Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

Archive for the category “Abraham Lincoln”

And my absolute favorite book of 2017 is…

…”A.Lincoln” by Ronald C. White, Jr.


Anyone surprised by that? Didn’t think so. Last year my favorite book was also about my favorite guy too.

Sadly, the pool of books I had to choose from this year was pretty shallow. Compared to 2016, 2017 was definitely not the year of the book for me. Yes, I read and I had several books on the go. But nothing was getting finished.

Thanks to my best friend and the genius idea of each of us reading the same book at the same, I managed to finish a few books in the latter part of the year. Having someone kick your ass back into reading is awesome and that’s basically what we did for each other. We both are book geeks and reading is a huge passion for both of us. Hence the proverbial ass kicking, which, so far, has worked splendidly.

So, onto “A. Lincoln”…

This a phenomenal biography of Lincoln. White is a brilliant author with a clear and elegant way of writing. His writing flows beautifully. As the reader, I was very engaged throughout the whole book and I absolutely loved being taken into the world of Lincoln. Be warned though – it is one of those books where I found myself thinking “Okay, just five more pages…”.

We all know how that goes with a good book…

100 pages later and you’re still saying the same thing about “just five more pages…”.

There are many things to love about this biography, besides the obvious that it is about one of the greatest men to ever live – Abraham Lincoln.

At the very beginning, White has listed all the major people who are mentioned in the book. He calls it the “Cast of Characters”. This is a great reference to check back on because believe me, there are MANY people mentioned in the book that play key roles in Lincoln’s life.

The other thing I loved? White’s analysis of Lincoln’s speeches. They are some of the best I’ve ever read. I have come away with a better understanding of them. And his chapter on the Lincoln-Douglas debates? WOW!! Sheer brilliance!

My only criticism of the book is a I felt there were, at times, that White almost seemed to gloss over certain events in Lincoln’s life. The one that sticks out the most for me is the removal of Simon Cameron as Secretary of War early in Lincoln’s presidency. Without going into too much detail, Cameron was a corrupt individual and things happened that made Lincoln decide “hey, dude, enough is enough. You’re not Secretary of War anymore and I’ve found it more fitting to make you ambassador to Russia. Have fun!”. I felt in the book it was as though Cameron was Secretary of War, than he was off to Russia and boom…Edwin Stanton is now Secretary of War. There was not much of an explanation as to why this happened and Cameron was a man where it was once remarked that ” he was so corrupt, the only thing he wouldn’t steal was a red-hot stove”. So clearly, there was more going on that White, for whatever reason, chooses not to go into detail about.


I feel as though this does not detract from the brilliance that this biography is. No biography is perfect and not every detail can be covered (see Michael Burlingame if you want detail). White has given us a brilliant, down-to-earth story of Abraham Lincoln. While the biography is detailed, it is most certainly not dense. I never felt like I was overwhelmed with information and thinking “damn it, this is too much!”. It is the perfect amount of detail, especially if this is your first Lincoln bio (for me, it was not. I started reading David Herbert Donald’s bio before this and I’ve read a couple others too). Speaking of which, if you are new to the world of Lincoln, this is the perfect bio to start with! It’s the one I’ve started recommending as a way for Lincoln newbies to start off their journey in learning about this amazing gentleman.

To me, the central theme of the book is to show how much Lincoln grew as a person. Not just from a political standpoint but also from a spiritual one too. This is why it is such a human portrayal of Lincoln. One comes away with a better understanding of the things Lincoln wrestled with his mind, most notably slavery. We see how much he grew as a person, how his beliefs changed, especially throughout his time as President. To me, seeing his growth as a person make him even more relatable and it truly shows how he can still inspire many of us today.

And that is why “A.Lincoln” by Ronald C. White, Jr. is my book of 2017. It is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read and one I know I can pick up to read again and enjoy it just as much the second time through.

Here’s what I’ve also come to believe about Lincoln and the many bios there are of him – I don’t believe there is one definitive one. With Lincoln, there is always something new to learn or a different interpretation of an event in his life or in his beliefs. It is always good to keep learning and reading about him. I don’t think you can read just one bio about him and say “that is it”. He’s a complex man and really, if you’re like me, once you start reading about him, you can’t get enough.

So, please, give “A. Lincoln” a try, especially if it is your first biography about him. But after that – there are countless others to read too.

What other Lincoln biographies have you read? Which are your favorites? Please tell me on Twitter or leave a comment below.

And also…

What books did you enjoy reading in 2017? What is your favourite book of 2017? Tell me on Twitter or leave a comment below. I’d love to know!

One more thing…

I’m now part of an Abraham Lincoln podcast! It’s called “The Railsplitter: The Abraham Lincoln Podcast”. Jeremy and Nick, my fellow railsplitters and co-hosts, were incredibly kind and asked me to join back in August. It is awesome to be part of a podcast with two other Lincoln geeks! It’s been both fun and rewarding! Our listeners are a really awesome group too and we have a great Facebook group for the podcast. You can check it out here. There’s always great discussion going on there that is , of course, Lincoln related. Also, please give us a listen.

