American Civil War in the News is a edited review of American Civil War related news and articles, providing collection of hand-picked 1861-1865 era history.

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Battles and Battlefields - American Civil War

Latest hand-picked Civil War news and articles.

General Jo Shelby's March by Anthony Arthur (book review)
On July 1, 1865, the Iron Brigade, led by General Jo Shelby, entered the shallows of the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass and sank the Confederate flag in the river bottom as they marched into Mexico to avoid living under Yankee rule.

The Confederate Alamo by John Fox (Book review)
In "The Confederate Alamo" John Fox explores one of the least-known but most important battles of the Petersburg campaign - the defense of Fort Gregg and its associated works, Forts Whitworth and Owen. Fox has tracked down several unpublished sources on both sides and alternates between a tactical overview and the soldiers-eye view. Tactically it was a messy battle - the Confederates withdrew some artillery pieces early in the action that might have made a major difference and the Union assaults were badly organized and - even thought their numbers were overwhelming - took place one at a time.

The 1864 Battle That Saved Washington - The Battle of Monocacy
In June of 1864 the Union had pulled troops from other areas to move South, and in the process they had stalled the Confederate troops in the areas around Richmond and Petersburg. General Robert E. Lee's spies told him that the Union capital was almost undefended, with only 9,000 Union soldiers guarding Washington, D.C. Lee's plan was to send General Jubal Early north with 14,000 soldiers to seize the Union's capital. As confederates moved north, they ran into 6,500 Union soldiers in the area around Frederick, Maryland under the guidance of General Lew Wallace - and the Battle of Monocacy took place.

Guerrillas and other curiosities by Samuel Anderson Pence (book review)
Most Civil War enthusiasts remember the Missouri "bushwhackers" as bloodthirsty Rebel brigands who fought under the "black flag" and left their mark on such places as Lawrence, Kan., and Centralia, Mo. Although the well-publicized feats of Willian T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson, Frank and Jesse James, William Quantrell and Cole Younger made them infamous, many of their lesser-known compatriots had remarkable adventures as well. Samuel Anderson Pence was born in 1885, and while growing up he knew Frank James and a number of other former guerrillas. Fascinated by their stories of gun battles, amazing escapes and thrilling raids, Pence later wrote bushwhacker history.

No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin [book review]
No Quarter is a recount of the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. At first glance, the Union's plan seemed brilliant: A regiment of miners would tunnel beneath a Confederate fort, pack the tunnel with explosives, and blow a hole in the enemy lines. Then a specially trained division of African American infantry would spearhead an attack to exploit the breach created by the explosion. The attack was made ineffective by poor leadership and political infighting in the Union command. The explosion ripped open an immense crater, which became a death trap for troops that attempted to pass through it.

Western front Civil War battles often forgotten
Scholars and historians say the Civil War on the Kansas-Missouri border, and the Civil War in the Ozarks, has been forgotten and overshadowed by larger battles in the East. --- Including skirmishes, Missouri saw 1,200 engagements during the Civil War: more than any other state except Virginia and Tennessee. --- Kansas has several Civil War battlefields, including a cemetery in Baxter Springs where soldiers killed by Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill`s forces are buried. The biggest battle in the state was fought in October 1864 along the banks of Mine Creek, featuring one of the largest cavalry face-offs of the war.

Vicksburg 1863 by Winston Groom [book review]
The 5 maps included in Groom's account of the Union campaign to grab the Confederacy's Mississippi River stronghold of Vicksburg all but tell that story just by themselves. The maps reveals 5 of General Ulysses S. Grant's 8 failed efforts to grab the city. Including digging a canal to cut off the river's turn under the Confederate guns on Vicksburg's bluffs and advances through the bayous north and south of the city. There also were efforts by the Union's ironclad fleet to run the gauntlet of the guns. The eighth attempt, a 200-mile loop through the rivers and bayous north of the city, was "one of the strangest wartime expeditions in naval history."

When the Civil War came to Alaska - Confederate sailors didn't know the war had ended
150 years ago the gray skies above the Diomede Islands were heavy with smoke from whaling ships set on fire by Confederate sailors who didn't know the Civil War had ended. "The red glare from the 8 burning vessels shone far and wide over the drifting ice of these savage seas," wrote an officer aboard the Shenandoah, Confederate ship hunting down Yankee whalers. Though their timing was off -- the Civil War was over for 2 months when the Shenandoah reached Alaska waters from England (after an 8-month trip around the southern capes of Africa and Australia) -- the crew destroyed the Yankee fleet, burning 22 whaling ships and capturing two others.

Virginia: Fields of the Civil War - Petersburg National Battlefield
Railroads of Petersburg helped decide the end of the American Civil War. Between June 1864 and April 1865, Union forces led by Ulysses S. Grant encircled Confederate forces led by Robert E. Lee in Petersburg for over 9 months. During the siege, 5 rail lines gave Lee's army and residents a lifeline. Grant's troops cut off each of the links as the siege continued, until just one remained: the east-west South Side Railroad. In the summer of 1864, Union forces tried to break the Confederate line by digging under it and packing the tunnel with explosives, creating a huge crater. Union troops stormed into the hole - just to became easy targets for Confederate riflemen.

Civil War letter details horrors of Bull Run
A letter describing horrors from one of the first major actions of the Civil War was given to the University of South Carolina. It gives a blunt commentary of what Sgt. Maj. William Sidney Mullins saw at the first Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). One passage focuses on the moans of the wounded, and cries to "the passersby to kill them to relieve their agony." The note also makes criticisms of rebel President Jefferson Davis, other Confederate leaders and the poor resources for treating the sick and wounded. There also are descriptions of the fighting's results.

More recognition to some of Civil War's first battlefields
Four gravestones stand lookout at the head of a sunken mass grave. A whitewashed rail fence surrounds it and a Confederate flag wavers over it. It's as if time stopped here in 1861, right after these dead Confederates lost one of the very first battles of the Civil War. That makes Laurel Hill a very rare jewel: a Civil War battlefield uncorrupted by tourism. "It's like stepping back in time," said Hunter Lesser, an archaeologist and historic consultant who served as adviser for The Conservation Fund's "The Civil War Battlefield Guide." He also wrote the book on the battle of Laurel Hill - "Rebels at the Gate."

The Bloody Shirt: A Long Surrender: The Guerrilla War After the Civil War
"The Bloody Shirt" by Stephen Budiansky: The title refers to a small footnote to the war of violence that was waged in the American South after the Civil War. The terror started almost as soon as the Civil War ended in 1865; lasting until 1876, when the last of the governments of the Southern states freely elected through universal manhood suffrage was put down in a campaign of violence - thereby ending Reconstruction. --- March 9, 1871: a band of 120 men on horseback, heavily armed, encircled the house of one George R. Ross in Monroe County. Allen P. Huggins, a Northern man who had settled in Mississippi after the war, was staying the night there...

Civil War film The Last Ditch: The last land battle of the Civil War
There's a historical marker on Veterans Parkway proclaiming the site as the last land battle of the American Civil War. "The battle for Columbus is one of those little known struggles that, when looked at more closely, reveals fascinating and almost unbelievable incidents, images and characters, and has a great surprise at the end." Richard Elliot Lifshey is now ready to introduce the battle to the public, years after he began his project to tell its story. Georgia Public Broadcasting will air his documentary film "The Last Ditch" on WJSP-TV. The program details the battle for Columbus, often described by historians as the last "official" battle of the Civil War.

Cavalry fighting in town - Custer, Stuart clashed on Hanover streets
Though Gettysburg is noted in history books as the turning point of the American Civil War, little attention is given to Hanover where 300 cavalrymen were killed, wounded of captured in 4 hours of sometimes fierce fighting when Confederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart commanded a 4,000-man cavalry force that attacked a similar number of Union cavalrymen and light artillery under Brig. Gen. H. Judson Kilpatrick. "Cavalry fighting in town is different than in an open field. In town, you can't keep the forces together, and it starts branching off to a lot of the side streets and fields," said Larry Wallace, a battlefield guide and Battle of Hanover expert.

