ECW Weekender: Museum at Gateway Arch

The St. Louis Arch is an iconic monument and symbol in the United States, a celebration of frontiers, vision, and courage. But as I entered the museum (which is located underground, below the arch itself), I wondered what type of historical interpretation we would find. Because along with the spirit of adventure that “conquered the west” came injustices, massacres, and destruction for many of the native people and cultures that had existed for centuries. How would this be viewed in the saga of development?

The Museum at Gateway Arch features a large, walk-through timeline – complete with interactive displays and wonderful artifacts. The galleries divide the history into time periods: Colonial St. Louis, Jefferson’s Vision, New Frontiers, The Riverfront Era, Manifest Destiny, and Building The Dream. The information highlights the multi-cultural history and the clashes of civilizations in the American West. One particular hall highlights Missouri and St. Louis’s role in the American Civil War while also showing the simultaneous conflicts with Native Americans. Continue reading

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Deerskin and Eagle Buttons: Ely Parker and his Two Worlds

The roar of the waterfall drowned out any noise of the crying child cuddled in his mother’s arms. He was born in a simple log cabin built to overlook the falls of Tonawanda Creek on the Tonawanda Seneca reservation. Within the cabin walls lived Elizabeth Parker and her husband William, members of the Seneca tribe. It was all an inauspicious beginning for their son Ely Samuel Parker.

Ely S. Parker in his Civil War uniform

Before Parker’s birth, his mother beheld her son’s future greatness. A vision struck her. It showed a rainbow broken in the middle with its landed ends reaching from the reservation to the home of the local Indian agent. Curious about her vision, Elizabeth visited a Seneca dream interpreter. The interpreter told Elizabeth of her son’s preeminence. He would bridge the gap between the white man and the Indians, predicted the interpreter. “His sun will rise on Indian land and set on the white man’s land.”

That bold interpretation seemed far from the truth in Parker’s youth. He struggled to learn the English language and was derisively teased because of it. This only drove Parker harder to master it. But while he dabbled in the world of the white man, Parker never forgot about his Seneca roots. He was still in his teens when he fought the United States government in land disputes on behalf of the Seneca Nation. His efforts earned him a dinner invitation to the White House with President and Mrs. Polk at the age of 18.

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Fort Towson and Doaksville, Oklahoma

native american history month

Over the summer, I had the chance to visit Doaksville, OK–site of the final Confederate surrender of the Civil War. You can read an account of my trip in this blog post I wrote for the anniversary of the surrender. You can also check out the video I did OnLocation for the Emerging Civil War YouTube page here.

Just a few short miles away from Doaksville is Fort Towson, the site of a former military fort. As part of our commemoration of Native American Heritage Month, I posted today another video on the ECW YouTube page that offers a look around the fort. You can check out that video here.

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Gettysburg Off the Beaten Path: The Rock of the 40th New York

Part of a series.

The 40th New York Infantry Monument in the Valley of Death.

When you first hear the nickname of the 40th New York Infantry, you might think that the regiment was filled with musicians marching off to serve in the Union Army. “The Mozart Regiment” has a nice ring to it, no pun intended. I have heard some buffs and tourists regaling others with the story of how the regiment received its nickname. One person, in particular, sticks out in my mind as they told the story of the entire New York Symphony Orchestra trading in their instruments for weapons, and marching off to war en masse.

