Category: Civil War

The Return of North & South Magazine

Published on 19 June 2019 under Books
The Return of North & South Magazine

North & South is back. The magazine (“The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society”) previously operated from 1997 to 2013 as a staple in the Civil War historical community. Founder and editor Keith Poulter explained the return:

With the disappearance of Blue & Gray magazine, I have been inundated with letters and phone calls from people imploring the relaunch of North & South to “fill the vacuum that now exists.” So here goes. This is the first issue of what we are calling the Second Series. Issues in this series will appear six times a year, this time in both print and online form.

For most of its history North & South was regarded as a high-quality publication, perhaps the leading non-university Civil War publication. Despite no affiliation with a university, North & South retained academic rigor and accuracy, offering a wide range of well-researched and annotated articles from leading historians. It helped establish that a quality, glossy Civil War magazine was possible.

Eventually North & South‘s editor Terry Johnston left (some reports suggest he was terminated) and he founded The Civil War Monitor in 2011, which may still be the leading Civil War magazine. Upon Johnston’s departure, Keith Poulter explained a “nuanced shift” he had in mind for North & South:

For example, expect to see a little more emphasis on the military side of things, and a little less social history. The order-of-battle diagrams, so beloved of the wargamers (and many others) among the readers will again become a standard feature.

Unsurprisingly, Johnston’s new Monitor promised more emphasis on the social, political, and economic history of the war. Perhaps Johnston’s departure, and their split in emphasis and approach, hurt North & South enough to force its closure in 2013. Or perhaps the magazine industry’s vulnerability to the internet spelled doom and prevented three major mass-market Civil War publications from surviving at once (Blue & Gray magazine did not cease publication until 2017). Reports also surfaced citing Poulter’s alleged mismanagement, broken promises, and lack of payments to authors as a major factor in North & South‘s demise.

Now with its resurrection North & South claims a strong cast of associate editors like Gary Gallagher, Ed Bearss, Allen Guelzo, and Gordon Rhea, among others, although it is unclear if they are indeed still associated or if the masthead is a carry-over from earlier editions. I watch with great anticipation to see how North & South adapts and survives.

Southwestern Indiana Civil War Monuments

Published on 31 March 2017 under Civil War

I recently completed minor pages on the history of several Civil War monuments in Southwestern Indiana:

The Jasper monument is particularly interesting because it is one of the rare Union memorials erected in part by a veteran of the Confederate army. After serving for a period with the Confederate army, John Gramelspacher fled and would go on to serve in the Union army. He was even admitted as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Also of note is the Gibson County Civil War Honor Roll Memorial. This was the first regimental monument erected in Indiana in memory of soldiers of the Civil War. Moreover, it claims to be the only monument in Indiana, or in the United States, that was erected and dedicated by any regiment in honor of its dead while that regiment was still in the service.

George W. Rains and the Augusta Powder Works

Published on 29 March 2017 under Civil War

George Washington Rains, 1865

Ted Savas has a new two-part feature article in Civil War Times magazine that reflects some truly ground-breaking research focusing on George Washington Rains and the Augusta Powder Works, the South’s only major source of gunpowder during the Civil War. He writes at his blog, A Publisher’s Perspective:

After years of careful study and in-depth discussion with a couple other historians I respected, I reached conclusions that ran wholly contrary to what everyone else had ever written about Civil War strategy, General Sherman, the Atlanta Campaign, his March to the Sea, and even the beginning of his 1865 Carolinas Campaign.

The work appears to dramatically change and illuminate our understanding of the importance of Augusta and Sherman’s decision regarding the city and its ordnance complex. Savas’s essay is divided into two sections: “Part 1 sets the foundational importance of Augusta and its war industries, and Part 2 combines the objective data balanced against Union decision-making).”

Old Flag Gets New Life

Published on 15 September 2016 under Civil War
Old Flag Gets New Life

In spring 1861, five women in Sparta, Illinois — Mrs. Mary Ann McHenry, Mrs. James Ward, Mrs. Barbara Gordon, Mrs. Ann McLaughlin, and Mrs. Mary McLaughlin — gathered to hand-piece and stitch a unique American flag with 34 stars, the stars themselves in the shape of a large star. Making a flag may seem like trivial work, but soldiers placed great importance on regimental flags and sacrificed their lives defending them from enemy capture. Those flags symbolized pride and honor. Moreover, regimental flags had an important practical use: identifying a unit’s place on the battlefield.

Officers used the Sparta-made flag to recruit Union troops in Belleville, Illinois; and it traveled with various units throughout 1861. James McHenry carried the flag while recruiting for Company H of the 22nd Illinois, and it then went to Belleville, Illinois, with companies H and I in May 1861. The flag returned to Randolph County and was carried by Henry McDonald with Captain Alexander Wybus’s company to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. The company disbanded there, some men going into the 10th Missouri and others into the 5th Illinois, but most into Company C of the 30th Illinois. Then the flag was carried by McDonald with Companies C and E of the 30th Illinois to Belleville, thence to Birds Point, Missouri. At Birds Point, flag owner James McHenry presented the flag to Charlie E. Brown of Blaire.

Charlie E. Brown used it to recruit for Company G of the 80th Illinois. Although he took it with him to Centralia as the company flag, it was so striking and effective that Col. Thomas G. Allen decided to use it for the entire 80th Illinois regiment until the unit received an official flag from the government at Louisville, Kentucky.

After the war, Mr. Brown presented the flag to the high school museum at Sparta, Illinois. The flag now belongs to the University Museum at Southern Illinois University. The museum expects to stabilize, preserve, and share the flag with the public.

Civil War Commemoration

Published on 17 April 2015 under Civil War
Civil War Commemoration

On 9 April 2015, the Evansville Courier & Press ran a column of mine marking the 150th anniversary of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender in the American Civil War. Click here to read it online.

A Memorandum of the 80th Illinois Infantry

Published on 15 January 2015 under Civil War
A Memorandum of the 80th Illinois Infantry

I have published a new book titled “A Memorandum of the 80th Illinois Infantry: Civil War Notes of Pvt. Armgstrong McGee.” It is available here through Lulu Press. This work is a regimental log of the 80th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment documenting its activities in the American Civil War from 27 October 1863 to 17 June 1865. There is no evidence that this memorandum has ever been published before, nor is there evidence that previous Civil War historians knew of its existence.

The 80th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment saw substantial action in the war. It traveled over 6,000 miles and was engaged in more than 20 pitched battles. Although the language used in this memorandum is naturally choppy and rough compared to more modern narratives, it will hopefully serve as a useful puzzle piece in the larger history of the regiment, and indeed of the war itself.