Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Financial Cost Of The Civil War

The American Civil War which began 150 years ago on April 12, 1861 exacted an unfathomable number of deaths: approximately 620,000 men died as a result of wounds or disease from 1861-1865. That is approximately 2% of the total population of the United States at the time, a figure which would mean over 6 million deaths in the same proportion of our current population.

But the Civil War also had a high financial cost as well. Yesterday the on-line journal The Fiscal Times (TFT) ran an article which provided the estimated financial toll of the Civil War. This article, titled "Civil War At 150: Debt Lessons From Lincoln" describes how Lincoln's Secretary Of Treasury, Salmon P. Chase (pictured above), found ways to finance the cost of the war. For example, for the first time in U.S. history, an income tax was levied on Americans. Additionally, Chase oversaw the creation of the first national currency (1862) and the first federal bank system (1863) since President Andrew Jackson's administration.

I was contacted yesterday by Ms. Sarah Stodola, associate editor at TFT, who is the author of the article I am bringing to the attention of my readers. She asked if I would mind sharing it here on The Abraham Lincoln Blog due to the potential interest it might have for people. I agreed to do so and am receiving no compensation in any form for the publicity.

I'm not a financial expert or financial historian, so I cannot vouch for the numbers her article gives for the total estimated cost of the American Civil War. According to the table provided in the article, there is no consensus on how to gauge true "current day" costs adjusted for inflation prior to the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1913.

The article then concludes with a comparison between the cost of the Civil War and the total cost thus far of the "War On Terror" we are fighting today. Also given are comparisons of cost in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

I'd encourage you to take a few minutes to read Ms. Stodola's article. The financial aspect of the American Civil War is an important part of history and helps to further our understanding of the conflict.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Commemorating The American Civil War

As I wrote in my previous post, today is of course the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. On April 12, 1861 the war began when Confederate troops began bombarding Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The war which took slightly more than four years to end, resulted in the deaths of 620,000 American soldiers, many of whom died not from battle wounds, but from horrendous disease acquired on the fields or in the hospitals. That total represents roughly two percent of the nation's population (including the South) in 1861. That would be over 6 million soldiers if the War would be fought today.

The American Civil War remains the nation's deadliest by far, and still accounts for more deaths than all other wars this nation has fought in combined. Fifty years ago, the nation seemed to celebrate the war, at least from most accounts I have read. I was born during the centennial of the Civil War, but cannot remember it.

This time, thankfully, the nation has seemed to be approaching this sesquicentennial more somberly, choosing to commemorate rather than celebrate. That is more fitting and proper, because how can a nation celebrate the deaths of 620,000 men while fighting, in some cases, brother against brother?

Unfortunately, our current Federal Government has not formed an official sesquicentennial commission to commemorate the war. That has been left to the individual states, cities, towns, and villages across the country. Still, there are some noteworthy happenings which I'd like to share with you.

Earlier today, beginning before dawn, there was a re-enactment of the bombardment of Ft. Sumter. It seems as if it must have been a very moving ceremony. You can read about it courtesy of this report from the Associated Press. I believe there will be an "encampment" this weekend at the fort as well, should you be in the area.

The Library Of Congress in Washington, D.C. is staging an important exhibition of tintypes and other photographs from the Civil War from April 12 through August 13, 2011. Titled "The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection" features soldiers and sailors from each side, along with their families, possessions, and so on. Click here to read more about the exhibition.

The United States Postal Service today released two new stamps, one featuring the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the other featuring the First Battle Of Bull Run, which was of course the first major land battle of the Civil War. Information and images of the stamps may be found here.

Over the next four years, until 2015, there will be countless state and local commemoration ceremonies. My own state of Ohio had its official kickoff this past Sunday, April 10, at the statehouse in Columbus. Check your own state or community to see how it will commemorate the American Civil War sesquicentennial. USA Today has recently run a page which lists many such events from across the country. Click here to see the list.

I will continue to do my part to help commemorate the war, by continuing this blog about Abraham Lincoln. Rather than focus on the battles, generals, and soldiers, I will examine Lincoln and the actions he took during the war. I strongly feel that Lincoln himself is being overlooked in the commemorative events which have already taken place and those which have yet to happen. It's important that his role be discussed.

