Civil War

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1864 Lincoln at the Gates of History

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In a masterful narrative, historian and biographer Charles Bracelen Flood brings to life the drama of Lincoln's final year, in which he oversaw the last campaigns of the Civil War, was reelected as president, and laid out his majestic vision for the nation's future in a reunified South and in the expanding West.

In "1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History," the reader is plunged into the heart of that crucial year as Lincoln faced enormous challenges. The Civil War was far from being won: as the year began, Lincoln had yet to appoint Ulysses S. Grant as the general-in-chief who would finally implement the bloody strategy and dramatic campaigns that would bring victory.

At the same time, with the North sick of the war, Lincoln was facing a reelection battle in which hundreds of thousands of "Peace Democrats" were ready to start negotiations that could leave the Confederacy as a separate American nation, free to continue the practice of slavery. In his personal life, he had to deal with the erratic behavior of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and both Lincolns were haunted by the sudden death, two years before, of their beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie.

"1864" is the story of Lincoln's struggle with all this -- the war on the battlefields and a political scene in which his own secretary of the treasury, Salmon P. Chase, was working against him in an effort to become the Republican candidate himself. The North was shocked by such events as Grant's attack at Cold Harbor, during which seven thousand Union soldiers were killed in twenty minutes, and the Battle of the Crater, where three thousand Union men died in a bungled attempt to blow up Confederate trenches. The year became so bleak that on August 23, Lincoln wrote in a memorandum, "This morning, as for several days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be reelected." But, with the increasing success of his generals, and a majority of the American public ready to place its faith in him, Lincoln and the nation ended 1864 with the close of the war in sight and slavery on the verge of extinction.

"1864" presents the man who not only saved the nation, but also, despite the turmoil of the war and political infighting, set the stage for westward expansion through the Homestead Act, the railroads, and the Act to Encourage Immigration.

As 1864 ends and Lincoln, reelected, is planning to heal the nation, John Wilkes Booth, whose stalking of Lincoln through 1864 is one of this book's suspenseful subplots, is a few weeks away from killing him.

Antietam Revealed The Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign as You Have Never Seen it Before

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Written by the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Antietam Revealed is a chronological survey of the 1862 Maryland Campaign and battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862). The volume contains 1,865 entries, four maps, 32 photographs, a biliography and index.  Paperback, 198 pages.

Antietam Shadows: Mystery, Myth and Machination

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A rip-roaring exposé that postulates history is the original "fake news"!In Antietam Shadows, Dennis E. Frye warns us to beware of history. A professional historian himself for the last forty years, Dennis has evolved from a youthful worshipper of history into a respected skeptic who has devoted his career to challenging historians, especially within the Civil War genre.Antietam Shadows is guaranteed to stimulate debate amongst Civil War buffs, as Dennis is renowned for blowing up what you know and turning you upside down and inside out. But Antietam Shadows isn't about strategy and tactics and bullets and shells. Antietam Shadows is the story of human nature—people facing dangerous dilemmas, selecting choices, making hard decisions, and living (or dying) with the consequences. The consequences within Antietam Shadows will determine the future of the United States. Author: Dennis E. FryePublication Date: 2018-4-17Publisher: Antietam Rest PublishingPaperback, 282

Antietam Visit DVD

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In Antietam Visit we learn about the bloodiest single day of the Civil War through Abraham Lincoln's eyes. Dramatic battle recreations, historical photographs, music, and period clothing appear throughout.Running time: 26 minutes. Bonus films on this DVD include John Brown's Raid: To Do Battle in the Land, Back to Harpers Ferry, and Springfield Armory.

Blue & Gray Magazine History and Tour Guide of Stonewall Jackson's Battle of Harpers Ferry September 12-15, 1862

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At the bottom of the “hole” where the Shenandoah River flows into the Potomac River is the village of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (which was Virginia in 1862). Towering over this confluence are Maryland Heights, Loudoun Heights, and Bolivar Heights. It all makes for wild, scenic beauty, but the town becomes virtually indefensible if enemy cannons are placed on the heights. In September 1862, Stonewall Jackson did exactly that.But Jackson was late. He was unable to meet Robert E. Lee’s stringent timetable for capturing Harpers Ferry, and the unprecedented loss of Lee’s Special Orders 191 – which detailed the Confederate invasion plan – compromised the operation and endangered the Confederate army. Often overshadowed by Antietam, the battle never would have occurred without Stonewall’s actions at Harpers Ferry.This guide includes several color and black-and-white photographs and maps of the battlefields.Paperback, 103 pages 

