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HIST 119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877

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The causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

The causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
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United States

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The causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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English


Episodes

Lecture 25 - The "End" of Reconstruction: Disputed Election of 1876, and the "Compromise of 1877"

8/25/2017
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This lecture focuses on the role of white southern terrorist violence in brining about the end of Reconstruction. Professor Blight begins with an account the Colfax Massacre. Colfax, Louisiana was the sight of the largest mass murder in U.S. history, when a white mob killed dozens of African Americans in the April of 1873. Two Supreme Court decisions would do in the judicial realm what the Colfax Massacre had done in the political. On the same day as the Colfax Massacre, the Supreme...

Duration:00:52:18

Lecture 24 - Retreat from Reconstruction: The Grant Era and Paths to "Southern Redemption"

8/25/2017
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This lecture opens with a discussion of the myriad moments at which historians have declared an "end" to Reconstruction, before shifting to the myth and reality of "Carpetbag rule" in the Reconstruction South. Popularized by Lost Cause apologists and biased historians, this myth suggests that the southern governments of the Reconstruction era were dominated by unscrupulous and criminal Yankees who relied on the ignorant black vote to rob and despoil the innocent South. The reality, of...

Duration:00:50:02

Lecture 22 - Constitutional Crisis and Impeachment of a President

8/25/2017
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Professor Blight continues his discussion of the political history of Reconstruction. The central figure in the early phase of Reconstruction was President Andrew Johnson. Under Johnson's stewardship, southern whites held constitutional conventions throughout 1865, drafting new constitutions that outlawed slavery but changed little else. When the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress reassembled late in 1865, they put a stop to Johnson's leniency and inaugurated Radical (or Congressional)...

Duration:00:51:55

Lecture 21 - Andrew Johnson and the Radicals: A Contest over the Meaning of Reconstruction

8/25/2017
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In this lecture, Professor Blight begins his engagement with Reconstruction. Reconstruction, Blight suggests, might best be understood as an extended referendum on the meaning of the Civil War. Even before the war's end, various constituencies in the North attempted to control the shape of the post-war Reconstruction of the South. In late 1863, President Abraham Lincoln offered his lenient "Ten Percent Plan." Six months later, Congressional Republicans concerned by Lincoln's charity...

Duration:00:50:43

Lecture 20 - Wartime Reconstruction: Imagining the Aftermath and a Second American Republic

8/25/2017
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This lecture begins with a central, if often overlooked, turning point in the Civil War--the re-election of Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Although the concerted efforts of northern Peace Democrats and a palpable war weariness among the electorate made Lincoln's victory uncertain, timely Union victories in Atlanta and Mobile in September of 1864 secured Lincoln's re-election in November. This lecture concludes Professor Blight's section on the war, following Lee and Grant to Appomattox...

Duration:00:48:22

Lecture 19 - To Appomattox and Beyond: The End of the War and a Search for Meanings

8/25/2017
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Professor Blight uses Herman Melville's poem "On the Slain Collegians" to introduce the horrifying slaughter of 1864. The architect of the strategy that would eventually lead to Union victory, but at a staggering human cost, was Ulysses S. Grant, brought East to assume control of all Union armies in 1864. Professor Blight narrates the campaigns of 1864, including the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg. While Robert E. Lee battled Grant...

Duration:00:51:11

Lecture 18 - "War So Terrible": Why the Union Won and the Confederacy Lost at Home and Abroad

8/25/2017
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This lecture probes the reasons for confederate defeat and union victory. Professor Blight begins with an elucidation of the loss-of-will thesis, which suggests that it was a lack of conviction on the home front that assured confederate defeat, before offering another of other popular explanations for northern victory: industrial capacity, political leadership, military leadership, international diplomacy, a pre-existing political culture, and emancipation. Blight warns, however, that we...

Duration:00:50:19

Lecture 17 - Homefronts and Battlefronts: "Hard War" and the Social Impact of the Civil War

8/22/2017
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Professor Blight begins his lecture with a description of the sea change in Civil War scholarship heralded by the Social History revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with a focus on the experience of the common solider, women, and African Americans, a central component of this shift in scholarly emphasis was an increased interest in the effects of the war on the Union and Confederate home fronts. After suggesting some of the ways in which individual Americans experienced the war,...

Duration:00:50:46

Lecture 16 - Days of Jubilee: The Meanings of Emancipation and Total War

8/22/2017
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This lecture focuses on the process of emancipation after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation, Professor Blight suggests, had four immediate effects: it made the Union army an army of emancipation; it encouraged slaves to strike against slavery; it committed the US to a policy of emancipation in the eyes of Europe; and it allowed African Americans to enlist in the Union Army. In the end, ten percent of Union soldiers would be African...

Duration:00:48:26

Lecture 15 - Lincoln, Leadership, and Race: Emancipation as Policy

8/22/2017
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Professor Blight follows Robert E. Lee's army north into Maryland during the summer of 1862, an invasion that culminated in the Battle of Antietam, fought in September of 1862. In the wake of Antietam, Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a document that changed the meaning of the war forever. Professor Blight suggests some of the ways in which Americans have attempted to come to grips with the enigmatic Lincoln, and argues that, in the end, it may be...

