Georgia: Union General Gets Civil War Historical Marker

The Civil War was more than just a battlefield conflict.

It affected nearly every aspect of people’s lives, but 90 percent of Georgia’s 1,000 Civil War markers were about battles and Confederate military leaders.

Montgomery Meigs (from left) watches city Administrator Fred Russell and Todd Groce, the president of the Georgia Historical Society, unveil the marker to the Civil War Union Army's quartermaster general.

That prompted the Georgia Historical Society to erect 150 historical markers across the state to tell lesser-known stories of the conflict.

“There was virtually nothing about African-Americans, about women, about the homefront, about Unionists, and there was an opportunity for us to tell the story of the war in its fullness and all of its diversity,” said Todd Groce, the president of the organization.

The latest marker in the series was unveiled and dedicated Friday in the 600 block of Broad Street, near Union Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs’ birthplace. The marker describes Meigs’ accomplishments in engineering some of Washington’s most important landmarks and his efforts during the war.

“This is a really interesting man,” said Montgomery Meigs, a third-great-nephew of the Civil War general.

Meigs, himself a retired four-star general, was the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony.

The first Meigs was the grandson of Josiah Meigs, an early president of the University of Georgia. He lived with his family in Augusta for only a couple of years before his father, Charles, moved the family back to Pennsylvania.

It has been said that Charles’ wife, Mary, couldn’t stomach the institution of slavery.

As an adult, Meigs engineered the Washington Aqueduct to provide the city with clean water. Then he built Cabin John Bridge, the longest stone arch in the world at the time, to cross it. He also built the dome on the U.S. Capitol.

As quartermaster general in the Union Army, Meigs oversaw the feeding and clothing of the army.

When the plantation that belonged to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s wife – Arlington – was confiscated by the federal government, Meigs declared it a national military cemetery to discourage Lee’s return.

Meigs was buried there when he died in 1892.

His descendant said he was honored to be a part of the dedication ceremony.

“Thank you for what you’re doing in this state to keep the history alive,” Meigs said.


Confederate Soldier’s Granddaughter, Oldest Person in the World, Dies at 116

MONROE, Ga., December 5, 2012 —  Her snow-white hair gleaming and with a sparkle in her eyes, Besse (pronounced “Bess”) Cooper looked astonished at the crowd who came to celebrate her birthday, her 116th birthday, this past August. And yesterday, still bright and alert, the oldest woman in the world quietly passed away, still not sure what to make of her recognition by the “Guinness Book of Records.”

Photo: Besse Cooper, the oldest person in the world, dies AP

Mrs. Cooper had her hair done yesterday, had lunch and had watched a Christmas video with friends, when she began having trouble breathing, dying peacefully around 2 p.m.

Granddaughter of Confederate soldier

One of her proudest family connections is that she was the granddaughter of a Confederate soldier, Thomas H. Brown, who served in Company E, 60th Tennessee Infantry. In recognition of his service, Mrs. Cooper was a member of the James M. Gresham Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Georgia Division. His division participated in the battles at Vicksburg, Shiloh and several others.

She was very aware of her grandfather’s service as a Confederate soldier, and was proud of her induction into the UDC chapter when two members came to her home to present her with her insignia ribbon of membership last  year.

In an interview with me, Ann Hall of Mrs. Cooper’s UDC Chapter emphasized her ongoing love of education. “She read the newspapers daily, was bright and outgoing, and enjoyed conversations with all who came,” despite the fact that her hearing difficulties made conversation difficult, Mrs. Hall said.

Mrs. Hall’s aunt was also a friend of Besse Cooper, and when her aunt and Besse and another lady “would sit on the phone in the den and have three-way phone conversations,” it was just fun to listen to.

It was Mrs. Cooper’s second attempt at the world record: in January of last year she was initially certified by Guinness as the oldest person in the world, but then a lady in Brazil was discovered, who was 48 days older.  She held the title until her death on June 21, 2011, and with that event, Besse Cooper was able to fully claim the title.

