CWGK Welcomes Sarah Haywood

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) is pleased to announce the addition of Sarah Haywood to the project’s editorial staff.

Haywood’s position is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is focused on preparing both texts and annotations for publication in the newly expanded CWGK web interface.

A native of Harlan, Kentucky, Haywood studied English literature and history at Western Kentucky University, where she received her undergraduate degree in 2015. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in history from the University of Kentucky and served as a research assistant in the Department of History in 2018. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked in publishing and communications and comes to the CWGK team with editorial and writing experience.

Editorial Assistant Vacancy — Closes Feb. 8, 2019

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) seeks an Editorial Assistant to join the staff of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK). This nationally recognized digital humanities project that locates and publishes new stories about everyday Kentuckians navigating an unprecedented national and community crisis through documents associated with the state’s Civil War governors.

This NHPRC-funded position will edit texts and annotations. It is based in Frankfort through the end of 2019. Natalie Smith, who held the position for 2018, talked about her experience on a recent “Think Humanities” podcast.

View the Full Description here, at the KHS Careers page

Application deadline is Feb. 8, 2019.

CWGK Profiled in Hallowed Ground

Hallowed Ground, the magazine of the American Battlefield Trust, profiled CWGK in its Winter 2018 issue.

digital version of the piece can be read here.

The project has proven a treasure trove for researchers, whether traditional academics or amateur genealogists. It has also become a rich resource for students and classroom educators, providing a massive selection of primary source documents representing a diverse range of attitudes and experiences in a user-friendly format.

“History has too few characters. We don’t know enough names. We don’t know enough stories. This limits what we can say about the past,” said Lewis. “The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition proposes a bold new solution to this problem. We find the characters, hidden in archives across the country. We publish their stories in the form of 30–40,000 historical documents. And we treat every individual — man or woman, free or slave, Union and Confederate — as an historical actor worthy of study.…This is the closest thing we can get to a time machine.”

Natalie Smith “Think Humanities” Interview

NHPRC-funded Editorial Assistant Natalie Smith’s time with CWGK drew to a close with the end of the grant year in 2018. Before then, though, Smith sat down for an interview with the “Think Humanities” podcast produced by the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Listen below to hear Smith discuss the compelling and revealing human stories that CWGK highlights and to hear her enthusiasm for the work of public humanities in the Commonwealth today. Thank you, Natalie!

CWGK in 2019: Hunting for Confederate Kentucky

The Problem

For as much work as CWGK has done to highlight the voices of the socially powerless, an equally important component of the project will be finding more and better documentation on the influential Confederate minority in the state. Curiously, for as heavily weighted as Civil War memory and, until recently, historiography has been towards the Confederacy, there is still a dearth of contemporary evidence from the pens of those engaged in rebellion against the state and the nation. Unlike the states which unambiguously seceded and brought with them their administrative apparatus, Kentucky Confederates (civil and military) were figureheads focused more on revolution than governing. They left little surviving paper.

The place of 1860s primary evidence has been taken by memoir, reminiscence, and Lost Cause-influenced history writing of the late nineteenth century. Recent historiography has made scholars wary of these flawed sources, but outside of them there has been terribly little with which to mount a substantial reevaluation of the Confederate movement in Kentucky. In the absence of a compelling new narrative that shows the detachment of secessionist motivations and activities from the interests of the majority of Kentucky citizens, myths about a nostalgic Confederate past still linger in the public sphere. KHS can facilitate the research, publications, and public programming that can change this narrative, but CWGK’s work is the foundational step.

CWGK can do some of this through existing documents within its corpus. Sometimes the evidence is direct, like the bullet points of a secession speech by future provisional Confederate governor George W. Johnson, which reveals the often extemporaneous and unreported content of arguments framed to voters on the ground.  Some unexpected treasures have been a body of asides and postscripts found in routine correspondence between the governors and their constituents. One Magoffin correspondent, John D. Berry, expanded on a pardon application for a friend with useful opposition research on Union arguments advanced at a debate in bitterly divided Bath County. CWGK also hopes to find more Confederate material in its expanded document search. KHS recently acquired one piece of correspondence from Johnson, which suggests the type of evidence that might be found in Richmond and the other Confederate state capitals.

