April 12, 2011, - 11:49 pm

U.S. Civil War 150th Anniversary & Cool VIDEO of Famous Descendants; Col. Spiegel

By Debbie Schlussel

Can’t let the day go by without recognizing the 150th anniversary of the start of the U.S. Civil War.  Civil War nostalgia and re-enactments are even more American than apple pie.  I and so many other Americans have long been fascinated and very interested by this war which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of American men. USA Today claims that 2/3rds of Americans are descended from someone who lived through the Civil War on U.S. soil (seems kinda high to me). But only 18 million Americans are descended from someone who fought in the war.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed my experiences checking out Civil War battlefields and cemeteries.  If you’ve never visited Antietam, it’s a must.  It’s such an interesting place, you can almost feel the ghosts in your path.  And make sure to pick up an inexpensive miniature Civil War set or belt buckle, US or CS.  Mine is US. With the Civil War anniversary come a number of remembrances. I also once had drinks at a former Civil War morgue that’s now a pizza place off of a highway, but I can’t remember the name or location, other than that it is in Maryland or Pennsylvania (if you can, please post the info in the comments below or send it to me via an e-mail). And I’ll soon be posting the Robert Redford directed movie, “The Conspirator,” about Mary Surratt, who was accused with other conspirators in Abraham Lincoln’s death.

And as a proud Jewish American, I recommend the book, “Your True Marcus: The Civil War Letters of a Jewish Colonel,” consisting of Civil War Union soldier, Marcus M. Spiegel’s letters home to  his wife from the front, where he served as a member of the 67th and 120th Ohio Volunteers Infantry.  The book was re-published as A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War: Marcus M. Spiegel of the Ohio Volunteers.  Spiegel gave his life for the Union, as he was killed in an 1864 ambush. His letters reflect his explicit support for the abolition of slavery. After the war, his brother went on to found the business Marcus had planned to start, which became the Spiegel Catalog.  This book was given to me by my late father, who also enjoyed reading it as a proud Jewish American military veteran and had it in his collection. The book is co-edited by Spiegel’s great-great-granddaughter, Jean Powers Soman, who is also the great-granddaughter of Samuel G. Altschuler, another Jewish American, who was a sometime photographer of Abraham Lincoln.

Get Yours . . .

Among the other remembrances on this 150th anniversary of the start of the war, you might wonder what has become of the descendants of some of the famous names on both sides, from Ulysses S. Grant to Jefferson Davis to Robert E. Lee to Stonewall Jackson.  USA Today tracked them down, and it’s pretty interesting, especially if you are a history buff as am I.  There is some great video, too, and I’ve posted a few of them herein.

And finally, our friends at Common Cents have some nice video Civil War tributes, too.  Remember the soldiers who died on both sides.  They sacrificed as much for America as those who lost their lives fighting the enemy on foreign soil.

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28 Responses

A southern friend of mine refers to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression” !!!

Of course, we all know that it wasn’t fought over slavery but rather the issue was States Rights.
Is it Déjà vu all over again lately ??

Shootist on April 13, 2011 at 7:46 am

Nice piece Debbie. Going to check that book out.

Brian Cuban on April 13, 2011 at 8:36 am

My son and I visited the Antietam (Sharpsburg, MD) Battlefield last summer and it was awesome. We thought it was even better than Gettysburg. Bring your walking shoes because you MUST walk the battlefields (i.e. Burnside’s Bridge, Sunken road, Cornfield, etc.). I strongly suggest you educate yourself about the battle, the tactics, the terrain, and the time schedule of the battle before you go. If you like history, have an imagination, and a sense of timelessness, you’ll find it fascinating. BTW, Gettysburg is a must too. I haven’t been to the Manassas Battlefield yet but hope to soon.

Rick on April 13, 2011 at 8:47 am

If you stand in the Union lines and look across that vast open field, in your mind’s eye you can see Pickett’s men, led by Lew Armistad, making that magnificent futile charge.

Brave Americans, on both sides, died those 3 days in July 1863.

A day later, on 4 July, Vicksburg surrendered to Grant.

The war would run on for almost two more years.

gerry on April 13, 2011 at 9:05 am

Antietam is also my of my favorite battlefields to visit. Another one that is really interesting is Manassas. Unfortunately, the National Park Service recently replaced the old film about the battle with a slick, Hollywood-produced one, which was offensive because it was so politically correct.

