April 2024 Newsletter

From the Editor

As the Army of the Potomac moved forward across the fields south of Fredericksburg, flags unfurled and bayonets shimmering in the morning sun, Confederate General Robert E. Lee—watching from a nearby hilltop—could not help be moved by the sight. “It is a good thing war is so terrible,” he said, “or we should grow too fond of it.” It became one of the most famous statements he made during the war.

As a career military man, Lee appreciated the martial display arrayed before him in the quiet before the storm. But he also knew what was about to happen: war so terrible.

Lee’s words came to mind when a politician recently described the battle of Gettysburg as “so interesting, and so vicious, and horrible, and so beautiful in so many different ways.” 

I agree that the battle was interesting, vicious, and horrible, but I took great exception to “beautiful.” 

The battlefield is beautiful. Rugged terrain and rolling farm fields. Quaint cupolas and shady groves of trees. Cavalry horses galloping full-out down the pike are beautiful. Well-executed strategy is beautiful. Final Union victory was beautiful.

The battle was not beautiful.

I am not jumping on the bandwagon of daily political outrage when I take exception to this word. Instead, I point to the photos of Confederate dead on the field taken by Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan. They are perhaps the starkest reminders of the cost of war, a topic very much on my mind these days following my recent collaboration with Garry Adelman. These terrible images appear so often that perhaps we’ve become desensitized to what they really depict. Perhaps our modern media has desensitized us to the images. Perhaps we just don’t take the time to take a close look.

Take a close look.

The image I find most grisly shows the effects of an artillery shell on a Confederate soldier: disemboweled, his face bloated in the sun, his features distorted, his hand missing. I won’t show it here, but I’ve written about it on the blog. Be forewarned.

Read accounts from the field hospitals in the immediate aftermath of battle. The battlefield preserves the sites of many of those field hospitals, once overwhelmed with woe, now standing as silent sentinels to bear witness. Walk through Gettysburg’s national cemetery.

Too often, we forget the human suffering that accompanied all the military history we discuss, as though it’s all abstract and theoretical and removed from personal tragedy. At worst, people look at their Civil War hobby as a form of entertainment. Learning history can certainly be fun and enjoyable, but we should never forget those dead men on the fields and their shattered families back home.

The battle was not beautiful; it was war so terrible.

— Chris Mackowski, Ph.D.


Turn, Turn, Turn

Whether you quote from the third book of Ecclesiastes or The Byrds, “there is a season,” as the old saying goes. Here at Emerging Civil War, it’s a season of change, and I wanted to share with you some of the details about that change. (And you can thank me later for getting The Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” stuck in your head.)

Some of you may recall my announcement last year that I intended to step back from the day-to-day operations of ECW so I could concentrate more on some writing projects. Our blog’s managing editor, Sarah Kay Bierle, was going to step up to take on the role of editor in chief while I just sort of puttered around in the background and strung together sentences into paragraphs.

Unfortunately for ECW, some things came up that required us to put that plan on hold. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Sarah has not been able to assume the expanded leadership role we’d originally planned. As a result, I’ll be staying on in the editor’s role for the time being. Sarah has shifted into an alumni role with ECW (and fans may still see her pop up on the blog form time to time).

Neil Chatelain will be stepping up to fill Sarah’s role as vice president of the organization. Neil has written some excellent books on Civil War naval history, including Defending the Arteries of Rebellion: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861–1865 and his latest, Treasure and Empire in the Civil War: The Panama Route, the West and the Campaigns to Control America's Mineral Wealth. Neil is an assistant professor of history at Lone Star College–North Harris.

As Neil shifts to the vice presidency, his position as secretary on our board of directors will be filled by Jon-Erik Gilot. Jon-Erik is our former secretary and has agreed to return to the post to help bring stability to the board during this time of shuffle.

Stepping up to fill the role of managing editor of the ECW blog are Patrick Kelly-Fischer and Brian Swartz. Brian spent his professional career as a newspaper writer and editor for the Bangor (ME) Daily News and runs his own blog, Maine at War. Pat, based in Denver, CO, works in digital marketing for a network of nonprofits. 

Also on the digital side, we’re pleased to announce that Darren Rawlings has joined our team as our new social media manager. Darren, who’s based in England, started out with his own digital platform, U.K. and American Civil War History, and has helped the U.K. Civil War Roundtable reenergize its social media presence. We’re pleased to have him executing our efforts at ECW.

I realize this all makes it sounds like ECW has a huge staff, but I’ll remind you, we’re an all-volunteer organization. All these awesome folks—and others—donate their time to keep the lights on at ECW so that we can deliver all the great content you enjoy and learn from. Our editorial board, Symposium, and book reviews, in particular, all take up a great deal of energy. Please join me in thanking all our great volunteers.

From left to right: Neil Chatelain, Brian Swartz, Pat Kelly-Fischer, and Darren Rawlings.

