Georgia: Teen’s Diary Provides Perspective on Civil War

From atop Macon’s College Street, a disabled teen seemed to have little to look forward to except satisfying his voracious hunger for news of the Civil War.

More than 150 years later, the world can now view the conflict through his eyes.

LeRoy Wiley Gresham wrote his personal observations nearly every day from June 1860 until he died June 18, 1865.

He gleaned what he could from letters, conversations and newspapers.

This ambrotype of LeRoy Gresham, along with his diary of 700 pages in seven volumes, is part of "The Civil War in America" display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The exhibit runs through June 1, 2013. Courtesy of The Library of Congress

Gresham’s 700 pages in seven volumes are now a star attraction of “The Civil War in America” display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

“His diary gives you somewhat of a ‘You are there’ quality,” said Michelle Krowl, the Civil War and Reconstruction specialist for the Library of Congress. “He’s doing all this in a very literate, learned style. His spelling is wonderful, his sentences are complete, and he’s a very thoughtful diarist.”

Gresham died at age 17, about two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

In the exhibit, his writings are open to November 1864, when the Gresham family is trying to decide whether to flee their home.

From atop the family mansion, now the 1842 Inn, he could see battle fires blazing in the distance as Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops moved closer.

“Residents of Macon are not sure which direction Sherman’s armies are going to take once they leave Atlanta, so there’s a lot of anxiety and consternation that perhaps Macon is the next intended target,” Krowl said.

LeRoy’s father, John J. Gresham, twice mayor of Macon, had already left to fetch another son, Thomas, who was fighting in Virginia in the $500 Confederate uniform the family bought for him.

LeRoy and his mother stayed, but his younger sister Minnie joined other refugees leaving town.

She would later marry wealthy Baltimore businessman Arthur Webster Machen, whose family preserved the diary and other Civil War era papers that were donated to the Library of Congress in 1984.

More than 200 other items are on display in the exhibit that runs through June 1, 2013, but LeRoy’s unpublished writings stand out — along with an ambrotype image of him.

His neat penmanship and colorful depictions of Southern life caught the eye of Washington Post writer Michael Ruane. The journalist of 40-plus years read every word, something Krowl still plans to do.

Ruane’s story on the diary has drawn more attention to LeRoy’s writings.

As a writer, Ruane was struck by the boy’s impeccable spelling — only the word “guard” was misspelled. Each reference consistently transposed the “u” and the “a,” Ruane said.

“His grammar, spelling and syntax are superb,” Ruane said. “I thought it was absolutely superb his choice of words.”

Ruane, who hails from Philadelphia, learned a few new words of his own such as syllabub, a traditional English dessert, and scuppernong, a large variety of muscadine grapes native to the South.

Ruane begins his article on the diary by calling attention to smudges from LeRoy’s sweat falling onto an entry from July 1862.

“He tried to rub them off, but they smeared the ink,” Ruane wrote.

He noted the young man’s explanation to future readers of the “terribly hot” conditions.

Ruane was fascinated by the slice of Southern life LeRoy served up from a position of privilege and torment, due to his drawn-up broken leg and the countless remedies of opiates and poison he endured.

“I was somewhat stunned at the amount of drugs he took, not nefarious, but the top medical treatments of the day,” Ruane said.

Readers learn how LeRoy found relief from the heat with watermelon chilled from a dip down the well.

The dated entries nearly always begin with a note about the weather, Krowl said.

“He’s a wonderful observer,” she said.

His insight gives a clear picture of how the fighting impacted his community and immediate family.

Tidbits of letters from his soldier brother and others tell tales from the front lines.

The young Gresham seemed to thrive on any news of the war. Confined to a mattress in a wagon drawn by slaves, he soaked up all the scintillating details.

“You know what he’s witnessing firsthand from Macon, what people are telling him, what news he’s receiving from elsewhere in the war and also the newspaper reports he’s receiving,” Krowl said.

On Nov. 17, 1864, he penned news of a letter detailing Sherman’s progress moving south of Atlanta and what he saw during a trip to the doctor: “Found the town in an uproar about the approach of the enemy, who are this side of Griffin and ‘marching on,’ 10 & some declare 15,000 strong.”

