tv The Civil War Civil War Artifacts CSPAN July 31, 2019 8:00pm-9:15pm EDT
beginning now it is american history tv looking at civil war artifacts. this took place at the civil war summer conference. it lasts about an hour and 10 minutes. >> i teach in the history department of west virginia university in morgantown and i am better known as actually as husband and harpers dad. it is my birthday today. [ cheers and applause ]. thank
you. the gift to me is to have the opportunity to moderate this panel. artifacts of the civil war. starring the scholars you see seated on the stage before you. joan is professor of american history at ohio state university and the author of first lady of the confederacy. and the struggle for human and environmental resources in the american civil war which was published last year. we will be talking a lot about things during the civil war area today and we will be using primary source analysis that was taken taken from her edited volume of essays also 2018 entitled war matters, material culture.
for sale now. or after this panel. this is the stewart-he is the author of more than 20 books on civil war topics and the last attack at gettysburg. most recent book is fighting for atlanta tactics, terrain and trenches published by doing so you press in 2018. this is jason phillips the eberly family professor is the author of booming civil war how americans imagine the future which is published last year by oxford university press and diehard rebels the confederate culture of invincibility published by university of georgia press in 2007.
on the other side is michael wuertz associate professor at marshall university you have met him before. yesterday on a panel here is the author of two books as well bleeding kansas slavery sectionalism and civil war on the missouri kansas border published by routledge in 2016 and emotional and it sectional conflict. our focus today is on convincing you persuading you, i think that things matter to our understanding of the civil war era and i think we are asking two big picture questions
that you see listed here about historical context and historical method first, we want to encourage you to ask the question how did people in the civil war era value things. how did they make meaning of things. those might be different from the ones we would give to things. as you will see through our presentation the meanings of things changed over time and in different contexts in which people interact with them. the methodological question we are asking is how do you go beyond studying a thing and to understand the era as a whole. we will be using this object
which is in the collection of the museum in massachusetts on a thing that is as you see here are two things that came together some way and our job our job is to show you how we do our work. this question about method is going to be played out in the conversation that we have together today. at the end of our time before the period where you will get a chance to have your say we are going to give each one of the panelists time to talk about a artifact that has been central in their work and first, we will look at this bible new testament of a soldier in the army of the potomac.
his name is charles william merrill. soldier in company a 19 massachusetts which was in the third grade second corps of the army of the potomac. we can use this document that you see which is a part of the compiled service record which are available in the national archive. we can also use the federal census to learn something about him the question, whose bible is this can be at least partially answered. we learned that she was a farm laborer in the household of joseph gordon in west newberry massachusetts which is west of his birthplace where his father still was a substantial landholder a farm worth $4500. the next slide will open up a
discussion and the question i would like the palace to answer is what does this bible tell us about were start to tell us about the historical contact in which he lived and i want to read two short texts that we have associated with this bible. they are cited in an essay in the book war matters by historians ronald and mary wrote about books as shields the books that soldiers carried. the inscription of this bible reads from your affectionate pastor west newberry massachusetts august 12 1862. three days after he enlisted and the second quotation, this is from a letter that charles wrote to his mother catherine in february 1863. he says when you see mister
foster remember me to him. hardly a day passes by without my thinking of him. >> this inscription tells us that the bible was a gift. gifts friendships, family relationships and i think it is safe to say in the 19th century people owned fewer things. our world, things are disposable. we consume so many things and on so many things and throw out so many things that the current trend is minimalist. they lived in that minimalist world and the gift of a bible would have meant more to him, i suspect, then any gift that we receive
except for extremely special gifts because they owned fewer things and it is safe to assume probably valued them more for that reason.>> i would add to that that i think we will talk a lot of studying artifacts and we are still studying people. this is one way to trace the connections and i think people we are studying knew that. if you think about some of the iconic stuff from the 19th century the thing that people notice in museums is the hair jewelry and the jewelry made from hair of deceased loved ones. it has a gruesome sound, but it is the same idea that this is connecting you, this thing is connecting you to a person and we can see that in this case. >> one thing that is in my mind if i didn't make this, it is not handcrafted. is something that was printed
by the thousands and material culture operates on many different levels. one of the basic levels is to document-who made it for what purpose, how was it used. all of that is basic and impersonal. if something like this happens it makes an impersonal thing into a personal object that has deep meaning for the individual and the family. i found an interesting article when working on this project, it was written by an english historian whose grandfather had won a major medal for being in the ref during world war ii. she was a material culturalist and she found it fascinating that that metal was kept generation after generation and it meant different things. some thought it was important and
