Robert W. Banks Letter to his sister written near Ripley, Mississippi (October 1, 1862)
Source: Marszalek, John F. and Williams, Clay. “Mississippi Soldiers in the Civil War,” Mississippi History Now, the online publication of the Mississippi Historical Society, 2001. Reprinted by permission.
A Yankee Soldier
Sullivan Ballou served in the Rhode Island Volunteers. By the time the Civil War began, Ballou had risen from poverty to become a lawyer. He and his wife, Sarah, looked forward to raising their two sons, Edgar and Willie. Ballou was a strong Republican who had voted for Lincoln. He was killed at the Battle of Bull Run shortly after this letter was written.
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt....
The Reconstruction Era
Investigating Primary Sources
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all those chains to the battle field.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood around us.
… If I do not [return], my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name...
Sullivan Ballou Letter to his wife (July 14, 1861)
Imagine that you are a young man living in the South or the North in April 1861, when the Civil War began. Write a statement that expresses why you are willing to die for what you believe is right. Refer to the arguments made by Southerners like Robert E. Lee and Robert W. Banks or Northerners like Ulysses S. Grant and Sullivan Ballou. Select from the following forms of writing: a personal letter to a family member or friend, a letter to the editor of a wartime newspaper, or a report to your commanding officer. Your completed piece must be at least three paragraphs long and free of errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar.
Jim Crow Laws: A Legacy of the Reconstruction Era
In Chapter 23 you read that after the slaves were freed, Southern states passed laws known as black codes, denying recently freed blacks their rights. During the Reconstruction era, some of these codes were struck down. However, when the election of 1876 ended Northern occupation of the South, a new rash of segregation laws were passed.
From the 1880s to the 1960s, many states enforced segregation (the separation of whites and African Americans) through such “Jim Crow” laws. With these laws, states punished people for mixing with those of another race.
Below are examples of Jim Crow laws passed by various states. When these laws were written, many people accepted discrimination and commonly used terms such as Negro and colored that are now considered inappropriate or offensive. Fortunately these terms, like Jim Crow laws themselves, are now a part of our nation’s past. As you read the laws below, imagine what it might have been like to be African American in the days of Jim Crow laws.
Education: [The County Board of Education]: shall provide schools of two kinds; those for white children and those for colored children….
Pool and Billiard Rooms: It shall be unlawful for a Negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards.…
Toilet Facilities: Every employer of white or Negro males shall provide for such white or Negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet facilities….
Barbers: No colored barber shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls….
Burial: The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons….
Amateur Baseball: It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race….
Parks: It shall be unlawful for colored people to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the benefit, use and enjoyment of white persons….
Intermarriage: The marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of Negro blood, shall be unlawful and void….
Fishing, Boating, and Bathing: The [Conservation] Commission shall have the right to make segregation of the white and colored races as to the exercise of rights of fishing, boating and bathing….
“The Untold Story of Jackson’s Civil Rights Movement” (October 1960)
Write a letter from the perspective of an African American citizen of Mississippi in the late 19th century. Your letter should
• be addressed to an elected or appointed official, such as a Supreme Court justice or a governor of a southern state, and be dated April 25, 1897.
• describe how Jim Crow laws have affected you (the letter writer) personally.
• attempt to persuade the official why the laws must be changed.
• contain at least three paragraphs that are free of errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar.
• include historically appropriate emotional details and imaginary touches.
Tensions in the West
The Immigrant Experience in the West: Two Novels
Many writers have been attracted to the drama of the immigrant experience in the West. Willa Cather and Ole E. Rolvaag are two such writers.
Willa Cather (1873–1947)
Cather was not herself an immigrant. However, she met a lot of them when, as a girl, she moved with her family to Nebraska in 1883. Years later, she wrote My Ántonia about a Bohemian family in Nebraska. The novel traces the joys and tragedies of Ántonia Shimerda, the eldest daughter.
While the autumn colour was growing pale on the grass and cornfields, things went badly with our friends the Russians. Peter told his troubles to Mr. Shimerda: he was unable to meet a note which fell due on the first of November; had to pay an exorbitant [huge] bonus on renewing it, and to give a mortgage on his pigs and horses and even his milk cow. His creditor was Wick Cutter, the merciless Black Hawk money-lender, a man of evil name throughout the county, of whom I shall have more to say later. Peter could give no very clear account of his transactions with Cutter. He only knew that he had first borrowed two hundred dollars, then another hundred, then fifty—that each time a bonus was added to the principal, and the debt grew faster than any crop he planted. Now everything was plastered with mortgages.
