Significant USCT Sites in the Eastern Theater: Virginia and Washington, DC

(Library of Congress)

I have had a few inquiries about significant sites for the United States Colored Troops. Over the past several years, I have spoken about each of the five sites that I am writing about in this blog.

I participated in the 150th anniversaries of the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg and the Battle of New Market Heights reenactments. I participated in the 150th Anniversary of the 23rd USCT skirmish against the Army of Northern Virginia at the Heflin farm, the site of that skirmish. I have tried to make the reenactment at Fort Pocahontas twice, site of the Battle of Wilson’s Wharf, but because of heavy rain on both occasions, I was unable to attend; I will try again this year. I have visited the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum on numerous occasions. These sites are very important to me as a Civil War living historian and a writer, who focuses on the United States Colored Troops. Continue reading

Posted in Battles, USCT | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Question of the Week: 5/20-5/26/19

If you could have dinner (or a beer) with a Civil War politician and they would answer all questions honestly, who would you want to hang out with?

Posted in Politics, Question of the Week | Tagged | 15 Comments

Week In Review: May 12-19, 2019

More battle anniversaries this week – including New Market which coincided perfectly with the release of the newest book in the ECW series. You’ll also find information about Myers Hill, unique historical biographies, a weekender museum, and more! Continue reading

Posted in Week in Review | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House 155 Years Ago

At the battle of Sportsylvania Court House 155 years ago, action was heating up following five days of rain. May 18 saw a Federal assault as large in scale as the May 12 assault again the Mule Shoe, foiled by superior Confederate engineering. May 19 saw the Confederates bring the fight to Federals at Harris Farm.

Here are some pieces from the ECW archives about those episodes: Continue reading

Posted in Battles | Tagged | Leave a comment

Lydie Clinedinst & Moses Ezekiel: A Devoted Friendship Begun at New Market

Thomas Garland Jefferson

Tears blurred the candlelit scene. Seventeen-year-old Thomas Garland Jefferson struggled for his final breaths. Former roommate and battlefield comrade—Moses Ezekiel—supported the dying cadet’s body while nearby a young civilian woman—Eliza Clinedinst—held a candle. Eliza’s sister, Anna, her mother, and the VMI colorbearer also witnessed the sad scene. Ezekiel and Clinedinst had both witnessed the Battle of New Market first-hand, one on the battlefield and the other from the back porch of her home. Now, in the darkened room, they saw the effects of war: a war that would profoundly affect the future of these two individuals who would live to memorialize and remember the role of the cadets at New Market and the mourning scene at Jefferson’s deathbed. Continue reading

Posted in Personalities | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Saving History Saturday: Honor Those Who Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice By Preserving Their Legacies

A post-war print of veterans placing flags and wreaths at the graves of their fallen comrades. Courtesy of H.A. Ogden.

Next week, Americans across the country will be honoring those who gave the ultimately sacrifice in the line of duty. Some place American flags at their heroes’ graves, host a BBQ, visit a history museum, or watch a sports game. As Civil War historians and enthusiasts, Memorial Day is an important time to remind family, friends, and the general public about the meaning of this special day.

We honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by not only laying flags in front of their headstones – we honor them most of all by making sure we tell their stories. By saving and preserving their legacies, we never forget them.

A few ideas come to mind on how we can preserve their stories: visit a forgotten local cemetery to place flags at the graves of veterans who may get forgotten, research a soldier from your hometown who was killed in combat, donate to a local history nonprofit or museum, host a fundraiser for a preservation organization, or simply remember them. Continue reading

Posted in Preservation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ECW Weekender: Museum of East Tennessee History

Tennessee has a unique Civil War history. Similar to Virginia, it was a divided state; however, unlike West Virginia which split off in 1863, East Tennessee stayed stuck with the Confederacy until Federal armies secured the state. East Tennessee experienced civil war on multiple levels – Union vs. Confederate, neighbor vs. neighbor, and locals vs. Richmond Government. Tennesseans joined Union and Confederate armies, recruiting or conscripting for both sides from the same communities.

At the heart of Unionist East Tennessee sat Knoxville, a city with more pro-Southern leanings. In 1863, this city became the scene of an astonishing fortification network and series of attacks and defenses and Longstreet’s Confederates attempted to captured the location from Burnside’s Yankees.

I got to spend some time in Knoxville this week, passing through on my journey to Virginia. I started by heading downtown to tour the Museum of East Tennessee History, a local history center that did not disappoint! Continue reading

Posted in ECW Weekender | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Petersburg Picket’s Letter

Primary source research is a grinding ordeal but a necessary one for a group of historians whose mantra is to provide fresh perspectives on America’s defining event. It is a rewarding task, too, when you land on a juicy quote or an entire letter that supports your hypothesis. When writing Dawn of Victory: Breakthrough at Petersburg, I had used a quote I found in Alan A. Siegel’s Beneath the Starry Flag: New Jersey’s Civil War Experience. A member of the 10th New Jersey joked about the frequency of Confederate desertions and I thought his humorous anecdote warranted a place in my chapter discussing the camp experience and morale of the opposing forces.

I attribute a number of different reasons as to why the Sixth Corps’ assault was successful on the morning of April 2, 1865–among them, the learned lessons of successful assaults previously made by the organization, the campaign strategy of Ulysses S. Grant that led to a lopsided battlefield around the Boisseau farms that morning, and the specific tactics suggested by brigade commander Lewis A. Grant. A high level of confidence, too, among the Sixth Corps soldiers turned a successful lodgment in the enemy entrenchments that many units could have done, into the most consequential attack of the war. This last opinion can only be supported by pre-Breakthrough writings, so I was happy to recently find the full letter quoted from Siegel’s book.

Continue reading

Posted in Battles, Common Soldier, Primary Sources | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

General Hartsuff’s Nine Lives

With a bullet wound to his left arm and a ball lodged in his chest, 25-year-old Lieutenant George L. Hartsuff submerged himself in a pond of brackish water hoping to evade detection. He did everything in his power to keep his large frame concealed for three agonizing hours as dozens of Seminole Indians searched for him. When he spotted alligators floating close by, he pulled himself out of the pond and staggered about 200 yards before collapsing among some palmetto bushes.

At nightfall, the injured lieutenant staggered in what he believed was the direction of Fort Myers. Besides enduring dehydration, hunger, and pain from his two wounds, Hartsuff suffered most from a hole in his boot causing pointed grass to poke through and tear at his flesh like razor blades. After two days of stumbling through Florida’s wetlands, Hartsuff tore a sheet of paper out of his pocketbook and wrote his name and a brief account of what had happened by using the blood from his wounds as ink. He pinned the bloody scrap of paper to his pant leg, and sensing the end was near, prepared to die. Continue reading

Posted in Leadership--Federal, Personalities | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Capt. Samuel Jones Ridley at the Battle of Champion Hill

Just after noon on May 16, 1863, Federals of John Logan’s and Alvin Hovey’s divisions smashed into the left flank of John Pemberton’s Army of Vicksburg on the Champion Hill battlefield. Pemberton’s left threatened to buckle under the pressure. If the field was lost there, Ulysses S. Grant could cut Pemberton off from Vicksburg, making the capture of that city easy.

Ridley’s two guns were positioned near Corput’s guns in this map of John Stevenson’s attack (courtesy of the American Battlefield Trust)

Continue reading

Posted in Artillery, Battles, Emerging Civil War, Leadership--Confederate, Western Theater | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment