Civil War

Jack Hinson – A Civil War Sniper Hell Bent on Revenge

Jack Hinson – A Civil War Sniper Hell Bent on Revenge

Jack Hinson, better known as "Old Jack" to his family, was a prosperous farmer in Stewart County, Tennessee. A non-political man, he opposed secession from the Union even though he owned slaves. Friends and neighbors described him as a peaceable man, yet despite all this, he would end up going on a one-man killing spree. Jack's plantation was called Bubbling Springs, where he lived with his wife and ten children. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he was fiercely determined to remain neutral. Grant Had Stayed at the Jack Hinson Estate When Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant arrived in the area in February 1862, the Jack Hinson hosted the man at their home. The General was so pleased with the plantation that he even turned it into his temporary headquarters. Even when one of their sons joined the Confederate Army, while another joined a militia group, Jack remained strictly neutral. They were content to manage their plantation despite the ongoing conflict. Grant had stayed at...

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The Battle of Hampton Roads

The Battle of Hampton Roads

After the attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the Union developed an overall strategy to defeat the Confederates. Later dubbed "the Anaconda Plan," it required the Union to capture control of the Mississippi River, effectively splitting the Confederacy in two while blockading Southern ports to cripple the South's economy and prevent it from acquiring supplies.  This plan was derided at first because the blockade wasn't considered aggressive enough by Union generals, but it turned out to be extremely effective. The rebels felt the Union blockade long before they felt the retribution of the Union Army – and almost immediately began finding ways to beat the blockade. On March 8, 1862, a new kind of ship would be put to the test for the first time, hoping to punch a hole in the Union Navy.  The Battle Was the First Engagement of Ironclad Warships One of the keys to Union seapower during the Civil War was the development of ironclad warships. The development of heavier naval guns and...

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MajGen Joshua Chamberlain, U.S. Army (1861 – 1866) – His Lost Medal of Honor

MajGen Joshua Chamberlain, U.S. Army (1861 – 1866) – His Lost Medal of Honor

The long-lost Medal of Honor belonging to the "Lion of Little Round Top" has been found. It awarded to then-Colonel (and later Maj. Gen.) Joshua Chamberlain, for his "distinguished gallantry" in leading the 20th Maine volunteers on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, came by mail to the Pejepscot Historical Society in Maine in July from a donor who wished to remain anonymous. The Location of Joshua Chamberlain's Original Medal of Honor Historians from the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Army have since verified the authenticity of the Medal. "Though it seems almost too good to be true, we are confident that we are now in possession of Joshua Chamberlain's original Medal of Honor," said Pejepscot Historical Society Director Jennifer Blanchard. "All of the experts we've consulted believe it to be authentic, and we are tremendously honored to return the medal to Chamberlain's home" in Brunswick, Maine, which is now a museum open to the public,...

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Grant Delivers the First Major Union Victory

Grant Delivers the First Major Union Victory

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, it started very poorly for the Union Army. Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor surrendered to the Confederates on April 13. Skirmishes and fights had broken out all over the country, but the major battles like those at Bull Run and Leesburg saw significant Union defeats.  The Confederate Invasion of Kentucky Throughout 1861, Virginia was pushing the Federal forces out, Missouri's pro-Confederate State Guard was on the warpath, and the Confederate invasion of Kentucky effectively ended the state's neutrality. In doing so, it provided the Union Army there, led by Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had the opportunity to turn its fortune around. The Union cause needed a big win, and Grant delivered it at the February 1862 Battle of Fort Henry, Kentucky.  Grant Delivered Union Victory at the Battle of Fort Henry, Kentucky The Union's strategy for defeating the Confederate Army required it to gain control of the Mississippi River, splitting the Confederacy in...

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Mary Bowser: the Civil War’s Most Productive Spy

Mary Bowser: the Civil War’s Most Productive Spy

Espionage was big business during the American Civil War. Both sides had thousands of spies including hundreds of women. Many of the spy rings were located in each of the capital cities, Washington D. C. and Richmond, sending valuable information back to their respective governments, and each side had a number of independent spies working for them. Some of these independent spies were under contract, but others did their dangerous work out of love for their country. To be sure, it was a very dangerous business and inevitable, some were caught and often the penalty was hanging. Others were placed in prison or released. Of all these thousands of spies, there was one who many Civil War historians considered the most productive espionage agents of the entire war. Her name was Mary Bowser, a freed black slave working in the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Mary Bowser Was a Free Woman Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born in Richmond, Virginia, as a slave to John Van Lew, a wealthy...

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Sgt. William Harvey Carney, U.S. Army (1863-1864)

Sgt. William Harvey Carney, U.S. Army (1863-1864)

Today, we may remember the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, also Sgt. William Harvey Carney, at the Civil War Battle of Fort Wagner from the 1989 film "Glory." The critically-acclaimed film was released more than 30 years ago, but it stands the test of time for many reasons.  The most important reason is that it's reasonably true to the history of the unit, with a few of Hollywood's usual dramatic licenses. The 54th Massachusetts was the first all-Black regiment raised in the Union to fight in the war. Though the movie was based on Robert Gould Shaw's letters to his family, all the Black characters are entirely fictional. What they accomplished was not fictional, however, and neither was their tenacity and courage under fire. It was at the attack on Fort Wagner that one soldier, Sgt. William Harvey Carney became the first Black soldier to receive the Medal of Honor. He did it with his stalwart defense of the American flag.  Carney was born a slave in the area around Norfolk,...