Soon after Peter renewed his note, Pavel strained himself lifting timbers for a new barn, and fell over among the shavings with such a gush of blood from the lungs that his fellow workmen thought he would die on the spot. They hauled him home and put him into his bed, and there he lay, very ill indeed. Misfortune seemed to settle like an evil bird on the roof of the log house, and to flap its wings there, warning human beings away. The Russians had such bad luck that people were afraid of them and liked to put them out of mind.
My Ántonia (1918)
Ole E. Rolvaag (1876–1931)
Unlike Cather, Rolvaag actually was an immigrant. He came from Norway in 1896 and settled in South Dakota. His novel Giants in the Earth is an account of immigrant pioneer life on the Dakota prairies in 1870s.
Between the heads of the two oxen a yellow eye seemed to be gleaming through the curtain of the driving snow. “It must be my death signal” thought Per Hansa. He trembled so violently that he could hardly keep his feet. He saw now that the eye shining through the drifting snow was in reality the light from a small window.... He found his way around the house corner, came to a door, flung it open without ceremony and stumbled in.... The heat of the room seemed to flow over him in a great wave, deadening all his senses. The light blinded him, he could not open his eyes beyond a narrow slit, his face was crusted with snow and ice: his eyelashes were frozen together.... Out of the jaws of death he had walked in a single step into warmth and life and safety.
Giants in the Earth (1927)
The Rise of Industry
Historians study a great number of sources in order to piece together an accurate picture of the past. They must learn to identify the most important details to help them discover what is most significant in a historical narrative or story. The following terms are handy labels to use for pieces of information while studying historical documents:
Relevant: information important to solving a problem or reaching a conclusion
Irrelevant: information not important to solving a problem or reaching a conclusion
Essential: information absolutely necessary to solving a problem or reaching a conclusion
Incidental: information absolutely not necessary to solving a problem or reaching a conclusion.
Verifiable: information that can be proven by examining other sources
Unverifiable: information that cannot be proven by examining other sources.
Imagine that you are a historian studying the West. You want to write a book about the life of immigrants in the West that proves the following statement: The life of the immigrant farmer was dangerous and challenging. What important information about this statement can be drawn from these two literary excerpts? Make a chart that lists the six terms, along with examples that you find in My Ántonia or Giants in the Earth. You may use the same fact or information in more than one place on the chart.
Inventions Improve Life for Many
America experienced an explosion of industry and innovation at the turn of the 20th century. New technologies arose in many fields, from farming to films. Edison’s electrical inventions and Bell’s telephone ushered in a new age. Below are biographies of five individuals who made other innovations during this time. How did each of these people improve American life in the short term? What long-term effects might their ideas have—both good and bad?
Friend of the Farmer: George Washington Carver (1864–1943)
George Washington Carver was born a slave on a Missouri farm near the end of the Civil War. As a baby, he was separated from his mother, and his former owners brought him up like a son. Carver grew up learning about the plants and flowers that grew in the fields around their farm.
After studying horticulture (the science of plants) at Iowa State College, Carver became a professor at the Tuskegee Institute, a college dedicated to the education of African Americans. Many blacks in the South earned their living by farming. They grew almost nothing but cotton, and the cotton crops were ruining the soil. Every year, they had less to sell. Carver taught these farmers the idea of “crop rotation.” He
pointed out that planting a different crop in alternate years would help the soil recover. Certain crops were better for the soil than others: black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, pecans, and peanuts.
While there was a big market for cotton, there wasn’t much demand for a crop like peanuts. Carver turned to his labs to find new uses for these crops, to create a market for them. Through research, Carver developed more than 350 products from sweet potatoes, pecans, and especially peanuts. He turned these crops into such varied products as cooking oil, printer’s ink, bleach, dyes, face powder, shaving cream, metal polishes, shampoo, and road paving material. Peanut butter was perhaps his most popular product.
Carver didn’t try to patent most of his ideas. His goal was simply to help the poor farmers who depended on the red soil of the South, worn out by years of growing cotton. His products and his teachings about farming brought them new markets and new hope.