The 1861 lesson of Appomattox
The Yankees expected to win. They came out from Washington, 25 miles, with picnic baskets and their women. They would defeat the amateurish rednecks and go home, the idea of secession dismissed. It was July 21st, 1861. The Confederate forces were outnumbered. General Bernard Bee`s Alabama forces were retreating. They stopped when Bee shouted, "Form, form, follow the Virginians. Look. There stands Jackson like a stone wall." The Confederates held and the battle turned into a rout. The federals retreated in disorder. Then the Confederates made a fatal mistake: However tired they were, they should have followed the federal forces and seized Washington.

Cinco de Mayo battle saved America   (Article no longer available from the original source)
May 5, 1862 was a great day not only for the Mexican people, but for the Union side in American Civil War. Had Mexico not defeated the French in Puebla on May 5, 1862, France would have gone to the aid of the Confederacy and history could have been very different. In 1861 Mexico was bankrupt, owing staggering sums to Britain, Spain, France and the US. Years earlier the US had offered to assume Mexico's debt in exchange for a mortgage on part of its territory. Mexico rejected the offer, having already lost half its territory to US. In 1861 France, Spain and England convened to sign the Covenant of London: to send troops to Mexico in sufficient numbers to secure payments.

Civil War: Famous elegy written by Confederate officer
Adventurers who explore inside Stones River National Cemetery often find their attention turned to a series of cast iron plaques bearing stanzas from a poem called The Bivouac of the Dead. Bivouac means temporary encampment and was most often used in reference to a military camp. Similar plaques are placed at all of America`s national cemeteries, and at Arlington National Cemetery where they even adorn the famous McClellan Gate. The poet who penned the words is never credited and there`s good reason for that `oversight` given the climate of the times: A Confederate soldier Theodore O`Hara wrote `The Bivouac of the Dead`.

New Mexico's Civil War hero: Alexander McRae
The Civil War in New Mexico didn't create many heroes in the short time it took the U. S. Army to chase the Texas Confederates back from whence they came early in 1862. There was one man, however, who was esteemed by both sides after the initial battle at Valverde. He was Alexander "Alec" McRae. While stationed at Fort Union in early Jan 1861, he was a part of a winter campaign against Kiowa and Comanche Indians that culminated in a successful action at Cold Spring. When civil war began, he was offered a higher rank in the Confederate Army, an offer his family urged him to accept, but he remained loyal to the Union, even though there were rumors that he'd defected.

Confederates Invade the West - Dream of a Western empire
The American Civil War was marked by a series of bloody battles that did little to advance the cause on either side. A fight that took place on March 28, 1862, was small but consequential. The Confederate dream of a Western empire fell victim to a Pyrrhic victory in mountains of northern New Mexico. Like their Northern counterparts, the Southerners imagined they had a "manifest destiny" to span the continent. Confederate president Jefferson Davis was convinced that a small force led by aggressive commander Henry Hopkins Sibley could push aside the Union troops in the West and take control of New Mexico, Colorado, and perhaps even California.

Union Wins its First Victory - The Civil War battle for Fort Donelson
The Civil War battle for Fort Donelson in 1862 marked the first Union success after 10 months of bungling by inept generals. And it launched the career of the man who led the Northern armies to victory. Grant thought that his forces could attack along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers into the Confederate heartland, because those two waterways were guarded by vulnerable forts. Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck didn`t trust Grant, so he refused the request. But Grant discussed his plan with Flag-Officer Andrew H. Foote, who commanded ironclad gunboats and other war vessels. Foote persuaded Halleck to agree to a combined land and water attack on the forts.

Why did Union troops sack Athens - From Conciliation to Conquest
Described as `shabby` by a northern reporter Athens, Alabama, was the home of 887 inhabitants in 1860, 338 of them slaves. There were no whipping posts or slave hunting hounds, as was the case in Huntsville and Tuscumbia. It was also the last place in the state to take down the Stars and Stripes from atop the courthouse. A majority of voters had opposed secession. So, why did union troops sack and pillage Athens May 2, 1862, in direct violation of policy of conciliation toward the south? The answer lays in From Conciliation to Conquest, a well-researched book by George C. Bradley and Richard L. Dahlen.