Boots and Saddles Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862

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In time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), author Laurence H. Freiheit has written the definitive study of cavalry actions, Union and Confederate, before, during, and after the battle. This massive study, the product of years of research and topographical analysis, will surely be the authoritative scholarly resource on this aspect of the Civil War for years to come. Boots and Saddles: Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862 is a 594-page, 8 x 11" hardcover, with over 200 maps, photographs, and illustrations. Included is a driving tour written by Craig Swain, with modern maps and GPS coordinates.

Civil War Artillery DVD

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Civil War Artillery includes two film selections: Firing the Napoleon details how a trained artillery crew services the Napoleon, one of the principal cannons used by both sides during the Civil War. Petersburg Cannon Firing shows soldiers in period costume demonstrating how a mounted artillery unit moved, set up, and the firing of a cannon. Also, an additional Revolutionary War period weapons demonstration is shown.Running time: 16 minutes. Bonus films on this DVD include To Keep Our Liberty, George Washington's Headquarters, A Few Men Well Conducted, Guilford Letters, and Siege of Yorktown.
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Conquering the Valley Stonewall Jackson at Port Republic

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During May and June 1862, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson catapulted from relative obscurity to perpetual fame on the basis of his operations in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Two victories in two days, June 8 and 9 at Cross Keys and Port Republic, cemented Jackson's success in the Valley Campaign and ensured him a lasting place in the annals of American military history. Conquering the Valley examines Cross Keys and Port Republic in tactical detail and also unveils the experiences and feelings of the soldiers who fought there.

Crucible of Command Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee- The War They Fought, The Peace They Forged

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They met in person only four times, yet these two men--Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee--determined the outcome of America's most divisive war and cast larger-than-life shadows over their reunited nation. They came from vastly different backgrounds: Lee from a distinguished family of waning fortunes; Grant, a young man on the make in a new America. Differing circumstances colored their outlooks on life: Lee, the melancholy realist; Grant, the incurable optimist.

Then came the Civil War that made them both commanders of armies, leaders of men, and heroes to the multitudes of Americans then and since who rightfully place them in the pantheon of our greatest soldiers. Forged in battle as generals, these two otherwise very different men became almost indistinguishable in their instincts, attributes, attitudes, and skills in command.

Each the subject of innumerable biographies, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee have never before been paired as they are here. Exploring their personalities, their characters, their ethical and moral compasses, and their political and military worlds, William C. Davis, one of America's preeminent historians, uses substantial, newly discovered evidence on both men to find surprising similarities between them, as well as new insights and unique interpretations on how their lives prepared them for the war they fought and influenced how they fought it.

Crucible of Command is both a gripping narrative of the final year of the war and a fresh, revealing portrait of these two great commanders as they took each other's measure across the battlefield with the aid of millions of men.

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Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views

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The Emancipation Proclamation is the most important document of arguably the greatest president in U.S. history. Now, Edna Greene Medford, Frank J. Williams, and Harold Holzer -- eminent experts in their fields -- remember, analyze, and interpret the Emancipation Proclamation in three distinct respects: the influence of and impact upon African Americans; the legal, political, and military exigencies; and the role pictorial images played in establishing the document in public memory. The result is a carefully balanced yet provocative study that views the proclamation and its author from the perspective of fellow Republicans, antiwar Democrats, the press, the military, the enslaved, free blacks, and the antislavery white establishment, as well as the artists, publishers, sculptors, and their patrons who sought to enshrine Abraham Lincoln and his decree of freedom in iconography.Medford places African Americans, the people most affected by Lincoln's edict, at the center of the drama rather than at the periphery, as previous studies have done. She argues that blacks interpreted the proclamation much more broadly than Lincoln intended it, and during the postwar years and into the twentieth century they became disillusioned by the broken promise of equality and the realities of discrimination, violence, and economic dependence. Williams points out the obstacles Lincoln overcame in finding a way to confiscate property -- enslaved humans -- without violating the Constitution. He suggests that the president solidified his reputation as a legal and political genius by issuing the proclamation as Commander-in-Chief, thus taking the property under the pretext of military necessity. Holzer explores how it was only after Lincoln's assassination that the Emancipation Proclamation became an acceptable subject for pictorial celebration. Even then, it was the image of the martyr-president as the great emancipator that resonated in public memory, while any reference to those African Americans most affected by the proclamation was stripped away.This multilayered treatment reveals that the proclamation remains a singularly brave and bold act -- brilliantly calculated to maintain the viability of the Union during wartime, deeply dependent on the enlightened voices of Lincoln's contemporaries, and owing a major debt in history to the image-makers who quickly and indelibly preserved it.

