Using Gettysburg as a focus, these five historians engaged in the complicated question of what to do with Confederate memory and the role historians must play in the conversations happening all over the country. The answer to the question of Confederate monuments and commemoration is not clear. The fact that there have been several plenary sessions at conferences over the past few years, all of which asked a lot of questions and posed a lot of suggestions but could not offer clear solutions, reflects how complex the conversation can be.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
Ole Miss has been in the news several times in the last couple of years, dealing with its Civil War and Civil Rights legacy. In 2010, the university made headlines when they changed their school mascot away from one that highlighted its Confederate heritage. In 2014, an Ole Miss fraternity was shut down after students placed a noose on the statue of James Meredith, the first black student to enroll in the all-white school. Most recently, the university joined the Confederate flag debate when the students and faculty chose to remove the state flag, which includes Confederate symbols, from the campus.Read More
In 1863, Samuel Weaver carefully exhumed thousands of Union bodies from Gettysburg battlefield for burial in the new National Cemetery. Several years later, his son would pick up his father's work to send Confederate burials south.Read More
Death is an occupational hazard for the soldier; it is a basic rule of warfare that there will be casualties. A soldier faces death when they enter battle, and accepts that they must be willing to die for their country, their cause, or whatever motivation has brought them to the front line. But it there a point where being willing to die becomes wanting to die, and does that desire for death border on the question of suicide? Let us examine two well known Confederate cases, those of Richard Garnett and Ambrose Powell Hill. Now, I understand that painting one or both of these men’s deaths as suicides might ruffle a few feathers, but that is not necessarily my purpose there. I merely want to put the question out there. Did they want to die? Can suicide result from committing to risky behaviors outside the necessity of the situation, not just intentionally harming oneself? Were these two cases “suicide by cop” type situations or were these just casualties of war?Read More
The creation of Gettysburg as legend and central turning point of the war and the creation of Gettysburg as a field of monuments centers on one man: John Badger Bachelder. Bachelder was not a Civil War veteran, nor did he ever serve in the military, yet he is the key to answering the question of how Gettysburg came to be what we know today.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
Daniel Sickles was an infamous figure even before the war began. Sickles is notorious for his role in the Battle of Gettysburg, a role that was debated between generals and officers after the war, a debate that continues today. The III Corps under Sickles arrived at the battlefield over a period of time from the evening of July 1 after the fighting had calmed for the day into the morning of July 2. Meade intended the corps to extend his line along Cemetery Ridge, attaching themselves to the end of the II Corps line and ending at the base of Little Round Top. Whether Sickles misunderstood his orders or willfully disobeyed them, the III Corps ended up in another position entirely.Read More
If you are heading to Gettysburg for the anniversary this July or plan to travel there in the future, there is a lot to see! Many visitors utilize the NPS resources and driving tour (which is certainly a good option), but if you want to get off the beaten path here are ten hidden (or less visited) gems of Gettysburg to check out.Read More
The June 12th, 1863 edition of the Richmond Examiner seethed. Just days before, Confederate cavalry had been caught completely by surprise in a daring strike by their Union counterparts at Brandy Station Virginia, and only after a hard fight with the help of Southern infantry was the enemy repulsed. “But this puffed up cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia,” the Examiner crowed, “has been twice, if not three times, surprised since the battles of December, and such repeated accidents can be regarded as nothing but the necessary consequences of negligence and bad management.” Such humiliations were unacceptable, and the Examiner concluded by charging that better organization, more discipline, and greater earnestness among “vain and weak-headed officers” was needed. Other Southern papers offered more of the same. The Richmond Sentinel called for greater “vigilance…from the Major General down to the picket.” The Charleston Mercury thought the affair an “ugly surprise,” while the Savannah Republican thought it all “very discreditable to somebody.” The commander of Confederate cavalry, James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart, had to be wondering if the Brandy Station fight wasn’t “discreditable” to him...Read More
On the evening of July 3, 1861, a dozen Union soldiers (self -described “disciples of Faust”) broke into the offices of the of the Virginia Republican—a decidedly secessionist organ—and appropriated the newspaper’s office for their own use. The next morning—on the Fourth of July—the first issues of the American Union hit the streets of Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). The newspaper—composed and printed entirely by Union soldiers—enjoyed a brief existence in Martinsburg, lasting only as long as the Union troops occupied the town. Despite its brief existence, however, the paper sheds light onto the patriotism and zeal of Union soldiers during the war's opening months.Read More
1863, as we have noted, was a memorable year for Emilie Davis. A free black woman living in Philadelphia, Emilie celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation, twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and steps toward lasting change as northern states like Maryland chose to end slavery voluntarily. But 1863 was also a year of devastation for Emilie, one in which she would witness the deterioration of her family as a direct result of the new rights that came along with the Emancipation Proclamation.
This is the third installment of Memorable Days: the Civil War through the eyes of a free black woman. To read an introduction of Emilie, click here. To read her take on the Battle of Gettysburg, click here.Read More
Gettysburg. If someone can name a single Civil War battle, it is most likely the only major battle that occurred north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Many argue that this three day ordeal in 1863 was the culminating point of America’s most destructive war, the moment that turned the tide against Robert E. Lee’s legendary Army of Northern Virginia and began the uphill struggle towards reunion and a new birth of freedom. But Emilie Davis, a free African-American woman living in Philadelphia during the war, never names this small Pennsylvania town in her diary chronicling the monumental year of 1863.Read More
“There’s Still Life in the Old Boys Yet!,” a newspaper article emphatically exclaimed. An accompanying photograph portrayed Union veteran Tim Flaherty, well into his nineties, dancing a jig for his comrades. The year was 1938, the July heat sweltering, and the final grand reunion of the blue and gray well underway. Seventy-five years after the battle of Gettysburg, 1,845 veterans were able to reach the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania to once more commemorate the defining four years of their generation.
However, this reunion was different than the others.Read More