One thing I like about living in Virginia is all the battlefields we have here, and they are all well-preserved. I recently visited Cold Harbor and others in the Richmond area. You can spend two or three full days just visiting the Richmond battles.

Also, another commenter mentioned before the Hebrew Confederate Cemetery in Richmond. According to the website, it is the only Jewish military cemetery outside of Israel: http://www.jewish-history.com/civilwar/shockoe.htm

JM on April 13, 2011 at 9:17 am

Debbie, let me recommend the book, “Jewish Confederates” to you. It will give you a great understanding of the Jewish Confederate view. It will make you proud of your Jewish brethren. I am at work and do not have the author’s name to give you, but I am sure you can find it. My great grandfather, James B. O’Farrell, of North Carolina, was in the “Stonewall” Brigade, and fought at Chancellorwville, where Jackson was mortally wounded. After the War, he moved to Texas to get as far away from the Yankees as he could,(just joking). Yes, it was The War of Northern Aggression.

Joel-texag57 on April 13, 2011 at 9:39 am

Yes, Gettysburg is an absolute must-visit. We stopped there last summer, my second visit and my wife’s first. You can almost still feel the presences there. Our home state of Pennsylvania has posted on their monument bronze placques with every name of the state’s militia volunteers who fought there. Ironically, my great-great-grandfather’s name did not appear, as he was wounded and captured by the Confederates in April 1863, and so he missed the battle.

Dick in KY on April 13, 2011 at 9:50 am

Simon Baruch, a Prussian immigrant, settled in Camden, SC. He received his degree from Medical College of Virginia and entered the war as a physician in the 3rd SC Battalion. He was at the Battle of Second Manassas. He became the Surgeon General of the Confederacy. His son Bernard became one of the most famous and most successful investors of all time on Wall Street.

The most famous Southern Jew of that era was Judah Benjamin. He was educated in law at Yale. He was the first Jewish US Senator and declined a seat on the Supreme Court. He also declined an offer to be Ambassador to Spain.

Judah Benjamin served President Davis and the Confederacy in 3 positions, Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State.

As an unrepentant thoroughly rebel secessionist and Son of the South I have lived in and around these memorial battlefields. Those who believe preserving the Union was the right course have their arguments. Those who believe the South fought for states rights have their arguments. I argue for liberty.

Every day what Washington DC represents as concentrated federal power no man can avoid, escape or deflect is, to me, the most salient and compelling reason why seven of my kin are buried across these battlefields. Why the house I grew up in had minnie-balls still stuck in the rude mortar and stone foundation. Why, where I ran my daily mileage at Kennesaw, you can still see the stumps of pine trees shot off by cannon and the trenches where my kin fought barefoot and without provisions against overwhelming odds. I am sure I’m the only person on this Forum who knows where the Grave of The Unknown Confederate Soldier is (at Kennesaw), a rude slab of wood, hand carved “Here Lies The Mortal Remains Of A Loyal Son” just off a trail and up in the woods with a little picket laced around it out of twigs and small branches. Someone still goes there from time to time to lay flowers.

I’m probably the only one here who grew up with a 12 pound Yankee cannon memorial in their front yard honoring those who fought for the federal government in Washington against those who so earnestly sought to prevent the exact kind of power we witness today that they stepped up into near certain ruin to say NO!

Everyone has his or her favored position on this issue. But as a to-my-grave rebel I say to all of us … had the South won the disaster we endure now at the hands of a federal government run riot would have come all the same. If the South had seceded, the horror and bloodshed would have been on par with Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. Ask the living descendants of Missouri how cruel these political power struggles can become.

The War was demonic and supernatural. Men who could not see beyond the tiny porthole of their interests led America into a great Reckoning that reverberates through us to this day. When I approach a memorial battlefield I weep. I am riven by the horror of brother against brother. I am shattered by the power of Hate and the power of Blindness that Satan uses to seduce Man into slaughtering his brothers in an ongoing recreation of Cain and Abel.

When I stand at the Wheat Field I am struck dumb with awe that the men of Grey could agree to march across that open mile. They did it because they said they would do it. That kind of spine is missing in today’s men. Such courage under fire, such resolve that Union soldiers at the Wall were cheering the last two men of the North Carolina regiment as they fought their way into the foe and made the Wall.