Flying, Gray-Haired Yank

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Book by Egan, Michael Michael Egan wrote the Flying, Gray-Haired Yank long after he completed serving his adopted country, The United States, in the Civil War. Unfortunately, he died in 1888 – the year this book was published and he did not see it in completed form.Egan began service as a civilian contractor to the military and carried dispatches through the guerrilla infested portion of central West Virginia. Following his courier duty, he entered into service in the new state of West Virginia as an officer in the 15th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He participated in campaigns, was captured, escaped, and re-captured, and escaped a second time. His story includes details of evasion of Confederate patrols, help from slaves and Unionist, and his eventual return to safety within Union lines. Hardcover, 424 pages.

Harpers Ferry Anthology: Civil War-era Stories by Park Rangers and Volunteers

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Published by the Harpers Ferry Historical Association in memory of David L. Larsen, Interpreter.The diaries, letters and memoirs of the civilians and soldiers who experienced the war in Harpers Ferry have provided park interpreters an invaluable tool for transporting park visitors to the past. Here are 24 stories written by 17 interpreters, volunteers, rangers and interns that recreate six harrowing years of a town under attack. Paperback, 118 pages.

Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology The Challenge of Change

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Focusing on the day-to-day operations of the U.S. armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, from 1798 to 1861, this book shows what the "new technology" of mechanized production meant in terms of organization, management, and worker morale. A local study of much more than local significance, it highlights the major problems of technical innovation and social adaptation in antebellum America.

Merritt Roe Smith describes how positions of authority at the armory were tied to a larger network of political and economic influence in the community; how these relationships, in turn, affected managerial behavior; and how local social conditions reinforced the reactions of decision makers. He also demonstrates how craft traditions and variant attitudes toward work vis-à-vis New England created an atmosphere in which the machine was held suspect and inventive activity was hampered.

Of central importance is the author's analysis of the drastic differences between Harpers Ferry and its counterpart, the national armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, which played a pivotal role in the emergence of the new technology. The flow of technical information between the two armories, he shows, moved in one direction only― north to south. "In the end," Smith concludes, "the stamina of local culture is paramount in explaining why the Harpers Ferry armory never really flourished as a center of technological innovation."

Pointing up the complexities of industrial change, this account of the Harpers Ferry experience challenges the commonly held view that Americans have always been eagerly receptive to new technological advances.

Harpers Ferry Under Fire A Border Town in the American Civil War

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Harpers Ferry experienced the Civil War like no other place and was a case study of repeated invasions, military operations, martial law, and endless danger. Journey into the Civil War with stories from those who lived, worked, fought, and died in a border town. This narrative is complemented by full color and black-and-white illustrations, photographs, and maps. Paperback, 200 pages. Dennis E. Frye is the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Writer, lecturer, guide, and preservationist, Dennis is a prominent Civil War historian. Dennis has numerous appearances on PBS, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, and A&E as a guest historian, and he helped produce award-winning television features on the Battle of Antietam and abolitionist John Brown. Dennis served as an Associate Producer for the Civil War movie Gods and Generals, during which he recruited and coordinated nearly 3,000 re-enactors for the film. Dennis also is one of the nation's leading Civil War battlefield preservationists. He is co-founder and first president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, and he is co-founder and a former president of today's Civil War Preservation Trust, where he helped save battlefields in twelve states. Dennis is a tour guide in demand, leading tours for organizations such as the Smithsonian, National Geographic, numerous colleges and universities, and Civil War Round Tables.

