Civil War Trust working to purchase Vicksburg Land

… from the Civil War Trust …

Confident after a string of successes, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant believed Vicksburg could be taken by storm. On May 22, 1863, the whole of Grant’s army assaulted the defenses around the city. Along the Southern Railroad, Brig. Gen. Michael Lawler’s Thirteenth Corps brigade breached the Confederate lines at the Railroad Redoubt. A hand-to-hand struggle ensued, but without reinforcements, the Federals were compelled to withdraw. The heavy casualties of these early assaults convinced Grant to lay siege to the city.

The Civil War Trust now has the opportunity to preserve 11 acres of pristine ground along the historic Southern Railroad—the very first acres the Trust has saved of the Vicksburg battlefield. Help us save this hallowed ground from potential development!

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The Slaves’ Gamble by Gene Allen Smith

The Slaves’ Gamble by Gene Allen Smith


Why would slaves fight for the United States, a nation that kept them in bondage, during the War of 1812? Why did free blacks join with the British or with the Spanish, or with Native American communities during the conflict? These questions form the basis for Gene Allen Smith’s new book, The Slaves’ Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812. In this gripping story, Smith, a history professor at Texas Christian University, recreates the growing conflicts between the fledgling United States, Great Britain, Spain, and various Native American groups, and shows how each group “tried to mobilize the free black and slave populations in the hopes of defeating the other.” When the War of 1812 began, free blacks and slaves consciously chose the side they would support, and those tenuous choices dramatically impacted their future freedom and opportunity as well as the future of the United States.

This book looks at African American combatants during the War of 1812 as a way to understand the conflict as well as the evolution of racial relations during the early nineteenth century. Black participants—slaves and freemen both—had to choose sides and these choices ultimately defined their individual and collective identities. Canadian slaves escaped south into Michigan during the first decade of the nineteenth century and joined the militia in Detroit and later surrendered with General William Hull in August 1812; this contradicts common perceptions that the Underground Railroad always ran north to freedom in Canada. In fact, for a very few years during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the route to freedom proceeded south from Canada to the free territories of the Old Northwest. Once the war ended, the route turned north to freedom in Canada.

Along the Chesapeake Bay during 1813 and 1814 many slaves joined the British Colonial Marines and later marched with Redcoats on Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, while others chose to remain with their masters. Maryland slave Charles Ball consciously declared himself a freeman and joined Joshua Barney’s flotilla in the Chesapeake. During the British 1814 Chesapeake campaign Ball fought for the Americans at Bladensburg and in the defense of Baltimore. During the fall of 1814 in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, slaves and free blacks joined alongside white American workers to construct defenses for those cities.

Later in 1814 along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina slaves had to choose sides. Cumberland Island slave Ned Simmons immediately discarded his shackles to join the British army, yet he was never transferred off the island. When peace came he became victim of tense Anglo-American negotiations. Stripped of his British uniform, Simmons was re-enslaved, and did not secure his freedom until 1863; the centenarian Simmons died only a few months after being liberated by Union troops.

Along the Gulf of Mexico during the War of 1812 slaves found multiple choices—some joined with the Spanish, some with Native American tribes and others with the British. During the weeks before the climactic January 1815 Battle of New Orleans, both the British and General Andrew Jackson competed for slaves and free blacks. Two regiments of free men of color volunteered to defend the city, and then Jackson promised freedom to slaves who would labor on the American line. Jackson ultimately secured their assistance with promises of equality and freedom that never fully appeared.

During the years prior to the War of 1812 African Americans had gained increased political, economic, and civic rights; many of these concessions had been won by black participation during the War for Independence and their support for a new political system based on the primacy of the United States. Slaves saw this jostling for their loyalties as “an avenue to freedom,” and consequently joined armies or communities of Native Americans or mulattoes on the fringes of society.

The War of 1812 did not create opportunities for all slaves, as for the most part slaves fled or joined militias only when hospitable troops were in the area. Those who remained in the United States generally remained in bondage, while those who took the chance to flee to British lines were mostly evacuated from the United States. The latter group found freedom in British colonies such as Bermuda, Canada, or Trinidad, where they and many of their descendants remained impoverished economically. This gripping tale of the evolution of race relations in early America reveals how these people won their freedom.

By the time the War of 1812 ended the United States had reaffirmed its political, economic, and cultural freedom, and white Americans had finally realized that armed blacks posed serious threats to the existing status quo, and that threat would have to be eliminated. The optimism that had flowed from the Revolutionary period into the War of 1812 era lost its influence on American southerners who still maintained their human property, but thereafter had to worry about holding onto it. In the end, the free blacks and slaves who had sided with the Americans, like those who had joined with the British, the Spanish, or with Native Americans, wanted only one thing—their land of the FREE. Instead the War of 1812 confirmed the security of the United States, and provided the last chance for blacks as a group to secure their freedom through force of arms until the American Civil War finally ended slavery once and for all.

The Slaves’ Gamble is written by:
Gene Allen Smith
Dept of History
Texas Christian University

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“Saving Lincoln”, an innovative new history film, premiers Feb 15.

SAVING LINCOLN  opens in theaters on February 15, 2013.

This film utilizes a new filmmaking technique – CineCollage, which makes use of actual Civil War photos (from the Library of Congress) for the green screen backdrops in every scene. Based on fact, the story follows U.S. Marshall Ward Hill Lamon as he shadows Abraham Lincoln as his bodyguard during the Civil War.

Trailer on YouTube:

SAVING LINCOLN – featuring: Tom Amandes (TV’s “Everwood”), Lea Coco (J. Edgar), Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist), Bruce Davison (X-Men¸TV’s “Last Resort”), Josh Stamberg (TV’s “Drop Dead Diva”) Creed Bratton (TV’s “The Office”) and Saidah Arikka Ekulona (Righteous Kill).

SAVING LINCOLN opens in theaters February 15, 2013!

Saving Lincoln’s official site:


 SYNOPSIS:  Based on a true story. When Abraham Lincoln (Tom Amandes) is elected President, he brings only one friend to Washington: his banjo-playing, joke-telling former law partner and confidant, Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco). Lamon is also large and handy with a gun, and when the first assassination attempt occurs in 1861, Lamon appoints himself the President’s bodyguard. He serves Lincoln faithfully throughout the four years of the Civil War and from this unique perspective, Lamon witnesses every aspect of Lincoln’s fiery trial as Commander-in-Chief, from the constant military and political pressure, to the personal losses of friends and family members. Lamon soothes Lincoln’s tormented soul, saves him from repeated attempts on his life, and introduces him at the Gettysburg Address. Lamon is not present on that fateful night at Ford’s Theater in 1865 because Lincoln sends him on a mission, yet it is Lamon who redefines that tragic event in a surprising and uplifting manner. This visually unique film features sets created from actual Civil War photographs. Directed by Salvador Litvak (When Do We Eat?), the film also stars Penelope Ann Miller as Mary Todd Lincoln, Bruce Davison as William Seward, Creed Bratton as Senator Charles Sumner, Josh Stamberg as Salmon P. Chase and Saidah Arrika Ekulona as Mrs. Elizabeth Keckly.


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Desparate Sons by Les Standiford

I’m reading a review copy of Les Standiford’s excellent Desparate Sons, a very well researched historical narrative featuring the people and events leading up to the American Revolution.   In Desparate Sons most of the action takes place between 1765 and 1776, giving us insight into a period of American History that is often overlooked when accounts focus mostly on the Revolutionary War for independence from Britain, the Declaration of Independence, The US Constitution, and the other well-trod literary grounds of Early American History.

Desparate Sons focuses on the colonial discontent that grew partly from ideas of personal liberty but, to this reader, mostly seemed to be a very hotheaded response to Britain’s efforts to tax the colonies.    Perhaps one of the reasons school kids don’t learn about this period is that it appears many of the early revolutionary acts were essentially organized mobs bullying those who supported England and English soldiers, many of whom did little to incite any violence whatsoever.

I’ll save a full review until I’m done with the book, but I can already recommend it for both the quality of writing and the depth of historical research into a period critical to an understanding of American Colonial History and US History.


A groundbreaking narrative—a historical political thriller—that explores the role of the Sons of Liberty in the American Revolution.

More than two hundred years ago, a group of British colonists in America decided that the conditions under which they were governed had become intolerable. Angry and frustrated that King George III and the British Parliament had ignored their lawful complaints and petitions, they decided to take action.

Knowing that their deeds—often directed at individuals and property—were illegal, and punishable by imprisonment and even death, these agitators plotted and conducted their missions in secret to protect their identities as well as the identities of those who supported them. Calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, they gathered together in a radical society committed to imposing forcible change. Those determined men—including second cousins Samuel and John Adams, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, and John Hancock—saw themselves as patriots. Yet to the Crown, and to many of the Sons’ fellow colonists, the revolutionaries were terrorists who deserved death for their treason.

In this gripping narrative, Les Standiford reveals how this group of intelligent, committed men, motivated by economics and political belief, began a careful campaign of interlocking events that would channel feelings of vague injustice into an armed rebellion of common cause, which would defeat an empire and give birth to a radical political experiment—a new nation known as the United States.

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A note about commenting at

Blog4history really appreciates the many thoughtful comments we get.   Unfortunately spammy junk comments are overwhelming enough that it’s hard to approve some of the good comments in a timely fashion, so PLEASE don’t think we are censoring your thoughts or ideas here – that doesn’t happen except with extraordinarily outrageous comments.    Best to send me an email at if you have a comment you want approved immediately – I really value input here but can’t track all the activity we get on a daily basis.   If you are a historian or history buff please feel free to keep in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

Also note that the ‘admin’ changed and Joe is NOT the author of older posts here.   I’m trying to fix that so Chris, the original author, is correctly reflected on the older posts but that’s not a high priority now as this is only one of many history blogs I (sometimes poorly) try to manage.    My blogs featuring history are:  Mostly US History and Civil War History focused material. :     Travel focused blog and companion history blog for US History (see below).   History focused blog and companion site for US History(see below).

US History is currently the most comprehensive of all sites featuring textbook-quality material about the history of the United States with a special focus on academic topics of interest such as US Presidential Biographies, Time Tables of US History, a History Quiz section, and detailed examinations of every major (and many minor) US historical events since 1630.   See the next blog post here at blog4history for more about the US History Website.

There’s a lot more history to come here and elsewhere, and we love to feature original history writing and reviews.    If you’d like to write a guest post please just email me:   Thanks!


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Civil War Blogs

The excellent Civil War Trust website has a great list of blogs that feature Civil War coverage.   Also note their current campaign to save the Franklin Battlefield, one of the bloodiest battle site of the civil war.  Franklin is now a parking lot with a pizza parlor and beer store and the trust really wants to save this historic ground.

This is obviously NOT a complete list, so let us know in the comments if you have a civil war blog to feature.


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The Ford’s Theatre Society – New Civil War Exibition in Washington D.C.


DECEMBER 11, 2012-FEBRUARY 24, 2013

 Exhibition features period maps, prints, political cartoons and other artifacts

Washington, D.C.—The Ford’s Theatre Society  announced it will present a special exhibition about the American Civil War titled “Torn in Two,” December 11, 2012-February 24, 2013, in the second floor gallery at the Center for Education and Leadership (514 Tenth Street NW). Coinciding with the 150th commemoration of the Civil War and organized by the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, this exhibition brings together period maps, prints, political cartoons and other artifacts to explore the causes and strategies of the conflict, how lives were affected and how the war is remembered.

The “Torn in Two” exhibition is divided into three major temporal sections. The initial section, Rising Tensions, examines the economic, social and political differences between North and South that led to war. Nation in Conflict focuses on the War itself—the strategies and how it was conducted as well as how those at home followed the War’s progress and contributed to the war effort. And the final section, Remembering Heroes, documents the nation’s attempts to commemorate the battles and honor the lives that were lost during the War.

Entry to “Torn in Two” is included as part of regular daytime visits to Ford’s Theatre. Advance tickets may be reserved at (Ticketmaster fees apply) or in person at the Ford’s Theatre Box Office (511 Tenth Street NW).

“Torn in Two” is sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance and generously supported by Sherry and Alan Leventhal.

Center for Education and Leadership Visits

Visitors to the Ford’s Theatre campus may visit the Center for Education and Leadership exhibits daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Final entry is at 5:30 p.m. Each visitor two years of age and older wishing to enter the site must present a timed entry ticket.

The Ford’s Theatre Box Office opens at 8:30 a.m. for distribution of same-day, timed tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. Individuals are limited to six tickets per person for same-day tickets. Individual tickets are also available in advance for a $2.50 convenience fee through Ticketmaster (Ticketmaster fees apply). Groups of 15 or more can reserve advance tickets by calling the Ford’s Theatre group sales office at (202) 638-2367 or by visiting to reserve tickets online through Ticketmaster (Ticketmaster fees will apply).

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World History Profiles coming soon to Travel and History Blog

We are trying to better organize our very extensive history and travel coverage across many websites and blogs.

Here’s an incomplete guide to several history resources you may want to check out:

US History – this comprehensive site is one of the best on the web, with thousands of articles covering US History.    Here you’ll find detailed coverage of major and minor US historical events, presidential profiles, and much more.   Our new book feature helps you find texts that match your history interests.   Check out our  US History quiz.

US History Blog - the blog companion to the US History site.

Travel and History - here we feature travel and history posts from around the world.    Although the blog is freewheeling, soon this site will begin to showcase world history nation by nation and eventually city by city.   Stay tuned for World History from the Travel and History site.

Blog4History – this website was run for several years by history teacher Chris Wehner and features his take on US History, especially the Civil War, as well as many other general topics.   This blog will continue to feature articles of general US History interest and we are happy to have guest posts from history educators, history buffs, and history scholars.

History of US Airports - The Airport Director features some history information for Airports around the world although this resource is not complete.  If you have an interest in Airport History please let us know and we’ll try to direct you to good resources.    India 9 is a major resource of history and travel information about India, written by Indians.    Here you’ll find thousands of pages featuring India’s history, culture, and attractions for planning your travels.



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Battles of the Civil War – Civil War Battles Graphic

Here, from the Civil War Trust, is a great graphic showing the tragic casualty toll of the civil war battle by battle along with other information:

Civil War Trust - Battles of the Civil War

Brought to you by The Civil War Trust

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Martha’s Vineyard: A History of Deaf Equality on a Little Island

Martha’s Vineyard: A History of Deaf Equality on a Little Island

A Guest post by T.L. Council

The modern day incarnation of Martha’s Vineyard as a tourist resort is vastly different than what it originally was. From its earliest days, it was just a small, isolated village, filled with a friendly and vibrant people. The Vineyard is situated on Nantucket, a small island off the southern coast of Massachusetts. It was populated by English immigrants in the mid-17th century during a time when British settlement was going full force. What most people don’t know is that Martha’s Vineyard was a relatively isolated area, and that over time, the population could trace its origins to just a few families from a remote area of England. That isn’t even the most interesting aspect of the settlement, though. The greatest gift that Martha’s Vineyard has given the world is the fact that about one-half of the population was deaf until the mid-20th century. Why is this a gift to the world? It’s a simple reason, really. The inhabitants of this little hamlet could teach us modern folks a

thing or two about how we treat those who are deaf and hard of hearing. In Martha’s Vineyard, the deaf were considered equals, not second-class citizens, as many hearing-impaired people today feel.

