York Times  October 17, 2014

Several years ago, a thick sheaf of Civil War letters was discovered in an old barn in upstate New York. Most were sent by a Union soldier, Charles Freeman Biddlecom, to his wife, the former Esther Lapham. Now edited and published by Katherine M. Aldridge, who owns the barn, they provide a remarkably candid window into the outlook of an ordinary infantryman. They also caution us against exaggerating the affinity of common soldiers for the great causes — the Union and emancipation — that we now hold in such high regard.

Today we often remember Union soldiers as principled, articulate and ready to sacrifice their lives for something larger. The historians James McPherson and Chandra Manning each have written influential recent volumes articulating soldiers’ views: McPherson’s Union soldiers were “intensely aware of the issues at stake and passionately concerned about them”; they knew that they were playing roles in a transcendently important struggle, on which the future of the American nation would pivot. Likewise, the “commitment to emancipation” among Manning’s Union soldiers deepened and intensified as the war progressed. For them, “ideals like liberty, equality, and self-government” were not empty abstractions but core principles worth fighting to uphold.

The filmmaker Ken Burns spearheaded this heroic reassessment with his widely watched public television series on the Civil War in the early 1990s. Most memorably, Burns used the emotionally charged letter to “My very dear Sarah” from a Rhode Island infantryman, Sullivan Ballou, written in July 1861 just before the battle of Bull Run. Much as Ballou wanted to return to his loved ones unharmed and to see his sons grow to “honorable manhood,” he gave ultimate priority to his country. He and his generation owed a great debt to “those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution.” He was “willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.” Untold millions of television viewers, alerted that Ballou’s iconic letter was his last, have listened intently to its dramatic rereading, complete with stringed instruments in the background, tugging at our heartstrings.

Ballou’s noble and stoic valedictory makes for splendid theater, but the messy realities of war swept into the Army countless men whose commitment to big causes was far more muddled and erratic – men like Charles Biddlecom, who lived as a farmer in Macedon, N.Y., just east of Rochester.

On the face of it, Biddlecom might have been a promising candidate for Burns’s honor roll. He was educated, he wrote vivid prose, he was older than the average (born in 1832) and he came from a region where slavery was deplored and enthusiasm for reform was widespread. So one might expect Biddlecom to have embraced the Union cause for all the right reasons. But in his letters, we find that he saw no purpose in the war and considered himself a helpless pawn in an enormous kill-or-be-killed chess match.

Biddlecom first enlisted in May 1861, as a volunteer in the 28th New York Infantry. Suspecting that the “fuss” soon would be over, he wanted to rout the “southern whelps.” But his health deteriorated, and he was discharged before he saw combat.

Two years later, however, in the summer of 1863, Biddlecom was called back. The war had grown to proportions unimaginable in 1861. He and many other “poor forsaken conscripts” were assigned to rebuild the depleted ranks of the 147th New York, which had been decimated on the first day at Gettysburg. The re-formed regiment was stationed in a dismal part of Northern Virginia, already scarred by three years of warfare.

As the army went into winter quarters, Biddlecom was sickened by dysentery, afflicted by lice and miserably lonesome and homesick. He and three other men lived in a “little dog kennel,” about four feet high. In his darker moments he predicted cynically that the war would grind on inconclusively for 20 years, because “Lincoln and his miserable crew” could never bring it to a successful finish. Biddlecom also second-guessed the decision to go to war in the first place. Much as he hated slaveholders, he mused that it might have been “better in the end to have let the South go out peaceably and tried her hand at making a nation.”

Biddlecom longed to go home to rejoin his family. Some men, he observed, had been discharged who were “not a bit more disabled than I am,” and he vowed to follow their example. By spring, as the prospect of renewed fighting came closer, the trickle of deserters fleeing into the nearby mountains from the 147th increased. Most nights two or three men quietly absconded to join the euphemistic “Blue Ridge Corps,” and Biddlecom predicted that the regiment stood to lose 150 men. In some ways he sympathized with the deserters — he agreed that no conscript should have to serve longer than nine months — but he could not see himself “sneaking off.”

In early May 1864, Biddlecom and his regiment were thrown across the Rapidan River into the terrifying caldron of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. Ten days of fighting in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania left his division “terribly cut up,” with half his own company killed or wounded, and others missing. By early June, barely 100 of the 550 men in his regiment who had started the campaign remained fit for duty.

Biddlecom initially hoped that Grant could bring the war to a prompt end, but six weeks of inconclusive bloodletting rekindled his cynicism. He dismissed as “bosh” all talk about “great Union victories.” Reports about the “pluck and courage” of the Union Army were “the worst kind of exaggeration.” The Army was “worn out, discouraged, [and] demoralized.” He admonished his wife, Esther, to reject “newspaper hokum” that depicted ordinary soldiers as patriotic. Men would fight to preserve their reputations, but “as for men fighting from pure love of country, I think them as few as white blackbirds.”

