The impact of the Civil War on the environment and on the American West will be discussed during Angelo State University’s Civil War Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, in the C.J. Davidson Center in the Houston Harte University Center, 1910 Rosemont Drive.
Titled “We Have Devastated the Land:  Environmental Thought, Ruination and the American Civil War,” the program will feature ASU history faculty Dr. Jason Pierce, addressing President Abraham Lincoln’s policies and how they affected the American West, and Dr. Kenna Archer, discussing the Civil War’s environmental ramifications.  The program is open free to the public.

While Lincoln’s historical reputation is based on his performance during the Civil War, Pierce will examine his checkered accomplishments in the American West.  Although Lincoln championed the passage of important legislation, including the Homestead Act and Pacific Railroad Act in 1862, he did little to change policy toward the Indians.  In effect, he turned a blind eye to corruption in the Indian bureau and some of the nation’s worst assaults on Native Americans, including the horrific Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.  Nevertheless, Lincoln indelibly shaped the future of the American West as he was fighting the Civil War.

The devastation and ruination of the Civil War scarred the land just as it disfigured the bodies of those who fought and the psyche of those who remained at home.  Archer will examine how Americans living during the Civil War responded to the destruction of the natural world around them and how the ravaged land helped shape environmental thought after the war.  Ultimately, the extensive destruction of the landscape led many Americans both to reconsider the meaning that they attached to the land around them and to create a national movement – ambiguously titled “Conservation Movement” – to protect the land, especially in the western states.

In addition to the ASU History Department, the Civil War Lecture Series is supported by Fort Concho; Fort Concho Foundation; the Office of the ASU Dean of Arts and Sciences; ASU’s Gender Studies Program; the West Texas Collection; the Porter Henderson Library; Shannon Medical Center; the Texas Historical Commission; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Library of America; and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Other upcoming programs and speakers in the series are:

  • Feb. 17:  “Memory and Meaning:  Civil War Memorials and Their Artistic Antecedents,” 7 p.m., Davidson Center, Dr. Kimberly Busby of ASU’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts.
  • March 4:  “The Texas Historical Commission’s Sesquicentennial Activities,” 7 p.m., Davidson Center, William McWhorter, program coordinator, Military Sites Program, History Programs Division, Texas Historical Commission.
  • March 27:  “Baseball and the Civil War,” 6 p.m. period baseball game, Fort Concho parade grounds, and 7 p.m. lectures, Fort Concho Stables, Bob Bluthardt, site manager, Fort Concho, and Dr. David Dewar of ASU’s History Department.
  • April 22:  “Medicine and the Civil War,” 7 p.m., Fort Concho Stables, Dr. Robert Hicks, Measey Chair for the History of Medicine and director of the Mutter Museum and Historical Medical Library at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.