Kathryn Shively Meier: A Civil War Soldier Beats the Odds on the Virginia Peninsula


Nature's Civil WarToday we welcome a guest post from Kathryn Shively Meier, author of Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia. In the Shenandoah Valley and Peninsula Campaigns of 1862, Union and Confederate soldiers faced unfamiliar and harsh environmental conditions—strange terrain, tainted water, swarms of flies and mosquitoes, interminable rain and snow storms, and oppressive heat—which contributed to escalating disease and diminished morale. Using soldiers’ letters, diaries, and memoirs, plus a wealth of additional personal accounts, medical sources, newspapers, and government documents, Meier reveals how these soldiers strove to maintain their physical and mental health by combating their deadliest enemy—nature.

In today’s post, Meier describes the struggle of Lt. Charles B. Haydon as he wards off disease during the early years of the Civil War.


Stationed on the Virginia Peninsula in March 1862, Lt. Charles B. Haydon of the 2nd Michigan Infantry lamented the death of his brigade’s signal officer from brain fever: “No one need shun death on the battlefield when such as he so young & full of strength & hope fall by disease.” He spoke not only from grief at losing a friend, but also from personal trepidation.

Haydon himself was suffering from a severe cold, which rendered him “so hoarse I can scarce speak a loud word.” He could hardly guess what his body had in store for the coming week: “My bowels are turned upside down, the contents are running out double quick.” Nevertheless, Haydon avoided sick call, during which the regimental surgeon might have ordered him to the hospital—an alien, remote site of care, almost universally despised by soldiers, who as civilians had been accustomed to home care from family members. When Haydon finally consulted the surgeon as to his condition, he received medicine—likely mercury- or opium-based—that only made him worse; he proceeded to vomit “no less than eleven times to day.”

Haydon’s experience was hardly unique that spring. From the summer of 1861 to the spring of 1862, each Confederate or Union soldier was sick an average of three times. It was also the norm for soldiers to shun official army medical care, as they found the medicines loathsome and dreaded being separated from their regiments, often familiar faces from back home. Though contemporary physicians were still caught up in such theories of disease causation as the four humors (the conception that illness occurred when the four main bodily fluids were in need of recalibration), laypeople preferred environmental explanations for sickness that could be confirmed by observation and personal experience.
Continue reading ‘Kathryn Shively Meier: A Civil War Soldier Beats the Odds on the Virginia Peninsula’ »

J. Samuel Walker: The ACC’s Greatest Game

ACC Basketball: The Story of the Rivalries, Traditions, and Scandals of the First Two Decades of the Atlantic Coast ConferenceToday we welcome a guest blog post from J. Samuel Walker, author of ACC Basketball: The Story of the Rivalries, Traditions, and Scandals of the First Two Decades of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Since the inception of the Atlantic Coast Conference, intense rivalries, legendary coaches, gifted players, and fervent fans have come to define the league’s basketball history. Walker traces the traditions and the dramatic changes that occurred both on and off the court during the conference’s rise to a preeminent position in college basketball between 1953 and 1972.

As we gear up for the 2014 tournament season, Walker looks back 40 years to tell the story of one of the greatest games in the history of the ACC tournament.


Forty years ago in the ACC tournament finals, the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the University of Maryland Terrapins played a game that experts generally consider the best ever played in conference history. NC State was ranked number one in the country and Maryland was close behind at number four. The game was so memorable not only for the exceptional quality of play but also for the magnitude of the stakes. At that time, only one team per conference qualified for the NCAA tournament, and winning the ACC tournament was essential to compete for the national championship.

NC State, coached by Norm Sloan, was led by Tom Burleson, a gifted 7’2” center, Monte Towe, a guard with magical ball-handling skills, and David Thompson, who was so good that Boston Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn rated him as a 10 on a 5-point scale. The Wolfpack placed first in the regular season standings with a 12-0 record. The ACC then had seven teams, and the regular season champions received a bye in the first round of the tournament.