Carver’s innovations were part of a wave of new ideas that improved farming production in the period from 1877 to 1920. Earlier inventions, such as John Deere’s steel plow or Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaper, paved the way. Now horse-drawn plows and combines were replaced by kerosene and gas-powered machines that could cover far more ground than a single farmer using livestock. These new ideas transformed the rural American landscape, just as industrialization and mechanization changed life in America’s cities.
The Dishwashing Machine: Josephine Cochrane (1839–1913)
Josephine Cochrane was married to an Illinois politician. They were a wealthy couple who gave many dinner parties. Cochrane had plenty of servants to wash the fancy china dishes after these parties, but she was upset by the number of dishes they chipped or broke. She is reported to have said, “If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.”
In 1886, Cochran began her invention by designing wire racks to hold the dishes. The racks were positioned inside a wheel that was turned by a motor. When the wheel turned, jets of hot soapy water would squirt up and over the dishes. Josephine Cochrane had invented a dishwasher.
As word spread of Cochrane’s invention, hotels and restaurants ordered many of these dishwashing machines. Such businesses had to wash large numbers of dishes in a short period of time. Breakage was also an expensive problem. The dishwasher cut costs and improved efficiency for hotels and restaurants. Cochrane’s invention was so impressive it won the highest award at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
The Affordable Automobile: Henry Ford (1863–1947)
At age 16, Henry Ford left his family farm to become an apprentice machinist in the city of Detroit. In 1891, the Edison Illuminating Company hired him as an engineer. Ford experimented with the idea of a self-propelled vehicle—an “automobile” that he called the Quadricycle. It had four wheels and a tiller (like a boat has) for steering. It went forward in two speeds, but did not go in reverse. It ran on gasoline.
Although Ford was not the first to invent an automobile, he did make the idea popular. He wanted to make automobiles a product that every American would use. He vowed to build a motor car “large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for…[and] so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.” Ford’s idea for building cars cheaply was to put them together on an assembly line.
In 1908, Ford Motor Company introduced the Model T to a world dominated by horses and trains. It was reasonably priced and reliable. This car was easy to operate, simple to maintain, and strong on rough roads. Everybody wanted one. The Model T was a big success, as it greatly improved personal transportation. By 1918, half of all the cars sold in the United States were Model Ts.
A Sturdier Pair of Pants: Levi Strauss (1829–1902)
At 18 years of age, Levi Strauss immigrated to New York from Bavaria (part of modern-day Germany). Six years later, he moved to San Francisco to make his fortune in the California gold rush. Struass did not pan for gold, however, but opened a store to sell supplies to the miners. Customers wore out their trousers very quickly, working hard in the gold fields. Strauss sold them many pairs of overalls.
In 1873, Strauss formed a partnership with another European immigrant, tailor Jacob Davis. The two men patented an idea for using copper rivets (metal fasteners) in work pants. With rivets placed at key seams, the pants would not rip so easily.
That was the birth of “blue jeans”: riveted, made of denim, dyed indigo blue. The new, stronger pants were an immediate success. Demand was so great, Strauss soon opened a factory in San Francisco that made nothing else. Today, Levi Strauss’s blue jeans are a multimillion-dollar, worldwide industry.
The Fantastic Flying Machine: Wilbur Wright (1867–1912) and Orville Wright (1867–1912)
As children, Orville and Wilbur Wright were encouraged to experiment with the world around them. Orville wrote of his childhood, “We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity.”
The Wrights kept this outlook into their adulthood. The brothers were fascinated with the idea of a flying machine. They watched buzzards to learn about flight. They read a number of books. Unfortunately, many of those books contained inaccurate information, so they learned what worked—and what didn’t—mostly by trial and error.
At first they experimented with gliders, which simply rode the wind. In 1903, the Wright brothers announced they would attempt to fly the world’s first machine-powered airplane, the Wright Flyer. Only five people showed up at a beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to witness the famous flight. It lasted 12 seconds. Three years later, the Wrights obtained a patent for a flying machine—an airplane. In 1908, Wilbur Wright recorded a flight of 1 hour and 31 minutes. For a country as
The Great Wave of Immigration
large as the United States, the airplane would greatly improve transportation and communication for years to come.
