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Even in the summer, with plenty of green around and the fields sown, the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg can feel like a wide, empty landscape. At this time of year, it can feel downright barren. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying a walk around.
The Slaughter Pen is a great case study in topography (too detailed a topic to get into here, especially where I don’t have the benefit of pictures, but you can
check out this blog post I wrote in 2011
). At 216 acres, the Slaughter Pen also represents one of the most significant victories in the history of the modern preservation movement. Protected through the leadership of the American Battlefield Trust, it helped redefine our understanding of the battle of Fredericksburg in an entirely new way.
I paid a visit recently, nipped by cold temperatures and nagged by a breeze just strong enough to be annoying. I’m wrapping up a new writing project about the battle of Fredericksburg that includes a tour, so I was driving my route and walking around at various stops to get a renewed sense of the lay of the land. This particular tour needed to focus on locations related to critical decisions made during the battle.
It would be easy to “phone it in,” so to speak. I give plenty of battlefield tours, and Kris White and I already laid out one battlefield tour in
, so I’m confident in my ability to get people around Fredericksburg.
But a new tour offers a new opportunity to make sure I’m looking at the battlefield with fresh eyes. How wonderful it is to see something new on a battlefield that is otherwise so familiar. Most of all, I never want to take this or any battlefield for granted. It’s a privilege to be able to get out there and walk the ground and look around.
For all those who helped support preservation at the Slaughter Pen—or on any battlefield—thank you.
Chris Mackowski, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Emerging Civil War
The Seventh Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge
Gordon Rhea and Jeb Stuart! Greg Mertz and James Longstreet! Yellow Tavern and the Wilderness!
Plus, if you’ve been following along with our weekly Symposium Spotlight (
), you know we’ve been rolling out another tremendous line-up of speakers and topics for this year’s Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge (Aug. 7-9, 2020). We’re focusing on Fallen Leaders.
Tickets are available for $155 each and include all three days, including Gordon’s keynote address on Jeb Stuart and Greg Mertz’s tour focusing on Longstreet in the Wilderness. We have ten speakers total, and we’re highlighting some compelling stories. We hope you’ll join us!
ECW News & Notes
“popped the question” on February 19. Congratulations to Edward and his now-fiancée, Alison!
Sarah Kay Bierle
is hosting her fifth and final Civil War history conference in Temecula, California, on April 4.
. In the meantime, Sarah has been chasing historical facts all over Virginia and North Carolina these past weekends. You're not gonna believe what she's finding about a certain Confederate artillery officer. Hint: she's speaking about his death and memory at the symposium and writing a book about his life and military innovations.
led a tour of the Glendale battlefield, on land that is not yet open to the public, on February 22. He also took a group to the newly preserved land at Gaines's Mill. He’s been up to his eyeballs in Seven Pines lately, too, developing a talk on the battle. From his bookstand, he says he just finished reading
The Great Partnership
, “which I liked,” he says, and
Hymns of the Republic
. “The latter, though well written, held on to some myths that I believe have been debunked, particularly the characterization of Grant,” he says.
: “Big news for me is I will be spending my summer in Vicksburg,” Mississippi!” Caroline has been hired as a seasonal historian at Vicksburg National Battlefield.
, board member for the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation in Wheeling, WV, is busy planning a Civil War Symposium for Saturday, June 20 at the Hall. Confirmed speakers include Jonathan Berkey (Concord University), Rich Condon (Civil War Pittsburgh), and ECW’s own
(American Battlefield Trust). Keep an eye on ECW and the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation’s Facebook page for more information!
has also been reaching out to many of our friends at numerous Civil War Round Tables across the country, checking in with your groups, updating your contact information, and letting you know the latest happenings with ECW. Has your Round Table received Jon-Erik's email update? If not, and you would like your Round Table to be included, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
is working her nicely manicured fingers to the bone sorting through the Ellsworth images she has amassed in the last several years, trying to figure out the best ones for her book
First Fallen: The Life of Elmer Ellsworth, the North's First Civil War Hero
. Not only must they be chosen--they must be sourced. "From the Internet" or "Meg's Files" does not cut it professionally. In addition, she is reading biographies of Walt Whitman, trying to figure out how to make his scandalous life more palatable to the general public. The main problem is that she likes all that scandal. She is also researching the Republican Wide-Awakes and their connection to Colonel Ellsworth. A visit to Brown University might be in order this summer. And as usual, the roses have been cut back, the violets are in bloom, and the porch has been freshened up for Spring. Come join her for a cup of coffee.
also reviewed a pair of books for the March 2020 issue of
Civil War News
The Story of Civil War Medicine: Divided by Conflict, United by Compassion
by Terry Reimer and
Prologue to Change: African Americans in Medicine in the Civil War Era
by Robert Slawson, MD.
participated in a Civil War program at Childhelp Middle School in Lignum, Virginia, on Tuesday, February 18. Dr. John Yurechko appeared with Steward as another Union soldier, Beth Stenstrom as a civilian woman, and Bob Lookabill as a Confederate soldier. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield. Thirty eighth-graders and 6 teachers attended the event. The school specializes in helping abused children. On February 25th, Steward also presented to the Celebrate Virginia History Club.
is discovering the challenges of collecting two hundred-plus images for his first volume of the Emerging Civil War Series. “I thought getting the book written would be most of the job, but not so,” he said. “Although many Civil War images are viewable in internet search engines, determining permissions and acquiring digital copies of sufficient resolution can be difficult. Some great pictorial sources apparently have not been digitized for public access. Some apps, like the Library of Congress website, could be more efficient. But profuse illustration is one of the most distinguishing features of the Series, telling stories as or more effectively than longer books. It’s another form of composition, certainly rewarding and worth the effort.”
: “I've been putting the finishing touches on my CBI book for Ted Savas, due March 1. The title is
Nations In the Balance: The Indian-Burma Campaigns, December 1943 - August 1944.”
s two-man performance group, Rudely Stamp’d—which explores the relationship between Grant and Sherman—recently returned from a very successful engagement in Lancaster, Ohio, where they performed for Sherman’s 200th birthday celebration in his hometown. “There was a great, very engaged crowd with folks from as far away as Utah and British Colombia,” he says. Derek and performance partner Tracy Ford will be performing their play “Now We Stand by Each Other Always” for the Brunswick CWRT on March 3 in North Carolina. In April, they will perform for the Butler CWRT in Butler, PA. “Still no dates in Virginia, despite my efforts to get word out,” Derek says. Hint, hint.
was recently able to visit some privately owned ground east of Antietam Creek where Federal artillery was posted during the battle. "There were some great vantages!" he says. "I captured some of them on my own
have been diving into some new and exciting research for their upcoming History Press work
Ohioans at Antietam.
Keep tuning in to the Youtube channel for their series on the battle and the blog for some interesting stories they have dug up.
: “I don’t really have a lot going on right now, but I’ll pass this along as a ‘cool source.’ A few years ago, I think I told you that Bowdoin College had digitized most of O.O. Howard’s papers. (Howard was a native Mainer.) In the intervening time, Bowdoin has also added thousands of pages of transcriptions, including almost all of his Civil War correspondence, along with his two brothers. If anyone wants to access the collection,
. We’re in the midst of some great collections going online—the internet is a powerful tool that will continue to make research easier and easier.”
Besides the weekender
recently wrote up about Fort Clinch, his vacation travels have also included visits to Fort Pulaski, Sherman's Savannah HQ, and the Battle of Bentonville marker on I-95 (pictured above).
: “It can take months to see the final result of a project. But it’s well worth the wait. I’m happy to announce the completion of two projects at the River View Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. I’ve included before and after photos below. I’m grateful for all the help River View Cemetery manager Lee Rogers provided to appropriately honor these two soldiers.”
10 Questions...with Dan Welch
, ECW’s secretary and the co-coordinator of our symposium, teaches music by day and works at Gettysburg National Military Park by night—er, by summer, that is. We last profiled him in
the April 2017 newsletter
. You can
read his full ECW bio here
It’s the middle of winter, and you’re in eastern Ohio. The Civil War has to feel pretty far away at this point, doesn’t it?
It can feel physically far away this time of year. Although we have had a pretty mild winter compared to other years, I still do not travel much between December and March because of the weather. That's always hard for me because I never like to "hang my hat" too long and prefer to be a "Travelin' Man." During the campaign season, I am always on the road speaking to roundtables, visiting battlefields, going to conferences, or commemorating anniversaries on the actual ground. But, I use this downtime to catch up on reading and prepping for the coming season, so it all balances out in the end. That doesn't mean I don't get "Ramblin' Fever" every now and again during this time, though.
Are you working on anything at the moment to help you bridge the gap back to campaign season?
Yeah, I’ve got way too many irons in the fire right now. I am working on four different book projects and an essay at the moment. My free moments are research and writing, which I don't mind in the least!
You’re coordinating the ECW symposium again this year. The theme is “Fallen Leaders.” What do you like about that theme?
I really like the versatility of theme. Almost immediately folks would think of those that were killed in action or wounded at a critical moment in the battle that changed the course of events. We’ll certainly hear those stories in August, but we’ll also hear a different take on the theme as well. There were those leaders who rose to prominence only to fall to military or political blunder, taking them from the historical spotlight. Those stories, to me, are the most fascinating.
You recently had the chance to help a friend sell part of his collection of Civil War books, which included a lot of regimental histories. It must’ve been cool to run across some unexpected units as those books passed through your hands. What jumped out at you?
Like so many of us in this field, books are a huge part of it for me. We buy, sell, trade, read, reread, collect, and so much more. Since my Civil War collection is pushing several thousand volumes, there was not much I needed or wanted, but what jumped out at me most were some of the regimentals on these small, obscure units from the Western and Trans-Mississippi theaters. It was great to see some of these units "get some love" on the research and publishing level.
In our recent ECW book
, you had a great essays about “Dixie” and “Ashokan Farewell.” Was there a song you didn’t get to write about but wish you’d had the chance to?
There's this band I've been really in to the last couple years called The Dead South. On their second major release, they wrote a song titled "The Good Lord." It's a story about a solider trying to stay alive long enough to get home. His wife is pregnant and she wants him to desert. A powerful twenty-first century song written by some Canadian musicians about our Civil War. This continues to demonstrate the effect of this turning point in our history on the world.
Lightning Round (short answers with a one-sentence explanation)
Favorite primary source?
Favorite Civil War-related monument?
14th Brooklyn or 149th Pennsylvania at Gettysburg
Favorite unsung hero of the Civil War era?
What’s a bucket-list Civil War site you’ve not yet visited?
Too many to list but all Western Theater. I need to spend more time outside of Virginia.
Favorite ECWS book that’s not one of your own?
No Turning Back.
I had a great time taking that book into the field.
The ECW Podcast
The ECW Podcast is going on hiatus for a bit, but before we go, we have two February podcasts the dovetail from the release of our newest Engaging the Civil War Series book,
Entertaining History: The Civil War in Literature, Film, and Song
The first podcast of the month features a wide-ranging conversation between Chris Mackowski, Sarah Kay Bierle, and Terry Rensel about the Civil War in pop culture. The second podcast features and interview with Nick Sacco, a historian at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, that ties back to an essay Nick wrote for
and a related blog post he recently did, about Grant’s memoirs. (
Read his post here.
You can download podcasts for only $1.99 from
ECW's Patreon page
. The cost of the download helps support production costs
Emerging Revolutionary War News
One of the most famous dates in the American Revolutionary War Era falls in February—actually,
dates, one in the old calendar and one in the new calendar. If you haven't guessed it, that date is February 11 (old style) or February 22 (new style): the birthday of George Washington. You can follow George Washington's earliest steps at George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Or his final steps at Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. Of course, his many footsteps throughout the American Revolution are preserved by a plethora of local, state, and federal sites.
But, as we turn our eyes toward March, Emerging Revolutionary War (ERW) invites you to pay close attention that first week, especially March 5, when ERW historian Mark Maloy does a Facebook live from the Old State House that evening kicking off the inaugural 250th anniversary of the road that led to the American Revolution.
Last but not least, on April 1st (no April Fools, promise!), join ERW historians Rob Orrison and Phillip S. Greenwalt at the Washington, D.C., American Revolutionary War Round Table, held at Mount Vernon, as they talk about their book,
A Single Blow,
about the battles of Lexington and Concord.
As always, continue to check
to stay up-to-date on posts, book reviews, weekender places to visit, and the next volumes upcoming in the Emerging Revolutionary War Series.
Speakers Bureau Spotlight
Paige Gibbons Backus
Paige serves as the Site Manager as the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre in Prince William County Virginia. In addition to her work, she specializes in the medical and civilian aspect of the Civil War. You can
read her full bio here
· Unheralded Heroines: Women in the Civil War
· The Chaos and Carnage of the Medical Field during the Civil War
· The Deadliest Enemy: Disease During the Civil War
· Manassas Junction
· First Manassas
· The Civilian Experience of First Manassas
· Hospitals of First and Second Manassas
· Wartime Alexandria
1st: Steward Henderson, The USCT, New City Fellowship Church Discussion Group, Manassas, VA
21st: Chris Mackowski, Prince William County (VA) History Symposium
14th: Caroline Davis, “The Hunley,” Madison, IN
21st: Chris Mackowski, “The Battle of the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania Court House,” Scottsdale (AZ) Civil War Roundtable
12th: Jon-Erik Gilot, “Middle Fork Bridge and the Road to Rich Mountain,” Stonewall Jackson Civil War Roundtable, Clarksburg, WV
21st: Dwight Hughes, “Rebel Odyssey: The Cruise of the CSS
,” Hampton Roads Civil War Roundtable, Chesapeake, VA