Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Professor Blight, Yale: US History 119

15. Lincoln, Leadership, and Race: Emancipation as Policy
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

Professor Blight follows Robert E. Lee's army north into Maryland during the summer of 1862, an invasion that culminated in the Battle of Antietam, fought in September of 1862. In the wake of Antietam, Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a document that changed the meaning of the war forever. Professor Blight suggests some of the ways in which Americans have attempted to come to grips with the enigmatic Lincoln, and argues that, in the end, it may be Lincoln's capacity for change that was his most important characteristic. The lecture concludes with the story of John Washington, a Virginia slave whose concerted action suggests the central role American slaves played in securing their own freedom.


16. Days of Jubilee: The Meanings of Emancipation and Total War
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

This lecture focuses on the process of emancipation after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation, Professor Blight suggests, had four immediate effects: it made the Union army an army of emancipation; it encouraged slaves to strike against slavery; it committed the US to a policy of emancipation in the eyes of Europe; and it allowed African Americans to enlist in the Union Army. In the end, ten percent of Union soldiers would be African American. A number of factors, Professor Blight suggests, combined to influence the timing of emancipation in particular areas of the South, including geography, the nature of the slave society, and the proximity of the Union army.


17. Homefronts and Battlefronts: "Hard War" and the Social Impact of the Civil War
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

Professor Blight begins his lecture with a description of the sea change in Civil War scholarship heralded by the Social History revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with a focus on the experience of the common solider, women, and African Americans, a central component of this shift in scholarly emphasis was an increased interest in the effects of the war on the Union and Confederate home fronts. After suggesting some of the ways in which individual Americans experienced the war, Professor Blight moves to a discussion of the war's effect on industry and economics, North and South. The lecture concludes with a description of the increased activism of the federal government during the war, an activism that found expression in finance, agriculture, taxation, building railroads, and, most importantly, in emancipation.


18. "War So Terrible": Why the Union Won and the Confederacy Lost at Home and Abroad
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

This lecture probes the reasons for confederate defeat and union victory. Professor Blight begins with an elucidation of the loss of will thesis, which suggests that it was a lack of conviction on the home front that assured confederate defeat, before offering another of other popular explanations for northern victory: industrial capacity, political leadership, military leadership, international diplomacy, a pre-existing political culture, and emancipation. Blight warns, however, that we cannot forget the battlefield, and, to this end, concludes his lecture with a discussion of the decisive Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July of 1863.


19. To Appomattox and Beyond: The End of the War and a Search for Meanings
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

Professor Blight uses Herman Melville's poem "On the Slain Collegians" to introduce the horrifying slaughter of 1864. The architect of the strategy that would eventually lead to Union victory, but at a staggering human cost, was Ulysses S. Grant, brought East to assume control of all Union armies in 1864. Professor Blight narrates the campaigns of 1864, including the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg. While Robert E. Lee battled Grant to a stalemate in Virginia, however, William Tecumseh Sherman's Union forces took Atlanta before beginning their March to the Sea, destroying Confederate morale and fighting power from the inside. Professor Blight closes his lecture with a description of the first Memorial Day, celebrated by African Americans in Charleston, SC 1865.


20. Wartime Reconstruction: Imagining the Aftermath and a Second American Republic
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

This lecture begins with a central, if often overlooked, turning point in the Civil War--the re-election of Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Although the concerted efforts of northern Peace Democrats and a palpable war weariness among the electorate made Lincoln's victory uncertain, timely Union victories in Atlanta and Mobile in September of 1864 secured Lincoln's re-election in November. This lecture concludes Professor Blight's section on the war, following Lee and Grant to Appomattox Courthouse, and describing the surrender of Confederate forces. The nature of Reconstruction and the future of the South, however, remained open questions in April of 1865.


21. Andrew Johnson and the Radicals: A Contest over the Meaning of Reconstruction
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

In this lecture, Professor Blight begins his engagement with Reconstruction. Reconstruction, Blight suggests, might best be understood as an extended referendum on the meaning of the Civil War. Even before the war's end, various constituencies in the North attempted to control the shape of the post-war Reconstruction of the South. In late 1863, President Abraham Lincoln offered his lenient "Ten Percent Plan." Six months later, Congressional Republicans concerned by Lincoln's charity rallied behind the more radical provisions of the Wade-Davis Bill. Despite their struggle for control over Reconstruction, Congressional Radicals and President Lincoln managed to work together on two vital pieces of Reconstruction legislation in the first months of 1865--the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States, and the Freedmen's Bureau bill.

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