South Carolina: ‘Glory’ Battle, Soldiers Remembered
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. — Civil War re-enactors gathered on a wind-swept beach and marked the 150th anniversary Thursday of the famed attack by the black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry — a battle that showed the world black soldiers could fight and later was chronicled in the movie “Glory.”
More than 50 re-enactors, including a handful in Confederate butternut uniforms, left wreaths on South Carolina’s Morris Island honoring those who died there in the 1863 Union attack on Confederate Battery Wagner. The island bordering Charleston Harbor is uninhabited and the battery itself has washed away since the Civil War.
Those observing the anniversary prayed and sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” As part of the commemoration, they also fired a three-gun rifle volley to salute the dead.
The 54th was raised in Boston and of the 600 black Union troops who bravely charged Confederate defenses at Battery Wagner, 218 were killed, wounded or captured in fierce fighting. The 54th later served in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida before returning to Massachusetts at war’s end.
Re-enactor Mel Reid told a gathering of about 50 people gathered on the beach that many members of the 54th never made it back home and those who did were not cheered when they came home.
“So here we are 150 years later saying ‘thank you,'” he said. “Keep in mind, these were free black men” who risked being enslaved if captured, he told the gathering.
Thursday evening there was period music, speeches, and rifle and cannon firing at Fort Moultrie on nearby Sullivan’s Island. The event corresponded with the time of the evening attack 150 years ago.
Following the program, the audience of about 200 put battery-powered candles in luminaries on a field beside the fort. There were 294 in all — one for each fallen soldier both North and South.
“The story of both the Confederates and the federals who fought that day is the story of the American people in their travel through time,” said South Carolina Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell, himself a Civil War re-enactor, in his keynote address. “Our march through history … is the story of a people who, in the pursuit or defense of freedom, as they perceived or understood it, were always willing to put aside the element of fear and answer the call of duty.”
“This is probably the most significant anniversary of the 150th anniversaries of the Civil War,” Walter Sanderson, a re-enactor from Upper Marlboro, Md., said earlier. “It was a primary test for African-American troops in a very difficult assault. They proved themselves to be a quality regiment under the most severe duress.”
Usually, there are about a dozen black re-enactors who make the trip to Morris Island each year. The black re-enactors gathered Thursday came from as far away as California.
“Going out on that island has special meaning today,” said Joe McGill, a black Charleston re-enactor who makes the journey every July 18.
The attack was part of an unsuccessful campaign by federal forces to capture Charleston, the city where the Civil War began in 1861 with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter in the harbor. The Confederates would hold Charleston until late in the war, when they abandoned it as Union troops moved across South Carolina further to the west.
While the Battery Wagner attack was unsuccessful, the valor of the black troops dispelled the thought — common in both the North and the South early in the war — that blacks could not fight. It also encouraged the enlistment of another 200,000 black troops in the Union army.
“It’s just an honor to be here. The 54th proved that black troops could fight in a battle,” said Louis Carter of Richmond, Va. He said Battery Wagner and several earlier smaller fights involving black troops “disproved that stereotype that we would run.”
Leon Watkins of San Francisco carried the flag in the movie “Glory.”
A former Marine, he said “if this hadn’t happened here 150 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to help provide the blanket of security we all sleep under.”
“Glory” will be shown Friday on an outdoor screen in Marion Square in Charleston. The 1989 film starringMatthew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman helped bring the story of the 54th Massachusetts to a wider audience.
Scholars and authors gathered at the historic Dock Street Theatre on Saturday to discuss the 1863 Charleston campaign. On Sunday, Charleston officials unveiled a rendering of a planned monument to the 54th Massachusetts to be erected on Charleston’s Battery.
-The Associated Press
Georgia: Suspected Civil War Cannonball Discovered
ATLANTA — Atlanta police say a construction crew has unearthed what appears to be a cannonball near Centennial Olympic Park.
Police spokesman Gregory Lyon says the crew dug up the suspected cannonball Thursday afternoon and authorities took it to a bomb range.
Centennial Olympic Park is owned by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.
Spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster says the cannonball was removed from the property, but authorities have not yet determined exactly how old it is.
Police spokesman John Chafee says bomb technicians said the artifact may have been from the Civil War era, but authorities say the suspected cannonball has not yet been examined by an expert.
When federal troops besieged Atlanta in 1864, they fired thousands of cannon shells into the downtown area that now includes Centennial Olympic Park.
