Alabama: Poll: State Should Keep Jefferson Davis Holiday

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama should keep its state holiday in recognition of the birthday of Jefferson Davis, said a majority of respondents to an poll. posed the question yesterday, when state offices were closed in honor of Davis, who was sworn in as president of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery on Feb. 18, 1861.

A majority 57 percent of respondents said the state should keep the June 3 holiday, and 40 percent said it should not. Three percent were undecided.

There were more than 1,600 responses to the online poll.

Mississippi is the only other state that recognizes Davis’ birthday as a holiday, and does so on Memorial Day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas recognizes Jan. 19 as Confederate Heroes Day, in honor of Davis and Robert E. Lee.

How much does a state holiday cost taxpayers? One day of the state payroll is about $5.7 million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. But that does not account for the fact that some state workers, such as state troopers and state corrections officers, work on holidays.


South Carolina: Exhibit Explores Civil War History of Little Folly Island

CHARLESTON — Continuing its commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the Charleston Museum is presenting the exhibition “Our Duty was Quite Arduous: The Union Encampment on Little Folly Island, 1863- 1865,” on display through March 10, 2014.

This original exhibit presents Civil War artifacts recovered by Charleston Museum archaeologists from the beach of Little Folly Island. Accelerated erosion caused by Hurricane Hugo in September 1989 uncovered a wealth of materials from the Civil War. Most were remarkably preserved and now provide a rare glimpse into the daily lives of Union soldiers garrisoned on Folly Island.

Significance of Little Folly Island

In early 1863, Confederates struggled to maintain control of Charleston, a pivotal seaport in the South’s defenses and supply chain. Federal leaders were desperate to penetrate its fortifications, particularly Fort Sumter. Surrounded by a maze of islands, marsh, tidal rivers and streams, Charleston was difficult to defend and to attack. They realized the best hopes of neutralizing Fort Sumter lay in attacking from the south, by way of Folly Island and on up into Morris Island’s Battery Wagner.

A military-issued shoe, preserved in the waterlogged pluff mud.

A military-issued shoe, preserved in the waterlogged pluff mud.

This plan commenced in February 1863, when a small band of soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. John G. Foster, disembarked onto a narrow strip of dry sand called Folly Island. Slowly thrashing through a jungle of undergrowth and pine woods, they reconnoitered the Confederate positions on Morris Island, just north of Folly. Within a few months, this quiet, largely uninhabited island became the camp of thousands of soldiers. Union troops toiled in horrid summer conditions, resulting in the building of 10 masked batteries (earthen fortifications) with heavy fire power, on Folly’s northernmost tip, known as Little Folly Island.

From this point, the Union launched its siege of Morris Island, a battle well-known for its involvement of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first official black units in the United States, later made famous in the movie “Glory.” Following the siege, Little Folly Island became a major supply depot and wharf for ferrying equipment and troops.

By the summer of 1865 with the war at an end, Folly’s north end was abandoned, the fort and rifle pits filled with used and broken equipment lying in disarray. Buried later by sand and preserved in pluff mud, these materials were forgotten until exposed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

The troops who had been stationed there struggled against oppressive heat, bothersome sand, vicious mosquitoes and sand gnats, poor water and irregular provisions. “Our duty … was quite arduous,” wrote a Connecticut soldier, referring to the challenging conditions faced by Union troops on Folly. Their experience stands in stark contrast to the modern view of Folly Beach as a place of sun, surfing and relaxation.

Exhibit highlights

Among the items recovered from Little Folly was a “U S” cartridge box plate. The oval brass plate was filled with lead to provide weight and stability. These were affixed to the cartridge box and, along with the waist belt plate and cartridge box shoulder plate, completed the set of accoutrement plates for a U.S. infantryman with a rifle-musket.

Also found was a ceramic tobacco pipe in the shape of a human face with a large nose. Scholars suggest this may be an anti-Lincoln effigy pipe related to the 1864 presidential campaign. This example was recovered on Seabrook Island. Identical examples came from Folly Island and from Camp Baird on Hilton Head Island.

