Alabama: Historian Names 10 Most Pivotal Events in State History


MONTGOMERY — The days when men first walked on the moon and people first set foot in what is now Alabama are two of the 15 key dates in Alabama history listed recently by state archives Director Ed Bridges.
World War II, the Civil War and the civil rights movement also are represented by dates Bridges provided after he was asked to propose a top-10 list for Alabama history. He didn’t stop at 10.

”Obviously, there are a lot of things I wanted to include here, and I couldn’t get it down to 10, but somehow this 15 seemed to give a reasonably balanced overview,” he said.

Bridges, 66, has been director of the state Department of Archives and History since May 1982. He plans to retire after Sept. 30.

”Thirty years is a long time for one person in an agency,” he said. ”Institutions need some new blood, some new vitality.”

Historian Leah Rawls Atkins of Hoover, a member of the department’s board of trustees, said, ”Ed took the archives and made it professional in every way, took it to a new level.”

Historian Wayne Flynt of Auburn also praised Bridges, saying, ”He’s been so dedicated in promoting the history of this state in a balanced and fair way.”

Bridges said he looks forward to hearing what people have to say about his list of 15 key dates in Alabama history. Here is his list, in chronological order:

A day about 14,000 years ago, give or take 1,000 or 2,000 years: The first human sets foot in what is now Alabama.

“We tend to think about Alabama history as being only a couple hundred years old. I think it’s important to remember that people have been living here 16,000 years or longer,” Bridges said.

A day in 1540: An expedition led by Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando de Soto enters Alabama. Smallpox, measles and other diseases brought by these and other Europeans killed large numbers of Native Americans.

De Soto and members of his expedition were the first Europeans to explore the interior of Alabama.

“It marks the beginning of this clash of cultures between the Europeans and the Indians,” Bridges said. ”The immediate effects were terribly destructive of Indian life, even then.”

Jan. 20, 1702: French settlement of Mobile begins.

“It’s the first European settlement in what is now Alabama,” Bridges said. “It marks the arrival of a new people who over time would come to displace the Indians.”

March 27, 1814: Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

An army led by Andrew Jackson inflicted a “decisive, crushing defeat” on Creek warriors. “It marks the end of Indian domination of this land,” Bridges said.

“After this battle, Alabama starts opening up for massive settlement” by whites and blacks, he said.

Dec. 14, 1819: Alabama becomes the 22nd state.

“It really marks the time when we come together as a people within these boundaries, and we are Alabamians,” Bridges said.

Jan. 11, 1861: Alabama becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union. The Civil War starts a few months later.

“To me, it marks the effort by white Alabamians to protect their old way of life, and the beginning of the war that ended the old way of life,” which included slavery, Bridges said.

“The majority of white Alabamians clearly felt … loyalty to the state after secession and wanted to defend their state,” he said.

Jan. 1, 1863: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves in Confederate states such as Alabama to be free.

“I just think it’s really important to think about the Civil War as both the effort by white Southerners to protect their way of life and the ending of the system of slavery on which that life was largely built,” Bridges said.

“The economic and social system of slavery was so important to antebellum Alabama, and the Civil War ends that system and leads to the permanent abolition of slavery in America,” he said.

November 1874: Democrats sweep back into power, effectively ending Reconstruction.

Alabama Republicans, including blacks, held many offices statewide and in Congress after the Civil War. Democrats calling for government austerity and white supremacy seized firm control of the Legislature and took back the governor’s office after the election of Nov. 3, 1874.

“They were able to set up a new system of control that instituted segregation and prevented blacks from having any effective role in government,” Bridges said.

Aug. 18, 1920: The 19th amendment to the U.S. constitution is ratified, granting women the right to vote.

“It’s an important part of what I believe is really a huge expansion in Alabama of the role of women” in politics, in the workplace and in the home, Bridges said.

March 4, 1933: Inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, author of the New Deal.

”It’s hard to overstate the impact of federal programs in Alabama that started with the New Deal and then continued, everything from Social Security to the Tennessee Valley Authority to wage-and-hour laws to price subsidies for agriculture to health and human services programs provided by the federal government,” Bridges said.

Dec. 7, 1941: The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, triggering America’s entry into World War II.

“It’s hard to imagine anything that had more of an effect on Alabama society in the last 100 years than World War II,” Bridges said.

Among other things, he said factories and military bases brought “an enormous infusion of money” into a state that had struggled economically in the 1920s and 1930s.

