Beer and Bullets: The History of Beer in the Civil War

 Generals Andrew A. Humphreys, Henry Slocum, William B. Franklin, William F. Barry, John Newton, and others gathered near a keg of beer at Cumberland Landing, Va, in May of 1862.

Generals Andrew A. Humphreys, Henry Slocum, William B. Franklin, William F. Barry, John Newton, and others gathered near a keg of beer at Cumberland Landing, Va, in May of 1862.

From the newsletter of the American Battlefield Trust

Sawbones. Crazy Bet. Killer Angel. These are just some of the names of beers that today bear names inspired by the Civil War. Along with historical names, breweries throughout the nation have also chosen Civil War inspired locations or recipes, and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine has even teamed up with a brewery to create its own unique, history-themed beer. It is tempting to think that this easy relationship between beer and these people and places dates back to the war itself. Yet, the story of beer, brewers, and breweries in the American Civil War is a bit more complex than it appears. Just as this is a story of water, hops, and barley, it is also a story of religion, politics, and what it means to be an American.

Beer’s place in the Civil War begins in the 1850s, during the influx of German immigrants who came largely to the North seeking refuge from political persecution and poverty following the revolutions that broke out in Germany in 1848 and 1849. Upon arriving in the United States, a number of German immigrants found and joined the growing market for beer in German-heavy cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. Yet, this growing industry clashed with the religiously-inspired temperance movement, nativism, and anti-Catholic sentiment that were also prevalent during the 1850s. Aside from the Know-Nothings, a political party dedicated to xenophobia and anti-Catholicism, the Whigs hated alcohol and immigrants and the Democrats supported slavery, an institution that many previously oppressed Germans disliked. Uncertain in their political identity, some German immigrants turned to the new Republican party, which opposed slavery and temperance but remained noncommittal on immigrants. Xenophobia and temperance became intertwined as politicians and social reformers alike blamed German immigrants and the alcohol they brought with them for the nation’s growing issues.

Regardless of pre-war nativism, Germans throughout the country enlisted by the thousands once war came, ultimately forming 10% of the Union army and a sizeable market for beer. Regulations on the prevalence of the beverage among the troops began as early as September 1861, orders which were a result largely of some commanding officers’ sympathy to the temperance movement and the boisterous and sometimes violent outcomes of soldiers’ access to the drink. These early regulations had little impact on the German regiments of the Union armies, however, as their officers (who were commonly Germans themselves) allowed their soldiers access to beer for cultural reasons. 

Unfortunately, this allowance only served to deepen the dislike that many American soldiers felt for their German counterparts. At first, the lack of beer drove American soldiers into German camps hoping for access to their supply; however, resulting behavioral problems among the American troops encamped near German units only inspired greater dislike among American and temperance-minded officers, as well as more stringent restrictions on beer for German units. As an increasing number of sutlers faced pressure to stop selling beer, German regiments began guarding their supply more closely, furthering the divide between German and American soldiers.

Union German soldiers across both theaters of war largely maintained this access to beer for the first two years of the war. Soldiers stationed in large western cities with a large German presence, such as St. Louis and New Orleans, found this access to be particularly easy, as a few breweries proved willing to donate kegs of their product to the cause. By late 1863, however, even German soldiers around the generous breweries of these cities found their access cut off due to increased army regulations. Officers ordered the closure of businesses selling all intoxicating beverages near army encampments, limiting the importation and sale of small quantities of alcohol to pharmacies, doctors, and hotels. By the brutal final years of the war, beer was a rare luxury item for all soldiers of the Union, regardless of nationality

Unlike the Union, the Confederacy had few German immigrants, which in turn resulted in a general disinterest toward beer and a cultural preference for whiskey. For the few Germans that did fight for the South, however, beer continued to play an important role in their identity. As one soldier recounted, Union German prison guards in St. Louis shared beer with their Confederate German inmates in recognition of their shared heritage. After the war, the regional loyalties of many wartime Germans faded in the face of continued nativist sentiment and an apparent unappreciation for their role in the war. As the rest of the nation struggled to reunite during Reconstruction, German immigrants drew together to forge a German-American identity that continues to resonate to this day. Today, some commercial beers still bear German names, including some from brewers, like Anheuser-Busch, that survived the Civil War. Microbreweries also speak to this history, continuing a legacy started so long ago by the German immigrants of the 1840s and 50s.

