The Many Historical Hats of Phillip S. Greenwalt

Readers stand in line at the Fredericksburg Area Museum as Phill Greenwalt signs copies of his books

Readers stand in line at the Fredericksburg Area Museum as Phill Greenwalt signs copies of his books

By ECW Correspondent Pat Tintle

Phillip S. Greenwalt is no stranger to history.

His love for the subject stems from nostalgia, when, as a child, his father would take him to Civil War battlefields and explain the historical impact the dirt Phill stood on had on American history.

“He took me to battlefields before he ever took me to Disney World,” Greenwalt said. “The Civil War has always been more of a passion. I’ve been hooked since I was three years old when my father took me to my first reenactment.” Continue reading

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This Preparation of Husks: Desiccated Vegetables and the Union Army

Today we are pleased to welcome back guest author James Brookes.

Camp of the 71st New York. Soldiers preparing supper at the cookhouse. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Camp of the 71st New York. Soldiers preparing supper at the cookhouse. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Federal soldiers often mused over the origins of the rations issued to them. One supplement, “furnished in lieu of potatoes, rice and peas or beans”, particularly perplexed them.[i] It came dried in cakes, blocks and sheets, swelled to an astounding size when boiled, and gave a dubious impression that led to curiosity towards its contents. Few enjoyed the substitute, many despised it. The unpopular ration was a reflection of the modernisation of warfare and the attempts by the Union Army to ensure the enlisted man’s preservation of health in an extensive, efficient, and inexpensive manner.

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Rebels Down Under: Conclusion

Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Dwight Hughes.

Conclusion of a Series.

Visitors to CSS Shenandoah, Melbourne. (State Library of Victoria, Melbourne)

Visitors to CSS Shenandoah, Melbourne. (State Library of Victoria, Melbourne)

Mr. William Blanchard, United States Consul in Melbourne, desperately applied every legal trick to have Shenandoah seized, all to no avail. As long as they obeyed neutrality rules, Governor Sir Charles Darling had no incentive to act against the visitors, especially with many of his leading citizens in such vocal support of them. Until, that is, Blanchard received information that the Confederates were actively recruiting new crewmen from among the citizenry—a clear violation of the rules of neutrality. The governor acted with uncharacteristic dispatch, impounding the vessel while high and dry on the beach for repairs to the propeller shaft.

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Question of the Week: February 23

This week’s question comes from Chris Kolakowski:

Throughout my career I have drawn great lessons and inspiration from historical personalities and events. From the Civil War, General Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg stands out for me in this regard.

What Civil War event or person inspires you?

VicksburgCampaignAprilJuly63

 

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In Defense of Preservation

A misguided column appeared in today’s Fredericksburg, Virginia, Free Lance-Star that gives preservation-minded folks reason to pause. Columnist Donnie Johnston denounced battlefield preservation as an nothing more than an effort to strip landowners of their rights in the name of “glorifying war.”

“The Civil War is over,” Johnston says. “Let’s move on. The good earth was put here for us to use, not to glorify because one man killed another man at some particular spot.”

Johnston, unconcerned by America’s general historical illiteracy, seems oblivious to the fact that the first step toward remembering our history is to preserve it. He also seems callous to the idea that the sacrifice of soldiers is worth remembering and commemorating.

Mike Stevens, the president of the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, offered an articulate response, which we are pleased to pass along with CVBT’s permission: Continue reading

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Rebels Down Under: Part Two

We are pleased to welcome back guest author, Dwight Hughes.

Part two in a series.

Officers from the CSS Shenandoah

Midshipman John T. Mason, Midshipman O.A. Browne, Lieutenant William C. Whittle, Lieutenant Sidney Smith Lee (Museum of the Confederacy)

Despite pro-Yankee sentiments in Melbourne, the preponderance of sympathy was for the South, echoing the feelings of many in Great Britain. Conspicuous in gray uniforms, Shenandoah officers were approached on the streets, showered with social invitations, presented free open tickets by the railway company, voted members of the cricket club and of the prestigious Melbourne Club, and invited to attend the theater gratis. A visit was arranged to Ballarat, one of the principal mining districts in the hills above Melbourne with a tour of the mines followed by a sumptuous dinner and an evening ball. All of these activities occurred with enthusiastic participation of local elites making the Southerners comfortable in their proper milieu.

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Rebels Down Under

Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Dwight Hughes.

Part One in a Series.

Shenandoah in Hobson's Bay, February 1865 (State Library of Victoria, Melbourne)

Shenandoah in Hobson’s Bay, February 1865 (State Library of Victoria, Melbourne)

One hundred fifty years ago this month, the CSS Shenandoah steamed into Hobson’s Bay, Melbourne, Australia with flag flying. Vessels large and small saluted by dipping their ensigns; cheers were given and cheerfully returned. Like a great bird coming to roost, she dropped anchor and folded her wings for the first time in four months. As word spread, swarms of boats under steam, sail, and oar descended from every direction while sightseers streamed along the shore to view their first (and only) Confederate visitor. People of Melbourne were fascinated by, if not entirely informed about, the far-away conflict. Newspapers had reported a ship named Sea King departing London and becoming a new Rebel raider, along with Confederate disinformation that the former captain of the infamous CSS Alabama, Raphael Semmes, was in command with a hundred of his old crew.

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Some Context from Donelson for the 150th’s Surrender Season

Grant-DonelsonHorseback

Ulysses S. Grant on horseback at Fort Donelson

With the Sesquicentennial’s surrender season nearly upon us, this week presents a good opportunity for us to give upcoming events some context—for it was this week in 1862 that Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Confederates defending Fort Donelson.

“No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted,” Grant said. “I propose to move immediately upon your works.” The clear, simple, unequivocal statement earned Grant the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, a clever play on his initials.

Now fast forward nearly 38 months. Continue reading

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I Got Them Master’s Degree Reconstruction Blues!

142543-004-EAF35766It is one thing to be a Civil War buff, and another to get a Master’s degree in Military History. When I decided to write a biography of Elmer Ellsworth, I envisioned the inside flap of the book jacket. I asked myself, “Which sounds better–‘Meg Thompson, Civil War buff’ or ‘Meg Thompson, Historian?'” I went with Historian.

Almost five years later I can see the light at the end of the Military History tunnel, and it has been a challenging and wonderful trip–until now. Continue reading

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“…and if they mean to have a war, let it begin here” ?? —The Real Words of Captain John Parker

Lexington Minutemen Monument, Lexington, MA

Lexington Minutemen Monument, Lexington, MA

Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to the events in Boston leading up to the American Revolution. The History program called “Sons of Liberty” brought a modern “spin” to the historic events of 1775. Though this will not dive into the deep debate on what was real history and what was fiction, the series is part of an ongoing historiography of myths associated with April 19, 1775. Many of the legends told today were begun as soon as the smoke settled on the Lexington green. Continue reading

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