others couldn't care less. it was a family history. in that family had a special and changing meaning over time.>> maybe i should make a few general remarks about material culture before we keep diving into the particulars. the phrase was coined in the early 1900s apparently by an anthropologist although there has been some debate about who coined the phrase and it has been defined in different ways by different people. one of my favorite definitions is by a folklore scholar and he described it as the tangible yield of human conduct which obviously covers a lot of human conduct and a lot of material objects and the field is very large. it has been dominated for long time by anthropologists and archaeologists and historians started to get into this about 30 years ago and civil war
historians have held back sort of on the serious study of material objects, i think, because there is so much documentation. the manuscript to consult is an enormous body of paper, but over the last 15 or 20 years scholars have started to turn to the material record that has been left behind and to echo what everyone else has said it is your those objects mean different things to different people, but they often write about them so it turns up in the written record and they preserve the object like the book that we have here. i also want to get in a plug for ron and mary who wrote this essay, they are excellent scholars, nice people and they live and work right here in pennsylvania. >> we get from, i think, these
early texts an understanding of how a book could connect communities together and also families together cross the divide of war and this represents the home front in a very tangible way and we see that from these texts. that local context isn't the only one. the question that may seem made obvious, but we need to explain is how did that get lodged in the bible the military campaign in which that happened and this
is a map that many of you might be familiar with. as a soldier in john gibbons division of the second corps was attached to john cedric six core remaining at fredericksburg when he began his march. my question for the panel is to talk about that military context and also getting into and you have written at length. in a book that matthew this taken in the aftermath of the second battle. to talk about the experience of combat how it shaped this thing this bible something about the
material artifacts in this image >> this is a photograph taken by an army officer who was early in his work career detached to the railroad system as a photographer because he was a prewar artist and photographer so he made a lot of photographs largely of transportation facilities and he happened to be with the union forces that did this attack on may 3, 1863 he took this camera and he went out early in the morning according to the information this is less than 24 hours after this battle took place. i've been fascinated by this photograph and i love writing the essay.
there are maybe about hundred photographs taken in the entire civil war before they were cleaned up if you want to put it that way. this is more unique than most of them because it is taken a few hours after the battle and a few hours before the federals evacuated this and gave it back to the confederates so it is a unique moment in time. i've been haunted by, look at the image of a dead soldier. denoting hand to hand combat and maybe a horrid death. if you take this photograph on a computer and blow it up you can see a lot more in it then you can here. one thing i want to pointed out, also, battlefield photographers in the civil war had something of a tendency to kind of in a way fool the
viewer and that they mlive deleted some aspects of the scene. there have been documented cases of battlefield photography where some soldiers have been talked into pretending to be dead so that they can enhance the image and the impact and you can detect that as a historian because the body is not loaded, it looks alive. we don't have that going on here, i think he did a little of this. look at the muskets. how many muskets seem to be neatly laid across that ditch or leaning gracefully against the stone wall. it stretches the imagination that you would assume they happen to fall there like that. i think russell is trying to do a little bit of kind of arranging the scene of death for you a little bit. of course, he is not doing anything with the dead body and there are 4 to 6 of them on their if you take a closer look. even in doing and, by the way,
this is the first time in united states history battlefield death is photographed. eventually for public distribution. what can we say about this photograph in terms of material culture? russell was very much aware of material items, very much aware that prompts like rifle muskets can be used to compose an interesting scene and to me it is fascinating that you take one of the most vivid and unmediated approaches to showing death on the battlefield yet at the same time in a victorian way trying to pretty it up a little bit. >> make it looks symmetrical. it looks suspiciously symmetrical. >> any other comments about that? >> i would say the battlefield has always yielded a lot of
material objects. this is true for the civil war and many wars in the modern era because most weapons have metal parts and those parts are very durable so there are accounts of people during and after the civil war who were looking for battlefield artifacts and digging around and would not only find weapons from the civil war they would find weapons from the revolutionary war. if they were in the parts of the country that were part of the original 13 colonies. military artifacts are a rich source of material that we can examine as historians. >> in terms of material limitations as jason mentioned, it is not a material risk culture as it is today. one expression of that is every battlefield became the target of looters.
