Civil War Talks on the Life of Jacob Cox, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Franklin, and the War in West Virginia

Statuary Hall Changes Include Union and Confederate Soldiers

In my new book, “The Civil War in Statuary Hall,” I discuss the 50 people related to the Civil War who have been honored by having statues of them placed in the U.S. Capitol. However, as we know, since 2003 there have been suggestions/demands for changes, especially regarding the Confederates.

Curiously, the first change, in 2003, was to remove a Union soldier! That was George Washington Glick of Kansas, replaced by President Eisenhower. The second was of Jabez Curry of Alabama, who had a minimal career in the Confederate army, but was a staunch secessionist. His statue was replaced in 2009 by one of Helen Keller.

More Confederates will likely follow the example of Robert E. Lee, whose statue was removed a few weeks ago. Legislatures in several former Confederate states have committed to making changes. At the same time, Union General Phil Kearny of New Jersey too is due to be replaced.

The book is available at:

Here are the “before and after” pictures of the statues of Eisenhower, Glick, Curry, and Keller:

See the source image


Recent years have seen a “new Civil War,” a debate over who should be honored in Statuary Hall in the United States Congress.  This book, just published, is the first ever to review, in brief, the history of the relationship between Statuary Hall and both Civil Wars, the one which was fought in the 19th century and the one ongoing now.

Statuary Hall was created via legislation in 1864, during the war, and the “Statue of Freedom” was placed atop the dome in 1863. Since then each state has emplaced two statues of honorees, and, in some cases, has replaced them. The removal of Virginia’s Robert E. Lee statue a few days ago was a key moment in the current “new Civil War” over who should be honored. Statues of Jefferson Davis, Edmund Kirby Smith, and Wade Hampton, among other Confederates, remain in place, but the controversy is heating up.

The book has a short summary of the history and current controversies, but the main focus is, as part of my series, “Civil War Personalities, 50 At a Time,” on short biographies, complete with photos of their statues, of 50 honorees related to the Civil War, including some which have been replaced. The book can be purchased at:

Statuary Hall in Congress and the Civil War: My Upcoming Book and Ongoing Changes

On December 16 Virginia announced that a special advisory group had recommended that the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Congress’s Statuary Hall be replaced by one of Barbara Rose Johns, a black student who led a protest in 1951 against segregated schools.

This step is the latest in a series begun in several states earlier this millennium to update their representation in the Capitol building. The very first change took place in 2003 when Kansas replaced George Washington Glick, a former Governor who had fought in the Civil War for the Union (not the Confederacy), with a statue of former President Eisenhower.

The history of Statuary Hall and the Civil War are inextricably intertwined. The legislation authorizing each state to give Congress two statues of its honorees was passed in 1864 in the midst of the war. Further, the “Statue of Freedom” atop the Capitol Dome was emplaced there just a year earlier, in 1863. The first statue, of Nathanial Greene of Rhode Island, was emplaced in 1870, and by 1971 each state had emplaced at least one.

Of the statues currently in Statuary Hall and elsewhere in the Capitol officially recognized as state “representatives,” roughly half have a connection to the Civil War.

It was with the above in mind that I decided to write a book about Statuary Hall and its relationship with the Civil War. Entitled The Civil War and Congress’s Statuary Hall, the book will, I hope, be published by the end of this year on as the next in my series, “Civil War Personalities: 5o At A Time.” It contains a brief history of the creation and evolution of Statuary Hall and biographical sketches of 49 honorees and one allegorical figure, the “Statue of Freedom” herself, who were involved in the Civil War era. It also discusses which statues have been replaced, and by whom, and which statues, like Lee’s, are likely to be replaced.

Below is the likely cover page of the book, which pictures nine of the honorees. They are, from top left:

Francis Pierpont, West Virginia

Washakie, Wyoming

General Philip Kearny, New Jersey (due to be replaced)

James A. Garfield, Ohio

Statue of Freedom

Frederick Douglass, District of Columbia

Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Mississippi

Sarah Winnemucca, Nevada

General Robert E. Lee, Virginia


“CIVIL WAR UNSUNG HEROES” — New book now available

“Arma Virumque Cano.” With those words the epic poet Virgil begins The Aeneid as he sings of the achievements of his hero, Aeneas.

