Florida: Confederate Flag at School Angers Mom
A South Florida mom is not happy with a history exhibition at her child’s elementary school.
Tina Meadows is asking Sunset Lakes Elementary School in Miramar to remove a Confederate flag on display in a school hallway, the Miami Herald reports.
The controversial flag is encased on the wall along with other historical flags including a 36-star Union flag, 1814 flag, 1861 “Stars and Bars” Confederate flag, a flag from the U.S. Capitol and a Sept. 11 memorial flag.
Sunset Lakes was designed “as a sort of mini-museum” with a U.S. history focus when it opened a decade ago, according to the Herald report, which said Broward Schools Chief Service Quality Officer Sharon Airaghi responded to Meadow’s complaint by writing that the school is recognizing pieces of history “including those that are difficult and repugnant.”
Tracy Clark, a public information officer for the district, told HuffPost Miami that the flag “is not given any prominence over any other flag, and it is there as part of a timeline of American history.” The display was created by a “diverse” panel when the Sunset Lakes first opened, she said.
Meadows, who is black, started an online petition at Change.org that has nearly 4,500 signatures.
“The confederate flag is a symbol of oppression, racism, and slavery,” Meadows wrote. “It is a reminder of a painful past in American History…The flag is intimidating and offensive to parents and students who have been culturally affected by it and it’s symbolism. Take it down now!”
The beef isn’t Meadow’s first with the school’s exhibition. Clark said Sunset Lakes changed a label under a mural of Condoleeza Rice from “Afro American” to “African American” after Meadows raised concern.
Previous complaints about the confederate flag were settled after the school’s previous principal sat down with offended parents and explained the exhibition, the district said.
North Carolina: Civil War Portraits Reveal Diversity
By John David Smith, The Charlotte Observer
In his Jan. 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln included a sentence decreeing that slaves freed under the president’s edict would “be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.” As Lincoln explained, “military necessity” transformed the conflict from a constitutional struggle to a war of black liberation and military emancipation.
Ronald S. Coddington’s “African American Faces of the Civil War” is a stunning album of 77 portrait photographs – cartes de visite, ambrotypes and tintypes – of former slaves and free blacks who joined the Union war effort in various capacities. The handsomely reproduced photographs underscore the centrality of race and masculinity for those blacks who donned Union blue.
Coddington, assistant managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education and a collector of Civil War photographs, is the author of two similar works: “Faces of the Confederacy” and “Faces of the Civil War.” Each includes precisely documented archival portraits and carefully researched informal biographies of the subjects, almost all of whom remain obscure. Most of the images have never been published before.
Locating and identifying wartime photographs and documenting the biographies of men of color who served with Union forces proved to be extraordinarily difficult tasks. The development of inexpensive commercial photography in the Civil War era allowed soldiers and sailors, black and white, to have their pictures taken to send home to be saved, shared and displayed. But images of black servicemen, many of whom had just emerged from slavery, remain extremely scarce.
To remedy this problem, Coddington conducted research in museums, archives, private collections and online. Piecing together each soldier or sailor’s personal story required micro-research in hard-to-find newspapers, manuscripts, and military and pension records.
Collectively, the images underscore the diverse personalities of the African-American servicemen, at least as captured by the photographer’s lens. Most probably had never had their picture taken before. In his perceptive foreword to Coddington’s book, historian J. Matthew Gallman observes correctly that the men’s body language “suggests strong individualism rather than the imposition of some sort of military discipline.”
The images also attest to the black subjects’ broad range of wartime experiences – from garrison and fatigue duty to combat.
One tintype captures Pvt. John Goosberry, a free black Canadian sailor who served as a musician in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. An ambrotype rescues from oblivion Landsman Charles F. Redding, U.S. Navy, an original crewmember of the U.S.S. Kearsage, which sank the Confederate raider Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France, in June 1864. Sgt. William Harvey Carney’s carte de visite and biography tell the story of a soldier whose heroism at South Carolina’s Fort Wagner in July 1863 earned him the nation’s highest military accolade – the Medal of Honor.
Another image is a remarkable tintype of Sgt. Andrew Chandler, a Confederate soldier, posed with Silas, a slave who accompanied him to war as a body servant. According to family lore, Silas’ devotion to his young master prevented Chandler from having a leg amputated by Confederate surgeons. Silas’ great-granddaughter, however, interpreted the story of the black Confederate differently. “He was taken into a war for a cause he didn’t believe in. He was dressed up like a Confederate soldier for reasons that may never be known.”
Coddington’s “African American Faces of the Civil War” provides a unique visual record, quite literally documenting the faces of war at a transitional moment in U.S. history. Lincoln’s black warriors helped to overthrow slavery and to restore the Union. Their descendants spent the next century fighting new battles for true equality.
John David Smith is the Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History at UNC Charlotte. With Patricia Bellis Bixel he co-authored the forthcoming “Seeing the New South: Race and Place in the Photographs of Ulrich B. Phillips.”
Virginia: Museum of the Confederacy paintings join Smithsonian Exhibit
RICHMOND, Va. – Nine of the entire set of 31 paintings of the harbor and defenses of Charleston, South Carolina, by Confederate soldier Conrad Wise Chapman and acquired by the Museum of the Confederacy from the artist, are to be displayed in the exhibition “The Civil War and American Art,” presented by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The nine artworks to be exhibited include the famous painting of the submarine H. L. Hunley. This exhibition, organized by Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator, also contains paintings by Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, Frederic Church, and Sanford Gifford. The exhibit will open to the public Nov. 16, 2012, and run through April 28, 2013.
S. Waite Rawls III, President and CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy stated: “Conrad Wise Chapman was the best of the soldier artists. We are pleased that all of his Charleston wartime paintings are in our collection and nine will be in the Smithsonian’s exhibit.”
Chapman, who had been living in Europe before returning to America to serve in the Confederate army, was commissioned in 1863 by the Chief of Staff to General P.G.T. Beauregard to make sketches of Charleston Harbor for Beauregard’s use in planning its defense. After completing the sketches the artist returned to Europe to live in Rome. Using the sketches, the paintings were completed the following year by Chapman and his father.
Each of the 31 paintings can be found on the Museum of the Confederacy’s website www.moc.org under Exhibitions/Online.
Publications, online features, an audio tour, public programs, and educational initiatives are also planned. Information will be available on the Smithsonian’s website.
About The Museum of the Confederacy:
The Museum of the Confederacy is a private, nonprofit educational institution. The Museum and White House are located in downtown Richmond in the historic Court End neighborhood, in addition to its new location in Appomattox. The Museum owns the world’s largest collection of artifacts and documents related to the Confederate States of America.
Dayton Named National Historic Landmark
By Barrie Barber
DAYTON — The Dayton VA Medical Center was awarded National Historic Landmark status, one of 27 sites nationally the Department of the Interior announced Wednesday.
“It’s the highest level of national significance the National Park Service places,” said Michael Gessel, a vice president of the Washington, D.C., office of the Dayton Development Coalition, and one of the advocates for the designation. “It gives higher visibility to these buildings which can be used for heritage tourism and the economic benefits that tourism can provide.”
The designation spans 51 buildings or structures and 266 acres on the sprawling campus, he said, which includes historic spots such as the Dayton National Cemetery, a soldiers monument, a grotto arch, and a $1.5 million renovated chapel originally built by Civil War veterans with limestone quarried on the grounds. Newer buildings, such as a nine-story patient tower, aren’t recognized for the honor.
“We were providing care at the same time (Dayton author) Paul Laurence Dunbar was writing poetry and the Wright brothers were building the Wright B Flyer,” said Mark Murdock, Dayton VA assistant director.
The new found status will help the Dayton VA pursue grants and its attempt to land the National VA archives, he said.
Officially, the Department of the Interior noted the importance of the Dayton VA in the evolution in federal care for veterans beginning in World War I and through the consolidation of the VA to 1930.
Local leaders have spent more than a decade trying to win the historic status.
Former U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, D-Dayton, and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, separately authored legislation to land the national landmark designation. Judge Walter Rice and the American Heritage Veteran Center played key roles, also, Murdock said.
President Abraham Lincoln authorized the Dayton campus as one of three National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1865. The Central Branch, which was what the campus was known as, opened in 1867. The other homes opened in Milwaukee, Wis., and Togus, Maine. Thousands of Civil War veterans learned a trade, received health care or practiced rehabilitative activities to re-enter society after battle. Today, the VA campus treats veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In 2004, the Dayton VA was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Charlottesville Caught in War Between the States
By Sarah Bingol, The Cavalier Daily
The Civil War may not have been fought on the University’s doorstep, but the war did impact University students and Charlottesville, most notably with the community’s contributions to the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers.
