Dine-ins are small discussion groups which meet during a regularly-scheduled meal time in the campus dining center. Dine-ins are faciliated by speakers, who select a theme/topic for discussion as well as some brief readings that will be distributed prior to the conference. Each dine-in will contain no more than 10 people. Anyone is welcome to sign up for a dine-in, but due to space limitations, pre-registration is required and the seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The dine-in selection process for 2017 will open in early April.
Andrew Bledsoe, "The Hazards of Company Command"
Commanding a Civil War company under fire was a uniquely challenging proposition. Officers had to rely on combination of coercion, persuasion, and displays of courage and competence to make the whole enterprise work. Personality clashes, leadership problems, incompetence, and the imperative that officers lead by example made things even more difficult. This discussion will explore the hazards and difficulties of company-level command through the experiences of the 53rd Ohio Infantry's junior officers during the Battle of Shiloh.
Jennifer Murray, "Meade Deliberates: Council of War, July 2, 1863"
By the evening of July 2, 1863, the battle of Gettysburg had reached a pivotal point for both the Union and Confederate army. General George Gordon Meade called a Council of War to decide appropriate actions for the following day, July 3rd. This discussion will explore the deliberations and decisions made by the Union leadership at Meade’s first Council of War.
Lisa Frank, “Home Invasions: Perspectives on Sherman's March”
Participants in this dine-in will use the writings of Union soldiers and Confederate women to explore how individuals experienced and understood William Tecumseh Sherman's campaign through Georgia and the Carolinas. Our discussion of the homefront campaign will examine the experiences of invasion and short term occupation. In particular, we will examine the brief and sustained confrontations between soldiers and civilians. Readings will highlight the the gendered tactics that men and women employed against one another in homefront battlefields. We will explore how kitchens, bedrooms, and other domestic spaces can be understood as important sites of conflict and resistance.
Brian Luskey, “The Old Clothes Scandal and American Consumer Culture in the Civil War Era”
In the Fall of 1867, Mary Lincoln ventured to New York City to sell the wardrobe she had accumulated in her time as First Lady of the United States. This episode, dubbed the “old clothes scandal,” failed spectacularly and caused public controversy. We will read a few of the writings of Mary Lincoln and dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley to understand how and why consumer culture was, in Lincoln’s words, “political business” that shaped the experiences of women and ideas about womanhood in this era.
Ashley Whitehead Luskey, "The Last Confederate Christmas: Historical Memory, Southern Womanhood, and Social Politics in the Confederate Capital"
On December 13, 1896, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Sunday World printed an extended article by Varina Davis in which the former First Lady of the Confederacy reflected poignantly on the “last Christmas in the Confederate White House”—a combined charity event and display of social and political authority by the wives of the Confederacy’s leading politicians and generals. This dine-in will examine Davis’s article as a product of historical memory, as well as a commentary on southern womanhood, slaveholding, charity, social ritual, and political authority within the Confederate capital during the Civil War. Additionally, we will discuss how we might use close reading and interrogation of historical documents to help uncover both the ways that historical actors perceived their world and translated that perception into carefully crafted “social performances” before their peers and subordinates that sought to reinforce their authority—authority that they knew was constantly under threat amidst the chaos and upheaval of civil war.
Rachel Shelden, “Dred Scott, Politics, and the Coming of the Civil War”
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) is perhaps the most infamous case in Supreme Court history. Some historians have argued that the pro-southern, pro-slavery decision was one of (if not THE) critical triggers for the Civil War. Northern politicians and particularly Republicans loudly protested Chief Justice Roger Taney's "Opinion of the Court" and its two-pronged declaration that African Americans could not be citizens and that Congress had no right to legislate the issue of slavery for the territories. Among the fiercest critics of the decision was Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln, who criticized the Court repeatedly in a series of debates against his rival, Democrat Stephen Douglas, during the 1858 senatorial campaign. In the midst of these debates, Lincoln gave one address that has come to be known as his "House Divided Speech," in which he accused Douglas and Taney of being part of a four-man "conspiracy" to perpetuate slavery in the United States along with outgoing President James Buchanan and ex-President Franklin Pierce. This conspiracy charge, while ultimately false, does have elements of truth behind it. During this dine-in, we will examine Lincoln's speech within the context of Dred Scott and the politics of legal decision-making as part of a larger discussion about sectional politics and the law in the era before the Civil War.
Timothy Orr, “Did the Union Army Threaten a Coup-D’état in 1863?”
In 1863, thousands of Union soldiers approved regimental resolutions that threatened to overturn their state governments if the antiwar, anti-Lincoln, anti-Emancipation Copperhead Party triumphed at the polls. How serious were the Union soldiers in carrying out their threat? This dine-in discussion will examine these and other questions as we delve into a relatively unknown aspect of Civil War history.
Fiona Deans Halloran, “19th-Century Cartoons and Editorials as Political Discourse”
This dine-in will examine the satirical political cartoons of Thomas Nast and their impact on 19th-century political discourse. Specifically, this session will discuss whether written critiques were more or less damaging to democratic discourse than images. Nast’s editor, George William Curtis, believed that Nast's cartoons mocked great men (especially Charles Sumner) and were therefore a lesser form of political commentary. Yet Curtis criticized men like Sumner, too.This discussion will examine when satirical images helped or harmed political discussions and in what way, as well as the possible repercussions of newspaper journalism in which the editorials took one position and the political cartoons another.
Christian Keller, "Lee, Jackson, and Chancellorsville: Confederate Contingency Point?"
The Chancellorsville Campaign (late April-early May 1863) has been frequently characterized as the prelude to Gettysburg: without the battle in the Virginia woods that resulted in a stunning Confederate victory, Lee would not have moved north towards Pennsylvania. It has also been remembered, especially by Lost-Cause apologists, as a turning point in southern fortunes due to the death of Stonewall Jackson, who was accidentally shot by his own men on the night of 2 May. We will examine, using some primary sources as well as classical strategic theory, whether or not these two assumptions are true and think hard about some bigger questions: was Union victory "inevitable?" How much in war depends on leadership versus materiel resources? How do senior leader relationships matter in the complex mix of factors that can result in strategic victory? How are the three levels of war (tactical, operational, and strategic) inter-related, and how does Chancellorsville fit into this equation in the time stream of Civil War history? What, exactly, is a contingency point?
Lorien Foote, “The Rituals of Retaliation”
Nearly every military campaign of the Civil War involved a threat of retaliation against prisoners of war. These threats were issued by army or departmental commanders to their enemy equivalent in order to force the enemy to conform to a declared standard of civilized warfare during the campaign. Commanders on both sides set aside POWs as hostages during their correspondence. This session will examine the correspondence about retaliation between army commanders during three military campaigns in order to understand the ritual of retaliation and how military officials used the ritual to negotiate the conduct of campaigns.