Latin America in the Civil War Era: A working bibliography and research memo

This evolving list is the first of many steps of an intellectual process to comprehend the scope of relevant literature in this field. It is a very broad initial attempt to identify important books, essays, articles, memoirs, archival collections and other primary and secondary sources.

 

The U.S. Civil War sent economic, political and social shockwaves around the world. My great objective is to understand how they were felt primarily throughout Latin America, specifically throughout the republican and imperial governments, the intelligentsia, the diplomatic circles, the street-level multiracial societies, and the military commands.

I intend to illustrate these histories through biography whenever possible and through narrative history in general. I may be fashionably late to the transnational party, but I definitely intend to earn my place among its best scholars.

This evolving list is the first of many steps of an intellectual process to comprehend the scope of relevant literature in this field. It is a very broad initial attempt to identify important books, essays, articles, memoirs, archival collections and other primary and secondary sources.

A second, sharpened, edited version of this bibliography will follow in the coming months. The third step will be an annotated bibliography. That will then lead to a comprehensive review essay analyzing the evolution of the literature, the conversations and the debates. The essay will also identify potential avenues of future research and the challenges of traveling down those avenues. That essay will, in part, guide my future scholarly ambitions and plans.

I have a very long and very beautiful intellectual journey ahead of me. I certainly welcome corrections, comments and suggestions as this self-introductory process continues. You may reach me at this address: remembrance_@hotmail.com.

WORKING BIBLIOGRAPHY (by region)

MEXICO

Aldis, Owen F. “Louis Napoleon and the Southern Confederacy,” North American Review 129 (October 1879): 342-362.

Bacha-Garza, Roseann, Christopher L. Miller and Russell K. Skowronek. The Civil War on the Rio Grande, 1846-1876. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2019.

Barker, Nancy N. “Monarchy in Mexico: Harebrained Scheme or Well-Considered Prospect?” The Journal of Modern History 48, no. 1 (March 1976): 51-68.

Brettle, Adrian Robert. “The Fortunes of War: Confederate Expansionist Ambitions During the American Civil War.” PhD diss. University of Virginia, 2014.

Callahan, James Morton. Evolution of Seward’s Mexican Policy. West Virginia University Studies in American History ser. 1, Diplomatic History, nos. 4, 5, and 6. Morgantown, W.Va.: West Virginia University, 1909.

Downs, Gregory P. “The Mexicanization of American Politics: The United States’ Transnational Path from Civil War to Stabilization.” American Historical Review 117 (April 2012): 408.

Frazier, Robert W. “Latin American Projects to Aid Mexico during the French Intervention,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 28 (August 1948): 370-386.

Gonzalez-Quiroga, Miguel Angel. “Conflict and Cooperation in the Making of Texas-Mexico Border Society, 1840-1880” in Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories, 33-58, edited by Benjamin H. Johnson and Andrew R. Graybill. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010.

Hanna, A.J. “The Role of Matthew Fontaine Maury in the Mexican Empire,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 55 (April 1947): 105-125.

Hanna, Kathryn Abbey. “The Roles of the South in the French Intervention in Mexico,” The Journal of Southern History 20, no. 1 (February 1954): 3-21.

—. Napoleon III and Mexico: American Triumph over Monarchy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971.

Hardy, William E. “South of the Border: Ulysses S. Grant and the French Intervention.” Civil War History 54, no. 1 (March 2008): 63-86.

Hart, John Mason. Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico since the Civil War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Irby, James. Backdoor at Bagdad: The Civil War on the Rio Grande. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1977.

McAllen, M.M. Maximilian and Carlotta, Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2014.

Martin, Percy F. Maximilian in Mexico: The Story of the French Intervention (1861-1867). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1914.

Miller, Robert Ryal. “Matia Romero: Mexican Minister to the United States during the Juarez-Maximilian Era,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 45 (May 1964): 230.

—. “Arms across the Border: United States Aid to Juarez during the French Intervention in Mexico,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s, 63, no. 6 (1973): 1-68.

Mora-Torres, Juan. The Making of the Mexican Border: The State, Capitalism, and Society and Nuevo Leon, 1848-1910. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Ridley, Jasper. Maximilian and Juarez. London: Constable, 2001.

Rister, Carl Coke. “Carlota: A Confederate Colony in Mexico,” The Journal of Southern History 11 (February 1945): 33-50.

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

Schoonover, Thomas. Dollars Over Dominion: The Triumph of Liberalism in Mexican-United States Relations, 1861-1867. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.

—., ed., Mexican Lobby: Matias Romero in Washington 1861-1867. Lexington, Ky: University of Kentucky Press, 1986.

Truett, Samuel. Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Tyler, Ronnie C. Santiago Vidaurri and the Southern Confederacy. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1973.

Wahlstrom, Todd W. The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.

GENERAL SOUTH AMERICA

Ferris, Nathan L. “The Relations of the United States with South America during the Civil War,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 21 (February 1941): 51-78.

Fitz, Caitlin A. “The Hemispheric Dimensions of Early U.S. Nationalism: The War of 1812, Its Aftermath, and Spanish American Independence,” The Journal of American History 102 (September 2015): 356–379.

—. Our Sister Republics: The United States in an Age of Revolutions. New York: Norton, 2016.

Gobat, Michel. “The Invention of Latin America: The Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race,” American Historical Review 118 (December 2013): 1345-1375.

Kelly, Patrick J. “The Cat’s-Paw: Confederate Ambitions in Latin America” in American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe and the Crisis of the 1860s. Edited by Don H. Doyle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

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

—. Slavery, Race and Conquest in the Tropics: Lincoln, Douglass and the Future of Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Sanders, James E. The Vanguard of the Atlantic World: Creating Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in Nineteenth Century Latin America. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2014.

Scott, Rebecca, et. al. The Abolition of Slavery and the Aftermath of Emancipation in Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press, 1988.

Tenorio-Trillo, Mauricio. Latin America: The Allure and Power of an Idea. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

CHILE

Burr, Robert N. By Reason or Force: Chile and the Balancing of Power in South America, 1830-1905. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

PERU

Blanchard, Peter. Slavery and Abolition in Early Republican Peru. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Books, 1992.

“Emancipation Declared in Peru,” Anti-Slavery Reporter, July 2, 1855, 157.

