Tennessee: Compromise Sought after Memphis Strikes Confederate Names from Parks

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Memphis officials are proposing a compromise after the City Council stripped Confederacy names from three city parks.

Mayor A C Wharton and Councilman Jim Strickland held out the olive branch Wednesday, saying the city needs to unite and get on to more important issues.

“I think what the mayor and I wanted to do was start the discussion on trying to compromise and achieve some consensus,” Strickland told The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/es9H).

In a letter to a nine-member Park Naming Committee, Wharton and Strickland suggested calling the former Forrest Park by the name Civil War Park. It currently is called Health Sciences Park because it is close to the University of Tennessee medical school. The officials propose erecting a privately funded statue of Ulysses S. Grant to complement the existing statue of Confederate cavalry officer Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Grant, a Union general during the Civil War and later president, had his headquarters in Memphis for a time during the conflict. The grave of Forrest and a monument to him have been at the park for more than a century.

The letter suggested changing the name of the former Confederate Park to the Battle of Memphis Park.

That park has a marker about the 1862 battle on the Mississippi River between Union and Confederate ships. The letter from Wharton and Strickland said much more about the history of the war could be interpreted for visitors to the park, which overlooks the river.

There was no suggestion for the park formerly called Jefferson Davis Park, which honored the president of the Confederate States of America.

The City Council quickly renamed the parks on Feb. 5 after the placement of a privately funded marker that identified Forrest Park. There was also pending state legislation that would prevent renaming parks in the future.

The move to rename the parks was led by council member Lee Harris, who said he supports the new names advanced by Wharton and Strickland.

“Those are both historic names and neutral names, so I think those names are not too offensive to any segments of our community,” Harris said. “And so I think that, hopefully, those are names that people will rally around and put this matter to bed.”

–Associated Press


Louisiana: Port Hudson Holds Civil War Re-Enactment

JACKSON, La. — “Cannoneers, to your posts,” a Confederate officer cried above the chaos of rifle fire. Southern soldiers grouped into formations under orders from officers as they began to march toward the fray downfield.

The crowd continued to grow as the 25th annual Civil War re-enactment at Port Hudson near Jackson, La., kicked into action with the first cannon blast.

A Confederate soldier retrieves the American Flag Saturday, March 23, 2013 during the reenactment of the seige of Port Hudson at Port Hudson State Historic Site. Richard Redmann photo

A Confederate soldier retrieves the American Flag Saturday, March 23, 2013 during the reenactment of the seige of Port Hudson at Port Hudson State Historic Site. Richard Redmann photo

Battle cries engulfed the air as soldiers frantically ran from one side of the field to get into position and scan for an open shot at a Union solider in the distance.

“Ready! Aim! Fire!” a Confederate officer roared while the soldiers’ rifles fired in unison, consuming the men in a cloud of white smoke.

A ragtag group of Southern soldiers loaded a cannon facing the onslaught of Union troops who were slowly gaining ground. A Confederate officer raised his arm into the air as the cannoneers covered their ears. “Fire,” he yelled.

The shock from the cannon blast was immediate and could be felt as the ground shook and white smoke was carried into the wind. A few Union soldiers dropped to the ground and a taunt from the Confederates – “Come on, Yanks” – sent the Union troops further into disarray.

The crowd shouted as Confederates blasted a volley of rifle fire into the group of Federals until the battlefield was littered with Union bodies. The Southerners had taken the day.

The re-enactment this year commemorated the 150th anniversary of the siege of Port Hudson, and the events continued into Sunday.

The grounds of Port Hudson were scattered with white tents that would have been a common sight in the area during the siege, and patrons donning 19th century clothing walked the park’s grounds, visiting booths and conversing with members of the crowd.

The re-enactment serves to educate the public about the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River during the Civil War, which, according to Port Hudson curator Michael Fraering, is a lesser known part of history.

“Port Hudson is not well known because you’re talking about the same time historically as the siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg,” he said. “This was the longest siege in American military history. There have been longer battles, longer campaigns — but this was a siege. When the Federals came up and surrounded the rebs here, there was no getting out, no getting in. The rebs in here had to fight with what they had, who they had, for 48 days.”

University students also took part in the events this weekend, dressed in authentic 19th century clothing to perform a duel for the crowd.

History junior Andrew Delatte and political science, international studies and history junior John Ryan McGehee portrayed a duo who agreed to a pistol duel.

McGehee and Delatte stood back to back and waited for action as re-enactor Ryan Southall gave the crowd various facts about the history of dueling.

The duelers walked 10 paces, turned and fired shots while the crowd cheered and clapped as McGehee fell to the ground.

The students, along with microbiology sophomore Evan Rivere, also portrayed a Union medical group that tended to the wounded during the re-enactment.

Shane Marks traveled to Port Hudson from Lafayette to spend the weekend re-enacting like he has done for the past 10 years, portraying a Union soldier. The movie “Glory” got Marks interested in the Civil War, and he said he has been hooked since his first time participating in a re-enactment.

Many of the re-enactors don’t know what exactly is going to happen on the field, Marks said, and the commanding officers control much of the soldiers’ movements while in battle.

