ECW Podcast “The Atlanta Campaign” Is Now Available

155 years ago, the Atlanta Campaign was well underway. In the newest Emerging Civil War Podcast episode, Chris Mackowski and Steve Davis–author of a number of works on the campaign–talk a bit about leadership, strategy, and some great stories from Georgia.

This podcast is available to ECW Podcast subscribers at the NCO Subscription Level via Patreon. Continue reading

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“My Responsibility For These Men”: A Leadership Letter from Petersburg

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, c. 1864 or 1865

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain has received criticism in recent decades for some of his writings which have been questioned for accuracy, purpose, and perspective. As a professor, educator, and gifted writer, Chamberlain seemed to seek a refuge in post-war writings – perhaps a way to deal with “soldier’s heart” and reinvent his memories.

Looking at his primary source letters and military correspondence written during the war can provide valuable information about his service and experience without the later lens of memory. One of my personal favorites from the Chamberlain war letters was penned on June 18, 1864, at Petersburg.

It reveals all the fine qualities of Chamberlain the man, the leader, and the writer. Written on the battle lines and not penned at leisure, the letter actually questioned the commanding generals’ judgement and orders. And that’s where it really fascinates me. Colonel Chamberlain, commanding a brigade, writes a respectful, questioning letter that gives benefit of doubt and implores his superiors to reconsider their orders. It mixes reproof and a request from a subordinate to those higher on the chain of command. It’s a mini-study in leadership and followership. Here is the full text of that letter: Continue reading

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The Train to Mt. McGregor

Train Up Mountain 01.JPGIt was a sweltering day 134 years ago on June 16, 1885. The mercury teased the 100-degree mark, and for Ulysses S. Grant, the heat flowing back from the locomotive only made it worse. Add to that the storm of soot and smoke and steam swirling back, too. Because of the heat, Grant had to travel with the windows of the passenger car down and the heavy plush curtains pulled back so he could get the stifling air to circulate, but as a result, he could not block the maelstrom of ill vapors from the engine; the best he could do to weather the unpleasantness was to sit with his back toward the locomotive so smoke and ashes wouldn’t blow in his face. He’d had smoke enough already, as it was.

I think of that long, hot, uncomfortable ride. Grant, already suffering from the final stages of terminal throat cancer brought on by too many cigars, knew discomfort well, but this ride served as one final gauntlet to run. At the end of the journey, the cool, fresh air of a mountain retreat awaited—but he had to get there, first. Continue reading

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June 17: The 1st Massachusetts Cavalry at Aldie

Every regiment that served in the Civil War had one day that exemplified the rest of their wartime service. For the men of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, June 17 was their day. In particular, it was June 17, 1863.

Visitors can still access the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry monument at a pull-off on the Snickersville Turnpike northwest of Aldie.

That morning, the 294 men of the regiment advanced west with the rest of the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry on a fact-finding mission to determine where the Army of Northern Virginia was and what its intentions were. Confederate cavalry took positions in the Loudoun Valley to block the Federals’ attempt.

The first clash of the collective series of actions known as the Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville came on June 17, 1863, outside the town of Aldie. In the heated fight, the 1st Massachusetts made multiple charges along the Snickersville Turnpike straight at their enemy who fired carbines, revolvers, and cannon from near point-blank range thanks to a fortuitous bend in the road. Massachusetts men wilted under the devastating fire and, by day’s end, counted 198 of their 294 pre-battle strength as casualties. Those are high losses for an infantry regiment but especially for cavalry. “My poor men were just slaughtered and all we could do was stand still and be shot down,” wrote a member of the regiment. Continue reading

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Question of the Week: 6/17-6/23/19

Summer’s here! So whether you’re heading for battlefields, the seaside, or just staying cool at home, what Civil War history book[s] are you reading?

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Week In Review: June 10-16, 2019

We started the week with an interview about civilian studies and then headed into an almost “all military” focused set of days. You’ll find battle anniversary posts, details about commanders, and a focus on the fights within the Gettysburg Campaign.

Happy Father’s Day and enjoy the week in review… Continue reading

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For Father’s Day: “We…look…steadfastly before”

Recently Library of Congress added new photographs to the online archives of the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs. Scrolling through, we found this wonderful image of a Civil War dad and his young son: Continue reading

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Three Medals of Honor and the Second Battle of Winchester

Army Medal of Honor

The Second Battle of Winchester fought on June 13-15, 1863, did not conclude with a fine victory moment for the Union army under General Robert H. Milroy. The majority of his soldiers surrendered and their army’s demise opened the doors toward the Potomac for Lee’s advancing Confederates.

However, that did not mean the Union defenders at Winchester lacked courage. Tactically, they even pulled off a remarkably organized and quiet retreat from their fortifications without alerting the nearby Rebels. Among the thousands of Unions soldiers who battled bravely at Second Winchester, three were honored for conspicuous bravery and later received the Medal of Honor for their roles in this fight. Here are their stories: Continue reading

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Saving History Saturday: Fredericksburg, Virginia to Move Slave Auction Block

On Tuesday, June 11, the Fredericksburg City Council voted 6 to 1 to remove and relocate the city’s well-known slave auction block.

Located at the corner of William and Charles Streets in downtown Fredericksburg, the block has been the source of controversy for quite some time. Perched in front of the block is a bronze plaque, which reads: “AUCTION BLOCK, Fredericksburg’s Principal Auction Site in Pre-Civil War Days for Slaves and Property.” Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: Gettysburg Campaign Cavalry Sites

Feeling like taking a weekend drive? We found a post in our archives about the Gettysburg Campaign cavalry fights in Loudoun County, Virginia, with details about how to reach the sites and markers. Check it out… Continue reading

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