GENERAL SPANISH CARIBBEAN

González-Quintero, Nicolás. “Empire, Slavery, and Exile in the 19th Century Spanish Caribbean.” PhD diss. University of Texas at Austin, 2020.

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

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

Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher. Empire and Antislavery: Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, 1833-1870. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999.

—. “From Aggression to Crisis: The Spanish Empire in the 1860s” in American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe and the Crisis of the 1860s. Edited by Don H. Doyle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

CUBA

Chaffin, Tom. Fatal Glory: Narciso López and the First Clandestine U.S. War Against Cuba. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996.

Corwin, Arthur. Spain and the Abolition of Slavery in Cuba, 1817-1886. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.

Scott, Rebecca. Slave Emancipation in Cuba: The Transition to Free Labor, 1860-1899. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

—. Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba After Slavery. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

GENERAL U.S. CIVIL WAR

Barnes, James J., and Patience P. Barnes. The American Civil War Through British Eyes: Dispatches from British Diplomats. Kent, OH: Kent University Press, 2005.

Beckert, Sven. “Emancipation and Empire: Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of the American Civil War,” American Historical Review 109 (December 2004): 1405-1438.

Bonner, Robert E. “The Salt Water Civil War: Thalassological Approaches, Ocean-Centered Opportunities,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 6, no. 2 (June 2016): 243-267.

Bowen, Wayne S. Spain and the American Civil War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011.

Crook, David Paul. The North, the South, and the Powers, 1861-1865. New York: Wiley, 1974.

—. Diplomacy during the Civil War. New York: Wiley, 1975.

Davis, Jefferson. The Papers of Jefferson Davis. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971 to present.

Davis, William C. “Confederate Exiles.” American History Illustrated 5, no. 3 (June 1970): 30-43.

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

Egerton, Douglas R. “Rethinking Atlantic Historiography in a Postcolonial Era: The Civil War in a Global Perspective,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 1, no. 1 (March 2011): 79-95.

Eichhorn, Niels. “North Atlantic Trade in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: A Case for Peace during the American Civil War,” Civil War History 1, no. 2 (June 2015): 138-172.

Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Ferris, Norman B. Desperate Diplomacy: William H. Seward’s Foreign Policy, 1861. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976.

Fleche, Andre. Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Foreman, Amanda. A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War. New York: Random House, 2010.

Grant, U.S. The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. Edited by John Y. Simon. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1991.

—. The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. New York: C.L. Webster, 1886.

Grimsley, Mark, and Brooks D. Simpson, eds. The Collapse of the Confederacy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.

Hahn, Steven. “What Sort of World Did the Civil War Make?” in The World the Civil War Made. Edited by Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

Hubbard, Charles M. The Burden of Confederate Diplomacy. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1998.

Hunt, Jeffrey William. The Last Battle of the Civil War: Palmetto Ranch. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Jones, Howard. Union in Peril: The Crisis Over British Intervention in the Civil War. Lincoln, NE: Bison Books, 1997.

–. Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

–. Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Kelly, Patrick J. “The North American Crisis of the 1860s,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 2, no. 3 (September 2012): 337-368.

—. “1848 and the Transnational Turn in Civil War History,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 4, no. 3 (September 2014): 431-443.

Kerby, Robert L. Kirby Smith’s Confederacy: The Trans-Mississippi South, 1863-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

Lincoln, Abraham. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Roy P. Basler. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953-1955.

Lonn, Ella. Foreigners in the Confederacy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

McDaniel, W. Caleb, and Bethany L. Johnson. “New Approaches to Internationalizing the History of the Civil War Era: An Introduction,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 2, no. 2 (June 2012): 145-150.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Mahin, Dean P. One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the U.S. Civil War. Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 1999.

May, Robert E., ed. The Union, the Confederacy, and the Atlantic Rim. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1995.

Owsley, Frank Lawrence. King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959.

Prior, David M. et. al. “Teaching the Civil War in Global Context: A Discussion,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 5, no. 1 (March 2015): 126-153.

Robinson, Michael. “William Henry Seward and the Onset of the Secession Crisis,” Civil War History 59, no. 1 (March 2013): 32-66.

Sexton, Jay. “The Civil War and U.S. World Power” in American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe and the Crisis of the 1860s. Edited by Doyle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Stokes, Donald. The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Townsend, Stephen A. The Yankee Invasion of Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006.

Tucker, Phillip Thomas. The Final Fury: Palmito Ranch, The Last Battle of the Civil War. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Tyrner-Tyrnauer, A.R. Lincoln and the Emperors. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962.

U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Zimmerman, Andrew. “From the Second American Revolution to the First International and Back Again: Marxism, the Popular Front, and the American Civil War” in The World the Civil War Made. Edited by Downs and Kate Masur. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

GENERAL WORKS

Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

Bayly, C.A. The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004: 165-166.

Beckert, Sven, “Merchants and Manufacturers in the Antebellum North” in Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy. Edited by Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

—. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Knopf, 2014.

Bender, Thomas, ed. Rethinking American History in a Global Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

—. A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.

Bensel, Richard Franklin. Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Geyer, Michael, and Charles Bright. “Global Violence and Nationalizing Wars in Eurasia and America: The Geo Politics of War in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Comparative Studies in History and Society, 38, no. 4, (October 1996): 619-657.

Grandin, Greg. “The Liberal Tradition in the Americas: Rights, Sovereignty, and the Origins of Multilateralism,” American Historical Review 117 (February 2012): 68-91.

Greene, Jack P., and Philip D. Morgan, eds. Atlantic History: A Critical Reappraisal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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

Hamalainen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Johnson, Walter. Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

—. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013.

Karp, Matthew. This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.

LaFeber, Walter. The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1963.

Perkins, Dexter. The Monroe Doctrine, 1826-1867. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1965.

Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. New York: Verso Books, 2007.

Rothman, Adam, “The Slave Power in the United States, 1783-1865” in Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy. Edited by Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Sexton, Jay. The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Hill & Wang, 2012.

Whitaker, Arthur P. “The Origins of the Western Hemisphere Idea,” Proceedings of the American Philosophy Society 98 (October 15, 1954): 323.

Longreads: Robert B. Silvers, 1929-2017

“I believe in the writer—the writer, above all.”

via Robert B. Silvers, Editor of The New York Review of Books: 1929-2017 — Longreads

My grand strategy

Today I turned 43. In these later years, I perceive a small but steadily growing pool of wisdom fueling a clear philosophical perspective on the increasingly complex calculus of my life.

