Alabama: Civil War Trust seeks to develop Anniston battlefield

The Washington, D.C.-based Civil War Trust is hoping to turn an Alabama industrial site into a park commemorating Civil War history, according to The Anniston Star. The site of the former Blue Mountain Industries was key in the Confederate war effort from a training and transportation standpoint, and the infrastructure left behind after the war paved the way for its industrial role up to the present day.

From the Anniston Star:

“Leading up to the Civil War’s beginning in the spring of 1861 and through the duration of the Civil War, the camp grew to extend from the railroad tracks near the site of the old textile mill all the way to slopes of Blue Mountain, southeast of where Kmart stands today north of downtown Anniston. The site included a hospital, a prison and a place for organizing regiments, according to Alexandria resident Mac Gillam.

‘We want to assist local groups in trying to preserve Civil War sites,’ said Henry Simpson, chairman of the trust, who spoke recently from his law office in Birmingham. He visited Blue Mountain last year to take part in discussions about the site, along with Paul Bryant Jr. of Tuscaloosa, who is a past chairman of the trust and has maintained an interest in Civil War sites since childhood. He spoke during a telephone interview.

Bryant said he could envision the Blue Mountain site as a pocket park, a small style of park that some cities are developing.

‘There was a world of people and war material that came through there,’ he said of Blue Mountain.

Last week, several local residents met again at the site. They are interested in developing either a park or a memorial and in sharing the history of Blue Mountain.

‘I want to bring recognition to this,’ said Gillam, as he stood outside the iron fence surrounding the old textile mill. ‘It has been said that the war would not have lasted as long as it did had it not been for Blue Mountain.’

According to Greg Starnes of Fort Payne, a member of the trust and a former Blue Mountain resident, Gillam is correct. Starnes said that in the autumn of 1864, when the Army of Tennessee, led by Gen. John Bell Hood, lost the battle of Atlanta, it headed toward Blue Mountain to re-supply. Afterward, the army headed north into Tennessee to fight the battles of Franklin and Nashville.

At the time the Alabama and Tennessee Rivers Railroad extended from Selma to Blue Mountain, the advocates said. The site offered rail transportation to the Confederate army for soldiers, food, ammunition and weapons. Also in Blue Mountain, a stage-coach road extended the line of transportation through Rome, Ga., and northward, which delivered supplies to troops stationed elsewhere, Gillam said. The road is now part of the Alexandria Road that runs near the site and also runs southward to join Cooper Avenue.

Starnes also said that the iron ore mined in Calhoun County during that time was shipped to Selma from the Blue Mountain rail depot. The ore was turned into plating that was used on the Merrimac, one of the first ironclad ships in the world to engage in battle, he said. All this happened long before the postwar founding of Anniston as an industrial town that made use of the same ore deposits.

Simpson said that one of the trust’s goals is to assist any local and state residents who want to preserve Civil War sites. He is interested in offering advice and references to locals on obtaining funding and other assistance.

Silver Lakes resident Don Gibbs, owner of the property at Blue Mountain, is a businessman who also owns Gibbs & Sons Machinery and Silver Lakes Developers. At one point in the past, he considered donating part of the property to the county for the Civil War site, he said.

Speaking to a reporter recently, Gibbs said he was unsure about his plans for the property at this time.

‘As soon as we feel like the economy is back on its feet,’ said Gibbs, ‘we intend to do some cleanup for ourselves before we attempt to sell the property. If my business makes enough money and can use a tax write-off, we would consider donating part of it.’

None of those attending last week’s gathering had exact ideas about what they want at the site. Throughout the past year, some of the interested parties have discussed erecting interpretive markers, recreating the Blue Mountain train depot, creating a walking trail and picnic area, and possibly building a museum to display some of the relics.

The site was the headquarters for Brig. Gen. James Holt Clanton, Maj. Gen. Gideon Pillow and Brig. Gen. Benjamin Jefferson Hill. Also, at some point during the war, military leaders such as Lt. Gen. Joseph Wheeler and Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest visited Blue Mountain, according to Gillam.

Blue Mountain is mentioned 170 times in records of the war at the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County, Gillam said. He said he found the mentions in correspondence of such prominent figures as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Union Maj. Gen William T. Sherman and one of Alabama’s war-time governors, Thomas H. Watts.

However, at the war’s end in 1865, the entire military grounds were destroyed by Union soldiers, much of it blown up, according to Starnes, with its own ammunition that had been sitting in rail cars at the terminal.”


Mississippi: Ulysses Grant back in town?

From columnist Gene Owens, an opinion piece on Mississippi State welcoming the presidential library of U.S. Grant as printed in the Aiken (S.C.) Standard.

“You’d think the folks in Mississippi would want to erase the name of Ulysses S. Grant forever from their memory.

Sam Grant, after all, is the Yankee general who laid siege to the city of Vicksburg, drove its citizens into caves to escape his artillery barrages and forced them to eat mule meat (tastes like venison) when they ran out of beef, pork and chickens. One could argue that his victory at Vicksburg in July of 1863 was a greater blow to the Confederacy than Gen. George Meade’s victory at Gettysburg.

Yet, here goes Mississippi State University in Starkville making welcome the presidential library of the 18th president of the United States, who was born in Ohio and was clerking at the family store in Illinois when the War Between the States sent him marching against the stalwart sons of Mississippi.

Mississippi already has one presidential library. It’s in Biloxi, down on the Gulf, and it honors Jefferson Davis, the Mississippi plantation owner who became the one and only president of the Confederate States of America.

So why is the Magnolia State reaching out to embrace the memory of its conqueror?

For one thing, John Marszalek, director of the Grant Foundation, is history professor emeritus at Mississippi State. The foundation is custodian of Grant’s memorabilia. Marszalek is a nationally recognized authority on the history of the Late Unpleasantness, and he thinks historians have given U.S. Grant a bum rap.

Marszalek notes several factors that make Starkville a fitting place for Grant’s presidential library. The famed cartoonist Thomas Nast caricatured Grant as a bulldog. And Abe Lincoln urged Grant to ‘hold on with a bulldog grip’ when he was continually engaging the Confederates across the Northern Virginia terrain. Guess what Mississippi State calls its athletic warriors: The Bulldogs.

In addition, the first president of the college that became Mississippi State was a postwar friend of Grant. Confederate General Stephen Lee, a distant relative of Robert E. Lee, fought Grant at Vicksburg but became an admirer after Appomattox.

In many ways, Grant at Vicksburg resembled more closely the coyote of Roadrunner cartoons than he did a bulldog, with one exception: In the end, Grant succeeded.

Vicksburg presented Grant with a daunting problem. The city, situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, could be taken only from the east, and Grant, poised on the west bank, had no good way to attack it from that direction. The land to the north was marshy and crisscrossed with streams. Grant and his sidekick, William Tecumseh Sherman, made several attempts at crossing the swamps, broadening and deepening channels and even trying to divert the Mississippi to get around Vicksburg by boat. But the Father of Waters wouldn’t cooperate, and the murky swampland proved impenetrable.

Finally, Grant sent gunboats and transports on a daring nighttime run past Vicksburg’s potent artillery. Meanwhile, the Union army marched down the western bank of the Mississippi to a point well south of the city. Then it crossed to the east side by boat, and Grant was on his way to victory. Lincoln, convinced that he now had a winner, put him in charge of all Union forces. The rest is bloody history.

Grant, an accomplished horseman, did not look the part. His wartime photographs show him in shabby uniform and slouchy posture. He was a sharp contrast to the dashing Robert E. Lee. Southern critics like to point out that Grant was a slave-owner, which apparently is true. He married the daughter of Missouri slaveholders, who made the couple a gift of several slaves. It isn’t clear what eventually happened to them, but by the time Grant went to war he was living in Illinois, where slavery was prohibited.

Grant suffered from recurring headaches, which he may have treated with alcohol. Many believe that Grant was in his cups at Pittsburg Landing in northern Mississippi when the Confederates caught him off guard and almost drove him into the Tennessee River. But the timely arrival of a Union force under Gen. Don Carlos Buell turned the tide in the epic Battle of Shiloh.

It’s said that when Grant’s critics complained to Lincoln about his drinking, the president replied, “Find out what kind of whiskey he drinks; I’d like to send some to all my generals.”

Grant was a failure at everything else he attempted, including the presidency. His White House years were blemished by the corruption of those he appointed to office.

But in warfare, he was the man Lincoln needed. Refusing to buy into the chivalric Southern perception of warfare, he ruthlessly used the Union’s superiority in manpower to wear down the Confederate armies, sacrificing Northern lives in the process. But Lee is also accused of unnecessarily sacrificing Southern lives.

When Lee finally surrendered to Grant, the victor sent the Army of Northern Virginia home under generous terms. Later, the hated Sherman offered even more generous terms when he accepted the surrender of the Army of Tennessee under Joseph Johnston. But by then, Lincoln had been assassinated, and his successor, Andrew Johnson, felt impelled to renounce them. Grant helped Sherman draft the terms that got around Johnson’s objections.

Grant apparently agreed with the words Lincoln addressed to Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel on a tour of conquered Richmond after Weitzel asked him how to deal with the defeated populace: ‘Let ’em up easy.’

Northern radicals in Congress insisted, however, on the punitive period of Reconstruction that ended only after Grant was succeeded in the White House by Rutherford B. Hayes.

It’s taken a long time to bury the hatchet, but Mississippi is apparently making its peace with the man who conquered it. It’s about 175 miles from Grant’s library in Starkville to the scene of his triumph in Vicksburg. Not nearly as far as it was in 1863.”

Obama face on Confederate flag sparks flap

Also in Mississippi, a flag-hawking flea market vendor received more attention than he bargained for when a local television story sent a reporter out to do a “story” on one of his items for sale: a Confederate flag featuring the image of Pres. Barack Obama. From Jackson, MS-based WJTV, reporter Ross Adams filed this piece (you can view the video here:

“A man selling a confederate flag at a local flea market has the metro talking.

We first learned about it from a very upset viewer who called and complained…saying it was highly offensive. We received a tip this weekend about the flag being sold at the Pearl flea market on Highway 80. We went to get answers and found the flag the viewer was talking about. It is that old familiar confederate flag, but with a twist. It also has the nation’s first black president’s face on it.

The man selling the flag with President Obama’s likeness on it, says he’s not promoting hate but struggling to make ends meet.

Customers can also purchase the KKK flag and a one with Colonel Reb, the Ole

Miss mascot that was officially banned a few years ago.

The man, who would only identify himself as Winfield, tells us he’s been homeless for years and selling the flag is the only way he can make money.

We also talked with the manager of the flea market. He says despite our viewer complaining to us, he’s received no complaints about the flag himself. Says he’s sold 200 of them at $10 each, saying it’s his top seller.”


South Carolina: Houses to be Built in Civil War Fort

From the Mount Pleasant Patch’s Adam Crisp, a story about a proposed residential development that threatens a Civil War landmark.

“More than 150 years ago, Fort Palmetto was the easternmost defense in a string of Confederate batteries in Charleston designed by Gen. Robert E. Lee. Today, at the end of Six Mile Road looking out over Hamlin Sound, what remains of the Civil War fort could be mixed in with a proposed a 593-unit residential development.

That doesn’t sit well with some residents who say the 200-acre development called Oyster Point will encroach on a rare jewel that should be protected.

‘Historical landmarks should be preserved,’ said Stephen Hanlon, who lives next to the property in the Ravens Run development. ‘I think (town leaders) will look back on this project and regret it.’

D.R. Horton Homes, the developer behind Oyster Point, is seeking a first-of-its-kind conservation landscape district zoning classification. The classification allows developers to preserve the 200-acre property’s natural and historical elements with a series of parks and open spaces.

In return, D.R. Horton will be given leeway to build some of the project’s homes more closely together. An email message from Patch seeking comment from D.R. Horton’s local engineer was not returned on Friday, but the engineers have stressed previously that their plans actually preserve the property’s historic elements.

Current plans set aside 25 percent of the project for cultural, historical or environmentally significant elements. Oyster Point will actually add parking for guests who want to see the fort, access that isn’t currently available. D.R. Horton’s plans will reserve 22 acres of land for historically significant elements, including the preservation of 446 historic trees.

Fort Palmetto is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Though overgrown with trees and vines, several of the fort’s earthen mounds are still in place.

Neighbors worry that Oyster Point could spoil the historic site. But a larger issue, Hanlon contends, is that the project is out of scale with a part of Mount Pleasant that has a more rural feel.

Ravens Run, which will share a property line with Oyster Point, is roughly 100 acres with 93 homes. Properties there sell for $600,000 to nearly $2 million. Many of the area’s homes are built on larger lots, and many have been owned by families for generations, Hanlon said.

A planning commission meeting last month featured more than two dozen of those residents who complained about the development’s impacts on traffic and the environment.

Commissioners voted unanimously to defer the application and encouraged D.R. Horton to revise its plans and present a project that appeared less dense.

Hanlon said the entire property should be preserved as a park. Though he admits the idea is a long-shot, he would like Mount Pleasant to swap 245 acres of town-owned land on Rifle Range Road for the Palmetto Fort property. That undeveloped property is slated to be a town-county park at some point in the future.

‘I think that’s land that is more appropriate for what D.R. Horton wants to do, and the (Fort Palmetto) property is more historic and appropriate for a park,’ Hanlon said.

The project could be discussed again at a July 18 planning commission meeting.”


Texas : School board considers ban on Rebel mascot, fight song

A school board in Buda, Texas, is considering whether to change Hays High’s Rebel mascot and fight song amid local criticism. From the Hays Free Press‘s Kim Hilsenbeck:

“Following a vandalism incident at Hays High School in which two 14-year-olds are accused of writing racially motivated graffiti and urinating on the classroom door of a black teacher, the Hays CISD community appears once again divided over the use of the school’s Confederate imagery.

Some parents and community members are calling for the removal of the Rebel mascot and the school’s fight song, ‘Dixie,’ saying they contribute to an attitude of racial intolerance.

But there are also passionate arguments for keeping the school’s traditions alive because many say those traditions have to do with pride, not hate.

Superintendent Jeremy Lyon said the district is working to develop a response to the larger issue of racial intolerance within the district that is not reactionary to the vandalism.

‘I want to do it right,’ Lyon said. ‘We’re going to treat this in a way that’s built to last.’

Lyon said he and the Board of Trustees have also begun to explore the issue of how the Confederate imagery may play a role in the community as well as how others outside Hays County perceive the district because of it.

‘The context of how we feel about allegiance to the fight song and mascot must be balanced against an external audience and how it feels,’ Lyon said.

He said he will discuss with the board whether or not to go down the road of changing the high school’s mascot and fight song.

‘The trustees represent the values of the community,’ Lyon said. ‘This recent incident gives the board an opportunity to examine that issue.’

Use of the Confederate flag at Hays High was banned about 10 years ago following another racially charged incident.

Former Hays CISD Trustree David Wiley was on the board when school officials created a policy that does not allow Confederate flags on campus or at athletic games.

‘There is a subtle racial undercurrent at Hays High,’ said Wiley, whose daughter graduated from the school and was the band drum major.

Wiley said that undercurrrent is not conveyed by the school district but is perpetuated by members of the community.

‘For the high school students, it [the mascot, fight song and flag] was just pride and spirit, but the adults knew exactly what this was about,’ Wiley said.

He also said he thinks there is a phenomenon he calls the ‘Hays Bubble’ — people who lived in the county their entire lives may not realize the school’s Confederate imagery is offensive to other people outside the local community.

At the time of his board term, Wiley said the Texas Education Agency received complaints from other districts that competed against Hays High School in UIL sports, which is why the board decided to tackle the Confederate flag as the school symbol. The board did not try to remove ‘Dixie.’

‘Banning the flag was a big enough bite of the apple,’ Wiley said.

The mascot, a caricature of the school’s namesake Capt. Jack C. Hays, had his Rebel flag and guns removed during the last community-wide debate.

In 2000, school officials created a policy that does not allow Confederate flags on campus or at athletic games. Clothing and other accessories with the Rebel flag are also banned at Hays High, and students who wear such items run the risk of having them confiscated.

One person who may have been more adamant about adhering to the dress code was the teacher who was the target of the racially tinged vandalism, Wanda Murphy.

Murphy is also said to have been a vocal opponent of the Rebel mascot and fight song. Indeed, some community members who contacted the Hays Free Press, or commented on the paper’s website and Facebook page, indicated Murphy made the Rebel imagery about racial discrimination.

The superintendent asked the Anti Defamation League for help with the broader issues of racial attitudes towards others and maintaining a positive environment for students and employees free from intolerant, hurtful or hateful attitudes and action.

‘The district strives to achieve a place where diversity is not only respected, but celebrated,’ Savoy said.”