Georgia: Civil War Photographs Depict Reality of War
Photographs of the Civil War era from the collection of Judith J. Norrell are on exhibit at the Morris Museum of Art, offering rare views of the impact of war on the land and its people. The exhibit features some 30 photographs by many of the noted photographers of the day, ranging from tintype and ambrotype portraits to rare images of African-American regiments.
In his introduction to the book that will accompany the exhibit, Morris directorKevin Grogan notes the Civil War was the first to be extensively documented through photography.
“The images of a conflict long past still have the power to stir our emotions and open our eyes to the harrowing reality of war,” he said, adding “the shocking realism of these images stripped away the romance of war.”
Titled Shadows of History, the book features an essay by William F. Stapp, who was the first curator of photography at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and comments from Kaitlin Booher, the assistant curator of photography and media arts at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, where the photographs were originally exhibited. Stapp will be in Augusta on Jan. 10 for a talk and book signing.
Norrell is a noted art collector whose extensive and varied interests have led her to seek out important works by celebrated artists as well as those lesser-known. We in Augusta are fortunate that she is a good friend of the Morris Museum of Art, and many works from her Southern collections are now housed here.
Norrell grew up in Arkansas and Washington, D.C., where both her parents served as members of Congress. She graduated from the Holton Arms School in Washington before attending Ohio Wesleyan University and George Washington University Law School. Now retired from a successful lobbying firm she established, she divides her time between her home in Washington and a farm in Virginia.
In addition to the Civil War photography show, the Morris will highlight other aspects of the Norrell collections with a show titled Images of Community, to be shown in the stairwell gallery Jan. 29-April 14, and examples from her folk art collection in the west lobby gallery, Jan. 29 through April 28.
Norrell will talk about her collection and the Morris’s acquisition of more than 1,000 works at an Art at Lunch program Feb. 8.
-Keith Claussen, The Augusta Chronicle
Confederate Flag Stolen from Nashville Courthouse
NASHVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Authorities in south Georgia are investigating the theft of a confederate flag and flagpole that were stolen from a courthouse memorial.
WALB-TV Thursday reported the confederate flag memorial at the Berrien County Courthouse in Nashville had been in place for 10 years before the flagpole was sawed off its foundation and stolen.
The television station reports the Sons of Confederate Veterans Berrien Light Infantry raised money to build the $18,000 monument. The Berrien County Sheriff’s office is investigating the incident.
Nashville is about 30 miles north of Valdosta.
Union Prisoner’s Letter Reveals Civil War Past
A faded envelope discovered after 148 years sheds new light on Augusta’s little-known role as a place where Union prisoners of war were held during the Civil War.
Its author, Sgt. William S. Marshall, was a young Indiana soldier captured near Rowe Gap, Tenn., on May 3, 1863, and shuffled from place to place for the remainder of the conflict.
An envelope he addressed to his family in Green Castle, Ind., on Nov. 26, 1864, however, places him in Augusta, where a county jail at Fourth and Watkins streets was anecdotally known to have housed Union prisoners.
The rare cover, signed “W.S. Marshall, Adjt 51st Ind. Vols, Prisoner of War Augusta Ga,” was part of a collection sold earlier this month by Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, where it fetched $1,900 as a possibly one-of-a-kind postal artifact.
Although the stamped and canceled document carried the appropriate notations from Confederate censors, the correspondence it once contained is long gone.
Georgia was home to Andersonville, one of the largest and most notorious camps for Union prisoners. More recently, the short-lived Camp Lawton in Jenkins County was re-examined as an archaeological project.
Camp Lawton was established in late 1864 to relieve overcrowding and deplorable health conditions at Andersonville, where more than 13,000 Union POWs died.
Augusta was never widely known as a venue for war prisoners, but it was not unusual for cities to use existing facilities to house captured soldiers, said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta Inc.
“I don’t know a thing about a full-fledged prison camp in Augusta, but there were prisoners of war here from time to time during the Civil War,” he said. “Certainly wounded prisoners were brought here after the Battle of Chickamauga late in 1863.”
The date on the envelope would have placed Marshall in Augusta during the confusing period when Gen. Sherman’s army was approaching the area.
“In November 1864 General Sherman was on his way through Georgia, and Augusta was full of refugees,” Montgomery said. “If Adjutant Marshall were being held somewhere in the path of Sherman, it seems logical they may have brought him to Augusta to hunker down until the bummers passed.”
The number of Union prisoners who lived in Augusta during the war remains unknown, but records for Augusta’s Magnolia Cemetery show that some of them died here.
