Miracle of Missionary Ridge

My Unlikely Passion for Civil War Battlefields

I first went to a Civil War battlefield in search of my mother’s great-great-cousin, David Stelle Smith, who fought in a New Jersey regiment at Fredericksburg and died a few months later, in 1863, of a septic wound at a hospital in Washington.

Thanks to the National Park Service, which maintains excellent records open to the public at Fredericksburg and other Civil War sites, I learned exactly when and where Smith’s company entered the battle–early, it turned out, in one of the bravest and most tragic maneuvers of the day, charging …