Dickinson College / Gilder Lehrman Institute

Author: davemcintire Page 1 of 2

“That is one angry map”

I started the new year with a piece of art to begin a conversation. The piece:

Picture 021

State Names; 2000; Jaune Quick-To-See Smith; Born: St. Ignatius, Montana; 1940; oil, collage and mixed media on canvas; 48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm); Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Elizabeth Ann Dugan and museum purchase; 2004.28; Smithsonian American Art Museum

Here are some of their insights:

It has a rusty red color on the top of it to represent the war
A new generation is coming and the old generation is being stripped away
Caging in America
Chaotic Unification
It looks like it is all moving together into one
Dying … disintegrating … falling apart … no one knows what’s going on
Some names have drips covering them but the others seem to pop out
It looks like melting wax
Something is spreading down, like war or migration
Bloody death
It looks like war. And it looks like everything is falling apart.
The top right states look like the drops are icicles
Blood running down Dakota… most bloodshed there
The oceans are black yet the Great Lakes are grey
Everything to the east side has no borders … like one big state

States Names Observations 2012

I played with Tagzedo to create a word cloud of their observations.

Lincoln, vampires and too much freetime on my hands

Ok, this is just silly … but I had a moment and wanted to play with the Google Ngram viewer. Is it a coincidence that we are seeing both an uptick in Lincoln books at the same time books about vampires gain in popularity? … maybe Seth Grahame-Smith is onto something

Lincoln and vampires

Trailer for Slavery by Another Name (peonage)

A monument to slave traders or emancipation?


I showed the Freedman’s Monument to my students for the first time last year. It is one of the few monuments I have been to over and over again this past year. It’s probably a mile behind the Supreme Court building and so out of the National Mall loop. I have been struggling with the monument from the moment I saw it.

Lincoln Park as seen by Google Maps.

A freedman inspired, freedman funded moment which looks more like a monument to slave trading than emancipation. The first time I saw it it looked like Lincoln was a slave trader. I haven’t been able to shake that image.

I’ve studied the Fredrick Douglass dedication speech.

I’ve read part of Lerone Bennett Jr.’s Forced Into Glory which suggests that the Proclamation ‘never freed anybody anywhere’ (quoting a reporter of Lincoln’s era). Bennett goes on to say:

“There, then the secret is out! Political history never happened. Sandburg wrote tens of thousands of words about it. Lindsay wrote a poem about it. Copeland wrote a musical portrait about it. King had a dream about it. But the fact is that Abraham Lincoln didn’t do it.” Bennett’s first chapter is here.

I’ve read Dr. Guelzo’s book on the Emancipation Proclamation and listened to both him and Dr. Pinsker and follow their logic and agree with their insights and observations.

And yet I still struggle with the monument.

I’ve come to decide that my job is to show my students the images and then shut up. Let them marinate on the messiness and realities of Reconstruction. Of politics. It helped to create a shorthand in discussions as well as a reality of the old saw about good intentions.

While researching newspapers of the Civil War, one of my student’s found this Thomas Nast drawing. I knew the moment I saw it I had to put it with the pictures of the Freedman’s Monument. A explanation of the Nast image can be found here.


How sleep the brave …

Unknown Soldiers 1 and 2 at Gettysburg National Cemetery

There is a story told of a visitor to the cemetery at the Old Soldier’s Home who encountered President Lincoln walking among the grave stones reciting this poem.

It has stuck with me since.

How Sleep the Brave
William Collins. 1721–1759

HOW sleep the brave, who sink to rest
By all their country’s wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallow’d mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod Than Fancy’s feet have ever trod.

By fairy hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair
To dwell, a weeping hermit, there!

The general location of Gettysburg Address

"War" on the Gettysburg Monument

"History" on the Gettysburg Monument

Unknown Soldiers at Gettysburg National Cemetery

Row of gravestones at Gettysburg National Cemetery


“A strange little document…”

Transcription: This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.

A. Lincoln [signed on the reverse: William H Seward, W. P. Fessenden, Edwin M Stanton, Gideon Welles, Edwd. Bates, M Blair, and J. P. Usher]

I am smitten with the document.

I like the covert aspect: written, folded, blindly signed on the reverse. I can see recreating the signing for my students–I wonder if they will sign blindly like the cabinet or blanch at the uncertainty of it.

I like the emotion of it: Lincoln is agonizingly honest and you can sense the distress.

I like the dissonance it will create for my students. On this side of history, we know Lincoln wins in 1864 handily and Lincoln’s worries will be unfounded.  It is helpful, however, to help our young women and men see that history is lived ‘in the moment’ and Lincoln’s moment in August 1864 looks bleak.

That “in the moment” aspect can help make history come alive for my students. When you don’t know how it will turn out, it makes the action more honest, makes the action more profound, more brave.

Scarlett O’Hara in scrubs…

Confederate Circular asking Southern women to grow poppies for morphine (National Archives)

The Faust book is a godsend for my students-they just don’t know it yet.

Every year each students pick a Civil War topic to research and every year several students choose women-related topic. Spies. Nurses. Homefront. It ends up that most all of it is from a Northern perspective. Alot of them get stymied by the lack of Confederate information. There are a few online sources but most are at an academic level that my 13 year olds struggle with. This book is a goldmine. I’ve already sent an email to my librarian asking for two copies.

I started reading it from page one but have found myself going to the index over and over again as I remember topics students wanted to search out but our library on online source didn’t have. Many of them are covered by Dr. Faust.

One area my students wrestle with is the sensibility of the day. Chivalry states that women were too delicate physically and emotionally. Seeing men at their worst would change a women. They would get in the way of the doctor and might even start bossing the doctor around. Nursing is such a female dominated occupation today that concerns over “The Florence Nightingale Business” (p. 92) seem trivial.

One gift in this book is the explanation of how the Confederate nursing corp developed. We have so much information about the Union and Dorthea Dix and The Sanitation Commission that I almost automatically send students that direction. To have an accessible explanation on how nurses came to care for Southern soldiers is exciting.

BTW-the document up top is a Confederate Circular asking women to grow poppies to be ground into morphine (source-National Archives).

Test Driving Google Maps with John Brown Locations

Have been playing with Google Maps. If I can work out all of my kinks with it, it looks like a cool tool to use with students. Struggling with integrating my personal pictures rather than off the internet. Struggling as well with the interface. I’m used to WYSIWYG and this is a little more labor intensive so that probably speaks more to my laziness than anything else.

The handout really helps though. Thank you!

The map is of the different places John Brown traveled while he was an active abolitionist. So far have two sites in Kansas, two in Virginia (West Virginia) and one in Canada. I had a few more, but delete really means delete in Google Maps.

Try this link to my map. If it doesn’t work, would you let me know and I will keep trying.



1,600 words = 1 image

Ignore me, I’m playing.

I have given kids Wordle versions of their research papers before and so wanted to see what Tagzedo could do:

The first is a paper by a young lady who suggested that total war was as much a moral wrong as slavery itself. I tell them if they see “I would have read this one for free” on their paper, I really liked it. She got her paper back and that was the only comment she looked for. It was there. Probably one of the best I’ve read in seven years.

I love that ‘slave war’ ran through the south and ‘destruction land’ across the north. Completely random.

The second paper did not have that commendation on his paper but I loved the ambition of his thesis. The South lost Gettysburg due to arrogance, disregard of orders and poor execution. I’d rather them be ambitious and come up short (I love helping them get the rest of the way) rather than striving for the mediocre.

I love that Longstreet connects the fuse on this one. Its like the guy who designed Longstreet’s statue at Gettysburg now works at Tagzedo.

“Local History as our Laboratory”

  • Maple Grove Civil War Memorial 
The discussion in class were great and I really like that Dr. Pinsker Matt spent time in a conversation with us about the blog entries. BTW Matt, thank you for your explanation of immediate abolition, gradual abolition and political abolition. That will give a great handle for me to use with my young charges. I’ve been playing with setting up an Abolition Convention and your distinctions will be useful.
The thing I became most curious about today was the presentation by Primary Research. As they started talking about using gravestones to plot philosophical change, I went back to an experience I had earlier this summer. I talked a bit about it in a blog I keep for my students, Declaration Address and Dream. My students will tell you I have an affection for cemeteries. I can say, with pride, that I have now openly wept in the first three national cemeteries after visiting Old Soldier’s Home and Lincoln’s Cottage a few weeks ago.
One of my visions for the new school year is giving my students the chance to be historians – not just academics and conjecture historians, but dirt under the fingernails historians. Maple Grove Cemetery in Wichita is one of several in the city and has a Civil War Memorial which it is renovating. I have been ruminating on how to do that using Maple Grove and Primary Research gives me a template by which to begin with.

Completely unrelated, but in the spirit of the Olympics, here is a blog post about an Olympian buried at Maple Grove. I also find his sister fascinating as well. Imagine being a African American nurse during the Jim Crow era.

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