Mrs. Gordon Rallies The Troops In Winchester?

John B. Gordon

General John B. Gordon had much on his mind on September 19, 1864. The Yankees fought tenaciously, driving back his troops. His friend, General Rodes, had been carried off the battlefield mortally wounded, and Gordon blamed himself for not having time to say goodbye. Meanwhile, General Breckinridge continued to ride into danger, and when Gordon warned him, the former vice-president responded: “Well, general, there is little left for me if our cause is to fail.”

At this point, with his soldiers fleeing the hard fought battle outside Winchester, that General Gordon also retreated, passing through the streets of the embattled town. Then, he found a scene that disturbed and amazed him:

To my horror, as I rode among my disorganized troops through Winchester I found Mrs. Gordon on the street, where shells from Sheridan’s batteries were falling and Minié balls flying around her. She was apparently unconscious of the danger.

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Saving History Saturday: Help the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association Save 17 Acres at Camp Letterman

While the majority of the Gettysburg battlefield has been preserved, much of the Camp Letterman General Hospital – the site of the first general hospital placed on a Civil War battlefield – has been consistently under threat to development.

Camp Letterman, according to Glen Hayes of the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association, was where “Over 4,000 badly wounded Union and Confederate soldiers from the battle were treated at that hospital and 365 soldiers died of their wounds in the 4 months.” The Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association has been hard at work to preserve 17 acres of the site. This tract is a part of a nearly-200-acre lot owned by S&A Homes, a housing development company. Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: Winchester’s Cemeteries

Winchester—an important city in the lower Shenandoah Valley—had been a region hub prior to the Civil War. During the conflict, it changed hands over seventy times, and three significant battles took place on the outskirts of town, including Third Winchester, on September 19, 1864.

The war took its toll on the community. Men and boys died in Confederate ranks, sometimes in their own hometown. The women and girls who remained in the town struggled to survive occupations and the resentment that resulted from their experiences. Due to its significant strategic location, the city was spared a major fire or destruction; both sides used Winchester as a hospital town, regularly taking over civic or religious buildings and sometimes private homes. Continue reading

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Colonel Hayes and the Third Battle of Winchester

Rutherford B. Hayes

The Third Battle of Winchester—fought on September 19, 1864—pitted Union General Philip Sheridan against Confederate General Jubal Early in the largest battle fought in the Shenandoah Valley. The conflict ended with the Confederates giving up Winchester for the last time during the war and opening the valley for further Union invasion.

Rutherford B. Hayes, still away years from his U.S. presidency and the “ending” of the Reconstruction Era, fought as a colonel and brigade and division commander during the battle. When his commanding officer was badly wounded, Hayes took over and subsequently wrote the battle report which was eventually preserved in the Official Records. The account is straightforward, especially when paired with a map and some illustrations. Continue reading

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ECW Presents Stevenson Award to C-SPAN

C-SPAN AWARD.jpgEmerging Civil War recently presented its Brig. Gen. Thomas Greely Stevenson Award for 2019 to C-SPAN.

The Stevenson Award is presented to an individual or organization in recognition of their outstanding service to ECW.

For the past five years, C-SPAN has taped all or portions of each ECW Symposium.

During the award presentation, ECW Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski asked the assembled audience how many of them had watched an ECW presentation on C-SPAN. All hands rose. “And I can’t tell you how many times I, or one of my ECW colleagues, has gone to speak somewhere and have had people come up to us and say, ‘I saw you on C-SPAN,’” Mackowski added. “The reach C-SPAN has given ECW has been invaluable.” Continue reading

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Tracking the Lost Silver of the Benjamin F. Hoxie

Emerging Civil War welcomes back guest author Neil P. Chatelain

Throughout the Civil War, the Confederate navy’s commerce raiders captured hundreds of Union merchants. A major task of these raiders included efforts to intercept vessels shipping bullion, both gold and silver, from California. Numerous attempts occurred throughout the conflict, including the capture of the Panama Mail steamer Ariel by the CSS Alabama in December 1862 – on its way to pick up a shipment of gold – as well as the attempted seizure of the Pacific Mail steamer Salvador in November 1864 by a team of Confederate naval operatives. As part of this campaign, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory issued broad directives to his commanders at sea that the capture “of the enemy’s treasure and passenger ships would be a heavy blow to his credit at home and abroad, far greater than the value of an equal value of property in any other form.”[1] It would equally help boost the Confederacy’s international credit, allowing for better procurement of supplies and increased legitimacy abroad. The most successful of such intercepts was the capture of the Connecticut clipper ship Benjamin F. Hoxie, but tracking down what happened to the vessel’s cargo of bullion has proven a difficult dive into vague and conflicting accounts. Continue reading

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Site of Stonewall Jackson’s Death Gets New Name

Jackson Shrine Death SiteA subtle but important change is underway at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FSNMP): the site where Stonewall Jackson died is getting renamed. The building formerly known as the Stonewall Jackson Shrine will henceforth be officially referred to as the Stonewall Jackson Death Site.

The reasons for the change, says FSNMP Chief Historian and Chief of Interpretation John Hennessy, is to help give visitors a clearer a sense of what to expect when they visit.

“[T]he name ‘Jackson Shrine’ is not very helpful to visitors,” he says. “Most people have no idea what to expect. They expect a shrine in a modern sense, and of course, the term ‘shrine,’ which was commonly used for a historic site in the 1920s, is hardly ever used in that context today.” Continue reading

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Writing “Antietam National Battlefield” for the Images of America Series

157 years ago, photographers Alexander Gardner and James Gibson first exposed their camera’s lens to the Antietam battlefield. The scene was still raw–Union soldiers and their campfires behind the Army of the Potomac’s lines.

This is perhaps the first image Alexander Gardner captured of the Antietam battlefield. It shows Union troops in the center of the line on September 18.

Once the Confederate army vacated its positions around Sharpsburg the next day, Gardner and his assistant ventured onto the battlefield proper and immortalized Antietam’s carnage. Continue reading

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Remembering 9/11 and the Lesson of Antietam

Civil War Dead on Antietam Battlefield

As I first explained in 2012, the events of Sept. 17, 1862, and Sept. 11, 2001, have become inextricably linked in my mind. Both involved tremendous loss of life, and both left catastrophic scars on the American psyche. Both left us vowing to “Never Forget!” Continue reading

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“The Batteries On Each Side Ceased Firing”: Civilians In Antietam’s Cross Fire

This marker points to the vicinity of the house.

While the Confederate and Union artillery guns dueled during the morning hours of September 17, 1862, their shells flew over the farm land and homes of local civilians. Long before the Sharpsburg area became a battlefield, it was quiet community with large, prosperous farms. The bloodiest day in American History wrecked the civilian prosperity and forever altered how the landscape would be remembered.

Though many civilian homes and farms were caught in the battle’s crossfire, the Nicodemus family home stood in the middle of the artillery barrage during the early morning hours. As Confederate Captain John Pelham’s guns engaged in a deadly argument with artillery batteries under the watchful eye of Union General Henry J. Hunt, chief of artillery for the Army of the Potomac, shot and shell exploded around the Nicodemus House, prompting a panicked response from the civilians sheltering inside. Continue reading

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