TNC’s Civil War

Updated thru June 22, 2015

I’m not much of an American history buff in general nor of the Civil War in particular. It’s terrifically important, but my interests are directed elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I have been soaking up the various posts and conversations at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s joint on the Civil War and have become convinced that at some point I should spend some serious time digging in this bloody dirt.

To that end, I’ve compiled a list of all of TNC’s posts to date (and which I will erratically update and annotate) on the Civil War.

Finally, check out Xin Jeisan’s blog TNC’s Civil War Research Circle, which includes much of this material as well as other CW sources, as well as TNC regular Andy Hall’s most excellent blog, Dead Confederates.

*UPDATE* Given how long this page is, I decided to move the list of posts for the Effete Liberal Book Club and the list of books and articles TNC has mentioned to it’s own page: TNC’s CW: Books & Book Club—right up there next to “TNC’s Civil War.”

*UPDATE2* TNC veered into 20th c European history beginning in the Fall of 2013, with his musings on history and horror consequently expanding. I’ve included some (not all) of those posts, but may at some point start a separate page to take those into account.

Happy (?) reading:

Warming up. . .

Now we’re in it:

  • Capitol Men, 4.22.09: Philip Dray’s Capitol Men; Reconstruction; Robert Smalls—who plotted to steal a Confederate ship & bring it across Union lines; Robert Brown Elliot; Elias Hill
  • The Civil War Wasn’t About Slavery, 4.27.09: Robert Brown Elliot debate w/Alexander Stephens over Civil Rights Act of 1875; excerpt from Stephens’s ‘Cornerstone Speech’
  • Ill Visions, 4.28.09: on Adelbert Ames, Reconstruction-era governor of Mississippi and his quote about the blacks subjection to a ‘second slavery’; Blanche Bruce; Edwards Pierrepont’s refusal to send federal troops to secure franchise for black men
  • Heritage Not Hate, 4.28.09: is flying/wearing/display of Confederate Flag racist; Alabama’s racial history; ‘not a racist’ arguments
  • The Battle Flag, 4. 29.09: quote from Sporcupine on Confederate ‘Battle Flag’, that began to be flown in 1950s; flag about revolt & rejection, not just about race; Battle Flag distinct from [genteel] ‘Stars and Bars’; class heritage
  • A Black Man on White People’s Money, 4.29.09: on Frederick Douglass replacing US Grant on fifty-dollar bill
  • The Book List, 4.30.09: Stephen Hahn; Louis Harlan; Wells Tower; Capitol Men; reading Reconstruction; ‘since I’ve started blogging, I’ve had to take in so much information, and while it’s made me smarter, it’s also made me aware of–again–how much there is to know’
  • Clarence Thomas Thinks He Has It Hard, 5.26.09: on black people not being passive or victims; Steven Hahn; black life in the 19th c; black radicals attack on black conservatives
  • Personhood, 6.2.09: on the analogy between slavery and abortion, and why it doesn’t hold; Meghan McArdle; Alexander Stephens and his ‘Cornerstone’ speech
  • Rambling About Reading, 6.5.09: on not judging the past by the present; Nation Under Our Feet; Battle Cry of Freedom
  • John Brown, Abortion, and the Limits of Historical Analogy, 6.5.09: on the ubiquity of violence in 19th c political life; murder of George Tiller
  • History Through the Veil, 6.8.09: on the disorientation of delving into the Civil War era; Dave Chapelle’s Jefferson skit; George Will and the ‘mood of Americans’ in the 1950s; Southern slant to Ken Burns’s Civil War?; Battle Cry of Freedom
  • For the Slavery\Civil War\Reconstruction Buff in You, 6.9.09: on the US not yet coming to terms with how much the antebellum Southern economy depending upon slavery; the absurdity of stating CW not about slavery; David Blight lectures (w/link)
  • Don’t Marry a Writer, 6.11.09: on being obsessed with the Civil War; US Grant as badass
  • Bottom Rail on Top, 6.17.09: on just finishing Battle Cry of Freedom
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest Has Beautiful Eyes, 6.17.09: on shredding myths regarding the slave trade; Guns, Germs, & Steel and history’s winners and losers; no noble victimhood, no cosmic justice; the South as a slave society; Jefferson Davis on slavery and state sovereignty;  Lost Cause mythology and its own version of noble victimhood
