The Civil War remembered

Engraving of the 1861 bombardment of Fort Sumter.*

One hundred and fifty years ago today, the Confederate army fired upon Fort Sumter, beginning America’s bloodiest conflict. Even as the commemorations and reenactments get underway, its legacy remains ambiguous and still hotly debated. Was it a war for local control and states’ rights? Was it a war about slavery or about the union? And how does the war and its aftermath continue to resonate today?

Here are a few resources to help you get a grip on these questions.

BackStory (website, iTunes), Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf and Brian Balogh, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
This Virginia public radio show, which features three wisecracking history professors, is running a special three-part series on the Civil War. Part 1 is about the dramatic lead-up to the war. Part 2 tells what the men on both sides felt they were fighting for. And part 3 answers listeners’ questions.

The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 (website) David Blight, Yale University.
This Yale history course is one of the all-time great courses on the web. Blight is an eloquent speaker who uses the poetry, speeches and letters of the Civil War era to dramatize his talks. If you’ve ever wondered why so many people find the US Civil War so endlessly fascinating, this course is the answer.

Disunion, New York Times.
To mark the Civil War anniversary, the New York Times is running a special blog, recounting those long-ago events. I especially recommend the posts by Adam Goodheart, who has been contributing a riveting day by day account of the crisis at Fort Sumter.  To hear Goodheart talk about the Civil War, check out this recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air.

*Image source: Fort Sumter website.
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