Northerners do not know what it’s like to grow up in occupied territory. It is a different atmosphere when speaking of History. When we visit battlefields there aren’t many monuments to the South. But there are great cenotaphs and obelisks, elaborate statuary for the Union. We who grew up in knowledge of the War are painfully aware of the weight hung round our necks for the evils of slavery. But somehow Yankee sympathizers conveniently forget the role of Northern bankers and ship owners and speculators in fueling the investments and loans and finances of that trade. There are no clean hands in this debate.

But the real reason for hostilities finally reaching the threshold is not anything you have ever been told. It was Opium.

If you want the back story to that untold undertow, drop me a line at mackenzie.jack@gmail.com

Jack on April 13, 2011 at 9:57 am

Is this the restaurant?


B: No, it’s a standalone building in Maryland or Pennsylvania. DS

Blayne on April 13, 2011 at 10:04 am

Debbie, I am from Maryland. It was the War Between the States. Montgomery County, Maryland was a Southern County, and was friendlier to the Confederates than to the Yankees. Up to the earyl 1960’s, it was still a conservative county and state, as we had segregation and limited real estate developmentNow, it is the most liberal county in the country, as many Northerners came down for federal jobs, but I digress.

There is a battlefield, mostly paved over, a few miles from my home, where the battle of Grace Church (1864)took place. General Early’s troops were marching down what is now Georgia Avenue, to capture Washington, DC. The battle here slowed down his forces, and they were stopped at Fort Stevens in Washington, DC, where Abe Lincoln was looking at the battlefield.

Rockville, MD was captured by Jeb Stuart’s troops and the Union supplies were used by our boys in the Confederate Army.A Johnny Reb still stands near the courthouse in Rockville, Md, albeit pushed to the side due to the politically correct movement.

Poolesville, Md was a transit point for both the North and the South during the battle of Gettysburg.

Sunshine, Maryland still has a bronze plaque commemorating a local boy who went off to join the Confederacy and never came back.

A battle was fought over an aqueduct in Dickinson, Md.

All of these sites are in just one county. Most battlefields here in Montgomery County have been paved over, but those of us in our 50’s who were around when we were mostly farms still remember the good old days, and the history.

Jonathan Grant on April 13, 2011 at 10:15 am

Incidentally, there were Jewish Generals on both sides of the War. Charleston, South Carolina had the largest Jewish population in the USA, and Jews were among the early awardees of the Medal of Honor.

Contrary to Northern propaganda, most people who fought in the war did not own slaves. Many were poorer than some slaves. They fought to defend their states against the intrusion of a distant federal power.

The first state to attempt secession was South Carolina, in 1830, as the tariffs imposed by the Northern states were killing business in the South. The slave holding president, Andrew Jackson, threatened to send in troops, and the talk of secession ended. His Vice President (Calhoun) was from South Carolina and resigned in solidarity with his state. He served in the Senate before and after his term as Vice President.

Jonathan Grant on April 13, 2011 at 10:36 am

When my son and I went to Gettysburg, our two favorite spots were “The Angle” and “Little Round Top”. I swear I could see Pickett’s charge coming at me and hear the 20th Maine stacking rocks in preparation for the Confederate flanking maneuver.

Rick on April 13, 2011 at 10:52 am

My ancestors from my parents’ sides fought in the Civil War. From my father’s side, my ancestor served in the Union Army for over 4 years and died couple months after the war’s end, as result of taking care of many wounded men in field hospitals. My ancestors from my mother’s side served in the Confederate Army through the years and survived, but lost their small farm plantations after the war.

Rob on April 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

i have a book entitled “Jews in the Civil War” which deals with US Jews on both sides……Several years ago I visited Stones River (Cemetery and battleground)outside of Nashville. It sent chills through my spine. I also saw a house used by Grant in Corinth,MS, on my way back from Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo and the site of a battle with Gen N Forrest…. ..In a somewhat related matter (hallowed battlegrounds) , I recently made my second visit to Masada (Israel) , where Jews held out in a fortress atop a mountain against the Romans. The Romans finally breached the wall at night– the next morning when they entered they found the 1000 or so Jews left had killed themselves rather than be taken as slaves. It puts the Woody Allens, Streisands, Mayor Bloombergs, Larry Kings of the world in their proper perspectives.

Not Ovenready on April 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Debbie thank you for this post. As a Confederate re-enactor
I had the chance to camp an arms length from the battlefield.
Waking in the early AM with the mist rising across the field is a sight I will never forget. The illumination of the battlefield with a candle for every casualty is heart stopping.
This is used to be done in early December.
The crime is that 90% of our population know more about Lady Gaga and American Idol then they do about the war that killed more Americans then all other wars combined.
All of the battlefields should be visited and preserved for future generations.

mdreb on April 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    mrdeb – ain’t that the truth. And Gerald? You need to do some serious research instead of the Public Education Approved whiffle ball you tossed out. So many holes in it.