  • One Last Thought on Forrest, 6.17.09: on the pain and possibility in history, being on the wrong side of history; DoctorJay’s Trainspotting quote; Robert Hayden’s poem ‘Middle Passage’
  • One Last Civil War Thought For the Day, 6.17.09: Jourdan Anderson’s letter to his ex-master in Tennessee declining to work for him
  • Thank Him for Taking the Pistol From You, 6.18.09: more on the Jourdan Anderson letter, its authenticity, and the complications of the relationships between masters and slaves; the WPA oral history project, Remembering Slavery
  • Rambling About the Language of Slaves, 6.19.09: on beautiful language, language from the streets, the language of ex-slaves; David Blight lecture (w/link); freedman Bailey Wyatt at Union League meeting
  • Senate Apologizes for Slavery, 6.19.09: not much to say, other than to note it
  • In Every Black Man’s Eyes–Death to the Rebel, 6.23.09: on growing up thrilling to black militancy; Drew Faust’s The Republic of Suffering; Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard; black soldier response to Forrest’s Fort Pillow massacre; how the fact of black soldiers demolished rationale for slavery;  enough w/Confederate heroes—how about Ida B Wells and the rest?
  • Leaving the Lost Cause to Others, 6.24.09: reflecting on the photo from the previous post, of black soldiers, and what it meant to Confederates soldiers to see those black soldiers charging them; did those Confederates truly believe blacks were subhuman?
  • Homecoming, 6.24.09: on an old engraving showing black soldiers reuniting with their families, and how powerful an image that is to those raised on their own tragedy; Noah Andre Trudeau, Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War 1862-1865; Drew Faust
  • The Lincoln Connection, 7.2.09: on Lincoln (and Obama) and idealism in politics; Lincoln’s stance on behalf of dignity, in spite of own racism; black homophobia; politics as the art of the possible; the notion in the US that the problems of the majority are due to the problems w/the minority
  • A People’s History of the Civil War, 7.6.09: on the influence of Howard Zinn and radical histories; increased skepticism of (same) polemical history
  • Obsessed With The Accidental War for the Freedom of Black People, 7.6.09: numerous questions & comments about ACW:  expectations of black soldiers, Andre Cailloux’s ‘return’ from the dead, great quote from Reb Jeb Stuart on Union father-in-law, on Glory and Gods and Generals
  • Dumb Question Time, 7.9.09: what’s so important in CW about marching and forming a line and staying in ranks?
  • Civil War Booklist, 7.10.09: seven book recommendations on the CW: 1.) Ida: A Sword Among Lions–Paula Giddings; 2.) Up From History–Robert J. Norrell; 3.) Capitol Men–Phillip Dray; 4.) A Nation Under Our Feet–Steven Hahn; 5.) Battle Cry Of Freedom–James McPherson; 6.) This Republic Of Suffering–Drew Gilpin Faust; 7) Like Men Of War: Black Troops In The Civil War 1862-1865–Noah Andre Trudeau; also other books worth reading, incl. Foner’s; request for (nonfiction) recommendations on the South after the war
  • The War Inside the Civil War, 7.14.09: on NB Forrest’s massacre of black soldiers and Fort Pillow, and the context for it; Noah Andre Trudeau’s Like Men Of War; the two wars: bet. North and South and bet. slaves (and freedman) and masters; the various motivations for black soldiers
  • Civil War\Slavery Readings, 7.14.09: on reading  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass long ago; any good bios of Douglass?
  • The Year of Lincoln, 7.15.09: on Kiko House’s index of posts on Lincoln (w/link); need to read Lincoln bio, likely either Lincoln and His Generals or With Malice Toward None rather than Team of Rivals
  • The Myth of Black Confederate Soldiers, 7.15.09: on the insistence that blacks fought for the Confederacy, and the [primary document] evidence against this; quote from the Mississippi Document of Secession (w/link)
  • The War Against Spousal Aggression, 7.16.09: Kenyatta’s complaints about CW reading everywhere; North And South magazine; A Grand Army Of Black Men; Cannons: An Introduction To Civil War Artillery; general obsessiveness about a topic
  • If You Got a Racist Mind, 7.17.09: on Pat Buchanan’s rant that no black soldiers died at Vicksburg (w/link to rant); Southern diarist Kate Stone unable to conceive that black soldiers could beat white [Texan!] soldiers at battle of Milliken’s Bend
