Tag Archives: Virginia

Blanket Brigade: the perfect gift for Thanksgiving

  Note: This is the conclusion of the three-part series about the “Blanket Brigade.” Rising from their rude shelters in Ridgeville, Md. on Sunday, Sept. 14, the 16th Maine Infantry boys listened to “the terrific cannonading” erupting from the Battle of South Mountain, fought miles to the west, Adjutant Abner Small recalled the distant thunder. […]

The Wilderness, Part III — Slaughter at Saunders Field

  For the 20th Maine boys hurrying west from their recently constructed breastworks near the Old Wilderness Tavern in central Virginia, the slaughter began sometime after 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, 1864. At noon Brig. Gen. Charles Griffin had received an order to probe westward along the Orange Turnpike with his 1st Division of […]

Hell comes to Rappahannock Station on a dark November night: Part I

Sensing the approaching threat in the deep November darkness, an alert Confederate soldier — probably a North Carolinian — fires his musket. Comrades swarm to their protective breastworks, level their muskets, and loosen a thunderous volley. Hideous screams suddenly erupt in the Virginia night; before the Confederates finish reloading, cold steel leaps through the swirling […]

Isabella Fogg investigated reports of Army mistreatment of wounded Union soldiers

    Isabella Fogg had already encountered the horrors of war when the slaughter known as Antietam took place on Sept. 17, 1862. Then Fogg discovered the hell that is war. Surnamed Morrison, her parents had emigrated to New Brunswick from Scotland before Isabella’s birth in 1823. Practically a child bride when she married William […]

When Confederate spooks came calling, Bludgeon the Horse got going

Neither Winsor B. Smith nor Bludgeon the Horse ever forgot that dark Virginia night when the Confederate spooks came calling. Born in Bridgton in 1842, Smith joined the 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment’s Co. K as a private in August 1862. He developed an impressive wartime resume, including a six-month stint as a Confederate prisoner. That […]

Dead Man Riding

So what could Jonathan Cilley do after catching a cannon ball? Die? Yup — or so thought everyone back home in Thomaston. Born on Dec. 29, 1835 to Jonathan Longfellow Cilley and his wife, Deborah, the boy who became a Maine cavalry officer graduated from Bowdoin College (’58) and gained admittance to the Knox County […]

Eyewitness to slaughter

  What was Robert E. Lee thinking? Among the battlefields preserved by Richmond National Battlefield Park, Malvern Hill is my favorite site. Standing amidst the cannons aligned east of the Crew House, I can see the open fields across which Lee hurled his infantry on July 1, 1862. These cannons, sited to approximate the Federal […]

Civil War lore comfirmed as a historical fact

The Civil War created many legends, from the eccentric VMI professor transformed into “Stonewall” Jackson to the borderline alcoholic and military strategist — Ulysses Simpson Grant — who whipped Southern troops wherever he encountered them. And the war generated a historical lore that, to this day, requires historians to sift fact from legend. One event […]

A dead horse and a foot wound ruined Black Hawk’s Day

  A Confederate ambush in the Shenandoah Valley shot a Black Hawk down in May 1862. Putnams helped settle Houlton, and to John Varnum and Elizabeth Putnam a son was born on April 28, 1838. Six years earlier a Sauk chief had led several Indians tribes in a brief and tragic war against the United […]