The Purchase By Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862

Exhibition: October 2011 to January 2012

The Massachusetts Historical Society’s exhibition The Purchase by Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862 follows a small group of officers–husbands, brothers, and friends of the first families of Massachusetts–through the first years of the Civil War. This was my first attempt at curating an exhibition. I loved it.

here‘s a layperson’s appreciation of the exhibit. Click here for an online version of the exhibition.

New England Biography Seminar

The New England Biography Seminar at the Massachusetts Historical Society is a forum for writers and readers alike to engage in an ongoing discussion about the historical, literary, and methodological questions that make biography a challenging and rewarding undertaking. By providing an opportunity for those interested in the craft of biography to convene and converse, the seminar aspires to create a community that will support biographical works in progress and serve as a seedbed for future projects.

Click here to see the 2012-13 Schedule.

3 November 2011 was the inaugural session:

Michael Burlingame, Dean Grodzins, and Tony Horwitz
Sowing and Reaping: Biography and the Civil War: Theodore Parker, John Brown, Abraham Lincoln
Carol Bundy, Moderator

The opening session, featuring Michael Burlingame, Dean Grodzins, and Tony Horwitz and moderated by Carol Bundy, will address the rewards and challenges of looking at this historical moment from a biographical perspective.

Michael Burlingame is the acclaimed author of the two-volume Abraham Lincoln: A Life, which won the 2010 Lincoln Prize, and The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, as well as several edited volumes of Lincoln primary source material. Burlingame splits his time between the University of Illinois at Springfield and the University of Connecticut at New London.

Dean Grodzins is a Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Historical Society and the author of American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism. His current book-in-progress is A Civil War in Boston: Runaway Slaves and the Crisis of the Union.

Tony Horwitz is the author of Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War. A Pulitzer prize winning journalist and former New Yorker staff writer, his Confederates in the Attic was a New York Times Best Seller.

Moderator: Carol Bundy is the author of The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr. She is now working on a book tentatively called McClellan in Boston: The Dark Underbelly of Boston’s War for Emancipation.

Return to the MHS home page

Lowell Park, Dixon, Illinois: Centennary Celebration

The 201 acres of land for Lowell Park was bought by Charles Russell Lowell in 1859 when he was working in Iowa on the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad. It was given to the city of Dixon, Illinois in 1907 by Carlotta Lowell after the death of her mother, Josephine Shaw Lowell. It is curious but perhaps not surprising that Effie held on to this plot of land along the Rock River throughout her widowhood.

In celebrating Lowell Park’s centennial, the commission invited me to give a speech at their celebration and I went out to spend a weekend staying at a small cabin at the Park. It is a charming location. The wildlife, both fauna and flora, is remarkably diverse perhaps because the land has remained uncultivated and without chemicals or fertilizers for the last 150 years. Click Below for articles from the Sauk Valley Daily Gazette & Telegraph on Lowell Park’s creators, its centennary celebration and its joining the National Register of Historic Places. Below is a 58 minute film giving the history of the Park with some wonderful images of the park’s early days as well as its rich beauty today.


Lincoln Prize

The Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Gettysburg College, is awarded annually for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln or the American Civil War era. The $50,000 prize was established in 1990 by Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, in partnership with Dr. Gabor Boritt, Director Emeritus of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.




Author Interview: On Point/Morning Edition

Memorial Day 2005


“An OnPointer” — this is the term used for people whom the producers of On Point Radio with Tom Ashbrook on WBUR think will make good interviewees. Karen Schiffman contacted me about this honor after she attended a book party at which I spoke. And in the late afternoon on Memorial Day, 2005 I arrived at the OnPoint offices on the outskirts of the Boston University campus. The recording room was largely glass walled, dimly lit, with microphones hanging from the ceilings and a very large central table. For a show that is all talk, the importance of eye contact while recording can’t be exaggerated. Tom and I had only a short chat before the show went live but we were both set up on opposite sides of this very large table. Papers spread out before us. And I followed his signals. The truth is Tom Ashbrook makes his interviewees into “OnPointers.”

Click here to go to the website. Then click on Listen or Download to hear the interview.