Saving History Saturday: 303 Acres To Save In Tennessee

American Battlefield Trust announced the opportunity to preserve two important tracts totaling 301 acres at Lookout Mountain and Franklin in Tennessee.

According the news release: Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: The Green Machine Regiment Band at Ball’s Bluff

The 8th Green Machine (GM) Regiment Band will be performing an hour-long concert at Ball’s Bluff Regional Battlefield Park on Saturday, October 24th starting at 1:00 pm to commemorate the 159th anniversary of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Since 2018, the band has performed at the battlefield twice each year: once on the Fourth of July and once for the observance and remembrance of the October 21st, 1861 battle.

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Delity Powell Kelly: A Child in a Confederate Camp

ECW welcomes guest author Sheritta Bitikofer

In January of 1930, a new soldier’s pension application was submitted in the state of Florida. While at first glance, this was nothing unusual for the time. Soldiers were growing older and desired compensation for their sacrifice to the Southern cause for independence. However, this application was special and marked up in unusual places. Instances where the word “he” were typed – referring to the applicant – had been crossed out and changed to “she.” The veteran, Delilah “Delity” Powell Kelly, born June 4th, 1851, was not looking for a widow’s pension. She was looking for a soldier’s pension for her services as a young nurse in the Confederacy.

Excerpt from Delity Powell Pension Application (

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History Education and the American Battlefield Trust

I have the good fortune of being able to do a lot of work with the American Battlefield Trust, as do many of my Emerging Civil War colleagues. In particular, we do a lot with ABT’s education department. (As an example, check out our coverage of the Trust’s 2019 Teacher Institute or the bajillion Facebook programs we’ve helped with). I have to give a big shout out to ABT’s Chief Historian Garry Adelman, as well as ECW alum Dan Davis and, of course, ECW co-founder Kris White, who all let us come and play in ABT sandbox.

Because of ECW’s own commitment to education, the latest letter from the Trust’s Jim Lighthizer caught my immediate attention. Jim retired as president on September 30, but he sent one final mailing before stepping down. It’s an appeal near and dear to my heart and, I know, many of yours because it addresses the importance of history education.

Whenever I talk to roundtables, wherever I go, people lament the state of history education in general and Civil War education in particular, so I know it’s an issue on a lot of people’s minds.

So, understanding how important this is for so many ECW readers, I asked the Trust if I could pass along Jim’s letter. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it:

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Lessons for 2020 from POWs and Sieges

POWs building the Bridge on the River Kwai, sketched by a fellow prisoner. (Imperial War Museum)

Being captured in battle can be a dramatic and traumatic experience. Instantly you are cut off from what was familiar and definite, and cast into a situation unfamiliar, out of your control, and with a most indefinite future.

The same is true of being surrounded and placed under siege, facing pressures from the enemy ringing your position while hopefully awaiting relief. Earl Ziemke in Stalingrad to Berlin summed up the effects well: “A sudden encirclement of a modern army is a cataclysmic event, comparable in its way to an earthquake or other natural disaster. On the map it often takes on a surgically precise appearance. On the battlefield it is a rending, tearing operation that leaves the victim to struggle in a state of shock . . .  Escape is the first thought in the minds of commanders and men alike, but escape is no simple matter.”

These have been on my mind over the past few months, as in broad parallel this is what has happened when coronavirus hit the United States and prompted lockdowns starting in mid-March 2020. I have been reaching into accounts of both prisoners of war (POWs) and besieged forces to try and get perspectives about what is going on, and the stresses they faced. I also wanted to see how they coped in those situations in case any of those lessons might be applicable now.

This post summarizes my findings so far. Continue reading

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In the Wake of Ball’s Bluff

The Federal defeat at Ball’s Bluff was small in scale but large in its repercussions. (LOC)

In his diary on October 22, 1862, John Haley of the 17th Maine recounted his experience camping near the Ball’s Bluff battlefield a year after the battle:

“[W]e were sent on picket on a strip of land between the Potomac and the Baltimore & Ohio Canal, nearly opposite Ball’s Bluff, a place of most unhappy memory so far as we are concerned…” he wrote…. Continue reading

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Remembering Ball’s Bluff

Author James Morgan with Chris Mackowski at the Ball’s Bluff battlefield 2011

Today is the anniversary of the 1861 battle of Ball’s Bluff. A small affair by the standards established later in the war, the battle nonetheless had a magnified impact because it directly led to the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, a Congressional effort to arm-chair general the Union effort for the rest of the war.

As we commemorate the anniversary of the battle, I want to give a shout-out to Jim Morgan, a historian I have immense amounts of respect for, who wrote an excellent account of the battle, A Little Short of Boats. I first met Jim when I interviewed him about his book back in 2011, and to my good fortune, he has since become a great friend of mine.

I want to take a moment to highlight some of Jim’s work, and other work we’ve done here on the blog, about Ball’s Bluff:

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Ball’s Bluff: “Has Sparta More?”

“Cannonading on the Potomac” by Alfred W. Thompson

Recently, I came across some poems written about the Battle of Ball’s Bluff which was fought on October 21, 1861. This one was penned by a Union general from Massachusetts, Frederick Lander, and I’ve included a few historical notes after the original poem.


Aye, deem us proud, for we are more
Than proud of all our mighty dead;
Proud of the bleak and rock-bound shore,
A crowned oppressor cannot tread. Continue reading

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Photographic Portraits: Cadets Identified, Girl Unknown

“Those are cadet uniforms,” I thought while sorting through thumbnail files of digitized Civil War images on Library of Congress’s website. It was not at all what I was looking for at the moment, but I bookmarked the page to come back after work hours.

Where they Virginia Military Institute (VMI) uniforms or another military academy? And who was the girl? I didn’t remember seeing the photos when I had been looking for photos for Call Out The Cadets, so I couldn’t wait to find out if they were “New Market Cadets.”

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John Rankin, Bravery, and Gettysburg

ECW welcomes back guest author Jon Tracey

John Rankin was an average man by most standards.  Though an accomplished printer, newspaper editor, and foreign language proofreader for the Government Printing Office postwar, he defined his life less by those successes than one might expect.[1] Instead, he valued three years of his life over all the other decades combined – his service in the American Civil War. During the conflict, he rose from serving as a private to being commissioned as First Lieutenant and commanding his company. His service, and more importantly the way he wrote about and remembered his service in honest recollections afterwards, reveals a great deal about how many Union veterans valued and thought of their service in the post-war years. Continue reading

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