Strange Blighted Land »

Gregory Coco, author of A Strange and Blighted Land, speaks on this C-Span archive video about the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg. The book is not an easy read – it’s along the lines of Mary Roach’s Stiff – deeply disturbing if you’re a sensitive person, but fascinating if you’re at all intrigued by […]

Sherman’s Voice »

I noticed a little something that now has me obsessed. A passing mention in the New York Times from 1888 that mentions a party at which William Tecumseh Sherman related some of his war memories to Thomas Edison, specifically, into Edison’s recording gramophone. No mention anywhere on the web of this recording being recovered or […]

Fake news almost destroyed Abraham Lincoln »

From the “What goes around, comes around” files, this reminder that the morass of fake news in which we currently swim is not a new phenomenon. Abraham Lincoln was more than just a foe of slavery. He was also a mixed-race eugenicist, believing that the intermarriage of blacks and whites would yield an American super-race. […]

Abraham Lincoln’s Original Thanksgiving Proclamation »

I was questioning my American brother in law – who spent this weekend overindulging and regretting between the moments of gratitude – why the US holiday happens on a Thursday. Little did I realise that it was actually the decision of Honest Abe back in 1863. I had never seen the full text of the […]

Thanksgiving in the Field »

Another Thanksgiving weekend is upon us, and as Civil War buffs it’s worth remembering that Lincoln established the nation’s official observance of the holiday. I was surprised to read, in these soldiers’ letters, that gluttony has been a traditional part of Thanksgiving since before the war, but that so too was sombre gratitude. (Funnily enough, […]

Nat Turner’s Skull »

Nat Turner’s skull has been found, and with it comes a series of articles about the history of human body part smuggling and preservation. It’s all a bit gruesome, but particularly when you consider this fact: Amrita Myers, Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, said the story of Turner’s skull is peculiar because there […]

Wartime Whisky Prices »

There’s a story, of unknown veracity, that in 1863 President Lincoln asked what whiskey General Ulysses S. Grant drank. Nobody knew the brand, so Lincoln purportedly replied, “Because, if I can only find out, I will send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army.” The timing was particularly poor — […]

Great Seal of the Confederate States of America »

A trip down the Wikipedia wormhole led me to the Great Seal of the Confederacy page. I don’t think I’ve seen this before, though given that the seal couldn’t properly be used it’s unsurprising. And here’s a neat little bit of trivia that shows how effective the blockade became: The official press never made it […]

Veteran Reserve Corps »

At our Civil War Round Table last night, we had an excellent presentation about medicine, and the question arose of what happened to troops who were wounded, and what happened to them.  In the North, the “Invalid Corps” gave duties to the lightly injured, and did so with dash – they had their own special […]

When Oscar met Jeff »

A book I read the other week gave an offhand mention of Jefferson Davis hosting Oscar Wilde during the latter’s American tour. It seemed to go as well as you’d expect, given what we know of both men: So on June 24, 1882, Wilde arrived at Beauvoir… Evidently Oscar thoroughly charmed Varina and Winnie but […]