South Carolina: Civil War Artist Depicts CSS  Hunley Launch

COLUMBIA — The job of every historian is to gather as much information as possible, then fill in the blanks.

Most do the filling with words. Mort Kunstler uses brush strokes.

Kunstler, recognized as one of the top chroniclers of historical scenes, will be at S.C. State Museum Saturday to present gallery talks and autograph books and other items. His South Carolina-based paintings include three displayed at Fort Sumter National Monument depicting the first battle of the Civil War and one depicting the launching of the CSS Hunley on the evening of Feb. 17, 1864.

Final Mission, Kunstler's finished look at the launching of the CSS Hunley /courtesy s.c. state museum

Nobody photographed that secret mission. But Kunstler’s “The Final Mission,” created for the Hunley Commission, remarkably captures a moment before the launch, thanks in part to the reams of words written about the first submarine to sink a ship in battle.

“You start with what is obviously known, and you work from there,” Kunstler said. “When you have as much information as with the Hunley, it becomes an unending and exciting chore.”

Kunstler doesn’t mean chore in the negative sense: He thrives on the challenge of using his imagination to fill in those blanks and doing the research so there aren’t so many blanks.

Kunstler does it so well that he stays busy with commissions. While he does scenes from all periods, collectors scoop up his Civil War work. When on a book-signing trip at then-state Sen. Glenn McConnell’s memorabilia shop in Charleston, he first told McConnell he wasn’t sure he had the time to take on the task of creating a commemorative painting for the Hunley Commission.

“Then I took him out to Sullivan’s Island and said this is where the Hunley left from, and I told him the story,” said McConnell, now the state’s lieutenant governor.

It was one man with a deep appreciation of history preaching to the historical choir. By the time the trip was complete, Kunstler had agreed to paint the Hunley launch scene.

“I got so fascinated by it, just like him,” Kunstler said.

That was just the start. Kunstler read everything he could on the Hunley and the mood in Charleston near the end of the war. He talked with experts. He made another trip to Charleston to get the right feel for the location, especially the angle for the gangplank leading from the dock to the sub. He spent a lot of time on the phone with McConnell.

“I started getting calls,” McConnell said. “How did they get on? What do you think the dock looked like? How do you think they would gather on the dock?

“He wanted to get every little detail right. We had re-created the faces of the crew (based on the few written descriptions and skeletal remains found after the Hunley was raised in 2000). Mort gave them living details. He brought them to life.”

One of Kunstler’s trips to Charleston happened to coincide with the ceremonial opening of a pocket watch found in the sub and belonging to Lt. George Dixon, commander of the crew. Kunstler felt he had to include the watch in the painting, but how could he do it?

“It’s impossible to show something that small any way except in a gesture,” Kunstler said.

Mort Kunstler begins with a sketch and then gradually builds up the background, adding layers of color and texture before finishing the painting with details.

In the painting, a soldier is holding a lantern up to allow Dixon to check his watch to time the launch at the proper tide. The watch is a tiny speck on the full image, yet it’s the focus.

Meanwhile, a crew member is peering apprehensively into one of the sub’s conning towers. Others are busy checking lines and gear on the wooden dock. The face of a mysterious man in a top hat is hidden from view. A man in the background points to the harbor, where the Hunley’s target, the USS Housatonic, was anchored.

Other details include the full moon behind scattered clouds and the basket of oysters in a boat in the foreground.

“It try to tell as much as possible,” Kunstler said. “Every little thing is thought through.”

He checked the phase of the moon that night, its location in the sky in reference to the launch, the type of lantern used, whether oysters were in season.

Painting the sub itself was both easy and difficult, Kunstler said. Easy because he knew almost exactly what it looked like; hard because he had little room for letting his imagination roam.

“I was quite thrilled with the painting when we finished,” Kunstler said, “and even more thrilled when we went down there and signed (prints and books) for two days and realized how much money we made” for the Hunley Commission.

He signed a print for McConnell, adding a comment: “Thanks for Hunleytizing me.”

Joey Holleman, The State


Arkansas: Opportunity for Confederate Memorial in Helena

We have a rare opportunity for the Sons of Confederate Veterans to own a core piece of battlefield. Located in Helena, Arkansas directly across from Fort Curtis and to the side of a Civil War-era home (Moore-Hornor Home), both properties of which are maintained by the State of Arkansas (Delta Cultural Center) is approximately an acre of core battlefield that backs up to the site where General Price’s troops made an attack on Fort Curtis on July 4, 1863.

This picture was taken from the proposed Confederate Memorial Park looking down into Fort Curtis across the street.

The site will be known as the “Confederate Memorial Park” but we need just $2500 more to be able to purchase the property. Reach deep in your pockets and give us $10 if you can, or more! By the purchase and maintenance of this property, it will give the city of Helena’s Civil War theme a balance!

To remember what those men fought for 150 years ago is the whole purpose of this project and we cannot let their brave deeds go unnoticed.

