Echoes of Reconstruction: Losing the “Lost Cause” in Historical Revisionism

The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates by Edward Pollard (1866). Available Free Here.

Emerging Civil War is pleased to welcome back Patrick Young, author of The Reconstruction Era blog. 

The Lost Cause by Edward Pollard is a seminal work in the development of a Southern White historical tradition recalling, celebrating, and interpreting the fallen Confederacy to those who were part of the four-year experiment and to their children and grandchildren. Published just a year after the end of the war, it was one of the first book-length works claiming to encompass the war’s full scope within its covers. Although I have seen the “Lost Cause” referred to in newspaper articles published before Pollard’s book came out, his The Lost Cause popularized the term and gave it widespread usage.

Let me begin by noting that the book The Lost Cause has some significant differences from the Lost Cause paradigm seen in later works. Pollard was writing the book in 1865 and 1866. He had not lived through Reconstruction, and Jeff Davis was not yet an unassailable martyr. Slavery was not considered irretrievably lost, and some Southerners thought that it could be restored. Although he popularized the term, Pollard died before anyone ever identified a “Lost Cause” school of history. Continue reading

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Battlefield Tours of Virginia and Emerging Civil War Series Books—Together!

We got word in the midst of Black Friday that Battlefield Tours of Virginia is doing a special promotion featuring a number of Emerging Civil War Series titles. Here’s the skinny:

Battlefield Tours of Virginia is offering a “Tour with the Author” special only available on three dates. Contact them on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday and book a private battlefield tour with one of their author/guides in the future, and they’ll send you their signed Emerging Civil War book for FREE!


  • Don Pfanz: No Turning Back: A Guide to the 1864 Overland Campaign – Wilderness and/or Spotsylvania Court House Tour
  • Mike Block: The Carnage was Fearful: The Battle of Cedar Mountain – Cedar Mountain Tour
  • Doug Crenshaw: Richmond Shall Not Be Given Up: The Seven Days Battles – Seven Days’ Battles Tour
  • Greg Mertz: Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh – Wilderness and/or Spotsylvania Court House Tour

Continue reading

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Black Fridays at the Start of the War

Louisville Daily Courier, Friday, May 31, 1861

As the opening acts of the Civil War played out, a pattern emerged with most of the notable events all occurring on a Friday. Some newspaper editors even dubbed the unfortunate coincidence “Black Friday,” eight years before the 1869 gold panic started to popularize the term in the American vocabulary. Larger battles and calamities would obscure some of these events, but by the end of May 1861 it seemed that one day of the week had a monopoly on the headlines.

Friday, April 12, 1861 – Bombardment of Fort Sumter

Friday, April 19, 1861 – The Pratt Street Riot in Baltimore

Friday, May 10, 1861 – The Camp Jackson Affair in St. Louis

Friday, May 24, 1861 – Occupation of Arlington Heights & Alexandria and the death of Elmer Ellsworth

Friday, May 31, 1861 – First naval engagement at Aquia Creek

Union and Confederate forces then clashed at Philippi and Big Bethel on the first two Mondays in June, breaking the streak, but the war closed out with another Black Friday on April 14, 1865, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

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Pairings, Partridges, and Pear Trees—Drink Up #5


Pairings were NOT a thing in the 1860s. Red meat/red wine, white meat/ white wine, and pork/rose were about as far as anything went unless you were a sommelier and had to know extra things. One could afford imported wine from France or Germany if one were wealthy. The rest of America either did without, watered down what was available, or made wine at home. For instance, the recipe for something sounding vaguely French is:

Wine Bordeaux, Red

4 gallons of high-flavored red Bordeaux wine

6 gallons of plain wine

Mix and color to the same shade with a tincture of alderberries. Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: “There Were Yet Left Some Good Things in Old Virginia”

William McCarter, 116th Pennsylvania (Find A Grave)

This historic menu had been on my goal list since finding it in 2020! Recorded in Private William McCarter’s memoirs about his service in the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment (Union Irish Brigade), the menu is semi-complicated, and the history surrounding the meal presents quite a few conundrums. Let’s start with the food and then look at the context.

