Civil War Nevada: Commemorating The Fight For The Far West

Civil War Nevada
When we think of the Civil War, Nevada isn’t the first state that generally comes to mind, yet the conflict between North and South had as much of an impact there as it did in Pennsylvania or Virginia.

At the start of the war Nevada was a territory and its sentiments mostly for the Union. Its main contribution to the war effort was the plentiful supply of silver from its mines, but some 1,200 of its men volunteered for the Union. In May, 1863, they formed the 1st Battalion Nevada Volunteer Cavalry. The next summer, the 1st Battalion Nevada Volunteer Infantry was formed.

There were no battles between blue and gray in the territory. Instead the men guarded outposts and stagecoach routes, fought Native American tribes, and freed up other troops to fight the war to the east. Some men decided they wanted to see more of the action and headed east to join the Union or Confederate army.

President Lincoln, eager to get more votes in the difficult 1864 election, granted Nevada statehood that year even though it was well below the population requirements. As he predicted, Nevada voted for Lincoln.

The 150th Anniversary of the formation of the 1st Battalion, Nevada Volunteer Cavalry, will be commemorated in Virginia City, Nevada, May 25-27. A reenactor camp and battle will be staged, along with other living history demonstrations and a special temporary museum exhibit dedicated to the history of Civil War Nevada.

For more information see the Civil War Nevada Sesquicentennial Page.

[Photo courtesy Suzette Eder]

National Portrait Gallery Opens Two Civil War Exhibits

National Portrait Gallery, Civil War
The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., is commemorating the Civil War with two new exhibits.

The Confederate Sketches of Adalbert Volck” looks at the work of a rebel dentist who became one of the Confederacy’s leading political cartoonists. Unlike most German immigrants, who sided with the Union, Volck was an active rebel who not only fought the Union with his pen, but also smuggled much-needed medical supplies to the South. The exhibit runs until January 21, 2013.

More famous is photographer Mathew Brady, whose portable photographic studio is shown above. “Mathew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals” make up the second exhibition. Numerous high-quality images of the Union’s leading and lesser-known generals will be on display. The exhibit runs until May 31, 2015.

The exhibitions are part of a continuing series at the National Portrait Gallery marking the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Civil War Sesquicentennial events: where to learn what’s on

Civil WarAs the nation continues to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, an increasing number of reenactments, special exhibitions, lectures, and living history demonstrations are taking place. There are so many that it’s hard to know what’s going on when! Two websites will keep you informed of upcoming events.

Civil War Traveler bills itself as “your headquarters for 150th anniversary information” and it sure delivers. Broken down by state, it gives travel information and maps to all of the major, and many minor, historic landmarks. The events section gives a rundown of what’s coming up. Civil War Traveler also acts as a clearinghouse for state and local tourism agencies. If you fill out their online form telling which regions you’re interested in, you’ll get information from several sources in your mailbox.

Civil War News covers some of the same ground as Civil War Traveler, with a searchable calendar covering events. This site goes beyond travel to cover issues such as battlefield preservation and goings-on in the reenactment community. Some news stories are free, and the full bimonthly issues are available by subscription.

The Sesquicentennial has led to a wealth of blogs of the “this day in history” style. The best I’ve seen is the Civil War Daily Gazette, which is one of the only blogs I read on a daily basis. It’s addictive. See you in the comments section!

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Civil War reenactor injured in groin by his horse

Civil WarTwo Civil War reenactors were injured yesterday preparing for a reenactment of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.

One man playing a Confederate cavalryman got pinned under his horse, while a Union cavalryman got injured when his horse stepped on his groin. Exactly how he got into a position where his horse could do that is unclear. Both were given medical attention but neither was thought to be seriously hurt.

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek was the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. A Confederate army was menacing Springfield and a smaller Union force attacked the rebel camp on the morning of August 10. The Union army was defeated and its general, Nathaniel Lyon, was killed. Both sides suffered heavy losses.

Frank James, brother of Jesse James, fought on the Confederate side in this battle. He and his brother later became rebel guerrillas before ending up as famous outlaws.

Missouri had already been the scene of several small battles and skirmishes, including the Battle of Boonville, the first truly important battle of the Civil War.

A reenactment of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek will take place today through Sunday near Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Civil War’s first land battle to be reenacted in West Virginia

Civil War, Battle of Philippi, West VirginiaToday is the 150th anniversary of the first land battle of the Civil War.

After the April 12 attack on Fort Sumter kicked off the Civil War, there was a lull while both sides got ready. Some scattered skirmishes took place that had few casualties and no importance, but on 3 June 1861, the town of Philippi, in what’s now West Virginia, became the scene for the first big fight.

Philippi stood next to an important bridge and railroad line desired by both armies. The Confederates had made it there first with 800-1000 raw recruits, many of whom were unarmed. A Union force of 3,000 regular soldiers went after them. They came upon Philippi early in the morning in a pincer movement in the hope of surrounding the rebels. One of the pincers made it to the bridge first and found the rebel pickets asleep in their tents, hiding out from the cold rain. The Union force opened fire on the main camp and the rebels retreated after only a few minutes.

At this point they should have been cut off by the second pincer, but this Union column hadn’t made it to the right spot in time and most of the rebels got away. Only four Union soldiers were wounded and there were 26 rebel casualties.This early victory helped the career of Maj. Gen. George McClellan, the regional Union commander. After a few more little victories he became commander of all Union armies. Western Virginia, with its rugged mountains and small farms, had few slaves and the population was mostly Unionist or neutral, while the rest of Virginia depended heavily on the slave economy and therefore supported the South. West Virginia separated from the rest of Virginia and became a Union state in 1863, right in the middle of the war.

Philippi is commemorating the battle with five days of events, including a reenactment of the battle, talks, living history demonstrations, traditional music and crafts, and even a reenactment of a battlefield amputation. If anyone is going to this last event, please send me a photo to post on Gadling!

The Philippi reenactment starts a long series of events sponsored by the West Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

While the Philippi Races can claim to be the first land battle of the Civil War, the Boonville Races, more properly known as the Battle of Boonville, Missouri, was the first significant battle of the war. This equally easy Union victory on June 17 secured the Missouri River and went a long way to securing the entire state for the North.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]