Maryland, coached by Lefty Driesell, had lost to NC State five consecutive times, but coaches and players from both teams knew that the Terrapins had the ability to end the streak. The team was talented, experienced, and confident. It featured center Len Elmore, an intimidating defender and rebounder, forward Tom McMillen, a second-team All-American in 1973, and guards John Lucas and Maurice Howard, who were excellent scorers and playmakers.

Maryland finished the regular season with a 9-3 conference record and tied for second with North Carolina, which ranked sixth in the country. To win the ACC and advance to the NCAAs, either team would have to win three games. During the season Sloan had stressed the importance of gaining an edge by earning the bye, and his players had worked hard for the advantage of sitting out the first round.

Maryland and North Carolina won their first-round games easily to set up a head-to-head confrontation. In what Maryland assistant coach Dave Pritchett called a “hate game” between evenly matched rivals, the Terrapins won in a rout, 105-85. NC State beat Virginia to advance to the finals.
Continue reading ‘J. Samuel Walker: The ACC’s Greatest Game’ »

Tammy Ingram on the Importance of Roads and the Foundation of the Dixie Highway

Dixie HighwayAt the turn of the twentieth century, good highways eluded most Americans and nearly all southerners. In their place, a jumble of dirt roads covered the region like a bed of briars. Introduced in 1915, the Dixie Highway changed all that by merging hundreds of short roads into dual interstate routes that looped from Michigan to Miami and back. In connecting the North and the South, the Dixie Highway helped end regional isolation and served as a model for future interstates. Tammy Ingram describes the role the Dixie Highway played in shaping U.S. transportation system as it is today in her new book Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930.

In trying to explain why roads—and specifically the Dixie Highway—were so important, she writes:

Tammy Ingram

Tammy Ingram (photo by: Tanya Boggs Photography)

I have a hard time explaining to people why I write about roads. That’s right: roads. Highways. Routes. Thruways. Paths. Arteries. After nearly a decade of writing about the history of road building in the South, I know every synonym there is, but I have never developed a corresponding list of answers for scholars, students or, even worse, family members when they say, somewhat disingenuously, “Oh … roads? How interesting. … Um, why?”

So here’s a shot at answering that question, once and for all.

I’ve always loved to drive. My dad taught me how when I was 6 or 7 years old and then turned me loose with his old one-ton flatbed Ford when I was 8. With the tattered bench seat pushed all the way forward, I toured the back roads around our south Georgia farm with Scooter, my Chihuahua, perched on the seat next to me. When I was older (and legal), I ventured farther, this time with a stack of maps by my side.

My best memories are from those road trips – my first solo long-distance drive when I went off to college, a cross-country journey with an old boyfriend in his grandmother’s Buick Le Sabre and speeding across the Tappan Zee Bridge at 4 a.m. on the 1,000-mile drive home from grad school (when I looked to the left, I could see New York City lit up against the dark night sky). These days, I prefer two wheels: Along with my nerd posse – a small group of local chefs, photographers and videographers who let me tag along with them – I explore the flat, curvy back roads around Charleston on weekend motorcycle rides.

While this doesn’t fully explain my decision to write a book about road building in the early 20th-century South, I’m certain that it has helped me to understand how vitally important roads were – and still are – to farmers, businessmen, factory workers, schoolchildren and mere joyriders like myself. At the turn of the 20th century, roads dominated everyday life. They determined where people could and could not travel, as well as whether or not other people, goods, services and even ideas could reach them. Roads dominated conversations around the ballot box and the dinner table, but good roads eluded most Americans and virtually all Southerners. In their place, a jumble of muddy dirt routes blanketed the region like a bed of briars, full of dead ends and treacherous mud puddles just waiting to ensnare even the most careful traveler.

How did roads determine the outcomes of elections? How did people conduct commerce prior to a nationally linked road system? Ingram explores these ideas and much more. Read Ingram’s piece in its entirety at the College of Charleston Magazine.

Oscars 2014: History in Pictures

12 Years a Slave movie poster 2013We would like to congratulate all of last night’s Oscar winners and nominees, but there are a few winners who are especially close to our hearts at UNC Press. After the dust of pre-Oscar predictions settled, Twelve Years a Slave arose victorious last night winning the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Adapted Screenplay. When director Steve McQueen accepted the Oscar he said, “Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” and we could not be more happy that such an important film has received the recognition it deserves.

