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Kate Stone’s Civil War: No disorder


From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone makes a casual but chilling reference to enduring racial violence, a hint of what is to come in subsequent years.

Aug. 14, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Mamma is out in the backyard directing the making of a barrel of wine from the native grapes which have ripened in the greatest profusion, hanging in great purple clusters over the blackjack oaks. They are brought into town by the wagonload. Both the boys and Sister are at the writing school where they stay all day, and I, being too lazy to sew … must scribble for amusement.

Mollie Moore sent us over a number of newspapers with full accounts of the imprisonment of our beloved President Jefferson Davis. He pines in his captivity like a caged eagle. Heard directly from My Brother through Hutch Bowman, who stayed with us several days on his way to Kaufman County. We may expect him about the last of the month. … There is a great rush for the river lands. All are anxious to secure a place above overflow. …

Jimmy and Willy Carson spent a pleasant week with us lately, and we gave them much good advice on the subject of flirting, which I hope they will lay to heart. Jimmy is an exceedingly handsome, attractive boy. Jimmy had made a pair of gloves of soft white buckskin and got me to embroider the gauntlets for him in gay colored silks. They were really pretty if not fashionable, a word the meaning of which we have almost forgotten. …

These grey August days we have little to do and little company. Mollie Moore and her two brothers will be over this evening to play cards. …

Our melon patch is exhausted but melons in town are selling for ten cents a dozen. None should go unfed at that rate. Mrs. Tooke kindly furnishes us with plenty of peaches.

Quite a number of Negroes are flocking into town, but there is no disorder. Occasionally we hear of a Negro shot down and lying unburied in the woods.

The Funniest Place on Earth: Massachusetts and the Modern Comedy Scene

Originally posted on Southern Historian:


Massachusetts doesn’t get enough credit for comedy. For some reason, southerners think they have a distinct sense of humor. I can’t remember who said it (maybe Roy Blount), but as one southerner put it, “It’s hard to be funny when it’s cold out.”

Well, maybe not when you’re walking through a blizzard with a -20 windchill factor. But the Bay State ranges from bitter cold to oppressive heat. August days can get to 100 degrees. Bipolar weather can make for bipolar people. And comedy is often born of mental illness. The result is, for its size, Massachusetts has produced some of the best comics and comedians ever.


Many of those who have made it in the late 20th century comedy scene were born in Massachusetts. Doug Stanhope and Denis Leary were born in Worcester. If you lived in central Mass…

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Illustrating the heart in a million different ways

Some friends have told me how much they love the photos that accompany most of my posts. Their compliments honor me.

I don’t consider myself a photographer, just someone who loves interesting patterns — the more abstract and colorful and contrasted the better. I tend to find beauty in everything I see.

My simple Tumblr blog collects and displays the best of the art I’ve used on Stillness of Heart, along with a variety of other odd photos, gifs, and videos.

Follow me on Tumblr, and enjoy.

The Best Biographies of Ulysses S. Grant

Originally posted on My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies:

USGrantStampDespite the pivotal role he played in the Civil War and the importance of his administration to Reconstruction, I don’t recall spending any meaningful time studying Ulysses S. Grant in school.

My only brush with his presidency involved memorizing his name as one of the then-forty presidents during a high school trip to the Texas State History Fair. During that drive to Austin we had to do something.…so those of us on the trip decided to learn the presidents’ names in order. Sad, really.

When I finished reading a dozen biographies of Lincoln a couple months ago I assumed I would be in for a slow spell until my encounter with Teddy Roosevelt sometime early in 2015. Fortunately, Grant and his biographers proved me very wrong!

Ulysses Grant’s life story is astonishingly fascinating. There are certainly stretches of his life which proved dull and uneventful – and sometimes spectacularly unsuccessful. But…

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Confessions of a (Former?) Book Hoarder

Originally posted on Southern Historian:


“What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?”

–Jerry to George on Seinfeld

If you are a historian, you probably have lots of books. The same goes for all academics, historians or otherwise. You might have so many books, in fact, that they have become a problem. A problem to store, a problem to move, a problem to get read. Let’s face it, some of us are book hoarders.

I am a recovering one. Or at least, committed to change. It was easy to buy books when I was in graduate school. Much of my time was spent reading. In my first year at LSU, most of my waking hours were spent reading. And that is not an exaggeration. Grad school is intellectual boot camp and not all enlistees…

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Some of 2015’s best Civil War books … so far


Biographies, campaign studies, general histories, and analyses form the core of any season’s mountain of Civil War scholarship, but publishers in 2015 offer excellent work that both casual and serious readers of the Civil War should know about. The rich bounty is likely — in part, at least — a result of the sesquicentennial sunshine that bathed the Civil War academic field for the last five years. Here are a few highlights.

No publishing season is stronger than when Gary W. Gallagher contributes one of his essay anthologies on a military campaign. Late September will see Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign (University of North Carolina Press, 360 pp., $35), edited by Gallagher and Caroline E. Janney. The title suggests their overall argument, which marks the end of the pointless Battle of the Crater as the true conclusion of the brutal three-month-long confrontation between Lee and Grant in 1864. Only then, the historians argue, did siege warfare become the Union’s primary tool for the final strangulation of the Confederacy’s most important army and capital city. As with each of the entries in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series, contributors examine military strategies and tactics, focus on particular participants, and consider how home-front politics and civilian expectations affected and were affected by Confederate military strategy.