-The Associated Press
North Carolina: Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads Remembered
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — The Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads, fought about 8 miles east of present-day Southern Pines on March 10, 1865, was one of the last great cavalry battles of the Civil War. Because it occurred as the war was winding down, and because the site is now in a restricted area of the Fort Bragg Military Reservation, this battle has never been afforded the historical significance that it deserves.
A program, lead by Save Our Sandhills President Joe McDonald, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday July 25, at the Southern Pines Elks Lodge, 280 Country Club Circle (former Southern Pines Country Club). Admission is free and the public is invited. Refreshments will be served.
There was a stellar cast of characters, according to historians. All of the principal cavalry commanders in the eastern region of the country were present. On the Confederate side were Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton, Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler, and Maj. Gen. Matthew C. Butler. On the Union side was Brevet Maj. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and his brigade commanders.
All together, around 4,000 to 5,000 men participated. This battle saw some of the most intense and bloody hand-to-hand combat that had been seen in the entire course of the war. One historian noted that had this battle been fought in Northern Virginia in 1862, it would be a household word today. And finally, the battle had considerable strategic significance. It delayed Kilpatrick’s arrival in Fayetteville and thus afforded the Confederate infantry under Lt. Gen. Hardee time to safely get across the Cape Fear River, and it probably gave the Confederate forces the opportunity to put up more resistance at Averasboro and Bentonville.
McDonald will tell the story of this battle at the organization’s July 25 meeting. He will describe how the Confederate and Union forces moved through the Southern Pines and Aberdeen areas to set the scene for the battle and how the subsequent events transpired. McDonald is a native of Moore County. He was born in a house on Bethesda Road near Southern Pines that was built by an ancestor prior to the Revolutionary War (and which was visited by Union troops on their way to Monroe’s Crossroads). He has had a lifelong interest in local history.
A second program related to the battle will take place at the beginning of August.
Paul Brill, a Civil War historian and collector of artifacts and weaponry will present the program on Sunday, Aug. 4, at 3 p.m. in the Malcolm Blue Farm Museum. The address is 1177 Bethesda Road in Aberdeen, near the 1862 Old Bethesda Church and Cemetery. The event is free but donations and memberships are accepted. Call 910-944-7685 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a reservation. Refreshments of the late 1800s will be served.
Brill will present a background and overview of the battle, a review of the principal officers involved from both sides, and a display of Civil War weapon artifacts relevant to cavalry forces of that time. Various short rifles or carbines, revolvers, swords and leather goods will be shown.
The Malcolm Blue Farm is on the National Registry and its museum has a permanent exhibit of artifacts, maps, graphics and brochures about The Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads available to the public. The exhibit and brochure give a detailed review of the battle and events leading into the battle, including General Jordan’s cavalry encampment of about 1,000 men at the old Bethesda Church and the Malcolm Blue farm on March 9, 1865. The farm is an official site of the North Carolina Civil War Trails.
-Richmond County Daily Journal
North Carolina: Civil War Ironclad to Get New Home
KINSTON, N.C. — Almost 150 years after taking part in the Civil War, a Confederate warship settled into a new home Thursday with the opening of a Kinston museum in its honor.
The CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center will allow people to view the ironclad for free every Tuesday through Saturday. Some parts of the exhibit remain under construction, however, so the whole museum won’t open until next summer.
“This is a dream come true for a lot of people here in Kinston, and they’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Andrew Duppstadt, assistant curator of education for the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites.
The Neuse was built late in the war and participated in one skirmish in 1865. It was later scuttled and spent about a century at the bottom of the Neuse River.
“When my dad was a little boy, this boat was still in the Neuse River, and when the river would get really down low, he and his friends would go actually play on it. They’d swim around it and play on it,” said Nancy Parks, a Lenoir County resident.
The ship was brought to the surface in the 1960s, and it spent the past few decades on display at an outdoor location in Kinston. The museum will allow better preservation of the artifact.
“We’re just glad now that it’s found a good home where it can be safe,” Parks said.
State officials also dedicated a highway marker to the CSS Neuse in front of the Lenoir County Courthouse, about a block from the museum.
“It’s real exciting to be able to have it in here finally,” Duppstadt said.
