The Civil War Chronicle: The Only Day-by-Day Portrait of America's Tragic Conflict as Told by Soldiers, Journalists, Politicians, Farmers, Nurses, Slaves, and Other Eyewitnesses

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In this moving chronicle of what acclaimed historian Eric Foner calls (in his introduction) "the most decisive turning point in American history," we hear the real voices of the soldiers, nurses, farmers, laborers, slaves, and freed people who lived through America's most tragic conflict. The Civil War Chronicle is a much-needed collection of the letters, diaries, speeches, telegrams, newspaper accounts, and official battlefield reports penned by those people, both famous and anonymous, who felt compelled to ...
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In this moving chronicle of what acclaimed historian Eric Foner calls (in his introduction) "the most decisive turning point in American history," we hear the real voices of the soldiers, nurses, farmers, laborers, slaves, and freed people who lived through America's most tragic conflict. The Civil War Chronicle is a much-needed collection of the letters, diaries, speeches, telegrams, newspaper accounts, and official battlefield reports penned by those people, both famous and anonymous, who felt compelled to record their experiences because they sensed that their lives were significant. Also included are hundreds of period images which, along with the carefully chosen yet highly eclectic accounts, help recapture the day-to-day texture of life during the Civil War at all levels of Union and Confederate society.

From the election of Abraham Lincoln and the firing on Fort Sumter to Robert E. Lee's surrender and the assassination of Lincoln barely a week later, The Civil War Chronicle presents an astonishing array of perspectives and conflicting accounts of this very personal war. Read, for example, Clara Barton's remembrance of her first trip to the front lines, or Ulysses S. Grant's description of early Civil War combat, or the letter written by an escaped slave in which he assures his still-enslaved family, "I will have you if it cost me my life." Even longtime students of the Civil War will find a rich bounty of details and anecdotes that have previously escaped them.

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Editorial Reviews

This ambitious offering collects hundreds of primary source materials to present a chronological picture of the Civil War. The text includes selected letters, speeches, diaries, and newspaper articles, organized chronologically from Lincoln's election in 1860 to the final Confederate surrender in 1865. A short introduction, printed in bold italic typeface, gives the context and the source of each entry. The result is a widely encompassing collection that captures the complex issues and diverse viewpoints of the period. At times, the shift in perspective is quite powerful. The wife of a southern landowner offering her candid views opposing slavery in a diary is followed by an unapologetic speech by the Confederate vice president defending the practice. First Bull Run is seen through separate reports from a Union soldier, a Confederate general, and a civilian bystander. At times the shift in language style is abrupt, moving from flowery political speeches to rigid battle reports to plain-spoken diaries. Battle accounts are numerous, but other entries offer vast insight into the effects of the war on business, politics, and civilian life. Black-and-white photographs and artwork appear on most pages, although dates and sources are not cited for all. A detailed index allows readers to locate specific areas of interest. The Civil War Chronicle lacks the cohesion of Milton Meltzer's Voices from the Civil War (HarperCollins, 1989), which groups first-person accounts thematically rather than chronologically. Nevertheless the sheer abundance of sources and viewpoints makes this book a unique and valuable resource. Index. Illus. Photos. Source Notes. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P J S A/YA (Better thanmost, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, Crown, 544p, . Ages 14 to Adult. Reviewer: Steven Engelfried SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
Library Journal
The American Civil War has been so well documented by historians that it seems difficult to produce an original work on the subject. Here, however, we see a new approach to this familiar conflict. Gallman, director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, has compiled extensive primary sources into a one-volume account of the war, showing the conflict through the eyes of witnesses in a day-by-day history that begins with reactions to Abraham Lincoln's 1860 election and ends with accounts of the Confederate defeat in May 1865. Various documents are reproduced, including letters from soldiers, private diaries, newspaper articles, government dispatches, and telegrams. Concentrating on campaigns and battles, this work is especially good in its inclusion of minor as well as major engagements. Despite the military emphasis, the home front is well represented. However, at least two significant events, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the end of the war, deserve more attention. Additional eyewitness accounts would have given readers a better sense of the country's emotions in 1865. Still, in this invaluable source, readers have a chance to see single events from different points of view, sampling accounts from presidents and generals, common soldiers and sailors, journalists, women, and slaves. This unique work serves as both a fine history and a quick reference. Appropriate for academic and public libraries.--Rhonda L. Smith, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812931143
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/31/2000
  • Edition description: Illustrations: 125
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 7.31 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.61 (d)

Meet the Author

J. Matthew Gallman is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, where he directs the Office of Civil War Era Studies. He has studied the Civil War period for much of the past twenty years and is the author of Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia During the Civil War and The North Fights the Civil War: The Home Front, as well as many articles on various aspects of the Northern home front.

Eric Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of numerous works on nineteenth-century American history, including The Story of American Freedom, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, and Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War. He has been named Scholar of the Year by the New York Council for the Humanities and has served as president of both the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association.

