What is your most interesting event of the US Civil War?

+21 votes
I personally find the shooting of "Stonewall" Jackson in Chancellorsville, Virginia by his own troops to be very interesting and a precursor of the eventuality of the war.  What else could be added to the Resource Pages?
in Genealogy Help by David Wilson G2G6 Mach 9 (93.6k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
I always liked the scene where Rhett tells Scarlett, "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn".
I award you a best comment for that!
Chickamauga, as my great-grandfather A. L. Ross was there with the 7th Florida. In the first major battle they'd seen they acquitted themselves well according to what little I have seen ...
My most interesting event of the Civil War is personal. One of my great grand mothers kept her dead  son packed in charcoal, in a small room on a porch . To wait for his brothers to get home from war to bury him.  So I would have to say Gaines Mill.
Oh dear.
The second day at Gettysburg would have to be one of the most pivotal among many. It is sort of a no brainer. The battle did not turn at Little Round Top or Culps Hill. It turned at the point of attack in the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield when the federals refused to break and run after their III Corps was destroyed and the remnant of I and XI Corps survived with the help of II Corps and V Corps. Hancock saved the Union to fight another day.
What wonderful stories, resources, and history. Thank you.
I have read that story!
Great Thread, David!
I have read about stories like that!

18 Answers

+15 votes
Best answer

"Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant opened a campaign to invade Tennessee via the Cumberland River in February 1862. When Fort Donelson surrendered, much of Nashville panicked. The state capital was next in line along the river and was without physical defenses. General Johnston and the Confederate Army left Nashville, retreating towards Murfreesboro. Many of the state capital’s leading citizens, including Governor Harris, also left. Several months before, a call for arms had yielded all the rifles and guns that had been in the hands of the civilian population, for the use of the Confederate forces. The retreating Confederate Army left the citizens of Nashville without a breastwork or a rifle. General Grant could march into town, destroy their property, burn their homes, take their lives and deprive them of liberty.

The Nashville citizenry waited. On Sunday morning, February 23, 1862, Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell and 50,000 soldiers of the Union army arrived in Edgefield, a village across the river from Nashville. There they stopped and camped. On the following Tuesday, February 25, the mayor and a committee of citizens met with General Buell at 11:00 a.m. John S. Brien was a member of this committee. “The meeting was quite satisfactory, and on his return the mayor issued a proclamation assuring the inhabitants that they would be protected in person and property.” [HoDv p. 178].

John S. Brien wrote the following to John C. Crittenden on the February 28, 1862:

“Genl. Buell's Division of the Army has been in and round this city for several days. My heart is sincerely rejoiced that it reached and occupied the city & country with out the necessity of sheding one drop of the blood of one of our citizens.” [JCC]"

John S Brien is my several times great Uncle. I'm sure that southern sympathizers considered John and the mayor traitors, for surrendering the town, however I'm sure that every mother, sweetheart and business and home owner of Nashville were thankful for the steps they took to avert an already lost battle. [Excerpt from "The Briens of Nashville"]


by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
selected by Doug Lockwood
+8 votes
Cold Harbor always gets my interest as I had 2 great uncles (brothers) killed there.
by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.4m points)
+11 votes
Great question David!

I have been working on soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts as part of the Civil War Project.  I have been interested in the 54th ever since I saw the movie "Glory" back in college.

It has been great working on the project though, as I have learned more about many of the indvidual soldiers in the 54th.  To my surprise, several dozen of the soldiers from the 54th were recruited from Pennsylvania - where I'm from, and many of them are buried here.

The famous scene at the end of "Glory" (depicting how the soldiers from the 54th fought bravely during the assault on Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863) has taken on new meaning for me now that I know more about the individual soldiers who fought in the actual battle.

For example, this soldier, William Edgerly, was from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and enlisted in the 54th on March 19, 1863.  He died during the assault on Fort Wagner, and is buried in a cemetery in Lancaster:


I am going to put put together a resource page on the 54th and am going to continue researching the men who fought in the 54th.
by Ray Jones G2G6 Pilot (153k points)
+11 votes
by George Blanchard G2G6 Mach 9 (90.9k points)
As a college ROTC student during the Vietnam War, I remember the English professors as organizers of the anti-war movement. When I read of the blood and guts commander who ordered a bayonet charge because his troops were out of ammunition, it was hard for me to believe Joshua Chamberlain's pre-war profession had been an English professor at Bowdoin College.

As a Maine high school student, I remember a classmate who brought a series of civil war letters to school.  They were written home to describe a brother who had been wounded in action.  We tried to tell what unit he was in or what action it might have been; but the unit seemed to be assumed knowledge of the recipient, and the writer did not know at that date by what names the various actions might later be known.  The first letter described what seemed to be a minor wound to the lower arm, and the writer seemed convinced his brother would soon recover.  The second letter described amputation of the hand, with assurance that his brother would soon be released from duty to return home.  The third letter described amputation of the arm, with a requirement for continued hospitalization, and the fourth letter informed his parents of his brother's death.

Having military units like the 20th Maine where brothers served alongside cousins, neighbors, and school chums seemed like a good way to build esprit de corps; so I wondered why it had been abandoned.  Our military training indicated the change was made at the suggestion of our World War I allies.  It seems casualties are not uniformly distributed in battle.  Most units suffer comparatively few casualties while other units are virtually decimated.  The early World War I combatants found a dramatic downturn in enthusiasm for continued combat in the cities who had seen most of a generation eliminated in a single battle, while distributing the same number of casualties through a large number of cities generated fewer complaints.
+14 votes
This is Family Lore - and post war but...

My grandfather always told me he had two uncles who were paroled at Appamatox.  they survived the war.  As they made thier way home to the upstate of South Carolina they traveled through Hendersonville, NC.

Hendersonville, NC was kind of like the wild west in those days as it was a major livestock center.  A fight broke out at the stockyards and the two brothers were killed.  They ALMOST made it home.

by Mags Gaulden G2G6 Pilot (507k points)
Mags, the living members of my Confederate family were also paroled then. They were from Oconnee and Pickens Counties in S.C. from up around Wahalla.
Hey Trudy.  The family I think my grandpa was talking about was in Pickens and Greenviile Counties - the Hunts.  There's a family - Gregory - who have letters written back and forth.  Some of those letters contain notes home from my Hunts.  I learned of the letters while working at an Engineering firm in Greenville - one of the clients was a Gregory.  Now I can't find him to save my life!  What unit was your family in?
Mags, at 2am this morning I ran across the title of a a book that included the names Hunt and Hunnicutt in the title. I thought I bookmarked it, but with my computer skills someone in China is probably looking at it saying " whaaat. " I'll try to find the title again.  Orr's Rifles. All of the Hunnicutts I know of but one. I haven't looked into Owens and Neville cousins. But alot of those Pickens boys were in Orr's. I also have Orr cousins.
You should no better than do anything at 2Am! Sounds great! Mag
+11 votes

The Fight at Waterford a small, insignificant battle that took place in Loudoun County, Virginia. This town was divided between Union and Confederate supporters, and there were actually brothers fighting against each other. It is particularly interesting to me because it was in the area where my family had its roots, and my great-grand uncle, Peter Jeremiah Kabrich, was wounded and died a few days later from his wounds. He is buried in nearby Lovettsville, where my great-grandfather, Isaiah Kabrich, was born and raised. 

