“The Particulars of Col. Sillers Death”

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

It is often the sad duty of the officer in charge of a unit the burden of sending a note or letter home documenting the last moments of a soldiers life. But what if it’s the commander who dies? Who writes his letter?

Following the Battle of Kelly’s Ford, on November 7, 1863 the letter writing responsibility fell to Captain Gary F. Williams, Company A, 30th North Carolina Infantry. He wrote to the family of the regiment’s late commander, Lieutenant – Colonel William W. Sillers. Sillers was mortally wounded on the 7th, and died two days later in Gordonsville, Virginia.

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“It is for us the living…”

LincolnSeatedFour score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

— speech delivered at the dedication of the national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Nov. 19, 1863

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ECW Welcomes Sarah Kay Bierle!

Bierle, Sarah--smEmerging Civil War is pleased to welcome Sarah Kay Bierle as a regular contributor.

A self-described “historian, writer, speaker, and living history enthusiast,” Sarah has a BA in History from Thomas Edison State College.

Sarah enjoys sharing her love of history with audiences of all ages through interactive presentations and good writing. “History, research, and writing are my passion,” she says. “I desire to make history more understandable and accessible to Americans who stumble through school thinking history is a collection of random dates, places, and events. Through thought-provoking writing, I want people to reconsider the past and find lessons which may inspire them to live stronger and more courageously.” Continue reading

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“We went and staid too”

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

“Skirmishers play a most important part, whose importance is every day increasing with the improvements in small arms. They are employed in large bodies to attack a post or position, the columns of attack then move forward, protected by their fire, which becomes more close and converging as they approach the object of attack, and the position is carried by the bayonet.”[i]

The traditional vision of Civil War skirmishers are small groups of soldiers, out in front of a main battle line, acting as either an offensive or defensive tripwire. Alone along a line, the skirmisher, by firing, announces to the enemy and his friends to prepare for action. One doesn’t usually imagine a large body of men advancing.

However, on November 7, 1863, the Fifth Corps was utilized as skirmishers. Late on that early November afternoon, over 900 men advanced toward the Rebels in the redoubts just beyond where the Orange and Alexandria bends toward the Rappahannock River.

Edwin Forbes sketch of the V Corps skirmish line.

Edwin Forbes sketch of the V Corps skirmish line.

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Ulysses S. Grant and the Wilderness of Pennsylvania (part three)

A photo of the Kinzua Viadcut reportedly taken during Grant's excursion (photo courtesy of the McKean County Historical Society)

A photo of the Kinzua Viadcut reportedly taken during Grant’s excursion (photo courtesy of the McKean County Historical Society)

Part three of a three-part series

The first two installments recounted Ulysses S. Grant’s trip to McKean County Pennsylvania on Nov. 16, 1883. The purpose of the trip: to visit the Kinzua Viaduct. Author Chris Mackowski originally hails from McCounty.

The train rumbled onward into the Appalachians, fifteen miles to go. “No political matters were discussed on the train,” the newspaper reported, “but every possible respect was shown to the ‘Old Commander’ by both soldiers and citizens.”

Ever interested in railroads, Grant was “particularly impressed with the wonderful and extensive system of railroads in this part of the country, especially the narrow gauges, which have reached a greater stage of perfection than in any other section of the country.”

He also admired the scenic beauty of the Pennsylvania Wilds. “General Grant expressed a desire to fish in the Kinzua,” the reporter said, making a note to add that Grant’s “predilection for pure water may account for his refusal to partake of the champagne and other intoxicants offered to the occupants of the train.”

Grant appreciated the natural resources in other ways, too, commenting on the state’s coal and iron fields and oil territory. “Pennsylvania is one of the most wonderful states I ever saw,” Grant said. Continue reading

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Just Two Weeks Left!

There are only two weeks left to take advantage of the early-bird admission to the Third Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. the early-bird rate is only $75.00; after November 30th the rate increases to $95.00. Take advantage of this special offer now.

Symposium admission includes:

  • Admission to the Friday night roundtable discussion.
  • Eight outstanding speaker presentations-including our Keynote Speaker James Ogden.
  • Sunday’s walking tour of the second Battle of Fredericksburg-Marye’s Heights Sector.
  •  Friday evening hors d’oeuvres; Saturday afternoon Lunch.
  • Raffle ticket for our grand prize drawing.
  • and more!!!!!

Click here to purchase tickets online.

To Pay by Check: Continue reading

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Ulysses S. Grant and the Wilderness of Pennsylvania (part two)

"Citizen" Grant

“Citizen” Grant

part two of a three-part series

Yesterday’s installment set up Ulysses S. Grant’s trip to see the Kinzua Viaduct in McKean County, Pennsylvania—”The Pennsylvania Wilds”—on November 16, 1883, 132 years ago today. Author Chris Mackowski is originally from McKean County, and he discovered this story while researching his book Grant’s Last Battle.

The city of Bradford was “shaken from its depths and the citizens thrown into a fever of excitement” at the news of Grant’s pending arrival, The McKean County Miner reported on November 16.

The Bradford Era reported that “the famous commander” was “traveling as a simple American citizen on his own business.” Dignitaries, nonetheless wanting to ensure he was “warmly welcomed to the land of grease,” set a full itinerary: “One of the principal objects of this side excursion to Bradford is to enable the party to examine the big bridge, the magnitude of which they as railroad men will be apt to appreciate,” The Era said. Aside from that, city fathers planned to show off the Kendall refinery—“where our greasy product starts on its long journey to the seaboard”—and have an oil well torpedoed “for the benefit of the party.” They anticipated an overnight stay with Senator Emory “at his spacious residences on Congress Street” and, if possible, a concert the next day.

“It is desired that all citizens, irrespective of party, join in the spontaneous bestowal of respect to the hero of Appomattox and ex-president,” the paper entreatied, “so that his welcome to the Oil region shall be another proof of Bradford’s proverbial hospitality.” Continue reading

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Question of the Week 11/16 – 22

This week’s QotW comes from Dan Welch who asks:

In your opinion, who was the most influential woman of the Confederacy? What about the Union?

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Ulysses S. Grant and the Wilderness of Pennsylvania (part one)

Crumpled Supports

The ruins of the Kinzua Viaduct

part one in a three-part series

Like the crozzled bones of giants, the steel girders of the Kinzua Viaduct lie along the valley floor and up the far hillside. Once, the railroad bridge stretched across the entire gorge—some 2,050 feet—but in 2003, a tornado blew down eleven of its twenty support towers. They still rest where they fell, twisted, spent, ruined.

At 301 feet high, Kinzua Viaduct had once been the largest such bridge in the world. Completed in 1882, it took 125 men just 94 days to build it. Boosters called it “the big bridge,” and it represented such an achievement that, in November of 1883, former president Ulysses S. Grant paid a visit to see it for himself.

Now, 132 years later, in honor of Grant’s visit, my son, Jackson, and I have come out to the remains of the Viaduct to smoke a memorial cigar and walk in Grant’s footsteps. Continue reading

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Third Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge

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