ECW Weekender: Fredericksburg Events

Statue memorializing Sergeant Kirkland’s heroism, Fredericksburg Battlefield.

It’s Fredericksburg anniversary weekend and it seemed appropriate to share the history tours and walks that are hosted by the National Park Service on Saturday and Sunday. We’ve copied the listed from the NPS website and wish you a great weekend of history if you are able to participate.

(And there are rumors that some ECW members may be attending these tours… We’d love to chat with you about history!) Continue reading

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Fredericksburg: The War In Town

Earlier this week, I combed through Library of Congress images related to the Battle of Fredericksburg and found a sketch of Union soldiers plundering the town or December 11 or 12, 1862. Fredericksburg had the unlucky claim of being one of the first cities intentionally and deliberated targeted and then plundered during the Civil War. Both sides fired artillery projectiles into the city, and when Union soldiers arrived on the streets, they had a field day causing destruction which prompted rage from the southerners.

It should be noted that one of the few positive instances to happened in this period of Fredericksburg’s local history was freedom for enslaved. The Union army’s arrival in the vicinity and then appearance on the streets offered a chance for freedom. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had not yet gone into effect, Union armies had already set precedent of sheltering “contraband” and giving them a chance for freedom.

As I took a closer look at the plundering sketch, I noted the building in the background that says “Bank of Virginia.” In Thomas Galway’s account of the 8th Ohio Infantry at Fredericksburg, he mentions this building and I can’t help wondering if some of the soldiers in the sketch could have been from his regiment. Continue reading

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Sketch of the Siege of Fredericksburg

View of Fredericksburg from Falmouth, VA, on the north bank of the Rappahannock River.

 

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Marching to Fredericksburg via New Market

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On one of my research trips to New Market when I was working on Call Out The Cadets, I made the trek to the top of New Market gap in Massanutten Mountian in the Shenandoah Valley. Modern Route 211 crosses the mountain running east/west and parallels the old roadbed in use during the Civil War era. And there at the top of the gap is a connection to the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had waited in the Shenandoah Valley as Lee, Longstreet, and Stuart kept an eye on the Army of the Potomac and its new commander, General Burnside. By late November, enough of Burnside’s plan was clear, Lee ordered Jackson and his approximately 32,000 men to join the rest of the force at Fredericksburg. In Henry K. Douglas’s narrative: “He [Jackson] left Winchester for another, and his last, trip over the Valley pick the last week of November. With long and rapid marches he passed Strasburg, Woodstock, to New Market, then turning east over the Massanutton[sp] and the Shenandoah to Lurary Valley, then into the Blue Ridge and over it at Fisher’s Gap to a different country of Virginia…” Continue reading

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Holiday History Tour

I traveled home from Fredericksburg to Erie Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving this year. It was my first trip back since arriving here in late June. As I have an serious allergy to the commercialism of Black Friday, I decided to make it History Friday.

After a brief visit to the Fort LeBoeuf Museum in Waterford, a story more suited for our friends at Emerging Revolutionary War, I headed for downtown and the Erie Historical Society and the Watson-Curtze Mansion, a place that I haven’t been to in over 20 years. Continue reading

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Santa For the Yankees, Too

Nast’s First Santa

Santa, as we know him, is a creation of artist Thomas Nast who created the bearded old elf for the 1862-63 Christmas edition of Harper’s Weekly. In his famous drawing, he showed Union soldiers opening their Christmas boxes from home. One soldier gets a stuffed stocking (hopefully the other one was in there somewhere!), and another got a fancy new pipe. Santa is handing out toys, including a Jeff Davis puppet, and many soldiers hold their gift boxes close to their hearts. Winslow Homer showed soldiers on Christmas Day in 1861, and everywhere are boxes from home. They were packed with more love than sense if letters home are any indication. Spoiled food or broken glass was a common complaint, and once in a while, the bottle holding the traditional Christmas cordial arrived empty. For the most part, soldiers loved getting a box from home, no matter what the season. Continue reading

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Symposium Spotlight: Kevin Pawlak

Welcome back to another installment of our 2020 Emerging Civil War Symposium Spotlight. Over the coming weeks we will continue to feature introductions of all of our speakers for the 2020 Symposium, as well as you give a sneak peak of their talks. We’ll also be sharing suggested titles that you may want to read in preparation for these programs. This week we feature longtime ECW member Kevin Pawlak. Continue reading

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Additional Podcast Resources: “Aftermath of Battle”

Did you have a chance to hear Meg Groeling’s podcast about what happened when the battles ended? She has accomplished insightful research on the ordeals for the wounded and the burials of fallen soldiers. This podcast is available to all ECW Podcast subscribers via Patreon.

Today, we’ve combed through the archives and found a few articles related to the subject “Aftermath”: Continue reading

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Exploring Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West

My wife will tell you that I can find Civil War History wherever we go. I’m equally proud and embarrassed to admit that she’s right. We recently joined a few friends for a late season, kids free, just-what-the-doctor-ordered trip to the Florida Keys. While poking our heads into many (ok…too many) of the bars on Duval Street I casually mentioned to my wife that there was a lot of Civil War history in Key West. Construction of the 1848 Key West Lighthouse was supervised by George Meade, sir, that’s right! Our very own general of our very own corps. See that…I quote Gettysburg and I have your attention. Moving on… Continue reading

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The Importance of Finding the Original Source

When it comes to reading history, I’m a slow reader. Usually, every time I see a superscript number at the end of a sentence or paragraph, I’ll flip to the back of the book to see the source. I’m a research junkie so footnotes and endnotes continually whet my appetite for more sources about a particular subject.

The ORs are an important primary source for Civil War students.

This practice has saved me a few times and, more often than not, it plants an important reminder for historians right in front of my eyes: it is important to cite original sources so readers can find where the writer obtained their information and then read it for themselves. Sometimes, you might find that the meaning of the original source is vastly different than what the secondary source says.

Take Timothy J. Reese’s Sykes’ Regular Infantry Division, 1861-1864: A History of Regular United States Infantry Operations in the Civil War’s Eastern Theater. In terms of its subject matter, the book is unique in tackling the Army of the Potomac’s regular infantrymen. But there is one part of the book that I found particularly troubling. Continue reading

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