So, a very Happy New Year to my readers! And also to my followers on Twitter. All of you are awesome and I love all the discussions that happen on Twitter.

And again, please let me know what you favourite book was of 2017! I’d love to know since I’m always looking for more books to add to ever-growing to-read list.

Until next time,



He “belongs to the ages” & he belongs to us…

April 14th and 15th are days that are usually sad for me. The anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination stirs up an array of emotions in me – sadness, sorrow mostly but also hope. The hope seems to wind its way through me as I remember the man that Lincoln was and not the tragedy that took him before he could help his country heal from almost being torn apart. Hope comes through as I remember the amazing man that Lincoln was and that he still, in so many ways, continues to be as his spirit seems to live on in his timeless words and through those of us that love him so much.


I remember all he did for his country as a terrible Civil War was waged and threatened to rip it apart. I try to remember a man that has been part of my life for nearly as long as I’ve been alive. I remember how Lincoln, through his actions and timeless words, continues to inspire not just me but millions of others. That we can look to Lincoln in times of sorrow and find comfort in his words. We are reminded that our origins do not matter and we should not let others tell us differently. That we should always aspire to be better people through every facet of our lives. That we should always find “the better angels of our nature” and have “malice toward none”. Lincoln also reminds us to laugh and to find joy in life, even in the darkest of times.


Lincoln with his son Tad. One of my favourite photos of both of them. This one always brings a smile to my face. 

For me, Lincoln has become a sort of coping mechanism for dealing with my own anxiety and depression – escaping into a book about him always makes me feel better. I alway manage to read something that inspires me or reminds me that I can persevere through tough times, as he did. Whether this was facing the demons of his own depression or going against political opponents or, and this was perhaps his most difficult challenge, watching his country wage a terrible Civil War. He persevered through each and every challenge. That inspires me and it reminds me that, no matter what, I can get through whatever curve ball life decides to pitch my way.


Warm summer days are best spent reading books about Lincoln. This is one of my favorite bios about him. 

As sad as these two days are for me, I try and remember Abraham Lincoln and all he stood for. I think of all the happiness he has brought to my life and many others, even though he has been gone for 152 years. The fact we still talk about him, that he inspires us still with his beautiful words, shows that, as his Secretary of War and good friend Edwin Stanton said after Lincoln passed away, that he truly does “belong to the ages”. In a way, he also belongs to all of us that love him. He is ours and he always will be. He has touched all of our lives in a positive way. He lives in our hearts. When I think of it that way, it seems like he’s not gone. That his spirit still moves among us, bringing us joy, helping us to persevere through life’s challenges and most of all, remembering and being inspired by the amazing human that Abraham Lincoln was, and still continues to be…


My favourite spot in the whole entire world is the Lincoln Memorial

I beg to present you a birthday post about Sherman…

February is a special month for me. Why? It ain’t cause of Valentine’s Day (I’m so over it). My two favourite men both have birthdays this month! If y’all didn’t know, that would be Abraham Lincoln and General William Tecumseh Sherman.

My two favourite men. *Swoon*. One with a crooked bow-tie, the other with messy hair. This is why they’re awesome.

Today just so happens to be Sherman’s birthday! As such, I wanted to have a post about him. But what to write about? I was perplexed but than I thought, why not let Cump speak for himself? I mean, look at the man’s memoirs….


Leave it to me to take a photo of Cump’s memoirs AND my Lincoln mug.

Yes, Cump was a chatterbox.

Robert L. O’Connell (author of an amazing biography about Sherman called “Fierce Patriot) has quite a priceless description of what a wordy guy Cump was and it makes me laugh out loud every time I read it:

Calling him a motormouth understates the case: he was a veritable volcano of verbiage, as borne by a mountain of letters, memoranda, and other official papers, not to mention the uniformly gabby impression he left among his contemporaries. If there was a contest for who spoke the most words in a lifetime, Sherman would have been a finalist – he lived a long time and slept very little; otherwise he was talking. [I’d like to add to this – or marching/burning things. But he probably talked while he did that too]

O’Connell goes on to say that Cump always “said what was on his mind at that instant”. He also would switch from subject to subject but eventually get back to the first. (Side note: I do this. All the time. One of my best friends does too. When we talk, our conversations our interesting, to put it lightly. Nothing like starting with talking about what we each had for dinner and somehow we end up talking about how we haven’t read certain classic novels like “War and Peace” and that we’ve been judged for it.  But I digress…).

And this is why for my post about Cump on his birthday, I want him to speak for himself. I found some of my favourite quotes from him – some funny, some serious, some sad. Now, I beg to present, to you my awesome readers and friends, a birthday post about my favourite General with quotes from the man himself (haha! See what I did there?)..

