Category Archives: Soldiers

Old Myths Die Hard at Cold Harbor

With all the coverage of the 150th anniversary of Cold Harbor I was surprised by the persistence of two myths that refuse to give way. The first is the story of Union soldiers pinning their names to their coats so their bodies could be identified and the second relates to the casualty figures that are commonly cited. Taken together they reinforce a compelling narrative of futile bloody assaults ordered by Ulysses S. Grant – the “great butcher” of the war. Continue reading

Of All the Books To Read After the Antietam Campaign

William Dorsey PenderI am just about finished reading Brian Steel Wills’s new biography of William Dorsey Pender. It’s a solid biography, just what we’ve come to expect from Wills. Indeed, he has been very productive in recent years. Pender’s letters to his wife Fanny are front and center in this biography. One of the most interesting sections occurs early on in the book when Dorsey is chided by his wife for admitting to flirtatious behavior with women in Suffolk, Virginia, who he openly admitted, “will do anything for me.” That’s probably not what you want to write to your wife, who is struggling back in North Carolina to take care of two young children. Live and learn.

Even more interesting, however, is the revelation that shortly after the Antietam Campaign Pender chose to read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Continue reading