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America's Civil War

America's Civil War July 2020

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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.
all american perspective

The article by Megan Kate Nelson, “No Mere Sideshow,” in the March 2020 issue was a superb piece. Her writing about the Southwest theater of operations ought to be regarded as some of the best produced. Notwithstanding, the article omitted pertinent aspects. In terms of military and political significance, no other theater was as key to victory for either side as the East. In the era of Total War in Western Society (1850-1945), the ability to utterly destroy the ability of one side to successfully resist the other determined the military victor, unlike in the preceding era of Classical War (1700-1850), whereby the taking and occupation of land denoted the winner. While contemporary historians have correctly allotted more importance to other theaters, the war could and would be decided in the…

5 min.
more on capital protection

I am a long-time subscriber to America’s Civil War and enjoy the articles. I am always impressed by the quality of the research in your articles. In the January 2020 issue, I was particularly fascinated by the article “Capital Protection” by Rick Barram. It was a good overview of a segment of the war that is usually overlooked. It is nice to see someone pay attention to the efforts of the U.S. Navy in the early years of the war Mr. Barram might be interested to know that in spite of General George McClellan’s disinterest in attacking Confederate river fortifications, the local commanders were more aggressive. On November 9, 1861, Charles Graham, commander of the 74th New York (the 5th Regiment of the Excelsior Brigade) took 400 men from his regiment…

7 min.
a mother’s sacrifice

PORT CARBON LIES AT THE heart of eastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, on the banks of the Schuylkill River just east of Pottsville. First settled in 1826, it was a prosperous town of nearly 2,000 by the outbreak of the Civil War. Though primarily a coal town, it had a good number of sawmills and ironworks and was fed not only by the river but also rail lines and a canal. Before the war, plentiful work opportunities attracted hundreds of Western European immigrants to the area, and from 1861 to 1865 more than 500 Port Carbon residents—both foreign- and native-born—served in the Union Army. In the summer of 1891, the Port Carbon Monumental Association was formed to raise money and determine the location for a memorial to those who served and…

5 min.

WHEN I BEGAN AT Gettysburg National Military Park in the summer of 1979, it was accepted by the rangers, guides, and historians that the July 3 Confederate attack known officially as Longstreet’s Assault but more popularly as Pickett’s Charge was intended to strike the Union line in the area marked by the now-famous Copse of Trees. These were easily identified, as the trees had been enclosed with an iron fence in the 1880s to keep souvenir hunters out, and the adjacent “High Water Mark” monument identified the trees as the landmark toward which the attack was directed. During my decades working at Gettysburg, however, two arguments challenging this accepted point began to gain some traction: the first that Ziegler’s Grove—a woodlot about 500 yards north of the copse—was General Robert E.…

5 min.
shadow game

IN EARLY FEBRUARY 1864, Union troops overran a Confederate signal station on Johns Island in Charleston Harbor, capturing the enemy’s record of military messages—Union as well as Confederate. That their code system apparently had been compromised by the Rebels months earlier was unsettling news for the Federals. The Union high command immediately instituted a drastic change in its own coding procedures and ordered that any newly captured Confederate codes be deciphered without delay. Two Union officers traveled to Fort Strong for that purpose, with no success. Then in June 1864, Sergeant John Dorrance Colvin of the U.S. Signal Corps arrived at the fort to try his hand at breaking the codes. Colvin had been trained by the Signal Corps in the discipline of sending and deciphering coded communications. Evidently gifted with…

18 min.
legends on horseback

John Singleton Mosby will always be regarded as one of the Civil War’s most famous—perhaps infamous—figures, and though he doesn’t quite reside in the war’s pantheon alongside the likes of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant, he assuredly stands as an equal to military history’s “unconventional warfare” legends such as Robert Rogers, Francis Marion, T.E. Lawrence, Orde Wingate, David Stirling, and Aaron Bank. ¶ Mosby, who, it must be noted, was not given his famous sobriquet “The Gray Ghost” until well after the war, was an intelligent, tough, audacious, and innovative leader. He did not invent the concept or techniques of guerrilla warfare, but during the Civil War, he certainly refined and executed them with impressive efficiency and effectiveness. ¶ Mosby’s Partisan Ranger career began in late…