In addition, I operate a Facebook page in which "Lincoln" himself is providing real-time updates from the year 1861. I write in character as President Lincoln, interact with fans of the page, and give any important news. I began the page to commemorate his Inauguration Journey, and will continue it throughout his presidency. Why don't you drop by? Over 460 people have already become fans and I would love to have you join the experience. It's my way to help keep Lincoln's legacy alive. http://facebook.com/HonestAbrahamLincoln

150th Anniversary Of The American Civil War

(Ft. Sumter Bombardment - Courtesy Library of Congress)


Today of course marks the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. At 4:30 a.m. local time on April 12, 1861, Confederate forces under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, after having demanded its surrender a couple of days earlier. The Currier and Ives image I've included above is in the collection of the Library of Congress, and shows the artist's impression of the scene. There are no known photos showing the actual attack.

South Carolina had claimed its secession from the Union on December 20, 1860, the first state to do so. Upon secession, it had demanded the forfeiture of Ft. Sumter and all other Federal territory within its borders. Just six days after the secession, U.S. forces under Major Robert Anderson abandoned Ft. Multrie (thought indefensible) for the more secure Ft. Sumter. Repeated calls for its surrender were ignored by the Federal government under both President James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln had made the decision to resupply Ft. Sumter, as well as Ft. Pickens, FL, after weeks of indecision and confusion. The Army commanding general, the ancient Winfield Scott, had advised against the resupply, as had other members of Lincoln's cabinet. Sumter was of little strategic value to the Federal government, but Lincoln had sworn in his inaugural address on March 4 that the government would defend and hold on to its property.

Sumter withstood a barrage of about 34 hours before it was surrendered on April 13, 1861. Part of the surrender agreement permitted the U.S. forces evacuating the fort to fire a 100-gun salute upon departure. During the salute firing, the first death of the Civil War occurred when Private Daniel Hough was killed when the cannon he was loading discharged prematurely. There were no combat-related deaths on either side during the bombardment itself.

The Union tried unsuccessfully over the next four years to recapture Ft. Sumter, including via siege in 1863. It wasn't until February 1865, when Confederate forces evacuated Charleston, that Union forces finally captured Sumter. Major Anderson, now a general, wept as he raised the American flag to its position over the fort.

Other sources tell the story of Ft. Sumter and the beginning of the American Civil War in much greater depth than this article. The National Park Service's official website is a good place to begin. The fort has been restored and is open to the public for visitation most days of the year. You have to pay for a boat ride over to the island the fort is on. The Civil War Trust's Sumter page provides more depth, including maps and a view of the fort in 3D. An excellent resource is Tulane University's "Crisis At Fort Sumter" website.

There are countless books available about Ft. Sumter. A good one was written by David R. Detzer in 2001 and is titled: "Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston and the Beginning of the Civil War." It provides great background about the months and weeks leading up to the opening battle of the Civil War.

To learn more about the decisions which faced Lincoln and his cabinet about whether to resupply the forts or not, you can read David Donald's "Lincoln" or Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team Of Rivals" books.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Exhibit Review - Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey To Emancipation

A couple of weeks ago, I travelled to the State Library of Ohio in Columbus to see an Abraham Lincoln exhibition I've been wanting to see for years now. The exhibition is "Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey To Emancipation." It tells the story of Lincoln's admittedly rocky path he travelled from the time he supported colonization of African-American slaves in other countries to his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The exhibition runs through April 15, 2011 in Columbus. Click here to see the next tour stops.

According to the information on the State Library of Ohio's website, "the exhibition has been organized by the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, New York City, in cooperation with the American Library Association Public Programs Office. This exhibition was made possible by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, promoting excellence in the humanities, and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, created by Congress and charged with planning the national celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday."

The exhibition consists of a series of panels which runs 75 feet in length. Reproduced are photos of historic documents, political cartoons, photographs, and ephemera which documents early abolition efforts; what America was like during Lincoln's youth; how the nation began dividing between anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions; the Civil War; the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation; and the events which led to Lincoln's assassination. See the photo below for an example of a section of one of these panels.

