Tennessee: Civil War cannons return to Memphis’  Confederate Park

By Kevin McKenzie, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, four cannons resembling those used during the War between the States were installed in Confederate Park in Downtown Memphis on Wednesday.

A group from the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans installs a replica Civil War-era cannon in Confederate Park on Wednesday.

Just as intended, the replica artillery immediately sparked a discussion rooted in history, in this case, between 62-year-old, bearded twin brothers born in a former hospital that served as Confederate headquarters in Vicksburg, Miss.

“To me, it’s a six-pound Napoleon,” said David Hoxie, insisting that one of the new cannons is a type named after a grandson of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

“It’s not,” said his brother, Danny Hoxie. “It’s a six-pound gun,” he insisted.

The Hoxies were two of several members of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp, Sons of the Confederate Veterans group that paused in nearly 100-degree heat while two 12-pound field howitzers, a three-inch ordnance rifle and the six-pound field gun were bolted in place at the park overlooking Mud Island and the Mississippi River.

“It’s a six-pounder,” said Allen Doyle, commander of the Forrest Camp, settling the disagreement between the brothers.

Doyle, 58, an insurance agent, provided more of the history that the cannon are meant to inspire.

“We want to make sure that people knew that Memphis was not defended by original cannons, but they were commemorated here after the war was over and the park (dedicated in 1908) was established here,” he said. “There were actually six guns in the park, much larger than this, but this is as close as we could get.”

In 1942, during World War II, the city donated the surplus Civil War cannons originally at the park to a scrap metal drive. After that war, six World War II cannons, now stored and slated for renovation, replaced them.

Led by the local Sons of Confederate Veterans, and including the Shelby County Historical Commission and the Riverfront Development Corp., the project to return more appropriate cannons took about a decade and was financed with about $72,000 in private donations, said Lee Millar, chairman of the project.

The cast iron carriages supporting the new cannon reproductions were donated by Shiloh National Military Park, the Tennessee site of a bloody battle in April 1862. Lee Cole, a 53-year-old Arlington blacksmith helping to install the cannons, said the national park is replacing aging carriages with sturdier ductile iron.

Steen Cannons, a family-owned company in Ashland, Ky., made the new cannons and stays busy supplying artillery representing a variety of wars to national parks, towns, cemeteries and other customers, said Marshall Steen, 60, company owner. During the Civil War, carriages were wooden, he said.

The cannon types at Confederate Park represent those used by two Confederate artillery units — Bankhead’s Battery, formed in 1861 by Memphis attorney Smith P. Bankhead, and the Appeal Battery, sponsored in 1862 by The Appeal newspaper (an ancestor of The Commercial Appeal) — according to Millar.

However, there were no Confederate cannons overlooking the bluffs at the park on June 6, 1862, when eight cotton-clad Confederate boats were defeated in 90 minutes in a naval battle with eight ironclad Union ships.

“There was a four-gun field battery that was here, but they left and had gone to Shiloh by then,” Millar said.


Maryland: Back Story: 150th Anniversary of Antietam

By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

On a sunny, humid day 150 Septembers ago, the fate of a nation seemingly converged at a diminutive rural Western Maryland village called Sharpsburg.

There, 87,000 federal troops under the command of Union Gen. George Brinton McClellan met the overconfident Army of Northern Virginia, some 40,000 strong, that had been victorious in its recent battle at Manassas and was under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The Battle of Antietam, fought on Sept. 17, 1862, took its name from Antietam Creek, which wandered through the battlefield. Union and Confederate forces slugged it out at the Lower Bridge, later renamed the Burnside Bridge for Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, whose troops eventually secured and crossed the bridge.

By the end of the battle, there were 22,000 Union and Confederate casualties — with some 6,000 killed in 12 hours — and 5,000 of them fell trying to take a muddy, rutted, sunken country lane that was thereafter known as Bloody Lane.

The battle ended in a stalemate, but it marked the bloodiest day of the Civil War. The terrible battle at Antietam would forever remain in the American consciousness, later joined by the hideous loss of life at Shiloh, Cold Harbor, Gettysburg and Frederickburg.

