"Has there ever been another historical crisis of the magnitude of 1861-65 in which so many people were so articulate?"---Edmund Wilson
After 150 years the Civil War still holds a central place in American history and self-understanding. It is our greatest national drama, at once heroic, tragic, and epic---our Iliad, but also our Bible, a story of sin and judgment, suffering and despair, death and resurrection in a "new birth of freedom. "Drawn from letters, diaries, speeches, articles, poems, songs, military reports, legal opinions, and memoirs, The Civil War: The First Year brings together over 120 pieces by more than sixty participants to create a unique firsthand narrative of this great historical crisis.
Beginning on the eve of Lincoln's election in 1860 and ending in January 1862 with the appointment of Edwin M. Stanton as secretary of war, signaling a new energy and determination to the Union war effort, this volume brings together writing by figures well-known---Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Mary Chesnut, Frederick Douglass, and Lincoln himself among them---and less familiar, like proslavery advocate J.D.B. DeBow, Lieutenants Charles B. Haydon of the 2nd Michigan Infantry and Henry Livermore Abbott of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and plantation mistresses Catherine Edmondston of North Carolina and Kat Stone of Mississippi. Together, the selections provide a powerful sense of the immediacy, uncertainty, and urgency of events as the nation was torn asunder. Secessionist appeals by Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown and Alabama legislator Stephen F. Hale give voice to the intense racial fears that helped drive the South toward disunion; Union corporal Samuel J. English and Confederate surgeon Lunsford P. Yandell evoke the shock, confusion, and horror of battle in Virginia and Missouri, memoirist Sallie Brock society; ans Sam Mitchell recounts his liberation from slavery when the South Carolina Sea Islands fell to Union s...
BROOKS D. SIMPSON, editor, is Professor of History at Arizona State University, author of Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822- 1865, and co-editor of William T. Sherman's wartime correspondence. STEPHEN W. SEARS, editor, is the biographer of George McClellan and author of acclaimed histories of the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. AARON SHEEHAN-DEAN, editor, is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Florida and author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia, and The Concise Historical Atlas of the U.S. Civil War.