I found the exhibit to be very well done without hiding the fact that Lincoln was, at best, a moderate toward slavery in his early political career through the time he assumed the presidency. As I mentioned before, he even supported the now abhorrent idea of colonizing freed slaves, ejecting them from the United States, and forcibly colonizing them in African countries, such as Liberia. Some recent scholarship seems to indicate as well that he supported this idea as late as midway through his presidency. These facts may come as a surprise to those who believe that Lincoln was *always* "The Great Emancipator."

Lincoln showed an extraordinary capacity for personal growth in office. Even if it was a political tool, he issued The Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring any persons held in bondage in states, or areas of states, then in rebellion against the United States Of America, "Forever Free." Yes, the Emancipation did not free slaves in the still-loyal border states. Neither did it apply to Union-controlled sections of rebellious states. However, by this time Lincoln had come to believe that slavery in the U.S. needed to be eradicated in order to save the Union.

The exhibit is a fascinating look at the evolving beliefs of Abraham Lincoln concerning slavery. It's educating, well-told, and an impressive look at one of the worst times of American history.

Perhaps the most moving aspect of the exhibition for me was the artwork of young children who had drawn or colored pictures of their impressions of the story of slavery and Emancipation. Here are some of those pictures they drew:

Obviously the story made a big impression on these young people. Hopefully they will remember these lessons about slavery, Abraham Lincoln, and the reasons why the American Civil War was fought. It's important that they know the facts, and not revisionist history told today by neo-Confederates who insist the war was fought over tariffs and that Union was the aggressor.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Locate Your American Civil War Ancestors

Have you ever been told that you have an ancestor or two who fought in the American Civil War? Perhaps you already know the name(s) of your ancestors who served with either the Union or Confederacy, but don't know how to go about finding out important information about the ancestor. In which regiment did he serve? In which battles did the regiment fight? Was he injured, captured, or killed? Now, thanks to a very special partnership between two organizations, that information is more easily accessible than ever.

Beginning tomorrow, April 7, 2011, the National Archives and the commercial company Ancestry.com are providing millions of Civil War records from the Archives to the American public FREE for the first time ever. This free access will last for one week from April 7 through April 14, 2011 in order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War on April 12, 2011. The approximately 25 million records, which document both Union and Confederate soldiers, will be available at www.ancestry.com/civilwar150. These records will include the 1863-1865 U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, and the complete 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census records as well.

It's estimated that two-thirds of Americans living today have at least one ancestor who lived through the Civil War, while nearly 17 million of us have an ancestor who fought in the war. Until now, the draft records have been available only to those people who were able to travel to Washington, D.C. to the National Archives for painstaking research. Beginning tomorrow it will be easier than ever before to find out more about your ancestor who fought in the bloodiest war Americans have ever participated in. Who knows? Maybe your ancestor was one of these young men from the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the photo above.

I typically refrain from giving free publicity to businesses and institutions because I don't want to make this blog about Abraham Lincoln too commercial. But in this case, I'm making an exception. This free access to Ancestry.com will be invaluable to hopefully thousands of Americans who want to learn more about their family tree. DISCLAIMER: I am receiving no compensation of any kind from Ancestry.com, nor any of its affiliates, including a membership. I was contacted by a representative who asked me to write about this release, which I've agreed to do.

Here is the publicity release which the Archives and Ancestry.com released earlier today:

WASHINGTON, D.C., and PROVO, UTAH -- (April 6, 2011) – Ancestry.com, the world's largest online family history resource, and the National Archives, today launched millions of newly digitized Civil War records that are now available online for the first time. This effort is part of an ongoing partnership between Ancestry.com and the National Archives to make important historical records more easily available to the American public. Ancestry.com’s entire Civil War Collection of more than 42 million records, including 25 million records from the National Archives, will be free to access for the general public for one week beginning on April 7. Existing members will have immediate access beginning today. Included are the entire U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865 and the complete 1860 and 1870 Censuses. These Civil War collections are in the National Archives and have been digitized by Ancestry.com to help preserve the original records and provide convenient online access. They now serve as a vital source of information for an estimated 17 million Americans who have an ancestor who fought in the conflict. The entire Civil War Collection can be accessed for free at www.ancestry.com/civilwar150

The highlight of the Civil War Collection is the newly digitized Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865. These records are among the most popular in the National Archives Civil War holdings and served as a virtual male census for the northern states during the war period. Famous 19th century Americans such as Andrew Carnegie, future President Grover Cleveland, Aaron Montgomery Ward and multiple Rockefellers are all found in these records. Previously only available by request in original form in the Research Room of the National Archives, the public will now be able to easily access these records on Ancestry.com without having to travel to Washington, D.C.