The teen was highly educated and well-versed in classic literature from the work of Charles Dickens to Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre.”

“That’s why we’re so enthralled with this diary,” Krowl said. “You pick almost any entry and he says something interesting about the war, or Macon or what his family is going through.”

The Greshams were prosperous but not immune to the shortages of war. As paper became scarce, LeRoy had to scrounge in the family library for blank sheets to maintain his daily journal.

Ruane noted the teen’s unfailing, passionate support of the Confederacy, even when other family members lost sight of victory.

“His father is a sensible guy and sees the handwriting on the wall,” he said.

The elder Gresham practiced law, served as a judge and was elected mayor in 1843 and 1847.

In 1849, he became president of the Macon Manufacturing Co., which built the city’s first cotton factory, a precursor to the old Bibb mill on First Street, according to the archives at the Washington Memorial Library.

Upon his death in 1891, The Telegraph reported “Macon’s most useful citizen and benefactor” would be laid to rest days later.

Schools closed in the city. In Athens, the campus shut down at the University of Georgia, where Gresham had served as a trustee for 20 years.

“No funeral ceremonies ever conducted in Macon were more impressive and never did Macon’s citizens of high and low degree attend in such numbers to pay a last tribute to the dead,” the report in The Telegraph read.

The family burial plot anchors a corner of the Magnolia Ridge section overlooking the Ocmulgee River at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Towering Celtic crosses rise like chess pieces on the graves of LeRoy’s parents.

His marble monument stands between them and two of his brothers. Edmund died in infancy before LeRoy was born and Edward Tracy, LeRoy’s younger brother, died at age 6 when LeRoy was 11.

The family’s love for the teen diarist is evident in his epitaph:

“In life this dear child was the light of the home circle, lovely and endearing by nature he was purified by suffering, sanctified by grace and rests now in the bosom of his Savior. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

Because of his physical limitations, LeRoy was often confined to the first floor of the home.

“As people came in and out of the house, he’s the one that they tell things to because he’s always there,” Krowl said. “He’s that sort of lodestone for the family.”

Penning his thoughts and feelings seemed to offset his constant pain and discomfort, Krawl said.

With news traveling slowly from battlefronts, LeRoy devoured newspapers from Richmond, Va., Memphis, Tenn., and daily copies of The Telegraph. After documenting a Confederate victory at Gettysburg, he later made a correction.

“He goes back and slips in a blue piece of paper to rectify that when he’s finally hearing the outcome of the battle,” Krowl said.

Ruane also found snippets of cloth and an insect wing pressed between the pages. He finds fascinating the attention LeRoy paid to make sure the record is straight.

It would take days, too, before the young Gresham learned of the surrender at Appomattox.

LeRoy lamented the departure of slaves at the end of the war as his health took a final turn for the worst.

“It’s clear to me he has some affection for these people,” Ruane said.

The family hired two devoted servants after their emancipation, he said.

In the last complete entry, LeRoy bewailed that he may never see again his “valet” Bill.

Ten days later, the teen died, but his story lives on in the newly explored diary.

Many attending the exhibit have come in looking for the young man they read about in the newspaper, Krowl said.

“Oh, this is the boy from the Post,” she’s overheard in the gallery.

They are excited to see his image on glass encased in an ornate gold-trimmed cover.

His light-colored eyes are now windows for all to look into a dark time in U.S. history.

“You really see the whole war play out in the pages,” Ruane said.

-Liz Fabian, Macon Telegraph


Confederate Cemetery Hosts First Wreath-Laying Event

MARIETTA — The Marietta Confederate Cemetery on Saturday became the first of the nation’s resting places for rebel soldiers to host a “Wreaths Across America” event, in which volunteers lay Christmas wreaths on graves of veterans. But the idea is already spreading to other Confederate cemeteries.

“We’re going to do this next year,” said Jeff Bailey with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Stone Mountain, a group that hosts a Memorial Day event at the Confederate cemetery there. “Since they’re trying it out here and it looks like it’s going to work, we’re going to do this next year.”