Social scientists studying economics and politics often perform a cost-benefit analysis to judge if a particular idea or change has more costs (negative effects) or benefits (positive effects). Complete a cost-benefit analysis of the innovations you read about: Carver’s ideas for southern farming, Cochrane’s dishwasher, Ford’s automobile, Strauss’s blue jeans, and the Wright brothers’ “flying machine.”
Make a T-chart. List all the benefits on one side, and all the possible costs on the other. For example, Henry Ford developed an automobile that everyone could afford. One benefit is faster transportation. One cost is air pollution. Think about both the short term and the long term. You may not always find clear costs. List as many costs and benefits as you can. Then, write a short paragraph that answers this question: Were turn-of-the-century innovations good for the country?
Immigrants from Distant Shores
Millions of immigrants came to America between 1880 and 1920. Mary Antin was one of these. She left Russia in 1894 to join her father, who was already in America. She was eager to leave her homeland, where she faced prejudice and persecution because she was a Jew. In 1912, she published her autobiography, The Promised Land. Below are some excerpts in which Antin recalls her days at school. She was only 12 when she arrived in the United States. What challenges did Antin and her immigrant classmates face in their new country?
I remember to this day what a struggle we had over the word, “water,” Miss Dillingham and I. It seemed as if I could not give the sound of w; I said “vater” every time. Patiently my teacher worked with me, inventing mouth exercises for me, to get my stubborn lips to produce that w; and when at last I could say “village” and “water” in rapid alternation, without misplacing the two initials, that memorable word was sweet on my lips. For we had conquered, and Teacher was pleased.
. . .
The class was repeating in chorus the Lord’s Prayer, heads bowed on desks. I was doing my best to keep up by the sound; my mind could not go beyond the word, “hallowed,” for which I had not found the meaning. In the middle of the prayer a Jewish boy across the aisle trod [stepped] on my foot to get my attention. “You must not say that,” he admonished [warned] in a solemn [serious] whisper; “it’s Christian.” I whispered back that it wasn’t, and went on to the “Amen.” I did not know but what he
was right, but the name of Christ was not in the prayer, and I was bound to do everything that the class did.
Mary Antin The Promised Land (1912)
The Progressive Era
Investigating Primary Sources
Immigration to the United States continues today. In 2000, almost
2 million persons came to the United States from countries all over the world. Pick one group of present-day immigrants and do some research to learn more about their experience. Use your research to answer these questions:
• In what ways is the immigrant group’s experience different from that of Antin?
• What new patterns have emerged that makes the immigrant experience different from the past? What factors might explain these changes?
• In what ways is the immigrant group’s experience similar to that of Antin?
• What do you think explains these similarities with the past?
Life in the Slums
Jacob Riis came to the United States from Denmark in 1870. He settled in New York City, where he lived in poverty for several years. Finally he found a job as a police reporter for a newspaper. This job took him into the worst neighborhoods of the city. One such spot was the Five Points slum, notorious for its brutal living conditions. Riis was saddened by what he saw and set out to do something about it. The result was a book, How the Other Half Lives (1890). In his book, Riis used both pictures and words to describe the terrible conditions of New York City’s poor. Examine the following picture and excerpt from that book. What must it have been like to live in New York’s tenement housing?
Of one thing New York made sure…the boundary line of the Other Half lies through the tenements…. It is ten years and over, now, since that line divided New York’s population evenly. To-day three-fourths of its people live in the tenements, and the nineteenth century drift of the population to the cities is sending ever-increasing multitudes to crowd them. The fifteen thousand tenant houses that were the despair of the sanitarian in the past generation have swelled into thirty-seven thousand, and more than twelve hundred thousand persons call them home…. Where two families had lived ten moved in….
America Becomes a World Power
Investigating Primary Sources
When once I asked the agent of a notorious Fourth Ward alley how many people might be living in it I was told: One hundred and forty families, one hundred Irish, thirty-eight Italian, and two that spoke the German tongue. Barring the agent herself, there was not a native-born individual in the court. The answer was characteristic of the cosmopolitan character of lower New York, very nearly so of the whole of it, wherever it runs to alleys and courts. One may find for the asking an Italian, a German, a French, African, Spanish, Bohemian, Russian, Scandinavian, Jewish, and Chinese colony.
Jacob Riis How the Other Half Lives (1890)