Long-time Educator and Teacher

She was born in Sullivan County, Tennessee in 1896, the third of eight children born to Richard Brown and Angeline Berry. From childhood on, she was a voracious reader and graduated from East Tennessee State Normal School (now East Tennessee State University) in 1916, and taught in Tennessee before moving to Georgia the following year.  She taught in the tiny town of Between, Ga.  (296 persons) until 1929. The name came from its location being equidistant from Athens and Atlanta.

“She was in the forefront for a woman” in her education and dedicated service as a schoolteacher, Mrs. Hall said. Today a school in the area has been named for her.

She married Luther Cooper in 1924 and had four children.  He died in December 1963 after 39 years of marriage. She then lived by herself on their farm until 2001; at that time she finally agreed to move into a nursing facility at the age of 105.

The small town of Between recognized its famous citizen just before her birthday, when the bridge on New Hope Church Road was named for her.  In typical Besse Cooper fashion, she said she “was happy the bridge finally had a name!”

Words to Live by from Mrs. Cooper

She was the last surviving person born during the second administration of Grover Cleveland. When asked the typical question as to what she attributed her longevity, she had a succinct answer: “Minding my own business and avoiding junk food!” Despite her aversion to the latter, when she finally had formal recognition from Guinness, she said she thought she ought to have a box of chocolates to celebrate.

In addition to her four children, she had 11 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

A funeral will be held later this week according to Sidney Cooper, one of her sons, but arrangements have not been finalized at this time, and he was hopeful that it could be a small, dignified event, despite her national recognition. Even with her good sense of humor which all remembered, that’s probably what Besse Cooper would want.

-Martha Boltz, Washington Times


North Carolina: Confederate Group Refuses to Surrender

The ongoing Confederate flag tug-of-war in Haywood County took an unusual turn last week.

Confederate supporters banned from flying the Confederate Battle Flag on the courthouse lawn have taken to flying the Mississippi state flag instead. The move by Confederate supporters aims to side-step a new county policy that would ban displays of the Confederate Battle Flag.

While the county is still working out the exact language, its proposed policy — as well as the interim policy now in effect —allows official government flags only.

But, defenders of the Confederate Battle Flag found a loophole in that language. It stipulates only official government flags are allowed on county property — and it just so happens there’s a government flag out there that contains the Confederate Battle Flag as part of its design.

Confederate supporters scoured state, county and even city flags around the nation that they could display legally while continuing to fight for the right to exhibit the Confederate Battle Flag itself.

And, sure enough, they found one — the Mississippi state flag. The flag has three stripes, one blue, one white and one red. Most importantly, however, the Confederate Battle Flag is depicted in the upper, left-hand corner.

Kirk Lyons, chief trial counsel with the Southern Legal Resource Center, was jolly and chuckled when he talked about finding the loophole while sitting outside the Haywood County historic courthouse last Friday with the state flag of Mississippi in hand.

“Please instruct the County Maintenance staff that the display of the Mississippi State flag comports in every way with the interim ‘Display Policy’ adopted by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners … and therefore should not be removed or molested in anyway,” Lyons wrote in a letter to county attorney Chip Killian.

Because the Mississippi state flag is a government flag, it will remain on county property.

“The county is not going to take any action at this time,” Killian said.

The language allowing the display of any “official government flag” was intentionally left vague. Limiting the policy to only the Haywood County, N.C. and U.S. flags would pose a conundrum every summer when the Folkmoot International folk and dance festival comes to town.

Large flags from other countries are draped from the historic courthouse during the two-week festival. Without the proper language in place, those flags could no longer be flown on county property.

However, an official county display policy is not yet set in stone.

“I think the whole thing is under review,” Killian said.

It appears the county would have to modify the language if it wants to close up the loophole.

At the earliest, the board of commissioners will vote on the policy at its Dec. 12 meeting.

While the proposed policy would ban displays of the Confederate Battle Flag at any time under any circumstance, the First National Flag of the Confederacy could be displayed from 7 p.m. May 9 to 7 a.m. May 11 to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, unless permission is otherwise requested.

Just because they found a loophole does not mean that Confederate flag proponents are willing to settle for the Mississippi state flag forever. Lyons called the policy unconstitutional and said he and others will continue to fight against it.

