Online Work

Online Etymology Dictionary
The Sciolist
Slavery in the North
Civil War Writing


Civil War Causes

Economics
It's often said that the American Civil War was entirely and only about slavery. Is there another view?

Yankee Canards
Was the ante-bellum South a primitive, backwards, illiterate, violent culture?

Mulattoes
Numbers and significance of the Southern mulatto population

Northern Racism
De Tocqueville observed that "race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known"

Slavery as History
How can you make an honest inquiry into American slavery without understanding the mindset of slave-owners? How can you do that without being yourself a racist?

Rebel View
Early 19th century American politics and political culture as it was seen by many Southerners

Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest writer in American political history. Writers are great, in part, because of their ability to disguise what they really intend.

Lincoln and Race
"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races."

Thaddeus Stevens
The life and times of Pennsylvania's fiery anti-Southern Congressman

Sidelights on Christiana
The Christiana Riot of 1851 is sometimes described at the first skirmish of the Civil War

1860 Election
Even if all the Democrats had united behind one candidate, the Northern regional ticket would have won

Secession
The wire-pulling over the Morrill tariff bill in 1860 showed the party of the abolitionists cynically using a legitimate government mechanism to gain power in a presidential election.

Legal Issues
Secession was legal under the Constitution, based on its ratification by the states in 1787 and 1788

Cornerstone Speech
Alexander Stephens "Cornerstone Speech" in context.

Upper South
"States rights" is dismissed as a red herring argument, yet the Upper South states seem to have left the Union for this reason.

What Cost Union?
Lincoln saved the union, but at a terrible cost to America's democracy and culture of freedom.

CONFEDERATE WAR

Up from History
The evolving historical view of the American Civil War.

Soldiers and War
Responding to the slander against Southern military effort.

Why the South Lost
Was Northern victory inevitable?

War Effort
The South put forth a tremendous effort for independence.

The Southern Press
Journalism and Southern civil liberties.

Desertion
An examination of the myth of massive Southern desertion.

A Closer Look
Desertion by the numbers; case studies North and South.

Ella Lonn
The original study of desertion in the Civil War.

Conscription
Southern conscription was the first attempt to create a modern military system.

Draft of 1862
An overlooked draft in the North that was underway almost simultaneously with the first rebel conscription.

Albert B. Moore
An important source for the "South against the South" thesis.

Maryland
The Lincoln Administration's crackdown on Maryland.

Occupied Maryland
A sampling of federal documents dealing with martial law in Maryland.

Maryland Peace Party
A pamphlet from the anti-government forces in Maryland.

Habeas Corpus
The suspension of Habeas Corpus in the North by the Lincoln administration during the war.

Copperhead
A Northern newspaper editor fights the administration after it closes down his press in response to anti-government articles.

"Keystone Confederates"
Some Pennsylvanians fought for the South during the Civil War.

AFTER THE WAR

Southern Populists
"You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars you both."

Coatesville Lynching
Zach Walker was burned alive by a white mob in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

York Riots
A little-known but violent 1960s race riot in York, Pennsylvania.

New South
Slavery, racism, and segregation were national experiences.

New Lost Cause
A native-born Southern white woman worked with native-born Southerners, black and white, with a shared sense of decency, to accomplishing the work of desegregation in Mississippi.

Flag dispute
From 1879 to 1956, the Georgia state flag was essentially the "Stars and Bars." If you were going to link any state flag with slavery, that would be the one.

Jonathan Kozol
"So two-tenths of 1 percent marks the difference between legally enforced apartheid in the South 50 years ago, and socially and economically enforced apartheid in New York today"

BIBLIOGRAPHY

sources consulted


ZACH WALKER

Pennsylvania had three lynchings in the years when that was common practice in America. Maryland had one. In Coatesville, Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1911, a black man named Zack Walker was burned alive for killing a white steel mill cop. They dragged him from the hospital, still chained to his bedstead, and burned him to death in front of thousands of witnesses in a field south of the city. No one was convicted of the crime. When he staggered from the pyre, a mass of flames, with rakes they shoved him back in. I have seen the picture of what was left of him. It would not fill a grocery bag. Around it are the bare feet and legs of young boys. I found the photos in the back of a cabinet drawer of the West Chester newspaper when I became an editor there.