by Robin Kabrich G2G6 Mach 3 (39.6k points)
+15 votes
My favorite Civil War story is also personal.  It is concerning my gr/gr grandfather Fredrick Stockman.  He enlisted on 9/12/1862 in Perry County, Alabama.  Private Company F, 21st Reg't, Alabama Infantry.  He was captured at Fort Gaines, Alabama.  He was captured 8 August 1864.  He was held prisoner at Ships Island, Mississippi at Fort Massachusetts South of Gulf Port, Mississippi.  He was buried in a mass grave-grave #49.  Grandfather Stockman had a friend who loved him dearly.  When the war was over, this man travelled to my Gr/Gr grandmother's home in Alabama to tell her of the fate of her husband.  He explained to her how he had starved to death in the prison.  He knew that Fredrick was dying and he gave him his last piece of molded bread.  He said that Fredrick told him "that was the best piece of bread he had ever eaten."  They threw the bodies in the mass grave and before they covered Fredrick's body-he jumped into the grave and removed his hat and covered his face before they buried him.  He travelled all that way to Walker County, Alabama because he wanted Rachel Stockman to know.  Before he left her, he gave the family his personal powder horn-because he wanted them to remember the man who loved their father as his dear friend.  And today......a leather strip holds that powder horn on my wall and I still think about that un-named man who loved my great great grandfather enough to walk hundreds of miles after just getting out of a war prison to tell his family.
by Kelly Naramore G2G Crew (780 points)
Now these things are part of the reason I like wikitree. We all  " get it "  and can share with people who know why we search for people who have move on from here.
Wow! I nearly cried . . . I hope you can keep that story passing down your family through the generations. It is SO important to stay connected to our past; I find it really helps me understand myself!
+11 votes

The stories about General Daniel Sickles (Union) are very interesting.  He was such a scoundrel.  Besides having numerous affairs on his wife,  In 1859, in Lafayette Square, , across the street from the White House, Sickles shot and killed the district attorney of the District of Columbia, Philip Barton Keys II, the son of Francis Scott Key, ,who Sickles had discovered was having an affair with his young wife.

He was the first person to get acquitted using the insanity defense.  He later joined the volunteer forces in New York and was appointed Brigadier General.

His infamy did not stop here.  He was responsible for the near disasterous defeat of the Union line at Cemetery Ridge by disobeying orders from General George Meade in the  ever so famous Battle of Gettysburg.  

At the height of the conflict, a cannonball wounded his leg.  After they amputated his leg, he preserved the bones and donated them to the Army Medical Museum in Washington D.C.  He is reported to visit this display on the anniversary of the amputation.  The leg bones are still on display today at the museum, now known as the National Museum of Health & Medicine.

Instead of being court martialed for his insubordination, he, instead, received the Medal of Honor (mostly due to the fact that he was wounded).


by Vicki Norman G2G6 Mach 2 (20.8k points)
edited by Vicki Norman

Re: Daniel Sickles


Half way through Vicki Norman's account of this “gentleman” I was becoming suspicious she fabricated the story. I was wrong. See [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Sickles Wikipedia: Daniel Sickles]. General Daniel's escapades are an interesting sidebar providing an oblique perspective on wartime affairs.


Thank you Vickie for an interesting revelation. Inquiring minds want to know. Two thumbs up.

This is a little off topic, but since we're all into genealogy ...  The murder of Francis Scott Key's son, Philip Barton Key, by Congressman Sickles is well-documented.  The Key family was from Frederick, MD, and Philip Barton Key was also no choir-boy.  Philip's having the middle name Barton is often a hint that there was a grandmother or great-grandmother somewhere back in the family line with that surname, and there were a fair number of Bartons in the area.  I have had many ancestors, on both sides of my family, from the Frederick area, and I have looked for a connection to the Keys, but so far have not found one.  So if anyone has stumbled upon any data regarding how Philip got his name, I would love to hear from you.  Thanks.


From: The Colonial Ancestors of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, by Scottie Fitzgerald Smith


Philip Key was married again after the death of Susanna, to Theodosia Barton, who was so kind to her stepchildren (so goes the legend) that Philip Barton Key was named for her.”  

Thanks very much, George, for the tip and the link.  I'll try to chase that down and see if it leads anywhere.
+12 votes

I'm in the process of inheriting my mother's extensive family history and genealogical work begun by her mother Sarah Tradewell (McIntosh) Taylor.

I remember listening to my grandmother's stories of  her two grandfathers named James:  Dr. James McIntosh, Assistant Surgeon in the 8th Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers; and James Douthit Tradewell, former mayor of Columbia and unreconstructed Confederate with "a dark side" and a "drinking problem."