Long a tradition at the Marietta National Cemetery, where Union soldiers are buried, Houston Spencer, a colonel in the Old Guard of the Gate City Guard, said he wanted to bring the event to the Confederate cemetery.

“These are veterans too,” he said. “These are soldiers that died for what they thought was right. When I’m over at the National Cemetery, I thought, ‘We’ve got veterans across the railroad tracks, they need to be recognized as well.’ After a couple years, I said, ‘What the hell, let’s do it.’ ”

Around 150 volunteers showed up to lay the wreaths after a half-hour ceremony at adjacent Brown Park.

“The wreath celebration is a wonderful experience and very relevant,” Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin told the audience. “We’re very glad to have it in two places in our city.”

While wreaths were placed on soldiers graves, the event resembled a Memorial Day event more than a Christmas celebration. Taps was played instead of Christmas carols and Santa Claus was nowhere to be found, but people came dressed in Civil War-era garb.

Participants place wreaths on headstones during the Wreaths Across America Day event at the Marietta Confederate Cemetery. Staff/Emily Barnes

“Even though this is the Christmas season, this is not a Christmas celebration,” Spencer said. “This is a reverent remembrance to honor the soldiers and what they did for us.”

Others attending include Marietta City Councilmen Philip Goldstein and Grif Chalfant and state Rep. Don Parsons (R-east Cobb).

After the ceremony, public officials, members of Confederate organizations and volunteers who just showed up for the ceremony made their way up the hill to the Georgia area of the Confederate ceremony where they placed wreaths on 150 graves.

“I think it’s time we honor our heritage, even though a lot of folks have forgotten it, and honor the blood, sweat and sacrifice of the veterans, as well as the families that supported the Confederate soldiers,” said volunteer Ken Myers, 63, of Marietta.

Spencer said he was only able to raise enough money for 150 of the $15 evergreen wreaths this year. He hopes to someday raise enough to place one at all 3,600 graves. He is already collecting money for the 2013 Wreaths Across America. For information on donating, call (770) 419-7153.

The Wreaths Across America event was one of around 600 at cemeteries and memorials across the country, each held at noon eastern time, Spencer said. The events are spearheaded by a Columbia Falls, Maine nonprofit organization.

At the Marietta National Cemetery, 2,767 wreaths were placed on graves Saturday.

-Geoff Folsom, MDJ online


Virginia: Thousands Re-Enact Fredericksburg Battle

Union re-enactors attack Trench Hill on Saturday as hundreds of Confederate troops fire on them during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. (ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE–STAR)

No photographer captured the carnage of the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.

This time around, 150 years later, thousands of spectators left with photos of the action and aftermath.

One was Kathy Boyer, of Philadelphia. In period garb, with a hoop skirt, she held up a pink iPad to snap a picture of Confederate re-enactors gathering Saturday afternoon on Trench Hill above Sunken Road.

Boyer and her husband, Dan, a big believer in states’ rights, joined the 44th Georgia Infantry Regiment re-enactment unit in August.

“It’s a monumental occasion,” Boyer, who brought her two children, a full picnic basket and her Southern hospitality, said of the battle’s sesquicentennial. “It’s not going to happen again.”

Thousands of people—many from distant states and foreign nations—filled Fredericksburg’s streets all day long.

In the morning, as fog along the Rappahannock burned off (just as it did on the day of the Dec. 13, 1862, battle), people lined up to watch hundreds of Union troops cross the river into the city.

Meeting fierce resistance from Confederate Brig. Gen. William Barksdale’s Mississippians, the re-enactors fought their way through town, street by street and house by house, clearing snipers and sharpshooters who bought precious time for other Confederate defenders.

But when the men in blue finally reached Marye’s Heights, they suffered one of their worst drubbings of the Civil War.

That’s exactly why Douglas Ferrell wanted to watch this particular battle.

“It’s one of the ones where the South wins, which makes it a little better,” said Ferrell, a Maryland native who has lived in Brazil for 40 years.

