1863: “Learn To Know The Hearts Of My Abused And Suffering People!”

Alexandria, March 18.

Since I last wrote to you, the condition of the poor refugees has improved. During the winter months, the small pox carried them off by hundreds; but now it has somewhat abated. At present, we have one hundred and forty patients in the hospital. The misery I have witness must be seen to be believed. The Quakers of Philadelphia, who sent me here, have done nobly for my people. They have indeed proved themselves a Society of Friends. Had it not been for their timely relief, many more must have died. They have sent thousands and tens of thousands of dollars to different sections of the country, wherever these poor sufferers came within our lines. But, notwithstanding all that has been done, very many have died from destitution. It is impossible to reach them all. Government has erected here barracks for the accommodations of five hundred. We have fifteen hundred on the list. Continue reading

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Tea With Sarah: Historical Dresses, Living History, & Photography

Good afternoon, it’s time for tea!

This weekend I’m at a Civil War Re-enactment in Moorpark, California, so I thought it would be a great time to answer a couple of those fun and often asked questions that I hear during living history presentations.

If you were able to join us “live” at the McGuire Home in Civilian Town, you’d likely find the weather a bit chilly today, but plenty of hot tea and ginger cookies!

And – by the way – Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m actually wearing a green dress today, but it was blue dress when we did a tea photo shoot a couple events ago… (And in honor of the occasion, Irish harp music CDs are on sale in our store.) Continue reading

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Carpetbaggers & Scalawags: History Behind The Names

Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. They were creatively unkind names used in the South for certain men in society and politics during the Reconstruction Era. I’d heard the historical terms and was familiar with their general definition, but I decided to delve into the connotation and history of these names and see if these men where really the villains, heroes in disguise, suspicious characters, or something else entirely.

This has been quite a research project today (yep, I didn’t pre-write this blog post – hence the late posting time). Earlier in the week, I planned to write about the effects of Reconstruction on the Civil War’s Border States; however, as I dug into the history of the topic – requested by a blog reader – I realized that to do it full justice, I needed some more research time and a particular resource that isn’t readily available. So – being flexible – I changed topics in the middle of the process, and decided to explore the details of these names so closely associated with the Reconstruction Era.

Hopefully, you’ll find some interesting historical details and maybe a new perspective on Northerners going south and Southerners turning Republican.

Please note: the terms “Carpetbagger” and “Scalawag” are used to explain and define since these terms are typically used in history books. In this blog post, they are not meant in the disrespectful, insensitive way; I decided to keep the historical terms to avoid confusion and since these labels are often used in general discussion of this period of history.

Continue reading

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10 Things You Should Know About The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

“Father, what was the battle? And who won it?” I asked as stood inside, looking out at the sea.

“Which battle? And are you talking about the recent war or a different one?”

“I can’t say it, but I can spell it. The battle at S-p-o-t-s-y-l-v-a-n-i-a Court House. It was in 1864.”

“That must’ve been one of Grant’s battles. I think it was a Union victory. What has you so interested in the war, daughter?” (Excerpt from Lighthouse Loyalty, Chapter 3)

This historical novel is set in 1867 and has ties to the Civil War throughout important points in the plot. In Chapter 3, young Susan Rose Arnold has been reading articles in old newspapers and sees an account of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House; realizing that she knows little about the recent war, she decides to ask her Father about it, opening the discussion by mentioning the reported battle.

If you’ve been curious for details, here are 10 things you should know about about the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House: Continue reading

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1863: “Who Can Count The Cost Of War?”

Providence La.

March 16th 1863

My Dear Jennie,

Another bright beam has come to cheer the darksome way of the wandering soldier boy, another happy moment calls me to thy side while I would gladly peruse thy dear message of the 28th ult, that came on the 24th inst, would that I could lay aside this tardy medium. Oh how cruel! Yes cruel that I cannot greet thee as two months ago, but perhaps tis well life cannot all be sunshine. Yet I should not complain when the recipient of such a dear letter as yours of the 28th ult. Continue reading

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Freedmen’s Bureau: The Government Tries To Take An Active Role

In 1865, the fighting on Civil War battlefields ended, but the questions were far from over. And new questions had been created during the war. One of the most exciting and most explosive questions of the era was: what did freedom look like and how would full freedom be attained by/for the former slaves?

Attempting to answer that question and solve innumerable problems, the Freedmen’s Bureau was established – originally to provide temporary aid and later re-imagined to a role that this agency never had the power successfully fill. Though the Bureau had good intentions, mixed signals from the government, lack of power/manpower, and an over-arching racism problem throughout the country limited its effectiveness.

Last August a blog reader emailed me and asked me to write specifically about the Freedman’s Bureau and its role in the Reconstruction Era. Thanks for pushing me to dig deeper into this interesting part of the era; hopefully, it will be insightful to you as well. Continue reading

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