Monday, April 29, 2019

Re-Animating Civil War Photographs--Four Nearly Indentical Images 'Move' With the Help of Software

Image result for american civil war photos
 Civil War Photographs--Four Nearly Identical Images 'Move' With the Help of Software

Matt Loughrey, the founder of My Colorful Past, lives on the west coast of Ireland. His work exists somewhere between history and art, using technology as the storyteller. Above, you can watch his latest project. Below, Elisabeth Pearson interviews him about the value of his work. 

1. Were you always interested in combining art and history? How did your interest in reanimation begin?
Digital art has always been in the background for me. My first experience of that was in 1991 and getting myself accustomed to Dan Silva's 'Deluxe Paint' software on the Commodore Amiga. It was a very defining time in light of my own creativity. Almost three decades later, art software is still as groundbreaking and archives of historical material are accessible through the internet, not least the ability to communicate freely with archivists the world over. It always made sense to combine both interests.

2. Has living in Ireland influenced your work? If so, how?
In the west of Ireland there's a very real sense of creative community. Creativity is widely accepted and fostered by those that appreciate it. I think that overall acceptance and the peaceful surrounds of home are positive for work.

3. How did you discover that these frames could be inadvertently reanimated?
I've spent many years stumbling upon what I thought could be duplicate frames that were uncatalogued in different archives. For the most part I dismissed them, until it became more and more obvious to me that it might be worthwhile looking at closely. I looked at a couple closely and it was like finding treasure in plain sight.

4. Your Instagram, My Colorful Past, has taken on quite a following. How do you manage that account? Are you pressured to come up with new content? What are some of your favorite images you’ve posted?
People with specific interests look for quality content, provided I keep that in mind then the account becomes somewhat self managing. It's hard to say what is a favorite image, albeit I've always enjoyed American history as it has been so very visually documented, it makes the experience relatable almost. The Gold Rush, The Dustbowl, The Civil War, Ellis Island...

5. What do you hope your viewers get out of the documentary and or the work that you do?
The aim is always to invite a completely new sense of relatability and the opportunity to learn a little more.

6. How has this project changed or developed since you first started back in July 2018?
The project itself has been realized, in this instance that was was the main priority. So long as it exampled what is possible then I was going to be happy with the outcome. The interesting part on a professional level are the expressions of interest from libraries and museums that see its potential as an aid to their visitor experiences.

7. Do you remember the first time you saw the reanimation of an image? Which image was it and did it provoke any feelings that may have inspired this mini documentary?
The first portrait I animated authentically was of George Custer when he was a Captain. In that moment he was 'alive' and I fast realized the potential as well as importance of seeing the project through. It was very surreal in the sense of discovery, that I do remember well.

8. What do you hope to accomplish moving forward with the reanimation of frames?
The integral part of this project is realizing that it is all about preservation and discovery combined. The end goal is to see these animations, and hundreds of others, displayed in the correct learning environment. They are ideal as an engaging visual support for classroom learning in the digital age. What better, than to see in motion, the very people or places you are reading about.

Text and Video Source:      History News Network

Friday, April 26, 2019

News: Atlanta's Civil War Cyclorama---Artifact, Memorial, or Lesson Plan?

 Atlanta’s Civil War Monument, Minus the Pro-Confederate Bunkum: A new exhibition of a gigantic painting uses historical fact to dispel Lost Cause mythology.  By Daniel Judt, The Atlantic Magazine, March 17, 2019

Every city in the South, it seems, is trying to figure out what to do with its monuments. Richmond has kept its grand “Monument Avenue” lined with statues of Confederate luminaries. New Orleans took Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis down from their pedestals.   In the city of Atlanta, whose leading Civil War monument is the enormous Atlanta Cyclorama, the strategy is novel: Use history itself to strip a divisive object of its symbolic power.

Cycloramas are panorama paintings designed for exhibition in rotundas. The viewer stands in the middle, cocooned by a canvas that becomes the world. The Atlanta Cyclorama shows the 1864 Battle of Atlanta, a crucial turning point in the Civil War that launched General William Tecumseh Sherman on his infamous march and sealed the South’s fate. Now the center of a major new exhibition at the Atlanta History Center, the Cyclorama measures 49 feet high by 382 feet long and weighs more than 9,000 pounds, making it one of the largest paintings in the United States.