Figuring out who dies, when and where, is something that happens arbitrarily, Marks said.

“If someone points directly at you and shoots, you usually fall down,” he said. “[You] take a hit and try not to move for as long as you can.”

The interesting history doesn’t stop with Port Hudson museum officials or the museum inside the ground’s buildings – some visitors to the re-enactment held their own unique stories.

Charlene Berger visited Port Hudson on Saturday with her children and husband. This was the family’s first time at a re-enactment, and Berger said they wanted to bring their children to experience something that was special to their own family’s history.

Berger’s family lineage contains strong ties to the ground she was standing on, as one of her anscestors, Confederate officer Robert Leggett Pruyn, played a pivotal role in the siege.

According to Berger, Pruyn swam the Mississippi River twice during the siege to get help and send information to Confederate soldiers on the other side of the river in Pointe Coupee Parish, which was a major contribution to the battle. Pruyn went on to serve as the mayor of Baton Rouge in the early 20th century, she said, and is buried in the Baton Rouge National Cemetery.

An estimated 700 re-enactors participated this year because of the significance of the 150th anniversary of the siege, Fraering said, but re-enactors from across the South usually flock to Port Hudson each year because of the milder weather.

“This time of year is a good time of year for us weather-wise, and it’s a good time for re-enactors,” he said. “You go a little further north [and] they have much colder weather. So, Civil War re-enactors who want to participate in a program actually gravitate to the deeper South.”

Jim Hogg, a musician from Baton Rouge, held a booth at the re-enactment where he sold Civil War bullets in customized wooden boxes. He and his son, James Linden Hogg, performed a musical event for the crowd Saturday, as well.

Hogg strummed an acoustic guitar while Linden used a 230-year-old violin to create a song one would have heard during the late 19th century.

The family participated in the event, camping in one of the various white tents all weekend and cooking over a fire, to relive the rich history of the region, something Hogg said many of the re-enactors are present for.

“We don’t glory in the warfare,” Hogg said. “We want to be a record of living history, good and bad. We want to play our own part.”

 –Jonathan Olivier, LSU Reveille
Georgia: Baseball Game Marked Return to Normal After Civil War

ATLANTA — The city is in ruins — buildings toppled by cannon fire, chimneys tottering amid the rubble, train tracks torched and twisted by an army burning its way to the sea. In the spring of 1866, Atlanta bears the bruises of war. It is a hellish time.

And yet, on the morning of May 12, people emerge from their battered homes. Those who have horses saddle them for a short trip to the eastern edge of downtown; families ready carriages, too. Pedestrians head toward a diamond-shaped tract where 18 Atlantans have promised to put on a show.

By 2 p.m., the site is filled with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people eager for entertainment. A bartender — the most honest guy in town, everyone agrees — takes a seat in a big wooden chair close to the action.

“Play ball!” he yells.

So begins Atlanta’s first baseball game. The match lasts 4 1/2 hours. The final score is —

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Volunteer Alan Morris points out the grave of Samuel Downs, umpire for Atlanta’s first baseball game, held in 1866. Kent D. Johnson / AJC

Volunteer Alan Morris points out the grave of Samuel Downs, umpire for Atlanta’s first baseball game, held in 1866. Kent D. Johnson / AJC

Just in time for Braves’ Opening Day on April 1, Oakland Cemetery is hosting a baseball-themed tour of its grounds, where seven of those long-ago baseball players are buried. They include a doctor, a fireman and a guy who earned the dubious distinction of suffering Atlanta’s first baseball injury: He took a line drive where it hurts the most.

Others who have a connection to the grand game also will be featured in the tours, which begin March 30 and will be conducted periodically through the warm months. Also on the tour is famed golfer Bobby Jones, whoplayed baseball before he ever picked up a club, and Christian Kontz, reputed to be the first Atlantan to brew beer. Beer, of course, is synonymous with this noble past time. Saloon owner Sam Downs, whose stone stands in Oakland, was that first umpire.

The tours pay homage to those stalwarts who brought baseball to Atlanta at a time when the town needed a reason to cheer, said Alan Morris, a volunteer at the cemetery.

“The city was a mess,” he said. “Clearly, the citizenry needed something to celebrate. It was really a big deal.”

So big that historian Franklin Garrett included an account of the game in “Atlanta and Environs,” his authoritative history of the city’s early years. He credited merchant Tom Burnett with bringing the game to town when he formed the Atlanta Baseball Club. Burnett outfitted the team with white caps and jerseys and black pants. After a few weeks of practice, Burnett proclaimed his club “the finest team in the world.”

Enter the Gate City Nine, clad in orange shirts, sky-blue pants and black caps. The team, whose name came from an early Atlanta nickname, offered to play the Atlanta club in mid-May. In the days leading up to the game, “little else was discussed” in Atlanta, Garrett wrote.

The game was played just west of the cemetery, not far from where Georgia State University’s football team now practices. One of the Upton brothers could probably throw a ball from Oakland’s wrought-iron gate to the old field.