The Civil War too had its heroes, of whom many have sung, from Lincoln and Grant to Sherman and Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman. But behind the scenes there were many more heroes who were unsung, who remained in the background and only emerged much much later in the writing of history. Montgomery Meigs, the great Quartermaster; George Sharpe, the founder of modern intelligence gathering; and Gustavus Fox, who made the U.S. Navy a formidable force are among those chronicled in my new book, Civil War Unsung Heroes and Other Key Actors “Behind the Scenes.”

The book also discusses those who were not necessarily heroes as such, but who played key roles nevertheless “behind the scenes.” Charles Francis Adams, Sr. , Ambassador to Great Britain, helped assure that nation’s neutrality. On the other side, Stephen Mallory, Secretary of the Navy for the Confederacy, played a weak hand very skillfully.

The book, the latest in my series, “Civil War Personalities, 50 At a Time,” is available now in paperback and e-book format at:

National Museum of the Army Visit

The family and I spent an enjoyable day on Monday Nov. 16 visiting the new National Museum of the Army, which opened officially November 11. The museum is located on the grounds of Fort Belvoir, VA., about 16 miles souith of DC. Access is by timed entry, and for the moment, even though they are keeping the numbers limited, getting tickets is relatively easy:

Given the broad canvas it tries to paint, the museum inevitably makes only a broadbrush approach to several issues. For example, Reconstruction and the military occupation of the Confederacy is given, literally, one paragraph on a descriptive poster. By contrast, recent events, e.g. the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are covered in great detail, probably because they are fresh in people’s minds and there are thousands of artifacts available for display.

Nevertheless, given the limitations, the museum succeeds in giving the visitor an overall understanding of the army and its evolution, traditions, and objectives. The hundreds of images, artifacts, and movies (some contemporary, some new) are a visual feast. As a result, this is a truly modern museum, a multi-media approach which may not satisfy the traditionalist, but will give the broader audience what it is looking for — information and understanding.

The Civil War section is fairly comprehensive, but it lacks many elements which could have made it better. For example, while there is a small display about medicine in the war and its problems, nurses and their important role are not even mentioned. Also, and this is a personal gripe, this section does not note that in fact 98% of the men who fought for the Union were not in the army per se. They were in Winfield Scott’s misguided creation, the “The U.S. Volunteers.” Over time the regulars and volunteers were effectively merged, but senior officers from the regulars always had two separate ranks. On the other hand, the volunteer officers only had one and were always treated as second-class leaders who would never, they knew, be given a field command over a West Pointer.

I highly recommend a visit, which I know you will enjoy. And if you have time, the Marine Museum in Quantico is just about 20 minutes drive further south on I-95.

Below is a picture from the Civil War exhibit on the artillery and one of me in front of the building.

Thanks to Scott Mingus for the Great Gettysburg Tour

I spent much of the day yesterday, November 5, getting a personal guided tour of the many “I didn’t know that” sites of the Gettysburg battlefield and environs from Civil War maven and author, Scott Mingus. Many thanks, Scott!

I had visited Gettysburg several times before, but getting “off the beaten path” under the leadership of this skilled and knowledgeable historian has significantly enhanced my understanding of the whys and wherefores of this epic battle. I even have a (slightly) better appreciation of why Dan Sickles acted as he did when disobeying orders on July 2, 1863!

Scott and I are planning a reverse voyage to Antietam, where I will lead him “off the beaten track.” It will be a major struggle to match yesterday’s great experience, though I hope that at least a few times Scott too will say, “I didn’t know that.”

Here’s a picture of the two historians at the end of the day.


       When the Civil War began, Catholic nuns were operating some 25 hospitals in the United States.  Thus, they were the single largest pool of experienced nurses in the United States at the time.  Of the approximately 4000 women who served as nurses on both sides, an estimated 650 were Catholic nuns.  At first many were met with anti-Catholic prejudice, and supervising nurse Dorothea Dix was particularly negative.  But over time their selfless service gained them their reputation as among the best Civil War nurses.

