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History is, indeed, a story. With his unique voice and engaging delivery, historian and veteran storyteller Fred Kiger will help the compelling stories of the American Civil War come alive in each and every episode. Filled with momentous issues and repercussions that still resonate with us today, this series will feature events and people from that period and will strive to make you feel as if you were there.
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About this episode: Washington City was buzzing with anxiety. It was the middle of May 1864 and no news had arrived from Virginia for days. Then, finally, in flurries, it came - word from the front and it was most welcome. Grant was posed to strike a mortal blow. Readers clutched papers that, in bold print, screamed “Extra.” Unable to concentrate, …
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About this episode: With gray cape lined with red satin and ostrich plume in hat, he was the beau ideal of the cavalier South. He rode and campaigned with Sam Sweeney on banjo and Mulatto Bob on the bones. At times, one wondered was it war or just a lark. Despite all the showy display, he was Robert E. Lee’s “eyes and ears” and his reconnaissance s…
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About this episode: She was witty, intelligent and a great conversationalist: everything that raised the eyebrows of proper Southern women in the mid-19th century. And then, she married the man who became the first and only President of the Confederacy. Wedded to her fate with him and a doomed nation, her life was filled with trying times. She was,…
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About this episode: For those aboard the fifty-gun USS Congress, it had been a quiet morning. Its crew, as usual, prepared the twenty-year-old vessel for inspection which would be held the next day. Meanwhile, the ship’s quartermaster gazed out over Hampton Roads which glistened under a late winter sun. All seemed normal. And then, at 12:45 p.m., a…
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About this episode: When exercising power, the 16th President’s stocky and sphinxlike Secretary of War could demonstrate a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Personally honest, he could be unforgiving and given to histrionics when he thought them necessary. And again, when required, warm hearted, selfless and patriotic. In charge of the Union’s land-base…
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About this episode: For most of us, our mental snapshot of 19th-century battlefield medicine is captured when Union Major General Carl Schurz recorded a ghastly scene at Gettysburg: “There stood the surgeons, their sleeves rolled up to their elbows … [One] surgeon snatched his knife from between his teeth …, wiped it rapidly once or twice across hi…
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About this episode: Back in December of 2018, we told the story of an engagement that took place along the banks of the Rappahannock and detailed events that took place afterwards. Now, five years later, we return to that story but with greater detail, and the addition of first person accounts. Once again, we would like to take you back to November…
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About this episode: By 1864, a desperate Confederacy realized it must resort to desperate measures. Measures not only confined to land battles and trying to break the Union blockade, but the procuring and use of commerce raiders which would scour the oceans to wreak havoc on the North’s vast merchant marine. Anything to create economic hardship. An…
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About this episode: The Native Americans referred to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley as “Daughter of the Stars.” Yet, both the Federal Union and the Confederacy knew it to be the “Breadbasket of Virginia” - and that made it a theater for military operations. Both sides very aware of “Stonewall” Jackson’s assessment in 1862, “If the Valley is lost, the…
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About this episode: This time around, a different delivery, a different approach. Rather than anecdotes and stories from a biography, battle or campaign, this time a series of facts, figures, theories and themes that set the stage for waging civil war. This session: Strategy, Tactics, Arms and Technology - a basis for understanding why our civil co…
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About this episode: It was over 140 years ago that the American Red Cross was founded. Though most know its founder, few know the details of her lifetime of charity, sacrifice and service. This is an attempt to correct that. This is the story of an American pioneer - an American hero. This is the story of Clara Barton. ----more---- Some Characters …
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About this episode: In the first days of the American Civil War, Winfield Scott, the then 74-year-old Union General-in-Chief, advised a strategy that he believed was key in putting down the Southern rebellion. Derisively tabbed the “Anaconda” Plan, Scott believed: one, the Border States had to be held and used as avenues for invasion; two, Southern…
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About this episode: It was January 1872. In Lexington, Virginia and on the campus of recently re-named Washington and Lee College, former Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early was on a mission: a mission to venerate Robert E. Lee, and to give Southerners a positive spin on their defeat - not only to address the recent past, but to arm…
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About this episode: It was May 1864 and Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign was underway. After two days of violence in the Wilderness and a swing to the southeast, weary men from the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac found themselves eyeball to eyeball yet again. The fighting to come: savage, up close, personal, hand to hand. …
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About this episode: The United States Military Academy has a long and distinguished history. Established in 1802, its stated mission continues to be “to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional…
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About this episode: It was March of 1865 and the men under William Tecumseh Sherman had punched their way into North Carolina. In this, the Carolinas Campaign, over 60,000 battle-hardened veterans marched, as they had since they left Atlanta, in two columns. To confront the blue surge, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston boldly planned to throw …
