Civil War Adventures with Mom

When the call went out for blog posts on “a woman who’s had an important impact on you and your development as a Civil War historian,” I jumped at the chance. The answer is easy: my mom, Barbara.

My mom (and dad) encouraged my love of history. She never discouraged me or said “Girls don’t read military history.” She bought me Civil War books and magazines, and she was my travel mate.  She took me to Gettysburg countless times, countless. We went to Harpers Ferry, Williamsburg, Shenandoah Valley Campaigns, etc. We even got the giggles together while watching one National Park’s battlefield documentary in the 1980s. Before you start throwing rotten tomatoes, let me explain. Whoever put this documentary together had a low budget and thought it would be more dramatic just showing a Confederate battle flag, rather than ranks of soldiers following the color guard. The idea may have sounded good in theory but on screen not so much. In one scene, there was a flag bobbing up and down behind a rock wall ostensibly running into battle, and in another scene, the Confederate battle flag lay next to the campfire. I leaned over to mom and whispered, “Maybe this is why the Confederates lost the war; they only had flags.”  Well, that was it. We couldn’t help but quietly giggle. The theater fortunately had just a few visitors, and we quietly made our way out after the docudrama ended. I’m pretty sure the documentary has been re-done by now. Continue reading

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Saving History Saturday: Looking At Preservation Myths

Earlier this month, a four part series about historic preservation and myths surrounding saving and restoring old buildings and sites appeared in the Adirondack Almanac. We appreciate the local approach to talking about saving history and thought it might provide some helpful points and tips if you’re involved in preservation or thinking about advocating to save structures or other historic features. Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: Saltville, Virginia (Part 2)

Today, we’ll focus on the First Battle of Saltville and its Civil War sites. Stay tuned next Friday for the Second Battle of Saltville sites and Salt Park.

On October 2, 1864, approximately 300 Confederates held the high ground around the Salt Capital of the Confederacy. In the mineral—mined, boiled, and readied in this southwest Virginia community—was a key part of preserving foods and maintain health within the Southern states. Federal strategists and officers recognized Saltville as a supply point worthy of destruction and sent several expeditions toward the mountain village at different points during the war. (In fact, part of the New Market Campaign involved trying to get to Saltville, Leadville, and the railroad.) Continue reading

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Long Time a’ Comin’

Topics like “Women Who Have Inspired You” usually have one format: a younger person looks back to an older mentor and sings her praises. I do not have that luxury. I am old, and all the professors who inspired me were men. The only woman who taught history was in the Medieval Department. I was interested in politics, economics, map reading, strategy, and tactics. I wanted to learn to think like a Marxist and a Hamiltonian–at the same time. I did not much care for feminist history, at least as it began in the 1960s. My view of the past is pretty much men and women, not one or the other. Continue reading

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ECW’s March 2020 Newsletter Now Available

Rensel Mackowski Maxfield FordThe March 2020 ECW newsletter went out today. If you didn’t see it, you can check it out here. Inside this issue:

  • Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski celebrates Women’s History Month by welcoming a new addition to his family
  • JoAnna McDonald answers 10 Questions by sharing a little bit of her sense of humor
  • News & Notes includes a teaser about the latest release in the Emerging Civil War Series
  • Kevin Pawlak and Dan Welch do Antietam (and invite our YouTube viewers to join them)
  • We talk a lot about Women’s History Month (despite the photo of four dudes we have here as our thumbnail)
  • “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Continue reading

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‘Til Secession Do Us Part: A Citizen of Rome, Georgia Faced A Schism In Business, Life, and Marriage

Peter Sheibley (used with permission from University of South Alabama)

ECW welcomes back guest author David T. Dixon

The two-day pursuit ended in northwest Georgia’s Floyd County in early December 1864. Peter Sheibley lay writhing in pain, courtesy of a blow to the head from a Spencer rifle wielded by Josh Irons.  Adnorium Lumpkin grabbed Sheibley’s hat and tossed him his own ragged chapeau, lambasting him with all the choice curse words he could remember.

The leader of the band of marauders bullying Sheibley, deserter-turned-regular-scout Jack Colquitt, leveled the charges against Sheibley. Colquitt accused his prisoner of disloyalty and spying for the Federal army. Acting on orders from Confederate General Joseph Wheeler, Colquitt had the authority to turn such men over to the local authorities or to confine them in a way that would prevent them from aiding the enemy. The notorious desperado decided to handle this case in his usual fashion, and a rope was prepared for Sheibley’s hanging.[1] Continue reading

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My Most Important History Teacher

I was on the fence about where to go. Two schools had emerged at the top of my list, with good history programs. Then I heard about Chris. She’s the reason I chose St. Vincent College, in Latrobe, PA.

Dr. Chris Catalfamo was a professor of history who stood out.  She had a reputation for thinking outside the box and making her classes appealing- best known for dressing in historic clothing when covering certain time periods.

Continue reading

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Traveling to Gettysburg: Pt. 1

In a time when it seems that the whole world is quarantined, everyone is stuck at home, and traveling is almost certainly out of the current realm of possibilities, cases of cabin fever are bound to increase. Here in Youngstown, we’ve seen endless days of rain and clouds only worsening the daydreaming of getting out of the house. As my office has shifted from the school where I teach, to my home library, to the dining room table, and now to the couch, I too am longing to get out of the house and back to the battlefield. This longing reminded me of a soldier’s return to Gettysburg in 1913 and his incredible journey to get there. Continue reading

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Two Women Who Influenced My Love of History

As I think of women who influence and encouraged my love of history, two ladies particularly come to mind: my mom and Nancy M.

My mother wasn’t a fan of history. Or at least that’s what she always thought. But then—as she tells the story—she got blessed with a little girl who wanted books read to her all the time and then had big questions about history. Little House on the Prairie and Paul Revere’s Ride were my introductions to the concept that exciting things had happened long before I was born. Then, we progressed to age-appropriate textbooks followed by raiding the library book shelves and hauling off the treasures (after they were properly checked out, of course.) Continue reading

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Symposium Spotlight: John Pope

Now that you have had a chance to learn more about our presenters for the Seventh Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium, over the coming weeks we will be introducing you to their topics on this year’s theme, Fallen Leaders. First up, Dan Welch previews his presentation on John Pope.

Maj. Gen. John Pope. It is a name that will forever be synonymous with the Federal defeat on the plains of Manassas in August 1862. But Pope’s fall from grace in the eyes of those heading the Federal war effort, men with names of Lincoln, Stanton, and others had begun earlier than the Union army’s retreat towards the Washington, D.C. defenses on the first of September 1862.

Pope had experienced a meteoric rise in the Federal army following the start of the American Civil War. Beginning his professional military career by attending West Point, upon graduation in 1842, he had been commissioned and assigned to the Corps of Topographical Engineers. Like many of his peers, he went to war with Zachary Taylor in the second half of the 1840s. Breveted twice during the Mexican American War, Pope returned to topographical details and assignments in the army following the conflict. His duties included surveying, river navigation, and lighthouse construction. These assignments took him to Minnesota and New Mexico, and the Red River Valley among numerous other locales. During this period, however, Pope witnessed the same glacial rate of promotions in the US Regular Army that had defined it during periods of peace. He also worked through the lack of emotions felt and motivations to fight that combat veterans like himself had experienced during the Mexican American War. With the election of Lincoln in November 1860, though, all of that was about to change. Continue reading

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