While tactically of little consequence to either side, Lee’s advance into Maryland was stopped, and McClellan’s command would also become a casualty of Antietam.

Because he had not been aggressive enough in checking the withdrawal of Lee’s forces across the Potomac into Virginia, he was relieved of his command by President Abraham Lincoln.

The battles of Antietam and Gettysburg and Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s occupation of Frederick will be highlighted in an hour-long Maryland Public Television documentary, “The Heart of the Civil War,” which will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Framed on the north by the Mason-Dixon line and the Union, and on the south by the Potomac River and the Confederacy, Maryland inevitably found itself the setting of some of the fiercest, most brutal battles of the Civil War.

Lincoln knew that keeping Maryland — with its railroads and turnpikes, proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, manufacturing capabilities in Baltimore, and location as the gateway to Washington — in the Union was critical to the nation’s survival.

Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties make up the heart of Maryland’s Civil War heritage area.

Christopher E. Haugh, a Frederick historian who is scenic byway and special projects manager for the Tourism Council of Frederick County, which produced the documentary in partnership with MPT, was its research historian.

“I grew up in Frederick and my father forced history on me, plus we had all of this history in our backyard, and the landscape had been witness to the history of the Civil War,” Haugh said in a recent interview.

“The war came to their door and they saw the ugly part, asHagerstown and Frederick were major hospital centers. And the townspeople here cared for the wounded, sick and the dying,” he said. “And even after the battles were over, they’d plow their fields and find the dead.”

Haugh hopes that the documentary inspires people to visit the battlefields that shaped the war.

“There are nearby premier historic sites, and they are at their disposal,” he said.

Michael English, an Emmy Award-winning MPT executive producer and writer, directed the documentary.

“I think it is a regional story that isn’t so widely known,” he said. “This whole thing was Chris’ brainchild, and he wanted to tell stories and give them a deeper appreciation of what happened here, and he did a good job.”

English was also thrilled that he was able to do location shooting.

“That’s the great thing about shooting in Maryland. You can go to the actual location and they are authentic, and the camera sees what it almost looked like during the Civil War,” he said. “We are very lucky. The Park Service has done an amazing job preserving those areas.”

The only scene, said English, that was not filmed on location was Corbit’s Charge. It took place on June 29, 1863, in Westminster, when Rebel and Union troops clashed in a five-minute skirmish that left four dead.

“Back then, Westminster was a sleepy little hamlet; today it is a bustling small city. There was no way we could transform that with galloping horses and everything else, so we shot it in Virginia,” he said.

Civil War events feature minstrel song revival

By David Dishneau, The Associated Press

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — With their slouch hats, whiskers and time-worn instruments, members of the 2nd South Carolina String Band look and sound like a Civil War camp band. And while they play “Oh! Susannah” and other familiar fare, they don’t shy from other historical songs with inescapably racist overtones that may offend some modern listeners.

The aim of these musical re-enactors is to accurately recreate music that soldiers from both the North and South enjoyed around battlefield campfires at Gettysburg, Antietam and Bull Run. Along with “Buffalo Gals” and “Dixie,” they perform lesser-known songs in the exaggerated dialect of blackface minstrels from that tumultuous era when slavery was breaking apart.

“A-way down in de Kentuck’ break, a darky lived, dey call him Jake,” Fred Ewers sings on “I’m Gwine Ober de Mountain,” by “Dixie” composer Daniel Emmett.

“Angeline the Baker,” a Stephen Foster song in the band’s repertoire, begins, “Way down on de old plantation, dah’s where I was born.” It’s the story of a slave who was “so happy all de day” until his beloved Angeline disappears.

The camp bands don’t perform in blackface and typically shun the most offensive words and lyrics with cruel or violent imagery. Still, it’s a tricky business presenting such racially jarring songs.

Historically accurate? Certainly. The music comes from the minstrel shows that were the nation’s most popular form of entertainment in the mid-1800s. Usually featuring white performers with blackened faces, the shows included songs and skits that often lampooned black people and portrayed slaves as happy and care-free.

