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November 2012

Boxers, briefs and battles

National Archives: Wash day at camp: A pair of drawers hangs to dry on the log support behind the ax-wielding soldier on the right.


Civil War soldiers carried many valuables: letters from home, photographs, and locks of hair from wives, sweethearts and babies. But they held a less romantic article much nearer to their hearts, and sometimes much dearer: their undergarments.

History favors epic battles, stirring speeches, presidents and generals and the economic and political forces that transform the lives of millions. Yet mere underwear has a story to tell, a story that covers the breadth of the Civil War, from home front to battlefield.

A full suit of mid-19th-century men’s underwear consisted of a shirt, “drawers” and socks. Like today, men’s underwear at the time, unlike women’s, did not provide structure to the body. Rather, cover, warmth and hygiene were the order of the day — though the hygiene part did not always work out. The term for undershirt was usually just “shirt”; shirts as we know them today were often called blouses or top-shirts. Undershirts were square-cut pullovers, voluminous and long. Buttons and sometimes laces at the neck fastened them.

Read the full article at the New York Times

This week in the Civil War for November 25, 1862

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Confederate forces battle Union rivals at Cane Hill in the far northwest corner of Arkansas. The fighting on Nov. 28, 1862, began with Union Gen. James Blunt sending out probing forces in a bid to destroy Confederate cavalry units detected in the area. The Union contingent caught up with a Confederate force that fought a delaying action while trying to protect its supply trains. Confederates under Col. Joe Shelby set up defensive positions around the Cane Hill cemetery.

During a series of clashes, the Confederates withdrew under a fierce Union onslaught. Finally running short of ammunition, Confederate fighters withdrew and nightfall brought an end to the day's fighting. Blunt's forces thus took control of the Boston Mountains in that extreme corner of Arkansas. It was a small-scale fight. But days later, a far bigger battle would be waged at Prairie Grove, Ark., culminating in Union forces consolidating their grip on the region. This week in Washington, President Abraham Lincoln is preparing to open a new session of Congress, his speech kept tightly under wraps. The Charleston (S.C.) Mercury reports tension is rising around Fredericksburg, Va., amid reports of sporadic shots fired and rumors the Union would try to take that city any day in hopes of eventually reaching Richmond, capital of the Confederacy.

A correspondent of The Mercury reports in a late November dispatch: "The general opinion here is that the threats of the enemy about Fredericksburg are feints" to cover a change of base by Union forces. In fact, Union and Confederate forces would be in a bloody fight for Fredericksburg before Christmas of 1862.

From ABC News and the Associated Press

Faces of the Civil War

Screen Shot 2012-11-23 at 1.16.01 PM

70 portrist of soldiers from both sides of the war are available in a slideshow on CBS News

"In remembrance of the Union and Confederate soldiers who served in the American Civil War, the Liljenquist Family donated their rare collection of over 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress. Most of the people and photographers are unidentified. If you recognize a face from your family, a regiment, or a photographer's painted studio backdrop, e-mail the Library of Congress at "


Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation


The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Continue reading "Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation" »

Jefferson Davis Presidential Library


The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library will open in early 2013.  This facility is a state of the art architecturally beautiful building that will feature exhibits and events focused on the life of Jefferson Davis.   The Library reflects both the stature of the Beauvoir house framed with columns similar to the porch.   Contained in the design are the unusual ratios that reflect Davis’ height, six feet, and the number of states, thirteen.   Through the inside of the building are large galleries and clean lines that represent a modern design.

The Beauvoir room is a large multi-use room that can be used for both meetings and events.  It will feature a state of the art audio visual capacity and flexible seating.  This arrangement will allow the Library to accommodate meetings of up to 200 people in a comfortable atmosphere. 

The gift store will offer a larger collection of both books and items that reflect both the Presidential stature and the accomplishments of Jefferson Davis and the property.  Included in this will be gifts that are attached directly to Beauvoir through materials or the craftsman.  The expanded space will also be able to provide a reading area and activity area for children.

Using clear cypress and stainless steel panels the Library halls, provide an open and bright opening to the large galleries.  Two galleries will hold numerous exhibits and offer flexibility for traveling and rotating opportunities as they are developed.

Also included is a Library that will hold the research materials that were secured from the first building.  In addition, there will be artifacts and donations that have been made to the Library after Katrina to include flags, books, papers  and other artifacts.

This building will be a destination for events focused on Jefferson Davis and the many aspects of his life.  They will include trains, the Capital, the Smithsonian, the War Department, the   US Senate, West Point, and the Aztec War of 1847.  It will truly be a world class facility.

 Photo and text from


This week in the Civil War for November 18, 1862

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, James A. Seddon was appointed war secretary of the Confederacy on Nov. 20, 1862, and would hold the post until January 1865, shortly before the rebellion began to crumble.

Seddon was the longest in the position, a successful lawyer praised for his diplomatic tact and for reining in disparate factions within the secessionist states. Though a strong advocate of secession, he was a member of an 1861 peace convention held in Washington, D.C., in a bid to stave off the gathering war clouds. Wartime shortages in the South of foodstuffs that sparked the deadly 1863 bread riot in Richmond prompted Seddon to call on the Virginia press not to publish accounts of the rioting. But word got out about that and other riots in the South despite his concerns the news would embolden the enemy and weaken the home front morale. Seddon would face an immediate challenge. Days before his appointment, the new commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, sent a small fighting force to take up positions east of Fredericksburg, Va. The move would prompt alarm in Fredericksburg and the evacuation of women and children there.

The Associated Press reported that the Confederates immediately began to strengthen and extend stout earthen works defending Fredericksburg. In coming weeks, tens of thousands of Union soldiers would stream toward that city as Burnside would open a bloody but ultimately failed offensive in mid-December 1862. Confederate Robert E. Lee vowed, informed of the Union troops near Fredericksburg, vowed in press reports to thwart any enemy incursion deeper into Virginia by fighting to the "last extremity."

From ABC News and the Associated Press

Thieves take four pistols from Jefferson Barracks



  • Remington # 48038
  • Colt Army 19272
  • Colt Pocket Navy 197044
Colt Pocket Navy 197044

Link to Video

SOUTH  ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. (KTVI) – Four guns that were part of a history exhibit about the Civil War have been stolen from the site at Jefferson Barracks.  Organizers have gotten police involved, and have even taken to Facebook, in an effort to get them back.

The theft happened sometime prior to last Wednesday.  The exhibit, entitled “The Civil War in the West,” had been going on in the Ordinance Room at Jefferson Barracks since February.  It was set to end November 4th.  

It was last Wednesday, as organizers were packing the various historic items away, when they discovered the pistols were gone.  

On the Jefferson Barracks Historic Site’s Facebook page they said, “We were closing up / putting away the last exhibit, (Civil War in the West), and we noticed 4 pistols missing.”

A little over a mile away, where the new Missouri Civil War Museum is still under construction, experts there are perplexed.  They have no firsthand knowledge of these guns, but they also know there’s very little a thief could do with them.  These are not what you would use to knock over a liquor store.  

“No these are not the most efficient guns to use,” Gary Stevens of the Museum said,” and they’re obviously identifiable.”

Identifiable because of their age, and the fact the serial numbers of three of the four are recorded and even visible in photos of the weapons posted on Facebook.  That would make them nearly impossible to sell, if that’s what a thief had in mind.  

“I don’ t know what they’d be doing with them,” Stevens said.  

Stevens says the pistols could be worth thousands of dollars, depending on their age, how early in production they were made, and if they can be tied to the specific civil war soldiers that used them.  But he says the far greater value is to museums and historical displays.

“It’s a shame.  This is a piece of American history now that’s been found and now it’s gone missing.  Someone took it,” he said.

No one from the “Civil War in the West” exhibit could be reached for direct comment, though a spokesperson for St. Louis County did confirm the circumstances surrounding the thefts.  

According to the Facebook page, the missing weapons and their serial numbers are as follows:

Navy Colt pocket model 1851, serial # 197044
Army Colt model 1860, serial # 19272
Remington, serial # 48038
LaMotte pistol   

Facebook page for Jefferson Barracks Historic Site.

To Kill and to Heal at the Lincoln Museum


To Kill and To Heal:
Weapons and Medicine of the Civil War 

A Civil War Sesquicentennial Exhibition
May 11, 2012 - December 31, 2012 

The deadliest weapon of the Civil War was one that nobody could see, killing two soldiers for every one felled by gunfire. The extraordinary casualties caused by that invisible killer, disease; the conventional weapons used to create slaughter on an unprecedented scale; horrific injuries suffered on the battlefield; and the heroic efforts of medical personnel to treat soldiers on both sides are described in detail in "To Kill and to Heal: Weapons and Medicine of the Civil War," a new exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield. 

Paid admission to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is required to view the exhibit. Admission prices are $12 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, and $6 for children. A special admission rate of $5 is available to those who want to visit only the new exhibit.

This week in the Civil War for November 11, 1862

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Union cavalry skirmish with Confederate fighters near Holly Springs, Miss., vying for control of the town.

Though not a significant fight itself, the daylong skirmishing comes amid the larger Union quest by Ulysses S. Grant to crush Confederate forces and gain control of key Southern rail supply lines and the lower Mississippi River. Grant's intent was to gain full control of the lower Mississippi and thereby split the South in two while taking away the river as a key commercial corridor for the Confederacy. But the bigger fight for the lower Mississippi River would come months later in the spring of 1863 with a focus on Vicksburg, Miss.

At that time, Grant's armies would besiege Vicksburg, trapping Confederate troops with civilians there and forcing its surrender by July 1863 — a military triumph that would help catapult Grant to a position as commander of the Union armies. This week, news reports tell of soldiers in the downtime between large-scale fighting getting into trouble in Tennessee. A news dispatch dated Nov. 16, 1862, reports five murders in Nashville, Tenn., adding "two of the homicides were of saloon keepers, who refused to sell liquor to soldiers." It also said two soldiers were among those killed.

From ABCGO and the Associated Press