Play Review – “Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley: From Slavery to Modiste”

[used with permission]

In June 2018 I had the opportunity to attend a production of the new stage play Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley: From Slavery to Modiste at The Old Globe Theater in San Diego, California. Entering the theater, I was unfamiliar with the details of Keckley’s life though I knew the basic story about her post-Civil War troubles with Mrs. Lincoln. Exiting after the short, one-act play, I had a greater appreciation for this remarkable woman and definitely wanted to dig into the history books to learn more. (Which I did!)

I think one of the benefits to community historical theater is the chance to introduce a friend or family member to history through the entertainment. This time I persuaded my dad to go with me, and we had some great discussions about the past on the way home.

When we entered the theater room and took our seats, we faced a raised platform lined with chairs and a few costume props – old fashion hats, bonnets, shawls, etc. To the right of the stage sat an old sewing machine and table, cleaned and polished, but standing alone. In front of the stage, a dressmaker’s mannequin displayed a dark dress.

Andrea Agosto gave an inspiring performance as Elizabeth Keckley, recounting in first-person Keckley’s life as a slave, how she purchased her freedom, and how she built her dressmaking business with good sense and integrity. The ensemble of actors and actresses interacted with Agosto and portrayed character’s from Keckley’s life, including her master and mistress, dressmaking customers, Frederick Douglass, Mrs. Lincoln, Robert Lincoln, friends, and apprentices.

The script – researched and written by Claudia Thompson – presented “Mrs. Keckley’s story through historical data with contemporary reflection.” Filled with lively, historically-accurate details and moments of wrenching sadness, it gave a solid glimpse into the life of a strong woman who lived in slavery and abuse but found a way to free herself and recreate her life and story. I appreciated the highlights on Keckley’s inspiring work-ethics and how she always tried to help others.

Elizabeth Keckley and her relationship with Mrs. Lincoln during the Civil War years and the break-up of that friendship when Keckley published her book have been the subject of gossip and valid historical discussion. The stage play focused on Keckley’s side of the story: she wanted to write a book to tell her story and help Mrs. Lincoln get financial assistance. Then organized chaos took over the stage as the ensemble characters rose to praise or condemn the book and author; the clamorous chorus silenced Keckley – a poignant reminder how society’s opinions can overshadow truth and intent, creating a dilemma or myth for future historians.

I won’t spoil the ending of the play, but I will say it was a powerful moment, reflecting to the past and sharing Keckley’s religious faith and looking to the future, praising the power to overcome life’s hardships.

[used with permission]

At the end of the production, attendees were encouraged to take printed literature provided by the producer and playwright, including a short historical biography about Keckley, a resource list, and photographs related to her life and legacy. It’s wonderful to see this openness and dedication to historical research! Returning home, I read one of the recommended books – Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckley by Jennifer Fleischner – and learned more, delighted to find the accuracy of the stage production.

What’s in the future for this historical play? I’ve been in contact with some of the production team, and happily, several school districts have shown interest and may host a show tour! Interested in more details about sponsoring the show or hosting/attending a production, please reach out to Katherine Harroff ( who is currently coordinating the production and is the Arts Engagement Programs Associate.

Cheers to Claudia Thompson, the production team, and the cast for bringing Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley’s story to the stage and offering another chance to introduce theater attendees and classrooms to historical discussions about Women’s History, Black History, and Civil War Studies

Home Run Derby Star Captain “Jack” Wildey–Part 1

When John Hay and George Nicolay drove their rented buggy over to Camp Lincoln to say hello to their friend Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, they found him wearing his “blouzy red shirt” and enjoying that New York favorite: Base Ball. Most New York firefighters played the game, and among those involved was Ellsworth’s aide-de-camp, Captain John “Jack” Wildey.

Baseball found on the Shiloh Battlefield

Wildey played ball before he became a Fire Zouave. He played for the New York Mutuals, named for his own Mutual Hook and Ladder Company Number 1. The Mutuals were formed in 1857 and played amateur ball at the Hoboken Grounds, their home grounds. Many firefighters and city employees played in a variety of New York teams, but the Mutuals were reckoned the best. It was perfectly normal for a handmade ball, a bit larger and softer than today’s baseball, to be found in the knapsack of an 11th New York Fire Zouave.

Captain Wildey was the person with Colonel Ellsworth the night before he was shot in Alexandria. Colonel Ellsworth asked Captain Wildey to come to his tent after 1:00 AM to help him dress for his first mission as a commanding officer.  Ellsworth had laid his uniform out on the camp bed. Ellsworth stood quietly as if thinking over his choices, and then said to Captain Wildey, “I was thinking in what clothes I shall die.” Wildey laughed and tried to cheer him up with a few joking words, but Ellsworth just shook his head, saying nothing for a moment. Then, smiling, he went to his trunk and opened it.  He withdrew an entirely new uniform, tagged and packaged from the tailor.  “If I am to be shot tomorrow, and I have a presentment that my blood is immediately required by the country–it is in this suit that I shall die.” Wildey helped him put on the new uniform, and within moments Ellsworth was his normal confident self.  Wildey wound the red silk officers’ sash around Ellsworth’s narrow waist.  And as discussed, this was the uniform in which Ellsworth died early on the morning of May 24.

Unit cohesion was difficult after losing Ellsworth, but leaders like (acting) Lt. Col. Noah Farnham, Major Charles Loeser, and Capt. Jack Wildey kept the Fire Zouaves together long enough to make it to the battleground of First Bull Run. The reputation of “Ellsworth’s Zouaves” was initially tarnished by regular Army officers testifying before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. It remained thus until recently, as historians such as Lesley J. Gordon (A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut’s Civil War and “I Never was a Coward” pamphlet), and Harry Smeltzer (Bull Runnings blog) have gone back to primary sources to look for another, truer, interpretation. Ellsworth said before he went to New York City that he wanted the New York firemen because they were men who could go into a fight immediately. This would prove especially true for Captain Jack Wildey.

“Ellsworth’s Zouaves”

July 21, 2861 is the date that the Battle of First Bull Run was fought. There is much to the battle, but the Fire Zouaves were only involved in the afternoon attempt to defend Union batteries on Henry House Hill. Control of the field around Henry House Hill changed hands several times, but ultimately the South held sway. There was some small fighting in which the guns changed hands a couple of times, but because the horses that had pulled them lay dead in their traces, it was impossible for anyone to remove the captured pieces from the field.  Finally, by 3:15 PM, after just over an hour of combat, the Confederate forces easily took possession of the Union guns and the 11th New York, among others was dispersed in retreat. The 11th did not “run like little girls or scared rabbits,” but they did not stay in retreat either. Many of them looked around the battlefield, identified another unit that was still fighting, and rushed to join in. Wildey joined in with the men of the 69th New York, who were having a bad time of it. Their leader, Colonel Michael Corcoran was taken prisoner and the Henry House Hill batteries had been taken. Still, they fought on. During this last encounter with the Confederates, the beautiful green flag that was held so proudly over Irish heads was taken. Who got it back?

Wildey and the B’hoys help take back the colors

At the fight at Bull Run, when the flag of the glorious Sixty-ninth Regiment  was wrested from them by a superior force of the enemy, Jack Wildey rushed forward at the head of his brave men, and after a bloody contest, in which he killed two men,–one a rebel officer, whose sword he took from him as a trophy,–recaptured the flag, and after marching four miles he restored it to the gallant corps from whom it had been taken.

New York Herald, July 27, 1861

Nevertheless, the Federal troops had been demoralizingly routed and, to make things worse, many ninety-day northern militia enlistments were about to expire. Some heroes were immediately needed. As Wildey’s fame spread northward he became a hero, especially in New York. The gallant Captain Wildey was called home to New York City, ostensibly to recruit more soldiers. However, Tammany Hall leader William Magear “Boss” Tweed had other ideas. He needed Wildey to represent Tammany in an upcoming city election.

To be continued . . .

Q and A with Patrick Gorman (General John B. Hood)

I have been enamored with the film Gettysburg (1993) ever since middle school. I jumped at the chance to have actor Patrick Gorman (who memorably portrayed General John Bell Hood) answer some of my questions by email. He was courteous and very friendly. Below are my questions and Gorman’s answers.

How did you end up with the role of General John Bell Hood in the film Gettysburg?

When I read for the film, I wanted to play Armistead. That’s who I was hoping to read for when I read The Killer Angels, but they had already cast Richard Jordan (he was perfect).

They wanted me to read for Hood, and I’m glad they did. I could relate to Hood more personally, even though Hood was “the blond giant”—he was like 6’2, had really broad shoulders, and had a brooding, sad look. Well, I’m 5’10, and I don’t have broad shoulders; but I got cast.

The photo Gorman delivered.

