Saving History Saturday: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation To Renovate Visitor Center

Few National Park Service nonprofit partners have been as successful in the preservation and maintenance of their park as the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation. Founded in 1950, the Foundation essentially saved the initial 37 acres of hallowed ground to create the National Park Service site, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Today, they are indispensable in their work supporting the park in fundraising and through public events and programs. This week, the Foundation launched their latest fundraising campaign to renovate the park’s outdated visitor center.

The current visitor center at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Courtesy of the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation.

Spearheading their efforts is outdoor company Bass Pro Shops, whose headquarters are based in nearby Springfield, Missouri. Their $25,000 contribution to the campaign put a major dent in the $300,000 fundraising goal. To complete the renovations, the park needs $3.5 million in total. The remaining $3.2 million is being funded by the National Park Service and the National Park Service Foundation. Continue reading

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The Battle of Atlanta Opens (the cyclorama, that is)

Atlanta Cyclorama-Federal reinforcementsAfter a $35.8 million restoration project that spanned four years, the Atlanta History Center unveiled its Battle of Atlanta cyclorama late last month.

In 2017, I had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the restoration project from the museum’s chief historian, Dr. Gordon Jones. You can read that four-part series starting here.

If you’d like to read coverage of the cyclorama’s opening: Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: How They Left California

Earlier this week I went desert camping with my youngest brother during his spring break. As we drove out to Anza-Borrego State Park, we closely followed the path of the Overland Butterfield Stage Route. In many places along the twisting Highway 79, little has changed in the topography and landscape since the 1860s. I tried to imagine what it might have been like for the Southern sympathizers who used this route to head for the Confederacy in 1861. And how the Federal soldiers sent to guard the trail might have felt in this wilderness of scrubby oaks, sagebrush, rock piles, and open meadows.

If you’re ever in San Diego County or south Riverside County in Southern California and in need of a Sunday afternoon drive, this is a good one with Civil War history along the way. If that type of trek isn’t in your plans, then let me take you on the drive through some photos and share about the Civil War happenings along this back country road in California. Continue reading

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The Most Terrible Battles

Thure de Thulstrup’s depiction of the first assault on the Bloody Angle, May 12, 1864.

The Duke of Wellington famously said “nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.” Battles are inherently destructive events, and they leave their scars on landscapes, places, and participants long after the engagement ends.

Yet some battles stand out for their extreme ferocity, horror, and destructiveness, and are often referred to as “terrible” – as in Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle being “the most terrible 24 hours of the Civil War,” in the words of one participant. A French visitor once told me the Bloody Angle reminded him of “a small-scale Verdun.”

What sets these battles apart for their terribleness? Continue reading

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Alexander Stephen and the Cornerstone Speech

Alexander Stephens

On March 21, 1861—one hundred and fifty-eight years ago today—Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens was in Savannah, in his home state of Georgia. Seven states had already declared themselves seceded from the Union, and Stephens addressed a large crowd to explain to his fellow Georgians just what this conflict—which would became a shooting war less than a month later—was all about. The primary difference between the United States and the Confederate States, according to Stephens, was slavery. In fact, he called slavery the “cornerstone” of the new southern government.

Stephens also explained that Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers had made a critical miscalculation when creating the United States: despite many of them being slave owners themselves, they believed that slavery was “wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.” Jefferson and his contemporaries had no good solution to rid the new nation of slavery, but they believed the institution would eventually die out on its own. The human equality they believed endowed to all by their Creator would eventually triumph. This was a mistake, Stephens said, and the Confederate government had fixed it by basing its entire existence on the premise that whites were superior to blacks and that slavery was the natural condition of the inferior race.

Here, in its entirety, is the text of the famous “Cornerstone Speech” Stephens delivered on this day in 1861: Continue reading

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Lodging for the 2019 ECW Symposium

The 2019 Emerging Civil War Symposium is rapidly approaching! If you have not secured lodging yet for the weekend, please read on to find great deals on places to stay. Continue reading

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In the Critic’s Corner: Scholarly Interest in Confederate Nationalism

CWN Header

Davis-CWN thumbnailAs part of our series with Civil War News, ECW is pleased to spotlight the work of our very own Steve Davis, a regular (and voluminous) contributor to the paper. Steve also gave us a peek at his work back in April 2018.

I contribute a regular column, “Critic’s Corner,” for the monthly newspaper Civil War News. I write about favorite books, old and new, and sometimes on what I happen to be reading at the time.

For instance….

In January 1862 a Georgian serving in Virginia wrote home about the sunny prospects for the Southern Confederacy. “I have no more idea that the Yankees will whip us,” he declared, “than that a chicken can teach Latin.”

I quote from a recent book, George C. Rable’s Damn Yankees! Demonization & Defiance in the Confederate South (2015) as a way of introducing a point that has recently struck me: the surge of academic interest in cultural expressions of Confederate nationalism. Continue reading

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Of Battles and Memories: A Union Officer’s Springtime Letter

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, c. 1864 or 1865

March 20 marks the first day of spring. It’s a season often noted in Civil War soldier’s letters and journals since it’s when the winter camps broke up and the military prepared for the coming campaigns. They might not have written on the actual first day of spring, but the soldiers noted the signs of the season.

Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain wrote a springtime letter to his six-year-old daughter, Grace – who was nicknamed “Daisy.” The letter was composed after the Battle of Chancellorsville and includes details on the scenes of the season in war-torn Virginia compared to the memories of spring in Maine. Lawrence’s sister often stayed with Daisy and her brother “Wyllys,” especially when their “mamma” traveled to visit “papa” or undertake shopping expeditions.

To celebrate the coming warmer days, pretty flowers, and singing birds, may I offer the complete letter from this Union officer to his little girl? It presents the contrast of a child’s innocence and the pleasures of spring with the realities of war and the looming promise that more battles would come with the changing days.

Continue reading

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Women’s History Month—Every Year!

It may have been 1965 or 66 . . . it was almost summer, and Joyce and I were looking for employment. We had a couple more years in high school and needed to keep our cars on the road, which takes money. What better way to spend June, July, and August than scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins! Or so we thought . . .. We filled out the applications and walked into the cool, sweet-smelling ice creamery. We handed our hopeful papers to the young man behind the windows that protected the product and waited. He read them, looked at us, and reread them. Then he handed them back. “Girls can’t work here,” he said. “They aren’t strong enough to scoop frozen ice cream.” Continue reading

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Symposium Spotlight: Western Virginia, 1861

In this week’s Emerging Civil War Symposium Spotlight we welcome back Dr. James Broomall. For the 2019 Symposium, Dr. Broomall will be joining our amazing lineup of speakers and presenters, sharing his passion and knowledge of yet another forgotten battle and campaign of the war, Romney and Philippi.  Continue reading

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