Duration:00:51:36

Lecture 14 - Never Call Retreat: Military and Political Turning Points in 1863

8/22/2017
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Professor Blight lectures on the military history of the early part of the war. Beginning with events in the West, Blight describes the Union victories at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, introduces Union General Ulysses S. Grant, and narrates the horrific battle of Shiloh, fought in April of 1862. Moving back East, the lecture describes the Union General George McClellan's abortive 1862 Peninsula campaign, which introduced the world to Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. The...

Duration:00:50:15

Lecture 13 - Terrible Swift Sword: The Period of Confederate Ascendency, 1861-1862

8/19/2017
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Professor Blight discusses the expectations, advantages, and disadvantages with which North and South entered the Civil War. Both sides, he argues, expected and desired a short, contained conflict. The northern advantages enumerated in this lecture include industrial capability, governmental stability, and a strong navy. Confederate advantages included geography and the ability to fight a defensive war. Professor Blight concludes the lecture with the Battle of Bull Run, the first major...

Duration:00:52:39

Lecture 12 - "And the War Came," 1861: The Sumter Crisis, Comparative Strategies

8/19/2017
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After finishing with his survey of the manner in which historians have explained the coming of the Civil War, Professor Blight focuses on Fort Sumter. After months of political maneuvering, the Civil War began when Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, in the harbor outside Charleston, SC. The declaration of hostilities prompted four more states--Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas--to secede. Professor Blight closes the lecture with a brief discussion of some of the forces...

Duration:00:46:36

Lecture 11 - Slavery and State Rights, Economies and Ways of Life: What Caused the Civil War?

8/19/2017
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Professor Blight begins this lecture with an attempt to answer the question "why did the South secede in 1861?" Blight offers five possible answers to this question: preservation of slavery, "the fear thesis," southern nationalism, the "agrarian thesis," and the "honor thesis." After laying out the roots of secession, Blight focuses on the historical profession, suggesting some of the ways in which historians have attempted to explain the coming of the Civil War. Blight begins with James...

Duration:00:50:17

Lecture 10 - The Election of 1860 and the Secession Crisis

8/19/2017
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This lecture picks off where the previous one left off, with a discussion of the legacies of John Brown. The most important thing about John Brown's raid, Professor Blight argues, was not the event itself, but the way Americans engaged with it after the fact. Next, Professor Blight discusses the election of 1860, a four-way battle won by the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln. In the wake of Lincoln's election, the seven states of the deep South, led by South Carolina, seceded. The...

Duration:00:50:48

Lecture 9 - John Brown's Holy War: Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary?

8/19/2017
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Professor Blight narrates the momentous events of 1857, 1858, and 1859. The lecture opens with an analysis of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Next, Blight analyzes the Dred Scott decision and discusses what it meant for northerners--particularly African Americans--to live in "the land of the Dred Scott decision." The lecture then shifts to John Brown. Professor Blight begins by discussing the way that John Brown has been remembered in art and literature, and then offers a...

Duration:00:52:23

Lecture 8 - Dred Scott, Bleeding Kansas, and the Impending Crisis of the Union, 1855-58

8/19/2017
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Professor Blight continues his march through the political events of the 1850s. He continues his description of the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, describing the guerilla war that reigned in the territory of Kansas for much of 1856. The lecture continues, describing the caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the US Senate and the birth of the Republican party. The lecture concludes with the near-victory of Republican candidate John C. Fremont in the presidential...

Duration:00:52:14

Lecture 7 - "A Hell of a Storm": The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Birth of the Republican Party, 1854-55

8/19/2017
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Professor Blight narrates some of the important political crises of the 1850s. The lecture begins with an account of the Compromise of 1850, the swan song of the great congressional triumvirate--Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun. The lecture then describes northern opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act passed as part of the Compromise, and the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852. Professor Blight then introduces the Kansas-Nebraska Act of...

Duration:00:47:41

Lecture 6 - Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850

8/18/2017
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In this lecture, Professor Blight discusses some of the conflicts, controversies, and compromises that led up to the Civil War. After analyzing Frederick Douglass's 1852 Fourth of July speech and the inherent conflict between American slavery and American freedom, the lecture moves into a lengthy discussion of the war with Mexico in the 1840s. Professor Blight explains why northerners and southerners made "such a fuss" over the issue of slavery's expansion into the western territories....

Duration:00:53:03

Lecture 5 - Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality

8/18/2017
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Professor Blight offers an introduction to the course. He summarizes some of the course readings, and discusses the organization of the course. Professor Blight offers some thoughts on the nature of history and the study of history, before moving into a discussion of the reasons for Americans' enduring fascination with the Civil War. The reasons include: the human passion for epics, Americans' fondness for redemption narratives, the Civil War as a moment of "racial reckoning," the...

Duration:00:50:12