A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy book cover

Five Things About A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy

In writing A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans: 1862, I was excited to be able to delve into the way each side handled or mishandled the defense or capture of New Orleans in this important chapter of Civil War history. But my research added another layer to this narrative. Here are five interesting things I discovered while writing my new book. 1. Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip Forts Jackson and St. Philip are key elements in the story. I had taken guests there before, but going there to research and write about the campaign gave me a new perspective. Regarding the vast expanse of water, the currents and even the chop of small waves reminds one of how close to the Gulf of Mexico we are. Fort Jackson is seventy miles south of New Orleans, but in a different world. Commercial shrimpers, oystermen and fishermen make a living in this area and there is a healthy citrus industry. Touring the inside of the well-restored fort one can imagine the tumult and hellish fire and shelling that occurred here during the battle between the entrenched Confederates and the attacking Union fleet. The Fort Jackson Museum…

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A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy book cover

Mark Bielski’s New Book A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862 is Here!

I am excited to announce that my new book, A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862, has just been released! It is the latest in the Emerging Civil War Series by publisher Savas Beatie. As noted in the forward by Gerald J. Prokopowicz, a professor of history at East Carolina University and host of the Civil War Talk Radio podcast, “With this book, Mark joins the ranks of Emerging Civil War Series authors at Savas Beatie, which is producing a series that excels at bringing forward new voices in Civil War scholarship. As a New Orleanian, and a professional trained history, Dr. Mark Bielski is ideally qualified to tell the story of what happened to the Crescent City in the first full year of the Civil War.” About A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862 Early in the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln stressed the strategic importance of the Mississippi River. He knew that ultimately the Union would have to capture New Orleans to control that waterway. As the largest city in the South—and third largest in the U.S.—New Orleans was the key to the Mississippi and commercial gateway for…

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Anaconda Plan

Civil War New Orleans: Prelude to Conflict

A comparative look at the economic differences between the Confederate states and those of the Union shows a staggering disparity. SEE COMPARATIVE CHART The Southern states had few advantages, except in certain agricultural areas and any semblance of parity here, arose from the Border States, primarily Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri. These three states were divided between Union and Confederacy in sympathies, and more concretely in supplying officers and men under arms.  Nevertheless, they remained in the Union and are represented accordingly in terms of these resource statistics. Wars are costly—certainly in terms of life and devastation of property—and since they are, those who wage them need money and goods to collect and trade. The chief cash crop for the South was cotton, to a lesser extent tobacco was significant but cotton was king.  King Cotton was one of the Confederacy’s mainstays and sources of income.  However, to collect payment for this white gold, the seller must be able to get it to market.  The textile mills of New England and for that matter, Old England, became starved for raw cotton.  And, because in 1860, the southern United States produced 90% of the world’s cotton, the mills became idle and workers went…

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Louisiana Governor Thomas O. Moore

New Orleans Prepares

10 April 1861, Governor Thomas Overton Moore and his staff were preparing for the inevitable conflict.  The Civil War had not yet begun, Fort Sumter was a few days away.  But Just two days earlier, Daniel W. Adams, of the New Orleans Military Board, had notified President Davis that Union ships had conducted a reconnaissance operation in the waters off Forts St. Philip and Jackson thereby suggesting that they were preparing for an attack of sorts.  Adams was a newspaper man who had once killed a man in a duel for criticizing his editorial work.   Known for his directness, he did not equivocate in his message.  The precognition of pending if not imminent danger from the Federal Navy began when the people of New Orleans learned that a large naval fleet had assembled and sailed from New York at the first of the month. Louisiana had seceded at the end of January, but the undertaking of adequate preparations for the defense of the city was nowhere near completion.  Governor Moore was not a military man, but he and those around him recognized the need for military authority and the martialing of resources in the region.  He specifically requested of the…

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Edmund Ruffin

The Civil War: April 1861

11-14 April – Charleston, SC -Thursday to Sunday. A South Carolina delegation of three men delivered a demand for surrender to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The message was from Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and stated that they intended to take “possession of a fortification commanding the entrance of one of their harbors . . . necessary to its defense and security.” They let Anderson know that they would not fire upon his position if he advised them of the time of the evacuation of the Union troops stationed there. Anderson replied that he also would not fire except in response., but that he would evacuate on 15 April if he did not receive supplies coming from the Federal government. The Confederates were aware that a supply ship was en route and deemed the answer unsatisfactory. At 0430 on Friday a signal shot opened a barrage from the other batteries in rotation. Anderson had a garrison of 85 officers and men as well as over forty laborers who worked in the fort. They began to return fire at 0700. On Saturday, after thirty-four hours of bombardment, a rash of fires and destruction, and some minor injuries, Fort…

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Civil War Surgery

Civil War Medicine Podcast

This week on my History with Mark Bielski podcast, Dr. Kenneth Rettig joins me in a continuation of our discussion on medicine during the Civil War. We look into a comparison of medical techniques, remedies and emergency treatments then and now in the modern military. Check out an earlier episode, “Civil War Medicine: Practices Then and Now,” for a deeper dive into a subject that has fascinated historians for decades. LISTEN NOW>> Excerpt From a Medical Report After Antietam Gross misrepresentations of the conduct of medical officers have been made and scattered broadcast over the country, causing deep and heart-rending anxiety to those who had friends or relatives in the army, who might at any moment require the services of a surgeon. It is not to be supposed that there were no incompetent surgeons in the army. It is certainly true that there were; but these sweeping denunciations against a class of men who will favorably compare with the military surgeons of any country, because of the incompetency and short-comings of a few, are wrong, and do injustice to a body of men who have labored faithfully and well. It is easy to magnify an existing evil until it is…

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Finnish soliders in the snow WWII

History Happenings Winter: Civil War, WWII, Russian Revolution

This month, I cover events that have happened in history during winter, from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century to 1940, when all of Europe was in a deep freeze, to rival the recent polar vortex. The Civil War was brewing as the states of the Deep South seceded to form the Confederacy in 1861, and the last battle of the War of 1812 took place right downriver from the city of New Orleans. We see Finland stand up to the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution and we even share a few notes about how quisling has become synonymous with “collaborator” or “treachery” or just plain Treason. 17th Century At the end of January in 1695, Mustafa II became the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul on the death of Amhed II. His main goal was to restore the territories that the Turks had lost on the European continent in the previous two decades or so. Really it started in September 1683 when Polish King Jan Sobieski smashed the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna. He and his allies, the Holy League, comprised of the Holy Roman Empire and smaller surrounding states, began to push the Turks back after that. While Mustafa…

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Coming June 28 – Leadership Part II

Prof. Harry Laver returns to continue the discussion on the essential qualities of Leadership, leaders who embody them—and some leaders who do not—and his book edited with Jeffrey J. Matthews, The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. from Goodreads.com   What essential leadership lessons do we learn by distilling the actions and ideas of great military commanders such as George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell? That is the fundamental question underlying The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. The book illustrates that great leaders become great through conscious effort — a commitment not only to develop vital skills but also to surmount personal shortcomings. Harry S. Laver, Jeffrey J. Matthews, and the other contributing authors identify nine core characteristics of highly effective leadership, such as integrity, determination, vision, and charisma, and nine significant figures in American military history whose careers embody those qualities. The Art of Command examines each figure’s strengths and weaknesses and how those attributes affected their leadership abilities, offering a unique perspective of military leadership in American history. Laver and Matthews have assembled a list of contributors from military, academic, and professional circles, which allows the book…

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D-Day Deception

On this week’s episode of History with Mark Bielski, ”Operation Overlord/Deception Plans,” in honor of D-Day, I discuss Operation Overlord, the planning of the D-Day invasion, and the deception operations. This podcast includes excerpts from Dr. Stephen Ambrose’s lectures on WWII. You will also want to listen to my two-part interview with D-Day veteran, Mort Sheffloe (July 12 and 26, 2017 episodes). Last year, Mort traveled with me on a tour and we discussed his WWII experiences in Normandy and Brittany in 1944. Some of the interviews took place while walking the sands of Utah and Omaha Beaches and at nearby cafes. Podcasts

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May Historical Events: Civil War

1856 Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, an outspoken abolitionist, gave an oration attacking not only the institution of slavery, but two Senators personally, Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina for supporting it in his “Crime Against Kansas” speech. Three days later, South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks, Butler’s cousin, entered the chamber and severely beat Sumner with a cane.  The bleeding and unconscious Sumner had to be carried from the floor, while Brooks walked away unscathed.  The “Caning” incident made Sumner a martyr in the North, while many Southerners proclaimed Brooks a champion for defending the honor of his relative. 1863 On 2 May in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, General Stonewall Jackson executed a brilliant flanking attack on the Union right.  In a surprise attack, his Confederates smashed into and routed the Union XI Corps under General Oliver O. Howard.  That night, while leading a group of officers on a night reconnaissance ride, Jackson was mistakenly wounded by friendly fire. A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862 I am excited to announce that my new book, A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862, has just been released!…

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