Several factories in and around Charlottesville supplied uniforms and artificial limbs to soldiers. There was also an important hospital in the City, said Arts & Sciences graduate student Michael Caires, who is researching Civil War banking for his Ph.D. dissertation.
“With Virginia as one of the main theaters of battle in the Civil War, residents of Charlottesville could not escape its effects,” Caires said.
The University remained open during the entire war and was committed to providing education to those students who were still on Grounds or came back injured from the front.
“The University was very particular about the buildings not being used for military purposes,” University Historian Alexander “Sandy” Gilliam said. “[Officials] figured if buildings were used and Charlottesville was attacked, then the University would be burned.”
University students not fighting during the war still played an active role in the Civil War. Charlottesville did not see much actual fighting, but more than 2,000 University men, including alumni, served for the Confederacy during the war, History Prof. Elizabeth Varon said in an email.
In addition, University doctors treated a total of 22,700 wounded soldiers during the war, and Dawson’s Row and Lawn rooms were used for recuperation. Confederate General and U.Va. Law grad Carnot Posey even died in Room 33 West after his Law roommate, Dr. John Staige Davis, found him in a local hospital and brought him to the University for treatment.
“Davis lived in Pavilion XVII, and at the time, if you were living on the Lawn as faculty you could petition for the adjoining Lawn rooms,” Gilliam added. “Davis had 33 West and cut a door through the wall to the room. Davis moved Posey to 33 West and treated him there until he developed pneumonia and died.”
General Posey is buried in the University cemetery in the Davis family plot.
Charlottesville’s true claim to Civil War fame was its March 3, 1865 surrender of the City to Union generals Philip H. Sheridan and George Custer, said Arts & Sciences Graduate student Will Kurtz, a Ph.D. candidate specializing in 19th century America. Since Union soldiers occupied Charlottesville only in the month leading up to the surrender at Appomattox, Va., the city did not sustain major damage.
When the Civil War ended, the battle had just begun for the University, which struggled to recover economically after the war and during Reconstruction.
“A great influx of veterans came back to school, but nobody had any money,” Gilliam said. “The South was desperately poor. The University faced closing several times after the war because there wasn’t any money.”
In an effort to recognize those who fought for the Confederacy the University established memorials to these men. Bronze plaques on the portico of the front steps of the Rotunda list the names of students, alumni, and faculty who died fighting for the Confederacy. There is also a memorial to Confederate soldiers who died at the University just outside the cemetery.
“I find it fascinating as well that while Confederate veterans who were killed in action are memorialized on plaques on the Rotunda, there is no mention of the men from U.Va. who fought for the Union,” Kurtz said.
With sesquicentennial commemorations of the Civil War occurring all around Virginia, a debate has waged about whether Charlottesville should memorialize such Confederate leaders as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson given their history of supporting slavery.
Courthouse Dig Tells Civil War Story
BY CLINT SCHEMMER
Call it “Building X.”
What remains of it lies, buried and long forgotten until now, beside today’s Fredericksburg City Hall where a new courthouse will soon rise.
Now, thanks to intense scrutiny by archaeologists and local researchers in recent weeks, you can add this once-substantial row house to the casualties of the Battle of Fredericksburg.
The Civil War’s most lopsided Confederate victory, won 150 years ago this December, not only killed or wounded nearly 18,000 men, it erased the brick structure from the town’s landscape.
Owned by Fredericksburg businessman Peter Goolrick, the building on Lot 38 was assessed at $1,000 in 1860, local researcher Nancy Moore said. It vanishes from the tax records by 1865.
That, combined with before-and-after photo analysis by National Park Service historian John Hennessy, clearly shows that the war brought down the building, which burned.
“The two images in 1863 of that part of town, taken from two slightly different angles, both don’t have a building where you would expect one to be,” Hennessy, chief historian of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, said in an interview. “In my view, that supports [the archaeologists’] interpretation that it was destroyed sometime in association with the battle.”
