Episode Archives

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

 

Admiral Gorshkov

Mark returns to the Cold War in this interview with Admiral Thomas Brooks about his co-written book, Admiral Gorshkov: The Man Who Challenged the U.S. NavyThey discuss the man who led the Soviet Union Navy for 30 years. He survived Stalin’s purges, fought the Nazis in WWII and engaged the American Navy in a tactical chess match until his retirement in 1985.

NOTE: In our discussion, Admiral Brooks makes reference to the naval officer, strategist and teacher, “Mahan.” Alfred Thayer Mahan (right) was perhaps the most influential Naval theorist of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In his published lectures, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783, he argued for the paramount importance of sea power in national historical supremacy.

Alfred Thayer Mahan

Alfred Thayer Mahan, 1840-1914

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

Leadership: Band of Brothers

Historian Chris Anderson joins Mark to discuss leadership and the company that became known as the Band of Brothers, Easy Company of the 101st Airborne in WWII. As an expert and interviewer of that close-knit group of veterans, Chris highlights Major Dick Winters, their commander.

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

Civil War Medicine: Practices Then and Now

Historians have been fascinated by medical practices during the Civil War. Dr. Ken Rettig discusses the methods used by army surgeons and how they have involved in later years. From bullet wounds and amputations to respiratory diseases they compare the emergency procedures in the field and in hospitals. This is a prelude to their further exploration of Civil War medicine in the coming weeks.

An excerpt from the medical report after Antietam:

Gross misrepresentations of the conduct of medical officers have been made and scattered broadcast over the country, causing deep and heart-rending anxiety to those who had friends or relatives in the army, who might at any moment require the services of a surgeon. It is not to be supposed that there were no incompetent surgeons in the army. It is certainly true that there were; but these sweeping denunciations against a class of men who will favorably compare with the military surgeons of any country, because of the incompetency and short-comings of a few, are wrong, and do injustice to a body of men who have labored faithfully and well. It is easy to magnify an existing evil until it is beyond the bounds of truth. It is equally easy to pass by the good that has been done on the other side. Some medical officers lost their lives in their devotion to duty in the battle of Antietam, and others sickened from excessive labor which they conscientiously and skillfully performed.

Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac

Civil War: New Orleans Prepares

New Orleans during the Civil War is Mark’s topic. In 1861, the City of New Orleans prepared for an imminent invasion by Union forces. As crisis loomed, leadership, politics and military shortcomings became evident. A bright spot is the Confederate victory at Manassas in Virginia, where native-son P.G.T. Beauregard leads the army and the Louisiana boys show prowess and prove their mettle.

Winter Events in History

Mark reviews some significant events that occurred at during winter in history. We go from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century to Europe’s worst winter in history in 1940. The Civil War was brewing as the states of the Deep South seceded to form the Confederacy in 1861 and the last battle of the War of 1812 that took place right downriver from the city of New Orleans. We see Finland stand up to the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution and we even share a few notes about collaboration and treachery.