Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War

March - May 2012

Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War is a scholar-led discussion series that commemorates the sesquicentennial of this conflict with a series of community conversations, informed by great works of fiction and non-fiction as well as words written by civilians and combatants during the Civil War.

Author: 
Edward L. Ayers
ISBN: 
9780838993125
These readings provide a glimpse of the vast sweep and profound breadth of AmericansOCO war among and against themselves, adding crucial voices to our understanding of the war and its meaning."
Author: 
Geraldine Brooks
ISBN: 
9780670033355
As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the war, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Riveting and elegant as it is meticulously researched, March is an extraordinary novel woven out of the lore of American history. From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women , Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times. To evoke him, Brooks turned to the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father—a friend and confidant of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In her telling, March emerges as an idealistic chaplain in the little known backwaters of a war that will test his faith in himself and in the Union cause as he learns that his side, too, is capable of acts of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near mortal illness, he must reassemble his shattered mind and body and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through. Spanning the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott’s optimistic children’s tale to portray the moral complexity of war, and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism—and by a dangerous and illicit attraction. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks’s place as an internationally renowned author of historical fiction.
Author: 
James M. McPherson
ISBN: 
9780195135213
The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 6,000 soldiers killed--four times the number lost on D-Day, and twice the number killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. In Crossroads of Freedom, America's most eminent Civil War historian, James M. McPherson, paints a masterful account of this pivotal battle, the events that led up to it, and its aftermath. As McPherson shows, by September 1862 the survival of the United States was in doubt. The Union had suffered a string of defeats, and Robert E. Lee's army was in Maryland, poised to threaten Washington. The British government was openly talking of recognizing the Confederacy and brokering a peace between North and South. Northern armies and voters were demoralized. And Lincoln had shelved his proposed edict of emancipation months before, waiting for a victory that had not come--that some thought would never come. Both Confederate and Union troops knew the war was at a crossroads, that they were marching toward a decisive battle. It came along the ridges and in the woods and cornfields between Antietam Creek and the Potomac River. Valor, misjudgment, and astonishing coincidence all played a role in the outcome. McPherson vividly describes a day of savage fighting in locales that became forever famous--The Cornfield, the Dunkard Church, the West Woods, and Bloody Lane. Lee's battered army escaped to fight another day, but Antietam was a critical victory for the Union. It restored morale in the North and kept Lincoln's party in control of Congress. It crushed Confederate hopes of British intervention. And it freed Lincoln to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation, which instantly changed the character of the war. McPherson brilliantly weaves these strands of diplomatic, political, and military history into a compact, swift-moving narrative that shows why America's bloodiest day is, indeed, a turning point in our history.