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 Clear and concise

I’ve always liked America’s Civil War, but the March issue was great and particularly easy to understand. I am not a military person, nor am I well versed in mapmaking. I am often confounded by descriptions of troop movements, but in this issue I was able to follow everything, right down to the battlefield. Whatever you did, please keep it coming!

Toni Criscuolo
New Haven, Conn.

Letter of the law

As an admirer of Harold Holzer’s Civil War work and being a history teacher myself, I was thrilled to read “America’s second declaration of independence” (January 2013). I recently completed a unit with my eighth grade history students on the Declaration of Independence and its prose. As I told them, the declaration was not legally binding. Simply put, it was an exceptionally well-written “break-up letter” to King George III. However, calling the Emancipation Proclamation America’s second declaration of independence puts a bit too much pressure on what is an exceptionally well-written legal document.

Lincoln was undoubtedly inspired by the Declaration of Independence: His Gettysburg Address is proof of this. I believe he wanted to evoke more of the declaration in his Emancipation Proclamation and to write a more heartfelt, emotional statement on the necessity of extinguishing slavery forever. But he feared the possible alienation of border states and the many Democrats who still tenuously supported a conflict to reunify the country. Lincoln knew this document was more than words to rouse the spirits of a broken nation, more than a dialogue with the people regarding the importance of unity and fairness; it was indeed a legal, binding document.

John K. Renn
Ionia, Mich.

Shades of gray

I found the story about a historical marker for Confederate spy David O. Dodd (Field Notes, March 2013)
disturbing, particularly the comment about “how to recognize the heroes of the Civil War without endorsing their beliefs.” Since when does studying something or someone endorse any beliefs? There are courageous people in all wars, on all sides; do we only acknowledge those whose beliefs we share? We cannot judge people by current standards. If someone is following his beliefs, and does it honorably or with great personal sacrifice, can we not honor that? To quote Shelby Foote, “I yield to no one in my admiration for heroism and ability, no matter which side of the line a man was born or fought on.”

Barbara Gilmore
Asheville, N.C.