What motivated Biddlecom to continue fighting? Certainly not the high ideals depicted McPherson or Manning. It was in part personal. Convinced that he was the “black sheep” of his family and that most of his kinfolk “never gave me credit for being much of a man,” he carried a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to make it clear that he was “not an absolute failure in all things.” He was determined not to disgrace his parents or stigmatize his sons by “showing cowardice.” But, he insisted, he was neither a “Union Saver” nor a “freedom shrieker.” He rejected all high-flown rationalizations for the war effort — “to hell with the devilish twaddle about freedom.”

As late as August 1864, Biddlecom believed that the men in the Army would vote “four to one” against Lincoln. He resolved to support the president’s opponent, George B. McClellan, on grounds that wasting “more blood and treasure in this war will be productive of more evil to the white race than it will be of good to the black race.” He was content to allow slavery to “die a peaceful death,” even if it required 50 or 100 years.

As Union prospects brightened and the election approached, however, Biddlecom reversed himself and spurned the “copperhead ticket.” Suddenly, the soldier who was no “freedom shrieker” embraced the war “for freedom, [and] for equal rights.” On Election Day in November he sounded entirely unlike his old self, as he pontificated that the contest would decide “the future of American civilization.” It pitted “Lincoln and the universal rights of man” against “McClellan and another compromise with the Devil.” He heralded the outcome for affirming that “freedom shall extend over the whole nation.” The “greatest nation of Earth” would not bow down to “traitors in arms.”

So Biddlecom’s pithy letters convey a mixed message. Until the autumn of 1864, he disdained all ideological rationalizations for the Union war effort. But he also was a team player, and his team appears to have broken strongly toward Lincoln. The army, he decided, was “a very good school for hot heads such as I was.” Home influences may also have played a role — after all, the men in his regiment came from one of the most intensely Republican regions in the country.

The patriotic prose that Charles Biddlecom penned in November 1864 would have delighted Ken Burns. But we dare not forget the long and circuitous journey that finally landed him among the charmed circle of those Union soldiers whose ideas square with modern sensibilities.

Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.

Sources: Katherine M. Aldridge, ed., “No Freedom Shrieker: The Civil War Letters of Union Soldier Charles Biddlecom”; James McPherson, “For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War”; Chandra Manning, “When This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War.”

Daniel W. Crofts

Daniel W. Crofts, a professor emeritus of history at The College of New Jersey, is completing a new book, entitled “Lincoln’s Other Thirteenth Amendment: Rewriting the Constitution to Conciliate the Slave South.

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La Universidad de Columbia acaba de dar acceso gratuito a los cursos “online” (MOOC) del historiador norteamericano Eric Foner. Autor de obras imprescindibles como Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877  (1988) y The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2011), Foner es uno de los grandes analistas de la guerra civil norteamericana y del periodo de la Reconstrucción.

Columbia University Releases Eric Foner’s Civil War MOOCs. It’s Free! 

HNN  September 17, 2014

Free history courses to reach educators and students worldwide, expanding Columbia’s online teaching initiatives

NEW YORK, New York, September 11, 2014 — Columbia University’s Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) today announced the release of three new online courses on edX: The Civil War and Reconstruction. Eric Foner, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian and Columbia University’s DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, teaches this three-part massive open online course (MOOC). On Wednesday, September 17, the first course launches – the series is free and accessible to anyone anywhere with an Internet connection, including K-12 educators and students.

The new history series, the first humanities course offering by Columbia on edX, is an open learning experience spread out over weeks of stimulating lectures, interactive assignments, and community discussions. The entire series is 27 weeks long and challenges students to examine the politics of history and investigate themes that are still very present in our national dialogue – the balance of power between local and national authority, the boundaries of citizenship, and the meaning of freedom and equality.

“We are delighted that Eric Foner is kicking off Columbia’s involvement with the edX platform,” said Columbia University Provost John H. Coatsworth. “His course series on the Civil War will highlight one of our finest teachers while providing students around the world with a window on to the outstanding humanities instruction for which Columbia is known.”

The three online courses are:

1. A House Divided: The Road to Civil War, 1850-1861 – 10 weeks, beginning September 17

2. A New Birth of Freedom: The Civil War, 1861-1865 – 8 weeks, beginning December 1

3. The Unfinished Revolution: Reconstruction and After, 1865-1890 – 9 weeks, beginning February 25

The series trailer is online here:

“Recent events have underscored the fact that our society is still grappling with the long-term legacies of slavery and the failure of Reconstruction, so this history is especially pertinent today” said Professor Foner.

“If you want to know where the world you’re living in came from,” Foner tells us in the trailer, “you need to know about the Civil War era.”

“The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning is thrilled to see Eric Foner‘s work published this way,” said CCNMTL director Maurice Matiz. “Besides having a great interest in getting those connected to Columbia during Foner’s long career —our alumni— access to the course, we are also hoping that the course will have broad appeal given the public interest in this key period of our history.”

“We are honored to work with Eric Foner on his first MOOC, “The Civil War and Reconstruction,” and to help history-lovers everywhere connect with this prominent historian to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of our shared past and society today,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

This MOOC series is also registered as an XSeries on edX, giving learners the opportunity to sign up and receive a verified certificate of achievement that authenticates their successful completion of each course.

Visit ColumbiaX here.

In addition, the lecture videos from the entire course will be published on CCNMTL’s YouTube channel.

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