As the documents from a bizarre 1861 secessionist plot to procure arms show, understanding the Confederate movement in Kentucky is about far more than politics. The networks of Bluegrass bankers, pork packers, cotton factors, a quack doctor with a penchant for biological warfare, fire-eating railroad barons, sugar-planting politicians, and Transatlantic shipping outfits which Beriah Magoffin employed in his efforts to buy weapons in the Caribbean and illicitly arm a disloyal faction of Kentucky militia read like something between a Mark Twain story and the recent scholarship of Joshua Rothman or Walter Johnson.

Among the many things we may conclude from the farcical attempts to launder $200,000 to purchase $15 worth of percussion caps through a bourbon-fueled French Quarter haze and a Jacksonian banking fiasco is that CWGK’s social networking capabilities are perfectly suited to chart and study the types of kinship-political-business relationships that underlay antebellum cotton capitalism and interpersonal early American politics. A historian might now safely posit that Kentucky’s 1861 neutrality was not an inward facing, isolationist political posture. The way Magoffin managed arms procurement demonstrates that he understood the Civil War as a conflict over global agricultural and industrial markets, a war fought for the interests of the southern states in and on an international stage. When Magoffin needed arms, he tapped into the networks that funneled cotton, slaves, and capital up and down the river from Kentucky and out to the world.

If this type of evidence is to be found at a scale that can influence historiography, it will likely be uncovered through scouring the captured Confederate records within NARA and the Library of Congress for interactions between Kentucky rebel officials and the Confederate national government. This is where CWGK will begin moving in 2019.

The Plan

In 2018, CWGK began initial explorations of in-scope material from the Governors and the Provisional Confederate Governors held by federal repositories in the Washington D.C. area. Specifically, CWGK was to explore NARA microfilm to test the viability of a hybrid search that would conduct initial identification and imaging by microfilm in Frankfort and then sending an imaging team to the D.C. area in the future to acquire high-resolution images suitable for publication.

Obviously, there is a huge volume of material to search through, and any number of potential approaches. CWGK settled on two criteria for beginning document identification work: the likelihood of return and the remote availability of materials. To assess the former, CWGK surveyed NARA finding aids and the Federal Records Guide for likely overlap with existing CWGK materials and correspondents. CWGK Assistant Editor Tony Curtis surveyed 584 record groups and identified 65 that might have material relevant to CWGK. Of that 65, he applied his knowledge of CWGK’s existing scope to narrow down to 22 record groups most likely to contain relevant material. They are:

  • RG# 46 – Records of the U.S. Senate
  • RG# 48 – Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior
  • RG# 56 – General Records of the Department of the Treasury
  • RG# 92 – Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General [OQMG]
  • RG# 94 – Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917 [AGO]
  • RG# 105 – Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands
  • RG# 107 – Records of the Office of the Secretary of War
  • RG# 108 – Records of the Headquarters of the Army
  • RG# 109 – War Department Collection of Confederate Records
  • RG# 110 – Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War)
  • RG# 153 – Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army)
  • RG# 156 – Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance
  • RG# 159 – Records of the Office of the Inspector General (Army)
  • RG# 204 – Records of the Office of the Pardon Attorney
  • RG# 233 – Records of the United States House of Representatives
  • RG# 249 – Records of the Commissary General of Prisoners
  • RG# 365 – Treasury Department Collection of Confederate Records
  • RG# 366 – Records of Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Department
  • RG# 391 – Records of United States Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821-1942
  • RG# 393 – Records of United States Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920
  • RG# 404 – Records of the United States Military Academy
  • RG# 405 – Records of the U.S. Naval Academy

Then CWGK began to filter those targeted record groups by remote availability. Early in 2018, CWGK processed 27 shipping boxes containing over 1,600 rolls of NARA microfilm shipped to KHS from the NHPRC lending library. Unfortunately, as CWGK explored these materials, the staff the NARA Microfilm publications do not easily correspond to the record group system. Each publication is a curated assemblage of thematically related records from one or more record groups or subgroups. Except in certain limited cases, CWGK is skeptical of the practicality of microfilm as a substitute for an on-site search team. Searching a given microfilm publication or publications does not guarantee an exhaustive search of the corresponding record groups or sections of record groups.

