ECW Podcast: Civil War Veterans in Great Britain

Explore an initiative underway to honor Civil War veterans who died in Great Britain by providing them with new headstones.

Listen for free here on our website or by using Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Please be sure to subscribe on your preferred platform to receive two new episodes each month directly into your listening feed. We also invite you to become a paid subscriber on our Patreon page for exclusive bonus content each month!

Learn more about Gina Denham’s project, Monuments for UK Veterans of the American Civil War Association, on their Facebook page and follow Darren Rawlings’s travels and interviews on the American Civil War & UK History YouTube channel.

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John Steele, Editor of the Atlanta Intelligencer

The Atlanta Intelligencer Officer, c. 1865

When asked by America’s Civil War to write about a little-known Atlantan, I chose John H. Steele, editor of the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer from March 1863 to his death in January 1871. (The paper folded three months later anyway, victim to the upstart Atlanta Constitution.)

Steele is so under-the-radar that after extensive sleuthing, we still don’t know his middle name. (His gravestone in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery reads simply, “John H. Steele.”) In early 1864 a fellow newspaperman described him as “a large, heavy built man, about six feet in height, well proportioned and has a very durable look about him. His head is large and expansive, covered with a great thatch of silver grey.” He was known as a witty raconteur, “inimitable in racy anecdote.” He was therefore in demand at parties, “enjoys the society of the young [and] is popular with ladies.”1 Continue reading

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Michigan’s Spartans Go to War: The Class of 1861

ECW welcomes back guest author Adam Burke

College Hall, MAC campus in 1856. From James W. Beal  (1915) History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors. East Lansing: Agricultural college.

In 1855 the state of Michigan established the State Agricultural College in Lansing, MI. Today the institution is known as Michigan State University and boasts a beautiful and well landscaped 5,000 acre campus, home to almost 50,000 students who readily adopt the identity of their beloved sports teams—the Spartans. In 1861, however, campus consisted of three buildings, one of which was a barn built on a 200 acre field along the banks of the Red Cedar River. Hundreds of recently cut stumps speckled the clearing. The first students, known as “The Aggies,” cleared many of the trees themselves as part of a grueling daily work regimen. Classes formally began in 1857, and by November of 1861 the college was ready to graduate its first class.[1]

To prepare for graduation, an administrator prepared seven diplomas. However, the pioneering graduates did not receive their well-earned diplomas. Commencement was canceled.  In fact, the young men did not even have time to complete final examinations. These men wrote home to inform their families of a dramatic mid-semester change of plans. It is a good thing they did. Had their families made the arduous trip to Lansing to celebrate, they would not have found their sons on campus. The entire class of 1861 already marched off to war.

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A Pennsylvania Family on Petersburg’s Front Line

A Pennsylvania family found themselves at the epicenter of the final six months of the Civil War. No primary evidence is available yet to date to share that plight in their own words, but in the time since I researched the battle on their property and wrote Dawn of Victory: Breakthrough at Petersburg, I have found new source material from those who knew them. Thus, we can slowly continue to piece together the family’s precarious situation.

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Question of the Week: 5/16-5/22/22

In your opinion which Gulf State (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida) has the most interesting Civil War history? Why?

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Week In Review: May 8-15, 2022

Flying balloons, battle anniversaries, and more on the blog this last week!

Sunday, May 8:

In the evening, Sarah Kay Bierle posted about the VMI Cadets at the battle of McDowell.

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Cadet Thomas G. Jefferson: Saving a Life on New Market Battlefield

Cadet Thomas Garland Jefferson

Seventeen-year-old Thomas Garland Jefferson died of a wound suffered at the battle of New Market. Shot in the lungs on May 15, 1864, the Virginia Military Institute cadet lingered for hours, dying a couple of days later. Jefferson’s story has been told and retold many times in primary source letters, secondary source books, fiction stories, and even movies.

However, before Jefferson fell with his fatal wound, he actually saved one of his comrade’s lives—and not by taking a bullet. It’s one of the lesser-known stories connected to the popular vignettes of the battle of New Market. A story of life woven into Jefferson’s tragic end. Continue reading

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“The prison over the Pearl River at Jackson, Mississippi, where Union prisoners have been confined.”

In researching my forthcoming book on the battle of Jackson, Mississippi—which took place on this date in 1863 as part of Grant’s campaign through Mississippi to take Vicksburg—I stumbled on a little bit of a mystery, although I didn’t know it at the time. My friend Jim Woodrick, a longtime historian for the Mississippi Department of History and Archives, picked up on it as he reviewed my manuscript, and we’ve both been scratching our heads over it since. It deals with a “prison bridge” over the Pearl River.

“Have you ever heard of such a thing?” Jim asked me. Continue reading

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A Tale of Three Hammets

On May 14, 1864, just north of the Green family cabin, twenty-four-year-old Robert C. Hammet fell dead with a bullet in his brain. His regiment, the 54th Virginia, was ordered into a reckless, suicidal charge against a line of Federal infantry by their brigade commander, Alexander W. Reynolds, reputed to be drunk at the time. The Virginians closed to within a murderous five paces of the enemy line. Hammet “with pistol in hand, rushed forward, and seizing the Yankee colors, fired into their ranks, when a bullet pierced his brain and he fell dead upon the enemy’s works.” (Syracuse Daily Courier, June 13, 1864, reprinted from the Atlanta Intelligencer.) Continue reading

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Saving History Saturday: Myer’s Hill

On May 14, 1864, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was moving the Union V and VI Crops from the right flank of the Army of the Potomac’s position in Spotsylvania, to the left flank. He was hoping to either attack the Army of Northern Virginia’s right, of move down the Massaponax Church Road and draw Robert E. Lee out into the open and a new fight.

Bleak Hill, also known as Myer’s Hill (for the Myer’s family who owned it) to the locals overlooked the new Union positions as well as Massaponax Church Road. Confederate cavalry had been spotted on the hill and needed to be driven off.

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