According to the cemetery’s database, about 90 of the nearly-300 Civil War soldiers interred there were federal prisoners, from places as far away as Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, who succumbed to ailments ranging from “consumption” and “diarrhea” to bullet wounds.
The square brick building that served as the Richmond County jail during the Civil War is long gone, Montgomery said, and the site is now occupied by the present-day law enforcement complex.
-Rob Pavey, The Augusta Chronicle
Music Project to Keep Civil War Stories Fresh
ATLANTA — Blood once soaked the soil of battlefields that have since been covered up by skyscrapers and commuter train stations in Atlanta, strip malls in Nashville and farm fields and forests across the South.
Now, 150 years after the American Civil War, two musicians are trying to keep that history from being lost in the new landscape.
The women, who write about Civil War clashes and those who fought them, are recording videos on the battlefields that inspired their songs.
“The whole point is to make sure these stories are kept alive, that they’re not forgotten,” said one of the artists, Vanessa Olivarez.
She and Elizabeth Elkins, whose band is Granville Automatic, have worked with the nonprofit Civil War Trust, the National Park Service and others on the project. A key goal, they say, is to raise awareness of what happened during the war and to help preserve the battlefields, which some consider sacred ground.
The women shot one of the videos earlier this year at Glorieta Pass, N.M., the 1862 battle that became known as the Civil War’s “Gettysburg of the West.” Other battlefields that set scenes for their songs of soldiers, horses and ghosts include Franklin in Tennessee; Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; and Antietam in Maryland.
Some of Granville Automatic’s songs paint haunting scenes of sorrow, such as the time when mothers and daughters of soldiers used lanterns to search a battlefield at night for their loved ones, who had just fought at Horseshoe Ridge near Chattanooga, Tenn. The band drew inspiration from the hundreds of lanterns that lit the mountainside to write “Lanterns at Horseshoe Ridge” about that page of history from 1863.
Other songs tell tales of perseverance. “Carolina Amen” recounts the story of a Southern bride who prays, “wedding band and her hand on her heart,” for her husband who is away fighting fierce battles in Virginia.
“We want to keep those real personal stories alive,” Elkins said.
Elkins and Olivarez perform across the country and divide their time between Nashville and Atlanta. The Georgia city inspired their song “Copenhill,” about the Battle of Atlanta when the city was burned by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union army.
The song recalls how Sherman watched from Copenhill, the site of the present-day Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, as flames lit the sky over Atlanta. Thousands died on ground now covered by a commuter train station in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood.
The project gained momentum in January 2012, when Elkins and Olivarez spent time at the Escape To Create artist residency program in Seaside, Fla. They’ve also developed a multi-media presentation for schools.
The band is named after a rare, vintage typewriter designed by Bernard Granville that dates to the 1890s, when it was produced by the Mossberg & Granville Manufacturing Co. in Providence, R.I. The company’s typewriter production came to a halt in 1900 due to a machinist union strike, and it declared bankruptcy shortly after that.
Musicians have played an important role in raising awareness of Civil War history, said Mary Koik, a spokeswoman at the Civil War Trust.
Country music star Trace Adkins ended up joining the nonprofit’s board of trustees after calling the organization and speaking to a receptionist a few years ago, Koik said.
“He just called and said ‘Hi, my name is Trace Adkins and I’m a country and western singer,” Koik said. “He said ‘I think what you guys do is great, how can I get involved?'”
Adkins has ancestors who fought in the war, Koik said. Elkins also has relatives who fought, and their stories have been passed down through generations of her family, she said. Those personal accounts, and a desire to save battlefields from being forgotten or lost to development, fuel Granville Automatic’s songs, Elkins said.
“To me, it’s so important that these stories get carried on,” she said
Kentucky: Readers’ Civil War Stories
Lt. Isaac David Allen
My great-great grandfather, Isaac David Allen, lived in Lafayette, (Walker County) Georgia, when the Civil War began. He was a First Lieutenant in the Fourth Georgia Cavalry under Colonel Isaac W. Avery in Wheeler’s Division. His home and family fell under Union control after the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. In July 1864, Lt. Allen was sent as a scout behind Yankee lines to Walker County, Georgia. One night he slipped home to visit and spent the night with his family in Lafayette. The next morning his two sons (ages 6 and 8 years) were playing outside when several “Blue Caps” (Yankee soldiers) walked by and greeted the boys by saying: “How are you boys this morning?” They replied: “We are so happy this morning because our daddy came home last night.” Lt. Allen was immediately arrested and spent the rest of the war at Johnson Island (in Lake Erie), Ohio, in a prison camp for Confederate soldiers. He was released June 14, 1865, after signing an oath of loyalty to the United States. My maternal grandmother stated that when she and the other grandchildren ate at Lt. Allen’s house that he would not allow them to leave the table until they had eaten all the food on their plates. He would tell them: “I nearly starved to death in prison camp, so you are not going to let this food go to waste.” Lt. Allen lived to be 81.