The minstrel shows produced some of America’s most beloved songs and contributed mightily to jazz, bluegrass, country and folk music. Blackface minstrels also helped popularize the banjo, an instrument with African roots.

Some scholars and musicians question whether a Civil War re-enactment is the best place to hear such songs performed. Some of these critics play similar material at banjo workshops and scholarly gatherings designed for discussion that they hope can help heal the wounds of American slavery.

The 2nd South Carolina String Band seeks to present the music as true as possible to what was played in the camps.

“We are performing, not lecturing,” said banjoist Joe Ewers, Fred’s brother and the band’s chief spokesman.

His role models include Joseph Ayers, a Buckingham, Va., banjo historian who began researching and recording minstrel songs in 1985. Ayers favors broad public exposure to the music.

“We need to talk about our history openly and honestly, and the sooner we can do that the better,” he said.

But some say more sensitivity is needed. Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a black string band inspired by early African-American music, cringes at hearing exacting renditions of songs from a time when many blacks had no voice because they were either enslaved or struggling to survive.

“There is a part of me that absolutely squirms in my chair when I hear that music being done so earnestly,” Giddens said.

She said she worries about camp band audiences focusing on derogatory lyrics instead of appreciating that minstrelsy borrowed instruments, playing techniques and perhaps even melodies from black musicians.

The Chocolate Drops have tried to bridge that gap by recording an instrumental version of “Dixie.” In concert, they play two other wordless minstrel tunes, “Corn Shucking Jig” and “Camptown Hornpipe,” preceded by a five-minute talk about banjo history and minstrelsy.

The 2nd South Carolina band — with members from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia — plays “Dixie,” too; twice, in fact, at their June appearance in Hagerstown to help publicize the Sept. 17 anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. Historians say the song was widely popular before the war; Abraham Lincoln once called it “one of the best tunes I have ever heard.”

Ewers, of Ashuelot, N.H., said there’s no better setting for the music than a Civil War scenario. The band’s outfits, instruments and musical selections — including the occasional jarring lyric — are meant to faithfully represent a group of musically inclined Confederate soldiers or a traveling minstrel troupe.

“When we perform for the public, we try to bring what we think is the way the soldiers themselves would have presented the music,” Ewers said.

Still, the band alters or avoids songs that originally contained the N-word. And they preface songs they consider sensitive with a disclaimer.

“We explain that we are trying only to provide a glimpse into mid-19th century life and that the material we are presenting should in no way be considered representative of our own personal views or beliefs,” Ewers said. “We then point out that the U.S. Constitution absolutely guarantees the right of free speech but offers no protection against being offended. Everyone has the right to walk away if what they are hearing makes them uncomfortable.”

Hagerstown resident Mike Reed said he enjoyed the band’s performance and wasn’t bothered by the blackface dialect.

“I think it’s because it was put to me as period music,” he said. “It’s like reading one of the original Mark Twain books where they use the N-word. I read that as being in the context of that period.”

The 2nd South Carolina is the best-known of dozens of camp bands that have formed in the 25 years since the last major Civil War anniversary. The phenomenon mainly reflects increased access to the internet, enabling musicians and scholars to research and share sheet music, concert programs, soldiers’ diaries and details of period instrument construction.

Accuracy matters to serious re-enactors, from the number of buttons on their uniforms to way in which songs are sung. The 2nd South Carolina band “lets you hear the real sound of a time and place,” according to Civil War Times Illustrated.

The rise of the camp bands coincides with a National Park Service effort to present all aspects of theCivil War, especially African-Americans’ views, during its sesquicentennial events. Such nuances were largely ignored during the war’s 100th anniversary in the early 1960s, before the black civil rights movement peaked.

Dave Culgan, leader of the Camptown Shakers, a West Grove, Pa.-based Union camp band, said he avoids material neither he nor his audiences would enjoy. Despite what he called the “toxic words” of some songs, “there is much great music within that is very worth getting out,” Culgan wrote in an email.

