September 2020 Newsletter
From the Editor
On June 16, 1858, Republicans meeting in Springfield, Illinois, nominated Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate. Slavery overshadowed all other political issues—so much so that Lincoln saw it as an existential crisis. "A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he warned.

The agitation slavery caused—moral and political—“will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed,” Lincoln predicted, although he did not expect the Union to dissolve. “I do not expect the house to fall,” he explained, “but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”

Today’s political tumult makes America seem no less divided, and I often consider Lincoln’s admonition: "A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

What is our responsibility in today’s times, as students of history and as people passionate about America? Earlier in September, I mulled over that question in a blog post, “A Useable History: Partisanship, Citizenship, and the Presidential Election." I’m now mulling over the question in the context of Lincoln’s speech.

Often overlooked in the speech is Lincoln’s hope for common ground with his political opponents, specifically Sen. Stephen Douglas, “whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle.” Lincoln seemed pessimistic, though, and instead believed “Our cause . . . must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends—those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work—who do care for the result.”

No sooner had he sounded that pessimistic note, though, than Lincoln admitted that differing political factions could, in fact, come together in common cause, as the recently created Republican party demonstrated. “Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds,” he pointed out, “and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.”

Regardless of political affiliation, a lot of people feel like they’re fighting the good fight, that they “do care for the result,” and that their opponents are proud and pampered enemies. If you feel that way, and consider yourself a person of honest motivation and good intent, perhaps a place to start is by considering that many people on the other side of the political spectrum also hold honest motivations and good intentions just like you. That offers a common platform for discussion.

So I urge all of us to consider the optimism in Lincoln’s tale, not his pessimism, and remember that “discordant, and even hostile elements” can come together for the common good.

— Chris Mackowski, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Emerging Civil War
ECW Achieves 501(c)3 Status
Emerging Civil War is now officially a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization! We have always run ourselves this way, with a strong focus on our educational mission, so our designation by the IRS really just formalizes the way we’ve done business for the last nine years.

We don’t plan to be a fund-raising organization. That would put us in competition with many of our great partners who rely on donations to keep them going. We don’t want to hurt them by dipping into the same fund-raising pool they rely on.

That said, with no symposium this year, we’re going to have a tight budget because the symposium is our major source of income. So, we’re hoping our readers might be willing to help us out with a tax-deductible donation to help us get through these lean times. If you’re interested in making a tax-deductible donation, you can do so through PayPal by clicking this link.

(NOTE: Last month, some people had trouble with the link, but we think we've been able to correct those technical issues, so please try again if you had trouble!)
10 Questions . . . with Cecily Nelson Zander
Cecily Nelson Zander serves on Emerging Civil War’s editorial board for the “Engaging the Civil War” Series with Southern Illinois University Press. A historian who specializes in the Civil War era and the American West, Cecily is finishing her dissertation at Penn State. You can read her full bio here.

What's your Civil War "origin story"? How'd you get interested in the CW?

I don’t ever remember not being thrilled by history, which is likely a product of where and how I grew up—in Colorado and with vacations every summer driving across the country and visiting countless historic sites. I have early memories of visiting the Custer House at Fort Abraham Lincoln in Mandan, ND and being fascinated by Custer (hard not to be), as well as the Little Bighorn, Fort Laramie, and many of the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little Houses” and so on.

When I was about 11, I saw Glory for the first time (fueled by a childhood crush on Matthew Broderick), and instead of just walking away from the movie, I searched the local library for more info about the characters and checked out Robert Gould Shaw’s letters (Blue Eyed Child of Fortune [University of Georgia Press, 1992]) and enjoyed them immensely, so I read some of the other Civil War letters and diaries that were nearby at the library.

About five years later my parents took our family on a trip to the Washington, D.C., area and we visited Manassas and Gettysburg and, like so many people, I was taken in by the battlefields and my interest in the Civil War was really solidified.

You're finishing up your dissertation. What have you been writing about?

My dissertation combines the Civil War and all that Western history that I absorbed as a kid—I am writing about the United States Army (the Regulars) between 1835 and 1885. I’m making an argument about how politicians used the Army to achieve various expansionist goals. I’m really looking at the Regulars as an institution that had great political value and then explaining how politicans negotiated over military resources and how they intended to use the Army to achieve their goals. I’ve found a few interesting things, most notably that the antebellum Regulars were robustly supported by pro-slavery political interests who used the force to conquer the Southwest and lay the groundwork for a southern trans-continental railroad. I contrast their political investment with postbellum Republicans, who turned away from the army in favor of reformers and then explain how men like Sherman and Sheridan had to make a case for the value of the Regulars to the post-Civil War United States and struggled to do so.

