NPS Primary Theme: The Civil War culminated eighty years of sectional tensions— tensions begot at various times and places by debate over economic policies and practices, cultural values, the extent and reach of the Federal government, but, most importantly, the role of slavery within an American society striving for identity and economic strength on the world stage.

NPS Secondary Theme: Though various Southern states clearly linked secession to the debate over slavery, the cause that motivated individual soldiers often differed from the causes of the war itself. Rather, the motivation of the individual soldier often derived from a complex mix—that sometimes changed during the war—of personal, social, economic and political values that at times contrasted with war aims expressed by the respective governments.

NOTE: Please use the comments section below to chronicle your progress with this theme throughout the remaining weeks of the course. Begin by outlining how your group decided to work with the theme (e.g., assigning one theme to one person or dividing themes up between team members) and then describe in detail, at least once each week, the work that you have done toward crafting your three podcast proposals.


8 Responses to Causes

  1. Melissa Lang says:

    INDE-Independence Hall, this past week I have furthered my research for this site and have identified multiple options for my in-tangible, the Constitution of the United States, where as a new nation, the founders in Article 1, Section 9, 1. The slave trade discussion was postponed for twenty years as a way to compromise and move-on from the debate, and 2. In the Fugitive Slave Clause was drafted in which northerners would be forced to return a fugitive slave back to its original state, this clause would raise great attention from both the abolitionists and their sympathizers as well as southerners over the Dred Scott case of 1857. I have come up with a few tangible resources to use to symbolize the constitution.
    1. The Assembly Room at Independence Hall was constructed between 1732 and 1756. This as noted in my discussion with Chief Interpretation and Education, Patricia Jones, is the room where the Constitution was drafted and debated in 1787.
    2. In the West Wing of Independence Hall is the silver inkstand is housed, this ink well is the original used to sign the Constitution.
    3. Original prints of the Constitution, since the original signed copy is housed in Washington DC, Independence hall does house original printed copies made in after the signing.

    PALO- Palo Alto National Historic Battlefield. I have been in communication with Chief of Operations, Douglas at Palo Alto and look forward to speaking with him over the phone on Friday or Monday. I have decided to make ‘the land’ my intangible resources for the sub-theme of Westward Expansion. I look forward to discussion with Dustin possible tangible resources that symbolize the land like, survey equipment, shovels, and fences. If these do not exist at Palo Alto I have also suggested a building onsite that could represent settlement. As a last resort I can choose from the sites collection of war material from the Mexican American War which started at Palo Alto, representing the war that further sparked westward expansion and the debate of the future of slavery in the west.
    Douglas has also brought to my attention that many soldiers who fought at Palo Alto also later fought and led in the Civil War, like U.S. Grant, James Longstreet etc. Others who served here include John Pemberton, Braxton Bragg, George Meade and others. This will be great additional information for this podcast and I have been doing further research to provide information on these facts.
    Another point Douglas made was that the final land battle of the Civil War occurred at Palmito Ranch Battlefield only ten miles away from Palo Alto Battlefield, this story will help draw attention to this story as well as further create ties between the Civil War and Palo Alto National Historic Battlefield.

    CARI- Cane River Creole National Historic Park. I have emailed the Cultural Resource Specialist, Dustin to further inquire about my tangible, the thermos mugs and carrying case that was carried by a slave child for J.A Prud’homme. I have expressed to Dustin that I am also interested in more traditional symbols of slavery in order to create a concise and concrete understanding of the horrific nature of the institution. I am excited to use the mug in coalition with additional objects. I look forward to speaking with Dustin over the phone to discuss such possibilities. In the meantime I have been doing further research into the Prud’homme family and slave conditions before emancipation and conditions after emancipation.

    Additionally I have been working out my final theme statements and choosing one (of many possible) universal theme for each tangible/intangible.

  2. melissa Lang says:

    The first theme I am going to discuss today is ‘Causes’ of the Civil War. Under the guidelines of the Holding the High Ground document I have chosen to one: Redirect the conversation about the causes of the Civil War to the most significant Cause, that of slavery, which has of late and in the past been ignored and/or shoved aside in an effort to reconstruct a mythical or convoluted interpretation and understanding of the causes of the Civil War. Two, The Founding of Our Nation, through examining the postponement of the Slave question through such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States; and three, Westward Expansion, where again under the guidance of the Holding the High Ground document I would like to explore the expansion of western territory as a battleground for the debate over the future of the institution of slavery as the nation expanded its borders.
    In general my theme for ‘Causes’ to the Civil War has gone pretty smoothly. My subthemes which include: Slavery for which park I have chosen and made contact with the Cultural Resource Specialist (Dustin) at Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The Cultural Resource Specialist, (Dustin) has helped me in pinpointing some options for a tangible resource that will help link my subtheme of Slavery to my primary theme of ‘Causes’. Cane River Creole National Historical Park houses a plethora of artifacts and tangible resources so the most difficult part for this park would be refining my options and choosing one. Right now, under the guidance of the Cultural Resource Specialist, (Dustin) I am focusing on coffeepot set and container, supposedly carried by an enslaved child for J.A. Prud’homme (Prude-um) of Bermuda/Oakland Plantation during the Red River Campaign which consisted of a series of battles fought along the Red River in the last year of the war (March 10 to May 22 1864).
    I am really excited about this choice because I feel like it appropriately connects the park visitor and podcast listener to the story of slavery through an interesting tale. With this podcast I would also like to further explore the devastating/ ghastly conditions of slavery that lead to the cause of the Civil War in particular regarding the (attitudes) of abolitionist, that though while they were not the majority in the North their fight certainly made it more and more difficult for northerners to support slavery whether morally or economically. My second Sub-theme is the Founding of the Nation itself. Before, during and after the American Revolution the slave trade and the institution of slavery was debated among the first members of congress and our nation’s first Presidents yet the abolition of this institution was consistently set aside for later dates through compromise of seemingly more prudent debates. As evidence for the causes of the Civil War (besides the institution of slavery itself) I will look toward the Constitution of the United States and how this document, and the US government during the drafting of and ratification of; avoided the issue of Slavery some 74 years prior to the Civil War. The Unites States Constitution is housed in the National Archives in Washington DC, but was drafted on site within the limits of Independence Park in Philadelphia at Independence Hall in the Assembly Room. Also part of Independence Park is the Congress Hall where President George Washington and John Adams were in residence until the capitol was moved to Washington DC in 1800. Congress Hall was also the site where the House of Representatives and the Senate presided and continued to debate over the founding of the country. Independence Park I imagine is a site that is under constant demand, so I was very excited when the Chief of Interpretation and Education (Patricia Jones) took the time to speak with me and I look forward to speaking with the park staff again via email and over the phone as this process continues.
    For my subtheme Westward Expansion I have been in contact with the Chief of Operations (Douglas Murphy) at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site (PALO) who has been very helpful and insightful in helping me in this theme. Palo Alto is a little bit different because I chose this site as an example of how westward expansion led to the Civil War. Palo Alto not only was a major site of Palo Alto Battle that lead to the Mexican American War, which sparked the compromise of 1850 and engendered the hostile sentiment between the North and South in a battle for the West, but Palo Alto Battle was also an engagement that many Civil War soldiers and generals like Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General James Longstreet, Confederate General Braxton Bragg, and Union Major-General George Meade who all would later fight on opposite sides during the war. While the Chief of Operations (Douglas Murphy) and I both agree that it will be difficult finding tangibles to represent the battlefield to the growing sectionalism that occurred the race for the west, we both seem to think that using this site to represent connections between Westward Expansion and the Causes of the Civil War is a significant one.
    Connecting with the parks historians has certainly been an enlightening experience. I am not a Public History Student so this whole process, and working with the parks has been new to me. Having had my nose in one book or another for three years I am delighted about the resources and possibilities in reaching the public about history through our Nation’s parks. On that note, I have found that emailing a park first is best so that with all of the staff, rangers and interpreters busy schedules they have the time and space to find good matches for your questions and needs as well as have time to think about them and address them. But nothing can really replace the connection made over the phone, and dealing directly with interpreters, rangers and historians who facilitate hands on history every day.

    I have re-dived into many sources form my past academic career to use as tools in my research, (for example, Joseph Ellison in regards to the US constitution and Slavery), but resources that have been offered that are particular to this class are of course the Holding the High Ground Document and the Civil War Handbook. These resources allow me to explore my theme while staying grounded and connected to the NPS’s goals and objectives for the Sesquicentennial Civil War.

  3. Melissa Lang says:

    For my sub-themes: ‘Westward Expansion, and the Destiny of Slavery’ (PAAL), ‘Slavery.’ (CARI) and ‘The Roots of the Civil War found in Our Nations Original Documents’ (INDE). I emailed the appropriate personnel at each park to make further contact and to let them be aware of tangible resources that I found might make good matches for their parks and how they relate to the Civil War story. I also sought their advice on resources or stories that I was unaware of that they thought might make a good fit for my sub-themes as well as additional information for the tangibles that I had already suggested. I look forward to hearing back from my parks and working with the rangers and staff in this project.

    For Sub-theme one Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site (PAAL) in Texas is symbolically significant because it was the site of the first major conflict in a border dispute that led to the Mexican-American War. Which then led to the expansion of Western Territory in the United States. Expanding the frontier in ante-belum America led to the ever-boiling dispute of the expansion of slavery in Western States. While the south wanted western territories and new states to be slave states in order to preserve their way of life but more importantly or directly to preserver their influence in congress through the number of Representatives form said new states. Northerners, excluding abolitionists, wanted the Western states to be free of slavery for the expansion and security of their own future enterprises as well as the desire to make Western states free of African Americans altogether. The issue of Free States vs Slave States was an issue repeatedly battled out and compromised over in Congress, yet the ever-growing westward expansion created a social uproar in the frontier states that led to violent events such as Bloody Kansas, and John Brown’s Raid. Ultimately traditional political parties like the Whigs and typically southern Democrats no longer fulfilled the desires of northerners who were insistent on Western states being free of African Americans. This dissent primarily in the Whig Party led to the creation of the new Republican party which nominated Abraham Lincoln, whose election in 1860 determined the South’s desire to separate from the Union.

    While Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site houses original diaries and paintings of the Battle, I believe that the natural resources at the park provide a better tangible resource to evaluate through the lens of the causes of the Civil War, since the expansion of land has more of a direct relation to the Civil War then diaries of men who at the time were fighting for another cause then slavery itself. I am excited to hear back from the rangers, interpreters and/or historians at this site.

    For my Sub theme two (CARI), the whole park is a major resource having been a large slave plantation prior to the Civil War and a place where there are two French Creole cotton plantations, Oakland and Magnolia. CARI has an extensive past with slavery and the Civil War and equally extensive artifacts and resources to use as tangible sources to tie the site to slavery and larger intangible and universal themes in regards to the causes of the Civil War. This week I asked the park rangers and interpreters that I will be communicating with at CARI if they had any advice in regards to their collection. While I don’t want to boggle them down with searching for an appropriate artifact or resources, their collection is so huge that I would love their input on an artifact or resource that is extra special or significant. I am really excited to hear back from them and hear their input.

    For Sub-theme three (INDE) I identified the original document of the Constitution of The United States as a profound example of how slavery was an issue that was avoided at our nations founding and dug through perpetual compromise and debate until its boiling point at the eve of the Civil War. I emailed my contact at INDE and am excited to hear back from them on any other artifacts or resources that stand out to them.

    This week I also created a googledocs for my theme to better keep up to date on progress, contacts and research as I go along in this process.

  4. Melissa Lang says:

    Just wanted to confirm my park choice for the ‘Causes’ theme (hasn’t changed)

    Independence National Historical Park (INDE)
    Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (PAAL)
    Cane River Creole National Historical Park (CARI)

  5. Pingback: Parks to Illustrate CW150 Themes: A Preliminary List | Interpreting the American Civil War

  6. Melissa Lang says:

    I have received an email back from George Washington University with Professor Horton’s contact information.

  7. Melissa Lang says:

    Progress of the theme of causes:
    Watched Ken Burns Documentary (causes) to get inspired.
    Read my section of the handbook, Confronting Slavery and Revealing the “Lost Cause” by James Oliver Horton. In this piece Horton argues against the notion that slavery was a marginal issue in regards to the South’s decision to secede. In regards to the question of the general southerners sentiments (non-slave holding whites) Horton explains that their fear was that the abolitionist North would force them to live with and like African Americans, who they considered subhuman. They also feared that Northerners, including President Lincoln sought to cut the South (and the institution of slavery) off from westward expansion, therefore denying them access to “America’s future.” (Horton, 6) The irony in this is that the majority in the North did not seek to force whites to live with/like African American slaves, or even abolish slavery; but instead their intention was to stop the spread of slavery into Western states for their own economic/entrepreneurial benefit.

    I then tried to locate contact information for Professor Horton through the George Washing University website, and have yet to hear back from them.

    While I believe Horton’s synthesis gives ample evidence that points to slavery as the root cause of the war, I think it is important to understand fully other “causes” presented by other historians and special interest groups. I did additional research on my theme through these sources: which briefly outlined causes of the Civil War, yet marginalizing the issue of slavery.

    I found it interesting that this site for children out lines tariffs as the top cause of the Civil War

    I did further research into the significance of the parks listed in the handbook according to my theme. Some are obvious so I chose to research these because they were less obvious or unknown to me:
    Cane River Creole: Natchitoches, Louisiana. This park used to be a slave plantation. Significance: Red River Campaign. An example of slave plantation life: Tangible, Intangible: bondage, freedom, Universal: survival, liberty.

    Palo Alto National Historic Site: Brownsville, Texas. The Battle of Palo Alto was a significant event that lead to the Mexican American War. The consequences of this war lead to more land for the United States, this is when the issue of slave vs non-slave states began to boil over which ultimately lead the South to secede after President Lincoln was elected and they believed as part of the United States they would be unable to participate in the future of the US in the west. Tangible: Western landscape battlefield, Intangible: Manifest Destiny, Universal: Land = Freedom.

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