As I read through my mother's and grandmother's papers and notes, I came across my mother's family group sheet of James Douthit and saw that he had named a son Maxcy Gregg Tradewell.  My first thought was that there must be a family connection between the Tradewell family and the McIntosh family through the Gregg family, since James McIntosh's mother was a Gregg.  No connection could I find, but I did discover a previously unknown (to me) first cousin, five times removed -- Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Why had grandmother never told a story about him or about her Uncle Maxcy who died as a baby?  Why was there no mention of either of them in either my grandmother's or my mother's papers?  I'll never know for certain, but I suspect that James Douthit named his first male child born after the war in honor of General Maxcy Gregg, who was a prominent citizen of Columbia, a fellow member of the Columbia bar, and a martyr for James's beloved Confederacy.

And as if all of this was not excitement enough for one of my first independent forays into genealogical research, when I shared this story with my mother, she said that she supposed that I'd be interesed in having a memento she had stored in one of her many boxes of family history -- Maxcy Gregg Tradewell's baby cup.

by Fred Prisley G2G4 (4.3k points)
edited by Fred Prisley
That is a great story.  Our families have so many undiscovered treasures and memories.  The trick is to get them to tell us.

I love this story.


+9 votes
I think the Battle of Palmito Ranch, which occurred near Brownsville, Texas, on May 12, 1865.  Lee had surrendered on April 9, Jefferson Davis had been captured on May 10, and President Johnson had declared the war virtually over on May 10, however some of the Confederate troops hadn't heard yet.  The Union generals thought it would be easy to recapture Brownsville, but the rebels fought hard and won the battle. It was the last battle of the war.
by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (327k points)
+8 votes

I was a volunteer researcher for the sesquentenial for our local town of Collierville, TN.  The main event that took place in Collierville was the first battle on 11 October 1863.  General Chalmers lead 3,000 cavalry (more accurately, mounted infantry) to attack the fort that was defended by only 260 men of the 66th Indiana Regiment.

When the battle started, a train pulled into town and stopped right between the opossiing forces.  The train was carrying General Tecumseh Sherman, 2 other generals and his staff and 240 men of the 13 Regulars (aka 13 Illinois).  With this additional troops, the Union forces were able to hold off the Confederates until relief came from Memphis.  The Confederates claimed victory for destroying Sherman's train and capturing a camp of the 7 Illinois Cavalry on the north side of town.

This battle was unique for three reasons:

1:  A train arrived on the battlefield and was a casualty of the battle.

2:  General Sherman was present and his forces greatly out-numbered.

3: The Confederate artillery consisted of 4 Williams Guns.  This gun was a breech-loading smooth-bore of 1.56 inch caliber that fired 25 rounds per minuted.  There were only 42 made during the entire war.  There have been at least 5 cannon balls (or  No 10 steel shot) that have been dug up that is about the size of a golf ball.

by Steve Cole G2G6 Mach 1 (15.1k points)
+7 votes
Thanks for all the great stories. We are Civil War re-enactors and really enjoy hearing about different events of the War.

Lately I have become interested in Sherman's March to the Sea, after finding my great grandmother's first cousin took part in that march. [[Schirck-45|Philip Schirck]] of Warren, Pennsylvania, whose brother Jacob had been killed at Second Bull Run, signed up when his unit was home for Christmas. He marched from Tennessee through Georgia participating in many battles.He was wounded at Peach Tree Creek, and captured briefly. He was at the Battle of Atlanta and in the first unit into Savannah when the city surrendered. He was assigned to foraging in the Carolinas, and had several narrow escapes. I am hoping to learn more about this march and Philip Schirck's part in it.                   

