Virginia: VMI Scene for new Civil War Movie about Battle of New Market
The statue has mourned for more than a century.
“Virginia Mourning Her Dead” symbolizes the losses the Virginia Military Institute suffered in the Battle of New Market. Soon, it won’t be the only prominent reminder of the cadets’ sacrifice.
Hollywood swept into Lexington this week with one purpose, to film the story of a Civil War battle in the Shenandoah Valley. The movie, tentatively titled “Field of Lost Shoes” is budgeted at about $5 million and crews spent the past week filming at VMI. Director Sean McNamara said the movie will tell a story not necessarily about war, but instead the young people involved.
“This movie shows a generation of Americans who were fighting with their lives to protect what they thought was important,” McNamara said.
McNamara said his relationship with his three sons led him to be interested in the family dynamics of the soldiers who fought at New Market. After producing and directing Disney television shows such as “Even Stevens” and “That’s So Raven,” McNamara described his career as filming stories that focus on families.
“What intrigues me is the families having their sons go off to war,” McNamara said. “Doesn’t matter what side you’re on, you’re still going out to fight for what you believe in.”
VMI cadets ranging from the ages of 15 to 25 marched to New Market starting May 11, 1864. As a result of the battle on May 15, 10 cadets died either in battle or later because of their wounds. Roughly 4,090 Confederate soldiers and 257 VMI cadets held off Union forces of about 6,275, causing them to retreat, according to civilwar.org and VMI’s online archives.
For Dave Kennedy, one of the film’s screenwriters, there’s a factor that separates a war movie from being an authentic war movie. To tell a story about soldiers, you have to understand them.
“They may speak the same language, but it can be an entirely different culture,” Kennedy said.
While outlining the script with his co-writer Tom Farrell (the president and CEO of utility company Dominion Resources), Kennedy said he drew on his experiences in the U.S. military to tell the story of the battle, which is seen from the perspective of the cadets involved in the conflict.
“What I found in looking into the archives and letters were some unbelievable characters, funny, angry, cynical and optimistic, they ran the gamut,” Kennedy said. “There were also some clear signs of the stress placed on the cadets.”
The cast features a mix of prominent supporting film actors and young television stars, including Jason Isaacs, famous for his role as Lucius Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” films, as well as David Arquette. Nolan Gould, known for his role on the ABC sitcom “Modern Family,” appears in the film as well.
Executive Producer Brandon Hogan said he was grateful to the residents of Lexington for tolerating the film crew as they attempt to turn the clocks back to the Civil War. Hogan admitted other recent historical films, like Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and HBO’s “John Adams” helped open up Virginia to the likes of Hollywood.
“There’s not one person on the production who doesn’t have some association with VMI,” Hogan said. “It’s a labor of love and these people are very specific about how this story is told.”
Unlike other recent Civil War era films, “Field of Lost Shoes” is told completely from the perspective of the Confederacy. While films such as “Lincoln” and “Gods and Generals” featured prominent Confederate leaders in large roles, the movies focused on the perspective of Union leaders. Those involved in the production see it another way, saying they are excited to film a story that’s never been told on film.
“There was a lot of big interest in the story and a story that’s never been told,” Hogan said. “It’s a rarity in Hollywood.”
From helping the crew with sets to not charging them for using certain locations, Hogan said the support the state offered has been instrumental in getting the film into production.
“We couldn’t pull it off if we didn’t have those types of sets and that kind of design,” Hogan said. “It’s been kind of a waterfall of great filmmakers and we’re just falling in and taking up where they left off.”
Hogan realizes the sensitive nature of the story and said he thinks the production will be able to introduce the story to a new generation of viewers who have never heard about the cadets’ sacrifice.
To help tie the movie to the current generation, the crew came to Lexington in May to film the New Market Ceremony, which is held every year on the anniversary of the battle to honor those who fought and died. Six of the soldiers who died as a result of the battle are buried in Lexington under the statue that mourns them.
Watching the actors dressed in Confederate uniforms walking around the VMI grounds, Hogan summed up how the crew feels about the cadets’ story.
“It’s the pride of Virginia,” he said.
-Hunter Woodall, Roanoke.com
Georgia: Historic Civil War Fort Now Open to Public
CALHOUN, Ga. — To listen to Gordon County native Ken Padgett recount his knowledge of the Civil War, makes you feel like you have taken a journey back into history; now imagine being told those stories while standing at the very site where those tales actually took place.
Visitors to the Ft. Wayne Historical Site in Resaca will be able to do just that beginning Friday, June 21, when an official ceremony will open the 1.5 miles of walking trails to the public.
