As the calendar flipped from June to July in 1863, two events changed the course of the Civil War. The first event occurred in in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg, a small market town founded in the soft, rolling hills of south central Pennsylvania on Samuel Gettys farm half a century before, was unknown to most Americans. Four days later, on July 4, it had become “The Most Famous Small Town in America,” as boosters would come to call it.
On the morning of July 1, Robert E. Lee and 76,000 troops of the Army of Northern Virginia arrived in Gettysburg where they were engaged by 92,000 men under the command of Union General George Meade.  Over the next three days fighting would rage across 25 square miles surrounding Gettysburg, finally ending with a desperate Confederate infantry charge across open ground directly into the heart of the Union’s defensive line. The attack ended in disaster and Lee’s only invasion into Northern territory was over. More men fought at Gettysburg and more men died than any battle ever contested on American soil.
With Lee and his army in full retreat on July 4, it was obvious that the armies of the South would never be able to conquer their Northern opposition in the “War of Northern Aggression.” It did not, however, mean that the rebel cause was lost and, in fact, the Army of Northern Virginia would continue to fight for nearly two more years. It was the events taking place the very same day 1,000 miles in Vicksburg to the west that doomed the Confederacy and insured their defeat.
In late August 1872 in New York City, a young pregnant woman named Alice Augusta Bowlsby read an advertisement in the newspaper for a Dr. Ascher. The advertisement stated that Dr. Ascher could help “[l]adies in trouble, guaranteed immediate relief, sure and safe; no fee required until perfectly satisfied; elegant rooms and nursing provided.” Bowlsby went to Ascher’s office where he performed an abortion. Bowlsby died from Ascher’s botched abortion, and her tragic death provided an opportunity for New York’s organized Regulars to open the debate for medical licensing.
Bowlsby’s death captured the attention of the New York Times and the New York Herald because the details of her death were incredibly salacious. After Bowlsby died, Ascher attempted to hide the woman’s death by shipping her body in a ramshackle trunk to Chicago by train. After an alert railroad employee searched the trunk, police authorities were quickly contacted and conducted an autopsy on the body. The coroner determined that the young woman died from several “severe lacerations” that “had been sustained in the attempt to affect an abortion.” The police quickly ascertained the identity of the young women and tracked down Jacob Rosenzweig, a 39-year-old Polish physician. The police learned that Rosenzweig practiced in New York City under the name Dr. Ascher.
On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrender his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, effectively ending the American Civil War. The four years of bloody carnage forever altered the course of the nation. Perhaps the pivotal period in American History, the Civil War was led by some of the most renowned figures in American History.
The library of texts pertaining to the Civil War Era ranges from scholarly research to pure fiction. Some of the most informative works come in the biography genre. The countless memoirs and autobiographies are essential to professional researchers and historians and have proved indispensable to the modern biographer. Cohesively combining letters, memoirs, reports, and oral histories is a monumental task for the biographer; yet when successfully completed, a Civil War biography brings the 19th century legends to life. Below is our list of the biographies essential to library of any student of the Civil War.
It is estimated that 56,000 Texans served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, yet the approximately 4,000 men, organized into thirty-two companies that formed the Texas Brigade, were the only Texans who fought in both theaters of operation. They have been compared to the famous Stonewall Brigade in terms of bravery, skill, and fortitude. As was the case with numerous troops throughout the war, the actions of the Texas Brigade directly contributed to the outcome of certain battles and the general course of history.
Although the Texas Brigade participated in renowned battles such as Gettysburg and Antietam, the achievement for which they are most acclaimed occurred during the Peninsula Campaign at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill.
The imposing John Bell Hood was born in Owingsville, Kentucky in 1831, yet was a self-declared Texan. He had travelled extensively through Texas and was impressed with the possibilities the state held. Additionally, he was dismayed that his home state of Kentucky remained neutral rather than joining the Confederate States of America. (C.S.A.) Hood was a West Point graduate, class of 1853, yet was able to maintain a frontier attitude, which immediately endeared him to his men.
Colonial Americans enjoyed relative independence from England until 1763, which marked the cessation of the Seven Years’ War. Prior to that time, the British government had paid little attention to the domestic affairs conducted by their American colonists. The war was costly; however, and England deemed it appropriate that American colonies contribute to the war debt and the costs associated with stationing British troops on American soil. The British government assessed taxes on the colonies yet denied colonists the right to Parliamentary representation in the House of Commons. As a result, Americans saw themselves as being subordinates to the Crown rather than as equal members of the British Empire, thus prompting the colonists to rebel against their mother country in the name of liberty. Parliament’s actions fostered a sense of rebellion amongst the inhabitants of America, while Thomas Paine unleashed a patriotic fervor throughout the colonies that solidified a nation.
Englishmen and Americans alike were filled with British pride following the successful conclusion of the Seven Years’ War. Americans, who were separated both geographically and governmentally from England, felt a renewed sense of kinship with their British brethren. This attitude began to change when King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited colonial expansion west of the Appalachian Mountains. Not accustomed to Crown intervention pertaining to domestic affairs, agitation began to stir amongst rebellious colonists.
The Second Continental Congress voted unanimously to put George Washington in charge of the Continental Army in 1775. Washington was only 43 years old at the time, a gentleman planter and local Virginian politician. He had not served in the military for over 20 years and his military service records was not particularly distinguished. What qualified Washington for the supreme confidence the young American rebels placed in him?
George Washington entered the working world in his teens as an enthusiastic young surveyor. He especially enjoyed working on the frontier in western Virginia, mapping the unsettled lands controlled by his neighbor, William Fairfax. Washington’s brother, Lawrence, also happened to be married to Fairfax’s daughter. When George was 19, Lawrence died of tuberculosis and Fairfax took it upon himself to give George a leg up on life.  He urged Governor Robert Dinwiddie to appoint Washington as an adjutant in the Virginia militia, a position of varied responsibilities, mostly teaching the rowdy underclasses how to be soldiers.
At that time in 1753 the French and English were jostling for position to exploit the western lands of America beyond the Appalachian Mountains. When Dinwiddie got word that the French were building forts at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela rivers (modern day Pittsburgh) he sent his 20-year old aide on an expedition with a letter informing the French of the British claims in the region. The French thanked Washington for coming, put him up for three days and sent him back to the Virginia capital of Williamsburg with a notice that they planned on staying. 
Whose blood was spilled December 13, 1862 on the battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia? During the American Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg was but one meeting ground of Irish immigrants from both the Union and Confederacy. Once fellow countrymen, these soldiers were forced to assume new perspectives on their identities amidst the chaos of war. The ability to consider themselves Irish immigrants vanished when they donned a blue or gray uniform. With the Battle of Fredericksburg as an example, where the predominantly Irish 24th Georgia regiment of the Confederate States of America (CSA) engaged the Irish Brigade of the Union Army in battle, ethnicity clashed with nationality.
Once the first shots were fired, these men were no longer Irish brethren; they became enemy combatants. The Irish soldiers, who defined themselves primarily through ethnicity, were instantly adopting a new national identity; therefore, the blood spilled on that tragic day was that of Confederates and Americans. The bodies that filled those blue and gray uniforms were no longer Irishmen as nationality prevailed over ethnicity.