Texas: Museum Features Gettysburg Artifacts

CORSICANA — One hundred fifty years ago this week, the battle that changed the course of the Civil War took place far from Texas in Gettysburg, Penn.

This Saturday, artifacts from the Battle of Gettysburg, including a Confederate cavalry carbine, belt buckles, soldiers’ letters and post-battle photographs, go on public display in the exhibit “Gettysburg: Standing With Desperate Bravery” at Navarro College’s Pearce Museum in Corsicana.

 A Union surgeon's journal features a star from a captured Confederate flag.

A Union surgeon’s journal features a star from a captured Confederate flag.

A Union army led by Gen. George Meade blunted a Northern offensive by Southern Gen. Robert E. Lee and his troops in the bloody three-day battle, from July 1 to 3, 1863. About 50,000 soldiers died in the fighting and although the war would continue for nearly another two years, many consider Gettysburg the turning point.

Opening day activities for the exhibit, which features items on loan from the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Library of Congress, include three lectures on Gettysburg topics, Civil War re-enactors in period dress and children’s activities.

Lecturers and their topics are Richard McCaslin of the University of North Florida, on Confederate general Robert E. Lee and his acceptance of blame for the Confederate defeat; Navarro College’s Tommy Stringer, Lincoln’s Gettyburg Address and its impact; and Texas Christian University’s Steven Woodworth, the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg.

“Gettysburg: Standing With Desperate Bravery” complements the Pearce Museum’s collection of Civil War letters, which numbers some 15,000 documents.

“It’s the first loan we’ve had from a major battlefield. Having objects for people to look at is a pretty unique experience for us,” said Pearce Museum archivist Jennifer Coleman.

Pearce Museum archivist Jennifer Coleman shows a Confederate cavalryman’s carbine found on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Pearce Museum archivist Jennifer Coleman shows a Confederate cavalryman’s carbine found on the Gettysburg battlefield.

The Pearce collection, started by Charles and Peggy Pearce, includes letters from both Union and Confederate sides in the four-year War Between the States, the bloodiest conflict in American history.

“Ours is more focused on the common soldier than the big name guys, the guy in the field eating hardtack and complaining about not having washed his clothes in more than a month,” Coleman said.

The Pearce Museum’s exhibition of Civil War letters follow a rough

chronology of the war as attitudes shift from optimism that the fighting would end in a matter of months to despair at the war’s length and a deep longing for family members at home.

Rusted carbine

The Gettysburg artifacts, on display until December, include a rusted carbine from a Confederate cavalryman, recovered from the battlefield; buckles from Union soldier cartridge box belts; a bayonet; a North Carolina soldier’s hand-drawn map of the battlefield; a Union surgeon’s war journal with a scrap of Confederate battle flag; and a letter from Union general Meade.

It also includes remarkably detailed photographs reprinted from glass slide negatives in the Library of Congress. “You can see the eyelets on soldiers’ uniforms and even how they combed their beards,” Coleman said.

The Gettysburg sesquicentennial also lines up with the Pearce Museum’s 10th anniversary, whose celebration continues in September with a western art show, “A New Look at the West,” said museum director Holly Beasley Wait.

-Carl Hoover, Waco Tribune


Florida: Gravestone of Black Civil War Soldier Puzzling

ORLANDO, Fla. — Much of the life and death of Anthony Frazier is a mystery.

All that can be confirmed is he once was a slave who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War, and his gravestone lies on its back in long grass next to a stand of trees in an old northwest Orange County pasture.

No one is sure how the headstone came to be there or where the remains of Frazier actually are.

The headstone of Union soldier and former slave Anthony Frazier lies in the grass near a section of the Wekiva Parkway, now under construction in rural Orange and Lake counties. (Warren V. Poplin, Wekiva State Park)

The headstone of Union soldier and former slave Anthony Frazier lies in the grass near a section of the Wekiva Parkway, now under construction in rural Orange and Lake counties. (Warren V. Poplin, Wekiva State Park)

“I don’t know what is fact or fiction,” said Warren Poplin, a state-parks manager who oversees the land where the marker was found.

All Poplin is certain of is the white marble stone rests about 1,500 feet from the path being scraped by massive machines for the Wekiva Parkway, the $1.66 billion toll road that will complete the beltway around Metro Orlando.

Although a 300-foot-wide swath of road is cutting through the rolling fields of the property known as Neighborhood Lakes, most of it will remain untouched — including the headstone — to protect the nearby Wekiva River and surrounding wetlands from the development that often accompanies a new road.

