History Blog

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

10/03/2011 - 1:53pm
CRRL Presents: William B. Crawley, Jr.

This interview airs beginning October 5.
Dr. Crawley is the Distinguished Professor of History who brings the story of the university to life. He is the author of author of University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908 to 2008. With fascinating anecdotes and an insider’s perspective, he talks with Debby Klein.

Find out more about CRRL Presents.

09/02/2011 - 12:28pm
Union soldiers in Falmouth, VA

In partnership with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park we continue to commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial with "The Civil War Comes to Stafford" lecture series presented at the England Run branch. Join us for the next lecture:

Stuck in the Mud, Stung by Defeat: The Union Army in Stafford

Lecture by Frank O'Reilly, England Run, Thursday, September 8, 7-8pm

For more on Sesquicentennial events and resources visit our Civil War Susquicentennial page and the National Park Service web site.

Image: From the Library of Congress American Memory Collection - Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865, Falmouth, Va. Drum corps of 61st New York Infantry

08/30/2011 - 10:57am
The Widow of the South, by Robert Hicks

On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, at 7 p.m., Robert Hicks -- noted Civil War author and preservation activist who wrote the best-selling novel, The Widow of the South -- will tell the story of Franklin, Tenn., and how a community came together to preserve a battlefield and transform the heritage tourism industry in Middle Tennessee.

Hosted by the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, this talk will be held at the Fredericksburg Country Club, 11031 Tidewater Trail. It is open to all ages, and there is no cost to attend. Call (540) 374-0900 for more information on this event.


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