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Fredericksburg tolled 3 a.m. on December 11, 1862

Church bells in Fredericksburg tolled 3 a.m. on December 11, 1862, as Union engineers wrestled pontoon boats toward the river's edge. They intended to use the boats to construct two of the six floating bridges that the Army of the Potomac would need to cross the Rappahannock. For two hours the engineers toiled in darkness, trying to complete the spans before Confederate sharpshooters on the opposite bank spotted them.

At 5 a.m. Confederate musket fire burst from cellars and windows across the river. Those engineers not shot down scrambled for cover on the shore. Union cannon atop Stafford Heights responded with an eight-hour-long bombardment that ravaged the city but failed to silence the Confederates. Only by ferrying troops across the river under fire was the Union army able to drive the Confederates from the town and complete the bridges.


Civil War: The Untold Story on PBS

NEW!! Great Divide Pictures Civil War: The Untold Story (Trailer) from Great Divide Pictures onVimeo.

The struggle between North and South was shaped by events in what was then called the West, the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The region saw some of the conflict's bloodiest encounters (Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chickamauga) and featured iconic leaders from both sides. Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) narrates a revealing new documentary that takes a fresh look at the Civil War. 

The series premiers this week on many PBS stations

The Crater

July 30, 1864

Union forces explode a mine in the Confederate defences of Petersburg, Virginia, during the 9-month siege of the city. Federal units charge into the crater created by the blast but the Confederates press counter-attacks by firing down into it, causing severe numbers of casualties. The Union troops were defeated in what General Grant called ”the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war”.

To Kill and to Heal: new exhibit at the Lincoln Library



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 that opens May 11 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.

Continue reading "To Kill and to Heal: new exhibit at the Lincoln Library" »

Union gunboats at Fort Henry, Tennessee

Union Gunboats at Fort Henry Tn, February 2, 1862 from John Fulton on Vimeo.

Local Tennessee historian John Walsh talks about the ironclads and timberclads deployed by the Union at the Battle of Fort Henry, February 2, 1862. The ironclads were designed and built by James B. Eads, who designed the iconic Eads Bridge that spans the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri. 

Forever stamps issued for the sesquicentennial

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  • Stamp_first-bull-run

VIENNA,Va., March 7, 2012 — The first stamps of the four year Civil War sesquicentennial have been unveiled by Post Office officials in Charleston, S.C.  Stamps will be issued annually in commemoration of the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War, which raged from 1861–1865, beginning when the opening shots were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

The site of the new stamps is within earshot of the place where the attack took place, having the honor of being the first stamp. Its companion stamp shows the fighting at the Battle of First Manassas or Bull Run as it was called in the North. The accompanying description of the battle fails to state that the Southern troops won the battle, saying only that while the Northern Army had hoped to “crush the rebels,” instead they witnessed “fierce resistance from Southern troops and a preview of the long war to come.” Translation: the South won.

The stamps will be issued on a two-sided sheet, six of each design on the front, and a description of what they portray on the reverse. It is anticipated that a large number of the stamps will not be used for postage, but will become collectors’ items.

Read more at the Washington Times

Civil War: How cannabis delivered victory to the Rebels

Hemp bales, made from the cannabis plant, won the day for the Confederacy in Missouri.

Photo: Battle of the Hemp Bales

Thursday, November 10, 2011 - The Civil War by Martha M. Boltz
From the Washington Times

Vienna, Va, November 10,  2011 — No one was arrested. No one got stoned. But 150 years ago, history shows that hemp saved the day for the Confederate troops when large bales of hemp proved too much for the Yankee forces on September 20, 1861, giving Confederate General Sterling Price a victory in Missouri.

And it all happened pretty much by luck and ingenuity.

Price’s men had come from the Battle of Wilson’s Creek a week or two earlier, and found that invading Yankee forces had seized the small town of Lexington, Missouri, some 30 miles east of Kansas City. The Yankees had taken over the town, including stealing a million dollars from the local bank.

The cache of money was buried on a hill where the Yankee were camped, a well-positioned area impenetrable by the Confederates.

It was frustrating to the Confederate general, who could only observe the men of Col. James A. Mulligan's "Irish Brigade" in their higher ground position, situated around the old Masonic college building.  He had even posted a young soldier in the attic of the building as a sniper, taking aim at Price’s men if they approached. Entrenched as the enemy was, it would be difficult for the Rebel troops to capture the Yankees, even though they outmanned them by 12,000 to 3,000.

Continue reading "Civil War: How cannabis delivered victory to the Rebels" »

The Battle of Perryville

sharrpton Silas

Silas Sharpton was captured during the battle of Perryville

The Battle of Perryville
October 8, 1862

Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s autumn 1862 invasion of Kentucky had reached the outskirts of Louisville and Cincinnati, but he was forced to retreat and regroup. On October 7, the Federal army of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, numbering nearly 55,000, converged on the small crossroads town of Perryville, Kentucky, in three columns. Union forces first skirmished with Rebel cavalry on the Springfield Pike before the fighting became more general, on Peters Hill, as the grayclad infantry arrived. The next day, at dawn, fighting began again around Peters Hill as a Union division advanced up the pike, halting just before the Confederate line. The fighting then stopped for a time. After noon, a Confederate division struck the Union left flank and forced it to fall back.

Read more at the Civil War Trust