Poplin, who runs two state parks in the Wekiva River basin, has been aware of the marker for several years. He has asked around about Frazier but has come up with little other than theories. The most popular is that Frazier’s grave is near the headstone, but the two were separated when the marker was moved because of some previous work on the land.

In addition to cattle grazing, the property also has been home to citrus groves and ferns. Irrigation pipes crisscross the 1,600-acre tract of scrub grass, cactus and oaks.

Vandals might have moved the stone, too. That’s not uncommon in graveyards even today, said Don Price, sexton at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando.

Perhaps more confounding than the whereabouts of Frazier’s body is the story of the man himself. The marker only offers hints because it contains just his name and that he served with Company K of the 21st U.S. Colored Infantry.

Even his age is uncertain. Unlike most gravestones, there is no date of birth or death etched into the marble.

But that is not unusual for a former slave, said Sara Van Arsdel, executive director of the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando.

Records are sketchy at best from that era because slaves rarely were issued birth certificates and sometimes were not included in census counts.

“Nobody thought to ask for that stuff, especially for a slave,” she said.

Yet because expensive marble was used for his marker indicates that Frazier was a man of some standing in his community, Van Arsdel said.

It’s possible he may have owned land 12 miles west from where the headstone was found, according to research commissioned by the state Department of Transportation. The study found documents showing that a man named Anthony Frazier bought land just south of Lake Beauclair in 1875.

And there are four Fraziers buried at a cemetery for blacks near Eustis, including one who died as recently as 1997, the report said.

But there are no records of an Anthony Frazier buried with others bearing his last name. He could have been buried on his own land because that was a common practice during the 19th century, Price said.

The state research found two Anthony Fraziers living in South Carolina in 1870, both of whom worked on farms but were separated in age by a year, with one being 33 and the other 34.

It is not difficult to imagine Frazier settling in Florida after the war because he likely was stationed in the northern part of the state as a soldier. The report said his company was involved in several battles, including in Jacksonville and in Georgia and South Carolina in 1864, the year before the Civil War ended.

Backed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the Union recruited slaves as its army steadily moved into the South. The policy helped fill ranks depleted by mounting casualties, as well as weakened the Confederacy.

“They were running out of people,” Van Arsdel said of the Union. Signing them up was not difficult because the former slaves figured, “I’m free, and I’m going to fight for the Yankees who freed us,” she said.

By the end of the war, nearly 180,000 black men hadserved in the Union Army, with about 40,000 giving their lives. Frazier survived, but how he served, what he did after the war and how he died remains unknown.

As for his gravestone, it will stay right where it is, Poplin said.

The trees provide it some protection from the elements, he said, adding, “I don’t know exactly where it should be.”

-Dan Tracy, Orlando Sentinel



Tennessee: Sanders’ Raid Brought War Home

The June 21, 1863, edition of Knoxville’s Daily Register features the “Visit of the Yankees to Knoxville” the previous day, recounting a Union cavalry raid into Confederate-held East Tennessee.

It was this small, divided Southern town’s first real brush with war, bursting shells and casualties. Rural East Tennessee was largely Unionist, while Knoxville was primarily Confederate. President Abraham Lincoln urged Union generals commanding in Kentucky to invade East Tennessee to give the residents relief. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, recently given command in Kentucky, was willing but did not have sufficient troops. He decided to send a cavalry raid into East Tennessee to destroy the important railroad and bridges carrying supplies and troops to the Confederate army.

Chosen to lead this raid was Kentucky-born, Mississippi-raised William Price Sanders. Sanders was a graduate of West Point and colonel of the 5th Kentucky Cavalry U.S. and served on Burnside’s staff. The raid was to be carried out by a select force of cavalry and mounted infantry from Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky and the 1st East Tennessee Mounted Infantry under Col. Robert K. Byrd of Kingston, whose men also served as guides. Assembly point was Williamsburg, Ky., where the men and horses underwent a thorough inspection. Two cannons were provided along with 800 rounds of ammunition. Sanders left Williamsburg on the morning of June 14, crossing the Cumberland River into Confederate territory.

A March, 1864, photograph, shows the rebuilt railroad and county road Flat Creek bridges which were destroyed after Col. William P. Sanders left Knoxville on June 20, 1863. (Library of Congress)

A March, 1864, photograph, shows the rebuilt railroad and county road Flat Creek bridges which were destroyed after Col. William P. Sanders left Knoxville on June 20, 1863. (Library of Congress)

Following Sanders as he forded the Cumberland was a second force of about 800 Ohio troops under Col. Samuel Gilbert. Gilbert was to create a diversion to enable Sanders to enter Confederate territory without detection. As Sanders moved southwest toward Montgomery County, Gilbert’s men moved southward to engage the Confederates defending Big Creek Gap in the Cumberland Mountains.

Gilbert met the Confederates at Pine Mountain Gap, just north of Big Creek Gap, and drove them back. The next morning his dismounted troops once again drove the Confederates back and, by nightfall had pushed them to Big Creek Gap. They skirmished all of the following day, withdrawing after dark with their mission accomplished. Confederate Gen. Simon B. Buckner, commanding from Knoxville, shifted troops from numerous posts, believing this was the long-expected full-scale invasion.

Thanks to Gilbert’s ruse, Sanders approached his first target at Wartburg undetected. The 1st Tennessee was given the assignment of leading the advance on the major supply base for Gen. John Pegram and the Confederate cavalry. The attack was so unexpected that it was concluded without firing a shot, resulting in the capture of more than 100 troops, horses, mules, wagons, ammunition, food and supplies. A few soldiers who had been posted outside the town escaped capture and spread the alarm. Sanders moved on toward Loudon and an impressive railroad bridge across the Tennessee River. Bypassing Kingston, the cavalry soon learned that earthworks at the Loudon Bridge had been strengthened and were too strong to be quickly captured. By now their presence had been detected and they were forced to also bypass Loudon.

Lenoir’s Station (present-day Lenoir City), the first contact with the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad, was next. When word of the cavalry’s approach reached Lenoir’s Station, prominent Knoxville resident, physician, historian and State and Confederate banker Dr. James G.M. Ramsey was visiting his daughter Henrietta (Mrs. Benjamin) Lenoir. Ramsey boarded a freight train headed for Knoxville, where he reported to Gen. Buckner and then quickly boxed up the bank’s funds, loading them on the last train to leave Knoxville, escorting it to a bank in Abingdon, Va., for safekeeping.

At Lenoir’s Station, Sanders captured only an artillery detachment. He learned that the Confederates had withdrawn 30 minutes before. The depot still was a real prize, completely filled with military stores: cannons, 2,500 small arms, ammunition, saddles and harnesses. The 7th Ohio was given the task of destroying the depot and supplies; one soldier wrote that the “prisoners were paroled amid the bursting shells and shrapnel” and “I can only think of throwing stones through a hornet’s nest, they seem to perforate the roof and sides of the building with ease.” The Federal column began their primary assignment: destroying the railroad track, burning culverts and bridges, and disrupting telegraph communications as they moved toward Knoxville.

And as Sanders’ men worked their way toward Knoxville, the town tried to prepare. Buckner, still believing that the major threat was coming from the Big Creek Gap area, had moved to Clinton to “concentrate his forces.” Col. R.C. Trigg was left with part of his own Virginia infantry, a small contingent of Florida troops and no serviceable artillery. To these were added local militia, private citizens and convalescents from military hospitals. Eight pieces of field artillery were found, and horses, harnesses and drivers were requisitioned from the quartermaster. Artillery was placed around Knoxville on College Hill, near the Asylum Hospital, Summit Hill and Mabry’s Hill.

Alarmed civilians also tried to respond. “Such a scene of Confusion,” reported Frances (Mrs. Benjamin Rush) Strong. Some volunteered to protect the town by joining ranks with the militia. Others used “omnibuses and carriages” to move the sick from College Hill and Asylum Hospitals, while some few “packed up and left town,” wrote Strong.

Late in the afternoon, Sanders’ men were approaching Knoxville on the Kingston Road (today’s Kingston Pike) when they noticed a resident in the act of mounting his horse. Dr. Harvey Baker was planning to ride to Knoxville to alert authorities. Just who fired first is in question, but shots were fired and Baker ran for the house. The cavalrymen followed. There was an exchange of shots and Baker was killed in his home in view of his family. The house today is known as the Baker-Peters House.

Sanders’ men arrived in the vicinity of Knoxville just before dark to find pickets waiting for them on the outskirts. After dispersing them a rear-guard was left to engage any enemy troops that might be following, and the main force circled around to the north of town to position themselves for the next day’s action. At about midnight the rear guard judged that no force was following them and left to rejoin Sanders. However, they missed a turn and stumbled into the edge of Knoxville, drawing fire from Confederate pickets and frightened waiting citizens. The rear guard immediately withdrew a short distance and waited for first light to extricate themselves and rejoin the main force.