The building’s lingering presence was unknown until about four weeks ago, when evidence was uncovered in the archaeological dig the city funded before the $35 million courthouse is built. It had lain under Thom Savage’s law office, entombed beneath a concrete slab, for decades.
Now the building foundation and its contents will be the subject of laboratory analysis—and a forthcoming report to the city—by Cultural Resources Inc., the Glen Allen firm whose archaeologists swiftly excavated the courthouse site.
Taft Kiser, CRI’s project archaeologist, said the dig will provide material for further research for many years. But evidence already uncovered puts a group of Union troops in that building around the time of the battle, and provides clues about them and their activities. The archaeologists found metal insignia from soldiers’ uniforms that hint at their unit.
“It’s going to be Company C, and a regiment with a ‘2’ in its name,” Kiser said. “Eventually, someone will figure out which regiment it was. And there may be some soldier diarist who was in the house and left an account.”
City Councilman Matt Kelly, who followed the dig closely and brought various experts to watch it unfold, doesn’t think it was the 20th Maine because Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s famous regiment was bivouacked over on Caroline Street.
After talking with Hennessy and park historian Eric Mink, Kiser said he thinks the troops took shelter in the building’s cellar during the battle because—due to the site’s topography—it seemed safer from Confederate artillery fire than more exposed locations in the town’s business district.
The artifacts indicate the soldiers cooked beef, drank whiskey and Scottish beer, opened ration cans, dipped their pens in glass and stoneware inkwells, and smashed plates. Buttons, dozens of bullets, various uniform parts and dozens of tobacco-pipe bits were found, among hundreds of items. The cellar’s heart-pine floorboards, carbonized by the fire, were left mostly intact.
When one town resident returned after the battle, “walking through this area, he saw the houses were torn apart,” Kiser said. “They had no windows and no doors. And there were bowls everywhere, either full of water or blood. It’s kind of tragic.”
Moore and Barbara Willis, the Virginiana Room archivist at Central Rappahannock Regional Library, connected Goolrick—the town’s prewar mayor—to the row house by consulting tax records digitized by the University of Mary Washington’s Department of Historic Preservation.
Then Moore and her husband, Roger Engels, searched deeds at today’s courthouse and found a plat for the neighboring property. Goolrick’s parcel was immediately adjacent, “right where the foundation showed up on the dig,” Moore said.
Goolrick, one of the area’s richest men, lived in the Caroline Street building that now houses the Irish Eyes store. His son built Goolrick’s Pharmacy, which still stands on Caroline.
As for Building X, its brick and sandstone foundation will be gone soon, removed to make way for the new courthouse.
Over the next two weeks, crews will install shoring for full excavation of the property, said Lawrence W. Tressler II, project manager for Downey & Scott LLC, the Warrenton firm overseeing courthouse construction.
Kiser said that as earth is removed, the archaeologists will return briefly to examine the contents of a well that may date to the early 1700s.
Some of Building X’s Aquia stone, the same kind used to build the White House and U.S. Capitol, will be preserved, courthouse project manager Robert Antozzi said Monday.
Eventually, the dig’s artifacts will be returned to the city for permanent storage, and some may be put on public exhibit, Kelly said.
Among them is one real treasure. It came from the other side of the courthouse property, from a privy that served George Gravatt’s livery stable.
It’s an English creamware chamber pot that bears the image of the Enterprise, a U.S. Navy schooner involved in the Barbary Wars—and the first command of naval hero Stephen Decatur Jr.
The Americans’ victorious campaign gave rise to the famous phrase in the Marine Hymn: “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli.”
Made between 1803 and 1817, when the U.S. conflicts with the Barbary pirates were big news, the pot’s imagery includes “a beautiful, 16-star U.S. flag, a black transfer print,” Kiser said. “It’s amusing. This is the time of the War of 1812, and you have potters in Staffordshire, England, making a U.S. patriotic item and marketing it here.”
“This is something we’re going to be looking at forever, because it’s going to be a symbol of the city and of the archaeology here,” he added.
Kelly said a lot was learned from the courthouse dig, and more remains to be discovered.
“The city needs to take better advantage of these opportunities to learn about Fredericksburg history, and to encourage further research that will attract more visitors to our city,” he said. “We need to start discussing an archaeological ordinance that will put the framework in place to achieve these goals.”