Tenth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge

We have been rolling out news about our line-up of Symposium speakers on our website. To stay up to date on all the latest details, be sure to tune in Wednesday mornings for our Symposium Spotlight. We would love to have you join us August 2-4, 2024, at Stevenson Ridge on the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield for “1864.”

Speaking of Stevenson Ridge, our long-time host received some exciting news in April. The Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce honored Steven Ridge as its 2024 Small Business of the Year. SR Managing Partner Jennifer Mackowski—who serves on ECW’s board—accepted the award at the Chamber Gala on April 12. 

ECW Symposium guests already know what a great job Jennifer and her staff do to give us an excellent event each year, but just in case you need one more reason to come, you’ll be able to enjoy award-winning hospitality. 

Congratulations, Jennifer!

You can find out more details about this year’s Symposium, and order tickets, at our Symposium page.

News & Notes

In late March, Neil P. Chatelain spoke at the Lone Star College–North Harris Economics Conference about his recently released book Treasure and Empire in the Civil War. He also just completed a trip up and down the lower Mississippi River, from New Orleans to its delta, observing the Civil War scenes as sailors fighting the riverine campaigns would have.

Doug Crenshaw will be giving a number of tours of the Seven Days battlefields and Cold Harbor, and will be speaking in Fredericksburg, Virginia Beach and Richmond on various topics.

Bert Dunkerly and his girlfriend Sarah recently visited Florida, where he saw Olustee and Natural Bridge Battlefields, and managed to sample lots of Florida beer. He has a talk with the Lynchburg CWRT on May 8, the Libbie Mill Library in Richmond on May 9, and Fort Necessity National Battlefield on May 25.

On March 23, Chris Mackowski presented at the 2024 Prince William County (VA) History Symposium (with guest appearances there by ECW's Rob Orrison and Kevin Pawlak). Chris spoke about "The Rise of Stonewall Jackson."

Evan Portman helped lead a class trip to Mount Vernon with the Saint Vincent College History Club. 

Cecily Zander joined the American History Hit podcast to discuss Ulysses S. Grant.

ECW Bookshelf

Dranesville: A Northern Virginia Town in the Crossfire of a Forgotten Battle by Ryan Quint is now available! 

The book centers around Dranesville, a town in Fairfax County, Virginia, and chronicles the often overlooked events in the fall and winter of 1861. It's a story about a battle, but also about the civilians of the town who found themselves on sharply divided political lines when Virginia seceded. 

Characters familiar to history like J.E.B. Stuart and Edward Ord are in its pages, but so too are people whose everyday decisions played massive roles in what took place at Dranesville. 

For those interested, the book is available through Savas Beatie's website, here.

ECW Multimedia

Since our last newsletter, Chris Mackowski has been joined on the Emerging Civil War podcast by...

  • Author Paul Taylor to discuss the Civil War in Hawai’i.

You can listen for free on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or at https://emergingcivilwar.com/the-emerging-civil-war-podcast/.

You can also find video versions of these podcasts on our YouTube page.

Shrouded Veterans

James Trimble served as a Confederate private, was appointed colonel of the 14th U.S. Colored Infantry, traveled throughout the U.S. lecturing on the evils of alcohol, and died at the Indiana State Prison South after being arrested for larceny.

Find out more about this bizarre character.

You Can Help Support Emerging Civil War


Emerging Civil War is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. If you’re interested in supporting “emerging voices” by making a tax-deductible donation, you can do so by visiting our website: www.emergingcivilwar.com; you can mail us a check at the address below (make checks payable to "Emerging Civil War"); or you can make a gift through PayPal.


Thank you!

Upcoming Presentations



25–28: Chris Mackowski, American Battlefield Trust Annual Conference, Gettysburg, PA


27: Neil P. Chatelain, “Annual Freshet impacts on 1862’s Mississippi River Valley Naval Campaigns”, 2024 Baton Rouge Civil War Symposium


1: Neil P. Chatelain, “Treasure and Empire in the Civil War,” The History Gazette Podcast


4: Chris Mackowski, “Spotsylvania Court House,” Bus Tour, Harrisburg/Hershey Civil War Roundtables


8: Bert Dunkerly, “Myths of Cold Harbor,” Lynchburg VA Civil War Round Table


8: Jon-Erik Gilot, “A Desperate Fight for Life: Newton Schleich, George McClellan, and the Fight at Middle Fork Bridge,” Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable, Columbus, OH


9: Chris Mackowski, “Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness,” Bull Run Civil War Round Table, Manassas, VA


13: Kristopher White, “The Ides of May: The Wounding of James Longstreet,” Rappahannock Valley Civil War Roundtable


14: Chris Mackowski, Southern Maryland Civil War Roundtable


16: Chris Mackowski, Hampton Roads Civil War Roundtable, Virginia Beach, VA


22: Jon-Erik Gilot, “Jenkins’s Trans-Allegheny Raids,” Ohio Valley CWRT, Wheeling, WV

Emerging Civil War | www.emergingcivilwar.com

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