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Today I turned 43.

The number doesn’t bother me. When I look back on my past accomplishments, both professional and academic, both modest and respectable, I’m comfortably reminded that I’ve always been a late bloomer. The great triumphs — comparatively great — always came right the end of each chapter of my life, just when the time came for me to move on and start over somewhere else. Perhaps for someone like me, with my ambitions, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Every day begins with two thoughts: “There’s still a little time left. Relax.” and “Pretend this is your last day on earth because one day it will be. Work faster.” I stagger through the days wavering between those two sentiments.

At the end of 2014, I completed a master’s degree in U.S. history at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), topped off with a 190-page thesis — the cherry on the sundae. I never had so much fun — ask the people who know me … “fun” is not a word they ever expect me to use. During that last half of 2014, I attracted the attention of UTSA’s Communications office, which sent a reporter to profile me, perhaps to hold me up as an example to others, perhaps to highlight the interesting and intelligent people enriching and enriched by the UTSA’s wonderful History Department. Perhaps it was just my turn. Nevertheless, I was flattered and honored. I shamelessly shared it throughout social media, as I am now. “We are all very proud of you,” one of my beloved professors wrote me. My heart burst with teary pride — the rarest of my few expressed emotions.

The best part of the article came right at the beginning. The first paragraph captured the grand strategy I set out for my life: “At an early age, [Ortiz] charted the life he wanted to lead: journalist, academic scholar and author.” At some point in my twenties — not sure when, exactly, but probably as I began to seriously study history and biography — I determined to approach life with a larger consideration: “How will I be remembered?” I knew enough to know that a great legacy was constructed with small pieces, carried one small step at a time, and sometimes at first only imperfectly constructed. I held close to my heart a few simple rules. Never turn away from a challenge. Never shrink away from leaping out of your comfort zone into unknown terrain. Never decline the opportunity to fail. Never fail to learn from those failures. All are easy to say and painfully difficult to follow.

In early 2015, I was honored when Dr. Catherine Clinton, a leading Civil War scholar, asked me to assist her with some special research for a few months. Just as that ended, I was honored yet again with an offer to actually teach U.S. history to college undergraduates at Northwest Vista College and then again at UTSA in 2016. Solitary research and writing — annotated bibliographies, briefing memos, etc. — is ideal for someone as shy as me. Teaching and discussing U.S. history with 70 to 80 young men and women is not. I stood in those classrooms and wondered how I could teach these young men and women. My comfort zone was nowhere in sight. Nevertheless, I knew when I accepted the challenge that I was undertaking the most difficult and the most important job of my life. Perhaps someday I might actually be good at it (though student applause is always reassuring). These are a few of those crucial pieces of the larger something I am trying to build, just as the men and women who came before me struggled to build their own lives, faced down their challenges and fears, and took one more step forward.

My Peruvian great-grandfather was prosperous fisherman who owned a fishing fleet. His son, my grandfather, was an Army general and special forces commander. His son, my father, is a physician. My father’s son — me — is … what? I was blessed with generous, loving, and supportive parents, who always pushed my brother and me to succeed. They trusted us to find our own way within their explicit expectations. It was assumed that we would become productive and honorable men as we kept in mind who built the comfortable world we inhabited. My interests guided me toward history, literature, and psychology. My mind naturally blossomed as historical concepts, literary theory, psychopathology, and the hourly drama of news cycles all caressed, molded, and ignited my growing intellect and imagination. But I realized that some kind of structure was needed. Simply wandering through my interests was not enough — it all had to amount to something in the end, something my descendants would look back on and admire … and perhaps emulate.

In some small way, this blog is an expression of that grand strategy. I’ve written about and shared with my readers my love of podcasts and photography, of the Civil War and fiction writing. I’ve shared with them a plethora of strange stories and documentaries, thoughts about Hemingway, rum cakes, books, and TR. They’ve experienced my passion for “Miami Vice”, Elvis, a Louisiana woman fleeing Union invasion during the Civil War, and a Cuban woman who disguised herself as a man and savored every moment of that same brutal war. Each piece fits into the larger plan.

In these later years, I perceive a small but steadily growing pool of wisdom fueling a clear philosophical perspective on the increasingly complex calculus of my life. Every failure becomes simply the moment when a fresh opportunity is revealed to me. Every hard-earned success merely offers a better vantage point on the harsh terrain ahead. As I move into this new year, from my new vantage point I can take in a horridly-jagged landscape stretching out before my eyes, seemingly endless, on into the horizon. But that far-off horizon is gleaming. The shimmering edges are only now in sight, the barely-perceptible glitter drawing me forward, igniting the ambition filling my heart, and steeling my spirit for the disappointments, setbacks, wrong turns, and frustrations darkening the journey.

My grand strategy, glowing in my soul, burned into my mind, never leaves me. The sweet promise of a final victory — a life well-lived — is my last thought as sleep and dreams wrap their arms around me and carry me away into the silent night.

Book gems of 2016, Part 6

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on World War I and World War II, science, culture, and literature.

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Stillness of Heart concludes its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

Finally … a brief look at some of the best works on World War I and World War II, science, culture, and literature.

David M. Lubin’s Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $31.96) challenges us to appreciate how the trauma of war on individuals and on society as a whole has a powerful effect on how that society and its most creative minds express themselves through artwork. Political statement, illustration of shattered psyches, celebrations of victory and glory, reflections of societies that will never be the same again — the wartime and postwar motivations for beautiful and horrifying works analyzed in Lubin’s book were as varied and complex as the artists themselves. This valuable book reviews the work of famous artists and introduces us to previously unknown artists we must know about to fully understand the full spectrum of artwork from the Great War era.

Benjamin E. Jones’s Eisenhower’s Guerillas: The Jedburghs, theMaquis, and the Liberation of France (Oxford University Press, 336 pp., $23.96) reminds us that as the D-Day invaders floated off-shore and the paratroopers floated down from the sky, an Allied insurgency distracted, disrupted, or destroyed German operations in the hours and days before the invasion. This stunning book collects the stories of the daring teams that accepted incredible risks and executed impossible missions in the struggle to free France from Nazi domination.

Theresa Kaminski’s Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II (Oxford University Press, 512 pp., $27.95) offers a story of patriotism and bravery in the midst of brutal conquest. Four women contributed in different and priceless ways to the resistance efforts, the return of the American forces, and the final defeat of the Japanese invaders. Kaminski places their efforts in the larger historical context of the military operations, Japanese treatment of American prisoners, and the place of the Philippines in the overall calculus of Pacific strategy.