The reality is that that 40th New York was known as the “Mozart Regiment” due to its ties to the political parties of New York City. The 1850s proved to be a tumultuous time in New York City politics with the steady rise of a democratic political machine and their bosses. Mayor Fernando Wood was one of these powerful political bosses. The former Congressman and successful businessman broke away from the famed Tammany Hall political machine due to a political scandal involving his brother and the Panic of 1857. Wood ran against his old political machine, Tammany Hall (which also has a New York regiment named after in the Army of the Potomac), creating Mozart Hall in the process. The incumbent won reelection, and when war came in 1861, some of the early regiments raised out of New York City were the 40th and 42nd New York Infantry—known as the Mozart and Tammany Hall regiments respectively. Continue reading

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Union Warriors of the Trans-Mississippi West – The Indian Brigade

A member of the Indian Home Guard armed with a revolver and cavalry saber. Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Particularly in the Trans-Mississippi West, Native American loyalty and animosity was quite a complex issue. Frustrations with white settlers had simmered for approximately two centuries by the time of the Civil War and Native Americans in the west were forced to align themselves with whomever could protect their people and interests. Though the traditional narratives of the Civil War tend to focus on the “Five Civilized Tribes’” allegiances to the Confederacy, it is important to study those members who actively supported the Union, particularly the Indian Home Guard Regiments. Continue reading

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ECW on C-SPAN 3: Fort Stevens

C-SPAN 3 has a ton of great content coming up on the next few days from Emerging Civil War and our sister site, Emerging Revolutionary War. Continue reading

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Jerilyn James Lee and Why the Civil War Still Matters

A pretty lady walked quietly in the cemetery where her grandparents and great-grandparents are buried. As she looked at the dates on the markers:

Jerilyn Lee, creator of the Facebook page “Stories of the United States Colored Troops,” and USCT program presenter.

I realized from the dates on my great grandmother’s grave that she was born in 1859 and she lived to the age of 100, passing in 1959. I was seven years old when she died, and I remember her well.  She’d taught school in New Orleans and introduced me to books at a very young age. So, I have literally held the hand of someone who was born before the Civil War began.  She was the inspiration for starting my USCT Facebook page, as well as her brother, Lt. Charles Bannister, who served with the 73rd USCT regiment.

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2020 ECW Symposium Full Line-Up Announced

Welcome back to the first installment of our Symposium Spotlight series for the 2020 Emerging Civil War Symposium. Several weeks ago we announced our theme, “Fallen Leaders of the Civil War,” along with our keynote speaker, Gordon Rhea. Historian Rhea will be speaking about J.E.B. Stuart’s mortal wounding at Yellow Tavern and its impact on the Army of Northern Virginia. We are pleased to share our full line-up of presenters for the 2020 Emerging Civil War Symposium with you today.

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Company K, 1st Michigan Sharpshooters at Spotsylvania

The 1st Michigan is listed on the lower part of this marker.

Last Sunday, I went walking along Burnside Drive in Spotsylvania National Battlefield. I started at the Michigan Marker and one of the regiments listed there was the main reason I came to this location to walk and think about Native Americans who fought for the Union during the Civil War. In this area, Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi warriors enlisted in Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters fought with Grant’s army.

The Federal line, advancing with a cheer met the charging enemy in a dense thicket of pines, and in the hand to hand struggle that followed, the Union forces were slowly driven back. On a little rise of ground the Fourteenth New York battery supported by the Second and Twenty-Seventh Michigan Infantry and the First Michigan Sharpshooters, was doing its best to hold the ground. Every now and then the Confederates would fight their way up to the battery and lay hold of the cannon to turn them upon the Union forces. But to touch one of those guns meant instant death at the hands of the sharpshooters. In this desperate encounter, the little band of Indians was commanded by Lieutenant Graveraet…. Under a perfect storm of lead their number seemed to melt away, but there was no sign of faltering. Sheltering behind trees, they poured volley after volley at the zealous foe, and above the din of battle their war-whoop rang out with every volley. At dusk the ammunition gave out, but with the others the Indians ran forward at the shout of “Give them steel boys!” from the twice wounded but still plucky Colonel Deland. When darkness came to end the bloody day, Lieutenant Graverat was among the one hundred and seventeen wounded sharpshooters, and a few months later he died of his wounds.

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Remembering The Gettysburg Address

It’s been one hundred fifty-six years since President Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in history. In case you haven’t already taken a moment to remember this speech today, may we offer a recorded version?

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