Shaping Chancellorsville: The Final Campaign for Day One

 

CWPT and CVBT installed interpretive signs on the Day One battlefield. The first, and most prominent, sign focuses on the Second Battle of Chancellorsville rather than on the Civil War battle. “Developer’s Plan Runs into a ‘Stonewall,’” it reads.

CWPT and CVBT installed interpretive signs on the Day One battlefield. The first, and most prominent, sign focuses on the Second Battle of Chancellorsville rather than on the Civil War battle. “Developer’s Plan Runs into a ‘Stonewall,’” it reads.

Part thirteen in a series

Although Dogwood Development’s effort to develop Chancellorsville’s Day One battlefield went down in defeat, owner John Mullins still looked for opportunity to develop the property. Preservationists, meanwhile, offered to buy the land from him, but he asked an “outrageous” $40.[1] Acrimony increased as the debate raged publicly in the media, intensified by the continued use of “battle” metaphors in headlines and leads.

Finally, in June, the president of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT), Mike Stevens, used the occasion of his election to write an open letter to Mullins, suggesting they “take the battle out of the Chancellorsville issue.”[2]  Continue reading

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Slow Business at the “Fruit and Oyster House”

Some of the best images of the American Civil War can be found in the long campaign around the city of Petersburg. Teams of photographers swooped over the battlefield to document the story, capturing impressive shots of the massive fortifications and staggering casualties. Even the duller moments of the siege produced candid whimsical moments, as when Timothy O’Sullivan patronized the “Fruit and Oyster House” on the Union front:

Fruit and Oyster House

Continue reading

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“The World Will Little Note, Nor Long Remember”: The Battle of Shepherdstown and the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation—Part 2

Part two in a series.

Today we welcome back guest author Kevin Pawlak. Kevin is a recent graduate of Shepherd University with a degree in history and works as a Park Ranger at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. He is also a Licensed Battle Guide at Antietam National Battlefield.

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Major General Fitz John Porter

Major General Fitz John Porter

The crossing of the Potomac put another defensive barrier between Lee and the enemy, a strategy that he used throughout the campaign to shield the movements of his troops. Lee, knowing the high stakes surrounding the campaign, devised his little-known Williamsport Plan to regain the initiative and claim the invasion into Maryland a Confederate victory. Most of his army would cross the Potomac River at Boteler’s Ford below Shepherdstown, then swing west to Martinsburg and thence north to Williamsport. If all went according to plan, by the time much of the Army of Northern Virginia reached Williamsport, Lee’s cavalry and a handful of infantry would have a foothold back in Maryland, allowing Lee to reenter that state and continue his campaign of maneuver.(6)

The movement began as planned and by the morning of September 19, the Army of Northern Virginia had placed the Potomac River between itself and the Army of the Potomac. Later that day, Jeb Stuart secured a foothold in Maryland at Williamsport, an action that Halleck, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, and Lincoln knew about that same day. This action caused some concern in Washington that the Confederate incursion into Maryland might not be over.(7)  Continue reading

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Thanks to Our Friend Eric J. Wittenberg

We wanted to share a very gracious post by Eric J. Wittenberg about the First Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge,  over on his blog Rantings of a Civil War Historian. Eric was our keynote speaker at the Symposium. Thank you Eric for the kind words and all of the support.

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A Shift in Strategy: Battle of Globe Tavern

Globe Tavern. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Globe Tavern. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Since June 15, 1864 the Union army under Major General George Meade and Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant hammered the Confederate defenses around Petersburg. From limited success along the eastern front June 15-18, then a thwarted attack on the Confederate supply line along the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad on June 21st and finally the disastrous Battle of the Crater, the Union army was still no closer to its objective. Grant began to rethink his strategy; no longer did he look to head long assaults along General Robert E. Lee’s entrenched lines. Now he looked to cut off his supply lines and use his greatest advantage to do it, numerical superiority.

The Petersburg Railroad was a vital link for Lee’s army and the Confederate capital of Richmond to North Carolina and the Deep South. Wilmington, NC was one of the few harbors left in the Confederacy to blockade runners and this supply route brought valuable goods to the front. On June 21st, a short lived advance by men of the Sixth Corps did cut the railroad until Confederate counter attacks forced them back to the area of the Jerusalem Plank Road. This time, Grant decided to use his superiority in numbers to his advantage. With Lee covering nearly 60 miles of defenses with 60,000 men and Grant facing him with twice that number, Lee could not concentrate his forces in varying places at the same time. Grant proposed two offenses, one a diversionary attack (though he believed substantial Confederate infantry were on their way to the Shenandoah Valley, weakening the defenses around Richmond and possibly creating opportunity for a strike) and the other the primary attack. By attacking in the area of “Deep Bottom” north of the James River, Grant hoped he could hold a bulk of Lee’s men north of the James. Meanwhile he planned his primary attack on the southwestern flank of Petersburg in the area of Globe Tavern, along the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad. By cutting this supply line, Grant hoped to further strangle his opponent. Grant attempted his Deep Bottom strategy before, in conjunction with explosion of the mine at Elliott’s Salient. The Battle of First Deep Bottom was successful in pulling away Confederate forces from Petersburg to north of the James. Grant hoped to repeat that strategy in mid-August. Continue reading