“Soldiers went into the service and got training and came out and got the (Veterans Administration) home loans and VA student loans,” he added.

Also, Bridges said, “Blacks who participated in a war for democracy and freedom felt even more keenly their lack of freedom at home, helping lead to the civil rights movement.”

Dec. 1, 1955: Arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger.

Her conviction sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, which a young pastor, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize.

“As much as anything you can think of, it symbolizes the beginning of the modern civil rights movement and also the emergence of Martin Luther King as a leader, and of his philosophy of non-violence,” Bridges said.

March 1965: Marches for voting rights.

A planned march to Montgomery ended abruptly March 7, with state and local officers beating marchers in Selma. A completed Selma-to-Montgomery march started March 21 and ended March 25 at the state Capitol.

The marches galvanized support for the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided for federal officials to oversee voter registration in many counties. The number of black voters in Alabama skyrocketed.

“This is the nail in the coffin of segregation, once African-Americans can fully participate in voting and regain their full rights as citizens to run for office and to vote,” Bridges said.

Bridges said the marches were a bookend, along with the Montgomery bus boycott, to “10 incredible years” when “Alabama was the dynamic center of the civil rights movement.”

July 20, 1969: Men land on the moon.

Bridges noted that the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville played huge roles in planning the moon mission, training astronauts and developing the mission’s Saturn V rocket.

”When people look back on the history of the world 500 years from now, won’t one of the landmarks in human history be landing a man on the moon?” Bridges asked. He said Alabama’s substantial involvement in the effort made the moon landing “an important landmark in Alabama history.”

Sept. 30, 1993: Mercedes-Benz officially announces that its first vehicle-production plant in the United States will be built in Vance.

“It seems to me to mark a turning point in Alabama’s economic life,” Bridges said, adding that the decision came as many textile jobs in Alabama were being moved to lower-wage nations.

Bridges said the decision by Mercedes-Benz to locate in Alabama opened the door for Honda, Hyundai and Toyota to build assembly or engine plants here, for ThyssenKrupp to build its steel plant near Mobile and for Airbus to announce plans to build its first airliner-assembly plant in the United States in Mobile. “It validated Alabama for these other companies,” Bridges said.


Arkansas: New Civil War Marker Unveiled


JOHNSON (AP) — More than one in three people in Washington County died or were forced into refugee life in the first half of the 1860s during the Civil War.
Most died not as casualties from military battles but from starvation and difficult living conditions created as Confederates and Union soldiers destroyed the majority of Northwest Arkansas’ 35 mills that produced food, clothing and furniture, said Alan Thompson, museum registrar at the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. Half of those mills stood in Washington County.

Thompson shared that piece of history Monday during the dedication of a historical marker for the Johnson Mill at the Inn at the Mill on Greathouse Springs Road.
Members of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, along with state Rep. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, Johnson Mayor Buddy Curry and other history enthusiasts unveiled the marker Monday morning. The marker details the region’s suffering and the burning during the war of the Sutton Mill, today known as the Johnson Mill.

Woods, a Civil War enthusiast, said there was a lot of debate about which army burned the mill.

“There were three different stories as to who burned this mill,” Thompson said. “I found a Confederate account that says the Union Army did it. There are Union accounts that say the Confederates did it. And there’s an account that says bushwhackers did it. So all three of the different groups involved have been blamed for it, but I don’t know who actually did it. All three groups had hands in destroying (mills) at some point.”

Confederates burned mills to keep Union soldiers from using them, the marker reads. Union soldiers burned them to keep them from being used as gathering places for Confederate guerillas, also known as bushwhackers.

The commission hopes to install at least one marker in all 75 counties by the end of the 150th anniversary of the war in 2015, said Tom Dupree, chairman. The commission installed two markers last year at the battlefield in Prairie Grove and plans to install a third marker at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in the future, Dupree said.

Any local group or organization with a war story can apply to receive a marker, said Mark Christ of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. No one in Benton County has filed a request for a marker, he said.

So far, the commission has dedicated 40 markers in 30 counties, Christ said.

“The focus — what is your local story you want to tell?” said Christ. “We have one in Miller County in extreme southwest Arkansas that’s about the two-week period that Confederate records were moved to this little town called Rondo because they were afraid the Capitol was going to fall.”
Woods said he would work with the state Highway and Transportation Department to install signs along Interstate 540 pointing the way to the historic marker.
“This is going to create tourism in the area … . There are a lot of people who travel the country and the state just to hunt down markers like this. This is good for Johnson,” Woods said.

