CC 325 C - Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War
3 or 4 Credits
TR 8:30 - 9:45 am - Professor Piehl

The Civil War is the American Iliad, a defining and fratricidal conflict that remains vivid in American history, culture, and imagination 150 years after it occurred. In this course our primary attention will be on the history of the Civil War as commonly understood—that is, as the political, military, and ideological conflict between the federal Union and the Confederacy that occurred between 1861 and 1865, causing 600,000 deaths and untold suffering, while also decisively transforming American government, society, economics, and race relations. But this is not, primarily, a course in military history, but rather an inquiry into the fundamental issues that the Civil War raised and still raises regarding the character of American democracy, social organization, race relations, sectional loyalties, and others. It will also give considerable attention to the figure whose words and actions are integrally connected to the meaning of the war, then and since, Abraham Lincoln—examining him both as political leader and as a powerful and seminal American writer.

The first part of the course will survey the broad issues in Civil War history: the causes of the war, secession; the ideologies of North and South; the conflict over emancipation and race relations; the military, political, economic, and diplomatic course of the war; the war’s effects on soldiers and on civilian society; the particular roles of African-Americans, women, and Copperheads; and reasons for Union victory and Confederate defeat. The course will then turn specifically to Lincoln as the determining voice of the Union cause, while also examining the debates and conflicts his leadership aroused, then and since. Finally, some attention will be given to thoughtful contemporary writers who addressed the war, especially the poems and hospital writings of Walt Whitman, as well as to the echoes of the Civil War in subsequent American history and imagination.

All students will write one 5-7 page paper. For their second and third assignments, students may choose either two more 5-7 page papers, or a major paper of approximately 10-15 pages. While research papers on numerous subjects are possible, the emphasis will be on analytical studies addressing central issues in Lincoln studies and Civil War history, which may or may not require substantial research. There will also be a few small graded assignments and class presentations.

The central readings of the course will be: James McPherson, Ordeal By Fire; Jim Cullen and Lyde Cullen Sizer, eds, The Civil War Era: An Anthology of Sources; William Gienapp, ed. The Fiery Trial: The Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln; James McPherson, Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution; and Walter Lowenfals, ed., Walt Whitman’s Civil War. Brief selections from other primary sources and secondary literature by historians and others will also be used, as will selected videos and films.