“I could not answer for what might happen.” Part II

Dwight Hughes (Read Part I)

Confederates took every advantage of their status as a formal belligerent in international law, insisted on their rights, and were equally determined to devastate Yankee trade. Their government could contract loans, purchase arms and ships in neutral nations, and commission cruisers with power of search and seizure on the high seas. Men-of-war flying the Rebel flag were to be accorded the same status as those of any other nation, including the United States, and were to be treated fairly with regard to assistance, supplies, and repairs in neutral ports. Continue reading

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Traveling Advice: Don’t Forget To Look Left & Right

When I was a little kid, my mom would let me run across the street to get the mail. We didn’t live on a busy road, but she taught me road safety. First, listen. Then, look to the left, right, and left again. If there weren’t any cars coming, I could cross the street. Pretty simple? As adults we do it without thinking, but maybe we should think about it more often – especially when touring battlefields and historical sites.

open-road-through-countrysideIt’s summer! And that means it’s a great time to hit the road and explore historical battlefields and sites all across America. Personally, I am counting the hours until I climb aboard a jet and set off for the “distant battlefields of Virginia” and the ECW symposium. (I’m on the West Coast and don’t have Civil War battlefields in my backyard.)

It’s been a while since I’ve been on the East Coast. Eight years, to be precise. I learned a lot on that first trip and brought home some startlingly beautiful  memories from the battlefields. There was one really important thing I learned from that trip. It was simple: look around. Let me explain. Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: The White Oak Civil War Museum and Stafford Research Center

ECW Weekender-Header

White Oak Museum Exterior

Exterior of the White Oak Civil War Museum & Stafford Research Center.

Countless museums dot the Virginia countryside. Their sizes vary from the impressive National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle to the quaint Weems-Botts Museum in Dumfires. One museum, thoug,h has always stood out to me as being the perfect mix of quaint and impressive. The White Oak Civil War Museum and Stafford Research Center is one of those off-the-beaten path gems that Civil War geeks salivate over.

My wife and I were first pointed in the direction of the museum in 2005, when we were interns at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. As we approached the museum we were not quite sure what to expect. A monument to the Federal 6th Corps’ winter encampment is perched in front of three flag poles, and an old school house. In the rear of the school we can see replicas of soldiers winter huts. The construction of the huts is impressive. They are clearly the right size and shape of the winter quarters we have read about numerous times, it was a real treat to see these domiciles meticulously brought back to life. But little did we know that the real treat waited inside. Continue reading

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Recruiting a Regiment: Thomas G. Stevenson and the 24th Massachusetts

Stevenson, Thomas G-sketch.jpg

The frontispiece of the 24th Massachusetts’s regimental history depicts a heroic-looking Thomas G. Stevenson, the regiment’s martyred first commander

As one of the ranking officers with the New England Guard, a prewar militia group based in Boston, Thomas Greeley Stevenson felt primed for leadership when the Civil War broke out.

Answering the call to arms, he and a close friend, Francis Osborn, another of the ranking officers in the Guard, approached Massachusetts’s governor, John Andrew, with a plan to hand pick officers and soldiers for a regiment. The officers, who would come from the Guard, would receive special training from Stevenson and then be sent out to personally recruit rank-and-file men to fill out their various companies. “[I]n point of efficiency,” the regimental historian later wrote, the regiment “should be second to none that the State might send out.” Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, Stonewall (sort of)


Stonewall Jackson statue in Jackson’s birthplace, Clarksburg, WV

Happy 155th birthday to Stonewall Jackson, who was born on this day in 1861.

Of course, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born on January 21, 1824, in Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia).

But it was on this day 155 years ago at the battle of First Manassas that Jackson earned his famous nickname—arguably one of the most famous in American history—through his defense of Henry House Hill. Jackson always demurred, saying the name belonged to the brigade, not to him, and indeed the Stonewall Brigade wore its name proudly. Continue reading

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What Historians Really Do–Part 1

Colonel Ellsworth

Colonel Ellsworth

Elmer Ellsworth. This is the man who has been the focus of my intellectual life for over ten years, although there were times earlier that he was certainly in my sights. Who knows exactly why one person, one battle, one war or one period of history grabs the mind and heart, and simply will NOT let go? Continue reading

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155 Years Since The First Battle of Bull Run

Call it what you will – First Bull Run or First Manassas – it was the battle that awakened America to the horrors of Civil War. Until that hot July day, war had been parades, flashy uniforms, bad food, the novelty of camp life, and attempts at military drill. July 21, 1861, would change the ideal of war by introducing reality.

However, the fighting and carnage did not break either side’s resolve, rather it boosted Confederate morale with a victory and outraged the Union. Clearly, the war was not going to finish in 90 days.

July 21, 1861


Henry House Hill, Manassas

Henry House Hill, Manassas

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ECW’s July 2016 Newsletter Now Available

July2016NewsletterPhotoEmerging Civil War’s July 2016 newsletter went out this week. It contains thoughts on ECW’s upcoming 5th anniversary from editor-in-chief Chris Mackowski, a flash conversation with Chris Kolakowski, news & notes from some of our contributors, and a look at the latest releases on the bookshelf from ECW authors.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look—and don’t forget to sign up if you’re not already. There’s a button right at the top of the newsletter that lets you sign up conveniently. (And if you think you should’ve received the newsletter but didn’t, be sure to check your junk mail or spam filter because, alas, sometimes we end up there if you weren’t expecting us.)

At the top of each newsletter, we’ll include a photo from a battlefield or historic site somewhere. In this post, you’re looking at this month’s photo. Can you guess where it was taken?

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“I could not answer for what might happen.” Part I

The Civil War was an intense international concern from the beginning. The neutrality—or lack thereof—by foreign powers was a decisive element in a conflict that might have spread beyond American shores. Both sides warred on enemy commerce; both American navies sailed into the vortex of a diplomatic maelstrom, and contributed to it. On the Union side, President Lincoln was determined to interdict trade with seceded states, starving them of funds, war materials, and necessities. It was proposed that he simply declare southern ports administratively closed, providing the navy an excuse to stop and turn back merchant vessels under the guise of enforcing customs duties not collectable in rebel-controlled harbors.

Continue reading

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“Little Mac’s” Final Moments: The Death of George B. McClellan

Emerging Civil War is pleased to welcome back guest author William Griffith

George B. McClellan, c. 1880

George B. McClellan, c. 1880

“The startling announcement was made on Thursday [actually Friday] morning that General McClellan was dead,” read New Jersey’s The Orange Journal on Sunday, October 31, 1885, “…very few knew that General McClellan was in the least ill, and no one but his physician, perhaps, knew of the serious character of the disease that was afflicting him.” Less than a week before he had been seen riding in his carriage through West Orange in what was described as “the picture of perfect health.” Only days later, George Brinton McClellan, one of the Army of the Potomac’s most beloved and controversial generals was dead at the age of fifty-eight.[1]

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