Jesse Burkes, the inn’s general manager, said he filled out the application for the marker after he was approached with the idea by Woods. Christ said the cost was $2,130. That cost was shared between the commission and the city of Johnson, Burkes said.

“The mill has become a focal point of our city and a highlight,” the mayor said. “Now we get a historical marker down here that solidifies everything. I think it adds a little pizazz to the whole thing.”

Mississippi: Restored Civil War Flags on Display


JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -By Walt Grayson

The flag of the 4th Mississippi Infantry dogged Union General Grant’s rise to fame being on the side against him while he was still a rather obscure officer at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson prior to Shiloh. And then again at Port Gibson and the last stand at the Big Black River before Vicksburg. It even had a taste of success fending off Sherman at Chickasaw Bayou, the only battle Sherman lost.

This is one of six Civil War battle flags on display right now in the lobby of the William Winter Building in downtown Jackson as a taste of what is being done with the flags in the Archive’s flag collection in preparation for the new State History Museum scheduled to open along with the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in 2017, the 200th anniversary of Mississippi’s statehood.

This flag and many other restored Civil War flags will find their way to their new, last home when the new history museum opens in five years. The Sons of Confederate Veterans raised the money to restore the 66 Civil War flags in the state’s collection of 155 flags. The others are mostly various U.S. flags, many newer. But there’s one older, very rare U.S. flag in the collection with strong Mississippi ties that Cindy Gardner, director of collections for Archives and History’s Museum Division, says will be the star of the show after it is preserved.

“One of our most important flags that we have is the 20 star flag,” said Gardner.

This 20-star American flag only flew one year in 1818. That’s the year after Mississippi put that 20th star there by becoming the 20th state in 1817. And so by 2017, the bicentennial of Mississippi’s state hood, Archives and History Department would love to have this flag completely restored. It’s only going to cost about $50,000 if anybody wants to pony up and help out.

“But before the bicentennial, we will also travel the flag around the state for the bicentennial and get people excited about coming to visit the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” said Gardner.

All that’s needed is raise the funds and then get our name of the waiting list of the experts who do this sort of restoration.


South Carolina: Attack of 54th Massachusetts Re-enacted


CHARLESTON, S.C.— Re-enactors portraying the black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry gathered on a windy beach Wednesday where they fired a rifle salute and placed a wreath honoring the black soldiers who fell in the ill-fated 1863 attack on Confederate Battery Wagner on Charleston Harbor.

Wednesday was the 149th anniversary of the attack commemorated in the movie “Glory.” The attack failed, but it put an end to a Civil War myth that black soldiers could not or would not fight.

“People believed that at the first sight of battle they would cut and run. But they proved otherwise,” said Joe McGill, a member of Company I of the 54th Massachusetts re-enactors.

That company is based in Charleston but there are several others elsewhere and re-enactors from four states and the District of Columbia were among the 20 who attended Wednesday’s observance.

About 25 other people, including gospel singers, were at the ceremony on the island reachable only by boat.

A color guard carried a wreath about 100 yards from the shore and placed it atop a sand dune in the direction where Battery Wagner, long since washed away by time and tides, once stood.

The other re-enactors sounded a rifle salute in honor of the fallen. Not all were men. Ramona La Roche portrayed Susan King Taylor who, as a girl of 14, helped teach members of the 54th to read and write and served as a nurse to the troops after Wagner.

The first major engagement for black troops in the war was bloody. Of the 600 troops who charged the battery, 218 were killed, wounded or captured. After Wagner, the 54th, which was formed in Boston, served in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida before returning to Massachusetts after the war ended in September 1865

The re-enactors return to the island every year to commemorate the battle and McGill said a larger event is expected next year for the 150th anniversary.

Re-enactor Ernest Parks said the story of 54th wasn’t mentioned during the centennial observance of the Civil War 50 years ago.

“We’re talking about the representation of what happened in America. So we as African-Americans want to tell our particular story now so we can be all-inclusive in telling the story,” he said.

James Brown, who lives only a few miles from Morris Island, asked “who else is telling the story of African-Americans? Nobody. And I feel honored to do such a thing because I’m standing on the shoulders and the backs of guys who enabled me to be free and who enabled me to do something like this.”

New era in Southern studies begins at USC

By Peggy Binette

A scholar of contemporary Southern literature and culture has been selected to lead the Institute for Southern Studies in theCollege of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina.

