Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Civil War—eerie similarities then and now

By Kathleen Maher

Many of us have seen the movie Lincoln, and some of us may have even rooted for Daniel Day Lewis to win the Oscar for his portrayal of history’s favorite president. The timing of this movie is interesting, as is the White House’s presentation of the award for Movie of the Year, presumably in case Spielberg’s biopic won. Coincidence? Perhaps. And why might that be?

I’m glad you asked. If desperate times call for desperate measures, then the orchestrators of controversial measures are less likely to be questioned if the attention of the people is diverted. Parties are a perfectly suitable distraction, and Mary Todd Lincoln sure knew how to throw a soiree. She is the first of the presidents’ wives to go all out decorating and entertaining in the White House. She recognized and capitalized on the power of social networking to advance her husband’s agendas long before there was a twitter to tweet or a facebook to read.

 Controversial measures are not new in the presidency. Lincoln suspended the writ of Habeus Corpus under the threat of Confederate spying. That means he could detain anyone he felt was a threat to national security with absolutely no body of evidence. Sound familiar? It should. Under the current president, drones and a national security force have been declared a viable option against US citizens deemed a threat—with no evidence necessary. And then there are the expansions of executive power. 

Like our current president, Lincoln was a master at stretching the constitution, such as in declaring the first draft.

My new novella, Bachelor Buttons is a look at what happened in New York City when Lincoln’s Conscription Act was enforced. In some ways, the New York City draft riots are reminiscent of the Occupy Wall street movement. Targeting wealthy republican presses and business owners, thousands of Irish immigrants took to the streets to protest the draft in July 1863. Class warfare, racial prejudice and employment were central issues then, as they are now among the 99%. An element of Tea Party disgruntlement with government thrown in, the Irish felt that the expansion of government and cronyism tainted this unfair legislation, favoring those who could buy their way out of the draft, and exempting freed blacks who were not yet citizens. The struggling Irish felt targeted, new to the country and competing for the most basic jobs with the freedmen.

Exceeding the anarchy of Occupiers and the rhetoric of Tea Partiers, the Civil War draft protest turned violent. Hundreds were killed, mainly peaceful blacks. Dozens of buildings were destroyed, including a black orphanage. The Irish community had much to account for. But there were also instances of heroism, such as an Irish firefighter who fought for hours to save the orphanage, and other Irish who defended black neighbors and friends. Bachelor Buttons is based on these heroes, with some of my family history thrown in.

I am offering a copy of Bachelor Buttons, plus some Irish and Civil War goodies to one lucky commenter. Follow Tina’s blog, and my blog for extra entries. Winner selected Wednesday the 22nd.  Good luck!

You can purchase the novella at Amazon


Kathleen Maher said...

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Tina. So awesome to be here. Looking forward to interacting with your readers.

Davalyn Spencer said...

What an interesting comparison between the two eras and presidents. I loved the movie "Lincoln" and I'm pleased to learn that you have paid such close attention to detail in your book.

Linda Marie Finn said...

I have the book Lincoln , have not seen the movie.
Ioved you book Kathleen. Thank you Tina for this blog of yours.
Linda Finn

Kathleen Maher said...

Thank you, Davalyn. I love history and all of it snuances, and am a firm believer in history repeating itself.
Thank you Linda. The movie is very interesting. Loved the interplay and interpretation of the various characters--Mary Todd Lincoln, Secretary Seward, Lincoln of course, and the rest of the cast. Tommy Lee Jones was amazing.

Tina Pinson said...

Kathleen, you are most welcome. I love visitors. I am bad sometimes at posting.

Davalyn and Linda, I so love it that you stopped in as well.

I find the Civil War Interesting, perhaps that's why I write about the time. the whole lifestyle reason behind the war fascinates me and the sentments are still alive. That became evident by my husband's comment when we watched the mivie Lincoln.. Lincoln is a larger than life president. But my husband made mention of how he orchestrated this whole thing against the south.
Kind if amazed me.

rubynreba said...

I have bachelor buttons in my flower garden and they are beautiful! I enjoy reading Civil War era books and this sounds very interesting!

Kathleen Maher said...

Hi, Ruby--They are so pretty in teh garden, aren't they? I have grown them for a few years now and I usually get pale blue, but every now and then I get a few pink. Very exciting! LOL Thanks for coming by.

Kathleen Maher said...

Tina, your husband sounds very intelligent and well read. You both share a passion for history, and that is sooo cool. You should interview him on your blog one of these days.

Tina Pinson said...

Never thought of interviewing him. Have to give that some consideration. He's Georgia boy. Got his middle name from General Lee


Kathleen Maher said...

My middle name is Lee, too! That's funny. My mother's aunt Mamie was convinced that our relative William Lee was a relative of General Lee. Hey, you never know. . . ;)

Veronica Sternberg said...

I've heard this is really good! I'd love to win! I follow both blogs already. shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com

Tina Pinson said...

Reba and Veronica, how wonderful for you stop by and say hello.
Reba I bet your garden is beautiful. I haven't managed to get one going again since we moved to Arizona. Maybe soon I'll get one going again.

Tina Pinson said...

Kathleen, my husband would like to think he's kin to Robert E. Lee and I'm certain he's not alone. My mother's middle name was Lea, my husband and son's middle names are Lea.

My husband's grandfather's name was Robert Lee. He has a couple aunts with the middle name Lee. I was born in the south but I wasn't gifted with the proper middle moniker. Go figure.

Kathleen Maher said...

Veronica, thanks so much for coming by! You made me smile, saying you've heard good things about the novella.I'm flattered, and we all know that flattery gets you everywhere! LOL Good luck on the contest. :)

bonton said...

Love Civil War stories - interesting subject for this book!

Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

I follow both blogs - Tina & Kathleen.

Kathleen Maher said...

Thanks, Bonnie. I appreciate those follows! Hope you get a chance to read BB and good luck on the goodie basket!

Kathleen Maher said...

And the winner of the giveaway via is RUBYNREBA! Congratulations, and thank you for visiting the blog.
I apprecaite Tina having me on this week! Thank you to everybody who visited and left comments. Blessings! Kathy

Tina Pinson said...

Congrats to the winner. And thanks to Kathleen for being so efficient. I was just getting ready to come pick as well.

Thanks to everyone for visiting.