A Review of Liddell’s Record

Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Sean Michael Chick

Some of my favorite works of history and literature are military memoirs. Every few months I read some of the classics: Storm of Steel, Sagittarius Rising, A Rumor of War, Company Aytch, Requiem for Battleship Yamato, etc. Yet, the memoirs left by generals tend to be a bit more disappointing. Many are bluntly self-serving, obsessed with reputation, and the causes of various defeats and blunders. Memoirs on the Confederate side are more bitter than most, fostered by the experience of defeat and an imperfect reconciliation. Some are worse than others. I have a high regard for Pierre Beauregard as a man and a general, but his memoirs are among the worst offenders. Those penned by Joseph Johnston, John Bell Hood, and James Longstreet did no credit to their authors. They reopened wounds and damaged their reputations. I tend to prefer the Union memoirs. They are often less bitter, with a noted and amusing exception being those by David Stanley.

Continue reading

Posted in Emerging Civil War | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s in a Name? Hell Itself

Layout 1In a war that he piled one horrific scene on another, soldiers had plenty of opportunity to catch their own glimpses of hell: “Hell’s half-acre” at Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle; the Hell Hole at New Hope Church during the Atlanta campaign; “the vortex of Hell” at Gettysburg’s Wheatfield.

In that context, then, perhaps Horace Porter’s characterization of the Wilderness as “Hell itself” is just another hyperbolic turn of phrase chosen for its shock value in a crowded field of shocking descriptions.

I think Porter raises the bar, though to call it Hell itself. It’s not just like Hell—it is Hell. Hell embodied. Hell made real. Hell itself.

Here is what he wrote: Continue reading

Posted in Books & Authors, Emerging Civil War Series | Leave a comment

The Death and Memory of Alexander Hays

Hays Monument 2016

The Hays monument, May 5, 2016

The following excerpt, related to events 152 years ago today, is adapted from my new book Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, part of the Emerging Civil War Series. Proceeds from the sale of the book go to support the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield.

“This morning was beautiful,” wrote Brigadier General Alexander Hays on May 4, 1864, in a letter to his wife. “It might have been an appropriate harbinger of the day of the regeneration of mankind, but it only brought to remembrance, through the throats of many bugles, the duty enjoined upon each one, perhaps before the setting sun, to lay down a life for his country.”

It would be the last letter Hays would write to his wife. The next afternoon, on May 5, Hays would die in the battle that swirled around the Brock Road/Plank Road intersection. Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Memory, Monuments | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Was Taken Prisoner”: A Pennsylvanian in the Wilderness and Andersonville

On May 5, 1864, my wife’s great-great-great grandfather, Levi Bowen,  was wounded and taken prisoner in the Battle of the Wilderness. By the spring of 1864, Levi,  a member of Company H, 7th Pennsylvania Reserves was a seasoned veteran. In fact, he had been wounded and captured once before, at the Battle of Glendale. Fortunately, he was exchanged a few weeks later. He recuperated in Washington in time to rejoin his regiment for the Fredericksburg Campaign. This time, however, his captivity would last much longer. From the battlefield, Levi was marched to Orange Court House and then eventually to Andersonville. A family surprise has shed some light on his experience in the Wilderness and his time as a prisoner of war.

Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Campaigns, Civil War Events, Common Soldier | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Shared Ground of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness

Skeletons in the WildernessYesterday, I wrote of the Civil War Trust’s current focus on a tract of land it’s calling the Chancellorsville-Wilderness Crossroads, which saw troop movements during both battles. Separated by a year, the battles shared much of the same geography even though each maelstrom centered in different spots.

That brought to mind, in particular, the men of the II Corps, who spent the night of May 4 camping on the very ground where they had fought a year earlier. Those camps centered around the Chancellorsville intersection itself, a few miles to the east of the Trust’s current focus. The experience of those soldiers, 152 years ago today, remains chilling and, for me, poignant. Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Common Soldier, Emerging Civil War, Preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Authors Signings at the Emerging Civil War Symposium

We are happy to welcome the following authors to the Third Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. Authors will be available Friday and Saturday for book signings, sales, and conversations.

Edward Alexander:
Dawn of Victory: The Breakthrough at Petersburg

Sarah Kay Bierle:
Blue, Gray & Crimson: A Story of Civilian Courage at Gettysburg

Daniel T. Davis:
Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864

Calamity in Carolina: The Battles of Averasboro and Bentonville

Don’t Give an Inch: The Second Day at Gettysburg

Fight Like the Devil: The First Day at Gettysburg

Out Flew the Sabers: The Battle of Brandy Station Continue reading

Posted in Books & Authors, Symposium, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Chancellorsville-Wilderness Crossroads

CWT Crossroads

The Chancellorsville-Wilderness Crossroads

Early May is a busy month for Civil War buffs in my neck of the woods. In 1863, the battle of Chancellorsville roared through the eastern half of the Wilderness; in 1864, the battle of the Wilderness ripped through the western half of that same 70-acre second-growth forest. Today, May 4, serves as a transition day of sorts: the wind-down of Chancellorsville and the ramp-up toward the Wilderness. There’s plenty to remember, commemorate, and explore.