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About this episode: It was early 1863 and in the very midst of a civil war that challenged the continued existence of the Union, an event that looked to its future. Indeed, a daunting enterprise – the breaking of ground for the Central Pacific Railroad. This is the story of a great undertaking. This is the story of the building of the transcontinen…
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About this episode: Shockingly brief given the lives lost, cost, and national trauma, but the American Civil War’s two greatest significances are that the nation was preserved and that slavery was ended. This is the story of a major step in ridding this country's association with “the peculiar institution.” This is the story of the labored steps fo…
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About this episode: There are some sixteen accounts about the life of the President of the Confederacy. Unlike his counterpart, Abraham Lincoln, this President, from the perspective of most historians, has not fared well. Brittle, ill-tempered, one who held grudges, possessed poor political skills. In short, a second-rate leader who loved bureaucra…
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About this episode: It was a Thursday, March 10, 1864, when the brand-spanking new General-in-Chief of all US forces arrived at Brandy Station, Virginia where Major General George Gordon Meade made his headquarters. Fully aware the most pressing military matter was for the Army of the Potomac to forcefully campaign, Lieutenant General U. S. Grant a…
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About this episode: The former Confederate general entered the ruined city of Richmond from the south and in the midst of a heavy April shower. His route took him through the portion of city that was most thoroughly burned in the evacuation fires of April 2nd. People stopped and stared or pointed as he made his way up Main Street. To them, he tippe…
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About this episode: Just some fifteen miles south of Chattanooga - there in the northwest corner of Georgia - there runs a creek with a harsh name. Indeed, its Cherokee or Creek origin means “River of Death.” That name was never more appropriate than in mid-September 1863 when Union and Confederate armies fought as if the entire war hinged on its o…
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About this episode: The two were quite famous. One went to war with weapons and men, and the other could do the same with words and wit - yet their separate paths became one. During this country’s great and terrible civil war, U. S. Grant saved the nation. After the war, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) would save U. S. Grant. This is the story of their…
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About this episode: Since its creation, this nation has so embraced several of its victorious generals that it elected them as presidents. Up until the American Civil War, most notably George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor come to mind. This, in the aftermath of war, is the story of another - a man who, like the president he served, …
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About this episode: It was a Sunday, January 11, 1863 when the incredible tedium of blockade duty suddenly lurched into frenzied electricity. Five Federal Navy blockaders off Galveston, Texas had sighted a three-masted ship and, although it was some twenty miles from the fleet, the five-gun USS Hatteras moved to investigate. At about 100 yards, Lt.…
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About this episode: In mid-April of 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker oozed with confidence. So assured was he about his offensive preparations to defeat and, in his mind, destroy the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, he remarked to a group of his officers, "My plans are perfect, and when I start to carry them out, may God have mercy on Genera…
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*Listener discretion advised* About this episode: There have been more works written on the American Civil War than there have been days since it ended, and the number of topics can be overwhelming. However, one aspect of the military experience has largely been overlooked. Hidden from families and posterity, a topic as timeless as war itself. This…
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About this episode: James Murray Mason was a Virginian. As a former member of the U.S. Senate, he once served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. His credentials made him a natural selection for a diplomatic mission to London as a representative for the Confederate States of America. Then there was John Slidell, a native New Y…
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About this episode: In July of 1863, Major General Henry Halleck posed a question to a fellow Major General, one who was encamped along the Big Black River down in Mississippi. Asked about the continued depth of Confederate resistance after the fall of Vicksburg, William Tecumseh Sherman answered that he felt Confederate belligerence would continue…
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About this episode: On Wednesday, November 16, 1864, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman initiated a campaign that, as one military publication would put it, was either “one of the most brilliant or one of the most foolish things ever performed by a military leader.” Only eight days after Abraham Lincoln was re-elected, some 62,000 left behind a…
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About this episode: In the same month that Abraham Lincoln was re-elected, Major-General William Tecumseh Sherman began a campaign that cut a swath through the very heart of Dixie. Severing his supply line and committed to living off the country, he hoped to break the will of Southern resistance and knock Georgia out of the war. This episode, Part …
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About this episode: Major-General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was a native of the green jewel that is Ireland and commanded a division in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. For his military prowess, he was tabbed the “Stonewall of the West”, yet the warrior was often reserved and sentimental. That surfaced the day before the Battle of Franklin when he…
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About this episode: While most history enthusiasts are aware that Virginia was the leading theater of the war, many of those same people are surprised when they learn that Tennessee was second. Indeed, the Western Theater of the American Civil War is shamefully neglected, despite the fact that it was in that theater where battles were fought and wo…