The Confederacy was built on slavery. How can so many Southern whites still believe otherwise?

 Frank Earnest is chief of heritage defense for the Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Frank Earnest is chief of heritage defense for the Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Story by Paul Duggan


NOVEMBER 28, 2018

In July, a 62-year-old white man named Frank Earnest, one of the country’s most ardent defenders of Confederate monuments, traveled 200 miles from his Virginia home to Washington, D.C., and got in line at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. You could say he stood out among the throng of visitors, most of them black. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Frank sported a thatch of chin whiskers straight from a daguerreotype — an ample goatee reminiscent of that of Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett, a rebel hero of his. In the lobby, as he emptied his pockets at a metal detector, I waited for the attendant, a cordial woman, to notice his key fob, bearing the Confederate flag and the legend “Don’t Mess With Dixie.”

She flashed him a wary glance: “Don’t mess with Dixie? What’s that supposed to mean?” Frank, a spokesman for the nation’s largest Confederate heritage group, replied evenly, “Means don’t mess with Dixie.” Otherwise, he managed to hold his tongue, a triumph of willpower in his case. With the legacy of his rebel ancestors under constant assault by “nutty liberals,” and with the future of Confederate monuments in jeopardy, he is easily irritated and given to bitter sarcasm. As usual, Frank, in a gray suit, wore an array of Confederacy-themed lapel pins, including two replicas of the flag. I suggested he take them off to avoid any hard feelings in the museum, but he refused. “It would be hypocritical of me,” he declared, breathing heavily as he lumbered toward an escalator. Frank, who is slowed by dire respiratory ailments, paused to rest against a wall, and as he leaned there, defiantly unreconstructed, he seemed a museum piece in his own right, a living relic up from the post-bellum ashes.

I had invited him here for a specific purpose — the same reason I had been spending time with him over the previous 10 months, trekking to far-flung Confederate historical sites. Frank is “chief of heritage defense” for the Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans. Like others in the Sons, he insists that he is not racist and that the Civil War was not, fundamentally, about slavery. These days, you can find men (and women) like him at government meetings all over the South, fighting to keep Old Dixie, in granite and bronze, alive in the public square. You can hear them espousing a pseudo-history, the gauzy fiction of the Lost Cause, which soft-pedals the atrocities of slavery and accentuates Confederate grievance and gallantry…


UNC’s ‘Silent Sam’ Could Be Coming Back to Campus. Here’s What to Know

UNC’s ‘Silent Sam’ Could Be Coming Back to Campus. Here’s What to Know

On Monday, the university’s Board of Trustees unveiled a controversial proposal to build a “history and education” center to house the Confederate monument


 August 20, 2018 file photo showing police standing guard after the Confederate statue Silent Sam was toppled by protesters on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

By Brigit Katz


DECEMBER 5, 2018

Several hundred protesters marched on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus Monday night hours after the university’s Board of Trustees announced its proposal to build a $5.3 million facility to house a Confederate monument known as "Silent Sam," which was toppled from its pedestal on campus in August.

Since then, the statue has been stored in an undisclosed location while the board deliberated on its fate. The board's solution, put forth this week, proposes building a $5.3 million "history and education" facility to house the controversial monument—a plan that has angered those who believe the statue should be removed from the campus entirely, reports the Associated Press.

UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and several trustees said they wanted to take Silent Sam off campus, but were bound by a 2015 state law that prohibits the removal of historic monuments, unless relocation is necessary for preservation purposes or due to construction projects. The law also stipulates that if a statue is permanently relocated, it must be moved “to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access.”
Returning the statue to its outdoor location on the main campus was, according to Folt, “impossible” due to safety concerns. The new proposal recommends building an indoor education center that will tell the “full history of this university, from before settlement to its emergence this day as one of the leading public state research universities in America,” according to Folt, as CNN’s Eric Levenson and Amir Vera report. The facility will be open to the public and protections of buffers and security will be put in place. In addition to the $5.3 million construction costs, the building will require $800,000 annually to maintain its operations.

Officials proposed placing the monument south of the university’s hospital, located about a mile away from where Silent Sam once stood. According to the proposal, the new site will be “the next area of growth for campus.”

