Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table
“Civil War Alabama”
By Christopher Lyle McIlwain, a distinguished lawyer, Civil War historian, author, and lecturer.
Thursday, January 12, 6:30 p.m.
Elks Lodge, 725 Franklin St., Huntsville
No charge for the program; optional chicken buffet at 5:30 p.m. for $8.95
Visitors welcome. 256-539-5287 for info.
Christopher Lyle McIlwain will be speaking about Alabama’s role in the Civil War. Chris’s “Civil War Alabama” is a landmark book that sheds invigorating new light on the causes, the course, and the outcomes in Alabama of the nation’s greatest drama and trauma. Based on twenty years of exhaustive research that draws on a vast trove of primary sources such as letters, newspapers, and personal journals, he explains how Alabama’s citizens came to take up arms against the federal government.
A fledgling state at only 40 years old, Alabama approached the 1860s with expanding populations of both whites and black slaves. They were locked together in a powerful yet fragile economic engine that produced and concentrated titanic wealth in the hands of a white elite. Perceiving themselves trapped between a mass of disenfranchised black slaves and the industrializing and increasingly abolitionist North, white Alabamians were led into secession and war by a charismatic cohort who claimed the imprimatur of biblical scripture, romanticized traditions of chivalry, and the military mantle of the American Revolution. And yet, Alabama’s citizens were not a monolith of one mind. Chris dispels the received wisdom of a white citizenry united behind a cadre of patriarchs and patriots. Providing a fresh and insightful synthesis of military events, economic factors such as inflation and shortages, politics and elections, the pivotal role of the legal profession, and the influence of the press, Chris illuminates the state of white, antebellum Alabamians divided by class, geography, financial interests, and political loyalties.
Chris McIlwain is an attorney in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is an avid scholar of Alabama history, including its role in the Civil War. He has spent the last 25 years researching nineteenth-century Alabama, focusing particularly on law, politics, and the Civil War. His article “United States District Judge Richard Busteed and the Alabama Klan Trials of 1872” appeared in the Alabama Review.