ECW’s Big News and Virtual Symposium

Well, the ECW community is supposed to be gathered at Stevenson Ridge this weekend for our annual symposium, sharing the camaraderie among authors, readers, speakers, and friends that has become a defining hallmark of the ECW brand. Alas, COVID-19 had other ideas, and we had to postpone this year’s symposium to next year. If there’s an up-side, the fallen leaders will still remain fallen, so the stories we planned to share this year aren’t apt to change all that much by next year.

Another upside is that we have a virtual symposium that we’re recording this weekend in place of our in-person symposium. Details on that in a second.

One of the big pieces of news we had planned to announce at this year’s symposium is that Emerging Civil War is now officially a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. We have always run ourselves this way, with a strong focus on our educational mission, so our designation by the IRS really just formalizes the way we’ve done business for the last nine years. (Yes, ECW turns nine years old this month!) Continue reading

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ECWS: Support Independent Publishing

As many readers know, it’s been a quiet year for the Emerging Civil War book series. We previewed a pair of upcoming titles yesterday, but for now, they join a pretty good list of titles that are currently backed up because of COVID. Like airplanes circling O’Hare in bad weather, the books are in a holding pattern until things clear up a bit.

We asked our faithful, fabulous publisher, Theodore Savas of Savas Beatie, if he wanted to update readers on where things stood. His first reaction was, “Absolutely.” His second reaction was, “Support independent publishing!” (He may have even tacked on a few extra exclamation points there, so impassioned was his plea.)

Here’s what Ted has to share: Continue reading

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ECWS Sneak Peek: Lincoln in Gettysburg

Here’s a sneak peek at another upcoming title in the Emerging Civil War Series:

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Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by Brad and Linda Gottfried, with a foreword by Doug Douds.

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ECWS Sneak Peak: JLC in the Civil War

Here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming title in the Emerging Civil War Series:

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Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War by Brian Swartz, with a foreword by Thomas Desjardin.

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The Original Bohemian: George Alfred Townsend

Townsend (Library of Congress)

Having spent the better part of the past two years playing the part of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant for a traveling play—“Now We Stand by Each Other Always”—it has been a restless few months idle as show after show has been cancelled.  Featuring a conversation between Grant and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, the play has been a great way to bring these important historical figures to life.

Lately, I have been considering other conversations that might be staged in a similar vein.  The latest idea is a conversation between Grant and a friendly journalist.  Near the end of the war, the two men would be portrayed sitting around a campfire at City Point, Virginia, and casually talking about where the War had been and how it might end. I have settled upon George Alfred Townsend of The New York World as just the correspondent I am looking for. Continue reading

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Defending Quaker Consciences in the Confederacy

ECW welcomes guest author Max Longley

John Bacon Crenshaw was clerk (chief executive) of the small Cedar Creek Meeting, a Quaker congregation in Richmond. During the war, he became an uncompensated lobbyist who strove to alleviate the sufferings of Quakers and others in the Confederacy, mostly in the Quaker-heavy region of central North Carolina. The people he tried to help, for reasons of religious conscience, fell afoul of the Confederate military. After the war, Crenshaw risked defying a rich and weighty fellow-Quaker to help the Confederate official who had so often helped him.

Quakers in Virginia and elsewhere in the South held to the Quaker teachings (“testimonies”) against military service and slavery. Their antislavery attitudes made life tough for Quakers in antebellum Virginia – Crenshaw’s father suffered for his opposition to slavery. Most Virginia Quakers simply got up and left – departing for what is now the Midwest to take up farming in these economically-growing free states. The Cedar Creek Monthly Meeting, with reduced numbers, found it convenient to relocate from Hanover County to next door Henrico County – Richmond. It seems that Crenshaw was able to cross religious and political barriers to the extent of getting to know some influential people in the Virginia capital.[1]

Castle Thunder, Richmond Confederate prison where Crenshaw sought to persuade Tilghman Vestal to pay his conscientious-objecor tax.

As the leader of the Cedar Creek Monthly Meeting, Crenshaw oversaw the affairs of his diminished flock. During the war, “Our poor little meeting [was] nearly broken up,” but Crenshaw remained busy in Richmond.[2]

Appeals to Crenshaw began to pour in earnest in 1862 when the Confederate Congress passed a conscription law. Southern Quakers mostly held to the Peace Testimony and the tradition of refusing military service.

Two developments somewhat improved the situation. For one thing, the Confederate Congress passed a law exempting four traditional peace sects – Quakers, Dunkards, Nazarenes, and Mennonites, from conscription. What the conscript had to do to get out of service was to pay a special $500 tax. Also, the conscript would have to get a certification from his religious congregation attesting that he was a member in good standing as of October 11, 1862, the date the exemption law was passed. Crenshaw arranged to pay the taxes of several conscripts – both Quakers and Dunkards – and obtained their release.[3] Crenshaw founded a paper, the Southern Friend, to keep the Confederacy’s Quakers informed of developments, and to appeal to the sympathies of non-Quaker readers.[4] Continue reading

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“I Confess That My Life at West Point Was Wretched”: O.O. Howard’s Plebe Year

Had his cousin William been in better physical shape, O.O. Howard probably would have never gone to West Point. Otis, as his family called him throughout his life, was in his senior year at Bowdoin College in Maine when his uncle John, a congressman, wrote to him, “From what William writes me today, I am of  [the] opinion that he will not be accepted at West Point.” Uncle John went on, “What I wish to know is whether in case he is not accepted, you would like to have me recommend you,” for the cadet’s position. Otis Howard, not yet twenty, hemmed and hawed before deciding that he would attend the United States Military Academy. Within the year, he was contemplating resignation.[1]

Continue reading

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Continuous Contact: Grant’s Tactical Doctrine in the Eastern Theater

ECW welcomes back guest author Nathan Provost

“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten. Then he who continues the attack wins.”[1]

Federal dead in Fredericksburg, casualties of the Overland Campaign.

This quote by Ulysses Grant, general-in-chief of Federal forces, signifies the grand tactic of Continuous Contact. Dr. Earl Hess, a preeminent historian on the Civil War, defines “grand tactics” as “the larger aspect of maneuvering for battle within reach of the enemy.[2] He then identifies Continuous Contact as a major doctrine in the Overland Campaign. He states, “This was Grant’s innovation; besides the use of temporary fieldworks, it was the only major innovation in grand tactics during the Civil War.”[3] Grant utilized it in the eastern theatre of the American Civil War. The grand tactic was extremely effective as it bestowed Grant the initiative. He needed to put General Robert E. Lee on the defensive and never let him strike. Nonetheless, the tactic itself was a double-edged sword. It thickened the fog of war for both sides, preventing both commanders from seeing the field of battle more clearly. It is essential to analyze how this grand tactic affected both armies and its overall effectiveness in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns. Continue reading

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C’mon, Cump!

Sherman book photoIn his recent, admiring biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, Brian Holden Reid terms him a “dazzling literary stylist.”

Well, watch out for that razzle-dazzle, at least in Sherman’s Memoirs (1875).

I am not the first to notice that in his recollections Cump glided through or omitted entirely stuff that didn’t make him look good. Continue reading

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Maine at War: July 2020

North Carolina monument at GettysburgHere’s what our friend Brian Swartz was up to in July at his blog, Maine at War:

July 1, 2020: Sitting governor runs afoul Republican opponents, part 1
Refusing to kowtow to political shenanigans in his own party, Maine Republican Governor Abner Coburn runs afoul powerful politicians as he seeks re-election in 1863. Continue reading

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