Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?

The Star-Spangled Banner

I must admit, they sat breathless as I spun the tale about two young men aboard the ship HMS Minden, traveling from Baltimore under a flag of truce to see if they could free their friend Dr. William Beanes from British imprisonment. I did my best, hoping these middle-schoolers would relate to the excitement of the endeavor. Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner also did pretty well with the whole rescue thing, boarding the British flagship HMS Tonnant and pleading their case. President James Madison had approved their efforts, and the ever-polite British Crown officers Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane even invited the young heroes to dinner. Continue reading

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Memorial Day at the Little Bighorn

John Crittenden’s headstone

It is Day 2 at the Little Bighorn and Memorial Day. I started the morning by walking through the National Cemetery. A number of notable individuals are buried there, including Major Marcus Reno, several of Custer’s Indian scouts and Captain William Fetterman, among others. One of the more fascinating stories of the cemetery revolves around Lt. John Crittenden.

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Memorial Day 2017

Remembering the fallen American soldiers from all conflicts and gratefully cherishing our country’s freedoms. Never forget the sacrifices for liberty and loyalty.

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Question of the Week: 5/29-6/4/17

It’s Memorial Day.

Do you have a favorite memorial or graveyard monument, plaque, or marker honoring all Civil War soldiers or a particular individual?

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On the Little Bighorn

7th U.S. Cavalry markers

This morning, bright and early, I arrived at the Little Bighorn. As I walk up from the Visitor Center to Last Stand Hill, one of the first things that grabbed my attention were the white marble markers scattered across the landscape. Placed in 1890, they represent where an individual trooper from the 7th U.S. Cavalry fell during the battle. Although they do not entirely represent all of the troopers in George Custer’s battalion, their sight is still haunting. I am planning a more detailed post on them for next month’s anniversary.  Continue reading

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Reconstructed prison building taking shape at “Hellmira”

Elmira Prison Camp building

A reconstructed building from the Elmira POW camp takes shape (center).

ELMIRA – Come June Elmira will finally acknowledge it’s dark history.  Hellmira, in part, will be reborn.

For decades rumors have swirled that lumber from one of the Elmira prisoner of war camp buildings was in storage and someday would be reconstructed.  It appears that the day has come.  In fact, on  June 24th a special dedication ceremony is planned and the building now at least 153 years old will be unveiled. Continue reading

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Bivouacs of the Dead

When touring battlefields on my own or leading a group, I always try and stop by the cemeteries that are there – both to meet the men but also to reflect on the events. I try to do this whether the field is in the United States, Asia, or Europe. As I’ve done so (and contemplate future visits), I’ve noticed there’s a definite change in how the large scale of death of the Civil War and the World Wars impacted how the dead are recalled. Let me explain.

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McClellan’s Memorial Day Visit to Antietam

“Only once a year, the comrades of the Grand Army march in sad procession to place flowers on the graves of those who died, side by side with the living, in defence of their country and their homes.  This is the only public exhibition of of the veterans of the Grand Army.”  So wrote the Boston Herald‘s editor in 1885, twenty years after the Civil War’s conclusion.

Decoration Day

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day

Memorial Day was, by then, a large American commemoration, something the press covered widely.  Veterans across the country gathered in a spirit of remembrance for their dead comrades.

Sharpsburg, Maryland’s citizens greeted Memorial Day every year with reverence. Every day, the graves of 4,776 Union soldiers looked down on their quiet town.  The stories of what they experienced on Wednesday, September 17, 1862, could never be silenced or forgotten.

Civilians gathered each Memorial Day inside the stone walls of Antietam National Cemetery to pay their respects.  The keynote speaker for the 1885 ceremony drew great attention, and brought throngs of people to the burying ground in Sharpsburg.  Continue reading

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U.S. Grant Urges Iowans to Approve Suffrage for Black Men

The following was passed along by ECW’s friend William Underhill, one of the stalwart keeper’s of Ulysses S. Grant’s flame as a member of the Friends of Grant Cottage, the organization that staffs the site where Grant died in upstate New York.

The Iowa State Weekly Register published an interview with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on Nov. 4, 1868. In the interview, Grant expressed himself as being particularly solicitous about the success of impartial suffrage in Iowa.  Continue reading

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The Night That Decided the Confederate President

In February 1861, delegates from the six seceded states—South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana met in Montgomery, Alabama to craft a new nation. In order to do so, a leader, a provisional president, would be elected as the new government was established.

Robert Toombs

As the delegates traveled to Montgomery, word leaked out amongst the seceded states that Georgia was looked at as the favorite to provide a native son to assume the mantle of provisional president of what would become the Confederate States of America. In particular, one of her more politically-distinguished sons, Robert Toombs, seemed to be a name in the forefront of some of the delegates.

Toombs was considered, according to historian William C. Davis, a “perfect fit, moderate enough not to frighten away the large Unionist element in the seceding states, yet not so moderate that the ardent secessionists could not stand with him.” Besides a few other Southern luminaries, like Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, Toombs did enjoy a level of popularity due to his long association in national politics. Toombs even had the backing of his fellow Georgian, Alexander Stephens who selflessly put his friend of many years name forward for consideration. Continue reading

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