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Read an Excerpt

Lincoln Elected--President

The election of 1860, probably the most momentous in the nation's history, laid bare the bitter division between North and South that had been festering for more than a decade. In a four-way contest, Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate, who opposed the expansion of slavery into new territories, won less than a majority of the popular vote but 59 percent of the electoral college, thus becoming the nation's sixteenth president. The North-South split was so decisive that Lincoln did not receive a single electoral vote from the South, which lined up solidly behind proslavery candidate John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, James Buchanan's vice president and a leader of the Southern wing of the Democratic party. (Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas ran as the candidate of the Northern Democrats, following a sectional split at the party's national convention.) Lincoln's election pleased most Northerners, but not radical abolitionists, who criticized him for being a fence-sitter on the issue of slavery, and not Democrats, who thought him too radical. Meanwhile, in the South, whites vilified Lincoln and saw his election as nothing less than the Republic's death knell. These accounts -- from abolitionist Wendell Phillips; from Horace Greeley, the Republican editor of the New York Tribune; and from the Atlanta Confederacy -- give an indication of the enormous breadth of opinion.

If the telegraph speaks the truth, for the first time in our history the slave has chosen a president of the United States . . . . Not an abolitionist, hardly an antislavery man, Mr. Lincoln consents to represent an antislavery idea. A pawn on the political chessboard, his value is his position; with fair effort, we may soon charge him for knight, bishop, or queen.

Abraham Lincoln illustrates [the Republican party's] position and enforces our argument. His career proves our doctrine sound. He is Republicanism embodied and exemplified. Born in the very humblest Whig stratum of society, reared in poverty, earning his own livelihood from a tender age by the rudest and least recompensed labor . . . picking up his education as he might by the evening firelight of rude log cabins . . . and so gradually working his way upward to knowledge, capacity, esteem, influence, competence . . . his life is an invincible attestation of the superiority of Free Society, as his election will be its crowning triumph.

Let the consequences be what they may -- whether the Potomac is crimsoned in human gore, and Pennsylvania Avenue is paved ten fathoms deep with mangled bodies, or whether the last vestige of liberty is swept from the face of the American continent, the South will never submit to such humiliation and degradation as the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.

In this speech to the Georgia legislature delivered immediately after Lincoln's election, Robert Toombs, a future Confederate cabinet member and general at Antietam, encapsulated the South's perception of Lincoln and the Republican party.

The instant the government was organized, at the very first Congress, the Northern States evinced a general desire and purpose to use it for their own benefit, and to pervert its powers for sectional advantage, and they have steadily pursued that policy to this day . . .

Our property has been stolen, our people murdered; felons and assassins have found sanctuary in the arms of the party which elected Mr. Lincoln. The Executive power, the last bulwark of the Constitution to defend us against these enemies of the Constitution, has been swept away, and we now stand without a shield, with bare bosoms presented to our enemies, and we demand at your hands the sword for our defense, and if you will not give it to us, we will take it -- take it by the divine right of self-defense, which governments neither give nor can take away. Therefore, redress for past and present wrongs demands resistance to the rule of Lincoln and his Abolition horde over us; he comes at their head to shield and protect them in the perpetration of these outrages upon us, and, what is more, he comes at their head to aid them in consummating their avowed purposes by the power of the Federal Government. Their main purpose, as indicated by all their acts of hostility to slavery, is its final and total abolition. His party declare it; their acts prove it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2000

    Day by day contemporary flavorof the Civil War

    I have a few problems with his book, which is a collection of old photographs and sketches and letters, reports and other original source material organized in a day-by-day format and with a short commentary for putting each of the original sources in context. The photographs sketches are very nice and contain some that I hadn't seen before (and some old favorites such as the landscape after Hood blew up his ammunition train when abandoning Atlanta). The source material is good when it deals with the politics and the home front, nicely including Baltimore riots, New York draft riots, currency legislation and Grant's Jew order, banning them from his theater of operations. The lacking part to the book is its treatment of military operations. Major battles are reduced to operations reports or letters home about 2/3 of a page long, there are no maps and the day-by-day format eliminates continuity. One is merely left with account after account of regiments being crushed and (in the commentary) casualty figures without any understanding of why operations occurred where and when they did. Worse, the commentary is full of errors. E.P. Alexander is identified as 'Lee's chief of artillery'. Lincoln made T.S.C. Lowe chief of army aeronautics after meeting him on June 11, 1863 after which he resigned in May 1863. The Union ironclad Carondelet is identified as wooden-hulled. The Confederate ram Albemarle is said to have 'survived the mission, but it was so badly damaged that repairs could not be completed before war's end,' on page 404, but then on page 467, we read of the Union raid that destroyed it. Get this book if you want some contemporary flavor to add while you are reading a good general history of the civil war.

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