 Ever since it premiered in 1886, the Cyclorama has itself been a battleground—a key theater in America’s 150-year fight over how to remember its Civil War. Some exhibitions have cast it as a Union victory; others as a Confederate one. At various moments, Union and Confederate veterans, white and black politicians, civil-rights leaders and segregationists have all tried to claim and control the Cyclorama. Some literally repainted it to promote their memory of the war. For much of the 20th century, the Lost Cause won out, and the Cyclorama served as Atlanta’s Confederate monument. It became part of an effort to uphold white supremacy under the guise of merely commemorating history.

The Cyclorama underscores why we care so much about monuments: not for the past they portray, but for the values they project into the present. “Southern white communities used monuments to preserve their version of the Civil War,” Sheffield Hale, the Atlanta History Center’s director, told me. “A statue of a Confederate general … is not about loss or grief. It is about power.”

When I spoke with Hale and his team of curators at the opening weekend late last month, they were very clear about the goal of the exhibition. They hope to end the Cyclorama’s career as a vessel for Civil War myths—to take away its power without erasing its history.

 They have succeeded. The new exhibition transforms the Cyclorama from, as Hale puts it, “attraction to artifact”—from monument to museum piece. It shifts the focus almost entirely from the history depicted in the painting to the history of the painting itself; from the battle that the Cyclorama depicts to the battle over that battle. And in doing so, it shows how we might resolve the long debate over Civil War monuments. Instead of letting the monuments tell our history, we can tell theirs.

Over its 133-year existence, the Cyclorama has proved uniquely pliable as a Civil War memento, perhaps because it was designed that way.
In their 19th-century heyday, cycloramas traveled from city to city, just as fairs or circuses did. They needed to appeal to a wide audience. When the Milwaukee-based American Panorama Company created the Atlanta Cyclorama, it instructed its team (all German immigrants who spoke no English) to paint an ambiguous juncture in the Battle of Atlanta: 4:45 p.m. on July 22, a moment when four Confederate brigades had just broken the Union line and taken control of Union artillery. Minutes later, Union reinforcements led by General John Logan would beat back the Confederates and end the threat. The Cyclorama depicts Logan on horseback, gallantly charging toward the battle. But he wasn’t there yet. The scene is tense, the outcome unresolved. The painters in Wisconsin crafted the Cyclorama to depict an impending Union victory. From another angle, though, the scene could also be interpreted as a Confederate opportunity. This was a moment when the war could have gone the other way.

The report continues at The Atlantic

Museum News: Manassas Battlefield Hospital--Smells Like Civil War Spirit

"Civil War Hospital at Ben Lomond Adds Realistic Audio to Multisensory Experience", by Jonathan Hunley, Washington Post
Staff members at the Ben Lomond Historic Site say they want visitors to use all of their senses to get a feeling for what a Civil War hospital was like. And with the inclusion this year of a soundtrack that includes booming cannons, moaning patients and clinking tools, they’ve added hearing to what was already a multisensory experience.

Those entering the stone house on the property outside Manassas can see what a field medical center looked like, down to the uniforms, cots and bandages. Those things are reproductions — visitors can touch them. Tourists can taste hardtack, the dry bread soldiers ate during the war. And they are greeted by the common odors of a hospital of the time. The new soundtrack brings another layer to the tours.

Ben Lomond, operated by the Prince William County government’s historic preservation division, opened in its current incarnation in 2011, in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas.  The main house and outbuildings were constructed in 1832, said Paige Gibbons Backus, who manages the site, which was one of about 20 properties in the Manassas area that were being used as hospitals in 1861, when the battle took place.

That medical function is the one preservationists showcase today. Visitors can see where Confederate soldiers were treated and where Union troops later signed their names on walls after they took over Ben Lomond.The smells of the hospital were added in 2015 to heighten the experience. The stench is meant to evoke filth, gangrene and the barnyard, Gibbons Backus said. There are some pleasant aromas, as well, she said last week, including coffee.

In adding sound this year, historic preservation staff also wrote scripts for some exhibits. Those include dialogue on the Pringle family, who lived at Ben Lomond when it was turned into a hospital, and a step-by-step description of an amputation.The latter narrates John Rose of the 2nd Mississippi Regiment losing a leg, as well as the difficulty the medical staff has in treating him. At one point in the recorded scene, having run out of bandages, a doctor tells his assistant to tear up curtains and use them to cover the wound. “The sun has not even set on this terrible day, and already we are out of critical supplies,” the doctor says.Rose spent time at Ben Lomond, Gibbons Backus said, although historians don’t know the number of soldiers who were brought there or the casualty rates associated with the hospital.