How we got here

Haywood County leaders may have won a battle, but it’s unclear who will win the war over what can and cannot be displayed — particularly when it comes to the Confederate Flag — on county property.

A philosophical fight broke out in August over miniature Confederate Battle Flags being stuck in the ground around the base of a Confederate Memorial on the lawn of the historic courthouse in Waynesville. Confederate supporters say the flags were meant to honor Southern heritage and Civil War veterans, but county leaders got complaints from some who see the flags as divisive and offensive symbols of past racism.

The scuffle turned into a full-blown standoff when the county board of commissioners temporarily prohibited the flags from being displayed until it could craft a policy detailing when, where and what can be placed on county property by outside groups.

Haywood County had no such policy on its books previously. The county attorney got to work crafting one, however, and presented a draft version to the board of commissioners last Monday.

-Caitlin Bowling,


Civil War Memorial to Overlooked Legacy

After two years and countless hours of lobbying and research, African Americans who went to war for the Confederacy will have their service officially recognized.

A public unveiling of a Civil War marker honoring 10 pensioners will take place on Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. the Old County Courthouse in Monroe. The 4-foot-by-28-inch marble plaque will sit in the brick walkway in front of the existing Confederate monument.

Weary Clyburn, who served the Confederate cause when he followed his master Frank Clyburn during the Civil War, is buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Monroe. His name is etched on a plaque with nine other African Americans who saw duty in the Civil War.

“This will be the first monument in the United States that … names soldiers by name,” said Tony Way, an amateur historian from Indian Trail and Sons of Confederate Veterans member who lobbied Union County commissioners for the marker. “They’re real flesh and blood people and I think they’ve been treated unfairly by history because of political correctness run amok sometimes. They’re not recognized because of their Confederate connection and the word ‘Confederate’ is kind of taboo in our vocabulary.”

Among those expected to attend the ceremony are retired Fulton County (Ga.) sheriff Jackie Washington, a descendant of pensioner Aaron Perry and his great-grandson, also named Aaron Perry, of Charlotte. Mattie Rice, the 90-yar-old daughter of Wary Clyburn will unveil the marker, the junior Aaron Perry will be inducted into the SCV.

“It’s going to be a great honor that day,” the junior Perry said. “It’s very personal for me.”

The Union County Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously in June to approve the privately funded marker to recognize the service of nine slaves and one freedman who earned state pensions. Commissioners earlier rejected the proposal because it named individuals instead of regiments, as earlier markers did.

“When it passed, no one was more surprised than I was,” Way said. “They turned it down the first time, and I had to keep going back to the commissioners and every time I went back I had a different story.”

The exact number of blacks who went to war with their masters is unclear. Historians contend no slaves actually took up arms for the Confederacy, but they provided support to the southern cause as “body servants” who protected their masters in battle, intelligence assets, cooks and laborers. Way contends that they served the losing side, their contributions shouldn’t be diminished.

“My grandfater was a slave,” said Perry, who spoke on behalf of the monument at board meetings over the years. “He had to fight against his freedom in order to be free.”

Said Way: “These guys were swept under the rug and overlooked by history,” Way said. “The only way to keep their story alive is to repeat them to other people and put something out in the public eye that says these people were really here and really did what they did.”

-Herbert L. White, The Charlotte Post


Mississippi: Sinking of USS Cairo at Vicksburg Commemorates

The Mississippi River rolls through the South as a great avenue of commerce, but its benefits were balanced 150 years ago from the viewpoint of its local inhabitants: The river was the great highway of Union invasion.

Photographed in the Mississippi River area during 1862, with a boat alongside her port bow, crewmen on deck and other river steamers in the background.

With roads poor and railroads easily raided by the South’s defenders, it was water transport that supplied the vast armies of the time. Gens. U.S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman helped write new lessons in military history by running fleets of river steamboats past the forts of the South, then launching offensives far from the Union army’s original bases.

And it was often astonishingly small ironclad vessels, by today’s standards, that were thrown together in great haste and then took astonishing poundings from defending artillery. Running the gauntlet of artillery based on the high bluffs of Vicksburg was a particularly intrepid mission for the gunboats of the river.

