On Saturday, July 9th, 1864, Captain Ewald Over of the 6th West Virginia Infantry received an order originating from Major General David Hunter. The order directed Capt. Ewald—the military commander of Wheeling, West Virginia—to arrest the editors of the Wheeling Daily Register and shut the newspaper’s offices down. At three o’clock in the afternoon, Captain Ewald and a small cadre of soldiers entered the offices of the Wheeling Daily Register and placed editors Lewis Baker and O.S. Long under arrest. A soldier was posted outside the Register’s office, and the two prisoners were escorted to Athenaeum on the corner of 16th and Market Streets. A small military prison that housed upwards of one hundred Confederate prisoners, the Athenaeum (christened “Lincoln’s Bastille” by the locals) now confined two United States citizens as well…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
The National Park Service is turning 100! All year long the NPS has promoted the "Find Your Park" movement to encourage people to visit and connect with the wide variety of parks under the NPS. We are encouraging our readers to find their favorite parks by promoting the centennial events of some of the Civil War parks. Be sure to visit and check out some of these events and celebrate the NPS Centennial! For more on the Centennial and "Find Your Park" program visit findyourpark.com. Click here to see the Centennial events at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park!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
Today is President's Day, a day commemorating not only our first president George Washington, but also all subsequent American presidents, including Abraham Lincoln (who would've turned 207 this past Friday, February 12). Although busy schedules have prevented us from putting together a full Lincoln Week like last year, we did think it would be appropriate to share all our Lincoln-related posts again on this President's Day. It would do a disservice to Lincoln to make him a marble man, to allow the glow of his current position in America's civil pantheon to overshadow the very real, very human struggles he faced during the Civil War. This collection of posts should help shine light on Lincoln the leader and Lincoln in American public memory.Read More
One displays the heroes of the Confederacy—Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson—all on horseback riding across the wide gray canvas that is Stone Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia. The other features four bust-style depictions of famous American presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln—gazing formally from Mount Rushmore over the Black Hills of South Dakota. Each was created out of pride for heritage and nation. Each inspires awe at its size and wonder at the artistic skill necessary to carve such massive.
And each have very different meanings. One is a very nationalistic and patriotic piece featuring four of America’s favorite presidents that was conceived to bring tourism into the area. The other is a monument to the Confederacy led by Southerners who wanted to honor and sustain the Confederate legacy. One honors the United States of America, the other the Confederate States of America. They stand a nation apart, both figuratively and literally (in terms of locations), yet they are connected by the life of one man, the sculptor who set out to complete both projects and ended up finishing neither.Read More
"No you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king!" -South Carolina Senator James Hammond
To a certain extent, the Confederacy's foreign policy can be summed up by the bold words of James Hammond above. As my previous posts have examined examined possible reasons for British intervention in the Civil War and Union efforts to prevent such an intervention, it is time to turn our eyes South and explore Confederate foreign policy with Great Britain. The Confederacy built much of its policy around "King Cotton," and the result was a foreign policy more disastrous than many could imagine.
