John Winsmith

The overarching question that is driving my book project about Captain John Christopher Winsmith is why a diehard Confederate officer from Spartanburg, South Carolina joined the Republican Party after the war and eventually advocated for Black civil rights. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is not just Christopher who made this transition, but Read more

I wanted to share a quick update about my current research project, which has taken a pretty drastic turn. It was only a few months ago that I outlined a project about Port Royal that grew out of another project about Robert Gould Shaw. The ongoing pandemic has forced me to shift my attention owing Read more

On this day 150 years ago Captain John Christopher Winsmith of the 1st South Carolina Infantry penned the following letter to his mother back in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It reflects a good deal of pessimism about the state of the Union army, Grant’s leadership, and morale on the Northern home front. Winsmith, like many Confederates Read more

The book of essays pulled from the New York Times’s Disunion column has been out for a couple of weeks now.  It’s a pretty hefty volume that includes over 100 essays on the period between 1861 and the beginning of 1863.  My only complaint is that the table of contents does not list individual essays Read more

Poor Bill Taylor

A few days ago I offered a few speculative words about the names of deserters that litter the letters of Captain John Christopher Winsmith of the 5th South Carolina Infantry.  One of the recurring names in the letters is that of Bill Taylor.  He lived in the Spartanburg area and so it seems reasonable to Read more

John C. Winsmith Names Names

One of the things that I find particularly interesting about Winsmith’s letters home is the attention he gives to reporting on the conduct and overall well being of his men.  This is not surprising given his rank of captain and command of a unit raised in and around Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Winsmith clearly assumed responsibility Read more

Editing the Winsmith Papers

My recent work on camp servants has finally brought me back to the letters of John Christopher Winsmith, which I initially planned on editing for publication way back in 2006.  I came across this collection while researching the Crater book at the Museum of the Confederacy and was immediately struck by the content and the Read more

It’s always nice to hear from readers who take the time to share how much they enjoy your work.  Though it’s a bit more painful to read, I also appreciate readers who point out my interpretive shortcomings and downright factual errors.  That is just what happened in response to my essay about John Christopher Winsmith Read more

‘The Best Servant By Far’

My latest column at The New York Times’s Disunion page is now available.  The essay briefly explores the relationship between John Christopher Winsmith and his body servant, Spencer.  The Winsmith letters are housed at the Museum of the Confederacy and offer an incredibly rich account of the war from a Confederate officer in the slaveholding Read more