Tag Archives: CivilWar

The Strange Case of East Tennessee

The Strange Case of East Tennessee

The Strange Case of EastTennessee

Tennessee was not one of the first states to secede from the Union. This usually catches a lot of people by surprise. In fact, it was actually in question as to whether or not they would secede at all. As late as February 1861 54% of the people of Tennessee were not in favor of holding a secession convention at all. That percentage would change after April 12th, 1861 the day that the Confederates fired on the Union outpost of Ft. Sumter.

In response to the attack on April 15th, President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. This move pushed the rest of the southern states out of the Union.  On June 8th, 1861 Tennessee held their secession referendum. West Tennessee was overwhelmingly in favor of secession, East Tennessee was steadfastly opposed. It would be up to Middle Tennessee to break the deadlock and break it they did. Middle Tennessee in February of that year was 51% opposed to secession, by June and the vote that number had swung to 88% in favor. Tennessee would leave the Union.

East Tennessee

Now for the part that you may not know.

East Tennessee was not real happy with being forced to leave the Union and in a series of conventions, the twenty-six counties that made up that part of the state decided to secede from Tennessee. (Much like what happened with Virginia and West Virginia.) They made their petition to the state legislature in Nashville, who promptly refused it and for good measure sent troops in to occupy East Tennessee and keep it part of the state.

Am I the only one that sees the irony here? The State of Tennessee leaves the Union because Lincoln called for troops to keep states in the Union. But when a large portion of their population asked to breakaway from the state, they responded with force. Hmmmm.

East Tennessee would stay under Confederate occupation until 1863. All the while they provided troops to the Federal Army and maintaining a guerrilla war against the rebels. This base of support would end up leading to Tennessee being the first state allowed back in the Union during Reconstruction.







What must it have been like in that room on September 22, 1862? After having stated with no uncertain terms that the war being fought was one of preserving the Union, President Lincoln announces his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Though not freeing a single slave, this document changed the shape and scope of the Civil War.

Lincoln had been of two minds. Personally, he had no use for slavery.  He knew that just as the Southerners were fighting to preserve their “peculiar institution“, Northerners would not really be too keen to fight a war to end it. At the same time a number of border states, who were still clinging to slavery, teetered on the edge between Union and Confederacy. For Lincoln, his proclamation was a calculated risk. And it paid off.

Through careful wording of his document Lincoln skillfully re-framed the war as one to not only save the Union but to secure the basic tenets of human freedom. At least that is what it seemed. The document stated that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceword, and forever free.” Think about for a second. He only freed the slaves in states that the government had no control over. Slaves still in the North, and those in the border states (Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware) were not subject to the proclamation.

Lincoln heard from all sides. To some, it did not go far enough. To others, it seemed to go too far. What it did do for certain was stem the growing tide o support for the Confederacy in the courts of  Europe. Most importantly though it allowed the United States to claim a moral high ground in a war that was tearing families apart.


The Polls are Closed

Polls Book For 1864 Election

The Polls are Closed

The American Republic has always been a tenuous thing. In the Fall of 1864 is was undergoing one of its most dire tests as the Civil War raged on.  The war had been going on for over three years and the outcome was far from decided.

President Lincoln had led the United States through the early defeats at the hands of the Confederacy and was only now begging to see the end of the conflict in sight. There was one more obstacle ahead of him that even he was not sure what the outcome would be. 1864 brought the next presidential election.  An election that was going to happen in spite of the war.

Opposing President Lincoln would be General George B. McClellan, a man who Lincoln had put in charge of the army twice. McClellan ran as a Democrat on the platform that they would negotiate a peace and end the war.  It was felt that the support he had with the army would give him enough votes to defeat Lincoln and end the war.

Besides the fact that the election was being held during wartime, this election would be the first time that soldiers in the field would be able to vote. The poll book in the picture is the method that this was carried out.  Even in the throes of a civil war, the people would be heard from.

Against expectations, almost 70% of the army voted for Lincoln and in effect a continuation of the war. Lincoln won the election handily by over 400,000 popular votes, winning all but three states that participated.

Without that victory, the outcome of the war may have been completely different, and with it the fate of our country.

For more details on the 1864 election visit this site US History.Org




Uncle Billy Sherman

Uncle Billy Sherman

Uncle Billy Sherman

The picture above is of a photo of General William Tecumseh Sherman that was taken later in life and is on display the Museum of the Grand Army of the Republic. Few Civil War figures on either side bring out the sheer emotion of General Sherman.  Emotions that for the most part vary depending on what part of the country you are from.