Originally, when I heard Robert Duvall [first cast as Lee but had to drop out and was replaced by Martin Sheen] was going to do The Killer Angels, a Civil War story, I said to my wife (married then, not now), “You know, there’s gotta be something for me in this film… Sheridan? Something!!!” I had a picture taken in the process of growing my hair back from a shaved head and had a bit of stubble, and this dark look in my eyes.

I delivered the picture to the casting office disguised as a messenger, which in fact I was at the time as my “B-Job” (My agent didn’t submit me, I did that). Nobody in the office knew me and I got away with delivering my own submission like it came from an agent. Joy Todd, the casting person, called me in because of the picture. Later I found out that when they saw the picture they said, “We just pray that he can act because he is the only one who even comes close to Hood.” They really had a difficult time getting anyone they liked to read for that role (Hood).

And the funny thing is, I don’t really look like him at all, but I had something. And incredible luck. The fact that I have a lot of Civil War fans validates that I guess, because apparently I was very successful in getting Hood’s persona across.

How did you prepare for it? What kind of research did you do on the general?

Of course, I read The Gallant Hood and all the books I could that referenced him (Advance and Retreat, of course, but all the books I could find where he was mentioned).

Hood was, to me, a romantic, tragic character, and a man with an incredible constitution. How he survived the war with those terrible wounds and the destruction of what he believed has always fascinated me. He was a rising star up until Gettysburg, and from then on, as with the Confederacy, it was all downhill.

The criticisms leveled against him by some historians don’t hold water. Most of the damning ones were made by second-hand accounts. No general, not even Lee, could have saved Atlanta or Franklin. The truth and the measure of the man, for me, has to reside in the fact that, after the war, and even after his death, the men who served under him still honored him.

I can’t say I identify with him but, hopefully, I was able to penetrate something of his persona in order to embody him in the film. It is not necessary for an actor to ‘like’ a character he plays. In fact, it’s not even pertinent. You must not, in my opinion, judge your character. You have to attempt to see with his eyes and act with his resolve. You have to believe in them and they have to breathe.

I served in the military, but as an enlisted man, so I have no real experience of the kinds of decisions he had to make. But, of course, that’s what the imagination is for. That’s what the research is for, and I have always had great respect for the profession of arms. For me, the military has one true function, to protect the nation, the society which they serve. The military is for defense but that also means you have to be a master of attack as well. I have always been drawn to the military, martial arts, and the history of warfare. Hood was a perfect character for me to address. Attack, that’s how I think of him.

Although I had experience as a horseman (I grew up playing cowboys and Indians riding bareback on real horses), Hood was an expert (he was going to teach cavalry tactics at West Point when the rebellion started), so I had to work on my skills. I made friends with the film wranglers and encouraged them to find me a mount that would make me look good and not be too much for me. They were a great help and acted as my staff in the film. Also, they made sure I had a Hope saddle because apparently, that is what he rode. Yes, although a native Kentuckian, he was partial to Texas and the Texans and even I had the honor to be made an honorary Texan by the reenactors from Texas in the film.

Gorman and his “Wranglers.” Left to Right: Doug Sloan, Patrick Gorman, ‘Butch’ Frank, and C.J. Staats.

My mount was ‘Badger’ and he’d done more major films than I had. We worked well together. With luck and his smooth gait, I never fell off. The fine points for my confidence in playing him came later as I rode into the reenactor encampments in character as Hood. They welcomed me as the good general and I learned lots of anecdotal stuff that I didn’t find in books. They helped set the mood for how it might have been. I owe them a lot. The whole film did. By the time I went before the cameras, I felt comfortable as Hood.


You have great chemistry with General Longstreet (Tom Berenger) in the film. How did you two establish such a great rapport?

Tom Berenger was the heart of the production for me. He really checked on every one of his generals to find what kind of research and passion we brought. While filming, he organized a Friday Night Confederate Officers Club meeting at the Farnsworth House. He was an inspiration and a gentleman. I’d only first met him at the table read of the script on location before we began filming. I noticed that at the breaks during the reading he was sorting out boxes of swords to give to his staff, his generals, and I thought how thoughtful that he’d gone to props and brought them to the reading. Actually, he was more than thoughtful because he had gone out on his own dime and purchased swords for each one of us and they were all different and personalized. Mine was a CSA cavalry saber with an actual 1862 CSA blade but with a replica hilt and sabretache. It was inscribed: “Maj. General John Hood 1st Corp. Compliments Lieut.-Gen. James Longstreet Army of Northern Virginia.” A personal and generous gift which meant a lot. He cemented the Confederates together in a very important way. Besides, he was a pleasure to work with and I just got along with him extremely well. A joy to work with.

Patrick Gorman as Hood.

Have you had a chance to read The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood (2015) or John Hood: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General (2016) by Stephen M. Hood? If so what is your take on them?

Yes, I read them as a gift from Stephen and they validated what I’d always surmised from what I found, especially about the drinking and the laudanum. Those reports were all second hand; not by anyone who was actually there. Petty and envious.

I see that you are listed for the role of General Charles F. Smith in the To Appomattox TV series project. How do you plan to prepare to play Grant’s mentor and friend?

Again, a fascinating character. Read all that I could and this is a truly admirable man. Hah! Even look forward to leading the green troops into battle with muskets unloaded. Hopefully also, to play the younger and older version. Have done some make-up versions of both though I am decidedly too old to play him. I believe I can pull it off. Besides, a bit of historical license here.  Not many people will know what he actually looked like—except you and probably lots of reenactors. Thanks for your piece on him [a past ECW post]. Excellent.

You mentioned that it took director Ron Maxwell almost two decades to turn Killer Angels (Gettysburg) into a film. Do you think there will be another Civil War film like Gettysburg or Gods & Generals?

Well, if they could just get To Appomattox before the cameras, it would give it a good run. I’ve read all the episodes and they are wonderful. It should be a series, just as Gods and Generals should have been. But surely there are projects out there that could rival the success of Gettysburg. Certainly, Glory was a great film and there are really so many untouched stories in our history that have yet to be addressed. We need these stories to stir up our youth to examine the Civil War. Certainly, the issues which caused it are yet to be entirely resolved. Movies can inspire and educate along with being entertaining. Gettysburg proved that I think.

What is your favorite Civil War book?

Grant’s Memoirs and anything that Shelby Foote ever wrote.

I read about your passion for Aikido and Japanese calligraphy.  Can you tell me more about both of these interests?

I’ve been, and still am, training in Aikido (over 33 years). I have trained in other martial arts before that growing up and for most of my adult life. The principles of Aiki are profoundly valuable in life as well as martial arts. It made a difference in how I live and how I pursue my craft. All martial arts have their limitations when confronted with real fighting, but the principles remain useful and practice makes ‘perfect.’ Awareness, focus, and being in the moment, coupled with skills long honed, is what it’s all about.

Japanese calligraphy (shodo) has fascinated me since I was very young. Actually originally, it was the love of the Chinese characters and then when I learned about Japanese arts and language I found that the Chinese characters were also used in their ‘alphabet.’ I am not fluent in Japanese or in the writing of the language but I do learn characters and practice what I know just for aesthetic reasons. Actually, at one point, where we practiced shodo as part of the Aikido training, I had some of my samples published in Japan. An honor, but as an American student training in Aikido in America. Actually, I think I have a snapshot of shodo I was doing in my off hours and in the Gettysburg Hotel during filming.

A Review of Masterpiece’s “Little Women”

Over Memorial Day weekend I binge-watched the new version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Though my review was delayed due to history conference coordinating, I’m delighted to share a few thoughts on the new show. I suppose I could critic from the literary perspective, but this is a Civil War blog, so let’s talk about the Civil War and how it’s featured in this production.

Little Women (2018) promotional photo – left to right: Amy, Meg, Jo, Beth

Haven’t seen the show or read the book? Spoilers ahead – now you’ve been warned!

Need the one paragraph cliff-notes version of the story? Mr. March – an innovator who doesn’t make much money – and Mrs. March (Marmee) – a kind, wise, resourceful woman – have four daughters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Set in the 1860’s and into the early 1870’s, the story follows the girls as they learn how to be “little women” through humorous and serious life experiences and lessons. Laurie – the boy next door – joins in the adventures of life in countryside Massachusetts and falls in and out of love with the girls. Each girl has her own dreams and ambitions, but they will either conform or rebel against 19th Century society’s norms at different times in the story.

Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1868, and it’s loosely based on her own childhood. Alcott served briefly as a nurse during the Civil War and includes hints of the conflict in her famous novel, though focusing almost exclusively on home life and the challenges of growing up, making her story a classic for decades.

In Masterpiece’s adaption was released on public television in the United States in May 2018, is still available on the website with some restrictions, and will be available on DVD soon. Here are a few Civil War related things to watch for in the new three-part series:

Meg March – Little Women (2018) promotional photo

First, the Civil War is featured in this adaption and more prominently than in others I’ve seen. Yes, it does stray from the book in this regard, but I thought it really helped solidify the story’s setting. Instead of Mr. March’s mysterious absence from home, Masterpiece showed his work among the soldiers (presumably as a chaplain), his compassion to suffering soldier boy, his homesickness, and his time in a Union hospital. Showing this, helps to better illustrate some of Mrs. March and the little women’s struggles on the Massachusetts homefront, including limited financial resources.

There are also scenes where Marmee and the girls try to help a German family who’s struggling to survive the winter and illnesses. Taken in historical context, this is significant since the Civil War era was filled with prejudices against German-Americans; the March’s compassion and steadfastness to treat everyone by the Golden Rule stands out. Also significant is Jo’s wish to become a soldier and “follow Father to the field.” Little did she know that some girls did just that during the conflict.

In one scene, though, the Civil War themes are completely mutilated. Amy – the youngest sister – is attempting to cast her foot in plaster, one of her art attempts, while Meg – the oldest – perches on the bed, reading a newspaper. She comments on the Battle of Ball’s Bluff and then worries about Union conscription. It’s out of order since we’ve already seen one Christmas with Father away from home (presumably Christmas 1861) and Union conscription didn’t happen until 1863. Technically speaking, Meg wouldn’t be commenting on Ball’s Bluff like it’s recent news in summer 1862, and she probably wouldn’t be worrying about conscription at that time. Of course, I might be completely mistaken and it really came from an original newspaper that the actress or writing team had consulted.

John Brooke in uniform at the wedding after the war scenes (Little Women, 2018, promotional photo)

My favorite “tie to war” in this adaption of Little Women is when Mr. John Brooke appears in uniform and his service in the Union army! In other versions, he just wanders off to war. Masterpiece gives us the full benefit of the scene with Meg’s expressions when she sees that uniform and considers if she really wants to become engaged to a financially poor soldier boy who might die on a battlefield. (Spoiler: she says yes to his proposal!) And then we see him march down the lane. A compilation of scenes shows John marching, fighting in battle, getting wounded, and coming home – appropriately short for the scope of the film, but still a nice addition to understanding his character and the couple’s relationship.

Overall, I really enjoyed the new adaption and was pleased to see the Civil War take a stronger part in the setting of the story. Sure, there were some things that bothered me with new version, and some parts seemed a little rushed, but the acting was good and the costumes were pretty. They didn’t completely butcher the book and even made a few changes that I enjoyed (I actually liked Laurie in this version and didn’t hate Amy at the end).

Little Women (2018) – PBS promotional photo

From a historically-minded viewpoint, I think it’s important to see this adaption’s more prominent inclusion of the Civil War as a positive innovation to understanding this coming-of-age story. The Civil War opened doors and new experiences for many young women – including some of the March sisters – and it’s significant to use the conflict in the interpretation of Little Women’s setting and in its original author’s experiences.

Have you seen the adaption? What did you think?

Check out the Masterpiece Little Women website for more details, video clips, podcasts, and activities.

One Evening At Gettysburg…

It was one of those evenings when you’d just rather sit in your tent and zone-out. The Union generals had been playing “catch-up on the campaign” ever since the now-fired Joe Hooker had started a belated pursuit of the Confederate army. As for the men in gray, they’d been on the march for weeks now, into Maryland and Pennsylvania, but it just seemed like all their plans weren’t working out.

Sensing that his commanders needed a break, General Lee inquired if there was a pizza parlor nearby, and Henry Heth said he’d heard about a good place in Gettysburg. Lee sent Heth to make reservations.

About that same time, Union General Meade decided to have a team building meeting. John Buford sent word that he’d heard of High Ground Pizza – not too far in the little town of Gettysburg – and offered to hold some tables.

When Henry Heth arrived at High Ground Pizza, he was astonished to find Buford there, already reserving about half the restaurant’s tables. Heth at once expressed his displeasure and then wondered aloud what would happen when the generals from both sides gathered in the room.

They didn’t have to wait long. Reynolds showed up and ordered some [root] beer and “for goodness sakes, hurry up!” and Gordon arrived with his gray mustang. Heth pouted in the corner, making frowny faces at the men in blue until Ewell and Lee arrived and organized some tables across from the Yankee position.

Longstreet, Early, Pickett, and Hood all came together. Longstreet took one look around the restaurant and suggested they could go to Washington for a hamburger and just leave the Yankees alone, but Lee insisted he really wanted pizza. The men in gray looked at the menu for a while. “I just wish General Stuart was here. He’s so particular in what he eats, and I don’t want to order something he doesn’t like,” Lee said, looking over the rim of his glasses absently as though he didn’t see his other friends.

Hancock, Sickles, Meade, Warren and Chamberlain entered. Nobody was quite sure why Chamberlain came; he wasn’t in the general’s star-club yet, but the other Union men just shrugged and assumed he invited himself to the party. They bent over the menus, trying to decide what to order.

Finally, Lee sent Ewell to the ordering counter to ask for four large pepperoni pizzas, if possible. Ewell had started eating healthy ever since he got married and decided it wasn’t possible; he ordered four thin crust vegan pizzas with minimal cheese. Meanwhile, all the Union men decided on carnivorous pizza and sent Sickles to place the order for four pizzas. Sickles glanced behind him, made sure Hancock wasn’t listening, and only ordered only cheese pizza because he was tired of everyone ignoring what he wanted.

The Confederate pizzas arrived first (still before Stuart, who seemed to have gotten lost on the way to the gathering). Everyone glowered when they saw what Ewell had ordered, but about that time Longstreet noticed that the Union men had pizza with yummy, gooey (and totally unhealthy) cheese. Motioning to the others, they quickly got the same idea. Forget caution and healthy dieting! Food stealing!

Now, the Union boys growled at Sickles until Warren sounded the alarm. Chamberlain – from his seat on the left, closest to the food counter – grabbed several pizza boxes and suggested they take the food to-go. The others rallied and headed for the back of Meade’s pick-up (wagon, of course). The Confederates gathered at the door while Sickles was sent back to camp without dinner as punishment for his mischief and lack of obedience.

“Men, should we stay or head back to camp?” Meade asked. After some quick thinking, the men voted to stay…because if they went back to camp all the soldiers would be mad they didn’t get to have pizza too. Now, the generals had tried that at Fredericksburg last year, and it just turned into the biggest disaster ever.

Who wouldn’t fight for PIZZA?

Pickett ran out the door, calling to the gray-clad men to follow. “Rally, brave Virginians! We can take their cheese pizza!” But it took a while to get the others to come with him, and by that time, the cheese pizza stealing opportunity vanished. The Union men shook hands, smiled at everyone (except the Confederates) and headed back to camp, thankful for an opportunity to relax and enjoy some good food.

Inside the restaurant, Stuart arrived in time to poke at the cold veggie pizza while Lee scolded him for being late. The men in gray decided to head to Williamsport Brewery on Potomac Street, leaving Lee to pay the price of the pizza with his Lost Cause Rewards Card (which would actually be billed to Longstreet).

April Fools From Emerging Civil War!

Stephen Crane’s “Veteran”

Crane-displayMany Civil War buffs have read Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, lauded as one of the best war novels of all time, of any war. The book “stands by itself in nineteenth-century English and American war fiction,” literary scholar Eric Solomon once said. “Indeed, it  is still the masterwork in English among the abundance of war novels that two world conflicts and dozens of smaller wars have produced.” First published in October of 1895, the book reads as if written by a veteran, but Crane wasn’t even born until 1871. (If you haven’t read it, go out and read it as soon as possible!)

What many Red Badge fans don’t know is that Crane wrote a short sequel to the novel, a short story called “The Veteran,” which appeared in the August 1896 issue of McClure’s Magazine. You can read the short story online for free

While Crane never outright said the short story was a follow-up to Red Badge, the main character in each work is named “Henry Fleming.” And in the short story, Fleming, now an old man, tells his grandson about getting shot at during battle and running away. “That was at Chancellorsville,” Fleming tells the boy.

This is another circumstantial link between the two stories. Nowhere in Red Badge does Crane ever identify the battle in the novel as being Chancellorsville, although a close reading of the text pretty clearly identifies it as such for anyone who knows the battle well. (The subject for another post sometime, for sure, but here’s a good piece by NPR that goes into more depth.) A display at the Chancellorsville battlefield visitor center highlights the connection (see photos above and below).


I don’t want to give away the end of “The Veteran,” but it’s a perfect if bittersweet vindication of Fleming’s flight on the battlefield all those years earlier. I encourage you to take the time to read it.