Civil War

No Small Feat–A Daring Civil War Escape

In the very early hours of May 13, 1862, a slave named Robert Smalls decided to make his move. Smalls had worked his way up to becoming a wheelman--a pilot--and the Confederates used him to...

The Rail-Splitter and the Little Dougs

I was listening to the audio version of Adam Goodheart's amazing book, 1861, when the phrase "The Little Dougs" leaped out at me. As a Doug myself, I have to say I like the...

The Civil War in Living Color

During the past month, I have been doing research on the wet-plate photographic method, also known as the collodion process. This early photographic process was introduced in the 1850s, and by the time the...

Infernal Machines, Part 3

Some called it a murdering machine. But the question was: Who faced the greatest risk from this machine—the enemy or the men operating it? Eight men were jammed side by side in this cramped Civil...

The Myth of Black Confederates

My two worlds converged recently. In my world as a writer for the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I recently did a story about the "Myth of Black Confederates"--a subject that...

Infernal Machines

On a misty night in October of 1863, the aptly named David, a small Confederate torpedo boat, set out to slay the much larger Union vessel, the New Ironsides. The David was the first important steam-powered...

Quaker Cannons

Fighting the Union Army With Logs? One of the most effective weapons used by the Confederates against General George B. McClellan's army was the "Quaker Cannon"--simple logs painted black to look like cannons. These artificial...

A Shocking First Battle

No one expected the American Civil War to last very long. Senator James Chestnut of South Carolina even boasted that he would be able to drink all of the blood spilled during the brief...

August 23, 1861: The Socialite Spy

HISTORY BY THE SLICE--Washington socialite Rose Greenhow was arrested for spying for the Confederacy on August 23, 1861, 151 years ago today. Greenhow's information on Union troop movements was believed to have aided the...

Elmer-Mania!

Long Before The Beatles, There Was Elmer Just prior to the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, triggering the Civil War in 1861, one of the most famous men in America was Elmer...