In the South, too many he is a villain who wrecked the South and will never be forgotten. In the North, he did what he had to do to bring the war to an end.

To the soldiers that served under him, he was quite affectionately known as Uncle Billy.  He was a General that honestly cared for his soldiers, but never let that stand in the way of doing his job. Often after the war men that served under him would show up at his door hungry, broke and abandoned. He never turned them away. He always provided what food or money he could to help them make it one more day. That was Uncle Billy.

Quotes From the Man


  • “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it is over.”
  • “Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.”
  • “In our country…one class of men makes war and leaves another to fight it out.”
  • “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
  • “War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.”
  • “I would make this war as severe as possible, and show no symptoms of tiring till the South begs for Mercy.”

132nd Pennsylvania Volunteers At Antietam



On September 4, 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was riding high. After a successful campaign against the Federals in Northern Virginia Lee decided that it was time to take the fight to the enemy resupply his army on their lands and demoralize their civilians. With those goals in mind, he would lead his men across the Potomac River and into Maryland.

On the Federal side General McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, searched for Lee’s army and a chance to end the war once and for all. With a stroke of luck, one of his men had come across a copy of Lee’s orders at a former campsite. These orders gave McClellan what he needed. The invasion culminated with the battle of Antietam just outside the town of Sharpsburg Maryland on September 17th in what would be to this point the bloodiest day of the war.

132nd Pennsylvania Volunteers


In August 1862 in Harrisburg, PA the 132nd PA Volunteer Regiment was formed under the command of Colonel Richard A. Oakford. A few weeks later they found themselves in Maryland taking part in their first battle. They would attack a Confederate position that would become known as Bloody Lane. By the time the battle was over the 132nd had lost 152 men killed, wounded and missing, including their commander.

The following is a brief excerpt from the regimental history written by Richard Hitchcock and available through Project Gutenberg:

A remarkable fact about our experience during this fight was that we took no note of time. When we were out of ammunition and about to move back I looked at my watch and found it was 12.30 P.M. We had been under fire since eight o’clock. I couldn’t believe my eyes; was sure my watch had gone wrong. I would have sworn that we had not been there more than twenty minutes, when we had actually been in that very hell of fire for four and a half hours.

Just as we were moving back, the Irish brigade came up, under command of General Thomas Francis Meagher. They had been ordered to complete our work by a charge, and right gallantly they did it. Many of our men, not understanding the order, joined in that charge. General Meagher rode a beautiful white horse, but made a show of himself by tumbling off just as he reached our line. The boys said he was drunk, and he certainly looked and acted like a drunken man. He regained his feet and floundered about, swearing like a crazy man. The brigade, however, made a magnificent charge and swept everything before it.

To read more click here.


The monument in the photo was dedicated to the regiment on September 17, 1904 and was erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for their brave men. Besides the units name the single inscription reads simply, Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.


Lincoln and the Spencer Rifle


Lincoln and the Spencer Rifle

Gather round for a story about the indomitable President Lincoln and the famous Spencer rifle.

The popular version of the story tells how on late a Summer day in 1863 Christopher Spencer, the inventor of the Spencer repeating rifle, took his invention to the White House to demonstrate it for the President. On that day out in the backyard of the White House Lincoln took the rifle in his hand and fired seven rounds at a painted target board, hitting it in rapid succession. Duly impressed the story goes that he ordered a large quantity of the rifles on the spot.

That board that he shot at that day is in the picture above having been given to Christopher Spencer as a souvenir.

The Real Story


Now for the real story. It turns out that the Spencer rifle was already in service in the Federal Army in small numbers. The Navy Department had heard about it and wanted to order some for their own use. Eventually, the Navy’s request reached the desk of Lincoln who was intrigued and asked for a rifle to evaluate for himself. He received one, and it didn’t work. He took the second one, and it didn’t work. After that, he denied the request for the Navy and went about his business (you know, running a war).

A higher up at the Spencer Company heard about the President’s experience and sent Christopher Spencer to change his mind. Once in front of Lincoln, he had Spencer strip the rifle down. Once reassembled they went out and shot at the board. The same one in the picture above. The rifle worked perfectly this time. Lincoln thanked Spencer and sent him on his way.

The next morning Lincoln went out with his secretary and shot the rifle again and became duly impressed. Eventually, an order was placed and the Spencer became a part of history. So not quite as exciting as the campfire tale that is told, but even the biggest legends have to start somewhere.



