Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ken Burn's Favorite Civil War Sites

USA Weekend featured an article by Ken Burns with his top ten Civil War locations. 

The following sites should be at the beginning of any Civil War buff's bucket list.  I have added my own comments in brackets. The links are to pages on Civil War Journeys where you can find out additional information.

  1. Fort Sumter, SC [A great place to begin.  While there visit Ft. Moultrie and Charleston's other historic sites]
  2. First Battle of Bull Run, Manassas, VA [Tour the First Battle in the morning and Second Bull Run in the afternoon.  Watch out for traffic.]
  3. Shiloh, TN - [One of my favorite battles.  I would start at Ft. Donelson, TN, then go to Shiloh, and end at Corinth, MS]
  4. Anietam, MD - [A great battlefield to tour]
  5. Fredericksburg, VA - [Be sure to see the other aspects of the battlefield, not just Maryre's Heights next to the visitor center.  Drive down Lee Drive and visit the Slaughter Pen Farm]
  6. Gettysburg, PA - [Granddaddy of them all. Plan on several days at this battlefield including a stop at the new visitor center] 
  7. Vicksburg, MS - [The only way to see this battlefield is with a guide.  Also stop and see the USS Cairo.]
  8. Chattanooga, TN - [Not on my top ten list, but a nice battlefield to tour.]
  9. Petersburg, VA - [Also see the sites in the Richmond vacinity.]
  10. Appomattox Court House, VA - [Take the road tour from Petersburg to Appomattox.  Make sure that you have a co-pilot.  Get the audio tape in Petersburg.] 
Before you start, visit the following links to make your trip more enjoyable: Guide to Touring Civil War Battlefields and Battlefield Road Trips.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Road to Seccession

On December 1-5, 2010, a symposium "The Road to Secession" symposium was held at Camp Gilmont in Upshur County, Texas.  The event was presented by the Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. 

The presentations featured the following topics and speakers:

  • "Reasons for the War,"  H.G. Manning, Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Retired) and former Commander, Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans
  • "Indian Territory and the Confederate Alliance," Dr. Les Tucker
  • "Essay on the Events Which Forced the South to Secede from the Union," Roger M. Young, Lt James Woodward Camp 1399, S.C.V. Warner Robins, GA
  • "Religion and the Road to Secession," Elizabeth Young
  • "Robert E. Lee, the Tragic Secessionist," Scott Bowden
  • "Secession: Did The Compact Of 1787 Allow States The Right To Secede? Was Lincoln Right When He Argued to Congress That the States Were Never Free, Sovereign, Independent Entities?" David E. Pierson, P.E., Colonel (ret.) USAFR
  • "The Irrepressible Conflict In the words of John H. Reagan," Gary Williams
Mark Vogel outlined the conferences intent in his openning remarks:

"The Road to Secession" was organized to demonstrate that secession from the Union had many different causes. The papers presented in this Proceedings, and the speakers who addressed the symposium approached the national crisis from a wide array of perspectives. It was the original aspiration of this conference to offer at least one paper addressing each of the southern states and territories and identify the issues, personalities, and chronology which shaped the eventual decision on secession in each state. It is posed here, that were someone to look across the states individually, it would become apparent that there were many different causes for secession."

This was not a conference that intended to look at Northern and Southern perspectives on the roots of the war. The papers offer a decidely Southern bias and place the blame for the war on the north, Lincoln, and the radical Republicans. With that understanding, the papers present a interesting analysis of the causes of the Civil War.

H. G. Manning's paper, "Reasons for the War," offers two causes: "First, is the unfair levying of tariffs against the South combined with an ‘unequal’ distribution of those funds in the development of the nation. In short, funds were used predominantly for internal projects within the northern States of the Union. Today, we refer to these as ‘redistribution of funds’ and this is a continuing socialist legacy resulting from the South losing the war. The second cause for the South leaving the Union is the radical change of power in Washington’s City resulting from the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the success of the radical republicans in the elections of 1860. In the early history of the country, the South may not have held control of the Legislative branch of the federal government, but this was often countered by retaining the Executive Branch. In 1860, the Southern States were appalled at the loss of both branches of the federal government combined with the rants and physical attacks of the radical fringe of the Republican Party – the abolitionists."

Roger Young's "Essay on the Events Which Forced the South to Secede from the Union" concludes that the "South seceded because of unfair Federal taxation, other States control of destiny, other States interference in economic development, other states control of banking institutions, and other states and Federal Government control of infrastructure development."

Elizabeth Young's "Religion and the Road to Secession" states that: "When the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist denominations split, shock waves rolled over the country. Politicians, such as South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun and Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, realized that religious division would have political consequences, wondering how long North and South could share political union when they no longer worshiped in the same Christian churches."

Secession: Did The Compact Of 1787 Allow States The Right To Secede?" David Pierson argues that the Compact of 1787 provided such a right.  He quotes Jefferson,  "...whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force; that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party; that this government, created by this compact, was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself...each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress."  Pierson presents an impressive collection of opinions that support a state's right to secede.