That time he partied a little too hard when he was in California but then the ship arrived with the mail…

“The ball was a really handsome affair, and we kept it up nearly all night. The next morning we were at breakfast…We were dull and stupid enough until a gun from the fort aroused us, then another and another. ‘The steamer!’ exclaimed all, and, without waiting for hats or anything, off we dashed…”

Schitt'S Creek GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

That time he ate a hot pepper in California but thought it was a tomato (and we see a hint of drama queen coming out in Sherman)…

“…I was helped to a dish of rabbit, with what I thought to be an abundant sauce of tomato. Taking a good mouthful, I felt as though I had taken liquid fire; the tomato was chile colarado, or red pepper, of the purest kind. It nearly killed me…”

Dead GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

That maybe, sometimes, Cump wasn’t very patient,  he exaggerated and could have been a drama queen…

“By the time the ship was fairly at anchor, we had answered a million questions about gold and the state of the country…”

Like, oh my god, enough questions already…

Television GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

On his friendship with Grant…

Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.

Nick At Nite GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

On war…

War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want. 

On reporters…

I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. 

I think I understand what military fame is: to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers. 

I wasn’t really convinced he hated reporters until I found this gem…

If I had my choice I will kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast. 

Face GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Well, okay.

Perhaps the most epic telegram of all time was sent by General Sherman to President Lincoln on December 22, 1864…

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton

There you have it! Some of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite Civil War Generals, William Tecumseh Sherman. Do you have any favourite quotes from him?

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Until next time,

Mary 🙂



“Fierce Patriot” by Robert L. O’Connell.

“Memoirs” by William T. Sherman









My Absolute Favourite Book Of 2016 Is…


…”A Friend Of Mr. Lincoln” by Stephen Harrigan (you can find him on Twitter @stephenharrigan) . I did write about this book in an earlier post, which you can find here. I give a brief synopsis of the book in that post.

As 2016 comes to a close, I can say not only is this my favourite book that I read this year but it has become one of my favourite books ever. The writing is brilliant. The characters, both real (Lincoln and Speed) and fictional (Cage Weatherby, through whom the story is told), are well-developed, and Harrigan weaves a world in which I was pulled right into. The writing is such that the book played out in my head like a movie. I could see Lincoln and his friends playing handball as they discussed poetry. I felt like I was there at the various social events that play out in the novel. I felt the emotions the characters felt – there were moments I laughed, moments I felt frustrated and yes, moments where I was moved to tears. There was characters I absolutely loved and characters I detested but that I still enjoyed having as part of the story. In reading this book, I got absolutely lost in the world that was mid-19th century Springfield, Illinois.

I absolutely loved Mr. Harrigan’s portrayal of Lincoln. He presents such a humanizing portrayal of Lincoln. If you’re like me, you will come away feeling that you’ve come to know him just a little bit better.

The other thing that made me love this book so much is the author’s portrayal of depression – it is raw, it is relatable and it is real. Lincoln is not the only character to suffer from depression – it is quite clear that some of the other characters do too. I remember one scene in particular making me cry because I knew how the character was feeling. The way in which he described how he was feeling was exactly how I feel when I’ve been in my most depressed states.

But the main reason I recommend this book? I absolutely loved Mr. Harrigan’s portrayal of Lincoln. It is a humanizing, at times raw, portrayal of him. I saw Lincoln’s good side but I saw his bad side too. It doesn’t get much more human than that. I came away feeling that, even though this is historical fiction, I somehow have come to know Lincoln better, especially how he was in his younger days. The author gives a voice to Lincoln as well as the other characters that is relatable. It has given me a deeper respect for a man that I have loved and respected nearly all of my life. It is a book that has stayed with me and that I know I will read again. That’s why it is my favourite book of 2016.

I also want to take this time to wish everyone of my readers a very Happy New Year and all the best in 2017! Y’all are awesome and I can’t thank you enough for reading.


Mary 🙂


Another of my favourite books from 2016 is…

…”Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.


Y’all, I’ll be honest – I’m going to be lazy with this one and just point you over to here. That is my review I wrote of this book back in March.

But I do have some stuff to add (I’m a chatterbox just like my man Cump was…)

It still remains one of my favourite books about Lincoln. It is one I most certainly will read again. In the months since I’ve read it, I’ve recommended it to numerous people. These are not just people who love Lincoln. In fact, quite a few of them do not know much about him. The reason I recommended it though? Because we were discussing depression and I told them how much this book helped me to understand my own depression. It was the first book that really spoke to me, and as I say in my earlier review, made me feel like “hey, you’re not alone”. I tell them how inspirational the book is and that in knowing that Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression (and at a time when it was not well understood) and he managed to do all the incredible things he did. I think a few of them have ended up reading it.

