Symposium Spotlight: McClellen’s Defeat Before Richmond

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by ECW Correspondent Jenna Cosentino

Doug Crenshaw likes to help people discover the Civil War the way his uncle helped him. Every year on Crenshaw’s birthday, his uncle would send him books about the Civil War. “He probably sent me about 8 books, including the classic American Heritage Civil War,” Crenshaw said. “I completely wore that one out and had to get another copy years later.”

Crenshaw’s uncle passed away in 1968, when Crenshaw was 14. Even afterwards, though, Crenshaw continued learning more and more about the war.

Crenshaw is now an author of Civil War books, with three currently under his belt and two more under contract. He’s also a volunteer at the Richmond National Battlefield Park, a member of the Richmond Civil War Roundtable, and a master when it comes to the Civil War around the former Confederate capital. 

Crenshaw attended Randolph-Macon College, where he studied history, and did graduate work at the University of Richmond. “I had incredible professors who encouraged me to think, dig deeper, and instilled a deep love for learning and writing,” Crenshaw said.

As he grew older, he became more and more involved with the Richmond National Battlefield, which led to becoming a volunteer for 10 years. Crenshaw loves being a tour guide for people who visit the battlefield because he gets to share his knowledge, and he has so much fun doing it. “My training in history was a great background for this. In history, you learn to research, write, speak in public, and more,” Crenshaw said.

During Crenshaw’s career, he has written Fort Harrison and The Battle of Chaffin’s Farm: To Surprise and Capture Richmond, which was nominated in the nonfiction category for a Library of Virginia Literary award; The Battle of Glendale: Robert E. Lee’s Lost Opportunity; and Richmond Shall Not Be Given Up: The Seven Days’ Battles, June 25-July 1, 1862. Crenshaw is currently working on a book with Drew Gruber on the Peninsula Campaign for the Emerging Civil War series and another on Richmond during the war with Bert Dunkerly.

“People hated history but said they liked it after reading my books,” Crenshaw said. “Most people who I run into don’t know anything about the Civil War, so I get to help introduce them.” He is passionate about his writing because he gets to tell the stories of the people who were in the Civil War so they are not forgotten.

Crenshaw will be bringing his expertise to this summer’s Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge.

“When General Lee took over the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862, things were going very badly for the Confederacy, and it was possible that the war would soon be lost,” Crenshaw said. “George McClellan’s massive army was at the very doorstep of Richmond, only about five miles out. McClellan’s goal was only to put down the rebellion, and he had no interest in freeing the slaves.”

But then came the turning point that Crenshaw will discuss at this year’s symposium. “Lee’s daring attacks drove McClellan from Richmond and was a turning point of the war in the east,” he said.

Crenshaw said there was another turning point as well: “With McClellan’s defeat, Lincoln would soon be moved to draft the Emancipation Proclamation.” Although McClellan had no interest in freeing the slave, Lincoln’s proclamation turned the war into a war for emancipation.

Crenshaw owes all of his interest to his uncle. “I doubt that I would have the interest in the Civil War that I do without his support,” Crenshaw said. “I probably would have drifted into 20th Century American history.”

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Only a limited number of tickets remain for this year’s symposium! Tickets are $155 each and cover all three days, Aug. 3-5. Click here for more information or to order tickets.

 

2018 Symposium Schedule Released

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve released the schedule for Emerging Civil War’s 5th Annual Symposium! Keep in mind it’s a tentative schedule – subject to minor changes – but here’s the timing and the plan…

If you’re planning to attend, get your tickets soon. Seating is limited. More information on the Symposium Page.

Friday, August 3, 2018

4:00pm: Registration

5:00pm: Bert Dunkerly, Turning Points, An Overview 

6:00pm: Scott Hartwig (Keynote Speaker), Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation

7:00pm: Historians Panel – Steve Phan, Paige Gibbons, Kevin Pawlak, Bert Dunkerly, Drew Gruber, Chris Mackowski (emcee)

8:00pm: Chris Mackowski, Closing Remarks                    

Saturday, August 4, 2018

8am:  Registration begins, coffee service

8:45am: Chris Mackowski, Welcome

9:00am: Gregory A. Mertz, Defeated Victory: Albert Sidney Johnston’s Death at Shiloh 

10:00am: James A. Morgan, Unintended Consequences: Ball’s Bluff and the Rise of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War

11:00am: Doug Crenshaw, The Rise of Lee: Richmond 1862

12:00: Lunch

1:30pm: Matthew Atkinson, Gettysburg vs. Vicksburg: What’s the Bigger Turning Point? 

