The historical amnesia of the South regarding its black and white Union soldiers should be rectified. By choosing to selectively remember and honor Confederate soldiers while simultaneously ignoring the many Southerners who fought for the Union, Southerners send clear message that loyalty to region, protection of white supremacy, and veneration of the Confederacy are the only legacies of the Civil War worth remembering. If Confederate monuments continue to be torn down, new ones should go up, celebrating those Southerners--black and white--who remained loyal to the Union and brought about “a new birth of freedom.”Read More
For five men buried in the National Cemetery, the Civil War was the opportunity for a completely new future. African-American men were not allowed to enlist until the second half of the war (black troops would see their first action in Virginia at Spotsylvania in 1864) but by the end of the war there were 166 black regiments in US service consisting of 180,000 troops. For these Colored Troops and the rest of the enslaved population, the Civil War was the road to emancipation.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
The Union army broke the Confederate lines at Petersburg early on April 2 after the engagement at Five Forks the previous day. Lee knew the position was lost, and the army’s only hope was to move west to find reinforcements and supplies. With the Confederate army moving west, Richmond was now exposed to the Union army. That night the Confederate government and the troops left in the city evacuated in haste, taking the last open rail line to Danville, VA, which would be the last seat of the Confederate government. Throughout the night into April 3, retreating Confederates set fire to portions of the Confederate capital, hoping to destroy supplies before the Union soldiers could reach them.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
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
Dr. James A. Mowris surveyed the scene around him and could not help but be struck by its terrible grandeur. The forty year-old surgeon, under whose care were the veteran soldiers of the 117th New York Infantry, watched enraptured as thousands of Union troops disembarked onto the North Carolina coast. As the “downy web footed infantry” splashed ashore, a United States Navy fleet provided cover fire, bombarding Confederate-held Fort Fisher nearby. Fort Fisher protected the port of Wilmington, North Carolina, where for four years sleek Confederate blockade runners had slipped past Union warships and returned laden with much needed provisions, war materials, medicine, and more. By 1865, Wilmington was the Confederacy’s last remaining open port, a thin golden lifeline the connected the beleaguered South to the outside world and all its riches. Yet James A. Mowris and the nearly 9,000 other Union soldiers accompanying him had arrived to cut that invaluable lifeline. It was Friday the 13th, January, 1865, and the last great coastal campaign of the Civil War was underway.Read More