July travels: Mega-Antietam Seminar – Pt. 2
NOTE: An excellent report on the seminar has also been posted, with some photos included, by participant Hal Jespersen here.
Ted very smartly organized the second full day of the Antietam seminar along the lines of an academic conference, with nine sessions of three presentations each, giving participants an opportunity to recuperate physically from the heat and exertion of the previous day’s tours. The morning opened with a general session that started with an absolutely fantastic presentation by Keith Snyder entitled, “Antietam: A Photographic Journey in Time.” Keith showed a variety of historic and contemporary images of the battlefield that provided a great sense of the evolution of Antietam battlefield from the 1860s to the present. This was followed by a panel discussion of “Lincoln, Antietam, and the Emancipation Proclamation” moderated by Dennis Frye in which the participants were Ed Bearss, myself, and Edna Medford of Howard University. In my opening statement I made an effort to draw connections between the Civil War and the contemporary operating environment around the question of how one strikes a balance between respecting and attacking an enemy’s culture in wartime. No one in the audience or on the panel rose to my bait, though, and the session mainly ended up discussing the importance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the diplomatic contest and the debate over the importance of the proclamation vs. what was already occurring on the ground in regards to the erosion of slavery as a consequence of the war.
Following this general session, the seminar broke up into four smaller groups for the aforementioned academic-style sessions. My session, “Politics and Command” was initially to be moderated by General Harold Nelson, but he was unable to reach Hagerstown until the following day, so another one of the presenters, the aforementioned Tom Clemens took over the task of moderating the panel. Tom then opened with a presentation on the transformation of the Union army between Second Manassas and the opening of the campaign from the Federal perspective and the behind the scenes machinations that swirled around McClellan’s resumption of command. Dr. Medford then gave an informative presentation on how African Americans reacted to the Emancipation Proclamation, followed by me closing the session with a presentation on the Burnside-McClellan relationship and the Maryland Campaign.
After lunch the entire seminar reconvened for a panel discussion on “George B. McClellan at Antietam: Pros and Cons” that Tom moderated, with myself, Dennis Frye, Vince Armstrong, and Mark Snell as panelists. The panel was long on pros and short on cons, with many of the former presented by myself (in a bit of a reversal of my usual role in such discussions) and Vince. Of course, this effort was crushed by: 1) the facts; and 2) the vigor with which our fellow panelists presented them, in the course of which Mark provided further evidence to support his decidedly dubious claim of being Herman Hattaway’s best looking AND smartest student.
This was followed with another few hours of concurrent sessions, with me giving a talk on “Lee at Sharpsburg”, which as a result of my effort to avoid basically repeating what I said the day before, ended up discussing everything but Sharpsburg in an effort to provide a context for understanding Lee’s actions. I hope the audience got something out of my talk, but it was by far my weakest performance of the seminar; something that was made even more painfully evident as a consequence of sandwiched between terrific presentations by Perry Jamieson (on organizational matters in the Maryland Campaign) and Vince Armstrong (on Sumner and II Corps). I recovered a bit during the Q & A (which was moderated by Dennis Frye), but still feel bad about what was a rather disjointed presentation. Hopefully, it will read better when its essential points appear in a forthcoming essay in North & South.
After a quick session at the hotel business center to post some comments in response to some of Brooks’s and Mark’s recent posts, I spent an hour or so in the hotel bar with some of the shadier characters participating in the seminar. Dinner was then served with Dana Shoaf of America’s Civil War giving a talk in which he provided some insights into recent developments with the magazine. This was followed by a fund-raising auction in which I managed to do quite well by doing good, snagging copies of two books I have been real eager to get, William Freehling’s Road to Disunion Vol. II and the John Tidball bio Kent State published a few years ago, at very good prices.