James Brookes is an MRes student in the American and Canadian Studies department at the University of Nottingham. His thesis focuses on the self-representation of the Union citizen-soldier in the U.S. Civil War through democratic mediums of portrait photography such as the tintype and carte-de-visite. In conjunction with the study of other archival sources such as letters, diaries, songs and post-war memoirs, he hopes to further establish the significance of these common agents and the methods they sought to understand and cope with the catastrophic conflict unfolding around them.

Review: The University of Nottingham Postgraduate Academic Retreat, 30 May – 6 June 2015

Timo Schrader and James Brookes, organisers of the University of Nottingham Postgraduate Academic Retreat, 30 May – 6 June 2015, look back upon the trip and its various strengths and weaknesses. Continue reading

“The Land Entire Saturated”: Commemorating the Civil War Dead at 150 years

  April 9th, 2015 marked the sesquicentennial commemoration of the surrender of the General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of the Potomac under the command of General Grant. The surrender sounded the death knell for the shattered Confederacy. Appomattox was no cause for outpourings of joy; the… Continue reading

“An Eagle On His Button”: How Martial Portraiture Affirmed African American Citizenship in the Civil War

The wearing of a military uniform symbolises the desire to prove one’s worth as a citizen. There were few other ways in which African Americans could gain a platform from which to prove their equality with white men, and to earn their right to citizenship in the post-war United States, than through honourable action carried out in the midst of great national suffering. This is especially so considering the prior use of African American manpower to act as cooks, teamsters and burial workers for the military. These portraits provide undeniable proof of military service, and as such the uniform and weaponry included in these photographs transcend being merely destructive armaments and become tools for the attainment of equality and freedom. Continue reading