On Saturday, one of the veterans of the conflict will be on display in a special candlelight tour of the USS Cairo at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

The event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the gunboat’s sinking in the Yazoo River. “Park employees will be dressed in period military uniforms and costume to explain the history of the Cairo and what happened to it,” Will Wilson, park guide and interpreter, told the Vicksburg Post.

The Cairo, one of seven heavily armored gunboats built by Union forces during the Civil War, was engaged in the campaign for Vicksburg — the vital fortress that was the objective of Grant’s great campaign of 1862 and 1863.

Built in Mound City, Ill., the Cairo was scouting up the Yazoo River when it was sunk by an electrically detonated mine — called a torpedo in those days — about seven miles north of Vicksburg on Dec. 12, 1862.

“That was the first time in the United States that an electrically operated torpedo successfully sank a warship,” Wilson said.

The Cairo was raised from the river bottom in 1964 by Operation Cairo, a group of private citizens. It was cut into three sections and repaired at Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula.

While the Cairo event will be a particular commemoration of the great Mississippi campaign, the tremendous cost in lives and energy of the war are readily seen in the national and state parks along the river, including Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the two ferociously defended bastions that held out until mid-1863.

The bravery of defenders and besiegers is particularly on display in the ravines and gullies of the Vicksburg battlefield. Some of the assaults launched by Grant, impatient for success and often heedless of the cost in young lives, seem beyond understanding when one is looking at the terrain around Vicksburg. The people of Vicksburg endured shelling and great privations during the long siege.

Those days, particularly now with the 150th anniversary of the great conflict, remain incredible stories that young people can be exposed to at preserved battlefields such as that in Vicksburg. These are truly national treasures that can give insight into the past.

-The Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate


Virginia: Braehead had Civil War role

It couldn’t be more appropriate that Braehead, the 1859 brick mansion where Gen. Robert E. Lee had his breakfast on the day the Civil War came to Fredericksburg, is a stop on the city’s Candlelight Tour this year.

Braehead, built in 1859, has been completely restored, inside and out, over the past few years. Visitors have an opportunity to see it on this weekend's Candlelight Tour.

Not only does the property have that memorable role in local history, but its thorough restoration, inside and out, was just completed a few weeks ago. Today it probably looks as good as it ever has since the general hitched his horse, Traveller, to the walnut tree that still stands nearby.

Participants in the tour, sponsored each year by Historic Fredericksburg Foundation Inc., will be welcomed to a place that in every key respect is the same as it was when it was built 153 years ago. This is readily documented primarily because it has been owned by but two families, the second taking over stewardship just a few years ago.

New owners Robb and Diana Almy bought the home while it was held on a contingency contract by the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust. The organization had entered the agreement with Graham Stephens, the earlier owner and a descendant of the home’s builder, John Howison. It’s said Howison built the house for $15,000–a very large sum at the time.

Tucked off Lee Drive in the National Battlefield Park, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is also protected under a conservation easement. The restoration for residential use qualified the project for Virginia state tax credits and oversight by the state Department of Historic Resources.

The new owners contracted with Jay Holloway of Habalis Construction in Fredericksburg to renovate and restore the property, and the results are nothing short of remarkable.

Time and a lack of maintenance had taken their toll. But the house is now a comfortable home for a young family while it retains all that makes it a historic structure–which Robb Almy considers the perfect blend of old and new.

“It’s not a museum but an old house that is actually lived in,” he said. And that’s because it has been a home, except for a period as a bed-and-breakfast, since the day it was built. Any interior changes that had been made were undone during the restoration.

“The good thing is that the previous owners didn’t do much to it,” Almy said. “But the bad thing is that the previous owners didn’t do much to it.”


That’s where Holloway’s challenge came in. He was faced with a house that was largely original and had never had an addition. Work that had been done over generations, however, had generally not been done to any sort of code.

The house is described as having two three-story towers–the formal tower and the service tower–connected by a two-story “hyphen.”

“This was my most complex project so far,” said Holloway. “It’s the project I’m most proud of.”

While far from the only challenge he faced, the basement was the most labor-intensive aspect. It was chronically wet and otherwise uninviting. Long ago, a concrete floor had been poured directly on top of the original brick floor in hopes of keeping the moisture at bay. Not only did it not work, but the concrete trapped the moisture underneath, and when Holloway’s crews jack-hammered the old concrete, the original brick floor “had turned to mush.”

The concrete layer also elevated several inches. To compensate, doors and door frames were cut from the bottom. The last step of the stairs landed just a couple of inches above the floor.

Using modern technology to block the moisture, Holloway excavated around the entire perimeter of the house, added a moisture-blocking membrane and waterproofed the foundation to keep the lower level living space dry.

Beneath the floor is also where new ductwork, plumbing, wiring and tubing for the Waterfurnace geothermal heating and cooling system would be run. Burying those utilities precluded the need for bulkheading them in the living space. And with the exterior walls and many interior walls solid brick, they were not as user-friendly as framed walls would be.

Once that was all in place, a new concrete floor at the proper level was poured. On top of that was laid a floor of reclaimed heart pine.

The lower level of the formal tower is the family’s primary living space, with the kitchen and family room. The current family room, Almy is told, is where Gen. Lee took his breakfast on the morning of Dec. 13, 1862.

The handsome kitchen has a marble-topped island, soapstone countertops and a hammered copper sink. The cabinets are painted and distressed alderwood.

Off the lower level “hyphen” hallway are a new bathroom, playroom and mudroom. The mudroom once housed part of the dairy operation that was run there. These lower-level rooms retain the original sandstone door sills that were discovered and reclaimed from beneath the concrete floor.

The service tower’s lower level holds a laundry room, just as it has historically. One flight up on the main level is a home office with built-in shelving.


The main level of the formal tower holds the formal living and dining rooms, which are separated by massive pocket doors and are among the rooms open for the tour.

The living room contains a huge antique Knabe piano that former owner Graham Stephens had entirely restored and left with the home. Almy said Stephens left nearly all of the period furniture–bureaus, bed, armoires and more–with the home.

On this level the hyphen contains separate rooms for each of the Almys’ three sons.

On the upper level of the formal tower are the master bedroom, which Almy noted was called the Jane Beale room. Beale, whose home on Prince Edward Street behind the Kenmore Inn is under restoration, was the sister of Braehead’s builder Howison. She fled to Braehead with her children during the hostilities in downtown Fredericksburg.

There’s also a secondary bedroom for the Almys’ daughter and a bathroom that has been completely redone.

“Everything we could possibly save or reuse, we did,” said Holloway. Original window and door frames and heart pine floors were merely cleaned up, not sanded and repainted or refinished.


As was frequently the case with such mansions that faced old carriage roads or had waterway access, the back of Braehead became the front when Lee Drive was built.

The classic brickwork is a combination of Flemish bond on the front and side of the formal tower, and six-course American bond elsewhere. The black shutters are original except for a few that couldn’t be saved and were replaced with matching salvaged ones. For energy efficiency, historically correct storm windows have been installed.

The slate roof was replaced with faux slate, after it was determined the original roof structure couldn’t continue to support the weight of real slate.

Copper gutters and downspouts were installed, as were copper “snowbirds” on the roof.

Added but not qualified for tax credits were the exterior patio of Pennsylvania bluestone and other hardscaping like the brick walkways.

-Richard Amrhine,


Washington, D.C.: Bull Run ‘Battle App’ Launched

On Nov. 26, officials from the Civil War Trust announced the release of a new offering in its popular Battle App series of free, multimedia, GPS-enabled historical tours. The “Bull Run Battle App” now becomes the first in the series to be tailored specifically to iPad devices.

The app, now available for download in the iTunes store as “Bull Run HD,” enables users to experience the first major land battle of the American Civil War in an unprecedented way. Although versions of each previous app are compatible with both Apple and Android devices, the release of the new format provides enhanced features for iPad users.

Like its predecessors, the iPad app features include a detailed, GPS-enabled, battlefield map highlighting a wealth of virtual signs and other points of interest. Within this extensive offering 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. Learn more at