Paradise Lost: A Poet in the Political Labyrinth

During the nineteenth century, it was not unusual for promi­nent literary figures – authors, playwrights and, of course, poet laureates­ – to be awarded diplomatic posts as honors. Perhaps these appointments lent prestige to administrations or helped lessen suggestions of rank patronage. Writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was one of the best examples; he held several custom house...
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John Frederick Hartranft Papers

Although little recognized today, John Frederick Hartranft (1830-1889) did make his mark in the history of the Commonwealth and the nation as governor and as general. Born near Norristown, Montgomery County, he attended college, practiced law, and in 1861 entered the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War. His dedication to the military was unswerving. He was commissioned colonel of the...
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A New Birth of Freedom

President Lincoln listened patiently to Everett’s lengthy speech, noting the powerful cadence of his delivery. Then he rose, his lanky frame casting a shadow across the lectern. He reached into a pocket of his black frock coat and withdrew a single sheet of paper. He began his address with words that have since become immortal. A crowd of nearly fifteen thousand dignitaries, spectators,...
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Supporting the Troops: Soldiers’ Right to Vote in Civil War Pennsylvania

As the presidential election of 1864 neared, the eyes of politicians in the North turned warily towards the armies of the Union. During the previous two years, nineteen northern states had passed legislation permitting volunteers to vote in the field, and many politicians believed that the soldiers’ votes would determine whether President Abraham Lincoln would be reelected in November....
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The Union League of Philadelphia and the Civil War


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William C. Kashatus: Bringing History to Life

A Man for All Centuries “Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia and Africa hath expelled her. O, receive the fugitive and prepare it for all mankind!” exclaims William C. (Bill) Kashatus with fists stabbing the air. In this instance, Bill is passionately portraying Thomas Paine (1737–1809), the bellicose British radical who advocated the American Revolution. Much of Bill’s passion...
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A Forgotten Hero of the Civil War

At seven o’clock on Thursday evening, April 18, 1861, approximately 475 Pennsylvania citizens-turned-soldiers, comprising the ranks of five volunteer militia companies, arrived in Washington D.C., to protect the nation’s capital. The first shots of the American Civil War were fired less than a week earlier at Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, and it had been just...
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General Meade’s Press Warfare!

Not all the skirmishes and engagements of the American Civil War were fought on the battlefield. Many were waged in popular publications of the day, pitting war correspondents against high-ranking officers in a war of words. One Union commander who waged his own intensely bitter war with the established press and held the Fourth Estate in contempt throughout the entire rebellion was Major...
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The Rise and Fall of “Young Napoleon”

On Wednesday evening, November 13, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln paid a visit to the residence of George Brinton McClellan (1826–1885), who he had recently appointed general in chief of the Union Army. Located on Lafayette Square, near the White House, McClellan’s luxurious dwelling also served as his Washington, D.C., headquarters. Accompanied by Secretary of State William H. Seward...
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