After that, you'll have to hit the job market. What have you seen as you've been looking?

This year things have not looked great in terms of academic jobs, to be brutally honest. I’m hopeful for a bit of a bounce-back next year, but am looking anywhere and everywhere for opportunities to put my research and teaching skills (such as they are) to use. I’m hoping I can at least put some teaching opportunities together to stay in the game next year. But if anyone has any leads, I’ll be glad for advice!

Gary Gallagher told me you're a woman who doesn't know how to stay un-busy. He really commended your work ethic. Tell us a little about that.

It’s very nice of Dr. Gallagher to say that. His courses at UVA required a fair amount of work, so it might actually be his fault that I work as much as I do. I’m not entirely sure it is the healthiest approach to always be thinking about working, but I enjoy so much of the research and writing process that it often doesn’t feel like work. I take time out to watch sports and classic films, and almost every day an episode or two of Frasier, so I’m not entirely hopeless.

One thing my parents always told me was that the best trait to have is to be coachable, which means taking advice and improving at every opportunity. One thing that fuels my work is the guidance I get from my mentors and my dissertation committee members who have given countless hours to reading, critiquing, and editing my work. I’ve been very lucky for the attention they’ve paid to my work. While I don’t always love to receive harsh comments, I know they are always constructive, and I think the least I can do is put as much effort as I can muster into my work in return. Seeing improvement and getting results gives me a lot of satisfaction.

What's your next project?

I’m interested in doing something with George Custer, in part fueled by an archival collection I got to explore during my dissertation research (and that will soon feature in a post I’m working on for ECW). I really enjoyed looking at historian Robert M. Utley’s papers while at the University of Oklahoma’s Western History Collection, and reading about his work on Custer has me thinking about a project that would essentially investigate the history of the history of Custer. I’m a bit of a nerd for historiography, so what I would hope to do is write a book in two halves—the first would look at Custer and how he was viewed by his contemporaries with particular attention to how his own actions changed public opinion about him. The second half would look at his wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer, and how she transformed public opinion about her husband after his death—and then try to unravel which version of George Custer historians have really written about and how memory has affected the accuracy of historical depictions of the Civil War’s “Boy General.”

In the shorter term, I’m working on smaller essays about Braxton Bragg and John Pope because I can’t help myself when it comes to much-maligned Civil War generals.

Lightning Round (short answers with a one-sentence explanation)  
Favorite primary source? 
I love Kate Stone’s diary, Brokenburn, from the Confederate perspective and I’ll give the edge to Sherman’s memoirs for the Union side.

Favorite Civil War-related monument? 
I always jokingly tell people it’s the Arkansas monument at Gettysburg, which is a big monument for a single regiment, but it’s really a tie between Grant’s tomb and the Grant memorial in Washington, D.C.
Favorite unsung hero of the Civil War era? 
My less-serious side would tell you it’s William McKinley for serving all that hot coffee at Antietam (without orders, so his monument says!) but I’m really on board with the recent appreciation for Montgomery Meigs, who handled his job with aplomb and made a big difference to the Union war effort.
What’s a bucket-list Civil War site you’ve not yet visited? 
I’ve been lucky to visit most of the big battlefields, often with my dad (who is an untiringly good sport about it all), but I’ve yet to see Bennett Place in Durham and Fort Sumter in Charleston.
Favorite ECWS book? 
I’ve always been a huge admirer of David A. Powell’s command of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns, so I’ll go with The Battle Above the Clouds: Lifting the Siege of Chattanooga and the Battle of Lookout Mountain.
ECW News and Notes
Edward Alexander has been revisiting some old battlefield stomping grounds from a different perspective—on bike!—for the first time. “We've done Petersburg's Eastern Front, Fort Harrison, and Fredericksburg's Lee Drive this month and are planning to do High Bridge soon,” he says.

On August 9, Paige Gibbons Backus participated in an ERW “Rev War Revelry” focused on Colonial Medicine. “I am currently working on a series of articles for the American Battlefield Trust to help bolster their online articles,” she adds. “These are mostly going to be focused on Women During the Civil War and the medical field.” 

