Sunday, June 12, 2011

Civil War Sunday -After the War

We are into the 150th anniversary commemoration of the American Civil War.  This tragic but history changing war was, and remains, a very serious subject that shaped the course of our history. It took about 618,000 lives and disrupted or ruined many, many more lives.    Call it The War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression or the Civil War, the years leading up to 1861-1865, the war years themselves, and the years after were a trauma our country still struggles to define and wrap its collective arms around.

This was illustrated for me only recently.  In March, visiting Mt. Airy, NC, I was treated to the sight of a pickup leaving the Wal-Mart parking lot, with a full sized Confederate flag mounted in the bed.  The truck was decorated with various stickers of the "South Shall Rise Again" variety.

All studies of the Ameircan Civil War should be made with an understanding of both sides, Federal and Confederate, North and South.  But, we each have our sympathies, and mine will shine through these Sunday posts time and time again.  I don't want to turn these Civil War Sundays into a new Civil War, so I will say up front if I start getting comments of hate directed at either North or South, I will discontinue the posts. (comments of thoughtful discussion, I do welcome-that is the point of a blog, after all.)  I mainly want to write about my journey in learning about the Civil War.  So, with that, onto my first post.

I've been reading a book called "After the War" by David Hardin. The subtitle is "The Lives and Images of Major Civil War Figures After the Shooting Stopped."  The book contains 11 such stories revealing what happened postwar to Jefferson Davis, William T. Sherman,, Ulysses S. Grant, Mary Chesnut, Mary Todd Lincoln, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Robert E. Lee, George Custer (yes, of Little Bighorn fame, but he was a famous Civil War general, too) and others.  Many of the stories are tragic; some are ironic.  All are worth reading.

One of the stories of irony is that of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and what happened to him after the war.  Jefferson Davis is given very short shrift in the Northern version of the Civil War story, and he deserved better. The story is also that of one of his daughters.  I highly recommend it.

And then, for the Northerners, there is the iconic figure of Abraham Lincoln.  So much has been written about a person who was ...well, we'll never know, because he didn't outlive the Civil War for very long.  Since he was taken out of the picture, the book discusses his widow Mary Todd Lincoln.

And finally, I want to close with a little "camp" entertainment.  As far from every moment in the life of a soldier was spent fighting, many forms of entertainment occupied the soldier when he wasn't marching, fighting off illness, or pining for home.  Now, if the Civil War soldier had had the Internet and email, who knows.....maybe it would have looked like this:  (hmmm, sounds like a possible plot for a Harry Turtledove series.)

I initially intended to blog about something on one of the Blogathon theme days called Word Clouds, but I never had time to do it during the Blogathon.  Then, after the Blogathon was over June 1, I was told about a really cool Word Cloud generating program. 

Using a free web based program called Tagxedo, (recommended by Katyroo, who found  it through  this), I went to the site, installed the required program Silverlight, and got to work.  To my delight, I found a way to generate a word cloud of Abraham Lincoln, in a color called 'blue and grey'  It took me a bit to get started but I can tell you this kind of thing can quickly become addictive.  So here is my word cloud in tribute to the President who held our country together in its most trying hour.

 If there had been Civil War Tagxedo....and Civil War blogs, Civil War Facebook - can you imagine?

So, what about future Civil War Sunday posts?  Do you want to see Civil War Sunday continue?


  1. Yeah, just imagine the Civil War battles being Tweeted like the recent uprisings in the Middle East... does sound rather Turtledovish, doesn't it? (you've read his alt Civil War series, I bet).

    Congrats on getting the Tagxedo to work - that's a great Abe!

    How about some lesser-known Civil War stories for your Sunday posts? Like the 'characters' that we haven't heard as much about since Lincoln, Grant, Lee, etc. have gotten so much press. Two recent children's books have featured clever Sarah Emma Edmonds...check her out.

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

  2. Lesser known Civil War stories is a great idea. Especially if I can tie it in with upstate NY, for instance, the story of Col. David Ireland of the 137th NY. As for Harry Turtledove, I haven't started any of the Civil War series (yet)although I hope many of his books, too little time. I'm also hoping to get to his nonfiction book on the Ft. Pillow massacre.

  3. I'm interested in this as we recently finished our Civil War study in our homeschool. I'll be reading these to my children!

    LOVE the word cloud!!

  4. Great Word Cloud - I'll have to check out that software this week. I didn't get to do the Wordle for the Blogathon either.

    Looking forward to more posts on the Civil War! What drew you to reading more about it?


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