Creating the sound effects cost less than $5,000, the site manager said, and a production company helped the historic preservation division put the audio together. Voice actors included county staff members and volunteers.“People really enjoy things like this where they can come and take a step back and really see and hear and smell what it might have been like,” Gibbons Backus said. “It really allows your imagination to soar with it.” 

In a previous life, Ben Lomond was set up as a simpler museum, which wasn’t that enticing to visitors, said Brendon Hanafin, chief of the historic preservation division.“It just didn’t seem like it had any cachet,” he said. However, adding the immersive touches has boosted its popularity among historic properties in Prince William.“Ben Lomond is probably one of our busiest daily sites now,” Hanafin said.

For information about the Ben Lomond Historic Site, see .

Full Text and Image Source Washington Post

New and Noteworthy: A Civil WarOf, By and For Lawyers? Uncivil Wariors: The Lawyers' Civil War

Peter Charles Hoffer. Uncivil Warriors: The Lawyers' Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. 240 pp. $27.95 

Reviewed by Jeremy Weber (Air War College, Air University) Published on H-War (April, 2019)

Cover for 

Uncivil Warriors
Just when it seemed the Civil War could not possibly provide fresh material, along comes Peter Hoffer’s Uncivil Warriors; The Lawyers’ Civil War. In 184 pages, Hoffer, a legal historian, tells the story of the lawyers who used their skills to frame the issues presented by this unique war, resolve disputes, and generally maintain some form of order to the conflict. He portrays the war ultimately as not one of guns or honor, but “a Civil War by lawyers, of lawyers, and in the end, for lawyers” (p. 4). Along the way, Hoffer supplies a new appreciation of the role of law—and lawyers—in initiating, carrying out, and terminating warfare.

Hoffer’s work is an introduction to the role of lawyers in the Civil War, not a treatise. He focuses on the two legal issues at the heart of the conflict: the status of slavery and the purported secession of seven states from the Union. Hoffer convincingly demonstrates that both issues were at least as much legal questions as political ones, and lawyer/politicians used the language of law to understand, analyze, and resolve these questions. As Hoffer notes, the work lawyers performed in placing the conflict in a legal framework made the Civil War, “unlike civil wars before and after, remarkably rule-bound” (p. 3).

However, lawyers did not play an equal role on both sides. The cabinets of both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were replete with lawyers, Hoffer notes, but Lincoln (being a lawyer himself) was able to harness the talents of his lawyer/politicians. In Hoffer’s exploration of the advocacy and competition within the Lincoln cabinet, we see shades of the Team of Rivals narrative that has become familiar to many. Yet Hoffer goes beyond this story to explore the reason Lincoln was able to not only tolerate, but value the role his lawyer/politicians played in challenging his thinking. Davis, on the other hand, was not receptive to legal counsel, and suffered for it in the form of rash decisions and lack of congressional support.

Uncivil Warriors also adds value by exploring the constitutional mindset that Union lawyer/politicians struggled with, the idea of an “old Constitution” of limited federal powers and states’ rights. The book is fundamentally an exploration of how Lincoln and his team of lawyer/politicians—along with the Supreme Court—wrestled with, rubbed up against, and ultimately cast aside the old Constitution to which Lincoln had pledged himself in favor of a new Constitution marked by federal supremacy, human rights, and governmental obligations.

Uncivil Warriors does not fully cover the role of lawyers in the war. Hoffer does not explore the many lawyers who accepted commissions to serve on the battlefield. He spends little time exploring the war’s legal development most known by military and international lawyers—the development of the Lieber Code, the document that gave rise many of international law’s foundational agreements. At other times, the book seems to struggle to maintain its focus, as in its extended discussion of the Supreme Court’s In Re Merryman decision (admittedly an important subject). The inclusion of both an epilogue and a conclusion in such a short work feels somewhat out of place, as does—to be nitpicky—the title. After all, Hoffer’s thrust is that lawyers made the war more civil, not less.

These minor points aside, Uncivil Warriors remains a worthy contribution to the field, allowing the reader to see the war not as a primarily political, cultural, or military conflict, but a legal one. If war is truly a political entity, and if most politicians (especially during that era) are lawyers, it makes sense that war should have a strong legal element. Hoffer shows that the Civil War served as a fulcrum around which our view of the Constitution pivots. In this sense, Uncivil Warriors makes the Civil War seem like a fresh and underexplored topic—no small accomplishment.