    Jack on April 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Jonathan Grant:

“Many were poorer than some slaves.”

How is it possible to be poorer than a slave, who by definition could not hold property independent of his owner?

Also, the Confederate sympathizers need to quit it with their own propaganda. All you need to do is peruse the Confederate constitution and read the remarks of leading Confederate politicians and prominent citizens to see that they seceded over the right to keep their slaves and to preserve their culture, and that BOTH were principles that they were willing to go to war over. The fact that most folks in the Confederacy didn’t own slaves is immaterial: the folks who allegedly “were poorer than slaves” weren’t running the Confederacy, but instead the wealthy and powerful were, and they seceded to protect their own interests. Now I do not call slavery unconditionally wrong, because the Bible does not say so. (Quite the contrary, the Bible endorses slavery.) So, from my perspective, that would mean fighting a war to end slavery is more wrong than fighting a war to defend it. But please don’t pretend as if fighting a war to defend slavery isn’t precisely what the Confederacy did.

As for this “war of northern aggression” business … what of it? Again, I believe that the Union was not justified for going to war against the Confederacy merely to end slavery. I also believe that the southern states did have the right to secede and form their own sovereign nation. However, once the Confederacy was a sovereign nation, the Union had every right to declare war on it, defeat it, and subjugate it as its own territory. Lest we forget, that is how the United States gained most of its territory in the first place … by beating the British in battle for independence, and by conquering the “Native Americans.” If it was OK to beat the Brits and the Indians (and if it was OK for Wilson to declare war on Germany in World War I and for George H. W. Bush to invade Iraq in 1991!) then it was OK to beat the Confederacy. Unless you are an anti-war libertarian like the Ludwig Von Mises people (the folks responsible for LewRockwell.com and people like Marcus Epstein) then you are applying a double standard, and only doing so because YOUR SIDE LOST.

The hilarious thing is that the vast majority of the Confederacy apologists would call questioning our imperialism regarding the Native Americans and our decisions to enter World War I and to topple Saddam “anti-American”, “political correctness” and other such things. Hey neo-Confederates, how about picking a side and sticking to it!

Gerald on April 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    You got your history from Roots. Many slaves were allowed to work for other people and earn money..that is how many bought their freedom. Some who got their freedom went on to buy farms and themselves bought slaves. Some ex-slaves even supported the South.

    Many leaders in the South did not own slaves..Robert E. Lee comes to mind. Meanwhile U.S. Grant got four slaves as a wedding present.

    Did the South have the right to secede? Just as much as the colonies had the right to declare their independence from England, because the king was so oppressive.

    Similarly, if the powers in this country keep oppressing the people, we will once again see secession.

    Jonathan Grant on April 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Jon is right.

In the end Americans had different ideas of how they wanted to live and they were irreconcilable.

Freedom means a parting of the ways and its not always a good notion to hold a country together by force.

Some may wonder whether the price of victory the Civil War exacted was worth it. Only those alive then can tell you what it meant to them.

NormanF on April 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I always preferred the term, “The Late Unpleasantness,” myself.

Occam's Tool on April 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    LOL. That’s ALWAYS the way I’ve heard it described.
    Yipee! I’m one of the 18 million!

    Giaour on April 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Interesting stuff; I’m a history buff so all the comments are fascinating. Let me add a factoid that liberals don’t want to hear. I had at least 16 ancestors that lived in North Carolina when the War of Northern Aggression began. By the end of the fracas, 8 had fought for the Union and 8 for the Confederacy. Try getting stuff like that published in a history book today!

Frank on April 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm

With the exception of Appomaatox, I’ve been to every major (and several minor) Civil War Battlefields in the East and have recently started visiting Battlefields in the West such as Vicksburg, Shiloh, Brices Cross Roads, and Mansfield. I’ve been to Antietam and Gettysburg three times.

Repeat on April 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm

At onetime I had a whole bunch of Confederate Currency Notes. Must be in my storage now. Anyways, I have been to Grant’s Tomb and when I was there I was disappointed by the sight. It is located in Harlem and most black people don’t care about Grant and many probably hate him because he was white. Till date the American Civil war cost more lives than all other wars that America fought. That only illustrates how viciously the both sides fought.