J. Samuel Walker’s Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan (University of North Carolina Press, 168 pp., $25), reissued this fall in a third edition, analyzes the contemporary debates over the use of the weapon, evaluates the intelligence available to the Truman administration officials at the time the decision had to be made, and includes fresh information from recently opened Japanese archives. The work masterfully illustrates the incredibly complicated considerations made by the Americans and the Japanese as the world — and warfare itself — stepped into a new era.

Miri Shefer-Mossensohn’s Science among the Ottomans: The Cultural Creation and Exchange of Knowledge (University of Texas Press, 262 pp., $55) pushes back against classic Western assumptions that the Ottoman Empire lost its cultural ambitions and interest in technological advancements — two key aspects of an intellectually vibrant entity — throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, thereby dooming itself to (and justifying) European domination after World War I. Far from it, she argues, for the Ottomans retained their intellectual passion for new solutions to old problems, particularly in the field of communications, when, as early as the 1870s, they were one of the world’s leaders in telegraph technology. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire deliberately and nobly strove to create and maintain a rich creative and artistic culture, championing new inventions, embracing and improving innovations from other regions, and building on the mountainous achievements inherited from Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Safavids, and other great civilizations. This work refocuses academic attention on those accomplishments and challenges Western scholars and students to grant Ottoman civilization the credit and respect it richly deserves.

Apollo Pilot: The Memoir of Astronaut Donn Eisele, edited by Francis French (University of Nebraska Press, 192 pp., $24.95), promises to be an incredible story from an incredible individual. Eisele was selected for the Apollo 1 mission, the first in a series of manned missions to the moon. A training injury suddenly grounded him, and then news came that a fire killed the Apollo 1 crew, including his replacement. The disaster paralyzed NASA’s lunar program, and it was up to the next Apollo crew, including Eisele, to face down dual challenges: restart the Apollo mission program and also recover Americans’ faith in the grand endeavor. Apollo 7 did both. Eisele’s memoir of scientific triumph and personal tragedy brings a new dimension to the literature of space flight and of the heroes that won the space race.

Allan Metcalf’s From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations (Oxford University Press, 232 pp., $19.95) promises to be a smart and light-hearted stroll through the history of American vernacular and the societies, cultural fads, fashions, and events that inspired or were defined by them. Metcalf’s work is a vital reminder that the stories behind common and colorful language, ranging from the Revolutionary era to today, are complicated but crucial elements of our nation’s history and cannot be underestimated.

Reading Debra Hamel’s Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 360 pp., $29.95) is like sitting on a beach near Bodrum, formerly Halicarnassus, with Hamel next to you, the classic book open on your lap, as she illuminates every incredible and sexy story — just the way Herodotus hoped we would enjoy his work.

James A. Michener’s Legacy (Penguin Random House, 144 pp., $16) re-appears on the literary stage with a new paperback edition. The 1987 novel centers on Norman Starr, loosely modeled on Iran-Contra figure Oliver North, as he prepares to answer for his actions before a congressional committee. He looks for moral strength in his ancestry, and the novel unspools an incredible cast of characters ranging across American history, each having played a part in forming the democratic republic Starr’s actions may have threatened.

******

Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Book gems of 2016, Part 5

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

Emily West’s Enslaved Women in America: From Colonial Times to Emancipation (Rowman & Littlefield, 168 pp., $35) offers a stunning symphony of long-lost voices struggling to survive, caring for and protecting their children, and fighting to keep their communities intact. Few if any other scholars have studied slave women as deeply and broadly as West, and hopefully her work will become required reading in history and women’s studies courses throughout a nation and society that still owes them so much.

Patrick H. Breen’s The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $23.96) recounts the fascinating story of the 1831 slave rebellion in Southhampton County, Virginia. He then analyzes whites’ reaction to the rebellion, which in some ways is even more complicated and unexpected. As mobs exacted brutal vengeance on the slave populations — guilty or not — slaveowners found themselves protecting their slaves from their own white neighbors. Breen examines the manufactured narratives the slaveholders provided to the lynch mobs and deepens our understanding of the precarious stability of the antebellum slaveholding societies.

Mark K. Christ’s Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State (University of Oklahoma Press, 336 pp., $19.95) offers a fascinating analysis of the campaigns for control of the strategically valuable Arkansas River Valley, which were (and still are) overshadowed by U.S. Grant’s brilliant Vicksburg operations unfolding at the same time. His work challenges scholars, students, and enthusiasts to look beyond traditional war histories and theaters and envision a far more complicated war and wartime era.

For a personal account of how the Civil War ripped apart Arkansas communities, spend some time with Torn by War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Adelia Byers, edited by Samuel R. Phillips (University of Oklahoma Press, 248 pp., $19.95). Union military forces occupied her hometown of Batesville. She witnessed unprecedented suffering. The war overturned her understanding of her place in her state and in her nation. Byers takes her place alongside Southern diarists like Mary Chesnut and Kate Stone as an important witness to the wrenching changes the war brought to the South.

Another fascinating primary source is Vicki Adams Tongate’s Another Year Finds Me in Texas: The Civil War Diary of Lucy Pier Stevens (University of Texas Press, 367 pp., $29.95). Stevens, from Ohio, found herself trapped in Texas when the war broke out. Fortunately, she channeled her concerns, observations, sense of humor, and wide-ranging interests into a diary, which is an incredible encapsulation of wartime Texas from an outsider’s perspective. It’s a Unionist memoir with an extra twist, touching on gender identities, social changes, and even political loyalties, specifically when, like Stone, Stevens grew fond of Texans.

Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Tejas, edited by Jesus F. de la Teja (University of Oklahoma Press, 296 pp., $29.95), brings the necessary complexity to the story of Texas in the Civil War, shattering the assumption that the Confederate state was filled with Confederate loyalists. The essay anthology explores how Unionist Texans, slaves, German immigrants, Tejanos, women, and political leaders waged their own wars of independence or resistance throughout its societies and communities during and after the war.

John W. Robinson’s Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865 (University of Oklahoma Press, 204 pp., $19.95) paints a portrait of a place starkly different from what we know today. The small California town stood in the long shadow of San Francisco, and war brought economic and social strife to the area. Robinson explores how it became a microcosm of the struggle between pro-Union and pro-secessionist forces, a battleground between different races and cultures fighting for dominance, and the site of sickness, drought, and riots.

Stephen D. Engle’s Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union’s War Governors (University of North Carolina Press, 624 pp., $49.95) highlights a rarely-explored perspective of the Civil War. Governors of the loyal states gathered troops for the Union armies, marshaled public support for the war effort, and calculated political support for the Lincoln administration. Engle’s work is part biography anthology, part political analysis, and part homefront history. Engle enriches all three aspects of Civil War literature and highlights relationships that were far more crucial to Union victory than historians previously understood.

Louise L. Stevenson’s Lincoln in the Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press, 283 pp., $79.99) is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship on the Civil War in a global context. Personally, it is one of the literature’s most exciting, challenging, and fascinating conversations. Stevenson considers the African and European influences on Lincoln’s growth into a “global republican,” a champion of democratic republics in a predatory world of empires and kingdoms, and the supreme warrior in that global struggle who faced the challenge of civil war and saved the future of democracy.

Laura F. Edwards’s A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of Rights (Cambridge University Press, 226 pp., $64) reminds us that the Civil War’s greatest effect was on American law and on the redefinition of citizenship, with all the rights that came with it. But Edwards is also careful to remind us that initial improvements did not lead to ultimate success or justice. The incredible accomplishments of the war and the Reconstruction Era required sustained commitment from subsequent generations for the benefits of those triumphs to take hold. Her history is a cautionary tale for modern citizens who not only take for granted today’s freedoms but also forget how brittle those rights can be when not actively sustained and protected.

Life and Limb: Perspectives on the American Civil War, edited by David Seed, Stephen C. Kenny, and Chris Williams (Oxford University Press, 240 pp., $29.95), offers vital insight into medicine in the Civil War, one of the era’s saddest subjects. For the men and women who participated as doctors, nurses, and caretakers, the war’s truest victories were found in their patients’ and loved ones’ survival and recovery. The essays explore the evolution of medical knowledge, the way writers coped with their experiences, the way the war shaped fiction, and accounts from the patients themselves. Nothing should be more important than to highlight the primal and complete suffering any war of any era unleashes on the human experience.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Book gems of 2016, Part 4

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on Latin America.

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on Latin America.

Emily Berquist Soule’s The Bishop’s Utopia: Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru (University of Pennsylvania Press, 320 pp., $36) tells the story of an incredible intellectual and scientific endeavor: the Spanish and Indian study of the cultures, botany, agricultural, and topography of northern Peru. Directing the project was Baltasar Jaime Martinez Companon, a Spanish bishop who also added to the collection of specimens a nine-volume series of books filled with images from throughout the region and painted by the Indians themselves. He intended to use the shipment of artwork and specimens to reassure Spanish officials that his part of Peru would be prosperous and peaceful. But for modern scholars, his efforts entrusted to us a snapshot of the era’s scientific understandings, Spanish cultural biases, and Indian artistic talents.

Karoline P. Cook’s Forbidden Passages: Muslims and Moriscos in Colonial Spanish America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 288 pp., $36) is a groundbreaking examination of the symbolic and religious significance of Moriscos — Muslims who converted to Christianity — in imperial Spain and in the Spanish New World. Spain would allow only Christians with long, verifiable Christian lineages to settle in the Spanish territories, but many moriscos secretly made the journey despite the mortal danger. Cook explores how these men and women, some still practicing Islam, introduced their faith to a new world, resisted Spanish persecution, and fought for their religious and political identities in hostile Spanish courtrooms. Cook’s work reminds today’s readers that personal struggles in this land over immigration, one’s place in society, religious freedom, and identity are nothing new, and neither are the moral determinations made to protect and defend those inherent human rights.

David F. Slade’s and Jerry W. Williams’s Lima fundada by Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo (University of North Carolina Press, 648 pp., $85) promises to be a magnificent achievement. In 1732, Peralta, a poet in Spanish Peru, wrote an epic poem that championed the notion that Peru belonged to the Peruvian descendants of Spanish conquerors. It criticized an imperial power structure that advanced the Spanish-born over the Peruvian-born. He considered it one of his greatest works. Since 1732, only fragments of his masterpiece have been republished, but the entire poem was never re-issued … until now, almost three centuries later.

Rafael Rojas’s Fighting over Fidel: The New York Intellectuals and the Cuban Revolution (Princeton University Press, 312 pp., $35, translated by Carl Good) is an incredible analysis of the searing currents of political thought coursing throughout New York City’s intellectual world and of the debate over the Cuban Revolution intensified that thinking. Rojas creates a vibrant swirling galaxy populated by brilliant writers, volatile artists, ambitious politicians, and fevered revolutionaries, all fighting over the ideals and consequences of Cold War ideologies, nationalist dreams, and personal affinities and hatreds.

Jonathan Colman’s The Cuban Missile Crisis: Origins, Course and Aftermath (Oxford University Press, 256 pp., $31.96) promises a definitive history of the Crisis, based on new primary sources and wide-ranging historical research and analysis. In the light of recent developments in U.S.-Cuban relations, Colman’s work arrives at the ideal time for readers and students seeking to understand the tumultuous Cold War and post-Cold War history that casts a long shadow over that relationship and still threatens the hope of so many Americans and Cubans for a brighter future.

Cruz Miguel Ortiz Cuadra’s Eating Puerto Rico: A History of Food, Culture, and Identity (University of North Carolina Press, 408 pp., $27.95) is a classic of Puerto Rican culinary literature. It’s a virtual tour of Puerto Rican history that jumps from one essential food item to another, essentially combining them like ingredients into a complete and savory cultural meal. The framework also enables him to anchor his larger analysis of change over time, specifically how U.S. control of the island transformed how Puerto Ricans gathered, processed, and related to those foods, and what that means to Puerto Rican identity, citizenry, racial status, and economics.

For May 2017
Paulo Drinot’s and Carlos Aguirre’s The Peculiar Revolution: Rethinking the Peruvian Experiment Under Military Rule (University of Texas Press, no other information available) should be an extraordinary analysis of an extraordinary time in Cold War-era Peru. More information to come.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Book gems of 2016, Part 3

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on Texas and Texas history.

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on Texas and Texas history.

