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America's Civil War

America's Civil War

May 2021
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Published since 1987, America’s Civil War strives to deliver to our readers the best articles on the most formative and tumultuous period of American history — the Civil War. Noted authors present the many battles, personalities and fascinating stories of the period.

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United States
6 Issues

in this issue

3 min.
elliott map disunion

David Welker seems to put much more stock in Simon Elliott’s 1864 Antietam map than I do [“Antietam’s Deadly Harvest,” January 2021]. We do not know if Elliott actually visited the battlefield, but assume he did because he published the map. Why did he publish it? We don’t know. Maybe as a novelty, or as an economic venture? Why is the New York Public Library copy the only one known to exist? How widely was the map circulated in 1864? We don’t know. Was his burial count accurate? We don’t know. Many of those buried on the field may have been severely wounded who died days after the battle, so were they “killed” or “wounded” as far as reported statistics go? Was it a “propaganda” effort to spur Union morale…

2 min.
out of the shadows

A “Road to Freedom” tour highlighting 88 Virginia sites involving the experiences of African Americans during the Civil War is now available as a map guide or app for web, Android, or iOS devices. Prepared by Civil War Trails and the American Battlefield Trust—with ongoing collaboration from the African American Historical Preservation Foundation—the program informs participants about battlefields, schools, churches, cemeteries, and highway markers, as well as birthplaces of notable figures, throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sites range from the city centers of Alexandria and Richmond to those in more remote locations, such as the High Bridge near Farmville, where some 30 free men of color were conscripted to work on its fortifications for the Confederacy, and Camp Davis, a Confederate mustering ground in Lynchburg that became a center for…

2 min.
by the boots

Cavalrymen in both armies generally carried a standard assortment of arms while fighting, including a carbine or sometimes a shotgun, a revolver in a belt holster, and a saber. While it was not regulation issue, some troopers also wielded boot pistols, such as the one above. As it was difficult for mounted troopers to reload their guns while in action, the boot pistol was valuable as a last resort. Unlike rugged revolvers capable of firing up to six shots, the pistol’s less-bulky, single-shot design fit easily in a cavalryman’s boot and could be removed with little effort. Boot pistol manufacturers varied greatly. The example shown at top, with an 8-inch barrel, was crafted by Allen & Wheelock. (The manufacturer of the model the unidentified Union officer dons left is unfortunately…

5 min.
path of horror

The above photo of a Shepherdstown, W.Va., landmark was taken during the war from the Maryland side of the Potomac River. As told in “From the Crossroads” on P.18, it was the view two Union officers—Captain Francis P. Donaldson and Lieutenant Lemuel L. Crocker—beheld the morning of September 20, 1862, as they awaited orders to cross the river to determine what direction Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had retreated after the Battle of Antietam. The wooden slats that are visible in shallow water were part of a mill dam that was built in 1829 just after construction began on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The dam, which allowed water to be diverted to the mill, was also used to transport to Maryland cement that was made from quarried limestone…

5 min.
country boys

THE 3RD ARKANSAS INFANTRY arrived in western Virginia truly ducks out of water. It was the only regiment from Arkansas in the entire Eastern Theater, and the men’s coarse appearance made their Virginia comrades view them as “ignorant country boys.” While the regiment would go on to greater fame as part of John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, it spent much of its first year of service in the foreboding mountains of western Virginia, taking part in fighting at Greenbrier and Camp Allegheny. Sergeant Major Frederick Lawrence of the 3rd Arkansas penned the following letter describing the October 3, 1861, Battle of Greenbrier River. A Federal force under Brig. Gen. Joseph Reynolds marched from Cheat Mountain intending to break up the Confederate force stationed at Camp…

6 min.
marketing lincoln

ONE OF THE RARE THINGS upon which the country’s liberal and conservative factions can agree in these roiling times is the vision of Abraham Lincoln as America’s ideal president. Republicans claim him as their scion—although, granted, the Republican Party is a much different animal today than it was in the 1860s—while the Democrats claim kinship over his more liberal precepts and actions. It is highly unlikely that we would hold our 16th president in such general and unquestioned reverence were it not for the lifelong efforts of two young men who knew Lincoln intimately, and attended to him daily. John Nicolay and John Hay served throughout Lincoln’s tragically curtailed presidency as his personal secretaries. Both men were highly intelligent and remarkably capable, fiercely devoted to and protective of their boss. Living…