We partnered with the University of Chapel Hill Library to publish the autobiography on which the film is based, Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, as a part of our DocSouth Books series. The DocSouth Books series mission is to bring works from the digital collection of Documenting the American South back into print for scholars, students, and general readers.

If you’re interested in knowing how Twelve Years a Slave holds up historically to Solomon Northup’s life, our author and historian Glenn David Brasher shares his thoughts on the film’s astonishing achievements. Read Brasher’s “A Historian’s Take of ‘Twelve Years a Slave.’”

Great Gatsby Movie PosterWe would also like to congratulate Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby for its awards in costume design and production design. Deirdre Clemente, author of Dress Casual: How College Students Redefined American Style, consulted as a fashion historian for the film. If you’re interested in how the design team chose their costumes, here’s Clemente’s piece in The Atlantic entitled “The Great Gatsby‘s Fabulous Betrayal of 1920s Fashion,” and if you can’t get enough of 1920s fashion and F. Scott Fitzgerald, check out Clemente’s website Fitzgerald and Fashion.

Again congratulations to all of last night’s winners and nominees in a extremely heated Oscar race. Considering how great the films of the 2014 Oscars were this year, we can’t be more excited for next year’s race.

Beth Tompkins Bates: What Happened the Last Time Detroit Faced Bankruptcy

The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry FordToday we welcome a guest post from Beth Tompkins Bates, author of The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford In the 1920s, Henry Ford hired thousands of African American men for his open-shop system of auto manufacturing. In her book, Bates explains how black Detroiters, newly arrived from the South, seized the economic opportunities offered by Ford in the hope of gaining greater economic security. As these workers came to realize that Ford’s anti-union “American Plan” did not allow them full access to the American Dream, their loyalty eroded, and they sought empowerment by pursuing a broad activist agenda. This, in turn, led them to play a pivotal role in the United Auto Workers’ challenge to Ford’s interests. In the process, Henry Ford and his company helped kindle the civil rights movement in Detroit without intending to do so.

In a previous post, Bates discussed how Frank Murphy formed a coalition of African American and Catholic voters to support a progressive agenda in 1920s Detroit as a judge. For today’s post, Bates describes how Murphy went on to become mayor and how he handled the threat of the city’s bankruptcy during the Great Depression.


Recently, as experts across the nation analyzed Detroit’s current crisis, the Detroit Free Press asked: What would Frank do? While most readers probably had no idea who Frank was or why his assessment might matter, it was a great question. Frank Murphy, Mayor of Detroit from 1930 to 1933 led the city when it had the highest level of unemployment among the nation’s largest cities, bankruptcy was imminent, racial tensions were high, and organized crime seemed invincible to law enforcement. Nevertheless Murphy successfully raised the city out of the ashes with policies that launched a new era in Detroit and were a model for the New Deal.

Murphy was elected mayor after enraged voters recalled Mayor Charles Bowles in July 1930 for his association with the underworld. Prohibition had turned Detroit into a haven for illegal liquor, the city’s second largest business in 1929, employing more than 50,000 people. During Bowles’s tenure organized crime held much of the city hostage. Bowles connection with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), which supported his mayoral campaigns, also did not serve him well when the KKK charged that the voter recall effort was the work of Catholics. Despite losing the recall election by a vote of 120,862 to 89,907, Bowles sought re-election and was supported by white Protestants. Bowles lost to Murphy, an Irish Catholic.

Murphy’s campaign promised a “new deal” for common men and women, those “plain folks . . . upon whose shoulders and bent backs this city rests.” In his first campaign speech, Murphy announced, Bowles left Detroit “dead broke” and “in ashes, a political ruin, burned to the ground, by hate, by discord, by selfishness, by government put to corrupt and selfish ends.” Building on his “new deal” philosophy, Murphy drew a clear line between the haves and the have-nots. Just as Roosevelt was later to attack the economic royalists, as Sidney Fine shows, so Murphy went after the “royalists of Detroit,” those “rich people downtown,” who ignore the needs of ordinary people and oppose social and economic reforms. He vowed to sweep away the “old machines” and the power brokers who ran them. Drawing support from the same coalition of African Americans, immigrants, and Catholics that supported him in the 1920s, his campaign served as a model for Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.
Continue reading ‘Beth Tompkins Bates: What Happened the Last Time Detroit Faced Bankruptcy’ »