2:30pm: Andrew Redd, The Election of 1864, The Point of No Return: Turning Points within the 1864 Presidential Election and the Doom of the Confederacy

3:30pm: Chris Kolakowski, Grant Takes Command

4:30pm: Edward Alexander, Grant Crosses the James

 5:30pm: Conclusion/Wrap Up

7:00pm: Evening Event at 1781 Brewery (more information at the Symposium)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

8:30am  Tour Begins – Jackson at Chancellorsville (led by Chris Mackowski)

Symposium Spotlight: Grant Crosses the James

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reporting by ECW Correspondent Shannon Nichols

Edward Alexander has made a career focusing on the end of the Petersburg Campaign. He’s a former historian with Pamplin Historical Park, which preserves the spot where Federals finally broke through the Confederate line on April 2. He’s also the author of Dawn of Victory: The Breakthrough at Petersburg, a book in the Emerging Civil War Series.

But lately, Edward has been looking at the other end of the Petersburg campaign—its very earliest days, when Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal forces first arrived at the gates of the Cockade City.

This year at the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, Alexander will talk about a key turning point of the war that, he says, often gets overlooked: “Grant Crosses the James.” 

After his failure to break Confederate lines around Cold Harbor, Grant opted to jump the James River on June 14-16 and strike at the Confederate supply lines flowing into Petersburg, just to the south of Richmond.

Alexander first became interested in the topic when he began working with a fellow historian, Will Greene, who was writing a book for UNC Press about the Petersburg Campaign. Greene asked Alexander if he could make the maps that would be included in the book.

According to Alexander, he began to be “drawn toward that part of the Petersburg Campaign” when his “real, in-depth research” about Grant’s river crossing began.

Before Alexander knew it, he was spending his personal time finding books and reading and reading about these earliest days of the campaign. He was not only trying to make the maps as accurate as they could be, he was also researching simply for the sake of learning more. “I was not just copying what Will had done,” Alexander said. “I was researching for myself, and once that project was finished with, I began researching it more and more.”

History has always captured Alexander’s imagination. “I was able to visit a lot of battlefields with my family when we went on vacations, so that’s what really drove my interest in the subject,” he said. Over the course of his early life, he “knocked off almost all of the major ones [battlefields] from Shiloh to Antietam to Gettysburg, down to Chickamauga.” By the time he had reached his senior year in high school, Alexander had basically been to every battlefield possible. This drove him to want to know more and more. He eventually earned a B.A. in history from the University of Illinois.

After obtaining an umbrella of knowledge about Ulysses S. Grant crossing the James, Alexander had a unique perspective on the event as a turning point of the Civil War. “In hindsight, it was obviously the right decision to make, but it was a controversial decision at the time,” he said. The focus of the war for the Federals—and what many people believed would lead to victory—was capturing Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. “The entire focus throughout the war was Richmond, Richmond, Richmond—how can we capture Richmond?” Alexander said.

Besieging Petersburg, then, seemed like an unnecessary detour to many. But according to Alexander, one of the major reasons for the Union’s victory was “more men, more material, and better logistics.” When Grant made the decision to go around Richmond and strike Petersburg, Alexander said, Grant was really striking at the Confederacy’s dwindling supply of men and material.

Said Alexander, “It took not only courage, but logistics, to make a decision that, in the end, proved to be the best decision for Ulysses S. Grant and the Union.”

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Tickets are still available for the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, Aug. 3-5, 2018. Tickets are $155 for all three days. For more information, or to order tickets, see ECW’s Symposium page.

Symposium Spotlight: The Battle of Ball’s Bluff

reporting by ECW Correspondent Jessica Goetz

“You will never have a complete story,” says Jim Morgan. That’s his take on the Civil War in general and on the battle of Ball’s Bluff, in particular.

Jim, author of A Little Short of Boats: The Civil War Battles of Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21 – 22, 1861, will offer at least a small glimpse of the story at this year’s Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. Morgan wrote about the battle in Turning Points of the Civil War because the small engagement led to a major development: the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War (JCCW). 

Jim has been a tour guide at Ball’s Bluff for years. As he and I talked, one thing that continued to rise to the surface was the idea that he could be telling the same story time after time, but each one was a different version—as if every single fact he’s learned and picked up couldn’t be touched on during an hour. If he had years, he might still even have to omit facts.

