Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.
This Month's Events
6 August. This is election day in North Carolina and leading candidate Zebulon Vance is not even in the state, but with his regiment, the 26th, in Virginia.
9 August. The Battle of Cedar Run (or Cedar Mountain or Slaughter's Mountain) takes place in Virginia as the Confederates attempt to block Union advances into the state. A heavy artillery duel is followed by an attack led by Union General Nathaniel Banks. His outnumbered forces are proving very successful until Stonewall Jackson rides into the conflict and rallies his troops, leading to a Confederate victory.
A reporter noted, "During the progress of the fight I galloped from point to point along the rear, but could nowhere obtain a panoramic view. The common sentiment of civilians, that it is always possible to see a battle, is true of isolated contests only. ... I have been assured by many soldiers that they have fought a whole day without so much as a glimpse of the enemy. The smoke and dust conceal objects..."
28-30 August. The Second Battle of Bull Run (aka Second Manassas) is much larger than the first battle and pits the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, against the Army of Virginia led by General John Pope. Lee is victorious and Pope is forced to retreat.
This month blockade running, especially through Wilmington, is getting some sorely needed commodities into the Confederacy, but when the Kate docks from Nassau, she also brings yellow fever and an epidemic sweeps the city. When the Kate sets out again, she takes with her a Confederate official carrying funds to buy a ship in England. That ship, the Giraffe, when purchased by the Confederate government, becomes the blockade runner R. E. Lee.
All month. The problem of desertion from the armies is increasing. In North Carolina, the rate is particularly high in men from Randolph County and the mid-state area around it where Union sentiment had been strong before secession. Deserters and other Unionists hiding out in the the area are known as "outliers". The conflict in this area becomes a miniature civil war, an increasing cycle of violence marked by outrages on both sides. It is estimated that betwwen 250 and 400 people died in this internal conflict, usually known as the "Randolph County War," which lasts until the end of the war. See Chapter 16 of Silk Flags and Cold Steel (below).
This month the sheet music for a new song, "The Battle Cry of Freedom" by George Frederick Root is released. It is estimated that by 1864 more than 350,000 copies will have been sold -- a chart topper of its day. Root also wrote "Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching" (which will have both a Northern and a Southern version) and other well-known songs. Video source: https://youtu.be/qK3H4JJ-8Bg -- performed by the 69th Irish Brigade Reenactment Band.
This month in Virginia, a reporter pens this observation as he watches the 15th New York Engineer Regiment at work. "The regiment...was composed of laborers and artificers of every possible description. There were blacksmiths, moulders, masons, carpenters, boatbuilders, joiners, miners, machinists, riggers and ropemakers. They could have bridged the Mississippi, rebuilt the Tredegar iron works, finished the Tower of Babel, drained the Chesapeake, constructed the Great Eastern, paved Broadway, replaced the Grand Trunk railroad, or tunnelled the Straits of Dover. I have often thought that the real greatness of the Northern army lay in its ingenuity and industry, not in its military qualifications."
This Month's Fiction
The Civil War Stories of Harold Frederic by Harold Frederic; Thomas F. O'Donnell (Editor); Edmund Wilson (Introduction by)
Publication Date: 1992-07-01
Shortly before he wrote his masterwork The Damnation of Theron Ware in 1896, Frederic (1856-1898) wrote these seven stories drawn from his boyhood in the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York. The state of New York supplied more soldiers for its population than any other state in the Union, but it also supported the strongest opposition to the Republican administration. In these stories Frederic focuses on the civilan population in this divided state and their reactions to the stress of wartime.
Her school shuttered at the outbreak of the Civil War, India Moody, a 12-year-old Southerner, receives tutoring in natural sciences from progressive Emory Trimble, who encourages the smart, restless girl to aim for college. Soon enough, though, India must set aside her ambitions to shoulder the traditional burdens of women in wartime--nursing the wounded, comforting the grieving, stoically enduring even as her heart tears down its middle seam. India's fierce hopes and restrained romance with Emory will hold readers, as will images etched by Wells' poetic, forceful writing, including unflinching scenes of the battlefield at Antietam, where bodies blacken and bloat like sausages. An author's note and bibliographic note conclude. The overall impact of the novel is a potent call for peace and decency in any era, as well as a welcome representation of the Southern civilian experience for young adults. Gr. 7 up.
The trauma of separation is sensitively explored in a Civil War setting in this evocative picture book. A child worries and waits at a neighbor's farm for his mother to return with his wounded father. Each page has a simple line or two of text, complemented dramatically by double-page watercolor paintings of extraordinary quality. The passage of time is shown visually and subtly in the movement of the sun across the page, in the development of a chicken embryo, and in the changing of seasons. Movement is translated visually by repeated images, as in the wild circling of the dog when Papa returns. Today, many children are experiencing separation fears as parents go to war. This book addresses those fears honestly and feelingly, with a believable and reassuring conclusion. Gr 1-3.
While this area of North Carolina was not the scene of great battles for most of the war, it was important for its railroads and for the food and supplies it produced to support the armies. Trotter's engaging narrative describes the trials of everyday life, continuing conflicts within the state, Governor Vance's ongoing problems with Jefferson Davis, and the final retreat of the Confederate government. Highly recommended reading for North Carolinians.
The story of blockade running on the Cape Fear River was one of the most important factors determining the fate of the South. Here author Dawson Carr takes a comprehensive look at the men, their ships, their cargoes, and their voyages. Photos, maps.
This book's rather unimaginative title cloaks a fascinating look at a very important topic: the Second Battle of Bull Run. The battle, fought in August 1862, was a disastrous punctuation to the Union's summer threat to Richmond and facilitated Robert E. Lee's first northern invasion in the fall. Hennessy tells the story well for both scholar and general reader; unfortunately, the battle has been neglected, and such a good book on it is doubly welcome. Particularly interesting are the author's untanglings of the Union Army's egregious performance, orchestrated by its commander, John Pope, a supercilious braggart, and his singularly insubordinate subordinates.
A collection of biographical profiles of eight noted military leaders of the Civil War, including Robert E. Lee, George Henry Thomas, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, James Longstreet, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Philip Henry Sheridan, and Jeb Stuart. Each sketch includes a portrait, timeline, and suggestions for further reading; there is an overall index. Gr. 5 and up.