June seems far away during the deep freeze of mid-January, but I got the word yesterday that my proposal for the 2013 New York History conference has been accepted. The conference will be in Cooperstown–yes, that Cooperstown–in early June. I will be speaking about the personal and professional relationship of Theodore Roosevelt Sr. and William E. Dodge Jr. during the Civil War. The two were active in the Union Club of New York, among many other things.
Civil War New York is a fascinating subject filled with rogues and heroes acting shamefully and honorably in equal measure. When I was a kid I thought there was an imaginary line somewhere and that everyone North of said line was for the Union and everyone South of it for the Confederacy. The level of treachery in the North, and loyalty in the South, is something I did not fully comprehend until just a few years ago. Even better, many of these individuals were working–or even sleeping–together. Spielberg’s Lincoln captured this magnificently.
The lack of preparedness for the war is something that is lost on us today. Much of the organizational work was left to private individuals as Roosevelt and Dodge because the Federal government simply was not capable of handling it in 1861. What made Roosevelt’s situation interesting was that his wife Martha (Teddy’s mother) was a Southern belle from Georgia who had many relations fighting for the Confederacy. Gotham circa 1861-65 was a basket case of intrigue and overlapping loyalties. I cannot think of a better story than Civil War New York. Looking forward to Cooperstown.