The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

"McClellan in Boston": Lunch-Talk Recap

On Wednesday, 28 October, the MHS hosted a brown-bag lunch talk, “McClellan's Visit to Boston, January 28-February 8, 1863"  in which Carol Bundy, a current Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and long-time MHS researcher, led a discussion of her current project. An audience of about twenty, comprised of MHS members, staff, and research fellows, as well as local scholars and history enthusiasts, listened as Carol presented a brief synopsis of her research before engaging her in a lively question and answer session.

At the outset of the program Carol described her project as an “unformed mass of dough, just beginning to rise” meaning that the project is in its early stages and she is still working on identifying the main characters and primary direction of her narrative. She introduced the audience to her project by giving a bit of background about both McClellan’s visit and the social and political environment in Boston in the winter of 1863. 

While McClellan’s visit to Boston in that winter is the focus of the project, McClellan himself is not the center of Carol’s research. The project is “not so much about McClellan, as about Boston’s reaction to McClellan.” As a result Carol has been working to identify the men responsible for bringing McClellan to Boston that winter, as well as fleshing out his itinerary. Through contemporary diary accounts she has already identified a committee of twelve men responsible for bringing McClellan to Boston. The hope is that the project will grow from there as she explores these men and their connections to both each other and the places that McClellan visited during his time in the city.

The greater questions to be explored include the reasons for McClellan's visit to Boston, and why was he seemingly so popular with Bostonians at the time. Bundy presented the argument that the men who brought McClellan to Boston supported him for various - mostly personal - reasons which were more pragmatic than ideological, and raised her own questions about the reaction of the city at large. 

During the discussion part of the program attendees raised questions about the role of religion in the development of the political and personal motivations surrounding individual positions on the emancipation issue, the appeal of McClellan (which was presented as being a superficial appeal), and the form that the written project may take once the direction of the project becomes more clear.

A hearty thank you to Carol for an engaging presentation and for sharing her research with us. Keep your eye out for the resulting publication down the road.

permalink | Published: Saturday, 31 October, 2009, 8:25 AM


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