Library archivist’s original research is now tell-all book on Civil War government spying

INDIANAPOLIS — While he’s no Edward Snowden, IUPUI University Library archivist Surveillance and Spies in the Civil War ImageStephen Towne has blown the whistle on little-known facts about government surveillance of civilian activities — during the Civil War.

Towne’s book, “Surveillance and Spies in the Civil War: Exposing Confederate Conspiracies in America’s Heartland,” presents original research on a topic that few others, if any, have studied.

“I show that government officials were concerned about subversion and perceived disloyalty in the North and wanted to investigate it,” Towne said.

But with no state police forces, or the FBI, civilian resources for surveillance during the Civil War were nonexistent, according to the IUPUI researcher.

“But the Army, which did have the resources, got into the business of spying on civilians in the North during the Civil War,” Towne said. “The Army was successful in breaking up plots to create unrest and to release Confederate prisoners of war housed in POW camps around the Midwest.”

Towne and his book are the subject of a segment of the PBS podcast “The Good Stuff.”

“The Origins of Government Surveillance,” one of several videos in the PBS “Civil War Time Capsule” group, was posted earlier this year and features an on-camera interview with Towne.

Towne says “The Good Stuff” hosts got a few facts “a bit wrong.” And he dismisses their comparison of him to Snowden — his book “blew the whistle on spying in the Civil War, the Army spying on its people,” a host said — as “fanciful.” But the librarian approves of the video’s approach.

“Their M.O. is to educate by entertaining,” Towne said. “If they educate people and lead them to ask questions and think about the past, I’m fine with that. Maybe it’ll sell a few books, too.”

Towne’s interest in the topic grew out of his research into the suppression of opposition newspapers and the Army’s arrests of civilians during the Civil War, mostly those who opposed the war effort and criticized Lincoln.

“I went to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and started reading records that most historians have overlooked and ignored,” Towne said. “I started seeing references to the Army hiring detectives and keeping a watch on people, etc.; I concluded that there was enough there to make a book on the subject. I made many visits to the National Archives and other repositories to assemble the evidence of the Army’s surveillance.”

The book, published in paperback last year, was a decade in the making.

“I applied for and won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant in 2005 to support my research,” Towne said. “I continued researching, and in 2009-10, I took a sabbatical to write the first draft. I revised it significantly before publication last year.”

Towne, who has visited a couple of Civil War battlefields, has done extensive research on Civil War topics, particularly related to what was happening in the Midwest during the rebellion.

“A lot happened in the Midwest during the war. I’ve written other books and articles on Civil War-related subjects, things like the suppression of the press in Indiana and military arrests of civilians. I edited the letters of an Indiana officer who commanded an Indiana regiment in the war and published them as a book.”

Towne has worked in the Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives of IUPUI University Library since 2001. As archivist, he collects IUPUI’s important records and preserves them for future use. Records on file include those of legal, administrative or historical value, such as meeting minutes; correspondence of chancellors, deans or other administrators; reports; photos; and audio and video recordings.

Towne suggests that Civil War enthusiasts might want to check out the wartime diary of William Vincent Wheeler, which is available in the Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives. Wheeler, the founder of the Wheeler Mission Ministries in Indianapolis, served in an Indiana cavalry regiment in the war under the command of Col. Eli Lilly.

Presentation: Renowned Indiana historian tapped for inaugural ‘History Talks!’

INDIANAPOLIS—Indiana historian James Madison, author and Thomas and Kathryn Miller James Madison ImageProfessor of History Emeritus at Indiana University Bloomington, will launch the new “History Talks!” series, designed to “engage the past, in the present, about the future.”

His presentation, “Two Centuries of Hoosiers,” will take place Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Indiana Landmarks Cook Theater, 1201 N. Central Ave. in Indianapolis. The interactive presentation and conversation begins at 4:30 p.m. Madison will sign copies of his books from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

“History Talks!” is a new series offering insightful conversations featuring leading historians who will shed light on the rich complexities of the past and help spark conversation on how the past is shaping Indiana’s present and future.

With the approach of Indiana’s bicentennial in 2016, Madison will present an overview of the state’s past, from Hoosier pioneers through the Civil War to the 21st century. His illustrated talk will highlight connections between past and present and help us think about the future.

Madison’s books include “Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana”; “Eli Lilly: A Life, 1885-1977”; “The Indiana Way: A State History”; and “A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America.” He serves on the boards of Indiana Humanities and the Indiana Historical Society and is a member of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. He began teaching history in 1976 and has lectured and consulted widely on Indiana topics.

“Jim Madison knows who we are because he knows who we, as Hoosiers, have been,” said David Bodenhamer, professor of history and executive director of the Polis Center in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. We are excited that he will be our inaugural History Talks! speaker, especially as we approach Indiana’s 200th anniversary. I cannot imagine a better guide to understanding what we might become as a state.”

The presentation is free and open to the general public. Request additional information or RSVP by contacting

The “History Talks!” inaugural program is a collaboration between the Department of History in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, the Spirit & Place Festival and Indiana Landmarks.

Ari Kelman Speaks at Herron School of Art and Design on “Battle Lines”

Cover art for "Battle Lines" taken from Amazon.comA collaboration between the award-winning historian Ari Kelman and the acclaimed graphic novelist Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, Battle Lines is a completely original graphic history of the Civil War. The novel traces an ambitious narrative that extends from the early rumblings of secession to the dark years of Reconstruction, employing bold graphic forms to illuminate the complex history of this period. Richly detailed and wildly inventive, its stories propel the reader to all manner of unlikely vantages as only the graphic form can: from the malaria-filled gut of a mosquito to the faded ink of a soldier’s pen, and from the barren farms of the home front to the front lines of an infantry charge.

Join us as at Herron School of Art and Design as Professor Ari Kelman shares the experiences of creating Battle Lines, and learn about how writers and artists/illustrators can form exciting collaborations, transforming the written word into unique and compelling visuals.

About the artist:
Ari Kelman is the McCabe Greer Professor of History at Penn State University, where he teaches a wide range of courses, including on the Civil War and Reconstruction, the politics of memory, environmental history, Native American history, and America in the 1960s. He is the author, most recently, of Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War (Hill and Wang, 2015), as well as A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013), recipient of the Antoinette Forrester Downing Book Award, the Avery O. Craven Award, the Bancroft Prize, the Tom Watson Brown Book Award, and the Robert M. Utley Prize, and A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (University of California Press, 2003), which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize.

Kelman’s essays and articles have appeared in Slate, The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, the Journal of Urban History, The Journal of American History, and many others. Kelman has also contributed to outreach endeavors aimed at K-12 educators, and to a variety of public history projects, including documentary films for the History Channel and PBS’s American Experience series. He has received numerous grants and fellowships, most notably from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Huntington Library.

Summer 2014 internship in digital documentary with Kentucky Historical Society

KY history logo
Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition Summer 2014 Graduate Internship

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) seeks two graduate interns to work closely with editors and other staff of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWG-K). Through this competitive internship opportunity, successful candidates will learn the basic principles of documentary editing; assist in the identification, data collection, scanning, processing, and transcription of manuscript documents; and gain expertise in the use of the CWG-K project document control-and-editorial-management application. As time allows, interns may have the opportunity to learn, acquire and exercise additional skills associated with documentary editing.

The overall goal of the internship is to provide a high-quality, supervised professional practicum that introduces second-year and advanced American history graduate students to the field of documentary editing in order to enhance their education and future employability. Participating graduate students will gain a broad understanding of the goals of, planning for, and skills necessary to undertake large documentary-editing projects, as well as what is involved in their daily operations.

The internship will consist of 250 hours over the course of 10 weeks.

This is a temporary position, with stipend, based in Frankfort, Ky. Employee benefits are not available. Housing is not provided. Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/D.

To apply, e-mail internship application and resume to No phone calls please. Application deadline is March 1, 2014. Application is available at the Historical Society website.

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) is a state agency and membership organization that is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The KHS mission is to engage people in the exploration of the commonwealth’s diverse heritage by providing connections to the past, perspective on the present and inspiration for the future.

Gerard Magliocca presents new book: “American Founding Son”

book jacket Magliocca founding son
Faculty Book Talks at IU McKinney School of Law
September 10, 2013
5:00-7:00 pm
Wynne Courtroom and Atrium, Inlow Hall, 530 W. New York Street, Indianapolis, IN.

American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment, by Gerard Magliocca

Professor Gerard Magliocca, a Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law at IU McKinney School of Law presents his new book from New York University Press. John Bingham was the architect of the rebirth of the United States following the Civil War. A leading antislavery lawyer and congressman from Ohio, Bingham wrote the most important part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights and equality to all Americans. He was also at the center of two of the greatest trials in history, giving the closing argument in the military prosecution of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. And more than any other man, Bingham played the key role in shaping the Union’s policy towards the occupied ex-Confederate States, with consequences that still haunt our politics.

American Founding Son provides the most complete portrait yet of this remarkable statesman. Drawing on his personal letters and speeches, the book traces Bingham’s life from his humble roots in Pennsylvania through his career as a leader of the Republican Party. Magliocca argues that Bingham and his congressional colleagues transformed the Constitution that the Founding Fathers created, and did so with the same ingenuity that their forbears used to create a more perfect union in the 1780s. In this book, Magliocca restores Bingham to his rightful place as one of our great leaders.

Lecture: 5:00 pm. Reception & book signing: 6:00 pm. CLE: 1.0 hour of Indiana CLE credit (pending approval). No fee, but registration required.

Contact: Shaun Dankoski at