History Blog

02/15/2012 - 8:43am
Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feburary 16, with a lecture on Jackie Robinson by Jonathan Eig, author of Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season.

April 15, 1947, marked the most important opening day in baseball history. When Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond that afternoon at Ebbets Field, he became the first black man to break into major-league baseball in the 20th century. World War II had just ended; democracy had triumphed. Now Americans were beginning to press for justice on the home front - and Robinson had a chance to lead the way. But his biggest concern was his temper, and playing well, despite race-baiting by segregationists. Author Jonathan Eig, in addition to publishing three nonfiction books, writes a monthly sports column for Chicago magazine.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Jackie Robinson check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

02/13/2012 - 3:30am
The Loving Story movie poster

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, Feburary 14, with a panel discussion and film showing about Loving v. Virginia .

In 1958, the sheriff of Caroline County charged into the bedroom of Richard and Mildred Loving in the dead of night and arrested them. Although legally married in Washington, Richard was white and Mildred was black, which was against the law in Virginia and 13 other states. The case on their behalf was brought by the ACLU before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” leading to the overturning of all such laws in the United States. Panelists on the program will be Bernard Cohen, one of two lawyers who argued the case before the Court, and Peggy Fortune, the Lovings’ daughter.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of  check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

02/09/2012 - 1:06pm
Columbus: The Four Voyages by Laurence Bergreen

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feburary 9, with a lecture on Christopher Columbus by Laurence Bergreen, author of Columbus: The Four Voyages.

Christopher Columbus, said a New York Times reviewer of Laurence Bergreen’s biography, was a “terribly interesting man - brilliant, audacious, volatile, paranoid, narcissistic, ruthless and (in the end) deeply unhappy.” Part explorer, part entrepreneur, part wannabe-aristocrat, Columbus initiated the most important period in Western history as a result of an error. Laurence Bergreen, a frequent lecturer at major universities and symposiums, also serves as a featured historian for the History Channel.  Among his many other books are biographies of Magellan and Marco Polo.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Christopher Columbus check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

03/12/2012 - 11:45am
War So Terrible: A Popular History of the Battle of Fredericksburg, by Donald C.

Excerpt from War So Terrible: A Popular History of the Battle of Fredericksburg, by Donald C. Pfanz, (pp. 44-46)

Donald C. Pfanz is staff historian with Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. He is also the author of Abraham Lincoln at City Point and Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life.  This chapter is reprinted on CRRL's history site with his permission.

“The Sacking of Fredericksburg”

By the time the fighting ended on Dec. 11, Fredericksburg was desolate.  Fighting in the streets combined with a bombardment by more than 180 cannons had left the venerable old town shattered and ruins.  Those citizens who had not fled Fredericksburg had seen their homes riddled with bullets, shot and shell.

12/08/2011 - 10:16am

Present-day Christmas conjures memories of snow, lighted trees, cinnamon, gifts, parties, and music. If we lived during the Civil War, what kinds of memories would we have? Would they be of family, food, warmth, and parties, or would they be of just trying to survive and stave off hunger? Would there be presents under the tree, or would we be happy just to be present with our loved ones. To learn a bit more about Christmas during the years 1861-1864, explore the items in the library and the Web sites listed below.

In the Library:

10/31/2011 - 3:39pm

James Wallace McGinly visited the Central Rappahannock region several times. Nothing unusual about that -- except that McGinly visited in 1862, 1863 and 1864; he was wearing a blue uniform at the time; and he recorded the details of his visits in a diary.

CRRL has been given a photocopy of that diary, thanks to Edward G. Nix of Illinois. It will be cataloged, and placed in CRRL’s Virginiana Collection.

10/27/2011 - 12:42pm
Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, by Andrew F. Smith

It’s been said an army travels on its stomach, and though many of the starving Confederate troops at the war’s end were still willing to fight, ultimately it was a physically broken army returning to their devastated, burned out farms that sounded the death knell of the nascent nation, so contends gastronomical historian Andrew F. Smith in his recent book, Starving the South.

04/27/2012 - 12:41pm
Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War

Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War is a series of five reading and discussion sessions moderated by Jeff McClurken, chairman of the Department of History and American Studies at the University of Mary Washington. Participants read three books: March by Geraldine Brooks; Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James McPherson; and an anthology of key documents, America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries, edited by Edward L. Ayers. Each session prompts conversation on a different facet of the Civil War experience: Imagining War, Choosing Sides, Making Sense of Shiloh, The Shape of War, and War and Freedom. Read this well-crafted overview by Ed Ayers that "makes sense" of the structure of the series.

After each session, we are archiving the related discussion questions and discussed Web links.

Part One: Imagining War | Part Two: Choosing Sides | Part Three: Making Sense of Shiloh |

Part Four: The Shape of War | Part Five: War and Freedom

10/31/2011 - 12:10pm
The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy, Chapter 1, by Robert K. Krick

The first eighteen pages of The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy, by Robert K. Krick, are reprinted here with permission from the author and publisher, Louisiana State University Press, which retains all republication rights. Library copies of The Smoothbore Volley are available for check-out.

Nineteen men in two distinct groups rode forward from the coalescing Confederate lines west of Chancellorsville at about 9:00 P.M. on May 2, 1863. Only seven of the nineteen came back untouched, man or horse. Although one of those nearest the offending musket muzzles, Major General A. P. Hill escaped among the unscathed handful. Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, among those farthest from the flash point, was one of the five men killed or mortally wounded. The capricious paths of a few dozen one-ounce lead balls caroming off the dense shrubbery of Spotsylvania’s Wilderness that night had much to do with the course of the Civil War.

From every imaginable perspective, the afternoon of May 2 had been a stunning Confederate success of unprecedented magnitude. Lee and Jackson had crafted between them a dazzling tactical initiative that sent Stonewall covertly all the way across the front of a Federal army that outnumbered the southerners by more than two to one. The redoubtable corps commander managed the remarkable march without serious interruption, arrayed his first two divisions in a wide line, and descended upon the Federals like a thunderbolt. Those northerners who rallied bravely against the tide faced an inexorable outflanking by the outriders of Jackson’s line, who stretched far beyond the center of the attack in both directions. In this fashion Jackson routed one Union corps, trapped another out of the line, and left the others shaky, uncertain, and vulnerable to be stampeded.

10/04/2011 - 3:11pm

Thursday, October 6, 7:00-9:00, Headquarters Library Theater   

Peter Carmichael of Gettysburg College and Brian Luskey of West Virginia University will discuss the ways in which Civil War films use the themes of family and home to shape the meaning of the nation for audiences. Co-sponsored with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Hollywood in Blue and Gray

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