Virginia: Civil War Sailors Buried
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — More than 150 years after the USS Monitor sank off North Carolina during the Civil War, two unknown crewmen found in the ironclad’s turret when it was raised a decade ago were buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The evening burial, which included a gun salute and a band playing “America the Beautiful,” may be the last time Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery overlooking Washington.
“Today is a tribute to all the men and women who have gone to sea, but especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who spoke at a funeral service before the burial.
The Monitor made nautical history when the Union ship fought the Confederate CSS Virginia in the first battle between two ironclads on March 9, 1862. The battle was a draw.
The Monitor sank about nine months later in rough seas, and 16 sailors died. In 2002, the ship’s rusted turret was raised from the Atlantic Ocean floor, and the skeletons of the two crew members were found inside.
On Friday, the remains of the two men were taken to their gravesite by horse-drawn caissons, one pulled by a team of six black horses and the other pulled by six white horses. White-gloved sailors carried the caskets to their final resting place near the cemetery’s amphitheater. A few men attending the ceremonies wore Civil War uniforms, and there were ladies in long dresses from the time. The ceremony also included “Taps,” which was written the same year that the Monitor sank and became associated with military funerals as early as the Civil War.
The sailors buried Friday would not have recognized some parts of the graveside service, however. The military band played “America the Beautiful,” which wasn’t written until two decades after the Monitor sank. And the flags that draped the silver coffins were modern ones with 50 stars, not the 34-star American flag of the early 1860s.
The cemetery where the men will lie, however, has strong ties to the Civil War. Arlington was established as a military cemetery during the war and is on grounds formerly owned by the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. One of the cemetery’s first monuments was a memorial to unknown Civil War soldiers.
A marker with the names of all 16 men who died onboard the Monitor will ultimately be placed at the gravesite of the sailors buried Friday. Researchers were unable to positively identify the remains, though they tried reconstructing the sailors’ faces from their skulls and comparing DNA from the skeletons with living descendants of the ship’s crew and their families. Medical and Navy records narrowed the possibilities to six people.
What is known is that one of the men was between 17 and 24 years old and the other was likely in his 30s. A genealogist who worked on the project believes the older sailor is Robert Williams, the ship’s fireman, who would have tended the Monitor’s coal-fired steam engine.
Louisiana: Re-enactors Bring Red River Campaign to Life
Tents and cannons dotted the landscape Saturday at Forts Buhlow and Randolph State Historic Site in Pineville on the bank of the Red River as Civil War re-enactors readied for battle to mark the 150th anniversary of the fight to preserve the Union.
The Red River Campaign was a part of the Civil War that was an important part of history for this area.
This farming community’s cash crop — cotton — was a valuable commodity at that time. Residents wanted to protect themselves and what was left of the land and crops from a second Union attack.
The first attack left Alexandria burning. It was then, in 1864, following the Battle of Mansfield, which halted the Union advance to the West, that the forts were constructed in order to repel future Union attacks through Northwest Louisiana, according to information provided by the Forts Buhlow and Randolph State Historic Site.
The earthen forts, constructed using local plantation slave labor, were fortified with cannon and more than 800 soldiers.
In addition to a Confederate troop buildup in the Alexandria area, the Confederate ironclad Missouri was anchored in the river opposite Fort Randolph, but the anticipated attack never came and no fighting actually ever took place.
In May 1865, Confederate troops surrendered to Union forces. The forts where occupied for a short while by the Union before being abandoned at the end of the war.
Re-enactors know the history of the Civil War, they know which side won what battle and most — according to 20-year re-enacting veteran Ed Atwood — switch sides according to what troops are needed for a particular battle.
Atwood, owner of Atwood’s Bakery in Alexandria, said he has uniforms for both sides.
“Your group decides what they need more of,” he said. “Some won’t change and only do one side. But for most of us, it’s about the history.”
Atwood said most people get started in re-enactments after going to one and then talking to friends.
“The you join a club,” Atwood said. “Then you spend money and spend more money. Then you get mad and sell it all for next to nothing and then you realize you were having fun and you start all over again.”
His nephew, Cody Ruiz, and niece, Kayla Ruiz, who said they wanted to see a re-enactment, came with him.
Atwood obliged by having the pair dress up in period clothing as well — except for the tennis shoes, which were bright pink and bright green.
Glenda Craft of Columbia and Kelly Williams of Grayson stood on the sidelines waiting for the cannons to signal the start of the re-enactment.
Their sons, Cordell Craft and Chase Williams, both 16, were taking part in the mock battle.
“Their history teacher Billy Johnson got them involved,” Glenda Craft said. “He teaches at Caldwell High School where the boys go to school and is the captain of the Louisiana 5th Infantry.”
Though today the boys were portraying Union soldiers, Kelly Williams said.
“I love it,” Kelly Williams said. “I was mad last year because I missed seeing my son die on the battlefield. They take such pride in everything they put into it and every detail.”
Tanner Bruce, 11, also of Grayson, was dressed like a little Rebel and came along to watch his stepfather, Tyler Thompson, battle. Thompson is also a member of the Louisiana 5th Infantry re-enactors.
Frank Coe of Alexandria was cheering on both sides.
“I just came to enjoy the history,” Coe said cheering and laughing as the cannon fire boomed around him. “I’m kind of a history buff. These people are so dedicated to what they do.”
Coe said he also hadn’t had a chance to visit the site so he came to tour it as well.
“We visited the campgrounds and chatted with the troops along the way.”
Coe said he didn’t know who to cheer for because he had ancestors on both sides.
