Appreciating a Former Mentor

“Your principal weakness is your style.”

So wrote my professor at Emory, Dr. Bell Wiley, in his critique of my paper for his Civil War class back in the fall of 1968. (I wrote on “Price’s Missouri Raid of 1864”; I got a B.)

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Modern Photography: A Few Favorite Photos



from the “Statues of Stonewall” series

I’m fortunate that I get to take a lot of pictures. While I’m intense about my writing, I’m relaxed about my photography. I’m not fancy about. I also find it a wonderful excuse to challenge myself to see a battlefield in different ways, from different angles and different perspectives.

I spend a lot of time on battlefields, and while I’ve always loved to take a camera with me, having one built into my phone now makes photography ridiculously easy. Another of my general operating principles has been “If you take enough pictures, something is bound to turn out okay, even if by sheer accident.”

So when Sarah Kay Bierle suggested this photography series, I started to think about the thousands of photos I’ve taken—and which ones have stood out for me. Continue reading

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Modern Photography: Sailor’s Creek Battlefield

our-favorite-modern-civil-war-photosWe found Phill Greenwalt’s photo essay from April 2015 in the ECW Archives and decided to share it again.

The photographs were shot during the Sesquicentennial, and there’s nice commentary on the featured scenes. Be sure to check out the original post: Sailor’s Creek – 150 Years Later

Here’s a teaser photograph: Continue reading

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Defenders of the Flag


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Grave Matters, Revisited

States Rights Gist

States Rights Gist

Back in the ‘80s I started up a little newsletter, Grave Matters, “A Newsletter for Civil War Necrolithologists” ( a term I think I coined). I ran it for a few years, sending out four quarterly issues to eventually more than 300 subscribers across the county—and indeed the globe (Canada, Australia, Africa and Australia). But then I moved on.

Somewhere along the way I lost all of my copies, but last year a friend, Mike Morgan of Franklin, Tennessee, most generously sent me copy of our complete file (1985-91).

From them come some necrolithic pearls, such as this one from vol. II, no. 2 (Fall 1986), on the gravestone of Confederate Brigadier General States Rights Gist. Continue reading

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Modern Photography: History Through The Lens


abphoto1 In the twenty-first century, digital cameras and social media launch an almost unceasing barrage of images towards us. We take pictures wherever we go, share images with the click of a button, and replicate them almost endlessly. Therefore, I’ve chosen the images included in this short piece as some of my favourite modern day images related to the Civil War. They align with those same usages of contemporary photography, but illustrate something entirely different. Continue reading

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Mexican-American War 170th: Battle of Buena Vista

Mexican War-header

A colorful depiction of the Battle of Buena Vista. (LOC)

A colorful depiction of the Battle of Buena Vista. (LOC)

February 23, 1847: 170 years ago today, the mountain passes and gorges near the hacienda of Buena Vista filled with the ripping crackles of musketry and booming concussion of artillery. The day saw a numerically superior Mexican force throwing itself at American lines; the outcome of the battle could throw American operations in Mexico into utter disarray.

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Modern Photography: Quiet Contradiction


ECW welcomes back guest author (and photographer!) Michael Aubrecht

Battlefields are peculiar places. When you visit any hallowed grounds, everything is perfect. The grass is neatly trimmed and the marble markers are polished. The freshly painted cannons are all lined up neatly, and the landmark buildings are restored to their original appearances. Depending on the time of year, there can be rows of flags or luminaries in the cemeteries, and you can often find tour guides and re-enactors walking about. Continue reading

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Modern Photography: A Trip to Ringgold, Georgia

our-favorite-modern-civil-war-photosFans of General Patrick Cleburne go here all the time: Ringgold, Georgia – a historic borough in north Georgia, just a few miles below the Tennessee.

Last summer I went there with Jack Melton, publisher of Civil War News and The Artilleryman Magazine. Jack took a number of shots, and graciously allows me to share them here, courtesy of his Historical Publications, Inc.

Photography by Jack Melton, 2016. Used with permission.

Photography by Jack Melton, 2016. Used with permission.

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2nd Wisconsin Infantry: A Study In Demographics

Members of the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment, 1861. (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Members of the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment, 1861. (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Emerging Civil War welcomes back Bill Backus

One of the famous regiments that served in the Civil War was the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. As part of the famed Iron Brigade, the 2nd Wisconsin saw hard service with the Army of the Potomac from First Manassas to Antietam, and Gettysburg and beyond. Recruited from the Badger State, today historians and the public treat the 2nd as a typical Mid-Western regiment. However, since Wisconsin became a state only 13 years before the outbreak of the Civil War this begs the question of who enlisted and served in the 2nd Wisconsin. By examining muster records and cross checking them with the 1860 Federal census, historians can get a snapshot in the social-economic build of the regiment which can help explain the 2nd’s exceptional combat record. Continue reading

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