News of the board’s recommendation led to demonstrators converging at the barricaded area that formerly housed the monument on Monday night. There was a heavy police presence at the site, and when the assembled crowd began pushing on the barricades, officers put on riot gear. Maya Little, a graduate student and prominent activist, was arrested in connection with the protest. Another graduate student faced numerous charges, including assaulting a police officer.

Explaining the unrest on campus, associate professor of art Cary Levine told Levenson and Vera that students were “riled up and just don't understand why the university is committing to building a $5.3 million building to house what to them is a symbol of pain and white supremacy.”

“I think that I sympathize with that point of view,” Levine added.

Silent Sam was erected on the UNC campus in 1913, with support from the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The statue depicts a soldier holding a gun without ammunition—which is why the statue is known as “Silent Sam”—and a panel on the side of the monument shows a woman, representing the state, urging a student to join the fight for the Confederacy.

The final say in what happens to the monument rests with the Board of Governors, a body that oversees the state-wide university system. The board will consider the issue when it meets on December 14.

Read more:

Gettysburg Winter Lecture Series ~ Saturdays & Sundays ~ January thru March

Gettysburg NMP will hold it annual Winter Lecture Series
Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.
January 5th through March 31st, 2019
Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center

National Park Service rangers and leading historians from across the country offer free hour-long talks exploring important aspects of the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Can’t make it to Gettysburg? All Winter Lectures will be made available on the
Gettysburg National Military Park YouTube Page

See below or click here for complete listing of lectures.

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Shiloh National Military Park To Redesign Exhibits In Visitor Center

Shiloh National Military Park To Redesign Exhibits In Visitor Center

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By NPT Staff on November 12th, 2018
National Parks Traveler

A redesign of the visitor center exhibits at Shiloh National Military Park is getting under way with meetings to gain public input to what should be considered/NPS

Interpreting, and presenting, history is a key role of the National Park Service. So while the prospect of designing new exhibits for the Shiloh National Military Park visitor center might sound relatively ho-hum, the opportunity to update 30-year-old exhibits describing and explaining the events that occurred at Shiloh in 1862 is enticing.

After all, the battle of Shiloh in April 1862 marked the first significant battle between the North and South in the Civil War's western theater. 

"The current exhibits in the visitor center are 30 years old and are no longer effective,” said Superintendent Dale Wilkerson. “New exhibits are needed to provide interpretive approaches that are based on park themes, that reflect current scholarship and multiple perspectives, and that are accessible. As part of the design process, there will be public meetings to provide the community with opportunities for learning about the development of the new exhibits and for providing input as the design moves forward. It is important for us to include the local community in the process as we move forward with the revisions to the center.”

The public is invited to attend a kickoff meeting for the major redesign of the exhibits and exhibit area on November 27 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the visitor center auditorium.

In September, the National Park Service’s Harpers Ferry Design Center awarded a contract in the amount of $639,700 to Formations, Inc., of Portland, Oregon, to provide planning, design, fabrication, and installation services for the visitor center. The task is to develop exhibits that feature artifacts from the park’s collection, interactive and tactile experiences, and audiovisual presentations that provide visitors with opportunities to make meaningful connections to the park and its story. The designers will also provide recommendations for any architectural changes in the facility needed to accommodate the new elements.

At this meeting, the designers and park staff will introduce the project to the public and listen to comments and ideas regarding the new exhibition. In a few months, the designers will return to present several alternative approaches to the design for consideration and public comment, as the park moves toward the selection of a final alternative. The entire project is slated to be completed by April 6, 2021.

Facial Recognition Software Helping Identify Unknown Figures in Civil War Photos

Facial Recognition Software Is Helping Identify Unknown Figures in Civil War Photographs

Civil War Photo Sleuth aims to be the world’s largest, most complete digital archive of identified and unidentified Civil War-era portraits

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By Meilan Solly

from an article in 
November 21, 2018

A new facial recognition application pioneered by computer scientist and historian Kurt Luther peers into the past—specifically the American Civil War—to identify anonymous portrait sitters captured in thousands of photographs taken over the course of the bloody four-year conflict.

As Erica X. Eisen reports for SlateCivil War Photo Sleuth (CWPS) is a three-pronged collaboration launched in August by Luther and his Virginia Tech students; editor Ron Coddington of Military Images; and Paul Quigley, director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. The project, as Luther detailed in a 2017 article for Military Images, features a digital photo archive, research tools and a thriving online community.

Users can contribute their own images from personal collections or upload snapshots spotted in books, museums, cultural institutions, shops and miscellaneous sites across the world. These photographs then join thousands held in national and state archives accessible to the public, enabling CWPS to work toward its goal of becoming the world’s largest, most complete digital archive of identified and unidentified Civil War-era portraits.

According to Slate’s Eisen, CWPS’ software identifies up to 27 “facial landmarks” in every uploaded photograph. If participating sleuths want to learn more about a certain mystery figure, they can narrow down their search by filtering images for details such as unit rank and insignia (colonels fighting for the Union side, for example, wore distinctive shoulder straps with an eagle), photographer details, and inscriptions. Once the system gathers all known information, it cross-references the image with all of the photos in CWPS’ database (which includes 15,000 reference images already identified) to present potential facial matches and, if known, names.

Writing for Military Images, Luther says that the array of facial landmarks used to compare photographs enables CWPS to find matches even if a soldier’s facial hair changes or an existing snapshot captures him from a different angle. This feat is made all the more impressive by the limitations of Civil War images. By the start of the war, photographers were beginning to develop prints from negatives, a delicate process that nevertheless opened up the possibilities of the nascent medium. As Eisen of Slate notes, in addition to the quality and coloring of these images, there were an array of limitations that make it a challenge to identify historical photographs today. Take, for instance, the prevalence of thick beards and mustaches, which could obscure vital facial features.

CWPS has already identified more than 75 photographs and has hundreds more catalogued for eventual identification. The process of identifying unknown figures in Civil War-era photographs requires amateur detectives to draw on an arsenal of tools and skills: As Luther writes in a separate Military Images piece, researchers often augment print resources with a growing body of online data, including genealogical charts, military records and photographic archives, as well as tips offered by burgeoning communities of sleuthing enthusiasts.

Luther has set the highly ambitious goal of identifying every photo in the project’s database. While there are numerous difficulties associated with meeting such a goal, Luther embraces the challenge.

In 2013, he successfully tracked down a portrait of Oliver Croxton, his own great-great-great grand uncle. Describing the search in a 2015 column for Military Images, he summed up the mission driving CWPS, saying, “Every discovery has an impact.”

David Vela Sails Through Senate Confirmation Hearing To Become NPS Director

David Vela Sails Through Senate Confirmation Hearing To Become National Park Service Director


From National Parks Traveler

By Kurt Repanshek on November 15th, 2018

Grand Teton Superintendent David Vela encountered few tough questions Thursday during his confirmation hearing to become director of the National Park Service/NPS

David Vela encountered little turbulence Thursday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pledging to set the standard for accountability and transparency as director of the National Park Service.

On issues ranging from sexual misconduct and other forms of harassment to addressing the nearly $12 billion backlog of maintenance needs across the National Park System, Vela, currently Grand Teton National Park's superintendent, essentially said the buck stops with him.

"I think it starts with the individual, and if confirmed, setting the example as director, setting the bar as to what is not acceptable," Vela replied when U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, pointed to ethical transgressions in the Interior Department, singling out ongoing investigations into Secretary Ryan Zinke's behavior, and asked what he would change to deal with "this spree of unethical behavior" if confirmed.

"It starts at the top. If confirmed I will provide that leadership," added Vela.

Sen. Wyden was not satisifed, though, saying he couldn't support the nomination unless Vela specifically addressed how he would change what the senator viewed as lackluster regard for ethical behavior.

If confirmed, Vela would become the first Latino to rise to the directorship of the Park Service. He was nominated for the director's job on August 31. Before becoming superintendent at Grand Teton in 2014, Vela worked in Washington, D.C., as the Park Service's associate director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion. He oversaw NPS programs including Human Resources, Learning and Development, Equal Opportunity, Youth, and the Office of Relevancy, Diversity & Inclusion. Prior to that, he was director of the agency's Southeast Region based in Atlanta.

Vela, should the Senate confirm him, will take the reins of an agency that has been struggling with a staggering deferred maintenance backlog, and low morale among a workforce that has grappled with sexual harassment issues, low pay, work-life balance inequity, concerns over leadership, and concerns around strategic management, according to the 2017 Best Places To Work survey.

During the two-hour hearing, which Vela shared with nominees for the Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Park Service veteran encountered few tough questions outside of workplace misconduct.