A year after the lynching, John Jay Chapman, poet, dramatist and social critic, came to Coatesville, hired a hall there and held a memorial service. Only two people came. But the speech was published in Harper's Weekly (Sept. 21, 1912) and Chapman's book of essays, "Memories and Milestones," (1915) and has become a classic. Here is part of what he said:

We are met to commemorate the anniversary of one of the most dreadful crimes in history — not for the purpose of condemning it, but to repent for our share in it. We do not start any agitation with regard to that particular crime. I understand that an attempt to prosecute the chief criminals has been made, and has entirely failed; because the whole community, and in a sense our whole people, are really involved in the guilt. The failure of the prosecution in this case, in all such cases, is only a proof of the magnitude of the guilt, and of the awful fact that everyone shares in it.

I will tell you why I am here; I will tell you what happened to me. When I read in the newspapers of August 14, a year ago, about the burning alive of a human being, and of how a few desperate, fiend-minded men had been permitted to torture a man chained to an iron bedstead, burning alive, thrust back by pitchforks when he struggled out of it, while around about stood hundreds of well-dressed American citizens, both from the vicinity and from afar, coming on foot and in wagons, assembling on telephone call, as if by magic, silent, whether from terror or indifference, fascinated and impotent, hundreds of persons watching this awful sight and making no attempt to stay the wickedness, and no one man among them all who was inspired to risk his life in an attempt to stop it, no one man to name the name of Christ, of humanity, of government!

As I read the newspaper accounts of the scene enacted here in Coatesville a year ago, I seemed to get a glimpse into the unconscious soul of this country. I saw a seldom revealed picture of the American heart and of the American nature. I seemed to be looking into the heart of the criminal — a cold thing, an awful thing. I said to myself, "I shall forget this, we shall all forget it; but it will be there."

What I have seen is not an illusion. It is the truth. I have seen death in the heart of this people.

For to look at the agony of a fellow-being and remain aloof means death in the heart of the onlooker. Religious fanaticism has sometimes lifted men to the frenzy of such cruelty, political passion has sometimes done it, personal hatred might do it, the excitement of the ampitheater in the degenerate days of Roman luxury could do it. But here an audience chosen by chance in America has stood spellbound through an improvised auto-da-fé, irregular, illegal, having no religious significance, not sanctioned by custom, having no immediate provocation, the audience standing by merely in cold dislike.

I saw during one moment something beyond all argument in the depth of its significance. No theories about the race problem, no statistics, legislation, or mere educational endeavor, can quite meet the lack which that day revealed in the American people. For what we saw was death. The people stood like blighted things, like ghosts about Acheron, waiting for someone or something to determine their destiny for them.

....

Let me say something more about the whole matter.

The subject we are dealing with is not local. The act, to be sure, took place at Coatesville and everyone looked to Coatesville to follow it up. Some months ago I asked a friend who lives not far from here something about this case, and about the expected prosecutions, and he replied to me: "It wasn’t in my county," and that made me wonder whose county it was in. And it seemed to be in my county. I live on the Hudson River; but I knew that this great wickedness that happened in Coatesville is not the wickedness of Coatesville nor of today. It is the wickedness of all America and of three hundred years — the wickedness of the slave trade. All of us are tinctured by it. No special place, no special persons, are to blame. ....

There is no country in Europe where the Coatesville tragedy or anything remotely like it could have been enacted, probably no country in the world. On the day of the calamity, those people in the automobiles came by the hundred and watched the torture, and passers-by came in a great multitude and watched it — and did nothing.

On the next morning the newspapers spread the news and spread the paralysis until the whole country seemed to be helplessly watching this awful murder, as awful as anything ever done on this earth; and the whole of our people seemed to be looking on helplessly, not able to respond, not knowing what to do next. That spectacle has been in my mind.

The trouble has come down to us out of the past. The only reason slavery is wrong is that it is cruel and makes men cruel and leaves them cruel. Someone may say that you and I cannot repent because we did not do the act. But we are involved in it. We are still looking on.

Do you not see that this whole event is merely the last parable, the most vivid, the most terrible illustration that ever was given by man or imagined by a Jewish prophet, of the relation between good and evil in this world, and of the relation of men to one another? This whole matter has been an historic episode; but it is a part, not only of our national history, but of the personal history of each one of us."

©2002Douglas Harper "When misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood." -Lionel Trilling