Alcoholic beverage bottles for rum, wine, cider, ale and whiskey are a ubiquitous feature of Civil War sites. Consumption of alcohol by Union soldiers may have been somewhat more prevalent on Folly for a variety of reasons — the boredom of a long and isolated occupation, fatigue associated with arduous labor and the poor quality of drinking water. Sutlers, care packages from home and even the Ruby — a blockade runner that had run aground — were the source of condiments and beverages. The Folly North beach was littered with discarded bottles.

Some of the most extraordinary artifacts recovered from the encampment on Folly were military-issued shoes and boots, preserved in the waterlogged pluff mud. Once recovered, they were challenging to preserve. This example was conserved using polyethylene glycol and freeze-drying.

The Charleston Museum, founded in 1773, is America’s first museum. Holding the most extensive collection of South Carolina cultural and scientific collections in the nation, it also owns two National Historic Landmark houses, the Heyward-Washington House (1772) and the Joseph Manigault House (1803), as well as the Dill Sanctuary, a 580-acre wildlife preserve.

Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. For more information, call 843-722-2996 or


Florida: Sons of Confederate Veterans Want to Lease Building

A city councilwoman wants to let the Sons of Confederate Veterans lease the old Duval County Armory on Market Street downtown for $1 per year in exchange for repairs and maintenance.

Councilwoman Kimberly Daniels sponsored an ordinance that give the group a 10-year lease on the building constructed in 1915-16, with the option for two five-year renewals. The agreement would have the group provide repairs and improvements, general maintenance, including mowing and landscaping, and providing insurance coverage as in-kind contributions in lieu of rent.

The old armory building at the intersection of State and Market streets.

The old armory building at the intersection of State and Market streets.

The group is survivors of veterans of the Civil War who say they are not a racist group — they have both white and black members and do community work around town.

Dave Nelson, who runs a Civil War shop on the Southside, is the past commander of the local chapter of the group. Nelson said the group is a civic origination and its goal is to maintain and defend Confederate heritage.

“There is no white supremacy there,” Nelson said. “Our members are all good Americans and we do lots of good things, civic things for the city.”

Nelson points to recent work at the old city cemetery, where the group was repairing grave markers for confederate soldiers and for others, black and white.

Nelson said the group would help keep the historic armory from falling into decay.

“We would have our meetings there,” he said. “We would have exhibits there and it would be all militia pertaining to Florida as well as the U.S. It would not be all Civil War. We would also have World War II and so forth.”

The idea is still troubling to some.

“I want that for any other organization but that,” Gregory Williams said.

“It has political connotation,” Claire Castellino added.

Some have concerns because the group’s logo includes the confederate flag.

“We have no plans to put up a Confederate flag (at the armory), but if we did, I don’t see that as a problem for those that understand what the Confederate flag is,” Nelson said. “It’s not a symbol of racism. It is not the symbol of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s the battle flag of the soldier during the war carried. It’s the cross of St. Andrew. It’s a holy symbol. And what others have done to it, we condemn that.”

Daniels has not responded to Channel 4’s request for an interview. Council President Bill Gulliford says he has no problem with the group, but will look into the $1 lease agreement as the ordinance advances through council committees.

He said it’s very interesting that a black councilwoman introduced the measure.

“I don’t think that is the big issue,” he said. “I think the big issue is, what is the city policy on allowing other entities using city property virtually at no cost?”

Historic building

In 1914 a $150,000 bond issue was floated to construct the Duval County Armory.. Upon its completion in 1916, the armory was reported to have Florida’s largest military drill hall.

This fortress-like building was built to replace an armory destroyed in the 1901 fire.  It has battlemented towers and parapets, and a carved stone shield with the emblem of the Florida National Guard tops the central pavilion.

In 1962, the name of the Duval County armory was changed to the Maxwell G. Snyder Armory, honoring the commanding general of the National Guard’s 48th Armored Division. In 1973 the city’s Recreation and Public Affairs Department took over the old armory building next adjacent to Confederate/Klutho Park.

In the 1990s the city allowed emerging businesses and non-profit groups to use space in the building, but it was plagued by maintenance problems and occasional flooding.

The building has been vacant for many years. Last year, Mayor Alvin Brown briefly considering reopening a homeless center in the building.


Virginia: Civil War Boat Tour Reveals James River History

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Chesterfield County provided a stage for several important events that happened during the Civil War, and the James River was a heavily-traveled thoroughfare during the conflict.

