What’s In a (Confederate) Name?

Memorial Hall, U. S. Naval Academy remembers fallen graduates.

Visitors to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis are engulfed in history. The magnificent grounds on the Severn River (known officially as “the yard”) abound in monuments, plaques, halls, and displays memorializing the nation’s naval heritage. Names of heroes adorn stately buildings and major walkways.

The Naval Academy’s mission statement reads: “To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.”

That mission requires teaching historical examples of those ideals, including the heroes  around the yard. As first-year students (“plebes”) in 1963, we had their history pounded into our young heads. What was not emphasized to us was that two of them also were Rebels who now are enmeshed in controversies surrounding public references to the Confederacy. Continue reading

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Friends of Culpeper Battlefields Formed

Guest author Mike Block shares about a new preservation development in Virginia:

Recently, the Friends of Culpeper Battlefields (FCB) was established with the purpose to serve as a unifying organization supporting battlefield-focused preservation, stewardship, and heritage tourism across the historic Culpeper region. The group builds on the efforts of the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain Park Alliance.

Many Civil War battles took place in Culpeper County, Virginia, including Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station, Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, Culpeper Court House, Rappahannock Station, and Morton’s Ford. The county “hosted” the Army of the Potomac during the winter of 1863/1864. Scores of small skirmishes, raids, and military transits through the country also brought the way to the doorsteps of the residents. Additionally, the Gettysburg and Overland Campaigns started from Culpeper County, and in preparation for the latter campaign, United States Colored Troops joined the Army of the Potomac for the first time in May 1864. Continue reading

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The State of A.P. Hill’s Physical Remains

Most of Richmond’s monuments no longer stand where Confederate organizations placed them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Protesters pulled down several, including Jefferson Davis and Williams Wickham, and the city expedited the removal of the remainder in their control. One under its authority remains, the monument to Ambrose Powell Hill at the intersection of Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue. Stalled for the moment by an injunction, it is unclear if and how the city plans to proceed with this one. Should the removal be carried out, special care must be taken due to A.P. Hill’s thrice-buried remains being located at the monument’s foundation (as highlighted in this recent post).

I compiled a few untapped newspaper references about these remains while researching my talk for the now-postponed Symposium. Rather than bottling these sources up until next August, the following is what I have found on the physical history for what was described in 1891 as a “skeleton in a crumbling condition.”

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Civil War Treasure at the Ross Mansion

ECW welcomes guest author Stuart Sanders

In 1864 and 1865, guerrilla depredations were common in Kentucky. “One Arm” Sam Berry, a pro-Confederate guerrilla, raided communities and robbed travelers across central Kentucky. This pushed residents to hide their valuables in surprising places. (Library of Congress)

More than forty years after the Civil War, workers found a hidden fortune in a crumbling Kentucky mansion.

In February 1909, two men demolishing an antebellum mansion near Paint Lick, Kentucky, uncovered a treasure trove from the Civil War.

Located less than forty miles south of Lexington on the border between Garrard and Madison counties, the home had been owned by Nathan Ross, a local farmer whom one newspaper described as “one of the richest slave owners in the South.” The house, the reporter wrote, had been “a magnificent bluegrass estate.”

Although it was hyperbolic to claim that Ross was a member of the top-shelf Southern elite, he was exceedingly comfortable. Born near Paint Lick in 1818, by the eve of the Civil War Ross was a farmer with $4,000 in real estate and a $4,000 personal estate. This included his ownership of six enslaved African Americans, four women and two men, ages eight to sixty years old. Continue reading

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In Memoriam: Ted Alexander

Emerging Civil War was saddened to learn earlier this week of the death of our friend Ted Alexander, former historian at Antietam National Battlefield and director of the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars. In 2016, Ted was the inaugural recipient of the Emerging Civil War Award for Service in Civil War Public History (click here for details).

Several of ECW’s historians had the privilege to work with Ted over the years in various capacities, and we asked them to share their remembrances.


Kevin Pawlak (left) presents the ECW Award for Service in Civil War Public History to Ted Alexander (right)

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Maine at War: June 2020


USS Sassacus

Here’s what our friend Brian Swartz was up to in June at his blog, Maine at War:

June 3, 2020: Harper’s Ferry scenes for locked-down Civil War buffs

With many states requiring visitors to self-quarantine, Civil War fans are unable to visit war-related sites across the United States. Enjoy this virtual tour of Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia.

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“The Irish spirit for the war is dead:” The Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg and the Battle’s Impact on New York’s Irish-American Community

ECW welcomes back guest author Abbi Smithmyer

Every year, thousands of visitors flock to the Fredericksburg Battlefield. As they walk along the sunken road, stand behind the stonewall, gaze into the windows of the Innis House, and walk through the National Cemetery atop Marye’s Heights, one of the most iconic stories of the historic battle is the gallant charge of the Irish Brigade. The doomed, yet heroic charge of the famous Irish unit has remained a dominating part of the historiographical narrative of the December 13th battle. While interesting, this narrative fails to acknowledge the overwhelming disillusionment among New York’s Irish community. Of the 1,200 men in the Irish Brigade who made the attack, 545 were killed, wounded or missing.[1] This large loss of Irish life, coupled with lack of acknowledgment by native-born Americans, left the Irish community feeling as though their sacrifice was unappreciated. Unlike today, Fredericksburg left a dark memory on many Irish families in the Union and greatly impacted ethnic morale.

Illustration of the Irish Brigade’s advance on Marye’s Heights (Courtesy The National Tribune)

While many initially considered Antietam a great Union victory, as time went on and the casualty reports circulated throughout the northern papers, the Lincoln administration realized it was not a miraculous success. This realization came after the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued, which meant the President needed a military victory to silence his opponents before it went into effect on January 1, 1863. Without a Union victory before the start of the new year, the already demoralized soldiers and civilians of the North would have little support for the continuation of a war now centered on the abolition of slavery. Lincoln’s need for a victory meant that the newly appointed general, Ambrose Burnside needed to move swiftly and fight a winter campaign, something almost unheard of in the nineteenth century. The Army of the Potomac was an army in turmoil when he took command and his troops doubted his ability to follow in the footsteps of their beloved commander, General George B. McClellan. However, Burnside moved quickly, marching his Army southward towards Richmond. To get to the Confederate capital, he needed to take his army across the Rappahannock River and through the city of Fredericksburg. Unfortunately for the newly appointed general, his army was delayed by the late arrival of pontoon boats, which forced him to fight the rebels who had weeks to prepare for the December battle.[2] Continue reading

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Sheridan and the Franco-Prussian War

150 years ago this month, the Franco-Prussian War broke out. By early September the Prussian/German forces had smashed two French armies, captured Emperor Napoleon III, and were marching to Paris to lay siege to the city. When the war ended in 1871 Germany was a unified nation, while the settlement carried the seeds of future conflicts in World War I.

Phil Sheridan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On July 25, 1870, President Grant assented to Major General Philip Sheridan’s request to be an observer during the war. Continue reading

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Political Visitors to the AoP

At the end of April, I shared a BookChat Q&A with historian Zachary Fry about his new book A Republic in the Ranks: Loyalty and Dissent in the Army of the Potomac, now available from the University of North Carolina Press (click here for more info). I followed that up with a podcast episode (which you can download for free from our Patreon page).

Despite all that opportunity to chat with him about his book, I still had a follow-up question I wanted to ask. Zack was kind enough to spend a little extra time with me to provide an answer. Continue reading

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Free ECW Podcast: “Civil War Magazine Publishers – Heading Back To Work!”

Civil War Times and America’s Civil War magazines both temporarily suspended operations at the start of the pandemic. Now they’re on their way back! Emerging Civil War’s Chris Mackowski talks with editors Dana Shoaf and Chris Howland about their return.

Check out the FREE podcast on ECW’s Patreon account.


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