Category Archives: Primary Sources

A View of the Heavens

Last week, I shared an account from Theodore Lyman, a member of George Gordon Meade’s staff. One of the things I enjoy about Lyman’s writing is that he’s an excellent stylist. His writing is colorful and evocative. Take, for example, … Continue reading

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“Lie still and lie still”

Back in June, I shared an account from a Confederate soldier in the Vicksburg trenches who complained about being bored. Recently, while doing some reading about the Mine Run Campaign, I came across an account from Theodore Lyman, a member … Continue reading

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General Joshua L. Chamberlain and a Fatherhood Journey

On October 18, 1864, Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain wrote a letter to his wife, Frances Caroline. This letter – though written during the war period – is unique and gives a glimpse of fatherhood, rather than war. Chamberlain is … Continue reading

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“A Fury Unequaled”: A North Carolinian’s Account of Antietam

Finding personal accounts of battlefield experiences always raises my eyebrows, as it does for many of you. The details and immediate stories they contain are the stuff historians crave. When I read the account of James W. Shinn, a soldier … Continue reading

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Of “Promotion,” Camp, Gossip, & Flirtation in August 1863

In late August 1863 – after returning from medical leave and a visit home – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain wrote a letter to his wife Fanny, giving a glimpse of the “quiet days” of war. The moments at Gettysburg created only … Continue reading

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The Superhuman Henry Recor at the Petersburg Breakthrough

I have yet to find a Civil War story as compelling and consequential as that of Captain Charles G. Gould, the first Sixth Corps soldier to breach the Confederate lines on the morning of April 2, 1865. Union soldiers from … Continue reading

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Mapping his way through the Carolinas: A profile of Major Robert M. McDowell (Part 2)

Maj. Robert M. McDowell was an engineering officer on the staff of Gen. Slocum during Sherman’s Carolinas campaign.  His diary recounts the adventure. (Part two of two) Part of the army’s rear echelon, the staff major was not ordinarily in … Continue reading

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Mapping his way through the Carolinas: A profile of Major Robert M. McDowell (Part 1)

(Part one of two) Recently while doing research at the Chemung Historical Society in Elmira, NY, I was delighted to discover the Civil War diary of Robert Morris McDowell in the collection, which revealed a new view of Gen. Sherman’s … Continue reading

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Where is Aunt Becky?

As I was reading some old issues of the National Tribune the other day, I came across the following notice from the July 26, 1883. My mother’s name is Becky, so of course my cousins all call her “Aunt Becky,” … Continue reading

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“The numbers of cannoneers is so small”

Lt. Edward Williston commanded Battery D, 2nd United States Artillery at the Battle of Antietam. While at the National Archives, I found this revealing letter about the issues Williston’s battery encountered on the Antietam battlefield due to a shortage of … Continue reading

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