“What If Jackson had Survived His Wounding?”

Jackson is woundedI get the question all the time: “What if Stonewall Jackson hadn’t been shot?”

When people ask that question, what they really want to know is “What would he have done at Gettysburg?” My answer is always “He would have never made it to Gettysburg.” (You can see an in-depth answer here and here.) So many people, it seems, want Jackson to get to Gettysburg. They want to talk about the Great What-If of the war.

Sometimes, the question comes up in a slightly different way: “What if Jackson had survived his wounding?”

This very question came up last week as I spoke to the Civil War Roundtable of New York. To my delight, there was a retired pathologist who happened to be in attendance—Robert Katz, M.D.—who asked if he could share some of his thoughts.  Continue reading

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Happy Stonewall’s Birthday


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The Art of Hiding Personal Effects, Part Two: Valuables

'Sherman's bummers foraging through South Carolina,' image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

‘Sherman’s bummers foraging through South Carolina,’ image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The physical trauma Sherman and his troops forced upon the Southern countryside riddles letters and diaries, and the psychological trauma is still evident in the resentment passed down between generations. The chaos of unorganized Union foraging parties followed a pattern as Federal troops marched through the South. Allowed to forage under Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 120, some soldiers took “advantage of the license given to them” and in addition to foraging for food, they pillaged for every day household items.[i] Section two in this three part series highlights the lengths soldiers went to in order to find items of value, as well as some of the imagination employed in hiding personal effects during Sherman’s March to the Sea, as well as throughout his Carolina Campaigns. Continue reading

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Emerging Civil War Welcomes Dan Welch

DanWelch-mugshotEmerging Civil War is pleased to announce the addition of Daniel Welch to our line-up of regular contributors. You’ve probably been following Dan’s posts on the letters of surgeon William Child, writing home during the last months of 1864 and now into 1865.

Dan serves as the Education Programs Coordinator for the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner of Gettysburg National Military Park. Previously, he was a seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park for five years. During that time, he led numerous programs on the campaign and battle for school groups, families, and visitors of all ages. Most recently, Dan was a part of GNMP’s special 150th anniversary programs, as well as the annual Mid-Winter Lecture series.

“Like many of us interested in the Civil War, it was a family trip to Gettysburg at age five that forever sealed my passion for this era of our nation’s history,” Dan explains. “I was hooked.” Continue reading

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DATE CHANGE: Emerging Civil War Symposium 2015

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Emerging Civil War has had to change the date of our 2015 symposium. Please mark your calendar:

The Second Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will be held August 7-9, 2015.

Our keynote speaker has confirmed, and we’ve selected our line-up of speakers, so look for announcements on those things in the days ahead!

The 2015 theme is “Civil War Legacies,” and topics will include the 1865 surrenders, battlefield preservation and the legacy of the Civil War.  Fee includes a Friday night round table discussion; lectures, lunch and book signings on Saturday with tours of the Chancellorsville Battlefield on Sunday.

For more information or to register, e-mail: emergingcivilwar@gmail.com or contact Stevenson Ridge at (540) 582-6263.  Stevenson Ridge is located at:  6901 Meeting Street, Spotsylvania, VA 22553

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Happy Birthday, Robert E. Lee


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Question of the Week: January 19, 2015

This week’s question actually comes from ECW’s business officer, Jennifer Mackowski. Pondering some of the discussions and controversies that have swirled around Virginia this past weekend in relation to Lee-Jackson Day and Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, she asks:

What is the difference between racism and prejudice?

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William Child in 1865

A new year was well underway in the Army of the Potomac’s camps outside of Petersburg, Virginia when William Child, Surgeon of the 5th New Hampshire wrote to his wife Carrie. He had last written her a week earlier. In his letters of January 8 and 9, 1865, Child’s longing for home and despair at the prospect for a leave of absence had increased, as it had for many soldiers who had been on the Petersburg front since the previous July. “I have been longing for home through the whole day” wrote Child on January 8. The very next day he wrote Carrie again and expounded upon this theme. “The times are very dull and I am very homesick. All the former officers are gone and all of my present supply of books and papers are read. I have no places of interest to visit. I have no business except for an hour each day. Therefore I am very uncomfortable….I have written to you so often that I fear my letter[s] are becoming of no interest.” Continue reading

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“Act for the best, and God speed you”: Lead-Up to the Battle of Portland Harbor, part one

A shout-out belongs to Chris Mackowski, who recognized this story’s drama much sooner than I did, and has been asking that I write this series for over a year now—I should have followed his advice much earlier. I grew up in southern Maine, only about a 10-minute drive from Portland, and even with my interest in the Civil War that started at an early age, I did not know about the battle of Portland Harbor, which occurred on June 27, 1863. Perhaps ironically, it was not until I came to Virginia for college, about 600 miles from home, that I learned about the battle that occurred just a hop, skip, and a jump away from my house.

This post, part one of a series, serves as a prologue.

 The story of the Battle of Portland Harbor begins on May 6, 1863 and close to 4,000 miles from where it ends. Off the coast of Brazil, near the Cape of Saint Roch, the C.S.S. Florida captured the supply ship Clarence, bound for Baltimore. The Clarence was a brig, weighing 253 tons, with an overall length of 114 feet.[1]

Aboard the Florida, Second Lieutenant Charles Read got an idea. Read, just six days shy of his 23rd birthday, graduated last from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1860 but then, like so many other southerners, resigned his commission upon secession. As the second-in-command on the Florida, Read was looking to make his own impression in the ongoing war. On the same day as the Clarence’s capture, Read wrote to his superior, Commander John Maffitt, also aboard the Florida, “Sir: I propose to take the brig which we have just captured, and, with a crew of twenty men, to proceed to Hampton Roads and cut out a gunboat or steamer of the enemy.”[2]

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The Art of Hiding Personal Effects, Part One: Slaves

As Union forces marched south under Sherman, wreaking havoc across several Southern states, stories of Northern atrocities spread. It’s hard to say which stories were true, and which were fanciful creations that played on Southern sentiments, like some of those written for the Confederate Veteran in the 1890s and early 1900s; however, numerous journal entries and letters from 1864-1865 attest to unfair treatment of Southern residents and their property under Sherman.

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