Georgia: Signs that a GOP Civil War may be headed Georgia’s way

In politics, two years is the equivalent of two eternities. But already, signs are pointing to a Republican civil war headed Georgia’s way, settling into an orbit around the 2014 re-election bid of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Seven days ago, just as they were about to fire up their turkeys, Chambliss’ assessment of Grover Norquist’s no-tax-increase pledge allowed the state’s more fierce Republicans to cook their birds without an oven.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, arrives for a closed-door oversight hearing of the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this month, looking into the circumstances surrounding the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. AP/Alex Brandon

“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Georgia’s senior senator, who has spent the past two years trying to broker a bipartisan deal in Congress to tackle a $16 trillion federal deficit.

Chambliss has spent the past week explaining the difference between increased federal revenue needed to buy down the debt, which he supports, and increased tax rates that he opposes. The senator even let it be known that he and Norquist had a friendly phone chat Monday night.

In the meantime, the names of potential GOP primary opponents to Chambliss have dropped like leaves. U.S. Reps. Tom Price of Roswell and Paul Broun of Athens each have declared that this wasn’t the proper season to discuss such things. But neither congressman ruled out the possibility.

A former aide to Karen Handel, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor, confirmed that she was giving the contest some thought. Erick Erickson, the editor of and an evening talk show host for AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB, is reported to have entered a period of “prayerful consideration” when it comes to his candidacy.

Mark Rountree, the GOP pollster based in Gwinnett County, says a handful of state lawmakers are also interested.

Each one of these potential candidates is in a position to become a critic not just of Chambliss, but of any of the many moves that Republicans must make over the next two years in order to restore their national competitiveness — whether the issue is fiscal responsibility, immigration or abortion.

Chambliss, in fact, is likely to be cast as the personification of those adjustments.

Martha Zoller, the former radio talk show host and congressional candidate, is currently acting as a liaison for Gov. Nathan Deal with tea party organizations across the state. Chambliss has been the primary focus of conversation at her most recent meetings.

“They don’t like what he said about throwing the Grover Norquist pledge out because they support it, by and large,” she said. But it is the final agreement that Republicans and Democrats cut on the deficit, and Chambliss’ proximity to it, that will seal their opinion of the senator.

“They just want to see the deal,” Zoller said.

Ousting an incumbent in a primary, whether Democrat or Republican, is never easy. Chambliss hasn’t committed any of the egregious sins that usually apply, GOP strategist Heath Garrett said. Chambliss hasn’t, for instance, become a permanent resident of Washington like the recently deposed Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Richard Mourdock, who defeated Lugar in that state’s GOP primary, short-circuited his chances for entry into the U.S. Senate by volunteering the opinion that pregnancies resulting from rape were a “gift from God” and shouldn’t be eligible for abortion. In Missouri, Republican Todd Akin similarly saw his Senate ambitions vanish when he wandered into a discussion of “legitimate rape.”

Both men will serve as lessons in the dangers of overly heated rhetoric in 2014, Garrett predicted. “There’s a practicality to some of these movements that may end up helping a Saxby Chambliss even if, short-term, there’s a lot of sound and fury,” he said.

Tom Perdue, Chambliss’ chief political consultant, declared that by the time the campaign begins in earnest, the longer aims of any deficit deal will be apparent, quieting the current rumblings.

“Saxby’s going to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the country. If in the short run it doesn’t look like it’s politically popular or expedient, and people want to jump on that, that’s their right,” Perdue said. “But in the end, most every one of them will be supporting Saxby for re-election.”

One person who could help determine whether Chambliss faces token opposition or a stampede in two years is the governor.

But keep in mind that the Deal crowd is still angry with Chambliss’ chief consultant. Two years ago, after that heated gubernatorial runoff with Handel, Perdue suggested that Deal should step down as the Republican nominee because of his failure to disclose — in a timely manner — his perilous personal financial situation.

Deal will also be up for re-election in 2014, so any support he might offer Chambliss is already likely to be limited. And if a bear of a tea party movement is chasing both men, the governor may well decide that he doesn’t have to outrun the bear. He just needs to outrun Chambliss.