Abraham Lincoln and Union leaders realized from the war's outset the grave threat British intervention posed. Intervention likely meant successful Confederate independence. No matter what form, be it mediation, recognition, or literal intervention, any attempt by the British to interfere was based upon separation of North and South. The causes of the Union and Confederacy were mutually exclusive; either the Union remained whole or the Confederacy earned independence. British intervention effectively destroyed the cause of preserving the Union.Read More
“If any European Power provokes a war, we shall not shrink from it. A contest between Great Britain and the United States would wrap the world in fire.” United States Secretary of State William Seward uttered these bold words in the summer of 1861, while his nation tore apart at the seams. Yet despite the secession of eleven Southern states, Seward pondered the possibility of war with Great Britain, the world's foremost power. Why? The answer lies in the high-stakes game of diplomacy that was played by both the Union and Confederacy with Great Britain during the American Civil War. For the Union, foreign intervention in the conflict was a constant threat, one that might ensure Southern independence. Conversely, the Confederacy constantly sought and expected foreign recognition and intervention, seeking support and validation for their secession.Read More
In Civil Discourse's first ever roundtable question, we asked five of our writers a classic, yet undeniably important, question: what event most influenced the outcome of the Civil War? Our authors diverse answers (and non-answers!) may surprise you!Read More
On July 4th, 1863 Meade’s Union army rejoiced as the sights and sounds of a Confederate army in retreat ensured them of their victory. For the North, Independence Day 1863 was a day of rejoicing and confirmation with victory at both Gettysburg and Vicksburg. But in the midst of victory, July 4th was also sobering for the men who fought around that Pennsylvania town for it was the first chance they had to inspect the battlefield and attend to the dead...The Union soldiers and Gettysburg civilians that looked over the battlefield on July 4th saw a level of death and destruction that was overwhelming and seemingly impossible to take care of.Read More
April 14, 1865 dawned as a good day in Washington, D.C., not merely because of the religious importance of Good Friday to the city’s Christians, but more due to the events of the past eleven days. In just over a week and a half the Civil War began to rush towards a momentous finish. On April 3, Richmond, the Confederate capital, fell to the Army of the Potomac. Less than a week later, roughly seventy-five miles to the west and south, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, retiring the Confederacy’s most formidable fighting force. Despite this bevy of success, the war was not yet over. Joseph E. Johnston continued to elude Union forces in North Carolina, Jefferson Davis and most of the Confederate government remained at large, and scattered pockets of resisted still stood across many rural reaches of the South. Yet, for many in Washington, including Abraham Lincoln, the final act of the conflict was near at hand. As Richard Carwardine noted in his biography of Abraham Lincoln, these were “twilight days between war and peace.” Indeed, by the end of Good Friday, a day which began so promising in the nation’s capital, that twilight would seem all the more deeper.Read More
Today, the Lincoln Memorial and Mount Rushmore are two of America’s most famous and highly visible public spaces. An image of the Lincoln Memorial was adopted for the back of the penny in 1959. Mount Rushmore continues to attract around two million visitors per year, despite its remote location. Both landmarks have been used as backdrops for other famous speeches, campaign ads, and even Hollywood films. However, the construction of these landmarks that have become as much a part of the American landscape as the Grand Canyon or Old Faithful were fraught with conflicting ideas, administrative setbacks, and the difficult task of determining whose Lincoln image would be portrayed.Read More
America is a nation dotted with monuments to its achievements and national heroes. In this theme few individuals have been honored with as many monuments and memorials as Abraham Lincoln. From local and state initiatives to the grand Lincoln Memorial that graces the National Mall, and has become a prime attraction in the United States Capital, Abraham Lincoln is heralded as one of our greatest presidents and a national icon. Interestingly, Abraham Lincoln is also one of the only American figures whose youth is widely commemorated. Even George Washington, the “Father of our Country,” has no statues dedicated to celebrating him as a child. Lincoln is unique in the fact that his childhood remains a critical part of what made him a great national hero. There are under a dozen statues to Lincoln as a youth and they were all completed in the early twentieth-century. Six out of the nine statues were completed in the period between 1930 and 1944, the time of America’s Great Depression; two of these statues are featured here. During the Depression, Abraham Lincoln meant more to the country than a great president, he was a symbol of hope and the American Dream, and in this period Lincoln statuary reflected the attitudes and needs of the American people.Read More
To honor Lincoln's birthday this Thursday (February 12), we will be spotlighting his presidency and leadership during the Civil War. Check back all this week for our authors' perspectives on Lincoln!
The United States did not enter the Civil War with the intent to destroy slavery. However, by the end of the war in 1865 slavery had been dealt its death blow. Today marks the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment passing Congress, and moving on to the states for ratification. While the Emancipation Proclamation is more famous, it was the 13th Amendment that gave emancipation meaning and solidified the end of the war as the end of slavery in America.Read More