There might be no image more appropriate for understanding the revolutionary meaning of the Civil War than the one above. The original is located at the Library of Congress, but the photograph (Men of Company E, 4th US Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, Washington DC, circa 1865) is now ubiquitous. Students in History 117 should examine the image carefully, and try to find out more about it, beginning perhaps with the record in House Divided, but also after consulting a fascinating blog post by Andy Hall at Dead Confederates. Try to imagine yourself as one of the soldiers depicted in this detail. What was he thinking about? Then they should reflect on the meaning of this image in light of what they have read this week in James Oakes’s monograph on Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. How did these two men differ on the question of black soldiers? Where did they agree? The question of black troops, just like the issues of emancipation or civil rights, forced radicals and moderates to struggle mightily over tactics. Students should explain how Lincoln and Douglass approached these issues at pivotal moments, such as in the summer of 1862 before Lincoln announced his plans for emancipation, or in the summer of 1864, when they met for the second time in the dismal period in August when it appeared that Lincoln might lose reelection. Those who need additional background on the subject of black troops, should consult this web page from the National Archives. Those seeking extra material on the war itself, should consult this page from the Digital History textbook, and this particular page for information on emancipation.
Office: Denny 218