Full Text Link:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

New And Noteworthy: They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South

They Were Her PropertyThey Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, Yale University Press, 320 pages, bibliographic notes, bibliography, illustrations, index, 2019, $30, hardcover.

From the Publisher: Bridging women’s history, the history of the South, and African American history, this book makes a bold argument about the role of white women in American slavery. Historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers draws on a variety of sources to show that slave-owning women were sophisticated economic actors who directly engaged in and benefited from the South’s slave market. Because women typically inherited more slaves than land, enslaved people were often their primary source of wealth. Not only did white women often refuse to cede ownership of their slaves to their husbands, they employed management techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave-owning men. White women actively participated in the slave market, profited from it, and used it for economic and social empowerment. By examining the economically entangled lives of enslaved people and slave-owning women, Jones-Rogers presents a narrative that forces us to rethink the economics and social conventions of slaveholding America.
Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the winner of the 2013 Lerner-Scott Prize for best doctoral dissertation in U.S. women’s history. She lives in El Cerrito, CA.
Christian Century Magazine review by Edward J. Blum (April 18, 2019):  
Eva Jones was devastated. The Civil War had left some friends and family members maimed and others dead. Because of economic inflation and stagnation, she could no longer afford some everyday goods. Perhaps most upsetting was emancipation. Before the war, Jones was a member of a prominent southern family and a slave owner. She fumed in a letter to her mother-in-law that the loss of her human property constituted “unprecedented robbery” that would render her “a heap of ruins and ashes.” She lamented the life she would lead when no longer a mistress: a “joyless future of probable ignominy, poverty, and want.”

Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers chronicles the financial realities and choices of slave-owning women like Jones, uncovering a world of women’s participation in the institution of slavery that is often undervalued by other scholars. With an array of evidence ranging from court records to newspaper advertisements, ruminations of slave traders to remembrances of former slaves, Jones-Rogers places slaveholding mistresses at the core of slavery’s economy. These women were perceptive players in the buying and selling of men and women. Rather than passive victims of patriarchy and the system of slavery, they were coconspirators in the economic exploitation of people.
Jones-Rogers shows how young mistresses were cultivated to manage and discipline slaves through childhood education. Some of the training came from parents directly. Girls learned other lessons by watching, even by reading a children’s newspaper. The day when a girl first received legal rights to slaves was a noteworthy occasion, as important as a birthday or other holiday.

Dissecting the way women worked within slavery’s financial world, Jones-Rogers finds no discernible differences between mistresses and masters in their treatment of slaves as property. Both women and men exploited enslaved people for their economic benefit. Curiously, however, Jones-Rogers largely omits discussion of the prevalence and economic consequences of sexual contact between masters and slaves—or between mistresses and slaves.

Professor Stephanie Jones-RogersSlave auctions were considered detestable by many, and a story emerged in the South that women would avoid the tawdry affair of separating families and friends. Jones-Rogers rips apart this fabrication. She shows how mistresses were active participants in the market at every step of the system. They discussed trades within their homes, brought slaves to traders for sale, circulated around the auctions to gather information, and purchased and sold slaves.

In perhaps her most interesting chapter, Jones-Rogers looks at the one arena of slave ownership where white women largely created and defined the market: wet nurses. There were many reasons a mistress might want a slave woman to provide nourishment for newborns. One was to free the mistress from the labor of nursing, especially if she was in poor health. Another was to offer sustenance to enslaved babies. Wet nurses became prized commodities, and they were often regarded as skilled laborers.

Jones-Rogers also investigates how mistresses (like Eva Jones) experienced the collapse of slavery. Many white women did everything in their power to maintain their investments. In New Orleans, for instance, one owner hid a slave in a dungeon. When Union soldiers rescued the young woman, they found that the iron yoke around her neck had rusted and fused onto her skin. Other mistresses went on the run to avoid Union soldiers and thereby keep their slaves. Even when they acknowledged that emancipation had carried the day, many white women continued to press for their financial interests, petitioning the federal government for compensation for their alleged fiscal losses.

Overall, the book makes two points clear. First, women acted in their own best interest financially and socially. They followed the prices and values of slaves; they sold and purchased men, women, and children; and they often kept their finances separate from those of their husbands. Second, women’s slave ownership caused considerable conflict between white people. Husbands frequently wanted to control the assets of their wives, and  parties often ended up in court over matters of slave control.