Fort Fisher Falls - the last major Southern seaport
A big break for the Union in the American Civil War occurred on January 15, 1865, the U.S. Navy and Army finally took Fort Fisher, which guarded the entrance to the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The capture deprived blockade-running merchant ships of access to Wilmington, the last major Southern seaport still in Confederate hands. Near the end of 1864, Gen. Robert E. Lee had written "Hold Fort Fisher or I cannot subsist my army." With provisions and matériel from abroad now cut off, the collapse of the Confederacy became not just inevitable but imminent.

Romney changed hands more than 50 times - Reenactment
The town of Romney changed hands between the Union and the Confederacy more than 50 times. Re-enacted battles are being staged as part of Hampshire County's annual Heritage Days. If you are imagining a handful of rag-tag Civil War buffs shooting blanks at each other - think again. This event will involve as many as 36 Confederate and Union army units, numbering from 350 to 500 soldiers. They will have from 4-8 cannons and 40 mounted cavalry. The strategy and outcome of the battles will be determined by the generals commanding the troops just as they did during the actual war.

Battle of the Crater: One of the most horrific battles of Civil War   (Article no longer available from the original source)
In 1864, one of the most horrific battles of the Civil War, The Battle of the Crater, took place and Petersburg National Battlefield is remembering it. It is unique because Union and Confederate lines were situated a little more than 500 feet apart. The Siege of Petersburg dragged on and soldiers in the trenches were making no headway with bullets and artillery shells. Union soldiers hatched a plan to tunnel beneath the Confederate line, place 4 tons of black powder at the end of the tunnel and detonate it. The plan was approved by General Ulysses S. Grant, because it gave soldiers something to do.

Fall of Atlanta photos - Union Maj. General Sherman   (Article no longer available from the original source)
"If the people raise a howl against the barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking," Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman wrote to his generals two days after Atlanta surrendered and weeks before the city's destruction. That declaration is among the 52 documents from Sherman, on display at the Atlanta History Center. The exhibit intersperses his field orders with maps and illustrations, and photographs taken after the city fell. The photos were shot by George N. Barnard, who was hired by the Union army to take pictures of Confederate defenses. "The photographs are so contemporary that you're seeing the actual battlefields."

The first major battle of the Civil War   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Fought in 1861 near Manassas, Va., the first Battle of Bull Run (or Battle of Manassas, depending on whether you are a Northerner or Southerner) pitted Union troops under the command of Irvin McDowell against Confederate troops under General Pierre Beauregard. For the Union North, the objective was to capture the Confederate South's capital city, Richmond, which McDowell thought ould deal the South a mortal blow. Beauregard's task was to stop the Union Army; he chose Bull Run as the place. Until Ulysses S. Grant, no Union general understood the way to win the war was not to capture Confederate cities but to defeat Confederate armies.

America's forgotten war four years before Civil War
John Eldredge tells stories at a bleak spot called the "Camp of Death," where a race for survival began for U.S. soldiers harassed by Mormon militia during the "Utah War" of 1857-1858. It showed how the American nation would deal with rebellion and how an invaded people would react, foreshadowing the real Civil War that would follow 4 years later. Army of 2,500 — a third of the nation's entire Army at the time — marched late in the season; wagons were scattered in long trains. Officers didn't expect much opposition from Mormons to such a powerful force. All of those were mistakes.

Cold Harbor: Forgotten Civil War battle near Confederate capital
On May 31, 1864, an encounter between Union Gen. William Sheridan's cavalry and Confederate units near a five-road junction less than 10 miles from the Confederate capital Richmond, provided the general-in-chief of the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant, an opportunity to outflank Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Realizing the threat, Lee did the same. By the next day the Battle of Cold Harbor was in full swing, lasting 12 days, causing casualties of 15,500. Yet it does not invoke the sense of reverence associated with battlefields such as Gettysburg. One reason for this may be that Cold Harbor was only one battle in a much larger campaign.

Battle of Pea Ridge - Control of Missouri
Pea Ridge, the battle that saved Missouri for the Union, was a strange battle; one that saw Southern troops attacking from the north, and soldiers from Arkansas and Texas fighting alongside French speaking Louisianans and Indian regiments. Moreover, the Missouri State Guardsmen who fought for the Southern cause were not yet officially in the Confederate service. The Union soldiers came from Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Many spoke German as their first language. Control of Missouri was extremely important to Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Both the U.S. and Confederacy made the acquisition of Missouri a high military and political priority.