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Tag: weird history

The must-have Christmas gift of 1864

Each year in America it seems there is one holiday gift that is heavy on demand and short on supply. In 1996, there was the Tickle-Me-Elmo fiasco. In 1983, it was the Cabbage Patch Doll. In 1864, the gift of the season was Savannah, Georgia, and one Union general was willing to do anything to obtain it.

On November 16, 1864, William T. Sherman set out from Atlanta, Georgia, with his eye set on capturing the southern port of Savannah. In his 300-mile march to the sea, Sherman wreaked havoc, employing total war and destroying a swath of land 40 miles wide in places. His intent? To break the psychological backbone of the Confederacy.

Sherman arrived outside Savannah in mid-December and conveyed the following message to its the man who had set up a defense of the city, Confederate Gen. William Hardee:

I have already received guns that can cast heavy and destructive shot as far as the heart of your city; also, I have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison of Savannah can be supplied, and I am therefore justified in demanding the surrender of the city of Savannah, and its dependent forts, and shall wait a reasonable time for your answer, before opening with heavy ordnance. Should you entertain the proposition, I am prepared to

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Is West Virginia Constitutional?

On the creation of new states, the Constitution is pretty clear. Article IV, Section 3, reads that “no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State … without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

It appears that someone forgot to tell West Virginia about this. In 1863, the Mountain State carved itself out of the northwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia, raising the question: Is West Virginia unconstitutional?

Breaking up is never easy, especially when a Civil War is under way. While the Virginia government in Richmond seceded from the Union in the spring of 1861, up in the town of Wheeling, delegates from the northwestern part of the state got together to counter-secede. These delegates said the government in Richmond had no right to leave the Union, and as such they now constituted the state of Virginia. Thankfully, to keep things from getting too complicated, they agreed to call themselves New Virginia, or more fancifully, “The Restored Government of Virginia” (Kanawha was another name under consideration).

By 1862, through some questionable electoral processes, the “Restored Government of Virginia” had written up a new Constitution and applied for statehood. After a few edits—Lincoln insisted they insert a provision gradually abolishing slavery—West Virginia was granted statehood in 1863. The 10th … [ Read all ]

Ten things you didn’t know about the Civil War

Part two of Discovering the Civil War opens at the National Archives in Washington, DC, in just 10 days! Spies, code breaking, personality conflicts over balloons, prosthetic limbs, two different Thirteenth Amendments, and the Confederate States of Mexico are just a few of the ways that the National Archives Experience is showing you the Civil War as you’ve never seen it.  One hundred and fifty years after the conflict began we’re still uncovering strange facts we didn’t know. We’ve posted ten below, but there’s no need to stop there! Help us by sharing the weirdest fact you’ve ever heard about the Civil War in the comment section.

  1. Abe Lincoln referred to Robert E. Lee as “Bobby Lee” and Jefferson Davis as “Jeffy D.”
  2. Despite serving as a member of the House of Representatives, a Senator on two separate occasions and as the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis never completed a full term in any office.
  3. More people earned the Medal of Honor in the Civil War than in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam combined.
  4. The same cipher code used by the Confederate government, including Jefferson Davis, was found on John Wilkes Booth’s remains, leading many to believe Davis had ordered the assassination.
  5. John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Lincoln was part of a broader conspiracy. That same night an assailant, Louis
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