J. Matthew Gallman offers a fascinating intellectual and cultural history with Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front (University of North Carolina Press, 336 pp., $45), in which he considers how Northerners perceived their obligations of duty and citizenship as their nation endured civil war. He explores how novels and songs, poems and news stories, editorials and cartoons all contributed citizens’ understanding of where they fit in the home-front tapestry and how they could each contribute to the war effort. Race, class, and gender all played key roles in that psychological and political dynamic, and Gallman’s work skillfully weaves together those elements into a fresh historical analysis.

Bradley R. Clampitt’s The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory (University of Nebraska Press, 200 pp., $25) promises a fascinating examination of the dynamics of war, political power, the collapse of slavery, and racial re-ordering within the context of Native America. Clampitt assembles a bouquet of essays by stellar scholars to explore the antebellum, wartime, and postwar tensions between tribes and nations, their calculated loyalties to North or South, and questions over the future of former slaves and indigenous participants in the war. Any understanding of the historical scope and effect of the Civil War’s overall political and social consequences is incomplete without an intelligent incorporation of Indian experiences and memories. Clampitt’s collection, scheduled for a December release, is certainly a work to anticipate and savor.

Pair that perspective with The World the Civil War Made (University of North Carolina Press, 392 pp. $29.95), an essay anthology edited by Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur. More than a dozen stellar historians consider how postwar policies and consequences rippled throughout specific political and social dynamics in U.S. territories, in the U.S. Southwest, and across the world. The work’s great strength is its embrace of multiple national and international stories unfolding simultaneously, affecting and affected by each other, all contributing to a vibrant array of societies grappling with new notions of liberty and republicanism in a post-slavery world.

Terry Alford contributes a long-overdue re-assessment of John Wilkes Booth with Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth (Oxford University Press, 416 pp., $29.95). Alford’s Booth carried multiple psychological burdens throughout his life. He endured the pressure of measuring up to his successful thespian father and brothers. His inherent gifts as an actor/performer quickly shoved his life under a burning and blinding spotlight of celebrity. His fury over the Confederacy’s defeat warped his identity from an actor into a self-proclaimed citizen-soldier defending Southern honor and survival, with a deadly determination to seize a starring role on the Civil War’s bloodstained stage. These pressures combined to turn Booth into the madman who concocted multiple harebrained plots to destabilize the Lincoln administration. Booth doomed the post-war prospects of racial peace and progress with a single gunshot, and he catapulted Andrew Johnson, one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, into the center of political power just when Lincoln’s political genius was most needed.

Mark Smith presents a fascinating examination of the sights, sounds, and scents of war with The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 216 pp., $22.36). Basing his exploration on descriptions he found in letters and other primary sources, he attempts to reconstruct what it felt like to be submerged in a Confederate submarine, what it tasted like to live in a city under Union siege, and what it sounded like to hear Confederate shells pound Fort Sumter into submission. Too few historical works explore their subjects from such an elemental and creative perspective. Smith offers details that belong in every lecture, speech, and conversation about the Civil War.

James M. McPherson offers a book-length response to the deceptively simple question, “why does the Civil War matter?” His recent work, The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters (Oxford University Press, 224 pp., $27.95), is more relevant than ever. If nothing else, the violent first half of 2015 offered stark and violent case studies to bolster his arguments. There was certainly no better example than recent debates over the Confederate flag, its multifaceted significance throughout the U.S., and the reasons for and against its presence amidst the everyday imagery of American life and culture.

Public and political bitterness over the intractability and enduring power of institutional racism, the historical understanding and explanation of the reasons for the Civil War, the long journey of civil rights through the nineteenth, twentieth, and now twenty-first centuries, debates over the power of federal and state governments — all are titanic, central, and deeply painful issues that the Civil War confronted like no other event in U.S. history. Every citizen’s pursuit of happiness intersects with or passes over or under each of these issues, among many others, and a better understanding of the war affords all of us better maneuverability past the heated rhetoric, better capacity to comprehend how those issues shape our societies, and better appreciation of our history’s overall vital importance to our American life.


I recently received wonderful news from the Society of Civil War Historians. According to their press release, the Society and the Watson-Brown Foundation honored Shauna Devine, assistant history professor at the University of Western Ontario, with the Tom Watson Brown Book Award for 2015 for her excellent 2014 book Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science (University of North Carolina Press, 2014, 384 pp., $39.95). The book explored how the war enabled U.S. physicians to improve their medical expertise, share their hard-won knowledge in new ways, and link their experiences with the larger international medical community. It was crucial to my recent work as a research assistant as I broadened and deepened my understanding of Civil War medical history. Highly recommended.

Read more about Devine’s honor here.

A Brief History on the Rebel Flag

Originally posted on Reject Reality:

The Confederate flag has a long and complex history, much of which is not in its favor. The beloved “Southern Cross” is only one edition of the confederacy’s flags, but it is the most common and relevant to racism in America as a whole.

So here’s a little history:

It is true that the South illegally seceded from the rest of the United States and went to battle over states rights, but they were fighting for states rights to own slaves. In fact, the Corner-Stone of the Southern Confederacy states that the foundation of the Confederacy is based upon, “The great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.”

Slavery was obviously widespread throughout the nation prior to the Civil War, but the southern states of the Confederacy were endeavoring to maintain that “right” after the Union decided that it wasn’t such a great idea after all.

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