Lincoln Forum 2014 Day Two

The second day of this year’s Lincoln Forum Symposium began with Prof. James M. McPherson on “Jefferson Davis and the General Who Would Not Fight.”  That general, of course, was Joseph E. Johnston.  While C-SPAN wasn’t there to record this presentation, you can see the same presentation given by Professor McPherson here at another venue here.

The next presentation was Prof. Jonathan W. White of Christopher Newport University on “The Battle for the Soldiers’ Vote,” taken from his new book, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln.  This is another presentation that C-SPAN didn’t cover, but you can see essentially the same presentation Prof. White gave in New York City here.

Next up was Professor Thavolia Glymph of Duke University, speaking on “Disappeared:  Enslaved Women and the Armies of the North.”  You can see the same information she gave us combined in two places, here, and here:

After lunch, Professors Craig Symonds and John Marszalek spoke about “Sherman vs. Johnston at Atlanta and Beyond.”  We learned some very interesting things from these two.  We learned that Sherman needed 1300 tons of supplies per day for his army, requiring that he have 1,000 railroad cars on the move all the time.  This meant that a priority for him was to control and protect the Western and Atlantic Railroad.  He demanded that everything in his command area be focused on supporting the needs of his forces.  Sherman sought to sweep behind confederate lines, but every time Sherman moved, Johnston shifted so that Sherman was presented with a situation where he could only attack frontally.  Sherman’s attitude, we found, was not to kill people but rather to destroy facilities that could be used to support the rebellion.  After the war, there were a number of calls for Sherman to run for President of the United States.  We learned that southerners were the driving force pressuring Sherman to run.  An Atlanta newspaper in 1891, at his death, said that Sherman was a great general and a friend of the South.

Next was a panel moderated by William C. “Jack” Davis consisting of John Marszalek, Craig Symonds, James McPherson, and Richard McMurry.  The discussion was called, “Atlanta and the Wilderness:  Lincoln and the Battles of 1864.”  We heard pretty much a standard narrative from the panel, that Lincoln selected Grant to be General-in-Chief, Grant decided to travel with the Army of the Potomac and left Sherman in charge in the West, and that Lincoln stood by Grant in the face of massive casualties.  Still, the panel was lively and entertaining, with some thought-provoking questions being asked.

That evening, after dinner, Lincoln impersonator George Buss read Lincoln’s August 22, 1864 Speech to the 166th Ohio Regiment.

“I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright—not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”

The final presentation of the evening was Frank Williams on “Real or Reel:   Lincoln on Film.”  This was a brief survey of how Lincoln has been portrayed in films.  It had great possibilities, but suffered from some technical difficulties in playing film clips.  I also thought he missed some analytical opportunities that could have been interesting, such as in looking at the movie, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter considering where slavery and “the slave power” had been actually depicted as vampires in abolitionist literature.

All in all it was a terrific day of history learning and left me looking forward to the rest of the symposium.



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