Threads From The National Tapestry: Stories From The American Civil War

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27 - April 14th, 1865

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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 - came alive for me. Even today, both authors and their works reinforce my passionate belief that history is alive, relevant, and should be conveyed as a story. For this episode, it is with great reverence and pleasure that I take my lead from Bishop's book, which was published in 1955, sold over 3 million copies, and was translated into 16 languages. He began his research for the day Lincoln was shot in 1930. Then, after two decades had passed, in 1953, in an effort to expand his research, Bishop began reading seven million words of government documents. The result: an absolutely riveting hour-by-hour account of Abraham Lincoln's last 24 hours. In respectful tribute to the two authors that most influenced my professional coming-of-age, and stoked my drive to recount history as a story, I dedicate this effort. With Bishop's work as my central point of reference, here: hour-by-hour, from seven in the morning of April the 14th to 7:22 and 10 seconds the next morning, is the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

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26 - Clash In The Ozarks - Pea Ridge

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About this episode: 

E.B. and Barbara Long’s monumental The Civil War Day By Day reveals that there were 10,455 military events during the American Civil War. Here’s a few examples selected from the 16 classifications that they used: there were 79 captures, 727 expeditions, 6337 skirmishes, 76 major battles, and 29 campaigns. No surprise that Virginia was the stage for the most military events. Though Tennessee was second, most students of the conflict are more aware of those events in the eastern theater. However, for this episode, we take you west to The Trans-Mississippi - to an active theater of the war that may surprise you. The statistics bear me out. The third most active state for Civil War events was Missouri, fourth was Mississippi, and the fifth serves as our stage today: Arkansas. For this episode, we recount a clash that may well have slipped under your Civil War radar - a 2-day fight which produced profound consequences. Today, we make our way to northwestern Arkansas - to Elkhorn Tavern, and the Battle of Pea Ridge.

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25 - Assassination from the Bottom of the Sea - The Hunley

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About this episode: 

At the beginning of the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America were faced with creating an army and, even more daunting, a navy. Starting essentially from scratch, it needed warships to defend ports and harbors, and a merchant marine to establish desperately needed trade with foreign nations. Mr. Lincoln ordered a blockade to negate both objectives, and in response, southern political and military administrators turned to radical naval design and innovation. The construction of ironclads was one response. Another: the very source for this episode. This is the story of the Confederacy’s desperate attempt to break the Union blockade - the first submersible to sink an enemy vessel. This is the incredible story of the H.L. Hunley.

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24 - Misery at Murfreesboro - the Battle of Stones River

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About this episode: 

For Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, the summer and fall of 1862 was a veritable roller coaster ride of emotion, from glimmering hope to hand-wringing despair. For Davis, the Confederate summer offensive may well have been the South’s greatest chance for foreign recognition - but by the end of October, that moment had passed. For Lincoln, far too cautious and deliberate generals allowed retreating Confederate armies to escape from Maryland and Kentucky. Both presidents had to accept that the conflict had no end in sight. And yet, as 1862 drew to a close, both saw opportunity in central Tennessee. Fought in weather that had to match the mood of weary men, officers, presidents, and American people, this is the story of the clash along the banks of Stones River. This is the story of the Battle of Murfreesboro.
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23 - Chattanooga - Part 2

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About this episode: 

The Union commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, was beside himself. In the northwestern corner of Georgia, there had been defeat and near-disaster back in September of 1863. There, along the banks of Chickamauga Creek, and now in November, the real possibility of yet another reversal at Chattanooga.

Besieged by Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee, Major General U.S. Grant was called in to resurrect sinking morale and restore hope. He corrected the former with the opening of a cracker line. Full bellies and ample ammunition lifted spirits. Now, the man from Galena, Illinois determined to flip the military situation. What his men and officers did was nothing short of amazing. This is the story of the incredible events along the Tennessee River, and atop the heights of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. This is part two of the story of The Battle Of Chattanooga.

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22 - Chattanooga - Part 1

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About this episode: 

It was fall in the year 1863. Much had changed since the summer. Back in July, a doomed assault on Cemetery Ridge meant Confederate defeat at Gettysburg - and now, back in central Virginia, Lee and Meade’s armies sparred. That same July, Vicksburg fell, and the Mississippi River became a federal highway. Yet the Confederacy’s heartland was still a beating bastion of defiance.

That’s why Abraham Lincoln wanted to drive into eastern Tennessee. That’s why he wanted a major railroad hub in the southeastern corner of The Volunteer State. This is the story of the Union’s attempt to crack the Confederacy from within. This is part one of the story of The Battle of Chattanooga.
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21 - “I Wish I Could Forget Myself” - Mary Ann Todd Lincoln

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About this episode: 

Three of her four children did not live to adulthood, and her husband was assassinated while he held her hand. If anyone ever deserved to be troubled, it was the wife of the sixteenth president. James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois said simply: “She had the most tragic public life in American history.”

This is the story of the woman who once said, “I wish I could forget myself.”

This is the story of Mary Ann Todd Lincoln.

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20 - In The Shadows: Spies, Raiders, and Intelligence Gathering

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About this episode: 

During the American Civil War, great drama was not exclusive to just the battlefield. There were many instances when what took place behind the lines, or behind enemy lines, was just as engaging and significant. Those instances bring life to the men and women who operated in the shadows, who dared to infiltrate and risk all in the process. These are the stories of selected spies, raiders, and military analysts.
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19 - “Mighty Events Are On The Wing” - Second Manassas

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About this episode: 

In the light of Union frustration after the unsuccessful Peninsula Campaign failed to take Richmond, and the Confederacy’s Seven Days Campaign which repelled the Union Army of the Potomac, the North’s military powers-that-be surrendered something they would regret: the strategic initiative. This is the story of what Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia did with it. In a dramatic turnaround in the Eastern Theater, we return to ground through which ran a stream that locals called Bull Run. This is the story of the Battle of Second Manassas. Read the rest of this entry »

18 - “Hell Has Busted” - The Battle Of The Crater

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About this episode: 

It was the fourth summer of the war, and Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign had sledgehammered its way down to Petersburg, Virginia. It had been a campaign that had bled both blue and grey armies white. There, east of town, under oppressive heat and humidity that walks hand-in-hand with the month of July, a daring plan unfolded - which, if successful, might end the war. Instead, it added to the slaughter. This is the story of an engineering marvel - a tunnel. This is the story of The Battle Of The Crater. Read the rest of this entry »