Five of the Confederate states did not write elaborate explanations of secession, issuing only the legal documents dissolving their connection to the United States.Read More
Yet with their retreat, and the subsequent Union occupation of Yorktown for the rest of the war, the success of this siege had far more deep implications for the legacies of Yorktown and the Revolution.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
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
From the very beginning, there was division between eastern and western Virginia. Families in western Virginia did not usually own the land on which they lived which excluded those white men from voting, and they generally did not own slaves. This was very different than eastern Virginia where there was a larger degree of land and slave ownership. Western Virginia was largely tied to white wage labor in a rapidly industrializing economy and many of the area’s residents supported abolition because they felt slaves were taking jobs that white laborers should be paid to do. The start of the Civil War brought those tensions to a head. On April 17, 1861, right after the firing on Fort Sumter, a convention of Virginians voted to submit a bill of secession for a vote of the people. Many western delegates marched out of the Secession Convention and vowed to create a state government loyal to the Union.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
In the waning days of March 1865, as the armies in both blue and gray languished in the muddy trenches of Petersburg, Ulysses S. Grant still searched for a final, climatic battle. However, since 1861 the Civil War had transformed into a type of warfare very different than lines of soldiers advancing across open, rolling fields. As both armies settled into miles of intricately built trenches and stalemate ensued, that Clausewitzian final battle of apocalyptic proportions seemed increasingly unlikely. The end of the war would come, but in ways not even the premier military leaders of the time expected.
As winter turned to spring in 1865, Robert E. Lee’s confederate Army of Northern Virginia was suffering from a chronic lack of supplies, rising casualty figures, and heavy desertion. However, the Virginian had created an extremely strong line of defenses around Petersburg that the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that was the Army of the Potomac had been unable to breach. Grant knew that if a weakness on this line could be found and exploited properly, it could not only mean the fall of Petersburg and subsequently Richmond, but eventually the surrender of Lee’s Army and the end of the war.
This opportunity came on Petersburg’s Western Front 150 years ago, on April 1, 1865, at a place where five roads converged. It became not only a battle of strategic importance, but also a captivating study in leadership and reputation. The Battle of Five Forks was brief, but its significance unquestionable.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