These women are one of the subjects of my new book, “Civil War Women: Underestimated and Indispensable,” and the nursing nuns certainly fit into that definition. Below is an excerpt from the book, about one nun, Sister Anthony O’Connell, who is pictured on the front cover of the book, bottom left. The book is available at:

       “Sister Anthony was among the most active and famous nun/nurses.  She was in charge of “St. John’s Hostel for Invalids” in Cincinnati when she and many other nuns went to help the Union trainees outside that city in 1861.  Later she served at the Battle of Shiloh, where her take-charge attitude and forceful commitment to aid the men reportedly earned her the title which was given to  many Civil War nurses, “Angel of the Battlefield.” She and her nuns worked at many others battles and also on hospital ships.  According to one source, members of the Grand Army of the Republic would strew flowers on Sister Anthony’s grave every Memorial Day. “


One of the great advantages for the Confederacy was that Jefferson Davis’s government did not allow public opposition.  Popular unity behind the war effort was firmly enforced, and  those speaking out against the war and secession were firmly dealt with.  Lincoln wasn’t as fortunate. Many in the North, and especially in the Democratic party, led by men such as Clement Vallandigham, loudly and legally opposed every policy he implemented.  For the most part they were not punished for expressing their views, though Vallandigham was an exception.

Following is an excerpt from my book, “Civil War Rogues, Rascals, and Rapscallions” about this King of the Copperheads. Vallandigham’s photo is on the center right, and the book is available at:

“Vallandigham was an Ohio lawyer and newspaper editor before being elected to the House of Representatives in the late 1850’s.  There he became a strong advocate of states rights, including the right of secession.  In 1859 he had an “interview” with John Brown after the latter’s raid of Harpers Ferry.  He clearly hoped to find out who in Ohio had aided the raid but did not succeed.  Instead, according to his biographer, ‘Perhaps he sensed in Brown a spirit akin to his own – that of the uncompromising idealist who follows his chosen course regardless of the consequences.’

“In the early years of the war, Vallandigham railed against Lincoln and the war to little avail.  In May 1863, however, he was arrested by order of commanding General Ambrose Burnside after giving an anti-Union speech.  He was convicted, controversially, in a military court, and Lincoln had him banished to the Confederacy.  He made his way to Canada, from which he campaigned for Governor of Ohio in the election of 1863.  He lost overwhelmingly.   While in Canada he took additional steps to oppose the Union.  He became the leader of the pro-Confederate group “Sons of Liberty” and consorted with Jacob Thompson, the Confederates’ Canada-based leader of their “dirty war” efforts.

“Vallandigham came back to the U.S. in 1864 and was not re-arrested.  He used his still-considerable influence to write a “Peace Plank” in the 1864 Democratic Party platform, which likely helped in Lincoln’s re-election.  After the war he tried and failed to gain re-election to the House and Senate and was drifting into obscurity when he accidentally killed himself in 1871.”


Varina Davis and the Confederacy

Both Varina Davis and Mary Todd Lincoln had connections North and South.  Lincoln’s were her Kentucky relatives, some of whom fought for the Confederacy.  Davis’s were her New Jersey forebears and her education in Philadelphia.  Davis reportedly referred to herself as a “half-breed” because of those connections; and her olive complexion led some Southerners to refer to her as a “mulatto” during her troubled days as first lady of the Confederacy.  Her picture is on the front cover (bottom center) of my book, “Civil War Women: Underestimated and Indispensable,” and the following is an excerpt from the article about her. The book is available at:

“Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Varina was only 17 when she was first courted by the much older Jefferson Davis.  They had a lengthy, but difficult marriage, partly because she was an intelligent and strong woman, while he insisted on making all decisions for the family.  Her happiest years were when they lived in Washington when Davis was a Senator and Secretary of War.  During that time she began to express controversial views, maintaining that slaves were human beings and that everyone was, in some way, a “half-breed.”  According to diarist Mary Chesnut, in 1860 Varina said that she feared Lincoln’s election would lead to secession, “and the whole thing is bound to be a failure.”  But she kept these views mostly to herself because, her biographer wrote, “she found it hard to face the conclusions that flowed logically from her observations.”

“During the Civil War Varina was a dutiful supporter of  her husband, though Southern critics complained that she was not an enthusiastic advocate of the Confederacy.  She accompanied her husband when he was captured after they had fled from Richmond. She advocated persistently and successfully for his release from Union imprisonment.  Afterward, when Davis was frequently out of work, she endured years of turmoil, scandal, and financial trouble, and she adapted, as always.  When Jefferson Davis died, Varina edited and published his memoirs.  She moved to New York where she became an active newspaper columnist for the “New York World,” as well as friends with Julia Dent Grant.  Julia invited her to the dedication of Grant’s tomb in New York, and the two women knelt together in prayer, a symbol of reconciliation.”