Although more than 150 years have passed since the first bullets were fired in the U.S. Civil War, Americans retain a deep interest in the conflict, its causes, the major players, and the impact the war and our complicated history have on our national identity. WorldCanvass guests will continue the conversation on January 25 when the topic is “The Rupture of Civil War.”
Historian Leslie Schwalm will set the stage by outlining the major disputes that took the North and South to—and past—the breaking point. We’ll look at the lives of average citizens, families and individuals who had to endure terrible hardships, deprivation, uncertainty, and relentless sadness at the loss of loved ones, but who made these sacrifices because they believed in something larger than themselves. We’ll try to identify the goals and ideals which drove individuals, politicians, crusaders, and others to fight for one side or the other and we’ll ask to what degree the war, as seen by Midwesterners, was about abolishing slavery.
Whether they originate with soldiers fighting for the Union, wives and parents praying for the safe return of a loved one, or citizens with no direct connection to combat but strong convictions about the desired outcome, archival materials paint a picture that is personal, sometimes wrenching, and always enlightening. Greg Prickman and David McCartney of UI Special Collections & University Archives will draw on diaries and letters to invoke the spirit of the times and Byron Preston of the UI Pentacrest Museums will describe the items on display in the Old Capitol Museum’s current exhibit on Iowa and the Civil War.
We’ll explore the dispersion of war stories through an emerging magazine culture with Kathleen Diffley, an associate professor of English. American Studies Professor Emeritus John Raeburn will discuss photography’s role in taking the country onto the battlefield, and UI professor of English and renowned Whitman scholar Ed Folsom will talk about the poet Walt Whitman’s experience of the war and what it meant to his writing and his thoughts about America.
Physician Wayne Richenbacher will focus on medicine in the mid–1800s and the Civil War’s deplorable battlefield conditions and shocking carnage. We’ll look at the Civil War era from an African American perspective with historians Sylvea Hollis and Heather Cooper, and spend some time discussing film and television depictions of the Civil War with UI Professor of Cinema and Comparative Literature Corey Creekmur.