Introduction

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This site represents the work of fifteen first-year students at Trinity College.  During the fall semester of 2012, these students conducted original research on American history and culture during the year 1862.  In the first phase of their work, they researched primary documents associated with a single day.  They concluded the semester by developing their own interpretations of the year as a whole, drawing on research in secondary sources, including the ones written by their peers about single days.  These final essays appear below.

Emancipation Evolved

In 1862 America, everyone, be it northerner or southerner, white man or black, senator or soldier, free man or the enslaved, fought for liberty.  Regardless of side, race, and position, 1862 was a year about returning to the roots of American society, in which “liberty and justice for all” prevailed. While consistent in their reasons for fighting, these populations differed drastically in how they defined liberty. For many southerners maintaining property and possession was the prospect of freedom.  While for northerners, the fight for the preservation of the Union surpassed all. The trouble for everyone however, was finding a method of obtaining liberty, so individuals in 1862 America were on the hunt for the path to freedom. Continue reading

1862: Comfort Amidst Chaos and Confusion – How the American People Sought Comfort During the Civil War

Human beings have fundamental needs that have endured throughout evolution and time: food, water, shelter, clothing, and security. A sense of security is the one need that tends to be forgotten. When setting up refugee camps and temporary shelters, rescuers always supply the basic nutrition and medical care needed, as well as shelter and clean clothing, but the one thing that is missing is that need for security, for comfort amidst chaos. As an essentiality of human nature, one can see humanity striving for a sense of comfort during any time of war or disaster throughout history. The American Civil War is a prime example of this: beginning in January of 1862, when Abraham Lincoln issued a war order sanctioning the Union army to attack the Confederate army, a country is divided in two, and the American people must attempt to find some source of comfort in all the pandemonium. In 1862, the American people, civilians and soldiers alike, were able to cope with the madness of the war by seeking comfort in their faith, pride, optimism, and hope. Continue reading

1862: How People Reacted to, and Overcame Desperate Times

The most reoccurring trend in 1862 was how people reacted to unimaginable events, and how far they were willing to go in order to achieve peace, stability and victory. As the war carried on, and continued to dominate all other topics of discussion, the ability to ignore such a remarkable event diminished, as well as the idea of looking past the dangers and consequences that each battle presented. Nobody could go back to normalcy until the conflict ceased completely, or until President Lincoln did something significant that would have made the outcome of the war more clear. The year became a constant test, as people had to suddenly find a way to coexist with the fighting. There was a continuous struggle to return to usual routines even while the battle between the north and south raged on. From start to finish, this time frame demonstrated how people faced unimaginable circumstances and responded to these occurrences in a positive or negative way. By examining the media, the battlefront, the government, and life at home, it is clear that everyone from reporters, to generals, to Presidents, to average citizens, did everything possible to further their particular cause in this conflict, as well as maintain a sense of normalcy away from the lines of fire. Continue reading

The Civil War in 1862: The Wavering of the Heart of a Nation

Recognized as the most influential war in the history of the United States, aside from that which granted her independence, the Civil War changed all aspects of American life over the four years it was waged. Beginning as what seemed to be an “easy win” for the Union, it came as a shock to citizens of the federal government when, by the summer months of 1862, the end was nowhere in sight. A nation that prided itself on its military strength, political stability, and its patriotism found itself in the midst of a conflict between brothers, between people who had once lived harmoniously in the land of the free. However, this definition of freedom was put to the test in 1862 with President Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that threatened to either unite the Union and lead her to victory or further separate an already divided nation. Some citizens, especially soldiers, wanted no part in a war that was to be fought over slavery; others believed the war could not come to an end unless such an inhumane institution did so as well. Various military and technological advances also contributed to wavering public opinions about this never-ending war, forcing many to question whether their potential deaths would be remembered as an act of glory or just another war casualty. The disunity and lack of enthusiasm that slowly began to arise throughout the Union as the year dragged on threatened to leave behind deeper wounds than it already had in the lives of so many American citizens. Continue reading

Abraham Lincoln: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

The American Civil War had an insurmountable impact on shaping the United States.  Each year of the war played a significant role but the year of 1862 was especially notable.  In the course of history, one year can change the course of a war, a movement, or a nation. Over a period of time, inevitably, society undergoes change, normality’s shift, and a certain lifestyle can become foreign.  Throughout 1862, each of these drastic changes took place as the Confederacy and the Union grew farther apart, the war progressed, and new policies became law. Despite such crucial changes, one thing was constant, the durable and effective leadership of President Abraham Lincoln.  His ability to lead earned him praise from his colleagues and constituents, as the United States was in dire need of a person to guide them through an extreme hardship.  As president, Abraham Lincoln instituted new policies, issued acts that became law, and led without hesitation.  Abraham Lincoln was able to not just create ideas, but also set his ideas into motion throughout the course of 1862.  His decisions as President of the United States and Commander in Chief set the stage for the Union troops and the country as his pivotal actions ultimately altered the course of history forever. Continue reading

