Civil War Echoes: Graf Spee 1939


75 years ago today, the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee fought a British squadron off the River Plate on South America’s coast. After an hour of battle, the Graf Spee’s captain, Hans Langsdorff, ran into neutral Montevideo harbor for repairs.

The Civil War connection to this battle may not be completely apparent at first, but is found through Captain Langsdorff. A decorated veteran of the Kaiser’s navy in World War I, Langsdorff as a child lived next door to his ship’s namesake and his family. Kaiser Wilhelm II required his naval leaders to read Raphael Semmes’ Memoirs of Service Afloat During The War Between The States, and this book spread through the Imperial German Navy. In this way Langsdorff learned the story of the CSS Alabama. It made a deep impression; in 1939 Langsdorff stated “Semmes is my inspiration!” Continue reading

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“Every tombstone is a biography”


Poplar Grove’s 2014 luminary program (both photos courtesy of NPS)

We are pleased to welcome guest author Betsy Dinger to Emerging Civil War. After obtaining her BS in History from Frostburg State University in Maryland, Betsy began her National Park Service career in 1988 working at Shenandoah NP, Valley Forge NHP and Cumberland Gap NHP. She has worked at Petersburg National Battlefield for 17 years. Betsy has been working on a piece about Poplar Grove National Cemetery for Meg Thompson’s upcoming The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial of the Civil War Dead. We invited Betsy to share some of her thoughts. 


Cemeteries are “my thing.” From the first little lamb I petted on a marker one Sunday coming out of church with my grandfather until now, they are such wonderful and amazing places.

Grandpa was a history teacher, and he always managed to tie a stone to a story about someone with some thread that caught my imagination. “Every tombstone is a biography,” he used to say—a lesson that had a huge impact on me. He created a lifelong passion for me. Guess we never know what we inspire in a child that might have a huge impact. Continue reading

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The Rappahannock

Amphibious assault.2013aby Jason Klaiber, ECW Correspondent

One hundred and fifty two years ago today, the Union army made a harrowing crossing over the Rappahannock River as it prepared to do battle in Fredericksburg.

Now, a new documentary, Rappahannock, takes a fresh look at the 195-mile river’s historical legacy—as well as its economic and ecological significance. The film is the product of two years of extensive filming by Oscar-nominated documentary-making veteran Bayley Silleck. Continue reading

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The 3rd Maine at Gettysburg

Today, we’re pleased to welcome guest author Anthony Trusso.

3rd MaineAlthough the 20th Maine Infantry gets a lot of attention for its actions at Gettysburg, due mostly to its prominence in the 1993 film Gettysburg, other regiments from the Pine Tree State played important but overlooked roles in the battle. One of those regiments was Colonel Moses Lakeman’s 3rd Maine.

The 3rd Maine, part of Ward’s Brigade in David Birney’s Division of Dan Sickles’ III Corps, numbered 196 men and 14 officers at roll call on July 2.[1]  These men from Maine, a shell of their former selves, had received great “world-wide recognition” and veteran status in proving themselves on the battlefields of Virginia, placing many of its former members on the casualty lists.[2]

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John Bell Hood: Dope Fiend?


The American Civil War, it seems, is awash in stories that “everyone” knows to be true. We accept them as fact because they either make for a great story, or they ring so true to life, that it seems natural for them to be established and proven.

But how many actually are? How many stories are either badly distorted or made up out of whole cloth? Continue reading

Posted in Leadership--Confederate, Medical, Memory, Personalities, Sesquicentennial, Western Theater | 9 Comments

Aftermath In Atlanta

Destruction of Atlanta

Destruction of Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia was a key Confederate railway hub throughout the war with a thriving population of about 22,000. Defense of this industrial city fell to Lt. General John Bell Hood and his army, which unfortunately was much too small for the responsibility. News traveled fast as Union General William T. Sherman marched towards Atlanta in autumn 1864. Hood knew he was outnumbered and decided to evacuate the city. His troops escaped safely into the night on September 1st. Continue reading

Posted in Antebellum South, Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Campaigns, Civilian, Economics, Sesquicentennial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stonewall vs. Stonewall vs. Stonewall: Such Books as These!


Robertson vs. Gwynne vs. Alexander

Does the world need another Stonewall Jackson biography? Of course, the world will read another Stonewall Jackson biography. There are thousands of people just like me who can’t get enough of old Jack. But that’s not what I’m asking here….

At 951 pages, James “Bud” Robertson’s 1997’s Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend describes, documents, and catalogs Old Jack’s life in exhaustive detail.

Is there anything left to chronicle? Continue reading

Posted in Book Review, Books & Authors, Leadership--Confederate, Personalities | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Gettysburg Gets Personal

Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Derek Maxfield.

The 149th Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg.

The 149th Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg.

“There it is,” I said to a companion.  “There is his name,” I said as I stared up at the bronze letters on the Pennsylvania monument, “That is my great grandfather.”

I have been to the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg many times.  It has always been a special place, but it took on new meaning for me when I discovered that I had an ancestor that fought and shed blood there.  I will never forget the moment I discovered the fact.  “Holy cow!” I thought.  I had been on that field for all these years and never knew!

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Posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Campaigns, Civil War Events, Common Soldier, Memory, Monuments, Personalities | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Battle of the Cedars, 150 Years Ago

William Bate

William Bate

There was no rest for the weary after the slaughter at Franklin. Gen. Hood ordered most of his army to continue their pursuit of Schofield’s forces to Nashville. Along the way, on December 2, Gen. William Bate received the following orders: “General Hood directs . . . that the citizens report some 5,000 Yankees at Murfreesborough. General Forrest will send some of his cavalry to assist you. You must act according to your judgment under the circumstances, keeping in view the object of your expedition . . . to destroy the railroad.”

It was a return to what was done in North Georgia: strike the railroad and take out bridges and blockhouses in an attempt to isolate the nearly 8,000-man Murfreesboro garrison under Gen. Lovell Rousseau and prevent reinforcements from arriving from Chattanooga. Continue reading

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Oh the Snow Glitters Brightly On My Old Kentucky Home: The Gift of War Part II–Bourbon Balls

Bourbon Balls!!

Bourbon Balls!!

The Gift of War does not have to be all bitterness and gall. It can have a warm, sweetly nutty flavor as well! One of my favorite cookies is the Bourbon Ball, and I cannot think of anything (other than fruit cake) that seems more 19th century than these delectable bites of Confederate goodness.

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