Reading Selections

Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War is designed as a series of five conversations exploring different facets of the Civil War experience, informed by reading the words written or uttered by powerful voices from the past and present.

The series focuses on three books: March by Geraldine Brooks, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James McPherson, and America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries, edited by Edward L. Ayers. A complete list of readings for the five-part series appears below.

Part One: Imagining War
• Geraldine Brooks, March [2005]
Selection from the anthology America’s War [2011]:
• Louisa May Alcott, “Journal kept at the hospital, Georgetown, D.C.” [1862].

Part Two: Choosing Sides
Selections from the anthology America's War:
• Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" [1852];
• Henry David Thoreau, "A Plea for Captain John Brown" [1859];
• Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address [March 4, 1861];
• Alexander H. Stephens, "Cornerstone" speech [March 21, 1861];
• Robert Montague, Secessionist speech at Virginia secession convention [April 1-2, 1861];
• Chapman Stuart, Unionist speech at Virginia secession convention [April 5, 1861];
• Elizabeth Brown Pryor, excerpt from Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through his Private Letters [2007];
• Mark Twain, "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed" [1885]; and
• Sarah Morgan, excerpt from The Diary of a Southern Woman [May 9, May 17, 1862].

Part Three: Making Sense of Shiloh
Selections from the anthology America's War:
• Ambrose Bierce, "What I Saw of Shiloh" [1881];
• Ulysses Grant, excerpt from the Memoirs [1885];
• Shelby Foote, excerpt from Shiloh [1952];
• Bobbie Ann Mason, "Shiloh" [1982]; and
• General Braxton Bragg, speech to the Army of the Mississippi [May 3, 1862].

Part Four: The Shape of War
• James M. McPherson, Crossroad of Freedom: Antietam [2002]
Selections from the anthology America's War:
• Drew Gilpin Faust, excerpt from This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War [2008];
• Gary W. Gallagher, “The Net Result of the Campaign was in Our Favor: Confederate Reaction to 1862 Maryland Campaign” [1999].

Part Five: War and Freedom
Selections from the anthology America's War:
• Abraham Lincoln, address on colonization [1862];
• John M. Washington, "Memorys [sic] of the Past" [1873];
• Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation [1863];
• Frederick Douglass, "Men of Color, To Arms!" [March 1863];
• Abraham Lincoln, letters to James C. Conkling [1863] and Albert G. Hodges [1864];
• Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address [1863];
• James S. Brisbin, report on U.S. Colored Cavalry in Virginia [Oct. 2, 1864];
• Colored Citizens of Nashville, Tennessee, Petition to the Union Convention of Tennessee Assembled in the Capitol at Nashville [January 9, 1865];
• Margaret Walker, excerpt from Jubilee [1966];
• Leon Litwack, excerpt from Been in the Storm So Long [1979]; and
• Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 1865.