Perdue acknowledged but discounted any tension between himself and the governor’s camp. “Nathan and Saxby have their own good relationship apart from me,” he said.

– By Jim Galloway, Political Insider, Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Civil War Generals in Oak Grove Cemetery

MARIETTA – Coming off a heated election season, one of the many accomplishments in the storied lives of Rufus Dawes and Adoniram J. Warner may seem particularly hard to believe.

The two Civil War generals, both of whom are buried in Marietta’s Oak Grove Cemetery, remained friends even as they faced each other in a pair of elections for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“It was a very civil political opposition,” local historian Scott Britton said. “These guys had a lot of respect for each other because they knew what they had gone through in their service.”

In Oak Grove Cemetery Thursday, Marietta resident Barb Moberg looks at the grave monument for her great-great-grandfather, Rufus Dawes, a Civil War general who faced fellow Gen. Adoniram J. Warner in two Congressional elections in 1880 and 1882. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Although they both lived in Marietta after the war, Dawes and Warner didn’t meet until the eve of the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Md., in 1862.

Dawes was a major with the 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, having joined a company there while working for his father’s lumber business. Warner was a lieutenant colonel with the 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry.

Dawes assumed command of his unit when his commander was wounded during the battle. Despite being in some of the most intense fighting in the cornfield at Antietam, Dawes came through the battle with nothing more serious than a bullet having grazed his calf, said Dan Hinton, commander of the local Gen. Benjamin D. Fearing Camp No. 2 of the Sons of Union Veterans.

Meanwhile, Warner was shot as he directed his troops into a nearby cornfield. Although the bullet shattered his pelvis, an injury causing effects he felt for the rest of his life, it wasn’t his last military action. Britton said he returned to duty less than a year later, just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, where he and Dawes once again fought on the same battlefield.

To get there, he left the hospital in Washington, D.C., and rode on horseback to Pennsylvania.

“I can’t even imagine the excruciating pain for him,” Britton said. “He was going back to defend his home state no matter what.”

Although Dawes went through the war without serious injury, he suffered effects that “weren’t as visible,” Hinton said. He recalled a letter Dawes wrote to his wife while serving in Congress, describing how he went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the graves of each of the men who’d died under his command.

“He was proud of his service, but he had some survivor’s guilt,” Hinton said.

Dawes was born in Morgan County, but his family moved to Marietta at an early age and he settled there after the war. Warner was assigned to court martial duty at different points in the United States, including Indiana where he served as a pallbearer when President Abraham Lincoln’s body was transported through the area en route to his final resting place at Springfield, Ill. Later he was assigned to Cambridge, Ohio, and eventually settled farther south at Marietta, Britton said.

Warner, a Democrat, was elected to Congress as a representative of Ohio’s 13th Congressional District. Redistricting apparently moved him to the 15th District in 1880 where he faced Dawes, the Republican nominee.

The campaign was described as “fiercely partisan (but) personally friendly” in “Portrait of an American: Charles G. Dawes,” a biography of Rufus Dawes’ son, who served as vice president of the United States under President Calvin Coolidge.

The men differed on various political issues, including on what the U.S. currency system should be based. Dawes favored the gold standard, while Warner was a “bimetallist,” supporting the use of gold and silver.

Apparently there was some limit to the friendliness, although young Charles Dawes stepped over that line the night before the election. According to the biography, written by Bascom N. Timmons, Warner’s campaign organized a parade and the procession was led by a band that included the future vice president, playing the flute.

“He explained, when he returned home that night, that it was purely a professional appearance for which he had been paid,” the biography says. “But to others of the family, it was heresy, compounded by the fact that the remuneration he had received had not even been in sound money; the pay had been a silver dollar!”

Nevertheless, Dawes unseated the incumbent Warner by 502 votes, according to, a website community centered around discussion of politics. Two years later, in the rematch, Warner was the victor by 691 votes.

The region recently saw another Congressional rematch, with Democrat Charlie Wilson trying to regain the 6th District seat he’d held for two terms from Republican Bill Johnson. There were great partisan differences there too, and a debate at Marietta College seemed particularly heated, with supporters of both men offering cheers for their candidate and jeers for the opponent.

