Preservation News: New Project at Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office

Most of our readers have probably heard of the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office which is preserved, interpreted, and operated by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Located in Washington D.C., this small apartment is where the now-famous battlefield nurse spent post-war years trying to discover the fates of missing soldiers.

(You can read more about the location and Barton’s work here.)

Some of the latest news from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is the announcement of an effort to bring fresh and visual interpretation and materialization to the life and self-less efforts of Clara Barton. Continue reading

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ECW Weekender – Drewry’s Bluff

Drewry’s Bluff is the most unique and iconic location among Richmond National Battlefield Park’s thirteen units. The last stop on the Park Service’s recommended seventy-mile see-it-all driving tour, the site is certainly worth an extended visit on its own merits.

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A Conversation with Brian Steel Wills about Inglorious Passages (part two)

Inglorious Passages-cover(part two of two)

I’m talking with historian Brian Steel Wills, author of one of my favorite Civil War books from last year, Inglorious Passages: Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War. Inglorious Passages received the Harwell Award at the Atlanta Civil War Roundtable for the best book of 2017, and it was a finalist for the 2017 Emerging Civil War Book Award.

Yesterday, we talked about the sheer quantity of information Wills had to manage as he compiled the book. There were other research challenges, too.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Chris Mackowski: You’d mentioned in the book that there’s just sort of a fundamental problem with the record keeping that made it impossible to compare apples to apples when you were trying to track down causes of death and the stories behind them.

Brian Steel Wills: We all know that the records are very sporadic. You might have some records that give you far more information, you might have some that only give you this very cursory view, and you may have no ability to know anything with precision at all. If the records were never taken, or kept, or destroyed, or lost, there may be no way to take the full picture and have precise numbers to go with it. That’s always been a difficulty, with the Confederates especially, on all the sides, the civilian side, the North and the South. Continue reading

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A Conversation with Brian Steel Wills about Inglorious Passages (part one)

Brian (left) and me at the Atlanta Civil War Roundtable in June 2017. Over dinner that night, he first told me about Inglorious Passages; I was eager for the book’s release later in the year.

(part one of two)

When I first read Brian Steel Wills’ book Inglorious Passages: Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War, I had to let it sit with me for a bit. By that, I mean that I’d had such a powerful reading experience that I needed time to process it, to let it sink in. Reviewing it for LSU’s Civil War Book Review, I called the effect “staggering.” “He catalogues such a multitude of deaths, in so many ways, that one cannot help but feel their collective weight,” I wrote.

Inglorious Passages received the Harwell Award at the Atlanta Civil War Roundtable for the best book of 2017, and it was a finalist for the 2017 Emerging Civil War Book Award.

I had the opportunity not too long ago to talk with Wills about his book. He is the director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Brian Steel Wills: I was mostly trying to shine a light on these stories of individuals that went to war and didn’t come home and try to understand the full element of what those stories involved. Continue reading

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2019 ECW Symposium Keynote Speaker Announced!


During Emerging Civil War’s Fifth Annual Symposium this past August, we teased our keynote speaker for the 2019 Symposium. Today, we wanted to give you a little bit more information about this amazing opportunity to hear A. Wilson Greene on August 2, 2019 at the Sixth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium.

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Book Review: “The Camel Regiment”

When he served as the U.S. Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis had the grand idea of importing camels. The camels, Davis reasoned, would be perfect animals to use in fighting among the far western reaches of America’s deserts, and thus he acted to bring shipments of the unusual animal in 1856 and 1857. While the proposed Camel Corps of the U.S. Army never took off, one of those camels did see extensive service in the Civil War. Named Old Douglas, the camel became the mascot of the 43rd Mississippi Regiment until its death during the Siege of Vicksburg. The Mississippians’ association with Old Douglas earned them the nickname of the “Camel Regiment,” and that unit’s story is the focus of a newly published regimental history.

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Podcast Additional Resources: “Gettysburg Civilians”

It’s now becoming a tradition to share additional resources from our blog archives that relate to the most recent ECW Podcast. Did you catch last week’s discussion with Chris Mackowski and Sarah Kay Bierle about Gettysburg Civilians?

This week we’ve collected a few blog posts on the subject; some of them are written by Sarah Kay Bierle and explore in-depth details about the topic discussed in the podcast. Continue reading

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Remarkable Photograph of a Civil War and World War I General Together

Two years ago I took advantage of a roundtable talk in Ohio to visit the Clark County Historical Society in Springfield. I found some fantastic material on the 110th Ohio Infantry, one of the units who made the Breakthrough attack at Petersburg, particularly among the papers of Joseph Warren Keifer, who served as the regiment’s original commander and led its brigade in the last year of the war. After the Civil War Keifer served in the U.S. House of Representatives, including a term as Speaker of the House. He rejoined the army for the Spanish-American War and commanded the 7th Army Corps. Keifer made the acquaintance of John Pershing and the two remained friends until Keifer’s death in 1932.

In the spirit of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, in which Pershing commanded the American Expeditionary Force, I want to share this clipping I found in a Springfield newspaper showing the pair of prominent Americans together.

John J. Pershing and J. Warren Keifer in 1923 (unidentified newspaper, Clark County Historical Society)

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Musings on the Civil War & World War I

An unidentified Civil War Veteran

In the words of a modern American president, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

While thinking about the American Civil War and World War I during the anniversary of the ending of the later conflict, I realized that many of the “Doughboys” of World War I were the sons or grandsons of Civil War veterans. North and South, Union and Confederate. Undoubtedly, the boys who went to war in 1917 and 1918 knew about the Civil War. Their history books taught it, and many probably knew about their relatives’ military service in the 1860’s. Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 11/12-11/18/18

Let’s talk about archaeology studies on Civil War battlefields… Do you have a favorite artifact, story, or experience?

Please note: Always know the rules and have proper authorization/permission before searching for artifacts! ECW does not encourage or condone illegal searching or activities.

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