“Sublime but Dismal Grandeur”: The Battle of Jackson, Mississippi

S.C. Miles as sketched for his biography of “Old Abe” the War Eagle

“There are some slight errors in history in regard to the capture of Jackson, which I will take opportunity to correct,” declared Samuel C. Miles, a veteran of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry, in a 1893 letter to the National Tribune. Miles was an inveterate letter writer, and among veterans of the regiment, he in particular loved to refight their old battles. Between 1893 and 1897, Miles took up his pen no fewer than 15 times to correspond with The National Tribune’s “Fighting Them Over” section, a column where veterans could refight with pen the battles they first fought with rifles.

In the summer of 1893, Miles turned his attention to the regiment’s action during the battle of Jackson, Mississippi. The Tribune printed the reminiscences as a two-part account on July 27 and August 3.

Miles’s hyperbolic writing style is, in its way, a delight to read. His accounts are expansive, grand, larger than life. Everything seems bigly. Continue reading

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A Buckeye Meets a Gator

As Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal army marched inland from its victory at Port Gibson in May 1863, Charles A. Willison of the 76th Ohio marveled at the most unusual roadkill he had ever seen. As a Buckeye, he wasn’t used to the southern swamps. “Aside from the extreme fatigue and hardship of this tramp,” he wrote “I retain no distinct recollection except a novel scene in passing around a bayou shortly before reaching Grand Gulf. . . . Continue reading

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Grant The Tanner?

A couple weeks ago I was combing through the online archives of Library of Congress looking the images collections related to Ulysses S. Grant. This 19th Century cartoon caught my eye. “Grant, The Tanner.” Okay, that’s different than the usual “butcher” label. What’s going on?

I clicked on the image and started laughing. Continue reading

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The 15th NJ at Spotsylvania Court House

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Stumped at Spotsy?

What does this cement block have to do with the battle of the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania Court House?

Spotsy Stump marker

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The Paradox of the Lost Cause: Part II

Emerging Civil War welcomes back guest contributor Adam Burke…[see Part I here]

20th New York

20th New York Volunteer Infantry Monument, Antietam National Cemetery. The 20th New York Regiment is an example of one of many Union regiments comprised of mostly immigrants. (NPS)

Slavery’s effects on Southern industry and manufacturing devastated the Confederacy’s military manpower capacity. The antebellum North enjoyed dramatic economic and population expansion. From 1840 to 1850, population growth in Northern free states was twenty percent larger than in southern slave states.[1] Immigration accounts for some of this difference. Industrialization led to rapid urbanization in the North. Immigrants found growing Northern cities to be attractive destinations.[2]  Seven of every eight people coming into the country from abroad settled in free states. [3] In the South, immigrants competed against unpaid labor.[4]  Additionally, the Northern economy relied upon appreciating land value and cheap labor, which incentivized Northern investors to promote immigration, improve infrastructure, and to develop cities. However, wealthy Southerners, who had no incentive to sell land, discouraged similar developments to maintain the value of their slave labor.[5] As a result, the North tended to be a more accommodating environment for those seeking labor opportunities. In fact, only eleven percent of immigrants chose to live in the South.[6] The Union army benefited greatly from immigration, comprising twenty five percent of the army; soldiers who had at least one foreign parent comprised another eighteen percent of the army.[7] By the time of the war, the population of free states contained three and a half times more military aged males than Confederate states.[8] Continue reading

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Gordon Rhea’s Forthcoming Book – Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and Reconstruction

Perhaps Gordon C. Rhea’s award-winning books about the Overland Campaign line a shelf in your library. Perhaps you’ve been on a tour to see the places he’s written about. Perhaps you’re counting down the days until the ECW Symposium in August when he’ll be presenting the keynote address and taking us through the events that led to J.E.B. Stuart’s fall at Yellow Tavern.

Today, we’re exciting to share some big news from this respected historian! Gordon Rhea’s newest book is in the Louisiana State University’s Fall 2021 Catalog.

Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and Reconstruction

Stephen Atkins Swails is a forgotten American hero. A free Black in the North before the Civil War began, Swails exhibited such exemplary service in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry that he became the first African American commissioned as a combat officer in the United States military.

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The Paradox of the Lost Cause: Part I

Emerging Civil War is pleased to welcome guest contributor Adam Burke…

Heyward Shepherd

Hayward Shepherd Memorial in Harpers Ferry (author’s photos)

Tucked into the nook of a large brick building in historic Harpers Ferry is a conspicuous granite monolith. It stands along Potomac Street, a lesser traveled street one block north of High Street, the main thoroughfare of the town. However, travelers who want to see the original site of John Brown’s capture, or those seeking a better view of towering Maryland Heights across the Potomac River, may stumble upon the seemingly out of place slab of granite.

In 1931, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) dedicated this monument to Heyward Shepherd—a free black railroad worker and the first victim of John Brown’s infamous Harpers Ferry Raid. Shepherd was killed by one of Brown’s men when he went to look for a missing bridge watchman in the midst of the raid. Upon encountering Brown’s men, Shepherd was ordered to halt. Unaware of the evening’s danger, Shepherd turned around to go back to the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Station. Fearing Shepherd would sound an alarm, one of Brown’s men shot him in the back.[1]  Continue reading

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Fanny Gordon, Fanny Andrews

Mrs. Gordon

The wife of a certain gallant Confederate General compromised nothing of feminine dignity when she rushed through the streets of Winchester, regardless of Yankee shot and shell, striving to rally her husband’s flying columns.

We’ve all got some good Civil War yarns. Above is another one.

Eliza Frances Andrews was a young lady of twenty-four years, living in Washington, Georgia (north of Augusta). In December 1864 she began writing a diary that she kept faithfully through August 1865. Published in 1908, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl has been hailed as equal in charm and perceptiveness to Mary Chesnut’s better-known diary. Continue reading

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Earl Van Dorn at Spring Hill

I’ve had this photo sitting in the hopper for months, and then of course, I missed the date. The swell of end-of-the-semester grading has had me underwater for days—my apologies!

This is the house in Spring Hill, Tennessee, where Earl Van Dorn made his headquarters, the Martin Cheairs Mansion. Van Dorn was murdered here on May 7, 1863. “Gen. Van Dorn is dead—,” wrote War Department clerk John B. Jones, “killed by a man whose peace he had ruined.”

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