  • The Civil War Report, 7.30.09: Stonewall Jackson vs. Jourdan Anderson is far more interesting than Henry Louis Gates vs. James Crowley; disappointment in lack of good books on black Union and possible reasons for this; Bruce Levine’s  Confederate Emancipation and the Confederate debate (and delusions) over using colored troops
  • Confederate Emancipation and Gay Marriage, 7.31.09: on Patrick Cleburne’s too-little, too-late pitch to the Confederacy to use black soldiers; Bruce Levine on how the slaves themselves forced Confederates to reconsider position;  the delusion that blacks would be happy to fight to remain slaves—a kind of ‘conversion therapy’
  • In the Name of White Divinity, 8.5.09: on knowledge of the Bible and understanding people in ACW era; the stupidity of converting slaves to Christianity and believing they wouldn’t make own uses of its message; Niebuhr; Bacevich; that in the early 19th c some Americans made themselves into gods [w/godlike powers over other people]; on the lengths people will go to to hang on to supremacy
  • Only Built for Civil War Nerds, 8.7.09: Bruce Levine’s lecture on Confederate Emancipation (w/video)
  • The Day They Drove Old Dixie Down, 8.7.09: on traveling to Virginia, and asking for suggestions
  • The South Rises Again, 8.12.09: taking the family to Virginia, following obsession
  • “No Men Ever Fought More Bravely To Keep Themselves in Bondage”, 8.17.2009: satire on Of Battlefields And Bibliophiles blog (w/link)
  • Virginia [pt I, Petersburg], 8.17.09: on negotiating family and ACW obsession; stopping at the Crater, site of Union debacle and mass death of black troops; so many monuments by Sons or Daughters of the Confederacy and their support of Lost Cause; no monuments to black soldiers; film at visitor’s center on Fall of Petersburg–what if told from slaves’ perspectives?
  • Virginia [pt II, Richmond], 8.17.09: long excerpt from chaplain Garland White’s letter, as cited in A Grand Army Of Black Men, source of family reunion story; Aaron MacGruder’s ‘reserve the right to be a nigger’; getting angry at all the ways black people and black history overlooked;  can’t love The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, any more than a Sioux would likely love The Died With Their Boots On;
  • Virginia [pt III, Shirley on the James], 8.19.09: on finishing Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom; on majesty of the Shirley Plantation on the James; on the kids’ interest in the Plantation; black and white relations, sexual and otherwise, then and now, New York and Virginia; Wal-Mart and America and getting what you want; what did in white supremacy, and is there just another kind of supremacy today; no one is clean
  • In the Mail Today, 8.19.09: Daniel Walker Howe’s What God Hath Wrought; on other readings—The Glorious Cause, Empire of Liberty; trying to get a handle on CW imagery
  • Virginia, [pt IV, The Wilderness], 8.21.09: on the overwhelm of Virginia, and how it even got to Kenyatta; visiting a cemetery of Union colored troops;  not much to see, too much to feel; Grant not overly impressed with Lee
  • The Wit and Witticism of Slaves, 8.21.09: Weevils In The Wheat: Interviews With Virginia’s Ex-Slaves—not for everyone, but a key reminder that slavery dynamic, not static, and not the same experience for all; quotes from Jimmie Green, Mildred Graves, and Robert Ellet
  • A Little More on Virginia, 8.25.09: Kevin Levin responds to TNC’s Virginia posts on his blog Civil War Memory (w/link), notes that National Park CW presentations have changed, although not enough; Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic Of Suffering better than Battle Cry of Freedom in incorporating black soldier experiences
  • You Lie Pt. 3, 9.10.09: partisan politics nothing new—consider Preston Brook’s caning of Sumner on the Senate floor, and his later demurral to a duel challenge from Anson Burlingame
  • The Civilized World, 9.10.09: Robert Middlekauf’s The Glorious Cause notes that most of Europe thought the English barbarians & the English thought of Americans what whites thought of blacks
  • And South Carolina Shall Rise Again, 9.11.09: Thomas Schaller on SC politics vis-a-vis the rest of the country, teeing off on NYTimes discussion (w/link);  ‘how patriotism has been coopted by people who claim the Confederate flag’ while black leaders dismissed as un-American

Not a Civil War post, exactly (Sending This One Out to Patrick J Buchanan, 10.22.2009), but Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings singing ‘This Land is Your Land’. Good to listen to while perusing.

Okay, to continue:

n.b.1: TNC has a number of posts on Austen and Wharton, only some of which are included here; he does note that thinking about a “bounded society” helps him to understand slave society, but a number of the Wharton and even more, the Austen, posts are more about style or humor than anything else; still, at some point I may go back and add ’em.

n.b.2: I include the article “The Case for Reparations” (which includes references to antebellum period) and posts directly about it, but not those (largely in the fall of 2014) which are focused on 20th & 21st c experiences

Two (further) notes on this list: One, I tried to restrict it to explicit mentions of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and not to general questions of the South; it’s a fuzzy line, and some threads might be included or excluded which should not be. Two, I don’t delve into OTAN threads—even my obsessive archivalism has its limits.

*Note three: As I’m updating links after July 5, 2011, I’m reconsidering some of the choices I made earlier regarding exclusion of posts indirectly related to the ACW, specifically those regarding literature (e.g.g, George Eliot, Jane Austen) and events elsewhere in world history (e.g., Thirty Years War). Some had been included, some hadn’t, depending on how directly they were indirectly related, but I think I’m going to go with a more generous inclusion policy from this point forward. And if I ever get to it, I’ll go back over pre-July 5 posts and add indirectly-directly related posts back in.


29 responses

7 10 2010
Coates’ Civil War « Dead Confederates

[…] one of the regulars there who goes by the handle absurdbeats has assembled a compliation of Civil War related posts from Coates’ place, going back just over two year. Both the posts themselves and the discussions that follow are often […]

7 10 2010
Andy Hall

Thanks you for doing this. It’s awesome, with a side of awesome sauce.

7 10 2010

Ala George Clooney in Burn After Reading:

“Oh… Oh my… Oh my fuck!”

7 10 2010

God job. I did a <a href"post in my blog linking back to you and TNC, with Goldberg’s hilarious 2008 interview.

26 10 2010
Peer Review and the Public Sphere – The Aporetic

[…] Civil War con­ducted at the Atlantic blog of Ta-Nehisi Coates, which you can find col­lected at this link. Or look at a spe­cific thread from that series, like this one. Here we have a blog­ger with a […]

12 11 2010
Ta-Nehisi Coates

Thanks again for this. It is greatly, greatly appreciated.


26 01 2011

Dude, this is awesome. Shall be bookmarked forthwith.

31 01 2011

I was thinking last week that I wish there was a
resource for the great work Coates and team
have been doing…


3 03 2011
Academic Editor 2.0 – The Aporetic

[…] Civil War blog­ging done by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. Most of the posts are col­lected at this link. Coates is not an his­to­rian, but he’s a smart guy com­mit­ted to learn­ing. He often blogs […]

25 01 2012
stephen matlock

This is a phenomenal resource.

25 01 2012
Renee Perry

Amazing work, thank you!

24 03 2012

i think you should not call it tnc as i thought it ment trans natinol corporation

18 10 2012

Your articles inspired me to create Civil War Bummer……foraging food for thought. One of my sons reccomended your site on TNC. The purpose of the Bummer Blog is to share the wisdom and literary wonder of leaders during the Civil War era. Where is that eloquence today? If your time permits, please review and critique my site. Thank you in advance for your input. Bummer will always be a work in progress.
My youngest daughter(25 years), did not know the Civil War definition of bummer, so I included it as my first post.