civilians in the area as soon as the fighting stopped would descend on it to grab what they could. discarded equipment or clothing or anything they could find to make use of. it is not a widely reported aspect of the civil war history but you can find lots of evidence and maybe gettysburg is the best illustration of that. a lot more material after july 3, 1863 in gettysburg than any other battle in the civil war. >> sometimes local authorities would put up cards around different battlefield. that happened here, but they would put up guards to try to stop the looting and keep people off the battlefield because many times the priority is to locate the wounded and take care of the dead. this also during the war itself there is a market that develops in civil war artifacts before
1865 and those artifacts show up for sale in the newspapers in the north and the south and many of them came to be authentic perhaps some of them were not. there are documented incidences of people digging around in battlefield right after the shooting stops and they want to take those artifacts to self is profit. >> this photograph calls to my mind some of the accounts you read from soldiers trying to describe what the aftermath of the battle looks like two people were not they are and when you look for they will enumerate everything they see. the discarded canteens and knapsacks and trying to conjure up this kind of an image of a variety of things that are out there and i wonder if it is because they are coming from a background where they are not seen that much stuff and it is
really, they are trying to depict the horrors of battle and what is there. >> it is also a consumer culture that is starting to take off really in the 1830s or 40s although they start to date for the market culture where goods are marketed to people with disposable income and it seems to have spread quickly from the major city to the smaller town all over the united states, objects that make life more comfortable, more enjoyable and are not necessary for human existence. for example, pianos. the piano is a luxury object that cost several hundred dollars and by 1860 it is definitely a status symbol for a lot of people in the north and south. a sign the household has extra
income and it as enjoyment that it is not necessary for human survival. you can see market, but quickly in women's fashions. a lot of them copy from pioneer in europe and household furnishings the carpet and it was made in brussels. it is marketed in the united states and it is expensive and it was something that was often found in the homes of affluent people. you wouldn't see it in a working-class home. it is a status symbol. that consumer culture is taking off right before 1860 and is nothing like the world we live in today. where as jason has said most households have hundreds of objects and most of them are not necessary for human survival. most are purchased because they
give people survival, comfort and they make life easier and more pleasant. most of the time. >> this discussion of the image and the image itself reveals the local context for things that we talked about and i think what is opening up here is the way in which the soldiers yield forces them to interact with a great variety of other things in looting guns and we see the international context of a consumer economy opening up and a circulation of things across national borders. this image shows not only the kinds, but the detritus of war of men having as he says in his essay a 10 cup that might've been used to give a drink to wounded soldier placed on the
stone wall there are bits of cloth and paper all over the ground to give you some sense of a battlefield strewn with things that may not have, there may not have been time for them to come in. that does, i hope that gives you a sense of a variety of contexts in which things moved, local, national and international. they make the points in their essay which again is about focuses on a sample of over 100 stories about the confederate soldiers who were carrying books and have them shot by a variety of projectiles. they are historians of the book and culture and they focus on something that needs to be
explained and they do so very well. a piece of shot remains just as it did 150 years ago. civil war books, findings, is 30 boards provide ample resistance to long-range fire and was near the end of their trajectory. then material explanation for what actually you see here. i wondered if you all could expound upon your understanding of maybe some other cultural and ideological and helping us what understand >> first of all, i think it is important to focus on the thing and the material of it is that
quotation provides and i also think we have to remember that when men were saved by bibles in their breast pocket they didn't think the quality of the paper or the binding, they thanked god. they understood the relationship between god, the bible and themselves differently perhaps then is expressed in the quotation and probably differently than most of us would today. god was primarily responsible for that projectile landing in the bible rather than in their skull because god directed the course of that bullet and the bible stopped the bullet. third, in terms of importance is the person who put the bible in their pocket. that is their understanding.
we might look at that situation and if we were saved by a bullet like that, the first thought, i will confess, my first thought would be i am so fortunate to have put that bible in my breast pocket, i am primarily responsible for that, not god and not the book. the book was in object that happened, fortunately, to stop the projectile. that is a very different understanding and a different valuation of things and the hierarchy of forces at play than is evident in the quotation or perhaps the way we understand things. >> you are absolutely right and it is illustrative of the force of believe in god in the civil war era and i find it fascinating in the same essay admit there are many cases of a bullet going completely through the bible and killing the guy.
