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
The descriptions of him are priceless. “He looked the image of a bantam rooster or a gamecock,” recalled a veteran. Perhaps it was his odd dress: “He wore a large sombrero hat, without plume, cocked on one side, and decorated with a division badge; he had a hunting-shirt of gray…while he wore boots, his trousers cover them; those boots were as small as a woman’s.” Or perhaps he was just plain odd, “the sauciest-looking manikin imaginable” and “the oddest and daintiest little specimen.” His five-foot stature and frail 125 pound frame didn’t help.
William "Billy" Mahone was a genuine character, and his life was as unique as his stature. Although a rising star in the Army of Northern Virginia by the end of the war, his post-war political career in the darkness of Reconstruction and Redemption is perhaps his true shining moment. “Bantam” Billy Mahone revealed his character not only as a fighter on the battlefield, but as a progressive on the political stage.Read More
Marching in column after column upon the enemy’s works, only to be mowed down and driven back—again to re-form and close up their broken ranks, and once again, with steady step to face the storm of death. And thus over and over again they repeated their noble, but alas, fruitless deeds of valor, until divisions assumed the proportions of brigades, brigades of regiments, and regiments ofttimes had but a handful of brave fellows left, with but one or two commissioned officers remaining able to lead. And so the tide of battle ebbed and flowed until generous night covered the blood-stained field with her sable mantle.Read More
Complacency endangers history. The first plausible answer is not always the correct or solitary one, yet all too often we content ourselves with simplistic solutions to murky questions. Civil War historians have grappled with the Battle of Chancellorsville for nearly 150 years, and we (surprisingly) we still have very simple rejoinders for why Joseph Hooker and the Army of the Potomac lost a struggle which they entered into with every advantage. Joe Hooker lost the Battle of Chancellorsville because of his own arrogance and errors. Joe Hooker lost Chancellorsville because he was no match for the Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Fighting Joe Hooker lost Chancellorsville simply because Fighting Joe Hooker lost confidence in himself.
In all likelihood, there are grains of truth to all these theories. Yet one should be careful of placing too much emphasis on anyone of them singularly. Instead, I wish to focus on a forgotten answer to the age old question of what went wrong for the Union army and Joe Hooker in May of 1863. On the morning of May 3rd, General Hooker was wounded, probably suffering a severe concussion received from Confederate artillery fire. This event, minimized and overlooked in many accounts of the battle, perhaps played a far greater role at Chancellorsville than history has given credit for.Read More
In December 1862, the city of Fredericksburg found itself in the crossfire of the armies of Lee and Burnside. For several months that summer, residents were forced to deal with the indignities and inconveniences of living in an occupied city. Now the Union army was back once more and this time General Robert E. Lee and his army were in place to contest their presence. With armies on either side of it, Fredericksburg braced itself for the storm.Read More
On April 18, 1862 it was the Union army that came into Fredericksburg. That Good Friday morning the Confederates left town, burning the bridges over the Rappahannock River, making way for the Federals to arrive that afternoon. Mayor Montgomery Slaughter and a delegation from the town surrendered Fredericksburg on April 19 under the agreement that local citizens and private property would not be harmed. Union soldiers under General Irvin McDowell built bridges, crossed on May 2, and settled on the outskirts of town for a four month stay.Read More