“The significance of these records, which document one of the most important events in American history, cannot be overstated,” said Ken Burns, director and producer of the award-winning documentary THE CIVIL WAR and longtime board member of the Foundation for the National Archives. “I’ve been able to make multiple discoveries about my own great-great-grandfather Abraham Burns through these and other records from the National Archives. I’m excited that more people will now be able to have similar discoveries through Ancestry.com.”

Ancestry.com is providing another special experience in searching for Civil War and National Archive information through the new interactive Military Headstone Archives. Dynamic visuals and multimedia tools will enable users to ‘virtually’ explore the cemeteries of the Civil War’s most famous battlefields at Gettysburg, PA; Sharpsburg (Antietam), MD; Stones River (Murfreesboro), TN; Petersburg, VA; Shiloh, TN and Vicksburg, MS. Users can search for their family’s heroes in Ancestry.com’s unique collection of headstone photographs from 33 national cemeteries in the North and South. The new Military Headstone Archives can also be accessed by visiting: www.ancestry.com/civilwar150

Since 2008, Ancestry.com and the National Archives have worked as partners to make important historical records available to the public as part of a shared commitment to preserving America's heritage. A key component of this collaboration includes digitizing as many of the original paper National Archives’ Civil War records as possible and publishing those records on Ancestry.com.

“The National Archives continues to be a model for preserving important U.S. history and making those records available to the public,” said Josh Hanna, Executive Vice President for Ancestry.com. “We’re honored that our partnership with the National Archives has made millions of records, including the new Civil War Collection, available to the many Americans who want to learn more about their family history.”

“We are pleased that our partnership with Ancestry.com is making these important records available outside of our research rooms,” said Susan Cummings, National Archives Director of Access Programs. “This is just the first of many series of Civil War records that will be made available online-that are scanned from original records, instead of from microfilm in the years to come.”

The expanded Civil War Collection now includes new National Archives records such as: · U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865: This collection lists all Civil War Draft Registrations. There were four drafts between 1863 and 1865, which included 3,175,055 people in its rolls, although of those, just over 46,000 actually entered into service. Historically, the 1863 draft was one of the most tenuous moments in the Union outside of the battles fought on Northern soil. Most of the concern was due to the draft riots that took place in New York in 1863. These records include more than 630 volumes of registries and are lists of individuals who registered for the draft.

· U.S. Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865: This collection contains indices of compiled military service records for volunteer Union and Confederate soldiers who served with units organized in more than 20 states. The indices also include Confederate soldiers who later served with the Union Army, Union and Confederate soldiers, Generals and staff officers, and other enlisted men not associated with a regiment. Individual records contain both military and personal details useful for locating an ancestor in time and place by tracking his movements during the course of the Civil War.

Other additions to the Civil War Collection include:

Union records · New York Civil War Muster Rolls · New York Civil War City Registers · Kansas Civil War Enlistment Papers

Confederate records · Confederate Pension Applications from AL, AR, TX and VA · Georgia Civil War Correspondence · Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers · Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy

To begin searching The Civil War Collection, current subscribers can visit www.ancestry.com/civilwarand new users can visit www.ancestry.com/civilwar150. For further stories and updates related to Civil War family history research, please follow Ancestry.com on Facebook and Twitter.


About Ancestry.com Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world's largest online family history resource, with nearly 1.4 million paying subscribers. More than 6 billion records have been added to the site in the past 14 years. Ancestry users have created more than 20 million family trees containing over 2 billion profiles. Ancestry.com has local Web sites directed at nine countries that help people discover, preserve and share their family history, including its flagship Web site at www.ancestry.com.

About the National Archives The National Archives and Records Administration, an independent federal agency, is the nation's record keeper. Founded in 1934, its mission is unique -- to serve American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. It supports democracy, promotes civic education, and facilitates historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives meets a wide range of information needs, among them helping people to trace their families' history, making it possible for veterans to prove their entitlement to medical and other benefits, and preserving original White House records. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at http://www.archives.gov/.

 
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