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Shaping Chancellorsville: Going National

(photo courtesy of www.CooperativeConservation.org)

Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer at the July 2002 press conference (photo courtesy of http://www.CooperativeConservation.org)

part twelve in a series

At a July 31, 2002 news conference, representatives from seven different preservation groups held a well-coordinated news conference to draw national attention to the latest development threat to the Chancellorsville battlefield: the land where action opened on May 1, 1863.

At the event, the historical value of the site was presupposed—“Chancellorsville is a national treasure,” said Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) Jim Lighthizer. “The battlefield’s address may be in Virginia, but this hallowed shrine belongs to the entire country.”—and persuasive frames centered around the need for preservation, quality of life issues, the economic impact of tourism, the need for intelligent planning and zoning, and public participation in the planning process.[1]  Continue reading

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Happy Third Birthday to ECW!

ECWcake2014-smWhile we have spent most of our attention the past few days on the Emerging Civil War at Stevenson Ridge, this past weekend offered other good news for us here at ECW: It marked Emerging Civil War’s third birthday.

It was three years ago that co-founders Kris White and Chris Mackowski sat with their friend Jake Struhelka on Jake’s front porch in Guinea Station, Virginia, and hatched the idea for ECW. In the three years since, we have attracted more than half a million visits from readers in thirty-three countries; we have expanded into a speakers bureau and a well-received book series; we have collaborated with such notable partners as National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, and C-SPAN; and we attracted visitors from across the country to join us for our first-ever symposium. “Not too bad for three guys sitting on a porch,” Kris’s wife recently said.

Thank you to everyone who made this past weekend–and the past three years–such a success. We are humbled and gratified by the continued support of our readers, and we pledge to continue to do our best to serve you well!

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Thank You from all of us at Emerging Civil War!

Emcee Chris Mackowski leads the roundtable discussion at the First Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. Panelist included Eric Wittenberg, David Powell, Meg Thompson, John Michael Priest, Michael C. Hardy, Phillip S. Greenwalt, and Daniel T. Davis.

Emcee Chris Mackowski leads the roundtable discussion at the First Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. Panelist included Eric Wittenberg, David Powell, Meg Thompson, John Michael Priest, Michael C. Hardy, Phillip S. Greenwalt, and Daniel T. Davis.

On behalf of all the authors of Emerging Civil War, we wanted to thank all of the attendees of the First Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. We could not have asked for a better weekend. We had some great discussions and questions from the participants.

A HUGE thank you to Eric and Susan Wittenberg. Eric has been a loyal supporter of ECW since day one. His guidance and help has been invaluable. He graciously donated a free tour of the Brandy Station or Trevilian Station battlefield for our raffle. The winner is in for an outstanding day on the field.

Our deepest thanks has to be extended John Michael Priest. Mike graciously donated a one day tour of the Antietam Battlefield. Both raffle winners are in for a great day of battlefielding.

We also would like to thank Dan Goldstein from the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, who donated a number of beautiful gift bags; Dave Roth of Blue and Gray Magazine; the very professional and unobtrusive crew from C-SPAN, who braved I-95 traffic to film us; and thanks to everyone at Savas Beatie, LLC. Continue reading

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Evening in the Widow Tapp Field

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Shaping Chancellorsville: The Second Battle of Chancellorsville

The Day One battlefield at Chancellorsville

The Day One battlefield at Chancellorsville

part eleven in a series

Easily the highest-profile land acquisition at Chancellorsville in the last two decades has been the Day One battlefield. On May 1, 1863, east of the Chancellorsville intersection, Confederate forces intercepted the Federal advance, much to the Federals’ surprise. As a result, the Federal army withdrew into a defensive position around the Chancellorsville intersection, setting the stage for the fighting that ensued over the next two days. Some 700 casualties resulted from the fighting on May 1.

For the first 130 or so years, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FSNMP) paid little attention to the ground, ostensibly because it lay outside the official park boundary. However, nothing exists to suggest that the property was ever considered for inclusion in the first place. From a historiographical perspective, the park’s use of the battlefield to tell the battle’s chronological narrative had begun at the Lee-Jackson Bivouac Site. The park brochure from the mid-30s described the Day One fighting as “a brief skirmish,”[1] and subsequent brochures omitted specific mention of fighting entirely.[2]

The lack of attention to the action on May 1 began to change in 1995 when John Mullins bought the property with the intent of building a nursery. Continue reading

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