Tag: American Civil War

Death on the Mississippi


In April 1865, the steamboat Sultana’s boilers burst shortly after passing Memphis on its way to Cairo, Illinois. The boat burned and sank. Aboard were nearly 2,200 passengers and crew. Of those aboard, 1,168 died. It was the deadliest maritime disaster in the United States. Not until Titanic sank in 1912 would another maritime disaster exceed Sultana’s death toll.

“Destruction of the Steamboat Sultana: The Worst Maritime Disaster in American History,” by Gene Eric Salecker, is a new book about the steamboat’s loss. Salecker, acknowledged as one of the two foremost authorities about the steamboat’s history, took a fresh look at the disaster starting in 2015. This book is the result. It is the most authoritative look at the event written to date.

Salecker has been studying Sultana for over 30 years. He collaborated closely with the other acknowledged authority on Sultana, Jerry O. Potter, during that time. This book is the product of seven years of fresh research, with Salecker revisiting archives and reexamining court-martials records, official investigations, and personal recollections of the event.

Here We Go Again: More Presentism


You do not teach history by rewriting or removing it. But you might just revisit it.

That obvious truism has escaped the conscientiousness of Virginia’s 8th District US Representative, wealthy foreign auto dealer Don Beyer and the Commonwealth’s equally woke junior US Senator, Tim Kaine, both Democrats who are pursuing legislation to remove Robert E. Lee’s name from the Robert E. Lee Memorial (Arlington House), a home his wife inherited from his father-in-law and stepson of George Washington, and lived in briefly.

Confession Time! But No Apologies


Clinton fixer Lanny Davis is rightly celebrated for his political strategy to counter attacks or scandals. “Tell it early, tell it all, and tell it yourself,” he said, authoring a book with that subtitle.

It’s good advice. And while I will never place my name in nomination for any public office, invoking terms attributed to famous Civil War Union General William T. Sherman, allow me to follow Davis’s sage advice.

The Bad Boy of the Union Army


Few today remember Benjamin Butler. Those that do generally consider him an incompetent Union general during the American Civil War, or as “Spoons” Butler, enriching himself through stealing silver from Confederate sympathizers while he was military governor of New Orleans.

“Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life,” by Elizabeth D. Leonard, is a new and sympathetic biography of Butler. It reveals the beauty within “Beast” Butler. It also explains how he obtained his “Beast” Butler reputation.

Butler’s defense of the downtrodden, especially his support of black and women’s rights, led to the disdain of his peers and hatred from post-war Lost Cause Confederates. He was pugnacious and never forgave a slight.

Woke, or “Wide Awake?”


“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Mark Twain

For a few cynical wags and critics, Ben Domenech is best known as former “The View” co-host Meghan McCain’s husband. But that is unfair. The soft-spoken, cerebral, and calm Domenech is a celebrated writer and editor in his own right, and as of late, an occasional weekly host on Fox News “Primetime,” including this past week.

Domenech’s day job is serving as publisher of a popular and highly-respected libertarian-conservative website, TheFederalist.com, which features a stable of outstanding fellow journalists, including the estimable Mollie Hemingway. He also authors his own daily newsletter, The Transom, to which I subscribe for the bargain price of $30 annually. He publishes almost every day; it is part of my morning routine.

Battle of Appomattox: Understanding General Lee’s Surrender


The Battle of Appomattox Courthouse is considered by many historians the end of the Civil War and the start of post-Civil War America. The events of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General and future President Ulysses S. Grant at a small-town courthouse in Central Virginia put into effect much of what was to follow.

The surrender at Appomattox Courthouse was about reconciliation, healing, and restoring the Union. While the Radical Republicans had their mercifully brief time in the sun rubbing defeated Dixie’s nose in it, they represented the bleeding edge of Northern radicalism that wanted to punish the South, not reintegrate it into the Union as an equal partner.

Cancel Culture’s Latest Victim: Walt Whitman


Having worked in Camden, New Jersey, for 16 years, the 19th-century poet Walt Whitman is ubiquitous. Whitman’s final Camden home – the only one he ever owned – is a National Historic Landmark. Murals honoring or including Whitman are found throughout town. He’s also buried in Camden’s Harleigh Cemetery in an impressive mausoleum. The two leading bridges that connect Camden and Philadelphia are named after Benjamin Franklin and Walt Whitman.

Inscribed over City Hall are the words from a Whitman poem: “In a dream, I saw a city invincible.” Camden’s invincibility has been challenged for much of the last 50 years, which is still recovering from an exodus of people and manufacturing jobs. For a while, it had the nation’s highest murder rate. It continues to suffer high unemployment rates. But it is making an impressive comeback, thanks to a new medical school, its largest employer, Cooper University Hospital, and new corporate investments such as Subaru’s new North American headquarters and a new hotel on the waterfront. Police reforms of nearly a decade ago are a model for the nation.

And through it all, Camden has clung to Whitman and his brilliant career and contributions to American literature.

Member Post


The Republicans in Congress continue to demonstrate their long term status as the Stupid Party. 120 Republican House members voted to keep the bust of the infamous bigot, the lawless black-robed politician, Chief “Justice” Roger Brooke Taney on display by what had been the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capital building. It was […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

Did a Burning Bridge Change History?