The 2nd South Carolina band is sometimes asked to avoid certain songs, Ewers said. He recalled an academic gathering of about 300 Civil War researchers, some of whom were black. The organizer said they could not play “Kingdom Coming,” an 1862 minstrel song about former slaves rejoicing in their master’s defeat, because it includes the word “darky.”

They complied, but not happily.

“These songs are part of African-American history as well as ours. History is history,” Ewers said.

Banjo historian Robert Winans, a retired Gettysburg College English professor, produced and played on the 1985 album, “The Early Minstrel Show,” regarded as the first scholarly effort to recreate the sound of a pre-war, blackface minstrel group. Winans said the 2nd South Carolina plays songs he wouldn’t perform publicly but that he’s pleased they’re helping broaden Americans’ exposure to the music.

“They’re very good, they’re a very fine group as musicians,” Winans said. “But I would be much happier if they would do a little bit more to provide context and raise the questions that certainly are inherent in the material.”

Banjo historian Greg Adams of Germantown, Md., said camp bands should help their audiences understand how blackface minstrelsy helped move an instrument with African roots into the mainstream of popular music.

“If we’re going to play music from the Civil War era, we also need to understand the historical context in which that music was being used,” Adams said. “That requires explanation — and that is not something that happens frequently enough in terms of how people are presenting the music.”


South Carolina: Researchers map harbor battlefield in Charleston

By Bruce Smith, The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Shipwrecks and other obstructions the Union sank to the bottom of Charleston Harbor during the Civil War – as well as submerged Confederate blockade runners – are mapped in a project that took scientists nearly as long as the four-year battle for the city where the war began.

In this Sept. 6, 2012 photo, the upper reaches of Charleston Harbor in Charleston, S.C. where the Civil War began, is shown. Researchers from the University of South Carolina recently completed an almost four-year project to map the location of wrecks and obstructions from the Civil War on the harbor floor. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith).

The endeavor taken on by James Spirek and his colleagues from the University of South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology cost almost $60,000 and provides a nearly complete map of the war relics in the busy harbor. The project was financed with an American Battlefield Protection grant matched by the institute.

The map includes the locations of the so-called Stone Fleet and 13 wrecked blockade runners. The Union brought the Stone Fleet of 29 old whaling and merchant vessels from New England, filled them with stones and sank the mess to obstruct Confederate shipping.

Spirek’s team located the first Stone Fleet by finding ballast mounds beneath the main shipping channel. A second group of 13 ships is in another channel and its location have proved elusive, so Spirek plans to return to the later this year to explore further.

Four sunken Union ironclads had already been documented.

The map will be useful to harbor managers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for dredging, and to historians to make sure the sites aren’t disturbed.

“Our folks here in our planning department have the information and we will be using it to inform us of things we didn’t know about,” said Brian Williams, the corps project manager for a $20 million study of deepening the harbor shipping channel beyond its present 45 feet.

“The harbor is a big place,” he said. “When you are out there in a small boat trying to tow some equipment … and find that needle in a haystack, it’s a lot more informative to know where other people have found things. It will be very helpful for us.”

When deepening the harbor – local maritime interests want it to be at least 50 feet – the corps has to void or minimize impacts on historical or cultural resources.

When the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was found off Charleston in 1995, it was monitored electronically for five years to prevent looters from diving on it until it could be raised.

Spirek said the location of the other harbor wrecks doesn’t carry as much concern.

“Fortunately, most of the environments the wrecks are in are pretty hostile for sport divers — currents and a lot of black water,” he said. Three of the Union ironclads are buried under substantial sediment while the fourth, the Patapsco, is near the main shipping harbor channel so it’s not in a location where people would be diving.

Charleston, historians say, has been bombarded more than any city in the Western Hemisphere and the battle for it was uncommon.

“Even the commanders on the ground knew it was unusual,” Spirek said. “Here’s a siege, but either side could get whatever supplies it needed. Charleston could get it from the land side. They had a little difficulty getting the blockade runners in, but they are getting in, and the Union is getting its supplies as well.”

