The Civil War placed unprecedented — and to this day still unmatched — strain on the U.S. Constitution. Conflicts raged over civil liberties, executive power and the largest questions of nationhood. In this program, two eminent Civil War scholars illuminate how the U.S. Constitution not only survived its greatest test, but emerged stronger after the war, at a time when the nation’s very existence was threatened.
In December 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order Number 11, which expelled all Jews from his military district of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi in one of the most blatant incidents of officially sanctioned anti-Semitism in U.S. history. What were the reasons for Grant’s Order? What was its effect and why does this event in Civil War history remain relatively unknown?
In the summer of 1863, in the simmering cauldron of New York City, tensions over the new Union draft law boiled over into a vicious, bloody, racially-motivated riot, the second-largest civil insurrection in American history after the Civil War itself. Experts examine the causes of the conflict, its sickening violence and the enduring legacy it left on New York.
Nearly a century and a half after it occurred, Union General William T. Sherman’s epic march from Atlanta to the sea remains one of the most astonishing military feats in American history — as well as one of the most controversial. Generations of Northerners have regarded it as a model of leadership, bravery and resolve. But many Southerners recall it as a brutal desecration of property and honor and judge Sherman as nothing less than a war criminal. What made Sherman march and how important was his triumphant move east in 1864?
For generations, Civil War military history has focused heavily on the land war, the big battles and on the heroes of the Union and Confederate armies. But the neglected story of the war’s landmark naval engagements, and its great naval heroes, ranks among the most compelling and dramatic in American history. Through both technology and old-fashioned gallantry, on oceans and rivers alike, at places like Hampton Roads, New Orleans, Mobile Bay and even Cherbourg, France, commanders like Farragut, Porter and Semmes changed the course of the war.
This program transports us to the 1963 centennial celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to explore how Americans made sense of the suffering, loss and liberation that had wracked the United States a century earlier. David W. Blight and Drew Gilpin Faust discuss how four of America’s most incisive writers—including Robert Penn Warren, a white southerner who recanted his support for segregation, and James Baldwin, the searing African-American essayist and activist—explored the gulf between remembrance and reality.
The American Civil War was the largest non-British conflict ever fought by British men and women. Serving as soldiers, spies and nurses for both the Union and Confederacy, never again would so many risk their lives on behalf of a foreign cause. In this discussion, acclaimed historian Amanda Foreman, in conversation with Harold Holzer, takes the audience on a journey to the drawing rooms of London, the offices of Washington and the front lines of a divided America to examine Great Britain’s integral role in the Civil War.
A century and a half after Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter to ignite the Civil War, leading historians ask and answer the crucial questions: What really caused the conflict? Could the Civil War have been avoided? Did Lincoln invite the first shot—or did the Union “get lucky?” This program marks the start of an ongoing New-York Historical Society focus on the great American tragedy with the first of several discussions and lectures.
New York City’s only “Civil War Battle” was the 1863 Draft Riot—a convulsive, racially-motivated street fight for the very soul of Manhattan. Experts provide a frank, no-holds-barred account of the sickening excesses of the bloody struggle, its lasting impact on New York politics, the efforts of the mayor, governor, and President Lincoln himself to quell the frightening disturbance, and what it all meant to the future of New York.