On Sept 23, Doug Crenshaw spoke about the battle of Glendale to the James City Cavalry S.C.V. camp in Wiliamsburg (VA). On Sept. 26, he co-hosted a Facebook Live from Fort Harrison for Richmond National Battlefield.

ECW was pleased to welcome historian David Dixon to the fold last month. David’s current book, published by the University of Tennessee Press, is titled Radical Warrior: August Willich’s Journey from German Revolutionary to Union General. You can follow his blob, “B-List History,” at

Because of the wildfires in California, Meg Groeling has been breathing bad air for days now, but she is still enjoying Harold Holzer's The Presidents vs. The Press, which is a very timely read. “Remember ‘book reports’ in school?’ the Megster asks. “Who knew I'd write so many as an adult!”

Robert Lee Hodge wrote a piece for the October 2020 issue of Civil War Times: “Lee is Marching to Our Flank.” “May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville was one terrible day for Union Captain Frederick Otto Von Fritsch,” the article says.

Dwight Hughes gave a Zoom presentation on September 10 for the Wilmington, NC, Cape Fear Civil War Round Table on “Rebel Odyssey: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah.”

Brian Matthew Jordan reviewed Arguing Until Doomsday: Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy by Michael Woods for the October issue of Civil War News.

Chris Mackowski participated in a panel discussion for Grant Cottage at the end of August titled “Memoirs and Memory: U.S. Grant’s Literary Legacy.” Joining Chris was Andre Fleche, associate professor at Castleton College, and Ben Kemp, operations manager at Grant Cottage. The program is available on YouTube.

Chris also spoke in September to the Franklin Civil War Roundtable, presenting “The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson.” The program is available on the roundtable’s Facebook page. Because a wedding was scheduled to use the venue right after Chris's talk, the group had to forego a Q&A session, so Chris Zoomed in for one on Sept. 23.

While Chris was in Franklin, Chris and roundtable founder Greg Wade shot a series of videos that will appear on the ECW YouTube page in November. Chris wrapped up the trip with some time at Stones River National Battlefield, where he took photos for an upcoming ECW book by Bert Dunkerly and Caroline Davis.

Derek Maxfield celebrated a book (re)launch event for Hellmira: The Union’s Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp at Roman's restaurant in Batavia, NY, on 9/12 and had a great turnout. As it happened, later that day Derek's book talk for the ECW virtual symposium aired on C-Span 3 that evening. Derek’s theatre group, Rudely Stamp'd, will debut their new historic play "Grant on the Eve of Victory" at the West Sparta, NY, Town Hall on Sept. 26 at 2:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Written, directed, and performed by Derek Maxfield, who portrays Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the play also features Jess Scheuerman as war correspondent George Alfred Townsend. This one-act play is available for any interested audience. Folks interested in hosting a performance should contact Derek at or by calling 585-478-3753.

Kevin Pawlak took part in a morning program at the Cornfield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides on the morning of September 17 and was also featured as one of the guests for the America Battlefield Trust’s Antietam 158 coverage.

Kevin, Rob Orrison, and Dan Welch took members of the Mahoning Valley CWRT on a socially distanced tour of the South Mountain and Antietam battlefields on September 19. They specifically focused on the actions of the Ninth Corps' Kanawha Division at both battles. (see photo above)

Kristen Pawlak did a talk on Wilson’s Creek for the Bull Run Civil War Round Table on Sept 10. The program is available on the roundtable’s Facebook page (at about 40 minutes in).

Terry Rensel spent a day doing research at the Erie Public Library's Heritage Room and the Erie Cemetery for future projects. On Sept. 16, he also finally visited Antietam for the first time (see his video with ersatz tour guide Chris Mackowski on the ECW YouTube page: In October, Terry will address the Mahoning Valley Civil War Roundtable to talk about the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust and battlefield preservation. He wrote an article, “How Far? A New Perspective on the Battle of Spotsylvania,” for the October issue of Civil War News.

Terry is also awaiting delivery of Ohio microbrews from Dan Welch (via Rob Orrison) for losing multiple bets on the Cleveland Browns last football season.
“Fallen Leaders” at the 2021 ECW Symposium
Early bird tickets are on sale for the 2021 Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, August 6-8. Our theme, “Fallen Leaders,” will feature keynote speaker Gordon Rhea on the loss of Jeb Stuart and a battlefield tour of James Longstreet’s wounding by Greg Mertz. Plus, we’ll have eight other speakers on the docket.

For details, or to buy tickets (only $155 each at the early bird price), visit
ECW MultiMedia
Have you been following the ECW YouTube page? You can check it out here. Or, go to YouTube and search “Emerging Civil War.”

  • This past month, we had an exclusive interview with Gary Gallagher (click here).
  • We introduced the incoming president of the American Battlefield Trust, David Duncan (click here).
  • We spoke with Harold Holzer about his new book The Presidents Vs. The Press (click here).
  • We’ve posted the talks from our 2020 ECW Virtual Symposium (which have also started airing on C-SPAN 3’s “American History TV”).

Plus, we have all sorts of other cool stuff going on there. Be sure to subscribe to the Emerging Civil War YouTube channel to get all the latest.

We also make a number of our interviews available as free podcasts on our Patreon page (click here).
ECW Bookshelf

Congratulations to ECW contributor David Dixon on his latest publication. Radical Warrior: August Willich’s Journey from German Revolutionary to Union General (University of Tennessee Press 2020) is the biography of a Prussian army officer who renounced his nobility and joined in the failed European revolutions of 1848. He emigrated to America, edited a daily labor newspaper in Cincinnati, and became one of the most accomplished generals in the Union Army. This story sheds new light on the contributions of more than 200,000 German-Americans who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

In an age of global social, economic, and political upheaval, transatlantic radicals helped affect America’s second great revolution. For many recent immigrants, the nature and implications of that revolution turned not on Lincoln’s conservative goal of maintaining the national Union, but on issues of social justice, including slavery, free labor, and popular self-government. The Civil War was not simply a war to end sectional divides, but to restore the soul of the nation, revive the hopes of democrats worldwide, and defend human rights.

Emerging Revolutionary War News
On September 11, 1777, along the banks of Brandywine Creek in southeastern Pennsylvania, the largest battle of the Revolution (in terms of combined strength of armies) was fought: British and German forces under General William Howe versus Continentals and militia under General George Washington. On Sunday, September 13, Michael Harris, historian and author of the preeminent battle study on Brandywine, joined ERW on our "Rev War Revelry" Sunday night Facebook Live to discuss the engagement and campaign. Click over on our Facebook page to watch the video. 

In reference to the "Rev War Revelry," remember to keep Sundays at 7 p.m. ET clear as we roll into October, with discussions on Charles Lee, Germantown, the Liberty Trail/Camden, and South Carolina Rev War leadership. We round out September with an author interview of a recently released study and roundtable discussion about Daniel Morgan. 

Then in November, the annual Emerging Revolutionary War historian road-trip­—scaled down this year because of the pandemic—will visit a few sites in Virginia related to the American Revolution. Stay tuned for on-site lives and a special "Rev War Revelry" from a unique location. 

To stay current, follow us on Facebook and the blog:

Upcoming Presentations
8th: David Dixon, “Radical Warrior,” CWRT Congress Speaker Series (virtual)

10th: Derek Maxfield, “Reordering their World: Victorians and the Gilded Age,” Morgan-Manning House in Brockport, NY (It is free and open to the public, but only the first 50 guests to register will be able to attend this outdoor presentation. Those interested in registering should contact the Morgan-Manning House at 585-637-3645.)

15th: Dave Powell, “Grant at Chattanooga,” Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce (virtual)

20th: David Dixon, “Radical Warrior,” Twin Cities CWRT (virtual)

21st: David Dixon, “Radical Warrior,” Civil War Talk Radio

22nd: Chris Mackowski, “Grant’s Last Battle,” Hagerstown (MD) Civil War Round Table

24th: Chris Mackowski, “Upton’s Attack at Spotsylvania,” Chambersburg Civil War Seminar

27th: David Dixon, “Radical Warrior,” Pasadena CWRT

10th: Chris Mackowski, Second-Guessing Richard Ewell at Gettysburg, Brunswick (NC) Civil War Roundtable

12th: Dave Powell, “Union command failure in the Shenandoah,” Madison (WI) Civil War Round Table

14th: Chris Mackowski and Bert Dunkerly, North Anna Facebook Live, Richmond National Battlefield Park

14th: Jon-Erik Gilot, “The Western Virginia Campaign of 1861,” Mahoning Valley Civil War Roundtable, Canfield, OH
Emerging Civil War |