In reading more about Lincoln since finishing “Lincoln’s Melancholy”, I have come to truly realize how much his depression did challenge him and fuel him as a person. When I read about him, I’m always keeping this in mind and it truly has made me see him in a different light. It’s made reading Donald’s bio of “Lincoln” that much more interesting because I read between the lines, as one would say, and will think “Hmm, that could be why he’s being that way”.

The one thing I see the most as stemming from his depression is his empathy. Lincoln had an incredible amount of empathy and I think this is one of the many things about his personality that made him so ahead of his time. The best example I can think of involves General Sherman (I know. Y’all are so not surprised by that…) and just how empathetic Lincoln was to him when Sherman had his breakdown in 1862. O’Connell states in “Fierce Patriot” (side note: if y’all haven’t read that one, you need to. I read it in 2015 hence why it’s not being mentioned as a fav of mine from 2016), his biography about General Sherman, that:

Lincoln had suffered from deep bouts of depression since early manhood (he called it the “hypo”) and it’s likely he [Lincoln] recognized a similar condition lurking behind Sherman’s excessive pessimism. He also must have known from his own experience that these bleak episodes eventually passed and so remained open to giving his fellow sufferer additional responsibility once he [Sherman] recovered.

He goes on to write that “mental illness of any sort carried a tremendous stigma in nineteenth century America, but not with Lincoln when it came to a general he instinctively liked and believed in”

Of course I have to include a photo of my two favourite men 🙂

I could go on with other examples of Lincoln’s empathy but this is one that always comes to mind. And hey, any chance to mention my two favourite men in a blog post is always awesome. #goals #historycrush #hotties

“Lincoln’s Melancholy” did make me feel like I came to know Lincoln better. It very much is a book worth reading, especially if you love Abraham Lincoln and want to know more about him. Depression was very much a part of who he was just as was his sense of humour and his empathy, both of which, I believe, stem from him having depression. I know for myself, my sense of humour has been a sort of defence mechanism against depression since I was very young.

I’ll wrap up my post there. What are y’all reading right now? Better yet, what was your favourite book of 2016? I’ll be posting tomorrow what my favourite book of 2016 was.

Until that time, have a happy Friday, y’all!!

Much love,

Mary 🙂


The timeless words of Abraham Lincoln

Today is the 153rd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address given by Abraham Lincoln. Those of us who love Lincoln most likely have it, or at least most of it, memorized – a feat I undertook a the age of seven. Even those who may not be as familiar with him will recognize at least a few lines from one of Lincoln’s greatest and most well-known speeches (and perhaps one of the most famous speeches in the entire world).

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, but this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…


“Gettysburg Address” by Mort Kunstler. He’s one of my favourite artists EVER. Amazing painter. Google him.

These words, along with the entire speech, are so well known, just as many of Lincoln’s speeches are. And if not the entire speech, at least a few lines are known from them and often quoted.

Now, more than ever, we need Lincoln’s words. Not just from the Gettysburg Address, but from his other speeches – the First Inaugural, the Second Inaugural and many others. I don’t need to say why we need them ever. We all know why. 

This post came to me about 30 minutes before I had to leave for work yesterday. I knew I wanted to write something to post on the anniversary of the address…but what exactly to write evaded me.  Given the turmoil happening in a country that is a like my second home, a country I love very much and a country where many that I love very dearly live (y’all know who you are) I wanted to write something hopeful, something positive. I’ve been turning to Lincoln’s words very much in recent weeks and I know a few others who have been doing this as well. So, this post is to bring hope, to show how remembering what Lincoln said – not just the Gettysburg Address but his other speeches as well – can perhaps help us see a light in the darkness, and most of all, remember what he stood for.

His words show us how he felt about his country, how much he loved it but also how we should be to others. To have empathy, as he did. To accept, as he did. To laugh, as he so very much loved to do. To grieve and to feel sorrow. But most of all, to find hope. His words are absolutely timeless.

There are so many lines that come to mind. I can’t possibly write them all down here. But some of my favourites that I find solace in, that bring me hope, that remind the type of person I should strive to be, are the ones I’ve chosen to include in this post.

The one I’ve been thinking of the most lately is from his First Inaugural, given on March 4, 1861…

I am loathe to close. We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as they surely will be, by the better angels of our nature.

It is “….not enemies but friends” and “…the better angels of our nature” that move me the most. It is these lines that remind me to be a good person, to treat people with respect and that though we may have differences, we need to stay together and be friends. And, if not friends, respect people for their differences.

His Second Inaugural, given on March 4th, 1864, is another one that stands out in my mind, and there is one very line in particular:

With malice toward none


Abraham Lincoln giving his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1864

Those four words to me have always stood out to me. Just like the First Inaugural, they remind us how they should be. On a more grander scale, the rest of the closing of the speech is powerful too, showing that darkness can be overcome:

…let us strive to finish the word we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Lincoln, so well ahead of his time, knew peace could be achieved. I believe he truly did.

