Challenging an Assumption About Stonewall Jackson’s Death

David_Lloyd_GeorgeThose of us who tell the story of Stonewall Jackson’s death are often asked to share our thoughts on what might have happened had Jackson lived. (I usually respond by challenging the basis of the question, as I’ve explained here and here.) While often fun, speculating on counterfactual history is nearly impossible, so many of us try to avoid it, at least in a professional capacity. Instead, many of us dodge the question using a variety of sidesteps. One of the most common is to whip out a quote from former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

During a 1923 visit to the United States, George made a point to visit the building where Stonewall Jackson died—today known as the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. “That old house witnessed the downfall of the Southern Confederacy,” George said. “No doubt the history of America would have to be rewritten had ‘Stonewall’ Jackson lived.”

George’s comment certainly frames Jackson’s death as a major turning point of the war, and many people who share that view use George’s comment to reinforce that perspective. However, I’ve had reason of late to reconsider George’s words.  Continue reading

Posted in Leadership--Confederate | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Preservation News: CVBT Preserves New Ground at Spotsylvania Battlefield

Our friends at the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust have been hard at work acquiring and preserving more ground on the Spotsylvania battlefield. Last March, we told you a little bit about their work preserving a tract along the Brock Road near Laurel Hill. Last week, they sent the following update to us about the property and the events it witnessed during the battle 154 years ago. As always, you can support the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust in their efforts by visiting their website, CVBT.

The CVBT’s newly acquired property along Brock Road was closely associated with the first day’s fighting on May 8, 1864, when the Union assaulted Laurel Hill at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Several accounts by contemporaneous figures locate the property in conjunction with the fighting.

The property acquired by CVBT can best be described as roughly rectangular, with a rise (currently occupied by an abandoned house of no historical value) on the north where the property runs along Brock Road, a gradual downward slope dropping approximately forty feet over a tenth of a mile to a creek, and then rising gradually again to connect with the National Park Service land at Hancock Road where the main Union entrenchments
were later made. To understand the character of the hurried advances across the terrain, it is crucial to understand the opening stages of infantry fighting on May 8.

Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Campaigns, Emerging Civil War, Memory, Monuments, National Park Service, Preservation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Preservation News: Grants To Preserve Virginia Battlefields!

Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation is pleased to share this press release they received and celebrate funding for several of their preservation campaigns in The Valley and on other battlefields in Virginia! Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: Gettysburg Sites (Off The Beaten Path)

Going to Gettysburg this weekend or at some other time this summer? We’ve got a list of sites you might want to explore.

In 2016, Kristopher White wrote a series called Gettysburg: Off The Beaten Path, and these historic locations are great places to visit on a weekend battlefield adventure. Continue reading

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A Poet’s Perspective: Melville On Pickett’s Charge

So few poets chose to write about the American Civil War that it is sometimes described as the “unwritten war.” Herman Melville, however, was among the few who chose to do so. His collection of poems on the war, in which he views the conflict through the lens of human values, was published in 1866 under the title Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War.

Melville’s unique portrayal of the war, while ultimately failing to provide readers with an accurate description of events, is a fresh perspective based on the feelings at the nation apart.

The stanza below comes from his poem Gettysburg, in which he reflects on the most important engagement of the war:

O pride of the days in prime of the months

  Now trebled in great renown,

When before the ark of our holy cause

    Fell Dagon down—

Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targed,

Never his impious heart enlarged

Beyond that hour; god walled his power,

And there the last invader charged. Continue reading

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Review: Texans at Antietam

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Texans at Antietam-cover.jpgFewer stories of the Civil War are more renowned than that of the fight for Miller’s cornfield at Antietam. It’s one of those locations that has been forever endowed with capital letters because of the intensity of combat there: The Cornfield. And of that fight, General John Bell Hood’s Confederate brigade suffered a particularly awful fate. “The Texas Brigade is dead on the field,” a shaken Hood reportedly told Robert E. Lee.

Texans at Antietam: A Terrible Clash of Arms by Joe Owen, Philip McBride, and Joe Allport, allows the survivors of the Texas Brigade to tell the story of that “terrible clash” in their own words.  Continue reading

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“Moulded in the form of a spread eagle”: Mosby’s Rangers, the Fourth of July, and a Dispute Over Cake

John S. Mosby

Independence Day in 1864 seemed like it could have been the last such celebration for the United States. The Presidential Election of 1864 loomed four months in the future, and a Lincoln reelection seemed very much in doubt. Jubal Early’s Confederate force neared the Potomac River, poised for a third Confederate incursion into Maryland.

John Singleton Mosby’s Rangers worked in conjunction with Early’s command to wreak as much havoc as possible along the Potomac frontier. Mosby eyed Point of Rocks, Maryland, an important Federal supply hub on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Armed with a cannon, Mosby’s 250 men charged across the river into Maryland on July 4, 1864. Continue reading

Posted in Cavalry, Holidays, Primary Sources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Happy 4th of July from ECW!

Wishing you a joyously patriotic day, celebrating American freedoms and values!

“It was the Fourth of July, and never has the cheering on that anniversary been more hearty and welcome than it was in 1863. On the summits, in the valleys, everywhere we heard the soldiers hurrahing for the victory that had been won.” Continue reading

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SC’s Secession Convention @ Institute Hall

Over the weekend, I shared photos of some historical markers in Charleston that indicated the location of the building where the state’s postwar constitutional convention met. Ironically, the site of the state’s secession convention was just a block and a half north on Meeting Street, just past the intersection with Queen Street.

Institute Hall 01 Continue reading

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The REAL “First Shot” Marker

First Shot Marker-front 02One of the coolest “off the beaten path” sites at Gettysburg is the First Shot marker, just outside of town along the Chambersburg Pike. (The American Battlefield Trust broadcast live from there yesterday on Facebook LIVE, which you can check out here.) There’s also the First Artillery Shot marker at the base of John Buford’s statue. (Kris White did a post about it in 2015, which you can read here.)

But during my visit to Charleston this week, I had the chance to visit the REAL “first shot” marker—the first shot of the entire war.

Continue reading

Posted in Artillery, Battlefields & Historic Places, Monuments | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments