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

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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2 days ago

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 conflict was so long and so costly.

Friday Aug 25, 2023

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.

Friday Jul 28, 2023

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 ports should be blockaded and, third, to split the Confederacy, the Mississippi River should become a Union highway.  This is the story of the incredible campaign that made Scott’s third element reality.  This is the story of Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign and siege of Vicksburg.

Friday Jun 30, 2023

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 them and their descendants with, as he and his disciples put it, a “correct” narrative of the war. This is the story of an ideology that simmers even to this day. This is the story of the creation and foundations of the Lost Cause.  

Friday May 26, 2023

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. The consequences: bloody, even ghastly. This is the story of the most vicious episode of sustained combat ever to occur on the North American continent. This is the story of Spotsylvania Court House.

Thursday Apr 27, 2023

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 excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” Six decades after its creation, that mission took on new and unusual interpretation, for their country was at war with itself. All too often, fellow alums and classmates - all trained on the west bank of the Hudson River - were pitted against one another. This is the story of one prominent class that found itself caught in that tragic dilemma. This is the story of the West Point Class of 1846.

Friday Mar 31, 2023

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 some 21,000 men upon one of the isolated Federal wings. And so would be fought, on low-lying, marshy ground near a small hamlet in southeastern North Carolina, the largest land battle in the history of the Old North State. It would be the last major display of Confederate resistance in the American Civil War. This is the story of that desperate effort. This is the story of the Battle of Bentonville.

Friday Feb 24, 2023

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 transcontinental railroad.

Tuesday Jan 31, 2023

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 for the passage of the 13th Amendment.

Thursday Dec 29, 2022

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 bureaucracy and was unable to grow with responsibility.  When asked why the Confederacy lost the war, Southern-born David Potter, a professor of history at both Yale and Stanford Universities, commented that this Chief Executive should shoulder much of the blame.  Writing some two decades ago, another historian and biographer, William Cooper, Jr., wrote that we should look at a man from his time and not condemn him for not being a man of our time.  Though that seems to fly in the face of current sensitivities and agendas, that is what we, now, shall attempt to do. This is the story of a man, like Robert E. Lee, who is a marquee figurehead for a short-lived nation whose Constitution supported states’ rights and slavery.  A man subjected to the bolts of lightning flung his way for being its elected leader.  This is the story of the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson F. Davis.  

Monday Nov 28, 2022

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 arrived from Washington City to do what he believed he had to do - find a new man to lead the that eastern army. The Pennsylvanian, Meade, expected as much and opened their conversation by offering to uncomplainingly step down and serve in a subordinate role if Grant desired one of his own - perhaps a westerner like Sherman.  Instead, Meade’s candor impressed Grant and, whatever the Lieutenant General originally thought about the Army of the Potomac’s commander, the two hit it off.  They sensed they could work together.  Up in Washington City, the 16th President of the United States felt certain that, after three years of trial and bloody error, he finally had found his general.  This is the story of his learning curve and role as the nation’s top military official.  This is the story of Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief. 

Friday Oct 28, 2022

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 tipped his hat. Eventually, he turned and stopped in front of a three-story red brick house at 707 East Franklin.  There, he dismounted Traveller, gave the reins to another, opened the iron gate, walked to the eight steps to the portico, climbed them, turned, took off his muddy hat, bowed to those that had gathered, opened the door and disappeared.  And that, I feel certain, was the way he would have liked it - to move past the war and, for the rest of his days, be a constructive and positive citizen.  However, it seems history won’t let him.  This is the story of a man - a marble man who, as of late, has become a lightning rod.  This is the story of the last days of Robert E. Lee.

Friday Sep 30, 2022

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 outcome.  In the end, it may well have, for all the circumstances that flowed from it.  This is the story of the second bloodiest day of the American Civil War.  This is the story of the Battle of Chickamauga.

Thursday Aug 25, 2022

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 remarkable friendship.

Thursday Jul 28, 2022

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, came from the humblest of origins and found himself in this nation’s highest elected office.  A man, who in many ways, found his political campaigns just as challenging - perhaps even more so - than his military ones.  With a tip of the cap in particular to William McFeely’s biography, this is the story of Ulysses S. Grant, who not only was instrumental in winning the American Civil War, but in trying to win the peace that followed.

Friday Jun 24, 2022

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. Commander Homer C. Blake demanded the mystery ship’s identity.  In response, someone answered, “This is Her Britannic Majesty’s steamer Petrel.” Unimpressed and suspicious, Blake wanted to board and inspect the vessel which was his right under international law. To his request, there was an awkward silence. When the inspection boat from the Hatteras was only a length away from the ship in question, someone, in the twilight of day shouted, “This is the Confederate States steamer Alabama. Fire!” Thirteen minutes and several Confederate rounds later, the Hatteras sank with its colors still flying. The episode: a rare ship-to-ship encounter during the American Civil War and a favorite tactic for the Confederate commerce raider Alabama, whose career has few equals in modern sea warfare. This is its story. 

Friday May 27, 2022

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 General Lee, for I will have none." This is not the story of Joseph Hooker's greatest success, but that of the man he faced. For our 50th podcast, this is the story of Robert E. Lee's greatest and, perhaps, costliest victory. This is the story of Chancellorsville.

Friday Apr 29, 2022

*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 episode: sex and the American Civil War.

048 - The Trent Affair

Friday Mar 25, 2022

Friday Mar 25, 2022

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 Yorker, who moved to Louisiana where, as a young man, he embraced the French language and culture. He, too, was perfect for his assignment to Paris - to the court of Napoleon III. In November of 1861, they made their way on a mission which, if successful, would create a tipping point that would have profound consequences for the American Civil War. Then an event in the Bahama Channel abruptly interrupted their journey. Found on a British vessel, they were captured in international waters by a US armed sloop and, because of that, the two came the closest to accomplishing their designated mission long before they ever arrived. This is their story and the incredible ramifications of their capture. This is the story of the Trent Affair.

Friday Feb 25, 2022

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 until southerners were made to suffer for a conflict he firmly believed they started. As he put it, “war is upon us, none can deny it. I would not coax them or meet them halfway, but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.” By the end of 1864, after his capture and firing of Atlanta, and his 60 mile-wide path of destruction across Georgia, Sherman most certainly was doing his part to make southerners sick of the war. And now, as January gave way to February in 1865, he was about to make them even sicker. This is the story of Sherman’s march north from Savannah. This is the story of his Carolinas Campaign.

Copyright Fred Kiger 2022

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