Lorien Foote: How Slaves Prayed for Yankees during the Civil War

In the fall of 1864, slaves prayed with and for hundreds of Yankee soldiers who sought refuge in their cabins. The words of these prayers reveal slaves’ powerful faith that God would intervene in history to defeat the Confederacy and bring about their freedom.

Matthew Mason: Morality, Politics, and Compromise: The Plight and Prospects of the Moderate, Then and Now

There are a few potential parallels between modern and antebellum religious leaders. Many modern religious leaders seemingly hope to set aside thorny issues such as LGBT rights and immigration so they can refocus on their core religious missions.

Stephen D. Engle: IL Governor Richard Yates and the Union’s Cooperative Federalism

Governors asserting themselves in ways that strengthened the Union was the cornerstone of the cooperative federalism that emerged in the Civil War North and contributed to a Union victory. If it is true, as some scholars have asserted in the last 150 years, that the Confederacy died of Democracy, it might also be said that the Union lived because of it.

D. H. Dilbeck: What is a Just War? How the Union’s “Lieber Code” Answered a Perennial Question

Lieber was a Berlin-born jurist and scholar who taught in South Carolina from 1835-1856, but was professor of history and political economy at Columbia College in New York City at the outbreak of the Civil War. Almost as soon as the war began, Lieber (who wrote widely on the laws of war in the antebellum era) saw the need for something like the code he eventually drafted. The traditional just-war framework distinguishes between jus in bello, just conduct in war and jus ad bellum, legitimate reasons for engaging in war.

Matthew Mason: Movement within Bounds on the Antislavery Political Spectrum: The Case of Edward Everett

If we can bring ourselves to take seriously their protestations both of love for the Union and distaste for slavery, we should not be surprised to see them move along a spectrum of antislavery belief and action. While that peregrination rarely proceeded in one direction or predictable ways, it did transpire within limits for every antebellum Northern politician. The relative strength of their antislavery principles dictated that there were bounds beyond which their conservatism could not go, but their nationalism and respect for law and order also set boundaries beyond which their antislavery could not go.

Lorien Foote: Adding Prisoners of War to ‘Free State of Jones’

Director Gary Ross had a fascinating and complicated story to tell, and if he had difficulty weaving the parts together for a two-hour movie, his problems would have been compounded had he tried to tell the story of the deserters in rebellion against the Confederacy in the Carolinas. Imagine Free State of Jones with nearly 3,000 escaped prisoners of war thrown into the mix.

4 Ways to Celebrate the Release of Free State of Jones

Today the film Free State of Jones opens in theaters across the United States. Historian Victoria E. Bynum, whose book of the same name helped inspire the film, has been making media rounds this week, talking about what the New York Times has called “the first Hollywood drama to come with footnotes.” Director Gary Ross comes correct on the history in this project, so historians, enjoy! Here are four ways you can celebrate the opening of the movie today.

Video: Mahershala Ali on Narrating ‘The Free State of Jones’ for Audible

In the following video, Actor Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) shares his experience transforming The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War into an audiobook for Audible.

Brian Craig Miller: “Civil War America” and a Side of Tomato Soup

We welcome to the blog a guest post from Brain Craig Miller, Civil War historian and author of recently published Empty Sleeves: Amputation in the Civil War South.   In today’s post, Miller reflects on the Civil War America series and how it shaped his views of the Civil War.  ### It was the morning prior …

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James J. Broomall: Reflections on “Civil War America”

We welcome to the blog a guest post from James J. Broomall, Civil War historian and director of the George Taylor Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University.  In today’s post, Broomall writes about how the Civil War America series has guided his studies over the years. ### Like any good …

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Steven E. Nash: Who Was Virgil Lusk?

It was a cold, rainy December afternoon when my wife finally asked the question: “Who was Virgil Lusk?” It was a fair question. After all, I had dragged her around Asheville’s historic Riverside Cemetery for well over an hour trying to locate his grave. With each grave adorned with a miniature Confederate battle flag, my frustration mounted. Lusk was a Confederate soldier. So why was my strategy of driving toward those flags not producing any results? Was his flag missing? Who was Virgil Lusk?

Excerpt: Ku-Klux, by Elaine Frantz Parsons

The Ku-Klux began as a name. It was chosen by a group of young former Confederates in Pulaski, Tennessee, in May or June 1866. Pulaski, the seat of Giles County, is seventy-four miles south of Nashville, connected to the city by the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. The war’s shadow fell heavily on the nation, but Pulaski bore a disproportionate share of suffering. While it was never itself a battlefield, Federal troops had occupied it, and it was in close proximity to some of the war’s most deadly fighting. Union troops camped in Pulaski in the days before the bloody Battle of Nashville, and were a frequent presence throughout the war. These strains may have contributed to the area’s fraught postwar atmosphere.

Steven E. Nash: Riot, Reconstruction, and Racial Politics in Asheville

Through centuries of slavery followed by Jim Crow segregation, white Americans have claimed public spaces—like Pack Square—through naming or regulated access. But those claims were never complete or total. Perhaps that is one reason why the commemorations and memories—such as those surrounding Vance—neglect the region’s complicated Reconstruction history. After all, the war may have ended slavery, but the real struggle over the meaning of freedom began when the soldiers stacked arms in 1865.

The Free State of Jones movie trailer is here!

The previews for The Free State of Jones are screening in theaters now, and the movie will be released in May. So there’s plenty of time between now and then to read the full history in Victoria E. Bynum’s book The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War. (And now you can picture Matthew McConaughey in the role of Newt Knight and Gugu MBatha-Raw as Rachel Knight as you read. . . . )

Tiya Miles: Ghosts ‘R Us

Judging by the sheer number of supernatural walking tours, bus tours, hearse tours, and reality TV shows proliferating across the country, America is host to manifold hauntings: at prisons, insane asylums, old hotels, historic sites and, of course, exceedingly Gothic haunted houses. It is perhaps not surprising that many of these hauntings are rooted in the South, the site of the American tragedy of slavery and the seat of the Civil War. In today’s Dixieland, enslaved ghosts join a cast of spectral characters: Confederate soldiers carrying muskets, young plantation belles in mourning, lovelorn barmaids done wrong, and profiteering pirates. But it is the ghosts of the enslaved who stand out.

Victoria E. Bynum: A New Glimpse of the Cinematic Free State of Jones

The movie The Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey as Newt Knight and Gugu MBatha-Raw as Rachel Knight, is scheduled for release on March 11, 2016. Almost a year previous to that day of projected release, the following photos were taken on the movie’s set in Covington, Louisiana. You’ll likely recognize the director, Gary Ross, of Hunger Games and Seabiscuit fame. Perhaps you’ll recognize the Confederate officer and nurse too!

Cartoon: Jesse and Frank James Discover the Risks of Railroad Robbery, by M.W. Summers

Political cartoon and commentary by historian Mark Wahlgren Summers: meet two men who eclipsed Jesse and Frank James in their exploitative conquests.

Cartoon: John B. Gordon Takes Umbrage and Crisp Twenties, by Mark Wahlgren Summers

Today’s cartoon and commentary by historian and illustrator Summers features the hypocrisy of some politician-businessman relations in the Reconstruction South

Cartoon: Wade Hampton’s Whiskers, by Mark Wahlgren Summers

Political cartoon and commentary by historian Mark Wahlgren Summers: How the Lost Cause lost its way with Wade Hampton

J. Matthew Gallman on Heroes and Hypocrites: War Talk 150 Years Ago and Today

The public conversation that emerged in the Union states during the Civil War meshes well with these contemporary discussions. The greatest scorn was reserved for the dishonest charlatans who sought to profit from a war where they had not shared in the risks.