Share This Article

Now there’s a beer to go with your hardtack

Ever wondered what beer tasted like in 1862? A new parade of palate-ticklers born from a collaboration between a Frederick, Md., brewery and the National Civil War Museum of Medicine may taste much like the stuff soldiers drank 150 years ago. The first batch, named Antietam Ale, went on sale in October, and the next one, Proclamation Porter, will be released in January.

The museum staff began by passing along 19th-century sources for beer recipes to Monocacy Brewing Company, which opened in Frederick in August. After some tinkering, the brew master eventually came up with nine beers and ales that will be brewed during the Sesquicentennial.

The first ale, on tap at Brewer’s Alley in Frederick, drew an enthusiastic response for its ruby color and edgy taste. The label, which shows the famous Burnside Bridge at Antietam, offers this explanation of its name: “It is fitting for Antietam Ale to be a classic bitter. The battle caused England to abandon its plan for mediation between the North and South. As opposed to unwelcome mediation, this ale is well balanced and has a light hop and malty aroma. Ruby red is the color and true to Civil War beers, it is lower in alcohol so more can be enjoyed.”

Civil War brews not only adjusted attitudes, but also helped fund the war through a dollar-a-keg excise tax. A levy on beer, spirits, tobacco and other items—as well as the nation’s first federal income tax—were created by President Lincoln and Congress to finance the war.

Today’s craft beers are part of a long tradition of American brewing that dates back to the 19th-century surge in German immigrants, who made beer more popular than hard cider. By the 1870s, there were 3,200 U.S. breweries. Today there are more than 2,000. All but 45 of the new outfits are craft breweries.

Missouri Opens New Park Honoring the 1st Kansas

Kansas can rightfully claim the first black Union regiment— formed in August 1862—but Missouri gets credit for the first battle in which the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers fought. Between October 27 and 29, 1862, fighting took place at Island Mound, about 70 miles south of Kansas City, Mo., and about seven miles from the Missouri–Kansas border. The site is actually a hill, not an island.

In October 2012, the Battle of Island Mound Park opened, honoring the 1st Kansas and its successful fight against Confederate guerrillas, a battle that saw the first death of a black Union soldier. The unit was raised by Kansas Sen. James Lane, who also served as a general in the Kansas state militia. In 1862 it was operating illegally, since President Lincoln had yet to approve the recruitment of slaves and freemen. Once the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, the 1st Kansas was recruited into Union service, and was eventually renamed the 79th United States Colored Troops.

Pittsburgh Marks Tragedy of 1862 Arsenal Explosion

An exhibit commemorating the worst civilian accident of the Civil War—an explosion that killed 78 workers at the Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh—opened on September 17 at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh. The display coincides with the 150th anniversary of the tragedy, which harmed 158 workers, most of whom were Irish immigrant women and girls. Artifacts on display include the presentation sword worn by an officer serving at the arsenal, cannonballs discovered at the site in 1972 and examples of the type of paper cartridges made at the arsenal. News of the explosion was overshadowed by the Battle of Antietam, which occurred the same day and resulted in more than 23,000 casualties.

Rare Artifacts and Diverse Perspectives Showcased in D.C. Exhibit

On November 12, 2012, the Library of Congress launched “The Civil War in America” in the Thomas Jefferson Building, along with a new blog explaining the showcased items. For those who can’t come to Washington, D.C., to see the exhibit, the blog will feature a wealth of first-person accounts from letters, diaries and unpublished memoirs. The material will be drawn from both Union and Confederate records, and from notable as well as ordinary observers.

Historical background for each entry appears in a link to the text shown in the exhibit. The blog—which can be found at—will post material twice a week until the show closes on June 1, 2013.

Abraham Lincoln’s own reading copy of the Second Inaugural Address is part of the exhibit, along with a finely detailed map of the Shenandoah Valley that Jedediah Hotchkiss made at the request of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

More than 75 items from the library’s collection, including some never before exhibited, are on display.

Charleston Harbor Battlefield Mapped

Following four years of research, a team of University of South Carolina archaeologists recently completed an underwater survey of Charleston Harbor. The survey provided historical and archaeological detail of the prolonged struggle for control of the harbor between 1861 and 1865. Among the team’s discoveries was the First Stone Fleet, a group of New England whaling and merchant vessels that the Union filled with stone and intentionally sank to prevent Confederate blockade runners from entering the harbor. Another find pinpointed the remains of blockade-runners that had been sunk near Sullivan’s Island.

The National Park Service funded the project through an American Battlefield Protection grant, with matching funds from USC.

Facebook Helps Finger Vandals of Historic Cannon

Footage from hidden cameras showing vandals defacing a cannon in Kentucky has led to five arrests. Officials at the Cumberland Gap National Park in Middlesboro also managed to get leads from photographs that had been posted on Facebook of people harming the cannon, one of three on display at the park.

Names, initials and declarations of love had been scratched into the venerable weapon, which was deployed in the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The defacing was done repeatedly: As soon as staff members painted it over, new graffiti appeared. Those found guilty of damaging government property face fines and will have to pay restitution to the park.

The park, located at the point where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet, has intact rifle trenches and earthworks, as well as old military roads. During the war, the Gap had great strategic value because the railroad turned south through it to reach Tennessee. President Lincoln was aware of the region’s significance, and by mid-1863 it was under Union control. The Gap would remain in Federal hands until the war’s end.

D.C. to have statue of Douglass at Capitol

A bronze statue of writer, editor, orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass is headed for the U.S. Capitol. For years Washington, D.C., which has no voting representative in Congress, has asked to display a statue in the Capitol, as each of the 50 states does. The request has been repeatedly refused because D.C. is not a state. This past September, President Barack Obama signed bipartisan legislation approving placement of the sculpture in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol visitor’s center. Donated by the District government, the statue has been on display in a government building since 2007. Douglass, who escaped from slavery at age 20, spent the last 23 years of his life in D.C. His Cedar Hills home in Anacostia was named a national historic site in 1962.

Originally published in the February 2013 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.