Private McCarter and another comrade had been assigned to guard the home of a pro-Union man in Stafford County, Virginia, on November 27, 1862. They were offered dinner:

“She then conducted us into a neat, though small, dining room. In its center stood a table, fairly groaning with the weight of the good things upon it. It was covered with a snow white table cloth, the first thing of the kind that I had seen in Virginia. The food was coarse and plain, but plenty. It consisted of small roasted pig, two or three boiled rabbits, hoe-cake, white potatoes and an immense apple pie. To wash all these down, there was an enormous quantity of cider. Oh, what living for soldiers in the field, I thought to myself, in the very heart of the enemy’s country. As my eye scanned the grand and plentiful layout, I felt satisfied there were yet left some good things in Old Virginia.”

Continue reading

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If Aunt Elizabeth from New York Shows Up…Drink Up #4

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Temperance Royalty

Not everyone drinks alcohol. Some folks are too young. Some do not care for it, and some have personal, medical, or religious reasons. Some are ill and concerned with drug interactions. These are all modern reasons to refrain from imbibing and are valid today.

However, our ancestors had different reasons, although there is some overlap. The most oft-cited reason is that one had signed a temperance pledge. The antebellum temperance movement began as a movement for the moderation of alcohol, but by the 1830s, it had enlarged its scope. Temperance societies called for total abstinence from all liquor. “Signing the Pledge,” became both a tactic and a symbol of the movement. Pledges were often elaborately printed on parchment, with many typefaces and artistic flourishes. Many folks believed that the drinking of alcohol was a threat to the success of America as well as immoral. There were many arguments in favor of temperance. Some were fact-based., but many played on the emotions of those who saw the harm in alcohol. Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: “Anxious To Have A Chicken Pie” For Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving in Camp” – Winslow Homer. Published in 1862. (National Gallery of Art)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Time travel through the 13th Vermont Infantry Regiment’s regimental history for a Thanksgiving camp scene from 1861:

On our return from Union Mills and Bull Run, where we had been for two weeks doing picket duty, the boys began to receive boxes from home containing chicken pies, roasted and stuffed chickens and turkeys, mince pies, fruit cake, butter and cheese, etc. where were Thanksgiving dinners sent from our homes.

Continue reading

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Things I have learned on the way to Atlanta – A Blunder at Resaca.

Resaca Battlefield State Historic Site

From my forthcoming Volume One of the Atlanta Campaign, to be published by Savas Beatie.

On May 14, the Federals made repeated assaults against entrenched Confederates at Resaca. Among the troops caught up in these attacks were some old friends-regiments I have written of before, especially at Chickamauga. Here I thought I would share the experiences of the 24th Wisconsin, including Maj. Arthur MacArthur, the 15th Missouri, and the 36th Illinois, raised in that part of the state I now call home, the Fox River Valley.

This attack was a mistake, an accident of misunderstood orders that never should have happened; a blunder of terrain and battlefield confusion. Understandably, there was some anger within the brigade at the confusion. Continue reading

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Eggnog? You’ll LOVE It!—Drink Up #3

Egg nog cup/personal collection

Eggnog has been part of our history since the colonies even had a history. Originally a “posset” in Europe (particularly England) was a hot drink made of milk curdled with wine or ale. It was beaten to smooth out its texture; spices and sugar were added, and by the 16th century, cream replaced milk. Once the recipe jumped across the Atlantic, colonists and later Americans began adding eggs to the mixture, which started to be served cold. Continue reading

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Civil War Cooking: “We Rigged A Fishing Tackle” on the Blackberry Raid

Sketch of a soldier from the title page of the 15th Connecticut Regimental History.

The regimental history of the 15th Connecticut Infantry included short accounts from its veteran members, and Charles D. Barnes of Company B submitted a story about “The Blackberry Raid.” His writing reveals several different foods cooked or prepared by the soldiers during their march, including a gourmet version of hard tack and fried catfish.

The “Blackberry Raid” started at the end of June 1863 when Union General John A. Dix launched a march up the Virginia Peninsula. He planned to threaten Richmond enough to prevent reinforcements from going to support Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. The 15th Connecticut joined the assigned units and marched up the Peninsula to Yorktown, encamping “on the historic ground of Cornwallis’s surrender.” On July 1, 1863, they crossed Pamunkey river on the remains of a burned railroad bridge.

Somewhere near the river, some of the soldiers met an older African American man who was carrying a “string of big ‘cats’ which he said he caught off the railroad bridge.” To add to their rationed foods, some of the Connecticut men decided to go fishing for catfish. Continue reading

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