I am not a Civil War historian, per se. As a public historian I frequently have projects that have subjects — sites and buildings; businesses; places; and, individuals — that bring me into that tumultuous period between 1861 and 1865.
Sometimes those projects have interesting stories embedded within them that for one reason or another don’t warrant more than a passing mention in a report prepared for a client or in a paper deriving from the research. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I have an opportunity to tease out some of these Civil War sidebars and put them in this blog.
The recent post on what became of the ballroom built for Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration is one example. As I noted in that post, the federal seizure of James Crutchett’s Capitol Hill property in Washington, D.C., will be the basis of a few future posts that derive from my research into architect, engineer, and artist John Skirving.
The Civil War spilled into every corner of American life, at home and abroad. In thinking about what I could add to this series, I went all the way back to archaeological surveys I did while working for the Georgia Department of Transportation (1984-1987). I found material in my dissertation research on New York and Pennsylvania leather tanneries [PDF] and in my work on Pittsburgh’s meat– and livestock-related industries.
Some of the Civil War associations are tenuous, like the struggle in one small Broome County, New York, tannery town when the plant owners made it clear they supported secession and the South and that tension made its way into a young woman’s diaries.
Others are more substantial, like the founding of the nation’s first Union Stockyards in Pittsburgh by parties with federal contracts to provide meat to Union forces. Or, the memories seared into the minds of rural West Virginians who recall the stories their families told them of Union soldiers sacking farms and leaving residents hungry and homeless.
So stay tuned and check back here for entries in the Civil War Sidebar.
- Abraham Lincoln’s Lost Inaugural Ballroom (June 27, 2011).
- William H. Degges, The Man Who Built “Lincoln’s Cottage” (Nov. 12, 2010).
- Jefferson County, West Virginia, Civil War Memories (July 15, 2011)
- The Civil War, George Washington, and the Mount Vernon Factory (July 18, 2011).