by Sharon Centanne G2G6 Pilot (153k points)
edited by Sharon Centanne
There are so many great stories listed here!  To my understanding the atrosities of Sherman's March to tne Sea finally ended the war.  Although, for some there are always harsh feelings about any war and the ugliness.  By studying the past we will hopefully learn and make a better future...
Many re-enactors, especially here in Florida, learn about both sides of the conflict and participate in events sponsored by either side. We all get along, because our bond in the love of history outweighs the anomosities of our ancestors. We tell the stories and relive the lifestyles of those who were there, and in the process learn from the experience and from each other. The more we learn about our Civil War ancestors individual stories, the more we learn about the real Civil War. Keep those stories coming, folks!
Actually the war ended when Lincoln won the election in November 64'. The irony is Little Mac agreed to allow the south to be independent according to the democratic convention platform. The newspaper editors and bankers were tired of the failure to defeat Lee particularly after the disaster of Cold Harbor. The famous statement Sam Grant made about winning the campaign "if it takes all summer" was more than enough for many. Some say the battle of Atlanta in September turned the electorate. Regardless, the war turned at the election booth instead of the battlefield at Cold Harbor. Lee and Longstreet both agreed the summer of 63' was the last opportunity to force a peace settlement. The sharks swimming up to the docks in New York harbor seeking the blood dripping through the cracks was not enough to end it. Lee or one of his division commanders as the new mayor of Philadelphia in July would have ended it earlier than the election did. Lincoln was ready to move the capital to NYC before the sharks arrived the following spring.
+6 votes

The Death of Colonel Ellsworth

The first Union officer killed in the Civil War was a friend of President Lincoln's


Elmer Ellsworth

When President Abraham Lincoln learned that Union Army Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth had been killed, the president exclaimed, "My boy! My boy! Was it necessary this sacrifice should be made?" (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

By Owen Edwards



One of the quieter commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, but one of the most intriguing, can soon be found in an alcove at the end of a main hallway at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, D.C. Between two rooms housing highlights of the museum’s Civil War collection, a new exhibition, “The Death of Ellsworth,” revisits a once-famous but now largely forgotten incident. The exhibition opens April 29.


The focal object is a 3 3/8- by 2 3/16-inch photograph of Union Army Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, a dashing figure, his left hand resting on the hilt of his saber. James Barber, the NPG historian who curated the exhibition, describes the portrait as “one of the gems of our story of the war.”


The image was taken around 1861 by an unknown portraitist in the New York studio of Mathew Brady, the photographer who would become indelibly associated with Civil War images. The photograph is a print from an original glass negative purchased by the NPG in 1981.



Ellsworth was a man with large military ambitions, but his meteoric fame came in a way he could not have hoped for: posthumously. At the age of 24, as commander of the 11th New York Volunteers, also known as the First Fire Zouaves, Ellsworth became the first Union officer killed in the war.


He was not just any Union officer. After working as a patent agent in Rockford, Illinois, in 1854, Ellsworth studied law in Chicago, where he also served as a colonel commanding National Guard cadets. In 1860, Ellsworth took a job in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield law office. The young clerk and Lincoln became friends, and when the president-elect moved to Washington in 1861, Ellsworth accompanied him. A student of military history and tactics, Ellsworth admired the Zouaves, Algerian troops fighting with the French Army in North Africa, and had employed their training methods with his cadets. He even designed a uniform with baggy trousers in the Zouave style.


A native of New York State, Ellsworth left Washington for New York City just before the onset of the war. He raised the 11th New York Volunteer Regiment, enlisting many of its troops from the city’s volunteer fire departments (hence the “Fire Zouaves”) and returned with the regiment to Washington.


On May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia voters ratified the state convention’s decision to secede from the Union, Ellsworth and his troops entered Alexandria, Virginia, to assist in the occupation of the city. As it happened, an 8- by 14-foot Confederate flag—large enough to be seen by spyglass from the White House—had been visible in Alexandria for weeks, flown from the roof of an inn, the Marshall House.


The regiment, organized only six weeks earlier, encoun­tered no resistance as it moved through the city. Barber notes, however, that “the Zouaves were an unruly bunch, spoiling for a fight, and when they got into Alexandria they may have felt they were already in the thick of it. So Ellsworth may have wanted to get that flag down quickly to prevent trouble.”


At the Marshall House, Barber adds, “Colonel Ellsworth just happened to meet the one person he didn’t want to meet”—innkeeper James Jackson, a zealous defender of slavery (and, says Barber, a notorious slave abuser) with a penchant for violence.


Ellsworth approached the inn with only four troopers. Finding no resistance, he took down the flag, but as he descended to the main floor, Jackson fired on Ellsworth at point-blank range with a shotgun, killing him instantly. One of Ellsworth’s men, Cpl. Francis Brownell, then fatally shot Jackson.



by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)

There are many with the Bigelow surname whose middle name is Ellsworth. The reason for this, I was told, is to honor Colonel Ellsworth.