Harpers Ferry experienced the Civil War like no other place and was a case study of repeated invasions, military operations, martial law, and endless danger. Journey into the Civil War with stories from those who lived, worked, fought, and died in a border town. This narrative is complemented by full color and black-and-white illustrations, photographs, and maps. Paperback, 200 pages.Author Dennis E. Frye is the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. He is a writer, lecturer, guide, preservationist, and prominent Civil War historian. A well-know author, Dennis has written 77 articles and six books.
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Life in Civil War America

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The Civil War is a fascinating time period in American history. Life in Civil War America, 2nd Edition provides readers with fast facts and statistics about the 1860s from military life to civilian life in both the North and South.

Topics covered include:

  • social and economic realities of daily life
  • common slang and idioms
  • diets of the era, including recipes, food preparation and the impact of shortages and inflation on rations
  • civilian dress, military dress, and technology of the time.
  • The book focuses on the era, not just the events of the war. Period illustrations and photos further illuminate the era.

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    Lincoln and Emancipation

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    In this succinct study, Edna Greene Medford examines the ideas and events that shaped President Lincoln's responses to slavery, following the arc of his ideological development from the beginning of the Civil War, when he aimed to pursue a course of noninterference, to his championing of slavery's destruction before the conflict ended. Throughout, Medford juxtaposes the president's motivations for advocating freedom with the aspirations of African Americans themselves, restoring African Americans to the center of the story about the struggle for their own liberation.Lincoln and African Americans, Medford argues, approached emancipation differently, with the president moving slowly and cautiously in order to save the Union while the enslaved and their supporters pressed more urgently for an end to slavery. Despite the differences, an undeclared partnership existed between the president and slaves that led to both preservation of the Union and freedom for those in bondage. Medford chronicles Lincoln's transition from advocating gradual abolition to campaigning for immediate emancipation for the majority of the enslaved, a change effected by the military and by the efforts of African Americans. The author argues that many players--including the abolitionists and Radical Republicans, War Democrats, and black men and women--participated in the drama through agitation, military support of the Union, and destruction of the institution from within. Medford also addresses differences in the interpretation of freedom: Lincoln and most Americans defined it as the destruction of slavery, but African Americans understood the term to involve equality and full inclusion into American society. An epilogue considers Lincoln's death, African American efforts to honor him, and the president's legacy at home and abroad.Both enslaved and free black people, Medford demonstrates, were fervent participants in the emancipation effort, showing an eagerness to get on with the business of freedom long before the president or the North did. By including African American voices in the emancipation narrative, this insightful volume offers a fresh and welcome perspective on Lincoln's America.
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    Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America's Greatest Leader

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    In "Lincoln Lessons," seventeen of today s most respected academics, historians, lawyers, and politicians provide candid reflections on the importance of Abraham Lincoln in their intellectual lives. Their essays, gathered by editors Frank J. Williams and William D. Pederson, shed new light on this political icon s remarkable ability to lead and inspire two hundred years after his birth.

    Collected here are glimpses into Lincoln s unique ability to transform enemies into steadfast allies, his deeply ingrained sense of morality and intuitive understanding of humanity, his civil deification as the first assassinated American president, and his controversial suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. The contributors also discuss Lincoln s influence on today s emerging democracies, his lasting impact on African American history, and his often-overlooked international legendhis power to instigate change beyond the boundaries of his native nation. While some contributors provide a scholarly look at Lincoln and some take a more personal approach, all explore his formative influence in their lives. What emerges is the true history of his legacy in the form of first-person testaments from those whom he has touched deeply.

    "Lincoln Lessons" brings together some of the best voices of our time in a unique combination of memoir and history. This singular volume of original essays is a tribute to the enduring inspirational powers of an extraordinary man whose courage and leadership continue to change lives today.

    Contributors

    Jean H. Baker

    Mario M. Cuomo

    Joan L. Flinspach

    Sara Vaughn Gabbard

    Doris Kearns Goodwin

    Harold Holzer

    Harry V. Jaffa

    John F. Marszalek

    James M. McPherson

    Edna Greene Medford

    Sandra Day O Connor

    Mackubin Thomas Owens

    William D. Pederson

    Edward Steers Jr.

