The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)


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Death and the Civil War

The thirteenth, fifteenth, and seventeenth corps in Union trench under command of General U. Siege of Vicksburg. The fight in the crater of Fort Hill after the Union explosion June 25, Courtesy Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

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When Vicksburg fell to Union troops on July 4, , the Confederacy lost its last chance to control the Mississippi River. Control of the Mississippi River during the American Civil War was an economic and psychological factor for both the North and the South.

For many years, the river had served as a vital waterway for mid-western farmers shipping their goods to the eastern states by way of the Gulf of Mexico. For the Confederacy, control of the lower Mississippi River was vital to the union of its states. The portion of Louisiana west of the river plus Texas and Arkansas formed the Transmississippi which held manpower and materiel that the rest of the southern military machine needed.

President Abraham Lincoln termed it, to the Union gaining control of the river. Lincoln looked at a map of the Mississippi River and saw that its hairpin turn in front of Vicksburg, which sat high on bluffs above the river, made boats traveling in both directions vulnerable to artillery fire from the Confederate batteries on the shore line and on the high bluffs.

The effort of United States troops to capture Vicksburg took over a year, from the spring of to the summer of , and it involved thousands of soldiers and caused much bloodshed. The Vicksburg campaign can best be understood when divided into four phases.

First came the spring upriver attack by Union gunboats. Then came General U. Grant then launched his spring campaign of diversions that eventually allowed him to get his army across the river south of Vicksburg. While men fought the campaign, most Vicksburg women left to stay with acquaintances in safer areas, or to camp out in Warren County hills beyond the range of Union guns.

The initial Federal attempt proved more inconvenient than dangerous for most Vicksburg women. When the Union navy gave up and departed, life returned to normal. But tougher times lay ahead. During the night of April May 1, , General Grant crossed his army from Louisiana into Mississippi, and citizens in Vicksburg were on the verge of encountering Union troops. Grant won the Battle of Port Gibson on May 1 and moved quickly inland, marching northeast toward Edwards and the Southern Railroad of Mississippi, the vital supply line that connected Vicksburg with Jackson and points east.

Pemberton retreated into Vicksburg and Grant followed. So war on a large scale came to Vicksburg again, with the Union army arched around the city from north to east to south and the Union navy on the river. The siege had various impacts on the lives of people caught in the city. Upper-class white women often went from comfortable circumstances to deprivation and humiliation, lower-class white females went from not having much to having even less, and slave women went from a structured existence to uncertainty.

Whatever their station, the women who stayed in their hometown rather than escaping before Grant arrived struggled to survive. The women had to look out for themselves and try to keep their lives going while the war whirled around them. Their story is one of courage, sacrifice, and persistence.


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Their surviving letters and diaries tell stories of both physical and mental terror. Diarist Emma Balfour of Vicksburg worried about trapped citizens like herself and her physician husband. Food supplies would not last long. Confederate commanders urged citizens to occupy caves built the previous summer and to dig more.

As all this rushed over me and the sense of suffocation from being underground, the certainty that there was no way of escape, that we were hemmed in, cagedfor one moment my heart seemed to stand still. Nearly all the families in town spent the night in their caves. For civilians trapped in the city, the siege proved to be a time of hourly uncertainty. Between brief lulls came terror and extreme mental stress.

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Caves provided the only security. The soil around Vicksburg was mostly easy to dig, yet firm enough so that caves could be dug into the sides of the hills without great fear of cave-ins. People carefully selected cave sites in order to minimize risks of being hit with artillery shells. Both white citizens and their slaves labored with shovels, though most of the work fell on the latter.

The caves could be simple one-room abodes or multi-room suites. Read of the 1st Virginia Artillery describing earlier stages of the Gettysburg campaign. Clippings, no date. Accession bb. Clipping, undated, containing transcripts of letters, , between General Robert E. Wright, 21 June Wright served as an agent for the United States War Department for collecting Confederate military records. Abell, Caspar K. Papers, Papers, , of Caspar K. Abell found the muster roll at a house in Yorktown, Virginia, and the roster on the battlefield near Chickahominy, Virginia.

Ague, E. Letters, , of E. Ague d. He provides a list of names of men from the company wounded at the battle of Dranesville. Ague states that he thinks the war will be short and the Reserves will return home. Albee, George E. Diary, Diary, , of George E. Also includes a pass, 22 January Albemarle County Va.

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Circuit Court. Reports of Indigent Soldiers' Families, Also includes orders appointing agents to purchase supplies for the families. Reports record that funds were to be used for the purchase of corn and outline problems that the agents faced in procuring supplies and concerns about supplies getting to the the families in need rather than being used by the military. Military and Pension Records, Albemarle County, Virginia, Military and Pension Records, , containing military and pension records documenting the military service of African Americans in Albemarle County from to Many of the records include personal information about individuals who served in the military, such as date and place of birth and names of family members.

Albemarle Minute Men. Papers, , of the Albemarle Minute Men consisting of a letter, 28 June , from four Albemarle County, Virginia, residents to Captain William Dinwiddie requesting that he call out his local defense company to help defend the town of Gordonsville from a Union attack. Letter was written in response to a request from the Confederate Secretary of War. Papers also contain a roster listing the names of Albemarle County residents, including Dinwiddie, who were part of a local defense force organized in June and identified as the Albemarle Minute Men. Alden, Seth H. Letters, , from Seth H.

Topics include troop movements, casualties, weather and landscape in Virginia, camp life and conditions, paychecks and supply costs.


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Alden also asks about home life and crops. Includes transcripts and partial transcripts for some of the letters. Alderman, John P. Carroll County Civil War soldiers records, Alderman consisting of typescripts of Confederate service records of soldiers from Carroll County. Many of the entries also contain additional biographical information gleaned from a number of sources.

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Carroll County Civil War soldiers records, Accession Abstracts of the 24th Virginia Infantry compiled by John P. Alderman containing an introduction and abstracts from the regimental records in the National Archives. Abstracts of the regimental records consists of a list of officers, a chronological record of events, and abstracts of individual service records arranged alphabetically as they appear on the microfilm. Only a fraction of the data in the service records has been abstracted. Alderson, Charles.

Letter, 18 August Letter, 18 August , from Charles Alderson, Washington County, Virginia, offering thanks to a neighbor who had watched his sons, Joseph Alderson, horse after he was hurt at the battle of Brandy Station. Alderson talks of retrieving the horse and asks if any Federal troops are in the area. Alexander, Peter Wellington. Letter book, Letter book, 23 October - 13 November , containing dispatches written from Richmond by journalist Peter Wellington Alexander on various aspects of the Civil War.

There are four weekly dispatches.

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Notations indicate that they were sent to London, England. Genealogical notes. Accession d. Also contains the Civil War reminiscences of Mrs. William Fontaine Alexander of Jefferson County.

Allied families mentioned include: Ball and Ranson. Alexandria Union Association Alexandria, Va. Minute book, Minute book, 28 August April and 21 December , of the Alexandria Union Association of Alexandria, Virginia, consisting of the minutes of the association, list of members and some accounts.

Allen family.

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Receipts, Powers, both of Richmond. Allen, A. Letter, 7 August Letter, 7 August , from A. Allen b. He also discusses the civilian reaction to the fighting. Garfield Reminiscences include descriptions of various members of the crew, life aboard ship, the sinking of the USS Hatteras by the Alabama, and an account of the Alabama's final battle with the Kearsarge.

The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History) The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)

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