The Great Naval Leaders

On May 10 I lectured about the Battle of Midway to Old Dominion University’s Institute of Learning in Retirement. Over the course of a wonderful discussion, I assessed one of the U.S. commanders, Raymond Spruance, as “one of the greatest fleet commanders in our history.” Driving home, I recalled a conversation with the Bull Run CWRT about my evaluation of the greatest naval battle commanders of the Civil War and World War II.

After some consideration, I thought I’d share my list of the Top 5 Naval Battle Commanders in the history of the U.S. Navy. The sole criteria for inclusion is to have tactically commanded a fleet in battle.

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Symposium Spotlight: Eric Wittenberg


2015-WittenbergEric Wittenberg’s award-winning book The Devil’s to Pay: John Buford at Gettysburg offered the first in-depth exploration of the famous stand by Federal cavalrymen that opened the battle of Gettysburg. By picking the ground for battle and setting up a delaying defense, Buford set the stage for all that followed in what became the most famous fight of the Civil War.

“Buford’s unparalleled defense on July 1, 1863 made the Union victory at Gettysburg possible,” Eric says.

Buford’s stand will be the focus of Eric’s talk at the Fourth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, Aug. 4-6, 2017.

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A Tale of Two Monuments

This small stone marker sits at the foot of a low ridge just outside of the very sleepy burg of Resaca, in north Georgia. In mid-may, 1864, Resaca was little more than a railroad stop and a fortified camp to defend the bridge over the Oostanaula River. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, at Dalton, depended on that bridge to keep them supplied.

Which is why Union General William T. Sherman decided to destroy that bridge, sending the Union Army of the Tennessee under Major General James B. McPherson through a place called Snake Creek Gap to accomplish the task. McPherson came close to pulling it off, but was thwarted as much by his own uncertainty as Confederate intervention. Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Emerging Civil War, Memory, Monuments | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Mexican-American War 170th: An Occupation, a Diplomat, and a Pause

Mexican War-header

Winfield Scott’s army had not been idle since its victory at the battle of Cerro Gordo. After defeating Santa Anna’s forces, Scott’s Americans continued pushing further into the Mexican countryside. While there were small skirmishes as irregular Mexican forces nipped at the American soldiers, there were not any pitched major battles.

From the city of Jalapa Scott advanced his men to their next point, the city of Puebla. With hardly a shot fired, the vanguard of American soldiers entered the city nestled amongst the Sierra Madre mountains on May 15, 1847.

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The “Mythical” Martin Scott

Emerging Civil War welcomes back Frank Jastrzembski

Not many army officers serving in the U.S.-Mexican War had as much respect and experience as Lt. Colonel Martin Scott of Vermont. Scott established a solid reputation over three decades of army service for his valor, grit, and love for his country – not to mention his peculiar and reclusive behavior. He also established a legendary reputation for his accuracy with both a pistol and a rifle while stationed in a number of frontier garrisons. Scott was among the 800 American officers and soldiers to fall at the bloodbath at Molino del Rey in September 1847. The epitaph engraved on a marble column erected over his burial spot captured his short, but excellent, service in the war, avowing that, “No braver or better officer fell in the Mexican War.” Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 5/15-5/21/17

Do you think there is a state (that was a state during the time of the Civil War) that gets neglected in Civil War history studies?

Or do you think there is a state that gets a lot of attention for its role during the conflict? Why do you suppose this happens?

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A Mother At Petersburg

Mrs. Gordon

The Confederate lines around Petersburg, Virginia, broke in the first days of April 1865. As Lee’s army headed west into the Appomattox Campaign, Union troops occupied the small city that had been the heart and namesake of a nine month siege.

Trapped in a civilian home inside Petersburg, Mrs. John B. Gordon couldn’t escape with her husband and his Georgia soldiers. Not much had stopped her during this war. She had been admired for her courage and complained at for her tenacity. She had nursed her wounded general back to health, had survived near capture in the Shenandoah Valley, and had tried to rally troops while artillery shells crashed near her in a Winchester street. But this time – in the final days of the war – she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the army. Her baby was due any day; she would have to stay in Petersburg and hope for kindness from the Union soldiers. Continue reading

Posted in Civilian, Holidays, Leadership--Confederate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

God Save the Union? U.S. Civil War Pensions for Her Majesty’s Subjects, 1883

One of the military history groups I belong to on LinkedIn posted this link this week, showing details about British/United Kingdom deaths in the Civil War and widows who were receiving U.S. pensions in 1883. There were far more of both than most people might realize, and is further highlight to the international dimensions of the Civil War.

The link is here for you to explore:

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Passing of A Cavalier: The Death of J.E.B. Stuart

J.E.B. Stuart on campaign

For two years James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart was a thorn in the side of Federal armies in Virginia. His rise to prominence and fame began in the spring of 1862 when he led Confederate cavalry on a march around the Army of the Potomac. Dubbed the “Ride Around McClellan”, this operation embarrassed the Union high command and provided Robert E. Lee with valuable information concerning his enemy’s dispositions. Stuart’s intelligence gathering once again proved a boon for Lee during the Second Manassas Campaign when he confirmed plans to reinforce Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia with the Army of the Potomac. In October, Stuart once again rode around the Potomac army, this time through Maryland and Pennsylvania. Stuart’s scouting during the Chancellorsville Campaign helped Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson plan Jackson’s famous flank attack . When Jackson fell victim to friendly fire, Stuart took over command of his Second Corps. His leadership was critical in the latter stages of the Confederate victory. Although Stuart’s dominance over his blue counterparts began to wane after the Battle of Brandy Station in June 1863, he still remained a formidable opponent. Then, on May 11, 1864, the thirty-one year old Stuart was mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern.

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A Rainy Day at the Bloody Angle, 153 Years Later

Iv stood today at Spotsyvlania’s Bloody Angle, at the site of the 22-inch oak tree felled by small-arms fire. Rain fell, as it did on this date in 1864 during most of the battle. For twenty-two hours, the fight raged across the Mule Shoe. Today, all I could hear was the sound of raindrops on the boughs of the oak tree I stood beneath.

Bloody Angle panorama

(see this image on our Facebook page as a true panorama)

Here’s what a few of the soldiers had to say about the weather that day: Continue reading

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