A Copse of Trees at Gettysburg

A Copse of Trees at Gettysburg

A Copse of Trees at Gettysburg

On July 3rd, 1863 the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania were already washed in blood. This was the third day of the battle between the forces of the United States and the Confederate States of America. The battle was not even supposed to happen. Days earlier almost by accident the two forces met. The battle began and took on a life of its own. Now on the third day, the Union forces were in defensive positions on a ridge outside of town. So far they had withstood the best that the Confederates had to offer.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee prepared his Army of Northern Virginia for one last push against the Union center.  The push that he believed would end the battle and perhaps the war. His plan involved General Pickett’s division leading the charge against that line across a field almost a mile wide. To guide them they were told to march toward a copse of trees that stood at the dead center of the Union line.

The charge was a disaster for many reasons. Ineffective artillery, a foe that was stronger than was expected, fences that slowed the approach among them. Few Confederates made it to the Union fortifications, fewer still got through them. This failure allowed the Union to finish the day with a victory under their belt.

In all over 6,000 Confederate troops became casualties that day, compared to 1,500 on the Union side.  The biggest casualty, however, was the Confederacy, for the loss at Gettysburg became the death toll for their hopes of independence. Oddly enough even though the Confederacy fell, the copse of trees still stand as defiant as ever.




On the eve of the Civil War, the South found themselves in a curious predicament. The North was highly industrialized. They could produce arms, ammunition, and finished goods in a capacity that the South could not hope to match. Headed into the war they needed to either seriously ramp up the industrial base, or depend on the European powers to provide the goods and war material they needed.

At the peak of the war, the North had over 100,000 factories with over 1 million factory workers churning out products. The South managed to work up to approx 20,000 factories with just over 100,000 working in them.

To make up for the gap the Confederacy returned back to the roots of home-based manufacturing. The scene above is a depiction of a Southern woman at a work table in her home assembling cartridges.  Doing such work, as well as making blankets, cooking for the troops, sewing for the troops and even watching over the family farms were their primary role during the war.

Interestingly enough, such home-based manufacturing was one of the primary roles of the women on the home front during the American Revolution. While then men went out to fight, the women provided them the means to carry one.

It was not enough. As the war progressed the power of the Northern industry was brought to bear. The South simply could not keep up. Many of the men of the Confederate army would have gladly continued fighting. They were simply running out of the means to do so.

A View From The “Burnside” Bridge

Burnside Bridge over Antietam Creek

The “Burnside” Bridge

So let’s use our imagination for a second.

It is September 17, 1862 and you are a member of the Union 9th Corps standing on a bridge over Antietam Creek in Maryland. A general engagement has been going on down the line as Confederate and Union forces have been duking it out. You and your fellow soldiers find yourself on the far left of the Union line and in a position to roll up the Confederate flank. That is what your commander, General Burnside has been ordered to do.

There is just one problem.

See that ridge up there?

Now imagine that it contains over 300 Confederate soldiers, dug into rifle pits and covered by artillery.

So not only do you have to take the bridge, but create enough of a “beachhead” to allow your men to cross and THEN you still have to drive the Confederates from those heights. That does not sound like anything close to an easy task.

And it wasn’t.

The Confederates, again about 300, prevented the entire 9th Corp from crossing the bridge for three hours that day. Then, even though very outnumbered, they held their side of the bank for an additional two hours. That is five hours that the Union army basically was fought to a standstill on this part of the battlefield.  In the end, over 500 Union soldiers meet their end here, many staring up at that same spot that you see in the picture.


The Union won the battle in the end and it was based on this victory that President Lincoln felt secure enough to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. More on that later…

Lincoln Family Entertainment

Lincoln Family Entertainment

Lincoln Family Entertainment

In the 1850’s the home of Abraham Lincoln was a lively and well lived in location. Abraham would work down the street at his law office during the day and night return back to his home, his wife and the sons. They were a busy and happy family. Lincoln would often pass time with his boys wrestling or reading to them, but the family had at least one other form of amusement, a stereoscope very much like the one above. In fact, the one above is theirs as it is sitting on a table in their very living room.

The stereoscope worked very much like the old View-Master (you all had one of those growing up right?) In this case two photos are placed inside the unit and you would peer through the eyepieces. The two images would then become one, and appear to be in 3-D. This was very high-tech for the time. Through this device, the Lincoln’s could view places all over the world and see them in a way that most of us had never been able to.

While certainly not a cheap “toy” Lincoln was known for spoiling the boys and this would definitely fit the bill. On display at the Lincoln Homestead, this piece gives a brief look into the family’s life. Lincoln always had a curiosity about him and through toys like this, he instilled the same curiosity in his boys.