Robert Brinkmeyer, who joined USC’s faculty in 2000 and is the Emily Brown Jefferies Professor of English and Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies, has been named director.

Brinkmeyer succeeds Walter Edgar, who retired May 31 and led the institute since its founding in 1980.

A scholar of early-to-mid 20th century writers who include William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor,

Walker Percy and Eudora Welty, Brinkmeyer has spent much of his career helping to shape an international understanding of Southern studies by establishing university exchange programs and lecturing extensively throughout Europe and Russia.

“In the last decade or so, the field of Southern Studies has changed dramatically. Many scholars are now looking at the South through a lens that is simultaneously local and international,” Brinkmeyer said. “Scholars often talk about ‘the many Souths’ rather than ‘the South,’ examining the many vibrant subcultures operating within operating within Southern culture. In other words, the South’s diversity is now at front and center in scholarly research.”

Building on the institute’s strong foundation set by Edgar, Brinkmeyer said he wants to create a broad understanding of the South while offering faculty and students new ways of studying the region.

His plans call for joint projects with other disciplines, including programs in women’s and gender studies, African, Latin American, Jewish and African studies; opportunities for interdisciplinary team-teaching of courses; yearly themes to guide speakers, colloquia and public events; and collaboration with other Southern studies-focused centers on research and symposia that would provide a comparative look at the South.

Brinkmeyer said students can expect more course offerings this year.

Rob Gilmer, a new faculty member whose research areas is Native American history and environmental history, will teach a new course this fall titled, “Native Americans in the Contemporary South: ‘Indian Princesses,’ Tribal Recognition and Gaming.” Next spring, faculty from a variety of departments will teach a special topics course, including one on Piedmont music. Plans call for the hiring of two more faculty this year, one a research professor in Southern Studies and a joint hire in anthropology.

“These are exciting times for the Institute for Southern Studies,” he said.

Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences agrees. “The work conducted by the scholars and students in the Institute demonstrates that the local has strong and powerful connections and implications for global understanding,” Fitzpatrick said.

Before joining USC’s faculty, Brinkmeyer was chairman of the English department at the University of Arkansas. He previously had taught at the University of Mississippi, Tulane University and North Carolina Central University. A native of Washington D.C., Brinkmeyer earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Duke University and a doctoral degree in English from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

An expert in modern and contemporary Southern literature and culture, Brinkmeyer is the author of five books, including his most recent, “The Fourth Ghost: White Southern Writers and European, 1930 – 1950,”which earned the 2010 PROSE Award by the Association of American Publishers for the best book published in literature, language and linguistics and the 2009 Warren-Brooks Award for Excellence in Literary Criticism.

His research, which has earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright appointment, includes the study of and writing on a wide variety of writers, which include Mark Twain, Erskine Caldwell, Bobbie Ann Mason, Jean Toomer, Katherine Anne Porter, Lillian Smith, Carson McCullers, Darcy Steinke, Frederick Barthelme, James Agee, V.S. Naipaul and Richard Ford, in addition to Faulker, O’Connor, Percy and Welty.

His editorial experience is extensive. He serves on the editorial boards of “The Mississippi Quarterly” and “The Flannery O’Connor Review” and is a board member of the USC Press. He is series editor for USC Press’s new series, “Southern Revivals,” which reprints contemporary Southern fiction, and is an editorial member of UNC Press’s series, “New Directions in Southern Studies.” He is a former longtime executive board member of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.


Tennessee: Civil War Sesquicentennial Events Planned For Stones River National Battlefield

Superintendent Stuart K. Johnson announced the upcoming schedule of events to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Stones River and other important Civil War events in or near Murfreesboro in 1862.

July 21-22: Stones River will open its sesquicentennial programs in partnership with Oaklands Historic House Museum telling the story of General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s raid. Visitors will experience Murfreesboro’s first taste of the shooting war from several perspectives. Confederate cavalry demonstrations at the battlefield at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. will help visitors see the raid through the eyes of Forrest’s troopers.

At Oaklands, where the Ninth Michigan Infantry surrendered, visitors will hear the Union perspective accompanied by infantry demonstrations at 11:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m. each day. Special house tours and an exhibit of civilian artifacts will help visitors understand the raid from the point of view of Murfreesboro’s inhabitants.


