Shadows of Antietam by Robert J. Kalasky, Kent State University Press '12, in oversized format on glossy stock, $49, 169 pages, ASIN #1606350889. Index, notes, dozens of b&w glossy images.
Author Robert Kalasky's new book reflects military superlatives. Not only is the Civil War the bloodiest war -- by far -- in American history, the 1862 conflict at Sharpsburg, MD -- known popularly as Antietam -- is the bloodiest battle of that war. In one day, a total of 23,000 men on the Union and Confederate sides lost their lives.
The author argues that while the battle was tactically inconclusive, it resulted in two significant milestones: "First, because Robert E. Lee failed to carry the war successfully into the North, Great Britain was dissuaded from recognizing the Confederate States of America diplomatically. Second, the battle gave President Lincoln the confidence to issue the Emancipation Proclamation."
Many students of history realize that pioneering photographer Matthew Brady earned his spurs by photographing battlefield carnage along with such assistants as Alexander Gardner and James Gibson, both of whom "recorded the horror of war with the first-ever images of dead American soldiers." The drawback of that accomplishment, Kalasky writes, is that the photographers failed to record such data as location, date, and time of such photos. Nevertheless, this coffee-table book is a natural gift for Civil War buffs, particularly those with an interest in early photography.
Author Robert J. Kalasky attended Kent State University and graduated from the Northeast Ohio School of Massotherapy. He lives in Ohio.
The Girls and Boys of Belchertown -- A Social History of the Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded by Robert Hornick, UMass. Press '12, $26.95, 224 pages, 17 illustrations, ASIN #155849944X. Index, notes.
From the back cover:
"During much of the 20th century, people labeled 'feeble-minded,' 'mentally deficient,' and 'mentally retarded' were often confined in large, publicly-funded, residential institutions located some distance from major population centers. At the peak of their development in the late 1960s, these institutions -- frequently called 'schools' or 'homes' -- housed 190,000 men, women, and children in the United States.
"The Girls and Boys of Belchertown offers the first detailed history of an American public institution for intellectually disabled persons. Robert Hornick recounts the story of the state school in Belchertown, MA, from its beginnings in the 1920s to its closure in the 1990s following a scandalous expose' and an unprecedented court case that put the institution under direct supervision of a federal judge. Hornick also gauges the impact of changing social attitudes toward intellectual disability and examines the relationship that developed over time between the school and the town where it was located."
An independent scholar and international lawyer, Robert Hornick teaches law at the University of Arizona and is the author of several books on Indonesian law.
Freedom National -- The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes, Norton '13, $29.95, 595 pages, ASIN #0393065316. Index, photo credits, notes, grouping of b&w glossy images.
Students of the Civil War know that the 1865 Union victory lastingly solved few problems; the plight of the Negro was largely unresolved and would be for decades. Author James Oakes limns the future of what would ultimately become the Civil Rights movement in the epilogue of his new book:
"Decent wages, schools for children, legally secure marriages, equal justice under law, land for the freed people. These were demands that did not -- could not -- arise under slavery. Such things were incompatible with a system in which slave laborers were forbidden to own land and their labor was uncompensated, in which it was a crime to teach a slave to read, where slave marriages had no legal standing, and where the privileges and immunities of citizenship did not apply.
"No one ever debated whether slaves should vote, because slaves were understood to be outside of the 'political' community. There was no discussion of slave citizenship because, in a tradition dating back to antiquity, slaves were 'non-citizens' by definition. Before any of these issues could arise, slavery had to be destroyed. Only then could the fight for abolition give way to the struggle over the meaning of freedom.
"'Reconstruction is impossible,' the New York Times observed, 'so long as Slavery exists in the land.' It made sense that in late 1865, African Americans were asking for farms of their own and demanding decent wages, school for their children, civil rights, and the vote. The long and difficult struggle to abolish slavery had been fought and won. Four million African Americans had been freed. A new question, and with it a new struggle, suddenly loomed: Was freedom enough?"
James Oakes is Professor of History and Humanities Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center and has written several books on the South and the Civil War. He is a winner of the Lincoln Prize and lives in New York City.