Alex Lubin: Malcolm X’s Afro-Arab Political Imaginary

Geographies of Liberation: The Making of an Afro-Arab Political Imaginary, by Alex LubinWe welcome a guest post today from Alex Lubin, author of Geographies of Liberation: The Making of an Afro-Arab Political Imaginary. In the book, Lubin reveals the vital connections between African American political thought and the people and nations of the Middle East. Spanning the 1850s through the present, and set against a backdrop of major political and cultural shifts around the world, the book demonstrates how international geopolitics, including the ascendance of liberal internationalism, established the conditions within which blacks imagined their freedom and, conversely, the ways in which various Middle Eastern groups have understood and used the African American freedom struggle to shape their own political movements.

Today, on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, Lubin explores Malcolm’s travels to the Arab world and the development of his international political imaginary.


On April 3, 1964, in Cleveland, Ohio, Nation of Islam Minister Malcolm X delivered his iconic speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet” in which, among other things, he marked his transition from the Black nationalist politics of the Nation of Islam to an internationalist Black freedom movement that recognized Blacks’ common interests in fighting racism and imperialism globally. Key to this transition was Malcolm’s redefinition of the relationship of faith to politics, as well as of Blacks to the United States.

In “The Ballot or the Bullet” Malcolm argued that the combined forces of economic exploitation and white racial violence constituted forms of exclusion so powerful that Blacks were not American in any meaningful way. “I’m not an American,” Malcolm argued, “I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver—no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system.”

Malcolm argued that because of their powerful exclusion from the United States, Black Americans needed to look for new allies beyond the horizon of the United States and to articulate a politics that was different than the civil rights movement. Where the civil rights movement was based on the demands of citizens within a nation, Malcolm believed Black freedom could only be guaranteed by the politics of human rights. “Whenever you are in a civil-rights struggle, whether you know it or not,” Malcolm argued, “you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. No one from the outside world can speak out in your behalf as long as your struggle is a civil-rights struggle.”

Malcolm was assassinated on February 21, 1965, only eighteen months after the “Ballot or the Bullet” speech. But during the final year and a half of his life Malcolm redefined the struggle of Black liberation Continue reading ‘Alex Lubin: Malcolm X’s Afro-Arab Political Imaginary’ »

Christian McWhirter on “Divided and United” and Authentic Civil War Music

Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil WarOver at our Civil War blog, we’ve got a guest post today from Civil War music historian Christian McWhirter. Music was everywhere during the Civil War. Tunes could be heard ringing out from parlor pianos, thundering at political rallies, and setting the rhythms of military and domestic life. With literacy still limited, music was an important vehicle for communicating ideas about the war, and it had a lasting impact in the decades that followed. Drawing on an array of published and archival sources, McWhirter’s book analyzes the myriad ways music influenced popular culture in the years surrounding the war and discusses its deep resonance for both whites and blacks, South and North. Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War is now available in paperback.

In his guest post at UNCPressCivilWar150, McWhirter reviews the recently released album Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War from a historian’s perspective.

He writes:

Generally speaking, Civil War music is now a cottage industry. Re-enactor bands and professional musicians occasionally release albums that can be found in battlefield park or museum gift shops (and on the ever-reliable Amazon) but these are usually small-scale affairs. It is rare that the mainstream music industry engages with this subgenre. During the folk revival of the mid twentieth century, some of the war’s tunes resurfaced (several artists, including Pete Seeger, released an album of Civil War tunes in 1960, and Bob Dylan has recorded a version of “Dixie”) and they’ve popped up here and there since then (Elvis Presley’s “American Trilogy” is the most prominent example, and Ry Cooder’s slow rendition of “The Battle Cry of Freedom” on Boomer’s Story is excellent) but Civil War music has largely remained the property of musicologists and musical antiquarians. The only other notable exception is the 1978 country album, White Mansions, which did not use actual Civil War music but tried to tell the story of the Confederacy through original pieces. Despite a strong roster led by Waylon Jennings, the compilation was overly maudlin and steeped in the Lost Cause.