North Carolina: Fort Macon to Hold Celebration
HAVELOCK, N.C. — Musket and cannon fire ricocheted off the brick walls of Fort Macon State Park this weekend when the 1st North Carolina Volunteers hrld a Civil War re-enactment Saturday and Sunday.
About 30 to 40 men, women and children dressed in period clothing participated.
“They will portray life in the 1860s during the War Between the States and they’ll have the weapons of the period and the uniforms of the period, hot as it may be,” said Paul Branch, ranger for Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach.
He said the volunteers come from all over North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
“They do things like flag demonstrations, musket-firing demonstrations, marching and firing. There’s a skirmish that they have at 1:30. We will have cannon firings,” Branch said. “They just re-enact soldiers and life here, how they fought, how they would have dressed.
“Some Union will attack the fort and they’ll show you how a fort like this would have driven off a land assault. They’ll go to some of the rooms on the outer wall and be firing out of those. The rooms around the fort are for interior defense, and if the enemy got into the fort, then the guys in the rooms around the fort would open fire and cross fire. They show some of the defenses of Fort Macon and how it would have operated in a ground attack.”
“We do show the cannons and that gives the sense of how the fort typically defended itself with artillery,” Branch said. “These are all reproductions. We have one that we got in 2010 and the other two came last year in 2012. We have also recently got a replica of another cannon that we placed outside, what we call a parrot rifle that would have been used against the fort in the Union bombardment. Also we have a little naval gun that the Navy Department has loaned us, and we display that on the west wall out here. The only two cannons that were actually here that still exist are the two mortars on the parade ground.”
Built in 1826, Fort Macon was used in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and later in World War II. The state acquired the fort in 1924, and it became North Carolina’s second state park. At the time the fort was overgrown after years of abandonment, Branch said.
“It was a tangle of total, veritable jungle of green,” he said. “The entire parade ground was choked with full grown trees, briars, brush almost neck high in places. The walls had vines and ivy. Everything was entwined around the stair railings.
“In the rooms, the plaster and woodwork was collapsing and decaying. Lord knows how many snakes and critters were running around in here.”
Branch has written two books about the fort, “The Siege of Fort Macon,” a paperback, and “Fort Macon: A History,” about the entire history of the fort through modern times.
The Civilian Conservation Corps restored the fort during the 1930s, with anywhere from 125 to 250 men working during different periods for a year and a half. Fort Macon had its official opening as a functioning state park on May 1, 1936.
Today, it is one of the most visited of all state parks with more than a million visitors each year.
Fort Macon State Park is located at the end of East Fort Macon Road (N.C. 58) in Atlantic Beach. For more information, call 726-3775, go online to the park website at http://ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/foma/main.php or email@example.com.
Alabama: Auburn Accepts Diary of Lincoln Confidante
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn University is expanding its collection of historical documents from the American Civil War with its second major donation this year.
The university announced today that it has added to its library the Civil War diary Thomas T. Eckert.
Donated by Hank Galbreath of the university’s Office of Development, the diary details the final year of the war.
A native of Ohio, Eckert served in the Union Army during the war, in charge operations during the Peninsula Campaign under Gen. George B. McClellan.
A favorite of President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, mostly because of his organizational skills, Eckert was quickly promoted to Chief of the War Department Telegraph Staff and eventually granted the rank of brigadier general of volunteers.
After the war, he was promoted again to assistant secretary of war under Stanton and newly inaugurated President Andrew Johnson.
Eckert was at Lincoln’s deathbed the night of the president’s assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth while he attended a play at Ford’s Theatre on April 15, 1865.
“Seven o’clock 22 minutes, our beloved president Abraham Lincoln breathed his last. I have been on duty at his bed side all night with the Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. My heart is too sad for expression,” Eckert wrote of Lincoln’s death.
The collection also includes Eckert’s U.S. Army commission as assistant quartermaster of volunteers with the rank of captain, signed by Lincoln and Stanton.
And it includes his commissions as colonel and brigadier general, both signed by Johnson and Stanton.
The contents of the diary are available online along with other Civil War diaries here.
The donation of Civil War historical documents is the second received by Auburn this year. In May, the university accepted a letter signed by Raphel Semmes, captain of the Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama, and other historical documents.
After a two-year cruise that captured or destroyed 65 Union vessels during the Civil War, the Alabama was hunted down and sunk off the coast of France by the USS Kearsarge in 1864.
Semmes survived the sinking, picked up by a foreign vessel to avoid imprisonment for the duration of the war.