10 Civil War terms for restless Colorado kids during the spring break holiday
Author: Jared Wright - March 18, 2011 - Updated: March 18, 2011
With spring break upon us, this week’s Civil War column combines some light-hearted “street sign education” with your weekly dose of 19th Century U.S. history.
Below are 10 easily recognizable Colorado streets, places, and people, with their American Civil War counterparts, and you can use them to test your kids’ (or your own) history knowledge, as you see fit.
The Town of Breckenridge (which should be named “The Town of Barney Ford”)
This world class ski area and historic mining town turned 150 years old in 2009.
While there is some debate as to whom the town was actually named after, the most often-cited individual is John C. Breckinridge, a political leader from Kentucky, who served as vice president for the catastrophic Buchanan Administration, as a member of the U.S. Senate, and as the South’s Democratic opponent to Republican Abraham Lincoln (and Democrat Stephen Douglas, who was deemed too soft in his support of slavery).
He achieved notoriety as a leader of the South’s secession efforts, and served as a general officer and also as the last Secretary of War for the Confederacy. Perhaps it makes sense for Breckenridge’s civic leaders to rename the town and ski area Barney Ford, after the escaped slave and Underground Railroad operative who rose to business success and fame as a restaurant owner, civil rights leader, and early city father of the Breckenridge community.
Named after Schuyler Colfax, who served as vice president of the United States during President Grant’s first term, from 1869 to 1873. Grant replaced him with Henry Wilson, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts for his second term. Colfax also served as a Republican Congressman from Indiana from 1855 to 1869, and was Speaker of the House from 1863 to 1869. Colfax was a primary legislative sponsor of the nation’s first federal income tax, imposed to pay for the war.
Named for Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Hickenlooper’s boss [see below]. Second only to Abraham Lincoln, this is the guy most responsible for winning the Civil War.
As 18th President of the United States, Grant was the only U.S. President committed to implementing Lincoln’s vision for Reconstruction. Grant deserves to be ranked as one of the two greatest generals in U. S. history (along with George Washington).
The City of Greeley
Named after Horace Greeley, the famous anti-slavery editor of the New York Tribune, who popularized the phrase “Go west young man.” Although Greeley was unquestionably a staunch anti-slavery journalist and public figure, he was also prone to equivocation when faced with tough choices. And he seems to have lacked sound judgment when it came to both international and domestic affairs. For example, although opposing slavery’s expansion in the western territories, he nonetheless called for allowing the South to secede peacefully. Throughout the war he vacillated in his support of Lincoln’s efforts, apparently more inclined to follow popular opinion than to shape it.
Harrison and Garfield streets
I’m lumping these two together, because James Garfield and Benjamin Harrison are two of six future elected U. S. Presidents who served in the Civil War. The other four are Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester Arthur and William McKinley. Grover Cleveland was drafted, but paid someone to take his place.
Although currently used to identify good beer and Colorado’s Governor, this catchy name was first made famous in United States history by Captain Andrew Hickenlooper, who served heroically as an artillery officer, engineer, and senior military staff to Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, in the Army of the Tennessee.
Hickenlooper distinguished himself throughout the war, most famously at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Atlanta, and Savannah (and “the March” between those last two cities in late 1864). Rumor has it that this recognized Union War hero is the great-grandfather of our own Governor. Although I’ve not confirmed this personally, I’m hoping this information doesn’t have a “chilling effect” on any collaborative civic plans Denver or Colorado might have with Atlanta or the State of Georgia.
Named for our 16th President, the Great Emancipator, savior of our nation, Redeemer President, etc.
Presumably named for General John A. “Blackjack” Logan, an Illinois Democrat who served in the U.S. Congress (both the House and the Senate) and in the Illinois state legislature before and after the Civil War, and who distinguished himself as one of Grant’s and Sherman’s most reliable senior commanders. As a member of Congress after the War, Logan sponsored the successful effort to create Memorial Day as a national holiday to remember our fallen, as well as surviving, war veterans.
Presumably named after General Phil Sheridan, U.S. Grant’s second most successful lieutenant after Sherman. Sheridan performed heroically at the battle of Chattanooga in late 1863, and then later as Grant’s reliable Cavalry commander and then Division commander in the Shenandoah Valley and throughout Virginia in 1864-65, up through General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
Sheridan’s military career after the Civil War was mixed: on the positive side, he was one of Grant’s most effective enforcers of Reconstruction and abolition of slavery in the Southern states; but on the negative side, he was a driving force behind the inhumane (and often bloody) treatment of Native Americans throughout the West.
Presumably named for William Tecumseh Sherman, Civil War general, rather than for his younger brother, Senator John Sherman (the author of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890). General Sherman’s story is a compelling and controversial one, although even revisionist historians of the Lost Cause cannot change the fact that he succeeded in every aspect of the plan Grant and he developed and executed to win the war.
Patrick Teegarden is The Statesman’s resident scholar on the Civil War. His columns are in recognition of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.