Divided & UnitedAll of that changed recently with the release of Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War—a well-budgeted two-disc compilation of Civil War tunes interpreted by a host of well- and lesser-known country and bluegrass musicians. The track listing represents a broad sample both chronologically (some songs are from before the war, some songs came after the war) and stylistically. White, black, northern, and southern perspectives are all represented, as are the homefront and battlefront. Producer Randall Poster clearly aimed for an inclusive approach in his song selection and this pays real dividends for listeners.

Before proceeding any further, let me say that the album is musically excellent—a real pleasure. There is hardly a dud in the bunch and everyone involved sounds engaged and eager to maintain the album’s overall tone. That tone, however, can sometimes be problematic and merits further analysis. While Divided & United does a fine job entertaining listeners and sharing the Civil War’s music, academics and educators seeking to use it as a resource should proceed with caution.

Read the full blog post at UNCPressCivilWar150.

Jacqueline E. Whitt: Cooperation without Compromise: Military Chaplains’ Responses to the End of DADT

Bringing God to Men: American Military Chaplains and the Vietnam WarToady we welcome a guest post from Jaqueline E. Whitt, author of Bringing God to Men: American Military Chaplains and the Vietnam War. During the second half of the twentieth century, the American military chaplaincy underwent a profound transformation. Broad-based and ecumenical in the World War II era, the chaplaincy emerged from the Vietnam War as generally conservative and evangelical. Before and after the Vietnam War, the chaplaincy tended to mirror broader social, political, military, and religious trends. During the Vietnam War, however, chaplains’ experiences and interpretations of war placed them on the margins of both military and religious cultures. Because chaplains lived and worked amid many communities—religious and secular, military and civilian, denominational and ecumenical—they often found themselves mediating heated struggles over the conflict, on the home front as well as on the front lines.

In today’s post, Whitt discusses how the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has affected military chaplains two years after the legislation was repealed.


A smattering of news stories about military chaplains and same-sex marriage caught my eye in the last few months. I found them interesting in part because they appeared more than two years after the official repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and represented ongoing conversations about the intersections of religion and military policy—but also because they pointed to the diversity with which religious groups have responded to policy changes with the Department of Defense.

As the movement for the repeal of DADT gained political momentum, dozens of retired military chaplains and civilian religious organizations expressed grave concerns that a repeal of DADT would coerce military chaplains into performing services contrary to the dictates of their religious confession or would effectively silence their protected religious speech about the sinfulness of homosexuality. There were warnings of mass resignations or a mass exodus from the military chaplaincy by evangelical chaplains (who fill most chaplain billets). Ultimately, few chaplains have actually resigned their military commissions as a result of their opposition to the repeal of DADT or the ruling of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. In fact, the only evidence I have found of a chaplain changing his status as a result of the law, is a Southern Baptist chaplain severing ties with his religious endorsing agency, which made him ineligible to continue service as a chaplain. More than two years in, though there have been some reports of conservative chaplains finding new regulations challenging, it seems that the rule of law, professionalism, and military order have won the day.

Consistent with military regulations and guidelines before the law’s repeal, military chaplains are not required to perform services that are contrary to the dictates or conscience of their religious affiliations, but they must commit to helping service members who seek such services or support find someone who can. Chaplains have often referred to this commitment to “cooperation without compromise” as a foundational piece of their professional identity.

Even so, there have been a variety of responses to the changing environment within the DOD with regard to human sexuality and the role of military chaplains. Continue reading ‘Jacqueline E. Whitt: Cooperation without Compromise: Military Chaplains’ Responses to the End of DADT’ »

2014 African American History Month Reading List

UNC Press has a long history on publishing outstanding work of African American history. In honor of African American History Month, we’d like to highlight some of the amazing new work being done in the field. Here are books on African American history, culture, and modern society that UNC Press has published over the past year.

To browse all our books African American studies (including new books on the way this spring) visit the UNC Press website.

Here’s our reading list. Click on an image below to start the slideshow.

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