Britton noted that while many people think the political tone in recent years is at an all-time low, campaigns like those between Warner and Dawes were neither the exception nor the rule in the 19th century. He pointed to the 1856 incident in which South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beat Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate with a cane.

“Politics has changed, but it’s not quite as bad as people think,” Britton said.

– By Evan Bevins, Marietta Times


Civil War Draws Visitors to Georgia for Anniversary

ATLANTA — In the 1960s, popular culture asked the question “suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” that could apply to Georgia’s Civil War tourism.

While the original question advocated ending warfare if soldiers refused to fight in Vietnam, in today’s context it may ponder whether overnight visitors will come for landmarks about a war fought 150 years ago that still impacts modern society. And more of those battles were fought in Georgia than in any state other than Virginia.

Tourism is a potent economic engine because it doesn’t require the lead time of factory construction, doesn’t have spewing smokestacks and is more labor intensive than manufacturing. As a source of foreign revenue, it is growing this year a double the rate of average U.S. exports.

“America’s economic recovery is being driven largely by the travel industry,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Each international visitor we welcome to the U.S. helps to support local communities and small businesses across our country. This is a tremendous opportunity.”

The Peach State is the birthplace and resting place of generals and leaders in the Confederacy, including its vice president Alexander Stephens. Its president, Jefferson Davis, was captured here. Even the fictional, like “Gone With the Wind,” celebrates Georgia’s role in the war.

So, the state has an opportunity to capitalize on its assets in drawing tourists to the state. But for various reasons the opportunity isn’t being fully exploited.

For instance, next year is the anniversary of the attack on coastal Fort McAllister and the burning of Darien by Union forces. They were the most significant events in Georgia that year during the war, according to “Crossroads of Conflict, A Guide to the Civil War Sites in Georgia” published by the Georgia Civil War Commission.

Yet, tourism officials aren’t focusing on it, according to Tomee Sellers, sales and service manager with the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We have not really marketed it too much because we don’t have a lot here,” she said.

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, Fort King George and other historic sites in the area do plan events like battle reenactments and lectures that draw visitors from 100-150 miles away but few out-of-state or international travelers.

The following year, 2014, is the anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta and the March to the Sea, a string of nearly daily battles all year long running diagonally across the state from Chickamauga to Savannah. Many historians consider it the deciding moment in the war because Union successes assured Abraham Lincoln’s re-election as president while destroying the key logistics hub in Atlanta that funneled to rebel troops the gunpowder, arms, uniforms, food and other supplies produced in Augusta, Columbus and other Georgia cities.

Columbus has its Confederate Naval Museum, and Augusta offers canal tours to the site of the Confederate Powder Works where only the chimney remains. A plaza with interpretive signs is planned around the chimney, and the community hosts occasional lectures.

“Augusta isn’t one that springs immediately to mind for the average person,” acknowledges Rebecca Rodgers with the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area.

The state has made modest efforts to raise the consciousness of Augusta’s wartime role or that of other cities.

This year’s activities illustrate that. It highlighted the Great Locomotive Chase of April 12, 1862 in which Union soldiers in civilian clothes made off with the Confederate engine “General” that led to a dramatic, cross-country railroad chase.

Promotions by the Georgia Department of Economic Development yielded some results. Quick-response codes in ads and posters led 133 smartphone users to scan for more information, including a special advertising section in “Trains” magazine. A video was played 537 times and an audio file 158 times, helping to swell the crowd at North Georgia events commemorating the raid.

But aside from specialized publications, the state hasn’t launched a major campaign focused on the Civil War. It doesn’t do any television advertising other than sponsoring “Georgia Traveler” on Georgia Public Broadcasting. The print, online and billboard advertising it does focuses on working mothers seeking vacations that offer family activities such as fishing, stargazing, hiking and kayaking which are not linked to a particular year or unique to Georgia.

However, the department does feature Civil War commemorations in a newsletter emailed to about 2,000 subscribers, and it is scripting driving tours. Plans also call for an online video, welcome-center brochures, and familiarization trips for tour operators and travel writers next year all related to the war but no mass marketing, according to Stefanie Paupeck, specialist on the department’s marketing and communications staff.

“We’ve been very limited with the budget we have,” she said. “We’re trying to do things that would benefit all travelers, not just the history buffs.”