In the morning hours, a few Yankees marching into downtown stopped by a road barricade at Frederick and Sophia streets to empty their boots, which were full of water from having crossed the Rappahannock—and having to wade the final stretch at City Dock.

“It felt like I was standing in a bucket,” said Dick Watters, a re-enactor with the 116th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, part of the Irish Brigade.

Wringing out his socks, he said the floating bridge built by Virginia Army National Guard engineers was about 8 feet short of the bank. The tide was lower than planners anticipated, dropping the bridge.

That meant the Union soldiers coming from Ferry Farm got fairly wet, jumping into water up to their knees and thighs, and getting help up the muddy bank from National Guard troops.

Watters joked that the water from his boots was enough to make soup.

“Two soups for dinner!” said 9-year-old Nathan Guilbert, as he watched another re-enactor do the same thing.

The guard’s 189th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, based in Bowling Green in Caroline County, deployed the American military’s most-modern bridging gear to support the 19th-century scene.

The Virginia guard’s top brass observed the training operation from the fields above at Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home.

As pickets traded fire across the water, Union engineers paddled the first pontoon boat to Fredericksburg’s shore to establish a bridgehead.

The river crossings were filled with meaning for re-enactors and the guardsmen, they said. The morning phase of “Fire on the Rappahannock” commemorated the first amphibious assault undertaken under fire in U.S. history—the sort of thing for which today’s Marines are known.


Nathan Guilbert and his sister, Joanna, 7, were watching the re-enactments with their grandparents. Nathan hoped to see a special type of pistol that generals carried, while Joanna said she had already learned lots about the women of the era.

Earlier, Joanna covered her ears and nose as the Northern troops began their assault on the city, said her grandmother, Jackie Kotowsai, a history teacher in Spotsylvania County.

“I bet in the old days it would smell terrible,” Nathan said.


The frightening sounds of rifle and cannon fire, which echoed off buildings and carried at least seven blocks away, led some small children to cry and pets to be skittish.

“It was like bombs were going off,” said Megan Miller, who lives near the river with her Cairn terrier, Toto, off Sophia Street. They woke to the sound of gunfire nearby, as the Yanks tried to advance up Rocky Lane and push Rebels back from Lower Caroline Street. “I didn’t know the battle was going to happen. But my dog sure let me know.”

Kids also plugged their ears across the river at the Union camp at Ferry Farm in Stafford County and downriver at the Confederate re-enactors’ camp at Slaughter Pen Farm in Spotsylvania as artillerists there demonstrated their weapons’ firepower.

Both sites held living-history programs throughout the day. Professor Thaddeus Lowe (aka Kevin Knapp) reappeared in Stafford to inflate a gigantic gas balloon and explain to excited children that aviation history was made there by Lowe’s pioneering U.S. Army Balloon Corps.

Back in town, from morning till dusk, as fighting raged from river to ridge, seeing blue- and gray-clad soldiers dead on the streets stopped people in their tracks.

Parents were heard reassuring their children that, this time, the men who dropped in the streets were, fortunately, not really gone.

Between the morning and afternoon battles, tourists roamed the Historic District’s streets, with many businesses reporting that they were mobbed. Some visitors had come from places like Ohio or Long Island or Hawaii just to be here on this weekend.


Many visitors lined up at a stand outside Wally’s Homemade Ice Cream Shoppe on Caroline Street, enticed by the smells of chili and Brunswick stew.

Up the street at Goolrick’s Modern Pharmacy, Confederate Gens. Henry Heth and George Pickett queued up at the counter to order lunch. Heth tried to pay with Southern currency, but had to whip out a credit card.


David Wasserman and his son Adam, 14, traveled from the Washington area on Friday night to stay in one of the city’s hotels.

“It’s just unusual to have a re-enactment taking place where the battle was originally fought,” said Wasserman, who has seen many.

Most of the time, the re-enactments occur on land nearby—but not on—the actual battlefields, he said.

Fredericksburg’s 150th anniversary commemoration is unique in that way, Wasserman said.