    Craig L. Symonds

    Thomas Reed Turner

    Frank J. Williams"

    On This Day in West Virginia Civil War History

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    West Virginia is the only state formed by seceding from a Confederate state. And its connections to the Civil War run deep. One day at a time, award-winning historian Michael Graham presents intriguing, event-driven anecdotes and history related to the state. On July 11, 1861, a Union force attacked 1,300 Confederate troops camped at Rich Mountain in a renowned battle. Confederate guerrillas raided Hackers Creek on June 12, 1864. Find little-known facts about the Battles of Droop Mountain, Carnifex Ferry, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown and a whole host of others. Read a story one day or month at a time. Celebrate an entire year of Civil War history in the Mountain State.

    Robert E. Lee Finger Puppet

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    An honorable man trapped in a battle against overwhelming forces or a treasonous leader of a band of rebels? Either way he makes a great finger puppet! On your finger he's a puppet; on your fridge he's a magnet! Approx. 4 tall.

    Shepherdstown in the Civil War One Vast Confederate Hospital

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    Because they were situated near the Mason-Dixon line, Shepherdstown residents witnessed the realities of the Civil War firsthand. Marching armies, sounds of battle and fear of war had arrived on their doorsteps by the summer of 1862. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 brought thousands of wounded Confederates into the town's homes, churches and warehouses. The story of Shepherdstown's transformation into "one vast hospital" recounts nightmarish scenes of Confederate soldiers under the caring hands of an army of surgeons and civilians. Author Kevin R. Pawlak retraces the horrific accounts of Shepherdstown as a Civil War hospital town.

    Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign September 19-20, 1862

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    Just downstream from the village called Shepherdstown, near a shallow crossing called Boteler's Ford, a mill that was built to exploit the rich vein of cement found nearby. Life in this idyllic region was interrupted by struggles of the still young nation. Few could have imagined the dramatic events that took place around the ford and mill in September of 1862 when General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia entered the region. Union soldiers were sent to oppose this invasion. It is difficult to understate the importance of this offensive, known as the Maryland Campaign of 1862. This campaign was far from over, and only a miracle could save Lee's army. Long overlooked by historians and visitors, the events that took place at Boteler's Ford on September 19 and 20 were critical to the outcome of this campaign. This study for the first time examines in detail the fighting along the Potomac, and places it into the context of the campaign. Long overdue for a detailed study, the events, both heroic and tragic, show that a real battle took place at Shepherdstown. In fact, in terms of troops engaged and the number of killed and wounded, it was the largest battle in what is now the state of West Virginia. ~~Tom Clemens The postscript to America's bloodiest day has been substantially ignored. Until now, no full-length detailed narrative of the September 19-20, 1862, engagement on the banks of the Potomac River near the hamlet of Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia) has ever been written. Paperback, 256 pages, index, more than 80 photos illustrations and maps.

    Springfield Armory DVD

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    The 174-year history of weapons manufacture is told in "Springfield Armory". Craftsmen in clothing of the period are shown in actual stages of production including shaping the gunstock on the Blanchard lathe.The production of weapons at the Springfield Armory was very similar to the activities at the Harpers Ferry Armory.Running time: 18 minutes. Bonus films on this DVD include John Brown's Raid: To Do Battle in the Land, Antietam Visit, and Back to Harpers Ferry.
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    Stonewall Jackson The Man, the Soldier, the Legend

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    The passage of 130 years has only deepened the fascination and reverence for Confederate general Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson. He ranks today as among the half-dozen greatest soldiers that America has produced. Military academies in both hemispheres still teach his tactics. Revered by his men, respected by his foes, Jackson became seemingly invincible. When he learned of the general's fatal wound, Robert E. Lee sent his "affectionate regards, " saying, "He has lost his left arm but I my right arm." Jackson's early death in 1863 was the greatest personal loss suffered by the Confederacy and one that permanently crippled the wartime South. This eagerly awaited biography is based on years of research into little-known manuscripts, unpublished letters, newspapers, and other primary sources. It offers for the first time a complete portrait - not only of Jackson the brilliant military strategist and beloved general but also of Jackson, the man of orphaned background, unyielding determination to conquer adversity, and deep religious convictions.

    They Fought Like Demons Women Soldiers in the Civil War

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    "Albert Cashier" served three years in the Union Army and passed successfully as a man until 1911 when the aging veteran was revealed to be a woman named Jennie Hodgers. Frances Clayton kept fighting even after her husband was gunned down in front of her at the Battle of Murfreesboro. And more than one soldier astonished "his" comrades-in-arms by giving birth in camp.