Weather it All Mattered: How the Weather in 1862 Reflected the Broader Social Climate

Roughly a week before the 2012 Presidential election, Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast. Massive rebuilding is needed after New York, New Jersey, and other parts of the tri-state area were severely damaged. Shortly after the hurricane passed through the northeast, President Obama made a trip to New Jersey to visit with victims and tour some of the damaged areas with Governor Chris Christie. Even under the right leaning Rasmussen polls, President Obama’s approval ratings spiked to 53 percent, and Governor Christie, though a staunch conservative, sung the president’s praises for his effort involving Hurricane Sandy (The Slatest). A week later President Obama won the election. He and Mitt Romney spent months campaigning; fundraising, and speaking, but neither of them could foresee a hurricane, which ultimately affected the election. To be clear, President Obama did not win the election solely because of Hurricane Sandy, but I firmly believe it played a role. Natural events such as storms are underrated in terms of how critics view their influence on the Civil War, and arguably impacted how perhaps the most important events at the time unraveled to a noticeable degree. Specifically in 1862 – a year known mostly for the Battle of Antietam, the work of Emily Dickinson, or the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation – weather especially affected the war in almost every facet. Moreover, the fluctuating weather represents a growing sense of chaos and uncertainty within both the Union and the Confederacy. This sense of chaos is present militarily, strategically, and also represents a sense of uncertainty over soldier morale. This trend of history-altering weather storms is consistent throughout many events, including World War II, the Revolutionary War, and obviously the Civil War. The first day of 1862 brought a history-defying flood to California, and the last day of 1862 allowed the USS Monitor to perish in yet another storm off the coast of North Carolina. Weather influenced 1862 and the civil war in ways that most historians overlook, and these storms and constant bad weather do an eerily good job of foreshadowing the chaos and uncertainty that was encapsulated in the Civil War. Continue reading

1862: Undeceived but Uncertain

On May 28, 1862, William Thompson Lusk, an Assistant Adjutant-General in the United States Volunteers, wrote a letter from Beaufort, South Carolina to his mother. He writes that he is worried about the next few days, especially the “certainty of a fatiguing day to-morrow.” (Mayher, Victoria) This letter is an example of America in 1862: undeceived at the present, but uncertain at the future. America was undeceived in the year 1862 because they were informed about the events of the war and the toll it was taking on soldiers for several reasons.  First, they were informed because of recent technological advances in photography and the expansion of the railroad system. Furthermore, the role of the newspapers and the transformation of the Postal Service allowed for Americans to be knowledgeable about the war and current events.  Despite this, Americans were uncertain about the future and the issues of foreign intervention and slavery. Continue reading

The New Normal: Technological Advancement in the Civl War

Nineteenth century America was marked by rapid advancement and these striking technological innovations changed America and transformed the country into a modern state. The technology that had been the norm for decades received an overhaul that would change both industrial and domestic life forever. During this same period this change was occurring, the nation dove into its biggest conflict to date. Technology became a weapon, an advantage, the very existence for most communication and an inseparable aspect of the war. The Postal Service and the transcontinental railroad were picking up speed and increased relevance because of the war effort. More so on the battlefront, naval warfare was becoming a whole  new monster, meanwhile the quality of medical care was increasing. These changes were amplified and accelerated by the war effort and their impact had lasting effects on American society. The legacy of the technology during the Civil War made as much of an impact on the nations history as did the terrible loss and horrors of the war itself. This mark was that of a new, modern society and that the norm that had existed for decades prior was no longer relevant. The new technological marvels brought great things to America, but it was also clear that from this point on the horrors of war could only get worse and Americans would have to adapt and embrace their new society. Continue reading

1862: A Year of Technological Progression

The year 1862 was one filled with tension and fighting within America as the Civil War was being fought between the Northern and Southern states. As the year progressed, the opinions and ideas of individuals as well as President Lincoln regarding emancipation and the purpose of the war began to change. In addition to the changes of opinions and ideas had by the Confederate and Union armies, changes were also visible in technology, which in turn changed the strategies of warfare. Advancements were made in the field of transportation both on and off of the battlefield and the continued use of the press, postal service, and the telegraph heightened communication between families and soldiers in addition to war officers and government officials. The mixture of new technologies and the continued use of existing, beneficial communication tools made for much progress in terms of warfare and communication at home during the Civil War in the year 1862. Continue reading

