Great Grandpa Scaled These Walls

Emerging Civil War

NCM_1382The most rewarding experience for a public historian is the opportunity to tell a story to visitors whose ancestors were on that exact spot. This year I have retraced the 42nd Virginia Infantry’s assault on Forts Stedman and Haskell with descendants of a doomed 40 year old farmer captured in the attack. I also walked the route of the 126th Ohio Infantry with a nice midwestern couple as they drove in the Confederate pickets on Petersburg’s western front in the same day’s fighting. Sometimes visitors reciprocate my effort with information I had never seen before, like the North Carolinians whose ancestor’s letters continue late into the Petersburg campaign–a scarce primary resource to find from ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1865. Other times I can only point to the steel mill that today stands on McIlwaine Hill as the closest landmark for a Georgia family to connect with their…

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