Civil War

Historical Events That Happened in August

This week Mark takes a look at some events that happened during the month of August in the Civil War and WWII, including the infamous Quantrill’s Raiders,  Nathan Bedford Forrest’s raid on Memphis, the Siege of Leningrad, and the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.

Image: Forrest’s raid into Memphis – Rebel attack on the Irving Prison.

Battle of Second Manassas

In August 1862, after the Confederate victory in the Battle of Second Manassas, or the Second Battle of Bull Run as it was referred to in the North, Robert E. Lee had the momentum to lead the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland that September. There he would gain support in that border state, resupply his men and pressure Washington into negotiations with the upcoming elections.

General Jack Mountcastle joins Mark to discuss the extensive tour he leads for Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours that covers Manassas as well as the other key events in the Eastern theatre. We explore the strategies, leaders on both sides and specific actions in the battle and leading up to the fight. It’s the closest thing to going to the battlefield itself.

LIfe in Jefferson Davis’ Navy

Dr. Barbara Brooks Tomblin joins Mark to discuss her recent book, Life in Jefferson Davis’ Navy. She addresses every aspect of the officers and men who served in the Confederate Navy—from the daily life of the sailors to the combat they endured. Through diaries, letters and newspaper accounts, she vividly depicts the wartime experiences on the gunboats, ironclads and sailing vessels in the Civil War.

Overview of the Book

The Civil War is often considered a “soldiers’ war,” but Life in Jefferson Davis’ Navy acknowledges the legacy of service of the officers and sailors of the Confederate States Navy. In this full-length study, Barbara Brooks Tomblin addresses every aspect of a Confederate seaman’s life, from the risks of combat to the everyday routines which sustained those sailing for the stars and bars. Drawing upon diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, and published works, Tomblin offers a fresh look at the wartime experiences of the officers and men in the Confederate Navy, including those who served on gunboats, ironclads, and ships on western rivers and along the coast and at Mobile Bay, as well as those who sailed on the high seas aboard the Confederate raiders Sumter, Alabama, Florida, and Shenandoah.

The author also explores the daily lives, deprivations, and sufferings of the sailors who were captured and spent time in Union prisoner of war camps at Point Lookout, Elmira, Camp Chase, Johnson’s Island, Ship Island, and Fort Delaware. Confederate prisoners’ journals and letters give an intimate account of their struggle, helping modern audiences understand the ordeals of the defeated in the Civil War.

About the Author

Barbara Brooks Tomblin is a naval and military historian and author of G.I. Nightingales, With Utmost Spirit, Bluejackets and Contrabands, and The Civil War on the Mississippi. She has a doctorate in American history from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey where she was a lecturer in military history.

Order you copy of Life in Jefferson Davis’ Navy>>

What Potent Blood Hath Modest May: The Civil War

In this episode, Mark takes a look at some significant events that took place in May from the Civil War era. He considers these events in light of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous (yet unrelated) quote, “What potent blood hath modest May,” which Mark will show is an applicable description when considering the outcome of some such events from this time in history.

1856

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, an outspoken abolitionist, gave an oration attacking not only the institution of slavery, but two Senators personally, Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina for supporting it in his “Crime Against Kansas” speech. Three days later, South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks, Butler’s cousin, entered the chamber and severely beat Sumner with a cane. The bleeding and unconscious Sumner had to be carried from the floor, while Brooks walked away unscathed. The “Caning” incident made Sumner a martyr in the North, while many Southerners proclaimed Brooks a champion for defending the honor of his relative.

1863

On 2 May in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, General Stonewall Jackson executed a brilliant flanking attack on the Union right. In a surprise attack, his Confederates smashed into and routed the Union XI Corps under General Oliver O. Howard. That night, while leading a group of officers on a night reconnaissance ride, Jackson was mistakenly wounded by friendly fire.After the wounding, the ambulance wagon took him some twenty miles away to a home at Guinea Station. The surgeons amputated his left arm, but the bed-ridden Jackson subsequently contracted pneumonia and died on 10 May.

Photo: Battle of Chancellorsville–May 2-4, 1863–Union General Hooker, Confederate Generals Lee and Jackson (United States Library of Congress’s Prints)

The Civil War in April

During the Civil War, April lived up to the moniker later bestowed by T.S. Eliot as the “Cruelest Month.” The start of hostilities at Fort Sumter in 1861 initiated the war that defined America and President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 both occurred in April. The Battle of Shiloh and the Fall of New Orleans both in 1862, certainly proved to be cataclysmic events. Shiloh was so bloody and destructive that it set the stage for the terrible things to come. Later that month, the Fall of New Orleans proved to be a mortal blow for the Confederacy.

Photo: Shiloh Church at Shiloh National Military Park, 2006. The original church building did not survive the battle. The present-day structure is a reconstruction erected in 2003 on the historical site by the Tennessee Sons of Confederate Veterans organization.