The father and son noticed some anachronisms Saturday morning, such as Confederates deploying off a school bus onto a street with moving traffic.

“You’re never in danger of thinking it’s a real battle,” Wasserman said.

But, just as on Dec. 13, 1862, the waves of Union attackers never reached the Sunken Road’s fearsome Stone Wall.


And yet, for many visitors and residents, a sense of time travel, however fleeting, was palpable.

“Twenty years in Fredericksburg and I’ve never felt its history as keenly as I did today,” said one woman.

At Chatham Manor in southern Stafford, atop the bluff overlooking Fredericksburg, the sounds of gunfire ricocheted off the river. It carried right up into the antebellum mansion where Union generals planned their attacks on the city and the Confederate defenses from Marye’s Heights south to Prospect Hill and Deep Run.

National Park Service volunteers at Chatham said they wished every day could be more like this one—as hundreds of people said they experienced a real connection with the past.


“The Battle of Fredericksburg Commemoration Committee was extremely pleased with today’s events,” Eric Powell, top commander of “Fire on the Rappahannock,” said afterward. “Re-enactors had a unique and thrilling experience. Recreating those scenarios on historic ground for the 150th anniversary was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The committee thanks area officials, community members, volunteers and property owners “for allowing us this moment to honor those who hallowed this ground 150 years ago,” said Powell, a Spotsylvania educator.

All day long, people said they found the battle dramas and family oriented programs “delightful,” Stafford County tourism manager M.C. Moncure said.

“The effort by Eric Powell and others brought together so many moving parts, including the National Park Service programs, for an outstanding day of partnership among a lot of different groups and people,” she said.

-Katie Thisdell, Free Lance-Star


Craftsman Repairs Confederate Statue

ROCKY MOUNT — The Confederate soldier’s head snapped off and much of the rest of him shattered into fragments big and small. Workers gathered the remnants, right down to the marble dust. And marble dust is one component of the mix of materials John Kirtley is using to help return the statue to something akin to a permanent whole.

On June 7, 2007, a pickup truck driven by a Rocky Mount man veered off South Main Street and crashed into the pedestal that displayed the statue on the lawn of the Franklin County Courthouse. The Italian marble tribute to the county’s Confederate dead toppled.

“It just busted all to pieces,” said Linda Stanley, special projects coordinator for the Franklin County Historical Society.

John Kirtley works to repair a statue of a confederate soldier damaged when a truck crashed into it in 2007 in Franklin County.

The statue had been dedicated Dec. 1, 1910, after a prolonged effort and fundraising campaign by the Jubal Early Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and member Essie Smith.

Stanley said many people grieved in 2007 about the monument’s destruction.

Ultimately, a combination of insurance money, donations and a contribution from the Franklin County Board of Supervisors paid for the creation and installation of a new monument. The new statue was dedicated Aug. 7, 2010.

The Vermont company that created the new statue used epoxy to reassemble the bulk of the broken figure to use as a model.

And Stanley said she needled, wheedled and whined until the county agreed to loan the original statue to the historical museum on South Main Street. The museum spent about $700 to shore up its front porch and that is where the weighty statue stands and where it will likely stay, Stanley said.

Kirtley began his one-man project of Southern reconstruction late last month. With a trowel or fingertip he worked a mix of white concrete, marble dust and acrylic epoxy into the various cracks and seams that make evident the statue’s fracture and previous reassembly. He said he hopes the statue’s traumatic past will be less visible when he’s done.

“The goal is to put back the original material so the seams won’t be so noticeable,” he said.

Kirtley, 45, is a Roanoke native and resident. He is a landscaper whose company, Hillbilly Pond Works, specializes in creating water features. He is also an artist and was intimately involved, along with others, with the design and construction of the Vinton-Roanoke County Veterans Monument on the grounds of the Vinton War Memorial.

The down economy of recent years has often left Kirtley and many other landscape specialists with time on their hands.

“Right now, business is nil for us,” he said. “So, we struggle.”

As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Kirtley has participated in Civil War re-enactments and is keenly interested in the war’s history.

