On September 14, 2014, the nation will pass a milestone anniversary. 200 years prior, Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a poem, which later, when adapted to music, would be come the United States of America’s national anthem.
The action that Key witnessed was the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, a star-shaped fort that guarded the water approaches to Baltimore, Maryland, named after a Maryland signer of the Constitution and the third Secretary of War, James McHenry.
Throughout the night of September 13, 1814, the fort and its defenders withstood constant shelling from the British fleet, and when dawn broke on September 14th, the flag still fluttered above the ramparts. Coupled with a setback at the battle of North Point in which British General Robert Ross was killed, the Americans, aided by Maryland militia, safely defended the city and harbor. Continue reading
Posted in Battles, Leadership--Confederate, Memory, National Park Service, Ties to the War
Tagged American Civil War, baltimore, Battle of Baltimore, Era of Good Feelings, Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key, Frank Howard, National Park Service, President Abraham Lincoln, War of 1812
Batavia, New York, sits midway between Buffalo and Rochester along the busy New York State Thruway. Western New Yorkers know it best for its racetrack, Batavia Downs, a half-mile track that features live harness racing July through December.
But I best know Batavia as the birthplace of Emory Upton, a Civil War officer whose name I evoke every time I take people across the battlefield at Spotsylvania Court House. When I tell Upton’s story, I make it a point to mention his hometown because it’s kind of in my neck of the woods. I feel a kind of residual hometown pride.
I had never actually been to Batavia before last week, though, although the Thruway has taken me “thru,” as its name implies, on several occasions. I was there last week to speak to a room full of Civil War enthusiasts at Genessee Community College, situated atop a high open hilltop just outside of town. It was an artillerist’s dream, I imagined, had any artillerist a reason to set up cannons there. Continue reading
Today we are pleased to welcome guest author Derek D. Maxfield with a review of Robert L. O’Connell’s Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman (New York: Random House, 2014).
He is perhaps the most eccentric general of the Civil War. With his red hair, piercing eyes, and fidgety manner, William Tecumseh Sherman has been called a prophet by some and madman by others. But whatever the label, Sherman was one of the reasons the Union was preserved.
The latest brave soul to try to get to know Sherman is Robert L. O’Connell. His new book, Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, is aptly titled and well done. O’Connell seeks to come to terms with the general topically, instead of the standard chronological approach. The book is divided into three main sections: “The Military Strategist,” “The General and His Army,” and “The Man and His Families.” It is a veritable “three ring circus,” as O’Connell sees it, but “it’s too distracting to watch all simultaneously,” so he utilizes a sequential, topical method. The chief complaint about this approach is one O’Connell himself acknowledges in his introduction: many areas of overlap that can make the book seem repetitive. The three compartments he creates are almost impossible to separate neatly. Take, for instance, the influence of his surrogate father, Thomas Ewing. This man is ever-present in every sphere of Sherman’s life—personal, public and private. Ewing cannot be contained by compartments any more than cats can be herded (O’Connell xxi). Continue reading
We received tonight some great news from our friends at the Civil War Trust. We’ll let Mark Coombs, the Trust’s manager for state and local relations, share it with you himself:
Dear Friends of Preservation,
We did it!
On Tuesday night, thanks to your help, the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the “Legends of Chancellorsville” proposal detailed here by The Free Lance-Star. This project, which will conserve roughly 480 acres of core battlefield land at Chancellorsville, is not only a victory for preservation, but a tribute to the power of partnerships. Continue reading
It has become my custom on 9/11 to think back to a different day during a different September when America suffered an even more catastrophic loss of life. As I explained two years ago, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 17, 1862, have become inextricably linked in my mind. In recognition of both events—and as a continuing cautionary tale against forgetting either of them—I offer a repost of a reflection I put up during ECW’s first year, Remembering 9/11 and the Lesson of Antietam.
This weekend C-SPAN 3 will be airing the first of the Emerging Civil War Symposium lectures from this past August. On Saturday, at 6 PM & 10 PM, Eric Wittenberg’s lecture about the Battle of Trevilian Station will air. Eric was the keynote speaker of our August event.
Also this Saturday, Kristopher D. White will be speaking at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. White will be kicking off the library’s “Second Saturday Civil War Lecture Series.” This month’s topic is “Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: the Battle of Antietam.” We hope you can join us for this free event.
Charles Flusser (1832-1864) (US Naval Heritage Center)
We are pleased today to welcome back guest author Sam Smith
part three in a series
As the Albemarle approached Union Navy Captain Charles Flusser was rapidly making dispositions to meet the it. He chained the USS Southfield to the USS Miami, fastening the gunboats into a V-shape that would force the Albemarle to either turn back or risk ramming her way through.
At 2 a.m., the Albemarle came into view. She cut a low, cruel silhouette on the moonlit river, throwing black smoke high against the purple sky. Union gunners opened on her with everything they had. When she was less than 100 yards away, a well-aimed shell, weighing more than 100 pounds, impacted directly on her side armor. It bounced off without effect.
“Down she came,” remembered Captain Charles Fiske, “without making a single hostile demonstration, relentless as fate, utterly disregardless of anything we could do, while we in a frantic rage fired our muskets and even pistols at her…. She was the embodiment of fate, the very essence of nightmare.”[i] Continue reading
Posted in Battles, Common Soldier, Navies
Tagged Albermarle, Capt. Charles Fiske, Capt. Charles Flusser, essence-of-nightmare, navies, Plymouth, Robert Hoke, Sam Smith, USS Miami, USS Southfield
An open letter to the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors, who will consider tomorrow evening a proposal to preserve a portion of the Chancellorsville battlefield in exchange for zoning concessions
It might seem hyperbolic to say that Spotsylvania County supervisors have the opportunity “to make history” tomorrow night when they consider a rezoning proposal that would preserve a significant portion of the Chancellorsville battlefield. Such assertions can sound like quaint exaggerations or pithy catchphrases–but in this case, it is quite literally true.
The Chancellorsville battlefield itself is our greatest resource for understanding the battle–and in doing so, understanding our own history. What gets preserved and what gets lost affects what stories historians get to tell, and that in turn affects what people remember about those events. Land is tied to history. The shape of the battlefield affects the shape of the story. (For more on that, see my recent Emerging Civil War series “Shaping Chancellorsville.”)
Now that Sherman is marching through Georgia, albeit retroactively, I thought it time to discuss a little ditty that is guaranteed to make Confederate blood boil: Henry Clay Work’s Marching Thru’ Georgia. This song is still so inflammatory that the Band of the California Battalion, which played a concert last July at Fort Sumter, was asked specifically not to play it. Continue reading
Posted in Armies, Campaigns, Civilian, Common Soldier, Leadership--Federal, Memory, Reconstruction, Western Theater
Tagged Civil War music, General Sherman, Henry Clay Work, marching song, Marching Thru' Georgia, Root & Cady, William T. Sherman