For Mother’s Day: “If All That Has Been Said”

Mary Bannister, wife of Private George H. Bannister of Company H, 13th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment (LOC)

President Lincoln made some remarks at the Patent Office Fair in Washington City, an event had been organized to raise funds for the Union war effort and support the work of the U.S. Christian Commission. Mrs. Lincoln and Robert also attended with the president on February 22, 1864. During his visit to the fundraiser fair, Lincoln offered a tribute to the Union women, briefly and powerfully shifting focus from the battlefield soldier to the homefront ladies.

“Ladies and Gentlemen: I appear, to say but a word. This extraordinary war in which we are engaged falls heavily upon all classes of people, but the most heavily upon the soldier. For it has been said, ‘All that a man hath will he give for his life;’ and while all contribute of their substance, the soldier puts his life at stake, and often yields it up in his country’s cause. This highest merit, then, is due to the soldier. Continue reading

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Music on the Spotsylvania Earthworks

By May 11, Ulysses S. Grant’s Virginia campaign had been underway for one week. The men of both armies went through the blazing inferno of the Wilderness only to find themselves now huddled behind substantial earthworks ringing the landscape around Spotsylvania Courthouse.

On the evening of May 10, Union soldiers led by Col. Emory Upton led a narrow but dense assault against the Confederate earthworks. While the assault did not permanently pierce the enemy lines, it ushered in one of the most horrific moments in the Civil War on May 12: Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle. But all of that was still in the future. For now, the men that participated in Upton’s charge on both sides vainly tried to come to grips with their experiences of the last week.

When Upton’s attack concluded in the evening hours of May 10 and the Federals pulled back to their own works, the field in front of Doles’ Salient was littered with the dead and wounded. The wounded, abandoned in their places, “sounded all night with their cries and groans,” recalled one Union officer. Another Federal, no doubt emblematic of so many other tired and exhausted soldiers seeking to come to terms with their experiences of the last week, “sat down in the woods and as I thought of the desolation and misery about me, my feelings overcame me and I cried like a little child.” Continue reading

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Saving History Saturday: Friends of Vicksburg Raising Funds to Repair Damaged Monument

Just last month, Mississippi was ravaged by a series of severe storms, including many tornadoes. On April 13, several tornadoes touched down throughout the state, resulting in three that hit in Vicksburg’s vicinity alone. Not only did storms destroy numerous buildings in town, two of the tornadoes ripped through Vicksburg National Military Park. Only one monument at Vicksburg sustained damage: the Rhode Island Memorial, which was erected in honor of the 7th Rhode Island Infantry.

Before and after image of the monument. Courtesy of the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park.

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Upton’s Attack at Spotsylvania: Modern Trail Map

I can safely speak for the Virginia cabal of Emerging Civil War that we are big fans of Emory Upton. An influential military tactician, he is probably best known for his assault on the western face of the mule shoe salient at Spotsylvania on May 10, 1864. It is only appropriate that we introduce another original trail map on the 155th anniversary of that charge.

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ECW Weekender: Golden Spike National Historic Site

ECW Weekender-Header

Ulysses S. Grant loved railroads. They helped him win the Civil War, after all. (See ECW’s 2018 series on railroads for more on that.) During his post-presidency, he involved himself in a number of railroad projects (including one that brought him to my neck of the woods in northwest Pennsylvania). At the time his investment firm Grant and Ward failed in 1884, he had been working with the Mexican Ambassador on an ambitious railroad project for Mexico.

Nothing exemplifies Grant’s love of railroads better, though, than that Transcontinental Railroad, completed on this date 150 years ago under his watch. The site, now Golden Spike National Historical Site, is commemorating the event that opened the continent with a three-day celebration this weekend. Continue reading

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Civil War Echoes: The Golden Spike

150 years ago today, at 12:47 PM local time, the Golden Spike was driven near Promontory Point, Utah. This ceremony (pictured) completed the Transcontinental Railroad by joining the Central Pacific and Union Pacific.

At least two noteworthy Civil War veterans were there. Continue reading

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With Sedgwick at Spotsylvania

Veterans gather at the Sedgwick monument (Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park)

Nothing like a monument dedication to spark some controversy. Subscribers to the National Tribune veterans’ newspaper or the Southern Historical Society Papers could expect a flurry of related articles immediately after a new monument appeared. John Watson Mauk, the Pennsylvania who shot A.P. Hill, only went public with his full side of the story after reading the false accusations against him in the leadup to the dedication of Hill’s statue in Richmond on May 30, 1892.

The death of Major General John Sedgwick, Mauk’s corps commander, on May 9, 1864, is most famous for the general’s supposed final words – “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Sure enough, the phrase frequently appears in 1887 articles, at which time the Sedgwick Memorial Association was erecting a monument marking the spot of his death on the Spotsylvania battlefield. It is improbable that every Union soldier who claimed to hear that line is telling the truth, but between the different versions of the story, we can piece together the details of the general’s last moments.

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Interview with David Knox

During an August 2018 visit to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (located next door to New Orleans’ Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall) I encountered the work of David Knox. He takes photos from the Civil War to create ghostly collages. I found the work unique and compelling. I asked Knox if he would be willing to discuss his work and he agreed.

Here is our conversation: Continue reading

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Joseph Morrison: Stonewall’s Aide & Brother-in-Law

Lt. Joseph Morrison

There had been enough excitement and confusion for one evening. The flank attack had been a smashing success, but darkness, thick trees, and undergrowth slowed the Confederate advance and disorganized their battle lines. General Jackson seemed somewhat irritated, wanting to press forward the attack. He insisted on doing a little scouting in advance of the Confederate lines. Joseph rode with him, accompanied by seven other staff officers, and several couriers.

They had turned back, riding near the Plank Road and heading toward the 7th and 18th North Carolina regiments, units already skittish about cavalry and horsemen in the night. At first it was scattering shots, then a volley from the 7th startled the group of officers. The 18th North Carolina men opened fire as General Jackson’s horse – Little Sorrel – bolted.

The young lieutenant felt his horse suddenly collapse as a bullet penetrated. The quick halt pitched the aide clear of the falling animal, but the officer smacked his head against one of the trees. Stunned but struggling to his feet, he ran toward the still firing North Carolinians and the direction Little Sorrel had taken.

“Cease firing!” he called into the darkness where muzzle flashes punctuated night. “You are firing on your own men!” The vigilant major on the battle line shouted back, “It’s a lie! Pour it into them, boys.” Lieutenant Morrison may have sheltered behind a tree or hit the ground when he heard that, but however he escaped unscathed, he still searched for his general. His next minutes blended into a frightful period of trying to get the North Carolinians to stop firing.

Then, he saw the scene. A couple officers crouching over an immovable fallen figure. Thomas was wounded and Joseph choked. “Are you much hurt?” he asked. Probably a fleeting thought entered his mind: “Would he have to tell Anna…?” Continue reading

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Symposium Spotlight: Jericho’s Mill

For our final week of our Symposium Spotlight series, we preview the Sunday morning tour for this year’s 2019 Emerging Civil War Symposium. Fitting in perfectly with our theme of “Forgotten Battles,” our own Bert Dunkerly will be leading us on an in-depth tour of the Jericho’s Mill battlefield. Bert sent along the following highlights for what sounds like an incredible program.

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