Visitors will be able to walk to where the very fortifications once stood; built during the Civil War to protect the railroad and the river, two lifelines to proven success in battle.
Visitors can see remaining trenches dug by Civil War soldiers more then 150 years ago, built to fortify the hill.
Padgett has gained most of his knowledge of the Civil War through years of research and careful study of the land that he and his family have been tied to for many generations.
Most of that research was done on behalf of what Padgett calls the “Diamond in the rough of Civil War history” located at the new Ft. Wayne historic site.
From a forgotten fort that Padgett has helped bring back to life over the span of 10 years, to today when Civil War enthusiasts who may not be historical experts can get a real world glimpse of army fortification positions during the Civil War in and around Resaca.
According to Padgett, during the winter when the foliage is condensed, one can see the historical Resaca Battlefield from Ft. Wayne, however long term plans for the site anticipate creating a scenic view for visitors.
The shoulder and chest deep entrenchments filled with Civil War infantry, that once protected the hill with two canon redoubts. Due to time and nature, the trenches are no more than ditches carved into the earth covered in leaves and twigs, but visitors will be able to travel along the original road bed along the river at the base of the fort, where steamboat The Resaca made its way from Rome delivering supplies to Ft. Wayne along the way.
Other historical significance at Ft. Wayne includes the rock quarry mined by the Irish in the 1840’s to construct the pillars of the railroad bridge in Resaca that trains still travel over today.
Additionally, archaeological studies of the grounds discovered an unmarked grave of an unknown person. No information is known about who the person was, or why they were buried there.
Though Ft. Wayne will still be very primitive when it opens next Friday, Padgett says there are big plans for the park in the future that will make it a go to destination on the Civil War.
The Ft. Wayne historical site is one of two major historical parks that Padgett hopes will put Gordon County on the Civil War map, as it was such a vital location during the war.
The public is invited to attend the opening on Friday, June 21 at 3 p.m. at Ft. Wayne Historic Site in Resaca.
-Abbey Lennon, Calhoun Times
North Carolina: State Posts Civil War Roster of 115,000 Online
RALEIGH – The Historical Publications Section of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources has made available online a cumulative master index of the first 18 volumes of “North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster.”
“This index of approximately 115,000 names of North Carolinians who served in the Civil War should be of great interest to historians, genealogists, and anyone with a Tar Heel ancestor who fought in that conflict, says the department,” said the historical division.
The historical work has been ongoing for decades. Work on “North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster” began in 1961 with the purpose of researching, compiling, and publishing service records for every North Carolinian who served in the Civil War. To date, 18 of a projected 22 volumes have been published.
The rosters in each volume are arranged numerically by regiment or battalion and alphabetically by company. Each roster is preceded by a unit history giving information about where it was raised and how it was designated. Officers and enlisted men are listed in separate sections alphabetically by surname.
Each name is followed by a service record that includes information such as the soldier’s county of birth and residence; his age and occupation at time of enlistment; promotions; whether he was wounded, captured or killed; and whether he deserted or died of disease.
This online cumulative index contains an entry for each man listed in the series. Each entry includes the volume number and page number where his service record is listed or where he is otherwise mentioned. It does not list company and regiment. Cross referencing of variant name spellings is available, says the state. The index database also contains entries for all the persons, places and military units mentioned in the histories.
Most public and academic libraries hold volumes of the “North Carolina Troops” series. Individual volumes and copies of individual pages from those volumes can be purchased from Historical Publications.
Digitization of the “North Carolina Troops” index is a joint project of Historical Publications and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Information Technology Application team.
The department says that researchers and others who would like additional information can call (919) 733-7442, ext. 225.
-North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
Georgia: Local Museum Digitizes Civil War Journal
DALTON, Ga. — Kathy Hicks had the book literally under wraps for years.
An old relic that a friend had given her, the book was a history textbook that an aging Confederate war veteran converted into a makeshift journal by pasting old newspaper clippings to its pages and scribbling his thoughts in the margins. He completed the book, which is several hundred pages long, in September 1897. He died a little less than a year later.
Hicks, a member of the Old Herod chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Dawson, said she shared the book when the Terrell County Historical Preservation Society decided to open a small museum. Museum committee member Cherry Howell said she got permission to borrow the book and wrote a short biography based on it.
“I think I probably read through it three or four times,” Howell said, adding she had to do so with care. “It’s just very fragile. It won’t be around much longer.”
The women knew they wanted to save that piece of history — some 500 or so pages of it — compiled by W.K. Pilsbury. Pilsbury served with the 5th Georgia Regiment of Volunteers and saw action in the Battle of Chickamauga and the Battle of Bentonville, N.C. Members of the public gathered at Dalton State College Thursday evening to view the book and copied excerpts from it and meet those who helped preserve it.
Freida Boyles, who is over the Old Herod DAR, said she talked to her cousin, Bitsy McFarland, who is involved in the local DAR, about their efforts with the book for the museum several months ago, and McFarland suggested contacting the Bandy Heritage Center for Northwest Georgia.
The center, which is a part of Dalton State College, is designed to be a history hub and resource for all kinds of historical organizations in the region. Boyles said preservationists had already contacted officials at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park about digitizing the book, but they were told the park didn’t have the resources to do it. When they contacted the Bandy Center, leaders there said “yes” right away, Boyles said.
“We about danced on the table,” she said.
Center director John Fowler said history student Amanda Kelley scanned roughly 500 pages so the book could be preserved. Justin Hayes, who works at the center, also assisted. Kelley, a Rock Spring resident, hopes to eventually work at a museum. She said she read every page.
Now, the Terrell County museum will have a digital copy of the book, and the Bandy Center will also have copies.
Many of Pilsbury’s memories from the Battle of Chickamauga are preserved in the book. His regiment went into battle with 300 men, he wrote, but when the battle was over, even though the Confederates had won, his unit had just 100 men left.
Pilsbury was wounded by a rifle ball but survived. After the war, he made a name for himself as a newspaper journalist and an educator, at one point serving as principal of an academy for males and females and writing for numerous publications, including The Atlanta Journal.
He never married, but in his old age he paid homage to a love of long ago, tucking a bookmark in the pages of his book and writing, “given to me by one whom I loved in my younger days better than life. A sweetheart but we drifted apart and I placed it here in memory of one girl I loved once tenderly and sincerely.”
He wrote shortly before finishing his book that if an epitaph were ever placed over his grave, he wanted it to read, “Sacred to the memory of W.K. Pilsbury who departed this life —. The deceased was a native of Columbia, S.C.; in early life a soldier of the Confederate States and afterwards a soldier of the cross. His warfare is now over but his end was peace.”
Fowler said a digital version of the book will be placed on the Bandy Center’s website, www.bandyheritagecenter.org.
-Rachel Brown, DaltonCitizen.com
South Carolina: Lost Jefferson Davis Historical Marker Returned
CLINTON, S.C. — The United Daughters of the Confederacy will have returned to them a valuable part of Clinton’s history.
A marker that used to be on Hwy 56 S commemorating Jefferson Davis’ Flight from Union Forces has been found in a creek bed off 56 N, and the young man who found the marker has given it back.
Elaine Thorpe, a member of J.B. Kershaw Chapter, UDC, in Laurens, said the marker will be refurbished and reposted with a ceremony. The marker originally was paid for and erected by the Stephen D. Lee Chapter, UDC, which no longer exists.
“The daughters and granddaughters of these Confederate veterans paid for the marker, probably with bake sales, egg money and donations,” Thorpe said. “Now, the great-great-granddaughters of these veterans will put it back up. We had almost given up hope.”
Thorpe said it is unknown who took the marker, and why, from its original location and threw it in a remote area near Clinton. “We don’t really care,” she said. “We are just so excited to have it back. We are so appreciative to this young man for doing the right thing.”
Jacob Tarrant, 16, found the marker buried in mud on the banks of an unnamed creek near his house. He and his mom, Michelle, contacted a TV station, when their calls to state historical agencies could not immediately get results. A TV reporter contacted Thorpe – truly, a call “out of the blue.”
The Clinton historical community also is missing a Revolutionary War marker.
Thorpe said the UDC ladies had “talked about” raising money to replace the Jefferson Davis’ Flight marker, but estimates ranged close to $3,000. Plus, modern-day historical markers are one-sided; the marker recovered this week has a description of how “Jefferson Davis slept here” on both sides.
Thorpe is investigating through the state archives when the marker was installed on Hwy 56 S, at a house where the President of the Confederacy stayed while he was on the run. The marker – SC #46 – says:
“Jefferson Davis President of the Confederacy on his flight from Richmond Va. with his Cabinet and other high ranking officers spent the night of April 30, 1865 at the house 1 1/2 miles west then the house of Lafayette Young. Arriving there from Union Davis left early the next morning for Cokesbury and Abbeville.”
-Vic MacDonald, Clinton Chronicle