Sadly, many people haven’t seen the locations where those skirmishes took place up close.

A pair of upcoming boat tours, set for 9 to 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 21, will shed light on important sites along the James. Tours will depart from 9525 Deep Bottom Road in Henrico.

The Civil War Tour features storyteller Scott Williams, a leading Civil War interpreter.

The Civil War Tour features storyteller Scott Williams, a leading Civil War interpreter.

During the tours, Captain Mike Ostrander will ferry passengers on the Discovery Barge II while Civil War historian Mike Williams points out important locations along the shoreline.

A long-time volunteer with the Chesterfield Historical Society, Williams is a mapmaker who also contributed to the recently published Bermuda Hundred Campaign Tour Guide. He said the Civil War boat tour is offered monthly.

“One of the main draws is that it’s an overlooked part of history, and there are a lot of things that not a lot of people know about,” Williams said. “For the enthusiast, it’s new territory, and we’ve found in our experience that a lot of people haven’t been on the James River at all.”

“So, for me, that’s the fun of it. It hasn’t been studied that much, and it’s a very interesting subject,” Williams said.

Points of interest on the tour include City Point, which was the headquarters of the Union Army during the Siege of Petersburg, and Trent’s Reach, which is an area behind Henricus Historical Park in Chester where one of the final major naval battles of the Civil War happened.

Ostrander and Williams have long shared a passion for historical events and the James, which is how they decided to team up to present tours in the first place. Williams said they have been providing boat trips locally for the last four years.

“Mike and I go way back,” Williams said. “We were college roommates, we have talked about the history on the river, and we wanted to do a tour of Civil War stuff.”

At times, the men have also taken the craft out for private groups. For instance, Williams said that he and Ostrander recently organized a similar boat tour for a group called the Blue and Gray Education Society that happened on May 30.

That group’s membership includes Civil War historians, and it provides educational grants. Williams said that the organization is also currently raising funds to have 37 interpretive signs about occurrences that happened during that war placed along the James River.

As for the next tour, Williams said Civil War buffs shouldn’t miss it.

“It’s only once a month, and it has limited space, so it’s a rare opportunity for enthusiasts,” Williams said. “And, Mike has experience with the wildlife, so it’s just a good all-around experience.”

Space for the boat tour, however, is extremely limited. Williams said that the Discovery Barge II can safely accommodate six passengers.

Tickets are $50 per person. Interested parties must register by Saturday, June 15, and seating is first-come, first-served.

For more information or to reserve space, call Captain Mike Ostrander at 804-938-2350. For more information about the 2013 tour schedule, visit

-Korey Hughes, Special Correspondent, Midlothian Exchange


Virginia: Acquisition would create Civil War Parks

CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Chesterfield County’s Civil War history may not be as well-known as that of a couple of neighboring cities, but the Parks and Recreation Department still thinks it’s worth preserving – especially if that can be done without spending any county funds.

The department is gearing up to ask the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for approval to acquire three scattered pieces of property on the eastern side of the county to expand two existing “special purpose parks” and create a new one.

All three locations feature earthworks remaining from the trenches and batteries that saw action during the Union Army’s campaign of 1864-65 to capture Richmond – fighting that is scheduled for commemoration next year as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial program.

“We would like to get these on board for that,” said Mike Golden, Parks and Recreation director.

Golden said the department is still working out some of the details, but it looks like the county will be able to acquire all three properties without spending any taxpayer funds.

The three projects:

• Expansion of Howlett Line Park. The county acquired the existing park in 1991, and the Civil War Preservation Trust bought an adjoining 11.5-acre parcel in 2010 from Walthall Baptist Church.

According to the Parks and Recreation Department, “The request property is rich in historical and cultural resources and has unique historical significance. The Civil War earthworks were part of the Howlett Line that stretched across the Bermuda Hundred peninsula. The site was one of the largest artillery positions along that line.”

It was from here in June 1864, according to George Fickett, a county information services employee and local history buff, that Confederate Col. Olin M. Dantzler led an attack on a nearby Union position. Dantzler and 16 of his men were killed in the operation, and a nearby Confederate fort’s name was changed soon afterward to honor him.

• Battery Dantzler Park, that very fort, will also be expanded. Overlooking a side channel of the James River just east of the Interstate 95-Route 10 interchange, the existing park is surrounded by industrial sites.

Among other actions, the battery took part in the Battle of Trent’s Reach in early 1865, when three Confederate ironclads tried unsuccessfully to force their way down the James River to attack the Union supply base at City Point (now Hopewell).

• A new park, 39th Illinois Park, is planned for a 2.5-acre parcel that backs up to the CSX rail line at the eastern end of the Branch’s Bluff subdivision off Hopkins Road just south of the intersection with Kingsland Road.

The site was the location of some “formidable fortifications” that soldiers of the Union’s Army of the James dug hastily in May 1864 and then defended against repeated Confederate assaults, Fickett said. The Illinois soldiers only abandoned the site when they discovered that the rest of the Union force had pulled back, leaving them exposed, he explained.

The property is owned by an affiliate of Finer Homes, the developer of Branch’s Bluff, and its historical significance was discovered when the company “had to go through a Corps of Engineers review because of wetlands” on the site, Fickett said.

The county has been talking with the developer, and Fickett said details are being worked out for the land to be donated.

In the case of the Battery Dantzler property, owned by a private individual, Fickett said a combination of a grant from Dominion Resources and a donation by the owner will mean that there will be “no county money involved” in acquiring that property, either.

-Michael Buettner, Chesterfield Observer

Georgia: Re-Enactors from Three States to Commemorate Burning of Darien

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — McIntosh County Historic Preservation Board member Missy Brandt will don period clothing as she portrays Annie Shaw in the 150th anniversary commemoration of the burning of Darien.

Annie Shaw was the wife of Robert Gould Shaw, the Union Army colonel who reluctantly burned the coastal town on June 11, 1863.

Detailed view of a Robert Gould Shaw carte de visite. Shaw was killed on the assault of Fort Wagner and reluctantly participated in the burning of Darien./Library of Congress

Detailed view of a Robert Gould Shaw carte de visite. Shaw was killed on the assault of Fort Wagner and reluctantly participated in the burning of Darien./Library of Congress

He was well south of Pennsylvania where the decisive battle of the Civil War was about to take place at Gettysburg.

“I will read a letter from Robert Gould Shaw to his wife stating his objections to the burning of the town,” said Brandt, the event’s re-enactment coordinator.

Brandt’s portrayal will cap a march by re-enactors from Waterfront Park to the Strain Building, the city’s oldest structure, on Broad Street. Thirty Civil War re-enactors from Charleston, S.C., Darien, Savannah, Brunswick and Jacksonville portraying Union soldiers will make the march, which begins at noon.

When they reach the Strain Building, the Shaw character will be ordered to burn the town by his superior officer, Col. James Montgomery of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers. The Shaw character and his unit, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, will then be handed torches and march back to the waterfront, Brandt said.

A moment of silence will be observed, and then City Commissioner Jeff Clark will light five memorial torches, one each for the government buildings, churches, schools, commercial buildings and homes that were burned.

The re-enactment will be the centerpiece of the commemoration that will also feature hourly cannon firings, a Civil War encampment, boat tours along the Darien River narrated by local historian Buddy Sullivan and festival food and vendors. The events are free except for the boat tours, which will cost $10.

Sullivan has said that the commemoration will help clear up the misconception that Shaw was the villain of the story, and the erroneous belief that the town was burned as part of Sherman’s March to the Sea, which actually occurred 18 months later.

The town’s burning was featured in the 1989 movie, “Glory,” starring Matthew Broderick as Shaw, the white commander of an otherwise all-black regiment.

Actor Leon Watkins, who played the 54th Massachusetts flag bearer in the movie, will be at Saturday’s events.

On Thursday, he is slated to attend a 6 p.m. screening of “Glory” at McIntosh County Academy and afterward speak about the movie.

“He just moved from California to Savannah to organize the 25th anniversary of ‘Glory’ next year,” Brandt said. “He heard about us and wanted to get involved.”

Although devastating, there were no casualties from the burning. Most residents had been evacuated and nobody was killed.

The buildings were looted before the burning, and the furniture was loaded onto ships bound for Beaufort, S.C., where it was sold at auction, Brandt said.