does that-does that leave the family members to condemn god as heartless acts i don't inc. so. that is another testament of the force of religion i guess in the minds of most civil where civil war era americans. >> and also pointing out both armies are largely protestant in their religious orientation and there has been a big influx of catholic immigrants, obviously, mostly from ireland and germany and for the most part they pointed out that the average soldier is from a protestant family there are protestant bibles, protestant holy books that turn up most often. they found a few cases of catholic texts that catholic soldiers were taking with them and i asked them if they had found any evidence of jewish soldiers in those armies because there are and if they
were carried with them any sort of sacred text and they said as i recall that they did not. that doesn't mean that it didn't happen. that hadn't turned up in their research project. these do reflect a lot about the context of the time and religious makeup of the population. >> there was an interesting historical angle in this essay which is a model because it is looking at what did people expect when they put these books in their pockets and what we know is that there have been stories circulating going back to the english civil war of exactly this kind of thing. is as unlikely as it might seem your bible would stop a bullet that is directed toward your heart, it wasn't entirely unexpected that it could happen and as they come into this was some vague idea that this can happen and it is the
circulation of those stories that helps to explain why put the book fair, baby. maybe it will happen. >> and it becomes a talisman to protect you against evil and i did an essay for jones anthology on the material culture of weapons in the civil war and one of the things with i found as many did not believe in talisman, they did believe in it they believed in something they could hold and not be killed. there were something like 5000 native americans that served and when confederate talked about it just before the battle of cabin creek he found some of the men scraping themselves with some powder and it was a
native american that this would make them invincible and they will survive it. you talk about them deliberately putting that bible over there breast over there hard kind of as a symbol of protecting me faced with the horrors of combat who can blame anybody. people are on amazon selling soldier tells man's to soldiers who will be shipped overseas. >> it is easy to see how if they believe their life had been saved by a bible in his pocket that that object might become his most precious possession not just for the war, but for the rest of his life and it is easy to see how we might've handed that to his wife or his children and said
this is valuable, this means a lot to me, this is part of our family history and it needs to be preserved. >> the other thing is with the bullet did not go straight through the bible, they stopped on a verse, they stopped at a particular stop spot and the men who were holding those bibles close to their heart expected this was a message from god that if god was directing that bullet into that scripture, i need to take this seriously. he is telling me something. >> we have learned about how this thing or these two things join together, help us understand local context and the relationship and family of community and the relationship between a soldier and a military campaign and the awful
effects of battle itself and we have widened our perspective from local to national to international and recently from human to deity. we can learn a lot of things through things. the question, or at least what some of these other sources show about charles is that if we get to fixated on that thing we are not going to understand enough about him and the material world in which he lived. and other sources in his very rich compiled service record you find accounts at the end one is for clothing and there is a penciled notation at the top that says grapeshot battle
may 3 and on the right a casualty sheet that says wounded severely may 3, 1863 and a notation by a clerk going through the source that says index shows face severe. >> a lucky man. he wouldn't put it that way. >> on may 7 he is admitted to the square hospital in washington d.c. and he dies of his wounds on may 12. that is to suggest that there may be another piece in snooping around this is in part
and embarrassed admission i would not have read the paper at the museum. i think that would be the next step for for any of us who would be interested in what happened to him in his last days , but he became something of an instructional story for readers after the war and this is where his experience and material world, kind of moves on to a higher plane more national scope and one that might be instructional for readers after the war. the story on the left is from a publication in 1866 that reads safeguard for body and soul, a young massachusetts soldier had a ball pass through
his head during the battle of fredericksburg. it entered near his right eye and was extract did behind his left ear. another would have entered a vital part of his body had it not been arrested-to which it launched. when this safeguard was shown he sent to the hospital a handsome pocket bible in which as evidence of his warmer guard he caused to be inscribed. there are interesting things to say about that story and i ask you what you find interesting given we can now see the testament i think the photograph in the bible that lincoln gave to him on display at the museum. i think the finding for the
letter collection suggests that charlie and the hospital wrote to the president to tell him about his testimony. what do you make of this? >> if he did write to lincoln that wouldn't surprise me at all. thousands of soldiers did that and union soldier saw him as their friend and in some respects their father and that they would want to communicate something so profound to lincoln, that would make perfect sense. >> it is an incredibly rich and unique case study of a lot of different things. compared to tens of thousands of obscure cases where someone experienced some similar or perhaps as poignant and we have the wonderful opportunity of this central piece of evidence being the bible with the right
and shot stuck in it and it still stuck after 150 years and without that artifact the rest of the story would be a little less extraordinary. it really is the artifact is the centerpiece of this. >> it makes me wonder why given the details that he has shared with us we focus on the shot that lands in the bible instead of the one that goes through his head and eventually kills him. is it because the bible with the shot is a oddity or appears to be a miracle or it is more unusual or extraordinary and that's why we focus on that which the wound was so commonplace in those hospitals and for these men. i don't know the answer to the question, it is a peculiarity that strikes me.
>> it is an interesting tidbit thinking about lincoln this is the political historian client his way out and he had been plagued early in his political career in illinois by accusations of a is him or deism or something else that wasn't quite up to snuff in illinois in the 1830s and there is some evidence that his views changed over the course of the war that he turned toward a more providential view events during the war and this may be a kind of milestone on that. it may also be he sees this as a chance to respond to a soldier , score political points by being seen interacting with them and it is making the newspaper do something decent for a man who had make a great
sacrifice. it is probably all of those things. it is an interesting moments and scholars have written a lot about exactly what lincoln entails and this is one slice of that. >> he seems to be someone who read the bible frequently, reread it and didn't go to church very often. >> she knew it. >> they knew the bible very well. >> to finish the circle, thinking about context, we need to understand the connections between the nations capital where he dies and his home and family returning him back home. we can talk again in these slides the ways in which material objects seem to loom
large from the telegraph machine which carried news to the various things that were sent back with him to his family through this man pictured here who was a journalist who later wrote a memoir of having lived and hobnob for 30 years with the political leaders of the capital, but this is a telegram from, i think, a family friend on may 12 and it reads, i took the news up, they were much startled, but felt grateful to you for your kindness and attention, they wish you do everything in the case to be done and have the remains brought to newburyport. please notify them notify wednesday leave washington.
the final memorandum in the record there is a list of things a uniform coat, trout, one silver watch, when diary received articles and money signed for by the father. could you talk about any of you talk about the connections between material connections that illuminated the end of his life and the transportation of his remains back home? >> first, the telegram strikes me because it is clear that by the time of the civil war with the invention the news of the
death of a loved one could be transmitted much faster than in any previous american war and it was almost instantaneous as the death happened in the hospital so yet, when we think about the telegram and photography of the arrow while it is a fast step forward technologically, there are indications. a telegram can only provide snippets of information, you can't write long clear paragraphs in a telegraph and there are limitations and often ambiguity. i don't see many in this message, but i'm reminded of a message that oliver wendell holmes senior received when his son was wounded and it was a 12
word telegram that he received in the middle of the night that said something like the shot through the neck, fought, not mortal. that was it and for days his father who was a medical doctor had only those 12 words to figure out whether his son would be alive or not by the time he got to maryland. we pay this technology and figure out what is possible and what is still impossible based on photography or the telegram we can get what kind of information they can get and what would be beyond their craft - >> i agree with what he said and it strikes me it is very important for the family back home to try to get the physical
remains back home. they much prefer that the body should be brought home and given a proper burial in a church yard where families and long-term friends and neighbors will be there to witness the funeral. that is one thing that goes on during the war. the quartermaster was in charge of bearing the dead and basically getting letters from the survivors saying where exactly is my son. i know there is a big graveyard near shiloh and i want to know exactly where he is because i want to bring him home. and then when it ends civilians sometimes show up in different places in the south trying to find the bodies so they can take it home and the quartermaster is still involved in this process. civilians often get involved because they don't want to wait. it is important that the
remains are returned. >> and the army is a bureaucracy so you have to account for everything not only the remains, but his belongings . it is a document that was called inventory of effects and it had to be filled out even if you couldn't find them sometimes happen if he was killed on the battlefield and maybe his body wasn't identified . at least the paperwork had to be filled out. read a lot of letters by officers and as soon as they get time to write a personal level letter informing them giving them condolences and very often the second half is maddock details. this is what was left behind and i will try to get it to you as as i can maybe the next time a guy goes on furlough he can deliver to you or maybe send it
by express. imagine getting the shock of a letter informing you that they have died and condolences from the commander followed by this kind of information that you had to deal with in terms of taking care of the material remnants of your loved ones existence in the army. and if he dies of course the hospital it is easier to deal with that stuff and if he dies in the field it is much more complicated. >> sometimes the box of the effects would arrive before the letter. sometimes that is how they would find out that someone had died because a box came with a pair of boots may be a handkerchief that sort of thing. >> if this is of interest i would put in a good word-it is all about the bureaucratization and the deep meaning attached to the remains and the effects
and how those are connected and we see the behind the scenes on that. that comes to life. >> since we are on the topic of dead bodies i don't want to linger too long on this some topic, but one thing i discovered and wrote about in my book is that physical objects connected to the founders, the founding generation of the 18th century mattered a lot to people during the war both to soldiers and civilians and there was a newspaper rumor that swept the country that george washington's body was hidden away somewhere and to make sure the union army did not gain custody of his physical remains if and when they capture and that turned out to be false.
