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

Play Ball! (?) in the Election of 1860

While reading accounts about Major League baseball returning soon, I happened upon a political cartoon about the 1860 election depicting the four candidates playing a variety of baseball.  Lincoln is the one with his foot on home plate, and he is saying to the others, “Gentlemen, if any of you should ever take a hand in another match at this game, remember that you must have ‘a good bat’ and strike ‘a fair ball’ to make a ‘clean score’ & a ‘home run.'”  John Bell complains about a ‘foul ball;” Stephen Douglas says he had hoped a fusion ticket would be a “short stop” to Lincoln’s career; and John Breckinridge says that it appears that the other candidates are “skunk’d.”  The players’ bats and belts have political labels on them — Lincoln’s “bat” is actually a wooden rail labeled “Equal Rights and Free Territory.”

After viewing this element of the “history of baseball,” I checked for information about the formerly-credited creator of baseball, General Abner Doubleday.  As we now know, Doubleday never knew, during his lifetime, that he had invented baseball, probably because he didn’t.  I did find interesting his carte de visite photo, below, on which either he or someone he trusted wrote the following tribute and bellicose message, “Doubleday, who fired the the first Gun, with the determination, that Traitors to the Stars & Stripes – must & shall be put down, trodden, if need be into dust.”

While we wait for real baseball to resume, these images will have to suffice. Enjoy!


First Northern Monument in the South!

“The Battle of Aldie” is not a major event in any Civil War list.  But the monument there to the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, erected in 1888, was the first commemorating the action of Union forces constructed south of the Mason-Dixon line after the Civil War.

We visited the small site in Aldie, Virginia (about 20 miles from Manassas) a few days ago during one of our “escape the pandemic, go for a drive in the country” escapades.  It seems that Confederate cavalry commander General JEB Stuart and his  men were shielding Lee’s movement north toward Pennsylvania on June 17, 1863.  They were spotted by forces commanded Judson “Kill Cavalry” Kilpatrick, and several hours of fighting ensued.

The 1st Massachusetts suffered significant casualties, and survivors and families gained agreement from the town to erect a small monument there.  An explanatory placard is nearby.   Below are images of the placard and the monument.


Civil War Musings and Reflections: New Book Published


My book, Civil War Musings and Reflections: Blogging about the “American Iliad,”   is now available for pre-order as an e-book at my author’s page, along with my other books.  The paperback version should be available in a few days.

Utilizing our enforced stay-at-home existence, I organized in the book many of my blogs about the war into a variety of themes.  But the first item, about the issue of what to do about Confederate monuments, sets the overall theme.  It is an appeal for the Civil War community to find common ground.  It uses as an example the people of Franklin, Tennessee, who , while not removing the statue of a Confederate soldier on their public square, agreed on placing a variety of plaques there which explain and “contextualize” (the new term for such actions) what happened there during the war.

Other items range from discussing strategy and tactics to the role of pets for the Civil War soldier.  All of them are designed to make the reader muse and reflect, just as I have.  Enjoy!


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“Contextualizing” Confederate Civil War Monuments — the Upcoming Challenge

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed two pieces of legislation this past weekend which will inevitably precipitate even more controversy over what to do with Confederate monuments.  One law gives authorities the power to decide to “remove, relocate, or contextualize” those monuments.  Another creates a commission to recommend a replacement for Robert E. Lee’s statue in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building.   The laws will reportedly go into effect on July 1.

Given the events of recent days, especially in Charlottesville, Virginia, I fear that those on the extremes of this issue will dominate the debate and the reaction to these new laws, with the potential for violence.  That’s why I very much hope the Civil war community will very strongly support the option of “contextualization.”  I fully realize that compromise and conciliation have not always fared well in this particular debate, but that doesn’t make it any less right or necessary.

I recently blogged here about the actions of the community in Franklin, Tennessee to contextualize the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864 as a worthwhile example to follow.   After many months of discussion and debate, the city placed several descriptive signs around the public square, which until recently had only seen a statue of a Confederate soldier.  The new signs describe, among other things, the formation of the U.S. Colored Troops and Reconstruction.  As a result, the context of the battle in the Franklin public square is more balanced and broad-based; no monuments were removed or replaced; and there was no violence because reasonable men and women found common ground.

Here are some images of the public square and two of the new signs.



Sour kraut, Onions, and Potatoes: An Easter Feast of 1864

In April 1864, as Jacob Cox and the Army of the Ohio finalized preparations for the “Atlanta Campaign” in eastern Tennessee, he and his staff had an Easter feast which, to them, was far better than their usual fare.  Maybe we can try it out tomorrow?

Cox described the feast he and his staff enjoyed in a letter to his wife on April 16, 1864:

Yesterday we were gladdened by the arrival of an agent of the Sanitary Commission who brought us some onions, potatoes, & sour kraut ‑ & never were vegetables more wanted or better appreciated.  A good deal of scurvy has been manifested in the incipient stages among our men, & all of us were feeling the need of some change of diet.   For sometime we have had nothing but bacon & flour with occasionally a little rice or white beans.  And as we cannot get flour made into anything but heavy biscuit which I abominate, you may be sure I have not had much luxury in victuals at any rate.

Last night however, we had a regular feast, good boiled potatoes, sliced onions raw, & smoking sour kraut made our stomachs glad. 

Here is an image of what that table might have looked like (minus, of course, the wine, since Cox was an avid teetotaler):


Cox’s Staff Picture

I recently became aware of a picture of General Jacob D. Cox and his staff, apparently from early 1863.  The picture is from a framed photo and appeared on an internet search.