She said travel by foodies and film fans are growing segments of Georgia’s tourism market, noting that Tybee Island saw an 11 percent boost in visits after the release of the Miley Cyrus movie shot there “The Last Song.”

Operators of destinations across Georgia can get the state to share the cost of ads, but they seem to be resigned to accepting that weak tax collections have resulted in modest promotional spending.

“The state, I think, had larger plans at one point before the cuts came,” said Rogers.

– Walter C. Jones,


Florida: CSS Hunley Replica Makes ‘Maiden Voyage’ in Parade

A replica of a historic weapon of war has been renewed by a Jacksonville group to honor those who died in battle 148 years ago.

The half-scale model of the CSS Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, will make its post-restoration maiden voyage in Monday’s Veterans Day parade in Jacksonville to honor the Confederate soldiers who died sailing it.

Fully restored after months of work, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby-Smith Camp's half-scale CSS Hunley sits outside on its display trailer.

Two crews died while working on the original, and its third crew sank with it after sending the USS Housatonic to the bottom of the Charleston, S.C., harbor on Feb. 17, 1864.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby-Smith Camp has since restored a Hunley replica originally built by a Middleburg man. Standing before the knife-edged craft outside a Jacksonville warehouse where it has been rebuilt, camp commander Curtis Hart said he’s glad it was done in time for its Veterans Day voyage and future visits to schools and living-history exhibits.

“The guys who manned this and served in this submarine were Americans who were fighting for their country, and this is a monument to those guys who actually died,” Hart said.

The parade begins at 11:01 a.m. Monday at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts on Water Street. The Kirby-Smith group is part of a national organization that honors the Southern soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

The original Hunley was built by Horace Hunley to fight the Union blockade of Charleston’s harbor. The crew hand-cranked a propeller to power the 40-foot-long craft.

The ill-fated submarine sank with its first crew in training, killing five. In a second go-around, Hunley and his crew died in 1863 when they got stuck in the sand. Lt. George Dixon led a third crew that plunged a black-powder torpedo into the Housatonic’s hull.

Confederate soldiers saw a lantern signal from the Hunley. Then it disappeared until author Clive Cussler’s team found it on May 5, 1995, miles east of the Housatonic wreck site.

The half-scale Hunley was built by Ron Parks in 2010 and displayed at regional events before he donated it to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Forty volunteers spent a year taking it apart and rebuilding it, grinding and filling welds while the 3,500-pound steel sub was stored in Hal Schemer’s warehouse on Grant Road.

“There were a few times over the summer when … it was probably about 120 degrees and I was questioning my judgment of getting involved,” Schemer said. “But all kidding aside, it was well worth the effort we put in it just for the historical and educational potential that it has.”

The finished product has a replica torpedo on its nose and a smaller-than-original interior with a bench and a crank to turn the propeller. A small table holds a candle and compass, the only instruments the original had.


Kentucky: Neighbors Upset over Decorations at Lincoln Co. Home

CRAB ORCHARD, Ky,(WKYT) – The owner of a home in this Lincoln county community describes what he had hanging from his porch as simply a Halloween decoration he says was a little late in coming down.

“I mean some leave their Christmas lights up all year,” said the man, who asked WKYT not to identify him.

Some say the black colored doll with a noose next to a confederate flag sends a message that is loud and clear…and offensive. The home is located on Ky. 39, several miles south of Crab Orchard.

“I just think it’s sick. It is absurd. Children are seeing it on the school bus and discussing it on the bus. Little innocent children,” said neighbor Melissa Riley, who said she was offended by it.

The homeowner says he has received no complaints about it. The Lincoln County Sheriff says he has…but as far he can tell, no laws were broken.

“No, it is just a decoration. I mean you can take it like you want to. Some go all out for Christmas. I don’t believe in giving gifts for Christmas. That’s not what it’s about ” said the homeowner.

“I think he’s speaking how he feels about things. And that is his business and his opinion. But I think there’s ways of doing it without doing it like that. To let innocent children see it, we don’t agree with it,” said Riley.