The two battles, separated by a year, spilled over some of the same ground, yet modern buffs tend to think of them as geographically distant events—which just wasn’t so. Federal soldiers, marching toward the Wilderness a year after the Chancellorsville debacle, remembered that ground with dread. “We moved on through the interminable forest and endless night,” one Mainer recalled. “The winds tossed the leafless branches of the trees, seeming to moan and shudder.”

The latest effort by the Civil War Trust, the Chancellorsville-Wilderness Crossroads, seeks to secure ground that saw important troop movements in both battles. The 355-acre parcel, which abuts parts of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, is located within the triangle of land formed by the Brock Road, the Orange Plank Road, and modern Route 3. Acquiring the Crossroads, says the Trust, would “not only add to the more than 752 acres we have already saved at these two battlefields; we would provide an interpretive bridge between two crucial chapters in our nation’s history.” Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, National Park Service, Preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Community Give in Support of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust Continues

Just a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post about the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust and their involvement with the day-long Community Give project. Because of the number of Community Give events going on nationwide, the high volume of traffic caused massive internet snarls, which in turn made it hard for supporters to make donations.

CVBT President Tom Van Winkle shared some good news this morning. “The donor site for the Community Give has been fixed and is fully functional!” he wrote. “As of this e mail [8:31 a.m.] the CVBT is $5,600.00 short of our $24,000.00 goal. We realize this may be do to the frustrations of yesterdays issues. Please if you were going to donate and ran into problems yesterday you have until 12:00 noon today to help us in our goal!”

To donate, visit CVBT’s (now fully functional!) Community Give page.


Posted in Civil War Events, Emerging Civil War, Preservation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Help the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust

Many of us at ECW have roots or connections to the battlefields around the Fredericksburg area: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Brandy Station. It’s no wonder, then, that the regional preservation group, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT), has a special place in many of our hearts.

Today is “Community Give” day in Fredericksburg, and CVBT is one of the participating agencies. They’re trying to raise $24,000 by day’s end. We’d be mighty obliged if you’d be willing to help them out by making a donation.

This year alone, CVBT has “worked to acquire several parcels either by outright purchase or partnership with others,” the told supporters this morning. Just this year alone, they’ve successfully supported the following projects:

  • Norfolk Artillery Site in Fredericksburg (4.7 acres)
  • Stonewall Brigade track #2 – Chancellorsville (1.59 acres)
  • Hill/Ewell Buffer 1/2 acre- Wilderness (.5 acres)
  • Benchmark Road-Fredericksburg (25 acres-$100,000.00 to Civil War Trust to assist in purchase)
  • Pelham’s Corner (Site monument protection and expansion)
  • Chancellorsville-Wilderness Crossroads (355 acres-$50,000.00 to Civil War Trust to assist in purchase)

“There are several other properties in the works that can not yet be announced,” they said.

According to CVBT’s email:

The Community Give is a 24-hour day of giving on Tuesday May 3rd, 2015 from 12:00 a.m. until midnight. It is a day when everyone is asked to make a donation and show support for the local nonprofit organizations that positively impact our lives every day. The Community Foundation and generous sponsors of The Community Give are offering $100,000 in cash prizes (grants) for participating nonprofits as a way to build excitement and maximize the benefits for donors and nonprofits.

An important note: “The Community Give folks have let us know there is an issue with non profit sites,” CVBT said in a follow-up. “When you click on the donation link below you may see the CVBT page but the option and info for donating may be missing. They have asked that if this happens you wait several minutes until it appears or please try again later. This is a very unfortunate development and completely out of our control.”

As a result, some sixty communities nationwide who were likewise conducting campaigns were similarly impacted by the high volume of traffic. Community Give has consequently extended to program through NOON on Wednesday, May 4.

“Thank you for your support and patience,” CVBT says. “Don’t Give Up!”

Posted in Preservation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Returning Yell for Yell: The Rebel Yell’s Antebellum Origins

Today, we are pleased to welcome guest author Matthew Guillen.

The Rebel Yell was much romanticized during and after the war. Despite the popular belief in the Yell’s death with the death of the Confederacy, it also enjoyed wide currency after the war, as discussed in Craig A. Warren’s 2014, The Rebel Yell: A Cultural History.[1] Warren’s book represents the first scholarly attention given the Yell in over fifty years, the only other academic study being Allen Walker Read’s 1961 article, “The Rebel Yell as a Linguistic Problem.”[2] Read’s and Warren’s works provide a comprehensive discussion of the Rebel Yell’s sound, uses and effects during the war, and its historiography. Still in need of illumination, however, is the Yell’s antebellum origin. As Warren notes, the Rebel Yell did not emerge spontaneously in 1861, but was a result of existing Southern aural culture and suggests “students of the South’s aural and spoken history should strive to learn more about such screeching as it existed before 1861.”[3]

Continue reading

Posted in Antebellum South, Common Soldier, Leadership--Confederate, Memory, Personalities | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments