ECW Podcast “Forgotten Battle” Is Now Available

Following up on the Sixth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, ECW’s Chief Historian, Chris Kolakowski, and Editor-in-Chief, Chris Mackowski, offer their perspectives on “Forgotten Battles” in the newest episode of the ECW Podcast. Continue reading

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Antietam Eve: September 16, 1862

Each of the approximately 100,000 soldiers bivouacked in the fields and woodlots around Sharpsburg, Maryland and along Antietam Creek knew what the morrow would bring. With the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac having been in close contact the last few days and the sharp firefight that flared up on the evening of September 16, a full-scale battle was imminent. Some opposing soldiers bedded down for the night within shouting distance of one another.

The tension in the air was palpable on the evening of September 16. Local civilians huddled together for safety or fled their homes, placing their properties in the hands of fate. Soldiers turned their thoughts to home before a stray picket shot brought them back to tomorrow’s task. And both the United States and Confederate States collectively held their breath, waiting to learn the outcome of the campaign in Maryland, upon which hinged the survival of their nations. The stakes could not have been higher. Every soldier, from the lowest private to the highest general, knew the importance of the next day’s fight and knew the inevitability of its coming.

1861 lithograph titled “The Night Before the Battle”

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Playing the numbers: Robert E. Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia, and Maryland in 1862

The Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on September 4, 1862, embarking on what history has come to call The Antietam (or Sharpsburg) Campaign. In three months, since Lee took command outside Richmond, he had won a succession of battlefield victories and transferred the war from the doorstep of the Confederate Capital to Union Soil. It is a well-known story.

The Army of Northern Virginia crossing the Potomac River

Then, of course, came the battle at Antietam Creek. Lee, outnumbered two to one (as the common wisdom has it) faced down Union General George B. McClellan and forced at least a draw on America’s bloodiest day, September 17, 1862. Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 9/16-9/22/19

Since we did western theater last week, it seems only fair to feature the question for the east!

In your opinion…in the eastern theater, what was the most Confederate raid/campaign into Northern states or territories? Why?

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Week In Review: September 9-15, 2019

This week you’ll find the usual sampling of historical offerings, with highlights for book reviews and several posts reflecting on Civil War connections to Patriot Day (9/11)… Continue reading

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Gen. Jackson and Mr. Hyde: Which Account of Stonewall Jackson at Harpers Ferry is the Correct One?

On the morning of September 15, 1862, Stonewall Jackson had just completed a profound military achievement. Three separate columns all nominally under his command converged on a single point–Harpers Ferry–nearly simultaneously. They ensnared the Federal garrison positioned around the town and forced its surrender. Roughly 12,500 Union soldiers surrendered and were removed from the war map in the summer of 1862 all at the cost of just 39 Confederate lives.

General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

It is in this supreme moment, as the victorious Jackson rode toward Union lines to accept the largest surrender of United States forces in American history at the time that the humble, quiet, backcountry born Jackson failed to fit the scene. In all his glory, Jackson appeared as “the worst-dressed, worst mounted, most faded and dingy-looking general” anyone had ever surrendered to. At least, that was how one of Jackson’s staffers, Henry Kyd Douglas, remembered the scene.

In the eternal war of opinions and facts fought (and still being fought) over Jackson’s legacy, two of the general’s other staff officers, Jedediah Hotchkiss and Hunter McGuire, vehemently denied Douglas’ account. In fact, they denied almost all of them. Hotchkiss wrote of Douglas’ recollections of the war, “He shoots with a long bow and generally misses the mark.” When it came to Jackson’s appearance at the time of the Federal surrender on September 15, Hotchkiss, buttressed by a similar statement from McGuire, claimed, “Jackson was always neat in his person and his faded old grey cap had been replaced by a handsome soft slouch hat that I had bought him in Frederick and his uniform was neat and well fitted but of course more or less dust stained and therefore looking faded. He was always neat in his person. I think that at that time he also had on the handsome blue military coat that he always had with him as the morning was decidedly cool.” Continue reading

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Saving History Saturday: Civil War Ordnance Found In South Carolina and Missouri

Occasionally, the news of discovered unexploded ordnance from the Civil War appears in the headlines, reminding Americans that Civil War history is still being uncovered. Remarkably, multiple pieces of ordnance were discovered in two states just recently.

The discovered ordnance on Folly Beach. Courtesy of the City of Folly Beach Public Safety.

In Folly Beach, South Carolina – located on Folly Island – two tourists discovered an odd-looking rock sticking out of the sand. According to a local news station, one of the tourists explained, “At first we just thought it was a rock. The more we got to looking we realized it was more than a rock.”

Lo and behold, the rock turned out to be two shells: one 8-inch and the other 3-inch. After Hurricane Dorian, much of Folly Beach’s sand was turned up, causing those shells to be exposed. Interestingly enough, other pieces of ordnance have been found on Folly Island in previous hurricanes, such as Hurricane Matthew that exposed over a dozen solid shots and shells. Luckily, finders reported what they saw to the Coast Guard and local authorities. Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: Exploring Columbus, Georgia with Kennesaw State University’s Upcoming Bus Tour

Looking to explore some history and museums in Columbus, Georgia?

The National Civil War Naval Museum stands on the bank of the Chattahoochee River. It preserves the largest surviving Confederate warship, the CSS Jackson, as well as the wreckage of the CSS Chattahoochee. Ship replicas and impressive panoramic displays add to the educational experiences while the artifacts include naval flags, uniforms, and Admiral Farragut’s two-star hat insignia. At the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, visitors find thousands of artifacts, monuments, interactive exhibits and video presentations about the United State’s military history.

Imagine the opportunity to explore both sites with knowledgeable guides on a chartered bus tour? That’s exactly what Kennesaw State University Center for the Study of the Civil War Era is hosting next month! Here’s the scoop on their upcoming event from the official site and shared with permission: Continue reading

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Book Review: Searching for Stonewall by Ben Cleary

Searching for Stonewall-cover.jpgIt seems I’ve been searching for Stonewall Jackson in one capacity or another for more than 20 years, so, needless to say, Ben Cleary’s new book, Searching for Stonewall Jackson, caught my attention.

Cleary takes a Tony Horwitz-like approach to his explorations of Stonewall Jackson, combining a modern travelogue with biographical information. The intent is to let his modern travels shed light on the historical story, and ideally, vice versa.

As an intermediate-level wartime biography of Jackson, Cleary’s book is quite good. For someone who doesn’t want to wade through the massive tomes written by Bud Robertson or S. C. Gwinn, this book makes an excellent compromise. It follows Jackson’s wartime exploits with enough detail to satisfy a Jackson fan without getting bogged down or going microscopic. Cleary talks some about Jackson’s pre-war life, but the emphasis begins at First Manassas and ends just after Chancellorsville.

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The Tale of a Troublesome Harp, According to Henry K. Douglas

I’ve got a broken string on my harp. Not a big deal. I’ll get it changed and hopefully in tune before choir practice tomorrow.

And how is this related to history? Well…I’ve a story for you. About broken harp strings.

To begin, you have to understand the musical severity of this situation. When harp strings break, it’s almost impossible to play properly and the tuning of the harp changes slightly because the tension on the instrument has been altered. The best thing to do: get the string changed as quickly as possible. Apparently that wasn’t an easy feature in Civil War Virginia during winter of 1865… Continue reading

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