He and Stanley met at a Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting. He told Stanley he was willing to work on the statue as a volunteer.

“My mother always said my heart was too big to be in business for myself,” Kirtley said, smiling.

Stanley was thrilled.

“Oh, my goodness. I just don’t have the words,” she said. “I can’t imagine what the cost would be if we had to pay him by the hour or for the job.”

Kirtley said he anticipates he will complete the repair work by spring.

“I’m going to do it slowly, a little bit at a time,” he said. “I want to make sure that what I start at the beginning of the day will be done by the end of the day.”

The repair will require crafting a few new pieces to replace shattered features such as a large portion of the scabbard for the statue’s sword. But a missing thumb will remain absent.

According to the historical society, about 2,500 men from Franklin County served in the Confederate forces during the Civil War.

In a letter dated Sept. 15, 1905, Booker T. Washington, born into slavery in April 1856 on a Franklin County farm, expressed his willingness to contribute money toward the monument to the Confederate dead.

He wrote, “In one way or another, by letter or otherwise, I have kept somewhat in touch with members of the Burroughs family, to which I belonged during the days of slavery.”

Stanley said history suggests Washington donated $50.

-Roanoke Times

Civil War Trust Launches Upgraded Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania App

As commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg take place, the Civil War Trust has launched a pair of multimedia phone apps available to the public at no cost.

These efforts are designed to deepen public understanding of the battle and its unique place in American history; with more than 200,000 participants, no Civil War battle featured a higher concentration of soldiers than Fredericksburg, which also marked the first incidence of intense urban combat during the conflict and the first major opposed river crossing in American military history.

“Although history lovers know that the past is anything but static, traditional media, like textbooks, offer limited means to demonstrate just how dynamic the events experienced by our ancestors really were,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “But by using 21st century technology to integrate video, audio and other media, we can create an immersive and interactive experience, helping 19th century history appeal to a whole new generation.”

First released in May 2011, the Trust’s Fredericksburg Battle App has received a major upgrade and overhaul in time for the battle’s sesquicentennial anniversary. Like all the titles in the Battle App series, the unique smartphone tour features a detailed, GPS-enabled map that includes a wealth of virtual signs and other points of interest.

Within ther app are videos from top historians, primary source audio recreations, detailed accounts of the battle, modern and historic photos, and a detailed set of reference materials. This major anniversary update also integrates a selection of new sites and supporting media, as well as the Trust’s “Field Glasses AR” viewer, which allows you to use augmented reality to locate key battlefield landmarks. Visitors to Fredericksburg will be able to participate in an interactive Battlefield Challenge, urging them to explore the field and share their discoveries.

Trust Battle Apps are undertaken with the support of the National Park Service staff and the assistance of History Associates, Inc., and developed in partnership with NeoTreks, Inc., an industry leader in mobile GPS-based touring apps. The project was made possible through the generous support of the Virginia Department of Transportation, through its transportation enhancement matching grant program.

To date, nearly 100,000 people have downloaded one of the 10 titles in the Battle App series. Detailed information on the format and specific capabilities of the Fredericksburg Battle App, and the other nine titles in the series, is available at this website.

The Fredericksburg Battle App can also be downloaded directly from the Apple iTunes App Store or Google Play App Store. Those who have already downloaded the Fredericksburg Battle App can access the new content as an update without needing to reinstall the entire product.

For those who can’t make it to central Virginia in person for the anniversary, the Trust’s Fredericksburg360 offering — with stirring panoramic images to help viewers appreciate the beautiful and significant scenery of the battlefield — is the next best thing. A wealth of clickable points of interest on each panorama lead to historian videos and other resources that bring the Fredericksburg landscape to life.

All of the detailed panoramic images are linked together, so it’s possible to travel, virtually, across the Rappahannock, through the streets of town, up the bloody slopes of Marye’s Heights, along Prospect Hill and to the Slaughter Pen Farm. Never has it been easier to see and appreciate the true nature of the battlefield — except in person. Check out the Trust’s Fredericksburg360

-National Parks Traveler

Civil War Re-enactors Seek New Recruits

Confederate Gen. Greg Stull has met the enemy and he is 6-year-old Severn Welsh of Loudoun County.