CWGK intended to focus its initial efforts on Confederate records in RGs 109 and 365 to bolster the scarce documentation that the project has on the operations of the Provisional Government of Kentucky during and especially after the death of George W. Johnson. The initial target in federal records was to have been RG 48, the Department of the Interior. Unfortunately, the microfilm available on-site from the NHPRC lending library had very little coverage in these record groups. The most promising publication was M627 Letters and Telegrams Sent by the Confederate Adjutant and Inspector General 1861-1865. Initial explorations of this publication, though, suggested that CWGK needed a much more detailed picture of the bureaucratic interactions between the Confederate government in Richmond and the Provisional Confederate Government of Kentucky to make searching this publication valuable at the present time.

Still wanting to identify records relating to the poorly understood rebel government of Kentucky (in no small part to better prepare CWGK to tackle series like M627), CWGK turned to another microfilm collection on hand, M1003 Case files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (Amnesty Papers) 1865-1867. This microfilm series is divided by state of residence for the rebel applicant, so there will be a discreet Kentucky section to allow for more targeted searching. More importantly the digitization of these materials by Fold3 has previewed the research value of these documents—and their overlap with the scope of CWGK. Simply put, the Unionist political elite in Kentucky vouched for the ex-Confederate political elite in the form of letters of recommendation to Andrew Johnson. Thomas E. Bramlette, James F. Robinson, and other figures who emerge as hyper-networked political movers and shakers in the published CWGK material from Kentucky repositories explain their relationships to those officers, politicians, and wealthy planters who led the Confederate movement in Kentucky. Those same ex-rebels are required to give short summary statements of the crimes they committed against the United States during those years. This is an ideal collection to convert CWGK’s knowledge of the loyal political constellation into a chart that will help explore the Kentucky Confederate shadow government in Bowling Green, in exile, and in Richmond.

M1003 has already been digitized by Fold3. This is ideal for CWGK. It will allow the project to test two different modes of remote document identification, metadata collection, and imaging for initial editorial work. CWGK will alternate letters of the alphabet (petitions are filed by surname of pardon applicant) between microfilm identification, control, and imaging and digital identification using Fold3. CWGK will capture data on the time per record identified and imaged using the two methods and report on the potential for more widespread digital microfilm searching. CWGK will also reach out to explore the potential of data and image sharing between CWGK and Fold3.

These methods could also be applied the Confederate records held by the Library of Congress. LoC has digitized significant amounts of Confederate microfilm, which CWGK will more thoroughly explore and sort into priority targets for document identification work after the NARA Amnesty Papers are complete.

These NARA and LoC documents will immediately be put into the editorial queue for transcription and fast-tracked for publication, though this may still be a few years away. Still, CWGK will begin to amass a more detailed picture of secessionist Kentucky, and can begin to point researchers in the direction of overlooked subjects and unasked questions before these documents go live.

2019 NHPRC Grant for CWGK

For the fourth time, the Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) was awarded a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in the Publishing Historical Records program. The $78,800 grant will fund one full-time staff member and two Graduate Research Associates. The team will continue to digitally publish historical documents and expand the historical social network of over 7,000 individuals.

Read about the other projects funded by NHPRC in this grant cycle here.

CWGK Annotates 1,000 Documents

CWGK editorial staff recently annotated their 1,000th document. They have identified and written short biographies of each person who appears in 1,000 of the more than 10,000 documents that make up CWGK. Although their work continues, they are sharing their thoughts at this milestone in three blogs published by KHS. Read excerpts below, and follow the entire series through the links.

Natalie Smith, “Uncovering Untold Stories of Civil War-era Kentuckians
Editing documents in the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) often means I’m diving headfirst into the grittier aspects of the Civil War. Crime, poverty, starvation and guerrilla attacks only scratch the surface of what Kentuckians endured during this chaotic period in our country’s history.

Emily Moses, “Staff Member Gains Insight from CWGK
Every day that I work on The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) I am in awe of how this digital collection provides insight into the lives of 19th century Kentuckians. I am not a Kentuckian, nor by training am I a Civil War historian; I am a southern historian.

Patrick Lewis, “Annotation Requires Writing for People and Machines
Our biographies work. They build upon one another to create hundreds of thousands of discrete records of historical events large and small. Each treated equally. The world we capture in our biographies can be set into motion; viewed from the perspective of a town, of a day, of people who journey together on a specific steamboat. The number of these stories that we encode, both mundane and the world-changing, are almost limitless. The scale of this data is so great that we can’t yet fully imagine how we are going to use it. Has the historian who will build the system that starts and stops this network in time or peeks into the totality of a community on a critical month or day been born yet?

