Siege of Petersburg Online at

The Siege of Petersburg near Richmond, Virginia is featured in an excellent online resource called “Beyond the Crater”.   Don’t miss this detailed coverage of a series of campaigns that are sometimes overlooked in the study of Civil War strategics.   Here, from the site’s introduction:

 Welcome to The Siege of Petersburg Online, an information compilation site focusing on the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War. The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign was, rather than a true siege, a series of nine offensives by the Union forces against the Confederates defending Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. The campaign for Petersburg lasted from June 15, 1864 until April 2, 1865, claiming 50,000 Union soldiers and 32,000 Confederates. The Siege of Petersburg has been criminally neglected in the study of the Civil War, and this site aims to partially rectify that lack of coverage.

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The Patriot War – Part 3

Patriots Open a Second Front Along Michigan Border

As noted in the last post on the Patriot War, Buffalo New York opened its arms to fleeing Canadian rebels in December 1837. Buffalo citizens pledged money and munitions to help the rebels and many joined the growing “army of liberation.” But Buffalo was not the only center of military mobilization.

An army of American sympathizers, the western Patriots, formed in Detroit to “liberate” western Upper Canada (now Ontario). Henry S. Handy, a self-appointed general, took charge. He appointed fellow Patriots E. J. Roberts and Edward Alexander Theller as Brigadier Generals. With their ranks padded by hundreds of Canadian rebels, they prepared for war.

On January 5, 1838, Handy’s men stole a small schooner, the Anne, and readied it for battle. The target was to be Fort Malden and Amherstburg in Upper Canada, located near the downstream end of the Detroit River.

On January 7, Brigadier General Thomas Jefferson Sutherland arrived from Buffalo to take command. General Handy refused to give him command and Sutherland had to settle for second place.

The attack began January 8. Sutherland crossed the river and led 300 men on an assault of Amherstburg by land. The Anne under command of Theller fired cannon into the town in support of the Patriots. Though fewer in number, the better trained Canadian militia, managed to repulse Sutherland’s army, which retreated to Sugar Island in the Detroit River.

The next day, Theller again fired cannon at Amherstburg. The local militia peppered the schooner with musket fire, tearing its rigging to bits and killing the helmsman. In the rough weather, the Anne ran aground. The Canadian militia (including a company of former American slaves) waded to their armpits in the freezing January water, boarded the Anne, and captured Theller and his crew.

General Handy removed the Patriots from Sugar Island. He knew the Amherstberg raid was a lost cause, and he preferred to get his troops to safety for battles ahead. (A month later, Sutherland was captured taking a shortcut across the Lake Erie ice on his way to Ohio. He spent the rest of the Patriot War in jail with Theller.)

The Amherstburg raid was the first of four major assaults on the western parts of Upper Canada by Patriot rebels based in Michigan and Ohio.

This is the third in a series of guest posts on the Patriot War by blogger and author Shaun J. McLaughlin. Visit his blog at To learn more about his two Patriot War books, one history and one fiction, visit

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The Patriot War – Part 2

The Patriot War began in Upper Canada (Ontario) began on December 4, 1837, without any help from Americans (that would come later). William Lyon Mackenzie assembled 700 to 800 rebels on the outskirts of Toronto. They dithered too long before attacking and gave the colonial militia ample time to assemble. On December 7, the militia routed the rebels.

Mackenzie and hundreds of supporters escaped to the US. He arrived in Buffalo on December 10 knowing his rebellion had failed, but not yet aware that the Patriot War had just begun.

Mackenzie met a populace primed for action. Among the civic leaders who championed the rebellion, Dr. Cyrenius Chapin took an early leadership role. He loathed the English, having grown up during the American Revolution. He wanted the British removed from North America

Chapin swept up the fugitive Scot and made him his houseguest. Chapin organized a public meeting the next evening, December 11, in a Buffalo theater. He extolled the virtues of the Canadian rebels and pushed for the liberation of Canada.
Mackenzie spoke at the same theatre the next night. A fiery and accomplished orator, the bantam-sized rebel leader knew his audience well. The majority had either fought during the American Revolution or the War of 1812, or claimed kinship with veterans of those wars.

To a packed house estimated at 3,000 people (the Buffalo population was then just 25,000), Mackenzie compared the suffering of Canadians to the “same evils” that caused the 13 colonies to break allegiance from England.
With the audience primed, Thomas Jefferson Sutherland, addressed the throng next. Sutherland fancied himself a natural commander of men and fully expected to be a general in any force raised to support Canadian freedom. That night, he stated he intended to form an army of liberation. He requested men, money, ammunition and weapons. The response was immediate and generous.
On December 13, Mackenzie and Sutherland met in the Eagle tavern in central Buffalo to plan a war. With them was Rensselaer Van Rensselaer. He came from one of the most influential families in upstate New York. Men with his surname ranked among the elites in politics and the military. Though Van Rensselaer had no military experience, he became the rebels’ chief general.
The Patriot leaders agreed to occupy Navy Island and make it the seat of a provisional government in exile. The 316-acre island in the Niagara River, not far from the mighty falls, belonged to Upper Canada.

On December 14, Mackenzie and General Van Rensselaer landed on Navy Island with 24 volunteers and two small cannons. As the news of the occupation spread, groups of Canadian refugees and American volunteers from across the state journeyed to Navy Island. Recruits brought cannons stolen from New York State arsenals (24 in all), rifles, muskets and ammunition. Brigadier-General Sutherland arrived with a company. Mackenzie’s men bombarded the Canadian shore. British cannon fired back.

Van Rensselaer strutted about the island, a cutlass in one hand and brandy in the other. As weeks passed, he refused to divulge his plans. His drunkenness was obvious and his cowardice suspected. Men sought action but found boredom, and only crude huts for shelter from the cold and snow. Even as new recruits joined the island’s defenders, a steady stream of deserters departed for home.

On December 29, 1837, Captain Andrew Drew, acting on orders from his British commander, rowed across the icy river in darkness with 60 armed militiamen in small boats and boarded the Patriot’s rented supply ship, the Caroline, at Schlosser, NY. A handful of men slept on the steamer. Only the sentry carried a musket.

Drew’s raiders stormed the ship and killed a black American sailor named Amos Durfee. He became the war’s first American casualty—but not the last.
Drew’s men towed the Caroline into the current and set it afire. The blazing craft grounded on rocks and broke apart, its pieces plummeting over the falls.
Americans saw the British attack on an American ship in a US port as an assault on their sovereignty. While President Martin Van Buren shrugged off the incursion, US citizens sent money and ammunition to Mackenzie. American volunteers soon outnumbered Canadians in the Patriot army.

The opposing forces at Navy Island bombarded each other for two weeks following the Caroline affair. Boredom compounded by cold made Van Rensselaer’s dithering unbearable to the rebels. Patriot fighters steadily deserted. On January 13, 1838, Van Rensselaer abandoned Navy Island and withdrew his men to Buffalo.
The retreat from Navy Island did not bring the war to an end. Rebel armies gathering in New York and Michigan promised a very hot winter ahead.

This is the second in a series of guest posts on the Patriot War by blogger and author Shaun J. McLaughlin. Visit his blog at To learn more about his two Patriot War books, one history and one fiction, visit

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Smithsonian Snapshot – Amelia Earhart’s Transatlantic Record Airplane: A Lockheed Vega 5B. 1932.

Amelia Earhart Lockheed Vega

Amelia Earhart Lockheed Vega

In celebration of Women’s History Month, this week’s Snapshot highlights Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B—the very plane she flew when she became the first woman to fly nonstop and solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

On May 20 – 21, 1932, she flew this red Lockheed Vega 5B from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, and landed about 15 hours later near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The flight made Earhart an instant worldwide sensation and proved she was a courageous and able pilot.

Image by Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B, 1932

On May 20 – 21, 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman—and the second person after Charles Lindbergh—to fly nonstop and solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Flying this red Lockheed Vega 5B, she left Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, and landed about 15 hours later near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The flight made Earhart an instant worldwide sensation and proved she was a courageous and able pilot.

Later that summer, Earhart flew the Vega setting another record. On August 24 – 25, 1932, she made the first solo, nonstop flight by a woman across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J. The flight covered a distance of 2,447 miles and lasted about 19 hours.

In June 1933, Earhart sold this Vega to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute where it remained until transferred to the Smithsonian in 1966. In 1976, the sleek Vega was installed in the new National Air and Space Museum to recognize Earhart’s flights. The innovative combination of an internally braced wing and strong shell fuselage made the design a popular record-setting, private and commercial aircraft.

Earhart’s Lockheed Vegas is just one of 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection. The plane is on display in the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight gallery at the National Air and Space Museum.

National Air and Space Museum.

For more Women’s History Month events and resources, visit the Smithsonian’s Education website.

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Shenandoah Civil War Battlefields could be lost to development


Website of the Civil War Trust

I am writing to you today to ask your support in helping to save two incredible tracts at the Cedar Creek battlefield. In all the years that we’ve been saving Civil War battlefield land in the Shenandoah Valley, I can scarcely think of two more important tracts worth your attention. Join us in saving more of the Cedar Creek battlefield.

–Jim Lighthizer, President, Civil War Trust

12.5 Acres at Cedar Creek

Sacrifice of the 8th Vermont

This beautiful tract includes the location of the 8th Vermont Monument — one of only three monuments on the battlefield. It was here that the valiant 8th Vermont lost 108 men out of 159 engaged. The Vermont’s terrible loss provided the Union army more time to organize a defense against Jubal Early’s Confederate juggernaut.

64.5 Acres at Cedar Creek

Sheridan’s Ride

This tract, also called Rienzi’s Knoll, is the location where Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan arrived on the battlefield late in the morning of October 19, 1864. Galloping more than 10 miles from Winchester, Virginia, Sheridan’s powerful presence steeled his broken army. The subsequent counterattack ordered by Sheridan would drive the Confederates from the field and secure his army a stunning victory and provide Lincoln with much needed good news for his reelection.

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The Patriot War – Part 1 of a series

This year is the 175th anniversary of the start of the Patriot War, a war that most people never heard of. It is the war in which citizens of the United States, not their government, declared war on the British. Aligned with Canadian rebels, they attacked England’s Canadian colonies 10 times between December 1837 and December 1838 from Michigan, Ohio, New York and Vermont.

Rebellions in Lower Canada (now Quebec) and Upper Canada (now Ontario) flared up in November and December, respectively, in 1837. The British army and colonial militia quickly extinguished the uprisings. The ill-prepared rebels lacked the training and strength to prevail. The insurgency should have ended before Christmas. It did not.

The defeated rebels fled to the United States where Americans of all social classes embraced them as heroes. Due to a unique confluence of American history and economics, tens of thousands of people offered money, provisions, arms, and sometimes their lives in the pursuit of Canadian freedom.

The fact that bands of Canadian colonists in Upper and Lower Canada took up arms in the pursuit of responsible government is not surprising given the political realities of 1837.

A two-tiered government ran the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada. Each had a legislative assembly elected by voters. Both had an all-powerful executive council made up of prominent citizens, headed by a lieutenant-governor appointed by the Crown. The executive council could and did disregard advice and legislation from the elected assembly.

In both colonies, political parties arose to argue for democratic reform. More than once, these parties formed a majority in the legislative assemblies. The executive councils ignored them or, worse, passed laws that enflamed them. Eventually, a minority of reformers in both colonies counseled open rebellion as the only path to representative government. The mood in Canada matched the temper in America in 1775 when colonists fired the first shots of the Revolutionary War.

While Canadian politics fumed in 1837, the United States society seethed with its own discontent. Between 1780 and 1837, the US population rose from 2,780,000 to over 16 million. The count of states doubled from 13 to 26. Settlement had pushed civilization from the coastal plains west past the Mississippi River.

After 56 years of growth and prosperity, America hit a wall in 1837. Rampant land speculation combined with a sudden distrust of banks and of the new monetary innovation, paper money, led to the Panic of 1837. English banks called in loans made to US banks. Those banks held little real money—their assets being notes based on landholdings—and failed. Fortunes disappeared. Unemployment spiked. A five-year recession began.

Following the Texas Revolution (1835-1836), many Americans, especially young men, envisioned themselves as new Crusaders, gallant fighters for democracy. (That the Texas Revolution had much to do with Mexico's prohibition of slavery was not well known then.)

In 1837, Americans along the border from Maine to Wisconsin still harbored enmity for the British government. Though 56 years had passed since fighting ceased in the American Revolution and 23 years since the War of 1812 ended, people in those states wanted the continent purged of any vestige of English despotism.

Americans had no quarrel with Canadian colonists, who were kith and often kin. Immigration controls being rudimentary, citizens flowed between the nations at will. Cross-border business connections and marriages were commonplace.

When you combined the romanticism of the Texas Revolution with the destabilizing effects of a recession and a deep-seated grudge against the British, it is easy to understand why Americans took up the Canadian rebels' cause. Brothers in difficult times, the Canadian rebellion offered an opportunity for young men to be heroes and old men to kick out the monarchists.

The raids left dozens of Canadian and American raiders dead. Fifteen Americans hanged and the British shipped about ninety others to the Tasmanian penal colony. The Patriot fighters saw themselves as freedom fighters. Their efforts are worth remembering.

This is the first in a series of guest posts on the Patriot War by blogger and author Shaun J. McLaughlin. Visit his blog at To learn more about his two Patriot War books, one history and one fiction, visit

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The Progressive Movement in Context

The Progressive Movement was the reform movement that ran, generally, from 1890-1920, during which social reformers made up mainly of the middle class intellectuals who sought to address the issues of industrialization that were literally transforming America into an economic super-power. These issues were new and some not expected and, in general, fall under social, economic and political categories. The Progressives believed, and frankly correctly, that the individual was being consumed by the capitalist nature of society.

I teach abolitionism as an early reform period. As we know, abolitionists saw the moral wrong of slavery, though by no means were they necessarily for equality with regard to Civil Rights, that would take until the 1960s.

By the early 1900s “Muckrakers,” as Roosevelt called them were based on a fictional character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, were addressing important issues of the time: child labor, women suffrage, immigration, political corruption, health and sanitation, and much more. Progressives believed that government had to take charge and regulate and at times mandate in order to right some of these wrongs. It should be noted, however, that racism and the plight of blacks and Indians was of course not addressed.

If you were to present to your students a lesson about these Muckrakers you might do what does:

However, is it relevant to also include the following:

Lincoln Steffens was a communist and after a meeting Vladimir Lenin proclaimed: “I have seen the future, and it works.” Steffens developed an enthusiasm for Communism after visiting Lenin.

Upton Sinclair was a socialist and even ran for office as such.

Margaret Sanger launched the monthly periodical The Birth Control Review and Birth Control News and contributed articles on health to the Socialist Party paper, The Call.

John Dewey identified himself as a democratic socialist.

Robert LaFollette was clearly a socialist.

More about the Progressive Movement at US History

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Hello and More History Coming Soon

Blog4History will continue with history posts from guest authors and Joe Hunkins, the new administrator for this great history blog. Joe also writes about travel and history at and You can reach him at or @JoeDuck. Please stay tuned for more history, and if you are interested in writing a guest post please let me know.

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Goodbye! … and Hello!

UPDATE: Chris is no longer writing the blog4history, but Joe Hunkins will be taking over and contributing articles, especially about history. If you are a history blogger please get in touch! Thanks!

Joe Hunkins


It’s been fun, take care! After 5 years I am moving on from B4H. Will keep the domain up for a while but cannot guarantee how long being that it costs $9.95 a month.

Lets hope for renewal in 2012!

See ya!

Post numer #3152


President Obama’s First Ad of 2012

Looks like a winner to me!

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