Presidents’ Day – A Few Quotes

As the holiday weekend draws to a close, we offer quotes from the first president and the sixteenth president. One helped found the nation, the other fought to reunite a divided country – both key presidential moments in U.S. History. Continue reading

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Remember Poison Spring!

If you have seen the 2012 film Lincoln, you may remember the first two scenes: a gruesome hand-to-hand fight between white Confederate troops and African-American Federal soldiers, and two USCTs speaking with their commander-in-chief. Besides the overarching themes of race, both scenes discuss an important battle for both the Trans-Mississippi Theater and for the story of African-American involvement in the war. As Lincoln would say in the scene, referring to one of the USCTs, “Second Kansas Colored Infantry, they fought bravely at Jenkins’ Ferry.” Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 2/18-2/24/19

Happy Presidents’ Day! Though originally established to celebrate George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, it is now sometimes enlarged to remember all U.S. Presidents.

So…who is your favorite Civil War veteran who served as U.S. President? Why?

(Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, or William McKinley)

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Week In Review: February 11-17, 2019

It’s been a week of African American history highlights, historical accounts and artifacts for Valentine’s Day, and big news for the historic preservation community. Catch all the blog posts of the week in our traditional review: Continue reading

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Preservation News: Congress Fully Funds Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants Program at $10 Million

This week, the Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants program was officially fully funded by Congress at $10 million for the 2019 Fiscal Year. The bill passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this week and was officially signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday, February 15.

Remarkably, this is the fourth consecutive year the grants program was passed with full funding and received bipartisan support. As American Battlefield Trust President James Lighthizer said, this moment “marks a tremendous win for America’s endangered battlefields.”

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, where Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants have been used in the past. Courtesy of the American Battlefield Trust.

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ECW Weekender: Emancipation Memorial

Thinking about heading to Washington D.C. this month or in the near future to study African American history?

While the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a highlight and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is another must-see, there’s a lesser known and controversial monument in the capital city with ties to the Civil War and Black History. Continue reading

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At Sea: Fighting For Freedom

African Americans hazarded their lives and freedom against the nation’s enemies in the colonial and United States navies while achieving a level of respect, relatively fair treatment, and economic opportunities generally not available ashore. (Dwight Hughes, 2018, ECW Blog)

In 2015 ECW published an article about photographs taken by Henry P. Moore in South Carolina. These 1862 images include slaves, freedmen, and African American sailors, giving a glimpse into their experiences in the fight for freedom. In honor of Black History Month, here is that article form the ECW Archives. Continue reading

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Going Courting in Lexington, Virginia – Part 2

John S. Wise, 1865

There’s nothing quite like a primary source. John S. Wise –a cadet at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia during 1863-64 – later wrote his remembrances of trying to get acquainted with the “good Presbyterian girls” of the town. Certainly, he exaggerated a little, but he managed to paint an amusing word picture of a young cadet, dressed to impress, getting a cold reception at a local home.

No offense intended to any religious denominations or personal opinions on dating by the presentation of this account. There were many strict Presbyterians in the Lexington area and their mannerisms were decidedly different than what John Wise had experienced in Richmond and other locations, giving him plenty of entertainment.

In the light-hearted satire it’s intended to be, may I present the scene? Eighteen-year-old Johnny Wise in his ill-fitting cadet jacket strides into town, trying to make friends with one of the girls he’s seen. Maybe he just wants to be friends, maybe he’s “goin’ courting.” Let Act One of the drama begin…in his own words: Continue reading

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Going Courting in Lexington, Virginia – Part 1

Major Thomas J. Jackson, 1855

Theology and Presbyterian doctrine. That’s what first took Major Thomas J. Jackson to the home of Dr. George Junkin in Lexington, Virginia. But before long, theology and doctrine wasn’t the only thing on the major’s mind. Dr. Junkin’s daughter, Elinor, lived at home, eligible and unmarried. Whether he admitted it or not, “Old Jack” was going courting.

What did courtship and the path from acquaintanceship to marriage look like in mid-19th Century America? How did men and women “go courting” in Lexington, Virginia? In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s take another look at love from a historic perspective – both in theory and practical life in a real town where real men and women fell in love, got married, or suffered broken hearts. Continue reading

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“Freedom!” Their Battle-Cry: 1863 Poetry For African American Soldiers

Poetry has many form and uses, and this writing form has legendarily been used to celebrate heroes. Some of the earliest epics in World History – Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey – were crafted in poetry form. Through meter, rhythm, and rhyme, the tales of warriors from many different eras appear.

The American Civil War inspired a large amount of poetry, much of it still resting in newspapers, private journals, or volumes published shortly after the war. It echoed the long-standing themes of courage, warrior-spirit, lamentations, and memorial memory.

In May 1863 – just a few months after the Emancipation Proclamation allowed African Americans to formally enlisted in Union armies and navies – American poet and playwright George Henry Boker crafted a six stanza poem about the courage of the USCT and what their fight for freedom meant.  Continue reading

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