The Civil War: The Cult of the Lost Cause and the Invention of General Pickett

We are still living with the bitter consequences of his wife’s revisionist narrative today. George Pickett – Major General George E. Pickett – was our family’s marquee Confederate relation, distant cousin though he was.  Every schoolchild in America has heard of him, thanks to the ill-fated infantry charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.  For a[…]

The Revolutionary Summer of 1862: How Congress Abolished Slavery

Secession and the Civil War were about slavery and race. Introduction In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln recalled, “All knew that” the “peculiar and powerful interest” in slaves “was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even[…]

John Brown’s “Tragic Prelude” to the U.S. Civil War

John Brown first became a nationally known figure in 1856 through his actions in the Kansas Territory, three years before Harper’s Ferry. Who Was John Brown? “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” John Brown, shortly before his execution, 1859[…]

“​Sweltering with Treason”​: The Civil War Trials of William Matthew Merrick

From the beginning of the war, Merrick was suspected of disloyalty. The American Civil War was not just a conflict between North and South. Indeed, many smaller conflicts pervaded both sections of the divided nation. In the South, for example, Jefferson Davis had to deal with noncompliant and obstructive governors in North Carolina and Georgia.[…]

Ending the Bloodshed: The Last Surrenders of the Civil War

Not until sixteen months after Appomattox, on August 20, 1866, did the President formally declare an end to the war. Introduction Appomattox. To many Americans the word Appomattox is synonymous with the end of the Civil War. The war, however, did not officially conclude at that tiny village west of Petersburg, Virginia. But what happened[…]

In Freedom’s Shadow: The Reconstruction Legacy of Renty Franklin Greaves

His story represents the lives of many African American leaders who remain in the shadows of history during Reconstruction and beyond. Introduction The period in American history known as “Reconstruction” began a social revolution that changed the South forever. For 14 years (1863–1877), persons of African descent once held in chattel slavery worked and served[…]

Out of War, a New Nation: The Impact and Legacy of the Civil War

Why did Americans fight each other with a ferocity unmatched in the Western world? The Civil War had a greater impact on American society and the polity than any other event in the country’s history. It was also the most traumatic experience endured by any generation of Americans. At least 620,000 soldiers lost their lives[…]

How the Civil War Drove Medical Innovation

The federal government was able to spur innovation to meet the needs of the crisis. Introduction The current COVID-19 pandemic, the largest public health crisis in a century, threatens the health of people across the globe. The U.S. has had the most diagnosed cases – surpassing 6 million – and more than 180,000 deaths. But[…]

The Diplomatic Impacts of U.S. Victory in the Civil War

The victory provided a renewed strength of the U.S. government and allowed shifting resources to fight external intervention. Introduction The outcome of the Civil War resulted in a strengthening of U.S. foreign power and influence, as the definitive Union defeat of the Confederacy firmly demonstrated the strength of the United States Government and restored its[…]

The Impact of the Trent Affair on U.S.-British Relations in the Civil War

The Lincoln administration understood that it would be unwise to risk a possible armed conflict while already in the midst of a war. Introduction On November 8, 1861, Charles Wilkes, a U.S. Navy Officer, captured two Confederate envoys aboard the British mail ship, the Trent. Great Britain accused the United States of violating British neutrality,[…]

A History of the Civil War, from the Preceding Crisis to the End of Reconstruction

Examining the initial fractures, course, and ultimate resolution of the Civil War that divided the nation. Decade of Crisis Slave Resistance During the 1850s, Americans witnessed a decade of sectional crises that threatened the very existence of the Union. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right in predicting that the Mexican Cession would reignite the explosive issue[…]

Key Personalities of the American Civil War

Taking a look at some of the key figures who played important roles during one of our nation’s most divisive times. Abraham Lincoln February 12 1809 – April 15 1865 Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and the first Republican elected to that office. Lincoln was president during the Civil War,[…]

Elections in 1864 during the Civil War

Lincoln was presiding over a bloody civil war with waning popularity. But he steadfastly rejected pleas to postpone the election. Introduction The outlook was not promising in 1864 for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had been killed, wounded or displaced in a civil war with no end in sight. Lincoln was[…]

The Gentleman’s Agreement That Ended the Civil War

An unusually civil armistice in the most punishing conflict ever fought on American soil. One hundred and fifty years ago, on April 9, 1865, a lone Confederate horseman violently waving a white towel as a flag of truce galloped up to the men of the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry near Appomattox Court House and asked for[…]

The Civil War Overwhelmed the Senses Like No Other

The loudest booms people had ever heard and the powerful stench of death on a staggering scale. In rhetoric and substance, wars are generally fought for ideals that are noble, dignified, and lofty. Leaders justify waging war—and endeavor to inspire those who fight them—by appealing to powerful abstractions: liberty, self-determination, and national identity. In turn,[…]

The Escape of the Harriet Lane through the Union Blockade of Galveston

The Harriet Lane engaging in a battery at Pig’s Point By Sara Hale My Grandfather’s account of the escape of the Harriet Lane through the Union blockade of Galveston. The letter is addressed to “Friend Phillips” the then editor of the North AdamsTranscript, North Adams, Massachusetts. On board U. S. Steam Sloop “Lackawanna” Off Galveston,[…]

How the American Civil War Cemented Modern Christmas Traditions

Alena Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com Christmas tends to assume a strong sense of its own significance in times of protracted conflict. By Dr. David Anderson / 12.22.2016 Senior Lecturer in American History Swansea University Shortly before Christmas Day 1864, Abraham Lincoln received an extraordinary Christmas present – Savannah, Georgia. Union General William Sherman presented the captured city to the president[…]

The Economic Costs of the Civil War

A One Hundred Dollar Confederate States of America banknote dated December 22, 1862. Issued during the American Civil War (1861–1865) / Wikimedia Commons What was the economic impact of the Civil War on American life? By Dr. Burton W. Folsom / 03.23.2011 Senior Fellow in Economic Education Mackinac Center for Public Policy Even after 150[…]

Indians in the Family: Adoption and the Politics of Antebellum Expansion

Looking at at a group of white slaveholders who adopted Southeast Indian boys (Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw) into their plantation households in the decades following the US Revolution. By Dr. Dawn Peterson / 09.14.2017 Assistant Professor of Early North American and U.S. History Emory University In 1811 a prominent Choctawwoman named Molly McDonald placed her eleven-year-old son[…]

The Life of Mary Custis Lee

American Civil War Museum By Kimberly J. Largent Editor Charge the Cannons Publishing Growing Up at Arlington Mary Custis Lee, great-granddaughter of First Lady Martha Washington, has been often portrayed in a negative light wherever her name appears in the annals. It is written that her debilitating arthritis turned her into a constant complainer and that[…]

Partisan Warfare in the American Civil War

A group of Mosby’s Rangers (Mosby center) By Robert Naranjo In the pre-dawn hours of August 13, 1864 part of the 525-wagon convoy carrying supplies to Sheridan’s army stationed near Winchester, Virginia came to a rest stop near Berryville. Unnoticed by the guards, several gray-clad figures converged upon two Union cannons. Moments later Mosby’s Rangers[…]

The Life Of Mary Todd Lincoln

By Kimberly J. Largent Editor Charge the Cannons Publishing The Early Years Mary Todd Lincoln, the most criticized and misunderstood first lady, experienced more than her share of tragedy during her lifetime. From the time she was six, her life took a melancholy turn from which she never recovered. She suffered from depressive episodes and migraine[…]