John Williams' War

John Williams was my great-great-great-grandfather. When he was 19 years old, he enlisted as a private in Company G of the Fourth Indiana Cavalry, along with some of his friends and neighbors from the Bedford area in Lawrence County, IN. He served for three years, participating in the battle of Chickamauga, the Atlanta campaign, and Wilson’s raid through Alabama and earning a promotion to corporal. The regiment mustered out at the end of June, 1865, in Nashville, TN and boarded a train for Indianapolis a few days later...

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How Old Liz Ditched the Rebels

In late June, 1863, the 500 or so Black residents of Adams County, PA lived with constant anxiety. They had long known to stay on the lookout for slave traders coming up from nearby Maryland, a slave state, and attempting to seize both free Black individuals and former slaves and drag them south to the auction blocks. Now, however, the situation was more precarious than before because the Confederate army had invaded Pennsylvania. Acting on orders from senior commanders, the officers were intent upon abducting “contrabands” despite “Confederate assertions that the war was not about sustaining slavery” (Creighton, 2005, p. 128)...

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How Sallie Got a Spot on the Monument

On Oak Ridge, just northwest of Gettysburg, stands a monument to the Eleventh Pennsylvania Infantry. Visitors to the battlefield can pass within a few yards of it while driving by on Doubleday Avenue. Through the window of their vehicle, they can see a statue of a soldier atop a granite pedestal. With his rifle raised and his eyes fixed on the ridge to the west, he seems ready to confront the rebels that advanced across the fields on July 1, 1863. Unless they get out of the car and walk around to the side of the monument that faces away from the road, however, visitors will miss the bronze figure of a little terrier lying on a stone ledge at the base...

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The 1864 Presidential Election, or How Lincoln Put Himself Out There

In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ran for reelection against former Union general George McClellan. It was the first presidential election in U.S. history to take place during a military crisis at home and the first in which soldiers from most states were allowed to vote in the field (White, 2014). The election itself was an important accomplishment, as Lincoln noted two days afterward: “We can not have free government without elections...

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