Central to the concept of total war is the full mobilization of resources and a more intense experience of warfare. While the technologies and material goods of warfare have changed drastically over time, the most basic resource of warfare has changed very little—the men (and now women) who fight. As a battle of minds, warfare is constantly requiring full mobilization of a soldier’s own personal resources, thus reflecting elements of total war within the singular unit of the soldier.Read More
In the aftermath of defeat at Chancellorsville, the XI Corps received the bulk of the blame. They had run, had crumbled under Jackson’s attack without resistance. They were labeled cowards and forevermore known as the “Flying Dutchmen.” The nickname was earned within a short period of time on the battlefield but the series of events that caused the XI Corps’ flight was put into action long before that moment, even before the armies knew they would meet in the Wilderness west of Fredericksburg.Read More
Surrounded by the capitol city that has grown up around it, Ten Broeck Mansion was built in 1797-8 outside Albany, NY and remained a private home until it was presented to the Albany County Historical Association in 1948. Although its early history remains a strong focus—to this day it retains the name of its builder and first owner, General Abraham Ten Broeck—the mansion witnessed another upheaval of American History, the Civil War. At the time, the family of Thomas Worth Olcott owned and resided in the house. He and his son, Dudley, both offered their service to the cause of the United States, although in entirely different ways.Read More
Forty-five years old at the start of the Civil War, David Hunter Strother had built his career through pen and pencil. A renowned artist, known via his pen-name "Porte Crayon," Strother traveled throughout the nation in the antebellum years, sharing sketches and stories of his travels via popular magazines of the day. Yet as the nation collapsed in 1861, Strother, who hailed from western Virginia, decided to put his artistic talents to use for the Union army. In the war's early years, Strother served as a topographer for Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley and western Virginia; he eventually earned a commission as a Union officer. Besides Strother's daily work of scouting terrain and sketching maps, the observant Virginian also kept a meticulous, detailed diary which would eventually span dozens of journals. In today's post, I want to share David Hunter Strother's experiences and opinions of various important Civil War figures with you. All of these diary entries date from September, 1861-February, 1862; these diary entries were not published in Cecil Eby's Virginia Yankee. While I have edited lightly for clarity, I have largely left Strother's words and occasional misspellings as they were. After each entry, I have offered a small note with my thoughts and biographical information.Read More
Yet here we are, as Maury and her peers were, confronted with a people demanding recognition even without the protection or support of the law. In this moment, freedom existed alongside slavery, making it all the more difficult to reckon with both for contemporaries and for historians.Read More
We all know the story of Joshua Chamberlain holding the left of the Union line at Gettysburg. But, did you know that a similar action occurred on the right of the Union line as well? Guest author Justin Voithofer gives us a look at David Ireland's 137th New York Infantry at Culp's Hill.Read More
As the hot Kansas sun rose over the camp of the Ninth Wisconsin Infantry on June 17, 1862, the German immigrants who formed the bulk of the regiment were abuzz with the terrible news of last evening’s events. Rumors ran rife that a soldier in Company F killed himself during the night. And indeed, fifty-one year old Private Ludwig Salzwedel, a German immigrant to La Crosse, Wisconsin and the father of a family of five, had committed suicide that night.Read More
While the Andrews Raid was a failure that resulted in the deaths of many of the participants, the Raiders went down in history in an additional way. Six of the raiders were the first men to ever receive the Medal of Honor.Read More
Andrews was tried first on crimes of spying and treason, but the following trials were disrupted by Mitchel who continued to move towards Chattanooga. At the beginning of May, the Raiders were transferred to Madison for a period of time and then returned to Chattanooga. At the end of May, twelve of the Raiders were transported to Knoxville for trial. The same day, Andrews received the result of his trial, a death warrant for his execution on June 7.Read More
The crew was sitting down to their breakfast when they heard the sounds of the engine and saw it start to pull away from the station. A local resident rode off toward Marietta, and the nearest telegraph, to alert authorities, but William Fuller knew the train would be long gone before the word went out. Fuller took off after the train on foot, followed by his engineer, Cain, and Anthony Murphy. The “Great Locomotive Chase” had begun.Read More
While the story strays far from the original, Keaton and his collaborators based the film The General on a memoir written by William Pittenger entitled The Great Locomotive Chase. At times overshadowed by larger military events, the action Pittenger was involved in was one of the most daring and compelling stories of behind-the-lines action in the war. On April 12, 1862 twenty Union men who had snuck into Confederate territory stole The General and raced for Chattanooga, Tennessee, hoping to destroy railway and communication lines along the way. The end result was both exciting and devastating for those involved.Read More
