Classmates Divided

On the eve of the Civil War differing loyalties sent some West Pointers north, others south, but their academy friendship survived the conflict.

It was just a century last summer since a tall, raw-boned Ohio farm boy stepped from the two o’clock boat to West Point’s South Dock. He shouldered his baggage and climbed the steep path to the plain.

Lincoln’s Second Inauguration

“The President came forward and the sun burst through the clouds.”

The winter of 1864-65 had been unusually cold, with ice on the Potomac so thick that it could support crowds of skaters who were in a gay mood despite the war. But in Petersburg and Richmond, where the war was very real, the remnants of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia clung grimly to the elaborate network of fortifications and trenches that guarded the two cities. Only a few hundred yards away, their Union counterparts opposed the Confederate lines. The two armies had been locked together since the previous summer, when Grant had begun his siege.

Two Civil War Letters

Missives, one by Mark Twain, the other by Walt Whitman, reflect the impact of the Civil War on the nation.

Hardly a person in America was untouched by the Civil War, and Mark Twain and Walt Whitman were no exceptions. Because they were perhaps the most distinctly “American” writers of their time, their reactions to the conflict are particularly interesting. Printed here are two of their wartime letters, both written within six months of each other, at a time when the North seemed on the verge of defeat. While Whitman’s letter to his New York friends, Nat and Fred Gray, has appeared before, the Twain letter is a completely new find.Read more »

"I Fired The First Gun And Thus Commenced The Great Battle”

When the Monitor and the Merrimac fought the world’s first engagement between ironclads at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 9, 1862, the executive officer of Monitor was the very junior Lieutenant S. Dana Greene, 22 years old and only three years out of Annapolis. When Monitor’s commander, Captain John L. Worden, was wounded during the engagement, Lieutenant Greene succeeded to the command; and a few days later he wrote to his family giving a detailed account of the battle. Read more »

The Peaceable Ambassadors

Two adroit diplomats successfully prevented an open breach between London and Washington during the Civil War

No two countries have ever had more reason to he grateful to their diplomats than England and the United States at the time of the Civil War. More than once during those four years, if the American minister in London or the British minister in Washington had made a false step, or even pressed an advantage too far, the whole rickety structure of neutrality would have collapsed. Charles Francis Adams, for his part, was not unaware of the role he had played.

 
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Hayfoot, Strawfoot!

The Civil War soldier marched to his own individualist cadence, but he was much like today’s G. I.

The volunteer soldier in the American Civil War used a clumsy muzzle-loading rifle, lived chiefly on salt pork and hardtack, and retained to the very end a loose-jointed, informal attitude toward the army with which he had cast his lot. But despite all of the surface differences, he was at bottom blood brother to the G.I. Joe of modern days.

The River Houses

Along the Mississippi the spirit of vanished culture lingers in the ruined columns of the great plantations

In southern Louisiana, along the misty, turbulent lower Mississippi, can be found some of the most evocative relics of the American past. These plantation houses—a few preserved, but most in ruins now, nearly hidden by the humid lushness of cypress and hanging moss—are what remain of the last great non-urban culture in the United States.

 
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Legend Of The South

A southern woman’s memoir of a by-gone era

There are many ways of looking at the now-vanished plantation society of the pre-Civil War South. One of them is the way of legend—white-pillared plantation, a leisured and courtly life centering in it, charming women and gallant men consciously living up to a tradition which has lingered on as a memory long after the reality has gone.

A small bit of that legend—faithful to the magnolia-and-roses tradition, but embodying an authentic fragment of real human experience—is presented here, in a memoir written years ago by Cornelia Barrett Ligon, who spent her girlhood on Newstead Plantation, near Jackson, Mississippi, and who in 1932, as very aged woman, set down her reminiscences of the old days. From notes she wrote and dictated, her daughter Lucile Ligon Cope of Port Arthur, Texas, has put together the following account of what life on legendary Old South plantation was like, and how the war finally came to the plantation and ended an era.

AMERICAN HERITAGE presents this memoir as an interesting fragment of the legend and the tradition of fabulous Dixie.

 

 
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What They Did There

The sun goes down every evening over the muzzle of a gun that has been a museum piece for nearly a century, and where there was a battlefield there is now a park, with green fields rolling west under the sunset haze to the misty blue mountain wall. You can see it all just about as it used to be, and to look at it brings up deep moods and sacred memories that are part of our American heritage.Read more »