This project will be presented at the Arkansas Division meeting in Little Rock on January 5, 2013 following the David O. Dodd memorial at the Whole Hog Cafe restaurant. More information to follow.

The property is located where the Confederates broke through the federal lines during the battle. What a great Christmas present- donate $10 and you will get a certificate of your financial assistance in purchasing a piece of battlefield!

If you or someone you know is a Civil War buff, donate $10 in their name and you will receive frame-able proof that you helped preserve an Arkansas Civil War battlefield!

You can either mail your check or money order to Ron Kelley, 117 South 4th, West Helena, Arkansas 72390 or you can simply click on the donate button below to donate via PayPal! Thank you in advance for your help!

— The Arkansas Toothpick


Georgia: One of Last Confederate Victories Portrayed
A force of 10,000 Confederates slowed the Union Army’s ultimate destruction of Atlanta during the Civil War when they repelled the Union’s nighttime attack in May 1864 at Pickett’s Mill in northeast Paulding County.On Saturday, Nov. 10, re-enactors will recreate Confederate Capt. Thomas Key’s artillery bombardment of Union soldiers in the battle site’s “hell hole” ravine and Confederate Brig. Gen. Hiram Granbury’s soldiers’ advance that forced the Union’s ultimate withdrawal during four candlelight tours of the battlefield.

Hugh Walters of the Friends of Civil War Paulding County said his group — which boasts about 25 members and helps maintain the historic site — has organized the event for more than a decade.

Park Ranger James Wooten loads the cannon that will be fired on the tour.

“Basically, it’s a learning experience for the younger people — and the older,” he said. “We want to educate especially the younger folks, get them accustomed to the period dress, help them understand.”

Tours are scheduled for 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Cost is $8 apiece.

Walters said Nov. 10 “worked out better” for the expected 15 to 20 re-enactors who stay busy year-round at various war sites. The participants are volunteers and will come from throughout north Georgia, he said.

“They will be doing it on the same site with Patrick Cleburne’s troops,” he said.

According to the historic site’s website, “On May 27, 1864, the Federal Army, having been stopped in its advance on Atlanta two days earlier by the Battle of New Hope Church, attempted to outflank the Confederate position. Some 14,000 Federal troops were selected for the task, and Gen. [Oliver] Howard was given command.

“After a five-hour march, Howard’s force reached the vicinity of Pickett’s Mill and prepared to attack. Waiting were 10,000 Confederate troops under the command of Gen. Cleburne. The Federal assault began at 5 p.m. and continued into the night. Daybreak found the Confederates still in possession of the field. The Federals had lost 1,600 men compared to the Confederate loss of 500.”

Attendees will walk through the ravine and up through the battle site. A ranger will lead the tours using candle lanterns similar to those used during the Civil War, Walters said. Those attending should wear comfortable shoes because the terrain is hilly, he said.

One of the park’s cannons will be fired during the event to help accurately portray the historical event to attendees, he said.

Organizers are asking for reservations in advance by calling (770) 443-7850. Tickets are available by calling the same number or going to the park at 4432 Mt. Tabor Church Road off Dallas-Acworth Highway in Dallas.

Tom Spigolon, Atlanta
Florida: Volunteers find Civil War veterans buried in SW Florida Cemeteries

For Robert Gates, it’s a matter of honor.

Over the last few months, Gates and a small corps of volunteers have spent hundreds of hot, buggy hours tromping the Fort Myers Cemetery’s 67 acres, hunting for the graves of long-dead men.

Their original goal was to record, flag and map the final resting place of every Confederate veteran — 49 so far — but along the way, the project expanded.

“Out of honor, we did map whatever Union soldiers we came across,” Gates says.

The volunteers have found five Yankee graves.

Tom Fyock of Cape Coral paints the cross on the graves of an unknown Confederate soldier Thursday at the Fort Myers Cemetery. The crosses, which are from the 1920s, were rusted, so the Sons of Confederate Veterans were restoring them. The members also marked the locations of the graves of Union soldiers. / Amanda Inscore/

Heading up the project is the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — the William Footman Camp, with help from their Marco Island counterparts as well as the Fort Myers chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Southwest Florida Historical Society.

Once the Confederate graves were found, each got a Confederate States of America flag and will soon display a CSA medallion. And the 70-plus-year-old iron crosses marking 15 of them got an overhaul, all at the volunteers’ expense — $1,300 and counting.

For SCV member Thomas Fyock, it was all of the above plus knees and back. He took on the cleaning, sanding, priming and repainting of most of the old iron crosses until they gleamed like new. “Just doing my duty,” he says.

“We put a lot of time, effort, heart and money into this,” Gates says, but it’s a small price to pay to “remember the good names of those who sacrificed wealth, family, health and livelihood to defend Florida.”

Another point of pride has been pointing out that a lone iron CSA cross labeled “Unknown” should be plural.