Actually, Severn isn’t old enough to take part in re-enactments. Still last Saturday’s “Fire on the Rappahannock,” marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg, was the second one he had attended this year.

Union soldiers fall at Trench Hill in Fredericksburg during a re-enactment of the Battle of Marye’s Heights last week. (Robert A. Martin/The Free Lance-Star)

“He just loves it,” said Jacquelynn Hollman, smiling at her son in a Union private’s cap.

Despite his current quarters in Northern Virginia, “he’s a Yankee,” she said.

After four battalions of Confederate re-enactors had finished decimating the Union Army’s Irish Brigade, Severn was pumping Stull about the minimum-age required to dress in period costume and rush into the teeth of mostly middle-aged musket fire.

He was clearly dismayed when Stull, who was portraying Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood of Texas, told him he had to be at least 12 to be a Civil War drummer.

Despite living in Bernville, Pa., Stull normally portrays Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk of Tennessee as a member of Lee’s Lieutenants. His wife, Sherri, who was in period costume as a civilian last weekend, sometimes plays the part of a soldier on a cannon crew.

“Today I fought for the Confederates, but most of the time, I’m Union,” she said.

Civil War re-enacting knows no gender or geographical boundaries and with so many 150th anniversaries coming up in the next few years, commemorative events are expected to draw thousands of spectators.

Next spring will bring the re-enactment of the Chancellorsville Campaign in Spotsylvania, the cavalry Battle of Brandy Station in Culpeper and Gettysburg. The year after that will mark the 150th of the Battle of Wilderness in Orange and Spotsylvania counties and the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Longtime enthusiasts hope these commemorations will pump new blood into their blue and gray ranks, which are getting grayer every year.
“I’m close to 60 and that’s 30 years too old to be a soldier,” said Michael Schaffner of Arlington, who helped to organize the Fredericksburg re-enactment.

About 1,100 re-enactors registered to take part. Although some didn’t show, they were covered by others who showed up in uniform and managed to sneak into the ranks for some of the three main events: the pontoon bridge river crossing of the Rappahannock, fighting on Sophia and Hanover streets, and the finale, Marye’s Heights.

That morning, first-year re-enactors Karin and Karina Mendoza of King George County portrayed Fredericksburg women who resisted Union troops looting homes on Sophia Street.

The mother and daughter, both wearing hoop skirts, enjoyed the repartee with soldiers, who arrested two of their cohorts for refusing to relinquish their sidearms.

“They searched us but they didn’t find this,” said Karina, 18, fishing a black vial bearing a skull and crossbones out of her petticoat.

“It’s just water,” she explained, laughing.

Her younger brother Douglas, 13, has been taking part in re-enactments for five years, even though he is only 12. Dressed in a Confederate cavalry uniform, he has a business card that identifies him as a Pvt. Mendoza, Civil War Re-enactor.

Last weekend, he got to portray Gen. Pickett’s aide de camp.
“I like all wars but mainly this one,” he told a reporter. When asked why, he answered: “The Napoleonic tactics.”

Young soldiers like Douglas give Schaffner hope that the hobby will survive the war’s 150th anniversary, after which many baby boomers will likely hang up their boots.

Schaffner started 12 years ago, after a friend of his brother’s told him about it.

“I thought, some day I’ll try that. Then I realized, some day better be today if I want to wear wool in summer.”

-Kevin Kirkland, Free Lance-Star


South Carolina: Program Explores Christmas during the Civil War

Enslaved laborers referred to the holiday season as the Big Times. Christmas often meant having several days off, and seeing loved ones who may be working on adjacent plantations or those in near proximity.

Staff photo by Ben Baugh Re-enactor Kitty Wilson-Evans portrays a slave named Kessie at Redcliffe Plantation during Christmas Canceled.

Christmas Canceled: A Special Civil War Holiday Experience provided the audience attending the event at historic Redcliffe Plantation with an in-depth look at how families coped with the holiday season.

Re-enactors in the James Henry Hammonds House read to visitors from letters in the historic home’s repository, allowing the audience to experience a first-hand account as to how a family celebrated Christmas during the Civil War years and how the holiday would change.

“I’m very impressed with the people who are so learned about the times and the outfits they’re wearing,” said Grace Sharp of Aiken, who was accompanied by her husband, Brad. “It made you feel as if you were stepping back in time into this period when our country was at war.”

The slave quarters featured re-enactor Kitty Wilson-Evans portraying a slave named Kessie, who brought alive the Big Times. Kessie explained about the food and clothes they would receive during the holiday season from the master, how the slaves would have the opportunity to spend time with relatives and the toys they would make for their children out of scrap materials and what they could find in nature on the grounds of the plantation.

A poem by Mary A. M’Crimmon written in 1862 titled “Santa Claus in the Confederacy” brought levity to a rather bleak time in the nation’s history. It sent a message of hope to children impacted by the difficulties of war.

-Ben Baugh, Aiken Standard


Texas: Hays School Board to Vote on Banning Confederate Flag from District Property

SAN MARCOS — More than a decade after the Confederate flag disappeared from the uniforms worn by Hays High School football players, the Hays school district’s board is expected to vote Monday on whether to ban the flag entirely on district property and at district-sponsored events.

For years the Rebel mascot at the Buda high school wielded the flag, and as recently as 2000 the flag appeared in the band hall and the gymnasium, and waved from the bleachers at football games.

Board meeting minutes from that year record that trustees voted to phase out the flag but specify that the district was not banning the flag from students’ personal property, including apparel and personal signs at sporting events.

That could change Monday night.

Outgoing Superintendent Jeremy Lyon is recommending the board amend the student code of conduct to prohibit the display of writings or images that are discriminatory, harassing or threatening, according to a draft memo from the superintendent to trustees.

The recommended amendment specifies that the ban includes, but is not limited to, the display of the Confederate flag.

“I have the utmost respect for history, but we need to make sure that we are creating school districts that are welcoming and inviting to all students,” Lyon said. Minorities make up 68 percent of the 16,500 students in the district.

The recommendation comes in the wake of a May incident in which a racial epithet, “KKK” and the words “catch em, kill em” were inscribed on an African-American teacher’s door at Hays High. Two male students, then 14 years old, were charged in connection with the vandalism and the teacher, who had announced her resignation prior to the incident, left the school district.

Since then, the district has outlined plans to offer cultural competency training for all staff and peer training for all Lehman and Hays high school students.

School Board President Willie Tenorio Jr., who graduated from the high school in 1986, said his graduation announcement bore the Confederate flag.

“It was on campus so much that you kind of became used to its presence,” Tenorio said. “I don’t know if I understood how it was viewed in the general public.”

Tenorio said that the community has struggled with whether to ban the flag, and that there are many on both sides of the debate. Earlier this year he said tackling concerns about the Hays High mascot and “Dixie” fight song would have to wait.

He said he’s made his decision on whether or not to ban the flag but is keeping it private until Monday’s meeting.

Lyon said it’s urgent that the board resolve the issue by unequivocally banning the imagery from district property.

Eventually, he speculated, the district will address the school’s fight song, but he said he thinks students need to lead the charge to change it. He also said students and staff need more training in diversity issues, recalling former students who have talked about the anxiety they experienced after learning later in life what Dixie and the flag represent to some outside of the school.

John Ayala, a Mountain City parent with a junior at Hays High, said he was surprised to see Confederate flags and to hear the school’s fight song when he went to his first sporting event at the high school. He said it’s embarrassing to compete with diverse schools against that backdrop.

“The people who pretty much founded this community, they tend to have a blind eye to how the Rebel flags and how ‘Dixie’ … could be offensive to others,” he said.

What’s next

The Hays school board meeting is scheduled to start around 6:30 p.m. Monday at Hays High School, 4800 Jack C. Hays Trail, Buda.

-Ciara O’Rourke, Austin American-Statesman