It was taken at an odd time for Cox.  He was then stationed in Marietta, Ohio, in winter quarters, just after having re-taken West Virginia for the Union (just before it was to become a new state in 1863).  He had earned a second star as a Major General after sterling service in the Maryland campaign, and he was waiting to hear about returning to the main arenas of the war.  But after his two main supporters, McClellan and Burnside, were fired, his chances for a new assignment diminished.  Then in March 1863 he lost his second star when his name was removed from the Senate list.

This too makes the picture interesting because he is pictured with the two stars of a Major General.    The picture also contains the first photo I have found of his brother, Theodore, who was one of his aides.  (He is at the bottom left as you look at the picture).

All in all, a good find.  Oh, and thanks to internet friend Justin Mays for helping me to identify the source of the photo and the men in it.


A True Civil War Treasury

Recently, I asked on Facebook about the salaries earned by Civil War soldiers, and those who responded pointed to this source: Albert A. Nofi’s book, A Civil War Treasury, Being a Miscellany of Arms & artillery, Facts & Figures, Legends & Lore, Muses & Minstrels, Personalities & People.  

That’s quite a title, but it is a deliberate attempt to mirror the kind of 19th century books which contained an endless variety of facts and information.   It really is a wonderful miscellany, and I have found countless gems of information about innumerable topics.  For example, what the men ate, what is a vivandiere, how  many immigrants served on each side and where they were from, etc. etc.

Originally published in 1992, it is available on used for very little.  But its value is very great — highly recommended.


Cancellations and Opportunities: New Books Forthcoming

Not surprisingly, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the four talks I had scheduled for Ohio later this month, in Peninsula, Oberlin, Tiffin, and Zanesville, have been cancelled.  All of them are being re-scheduled for April 2021.  For those not familiar with the supply and demand of Civil War speakers, a year’s delay might seem surprising.  But in fact it is the norm for speakers to be scheduled many months in advance.  For example, I am looking forward to three talks in northern Tennessee scheduled for September 2021!

The “stay at home” directive/suggestion has given me time to work on book projects, as follows:

First, I have compiled many of my blogs on this site into a book tentatively titled:         Civil War Musings and Reflections…Blogging about the “American Iliad.”  Most of my blogs are designed to be thought-provoking, and that is why I have “mused” about them.  My objective is for the reader also to do some thinking and musing about the information and opinions in these items.   Tentative cover below.

Second, I am working on a volume annotating General Jacob Cox’s letters to his wife during the Civil War.  This would be a companion piece to my biography of Cox, Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era, (Ohio University Press, 2014).  It is a fascinating collection of over 200 letters through which we can trace the evolution of a military neophyte into a capable soldier to whom General William T. Sherman offered a brigadier generalship in the regular army after the war.  More on this later.

For now, keep safe.

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Statuary Hall: Replacing Confederate and Union Military Men?

The ongoing debate about statues and memorials of the Civil War era, especially of Confederates, has recently been focused on Statuary Hall.  That area within the U.S. Capitol building is the home of, among other things, two statues from each state and the District of Columbia.  Each state is permitted to choose its subjects, and there have been some changes over time.  Recent years have seen growing interest in replacing some of the statues of Confederate leaders, and even one of the Union generals is on the verge of being removed.

There are more Confederate military men than Union in this particular group.  On the Confederate side are: Robert E. Lee (Virginia); Edmund Kirby Smith (Florida); Joe Wheeler (Alabama); James Z. George (Mississippi);  Zebulon Vance (North Carolina); and Wade Hampton (South Carolina).  Some would say Jefferson Davis (Mississippi) belongs in this group as commander in chief of the Confederacy.

On the Union side are : Lew Wallace (Indiana); James A. Garfield (Ohio); and Philip Kearny (New Jersey).

This is the latest status about replacements of these men :

  1. Helen Keller replaced Jabez Curry, yet another Confederate military man, as one of Alabama’s two  representatives in 2009.
  2. Mary McLeod Bethune is scheduled to replace Smith as one of Florida’s representatives.
  3. Alice Paul has been proposed by the New Jersey legislature to replace Kearny.

(Johnny Cash is scheduled to replace Uriah Milton Rose as one of Arkansas’s representatives, but Rose held no military position during the war, though he was an avowed Confederate supporter;

Billy Graham is being considered to replace Charles Aycock of North Carolina, who was born in 1859, but as Governor (1901-5) supported legislation ending black suffrage.)

The procedures for replacing a statue can be found at the link below.  I think we can count on more efforts to make changes and, inevitably,  more controversy in the days ahead.

Click to access statue_replacement_guidelines_2014.pdf

Below are images of the statues of Lee, Davis, Garfield, and Kearny

Lee r.jpgJefferson Davis Statue.jpgGarfield NSHC.jpgKearny.jpg


The War in my Back Yard: First and Second Manassas

Living in Gainesville, Virginia near Lee Highway brings home the fact that the Civil War passed through here several times.

One particularly peculiar fact is that at both battles of Manassas, it was the movement of Confederate troops from Thoroughfare Gap, through Gainesville/Haymarket, and on to the area around Henry Hill which was crucial to Union defeats.

At First Manassas it was the transport, by rail for the first time in the war, of Joe Johnston’s troops which allowed him to hit McDowell at a critical time.   At Second Manassas it was Longstreet’s troops, the ones about whom Pope was notified several times but refused to believe existed, who smashed into the Union left and nearly destroyed Pope’s army.

Below are pictures of 1) a placard describing those two and other troop movements,  2) a placard in Centreville summarizing First Manassas,  and 3) the monument where Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson met to plan the final assault at Second Manassas


Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson Meeting Marker