BookChat with Lucas Morel, author of Lincoln and the American Founding

I was pleased to spend some time recently with a recently released book by historian Lucas E. Morel, author of Lincoln and the American Founding, part of the Concise Lincoln Library from Southern Illinois University Press (find out more about it here). Morel is Professor of Politics and Head of the Politics Department at Washington and Lee University.

The book contends that “without the ideals of the American Revolution, Lincoln’s most famous speeches would be unrecognizable….” That means Lincoln himself, as we know him today, would be unrecognizable. That’s huge. Can you speak to that for just a moment?

So many of the ways that Lincoln described American self-government derive from the principles and aspirations of the Declaration of Independence:

  • “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”
  • “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”
  • “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”
  • “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”
  • “no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent”
  • “Let us have faith that right makes might”
  • “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”
  • “gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance”
  • “the individual rights of man”

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Christie, Cox, Crook, Confusion, and the Burnside Bridge

George Crook

Sometimes, going down rabbit holes of research will lead you to unexpected places. Occasionally, they lead nowhere. But every once in a while, you get rewarded. Hence, the case of Lt. Samuel L. Christie of Jacob Cox’s staff during the Maryland Campaign.

It all started by reading George Crook’s Autobiography. “About ten a.m.,” Crook remembered, “Capt. Christ on Gen. Cox’ staff came to see me, and said, ‘The General wishes you to take the bridge.’ I asked him what bridge. He said he didn’t know. I asked him where the stream was, but he didn’t know. I made some remarks not complimentary to such a way of doing business, but he went off, not caring a cent. Probably he had done the correct thing.”[i] This story of miscommunication and poor intelligence has always astounded me. How could Crook, who had two companies of the 11th Ohio Infantry overlooking the Burnside Bridge since 7:00 a.m., not know where the bridge was located? And how could a staff officer of corps commander Jacob Cox not know the location of Antietam Creek or have an answer to Crook’s query? Attempting to answer these questions is beyond this post (if they are even answerable) but my affinity for staff officers in Civil War armies compelled me to look into this Capt. Christ. Continue reading

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Remembering Franklin 2020

Today, November 30, is the anniversary of the 1864 battle of Franklin. When I visited the battlefield in September, I was struck by this sign outside Carnton Plantation. It serves as an invitation to all of us, as students of the Civil War, to remember the people at the heart of our studies.

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Question of the Week: 11/30-12/6/20

In your opinion, who was the best corps commander for the Union’s Army of the Tennessee?

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Gaines’ Mill Sunset

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Week In Review: November 22-29, 2020

We hope you’ve had a nice week and start of the holiday season. You’ll find some fun Civil War cooking experiments and gratitude lists to celebrate Thanksgiving and some details about lessons from Fredericksburg, night at Paynes Farm, JFK in Texas, and poetry from Whitman. Happy reading! Continue reading

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Weekly Whitman: “Thick-Sprinkled Bunting”

THICK-SPRINKLED bunting! Flag of stars!
Long yet your road, fateful flag!—long yet your road, and lined with bloody death!
For the prize I see at issue, at last is the world!
All its ships and shores I see, interwoven with your threads, greedy banner! Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: Colonel Bartlett’s Dinner with the 49th Massachusetts

“I invited George Wheatland (of Salem), Major of the Forty-eighth, to dine with me this evening. We dine at six. I gave him a very good dinner. We used the new mess pail; just right for three. I had a pork steak off a young pig, French bread, which Jacques gets in Baton Rouge, and chocolate, which the latter makes very well, fried sweet potatoes, guava jelly, boiled rice, butter, and for dessert, figs, coffee, and cigars, and a thimbleful of whiskey. He said it was the first decent dinner he had had since he left Boston.”

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Saving History Saturday: Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is coming up next week, and we wanted to pass along word about a couple giving opportunities from some of ECW’s partners, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Civil War Roundtable Congress, and the American Battlefield Trust.

(And while ECW isn’t doing a formal fund-raising “ask” this year, we are a 501(c)3 and would be glad for your financial support!) Continue reading

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Payne’s Farm After Dark

From the Confederate perspective at Payne’s Farm; Federals were posted in the far tree line. After dark, the armies disengaged, and the detritus of battle filled the field.

November 27 marks the anniversary of the 1863 battle of Payne’s Farm, part of the Mine Run campaign. Elements of the Army of the Potomac and Army of Northern Virginia, converging toward a wayside in the Virginia Wilderness known as Robinson’s Tavern along the Orange Plank Road, stumbled into each other. The ensuing fight, known as the battle of Payne’s Farm, was “was one of the sharpest engagements of the war, and was strongly contested by both sides,” said Edwin L. Wage of the 151st New York.

Maj. Gen. Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s single division threw itself into the Union Third and Sixth Corps, bottlenecked along the Jacob’s Ford Road. Federals enjoyed a 3-to-1 advantage on the battlefield—6-to-1 factoring in the stymied Sixth Corps—but the Federals nonetheless came off worse for the wear, with 943 casualties compared to 545 Confederates killed, wounded, and missing. Fighting “ceased only when it became too dark to see,” Wage wrote. “Neither could claim a victory.”

Johnson withdrew to join up with the main body of Lee’s army, leaving behind a battlefield strewn with arms, with artillery and infantry ammunition, his dead and dying.” It was into that no-man’s land that Wage, who volunteered to search for wounded comrades, made his way…. Continue reading

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