    This lively and authoritative book opens a hitherto neglected chapter of Civil War history, telling the stories of hundreds of women who adopted male disguise and fought as soldiers. It explores their reasons for enlisting; their experiences in combat, and the way they were seen by their fellow soldiers and the American public. Impeccably researched and narrated with verve and wit, They Fought Like Demons is a major addition to our understanding of the Civil War era.

    Too Afraid to Cry Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign

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    Now Available in Paperback First study of the Antietam campaign from civilians' perspectives Many never-before-published accounts of the Battle of Antietam The battle at Antietam Creek, the bloodiest day of the American Civil War, left more than 23,000 men dead, wounded, or missing. Facing the aftermath were the men, women, and children living in the village of Sharpsburg and on surrounding farms. In Too Afraid to Cry, Kathleen Ernst recounts the dramatic experiences of these Maryland citizens--stories that have never been told--and also examines the complex political web holding together Unionists and Secessionists, many of whom lived under the same roofs in this divided countryside."

    Trembling in the BalanceThe Chesapeake and Ohio Canal During the Civil War

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    Trembling in the Balance: The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal During the Civil War is the story of a canal company's struggle to operate a significant business enterprise in one of the nation's major theaters of war. Since the C&O Canal company was located on Maryland's southern border with Virginia, it experienced much of the war firsthand. Due to the proximity of the canal to so many conflicts, large and small, this book includes a great deal of military history in great detail. The canal played a role in major battles, like Antietam and Gettysburg, and in smaller conflicts, such as Ball's Bluff and Stonewall Jackson's raids on Dam Number 5 (the dam was owned by the canal company). A facinating account of this transportation artery during a time of great military upheval.

    Ulysses S. Grant Finger Puppet

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    Put him on your finger and let him lead your forces to victory against secessionists! On your finger he's a puppet; on your fridge he's a magnet! Approx. 4 tall.

    Upper Potomac in the Civil War

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    The artwork in this book was originally published as one of several sections in "Study in Patriotism, 1861-1865" as part of the DC centennial celebration in 1965. Derived from a 1965 Publication of the District of Columbia Civil War Centennial Commission.Today, the Upper Potomac Valley boasts an idyllic landscape where an indomitable river winds through quaint historic towns, rolling farmlands, and mountain vistas. Between 1859 and 1865, this was a scene of war. Battles, skirmishes, daring raids, and dangerous escapes rattled the usually peaceful region. Great armies, blue and gray, crossed the Potomac River numerous times as war shifted back and forth over this natural boundary that separated the North and South.One hundred years later, Washington, D.C. artist Garnet W. Jex combined his love of history and natural beauty to interpret these events in a stunning collection of fifty-one opaque watercolor paintings. The paintings are presented here in full color to commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial and to reveal in vivid detail the dramatic events that unfolded along the banks of the mighty river.Paperback, 56 pagesPublished by the Harpers Ferry HIstorical Associaion
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    Year of Meteors Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War

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    In early 1860, pundits across America confidently predicted the election of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas in the coming presidential race. Douglas, after all, led the only party that bridged North and South. But the Democrats would split over the issue ofslavery, leading Southerners in the party to run their own presidential slate. This opened the door for the upstart Republicans, exclusively Northern, to steal the Oval Office. Dark horse Abraham Lincoln, not the first choice even of his own party, won the presidency with a record-low 39.8 percent of the popular vote.

    Acclaimed scholar Douglas R. Egerton chronicles the contest with a historian's keen insight and a veteran political reporter's eye for detail. Vividly, Egerton re-creates the cascade of unforeseen events that confounded political bosses, set North and South on the road to disunion, and put not Stephen Douglas, but his greatest rival, in the White House.

    We see Lincoln and his team outmaneuvering more prominent Republicans, like New York's grandiose William Seward, while Democratic conventions collapse in confusion. And we see the gifted, flawed Douglas marking his finest hour in defeat, as he strives, and fails, to save the Union. Year of Meteors delivers a teeming cast of characters, minor and major, and a breakneck narrative of this most momentous year in American history.