Another Eyewitness

There are so many amazing eyewitness stories pertaining to the Civil War. They are one of the reasons I most enjoy the Civil War. They bring  our perception of a by-gone era to new life for us here in the present. They add color and depth to the black and white of text books. These are stories that should never be forgotten. I’m so thankful that someone thought to capture this on video.

Published in: on October 22, 2012 at 7:09 pm  Comments Off on Another Eyewitness  

Changing Figures

Scholars have been saying for that past decade that the death tolls from the Civil War, America’s most destructive war, are actually far higher than previously figured. They are saying that the commonly accepted number of 620,000 deaths should be more like 750,000…how do you think this will effect future Civil War research?

This article,from Emerging Civil War, discusses all this.

Published in: on April 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm  Comments Off on Changing Figures  

“The Conspirator” and A Look At Mary Surratt

This morning I had the chance to watch the new Robert Redford movie “The Conspirator”. It is a chronical of the trial of the Lincoln assassins with a special look at the trial of Mary E. Surratt. It was one of the best movies regarding the Civil War that I have seen in a long time. 

Mary Surratt as seen in the 2011 movie "The Conspirator".

History is full of mysteries. It is also full of the evidence necessary to solve those intricate mysteries. The validity and constitutionality of the Mary Surratt execution is one of those puzzling mysteries. Was she or was she not privy to the plans of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, Lewis Payne, and George Atzerodt? Did she aide them in more ways than whiskey and “shooting irons”? That is something that only those present can know for sure, but we can take a look at what we know and make our own deductions from there. So lets take a look at what we know of her life previous to the assasination.

Mary Surratt was born in Waterloo Maryland in 1823. Her family was strongly Catholic. Mary went to female Catholic seminary (Catholicism was looked down upon by many in America at that time, but that is for a different post). In 1853 mary married John Surratt. They had three children: Isaac, Anna, and John jr.

In 1853 John sr. and Mary bought 287 acres of land in Prince George County Maryland. John built a post office and a tavern and called the new town Surrattsville. In 1862 John sr. died in 1862.  For a time Mary ran the tavern after John Sr.’s death. Mary, in 1864 with Anna, moved to the now infamous boarding house that she owned on 541 High Street Washington DC.

Could her background have led her to conspire with Booth? What do you think?


Published in: on March 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm  Comments (2)  

Colorized Civil War Photographs

The Alexander Gardener photo of "The Harvest of Death" at Gettysburg....copyright Mark Maritato

Whilst scanning over the blogs I read daily I perchanced upon The Blood Of My Kinsmen blog and found these “beauties”. I found three pictures from the Civil War that have been colorized. These pictures totally blew my mind. When I look at the black and white photographs I get a sense of the fact that something monumentous happend here, something important that I must strive to learn about, to know about. It feels as though the event is distant. I am struck with a sense of awe while looking at the black and white prints because I amlooking at history right in front of my eyes. The way the foks at home viewed the pictures…When I look at the colorized versions of the pictures I feel as if I am there. I understand more fully the weight of the situation. It brings to life the death, the carnage, and the suffering that really characterized the Civil War. It helps

Also taken at Gettysburg by Alexander Gardener.

me understand the fact that the upwards of 620,000 men killed are more than just names and numbers on a page. They were real people, fighting for a real cause, with real guns and cannons. Death was real, suffering was real. These pictures make it REAL for me….Candidly when I look at these pictures at first glance I want to hurl because of the gruesomeness of it. Then, I want to take a second glance because of how amazingly colorful and real it makes it. Finally, I find myself staring at the picture trying to look at every detail I possibly can, realizing more deeply the fact that the war was indeed fought in color….these pictures just blow me away.

The third, and final colorized photo. Taken at Gettysburg.





Published in: on February 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm  Comments Off on Colorized Civil War Photographs  

Summing Up The War

I read a great article over at Emerging Civil War about Lincoln and it inspired me to say this: Lincoln, in his address to congress in 1862 said what pretty much sums up the entire war and why it was fought.

Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We—even we herehold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the freehonorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.

Published in: on January 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Another Perspective On The Civil War

A dead soldier in the trenches at Petersburg. Not just a statistic.

I am a Civil War buff to the highest degree possible. I study, read about, visit places pertaining to, and collect artifacts from the civil war. I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people like me in this grande nation. But as history buffs, historians, teachers, and students do we really know what the war was like? Can we feel the same emotion felt by the “characters” in the heat of battle or in the warmth of the campfire?  Do the deaths of 620,000 men hold the proper signifcance for us? One of the most important ways, I believe, to really understand the war is to study the deaths caused by it as more than just numbers or statistics.

 I am currently reading the book This Republic of Suffering  written by Drew Gilpin Faust. It is an in depth look at death in the American Civil War. It presents the Civil War in a new light. It is ,at times, a rather gruesome yet unavoidable and unforgetable look into death, killing, burial, and the aftermath of battles and the war itself. It produces a glance at an issue that is skirted around by many books and authors because of the sheer gore and graphicness involved.

I personally believe this is an issue that should not be “skipped over” because death and the fear of it was felt so keenly by all who participated in the Civil War and even by those citizens who lost a son, brother, husband, or father. To get a grasp on what was really felt,  to get a grasp of some of the true emotions of the Civil War, one must study death.

It is hard to really understand the loss felt by so many when we are not there to

Dead soldiers near McPherson's woods, Gettysburg PA

 witness it. A Connecticut chaplain put it very well when he said, “To say that two thousand or twenty thousand men are killed in a great battle or that a thousand of the dead are buried in one great trench ,produces only a vague impression on the mind at the fullest. There is to much in this to be personal to you. But to know one man who is shot down by your side, and to aid in burying him, while his comrades stand with you above his open grave is a more real matter to you than the larger piece of astounding information.” This illustrates the saying by Joseph Stalin ( I loath to quote such an evil man) “a single death is a tradegy; a million deaths is a statistic”. I think that if we, as students of the Civil War, want to really understand it we need to look at the grisly, terrible side of the war. We ought to look at more than just the overview of the war, more than the statistics. The personal stories and sadly, more often than not, the deaths of the individual soldiers and civilians in the war.

Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm  Comments (1)  

The 180 Documentary

This is the time of year when we celebrate the birth of the most important child ever to have been born. Jesus, my savior and your’s, was born in Bethleham, Israel.  Isaiah 9:6 says “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

While Jesus was the most important baby ever, all I mean ALL other babies are important. To kill or abort one is just as awful as killing a fully grown person. This documentary talks about the value of life, abortion, and other important issues.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm  Comments Off on The 180 Documentary  

Thoughts On the Gettysburg Address

In lieu of the fact that last week was the 148th anniversary of Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address I thought I would post the text of that famous speech which enobled the Civil War and put it on a higher plane in the hearts and minds of the American people. Lincoln, in ten sentences, gave his views on what the war was all about and the role of the American people in the war. He was able to say more in two minutes then the honorable Edward Everett was able to say in over two hours. Lincoln really didn’t think that this speech would make a mark. He thought it was a flop after he gave it, but it has gone on to be one of the most well known and beloved speeches in American history. Senator Charles Sumner, in Lincoln’s eulogy said the Gettysburg Address was a “Monumental act, the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here” Sumner continued “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.”

 Four fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.


But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

(Text of the speech from

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm  Comments (1)  

A Battlefield Description

The second day of the battle of Gettysburg contained intense fighting. The 20th Maine was right in the heat of the forefront of the fighting. This is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlains’s description of the fighting on Little Round Top. “”At times I saw around me more of the enemy than my own men; gaps opening, swallowing, closing again with sharp convulsive energy; squads of stalwart men who had cut their way through us, disappearing as if translated. All around, strange, mingled roar- shouts of defiance, rally, and desperation; and underneath, murmured entreaty and stifled moans; gasping prayers, snatches of sabbath song, whispers of loved names; everywhere men torn and broken, staggering, creeping, quivering on the earth, and dead faces with strangely fixed eyes staring stark into the sky. Things which cannot be told- nor dreamed.”

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 8:10 am  Comments (1)  

An Eyewitness Look At Slavery

There are many, many great books in the world about slavery. How it effected the

Three generations of a slave family in North Carolina

economy, the effect it had on the family, and how it tore our nation apart. These are great books that tell incredible and very sad stories. The best look you could ever get though on slavery comes from those who experienced it themselves. The best view on any issue comes from those who were there, those who experienced it.

Slavery was hard in every aspect and every possible way for those held under its sway. There was always a lack of food, clothing, and the normal human comforts that you and I take for granted.

The lack of food was felt by all. Many times slaves would go without a meal and would have to work all day.Mary Ella Grandberry, a slave who labored in Alabama said that “Plenty of times us had to go withouten breakfest, ’cause we didn’t get up in time to get it before the man done come to get us on de way to de field. Us worked until dinner time just de same before we got anything to eat.” Slaves where “property” and the plantation owners knew that. Slaves were valuable and it would often cost up to $1,200.oo for a male slave. Even the most cruel of masters would not completely starve his “property”  The average master did not over-feed any of his slaves by any means though. According to Robert Glenn, a slave in North Carolina “The food was generally common hog meat and corn bread most all the time.”  One slavewoman named Sarah Gudger remembered what she ate as “jus’ a li’l corn bread and a li’l ‘lasses [molasses]. Lord, you can’t know what a time I had.” A woman named Mary Reynolds, who was a small girl during her slavery years, found a way to add more sustinance to her meager diet. She said that “when I could  steal a ‘tater, I used to slip it into the ashes, and when I’d run to the fire I would take it out and eat it on the sly.” “Taters roasted in the ashes was the best tastin’ eatin’ I ever had.” She said.

  Sometimes the master would allow slaves to grow and tend a small garden plot. Mary Reynolds also commented on this saying “Sometimes master let the niggers have a li’l patch. They’d raise ‘taters or goobers. They liked to have them to help fill out the victuals. The niggers had to work the patches at night and dig the ‘taters and goobers at night. Then if they wanted to sell any in town they’d have to get a pass to go. They had to go at night, ’cause they couldn’t ever spare a hand from the fields.”

Another thing that slaves were deprived of is adequate housing.  The master’s and plantation owners around the south generally gave their slaves the same kind of one

A common Civil War era slave cabin.

roomed cabin. Sometimes slave families would have up to 8 children thus making it very difficult to live in a one roomed cabin. John Finnely described the cabin he lived in, “Us have de cabins of logs with one room and one door and one window hole, and bunks for sleepin’.” Fannie Moore described her slave cabin also, “De quarters just long row of cabins daubed with dirt. Everyone in de family live in one big room. In one end was a big fireplace. Dis had to head de cabin and do de cookin’ too.” Living quarters were cramped and often inadequate.

Slavery was an all around hard time for many, many people. These two areas are not the only things that made slavery intollerable to an entire race of men. In part 2 of this post I will discuss the mental anguish caused by the thoughtless seperation of slave families and the physical torture inflicted on slaves by their masters and overseers.

Published in: on August 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm  Comments (2)