William P. Sanders

William P. Sanders

On the morning of June 20, 1863, Sanders’ line of battle emerged from woods on the plateau area just north of the railroad depots. The dismounted cavalrymen moved forward. About 8:15 the Confederate battery on Summit Hill opened up on the Federals, whose two cannons returned fire. Federal skirmishers and sharpshooters moved forward across the open land on the east end of the line but were met by artillery fire, forcing them to take cover behind houses and fences. The Federals again advanced but were met with canister fire and forced to retire.

With the blast of the first cannon, the shocked citizens of Knoxville realized they were actually under fire. Strong reported that she went outside at the first sound of cannon fire and “you ought to have seen the (blacks), women and dogs run down this hill! While outside a shell passed over our heads. (We) all rushed in our house where it was quite a scene. The women were all crying, the children screaming and the shells still flying.”

She wrote that the shelling went on for about an hour and a half, and while some of the shells fell in town, most went over the river. Although losses on both sides were small, there were some casualties among the town folk. Capt. Pleasant McClung, in charge of the Ordnance Department, was mortally wounded while manning a cannon and lived only two hours.

Realizing he could not take Knoxville and that time was growing short, Sanders and his men withdrew eastward along the railroad. One trooper reported that they could still hear the Confederates shelling the empty woods north of town. The destruction began once again. McMillan Station, 13 miles from Knoxville, and the railroad bridge and county road bridge over Flat Creek were soon torched. The cavalry was surprised to see a locomotive steaming down the track toward them. Confederate troops based at Strawberry Plains had become concerned about the sound of gunfire and had decided to investigate. Upon seeing the railroad destruction and the substantial Union force, the engine suddenly reversed and the men returned “in haste” to alert their troops.

In the midst of this destruction, one soldier paused to comment on the beauty of the place, “The valley of the Holston is very beautiful. Beyond, blue mountains are seen through a smoky haze.” This reverie was interrupted by a report that the rear guard was being challenged by part of Col. John Scott’s Confederate Cavalry, reminding Sanders that time was growing short.

Sanders’ next major target was the massive bridge at Strawberry Plains on the north bank of the Holston River. Its garrison numbered less than 400 men, about 200 of whom were members of Thomas’ Legion of Cherokee Indians and mountaineers. Sanders forded the river three miles below the bridge. He sent part of his infantry directly toward the earthworks and stone wall of the Stringfield Cemetery as a second contingent circled around to attack the rear. The frontal attack met with canister and grape shot. However, it was a short but vicious fight with the Federals taking the fortifications, more than 100 troops, five pieces of artillery, the bridge and the town, which proved to be a bonus with supplies belonging to the Confederate Commissary. The men took needed supplies, then burned the remainder and the depot. The massive bridge had been built on 11 piers 40 feet above the Holston and stretching 1,600 feet. “It is dark when we fire it,” reports one soldier, “and the spectacle is magnificent. The heavens glow as fire and the river is a band of gold.” The men were rewarded with a full night’s sleep — the first since the day after crossing the Cumberland.

Early the next morning the men were again in their saddles ready for another day of destruction. As they passed through the village of New Market, they were welcomed by ladies coming to the road with water, pies and cakes. They also warned that the Confederates were close and watching from the mountaintops. The next objective was the town of Mossy Creek (present day Jefferson City), where they made quick work of the 300-foot railroad bridge, the depot, numerous supplies, a locomotive and cars. They also burned a Confederate salt peter factory and a gun factory.

Time was running out, however, and Sanders knew it. He had been in enemy territory for six days and safety was 60 torturous miles and three river crossings away. He left the railroad and led his men northwest to cross the Holston River once again. He planned to cross Clinch Mountain at Powder Springs Gap but was alerted by a local woman that Scott’s cavalry lay in wait. Sending a small force to skirmish with the enemy, Sanders and his men took a farm road and reached the gap safely. They covered 10 miles before daylight despite at one point experiencing Confederate rifle fire, which rang out from the darkness, passing over their heads. Cavalry or guerrillas? They never knew.

A March, 1864, photograph, shows the rebuilt Strawberry Plains railroad ridge which was destroyed after Col. William P. Sanders left Knoxville on June 20, 1863. (Library of Congress)

A March, 1864, photograph, shows the rebuilt Strawberry Plains railroad ridge which was destroyed after Col. William P. Sanders left Knoxville on June 20, 1863. (Library of Congress)

The Clinch River was crossed safely the next morning but with the Confederates on their heels. Sanders headed for Rogers Gap, one of the few gaps along the Cumberland Mountain with a road that would accommodate their force. In late afternoon they crossed Powell River at Leech’s Ford unopposed, but as they neared Powell Valley Road the scouts were surprised to find Confederate patrols posted at every gap along the mountain and Rogers Gap blocked by timber, infantry and artillery. Sanders chose to force a smaller, less well-defended gap to his left, but knew he could not take his artillery. The artillerymen were ordered to destroy their precious guns — the original two and three that had been captured. Sanders made several feints on the waiting Confederate infantry and cavalry now lining the valley, until he saw confusion and a shifting of troops and then ordered “Forward!” The furious rush further confused the Confederates and gave Sanders the edge as his determined men stormed the road and swarmed and scrambled up the mountain.