— David V. Willbanks, MD, Morristown
Isaac David Cole
My great-great-grandfather, Isaac David Cole, was born near Albany in Clinton County, Kentucky, April 16, 1835. He died January 20, 1862, at the Battle of Mill Springs, also known as Logan’s Crossroads or Fishing Creek, about eight miles west of Somerset, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Union Army as a Private in Company C, First Kentucky Cavalry in October, 1861.
According to stories in the February 8, 1862, issue of Harper’s Weekly, 39 Union soldiers were killed at the Battle of Mill Springs and 127 were wounded. Confederate forces suffered 115 killed, 116 wounded, and 45 taken prisoner. Among their dead was General Felix Zollicoffer, who was killed by Colonel Fry of the Union forces. The battle is described as being a decisive victory for the Union.
Isaac David was the son of James and Elvira Little Cole. He and Elizabeth Shipley were married at Albany on January 13, 1859. My great-grandfather, John Sampson, was born December 7, 1859. A second son, Isaac David Haines, was born on January 12, 1862.
— Doris Tompkins Kennedy
My great-grandfather Absalom Huffine was born in 1845, in the Speedwell community of Washington County, Tennessee, south of Johnson City. When the Civil War broke out the four Huffine brothers did not see alike. William, the eldest, joined the Rebel Army, went to Mississippi and fought through the war till his death.
The brothers Absalom, Daniel and Jacob chose to join the Union Army. In 1863, the three brothers, along with cousins Henry and David Slagle and others, walked to Northern Kentucky to join the Union army.
They traveled over 150 miles through the mountains and forest of Eastern Tennessee, via Cumberland Gap to Kentucky. A neighbor who was familiar with the terrain of the country guided the group to the end of this perilous journey. Hiding from the rebel army and their sympathizers, they slept in the forest during the day and traveled by night. They caught water as it fell from the rock cliffs in their hat brims to quench their thirst. They lost Henry Slagle to either the mountains or the rebels.
Absalom enlisted in the 8th Tennessee Calvary, Company B when he was 17 (none of this group was yet 21). All fought to the war’s end and returned to their homes without any being wounded.
— Carroll L. Huffine, Jr.
Patience Jemima Fox Jackson Milne
In a letter written to my grandfather in 1900 there was mention of his grandmother, my great-great-grandmother, being buried in Waterloo, Iowa. We went there and found her burial information from the newspaper obituary in the Waterloo Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, Wednesday, April 21, 1880.
She was Patience Jemima Fox Jackson Milne, born in New York, 1814, and entered the service as a nurse soon after Mr. Milne enlisted in 1862 with the 9th N.Y. Calvary.
Here follows a portion of her obituary: “For some time she was chief nurse in the rotunda where she made the acquaintance of President Lincoln, from whom she received several tokens of his appreciation of her valuable services. Becoming poisoned and disabled by dressing the wounds of soldiers, she was permitted to go to her husband, at Centerville, Va. Recovering, she served in hospitals with the regiment of her husband. During this time she performed deeds of daring, obtained hospital stores for the regiment when only such a woman could. On one occasion, under the direction of General Sthal, she searched rebel women spies, with a revolver at her side with which to command obedience, finding concealed in their clothing important papers and large quantities of medicines for rebel soldiers. Many a woman’s name has gone into history and been honored for less deeds of daring, self sacrifice and loyalty and devotion to country.”
I was delighted to obtain such interesting information and especially since I never knew my grandfather and knew very little about his life.
— Judith Gerhardt, Knoxville
John Sloan and Henry McSpadden
Both of my mother’s grandfathers served the Union during the Civil War.
John A. Sloan served in company K, 11th Tennessee Cavalry Volunteers. He spent several months encamped at Cumberland Gap. Because of exposure to bad weather in January 1864, he later claimed a disability pension. After the war, he was never able to work due to liver and kidney problems.
Henry M. McSpadden served in the 3rd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment, USA. He was a POW in Kentucky for two years. He was killed in a hunting accident in 1885.
One of my Harrill relatives hid his horses south of Madisonville, Tennessee, when General Sherman and his troops came through the area. He later filed a $250 claim with the Southern Claims Commission for the loss of horses, corn, oats and molasses. The claim was denied because evidence showed that he was disloyal to the Union during the war.
— Joseph M. Harrill, Morristown, Tennessee
George W. Leming
George was born in Haywood County, N.C., in 1820. In 1856 he married Elizabeth Burchfield, and they had three sons, James, Francis Marion and Amos. In July 1862, George and his brothers, James and Thomas, joined the Confederate Thomas Legion, headed by Col. W.H. Thomas. He was wounded at a skirmish near the Strawberry Plains bridge in 1863 and returned home to Swain County, N.C., to recuperate from his wounds. While there he was involved in a family incident that resulted in the death of his brother-in-law, Uriah Burns. As a result of this, George left Swain County and crossed the mountains into Blount County, Tenn.
In August 1864, he joined the Union Army at Loudon, Tenn., for “100 days or the duration of the war” in Captain Timothy Lyon’s Company C, Third Tennessee Mounted Infantry. Little else is known about his activities between then and the end of the war. George was discharged at Knoxville on November 30, 1864 by reason of “Expiration of term of servis (sic). He married Mariah Henry of Blount County in 1868 and they were the parents of four children — my grandfather, James, and also William, Tina and Elizabeth.
— Gwen Cody
Send us your story
Do you have a family history of the Civil War to share? Send us your story in 200 words or less, and we’ll include it, in print or online, with upcoming segments of our Civil War series. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org; include Civil War Story in the subject line. Digital photos are also welcome.
North Carolina: Retired Educator Hopes to Tell Town’s Civil War Story
A retired Forestview High School principal and history buff is searching for letters from Gaston County residents revealing details about life during the Civil War.
Robert Carpenter enjoys poring over documents from the 1860s at his Bessemer City home. By next year, he hopes to produce a narrative called “A Portrait of the Civil War in Gaston County,” uncovering stories of how local soldiers, women, slaves and free black people dealt with the bloodiest conflict in American history.
Carpenter, 61, taught eighth grade U.S. history classes before becoming principal at Forestview in Gastonia in 1998. He retired two years ago but maintained a keen interest in history, especially the Revolutionary War period. He now teaches U.S. history classes part time at Belmont Abbey College.
But a discovery around five years ago has fueled his passion for documenting how locals lived during the Civil War.
While sifting through documents in the search room at the state archives in Raleigh, he uncovered a file about Gaston County. Inside was a big book, a tax list from 1863 with handwritten names and addresses of residents.
Also on the list are names, ages, and values of the slaves that belonged to Gaston County residents. Other valuables are also noted.
Carpenter transcribed the list, now a 235-page document on his laptop. He said the information, especially details about slaves, could be essential in genealogical research.
Searching for old letters
Carpenter is still neck deep in research. He hopes local residents have more documents from the Civil War era to share.
“I suspect there’s more out there in attics or that people just have in their scrapbooks,” Carpenter said. “Since I was trying to include as much as I could, I thought it’d be neat if I could find as many documents, as many of these letters as possible.”
He doesn’t want the original documents but can use copies. Carpenter is also interested in local family histories from the time period.
“I think their ancestor’s story is a story that can help all of us,” he said. “It’s the story of Gaston County. It’s a story of people. Whether they were the richest people in Gaston County at that time or whether they were the poorest people. Each of them has a story to tell and each has a story that’s valued and I try to value each person’s story.”
Want to participate in Robert Carpenter’s research? Those interested in sharing Civil War era documents and letters with Carpenter can reach him at 704-922-7716 or by email email@example.com.
-Wade Allen, Gaston Gazette
Franklin Library Brings Civil War Photo Exhibit
RALEIGH – Determination, commitment and pride are among many characteristics of North Carolinians depicted in the “Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory: Civil War Sesquicentennial Photography Exhibit”.The exhibit commemorates the state’s role in the Civil War (1861-1865), a defining period in United States history.
The Franklin County Public Library will bring the exhibit to Louisburg, in partnership with Person Place, from Jan. 4-29, 2013. The exhibit will be open to the public at historic Person Place on Saturday, Jan. 12, and Saturday, Jan. 19, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
“The Civil War occurred when photography was just becoming popular so was the first conflict to be widely recorded in this manner,” explains N.C. State Historic Sites Division Director Keith Hardison.
“Battlefield images fascinated the public and acquainted them, in a dramatic way, with the horrors of war. The ‘Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory’ exhibit presents images that compare and contrast the conditions of war, then and now.”
Dozens of school groups already have reservations to see the exhibit at Person Place.
The historic building on Main Street actually was standing and occupied by the Person family during the war. The setting and the images together can teach more history than can be absorbed from the written page.
Images gathered from the State Archives, the N.C. Museum of History, and State Historic Sites will illustrate valiant members of the Confederacy, African Americans fighting for freedom, and daring women dedicated to their homes.
A total of 24 images will be exhibited by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources in 50 libraries throughout the state from April 2011 to spring 2013. A notebook will accompany the exhibit with further information and seeking viewer comments.
One of the images, Amy Harper, is of a woman whose family farm in Harnett County was taken over by the Union Army after the Battle of Bentonville. Her house was converted into a field hospital as she, her husband and children were living there. The war literally came to her front door.
For information on the Franklin County exhibit, call (919) 496-2111. For information on the tour, call (919) 807-7389.
Tennessee: Sewanee to Bless Same-Sex Couples
In a move that will raise eyebrows if not close check books among conservative Episcopalians, All Saints Chapel at the University of the South, a five-story Gothic church at the center of the college campus, will formally allow the blessing of same-sex couples, embracing the decision of General Convention last summer which approved controversial Rites for homosexuals and lesbians.
The controversy has placed Sewanee in a tricky position, said John McCardell Jr., Sewanee’s vice chancellor and president. His friends say he is orthodox in faith and morals and that this decision undoubtedly places him in a personal theological quandary. He was a speaker last Winter at Mere Anglicanism,a gathering of world class orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans who meet in Charleston, SC, to consider weighty matters of the faith, church and culture.
The college itself isn’t part of any one diocese. Its religious governing authority is the chancellor, a post that rotates among the bishops of the 28 owning dioceses. In the midst of this announcement, McCardell is calling on alumnus to give $250 to $300 million dollars in a campaign to ensure the university’s future, a future that might be jeopardized by this action that many consider outside the bounds of Biblical faith even though culturally acceptable.
“An absolute yes or an absolute no was just not possible,” McCardell said. The college feared its chapel could become a sort of Las Vegas for blessings of gay unions — an end-run for couples whose bishops won’t permit the rite in their own diocese.
The compromise: Gay and lesbian couples who meet the other eligibility requirements for a Sewanee wedding will be able to have their union blessed in the college chapel, as long as their bishops are supportive.
McCardell described the decision, reached by the college chaplain, dean of the School of Theology, and the two bishops on the Board of Regents, which oversees university governance, as “the only sensible thing.”
Weddings at Sewanee are relatively rare; McCardell said he doesn’t expect a flood of requests to bless gay unions. (Tennessee, where Sewanee is located, doesn’t permit gay marriage.) At least one member of the couple must be a student, graduate, member of the faculty or staff or a governing board, or a full-time resident of Sewanee. They must also be part of a church with a letter from their minister. Both members of the couple must write letters about why they wish to marry at the university.
A Sewanee insider and alumnus told VOL that McCardell believes that alumni voices “count” when warming them up to the idea of giving Sewanee a quarter of a billion dollars or more, but he never asked for alumni “voices” when he agreed to the latest step forward on Sewanee’s gay transformation through All Saints’ Chapel Same Sex Blessings enforcement. “Some of Sewanee’s self-proclaimed “conservative” alumni still give money to the alma mater, but giving money to Sewanee CANCELS all claims of conservatism. Sewanee turns good people into liberals without their even agreeing or knowing,” he said.
Furthermore, the former chancellor of the university and former Bishop of Atlanta, Neil Alexander announced that he would resign that post and become the new Dean of the Seminary even though he said he would be leaving his bishopric to take up a post in Liturgics at Emory University.
A source told VOL that Alexander’s ability to give himself awards and earn TEC top dollars is unmatched. “He not only used his position as bishop trustee to get himself elected as a Regent, he then orchestrated his unopposed victory as Chancellor. As Chancellor, he named himself Dean of Sewanee Episcopal Seminary. Now he’s put himself in a chaired Profe$$orship.
“Nobody in all of Sewanee’s history has ever grabbed as much power, profit, and privilege as has Alexander, and he’s not even an alumnus,” the source told VOL. Another source said Alexander is in the throes of a divorce.
Replacing him as chancellor is the Bishop of Florida, Samuel Johnson Howard. This bishop has inhibited and deposed more orthodox priests in his diocese than any living bishop. Since 2003, more than 5,000 Episcopalians have left the Diocese and 22 clergy have been inhibited or deposed for “the abandonment of the communion of this church”, including some retired distinguished clergy who were never informed of their inhibition until the letter landed in their mail boxes. The issue was the consecration of Gene Robinson an avowed homosexual.
Now the chapel is at the center of a conundrum at the college: Given the disagreements within the Episcopal Church over blessing same-sex relationships, should the university allow such blessings at All Saints’? If it does it might well seal its fate as an unsafe spiritual space for future generations.
-By David W. Virtue, www.virtueonline.org
Re-enactors Follow Footsteps of History
MURFREESBORO — Michael Warfield, who says he is “twice as old as a Civil War-era soldier,” first participated in living-history programs as a volunteer at the Stones River Battlefield.
“I am a former high school history teacher with a life-long interest in the Civil War and a personal need to connect with my ancestors who fought for both the Blue and Gray,” Warfield says.
Three of his ancestors — all brothers — fought with Cleburne’s Division of the Confederate Army at Stones River. He had ancestors on the Union side as well.
Some 150 years ago this week, soldiers gathered near Murfreesboro for one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Honoring those heroes in blue and gray, men and women re-enact the Battle of Stones River each year through living-history programs at the Stones River National Battlefield and National Park.
Throughout the anniversary week, and indeed all year, men take on the task of walking where soldiers once trod in an attempt to help others understand what history took place in Rutherford County.
Through the study of orders of battles and maps of battlefields, Warfield says he has been able to learn exact geographic locations of his ancestors on given dates.
Connections to the past
In many cases, the living-history volunteers were reared with an interest of the Civil War, either due to a family heritage or simply a curiosity in the local history.
“I’ve always been interested in American history and the Civil War in particular,” says Joshua Haugh, who now lives in Summerville, S.C. “I got involved with re-enacting in college when I met guys at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield who were portraying the 21st Ohio.
“We immediately started talking since that was the exact unit that my great-great-grandfather served in during the war. It wasn’t hard for them to hook me.”
Rhea Cole of Murfreesboro also was quickly swept into volunteering because of his love of history.
“I have been interested in history ever since somebody gave us a box of National Geographic (magazines) when I was a child. I became a member of the Stones River living history crew in 1994,” Cole says.
“In all candor, shooting cannons is fun,” he says. “Standing that close to an explosion is very exciting. From a historical standpoint, there is a lot that you can’t understand until you lay hands on and do it. Why did they do that? Why didn’t that work?
“Nothing informs understanding like getting sweaty, dirty and occasionally shedding a little blood while learning antique crafts. There is no substitute for experience.”
All it took was the first cannon firing to get Todd Watts hooked. He visited The Blockade Runner Civil War memorabilia store in Wartrace, not far from his hometown of Bell Buckle, and shared his curiosity and interest in re-enacting with the staff.
“After a call I was on my way a week later with them to my first event,” Watts says.
Those who portray artillery and battle situations in the living-history programs at the Stones River Battlefield are more than just re-enacting the fight. They are studious, trained and passionate about sharing the history of what took place on the battlefields guests visit.
Each person is outfitted with uniforms and accessories that are as authentic as possible — including wool clothing in the summer.
“The materials and uniforms are typically available through vendors called sutlers,” Haugh explains. “The wool uniforms, leather accouterments and weapons are all reproduced today. It is also common to know re-enactors who go into business on their own making items for other re-enactors.”
The hobby is not an inexpensive one, especially for those who want to own their own uniform pieces, canteens, mess kits and other memorabilia needed to showcase what an average soldier had. However, options exist for those interested in getting started.
“Sutlers are the merchants that set up at re-enactments and are also located in stationery stores and can be found online. There are some people that go so far as to make their own uniforms,” Watts says. “I think one of the best ways to get your initial instruction is to volunteer at a national battlefield where they not only offer excellent training from the start but also, in many cases, loan gear to you for use while on the property.”
But, equipment is just part of the experience. Firing the weapons can sometimes be dangerous and require training.
“In order to be a member of the black-powder program in national parks, a volunteer has to pass written and practical tests,” Cole explains.
“I am qualified as a gunner. That means that I am able to perform all seven positions, pass an exacting written test and display situational awareness. None of us drill enough to reach the level of competence our forebears achieved,” Cole says.
“At our park we are blessed to have a cadre of volunteers with decades of experience,” Cole continues. “Ranger Jim Lewis literally wrote the manual and teaches the annual Park Service live-fire classes. We have what amounts to an elite group of volunteers who are well aware that we all must be humble, teachable and always look out for each other.”
A soldier’s story
Cole has written several of the programs Stones River National Park uses. The research for one of them “took the better part of five years” to complete and includes reading the letters and diaries of the original soldiers, he says.
“I am often struck with how familiar the individuals I meet through their writings are. Some of the writing, especially the uneducated, is like having a conversation. Read it out loud, and you even assume the writer’s accent. That is as close to wearing somebody else’s skin as I can ever be,” Cole says.
Watts has had similar experiences while studying the men who fought at Stones River in Murfreesboro and in the Civil War in general.
“While researching the men individually, finding letters, pictures and graves, perhaps the most important thing I learned was how to personalize these people,” he says. “They were real flesh-and-blood people. They had the same thoughts, passions, fears, sorrows, joys and humor we all have. Their times were different than ours, but they were just as real as us.”
Haugh is a member of the 21st Ohio, a group based out of Atlanta. According to Haugh, the original 21st Ohio was at the Battle of Stones River and was in the thick of the fighting.
“While my ancestor wasn’t at Stones River, many of his comrades were, and they wrote about their experiences in diaries and letters afterward. Their detailed accounts of the events on those bloody days in 1862-1863 can make you feel as though you were there too,” Haugh says.
It is the first-hand accounts that really affect Haugh, as they were written by an average soldier with no knowledge that others would one day read his words other than the recipient of the letter.
“These are the soldiers that wrote without an agenda and described their actions, comforts and discomforts. They talked about breaking rules or how they like or dislike their commanders,” Haugh says. “They also describe, for example, trying to stay warm on a cold December night in the rain without a fire and wading through the icy cold Stones River to attack the Confederates on Jan. 2, 1863. Many of these descriptions are so vivid that it almost seems like you were there.”
Participating in demonstrations not only serves as a way to experience history for those participating, but spectators too. The living-history programs share more than just a list of facts about something in history years ago. It provides an opportunity to really experience what someone else went through. It makes history real.
“Whether (the) Civil War or World War II or any other period, re-enacting helps put our modern world aside for a while and let us learn what our forefathers did. Learning about our past helps us know more about our present,” Watts says.
“It is a way, unlike any other, to step into the shoes of a Civil War soldier and get an accurate sense of what their experiences much have been like. It is also a way to honor their memory by sharing their stories with the public,” Warfield says.
-Samantha E. Donaldson, The Tennessean
Civil War Trust Deal Helps Battlefield Land
FRANKLIN — The Civil War Trust has finalized purchase of a shopping strip center in Franklin that will help eventually to restore the land to its Civil War battlefield appearance.
A Washington, D.C.-based charitable organization whose focus it is to preserve American battlefields, the Civil War Trust was able to complete the sale last week through a partnership with Franklin’s Charge and generous donations, according to a press release issued Monday.
The trust purchased what’s been called the “Domino’s” strip on Columbia Avenue for $1.85 million from local businessmen Donnie and Tim Cameron. The site was also the location of the Carter House’s cotton gin. Potential plans for the location include rebuilding the cotton gin.
Battlefield preservation advances tract by tract
The preservation organization had a goal of purchasing the site by the end of 2012. This site, along with the 110-acre Eastern Flank, will expand upon the battleground near the historic Carter House, which is overseen by the Battle of Franklin Trust.
“Those who are in support of historic preservation are very excited about that,” said Marianne Schroer, board chairwoman. “That’s our neighbor, and it’s going to be great for us as well.”
Tenants in the Domino’s strip, including a Domino’s Pizza and a Latin market, more than likely will stay put until a new location on Downs Boulevard is constructed, said Donnie Cameron. He hopes the new 12,000-square-foot center will be completed by the end of 2013. They hope to design the new shopping center with a historical flavor and have space for additional businesses, he said.
But workers at Domino’s, La Villa and Four Star Market said they were unsure if they would make the move to the new location, and none were surprised by the sale. There had been rumors for a while, they said.
Daniel Garza, assistant manager for Domino’s, said it ultimately depends on rent costs. Business owners were still deciding whether to build a new place themselves or find another location, he added.
Plans are on hold
While putting together an order of tamales for shoppers, Juan Lopez of the Latin butcher and market said they were thinking of making some renovations to the existing shop, but now those plans are on hold. They aren’t so sure what they are going to do, Lopez said.
“We’re going to miss it,” Lopez said of the location they’ve been in for more than a decade. “We started here.”
Nevertheless, Cameron said he has a sense of pride over the sale and said he wouldn’t have sold the property unless it was for a historic purpose.
His great-great-grandfather was one of the first to build a home on Second Avenue in Franklin. He explained that the Domino’s strip would be part of a bigger plan to preserve the Franklin battlefield and other historic sites by 2014, the ses-quicentennial of the Civil War.
“We’ve been here a long time … we’re glad to be a small part of it,” Cameron said. “I think when this is finished, I think people will see it all come together, and I think it will be really, really impressive.”
-Maria Giordano, The Tennessean
Texas: Confederate Flag Banned by School District
BUDA, TEXAS — A Central Texas school board voted Monday to ban the display of the Confederate battle flag on district property or at district-sponsored events.
Hays board members, on a 5-2 vote, amended the student code of conduct to ban the flag, which formerly was displayed with the Hays High School Rebel mascot. The ban also covers any imagery deemed to be racially hostile, offensive or intolerant.
The action comes after two students were accused of writing racial slurs and urinating on the door of a black teacher’s classroom in May at Hays High. The school is in Buda, 15 miles south of Austin.
Dissenting from the flag ban were trustees Shaun Bosar and Marty Kanetzky. The vote came after a discussion that lasted nearly an hour. Departing Superintendent Jeremy Lyon had recommended banning the flag, which has long been waved from the stands at Rebels football games.
The proposed change drew opposition from some. Cyndie Holmes told trustees Monday that her son, a Hays junior, was pulled from class for displaying a Confederate battle flag sticker on his car.
“Can I not be proud of my Southern heritage?” Holmes asked, according to the Austin American-Statesman. She suggested the board might be transgressing on students’ free-speech rights.
Board president Willie Tenorio Jr., however, pointed out that there had been uneven enforcement in allowing the flag on campus.
The newspaper said another trustee, Robert Limon, added: “Principals were making policy when it should be the board.”
In October, the Hays board decided to keep “Dixie” as the school fight song — for now. The Confederate anthem has been known to evoke the traditions of proud state and region, but also slavery and prejudice.
Out of all the battles in the Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg sticks out for one historian.
“It was the most lopsided battle of the war,” said Bob Syre of the Museum of the Confederacy, who led the discussion on the battle during Civil War Conversations at Baines Books and Coffee two weeks ago.
About 50 listened to Syre talk about the battle that resulted in 12,653 Union casualties and 5,377 Confederate casualties.
To help attendees visualize the location, Syre’s discussion was aided by a map of the different locations of the battle.
The battle, which Syre described as complex, took place between Dec.11 and Dec. 15, 1862.
Prior to the battle and a day after the election on Nov. 7 President Abraham Lincoln decided to replace Gen. George McClennan with Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside to head the Army of the Potomac.
Syre discussed how Union troops went into Stafford Heights, Burnside split the Army and crossed the Rappahannock River on pontoon bridges where they would fight Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederates.
Burnside and Maj. Gen. William Franklin devised plans to cross the Rappahannock River.
On Dec. 13, the battle began when Burnside’s troops planned a two-way attack.
The key locations include Prospect Hill, south of town, where Burnside’s Union troops attacked Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps.
“It is house to house, block to block. It is urban warfare. That is first time urban warfare,” said Syre.
Forty percent of the casualties happened on Prospect Hill, said Syre.
When the Confederates won the battle, Lincoln was distressed and made the remark, “If there is a worse place in hell, I am in it.”
Union soldiers lauded the town and as a result there were battered houses and messed up landscapes.
“So pretty much the town has been beaten up,” said Syre.
Attendees of Civil War Conversations enjoyed Syre’s discussion as well as previous Civil War discussions
“I have been researching the Civil War. I have been enjoying this. I came to Lynchburg 14 years ago. I have never been in this area before,” said Janet Haught, whose Civil War ancestor, Chambers Driskill, fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Though he is most interested in the last few months of the war, Appomattox resident Ed Fletcher said that the other times of the war gives him perspective.
The discussion on Dec. 12 of the Battle of Fredericksburg was part of the monthly discussions about the Civil War to mark the 150th anniversary of the war.
The discussions take place on the second Wednesday of each month.
The next discussion on Jan. 9 will be about the Emancipation Proclamation.
-Stephanie James, Times-Virginian
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and the U.S. Navy will dedicate the memorial at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hampton National Cemetery.
The USS Monitor was involved in the first clash of iron-armored ships in naval warfare when it took on the Confederate ironclad, the CSS Virginia, in Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862. That battle signaled the end of the era of wooden ships.
The Monitor capsized in a violent storm on Dec. 31, 1862 and sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The 16 crew members on board died.
A ceremonial guard from the USS Porter will participate in the dedication.