From his Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862:

The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if follow, the world will forever applaud…

From the Cooper Union Address, given on February 27, 1860:

Let us have faith the right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dar to do our duty as we understand it…

And here are some random quotes that I love…

Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.

He reminds us to never give up…

Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.

The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a case we believe to be just; it shall not deter me. (“Speech on the Sub-Treasury” given in the Illinois House of Representatives December 26, 1839)

Having friends is awesome…

The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships…

So, those are just a few of my favourite words from one of my favourite men, Abraham Lincoln.

One line in the Gettysburg Address that has always stuck out to me (especially when I was 7, this line really hit me…)

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here…

It is not surprising that Lincoln, a truly humble man, would say this. He was sure his words would not go down in history. But as we remember today, on this 153rd anniversary, his words are still very much alive as they were that very long time ago. Many years from now his timeless words will continue to be remembered and perhaps, things like “…the better angels of our nature” and “…with malice toward none” will be taken more to heart.

Abraham Lincoln helped his nation through a very dark time. Lincoln’s words are timeless and in them we can find hope to persevere, hope that we can become better people and most of all, find hope that the darkness, when it happens, can be overcome and that the light will shine through. Lincoln helped get his country through a dark time and these words show just that.

I’d love to know some of your favourite words from Lincoln. Please leave them in a comment, write me on Twitter or on my Facebook page. And tell me why that particular line from a speech or from something he said means so much to you.

Thank you so much for reading. Y’all are awesome.

Until next time,



Early Mornings…

Morning, y’all!
Here’s how a Civil War fangirl spends her morning when she has a silly head cold.

A good cup of tea, Donald’s bio on Lincoln (White’s bio is also there too) and a cool bookmark from Iceland.

I couldn’t sleep so rather than tossing and turning, I decided to be productive and make some headway in Donald’s bio of Lincoln (which, I confess, I have taken far too long in reading. I’m a slow reader AND I usually have five books on the go).

I graffiti the hell out of my books and sticky notes have become my friend again. I need to write notes and highlight or else I have a tough time retaining information.
So, this morning I’ve been reading about my fav guy Lincoln winning the election, and now I’m onto his cabinet selection. It’s amazing how much reasoning and calculation went into selection of his cabinet. He was striving for balance, as he said to Thurlow Weed, whom felt Lincoln had given favour to the democrats: “You seem to forget that I expect to be there; and counting me as one, you see how nicely the cabinet would be balanced and ballasted”. Again, he knew exactly what he was doing!

Of course when I’m reading too, tons of blog post ideas flood my mind! I do go through lulls where I don’t get many ideas, but lately I’ve had quite a few. So, expect posts about:

  • Little Sorrel – General Jackson’s horse. I did a poll on Twitter and over on my Facebook page for this blog. Little Sorrel was the popular one.
  • Rienzi – Philip Sheridan’s horse. You might also know him as Winchester.
  • A post or post(s) (haven’t decided yet) about the relationship between Sherman and Lincoln. I’ve been reading a bio about Sherman and am just passed the part about First Bull Run. There’s a quite a story about his interaction with Lincoln here and that’s where I came up with the idea.
  • Posts about some of Lincoln’s cabinet members – Gideon Welles definitely comes to mind for this. He’s one of my favorites and his diary is an amazing primary source for anything to do with Lincoln’s cabinet and the Civil War.

Those are just a few of the ideas floating around in my mind right now. Do you have any suggestions for posts I could do? Just let me know in the comments below, on Twitter or on my Facebook page. I’m always open to suggestions!

Hope y’all are doing well. As always, thanks for reading.

Happy Saturday!



“He is one of the bravest men…”

It’s funny how I will develop an interest in someone from the Civil War, especially some high ranking officer. It’s often the eyes that strike me the most. Or just that they’re damn fine looking gentlemen. I give you a wonderful example below of my two favourites…

If y’all follow me on Twitter, you know how much I love General Sherman and probably have picked up on how much I LOVE General John Reynolds as well. With Reynolds, it was totally the eyes that struck me the most and it turns out he was a pretty damn fascinating guy. You can check the post I wrote about him here.

It was much the same when I came across this handsome gentleman. Totally the eyes AGAIN. Y’all, meet Major General John Gibbon…


Major General John Gibbon. Intense eyes AND yes, he’s an interesting fellow…

Of course I wanted to know more about him. Just as was the case with General Reynolds, Major General Gibbon is an interesting guy. I recently wrote a post about the Battle of South Mountain, in which Gibbon was a part of at Turner’s Gap. Check it out here.

On to more about Gibbon. Here we go…

John Gibbon was born on April 20, 1827 in Philadelphia, PA. When he was ten years old, Gibbon and his family moved to the Charleston, South Carolina. His father had accepted a position of Chief Assayer (basically, analyzing the quantity of gold, silver, etc. in a coin) at the U.S. Mint.