He also still finds himself shocked or surprised when someone comes forward with a version of the story all their own—with details or facts that he hadn’t heard before.

As tour guides, Jim and his colleges had decided that scripted tours were not how they wanted to present the information. “It has to be a conversation,” he said. This approach often resulted in people bringing forward different facts about relatives and personal connections with different areas of the field.

Jim has attended the ECW symposium for three years, but this will be his first year as one of the speakers. However, his journey to get there will be a bit longer this year. He moved to Charleston, South Carolina, last year.

Jim realized that it would be difficult for him to live anywhere and not get involved in the local history, and Charleston has certainly offered plenty for him to learn and explore.

Jim grew up exploring places like Fort Pickens, in Pensacola, Florida—a fort built shortly after 1812. His curiosity grew as his father read him stories of old battles. He cultivated that interest his entire life.

In 2004, when the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority estalbished the Ball’s Bluff battlefield, the company Jim worked for at the time asked him to do research on the battle. The more he investigated, the more he found that “there were a lot of inconsistencies” that did not add up. Furthermore, the effects the battle had on the war were undetectable at first glance.

He realized that while the battle was small, it had an impact. It wasn’t a “full shift” for the sides, he said, calling it, instead, “a momentum swing.”

The battle was a mess of miscommunication and confusion, and it resulted in the the death of a U.S. Senator, Colonel Edward Baker. The embarrassment it caused resulted in the creation of the JCCW—and that did have a major impact on the Union war effort.

“You have to understand what a turning point is,” Jim explained. Things need to be fundamentally different afterwards than they were before, in a way that affects the outcome. Union generals suddenly found the JCCW looking over their shoulders and armchair-generalling, which in turn affected the generalship of the generals.

Even moving away from Virginia, and down to South Carolina, Morgan said it still possible for him to stumble across new facts and stories related to Ball’s Bluff and the JCCW. Technology has paved the way for people to get easy access to a lot of the information already out there. It has also provided the means for even more people to add to the different narratives.

While parts of a story may be gathered easily, the story is never really finished. Details can be overlooked, omitted, and even forgotten. When searching for more information, driven by a curiosity that we start to see a shift in narrative that wasn’t there before. No story is ever really finished because it will continue to affect people in different ways at different times, shifting perspectives once again.

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Tickets for the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, Aug. 3-5, are available for $155 each. For details about the event, click here.

Symposium Spotlight: The Twisting Turns of the Election of ’64—The Point of No Return

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Rea Andrew Reddby ECW Correspondent Josh Svetz

Rea Andrew Redd has loved the Civil War all his life. Starting with reading Life magazine’s six-part series on the Civil War as a kid, Redd gets as much of a thrill from delving into the Civil War now as he did then. A hobby concerning the ghosts of the past may confuse some. Intrigue is one thing; obsession another. But Redd’s wife gave him some insight, at least, the closest thing he can think of to explain the fascination.

“I have the Civil War DNA,” Redd said. “When you find a hobby you’ve loved since nine years old, where does that come from? I guess I was just born with it.”

Redd will get to showcase his love for the Civil War Aug. 3-5 at the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania, Virginia. 

Redd’s presentation will explore his chapter in ECW’s Turning Points of the American Civil War, “The Election of 1864: The Point of No Return,” will explore the pivotal presidential election between Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan, how Lincoln won the election and the impact of Lincoln’s win on the Confederacy and its ultimate demise.

Redd, the director of Eberly Library and an adjunct history professor at Waynesburg University, had attended previous Symposiums, but never got the call to present, until this year.

Redd’s friend and a fellow author at ECW Kris White nominated Redd to provide a chapter when ECW needed a fresh take on Lincoln. Redd, a civil war reenactor since 1993, who usually plays the part of Lincoln, fit the bill.

“I’m a Lincoln hobbyist,” Redd said. “I don’t have Lincoln bobble heads, but I have plenty of books. You get me in the right mood with the right lighting and I can pull off a decent Lincoln.”

Outside of Redd’s tendency to become the former president that fascinates him, he knows quite a bit about Lincoln’s biggest struggles, especially in 1864. Redd’s read through countless books, documents and essays all to answer one question: Was the election of 1864 the turning point of the war and did it doom the Confederacy? But answering such a question can’t happen without understanding the stakes.

In 1864, Lincoln’s popularity was low. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had died, families were starving and the American people wanted the war to be over. Lincoln went up for re-election against McClellan, one of his former generals. If McClellan had won, Redd said he planned to finish the war with an armistice, leaving the Confederacy intact.

“Everything goes back to 1860,” Redd said. “The slaves are still the slaves. If there’s no surrender by the confederacy there’d be no emancipation proclamation, probably no new amendments. Slaves that Lincoln declared free would go back to being slaves. Things would be different.”

In fact, Redd said there’d be a good chance that the Confederacy could exist to this very day.

“All the way through the 1900s’ there’d be two parts of the United States, the Union and the Confederacy,” he said. “Every once in a while they’d get together and fight over the west. They’d fight over, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California would be split in half, northern California for the Union, southern California for the Confederacy. The Confederacy really could have survived the war if McClellan wins.”

But putting revisionist history aside, there were some interesting stories that came from this chaotic time for Lincoln and the America, one in particular involving an envelope.

“Lincoln writes a letter, seals the envelope and passes it to his cabinet and tells them to sign it,” he said. “They sign the envelope and Lincoln puts it in his desk drawer. What the envelope says is that if Lincoln loses the election we, his cabinet, will do everything that’s possible to end the war before McClellan is inaugurated.”

But the cabinet had no idea the stakes contained in that envelope, until Lincoln actually won.

“Once Lincoln wins the election, he takes out the envelope and lets his cabinet read it. They realize if Lincoln had lost they would have had to try and end the war as quickly as possible because they unknowingly took an oath to do so. That’s a 90-day period to try and turn the heat up on the confederacy. It would have been crazy.”

While Redd, a two-time author, is excited about his presentation, he’s just happy to be included with many great minds and enthusiasts of Civil War research.

“I’ve written books before, so I’ve gotten past that thrill,” Redd said. “But for a jury of my peers to cosign me, to let me be published with them, it feels pretty good.”

As for his talk, Redd said to be prepared for a fun and informative time.

“I’m not just going to get up and read my chapter,” Redd said. “I’m searching for new information. I want to make this worthwhile.”

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Tickets for the Symposium are $155 each and are still available. For more information about the line-up of events, Aug. 3-5, click here.

Symposium Spotlight: An Overview of Turning Points

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Dunkerly@Podiumby ECW correspondent Lucas Sperduti

Historian and award-winning author Robert M. Dunkerly will start off the 2018 Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge as the first speaker to take the stage.

Dunkerly holds a degree in history from St. Vincent College and a Masters in Historic Preservation from Middle Tennessee State University. “I always liked history. I could read it and understand it. The books just felt right,” said Dunkerly. 

In school, history was his favorite subject. Dunkerly knew that was going to be his career path, he just wasn’t sure how to make that a reality heading into college. Teaching was something that never really appealed to him. “I just knew I didn’t want to be in a classroom,” Dunkerly said.

As a senior in college, Dunkerly took road trips with some of his friends to historical sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. They specifically went to a few national parks. “National parks have some of the best historical sites,” Dunkerly said. “That’s when I realized, that was what I wanted to do.”

After graduation, Dunkerly was “full in” on being a historian and working as a Park Ranger at historical sites. Currently, he is a Park Ranger at Richmond National Battlefield, but in his career, he has worked at nine historical sites and visited over 400 battlefields and 1,000 historical sites worldwide. He’s written nine books and more than 20 articles, and his research interests includes archeology, colonial life, military history and historic commemoration.

Dunkerly takes pride in his work as an active participant in historical preservation and research. Sometimes the lack of information or sources can make historical research challenging. Other times, it’s just the opposite. “There might be so many accounts or so many records that it can sometimes be impossible to sort through it all,” said Dunkerly.

The theme for the 2018 ECW Symposium is Turning Points. As the first speaker, Dunkerly will present an overview of turning points of the Civil War.

“People tend to gravitate towards turning points because they help make sense of what happened,” he said.

His opening presentation will focus on many intertwined events that played a huge impact on the Civil War. Dunkerly will also look at the military’s impact away from the battlefield. While battles are important, Dunkerly said, his presentation will pay closer attention to political events, social changes and economic fluctuations. “One thing influences the other, and they all play into how something happened,” Dunkerly said.

The Turning Points theme will offer a different perspective than traditional topics and even more room for educational debates.

“Sometimes it’s fun to hear what other people have studied and also things you might not have considered,” said Dunkerly. “A good historian changes his opinion from time to time. That’s how you learn,” he added.

“Hopefully I can offer something unique for the people.”

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The Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will be held August 3-5, 2018, in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Tickets, $155 each, are available here.