Abraham Lincoln: Youth to Civil War

President Abraham Lincoln fell victim to an assassin’s bullet on Good Friday, 14 April 1865 and died the next morning. Mark and Professor Gerald J. Prokopowicz discuss Lincoln from his youth and early career to the presidency and Civil War. They delve into some of the popular questions readers ask about the sixteenth president and explore other facets of Lincoln’s life that may be more obscure.

 

Replica of Lincoln's birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky

Replica of Lincoln’s birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky

 

March Events: French and Indian to Civil Wars

Mark covers some key historical events that took place in March, the month that comes in “like a lion” and goes out “like a lamb.” We see that this may depend upon where and when. George Washington in 1777, may have felt threatened by the British lion. Or the British soldiers in the French and Indian War had a rough St. Patrick’s day at Fort William Henry ten years earlier. In the Civil War, one might say Nathaniel Banks went into his Red River Campaign thinking he was a lion, but definitely finished as a slaughtered lamb.

Photo: “The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West

Civil War Medicine II

Dr. Kenneth Rettig joins Mark again to discuss medicine during the Civil War. They look into a comparison of medical techniques, remedies and emergency treatments then and now in the modern military.

Check out an earlier episode, “Civil War Medicine: Practices Then and Now,” for a deeper dive into a subject that has fascinated historians for decades.

Touring Civil War New Orleans

Nic Clark of Civil War Tours New Orleans joins Mark to discuss the intriguing people and places guests visit on his guided tours about the Civil War. From the French Quarter to the famous cemeteries, we see how guests can experience history in New Orleans as he gives them a “great way to see the city.”

Listening to this episode provides a peak into the topics Mark covers in his new book, “A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862.” It is being published this spring and is the latest in the Emerging Civil War series of books.

About A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy

Early in the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln stressed the strategic importance of the Mississippi River. He knew that ultimately the Union would have to capture New Orleans to control that waterway. As the largest city in the South—and third largest in the U.S.—New Orleans was the key to the Mississippi and commercial gateway for the Confederacy. Lincoln and key cabinet and military leaders, devised a plan to attack New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico with a formidable naval flotilla under one commander, David G. Farragut, who would have complete decision-making authority.

The Confederates also knew the importance of New Orleans. They began defense readiness in earnest. However, hampered by a dearth of manufacturing facilities, lack of supplies and anemic leadership they fell woefully behind in their preparations. To compound this, the authorities in Richmond remained steadfastly undecided about where the threat to the city lay. Aged fortifications seventy miles downriver were the main protection for the city. Thrust into the middle was new commander, General Mansfield Lovell. He put a sound plan in place, improved the defenses and bolstered the confidence of the citizenry. However, as the Union fleet drew precariously near, he was hampered by conflicting orders from Richmond and subordinates he could not command. Meanwhile, Farragut proceeded with unchallenged authority.

The spring of 1862 saw a furious naval battle begin at Forts Jackson and St. Philip. The city entered the Easter season with a sense of dread. The distant bombardment reached their ears portending an ominous outcome. The drama that unfolded once the Union fleet and army reached the city was an early harbinger of the dark days to come for the Confederacy.

Vicksburg Monuments: The Art of Commemoration

General Parker Hills joins Mark to discuss the monuments at the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi. General Hills’ book, Art of Commemoration, catalogues and details the magnificent sculpture, architecture, the artists and interpretations that memorialize this incredible Park.

Excerpt from the Introduction to Art of Commemoration

Soon after Vicksburg National Military Park was established in 1899, the nation ‘s leading architects and sculptors were commissioned to honor the soldiers that had fought in the campaign. The park’s earliest state memorial was dedicated in 1903, and over 95 percent of the monuments that followed were erected prior to 1917. An aging Civil War veteran who hastened to Vicksburg to see the resulting works was so impressed that he aptly described Vicksburg National Military Park as “the art park of the world: ‘ The work of commemoration has continued sporadically since 1917, and today, over 1,370 monuments, tablets and markers dot the park landscape. Unfortunately, some of these are on former park lands or are not situated along the tour road.

In touring the park, it is helpful to know that the ancient Roman writer, architect, and engineer, Vitruvius, insisted that there were two points in all matters: the thing signified, and that which gave it its significance. The thing signified at Vicksburg – the spirit of the park-is the valor of the soldiers and sailors who struggled as participants in the Vicksburg campaign. The memorials and markers, through their information, art and architecture, signify, or honor, these combatants. The bronze, stone, and iron works were created to help preserve the spirit of duty, honor and country, and hopefully, this spirit will be experienced by the viewer.

The best way to appreciate the park and feel its spirit is to park in designated areas and spend some time on short walks. The reward will be that the works of art will reveal details and fuel emotions that are impossible to appreciate and feel from afar. As composer Daniel Gregory Mason observed; “Art of any profundity can be experienced only slowly, gradually, in leisurely contemplation.” You are, therefore, encouraged to savor your time amidst the heroes of the past.

Parker Hills, Brigadier General (Retired)
Clinton, Mississippi