He was not asked about Secretary Zinke's push for more lenient hunting and trapping regulations in national preserves in Alaska, about carrying capacities for visitation in crowded parks, about President Trump's proposed cuts in manpower and budget for the Park Service, or whether, as then-director of the Park Service's Southeast Region, he worked with Pedro Ramos, at the time superintendent of Big Cypress, to try to persuade then-NPS Director Jon Jarvis to waive a section of the National Park Service's Management Policies pertaining to wilderness-quality landscapes so they could allow ORV use in 147,000 acres that were added to Big Cypress in 1996.

Vela did say he believed in climate science, voiced support for the Restore Our Parks Act legislation before Congress that could provide up to $6.5 billion to address the park system's maintenance backlog, for continuation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund that expired at the end of September, and was open to discussing a redesignation of New River Gorge National River as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, with the "preserve" added to allow continued hunting in the unit. 

He did balk a bit when Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said more units of the park system should charge entrance fees. Currently, just 115 of the 418 units charge the fees.

“I think fees play a role and I think what we need to do as we tackle the challenges … that we need to take a hard look at all options," said Vela. "But at the same time, and in the same breath, we need to take a look at who we might be excluding from the process, who don’t have the ability to pay additional fees. So I think those interests are equally compelling and equally important.”

The nomination is expected to go before the full Senate before year's end.

Joe Lachowski selected at the new chief ranger for Gettysburg NMP and Eisenhower NHS

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Joe Lachowski has been selected at the new chief ranger for Gettysburg NMP and Eisenhower NHS

Gettysburg, Pa. – Joe Lachowski has been selected to serve as the new chief ranger for Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site, the National Park Service announced today.  The chief ranger serves as the senior law enforcement officer for Gettysburg and Eisenhower parks, responsible for the planning, direction, and execution of programs dealing with law enforcement and resource protection, emergency services and safety. 

“Growing up on the East Coast, I am excited to return to the area and serve the visitors and employees at these iconic parks” said Lachowski.  “I enjoy working in a variety of challenging situations and I am looking forward to becoming part of the hard-working team at Gettysburg and Eisenhower national parks.”

“We are delighted to have Ranger Lachowski join the staff,” said Lewis H. Rogers, acting superintendent at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site.  “His depth of experience along with his leadership skills will be great assets to park operations, ensuring safe and successful experience for our more than one million annual visitors.”

Lachowski was a supervisor and protection ranger in both Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Grand Teton National Park. He is currently attending the National Park Service’s GOAL Academy, a leadership and organizational advancement program. His experience includes all aspects of supervision, management, the incident command system, complex investigations, daily law enforcement operations, structural and wildland fire management and operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue operations and interagency cooperation and operations.

The Secretary of the Interior presented Lachowski with an award for valor in 2014 for the rescue of a drowning victim in extreme surf conditions in Lake Michigan.  He has held a number of positions in the National Park Service since 1997.  He has a Master of Science in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Maine, Orono, and a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management from Utah State University. 

Lachowski will begin his new duties in January.

Gettysburg National Military Park preserves, protects and interprets for this and future generations the resources associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, during the American Civil War, the Soldiers' National Cemetery, and their commemorations. Learn more at

Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves and interprets the home and farms of the Eisenhower family as a fitting and enduring memorial to the life, work, and times of General Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, and to the events of far-reaching importance that occurred on the property.  Learn more at

Gettysburg Remembrance Day parade on Saturday, November 17, 2018

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2018 - Gettysburg Remembrance Day parade on Saturday, November 17, 2018

For the second year a threat has been made to the annual Gettysburg Remembrance Day parade. While we do not know the nature of the threat, we have been asked by the Gettysburg Police Department to use the same parade route as last year. The parade will line up on Lefever Street, will make a left onto Baltimore Street, then right onto Steinwehr Ave and will proceed up Steinwehr Avenue and will make a left onto Taneytown Road, up Taneytown Road and will make a left onto Cyclorama Drive where the parade will disperse. While we are sorry for the change of route the safety of all of the participants and spectators is paramount. Various law enforcement agencies will be on hand and as we stated last year if you see something suspicious, please say something. Let’s make this a great parade. Thank you for your support of the annual Gettysburg Remembrance day Parade. 

We invite you to join us at the parade briefing slated for Saturday, November 17 at 9:30 AM at the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center, 2634 Emmitsburg Road. Let’s not allow this threat to stop us. Let us have a great parade and honor the men in the Blue and the Gray!