The movie Gone With the Wind is probably the closest we all could come to know about the Civil War because when the movie was made in the 1930s many people who lived thru the Civil War and some veterans were still alive and several of them also served as advisers in the produciton of the movie.

Rex on April 13, 2011 at 11:33 pm

After 150 years it’s still surprising how litle we know about the Civil War.
“The war to end slavery…blah, blah blah”…etc

The winner always gets to ‘make history’ and tell his side of the story. I’d really like to hear the loser’s side for a change.

Thanks to all who posted here. It’s nice to see some different views about my least favored war. Cain vs Abel indeed.

theShadow on April 14, 2011 at 12:48 am

Jonathan Grant:

Oh please. Quit it with your race baiting nonsense. I have never seen Roots, and I have never read the book either. But hey, I can play the race baiting game too. Where did you get your history from, some combination of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Meir Kahane?

“Some who got their freedom went on to buy farms and themselves bought slaves. Some ex-slaves even supported the South.”

Yeah, and plenty of Jews are anti-Zionists who support a Palestinian state. What’s your point?

First of all, I stated that the south had the right to secede. But I also said that after they seceded, the North had as much right to beat the South in a war and take their land and impose rule on them as the U.S. had to do the same to the Native Americans. Tell me where I am wrong. You can’t. You are just upset when it is done to you.

And none of this nonsense about the wealth that some slaves allegedly owned. You know as I do that these slaves accumulated wealth only because their owners allowed them to. The slave owners had the right to prevent them from accumulating wealth, and they also had the right to take the money from their slaves whenever they wanted to, and if they did, the slaves had no recourse. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE SLAVES. They had no civil rights, no constitutional rights, they weren’t citizens, they had no due process, the Bill of Rights did not apply to them. The Dred Scott case proved that. That is why no free man, no matter how poor, would have traded places with a rich slave. You are talking like one of those Jews who tried to stone Moses and go back to Egypt … utter and total nonsense.

Also, who cares about some Confederate leaders not owning slaves. What did the Confederate constitution say? What did the political and economic leaders of the Confederacy, the ones who led the drive to secede, who wrote the Confederate constitution, and would have held offices and led the nation had they won the war say and believe? And incidentally, while Robert E. Lee led Confederate forces, HE OPPOSED SECESSION! HE WAS 100% AGAINST IT! Only after the fact did Lee side with the Confederacy, and it was only because he chose to be loyal to his beloved Virginia EVEN THOUGH HE FELT THAT THEY WERE WRONG. So even your raising Robert E. Lee proves my point: the people who actually supported secession – which Lee did not – did so over slavery – which Lee did not support.

Look, fella. I was born and raised in the south. Your League of the South propaganda doesn’t fly with me. Your side was right to secede because you wanted to keep your slaves – which you did – but when you did so, the Union had just as much right to declare war on you guys, whip your butts and take your land as the U.S. had to do the same to the British (when we beat them and took their land) and the Native Americans (ditto). It was over slavery. Your side lost. Accept it and move on. Rewritten fanciful versions of history is hogwash when it comes from the Muslims, it is hogwash when it comes from the Afro-centrists, and it is hogwash when it comes from the “south shall rise again” neo-Confederates that I have been surrounded with since I was born.

Gerald on April 14, 2011 at 10:44 am


Well “fella” I hope you’re not a history teacher because if you are you should be fired. The U.S. had the right to slaughter Native Americans? If the war was over slavery why did it take Lincoln so long to declare emancipation! He basically was forced into doing so because support for the war was diminishing. Ask yourself this question why did Lee go back to Virginia? To fight for her rights perhaps? If anything written here is hogwash it is your contribution. Read a book learn something. Start with something from Shelby Foote perhaps. If you don’t like your southern neighbors why don’t you move to Maine.

mdreb on April 15, 2011 at 8:50 am

I watched The Civil War on PBS last week. It was pretty good until the end when some left-wing jackass historian starts talking about how we are still in a civil war. I would agree in part. I do believe that the lying left-wing extremists of the democrat party are pushing the country toward civil war and I would fight in that civil war if it came to that. It would be the end of the superpower but I think that is inevitable. I agree with Jack and with Seward. I believe he wrote proclamation signed by Lincoln declaring a day of atonement for our national sin of thinking we had built up the country by our own hand and not seeing the work of God in establishing and prospering our country.

Daniel Middleman on April 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm

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