Based on historic records and what he knows about old cemeteries, Gates is certain it was placed not to mark the final resting place of one unidentified man, but intended to honor all the veterans whose markers had been lost over time. “That’s a common occurrence in cemeteries,” he says. So, the group has hired east Lee County’s General Memorials to make the $500 correction, he says.

Another of the project’s rewards, Gates says, has been the chance to learn about the veterans the volunteers were honoring.

“It’s almost like time travel,” he says.

For example, the first person to be buried in the cemetery in 1888 was Fort Myers resident Charles Stebbins. Born in Massachusetts, he wasn’t even a Southerner.

“He was a Yankee,” Gates says, “but when the war went down, he stuck by and defended his new state of Florida.”

Stebbins took a bullet to the left lung in the 1865 battle of Fort Myers, but he recovered, returned to civilian life, married and went on to become the city of Fort Myers’ first clerk and treasurer. Yet more than two decades later, the wound proved fatal when the shell worked its way out of Stebbins’ lung.

Many of the veterans laid to rest in the cemetery didn’t fight in that battle, but were natives deployed elsewhere or veterans from other places who retired, died and were buried here.

Gates also marvels at the story of Francis Wilson, who became a Confederate cavalry scout when he was 12 and served until he was 16.

“Pretty cool imagining a young teenager skulking around the wilds of Florida looking for Yankees,” Gates says.

Gates, a Cypress Lake High School graduate and decorated Air Force veteran, is a charter member and commander of the Footman camp. For him, honoring Confederate veterans is a daily duty motivated by a keen sense of place and history. Gates’ routine includes checking the Robert E. Lee Statue in Fort Myers and caring for Confederate graves at the Buckingham, Alva and New Prospect cemeteries in North Fort Myers, where the SCV has raised money to place markers on all Confederate graves.

Local history expert Helen Farrell helped with the project. She says noting residents’ and the region’s role in the Civil War is simply acknowledging historical reality.

“Lots of people I’ve talked to are kind of shocked to learn so many Civil War soldiers — both Confederate and Union, too — are buried here,” she says. “No matter what your own opinions are, they were doing what they thought was right. And there’s quite a fascination in knowing the stories of the people who served.”

Amy Bennett Adams,

Tennessee: Franklin County proposes carriages for Civil War Canons

FRANKLIN – The cannons decorating Franklin’s Civil War statue may swap their cement pillars for wheels one day.

Franklin Battlefield Commission members want to explore swapping out the cement bases for replica "cannon carriages" around Franklin's Confederate statue. / Kevin Walters/THE TENNESSEAN

Members of the city Battlefield Preservation Commission will discuss Thursday asking the U.S. National Park Service if Franklin might acquire the service’s replica “cannon carriages” to hold the four cannons that decorate the Confederate statue in the Franklin Public Square.

If the commission can coordinate the project with the park service, the cannons would be taken off the cement pillars and remounted on the iron carriages in order to make them more historically accurate.

“It’s a concept that a couple of our members brought forward,” said Jay Sheridan, commission member. “It sounds like there could potentially be an opportunity with the parks service to acquire carriages they are no longer using.”

The United Daughters of the Confederacy, Franklin Chapter No. 14 erected the marble Confederate soldier statue on Nov. 30, 1899, to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Franklin.

A representative for the National Park Service could not be reached for comment.

This wouldn’t be the first change on the monument since it was built. Originally, the Confederate statue was at street level. Eventually a small iron fence was built around the base of the monument and it was later landscaped.

It was during this period that four cannons were placed on each corner around the statue.

City leaders considered installing four fountains around the statue in the 1930s, but that idea was abandoned.

By Kevin Walters, The Tennessean


Virginia: Waynesboro Wins Grant for Civil War Programs

It’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and Waynesboro Public Library will be hosting a program about art from the front lines thanks to a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Library of America.

“Pencil and Power: Special Artists of the Civil War” will be held Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. It is presented by The Virginia Historical Society Center for Virginia History.

Photography was still in its infancy during the Civil War. Cameras weren’t able to capture movement because of long exposure times and photos couldn’t be reproduced in the newspaper. The job of providing the public with images of battle and camp life fell to brave men known as “Special Artists” and they illustrated these scenes with pencil, crayon, and brush. This program explores the adventurous lives of Winslow Homer, Alfred Waud, and Frank Vizetelly and the methods they used to bring their images to the public.

Out of 180 applications from 44 states, WPL was chosen to receive a grant for a $500 stipend to host public programming on the themes of the Civil War. It is in conjunction with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s Civil War 150 project. This grant also includes Library of America readers (discussion guides) that are available through the library.

The Library of America is an award-winning nonprofit publisher dedicated to preserving America’s best and most significant writing in handsome, enduring volumes, featuring authoritative texts.  The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education,

The Virginia Historical Society Center for Virginia History features award-winning exhibitions and programming that are entertaining and educational for all ages.

Augusta Free Press