The AoP Settles into Winter Camp, 1863

As the Army of the Potomac settled into its winter quarters around Brandy Station and Culpeper in December 1863, Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman—George Gordon Meade’s aide-de-camp—toured the camps with the Army of the Potomac’s chief of staff, Andrew A. Humphreys. Perhaps it was the frustrations of the recent, impotent fall campaign or perhaps the unusually harsh early winter weather, or maybe even the fact that his boss, Meade, “has been rather sad, of late,” but Lyman seemed in a dour mood. “There is much, very much, of detail that is neglected in this army,” he wrote in his journal on Dec. 10: Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: The Nation’s Christmas Tree

ECW Weekender-HeaderHigh in the California mountains, a towering tree – named for a Civil War general – is the nation’s Christmas Tree. Designated with the holiday title by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926, the Sequoia tree still stands and is visited by thousands of tourists and wilderness aficionados every year.

More than a Christmas Tree (and certainly different than any “traditional” holiday tree), the living flora monarch is also a history lesson. It’s called the General Grant Tree, and it was named after the Civil War commander! Continue reading

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Petersburg’s Second Presbyterian Church and the Christmas of 1864


Photo courtesy of Urban Scale Petersburg

Emerging Civil War is pleased to welcome guest author Mike Wright.

The Christmas season of 1864 at Petersburg would never be forgotten by the soldiers who manned the trenches or the citizens of the town, including the members at Second Presbyterian Church. If only these walls could talk.

Second Presbyterian Church, which was formed in 1851, had been worshipping in a structure owned by the High Street Congregation, but in 1860, they decided to build their own church. There were 150 members at the time, and the cost would be around $30,000. The minister since 1854, Rev. Theodorick Pryor, actually designed most of the architecture himself. Building a building of this size in the early years of the war was quite a daunting task. With the city of Petersburg and the state of Virginia gearing up for war, finding the materials and manpower must have been a challenge. Continue reading

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The Old Stone Fleet: A Failure and Complete

I have a feeling for those ships,
Each worn and ancient one,
With great bluff bows, and broad in the beam;
Ay, it was unkindly done.
But so they serve the Obsolete—
Even so, Stone Fleet!

Herman Melville, “The Stone Fleet”


Stone Fleet Sailing From New Bedford, November 16, 1861

In July 1861, the Blockade Strategy Board suggested to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles the most obvious method of halting Confederate commerce was by putting down material obstructions, and, “the most convenient form of obstruction, for transportation and use, is that of old vessels laden with ballast…sunk in the appropriate places.”[i]

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Civil War Echoes: Pearl Harbor

Today 75 years ago the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, catapulting the United States into World War II – a conflict that turned out to be the country’s bloodiest save for the Civil War.battleship-row-torpedos-small

Many of the U.S. ships in Pearl Harbor that day have names with Civil War ties. On this 75th Anniversary, I note these for our readers:

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Writing the Wilderness and Reflecting


The Brock Road/Plank Road intersection in more colorful times

It’s 46° in Spotsylvania County, but the morning clouds have marched away and the blue-sky sun makes it feel more like sixty. To the west, another line of gray clouds hangs over the Blue Ridge Mountains like a haze of forest fire smoke.

I’m passing through the Wilderness. By habit, I refer to it as “the dark, close wood,” a phrase I used for the title one of my first books. It comes from J. F. J. Caldwell of the 1st South Carolina and his History of a Brigade of South Carolinians: “Danger is far less formidable in the bright, open, ventilated field, than in the dark, close wood. . . .” Now, any time I write about the battle, I try to work in the phrase as my own little inside joke.

Today, though, the Wilderness looks neither dark nor close. The skeleton trees let in a lot of naked sunlight—but that hardly makes it “bright, open, ventilated,” either. If anything, it’s a little bleak in its brown starkness. Continue reading

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“I Would Rather Be Shot Myself” – Reactions to an Execution, December 1861

Emerging Civil War is pleased to welcome guest author Jake Wynn

“Military Execution of a Private of the Lincoln Cavalry For Desertion and Attempted Communication With the Enemy, December 13, 1861” Originally published in Frank Leslie’s

“Military Execution of a Private of the Lincoln Cavalry For Desertion and Attempted Communication With the Enemy, December 13, 1861” Originally published in Frank Leslie’s

Assembled in a field near the Fairfax Seminary just beyond Alexandria, Virginia, an entire division of 10,000 soldiers stood in a hollow square with one side missing. At the center stood twelve men, muskets at the ready. Ahead of them sat 23-year-old Private William H. Johnson atop a coffin with a white handkerchief tied over his eyes. The drums rolled and the order to fire was given. A volley of eight muskets landed home in Private Johnson’s chest. Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 12/5-12/11/16

Question-HeaderRecently, Civil War Trust has been featuring Civil War states –  their history, units, and commanders. Do you have a favorite Civil War era state? Why?

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In Memory of Stonewall’s Mother


Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

On this date in 1831, seven-year-old Thomas Jonathan Jackson lost his mother.

Julia (Jackson) Woodson was thirty-three years old and had suffered for yours from a pulmonary ailment that turned out to be tuberculosis. Since her husband’s death five years earlier, she and her three children—Warren, Thomas, and Laura—had struggled financially. When she remarried in 1830, her husband—fifteen years her senior—proved to be a Harsh and verbally abusive parent,” according to Jackson biographer James Robertson, Jr.

Life had taken such a downward turn that Warren, 10, was sent to live with his grandfather while Thomas and Laura went to live with their father’s brothers at Jacksons Mill near Weston, Virginia.

On October 7, Julia gave birth to another son, William Wirt—and that seemed to take the last of everything from her. She summoned her children to say her goodbyes. Continue reading

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The Perfect Christmas Gift

Original Painting "Christmas on the Rappahannock" by Ray W. Forquer.

Original Painting “Christmas on the Rappahannock” by Ray W. Forquer.

If you are looking for the perfect Christmas gift, look no further. Buy that special someone an admission to the Fourth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. The early bird admission rate is only $110.00. For that $110.00 you will see ten lectures, get a tour of the Brandy Station Battlefield, participate in the roundtable discussion, and so much more.

Time is running out so take advantage of this special offer soon!

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Our outstanding line-up of speakers includes: Continue reading

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