Though, he was reminded by his group, we do know how it turns out in the end.
–Cynthia Jardon, thetowntalk.com
By DAVID LAUDERDALE — firstname.lastname@example.org
If walls could talk, we might know what put a rare smile on the face of Jimmy Mitchell.
It came during his recent visit to the John A. Cuthbert House on Beaufort’s Bay Street.
The 92-year-old retired pharmacist lived there as a child, and he often told his own five children romantic stories about the ante-bellum mansion.
He talked of little boys having sword battles with real swords they weren’t supposed to touch.
But today, Mitchell remembers very little. Alzheimer’s disease has taken a slow toll on him. Still, he looked forward to the trip when three of his children and their spouses drove him down from Batesburg-Leesville near Columbia to see the old house once again.
He saw the beautifully restored and furnished Cuthbert House Inn, a nine-room bed-and-breakfast whose white columns stand above the Beaufort bay across the street.
Owners Jeff and Mary Ann Thomas warmly welcomed their special guests. They pulled out an old newspaper photo that might have had family members in it.
“He kept repeating, ‘Boy, this sure does bring back memories,’ ” said Mitchell’s son, James R. “Jim” Mitchell Jr. “He used to always say he should have kept a couple of those swords. But this time he didn’t say anything specific. We’re not sure what his memories were this time.”
The stories the house can tell — about war and reconstruction, historic preservation, and the hospitality economy — should never be forgotten in Beaufort.
CORNERSTONE OF HISTORY
Mitchell’s father moved around a lot, working for a casket company, so Mitchell didn’t live there long. It was in the 1930s, more than a century after the home’s oldest walls were built between 1805 and 1811. John A. Cuthbert was a planter and civic leader who built it in the Federal style for his new bride, Mary B. Williamson.
By the time everyone fled Beaufort in the twinkling of an eye at the outset of the Civil War, Mary was twice widowed. She escaped to the Aiken area when federal troops took control in late 1861, and never returned.
If those tall walls could talk, they might explain the night infamous U.S. Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman spent the night there.
What did he say to Union Gen. Rufus Saxton, who was living there? Saxton was assigned the task of establishing from scratch a new world for freedmen — the same freedmen Sherman wanted to offload after they latched on during his fiery march to the sea.
Saxton’s job must have cost him a lot of sleep in the old house. It entailed jobs, wages, education, voting, military service, health care and land ownership for freedmen — the birth of a social revolution that would still be rocking the nation a century later.
Sherman’s visit on Jan. 23, 1865, came one week after he signed his famous Special Field Order No. 15, known for guaranteeing certain freedmen “40 acres and a mule.” Saxton was to oversee the complex proposition, and the old abolitionist balked, fearing it would be another in a string of broken promises to the freedmen.
Whatever was said at the Cuthbert House, Saxton withdrew an offer of resignation. Sherman then marched on to burn Columbia. By July, Saxton had overseen the settlement of 40,000 freedmen.
A picture of Sherman hangs on a back wall at the Cuthbert House Inn, and Jeff Thomas said his guests often recoil, and ask why.
Saxton bought the house for $1,000 at auction, when it was sold in 1863 for the lack of $54 in taxes, Thomas said. Saxton sold it in 1882 to one of his top men, Col. D.C. Wilson, who had come south during the war to build barracks and a large hospital on Hilton Head Island.
Wilson — who became intrumental in the Port Royal railroad, and for whom a city park is named — enlarged the home. It subsequently became a rooming house and then apartments.
Thomas said former residents come to visit right often. Once, a group of former teachers spent a weekend there in a reunion 50 years after they taught up the street at Beaufort High School.
The neighboring Presbyterian church bought the house about 100 years after Saxton did. It was in bad shape, and was almost torn down for a new sanctuary. But public sentiment was against it, and it was spared. Thomas Logan bought it 1972, about the time it was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
Because it was saved, the Cuthbert House was restored by successive owners and has lived to be a place where people from around the globe come to drink in Beaufort’s old stories.
Sometimes the stories and mysteries are buried in the walls.
“For Dad, there was something there that he could put a finger on,” Jim Mitchell said. “This might have been a tad bit cathartic for the three children, too. It let us see Dad remember, and see him be at peace with all this stuff. He wore the biggest grin I’ve seen in a long time.”
North Carolina: Museum to Host Civil War Days
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — From April 2-5, the Museum of the Cape Fear will host Civil War Days from 1 to 4 p.m. daily. While Cumberland County School students are on spring break, the museum is providing several hands-on activities about the life of the common Civil War soldier.
Activities will be arranged sequentially, taking students from the enlistment process to their parole, which for most North Carolinians took place in Greensboro after Johnston’s surrender to Sherman at Bennett Place. Other activities include making a paper haversack (no sewing required), writing letters using quill pens, trying on clothes for a soldier or a lady, learning a few drills from the manual of arms, taking a scavenger hunt and sending and receiving messages using signal flags like they did in the Civil War.
“No reason to be bored over spring break,” said Leisa Greathouse, Curator of Education. “Civil War Days promises to be fun. Last year we sponsored Pirate Fun Week in conjunction with a special exhibit about Blackbeard’s flag ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. This year, we re-developed and added artifacts to our Civil War exhibit, which include objects recovered from the ship wreck, Modern Greece.”
The charm of museum programs allow learning to take place under the guise of having a good time. Activities are hands-on to provide an emersion experience so that students learn by doing. For more information call the museum at (910) 486-1330. The event and all activities are free.