A Royal Welcome For The Russian Navy

Flags flew and champagne flowed when the Czar’s ships anchored in New York Harbor. Fifty years later we learned the reason for their surprise visit

No delegation of Russian visitors, the Bolshoi dancers not excepted, ever has been welcomed to this country with anything like the enthusiasm that greeted the Czar’s Atlantic fleet when it dropped anchor in New York Harbor in 1863. The fleet’s arrival was completely unexpected—a point to which we will return—but the American reaction was immediate, spontaneous, and open-armed.

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Grant At Shiloh

Surprised and almost overwhelmed, he stubbornly refused to admit defeat. His cool conduct saved his army and his job

For a time early in the spring of 1862, it seemed that Union armies were about to destroy the Confederacy in the west. A hitherto inconspicuous officer named U. S. Grant had, in close succession, captured the two major Rebel strongholds in Tennessee, Forts Henry and Donelson; an aggressive follow-up might well have overwhelmed the badly disorganized Confederates. But the Union high command hesitated, and a fine opportunity was wasted.

New York’s Bloodiest Week

The draft riots of 1863 turned a great city into a living hell.

We shall have trouble before we are through,” George Templeton Strong, a wealthy New Yorker and staunch friend of Lincoln, warned in his diary one July morning in 1863. Yet the first nationwide military draft, authorized by Congress on March 3 to fill the critically depleted ranks of the Union Army, began in a festive mood.

Crisis At The Antietam

Upon the clash of arms near a little Maryland creek hung the slave’s freedom and the survival of the Union

A whitewashed Dunker chrch without a steeple, a forty-acre field of corn that swayed, head-high and green, in the September sun, an eroded country lane that rambled along a hillside behind a weathered snake-rail fence, and an arched stone bridge that crossed a lazy, copper-brown little creek—these unimpressive features of a quiet Maryland landscape made the setting in which one of the greatest moments of crisis in American history came to a solution on the bloody day of September 17, 1862.

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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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