When Morris, a retired state rehabilitation counselor, learned about the 1866 game, he was hooked. He proposed the baseball-themed tour to the Historic Oakland Foundation, which oversees the burial ground. To borrow a metaphor, the foundation, which hosts 14 tours already, told him to swing away.

Morris did, recruiting another volunteer to help him lead the tours. Each wears an orange shirt that proclaims “Gate City Nine.”

Yes, the Gate City squad. That, dear reader, brings us to the end of this tale.

The final score: Gate City 127, Atlanta Baseball 29 — a whooping so thorough that the Atlanta Baseball Club disbanded. Gate City went on to win more than 30 games before running into an energetic bunch of youngsters from Athens who handed them their first defeat.

And speaking of defeat: On the Braves’ Opening Day, our stalwart nine are hosting the Phillies. Like that 1866 game, this match will take place not far from Oakland.

Let us hope the 2013 game mimics that earlier match: Atlanta 127, Philadelphia 29.

–Mark Davis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Mississippi: State Civil War Sites to Participate in Annual Park Day

Fort Massachusetts is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. (file picture)

Fort Massachusetts is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. (file picture)

JACKSON, Mississippi — Five battlefield sites in Mississippi are scheduled to be cleaned up as part of the Civil War Trust’s annual Park Day on April 6.

The five participating sites in Mississippi are: Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Site, Baldwyn; Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center; Fort Massachusetts, Ocean Springs; Raymond Battlefield; and Vicksburg National Military Park.

Activities may range from raking leaves and hauling trash to painting signs and planting trees.

The annual event is part of a nationwide effort that includes more than 100 historic sites in 24 states

The Civil War Trust is works to preserve endangered Civil War sites and to promote education and heritage tourism.

Volunteers Sought for Help

Civil War battlefields in Baldwyn and Corinth play host to numerous historic events each year, attracting tourists from across the country.

History buffs and community members have an opportunity next month to help preserve the battlefields’ history and prepare them for visitors.

“It will be a hands-on preservation event for volunteers who are willing to come out to our battlefield site, which is 1,600 acres, and helping us to prepare the site for living history events, discovery days, cemetery tours and re-enactments that are coming up over the next year,” said Edwina Carpenter, director of the Mississippi’s Final Stands Interpretive Center and Brice’s Crossroads battlefield.

Most years, Carpenter said, 60 to 70 volunteers help clean up the property and fix up the trails.

“As you can imagine, 1,600 acres has a lot of need for clean-up,” she said. “We need help clearing debris from winter weather, keeping signs cleaned and easy to read, checking and clearing the trails and we have four bridges in the battlefield used by wagons and horses and we repair those bridges every year.”

Carpenter said volunteers are welcome to bring rakes, weed eaters and other tools to help out. Lunch will be provided. Volunteers should meet at the Interpretive Center in Baldwyn at 8 a.m. April 6 and can call (662) 365-3969 for more information.

The nationwide Civil War site clean-up deemed Park Day is sponsored by the History Channel.

The Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center also will participate in the event.

Supervisory Park Ranger Ashley Berry said they are asking volunteers to help clean the bronze items decorating the sidewalk in front of the interpretive center.

Corinth’s clean up project will last from 9 a.m. until noon. Corinth Volunteers are encouraged to call ahead of time and register at (662) 287-9273.


Kentucky: Civil War Sites in Kentucky Scheduled for Cleanups

LOUISVILLE, KY. — Civil War battlefields stretching across Kentucky will be polished and shined next month as volunteers in 24 states help clean and restore more than 100 historic sites.

The 17th annual Park Day is April 6, and nine Kentucky Civil War sites will have volunteers helping out with the cleanup. To find out how to volunteer, visit civilwar.org/parkday.

Activities could range from raking leaves and hauling trash to painting signs and planting trees. T-shirts will be given to volunteers, who will also have an opportunity to hear about the site’s significance from a local historian.

The Civil War Trust battlefield preservation group in Washington arranges the event.

–Associated Press


Tennessee: State Archivists to Visit Morristown and Dandridge in Memorabilia Search

Representatives from the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee State Museum will be in Morristown on March 26 and Dandridge on March 27 to record and digitize Civil War memorabilia owned by local residents for a new exhibit.

Archivists will be at the Morristown-Hamblen Library in Morristown from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on March 26 and at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Dandridge from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on March 27. During those times, they invite area residents to bring in photographs, documents and other artifacts related to the Civil War.

The archivists will scan or take digital photographs of the materials, some of which will be featured in an exhibit titled, “Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee.” The archivists will not actually take possession of the items from their owners.

Individuals may call (615) 741-1883 or e-mail civilwar.tsla@tn.gov to schedule a reservation with the archivists. Reservation forms and available times may be found on the State Library and Archives’ section of the Office of the Secretary of State web site athttp://tn.gov/tsla/cwtn/events.htm.

“This is an important project for the Tennessee State Library and Archives,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “The Civil War was a major event in our state’s history, so we need to take appropriate steps to make sure these treasures are properly preserved for future generations.”

Attendees at the event will receive copies of the digital photographs and tips on how to preserve their Civil War memorabilia.

Archivists plan to visit all 95 of Tennessee’s counties in search of material for the exhibit, which will commemorate the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.