Alexandria’s Civil War Ghosts and Graveyards

By Doug Coleman ALEXANDRIA’S CIVIL WAR GHOSTS AND GRAVEYARDS In 1860 the population of Alexandria was 12,862. When the Civil War ended five years later, about half this number of Union soldiers, “contrabands” and Confederate prisoners remained behind in Alexandria’s cemeteries. It is not surprising, then, that a few restless souls remain behind as well. […]

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, SECEDE, SECEDE AGAIN

By Doug Coleman Okay, friends – let’s wrap our heads in tinfoil, because today we are going to talk about secession! American history is a history of rebellion. Our defining moment was our secession from the British Empire. As a people, we decided that in the balance of government versus freedom, we were going to […]

THE BATTLE FLAG – A RORSCHACH TEST

By Doug Coleman Anyone who has not been in a coma for the last month is at least vaguely aware of the controversy over the “Confederate flag” – either the rectangular battle flag of the Army of Tennessee or the square battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, a blue St. Andrew’s cross with […]

Vengeance is Mine

CIVIL DISCOURSE, JULY 1865 The Union officially executed only two Confederates as war criminals, though there were probably over 1000 military tribunals for other crimes. These two were Henry Wirz, commandant of Andersonville prison, and Champ Ferguson, a partisan and very possibly the meanest Scotch-Irish SOB ever. Wirz was Swiss, coming to America after the […]

Hell on the Potomac – Point Lookout, Maryland

CIVIL DISCOURSE, JUNE 1865 In June of 1865, as the war fizzles to its end, the Union disgorges hundreds of thousands of Confederate POWs, some held as long as mid-1863. Everyone has heard of the horrible conditions at Andersonville prison in Georgia – the victors write the history books. Though Commandant Wirz’s neck broke on […]

Infernal Devices, Greek Fire and Bioterrorism

CIVIL DISCOURSE, MAY 1865 As the war wound down in April of 1865, 2100 paroled Union POWs assembled at a camp near Vicksburg, Mississippi to await transport home by steamer. On April 24th, they crowded aboard the Sultana for the ride home. About 2:00 in the morning on April 27th, the boat’s three boilers exploded, […]

Almost the End – Appomattox

CIVIL DISCOURSE, APRIL 1865 In late March of 1865, Grant threatens Lee’s supply line to Petersburg, meaning that Lee‘s army is now in danger of being enveloped and starved into submission. Lee characteristically chooses to go on the offensive. At about four in the morning on March 25th, Confederates masquerading as deserters surged out of […]

Siege of Petersburg

CIVIL DISCOURSE, MARCH 1865 I remember in college writing a paper on one of Hemingway’s war novels, remarking that trench warfare in the First World War brought a new and modern level of technological horror to warfare – muddy trenches, random bombardment, snipers, machine guns and barbed wire. My literature professor’s red inked comments left […]

Divisions within Divisions

CIVIL DISCOURSE, FEBRUARY 1865 In most of our minds, 150 years later, we have a notion that the North fought the South, which is true. But it also misleading in suggesting all the Northerners agreed with Lincoln and all the Southerners favored secession. Even the divisions were divided. For starters, count the number of stars […]

Red, Gray, and Blue: American Indians in the Civil War

CIVIL DISCOURSE, JANUARY 1865 A lot of people think that the Civil War ended in April of 1865, when Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Not so – the last fight in the East was at Waynesville, North Carolina on May 6, 1865. West of the Mississippi, the battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12th is often […]