What is a dine-in?

Dine-ins are small discussion groups which meet during a regularly-scheduled meal time in a campus dining facility. Dine-ins are facilitated 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. All attendees are welcome to indicate dine-in preferences at registration, but assignments will be made at the discretion of CWI staff. Due to space limitations, not all attendees expressing interest in a dine-in can be accommodated.

2020 Dine-ins & Lunch-ins


Megan Kate Nelson, "Looking at Photographs and Landscapes of War"

When we think about any aspect of Civil War history - a battle or campaign, a political development or event - it is often a photograph or a landscape that leaps first into our minds. Images and experiences tend to imprint themselves on our minds more clearly than written documents, and yet historians rarely use these as sources to understand the war's many histories. During this dine-in session, we will look at several photographs and landscapes side-by-side with newspaper accounts, battle reports, and diary/letter excerpts, focusing on two battles in 1862: Antietam, Maryland (September 1862), and Apache Pass, Arizona (July 1862). What kinds of things can photographs show us that written sources cannot? Are they more "truthful" than other documents of the war, or do they have problems we need to take into account? And what is the role of battlefield landscape in shaping our visions of the war? What can we learn by "being there" that may not appear in other sources? 

Kevin Levin, "The Black Confederate at Arlington National Cemetery"

We will explore a brief excerpt from the UDC’s history of the Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery that focuses on representations of African Americans. What meanings did white southerners attach to these representations on the monument and did the UDC believe that African Americans fought as soldiers in the Confederate army? The answers to these questions shed light on the crucial difference between history and memory.

Zachery Fry, "Soldiers and Newspaper Correspondence From the Front"

This dine-in will examine how soldiers contributed to the war's newspaper coverage by writing columns for publication on the home front. The way combatants portrayed the conflict to readers at home offers insights into matters such as the print culture and civil-military relations within both the Union and the Confederacy.  We will discuss these issues and more by looking at political resolutions passed by regiments on both sides and published for readers behind the lines to see.

Judkin Browning, "Nutritional Deficiencies: The Role of Food in Confederate Military Failure"

This discussion will analyze a selection of primary sources to show how food deficiencies shaped campaigns, and affected soldier health in detrimental ways during battle. The Peninsula Campaign and Antietam will serve as examples of the role that food played in the success or failure of armies.

Jennifer Murray, "The McClellan Testimonial"

What happened when the high command of the Army of the Potomac endorsed a “testimonial” for George McClellan in the fall of 1863? This dine-in explores a now relatively obscure event in the Union army when soldiers intended to raise thousands of dollars for the army’s former commander.  Why did General Meade approve this testimonial and how did the Lincoln administration react? Join this dine-in to learn more about the politicized Army of the Potomac!


Nina Silber, "Louisa May Alcott and Civil War Nursing"

In our discussion we’ll explore some of the experiences of Northern women who became Civil War nurses.  Using excerpts from Louisa May Alcott’s account of being a Union nurse, Hospital Sketches, we’ll discuss some of the specifics about how women volunteered, what they did, and how they may have felt about their work. We’ll talk, too, about the unique voice that Alcott takes on as she reflects on her own experience.

Angela Zombek, "'I Take this Oath Freely & Voluntarily': Confederate Prisoners & the Oath of Allegiance, 1865

During the final days of the Confederacy, and in the months following Appomattox, Confederate prisoners weighed the option of taking the U.S. Oath of Allegiance to potentially hasten their release from military prisons. This decision seemed abhorrent to many Southern prisoners given their dedication to the Confederate cause, but appeared practical to their family members on the home front. Examine the conflicting opinions regarding the oath that Confederate soldiers and their family members held.

Matthew Hulbert, "'Lawrence or Hell': Exploring the Civil War's Most Infamous Massacre"

William Clarke Quantrill's August, 21 1863, raid on Lawrence, Kansas, claimed the lives of nearly 200 men and boys. Since then, the "Lawrence Massacre" has played a major role in determining how Americans remember Civil War guerrillas and their broader importance (or lack thereof) to the overall outcome of the conflict. Using primary sources from both sides of the MO-KS border, we will explore what motivated the surprise assault, excavate what actually happened on the streets of Lawrence that morning, and discuss how various understandings of the raid have influenced -- and continue to influence -- our notions of legitimate and illegitimate warfare in the present.

Kristopher Teters, "Union Soldiers Confront Black Freedom"

This dine-in will look at a few letters written by western Union officers.  Participants will gain insight into how these officers thought about emancipation and race.  We will discuss how much these men embraced emancipation as an instrument to save the Union.  

Timothy Roberts, "'I need your care and protection worse than Old Abe does': The Civil War's Complex Impact on a Western Illinois Couple"

This dine-in will discuss themes in the correspondence of a soldier, William Standard, and his wife, Jane Standard. William's absence from home while serving in the Army of the Tennessee caused Jane to mistrust him, but also bolstered her self-confidence. Her melancholy tempted him to desert, but he feared the shame associated with "shirking." Ultimately, their shared bitterness towards the Lincoln administration's conduct of the war helped them to remain passionately devoted to each other, and illustrates how northern war opposition connected soldiers and the home front.