In 1985 Nora Groce published one of the most vivid and telling histories of the Vineyard. Her book, “Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language,” tells the story of the islanders, and how their culture evolved after settling the island. The language of the inhabitants in this small community was unlike any other that existed anywhere else. It was a mixture of spoken words, sign language, and gestures that created a fluid way of communicating. No one considered deafness a disability, which is contrary to how deafness has historically been viewed throughout the world. In fact, deafness didn’t even factor into the islanders’ treatment of their deaf neighbors.

Since the first deaf individual on the island was recorded in the town roster in 1738, the deaf population soared. Jonathan Lambert, who was the first deaf person on the island, had two children who were deaf. Intermarriage between first and second cousins was so widely accepted that by the time the 20th century rolled around, most inhabitants were somehow related to one another. Lambert’s own sister married her first cousin and gave birth to seven children. Of those seven, three were deaf.

As the deaf population grew on the island, people naturally picked up sign language. What’s interesting about this is that the attitude towards deafness was so profoundly different than what we’re used to seeing. Think about it. When you see two deaf individuals speaking together in sign language, how does that make you feel? Do you stare? Are you mesmerized? Are you even remotely disgusted? Some deaf grunt and make noises when they talk to each other because they obviously can’t hear themselves. In 2012, amazingly, there are still some people who believe that deaf individuals shouldn’t be permitted to drive. But 200 years ago at Martha’s Vineyard, there existed an egalitarian society where deafness was not only accepted, but embraced as nothing more than a genetic quirk, like the shape of your eyebrows, or hair color.

A common denominator between the geography of Martha’s Vineyard and the islanders’ origins is that both were isolated areas. The Kentish Weald, in Kent, England, was a remote area in the 16th and 17th centuries with an isolated gene pool. Those limited genes were passed on to the inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard for the next few centuries with very few new genetic variations introduced. So, naturally, deafness become common, as families often found themselves with a high number of deaf children. If two hearing people were talking together, they often shifted fluidly between the spoken word and sign language out of habit. No one had to remember to include a deaf individual in a conversation because everyone knew how to communicate with one another.

In schools, hearing and deaf children alike learned how to read, write and perform arithmetic. No one was exempted from learning how to read because of poor hearing, and no one was given a pass on difficult subjects based on whether or not they could hear. This is drastically different than what deaf school children experience today, as many adults who attended deaf schools, and even mainstream schools, possess poor literacy, can barely spell, and often have little, if any, knowledge of American or world history.

In some states, deaf education teachers often don’t even know sign language, and so their students either get their information second hand from an interpreter or in some other way. If deaf kids are a part of a mainstream classroom where they’re the only hearing-impaired student in class, they can often fall behind their classmates because they need more time to communicate the instructor.

What can Martha’s Vineyard teach us, as a society? What can it teach us as educators and parents? There’s always been a bit of controversy over the use of sign language among the deaf, but it truly is the best way for them to communicate and learn.

In the early 20th century, inhabitants who ventured off the island were often taken by surprise at the negative attitudes the Deaf on the Mainland experienced. They simply couldn’t fathom why someone with hearing loss would be treated any differently than a person with perfect hearing would. Their culture was ingrained with the idea that deafness was not an issue. However, by the time Nora Groce wrote her groundbreaking book in 1985, most of the native residents had moved off the island and the distinct blend of sign language and English has nearly been forgotten. The early inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard proves that the deaf are not disabled. They are simply labeled that by mainstream society because of their difference in communication.

T.L. Council is a late-deafened adult who is also experienced in working with the Deaf.  She is a published author and has written numerous articles about deafness, hearing loss, and civil rights issues. She also contributes to Degree Jungle, a resource for college students.

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