Reading about the ferocity of Civil War battles and the massive numbers of casualties, one can’t help but wonder how things got so out of hand and resulted in such a cataclysm, and why so many soldiers were willing to subject themselves to such danger and sacrifice so much. BBC Radio 3 ran a documentary series on the history of the American Civil War that offers a very concise but illuminating overview of the causes of the Civil War from southern and northern perspectives. The segment from the southern perspective is called “Dr Adam Smith on the War of the South in America,” and aired on 7/25/12. The program includes brief comments by several professors, some of whom have written major books on the Civil War, including James McPherson of Princeton University, Eric Foner of Columbia University, Gary W. Gallagher of the University of Virginia, David Blight of Yale University, and Edward L. Ayers, President of the University of Richmond. This program provides a fascinating overview of many of the key causes of Southern secession.
My daughter attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, founded in 1749. “Lee” is in the name of the school because Robert E. Lee was president of the University for a short time after the Civil War. He is interred there in a beautiful building on the campus of W&L called “Lee Chapel.” Virginia Military Institute is also in Lexington, Virginia, right down the street from W&L. Thomas Jonathan Jackson was a professor there before he joined the Confederate Army and earned the nickname “Stonewall Jackson.” General Jackson is buried in a cemetery in Lexington, very close to VMI and W&L. For a Civil War buff like myself, it was fascinating to be in such close proximity to the graves of these icons of the Confederacy. I once had the opportunity to go inside the house that Robert E. Lee lived in when he was president of the school. The current president of W&L lives in the house now, and when my daughter graduated he and his wife held a reception for people who attended the ceremony.
W&L is a gorgeous, historic campus and the Chapel where Lee is interred is serene and beautiful. This image is in stark contrast to the horrifying carnage of Civil War battles, an example of which is described in an account written by Samuel R. Watkins, a confederate soldier who fought at the battle of Dead Angle on the Kennasaw Line, near Marietta, Georgia. This documentary includes a dramatic reading of a fascinating and beautifully written account of that battle by Watkins, striking for the
vivid picture it paints of battle.
To listen to the program, or download a podcast to listen to at your convenience, visit the URL below, then scroll down until you come to the program title, dated 7/25/12.