Symposium Spotlight: Grant Takes Command

symposium-spotlight-header

Grant and Meade in the Wildernessby ECW Correspondent Sean Lynch

While there are various moments that serve as turning points for both the Union and Confederate Armies, no moment had as much magnitude on President Abraham Lincoln’s future in office as Ulysses S. Grant taking control of the Union Army in 1864.

As a part of the 2018 Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, Chris Kolakowski will speak on the topic of “Turning Points of the Civil War,” with his subject of “Grant Takes Command.”

“Author H.P. Wilmott said ‘A turning point is a signpost that points in the parting of the ways. It’s a noticeable course change,’” Kolakowski said. “So, the promotion of Grant to three stars and his appointment as General in Chief certainly qualifies.” 

Kolakowski’s expertise stretches past the Civil War. As a military expert from events 1775 to present. He’s worked as the director of the General George Patton Museum and Center for Leadership and currently is the director of The General Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia.

Kolakowski spent time around Fredericksburg, Virginia, which led to his interest in Grant.

“I’ve been interested in Grant for a very long time. Ever since I’ve studied the Civil War I think he’s one of the major figures in American military history, not just in the Civil War,” Kolakowski said.

Kolakowski received his B.A. in History and Mass Communication from Emory & Henry College in 1999 and his M.A. in Public History from SUNY Albany in 2004.

“I also spent eight years as a ranger at the Fredericksburg-area battlefields, including the Wilderness and Spotsylvania where the first two battles of Grant’s campaign against Lee were in 1864, so I’ve spent a lot of time pondering General Grant, the year 1864, what it means, and how it goes,” Kolakowski said.

During the Civil War, the rank of lieutenant general was an important position within the military, with two people holding the position before the Civil War, one by brevet.

“By creating the rank of lieutenant general, looking back, we forget that was a big deal at the time. There had only been one other lieutenant general overall, which was George Washington,” he said.

Putting Grant into the position of power served as one of the major turning point of the war because of his command over the army.

“Giving Grant that power, you look at the effects of that turning point. Maneuvering the federal armies all in a coordinated fashion. Grant’s command decisions, key command decisions at the Wilderness in Spotsylvania really are the beginning to the end of the Confederacy.”

Before his insertion into the position of lieutenant general, Grant’s work and success on campaigns beforehand helped put him into position for the rank.

“If you look at his campaigns, they build on each other,” he said. “Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg, they all build on each other.”

A few months before his appointment on March 2, 1864, questions began to arise as to what the Union were going to do within the Western Theater encompassing Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“He’s now in command of the entire Western Theater at that point and he gets to this discussion of ‘What do we do in the West, what’s the strategy for the West, and how does the West fit into the bigger picture?’” By the time of the battles for Chattanooga in November 1863, he’s the first U.S. officer to maneuver multiple independent armies on a field of battle.”

President Abraham Lincoln also had a lot to prove when he decided to promote Grant to lieutenant general. 1864 was an election year, so Lincoln needed results from Grant on the battlefield in order for Lincoln to have a chance to defeat Democratic nominee George B. McClellan at the ballot box.

“At this point, Lincoln is feeling Grant out,” he’s said. “’I know this guy can win battles. I know this guy can win complex campaigns like Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Donelson. Does he have the strategic brain that I need as a general in chief?’”

Kolakowski hopes that people understand the magnitude of Grant’s appointment and the events that it affected over the course of the Civil War.

“We forget what it was like to have Grant be just the third lieutenant general in the history of the U.S. Army. It is just trying to get people to understand that perspective,” he said. “We know that Grant is going to win the war within 13-14 months of his appointment, but they did not know that at the time.”

While history played out and Lincoln ended up getting re-elected, hindsight has reduced the magnitude of making this move.

“We know that Lincoln is going to get re-elected partly because of the successful strategy Grant pursues; they didn’t know that in 1864. This is a big, big deal.”

————

The Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will be held Aug. 3-5, 2018. Tickets are still available for $155/each: order here.

Symposium Preview: Grant Takes Command

symposium-spotlight-header

by ECW Correspondent Sean Lynch

While there are various moments that serve as turning points for both the Union and Confederate Armies, no moment had as much magnitude on President Abraham Lincoln’s future in office as Ulysses S. Grant taking control of the Union Army in 1864.

As a part of the 2018 Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, Chris Kolakowski will speak on the topic of “Turning Points of the Civil War” with his subject of “Grant Takes Command.”

“Author H.P. Wilmott said ‘A turning point is a signpost that points in the parting of the ways. It’s a noticeable course change,’” Kolakowski said. “So, the promotion of Grant to three stars and his appointment as General in Chief certainly qualifies.” 

Kolakowski’s expertise stretches past the Civil War. As a military expert from events 1775 to present. He’s worked as the director of the General George Patton Museum and Center for Leadership and currently is the director of The General Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia.

Kolakowski spent time around Fredericksburg, Virginia, which led to his interest in Grant.

“I’ve been interested in Grant for a very long time. Ever since I’ve studied the Civil War I think he’s one of the major figures in American military history, not just in the Civil War,” Kolakowski said.

Kolakowski received his B.A. in History and Mass Communication from Emory & Henry College in 1999 and his M.A. in Public History from SUNY Albany in 2004.

“I also spent eight years as a ranger at the Fredericksburg-area battlefields, including the Wilderness and Spotsylvania where the first two battles of Grant’s campaign against Lee were in 1864, so I’ve spent a lot of time pondering General Grant, the year 1864, what it means, and how it goes,” Kolakowski said.

During the Civil War, the rank of lieutenant general was an important position within the military, with two people holding the position before the Civil War, one by brevet.

“By creating the rank of lieutenant general, looking back, we forget that was a big deal at the time. There had only been one other lieutenant general overall, which was George Washington,” he said.

Putting Grant into the position of power served as one of the major turning point of the war because of his command over the army.

“Giving Grant that power, you look at the effects of that turning point. Maneuvering the federal armies all in a coordinated fashion. Grant’s command decisions, key command decisions at the Wilderness in Spotsylvania really are the beginning to the end of the Confederacy.”

Before his insertion into the position of lieutenant general, Grant’s work and success on campaigns beforehand helped put him into position for the rank.

“If you look at his campaigns, they build on each other,” he said. “Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg, they all build on each other.”

A few months before his appointment on March 2, 1864, questions began to arise as to what the Union were going to do within the Western Theater encompassing Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“He’s now in command of the entire Western Theater at that point and he gets to this discussion of ‘What do we do in the West, what’s the strategy for the West, and how does the West fit into the bigger picture?’” By the time of the battles for Chattanooga in November 1863, he’s the first U.S. officer to maneuver multiple independent armies on a field of battle.”

President Abraham Lincoln also had a lot to prove when he decided to promote Grant to lieutenant general. 1864 was an election year, so Lincoln needed results from Grant on the battlefield in order for Lincoln to have a chance to defeat Democratic nominee George B. McClellan at the ballot box.

“At this point, Lincoln is feeling Grant out,” he’s said. “’I know this guy can win battles. I know this guy can win complex campaigns like Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Donelson. Does he have the strategic brain that I need as a general in chief?’”

Kolakowski hopes that people understand the magnitude of Grant’s appointment and the events that it affected over the course of the Civil War.

“We forget what it was like to have Grant be just the third lieutenant general in the history of the U.S. Army. It is just trying to get people to understand that perspective,” he said. “We know that Grant is going to win the war within 13-14 months of his appointment, but they did not know that at the time.”

While history played out and Lincoln ended up getting re-elected, hindsight has reduced the magnitude of making this move.

“We know that Lincoln is going to get re-elected partly because of the successful strategy Grant pursues; they didn’t know that in 1864. This is a big, big deal.”

———-

The Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will be held Aug. 3-5, 2018. Tickets are $155 for all three days. You can purchase tickets here.

Symposium Spotlight: Christopher Kolakowski

Welcome back to another installment of our 2018 Emerging Civil War Symposium Spotlight. Our final speaker on Saturday, August 4, will be Christopher Kolakowski. He will bridge the divide between battlefield and political turning points of the war as he examines Ulysses S. Grant, his rise to ultimate command, and how this one man became a turning point in Federal war effort. Chris has researched and written extensively on the topic. He sent along a preview of his presentation for this year’s symposium below.

On March 9, 1864, Ulysses S. Grant received promotion to Lieutenant General and designation as Commanding General of the U.S. Army. Often discussed in passing as regards the 1864 campaigns, to contemporary eyes this was a major event in the war. His leadership made a key difference in the next 13 months, and proved the wisdom of Lincoln’s choice. Kolakowski’s talk will review the reasons behind this appointment, and its effects on U.S. strategy and conduct of the war in 1864.

Christopher L. Kolakowski was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Va. He received his BA in History and Mass Communications from Emory & Henry College, and his MA in Public History from the State University of New York at Albany.

Chris Kolakowski

Chris has spent his career interpreting and preserving American military history with the National Park Service, New York State government, the Rensselaer County (NY) Historical Society, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Kentucky State Parks, and the U.S. Army. He has written and spoken on various aspects of military history and leadership from 1775 to the present. He has published two books with the History Press: The Civil War at Perryville: Battling For the Bluegrass and The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaign: This Army Does Not Retreat. Chris is a contributor to the Emerging Civil War Blog, and his study of the 1941-42 Philippine Campaign titled Last Stand on Bataan was released by McFarland in late February 2016. In September 2016 the U.S. Army published his volume on the 1862 Virginia Campaigns as part of its sesquicentennial series on the Civil War.

If you still have not purchased your tickets for this year’s Symposium, Aug. 3-5, 2018, they are available to order here. They include Friday night’s reception, speakers, keynote address, and historians’ roundtable; Saturday’s line-up of talks; coffee service and lunch on Saturday; and Sunday’s tour of Stonewall Jackson’s final days.

The Union’s Great Crisis: The Fall of ’62

TurningPoints-logoMost of our “turning points” have focused on a single event, but if we widen the lens and look at the broader pendulum swings of the Civil War, certainly fewer periods of the conflict had more at stake than the fall of 1862.

In the summer of that year, Robert E. Lee had reversed the fortunes of the war in Virginia, shifting the front from the gates of Richmond to the doorstep of Washington. At the same time Lee eyed a stab northward, Southern forces had stabbed into Kentucky in an attempt to bring the Border State fully into the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis ordered additional attacks in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana as a way to turn up the pressure all across the board.

“The Confederate resurgence demoralized the United States,” says ECW’s Chief Historian, Chris Kolakowski, in his ECW Digital Short The Union’s Great Crisis: The Fall of 1862

Great Crisis DS-coverIn those autumn months, major battles at Antietam, Perryville, Fredericksburg, and Stones River—along with smaller clashes at Iuka, Baton Rouge, Charleston, and Chickasaw Bluffs—would raise serious questions about the war effort and the North’s ability to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. The fall elections of 1862 and a crisis in Lincoln’s own cabinet created additional layers of political complexity on top of the already-difficult military situation.

“Hindsight has diminished perspective on the trials and tribulations of the period September 1 to December 31, 1862,” Kolakowski writes. “These four months witnessed important political and military engagements that both thwarted a Confederate resurgence and recast the war’s scope and conduct. The Civil War in January 1863 was a fundamentally different conflict than in August 1862, and the events of 1862’s last quarter changed it forever.”

The Union’s Great Crisis: The Fall of 1862 by Chris Kolakowski is available as an ECW Digital Short from Amazon for only $2.95 (click here). It’s well worth the read.

 


ECW Names Kolakowski as New Chief Historian

Kolakowski_ChrisEmerging Civil War (ECW) has chosen historian Christopher Kolakowski to serve as the organization’s next chief historian.

Kolakowski, who has been with ECW since May 2013, is the author of several books and, on the ECW blog, of a popular series called “Civil War Echoes.” He also currently serves on ECW’s editorial board and management team. By day, Kolakowski serves as director of the General Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Chris remains a World War II guy by day, overseeing what essentially amounts to a presidential library, considering MacArthur’s role in post-war reconstruction in the Pacific,” explains Chris Mackowski, ECW’s editor in chief, “but Chris remains a Civil War guy at heart. That’s where he cut his teeth, and that’s where he continues to return when the Second World War lets him. Best of all, he sees the clear connections and resonances between the two, which continue to echo on to today.” 

As chief historian, Kolakowski will oversee quality control for ECW’s historical content. That means he’ll review book manuscripts for both the award-winning Emerging Civil War Series published by Savas Beatie, and the new “Engaging the Civil War” Series published by Southern Illinois University Press. He’ll also help evaluate guest submissions for the blog.

“It’s important to help people stay connected with the story of the American Civil War, which is why Emerging Civil War’s mission is so important,” Kolakowski said. “We have a great team of historians, so it’s going to be a real pleasure to work with so many exciting people. I love our wide array of voices and ideas, which is ECW’s real strength.”

Another of Kolakowski’s responsibilities will include assisting with ECW’s efforts to develop emerging voices in the field of Civil War public history. “If we’re going to get more young people interested in history, then we need to do all we can to encourage more young historians help tell that history,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to provide a platform for emerging voices. That’s what’s going to help keep the field fresh and people engaged.”

Kolakowski takes over as chief historian from ECW co-founder Kristopher D. White, who stepped down to take a position as the education manager for the Civil War Trust. White will continue to write for and collaborate with ECW as his duties at the Trust allow.

Kolakowski was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Va. He received his BA in History and Mass Communications from Emory & Henry College, and his MA in Public History from the State University of New York at Albany.

Kolakowski has spent his career interpreting and preserving American military history with the National Park Service, New York State government, the Rensselaer County (NY) Historical Society, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Kentucky State Parks, and the U.S. Army. He has written and spoken on various aspects of military history and leadership from 1775 to the present, and he is widely regarded as one of ECW’s most popular public speakers.

Kolakowski has published two books with the History Press: The Civil War at Perryville: Battling For the Bluegrass (2009) and The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaign: This Army Does Not Retreat (2011). In September 2016, the U.S. Army published his volume on the 1862 Virginia Campaigns as part of its sesquicentennial series on the Civil War. He has also written a study of the 1941-42 Philippine Campaign, Last Stand on Bataan (McFarland, 2016) and is currently at work on a book about the 1944 India-Burma Campaign in World War II.