High Stakes at Antietam

A largely accidental battle, pitting Robert E. Lee against George B. McClellan, became the single deadliest day in America's history and changed the course of the Civil War.

The day of Antietam—September 17, 1862 — was like no other day of the Civil War. “The roar of the infantry was beyond anything conceivable to the uninitiated,” wrote a Union officer who fought there. Read more »

A Graceful Exit

In one momentous decision, Robert E. Lee spared the United States years of divisive violence

As April 1865 neared, an exhausted Abraham Lincoln met with his two top generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, to discuss the end of the Civil War, which finally seemed to be within reach. Nevertheless, the president—“having seen enough of the horrors of war”—remained deeply conflicted. To be sure, the endless sound of muddy boots tramping across City Point, Virginia, and the heavy ruts left by cannon wheels marked Grant’s preparations for a final all-out push to ensnare the Army of Northern Virginia. Yet Lincoln could not shake off his deep-seated fears that Robert E.Read more »

Slaughter On Cemetery Ridge

In only minutes, Union guns at Gettysburg silenced the Confederacy's bold invasion of the North

Not until 2:30 p.m. on July 3, 1863, did the ear-splitting bombardment finally slacken on the rolling farmland of southern Pennsylvania. Nothing like it had ever been experienced before in America, or would be again. “The very ground shook and trembled,” wrote a witness, “and the smoke of the guns rolled out of the valley as tho there were thousands of acres of timber on fire.” For close to 90 minutes, 163 Confederate cannon had blanketed the Union battleline in a bedlam thick with smoke and deadly iron fragments.Read more »

General Lee’s Unsolved Problem

A southern writer analyzes the handicaps unwittingly laid on the general by President Davis

Long after the Civil War was over, with contemplative years for perspective, Jefferson Davis wrote that Robert E. Lee always commanded subject to his orders. The former Confederate president made quite a point of this overlordship, and held to the concept of Davis, the leader, manipulating armies and generals and the destinies of a people. Of course, Davis was right. As he made of the Confederate experiment a one-man show, technically he was Lee’s boss.Read more »

Unlocking History: Treasures Of Robert E. Lee Discovered

A Lee descendant finds two long-lost trunks full of family memorabilia in a Virginia bank vault

A Lee descendant finds two long-lost trunks full of family memorabilia in a Virginia bank vaultRead more »

Robert E. Lee’s “Severest Struggle”

New research shows that Lee's momentous decision to fight for the South was far from inevitable

One April afternoon in 1861, a proud man in his early fifties strode nervously across the portico of his home, too distracted to appreciate its sweeping view of the Potomac. He had an elegant military bearing and dark looks of a stage star, but on this day his genial face was shadowed by worry. His unsettled demeanor surprised several onlookers, accustomed to his normally composed nature.Read more »

General Longstreet And The Lost Cause

One of Lee’s greatest lieutenants is slowly winning his reputation back after losing it for daring to criticize his boss

What are we to make of James Longstreet, lieutenant general, Confederate States Army? Longstreet’s newest biographer subtitles his work “The Confederacy‘s Most Controversial Soldier.” Not the most controversial during those four years of war, surely.

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The Civil War 1861 To 1865

No one has ever come up with a satisfactory count of the books dealing with the Civil War. Estimates range from 50,000 to more than 70,000, with new titles added every day. All that can be said for certain is that the Civil War is easily the most written-about era of the nation’s history. Consequently, to describe this 10-best list as subjective is to stretch that word almost out of shape. Indeed my association with 2 of the 10 may be regarded as suspect. My reply is that this association made me only more aware of the merits of these titles. Read more »

The Father of American Terrorism

Two hundred years after his birth, Americans still revere him as a martyr and loathe him as a fanatical murderer. What was he?

 

On December 2, 1859, a tall old man in a black coat, black pants, black vest, and black slouch hat climbed into a wagon and sat down on a black walnut box. The pants and coat were stained with blood; the box was his coffin; the old man was going to his execution.

 
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The Destruction Of Fighting Joe Hooker

He told Lincoln he was better than any other officer on the field at Bull Run and got the Army’s top job. He built a beaten force into a proud one and stole a march on Robert E. Lee with it. He was twenty-four hours away from winning the Civil War. Then he fell apart.

“He sat in the full realization of all that soldiers dream of—triumph; and as I looked upon him in the complete fruition of the success which his genius, courage, and confidence in his army had won, 1 thought that it must have been from such a scene that men in ancient times rose to the dignity of gods.” Read more »