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Congrats to Cecily Zander and Mallory Huard!

Congrats to Cecily Zander and Mallory Huard!

Cecily Zander and Mallory Huard

Congratulations to Cecily Zander and Mallory Huard who have been accepted into the Bavarian American Academy in Munich. They will be attending the 9th International Summer Academy, “Questions of the Archive,” on May 20-June 3 where they will hear keynote lectures by US and European speakers, present their works-in-progress, and attend workshops to discuss key texts in the field. The program also includes a cultural program in and around Nürnberg and trips to Munich and Bamberg as well as visits to museums, and other cultural events related to the overall theme of the summer school.

More information on the Summer Academy:

Congratulations to Tyler Sperrazza!

Congratulations to Tyler Sperrazza who was named one of eighteen Fellows of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium for 2017-2018. The fellowship will fund research in four different archives in Boston (The Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston Athenaeum, Harvard Law Library, and Harvard Theatre Collection) and will be critical to his dissertation entitled, “Defiant: African American Cultural and Legal Responses to Northern White Supremacy, 1865-1915.”

Men Go to Battle and the Civil War’s Dark Turn by Cecily N. Zander

ABRUPT, adj. Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannonshot and the departure of the soldier whose interests are most affected by it. Dr. Samuel Johnson beautifully said of another author’s ideas that they were “concatenated without abruption.”
                                                  – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

  Image of Henry Mellon (Tim Morton) in Men Go to Battle. A soldier with no real reason for going to war. Courtesy of FilmMovement.

Image of Henry Mellon (Tim Morton) in Men Go to Battle. A soldier with no real reason for going to war. Courtesy of FilmMovement.

In Zachary Treitz’s 2015 film Men Go to Battle, the Civil War becomes the site of a dark comedy. The film follows in a tradition of fictional accounts of the conflict that deal with the violence of war through humor. Just as Ambrose Bierce’s short fiction made the war seem comically ironic and disorienting, the film relies on a tone of dark humor to reconcile the violence of the era with the mundane lives of its central protagonists. In so doing, the film also speaks to the current scholarly focus on the war’s dark side. This places Men Go to Battle in a cinematic tradition of film as a critique of war, but updates that tradition for a twenty-first-century audience.

The film begins with brothers Henry and Francis Mellon, who eke out a living on their Kentucky farm, until the Civil War abruptly arrives. The film opens in November, 1861, in the fictional Small’s Corner, Kentucky. Francis and Henry struggle to manage their 200-acre farm. Low on resources, Francis begins making precarious financial decisions and taking out his frustrations in a series of escalating pranks on Henry, from buying two mules in the middle of winter (“I got a great deal!”) to throwing an ax at his brother in a drunken stupor. The ax throwing incident ends in a severe injury to Henry’s hand and the need for the town doctor’s services. Finding that the entire town has turned out for a party at the home of the Smalls, the towns wealthiest, slave-owning residents, the brothers seek the doctor there. Henry receives treatment for his hand and returns to the party, determined to speak with Betsy Small, for whom he clearly has amatory feelings. Following a fumbling and failed romantic gesture, an embarrassed Henry runs off into the night.

The entire article can be viewed on the Journal of the Civil War Era Muster blog.

Cecily N. Zander is a PhD student studying the Civil War and nineteenth century U.S. History at The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a B.A. in History from the University of Virginia. Her current work focuses on the intersection of the Civil War and the Indian Wars. Broadly, her work seeks to explore how the West figured in the military and political policy-making of the United States throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Review of Judith Giesberg’s book, Sex and the Civil War

Review of Judith Giesberg’s book, Sex and the Civil War: Soldiers, Pornography, and the Making of American Morality, by Sarah Handley-Cousins. The book is drawn from Giesberg’s 2014 Brose Lectures and is the tenth volume in the Brose Book series. Giesberg is Professor of History and director of the graduate program at Villanova University.


The Spoils of War: A Review of Sex and the Civil War by  

Many years ago when I was first starting my dissertation research on Civil War disability, I had an opportunity to sit in on a question and answer session with historian Marcus Rediker, who was talking about his book, not yet released at the time, The Amistad Rebellion. Part of the conversation revolved around the experience of writing scenes of intense violence, and I remember asking: how do we write about violence without fetishizing it? We didn’t land on an easy answer, but it was both a fascinating and disturbing thought. Do we glorify violence when we reproduce it over and over in our work?

Judith Giesberg’s new volume, tantalizingly titled Sex and the Civil War, is a powerful exploration of this question. Giesberg’s chief aim is to “discover the Civil War origins of American antipornography,” specifically in the quest of Anthony Comstock, the (in)famous moral crusader against obscenity in late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The book does far more than that, describing the sexual culture of the Union army camps, examining the roots of Comstock’s anti-obscenity quest, contemplating wartime anxieties over both masculinity and marriage, and the shared themes of anti-slavery literature and nineteenth century erotica — all in a brief, 108-page monograph. Though all of these explorations are both fun and fascinating, what struck me the most — and what I suspect might strike other Civil War historians most — is Giesberg’s underlying discussion of “the ways in which our writing about war at times reproduces some of what concerns us about pornography.”1

Complete review can be viewed at:


Congratulations to Crystal Sanders!

Congratulations to Crystal R. Sanders, Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies, who won the New Scholar's Book Award, History of Education, from the American Educational Research Association - Division F, for her book: A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle!

More informaton on this award can be viewed at:

Congratulations to Jonathan White!

Congratulations to Jonathan White (B.A. 2001) on his new book: Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War!

Dr. White is an Associate Professor aChristopher Newport University where he teaches American Studies courses on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, and the history of treason in America.  

Jonathan also recently wrote an article for the UNC Press blog entitled: 8 Simple Rules for Prospective Graduate Students in History.