Poor George Stevens

Mexican War-headerEmerging Civil War is pleased to welcome back guest author Frank Jastrzembski

In his book Two Wars (1901), Confederate General Samuel G. French still remembered clearly the tragic demise of a classmate and friend. Lieutenant George Stevens was not yet 25 years old when he drowned crossing the Rio Grande River on May 18, 1846. French could still visualize his “dear” friend Stevens “‘Beat the surges under him, and ride upon their back,’ then sink and rise no more.” To Lieutenant Napoleon J.T. Dana of the 7th Infantry, drowning “is worse than being killed on the battlefield” – there is no chance for glory in such a death.

One of eleven children, George Stevens was born on June 8, 1821. His father, Henry Stevens, was a successful businessman and politician of Barnet, Vermont. The Vermont native graduated in the Class of 1843 from the U.S. Military Academy ranked near the middle at eighteenth – other classmates included William B. Franklin (1st in class), Samuel G. French (14th) and Ulysses S. Grant (21st). Lieutenant Stevens was assigned to the Second Dragoons upon graduation and ordered to Fort Jesup, Louisiana, where he remained until 1845. Continue reading

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The Best Missed Opportunity at Richmond

"Capture of Fort Harrison" by Sidney King

“Capture of Fort Harrison” by Sidney King

We are pleased to welcome back guest author Doug Crenshaw, who continues to look at communications mishaps during the campaigns for Richmond. Today, he turns to 1864.

As they peered over the walls of Fort Harrison, Confederate soldiers witnessed an awesome and terrible sight. Less than a mile to their front, thousands of blue-coated troops poised for an assault. To meet them, the defenders had only a couple of hundred men and four or five heavy guns. How could they hold out?

Fortifications surrounded them, but these also were thinly manned. Behind, only a ring of small forts stood between the Union army and the Confederate Capital. Things were desperate indeed! Continue reading

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Rob and Bill and Blue & Gray

bg-blockade-coverIf you haven’t seen it yet, check out the latest issue of Blue & Gray magazine. The featured story this issue, the Potomac blockade, was written by ECW’s Rob Orrison and BIll Backus. Rob—a regular contributor at ECW—and Bill are co-authors of A Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign.

Rob says the blockade fascinates him, in part, because “It’s a period and event in the Civil War that so few people know anything about.” The results of the blockade, however, had enormous repercussions during the war. “It is easily skipped over,” Rob says, “but it had a huge impact on how the Lincoln administration conducted the war in the east for the first two years as well as foreign policy.”

Rob, as historic sites supervisor for Prince William County in Virginia, has spent a lot of years along the banks of the river, familiarizing himself with the story. He shares the knowledge in the issue’s “General’s Tour,” the portion of Blue & Gray devoted to helping readers explore modern sites related to the main article. “One thing I think people will find surprising is how many of these sites still exist today and are preserved,” he says.

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Books & Authors, Emerging Civil War, Lincoln, Navies | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Photographic History in Full Color


John Bell Hood in black and white—and colorized

Colorizing vintage photographs is an intriguing practice among Civil War buffs—but it’s also a war of worth, where digital artists weigh potential historical inaccuracies against heightened storytelling.

For many colorization experts and historians, ineffective practice can jeopardize the representation of well-known figures, the common man, and both groups’ larger historical contexts.

And, so, it seems that, when evaluating a black-and-white image, there’s one fundamental issue at hand: Does color’s addition add heightened value to the image in question? And “value” isn’t necessarily weighed in terms of “pleasing asthenic.” Continue reading

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Hand-Drawing the “Art” in Cartography

theater-of-operations-atlanta-campaign-map“Military works are almost universally lacking in adequate maps,” Brig. Gen. Vincent Esposito wrote in his Introduction to The West Point Atlas of American Wars (1959). Boy, was he right. How many times have we thought, while reading an otherwise fine campaign or battle book, that the work needed some good maps. Sometimes, any map at all would do.

That’s why, when finishing my first book on the Atlanta Campaign book back in 2000, I outlined the need for thirty-two maps. Of course my publisher, Scholarly Resources, apoplected. Maps cost money. Okay, twenty-five, I countered. Nope–too many. We eventually whittled down to fourteen with SRI paying its designated mapmaker, Gary Joiner in Shreveport, up-front. They kindly did so, but against my eventual royalties. “Eventual” is very weaselly—fifteen years after publication of Atlanta Will Fall, I’ve yet to see a royalty check. Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 1/9/17-1/15/17


Later this week, we have another great post coming up from guest author Doug Crenshaw. Doug is a volunteer interpreter at Richmond National Battlefield, and he’s been taking a look at some of the communications mishaps among commanders during the various campaigns for Richmond. His post later this week will discuss what he believes to be the best chance the Union Army had for taking Richmond.

Before we give you his answer, though, we want to hear your thoughts: What do you think was the Union Army’s best chance to take Richmond?

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Snow Along the Sunken Road

frsp-sunken-road-snow-2017Fredericksburg’s Sunken Road stretched before me, empty, covered in still-falling snow. On the hillside to my left, tall stalks of yellow grass swayed in the wind, although the heavy confetti of snowflakes brought with it a heavy hush. The battlefield felt not just barren but forsaken.

So different this day than it was on December 13, 1862. Quiet. Lonely. Atop the heights, cannon belched only small mouthfuls of drifting snow.

As I walked from one end of the Sunken Road toward the other, a single set of bootprints came up from the direction of the parking lot, accompanied by a set of small pawprints. The parallel tracks veered from wayside sign to the next, the human apparently reading each one. I could see where snow had been wiped away, although enough had already fallen to re-obscure each panel. Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, National Park Service, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

January Presentations


9th: Kristopher D. White, “The Battle for Burnside’s Bridge,” at the Mahoning Valley Civil War Roundtable (OH)

11th: Chris Mackowski, “The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson,” at the Lynchburg (VA) Civil War Roundtable

12th: Bert Dunkerly, “To The Bitter End: The Surrenders of the Civil War,” Montgomery County Civil War Round Table, MD Continue reading

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My Ancestor Wore Gray?

pvt-thomas-c-birchWith six great-grandfathers who fought in the Civil War, that conflict has always been very personal to me.  Although all six fought for the Union, for a time I believed that one – Thomas C. Birch – was Confederate.  This was a mystery that took some time to unravel.

I first learned of Birch, my third great-grandfather, from my paternal grandmother.  She gave me the only photo of him and told me he was a Confederate soldier.  That is all I had to go on.  But I was puzzled by the fact that he was from northern New York and a rebel.  It did not make sense to me.  But a little digging revealed that he instead wore blue.  My grandmother and her family had believed he was Confederate because he fought in Virginia and was buried there.  Knowing little about the war, they simply assumed he wore butternut. Continue reading

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“Echoes Through Time”: New York State’s Only Civil War Museum

ECW Weekender-Header


Tom Place stands sentinel in the Echoes Through Time Civil War Museum in Springville, NY

by ECW Correspondent Amelia Kibbe

Longtime friends Thomas Place and Steve Teeft sat talking one day about the number of Civil War relics they had each collected over the years. “We both have great collections, but absolutely nobody sees them but me and you,” Teeft said.

Although not right away, that observation grew into something larger, and today the two men are co-partners of Echoes Through Time, a Civil War Museum in Springville, New York, just south of Buffalo. It is the only museum in the Empire State solely dedicated to the Civil War.

Continue reading

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