In just a few days, we will celebrate, or at least honor, two remarkably significant events of American history. They both occurred in Pennsylvania, one obviously in 1776, the other in 1863. But a third one – also in the Keystone State, also in 1863 – deserves some recognition today (June 28th), its anniversary.

The first and most obvious is American Independence Day, July 4th, celebrating our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and its “Mad King,” George III. The second would occur just 87 years later on a battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

McClellan, and Other Leaders Who Got It Wrong


Officers of the 69th Infantry New York, at Fort Corcoran, VA, with Col. Michael Corcoran. (Mathew Brady/NARA)

American history is replete with examples of military leaders making foolish and erroneous declarations.

Perhaps none did so more frequently and with such significant consequences than George B. McClellan, arguably the worst commander in U.S. military history, a man who never missed an opportunity to be wrong with a spectacular inability to recognize it.

Where Now, Republicans?


Pickett’s Charge, Battle of Gettysburg, 1863.

Republicans were reeling before last week’s criminal breach of the US Capitol. But that breach, led by lunatics who deserve serious jail time, tossed Democrats a cudgel with which to drive a wedge between pro- and anti-Trump Republicans.

It reminds me of the infamous “Pickett’s charge” during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. General George Pickett led his Confederate troops in an ill-fated charge across an open field in an effort to break the center of the Union line. It failed, but the Democrat’s own version of Pickett’s charge, with the artillery cover of the Capitol “insurrection,” has indeed breached the GOP middle. And how has the GOP responded? By shooting at each other.

Fighting On Despite Desperate Odds


Why do men fight, and why are willing they willing to continue to fight to the last man, preferring death to surrender? T. E. Lawrence’s said men go to war “because the women were watching.” According to Michael Walsh, in his new book, Lawrence’s answer holds more truth than irony. Men fight for their families.

“Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All is Lost,” by Michael Walsh, investigates the last man phenomena. It explores why men fight, and why they are willing to continue fighting even when they know they will lose.

Walsh examines history through the lens of combat, starting with the Ancient Greek Battle of Thermopylae and continuing through the Marine retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in the Twentieth Century. In thirteen chapters he explores sixteen last-stand battles.  Some, including Thermopylae, Masada, and the Alamo, the defenders lost and dying almost to the last man. In others, like Rorke’s Drift and the Battle of Pavlov’s House at Stalingrad, defenders triumphed against terrible odds.

Supreme Court Says Oklahoma Indian ‘Reservations’ Are Real


Well, this is interesting. Especially if you live in eastern Oklahoma, including the state’s second-largest city, Tulsa.

While much of the media will focus on the two US Supreme Court decisions involving whether 1) Congress or 2) Manhattan prosecutors may access President Trump’s tax returns, I find the McGirt v. Oklahoma State Appeals Court decision of greater interest. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s four “liberals” in what read to me like a walk through history, except the parts he glossed over (like, the post-Civil War treaties in 1866, which were described in great detail in Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissent).

The Civil War: Some Random Observations from Quarantine


With more time on my hands, I’ve taken the time to re-introduce myself to the American Civil War in both fiction and non-fiction. Not the happiest subject, I admit, but one that, at least for me, is endlessly fascinating and reminds me that things could be far worse.

On the non-fiction side, I’m halfway through the first volume of Shelby Foote’s three-volume history of the war. Yes, he was a man of the south (Mississippi), and the southern view of the war permeates his history. But his history falls far short of southern hagiography, and he writes like a dream. You’ve got to love studying the war to read these books, but they reward the reader’s diligence. Next up, I’m going to re-read Allen Guelzo’s Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, which I consider the best book on the subject.

Member Post


SF authors are generally viewed as being mainly concerned with the future, but Connie Willis is more interested in the past…and, particularly, the way in which the past lives in the present. Her novels and short stories explore this connection using various hypothetical forms of time displacement. In Lincoln’s Dreams, a young woman starts having […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

Member Post


(This is my second article for the Abbeville blog and I understand that it will be offensive to some of you, that’s fine. I love this community because we can disagree peacefully with each other. I also understand that there is some romanticization on my part here, the human heart needs some romance from time […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

Member Post


I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday. Book Review The Civil War along the Rio Grande examined By MARK LARDAS […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

The Bad Guys? Part 1


The scene is one of the most iconic in film history. The Battle of Atlanta near the middle of Gone With The Wind depicts the carnage of war. As Scarlett O’Hara searches for Dr. Meade among several wounded and dying Confederate soldiers, the camera pulls back to reveal dozens more, then hundreds of bodies, 1,600 in all. It was at this point of watching the film when my daughter asked if Joshua Chamberlain (her namesake) was there.

“No,” I told her. “He was a Union officer. But remember earlier, when they were reading the dispatches from Gettysburg? He was in that battle.”

The nine-year-old absorbed this, then followed up her question. “So these are the bad guys?”

Member Post


Of all the stupid, asinine, and nasty things hard left idiots have done in the last several years, nothing makes me nearly as spitting mad as this does: Late Sunday morning, hundreds of Civil War reenactors concluded their battle on a rolling patch of grass 80 miles west of Washington. Preview Open

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.