In 1842 at the age of 15, John was appointed to the US Military Academy at West Point. He had discipline problems (i.e. rebel, badass, etc) and ended up having to repeat his ENTIRE first year. Clearly, mistakes were made but lessons were learned. After this, his time there and, subsequently, his entire military career was defined by rigid discipline. He graduated in the middle of his class in 1847.Two of his classmates were Ambrose Burnside and Ambrose Powell Hill.

After graduation, John was made Brevet 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd US Artillery.

He was in Mexico during the Mexican-American war, but saw no action there. He was also in Florida and in Texas.

In 1854, he returned to West Point where he taught artillery tactics. This proved to be quite a fit for him and must have been something he enjoyed, because he ended up writing an ENTIRE book about it called the Artillerist’s Manual. It was published in 1859, and was adopted by the War Department very quickly. It ended up being used by both the Union and the Confederate Armies during the Civil War.


I bought an e-version of this from Amazon. My partner’s reaction: “We’re probably on some list now…”.

In 1855, Gibbon married Francis North Moale and together they had four children: Frances Moale, Catharine (Katy), John Jr. (he died as a toddler) & John S. Gibbon.

Life seemed to be rolling along smoothly for John when the Civil War broke out in 1861. His father, who still lived in the south, was a slave owner. John’s three brothers and his cousin, J. Johnston Pettigrew, all fought for the Confederacy.


John Gibbon’s cousin, J.Johnston Pettigrew. He was involved in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. He was killed at Bunker Hill, West Virginia, on July 17, 1863.

John, who was stationed in Utah at the time, decided to remain loyal to the Union. He took the oath to the United States and reported to Washington. Here he was made Chief of Artillery for Major General Irwin McDowell.


Major General Irvin McDowell. Hails from Columbus, Ohio. Unfortunately, best known for his defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. Well, f%^&

In 1862, the Gibbs (I know, so not an original nickname is you watch NCIS but…come on…it works! And it’s kinda cute…) was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers and placed in charge of King’s Wisconsin Brigade, made of men from Wisconsin (duh), Michigan & Indiana. He proved to be quite good at handling the volunteers, and, unlike other officers, he did not have a negative opinion of them.  Not only was he big into drilling his soldiers but he used a rigid discipline system to turn them into being some of the most bad-ass, ferocious fighters in the Army of the Potomac. Gibbs believed the best way to promote such rigid discipline was using a system of awards (gold star, anyone?!) to recognize good behaviour and, for not-so-good behaviour, he used penalties that were meant to hurt their pride.

A few examples…

Fence stealing was popular (cause why not steal a fence when you’re a volunteer soldier, right?) amongst his brigade. Fence pieces would be used for shelter or fires. This extra curricular activity dwindled after Gibbs came on the scene. Fence stealing ain’t so much fun when you have to rebuild said fence.

On a positive note, however, the Gibbs discovered that giving the well-behaved soldiers 24 hour passes was a thing of miracles for promoting good behaviour. Y’all, this 24 hour pass was their version of a gold star. Leave camp, go have fun! I’d be good to if it meant I got to leave camp for 24 hours and go play cards (cards being a euphemism for various sorts of shenanigans I won’t mention on here) with the locals.

He also changed the uniform of the soldiers. The most notable of these changes was the hat. He replaced the traditional Kepi with the black felt Hardee hat. Soon after this, they became known as the Black Hat Brigade.

Clearly, Gibbs wanted his bad-ass Brigade to stand out.

And stand out his brigade did…

He fought at Second Manasses at Brawner’s Farm. This was one of the most intense fire fights of the entire Civil War. One of his solider’s remarked of him after the battle:

How completely that little battle removed all dislike from the strict disciplinarian, and how great became the admiration and love for him, only those who have witnessed similar changes can appreciate…

Gibbs was at South Mountain at Turner’s Gap. It was here that either General Joseph Hooker or G McC (my pet name for General McClellan) christened Gibbon’s brigade as the “Iron Brigade”. The men had “fought like iron”.


Part of the Iron Brigade

At Antietam, the Iron Brigade had heavy losses. It was here that Gibbon manned an artillery piece during the very bloody fighting in the Cornfield.

In late 1862, John was promoted to the 2nd Division, I Corps. This meant he would be separated from his “Iron Brigade”:

My feeling was one of regret at the idea of being separated from my gallant brigade.

It is said that John Reynolds picked up on this and said he could offer it to someone else. Gibbs, despite qualms about leaving, did accept the new position he had been offered. One officer of the Iron Brigade described Gibbon as “a most excellent officer…beloved and respected by his whole command”.

His love of this brigade and its men evidently stuck with the Gibbs throughout his life. His answer to an invitation to all soldiers honorably discharged from Wisconsin shows how he felt towards them:

I was not a Wisconsin soldier, and have not been honorably discharged, but at the judgement day I want to be with Wisconsin soldiers. 

