Special Announcement: Keynote Speaker for Second Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium


Photo by Jennifer E. Berry

We are pleased to announce our Keynote Speaker for the Second Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium, Dana B. Shoaf. As the Symposium will focus on Civil War Legacies, Dana will present Give Them the Cold Steel (or not): A Military and Cultural History of the Bayonet. One place that the bayonet was used most notoriously was at Spotsylvania’s “Bloody Angle” on May 12, 1864. Stevenson Ridge, where the Symposium will be held, sits on the northern part of the battlefield. “This is sure to give the story extra poignant resonance” said Chris Mackowski, Editor-in-Chief of Emerging Civil War.

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Question of the Week: January 26, 2015

LitleMacTumblerI’m sure I’m not the only person who got the Civil War Sesquicentennial tumbler set for Christmas. The set contains glasses with four Confederates (Davis, Lee, Jackson, and Stuart) and four Federals (Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, and McClellan).  Continue reading

Posted in Holidays, Leadership--Confederate, Leadership--Federal, Memory, Personalities, Ties to the War | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Fleeting Fame: Union Colonel John Fitzroy De Courcy


It is not unusual for the commander of a defeated force to get sacked. Nor is it unusual for such a commander to suffer additional consequences, if that defeat is particularly egregious, or seems to involve an overly ripe degree of blundering.

Defeat at Ball’s Bluff sent Union Colonel Charles P. Stone to a Federal prison for six months, despite the lack of a trial or even having charges filed against him. The fall of New Orleans so tainted Confederate General Mansfield Lovell’s career that he never held a major command again, despite the fact that his court of inquiry cleared him of blame.

When Colonel Dixon Miles surrendered Harpers Ferry in September 1862, the fact that he was mortally wounded by an artillery shell on the very day he decided to capitulate didn’t stop the United States Government from launching a formal Court of Inquiry into the sorry affair. Nor did Miles’s demise absolve him from the court’s blame-laying. He was posthumously condemned for “incapacity, almost amounting to imbecility.”

Brigadier General John W. Frazer likely would have faced a similar court for his decision to surrender his small garrison of Confederates at Cumberland Gap in September 1863 had he not spent the rest of the war a Union prisoner. There was certainly anger enough. Confederate President Davis denounced Frazer in a public oration. Frazer’s commission, a provisional appointment that required congressional confirmation that fall, was subsequently given the thumbs-down by all 18 sitting Confederate Senators. He was also neither paroled or exchanged, which was unusual for a general officer at that stage of the war.

All of the examples above are at least understandable, if not excusable: losing has consequences.

But what of winning?

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Posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Leadership--Federal, Personalities, Western Theater | Tagged | 1 Comment

Class of 1842

When reading a biography of a Civil War general officer, the usual biographical sketch is: West Point Military Academy educated, Mexican War experience, volunteer organization command in early stages of the war, and then the rise through the general officer ranks. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but for the sake of this post, we are going to explore that rule. Continue reading

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Lincoln’s Confederate Little Sister

LincolnsLittleSister-coverThe Civil War is often remembered as “brother versus brother,” but for Abraham Lincoln, it was brothers-in-law versus brothers-in-law—and a slew of other in-laws, too.

Historian Stuart W. Sanders has published a new book that looks at one of Lincoln’s troubled family connections. “Lincoln’s Confederate ‘Little Sister:’ Emilie Todd Helm” is a long-form essay available on the Kindle and related platforms.

The fifty-page essay examines the life of Emilie Todd Helm, who was Mary Todd Lincoln’s half-sister. Continue reading

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Stonewall’s Birthday

Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

I hear the sound of furniture sliding across the living room carpet, but it stops in time for my daughter to hear my footsteps coming down the hallway from the kitchen. “Don’t come in yet!” Steph pleads.

“What are you doing?” I ask from around the corner.

“Just a second,” she says. “I’m setting something up. Just wait right there. I’m almost ready.”

It’s January, 2001. Steph is eight. Continue reading

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“What If Jackson had Survived His Wounding?”

Jackson is woundedI get the question all the time: “What if Stonewall Jackson hadn’t been shot?”

When people ask that question, what they really want to know is “What would he have done at Gettysburg?” My answer is always “He would have never made it to Gettysburg.” (You can see an in-depth answer here and here.) So many people, it seems, want Jackson to get to Gettysburg. They want to talk about the Great What-If of the war.

Sometimes, the question comes up in a slightly different way: “What if Jackson had survived his wounding?”

This very question came up last week as I spoke to the Civil War Roundtable of New York. To my delight, there was a retired pathologist who happened to be in attendance—Robert Katz, M.D.—who asked if he could share some of his thoughts.  Continue reading

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Happy Stonewall’s Birthday


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The Art of Hiding Personal Effects, Part Two: Valuables

'Sherman's bummers foraging through South Carolina,' image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

‘Sherman’s bummers foraging through South Carolina,’ image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The physical trauma Sherman and his troops forced upon the Southern countryside riddles letters and diaries, and the psychological trauma is still evident in the resentment passed down between generations. The chaos of unorganized Union foraging parties followed a pattern as Federal troops marched through the South. Allowed to forage under Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 120, some soldiers took “advantage of the license given to them” and in addition to foraging for food, they pillaged for every day household items.[i] Section two in this three part series highlights the lengths soldiers went to in order to find items of value, as well as some of the imagination employed in hiding personal effects during Sherman’s March to the Sea, as well as throughout his Carolina Campaigns. Continue reading

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Emerging Civil War Welcomes Dan Welch

DanWelch-mugshotEmerging Civil War is pleased to announce the addition of Daniel Welch to our line-up of regular contributors. You’ve probably been following Dan’s posts on the letters of surgeon William Child, writing home during the last months of 1864 and now into 1865.

Dan serves as the Education Programs Coordinator for the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner of Gettysburg National Military Park. Previously, he was a seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park for five years. During that time, he led numerous programs on the campaign and battle for school groups, families, and visitors of all ages. Most recently, Dan was a part of GNMP’s special 150th anniversary programs, as well as the annual Mid-Winter Lecture series.

“Like many of us interested in the Civil War, it was a family trip to Gettysburg at age five that forever sealed my passion for this era of our nation’s history,” Dan explains. “I was hooked.” Continue reading

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