ECW Weekender: The Robert Ruark Inn in Southport, NC

ECW Weekender-Header

Ruark Inn-exteriorWhile in Southport, North Carolina, recently for a speaking engagement with the Brunswick Civil War Roundtable, I had the pleasure of staying at the historic Robert Ruark Inn. It proved an ideal base of operations to explore the neighboring Civil War landscape, including Fort Fisher and Fort Anderson.

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My Favorite Historical Person: Antonia Ford

The art of spying is as old as war itself, or so it has been said. While many people when asked who is their favorite figure from the Civil War would immediately think of generals and politicians, I tend to think of a lesser known group of people: spies who played an integral part in shaping how the Civil War was fought.

One of my favorite spies and story of espionage is that of Antonia Ford. Born in Fairfax, VA in 1838, she was just twenty-three years old and unmarried when the war broke out. Ford’s family members were staunch supporters of secession, and in 1861 when the Army of the Potomac moved out of Washington D.C. on their way to the First Battle of Bull Run and came straight through Ford’s hometown, Ford knew she had to help her fellow Confederates. Continue reading

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My Favorite Historical Person: Changing Favorites?

As we were working on this series and chatting about favorite historical figures, it prompted memories of how my “favorite historical person” has changed through the recent years. I thought it might be worthwhile to share that saga and conclusions while inviting you to share if you’ve experienced something similar in your own historical studies and musings. Continue reading

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My Favorite Historical Person: Captain Sewell Gray

My Favorite Historical Person from the Civil War Era

Sewell Gray

Capt. Sewell Gray, 6th Maine Infantry

“Sabbath and a lovelier day never overtook a soldier,” wrote Capt. Sewell Gray on the day he died. It was Sunday, May 3, 1863, and Gray, a 22-year-old captain with the 6th Maine Infantry, was among 4,700 soldiers ordered to storm Marye’s Heights during the battle of Second Fredericksburg—a position previously thought impregnable. Gray tried scratching a few final lines in his diary as he awaited the assault.

“God strengthen our arms that we may be victorious,” he wrote. “If we fall God strengthen the bereaved.”

A typescript copy of Gray’s diary—which had never been published—found its way to the staff library at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center. There, one day early in 2008, as my colleague and co-author Kris White was reorganizing the books, he came across Gray’s diary in a three-hole binder that had slipped behind one of the bookcases. After skimming a few pages, he called me up. Continue reading

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The Genetic Component of Loving History

I am not sure what information you get when you spit into the little plastic container from Ancestry™ other than genetic stuff. Can it also find out where loving history comes from? My test didn’t say anything about that, but reading Facebook™ posts on Father’s Day certainly did. So many of our ECW writers posted images of dads at battlefields, dads at museums, dads in uniform, dads reading–in short–dads doing history! Continue reading

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Warrington G. Roberts: “Dedicated to the Proposition that All Men Are Created Equal”

Grave of Warrington G. Roberts (Chris Mackowski)

Interred in grave 3287 at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery lays Warrington G. Roberts. This past Memorial Day I had the privilege of telling Roberts’s story during the annual Luminary program atop Marye’s Heights. Telling his story and digging even further into the records revealed a man who lived—and died—by the creed espoused by Abraham Lincoln during the Gettysburg Address that this country was “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Though he eventually donned the Union blue, Roberts’s story actually begins with his birth in Virginia in 1829. The Old Dominion did not prove to be Roberts’s home for long, though, as the 1850 Federal Census found him living in Jones, Indiana. Seven years later, Roberts married Eliza Cain and a year before war tore the country in two Roberts and his family lived in Indianapolis.[1]

When war came in 1861, Roberts enlisted in the 26th Indiana Infantry, but little more than a year later left the regiment because of disability. Returning to Indianapolis, Roberts mended and continued his military service with a short-term militia unit raised in the wake of John H. Morgan’s raid through the mid-west in the summer of 1863. Continue reading

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My Favorite Historical Person: James Hanger

Emerging Civil War welcomes back guest author Kristen M. Trout

As a Civil War historian, the toughest and most challenging question of all is “who is your favorite historical person?” From Union war heroes to gallant Rebel commanders to the common soldier to the near-million fallen troops of both sides, they all have unique, meaningful, and awe-inspiring legacies that have shaped us as a country today. In my eyes, they are all my favorite for various reasons; however, I had to choose one. Instead of picking someone well known to the Civil War community, I thought I would share the story of one common soldier who revolutionized the lives of his fellow veterans, specifically the ones who gave their own limbs for their cause: James Hanger. Continue reading

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On Location: Atop Kennesaw Mountain

On June 19, 1864, Joseph Johnston’s Army of Tennessee slipped into its strongest defensive position of the Atlanta Campaign: Kennesaw Mountain. I went On Location, at the mountain’s crest, to take a look for myself; I also had the opportunity to talk with my colleague, Emerging Civil War historian Steve Davis, author of A Long and Bloody Task: The Atlanta Campaign from Dalton to Kennesaw Mountain to the Chattahoochee River, about the importance of Johnston’s line.

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My Favorite Historical Person: Frederick Douglass

My Favorite Historical Person from the Civil War Era


Frederick Douglass

Since I was a young boy, Frederick Douglass has been the historical person I most admire in the Civil War era.

Growing up a slave, Mr. Douglass was taught to read by a benevolent master, studied the Columbian Orator to improve his speaking skills, resisted a “slave breaker,” and escaped to freedom. He became an abolitionist lecturer and—to verify that he was an escaped slave—wrote his autobiography. His book became known in his native state of Maryland, thus he had to go to England and Ireland to avoid recapture. His friends in England purchased his freedom. Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 6/19-6/25/17


In a recent guest post, historian Winifred Maloney recounted the appearance of reenactors from the 54th Massachusetts Infantry—the black unit depicted in the movie Glory—presenting the colors at a Boston Red Sox game. Her thoughtful commentary sparked a comment by a reader that I have been mulling over since: “U.S.C.T. reennactors are praised but white reenactors are usually regarded by the academy with scorn as old, fat, hobbyists.”

I have struggled with this: Is this a contradiction or, even worse, a hypocrisy? Or perhaps it actually has nothing to do with race at all but is, instead, a value judgement on the types of living history events various reenacting groups participate in?

What do you think? Is there a contradiction here or not? Please explain your answer.

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