Texas: Civil War Veterans Ledger Rediscovered



GRAPEVINE – Many of the names handwritten in an old ledger are familiar: Hudgins, Estill, Bushong, Blevins, Koonce, McPherson, Millican and a couple Lipscombs.

The 60 names identify former soldiers of the Civil War who came together in Grapevine in February 1900 to form the Stonewall Jackson Camp, United Confederate Veterans, No. 1253.

Joseph Priestly Lipscomb was elected the camp’s commander. John Washington Higgins was first lieutenant; Stephen T. Harman, second lieutenant; John Elhanon Brock, adjutant; and the Rev. Elihu Newton, chaplain.

Like veterans on both sides of the Civil War, the Confederate Veterans came together to share their experiences in battle as only comrades can.

These were not the young men and boys who went off to fight in the Civil war from 1861 to 1865. By 1900, most of these soldiers were in their 50s and 60s. Just two years later, in 1902, when the UCV camp disbanded, 45 of the names in the ledger had a single word recorded next to them, “dead.”

The list of names is an important part of Grapevine’s history. “It’s the only record of the camp’s existence,” said Michael Patterson, a local amateur historian of the Civil War as it relates to the people of Tarrant County. Patterson’s great-great grandfather, Joseph M. Cavender, was among the men listed.

The ledger listing the names had been missing for about 20 years. It was part of the artifacts collection of the Grapevine Historical Society, said Carolyn Ernst, the current society president.

Ernst, Pam Price and Sallie Andrews speculate that the ledger and other items were misplaced in 1992 when the society’s railroad depot museum was moved from Heritage Park on Ball Street to its current location along the tracks on South Main Street.

“When the decision was made to move [the depot] back to near its original location, the artifacts were dispersed to various and sundry places for storage while the building was being restored,” Ernst said. “Unfortunately, not all of the artifacts were recovered.”

The Historical Society did not keep a full accounting of its artifacts at the time. While some of the items were listed on note cards, the society relied on member’s memories for other items.

The box containing the ledger, photos of hydrosaur footprints and other documents ended up in the back of a city-owned warehouse. After the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau moved to its new location, Andrews was asked to go through boxes of old CVB materials and brochures. She said she came across one box marked “GHS” about three weeks ago.

“It is a wonderful discovery,” Andrews said.

The ledger was given to Price, who is in charge of the society’s archives. The pages have now been scanned and copied for future public display. “The original ledger is delicate,” Price said.

Price and others are working to catalogue all of the society’s possessions but “that is a major undertaking in progress,” she said. “You cannot imagine the locations we found information in … almost like going to a barn and finding some documentation under the haystack in the corner and others near the feed or in the hayloft,” she added.

But for Patterson, the ledger’s rediscovery was exciting. Besides listing the camp’s members, it also kept track of who paid their dues – $25 the first year, $15 the second year and $25 the third year. In 1900, $25 was equivalent to about $650 today, a substantial sum for the veterans. When the camp disbanded, there was about $2 left, according to a handwritten note by adjutant Brock. The ledger does not state what the dues were used for.

For a full list of the names of camp members, visit


Virginia: Disabled Vet to get Home on Civil War Battle Site


FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — A Marine who sustained a brain injury and lost all four limbs while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan has chosen a major Civil War battle site in Virginia for his new home.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation are holding a contract signing Thursday for a specially designed smart home for Sgt. John Peck at the Estates of Chancellorsville. Union soldiers dug trenches during the Battle of Chancellorsville in anticipation of doing battle with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army.

Peck received the Purple Heart after sustaining a brain injury when his vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2008. He later lost all four limbs as a result of an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2010.

Memorial Planned for Girls who Died in Munitions Factory Blast

By Raymond Hawkes

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)- Among the 13 new state historical markers just approved by the Department of Historic Resources is one commemorating the Civil War munitions factory explosion in Richmond that killed 50 or so young girls who worked there.

Some were as young as 11, assembling or disassembling percussion caps, friction primers, signal lights, rockets, all things explosive for the Southern cause.

The plant had been on 7th Street on the shoulder of the city overlooking the James River. After a number of explosions, they moved the plant to Brown’s Island – to isolate it – 150 years ago. They hired 300 young girls to do the work. The young men were off fighting the war. Their families needed the money.

The explosion came on March 13, 1863 – Friday the 13th – it was one of the worst industrial accidents in the nation’s history. Not only was it a horror locally, the terrible explosion shifted the winds of war and was one of the most devastating springs in Richmond history.