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Title Page || 1: The Civil War as Fought in the West: Was It Different?

by John F. Marszalek

The American Civil War continues to have a fascination for scholars and the general public, both in the United States and around the world. Each year, academic specialists publish a wide variety of excellent books not only on the battles themselves, but also on how and why the war began, what impact it had on the people who experienced it, and what its long-term effects have been on American society. Amateur historians, often at their own expense, publish books providing, in amazing detail, the history of a particular military unit, a specific skirmish, or a distant relative.

    The Civil War is also the inspiration for a variety of organizations, too numerous to mention. The Lincoln Forum, for example, meets annually in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, bringing together scholars and amateurs to hear papers and discuss the role of that president and his age. The C-Span television network tapes these lectures and telecasts them later to a national audience. The Civil War Institute of Gettysburg College sponsors and publishes the Fortenbaugh Lecture series which brings leading historians to its campus for major lectures. It also conducts a symposium in early July resulting in additional publication. Finally, it sponsors the prestigious Lincoln Prize, a substantial monetary award, for the best book on the Civil War published each year.

    Civil War enthusiasts have also organized round tables in small towns and large cities all around the nation and the world. Sometimes meeting as frequently as monthly, these groups hear speakers discuss all aspects of the war. Living history advocates (reenactors) spend weekends trying to replicate the lives of military individuals and units, while refighting Civil War battles. European reenactors travel to the United States to participate in these activities.

    The list goes on and on. There is no four year period in human history which continues to be studied in such width and depth as the United States Civil War. To many Americans and people from around the world, the only American history they find of interest is the history of the Civil War. Thus, professional historians have a major opportunity and an even larger obligation to make sure that the history these interested people learn is objective and accurate. The Civil War continues to influence society in the early twenty-first century, thus it must be told as it actually was, not as imagined through the mists of nostalgic fiction.

    The Department of History of Mississippi State University has a lengthy tradition of teaching and publishing in this important area of American history. MSU historian John K. Bettersworth was a long-time leading scholar of the period, as was Thomas Connelly. In later years, MSU historians John F. Marszalek, William E. Parrish, and Michael B. Ballard have continued teaching, writing, and lecturing about the Civil War era. In 1998 the department began sponsoring an organization known as the Historians of the Civil War Western Theater. Holding an annual meeting and publishing an on-line journal, this group of professional published historians meets to discuss the latest insights on this crucial region of the conflict.

    For the past twenty years, too, the History Department has reached out to the public through a lecture series known first as the Presidential Forum on Turning Points in History and later as the Mississippi State University History Forum on Turning Points in History. Beginning in 1981, with the financial support of the Mississippi Humanities Council matched by funds from a variety of offices on the MSU campus, the Department of History has brought to Mississippi the nation's leading historians to lecture on a wide range of historical topics. Emphasis in these forums has always been on the presentation and analysis of important events in a manner that would appeal to the general public, giving people the opportunity to gain accurate information and insight. (At the end of this introduction is a listing of these topics and the outstanding historians who discussed them at Mississippi State University.)

    Funding difficulties within the university and the department made it impossible to conduct forums in 1998, 1999, 2000. In 2001, when funds once more became available, the Department decided to reinvigorate the forum series with a historical topic of the most obvious appeal: the American Civil War. Since scholars today are debating the role of the western theater of the war in the context of northern victory and southern defeat and considering Mississippi's location in the Civil War West, it seemed obvious that the topic for the 2001 Forum should be: The Civil War in the West.

    The 2001 Forum, therefore, followed a long department tradition. However, it also broke important new ground. For the first time, a forum was a cooperative venture between the Starkville and the Meridian campuses of Mississippi State University. Through the use of interactive television, the keynote address and the closing panel discussion, both of which took place in Starkville, were viewed by the Meridian audience. This television technology allowed speakers and audiences to see each other and be able to communicate back and forth. Two speakers also lectured in Starkville and two others in Meridian. All five speakers gathered in Starkville for the closing panel discussion and question and answer period, which session was televised back to Merdian. Video tapes were made of all the lectures and the panel, and several of these recordings were telecast on the Mississippi State University cable television station in Starkville.

    Another innovation of the 2001 Forum is this publication. By gathering all the lectures together in printed form, the Department is hoping to reach an even wider public than it has in the past. This publication will be available in public and academic libraries throughout the state and in History Departments around the nation.

    As in the past, the 2001 MSU History Forum presented some of America's leading historians. All five of the visiting scholars are counted among the major writers on the Civil War period. Russell F. Weigley of Temple University delivered the keynote address on "The Civil War as Fought in the West: Was it Different?" Professor Weigley's publications on the Civil War and World War II place him in the first rank of military history scholars. Shortly after he spoke at Mississippi State University, his book A Great Civil War, A Military and Political History, 1861-1865, received the Lincoln Prize.

    Craig L. Symonds of the U.S. Naval Academy is a leading biographer of the Confederate military. His books on Joseph E. Johnston, Patrick Cleburne, and Franklin Buchanan are exemplars of the biographer's art, providing insight into each man and the period in which he lived. At the Forum he spoke on the "Confederate Military Effort in the West."