South Carolina: Historical Marker Set Up for Camp Butler

On the chilly but beautiful morning of Nov. 3, several dozen people gathered on Highway 302 along the banks of Shaw’s Creek to dedicate a historical marker that commemorates the history of Camp Butler.

Camp Butler was a camp of instruction and training for men who entered Confederate service from the Barnwell and Edgefield area.

Camp Butler’s location has long been sought after, and it was discovered several years ago by Wheeler Camp member John Osteen, who is recognized by many as the foremost expert on the history of Camp Butler.

Submitted photo Pictured in the from row, from left, are John Osteen, Camp Butler Historian and Ken Temples, Wheeler Camp Commander. Standing, from left, are Mark Simpson, Commander of the South Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Claire Henkes, Tom Huckabee, Danny Brown, George Waddell, Gene Barron, Rodney Osbourne and Kevin Rorer. Behind Rorer are Blake Moore, Lee Duvall, Melanie Duvall, Eddie Rodgers and Bob Ritter, all members of the Wheeler Camp. Pictured on the far right is Wayne Jones, Commander of the Bee Camp.

In 2009, Osteen headed up the camp’s committee to start the planning and fund-raising efforts for the historical marker. For Osteen, what transpired on Nov. 3 was a dream come true. The following is one of the best accounts given about Camp Butler and is found in the Edgefield Advertiser as reported by one its field reps in 1861:

“The site of this encampment seems to be the admiration of every visitor. Contiguous to a number of gushing fountains which furnish an abundance of the purest water, it is high and dry, gently undulating, and far away from the malaria of the swamps. The parade grounds are nearly level, very smooth, and clear enough for a marble yard. The “streets” are well shaded by tree and brush arbors, and everything in every direction is kept in the nicest order. The tents have plank floors which contribute much to health and comfort. The 14th Regt. SCV, stationed here, has been fortunate. At one time, more than half of the men were absent on sick furlough. Measles was the only disease, as I was informed by an intelligent gentleman. (There may have been an occasional exception.)

This suggests an inquiry: why not permit children to have measles at home? So much sickness must of course result in mortality. About a dozen of the volunteers in the 14th have already died, Poor Fellows! Their career on glory’s luminous track was brief, and yet it consoling to know that they had shown themselves to be noble, spirited and patriotic, capable of earning an immortality of Fame.

“But now the health of the Regt. is fast improving. The boys are daily returning by scores and by fifties, and soon they will be ready to meet the foe. Woe to the Yankee invader that comes in contact with this splendid corps of well trained and determined men.

“It is but slight praise to say that the Regt. under Col. Jones, can maneuver with ease, rapidly, and accuracy. Their drilling is something extraordinary. I am sustained in this opinion by one of our most promising young lawyers, who went to “the Island,” and to Va. in Col. Gregg’s Regt. Camp life has its attractions, as well as its hardships and its privations. There is about it so much system, “lighthearted vivacity,” good humor, fun alive, and the very aroma of chivalry. And then there is the witchery of martial music, the pageant of military costume, the rattling of musketry and the booming of cannon. It would fill the hearts of the dear ones at home with joy unspeakable to know that real happiness, like a wave, rolls from breast to breast on ‘the tented field.’

“There is often more sadness at home than with the absent. Such is human nature! The members of the 14th Regt. are not all in uniform, and I hope the friends at home will exert themselves to supply this want. I may be allowed to say that Capt. Doctor Tompkins and his Company, at dress parade, present a very handsome appearance. Their uniform is much finer than any I saw. The vicinity of Meeting Street, and of Dorn’s Mills, deserve great credit for their liberality in equipping their representatives in the war.

“The musical talent of the Regt. has been organized into a band under the direction of Mr. H. J. Brissenden. And already to the grand old hills echo to the plaintive notes of “Dixie” and other favorable tunes. Col. Thomas G. Lamar, of the artillery, has a company of 100 men, every one of whom is a hero if we may judge from appearance. The Col. Is in fine spirits, and offers to bet that we will bring the Yankee nation to terms before next June. So may it be! And now I close by wishing to this noble Regiment. Long life and much renown. EK”

For those interested in Joining the Sons of Confederate Veterans and helping to preserve the South’s history, visit


Tennessee: Civil War Trust to Raise $339,000 for Franklin Site

FRANKLIN — The three parcels of land where thousands of American soldiers fought and died in Franklin 148 years ago are today a vacant lot, a house and a pizza restaurant/retail center.

