THE NATURE OF SACRIFICE:
A BIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES RUSSELL LOWELL, JR.
A Talk with slides given March 22, 2005
and recorded for WGBH
world advances by impossibilities achieved," Charles Lowell
insisted in 1854 when, as Valedictorian, he spoke at his Harvard
graduation just two weeks after Boston had enforced the Fugitive
Slave Law, returning Anthony Burns into slavery. Lowell argued that
in the great march of mankind toward a greater humanity it was precisely
those idealistic dreams of young men that marked human progress.
His photographic memory and brilliant mind made him the brightest
man of his generation. Spurning the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson
to become a "mystic," Lowell began a career at the cutting
edge of industrial innovation under the mentorship of the New York
iron magnate Abram Hewitt. But the impossibility Lowell had in mind
was not the miracle of industrial advancement that was sweeping
the nation, but the abolition of slavery. Lowell volunteered in
the Union Cavalry and in 1862 served on General McClellan's staff.
In 1864 he joined the Cavalry Corps under Sheridan, commanding the
Carol Bundy's account of Lowell's war years, shadowed by the deaths
of his brother, cousins, and friends, is unsparing in its depiction
of his work in helping to form the fabled 54th Regiment of black
volunteers, fighting Colonel Mosby's guerillas, implementing Grant's
orders to destroy the Shenandoah Valley, and participating in the
notorious Front Royal Affair, when Confederate prisoners were tortured
and executed. Bundy's vivid biography, based on rich public archives
and a wealth of family papers, shows in persuasive detail the antebellum
Boston of Lowell's privileged childhood transformed by his father's
unexpected bankruptcy and by the national controversy over slavery.
An Athenaeum Proprietor, Carol Bundy has written for film and art
publications in both the UK and the U.S. She has two sons and lives
in Cambridge. Bundy became interested in her great-great-great uncle,
Charles Russell Lowell, when his worn saddle bags, rusted sword,
and spurs turned up after her grandmother's death in 1983.
Lectures on The Nature of Sacrifice: