38 Nooses -- Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg, Pantheon '12, $27.95, 364 pages, ASIN #0307377245. Index, selected bibliography, notes, note on sources, b&w images sprinkled through text.
So fully has the American Civil War dominated the years from 1861 through 1865 in this country that they've virtually eclipsed what the author calls "an overlooked but seminal moment in American history," when the Dakota Indians clashed with settlers and federal troops along the Minnesota frontier in 1862. Writer Scott Berg seeks to right this wrong in his latest book.
"Once the uprising was smashed and the Dakotas captured," writes Berg, "a military commission was convened, which quickly found more than 300 guilty of murder." Even though President Lincoln was preoccupied with the Civil War, he personally intervened to spare the lives of 265 of the condemned, "but the toll on the Dakota nation was still staggering: a way of life destroyed, a tribe forcibly relocated to barren and unfamiliar terrritory, and 38 Dakota warriors hanged -- the largest government-sanctioned execution in American history."
Native Minnesotan and author Scott W. Berg teaches writing and literature at George Mason University. He has written a biography of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the Frenchman who designed the city of Washington, D.C.
The Original Compromise -- What the Constitution's Framers Were Really Thinking by David Brian Robertson, Oxford UP '13, $29.95, 324 pages, ASIN #0199796297. Index, notes, two appendices, no illustrations or bibliography.
It is nearly settled history that the philosophical backstory to the U.S. Constitution was the collection of 85 renowned essays -- known now as the Federalist Papers -- and penned primarily by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. But in this revisionist take on the Federalist Papers, political scientist David Brian Robertson argues that those documents "represented only one side in a fierce argument that was settled by compromise -- in fact, multiple compromises."
"Hamilton and Madison, who hailed from two of the larger states, pursued an ambitious vision of a robust government with broad power," writes Robertson. "Leaders from smaller states envisioned only a few added powers, sufficient to correct the disastrous weakness of the Articles of Confederation, but not so strong as to threaten the governing systems within their own states."
Robertson examines each contentious debate over three months, which collectively led to adoption of the Constitution, "including arguents over the balance between the federal government and the states, slavery, war and peace, and much more. In nearly every case, a fractious, piecemeal, and very political process prevailed."
David Brian Robertson teaches political science at the University of Missouri -- St. Louis and has written two other books about the era of the Founding Fathers.
General Lewis B. Hershey and Conscientious Objection during World War II by Nicholas A. Krehbiel, UMissouri Press '11, $40, 216 pages, ASIN #0826219411. Index, bibliography, notes, grouping of b&w images.
From the dust jacket:
"What to do with conscientious objectors has puzzled the United States throughout its history, and prior to World War II, there was no unified system for conscientious objectors. The Selective Service Act of 1917 only allowed conscientious objection from specific peace sects, and it had no provisions for public service. In action, this translated to poor treatment of conscientious objectors in military prisons and camps during World War I.
"In response to demands by the Historic Peace Churches (the Brethren, Mennonites, and the Society of Friends) and other pacific groups, the government altered language in the Selective Service Act of 1940, stating that conscientious objectors should be assigned the noncombatant service in the military but, if opposed to that, would be assigned to 'work of national importance under civilian direction."
Author Nicholas A. Krehbiel teaches history at Kansas State University. He lives in Manhattan, KS.