that was a false rumor. his body was not stolen from mount vernon. i thought it was interesting that that alleged incident got so much press coverage in the north and the southbecause washington was not only a founder, he is probably the preeminent founder and seems to have had the greatest symbolic importance in the civil war generation and maybe ever since. keeping custody of his remains mattered a lot to people. when the union army captured mount vernon later in 1861 there was great rejoicing in the north because of the symbolism. much dejection and disappointment in the south again because of symbolism that the enemy had the custody of george washington's body and house and there were still some objects in the house that had belonged to him and his wife. so there's the symbolism of these objects that is tremendous.
the mac i made the mistake of advancing the slide too soon. what the gentleman was talking about was a great segue into understanding still more context when we think about the relationship between people and the things in which they interacted and the way things could shape experience and shape people ideas thinking about the importance of historical things for civil war americans is one way to do that. so i wanted to give each one of the panelists sometime to talk about their own work and they have all identified one image to help them reveal what they have to say. so joan, you recommended this image to us. >> okay, sure. this is pohic church. virginians told me that is how the name is pronounced and i
hope i am pronouncing it correctly. this is the church where george washington worshiped for most of his adult life. he was episcopalian and before the revolution it was called the anglican church and they changed the name. for patriotic reasons. he had a few in this church and it was apparently the first few. the pew that was closest to the minister and everybody knew that was the washington family pew and they sat there and only they sat there. it was a place of honor for washington and his family. and there apparently was some marking on the pew. it might have been a silver plaque or a wooden carving but it not only was known to other church members that the washingtons that here but if a stranger came in he or she could find the washington pew. when the war breaks out soldiers in both armies want that church pew.
because of its association with washington. and the church pew disappeared early in the war. by 1865 the entire church had been cleaned out. everything in it was gone. every pew. the pulpit for the minister, the communion rail all of it because it was a place where george washington had worshiped on a regular basis and that association made those objects very valuable to both armies. >> you want to describe this image? >> this image comes from the essay i wrote on the material culture of weapons of the civil war. this illustrates one of the things in the essay. during this research it made me stop thinking of anything resembling uniform training for shooting in civil war armies. material culture is argue that tools are used for a purpose
and they have different shapes and different purposes and people can acclimate themselves well or badly to any given tool depends on your eye hand coordination, or musculature, your senses. a whole lot of stuff goes into your physical makeup to determine whether you can use something effectively and that goes for civil war soldiers and firing weapons and this is confirmed in the diaries, letters and memoirs. some civil war soldiers were good shots and they naturally acclimated themselves to the demands of the rifle musket and could fire rapidly at will. others were horrible at it and were widely known by their comrades and everybody in between by 62 or 63 a lot of soldiers are recognizing that this guy can fire well. in a hot firefight he stands in front, he has two or three comrades behind him loading the muskets for him and passing it to him so he can do all the shooting everybody.
i found this wonderful illustration from a memoir by a guy named gas skill in it and ohio regimen which illustrates the gun in apt guy of the civil war. he hated his musket and he drew this illustration of himself in the civil war to illustrate that. there were gun adept soldiers also and there was everybody in between. i think it is important that we really kind of understand that the material thing has an essence kind of a life of its own in a sense. that it is a mass-produced item but it is not dealt with in a mass-produced way by human beings. everybody has their own individual approach to any given musket in the civil war and you can classify them as good or bad in it. this one is pretty clear what he thought about his musket.