They Were Her Property will generate significant conversation among historians of the American South and slavery. While it includes ample qualitative evidence (petitions, court cases, recollections, and other textual documents), economic historians may complain that it lacks the quantitative data that would demonstrate mistresses’ monetary im­pact and their power to generate broader social change. Jones-Rogers presents legal and political history, but she rarely includes macro-statistics to place slave-owning women within broad trends and developments.

When she does use such data, her findings are fascinating. For instance, after Congress abolished slavery in the District of Columbia, the federal government offered slaveholders financial compensation. Of the 1,065 slave owners to submit petitions, more than 400 of them were women. One, Margaret C. Barber, owned 34 slaves and Congress paid her almost $10,000. When Congress then allowed African Ameri­cans to sue for their freedom in the district, 42 of the roughly 108 petitioners identified their owners as women. These numbers are probably not representative of the southern states overall, but they should pique the interest of historians. In the moment of emancipation, 40 percent of government involvements with slaveholders and slaves in the nation’s capital dealt with female slaveholders.

In the 1930s, workers for the Federal Writers Project—a New Deal organization dedicated to combating unemployment during the Great Depression—inter­viewed former slaves about their experiences. Jones-Rogers relies significantly upon these interviews, although some historians wonder if they are more useful for understanding race relations in the early 20th century than slavery in the 19th. Since slavery had ended 65 years earlier, many of the interviewees had been children at the time of emancipation. There are also concerns that the interviews are shaped by the influence of white interviewers. Whether the interviews are suitable for the study of slavery, Jones-Rogers puts them to excellent work. She shows that the interviewees understood white women to be part of, rather than subject to, the economic realities of enslavement.

Amid the vignettes of slave-owning women using their power and authority, Jones-Rogers frequently chastises other historians for failing to present southern white women as active players in slavery. The point is important, but it becomes tedious to read repeatedly. If readers simply skip those paragraphs, they will find a gripping story of female businesswomen using their property—in this case, human beings—to make money. These women were not pawns in the racialized nation we still inhabit; they were players.

Full text link to Christian Century review:  Christian Century April 18, 2019
Author's Photograph Source 
Yale University Press Source   They Were Her Property

Thomas Watson Brown Award: $50,000. And the winner is . . .

Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War's Slave Refugee CampsThe Society of Civil War Historians and the Watson-Brown Foundation are proud to announce that Amy Murret Taylor is the recipient of the Tom Watson Brown Book Award. Dr. Taylor, Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky, earned the award for Embattled Freedom: Journeys Through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps which was published in 2018 by the University of North Carolina Press. 

The $50,000 award is funded by the Watson-Brown Foundation in honor of the broadcaster, philanthropist, and Civil War enthusiast Tom Watson Brown. In making its selection, the prize committee praised Taylor for her “original, nuanced view of slave refugee camps and the relationship of the US Army to the process of emancipation.” Offering a “detailed spatial analysis of the camps” along with compelling stories “about the fate of so-called contraband slaves”, Embattled Freedom, the prize committee explains, “is one of the very best books written in the field of Civil War studies in the last decade and perhaps longer than that.” 

From The PublisherThe Civil War was just days old when the first enslaved men, women, and children began fleeing their plantations to seek refuge inside the lines of the Union army as it moved deep into the heart of the Confederacy. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands more followed in a mass exodus from slavery that would destroy the system once and for all. Drawing on an extraordinary survey of slave refugee camps throughout the country, Embattled Freedom reveals as never before the everyday experiences of these refugees from slavery as they made their way through the vast landscape of army-supervised camps that emerged during the war. Amy Murrell Taylor vividly reconstructs the human world of wartime emancipation, taking readers inside military-issued tents and makeshift towns, through commissary warehouses and active combat, and into the realities of individuals and families struggling to survive physically as well as spiritually. Narrating their journeys in and out of the confines of the camps, Taylor shows in often gripping detail how the most basic necessities of life were elemental to a former slave's quest for freedom and full citizenship.

The stories of individuals--storekeepers, a laundress, and a minister among them--anchor this ambitious and wide-ranging history and demonstrate with new clarity how contingent the slaves' pursuit of freedom was on the rhythms and culture of military life. Taylor brings new insight into the enormous risks taken by formerly enslaved people to find freedom in the midst of the nation’s most destructive war.                                      

Table of Contents:
Biographic Example:Edward and Emma Whitehurst in Slavery