I remain,


20 10 2012

Grant had the ability to take his experiences and apply them to battle as well as political philosophy. This writer believes that the thoughts and judgements of the leaders during the Civil War era bear directly on current political events.


“It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may expect the most efficient service.”

“A united determination to do is worth more than divided counsels upon the method of doing”

“Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.”

Ulysses S. Grant

2 04 2014
TNC’s Civil War (an anthology) | Thoughts on Everything under the Sun or I am a guilty Secularist

[…] one of the regulars over at Ta-Nehisi Coates Atlantic blog, has assembled a annotated compliation of Civil War related posts from Coates’ place, going back over two […]

26 06 2014
Slavery Made America – The Atlantic | News Station Online

[…] five years ago, I began a deep dive into the Civil War, most of it chronicled here. That dive culminated in an essay in our commemorative Civil War issue, much like my deep dive on […]

26 06 2014
Slavery Made America – The Atlantic |

[…] five years ago, I began a deep dive into the Civil War, most of it chronicled here. That dive culminated in an essay in our commemorative Civil War issue, much like my deep dive on […]

26 06 2014
Slavery Made America – The Atlantic | Everyday News Update

[…] five years ago, I began a deep dive into the Civil War, most of it chronicled here. That dive culminated in an essay in our commemorative Civil War issue, much like my deep dive on […]

26 06 2014
Slavery Made America – The Atlantic | News Update

[…] five years ago, I began a deep dive into the Civil War, most of it chronicled here. That dive culminated in an essay in our commemorative Civil War issue, much like my deep dive on […]

27 06 2014
Slavery Made America – The Atlantic | Trending News | Latest News | Online News | Reliable News| Fast News At

[…] five years ago, I began a deep dive into the Civil War, most of it chronicled here. That dive culminated in an essay in our commemorative Civil War issue, much like my deep dive on […]

1 09 2014
Institute of the Black World » Slavery Made America

[…] five years ago, I began a deep dive into the Civil War, most of it chronicled here. That dive culminated in an essay in our commemorative Civil War issue, much like my deep dive on […]

18 09 2014
social media Enfield

I like looking through aan article that can make people think.

Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

24 09 2014
127 JSJ Changes in npm-Land with Forrest Norvell, Rebecca Turner, Ben Coe, and Isaac Z. Schlueter

[…] Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Civil War (Forrest) […]

7 10 2014
Ta-Nehisi Coates describes how painful it is to learn | A Teacher's Writes

[…] I became a decent one. I knew very little about the Civil War. And then I read some books, and I knew much more. It’s true that I was not a scholastic high-achiever. But have always been—and expect to […]

26 01 2015
Movie Monday: Glory (1989) | The Gonzo History Project

[…] kid (I watched it in junior high history class c. 1991, I believe). You could do worse than read pretty much everything Coates has ever written about the Civil War, by the way. He’s unflinching about […]

16 02 2015
Marchons, marchons | AbsurdBeats

[…] TNC's Civil War […]

12 03 2018
Why I'm Relieved Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Writing Captain America - Graphic Policy

[…] the word Lincolnesque is an important tell in the passage above. If you’ve followed Coates’ reading and writing about the Civil War for at least six years, you’ll know that he spent a good bit of time wrestling with Abraham […]

12 03 2018
Why ‘Im Relieved Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Writing Captain America - Lawyers, Guns & Money

[…] the word Lincolnesque is an important tell in the passage above. If you’ve followed Coates’ reading and writing about the Civil War for at least six years, you’ll know that he spent a good bit of time wrestling with Abraham […]

3 11 2018
Why Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Between The World and Me’ Is Not the Masterpiece We Hoped For –

[…] could have been this book. Coates has been that writer for me, personally. His guided journey through the Civil War, through segregation and race relations and so many other topics, have been that for thousands of […]

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