>> the two objects depicted here are from the work of both jason and michael because jason is giving a presentation right after this about john brown's pike i don't want him to say too much. so maybe michael if you would start about this cane and to understand its significance and how it moved after the event for which it is most well- known. >> the keyword i think on the screen that i want to be brutally honest about his attributed to preston brooks. is the south carolina congressman in may 1856. he attacks a republican senator from massachusetts, charles sumner on the floor of the u.s. senate and beats him for about a minute and a half and leaves him unconscious and shatters the tip off of the
cane that he used in this attack in the process. i got curious about what happened to the cane. a lot of people who know the story know that well-wishers sent new canes to brooks but i was interested in the use cane comedy after cane. there is a cane at the old state house museum in boston which is attributed to brooks and they say this is the cane. i can neither confirm nor deny that this is the actual cane. it matches the description. it has been broken and repaired in ways that match eyewitness accounts of how the cane broke and it has a pretty good, although not perfect lineage. this is what gets back to the point i made earlier about giftgiving which is that what you see is a series of cases
before, during, and after the war in which this cane was gifted and regifted in and out of the wise family of virginia , henry wise had been the governor of virginia and it essentially gets passed down. some owners don't seem to have known what it was they just knew it was a cane and others did know. eventually it is an interesting thing to think about this. it gets donated by a descendent of henry wise to a museum in boston which is sumner turf. we go from this idea that this cane is brooks to the idea that it belongs in massachusetts. it has shifted its regional affiliation and that way as well. >> i will not give my lecture now for that other image. i will just give a teaser and let you know that if you study the full history of john
brown's pike's and not just focus on them when they are at harpers ferry when nearly 900 of those pikes were brought across the border to arm slaves in apparent uprisings if you follow the full history of the pikes that object does not begin as a pike. it begins as a buoy knife in kansas and then of course it ends its life not in harpers ferry but in a hands of relic hunters and collectors and politicians and abolitionists and possession us who carry these things over 900 of them all over the country and some of them even into the civil war. i will be following the long journey of these pikes from beginning to end in our next session. >> i just want to pick up on something michael said.
there has been a good deal of debate among scholars of material culture about whether objects themselves have agency. and earl was hinting i think of those ideas. it really comes from a french scholar named bruno and he put together something called actor network theory and what he is arguing is that objects by their very existence can aspire or cause human action. and not everybody agrees. there has been a vigorous debate over that. but it is fun to think about. it is interesting to think about. and peter carmichael, i think we all know who he is, he has an essay in this book as well and he talks about confederate keepsakes after the war. white male, combat vets who keep a variety of confederate mementos and how peter believes
that can in itself inspire action in the postwar south to preserve what they believe to be confederate values. to make sure that whites remain in charge in southern society. so, this idea even if you don't agree with it is a very interesting perspective. it is a different way to think about objects. for a long time scholars and i think people in general thought of objects as mute, inert that they were seen created by people and left behind by people. but, bruno and some of his allies don't see it that way. >> i think that is a good place in which to pause and ask for your questions. i hope you found, you see the value in studying things and maybe even finding something interesting about the way in
which we approach that analysis. if there are any questions, please walk up to these two microphones here. >> i notice on the list of possessions of charles merrill, the bible was not mentioned. what happened to it and why was it on that list? >> i'm not sure. i think is the first thing i would say. that suggests a good thing to point out that i haven't thought about. that may mean that in fact charles merrill did send this bible, if not to lincoln home before he died that it was no longer part of his affects at death. that is one potential answer. i don't know how it was
brought back to massachusetts, how it got into the collection in salem. >> what is the single greatest threat to the preservation of these artifacts and what can an individual such as myself do to preserve these artifacts for the future? >> can you repeat the first part of the question please? >> what is the greatest threat to the preservation of these artifacts >> the greatest that? threat? >> yes. >> time, i would imagine. books don't last forever even in the library of congress. there is time. it will wear away at material objects. as joan pointed out metal is particularly strong and can withstand the test of time. other things cannot.
so as time passes certain kinds of material, artifacts survive longer than others. that is my take on it. >> i would agree, but i would say, to that a more fundamental threat is indifference by people, the human factor is the biggest threat. if people don't put value in a historical object they will not invest the time and energy in learning to deal with the problems of material deterioration. there is also a lot of difference in society in terms of heritage and preserving it in ways like this. and of course there are a lot of success stories, too. >> i think for a long time museums were not very interested in preserving objects owned by ordinary people. they wanted objects associated with famous, powerful, rich white men and they weren't very interested in the charles merrill of the world.
