The Confederacy and its long shadow has been in the news in 2015 following the Charleston church shootings and the subsequent removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina. Is that flag a symbol of the honored heritage of valiant defenders of Southern soil, or one of the oppression of a people? Continue reading “The Lost Cause”
In July of 1863, 150 years ago, Blue still fought Gray and the fate of a nation was hanging in the balance. Two great battles ensued simultaneously, one to control the western nation and one as an invasion of the north.
At Vicksburg, Mississippi, a great siege was in progress under the command of General Grant. His old friend and companion, John Pemberton, led Confederate forces holding a vital city on the river, in fact, the key to controlling access to the mighty Mississippi. Previously the Union had captured New Orleans, and with the capture of Vicksburg, Union forces would dominate the river, cutting off supplies to the eastern confederacy and opening up trade to the north. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Burgs”
Do great generals make for great presidents? From George Washington to Ike Eisenhower, our nation has often elevated military leaders to the White House. The Civil War battlefields, now being recalled upon the 150th anniversary of the war, launched several future presidents and presidential contenders.
Historian James Perry delves into the back stories and war stories of each of the men, while not allowing the immense figure of Grant to dominate the narrative. His trick is to tell Grant’s early up-from-the-bootstraps story, and then bring him back mainly when the other subjects interact with him throughout the war.
Opening with short pre-war biographies of the soldiers that range from humble beginnings for some (notably Grant), to being the grandson of another famous general and President (Harrison), each of them rises through their wartime experiences, well-told with judicious detail, to become military successes, then political leaders or highly placed political pawns. After the war, in the so-called Gilded Age, it was a necessity to “wave the bloody shirt,” as Perry explains, and capitalize on military experiences to win elections in that notoriously corrupt period. The brief but fascinating final chapter highlights the fickle factorial winds that determined who won the White House, and illustrates that having worn a blue uniform was a ticket to that high office.
Readers interested in the evolution of the character of these men will find this a good read, while Perry’s retelling will engage Civil War and presidential history buffs.