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Escape from Libby Prison: The Largest Successful Prison Break of the Civil War

Escape from Libby Prison: The Largest Successful Prison Break of the Civil War

On February 9, 1864, more than 100 Union prisoners tunneled their way to freedom in an audacious escape from Libby Prison in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. More than half of the prisoners made their way to Union lines while others were recaptured and returned to the confines of Libby. Libby Prison started as an old food warehouse on Tobacco Row along the James River. Captain Luther Libby, along with his son George W. Libby, leased the three-story brick building where they operated a ship chandlery and grocery business. In 1862, the Confederacy took over the building and turned it into a prison for Union officers. Colonel Thomas E. Rose, a Union officer from the 77th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, was captured during the Battle of Chickamauga and taken to Libby Prison. He found conditions appalling and immediately started plotting his escape. He devised an ambitious plan to dig a tunnel from the cellar of the prison to a tobacco shed that stood just outside the...

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Civil War – From Manassas to Appomattox Court House

Civil War – From Manassas to Appomattox Court House

The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election as the first Republican President on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, South Carolina legislature passed the "Ordinance of Secession," which declared that "the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved."  Within six weeks, five more Southern states - Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana - had followed South Carolina's lead and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. Former Union general, Jefferson Davis, was selected as it's first President. Within a few months, five more slave states seceded and joined the Confederacy.  Predictability, the incoming Lincoln administration, and most of the...

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The Civil War Began and Ended at the Same Guy’s House

The Civil War Began and Ended at the Same Guy’s House

When a war breaks out on your front lawn, and your chimney explodes from enemy fire, it’s time to find a new place to live. Neighborhoods like those are no place to raise children. That was Wilmer McLean’s opinion in the Civil War, anyway. That’s exactly what he did when the Battle of Bull Run erupted in front of his property.  The Confederate Army and the Union Army in the Civil War The real fighting didn’t break out until three months later when the Confederate Army and the Union Army met in the first real engagement of the Civil War at the First Battle of Bull Run… or the First Manassas, depending on which side you were on. They’re the same battle.  Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard commandeered the house of a local man named Wilmer McLean as a headquarters during the battle. As the general and McLean sat in his dining room during the battle, a Union cannonball hit McLean’s chimney, the shot falling right into the fireplace. Beauregard thought it was comical. McLean didn’t...

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Civil War – Andersonville Prison

Civil War – Andersonville Prison

There were 150 prison camps on both sides in the Civil War, and they all suffered from disease, overcrowding, exposure, and food shortages. But Andersonville was notorious for being the worst. Some men agreed to freedom and fought for the South as galvanized soldiers, fearing the dangers of imprisonment to be greater than those of the battlefield. Officially named Camp Sumter, the most notorious Civil War stockade was hastily constructed in early 1864 near the town of Andersonville in southwest Georgia. The number of Union soldiers held near Richmond had swelled with the breakdown of prisoner exchange agreements, posing a threat to the Confederate capital's security and taxing Virginia's already limited resources. Andersonville Was Jammed with over 32,000, Almost All Enlisted Men In late February, Federal prisoners began to be transferred to the still-unfinished Georgia facility. By July, Andersonville, built to accommodate up to 10,000 captured soldiers, was jammed with over 32,000,...

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Civil War – Sherman’s March to The Sea (1861-1865)

Civil War – Sherman’s March to The Sea (1861-1865)

The March to the Sea, the most destructive campaign against a civilian population during the Civil War (1861-65), began in Atlanta on November 15, 1864, and ended in Savannah on December 21, 1864. Union General William T. Sherman abandoned his supply line and marched across Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean to prove to the Confederate population that its government could not protect the people from invaders. He practiced psychological warfare; he believed that by marching an Army across the state he would demonstrate to the world that the Union had a power the Confederacy could not resist. "This may not be war," he said, “but rather statesmanship.”  General William T. Sherman Prepares For March to The Sea After Sherman's forces captured Atlanta on September 2, 1864, Sherman spent several weeks concerned with preparations for a change of base to the coast. He rejected the Union plan to move through Alabama to Mobile, pointing out that after Rear Admiral David G. Farragut closed Mobile Bay...

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Civil War – The Battle of Atlanta

Civil War – The Battle of Atlanta

In the summer of 1864, the Confederate States of America was reeling from a series of defeats that would ultimately lead to its demise. Despite the Union victory at Gettysburg in 1863 that turned the Army of Northern Virginia back and the capture of Vicksburg that gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, the outcome of the Civil War was anything but assured.  After leading the Union Army at the Siege of Vicksburg and his subsequent win at Chattanooga, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General and given overall command of the Union Armies. With the Confederacy now split in two, Grant took over command of the Army of the Potomac while command of the Western Theater fell to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.  In the spring of 1864, Grant decided to launch simultaneous offensives all along the Confederate lines in an effort to exhaust the Confederacy's resources and its ability to prolong the war. For Sherman, this meant engaging Confederate Gen. Joseph E....

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