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Civil War humor

Civil War Humor

The image at the top of this post is rare. Victorians seldom smiled in photographs and almost never grinned. The reason is that long exposure times for early photographic equipment meant holding a pose for an uncomfortable stretch; the slightest movement meant a...
Major Marcus Reno

Major Reno’s Day in Court

Court Recorder: "State whether it was cowardice or not that prompted you to leave the timber and the bottom." Major Reno: "There was no use in my staying in the timber as I could assist no one and could make no diversion. When I left there I acted on my best judgment,...

McClellan’s Last Word on the Civil War

Considering the eventual fortunes of Ulysses S. Grant and George McClellan, the start of the American Civil War promised a very different outcome for each. Grant stated to a reporter after his presidency: "I was anxious to see McClellan. McClellan was then in...

African American Victorian Women

"The negro in slavery, before and during the War, was lazy and idle—he will always be that—but he was simple, true, and faithful. What he has become since his emancipation from servitude is a queer comment on the effect of the liberty bestowed upon him." That quote...

Not Your Typical Southern Belle

"I don’t believe in Secession, but I do in Liberty. I want the South to conquer, dictate its own terms, and go back to the Union, for I believe that, apart, inevitable ruin awaits both. It is a rope of sand, this Confederacy, founded on the doctrine of Secession, and...

The Terrible Cost of Care

"'A hospital is no place to form attachments,' said one lady in this hospital to another. The former had surprised the latter in a sudden flood of tears, in the pantry of Ward 1. The occasion was the arrival of that order for the kitchen man, and chief wound-dresser,...

Betrayed and Entombed

In the Gallagher Law Library at the University of Washington one day, I found a remarkable little book. I was looking for vintage true crime. I found a gem. Carlotta Shotwell was a young, wealthy woman who had been defrauded by her "husband," the former Confederate...
Virginia City Montana

Montana Pioneer, Sarah Raymond

I had the good fortune to visit Virginia City last summer, the place to which a then-25-year-old Montana pioneer, Sarah Raymond, emigrated with her mother and brother in 1865 during the westward expansion of the United States. Do you know that feeling of getting close...
Little Bighorn Battlefield

Little Bighorn Source Materials

You might assume that after 140 years, writers have little left to say about the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Yet books continue to be written, letters and artifacts continue to be uncovered, and the audience never seems to wane. For anyone who has read a book or two...
plains indian wars

Shocking Frontier Fun

John Bourke, soldier-scholar and plains Indian Wars campaigner, was a great admirer of Native Americans and befriended many. His classic work, On the Border with Crook, is one of the best of the period and includes a great deal of humor. Men on the isolated frontier...

Washita Media War 1868

In the 1970 film, Little Big Man, General Custer and the 7th Cavalry are depicted charging to the Washita Massacre at dawn to the tune of "Garryowen," an old Irish drinking song that Custer loved and that he had made the regimental anthem. We know this much actually...

Indian Fighters and Indian Policy

What did the soldiers who engaged Native Americans in the 19th century think about what they were doing? It's a question we might ask of any war, not just the Indian Wars, but I think it's often assumed Indian fighters of the Old West were enthusiasts for the policies...

Racing Down the Yellowstone

Before the dominance railroads in America, rivers were the byways with the longest reach for moving people and goods. With the advent of the steamboat, shallow-draft engine-powered travel was possible over thousands of miles of waterways. River navigation was a tricky...

Grant and Lee in the Civil War

One thing about being a publisher of historical works, a passionate consumer of the same, and having an interest in psychology, is that I can't help viewing with fascination the way we view historical figures. Grant and Lee in the Civil War are a prime example. Victor...

Frederick Benteen: Many Sided Warrior

I confess a weakness for Frederick William Benteen, the senior captain of the 7th United States Cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer. I find him fascinating for a number of reasons, not the least of which was his marvelous wit. His actions at the...

The Fighting Irish Pencil Pusher

"Let no easy-going journalist suppose that an Indian campaign is a picnic. If he goes out on such business he must go prepared to ride his forty or fifty miles a day, go sometimes on half rations, sleep on the ground with small covering, roast, sweat, freeze, and make...

Custer’s Wolverines in the Civil War

"Come on, you Wolverines!" With this spirited shout, young General George A. Custer led his Michigan cavalry into the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. After his death at the Little Bighorn, Custer was at first lionized as a heroic martyr. In the early 20th...

Sealed with a Yankee Kiss

The desperate times of the American Civil War spawned many a true romance. One of the most popular songs of the day was "The Girl I Left Behind Me," which is referred to in nearly every Civil War memoir and regimental history. Many a soldier boy had his heart broken...

General Custer’s Arikara Scouts

Why would any Native Americans help the whites to hunt the Sioux? It seems strange, perhaps, that General George Armstrong Custer went to the Little Bighorn with Indian scouts in his entourage. In fact, there were many. And they had good things to say about Custer...

Grace and Her British Major

"Is [the Revolution] a war of aggression, of cupidity, of conquest, of fierce passion, for tyranny and despotic sway? No, it is the noble endeavor, the strong purpose, founded in inalienable right, to throw off a galling yoke unjustly and perseveringly imposed."...

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