The “Emerging Civil War Series” Series: That Field of Blood

by Dan Vermilya

In taking the time to reflect on the Emerging Civil War series and all of its accomplishments over the past decade, I wanted to pen a few words about my entry, That Field of Blood: The Battle of Antietam. In doing so, a quote comes to mind from the great Bruce Catton:

“What America is and hopes to be dates from the fight along Antietam Creek. The fight cost an enormous number of lives, and inflicted pain and disability on many thousands more; but in the infinite economy of the advance of the human race it may have been worth what it cost.”

Catton penned these words for a 1958 article titled “Crisis at the Antietam,” in the American Heritage Magazine. They are a fitting summary of what September 17, 1862 means for so many of us who study and revere its history. Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: Dr. Potter’s Fine Dining on May 31, 1863

The most complicated food menu experience ends the series this year…

Civil War surgeons had a hard and unenviable experience, but some of them ate pretty well between battles. Multiple menus from surgeons’ dining tables caught my eye this year, but Dr. William Potter of the 57th New York Regiment won the prize for the most elaborate to recreate and explore history through taste. It was also one of the most expensive historic menus to recreate thus far. As you’ll see, they were eating well at the surgeon’s dinner party on May 31, 1863.

What’s significant about the calendar date? Dr. Potter kept a diary and made occasion notes about his dining habits, so – assuming he wrote correctly – we know exactly what he had to eat and drink that evening. It’s also between two large campaigns: Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Continue reading

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Saving History Saturday: Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute Establishes Partnership with Fort Collier Civil War Center

We have a cool piece of news from some of ECW’s friends in the Shenandoah Valley:

On Monday, November 1, Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute (MCWI) and the Fort Collier Civil War Center in Winchester, Virginia, established a partnership, or perhaps more accurately resurrected a relationship.

More than two decades ago, when the site of Fort Collier— an approximately ten-acre site on the wartime farm of Isaac Stine, located on the east side of the Martinsburg Pike north of Winchester—came up for sale, the founding director of MCWI, Brandon Beck, proved an important figure in the preservation and interpretation of the property. At the time of Fort Collier’s preservation, MCWI’s current director, Jonathan Noyalas, was an undergraduate student of Beck’s at Shenandoah University and had an opportunity to work with him on the initial interpretation at the site. Now, approximately two decades after that work began, MCWI will aid the Fort Collier Civil War Center in expanding interpretative efforts at the site and in creating educational programs throughout the year. “I am appreciative to the Fort Collier Civil War Center for the opportunities this will offer  students in Civil War Era Studies program at Shenandoah University,” Noyalas said. Continue reading

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The “Emerging Civil War Series” Series: Richmond Shall Not Be Given Up!

It’s a story familiar to many of us. An uncle took me to a battlefield when I was six, and I was hooked—only it wasn’t Gettysburg! It was Cold Harbor and the fields of the Seven Days battles. Every year for Christmas he sent me a book from the “General” to the “Colonel,” my favorite gift every year! Sadly, he passed away when I was 13, and I moved on to typical teenage interests. It was only later, when I moved to Virginia, that the fever hit me again. I began reading intensely, and when I discovered that my family had owned land at Beaver Dam Creek and Malvern Hill during the battles, I was completely sold. Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: Mrs. Robert E. Lee’s Gingerbread

Mary Custis Lee

Go to the source! That’s what historians say, right? There are so many variations of “Lee’s Favorite Gingerbread” and I was excited to try a version from THE SOURCE. Mrs. Robert E. Lee of Arlington actually wrote multiple gingerbread versions in her family recipe book, but beside one she penned “my recipe.” That’s a pretty good clue! And that’s the recipe I decided to try on a chilly autumn night.

The original transcription reads:

6 cups of flour, 1 of lard with a table spoonfull of butter, two tea spoonfuls salt, a cup of butter milk, teaspoonful of soda sifted with the flour, a full cup of brown sugar, as much molassas as will make a dough which must be rolled out and baked in a moderate oven. The dough should be well worked out & rolled with enough flour to make the cakes smooth but not to have any on the outside when baked. Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: The Lincoln Cake…According to Godey’s Lady’s Book

Lincoln Cake

Beat two eggs. Add 2 cups of sugar, a ½ cup of softened butter, and 1 cup of milk, Gradually add 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, a ½ teaspoon of soda, and 1 teaspoon of lemon extract of the zest of 1 lemon. Stir until the batter is creamy, and then pour into a greased cake pan. Bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes or until done.

This version of the recipe is how it appears in William C. Davis’s book a Taste of War, and he credits Civil War Recipes written by Lily May Spaulding and John Spaulding. Doing a little investigative research, I found the same basic recipe in the 1870’s The Godey’s Lady’s Book of Receipts and Household Hints. It’s also rather similar to other historical cake recipes of the era, though I had better success with this one than others. Continue reading

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The “Emerging Civil War Series” Series: The Appendices

One of the components of the ECW Series we really pay a lot of attention to are the appendices in each book. Traditionally, we’ve used them as the chance to give up-and-coming writers the chance to earn a publication credit for their growing portfolios. We’ve also used them as a chance to bring in voices from outside the ECW community who have particular expertise on a topic.

Each appendix is designed to shed a little extra light on the main story in each book. We highlight particularly famous stories (like Amos Humiston at Gettysburg) or controversies (should Ewell have attacked Cemetery or Culps hills on the evening of July 1)? We focus on the experiences of civilians and the enslaved. We highlight the importance of memory and preservation.

On September 15, 2015, as part of our 5th anniversary series “ECW5,” Bert Dunkerly offered some thoughts about the appendices that we thought worth re-posting: Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: Pumpkin Pie — From Field to Table

Lydia Maria Child, c. 1870

Take a pumpkin, make a pie. Mrs. Lydia Child’s explains how this was done in the mid-19th Century in her book The Frugal Housewife:

For common family pumpkin pies, three eggs do very well to a quart of milk. Stew your pumpkin, and strain it through a sieve, or colander. Take out the seeds, and pare the pumpkin, or squash, before you stew it ; but do not scrape the inside ; the part nearest the seed is the sweetest part of the squash. Stir in the stewed pumpkin, till it is as thick as you can stir it round rapidly and easily. If you want to make your pie richer, make it thinner, and add another egg. One egg to a quart of milk makes very de cent pies. Sweeten it to your taste, with molasses or sugar; some pumpkins require more sweetening than others. Two tea-spoonfuls of salt; two great spoonfuls of sifted cinnamon; one great spoonful of ginger. Ginger will answer very well alone for spice, if you use enough of it. The outside of a lemon grated in is nice. The more eggs, the better the pie; some put an egg to a gill of milk. They should bake from forty to fifty minutes, and even ten minutes. longer, if very deep. Continue reading

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Bring on the (Historical) Turkey!

Here are a few of favorite Thanksgiving blog posts that I’ve written in previous years. Wishing you all a wonderful and delicious holiday!

The Lincoln Turkey Pardon

Lincoln Pardons The Turkey, But Not General Porter

The Union Gives Thanks–The Soldier’s and Sailor’s Thanksgiving of 1864

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Happy Thanksgiving from Emerging Civil War

(Photography by Chris Heisey)

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. Continue reading

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