Yet after decades of development, that might change by year’s end if a national fundraising drive by the Washington, D.C.-based Civil War Trust can net $339,000 needed to close on buying properties.

On the week of the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, the Civil War Trust is turning to its 55,000 members to get $339,000 in donations needed to complete purchase of three pieces of land — two of which are key parts of a proposed seven-acre Civil War park on Columbia Avenue.

If the group’s final financial push proves to be successful, it would give the nonprofit a bigger financial stake in the city’s heritage and its future as a tourist destination. The Civil War Trust is the nation’s largest battlefield preservation group and said its donations have saved 34,000 acres in 20 states.

“The way that Franklin has embraced its heritage in recent years is a shining example to all historic communities,” Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer said in a statement. “It is an honor and a privilege to continue working with such dedicated partners and visionary local officials to protect and interpret the hallowed ground of Franklin.”

Those earlier land sales, including the city’s purchase and demolition of a Pizza Hut on Columbia Avenue, have brought national attention to Franklin’s Civil War ties after decades of development on the properties.

Three properties total $2.2M

The Battle of Franklin was fought on Nov. 30, 1864, when more than 60,000 Union and Confederate troops clashed in a short, bloody firefight. In a few hours’ time, the battle left more than 8,500 soldiers dead, wounded or missing.

The day’s heaviest fighting happened near where a cotton gin once stood along present-day Columbia Pike. Today the land is where a Domino’s Pizza restaurant and small retail center sit. Earlier land sales helped buy another pizza restaurant, homes and land around the Domino’s site for the proposed park. Preservationists want to eventually rebuild the 1860s era cotton gin on the property.

Historic preservationists hope to raise enough money to create a park on the site of the former Carter Cotton Gin, including rebuilding the cotton gin where furious fighting occurred Nov. 30, 1864. This view is looking north with Columbia Avenue on the left. / Rendering by Ben Johnson

“It’s where you have the greatest concentration of firepower on the Confederate soldiers,” said Eric Jacobson, Battle of Franklin Trust chief operating officer and historian. “Nothing else compares.”

While the three properties are relatively small, land prices have pushed their value to $2.2 million.

The three sites, which have already garnered earlier financial support and pledges this year, are:

• The Domino’s Pizza restaurant/retail center is about .99 acres. The biggest of the three properties, the site costs $1.8 million and sits at Cleburne Street and Columbia Avenue. Developer Donny Cameron has agreed to sell the properties. Most of the money has been raised for the purchase through pledges, grants and anonymous donations.

• The Neel Tract is a .21-acre property that costs $235,760 and is on Cleburne Street next to the cannonball monument where a former Pizza Hut once stood. A house now sits on the property.

• The Dooley Tract is a .45-acre parcel and costs $135,480. The vacant property is a few blocks south of the Domino’s property and is where some of the first casualties of the Battle of Franklin occurred.

Interest grows in reclaiming land

Money raised in this drive will go toward the trust’s financial commitment to helping buy all three properties, said Mary Koik, trust spokeswoman.

She couldn’t say specifically how much will go toward purchasing each individual site.

“It’s hard to say exactly how much of the ‘left to go’ funding will be put toward each individual parcel, since we had some major donors contribute to the effort as a whole, rather than just one aspect of it,” Koik said.

Jacobson said interest in Franklin’s reclamation of battlefield land is driving increasing crowds at the Carnton Plantation and Carter House museums.

“People see what’s going on here. It’s unlike anywhere else,” Jacobson said. “We’re taking back a battlefield that everybody 20 years ago said was gone.”

– Kevin Walters, The Tennessean

Brentwood Actor Teaches Children About Civil War

FRANKLIN — The glow from 10,000 luminarias at twilight Friday commemorated the soldiers who perished 148 years ago in the Battle of Franklin.

Among the spectators in the Illumination Ceremony were those who honor the combatants in 19th-century style, with woolen uniforms, leather cartridge bags and replica muskets.