but i think that has started to change over the last generation or so. there is a much greater interest now among museum professionals about the experience of the average soldier and that has been the subject of a great deal of scholarship by historians and civilians. the homefront, the connection between the military and the homefront. >> i deal with preserving and what is your thoughts on the pow trinket inking. there is an emotional value i found with this and eventually a prisoner of war has to come to grips with that. i'm curious to know your thoughts. >> the first thought that comes to my mind is obviously these men were sort of frozen
in prison in terms of not being able to do much to support their war efforts and support themselves. they were put in a very dependent situation. i imagine for many of them carving trinkets and crafting things was a way to give purpose to their time in prison. so there is an aspect of in material value there beyond the material value which i'm not discounting of how it becomes essentially currency. getting back to brian's original question, how did they value things? they clearly value those trinkets both for their material value and the immaterial value that it gave to their lives while they were in prison. >> it also gets us into the production of items which is something we haven't talked about. we talked about the circulation of things. the production and the idea of
being a producer in the 19th century, you have value when you can make things. so, i think that is a good case of it. >> i would like to add something about ohio where i live. there is an ongoing project at johnson's island, the prison and this past semester i had one of the archaeologists speak in my civil war class. his name is dave bush. he has a degree in both anthropology and archaeology. he is someone with tremendous expertise. he had the most amazing array of objects that had been made at the pows. one of them actually was able to take prototypes from other prisoners and created his own camera out of odds and ends and he had reproductions of the images which were pretty good. they may not have been top-
quality, matthew brady quality but they were surprisingly detailed and very sophisticated and he made the argument in his lecture that people in prison are trying very hard to preserve some elements of their own identity, their own dignity and that is one way to do that. not just the images which were fascinating in and of themselves but the effort that went into it and a host of other things that they have literally dug up out of the ground. >> my question was, i forget who mentioned it but that even during the war the local population would go and collect relics. the question would be why would people -- what motivated people who had so little and especially in a time of war to go out and collect things that could have been used in the not use them?
i assume you mean if they were collecting them they were using them. >> that's a good question. i think you are referring to a comment i made. i think some people are doing it for the money. people who may be struggling financially see this as a way to make money. and also there are people who don't seem to feel any deep emotional connection to the material world in general whether we are talking about peace or war. to them this is not a precious artifact or a valuable historical item, it is just a way that they can bring in some extra cash. >> if you are talking about looting the battlefield, it doesn't seem to be for relics.
if you are talking about looting battlefield after the battlefield is over, i don't get the impression these evil are doing it for relics. they are doing it for usable material things. it is right into this material scarcity concept and they are trying to grab something that they don't own when the getting is good, let's put it that way. and a lot of soldiers at gettysburg and other places who saw this happening described them as ghouls and unprincipled people. the irony is soldiers did the same thing. it is widely known of course that the confederates especially because that army was material resource limited. they looted battlefield a lot and union soldiers did it quite often. it might be kind of difficult for a modern audience to understand it because we can go to walmart and buy almost anything we want pretty
cheaply. but people in those days of course especially if you are in the military or in the field from a supply line scarcity was a way of life in some ways for them. >> and the southern economy is starting to break down. by the last year of the war things are pretty desperate. if you can sell something from a battlefield or three or four dollars that might make the difference between getting enough to eat and making it through that winter. >> any other questions? okay, can you help me think the panelists? [ applause ] >> pete is telling me the next
session begins in here 3:15. c-span's campaign 2020 coverage continues thursday when president trump holds a campaign rally in cincinnati ohio. that is life starting at 7 pm eastern on c-span. and friday more campaign coverage with remarks from acting white house chief of staff, mick mulvaney. he will speak at the annual silver elephant gala hosted by the south carolina republican party live friday at 8:15 pm eastern also on c-span. this thursday night american history tv will continue our focus on the civil war. we will begin with a history of gettysburg national park followed by discussions on civil war violence and reflections on riding about the war. watch american history tv thursday beginning at 8 pm eastern on c-span three. this weekend on american history tv saturday at 8 pm
eastern on lectures and history comparisons between abraham lincoln and andrew johnson on the constitution. >> you take a look at the whole cartoon, it is a very different impression of what people thought of johnson and the constitution at the time. not that he was a defender but he did not understand the constitution and it was above his ability and that he was acting in unconstitutional ways. >> sunday at 6 pm on american artifacts preview of the 19th amendment exhibit at the national archives. >> women in new jersey were americans first voters beginning in 1776 when new jersey became a state, the new jersey state constitution made no mention of sex when discussing voting qualifications. it only had a proper 80 requirement. women who own and a property primarily widows and single women, not all women in new jersey, could and did vote in
elections at the local, state, and national level. at 8 pm on the presidency, author john farrell talks about nixon's early life and career. >> in 1947 and 1948 he campaigned for the marshall plan. he went to every rotary club, chamber of commerce and american legion hall. every crowd that would take him. he sold them his best judgment not his obedience and he convinced them. when the party primaries were held in california in the summer of 1948 richard nixon did not just win the republican nomination, he won the democratic nomination. he wagered everything and carried the day and ran unopposed in the first reelection campaign. >> explore our nation's past on american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. next on american history tv gettysburg college civil war institute re