CWGK in The Federalist

What expectations did people have of local, state, and federal governments? Who were the faces of governance in their communities? How did they conceive of justice and equity? How did they understand the interaction of branches and levels of government, and how did they play governing institutions off of one another to secure the outcomes they desired?

In the Fall 2018 issue of The Federalist, the newsletter of the Society for History in the Federal Government, CWGK Project Director Patrick Lewis reflected on the important and relevant questions that the project has raised — both in the materials that it has found, published, and annotated and also in the process of managing a program within state government.

From using social networking to discover local power brokers operating outside the formal channels of power to appreciating the inability of antebellum institutions to cope with the overwhelming crisis that secession and Civil War brought to Kentucky society, CWGK provides a new research path forward for historians. How did people understand their government before the war and, when the conflict came to their doorstep, what expectations did they have for government intervention and assistance?

I have developed a profound empathy for both the plaintive citizens bringing horrifying tales of death, crime, sexual violence, destitution, and starvation as well as for the representatives of government at all levels who are chronically unable to muster sufficient resources to address the systemic problems they saw. It is easy to see the
Civil War as a crisis of elected government—at a legislative,
gubernatorial, Congressional, and especially Presidential level—but I have come to appreciate the war as it drug down an underprepared and underpowered civil service under the weight of modern, total war. The antebellum systems buckled underneath the crisis. That book is far more complicated to write than a conventional political history and far less marketable than a new battle history. That book about the slow collapse of governmental systems under unforeseen external stress might also b far more relevant to a moment when the national coffers have been drained by years of military conflict and faith in the capacity of electoral politics to address the day-to-day issues facing the citizenry is critically low.

Access a PDF of the full article here, or read the full issue at The Federalist.

CWGK Welcomes Emily D. Moses

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) is pleased to announce the addition of Emily D. Moses to the project’s editorial staff.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, and a 2018 recipient of an M.A. in History from Mississippi State University, Moses came to CWGK in July 2018. She is a historian of the carceral state in the nineteenth and twentieth century American South. Her interests include the agricultural, social, economic, and political experiences of convict labor.

Prior to her graduate studies, she served as a research intern and docent for Sloss Furnace National Historic Landmark in Birmingham. While at MSU she served as a Teaching Assistant for both Modern and Early United States History courses, where she lead weekly discussion sections. She continued her public history work by helping write and produce a podcast for the project, “A Shaky Truce” highlighting the Civil Rights Movement in Starkville, Mississippi.

Moses’s position is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is focused on conducting annotation research and amplifying CWGK’s outreach efforts to audiences of formal and informal learners. She is already at work with KHS’s Learning Team to develop visual learning and primary source evaluation activities scaled for elementary to undergraduate classrooms. Follow CWGK and KHS to stay up to date about Emily’s work this year!

CWGK Welcomes Graduate Research Associate Lucas Somers

With funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) recruited two Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) from premier history programs across the United States to help annotate 300 documents in 2018.

The GRAs underscore a core principle of CWGK and KHS, that how the work of history gets done is as important as the fact that it gets done. The GRA positions allow CWGK to nurture research skills in emerging scholars as well as exposing them to digital project startup and management, collaborative work as a member of a research team, the establishment and maintenance of project policies, and the production of historical knowledge in diverse forms for audiences beyond academia. Working as a GRA on the CWGK project not only builds these students’ digital humanities skills portfolios, it makes them better scholarly researchers by encouraging them to flip their engagement with the archive and to think seriously about how research collection are built and curated as well as how they are used by audiences beyond academic researchers like themselves.

Joining Brianna Kirk of the University of Virginia as 2018 GRA will be Lucas Somers of the University of Southern Mississippi

Lucas Somers
University of Southern Mississippi

Somers is a history Ph.D. student at the University of Southern Mississippi studying the era of the American Civil War and Reconstruction under Dr. Susannah J. Ural. He received a B.A. and M.A. in History from Western Kentucky University where he served as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Institute for Civil War Studies and completed a master’s thesis in which he explored the reported dreams and visions of Abraham Lincoln. While at USM, Somers has worked as a graduate researcher for the Beauvoir Veteran Project and is working toward the Graduate Certificate in Public History. Somers aims to write a dissertation which will examine ways communities in the South dealt with the trauma and suffering of the Civil War.