David S. Reynolds, a Distinguished Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, is the author or editor of fifteen books, including Walt Whitman’s America, Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, John Brown, Abolitionist, and, most recently, ­Lincoln’s Selected Writings.
 (March 2018)

IN THE REVIEW

Fine Specimens

Walt Whitman and his rebel soldier friend Pete Doyle, Washington, D.C., 1865

The Afterlives of Specimens: Science, Mourning, and Whitman’s Civil War

by Lindsay Tuggle

Drum-Taps: The Complete 1865 Edition

by Walt Whitman, edited by Lawrence Kramer
Americans in the second half of the nineteenth century had no sure prospect of resting in peace after death. If their bodies weren’t embalmed for public viewing or dug up for medical dissection, their bones were liable to be displayed in a museum. In some cases, their skin was used as book covers by bibliophiles and surgeons with a taste for human-hide binding. The preservation, exhumation, and exhibition of human remains become, in the hands of the literary critic Lindsay Tuggle, an illuminating basis for a provocative reassessment of America’s foremost poet, Walt Whitman.

The Slave Owners’ Foreign Policy

A slave family, Savannah, Georgia, early 1860s

This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy

by Matthew Karp
The US Civil War was once commonly interpreted as a conflict between a progressive North, industrially strong and committed to a powerful central government, and a backward South that clung to states’ rights and agrarianism in its effort to preserve slavery. In this reading, proposed most influentially by the late …

Our Ruinous Betrayal of Indians and Black Americans

‘Battle of the Thames—Death of Tecumseh’; engraving by William Wellstood after a painting by Alonzo Chappel, 1882

Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation

by Nicholas Guyatt
A nineteenth-century mural in the Illinois state capitol building is remarkably progressive about race. It depicts the Virginian Edward Coles in 1819, bound for Illinois on a flatboat on the Ohio River, liberating the seventeen slaves he had brought with him. Not hinted at by the mural is the disquieting …

The Commander of Civil War History

James M. McPherson giving a tour of Shiloh National Military Park, Tennessee, 2008

Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief

by James M. McPherson

The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

by James M. McPherson
By early April 1865, the Confederacy was in free fall. William Tecumseh Sherman had cut a swath of destruction through Georgia and the Carolinas. On April 2, Ulysses S. Grant broke Robert E. Lee’s line at Petersburg, Virginia. The next day Grant took Richmond, the Confederate capital. Abraham Lincoln arrived …