Frank thank you for this comment. It gave me a lead my grand father Thomas Sameul Daw's mother may have been a Bigelow. I have found her on census records as a Daw and know her mother was born in Germany from census records.I think there may be and Ellesworth buried in her cemetery.
+5 votes
My Gr Gr Grandfather, Captain Robert Bruce Arms, Vermont 16th Regiment, part at Gettysburg. "The regiment was engaged on the afternoon of the 2nd, Co. B, under Capt. Arms being detached to reinforce the skirmish line in the morning and rendering efficient service. While moving in the afternoon to the left along Cemetery ridge to reinforce the shattered Union lines, it was exposed to a heavy artillery fire, and finally halted in support of a battery. That night it was detailed for picket duty across the field of the afternoon and during the fierce fighting of the 3d day, it held the same advanced position on the skirmish line. During the famous charge of Longstreet's three divisions the 16th was heavily engaged, twice changing front under a severe artillery and musketry fire and charging the enemy's flank. It captured prisoners several times in excess of its own numbers, together with 3 stands of colors, and after the battle followed in pursuit of Lee's retreating army until Lee crossed the Potomac into Virginia, when it was ordered home, its term of enlistment having expired."
by Robert Arms G2G6 (7.2k points)
+3 votes
The creation of the Camel Corp is pretty interesting. Meet Douglas the Condederate Camel: http://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Space:Douglas_the_Confederate_Camel&public=1
by Paula J G2G6 Pilot (242k points)
+4 votes

My great-grandfather [[Biddle-309|James Biddle]] was a Captain in the Army of the Tennessee in 1864 when Atlanta was captured. He wrote frequent letters to his wife in Detroit and I possess many of those letters (my sister has the rest.) I have been working gradually to scan and transcribe his letters. His handwriting is hard to read and many of the letters are very faded. I have attached one of the most interesting letters to his Wikitree profile. It contains a description of his visit to Atlanta a few days after it was captured and before Gen. Sherman ordered it to be burned. After the Union had attempted a frontal attack that failed, Sherman withdrew his forces and ordered them around to the south, where they met little resistance and took the city. Capt. Biddle (he was later promoted to Major) describes hearing the exposion of a train full of ammunition that had been set off by Gen. Hood to prevent it from falling into enemy hands and then having seen the site of the explosion when he visited Atlanta. He also describes how the citizens of Atlanta were getting ready for a big celebration because they thought that the Union forces had given up when their attack from the north failed.

"[I] rode along a portion of the rebel works, especially those portions opposite the positions we (our regiment) held during the siege. The strength of these preparations is wonderful, immense forts armed with siege guns are connected with lines of field works and the whole surrounded by a continuous line of rifle pits and in front of all are triple lines of [?] through no troops could pass without first cutting their way with axes. We never never could have taken this place by assault and it is no wonder that the southern people expected to hold Atlanta until the last Yankees died..."

by Henry Chadwick G2G6 Mach 4 (48.1k points)
+3 votes
My great great grandfather enlisted twice to serve his country from Ogle County Illinois.  The first enlistment he was shot and mustered out.  He re-inlisted and served again.  

I received an e-mail about 15 years ago asking if the veteran buried in the National Cemetery in Los Angeles was my ancestor.  I answered that he was.  As it turned out, the ancestor of the woman who contacted me had died when released from a POW prison after the war.  The ship he was on blew up and he was killed.  My ancestor left his job in Illinois to retrieve the body and bring it home to Oregon, Ogle County, Illinois for burial.  We are now friends.
by Christine Cook G2G Crew (530 points)
+2 votes
Thanks for this question, David!!  My favorite thing about the Civil War is the Camel Corp!  Read about it on my space page Douglas the Confederate Camel!

by Paula J G2G6 Pilot (242k points)

Related questions

+15 votes
12 answers
+11 votes
1 answer
+10 votes
3 answers
+6 votes
4 answers
173 views asked Jan 23, 2014 in Policy and Style by Trudy Roach G2G6 Pilot (182k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright