Town Between the Rivers: Cairo, Illinois

The Gun-Boats “Tyler” And “Lexington” Fighting the Columbus Batteries During the Battle of Belmont. From A Drawing By Rear-Admiral Walke

A blue-coated rider appeared atop the riverbank above the steamer Belle Memphis. Rebels massed in the cornfield behind him fired volleys that whistled by the horseman, whanged through the tall smokestacks, and thudded into the vessel’s superstructure. Hundreds of Iowa and Illinois infantry had slithered down the muddy incline and scrambled aboard to escape numerically superior forces threatening to envelop them. The steamer captain pulled in his mooring lines but delayed starting engines; men on deck threw a narrow plank across the water gap.

The rider—a superb equestrian—recalled: “My horse put his fore feet over the bank without hesitation or urging, and with his hind feet well under him, slid down the bank and trotted aboard the boat, twelve or fifteen feet away, over a single gang plank.”[i] Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant, the last man over, nimbly dismounted and ascended to the upper deck.

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The Effects of Pepper

Today is Stonewall Jackson’s birthday. He would be 197 years old were he still with us.

My daughter, when she was young, was a huge Stonewall Jackson groupie. She could roll off information about him the way a serious baseball card collector can roll off players’ stats from the backs of the cards. And she did it with joy in her heart and a smile in her eyes. It was true love!

One thing that caught her attention—as is the case for many people who come to know Stonewall—was his eccentricity. You know, the stories about sucking on lemons in battle, holding his right hand in the air to keep the humors in his body in balance, and sitting bolt-upright in a straight-backed chair.

Keeping perfectly in line with his quirkiness, Jackson was dyspepsic—so much so that he might’ve been a hypochondriac—and so he was quite particular about his diet. For instance, he wouldn’t eat black pepper because he thought it made him lose all the strength in his right leg. Continue reading

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Free ECW Podcast: Johnston & Johnston in the Western Theater

Albert Sidney Johnston and Joseph E. Johnston were both sent to command the Confederacy’s western theatre. ECW historians Greg Mertz, Angela Riotto, and Kris White join host Chris Mackowski to talk about the very different circumstances the Johnstons faced.

Listen to the new free ECW podcast by clicking here!

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Treüe der Union: A German Union Man Cheats Death in Texas

Ernst Cramer

Three days after the attack on August 10, 1862, Ernst Cramer returned to the battlefield near the Nueces River to search for his wounded friends. Nineteen dead German Americans, bloated, blackened, and putrid in the unrelenting west Texas heat lay naked in a heap near the freshly-dug graves of Confederate soldiers. Entering a nearby cedar brake, Cramer recoiled at another gruesome sight. Nine wounded comrades had been dragged into a line and executed with a shot to the forehead, their bodies subsequently riddled with dozens of bullets. Cramer and a handful of survivors crept away from the macabre scene knowing that their ordeal as fugitives from the Confederacy had only just begun.

Survey of Cramer Land on Rio Concho near Comfort, Texas 1853

Cramer and his fellow Unionists were among nearly twenty thousand Germans who settled in the Hill Country in south-central Texas during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Many German Americans in this region were anti-slavery, freethinkers, and recent political refugees from the failed democratic republican uprisings of 1848. Nearly all Hill Country counties were strongly pro-Union. In the June 23, 1861 secession election, seventy-six percent of Texans voted for disunion, despite the fact that just two years earlier, stalwart Unionist Sam Houston had been elected governor, defeating a secessionist incumbent. German-dominated counties, in contrast, voted overwhelmingly against secession. German Union men became fierce and active opponents of the Confederate government, vowing to never betray the United States.

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The Roberts Guard (Company C, Capers’ Battalion): Georgia’s Convict Soldiers

Emerging Civil War welcomes guest author John N. McDonald…

Governor Joseph Brown of Georgia was a troubled man in November 1864.  Two months had passed since Sherman captured Atlanta and the Union armies were once again on the march with very little in their way.  It soon became obvious that at least a portion of the enemy would be coming right through the state capital at Milledgeville, where the state legislature was currently in session.  As the capital, in addition to the governor’s mansion and statehouse, Milledgeville was home to the state lunatic asylum, as it was called at the time, Georgia Military Institute (GMI), and the state penitentiary.  More important militarily were the arsenal and stores kept there for Confederate forces.

Brown had a solution to one problem that could aid in the lack of troops at hand to oppose Sherman.  On November 18, shortly before adjourning, the Georgia House and Senate concurred on a bill authorizing Governor Brown to enlist as many convicts from the penitentiary as would be willing to volunteer for the duration of the war in exchange for a full pardon.[1]  Promptly going across the public square, Brown appealed to the prisoners himself.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not considering it would get them out of the prison, 124 men volunteered for service.  Twenty-six refused and were returned to the penitentiary.[2]

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Civil War References in President Biden’s Inaugural Address

President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address (photo courtesy of Fox News)

President Biden’s inaugural address today contained a number of Civil War references.

Here’s a run-down: Continue reading

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Presidential Inaugurations: From the ECW Archives

Lincoln’s Second Inauguration

On this historic day, we’ve rounded up some posts from the archives about Lincoln’s inaugurations and addresses: Continue reading

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Symposium Spotlight: Kevin Pawlak

Welcome back to another installment of our 2021 Emerging Civil War Symposium Spotlight. Over the coming weeks we will continue to feature introductions of all of our speakers for the 2021 Symposium, as well as you give a sneak peak of their talks. We’ll also be sharing suggested titles that you may want to read in preparation for these programs. This week we feature longtime ECW member Kevin Pawlak. Continue reading

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Suggested Readings for Our Troubled Times

Crazy times. We seem to be living through ’em right now. The temperature is running hot. People feel anxious, confused, hopeful and hateful.

How do we make sense of it all?

Well, in an effort to offer our readers some context for these crazy times, we’ve compiled a “Suggested Readings” list. We asked our historians:

What’s one book you would recommend for people that might give them some useful context for looking at our current troubled times?

Here’s what some of them had to say: Continue reading

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“High upon a hill she stands” – The Civil War History of Jewell Hall in Liberty, Missouri

This engraving of Jewell Hall is featured in the History of William Jewell College. Courtesy of the State of Missouri.

In the heart of Clay County, Missouri sits the historic town of Liberty and one of the oldest colleges west of the Mississippi River – William Jewell College. Located near the state’s contentious, bloody Western Border, Liberty sat at the crossroads of both conventional armies and guerrilla fighters during the Civil War, making it a hotspot of activity. Because of its centrality in town, William Jewell was by no means immune from the action of numerous battles and skirmishes in town. In fact, its “primary classroom building,” Jewell Hall, has its own fascinating history of its role in Missouri’s Civil War.[1] Continue reading

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