So, on it was to his new command, and the first battle he led them at was Fredericksburg. It was here Gibbon ended up receiving a wound near his wrist after a shell exploded close by. This put him out of duty for several months.

He was back in time for Gettysburg. It was here he commanded the 2nd Division of General Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps.


General Winfield Scott Hancock. As my #soulsister Jen would say…#HeyGirl. She’ll also be happy I  managed to include a photo of him in this post. 🙂

On July 3rd at Gettysburg, Gibbon was at Cemetery Ridge. His major role in the battle was the repulse of Pickett’s Charge. In a council of war meeting (sounds like Game of Thrones shit happening here…) the night before, General Meade had pulled Gibbon aside and predicted that if Lee were to attack, it would be right where Gibbon would be. Eerily enough, Meade was right. Gibbon’s division did bear the brunt of the fighting, as predicted by Meade. Both Gibbon and Hancock ended up getting wounded here.

With being wounded, Gibbs was out of action and he ended up being sent to Cleveland, Ohio where he worked in a draft depot.

I’m sure that was really exciting…

But here’s something really cool. While Gibbon was still recovering from his wounds (okay, so that’s not so cool but this next part is the total silver lining in it all), he was able to attend the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. Y’all know what happened on that day, right? GETTYSBURG ADDRESS BY MY FAVOURITE MAN. How  awesome is it that Gibbon got to see and hear Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address? Also, could you imagine being there at the Gettysburg Address? Lincoln and Gibbon in the same place? I would have been fangirling big time. On a serious note, it would have been absolutely amazing to witness the Gettysburg Address, perhaps one of the most amazing speeches ever written (that’s for another post though).


I had to put a photo in of my fav man! #heygirl #fangirl Also, the crooked bowtie is awesome. #workit

Once he’d recovered from his wounds, Gibbon was back in action again. He dove right back in for the Overland Campaign and fought at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. On June 7th, 1864,  he was promoted to Major General for his service in the Overland Campaign.

On August 25, 1864, he and his men fought in the Second Battle of Reams Station. He felt his Division had fought poorly and this very much disheartened. At this time, he also began to quarrel with his superior, General Hancock. I’m guessing Hancock was probably not a good man to cross. Although promoted briefly to command the XVIII Corps, Gibbs ended up going on sick leave.

In January 1865 he came back and was given command of the XXIV Corps in the newly created Army of the James. James Rufus Davies, a member of the Iron Brigade, had this to say about Gibbon receiving this command:

His honors are fairly won. He is one of the bravest men. He was with us on every battlefield

On April 2, 1865, Gibbon was involved in the Third Battle of Petersburg. This battle was also known as (SPOILER ALERT) the Fall of Petersburg, so I think we all know how that turned out for the Confederates. It was during this battle that the Gibbs captured Fort Gregg, part of the Confederate defences.

During the Appomattox Campaign, Gibbon blocked the Confederate escape route during the battle of Appomattox Courthouse.

At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, Gibbon served as the Surrender Commissioner.


Can y’all spot Gibbon? And check out the evil eye on Sheridan towards Lee.

After the Civil War, Gibbs was demoted to being a Colonel in the regular army (this apparently happened quite a bit. It’s complicated to get into and I’m just beginning to learn about it myself). Gibbon spent much time on the frontier. He was mainly engaged in the Indian Wars. It was Gibbon who came upon the remains of Custer and his men after the Battle of Little Big Horn.

In 1885, he was promoted to Brigadier General in the regular army. He was placed in command of the Department of Columbia, which represented all points of the Pacific Northwest. In 1890, he was made head of the Military Division of the Atlantic. He only held this post for a year, however, as he was forced to retire in 1891.


Gibbs aged well. #finewine #swoon

In all, he served nearly fifty years! John Gibbon passed away on February 6, 1896 in Baltimore, Maryland and he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


One cool thing I learned in researching this post is that Gibbon has a few towns that are named after him. Thanks for my cool Twitter follower @AndersenTy, I found out there is a town in Nebraska called Gibbon. Yes, named after John Gibbon. There are others too – in Oregon, Minnesota, and Washington. Gibbon River and Falls in Yellowstone National Park is also named after him. Gibbon went there on an 1872 expedition.

Besides “The Artillerist’s Manual”, Gibbon also wrote two other books, both of which were published posthumously: “Personal Recollections of the Civil War” (1928) and “Adventures On The Western Frontier” (1994).

Just on the lighter side of things, apparently Gibbon was quite the colourful speaker, something which I appreciate because I do have a knack for use of colourful language myself (as I’m sure y’all have picked up on from some of my blog posts or videos). A member of General Meade’s staff described Gibbon as having an “up-and-down manner of telling the truth, no matter whom it hurt”. In other words, he was blunt. He could also out-swear most officers in the Army of the Potomac, which does make him a personal hero of mine now (upon finding this out, I blurted out “that is f&^%ing awesome!”).  Apparently, the exception to this rule was Andrew Humphreys  and quite possibly (and for some reason this did not surprise me), Winfield Scott Hancock.