Within one hundred miles of Ft. Monroe, the catalyst for military emancipation under the command of Benjamin Butler, military operations along the coast of Virginia bled into North Carolina’s Outer Banks and had lasting implications for its seemingly small population. Within this militarily and geographically dynamic area, Richard Etheridge would make a name for himself both as an advocate for Civil Rights and leader of the freedman’s population along the coast.Read More
A Union officer once remarked, “Does not a newspaper follow a Yankee march everywhere?” In the fall of 1863, the soldiers of the Fifth West Virginia Infantry found themselves stationed at Gauley Bridge in their newly-minted home state. It proved to be a relatively peaceful posting and, apparently true to Yankee form, the men promptly set about establishing a regimental newspaper. Forming the rather grandly named Fifth Virginia Publishing Association, the Association soon began issuing copies of the four-page Knapsack every Thursday morning at five cents a copy. Although only published for a few months, the paper illuminates much about soldier life and the politics of war.Read More
September 17th, 1862 would captivate the nation; indeed, the fighting along Antietam Creek in rural Maryland may have been the most important day of the American Civil War. Yet one regiment of the Union Army was instead focused on what was happening on a small river in western Virginia.Read More
During the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of young men found themselves prisoners of war, their fates in the hands of the enemy. For those lucky enough, parole or exchange awaited. Yet most men faced the grim reality of harsh prison camps. Some Civil War prisons were so infamous their names are still notorious today: places like Andersonville, Elmira, Libby Prison, and Point Lookout. Yet perhaps their names perhaps overshadow the fact that over 150 prison camps existed during the war.
Tucked away among the piney woods of East Texas rests a small historic park in Tyler, Texas. The park's humble appearance today belies the magnitude of the place it commemorates. Camp Ford constituted the largest Confederate-run prisoner-of-war camp west of the Mississippi River, housing some 5,550 Union soldiers over the course of the war's final years.Read More
As the snow fell from a wintry sky on March 5, 1863, over a hundred men gathered on the fields of Camp Chase, outside Columbus, Ohio, ostensibly for the purposes of attending church. For a “church party,” however, they were oddly equipped, armed with “clubs, hatchets, and axes.” Once the men—soldiers of the 2nd Ohio Cavalry—had assembled at their “appointed rendezvous,” they formed up into a line and made their way onto Columbus. The soldiers had been planning this foray for some time, knowing that Sunday church offered them the perfect excuse to enter town and commence their mischief.Read More
So what is the legacy of the Civil War in East Tennessee? The short answer is, not a good one. War came to East Tennessee in the form of guerilla conflicts that harassed the lesser-developed portions of the United States in 1861.Read More
Four hundred cavalrymen splashed across the icy waters of the Rappahannock River in central Virginia, moving north into enemy territory. The Confederate cavaliers, undeterred by the bitter cold and snowfall nearly eighteen inches deep, consisted of some of the Old Dominion’s finest: portions of the First, Second and Third Virginia Cavalry. At the gray-clad column’s head was twenty-eight year-old Fitzhugh Lee, nephew to Robert E. Lee and already a grim veteran of war’s horrors. On this day, February 24, 1863, Brigadier General Fitz Lee led his men across the Rappahannock in reconnaissance, seeking to determine what movements, if any, the Union Army of the Potomac was undertaking around Fredericksburg. The mission’s directive had come from Robert E. Lee himself.Read More
In June, Alexander Rose (known for Washington’s Spies which AMC turned into its drama series Turn) released his newest book, Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. A direct successor of John Keegan’s groundbreaking The Face of Battle, Rose seeks to create the American version by focusing on American troops in the three iconic battles listed in the title. Like Keegan, Rose wrote the book determined to find the common participant’s experience of the battles, instead of a traditional, top-down military history of the tactics and maneuverings of the armies.
In July, the New York Times published a highly critical review of Men of War written by Andrew J. Bacevich. Bacevich tears Rose apart, even stating that were was no creativity or genius in the work. While every book deserves some critiques, his review sparked discussion and debate among historians, prompting a response on H-War from Rose himself.Read More
Tucked away in a brief footnote within later editions of Douglas Southall Freeman's monumental four volume R.E. Lee, the famous Civil War historian penned a short account of an intriguing and "unhappy" episode in Robert E. Lee's younger life. The young Lee spent the summer of 1835 surveying the boundary between Ohio and Michigan Territory. Buried in a Freeman footnote, we learn the following:
An unhappy incident of Lee's experience on this survey was the accidental death of a Canadian lighthouse keeper "in a scuffle" over the use of his tower for running one of the survey lines. The only reference to this, so far as is known, is in Lee to G.W. Cullum, July 31, 1835...A search of Canadian records yields no details.
Did Robert E. Lee kill a man?