George and Ann RichardsCivil War Era Center

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2019 Brose Lectures Consider Rituals of Retaliation in the Civil War

2019 Brose Lectures Consider Rituals of Retaliation in the Civil War

Dr. Lorien Foote, Patricia & Bookman Peters Professor in History at Texas A&M University, will deliver three lectures on Civilization and Savagery in the American Civil War: Retaliation and the Conduct of Campaigns for the 2019 Steven and Janice Brose Distinguished Lecture Series. Taking place on October 24, 25, and 26 in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, the lectures are free and open to the public. This lecture series is sponsored by the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State through the generosity of an endowment by Steven and Janice Brose.

Every military campaign of the American Civil War included a ritual of retaliation. In these incidents, a commander charged his opponent with violating the customs of civilized warfare among western nations. The commander stated that if he did not receive a satisfactory response to his charge, he would retaliate, often threatening to execute prisoners of war that had been set aside for the purpose. During these negotiations, military commanders and the Lincoln and Davis administrations drew the lines that they believed should not be crossed in civilized warfare. Retaliation shaped how the Union and the Confederacy conducted their military campaigns, yet there has been no scholarly study of the practice. The Brose Lectures will use the rituals of retaliation to help the audience understand the cultural construct of “civilization” in the 19th century and its relationship to military practice in the Civil War.

The schedule is as follows:

— 6:00 p.m. Thursday, October 24: “The Sternest Feature of War”: The Ritual of Retaliation

— 6:00 p.m. Friday, October 25: Barbarians in a Civilized War: Retaliation and Servile Insurrection

— 4:00 p.m. Saturday, October 26: “Present Difficulty and Future Danger”: Retaliation and Free Black POWs

Dr. Foote is the Patricia & Bookman Peters Professor in History at Texas A&M University. She is the author of four books on the American Civil War and numerous articles and essays. Her books include The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy (2016), which was a 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title, and The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army (2010), which was a finalist and Honorable Mention for the 2011 Lincoln Prize.  Her digital humanities project, which is mapping the escape and movement of 3000 Federal prisoners of war, can be explored on-line at She is the co-editor, along with Earl J. Hess, of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Civil War.  

Lorien Foote