Major General Andrew Humphreys, known potty-mouth of the Army of the Potomac. #lifegoals

Gibbon was a really cool, interesting guy. He was clearly well-respected by his troops and despite being a strict disciplinarian, a hard-ass and a-type about drilling his soldiers, in his heart he clearly cared about those he commanded. He created some of the most bad-ass fighters in the Army of the Potomac when he commanded the Iron Brigade. And the men he commanded after that were just equally as bad-ass. I’ll end this post by leaving you with a photo of the monument to Gibbon, which is at Gettysburg. It was dedicated on July 3, 1988 and it close to where he was wounded during Pickett’s Charge. Check out the swagger…


#workit #heygirl #sexyboots #swagger

As always, thanks for reading! I hope y’all enjoyed this post. I certainly enjoyed researching and writing it.

Until next time,




“John Gibbon”. Civil War Trust.

“John Gibbon, Loyal and Able Soldier”

Nolan, Alan T. “The Iron Brigade: A Military History” Indiana University Press: Indianapolis. 1961.

Reardon, Carol & Tom Vossler. “A Field Guide To Gettysburg”. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill.2013.

John Gibbon. Wikipedia.




This might be the cutest Lincoln book ever…

We went to the Henry Ford Museum yesterday. It was awesome. I plan on doing a post about it on here once I get my photos off my camera. For now, check out this post I did about the Lincoln chair over on another blog I’m part of called historygeekweb.

Anyway, before we went back home, I went to Barnes & Noble, the most amazing place ever (okay, not as amazing as Borders Books and Music was. Y’all remember Borders?). I managed to find what is perhaps the cutest Abraham Lincoln book ever.

Check this out:

The illustrations are cute. And the story is good. It’s a great introduction to Abraham Lincoln for a young child. As an Abraham Lincoln fanatic (and I can’t resist cute things like this), I had to get it.  I’m happy to have it as part of my book collection.

The author, Brad Meltzer, is a cool guy. He’s written other children’s books like this Lincoln one, all about various historical figures like George Washington, Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart.

He also has a series of novels called the “Culper Ring”. I’ve read “The Fifth Assassin” and it was really good. I’m looking forward to reading the others in the series too.

This also is not my first children’s Lincoln book I’ve purchased as an adult. I’ve also got this one too:

It’s a cool story too.

Do you have any kids books that are part of your book collection? Any other kids books about Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War that you’ve come across? Please let me know in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading.



The Whirlwind Journey To Here…

I’ve been interested in Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War for as long as I can remember. Well, since at least six years of age. That’s a long time, considering I turn 34 in a couple of weeks. I’ve been asked a few times, especially since I’m a Canadian, how I came to be OBSESSED with American’s 16th President and the Civil War.

So, I decided to make a video about it. It’s about 18 minutes long. I totally get if you just skim through it or don’t watch it. I also made it for myself because I wanted to start posting videos on here and I’m trying to become more comfortable with doing that. I have social anxiety…this is a HUGE thing for me to be able to do this.

So, a couple things…

  1. The video is very amateur. I didn’t edit it or anything. It’s the raw footage as I shot it yesterday in my basement with my iPad.
  2. I swear a little bit. Okay, sometimes more than a little bit. Just a warning. I start talking and my filter doesn’t always kick in.
  3. I ramble.
  4. I don’t look at the camera.
  5. I’m learning as I go. And it’s been a good experience so far.

So, here’s the video…how I became a history geek…

Oh, there’s a few things I mention in the video and I’ve posted the photos below, just so y’all have reference to them…


This is it. The book that started it all for me. I still have it, along with all the other books in the series, in the black hole that is my parent’s place.

The above photos are from my first visit to Gettysburg with my highschool when I was 16. It was an amazing experience.

Oh, and here’s the blog post I mention about when my husband and I went to DC. We got lost in Arlington National Cemetery. If you EVER go on a trip with me, DO NOT let me navigate UNLESS you want to get lost. If that’s the case, by all means, let me navigate. I was born with a broken GPS and I will get us lost.

Oh, and I give a shout out to a few people in my video. I’m taking it down to nerves (and really, I should have sat and made a list), but there are a few other people to mention that follow me on Twitter (and I follow them and immensely enjoy their tweets): Old News Co, Kimi, Roxi, Bob, Ethan, Mike, Abbie. And anyone else…I love y’all just as much! I hate leaving people out…

Oh, and I’d love to hear how y’all became interested into history, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, etc. I always love to hear how people become passionate about the things they love! Feel free to leave your story in the comments!

As always, thank you for reading (and if you watched the video, awesome!). I love and appreciate all of you.

Until next time…

Mary a.k.a Civil War Fangirl a.k.a Miss_Bellatrix


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