    John Y. Simon of Southern Illinois University is the dean of American documentary editors. His twenty four volumes of the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant are models of the editor's craft. In addition to this monumental work which is on-going, Professor Simon is a frequent participant on national television programs, and he is a favorite on the lecture circuit. He spoke on "The Union Military Effort in the West: Grant Emerges."

    Steven E. Woodworth's lecture was entitled: "Confederate Political Leaders and the War in the Western Theater." Professor Woodworth is among the most prolific modern scholars on the Civil War years. His edited collections of essays and his own monographs are among the most significant recent books written on the Civil War period.

    Anne J. Bailey of Georgia College and State University is another important scholar of the Civil War era. The author of numerous books, she long served as book review editor of Civil War History, the major scholarly journal of the war period. Presently she is editor of the Georgia Historical Quarterly and of the newsletter of the Society of Civil War Historians.

    These five scholars approached the Civil War in the Western Theater from a variety of perspectives. From Russell Weigley's essay, we learned about the basic difference between the western and the eastern theaters: the matter of space. There was simply more territory for armies to maneuver in the West than in the more geographically cramped East. John Simon joined Weigley in arguing for the brilliance of U.S. Grant in organizing the strategy that took advantage of the challenges that the West presented. Craig Symonds pointed out that weak Confederate military leadership in the West played the major role in Confederate defeat there. Steven Woodworth demonstrated that Confederate civilian leadership contributed significantly to the South's defeat. Anne Bailey showed that both Confederate civilian and military leaders were unsuccessful in tying the area across the Mississippi River, the Trans-Mississippi, into the effort in the West, thus making the overall Confederate effort that much less effective.

    What follows in this publication are the texts of these stimulating lectures. The Mississippi State University Department of History is pleased to provide them to a more extensive audience than any previous forums could reach. The Civil War is an important area of study precisely because it has had such an important influence on the society which came afterward, and because so many people continue to find it fascinating. We hope that what follows will be interesting and informative to a wide audience.

Topics and Speakers at MSU History Forums

1981 Facing the Crisis of the 1930's

Otis L. Graham, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Donald W. Treadgold, University of Washington

Henry A. Turner, Yale University

1982 The Impact of World War II

Russell Weigley, Temple University

Richard Hallion, Historian, United States Air Force

1983 America and the Cold War, 1945-1953

Norman A. Graebner, University of Virginia

Thomas T. Hammond, University of Virginia

(Substituted for William Appleman Williams, Oregon State University)

                1984 Revolution in Central America, France, and the United States

Carol Berkin, Baruch College, City University of New York

Robert Forster, Johns Hopkins University

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Tulane University

1985 Social Changes in Eastern Europe, 1945-1985

Arthur Rachwald, United States Naval Academy

Stephen A. Fischer-Galati, University of Colorado, Boulder

Arthur Hanhardt, Jr., University of Oregon

1986 Plessey v. Ferguson: Segregation in the United States

Vincent P. De Santis, University of Notre Dame

Stanley I. Kutler, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Arvarh E. Strickland, University of Missouri, Columbia

1987 The United States Constitution and First Amendment Rights

Milton M. Klein, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Paul L. Murphy, University of Minnesota

U. W. Clemmon, Judge, US District Court, Northern Alabama


                1988 Emancipation in the United States, Russia, and Brazil

John W. Blassingame, Yale University (canceled)

Peter Kolchin, University of Delaware

Robert Brent Toplin, University of North Carolina, Wilmington

1989 The French Revolution, An Enduring Legacy

David Pinkney, University of Washington

Gary Kates, Trinity University

Alan Williams, Wake Forest University

                    1990 No Forum, Funding unavailable

1991 America's Vietnam War

George Herring, University of Kentucky

John F. Guilmartin, Ohio State University

Joseph Caddell, St. Mary's College, Raleigh, NC

Howard D. Embree, Mississippi State University

Peter Braestrup, Library of Congress

1992 The Civil Rights Movement in Modern America

Linda Reed, University of Houston

Hugh Davis Graham, Vanderbilt University

Armstead Robinson, University of Virginia

1993 The Civil War

Herman Hattaway, University of Missouri, Kansas City

Carl N. Degler, Stanford University

John F. Marszalek, Mississippi State University

Hans L. Trefousse, Brooklyn City College

1994 The Rebirth of the Women's Movement

William Chafe, Duke University

Jane DeHart, University of California, Santa Barbara

Susan Hartmann, Ohio State University

1995 The Holocaust: Perpetrators, Victims, and Bystanders

Christopher Browing, Pacific Lutheran University

Peter Hayes, Northwestern University

Deborah Dwork, Yale University

1996 Nazism, the Holocaust, and the Genesis of the Modern Civil Rights Movement

Harvard Sitkoff, University of New Hampshire

Leonard Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

George Wright, University Of Texas at Arlington

                1997 Rethinking America's Cold War

Christian F. Ostermann, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Walter L. Hixson, University of Akron

Michael J. Hogan, Ohio State University

Carol Anderson, University of Missouri, Columbia

             1998, 1999, 2000 No Forum, Funding Unavailable

            2001 The Civil War in the West

Russell F.Weigley, Temple University

Craig L. Symonds, United States Naval Academy

John Y. Simon, Southern Illinois University

Steven E. Woodworth, Texas Christian University

Anne J. Bailey, Georgia College and State University