“Angry Enough to Give Them Battle”: Hungry Civilians and Soldiers Fight Over Food

“Bummers” (Foragers) sketched by Edwin Forbes

ECW welcomes Katie Brown to share Part 3 of her research. (Find the previous posts here.)

Hunger was an omnipresent force that haunted almost everyone in Civil War America. One of the most troubling aspects of hunger was its impact on behavior and its ability to break down social norms. Hunger among soldiers was particularly troublesome when civilians became involved, even despite orders designed to limit foraging and seizure of private property. “Gen Franklin who was in chief command of the expedition up the Teche had given very strict orders against forageing, pilfering, etc.” wrote William Wiley of the 77th Illinois Infantry in November 1863, before explaining that despite this, his commanding officer had been instructed “to observe these orders but to tell his men that if they caught any chickens or geese or anything like that to be careful and not get bit. So we understood that to mean help yourselves but don’t give the general away.”[1] Continue reading

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Change is in the wind

Wilbur Kurtz’s depiction of the meeting between Hood and Johnston at the Dexter Miles House, Atlanta.

Army of Tennessee,
General Orders No. 1:
July 18, 1864.

Soldiers of the Army of Tennessee:

“Strap in. Things are going to change!”


Gen. John B. Hood, Commanding.

With those stirring words, the burden of command of the Confederacy’s second army passed from Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to Corps commander Hood.

Well, not really. Pardon my flippancy. Continue reading

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Stout Hearts: Attempting to Feed Both Civilians and Soldiers

ECW welcomes Katie Brown to share Part 2 of her research. (Find Part 1 here)

“The provision blockade is nothing; we shall have wheat, corn, and beef beyond measure…,” Sergeant S.R. Cockrill of Tennessee assured a friend in June 1861, “Fear nothing, success is certain.” [1]

Despite what we know today about hunger’s prevalence in the Civil War, there was initially some disagreement over the dangers of famine and starvation. “The South can never sustain this contest for any length of time,” The Vermont Phoenix reported in April 1861, directly contradicting Cockrill’s opinion. “Their enemies are not Northern troops alone; but the harder hearted foes, hunger, want of money, and slaves watching for an opportunity to apply the torch to Southern homes.”[2]

Despite some Southerner’s optimism, hunger soon became a recognized problem among leadership on both sides of the conflict. The Confederate government faced a problem in balancing the hunger of civilians versus soldiers. Despite their different situation occupying enemy territory, Northern leaders faced similar questions in Union-held areas. Continue reading

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Hangry: Hunger in the Civil War

ECW welcomes guest author Katie Brown

“As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”[1]

Scarlett O’Hara’s famous declaration from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is one of the most well-known lines from the story and movie. It’s a powerful moment in which Scarlett refuses to be swept along by the tide of events any longer—instead, she will fight to survive, no matter what it takes.

While modern audiences recognize Gone With the Wind’s problematic portrayal of history, this line points to a very real and understudied experience of the Civil War: just as hunger plays a large role in Gone with the Wind, it also was a constant presence in the Civil War itself. But was hunger a tipping point for real people of the Civil War as it was for Scarlett O’Hara? How hungry were people who experienced the Civil War? Continue reading

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Symposium Spotlight: Perception on Lesser-Known Battles

Ever entertain yourself by Googling history that you already know the answer to? Or try to test the public knowledge of a subject by seeing what comes up in an internet search?

It’s fascinating, and at least a couple of our editors are known to begin “taking the public history pulse” with this tool. So…what comes up with the keywords “Lesser-Known Civil War Battles”?

The top result when we searched one July night was an article on TopTenz, dating back to Sesquicentennial days. Still enlightening, here’s how they ranked “10 Decisive American Civil War Battles You Never Hear About.”  Continue reading

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“Dreadful Scenes Enacted In The City”: The New York Draft Riots

New York Rioters attacking the Tribune Building

Although deep in northern territory, New York City’s war sentiments were not heavily pro-Union. The merchants and businessmen of the city looked on the conflict with displeasure from the beginning since it interrupted their commerce and trade with Southern states and ports and halted in the arrival of raw cotton.

As the war progressed, anti-war agitators and politicians covertly informed the working class of the city – mostly Irish-Americans or German-Americans – that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would trigger a mass exodus of African Americans from the South to New York City to take all the paying jobs. This idea added tension and resentment toward the war and federal government among the working class.

These major social ideas and conflicts were compounded by the institution of the Union Draft Law, passed earlier in 1863. To many New Yorkers, the draft seemed like forcible service for a cause they didn’t believe in – fighting for an end goal, which in their view, would wreck their opportunities and livelihood. It all came to a violent outburst in mid-July 1863 – resulting in largest civil and racially-charged riot in American history and the deaths of hundreds. Continue reading

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Podcast Additional Resources: “Civil War Round Table Congress”

Excited about the information and resources discussed in the FREE Podcast last week? Emerging Civil War has been working with the Civil War Round Table Congress for several years now, and here are some extra articles from our blog archives to keep you inspired.

Haven’t heard the podcast yet? It’s available and free on our Patreon account. Listen or download at Patreon at your convenience. And now a few articles: Continue reading

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6 Ideas For Finding Her Story

Just some afternoon research thoughts on women’s studies…

In addition to my military history project on horse artillery, I’ve been sifting through primary sources and piecing together a clearer life story for Arabella W. Griffith Barlow, wife of General Francis Barlow. For years, I’ve been intrigued by her choices and courage and in the last twelve months or so have gotten serious about studying. It’s going to be so exciting to share about her life at the upcoming conference in Williamsburg hosted by the Society for Women and the Civil War, and I think I’ll continue my pursuit of information even after the event and see where it all leads. I definitely still have questions about her life that need to be answered and a few more archives to search.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about researching women during the mid-19th Century, and I wanted to share these tips in case you are tracking down information an ancestor or another historical woman. And – of course – if you have research tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments. This is how the history community grows and strengthens – as we share information and ideas on the study process along with the facts. Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 7/15-7/21/19

American Battlefield Trust’s Teacher Institute was last weekend! If you could take a class to tour any battlefield or historical site and teach them about what happened there, where would you take them? Why?

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The Trust’s 2019 Teacher Institute: “What story does the Civil War tell?”

Ayers TI 2019.jpg“What story does the Civil War tell?” Edward Ayers asked during his Saturday night keynote address at the American Battlefield Trust’s 2019 Teacher Institute. We probably all think we know the answer, but Ayers spent 40 minutes challenging assumptions, reframing perceptions, and inviting reconsideration.

“I’m going to give us something hard to think about,” he said. Continue reading

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