Free ECW Podcast: “The War Went On”

Check it out! We’ve got another free podcast for you this evening…

For Civil War veterans, the war didn’t end just because everyone went home. Chris Mackowski talks with historians Brian Matthew Jordan and Evan Rothera about their new book, The War Went On: Reconsidering the Lives of Civil War Veterans. Continue reading

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Yes, I Picked Benjamin Butler for My Fantasy Draft

ECW welcomes guest author Bryan Cheeseboro.

Benjamin Butler

Recently, I enjoyed “The Civil War Fantasy Draft” presented by The American Battlefield Trust on their Facebook page as part of their new Zoom Goes the History video series.  As we are under social distancing restrictions that have canceled sporting events, the “draft”- in the fashion of an NFL or NBA draft-featured eleven stay-at-home historians selecting their “picks” for their fictional armies.  The program was lots of fun and I think I learned a thing or two as well.  And just like any professional sports draft event, I imagine Civil War historians/fans were at home screaming at their laptops or other video devices with utterances such as “How in the world could you pick/not pick (insert Civil War general’s name here)?”

While many of my picks were selected during the draft, one was not; and I felt his omission was unfortunate.  My pick was Benjamin F. Butler.  This probably comes as a surprise, as many historians believe he was a poor general.  According to one source, Butler was “one of the most incompetent” of the North’s generals.[1] I won’t try and challenge Butler’s reputation as a battlefield commander, but what he could not do on the field, he achieved in other areas that contributed to the final United States victory in the war.

He was among the first responders to President Lincoln’s call for troops after Sumter.  His swift actions in April 1861 helped secure safe passage for troops en route to Washington City; and he took command in Baltimore by mounting guns on Federal Hill, which point towards the Inner Harbor to this day. Continue reading

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BookChat with Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver, authors of An Environmental History of the Civil War

Environmental History-coverI was pleased to spend some time recently with a new book by historians Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver. Drs. Browning and Silver are professors at Appalachian State University, where Browning is professor of military history and Silver is professor of environmental history. Together, they are the authors of An Environmental History of the Civil War, a new release from the University of North Carolina Press (click here for more info).

Drs. Browning and Silver were kind enough to take a few minutes to chat with me about their book.

1) We think of the war as a military event with huge social, political, and economic ramifications. Why is it also important to think of the Civil War as an environmental event?

The war was not just a military conflict, but also a biotic or an ecological event. The war fundamentally altered relationships between Americans and nature, leaving an environmental legacy that we still live with today. Adopting an ecological approach offers a holistic view of the war. Military strategy and battles were important, but so were a host of other factors (which shaped those military events), including disease, weather, the need for sustenance, animals, the biological reality of death, and the vagaries of terrain and natural vegetation.  Continue reading

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The Civil War Zoom Boom, part four: Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Sacco and Dabney

Nick Sacco (right) and Emmanuel Dabney on the “U.S. Grant History Chat”

(part four in a series)

When the online “Zoom Boom” started in late March, Nick Sacco saw an opportunity. Sacco is a historian at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis, and he already knew, with the History Channel’s Grant documentary on the horizon, that interest in the general-turned-president was already on the rise. The sudden influx of home-bound people hungry for history-based entertainment opened even more doors.

However, National Park Service regulations posed some challenges that other historians didn’t face, and so the Zoom Boom wasn’t as easy for Sacco to take advantage of as it was for others.

CM: What inspired you to start using Zoom to do interviews on Facebook? Continue reading

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Sacred Duty – Sherman Honors Thomas E.G. Ransom

Portrait of Brig. Gen. Thomas E.G. Ransom taken in St. Louis. (Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society)

In June of 1884, General William T. Sherman stood before the members of St. Louis’ newest Grand Army of the Republic post. Just having retired from the U.S. Army and residing in the Gateway City, Sherman “was invited by several of the posts of the Grand Army of the Republic to join them, but learning that some of my neighbors intended to form a new post more convenient to my residence, I concluded to unite with it.”[1] He was the new post’s first commander. In front of the many members of Post 131, he intended to make the case for the post’s official name.

Just two decades prior during the war, a “young, most gallant, and promising officer” by the name of Thomas E.G. Ransom had risen through the ranks in the Army of the Tennessee. [2] The son of a fallen officer in the Mexican War, the Vermont native attended Norwich University and then moved to Illinois to pursue surveying and civil engineering. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the patriotic Ransom raised and was elected captain of a company in the 11th Illinois Infantry. Sherman first noticed Ransom at Vicksburg in 1863, as an “almost boyish” appearance, but “though of slender form, he had the bearing of a gallant soldier.”[3] By the age of 29 in 1864, he was promoted to brigadier general and had been wounded four separate times in combat. His severe wounds from Sabine Cross Roads in April 1864 had forced him to recover for over four months in Chicago.

Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 6/1-6/7/2020

We often talk about the importance of “walking the ground” of Civil War battlefields.

What’s your favorite “aha moment” that you’ve had while exploring Civil War topography?

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Bucklin’s Hospital & Camp: “Go home! Not while strength lasted” (Part 10)

Sophronia E. Bucklin

In Hospital and Camp, A Woman’s Record of Thrilling Incidents Among the Wounded in the Late War by Sophronia E. Bucklin

It’s Week 10 of our read-along with extra historical notes and images. If you want to catch up on the chapter notes, just click here for the collection in the archive. This week we are looking at chapters 19 and 20. Continue reading

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Week In Review: May 24-31, 2020

From Memorial Day posts to a new series called “Zoom Boom” and new articles about U.S. Grant, we’ve had a full week of new content on the ECW Blog. Here’s a look back at the busy week! Continue reading

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Visiting Grant Sites in St. Louis

Ulysses Grant in his general’s uniform. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

While watching the premiere episode of History’s Grant miniseries, I could not help but smile as I saw the various places President and General Ulysses Grant visited or lived in my hometown of St. Louis. As I grew up, Grant was everywhere I looked: Grant’s Farm, Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, Jefferson Barracks, and more. These sites were not simply places that Grant had stepped foot into for a mere moment, they were places that built and shaped the man who would play a crucial role in preserving the Union. Remarkably, many of these places can be visited today. Continue reading

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The Civil War Zoom Boom, part three: The Civil War Roundtable Congress

CWRT Congress logo(part three in a series)

Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, Zoom has boomed for the Civil War community, offering buffs a plethora of programs, interviews, and other great content. (And not just the Civil War world, either—take a look at “Rev War Revelry” on our sister site, Emerging Revolutionary War.)

Mike Movius, president of the Civil War Roundtable Congress, recognized early on that roundtables would be looking for ways to make up for canceled meetings. Aside from the lost programming, Movius recognized that some roundtables would lose momentum without the energy provided by their regular meetings. Continue reading

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