What Did the War Cost?

For the last few weeks, I have been serving a detail to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park as a park historian.

After a walking tour of the Sunken Road on the Fredericksburg Battlefield, I received the following question:

“What did the war cost?” Continue reading

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Staff Work 101

George Patton famously said that “an army is a team.” Often, this statement is taken in terms of commanders and units working together, but there is another essential element that makes an army (or any headquarters) work: the command staff.Grant and Meade at Massaponax Church

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The Curmudgeon, The Eccentric, and the “Norse God”: How Three Men Impacted the Battle of Gettysburg: Conclusion

The Conclusion of a Series.

What to do? What to do?

Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell

Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell

Even after all that had been thrown at him Dick Ewell determined he could make the attack, but he wanted support from Hill’s Third Corps. He sent Smith back to Lee with his request, then he ordered Early and Rodes to get into position. Ewell sent word to Lee “that they could go forward and take Cemetery Hill if they were supported on their right [by Hill].”

It did not take long for Smith to return with word from Lee that Hill had no men to lend in support of the attack. Hill had committed two of his three divisions to battle; his third and final division was too far away to lend support, as were all three of James Longstreet’s divisions, thus Ewell was on his own.

Dick Ewell quickly assessed the situation. Rodes division had sustained nearly 2,500 casualties in its fight along Oak Hill and Oak Ridge, the division was simply played out for the day. Continue reading

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Rituals and Remembrance at Spotsy

The John Sedgwick monument on May 9, 2015 (cm)

The John Sedgwick monument on May 9, 2015 (cm)

If John Sedgwick were alive today, he’d say, “See? I told you they couldn’t hit elephant at that distance!”

He’d also probably say, “Gosh, I’m really old.” So old, in fact, that he’d barely have the strength to speak, so we would have to lean close to hear the parchment whisper of his voice. He would be 201.

I don’t mean to sound disrespectful. I have always thought of “Uncle John” as a good-humored guy, beloved by his men for being a soldier’s soldier, amiable and personally brave.

I stopped by the Spotsylvania battlefield last week, on May 9, to pay my respects to Uncle John. It was the 151st anniversary of his death.  Continue reading

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Black Confederates

Today we are pleased to welcome back guest author Sam Smith

The Civil War was a fiery prism at the center of American society. Every life entered the prism at its own angle and was refracted in its own way.

The lives of Southern black people changed immeasurably during the war years. In the midst of a see-saw struggle that promised freedom as well as desolation, these men, women, and children made difficult and highly personal decisions in extraordinary circumstances.

Many Southern slaves took advantage of the fog of war to escape towards freedom. Before the Emancipation Proclamation was officially adopted, these escapes usually meant congregating around the Union armies that were operating in Southern territory. Vast columns of escaped slaves followed almost every major Union army at one point or another. These people, sometimes called “contrabands,” as in “confiscated enemy property,” frequently served as scouts and spies for the Union soldiers.

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Posted in Antebellum South, Armies, Civil War Events, Common Soldier, lincoln, Memory, Politics, USCT | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Rediscovering a Forgotten Patriot – William Grayson

RevWarWednesdays-headerIn my day to day routine at work I can easily forget how lucky I am to have the job I do.  Growing up with an interest in history and museums, I take for granted that I can make a career doing what I love. Occasionally I am involved with projects that “wow” me or remind me that “my job is pretty damn cool.” One recent project I was involved in was the restoration of a local forgotten hero, one I have come to respect more.

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A Heart-Breaking Newspaper Ad

Felix Tankersley Ad

Raleigh Daily Standard, July 25, 1865

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The Curmudgeon, The Eccentric, and the “Norse God”: How Three Men Impacted the Battle of Gettysburg: Part Nine

Brig. Gen. William "Extra Billy" Smith-Governor Elect of Virginia

Brig. Gen. William “Extra Billy” Smith-Governor Elect of Virginia

Part nine in a series. 

“…a timely diversion…”

Everything was seemingly going well for the Confederates on July 1st. Although the Army of Northern Virginia had blundered into the enemy, they had engaged two Federal corps and driven them from the field. All that remained was to land the killing blow, a feat that eluded Robert E. Lee at Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. As Lee was acutely aware, landing a killing blow on an active enemy was much easier said than done.

Richard Ewell had made his way into the town of Gettysburg in the late afternoon hours of July 1st. Many of the Federal soldiers were scurrying through the streets of the town to Cemetery Hill, others attempted to hide in the homes and businesses of the town. Butternut soldiers worked street by street running off or capturing bands of Union soldiers.

At the end of Baltimore Street sat Cemetery Hill, the rallying point for the broken Federal army. The Federals were seemingly disorganized, demoralized, and in dire straits. Lee wanted to press “those people.” Which was easier said than done. Continue reading

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Building Ohio’s Army

Today we are pleased to welcome guest author Gordy Morgan

As the Federal government began mobilizing for civil war, Ohio was neither sufficiently organized nor adequately equipped to help fight it. But it more than made up for these deficiencies with enthusiasm for the cause. This is made clear by Ohio’s Adjutant General, C.P. Buckingham, in his report for 1861.

Since the earliest days of the Republic, Americans generally viewed a large, established military as a threat to their democratic society. So it’s not surprising that in 1861, the regular army of the United States numbered less than 17,000 soldiers scattered throughout 79 outposts west of the Mississippi River. National security relied on active state militias serving as a vast reserve of volunteers to be called upon when needed.

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Grant Sets Sail

“Grant the Traveler” (courtesy the LOC)

One hundred and thirty-eight years ago today—May 17, 1877—recently retired President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant departed on what would be a two-and-a-half year, round-the-world trip.

“The trip began as a personal adventure,” says historian William McFeely in his Pulitzer-winning biography Grant. “The Grants had had eight years in the White House, and they had come under a crescendo of criticism for the corruption of the administration. Since they had nowhere to go and nothing to do, it was natural for them to take a vacation, one that would get them away from all the hectoring.” Continue reading

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