For more information, visit the event’s website,


North Carolina: Civil War Anniversary  Celebrated

SWANSBORO, N.C. — Plans for the Swansboro Historical Association’s Civil War “living history” event on June 22 are coming together and “excitement is building through the community,” according to Amelia Dees-Killette, an SHA Board member and history researcher and instructor at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville.

The Saturday event, which will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war between the states and Swansboro’s involvement in it, will be from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and will feature encampments, demonstrations – including musket firings – a ship, displays, depictions of typical civilian activities and period music by the Huckleberry Brothers Band.

Participants will include the Carolina Living History Guild (Union Navy), the Cape Fear Living History Society (9th New Jersey Union troops), the 1st Volunteer/11th NC Troops (Confederate) and Tarheel Civilians.

Dees-Killette said the Confederate troops would be on Olde Towne Square, Union troops would be across Front Street on the waterfront and the civilians would be on the Pugliese Pavilion.

“As we’ve gotten closer to the event and I’ve talked to people, you can really feel the excitement,” she said. “The participants are really looking forward to it, and I’m getting a sense from talking to people in the community that more and more people are aware of the event and plan to come and enjoy it.

“We think it’s going to be a great event for the town and for the businesses in the area. We think we’ll have a good crowd and people will really enjoy it.”

The 1st North Carolina Volunteers/11th North Carolina State Troops Civil War Reenactment Regiment is the oldest reenactment group in North Carolina.

There are about 90 members, most from North Carolina, but some from Virginia.

The group was originally organized and chartered as a non-profit organization in 1975 by approximately seven history-oriented individuals from Edenton. The unit was formed to authentically depict a Confederate military unit as it would have appeared from 1861 to 1865.

The unit’s namesake was the first regiment to be organized by the state of North Carolina, and mustered into service for six months in May of 1861. The regiment won distinctive honor when it fought and won the first battle of the war at Big Bethel, Va.

Adopting the title “Bethel Regiment,” the unit was re-organized in November 1861 as the 11th North Carolina Regiment. The unit participated on such fields of valor as Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg and to the end at Appomattox.

The Carolina Living History Guild’s Ship’s Company was formed to educate the general public about the mariners’ roles in history, including the Civil War, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

The group typically portrays sailors and marines from those wars, and their impressions include landing parties from ships. Dees-Killette said the gunship the group plans to bring is capable of portraying a vessel from any of the three wars in which the group specializes.

The Tarheel Civilians, Dees-Killette said, will show such things as “spinning” and sewing and will demonstrate some of the popular youth activities of the period, such as walking on stilts. Since the event is at the coast, she said, they will demonstrate what folks of the era did at what they called “watering places.”

The Huckleberry Brothers may be playing in one spot or wandering throughout the area. Whatever the case, it ought to be fun, because the group, based in Chapel Hill, provides authentic music of the time period.

Instrumentation includes five-string banjo, fiddle, guitar, accordion, mandolin, tin whistle, harmonicas, bones and tambourine. According to the band’s website, the goal “is to research and perform the minstrel and old time styles of music in a way that is faithful to the original form. The music is composed of songs, ballads, and fiddle tunes from the 1700s through 1865.

The band formed to explore the members’ interest in the traditional and popular music of mid-19th century America after meeting as American Civil War re-enactors.

Dees-Killette said there would be at least two food and beverage vendors on site, and local restaurants will be open. Portions of some streets will be closed. Parking will be available at Swansboro Town Hall Annex.

The state, through the Department of Cultural Resources, has been promoting the event on its Civil War tourism site, and Dees-Killette said the Swansboro Area Chamber of Commerce has been getting the word out too.

She believes there are lots of history buffs in the area, and that, and the enormous military community has a lot of interest in the Civil War.

All in all, it promises to be a fun day that will educate visitors about a crucial time in Swansboro’s history. The young town was essentially was “caught in the middle” during the Civil War, a Confederate area very close to Union-occupied Carteret County, including Beaufort and Fort Macon.

A Civil War fort was built on Huggins Island early in the war to protect Bogue Inlet, and the Union Navy and troops conducted several raids on the town and the surrounding area throughout the conflict to destroy the fort and salt works, to keep Confederate forces at bay and to free slaves. During the war some town officials were hauled away to Union territory, as were some of the freed slaves.

-Brad Rich, Tideland News