Although the Confederates tried to recover, the Federals now controlled the heights and returned their fire. Horses had to be abandoned. Soon darkness shielded the escaping cavalry, and they stumbled and slid down the north side of the mountain in small squads and groups of two or three, some threatened by rattlesnakes or Confederates, others by slopes so precipitous that they had to wait until morning to descend. They made their way to Boston, Ky.

On June 23, Sanders reported to Gen. Burnside: 50 miles of railroad track destroyed; more than 3,000 feet of bridge burned; 15 pieces of artillery captured and more 2,500 small arms destroyed along with ammunition; a gun factory and a salt peter factory. Several hundred horses and mules had been captured, as well as 461 Confederates — all of whom were paroled. Sanders’ loss: 2 men killed, 4 wounded and 13 missing.

The Confederate government’s defenses of East Tennessee and the railroad where inadequate and vulnerable, which had been embarrassingly revealed by 1,300 hardy horsemen and one bold Southern-born Union colonel.

Dorothy E. Kelly is a native of East Tennessee and a local historian whose ancestors served in both Confederate and Union armies. She is a past president of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable and of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association. This account of Sanders’ Raid, which occurred 150 years ago, June 16-23, 1863, is condensed from her article in North & South magazine on the subject.


Virginia: Chesterfield Site Poised to Expand

A small Chesterfield County park that protects a significant sliver of a Civil War battlefield is about to get a lot bigger if all goes as planned.

Battery Dantzler Park, located near the James River across from Dutch Gap Conservation Area, protects 1.3 acres of what was once a key line of Civil War earthworks. Soon, it could grow by more than 15 acres.

During the Civil War, Battery Dantzler — named for an officer who’d been killed — was a Confederate emplacement of six artillery pieces. The current park includes the remains of one gun emplacement.

Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia historian George L. Fickett Jr. talks to a tour group about the Bermuda Hundred Civil War campaign at Battery Dantzler Park in Chesterfield County. 2009, P. KEVIN MORLEY/TIMES-DISPATCH

Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia historian George L. Fickett Jr. talks to a tour group about the Bermuda Hundred Civil War campaign at Battery Dantzler Park in Chesterfield County. 2009, P. KEVIN MORLEY/TIMES-DISPATCH

While one emplacement has been destroyed by development, the remaining four are part of a piece of land that likely will be added to the small park, said George L. Fickett Jr., an expert on the Bermuda Hundred Campaign with the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia.

The move would enhance one of the more significant Civil War-related parks in the county, allowing for more trails, signage and earthworks, said Michael S. Golden, the director of parks and recreation for Chesterfield.

The battery was the northern anchor of the Howlett Line, which was known as the “Cork in the Bottle” keeping Union forces pinned on the Bermuda Hundred Peninsula between the James and Appomattox rivers in the late spring of 1864.

Preservationists are securing the addition through a combination of a landowner donation, a federal grant and a payment from Dominion, which the company made to offset a historical home and earthworks its development damaged elsewhere, Fickett said.

The federal matching grant of $133,400 has received initial approval but still needs to be authorized by the director of the National Park Service.

“I’ve never had one that’s been turned down. This is the third one I’ve applied for, and we’re overqualified,” Fickett said.

No county money will go toward the purchase, Fickett said.

Jim Daniels, a real estate agent and former president of the historical society, lives near the park in a house that used to be in the family of the additional property’s owner, Walter Goyne of McLean. Daniels helped bring the deal together and said that, although it took years to make happen, it was well worthwhile.

The Confederates built the Howlett Line on the site of a Northern picket line they overran. Battery Dantzler saw some artillery duels during the protracted siege that followed the line’s construction, and the guns were used in a naval battle on the James near the war’s end but never saw significant ground combat, Fickett said.

If the deal goes through, the addition, which extends beyond the line and includes river frontage, would also provide a buffer against development, Fickett said.

“If you look around, it’s all warehouses and trucking facilities, so this definitely is a great buffer, and it also is a beautiful piece of property,” Daniels said.

-Ted Strong, Richmond Times-Dispatch