"The Irrepressible Conflict in the Words of John H. Reagan," presents arguments made by Reagan, an Anderson County, Texas judge in a series of debates in 1857. According to John H. Reagan’s memoirs published in 1906, he believes the foremost cause of secession and war was slavery. He clearly states his views and history of slavery in the United States. He was certain that the institution of slavery had legal status under the Constitution prior to the War Between the States. Reagan portrays the North as deadly hostile to the rights, property and citizens of the South
The proceedings make interesting reading and present arguments that go beyond the usual "states rights" issues.  Please contact the Texas Divison of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for more information.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Battle of Port Jefferson, Texas

More than 700 Civil War reenactors invaded Jefferson, Texas for the weekend "Battle of Port Jefferson."
The three-day event featured a living history day on Friday, a skirmish on Austin Street and battle on Saturday, and a battle on Sunday.  The annual May event is believed to be the largest in Texas. 

We attended the events on Saturday morning and afternoon.  Our day started with a parade down Austin Street that became a heated skirmish between Federal and Confederate troops.  The fighting was intense with both sides taking "casualties."  The engagement was over before noon and we wandered over to the sutlers tents to look over their wares.  We stopped at a few of the many antique shops in Jefferson before sitting down for lunch.  Then it was more antiquing until 3:30.

The afternoon battle was held at the Tuscumbia Ranch about 5 miles out of town.  The battle began with a cannon exchange that left the pecan grove in smoke and the combatants and onlookers covered in a layer of fine dirt.  Then cavalry units from both sides charged across the field exchanging gun and rifle fire.  Finally, the Union infantry attacked.  After some initial success, the Confederate line stiffened.  Reinforcements arrived and the Confederates tried to flank the Union line.  The Federal forces regrouped and made an orderly withdrawal.  The Union forces formed a new line and halted the Confederate advance.  The Confederates continued to attack, but blistering fire from the reestablished Union defenses inflicted heavy casualties.  Finally the battle ended with both sides agreeing to a truce to remove their "dead and wounded."

No it wasn't a reenactment of a historic battle, but it sure was a lot of fun. 

Please check our site for more Battle of Port Jefferson skirmish and battle pictures.

This event is a great opportunity to experience a Civil War era battle.  Jefferson is about 3 1/2 hours from Dallas and one hour from Shreveport.  Please check out the Chamber of Commerce site for more information on this event and others in Jefferson.  I hope to see you there in May 2012.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Civil War at the Movies

Just learned about a site that rates Civil War movies.  It's called Civil War Movies: Truth or Fiction?  The listing is part of a larger site called Only Good Movies.  What are your favorite Civil War movies?  I've listed mine below.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Charleston Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Charleston magazine celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War with "A Civil Discourse."  The article has commentaries from "noted historians, authors, and educators" on what the anniversary means to them and to the Charleston community.  The following are among some of the observations:

"I hope that over the next four years, we Americans use the events of the Civil War to investigate our current social, political, and economic climate" --- Dr. Patricia Williams Lesane, Executive Director of the Avery Research Center

"The sesquicentennial is not merely a look into the past.  More importantly, it shows us who were are [sic], and it dramatizes how far we've traveled together."  --- Glenn McConnell, South Carolina Senate president pro tempore

"The next time you hear someone proclaim that secession was about state's rights, not slavery, ask what right it was that the seceding states were so anxious to protect." --- Gordon C. Rhea, attorney, historian, and author  [I've been telling people this for some time.  Perhaps it time that the state's rights argument in put to rest forever.]

(Source: "A Civil Discourse," Charleston Magazine, April 2011, pp.67-73. Also visit them on the web at

Also check out the article, "Stamp Act," by Margaret Allen.  The photos of Fort Sumter are from our collection on  Unfortunately, Ms. Allen didn't give us the photo credits.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Sic semper tyrannis - thus always to tyrants!

Osama bin Laden is dead!  Congratulations to the United States Government and Military for destroying this monster.  We can only hope and pray that by cutting of the head, that the body of al Qaeda will start to wither and die.   Our thoughts and prayers are with all families who have suffered losses in the 9-11 and other attacks.  We also want to honor and thank members of the world intelligence services who identified bin Laden's hiding place.  Our thanks to the members of the United States military and their families who make the sacrifices necessary to destroy the evil forces that threaten our safety.

Sic semper tyrannis, the phrase that serves as the official motto of the State of Virginia and appears on its seal and flag, now may applied to the death of bin Laden.  The phrase had its supposed origin with Brutus and the assassination of Julius Caesar, and was shouted by John Wilkes Booth  after shooting Lincoln.  Now we can apply it to true villain.  Whether you employ the literal translation or mistranslations, "death to tyrants" or "down with tyrants," we now have a villain most deserving of the phrase.