1862: The New Relationship

In the midst of an unforgiving 1778 winter, George Washington had Thomas Paine’s American Crisis read to all his troops at Valley Forge. Most would agree that the letter is multi-faceted in its’ entirety, although one would only need to hear the first line to understand Washington’s goal. It read, “THESE are the times that try men’s souls (http://owl.english.purdue.edu).” At the time, the Continental Army had been dealt two overwhelming defeats at Germantown and Brandywine, and it seemed to be only a matter of time until the rebellion was inevitably defeated (http://militaryhistory.about.com).To make matters worse, Washington’s forces were poorly supplied, hungry, and ill. Yet, in spite of the mounting external pressure and the fast sinking health and well-being inside the encampment, Washington had this piece of paper read to his soldiers. He did so because he knew that above all else, the psychological state of each and every soldier outweighed any other daunting factor. And while his actions are perhaps the best historical example of a strategic plan to focus on a soldiers psyche, it is not the only point in American history where the psychology of war was a focal point. Indeed, by 1862, during the heat of the Civil War, there may have been the most widespread feeling of psychological strain amongst soldiers on both sides that had been documented up until that point. At the same time, the once wide psychological disconnect between soldiers in battle and ordinary citizens became increasingly narrow, as methods of communications advanced and the emergence of photography depicted the carnage of war. Taken together, the United States during 1862 epitomized a time in which the psychological pressure of war reached both the soldiers fighting in it and the ordinary citizens who were previously at arms length. Continue reading

1862: The Explosion of Women Writers

Discussing the women’s rights movements in the United States is impossible without mention of the iconic, female social reformers of the 19th century. Without these women, the feminist movement would have been little more than a whisper, especially during the Civil War era. Celebrated women writers such as Louisa May Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Julia Ward Howe led the charge, bringing the women’s movement to the attention of the nation during the mid 1800’s.  They inspired women that weren’t involved with the war to get involved. Continue reading

1862: A New America

As the Civil War was being fought throughout the year 1862, both the Union Army and the Confederate Army were faced with many different challenges and uncertainties. Neither side was able to show their domination of the other and the war seemed to be a very evenly matched affair. However, as the year progressed, the Union Army was able to utilize new technologies and improved strategies in order to regain and create an advantage over the Confederate troops. Through a careful examination of the dates: March 9th, April 25th, and December 25th, we are able to see the significance that new technologies and improved tactics ultimately had on breaking the stalemate between the North and the South. Continue reading

1862: The Transition into Emancipation

There is no doubt that slavery is one of the most discussed topics in relations to the American Civil War in the 1860’s. During the year of 1862, however, the opinion of the American public, especially in the north, changed with the prospect of Emancipation. Beginning in January, a conference of abolitionists brought the concept of emancipation to light for many newspaper readers, but throughout the year, through many media influences, the idea of emancipation eventually became a reality with the preliminary emancipation proclamation being issued in September by President Lincoln.  The changes across the year on the public’s opinions of slavery became clearer after the preliminary emancipation proclamation was released, and within the 100 days before the official emancipation proclamation was announced; by the end of 1862, there was excitement and unity going into the New Year. The effects of these changes of the pubic opinion were examined throughout many of my peers’ essays along with many secondary sources on the Union and emancipation. Continue reading

1862: American Desperation

The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history.  Over 600,000 Americans died from a combination of battle wounds, disease and malnutrition. There was an intense desire on both sides to end the war as quickly as possible in order to heal. The question in 1862 would become what was necessary to do so?  President Lincoln and his top military leaders made several decisions that would become crucial in influencing the outcome of the war and of many individual battles. Both sides worked to increase the size of their armies in 1862.  Slaves were freed throughout the South as their owners fled from the war.  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was in order to prove the moral righteousness of the North and because it would hurt the South’s economy.  Draft quotas bolstered a floundering Union army, but many people worked hard to prove that they were exempt.  1862 would prove to be full of bloodshed on both sides, but the issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, along with a handful of influential battles would help to shift the tide of an already desperate war towards the Union.  The war during the first half of the year appeared to be going in the Confederacy’s favor, but through clever tactical and political decisions by President the year ended with the Union’s prospects vastly improved. Continue reading