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About this episode: While actual combat was, indeed, nightmarish, being at home - helpless, constantly wondering about loved ones, fending for one’s selves - proved to be equally harrowing. That particularly was the case in the American South - the Confederacy - which served as the primary stage for the four-year-long conflict. And so we return to …
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About this episode: While fighting raged at the front, loved ones back home waged their own battles. While worried about those in uniform, each day brought the additional burden of trying to cope with and find meaning to the all-consuming consequences of civil war. Here: the efforts, the people, and personalities of those on the Northern home front…
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About this episode: In 1948, the Southern novelist, William Faulkner, wrote in Intruder in the Dust, ”For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready i…
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About this episode: On Thursday, July 2, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg tumbled into its second day. What on Wednesday, the 1st, had been a meeting engagement was now a set battle - one with far more men on the scene and still much at stake. On this day, Robert E. Lee and George Gordon Meade would experience the crushing weight of responsibility an…
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About this episode: From the Battle of Gettysburg, there are as many stories as participants. For this episode, selections from the first day: stories about the first shot, the arrival and instantaneous death of a Union corps commander, the desperate struggle for a flag, an unlikely 69-year-old volunteer, and two infantry regiments savagely engaged…
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About this episode: It was a Tuesday, April 11, 1865 - only two days after Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia. Down in North Carolina, with Major General William T. Sherman’s relentless blue wave only some 30 miles to the southeast of Raleigh, NC, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s men of the Army of Tennessee began t…
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About this episode: The stage: the town of Alton in southern Illinois. The date of the act committed: the 7th of November, 1837. On that Tuesday, an angry mob murdered Elijah Lovejoy, the Presbyterian minister who was the founder of the Illinois State Anti-Slave Society. Two days later, some 500 miles east in Hudson Ohio, a church congregation held…
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About this episode: Thus far, we have offered anecdotal insight as to Bedford Forrest’s humble origins: his makeup and antebellum experiences. We’ve detailed his entrance into the great conflict and his meteoric rise to command - his fights at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Fallen Timbers, and his dogged, relentless pursuit of Colonel Abel Streight’s Union…
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About this episode: Major General William T. Sherman, the officer who disemboweled the Confederacy with his marches across Georgia and through the Carolinas, understood the nature of total war. That uniquely qualified him to offer assessment of one of the most remarkable and yet controversial officers in all of the Confederacy. During the war, Sher…
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About: Through our continuing research on The Civil War, we here at Threads From The National Tapestry will come across some truly remarkable works that deserve to be shared with you, our loyal listeners. Our first such sharing sets a high bar for all future recommendations to match: the book Bullets And Bandages: The Aid Stations and Field Hospita…
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About this episode: For those in power in the state of South Carolina, the November 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln was the final straw. Convinced that he and the Republican party were certain to forever change their economic, political, and cultural world, it was time to act. And so, even before the election year was out, the Palmetto State initi…
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About this episode: The year was 1860. The nation was coming apart and yet, its political parties made plans to come together - to gather in convention despite deep-seated and festering sectional issues, each to nominate a candidate and approve platforms that, as it turned out, united regions but not a nation. That meant dark consequences, ensuring…
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About this episode: A few nights after September the 22nd, 1862, a band came to serenade the 16th president. Moved by the music and supportive crowd, Abraham Lincoln stepped onto the executive mansion’s balcony and, referring to his recent Emancipation Proclamation, remarked: “I can only trust in God I have made no mistake. It is now for the countr…
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About this episode: In a conflict that staged over ten thousand fights, Virginia led as a theater of war. The Volunteer State of Tennessee, second. What surprises many is that the third most active theater in the American Civil War was the border state of Missouri, a slave-holding state that remained within the Union. There, the curtain for violenc…
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About this episode: Far too many see the Union war effort in the American Civil War as a monolith - patriotic men across the north from Maine to Minnesota, flocking en masse together under national colors - to fight to preserve the Union, and to rid the nation of the hateful institution of slavery. As will be evidenced in this episode, nothing coul…
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About this episode: For John Wilkes Booth, time was ticking down to the moment he knew he would act. At a tavern next to Ford’s Theatre, he asked for a bottle of whiskey and water. While steeling his nerve for what he would soon do, there came a voice from the back of the dark and smoky bar: “You’ll never be the actor your father was!” Booth smiled…
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About this episode: Eight decades ago, popular historian Bruce Catton, and journalist/author Jim Bishop wrote works that profoundly affected my life and future profession: teaching. Catton's This Hallowed Ground and Bishop's The Day Lincoln Was Shot were both written in such dramatic prose that the events, people - indeed, the very era itself - cam…
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