Jesus F. de la Teja’s Faces of Bexar: Early San Antonio and Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 240 pp., $40) offers an anthology of essays that together form a biography of one of the most significant cities in North America. San Antonio’s historic importance as a military center, source of political power, international economic hub, and cultural crown jewel is expertly explored and analyzed in this work. The book also includes a vital bibliographic essay analyzing the latest developments in Tejano historiography.

Most history students know about the Texas Revolution, but they know next to nothing about the Revolution’s birthplace. Richard B. McCaslin’s Washington on the Brazos: Cradle of the Texas Republic (Texas State Historical Association Press, 100 pp., $15.95) should be the perfect remedy for that gap in historical knowledge. When the Republic of Texas joined the United States, power and administrative authority was centralized in Austin, and Washington faded into the social and commercial background. It briefly boomed as a port town, but its economic over-reliance on steamboats left it behind as the age of railroads dawned and rail tracks bypassed the town. The Revolution’s centennial in 1936 sparked fresh interest in Texas history, and the town basked in new appreciation from restoration experts and history-loving tourists. McCaslin’s book uses the history of the town to illustrate the larger historical eras of the Texas people, their evolving values, their conflicted identities, and their beautiful multifaceted culture.

Laura Lyons McLemore contributes Adele Briscoe Looscan: Daughter of the Republic (TCU Press, 320 pp, $29.95) to the Texas Biography Series. Looscan made history in 1915 when she became the first woman elected to the presidency of the Texas State Historical Association. The scholar of Texas history made history again when she stepped down in 1925, completing the longest presidency in the Association’s history. McLemore’s biography promises the story of an important intellectual and social leader who guided and enriched historical, political, and business conversations in early twentieth-century Texas.

Timothy Paul Bowman’s Blood Oranges: Colonialism and Agriculture in the South Texas Borderlands (Texas A&M University Press, 412 pp., $43) takes an important and complicated look at the social and economic tensions burning throughout Rio Grande Valley communities in the decades following the Mexican War. Bowman illustrates a brutal twentieth-century process of converting the region from Mexican culture to Anglo-American political and economic control, from a cattle-based economy to an agricultural economy. Racially-minded Anglos built or modified the region’s governmental and legal structures to contain and suppress Mexican-American populations, particularly laborers, who were exploited as they formed the foundation of a major U.S. agricultural industry.

Mark Allan Goldberg’s Conquering Sickness: Race, Health, and Colonization in the Texas Borderlands (University of Nebraska Press, 328 pp., $60) focuses on the same region but with an earlier timeframe and a different focus. Anglo and Spanish colonizers applied their standards of health to the Native Americans and Mexicans they found in the region and subsequently determined that because their European health standards practices were superior to indigenous standards and practices, the Europeans naturally deserved to control the region and its people. They used the network of religious missions or other controlled spaces to enforce European standards on the indigenous people, and they devalued the significance of indigenous understandings of health. For the colonizers, Goldberg’s important work explains, the issue of health became one more aspect of their larger ambitions for control and of the moral calculations made to justify that control.

David G. McComb’s The City in Texas: A History (University of Texas Press, 352 pp., $35) is an authoritative and much-needed analysis of the transformation of Texas from a land of rural and agricultural communities into a constellation of metro centers dominated by glittering skyscrapers, electrical wires, highways, and suburbs. Alan Lessoff’s newest work focuses on just one city with Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History (University of Texas Press, 368 pp., $29.95). Full disclosure: I grew up in Corpus Christi, so I’ll consider pretty much any serious history about the Sparkling City by the Sea to be interesting, at least, but Lessoff’s history is exceptional — serious yet potentially appealing to both tourists and residents, brimming with fascinating stories, and built on solid and extensive research.

Jesse Cancelmo’s Glorious Gulf of Mexico: Life Below the Blue (Texas A&M University Press, 156 pp., $30) takes us below the waves to explore 600,000 square miles of incredible landscapes, vibrant coral reefs, and more than 15,000 different species. Cancelmo wants his readers to fully appreciate the complexity, beauty, and importance of the Gulf’s ecosystems, life cycles, and species. Readers should gain a more sophisticated understanding and appreciation of how the Gulf’s treasures enrich our world and our lives.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Book gems of 2016, Part 2

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on presidents and the political world.

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on presidents and the political world.

Editor Edith Gelles presents Abigail Adams: Letters (Library of America, 1180 pp., $40), a stellar collection of correspondence capturing the complexity, nuances, and uncertainties of the American Republic’s earliest era and of its first generation of political and intellectual leaders. It is a tribute to her intelligence, insight, bravery, and patriotic devotion. It is best read alongside John Adams: Writings from the New Nation, 1784-1826, edited by Gordon S. Wood (Library of America, 905 pp., $40). Taken together, the books illustrate a decades-long romance between a brilliant man and woman, the intellectual and cultural forces that shaped their lives, and an inspirational example for all Americans who should be just as devoted to the enrichment of their democracy as the Adamses.

Ronald L. Feinman’s Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman & Littlefield, 274 pp., $38) grimly examines the consistent danger faced by presidential candidates when the harsh public spotlight is perverted into a bullseye on their lives. Feinman turns the historic attempts and successful murders into case studies analyzing the government’s and public’s reactions to the crimes, providing fascinating and important perspectives on a too-often understudied aspect of presidential and political history. Mel Ayton’s Plotting to Kill the President: Assassination Attempts from Washington to Hoover (University of Nebraska Press, 376 pp., $32.95) takes a broader and more casual approach to the same issues, but from a different time frame and with many more details and anecdotes. They should complement each other quite well.

Seymour Morris Jr.’s Fit for the Presidency? Winners, Losers, What-Ifs, and Also-Rans (Potomac Books, an imprint of University of Nebraska Press, 462 pp., $32.95) arrives at the perfect time, just when Americans are overwhelmed from the campaign season’s speeches, news coverage, political ads, and scandals. If it makes us feel any better, previous generations of Americans did not have it much better. Morris unfurls an amazing and very colorful tapestry of personalities, ambitions, bizarre surprises, and the raw emotions of victory and defeat. Nothing better complements or enriches presidential history than the shadow history of the people those presidents defeated.

Jefferson Cowie’s The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics (Princeton University Press, 288 pp., $27.95) promises to be a fascinating and sobering reminder that any progress toward economic equality in American society is essentially paddling against the stream of traditional social and economic inequality. A strong, centralized, pro-active federal government forcibly reordered the democratic system to better benefit the lower-class citizens, from the early 1930s to the early 1960s, and that may be what is required for today’s America. Cowie’s book is not just a smart history but a call to action for today’s citizens and political leaders, along with a warning from the past of what resulted from inaction.

Marne L. Campbell’s Making Black Los Angeles: Class, Gender, and Community, 1850-1917 (University of North Carolina Press, 246 pp., $29.95) paints an extraordinary portrait of black families from the post-Mexican War era to World War I, illustrating how they grew, endured countless forms of discrimination, and struggled to build and sustain a viable community as the town steadily grew into an important city. Women, she discovered, were key to strengthening the relationships between different classes of black communities, thereby enabling their entire community to fight for economic independence, racial expression, and, ultimately, political power.

LBJ’s Neglected Legacy: How Lyndon Johnson Reshaped Domestic Policy and Government, edited by Robert H. Wilson, Norman J. Glickman, and Laurence E. Lynn, Jr. (University of Texas Press, 493 pp., $29.95), is an excellent essay anthology examining the lasting effects of Great Society legislation on modern American society, government, and economics. As the title suggests, the contributors argue that Johnson receives too-little credit for how his ambitions and political skills built the governmental and ideological architecture shaping today’s American society and the issues over which today’s loudest debates take place.

Doreen Mattingly’s A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America’s Culture Wars (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $23.96) reminds us that the fight for feminism and equal rights could be difficult even under Democratic presidents. Costanza challenged President Jimmy Carter to support women’s right to choose, LGBTQ rights, and gender equality. She was a bright light in a dark America desperate for an undeniable and intelligent voice in the halls of power. Mattingly’s portrait challenges today’s generations to remember the heroic efforts that lead the initial assaults in the civil rights struggles still waged today.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Book gems of 2016: Part 1

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As you plan your reading for 2016, consider these eight recently published or forthcoming titles. Watch for more recommendations and book reviews in the coming weeks.

ANTIQUITY
Mary Beard, classicist and author of the blog A Don’s Life, offers SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Liveright, 608 pp., $35), a perceptive tour of the birth of Rome, the political entity, from the shadows of obscurity and its circuitous evolution into the Roman Republic. Step by step, she interrogates the traditional academic assumptions of its leaders, origin myths, and governing structures and analyzes them, often through the prisms of recent archaeological and historical discoveries, and presents a fresh and comprehensive history of Rome before its imperial era.

Richard Alston’s Rome’s Revolution: Death of the Republic and Birth of the Empire (Oxford University Press, 408 pp., $29.95) examines the chaotic and blood-soaked transition of the Roman Republic to Roman Empire. Another civil war erupted in 44 BC following the senatorial assassination of Julius Caesar, and in the end three men were left standing — Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus. They agreed to share power and administer separate parts of the Roman world. Octavian governed Rome and the west. Antony took the eastern territories (basing himself in Alexandria, where he met Cleopatra), and Lepidus took the rest of Africa west of Egypt. Ultimately, however, Roman rule could not be shared, and Octavian eventually eliminated his partners, terminated the 500-year-old republic, and assumed supreme power as emperor of a new Roman Empire. Alston’s story effortlessly swings back and forth between experiences of Romans on the street and Romans in the halls (and bedrooms) of power as they all experienced, whether they realized it or not, one of the most significant political revolutions in human history.

CIVIL WAR
Simon Cameron, Abraham Lincoln’s first secretary of war, is remembered for little more than his departure under the shadow of corruption, incompetence, or intransigence. Paul Kahan’s Amiable Scoundrel: Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Scandalous Secretary of War (University of Nebraska Press, 408 pp. $36.95) confronts the fog of historical negativity swirling around Cameron and argues that not only was Cameron a product of his time, his time was partly a product of him. Before joining Lincoln’s Cabinet — an intelligent political move on Lincoln’s part — Cameron was a political powerhouse in Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, present at the birth of the Republican Party, a key voice in formulating Northern military strategy, and an early supporter for inclusion of black Americans in the ranks of the Union forces. He witnessed, was a part of, or a target of the most important political and military debates before and during the early months of the Civil War. Kahan’s portrait of Cameron and his times reminds us to not overlook Cameron’s crucial influence and historical importance and to remember the larger political forces Lincoln needed to succeed.

As powerful men influenced historical events, even more powerful women influenced the men. Candice Shy Hooper focuses on four of these women in Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War — for Better and for Worse (Kent State University Press, 440 pp., $39.95). Jessie Fremont (wife of John C. Fremont), Nelly McClellan (wife of George B. McClellan), Ellen Sherman (wife of William T. Sherman), and Julia Grant (wife of Ulysses S. Grant) watched their husbands rise up the ranks of Union command, worried for their safety as they fought the biggest and bloodiest battles in the history of the Western Hemisphere, traveled around the war-torn country, and offered their opinions and guidance as politics and war coalesced into the same battlefield over supreme power. Hooper deftly (and amusingly) explores how the wives’ personalities and outlooks resembled those of their spouses. They viewed Lincoln either with contempt or respect. They encouraged their husbands to either undermine or support him, ultimately intensifying either their husbands’ intransigence, and thereby dooming them to removal from command, or challenging them to do better, thereby securing their husbands’ places in the pantheon of U.S. military history.

Kelly D. Mezurek’s For Their Own Cause: The 27th United States Colored Troops (Kent State University Press, 344 pp., $37.95) promises to go beyond the traditional unit history to illustrate why black Americans volunteered to fight in the Union Army, how they endured racism and unfair treatment and assignments, and what they expected from the democratic republic they had bled for and died to save. The free Ohio men that comprised the 27th USCT fought in North Carolina and Virginia, serving from April 1864 to September 1865, months after the Confederacy collapsed. They returned to Ohio determined to build better and stronger communities for their children, linked to the promises of the the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Their story further brightens the scholarly illumination of black veterans’ excruciating struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans and ultimately realize the promise of American democracy.

Richard M. Reid’s African Canadians in Union Blue: Volunteering for the Cause in the Civil War (Kent State University Press, 308 pp., $28.95) offers an exciting and fresh perspective on black Union soldiers who joined their American counterparts in the fight for freedom in North America. The transnational perspective sparks new considerations of the nature of black Northern societies that stretched far beyond international borders and cultures. It also contributes to the larger conversation about why men and women fought on either side in the Civil War. Reid’s Canadian soldiers join the array of other foreign soldiers — including Latinos from Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean — who fought their own larger world war for freedom and democracy.

WORLD WAR II
The process of intellectual preparation for the wars of the future is a complicated landscape for any historian to analyze and illustrate. But John M. Lillard’s Playing War: Wargaming and U.S. Navy Preparations for World War II (University of Nebraska Press, 224 pp., $39.95) offers the ideal vantage point for both scholars, students, and enthusiasts of military history. While other studies might underestimate the Naval War College’s interwar contribution to the U.S. Navy’s eventual strategies and tactics, Lillard argues that the College’s multi-level war games, experiments with new technologies, and perceptive simulations of the future wars all lay at the heart of U.S. victory in 1945.

SPACE
Astronauts inspire us like none others. Their scientific, technological, and intellectual achievements are unrivaled, their bravery in the face of certain death is unforgettable, and their patriotism is unassailable. They are the first to admit that what they achieved was the result of their participation in efforts that involved thousands of men and women around the world. They are also the first to remind their admirers that not everyone survived the journeys into history. Colin Burgess, Kate Doolan and Bert Vis collected the stories of sixteen Americans and Russians who died during their nations’ efforts to reach the moon in a new edition of Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon (University of Nebraska Press, 448 pp., $36.95). Some died in training accidents, others on the launch pad, and one died in an automobile accident. Fallen Astronauts promises to deepen the reverence for those who lost their lives, for those who dared to move forward, and for those who made it to the summit, never forgetting those they lost. Heroism transcended nationality, ideology, or culture.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The entire special series

Read Kate Stone’s amazing stories as she defiantly faces Union soldiers, escapes across a Louisiana swamp, falls in love with Texas, and watches the Civil War rip her country and her family apart.

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From May 2012 to November 2015, a special series from Stillness of Heart shared excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

She defiantly faced Union soldiers, escaped across a Louisiana swamp, fell in love with Texas, and watched the Civil War rip her country and her family apart.

The entire series of excerpts is collected here.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

From 1861
May 15: Death in defense of the South
June 5: The stir and mob of angry life
June 18: Whipped unmercifully
July 1: They thought me so ugly
July 4: The blood of her children
July 26: Gallantly fought and won
Aug 24: The fevers
Sept. 27: The war inches closer
Oct. 19: Gladden our hearts
Nov. 27: The noble, gentle heart
Dec. 22: Rainy days

From 1862
Jan. 6: Sad Christmas
Jan. 8: Happy birthday
Jan. 16: They close in and kill
Feb. 1: The little creature
Feb. 20: Victory will be ours
March 1: A perfect love of a lieutenant
May 9: Burn our cities
May 22: Fashion is an obsolete word
May 23: The sleep that knows no waking
June 6: Trembling hearts
June 20-30: Capable of any horror
July 5: The fire of battle
Aug. 5: Beyond my strength
Sept. 23: Tragedy after tragedy
Oct. 1: His sins against the South
Nov. 7: A lady’s favors
Dec. 3: She was heartbroken

From 1863
Jan. 1: Preparing to run
March 2: Hoodoo woman
March 11: It made us tremble
March 22: The pistol pointed at my head
April 10: Tears on my cheek
April 15: A horrid flight
April 21: The greatest villian
April 26: Flaming cheeks and flashing eyes
April 27: The glory of the family
May 2: His father’s sins
May 3: Baffled beasts of prey
May 22: Useless to resist
May 23: Southern hearts
June 3: Like mad demons
June 15: On the road for Texas
July 7: The dark corner
July 12: The dirtiest people
July 16: Scowling, revengeful faces
July 26: Despondent and chicken-hearted
July 29: Makes us tremble for Texas
Aug. 3: Lose our scalps
Aug. 10: Conquer or die
Aug. 16: My pen is powerless
Aug. 30: They call us all renegades
Sept. 1: It makes us shiver
Sept. 14: Years of grinding toil
Sept. 20: Destroyed by the Yankees
Oct. 2: Two distressed damsels
Oct. 8: This is too disgraceful
Oct. 29: The heart of a boy
Nov. 1: Credulous mortals
Nov. 7: A fear of bad news
Nov. 13: Pride must have a fall
Nov. 15: So little to eat
Dec. 10: Nobly and fearlessly
Dec. 12: Alone in a strange land
Dec. 19: A charming little woman
Dec. 24: A sad 1863 ends

From 1864
Jan. 4: A noted flirt
Jan. 7: Trouble and distress
Jan. 13: The first desideratum
March 8: The mournful whistle
March 20: The petted darling
April 15: A besom of destruction
May 5: The easy conquest of Texas
May 7: To every young lady
May 18: To kill and destroy
May 25: Our best fancy yellow organdies
May 29: That land of desolation
June 1: The breath of flowers
June 14: Strangers in a strange land
June 19: Those terrible battles
June 26: Callous to suffering and death
Aug. 23: We enjoy our ease
Sept. 2: Lazy and languid
Sept. 5: One grand holocaust
Sept. 10: Too disgraceful if true
Sept. 27: The flower-wreathed scepter
Oct. 15: Fairy castles in the air

From 1865
Jan. 29: Kindly bestow them
Feb. 1: Our soldiers were powerless
Feb. 12: One of life’s greatest trials
Feb. 13: Peace blessed peace
Feb. 15: My escorts were disgusted
Feb. 21: Our only hope for peace
March 3: The most enjoyable life
March 9: Full of life and fun
March 24: Eager for a fight
March 30: Its spring decoration
April 1: Out of time
April 7: A blow on my heart
April 16: He would do anything
April 23: God spare us
May 7: Lounged and gossiped
May 9: We fear it cannot last
May 15: We will be slaves
May 17: Restless and wretched
May 20: A fever of apprehension
May 21: A piece of amusement
May 27: Only sadness and tears
May 31: The grand crash
June 12: Words are powerless
June 25: Civilization commences again
July 2: He deserves killing
July 13: It is unavoidable
July 18: A man-flirt is detestable
Aug. 14: No disorder
Aug. 26: Astonish the natives
Sept. 3: Our pleasant Tyler life
Sept. 11: The very poorest people
Sept. 21: A state of insubordination
Oct. 10: The bitterness of defeat
Nov. 16: At home again
Nov. 17: How many idle hours

Epilogue, from 1867 and 1868
I was young again