When “Question of the Week” Goes Off the Rails

th-3Here at ECW we are a fairly congenial group. Our fearless leader (although he selflessly claims we all lead) Chris Mackowski has a wry sense of humor, and we all have a quirk or two. Most historians do. After all, we like dead people! Continue reading

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Question of the Week: Oct. 12, 2015

What is your favorite story from the Civil War regiment(s) that came from your local area?

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Robert E. Lee and Certain Young Ladies

Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Mike Block.

John Sedgwick and his staff on the front steps of Farley.

John Sedgwick and his staff on the front steps of Farley.

On September 13, 1863, the Army of the Potomac, responding to the departure of General James Longstreet’s First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia to Tennessee, moved south and occupied Culpeper County, removing the Confederates that had been present into Orange County. The two armies sat across each other with the Rapidan River between for a generally quiet month until the start of what would become the Bristoe Campaign. During this brief period of inactivity, General John Sedgwick used the Sterns house, better known today as “Farley” as headquarters for his Sixth Corps. The house was owned at the time by Franklin P. Stearns, who had in the spring of 1863 moved to Culpeper from Richmond.

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“A spectator would have said that the opponents were afraid of each other”: The Battle of James City

Federal Signal Station at Mount Pony, Courtesy of Library of Congress

Federal Signal Station at Mount Pony (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

As Lee’s infantry made its way westward to Madison Courthouse, Stuart took Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton’s cavalry division (Hampton was still recovering from wounds suffered at Gettysburg) ahead to screen the infantry’s movements. Stuart knew that Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s Federal cavalry division was located just east of Madison Courthouse. Kilpatrick was sent there by Meade to protect his western flank and to feel out towards Madison for Lee’s infantry.

Stuart also had another mission; to capture the Federal signal station atop of Thoroughfare Mountain. The signal station was one of several that were crucial to Meade to provide information on the Confederates south of the Rapidan River. Just the day before the signal station messaged Meade “the enemy is moving in force on two roads toward Madison Courthouse.” It was crucial for Lee to quiet these signal stations. Continue reading

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Catering to General Grant’s Last Days

Thomas Cable, "Gen. Grant's Caterer"

Thomas Cable, “Gen. Grant’s Caterer”

I’m heading up to Grant Cottage for an event this weekend, where I’m supposed to be talking about my latest book, Grant’s Last Battle, which focuses on the last few months of Ulysses S. Grant’s life. As he was dying of throat cancer, he was also writing like mad, trying to finish his memoirs before his (literal) deadline.

As I was doing some follow-up research last week, an item caught my eye because of my connection to Stevenson Ridge. After all, one of our busiest functions at the Ridge is our catering operation. With the many weddings and events we host, the kitchen is always cooking!

With catering on my mind, it’s little wonder, then, that the following headline caught my eye: “Gen. Grant’s Caterer.” Continue reading

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Gettysburg Mural Gets New Life

Gettysburg buffs are well-acquainted with Mark Dunkelman’s wonderful mural that depicts the fight in Kuhn’s Brickyard on July 1, 1863. The mural sits just off modern-day Coster Avenue. Time and weather have both roughed up the mural since its original installation in 1988 and its subsequent restoration in 2001. Fortunately, Mark recently related some good news to the descendants of the 154th New York infantry—one of the regiments involved in the fight and depicted in the mural. We asked Mark if we could share his news—in his words—here at ECW for the many fans of his work.

Coster Avenue Mural-sm

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“A Want of Vigilance, the Bristoe Station Campaign” Release

Layout 1For those interested in getting the first available copies of Emerging Civil War’s newest
release A Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign, the book will be released at the Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park on October 10. The Park will be commemorating the 152nd Anniversary of the Battle of Bristoe Station with living history, tours and book signing. The program begins at 11 am. Authors Rob Orrison and Bill Backus will be present to sign copies of the book and will also lead tours of the battlefield. That evening, the park will commemorate the men who gave their lives at Bristoe Station with a luminary from 5 pm-8 pm.

All events are free. Call 703-792-4754 or visit www.pwcgov.org/history for more information.

If you cannot make it out to Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park this weekend, visit www.savasbeatie.com to purchase your copy!

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The Chickamauga Study Group – Our March Gathering

Walker paintingSome of you may know that I have been leading a series of focused tours and battle walks at Chickamauga National Military Park every March. What I have taken to calling the CCNMP Study Group has been meeting for approximately 13 years now. Below are the details. I will periodically update information here and on my own site: Chickamaugablog.

CCNMP Study Group 2016 Seminar in the Woods:

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A Change on the Horizon…


You can almost feel the cold weather from just looking at the painting. With the snow on the ground, and white specks of wintry mix falling in the distance, one almost wants to say “brrr.”

With rags wrapped around feet, heads bowed into the storm, and no two soldiers dressed a like the painting depicts winter 1777 for the American Continental Army. The title “The March to Valley Forge” also concocts images of the harshness of that winter during the American Revolution.

And in the middle of the picture, sits George Washington, astride his horse, staring at the marching soldiers in silent tribute. One of the soldiers is depicted doffing his cap at Washington. Respect, admiration, and solidarity of  the joint struggle of the war, is present, by just examining the painting a little closer.

That is why this painting below, done by William Trego, a century and a few years after this march would have happened, is my favorite painting  about the American Revolution.

The March to Valley Forge by William Trego, 1883

The March to Valley Forge by William Trego, 1883

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“We were in fit shape for a rift with Meade” The Fall Campaign of 1863 Begins

Wallach House, Maj. Gen. George Meade's Headquarters in Culpeper, VA Courtesy Library of Congress

Wallach House, Maj. Gen. George Meade’s Headquarters in Culpeper, VA
Courtesy Library of Congress

By October 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac stared at one another on either side of the Rapidan River. Lee’s army held the land south of the Rapidan around Orange. North of the Rapidan, Meade’s army was centered on Culpeper. Since the victory at Gettysburg, the Lincoln administration and Maj. Gen. Halleck pushed Meade to keep up the pressure on Lee. But for one reason or another, Meade was unable to draw Lee into battle. Meade’s inaction in September led the Confederacy to send Longstreet with two of his divisions west to join Maj. Gen. Bragg in northern Georgia.

On September 19-20, Longsteet’s reinforcements to Bragg proved crucial to the Confederate victory over Rosecrans at the Battle of Chickamauga. Now Rosecrans was bottled up at Chattanooga and it seemed the northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg were for naught. Since Meade was not taking the offensive, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton proposed moving two corps from the Army of the Potomac west to assist Rosecrans. Meade was called to Washington for a conference with Stanton, Halleck and Lincoln.

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