Confederate Col. Joe Grosson of Brentwood teaches young 'soldiers' how to properly handle their muskets last month in Raymond, Miss. / Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

But it takes more organization to be a Civil War re-enactor than just showing up in garb from that historical time period, said Joe Grosson, a Brentwood man who coordinated last year’s Civil War Days.

“The way it works, generally, is that in each area there is a company that represents a militia that would have existed at the beginning of the war,” he said.

Companies are rather large, sometimes encompassing thousands of individuals. Re-enactor men and women are further divided into battalions, regiments, units and corps, including those for infantry, cavalry, artillery, signal corps, medical corps and more.

A history lesson

“The re-enactor does not portray a particular person (in the war) but functions more in the role of a soldier that they are trying to represent,” said Grosson, who is a Confederate colonel in the re-enactor world.

There is also a civilian corps that includes re-enactors who demonstrated how people lived in the 1800s through candle-making, cooking over an open fire and weaving.

“What has been the motivator for me is that it’s pretty evident that the schools don’t do a very good job of explaining the history of our country. A lot of kids have no idea what the war was about and why it was even fought. I have learned the need and desire to share that knowledge,” Grosson said.

In 2011, Civil War Days attracted 8,000 spectators, 700 re-enactors and 21 pieces of heavy artillery in the large-scale mock-up of the Battle of Franklin, held on the 200-acre Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin. That’s still a pretty small event, Grosson said. The annual Battle of Gettysburg re-enactment typically attracts 20,000 to 25,000 people.

Next year’s Gettysburg National Civil War Re-enactment, to be held July 4-7, is the 150th and could end up attracting an even larger crowd.

No local re-enactment

There was no 2012 edition of the Franklin event, as most of the troops, including Grosson, were called to a national event in Mississippi to re-enact the Vicksburg campaign, Grosson said. Blue and Gray Days earlier this month at the Historic Carnton Plantation included a little “skirmish,” but the emphasis was on other things at the two-day event, including a blacksmith demonstration, a Civil War photography display and an actor portraying President Abraham Lincoln.

The next big local re-enactment is set for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin in 2014.

“My wife and I are both retired, and we’re both easing our way out of it. It looks like the 150th will be my final activity in the hobby,” said Grosson, who got into Civil War re-enactments more than 20 years ago when his son showed an interest.

He met his wife, Cynthia Sweet, on the faux battlefield when both were privates. Instead of wearing a hoop skirt and petticoat, Sweet participates in re-enactments as a male Confederate infantry captain.

“The rules say that if you can’t determine the sex from 25 feet away, then she can hide the sex any way she wants,” Grosson said.

Now retired from the Navy, Sweet hides her longer hair under a wig during Civil War re-enactments.

But Grosson and Sweet won’t be lighting a candle in commemoration Friday. Instead, they’ll be on a cruise.

There will be re-enactors in Civil War garb at the illumination ceremony, but no conflicts are planned for the event, which begins at 4:45 p.m. near The Carter House, ground zero for the Nov. 30, 1864, Battle of Franklin that resulted in more than 8,000 casualties.

– Bonnie Burch, The Tennessean


Virginia: Civil War Fort Hosts “Christmas in Camp”

Fort Ward Museum is offering visitors the opportunity to learn how Christmas was observed during the Civil War by attending its annual “Christmas in Camp” open house.

The family-oriented event on Dec. 8 from noon to 4 p.m. features a patriotic Santa Claus, living history interpreters, Victorian decorations, craft activities for children and tours of the fort. The suggested donation is $2 for adults and $1 for children.

The program features a Civil War-era Santa Claus, based on a wartime image popularized by artist Thomas Nast, who will read “The Night Before Christmas” to children and listen to their Christmas wishes.

Credit Fort Ward Museum

Santa also will visit troops in camp, just as he did on the 1863 cover of Harper’s Weekly.

The museum will be decorated with festive greenery and a Victorian tree.

Soldiers stationed in the reconstructed Officers’ Hut will open Christmas boxes from home and share how the holiday was observed in winter camps during the Civil War. Soldier-led tours of the fort will be offered, weather permitting

Fort Ward at 4301 W. Braddock Rd. is a fortification in the Civil War Defenses of Washington, a system of forts that protected the Federal capital against Confederate attack.