Beyond that, there were few secrets on either side. The Confederates could see the location of the Union blockade ships from harbor fortifications while Union sailors could see from ships’ masts where Confederates were putting in harbor obstructions. And, as the war went on, both sides had cracked each other’s signal codes.

Charleston never fell but was abandoned by the Confederates as Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman marched through inland South Carolina cutting off the city’s supply lines. It was unlike Mobile, Ala., which the Union captured by making a run past the harbor fortifications.

“Mobile Bay had two forts compared to 100 guns in Charleston Harbor. And the Army wasn’t going to be following the Navy through so there was no way seven ironclads with 130 men each was going to take Charleston,” Spirek said.

Holding Charleston was symbolically important to the South while the Union had priorities elsewhere.

“It became almost like a holding action,” he said. “The Confederates were stronger and the longer the Union delayed in taking Charleston, the stronger Charleston got.”

On the Internet:

University of South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology map of the Charleston Harbor Battlefield:http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/sciaa/mrd/regsvys_chashbr.html


Charleston Culture: French Huguenot influence & speech

By Centrist Southerner, Southern Nationalist Network

Hardly anyone outside of South Carolina acknowledges the the French Huguenot presence in Charleston. Many of the city’s most prominent families – the Ravenels, the Laurens and the Legarés – are of French Huguenot descent. Their culture is an integral part of the city today.

A famous contemporary example of a Charlestonian French Huguenot is Congressman Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who is the namesake of the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge and served South Carolina’s First Congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1987-1995.

The French Quarter of downtown Charleston, SC

An area in the Southeastern quarter of the peninsula with a significant French Huguenot presence (as well as the city’s French Huguenot church) is referred to as the French Quarter by many Charlestonians.

Many non-Charlestonians seem to forget that we’re a unique Tidewaterese city, rather than a general Southern city. To outsiders we’re seen as the general ‘classical’ Deep South. It’s confusing to many of us here who see ourselves as Southern, but shaped by our many influences that aren’t conventionally ‘South Carolinian.’ Our culture reflects the French Huguenot, British, Sephardic, West African, German, Muskogean, Iroquoian and Siouan ancestry of our city’s inhabitants.

While we exhibit many speech patterns similar to the rest of South Carolina (namely the cheer-chair merger), many in South Carolina can instantly identify us by our speech. Our speech sounds West Indian (even Celtic or Canadian at times) and is closely related to that of Tidewater Virginia, the Outer Banks, Tangier Island and Smith Island. Many older people and some younger people in the city also speak Sea Island Creole, an English creole unique to the coastal counties of Southern North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Northern Florida. Unfortunately, migration from the North and our city being advertised as a ‘desirable place to relocate’ by the government of Mayor Joseph P Riley, Jr has diluted much of the city’s culture.


Texas: Sonar to give best view of Civil War shipwreck

By The Associated Press

The world will soon get its first good look at the wreckage of the only U.S. Navy ship sunk in combat in the Gulf of Mexico during the Civil War, thanks to sophisticated 3-D sonar images that divers have been collecting this week in the Gulf’s murky depths.

The USS Hatteras, an iron-hulled 210-foot ship that sank about 20 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas, in January 1863, has sat mostly undisturbed and unnoticed since its wreckage was found in the early 1970s. But recent storm-caused shifts in the seabed where the Hatteras rests 57 feet below the surface have exposed more of it to inspection, and researchers are rushing to get as complete an image of the ship as possible before the sand and silt shifts back.

“You can mark Gettysburg or Manassas, (but) how do you mark a battlefield in the sea?” said Jim Delgado, the director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the person overseeing the project.

On Monday, a team of archaeologists and technicians began two days of scanning the wreckage using a sonar imaging technology that hadn’t been used yet at sea, Delgado said.

On Monday aboard the research vessel, Manta, researcher Christopher Horrell gleefully pored over computer images of the Hatteras’ stern and paddlewheels that had just been transmitted from the seafloor.

“This is what I got into archaeology for. It’s fantastic,” said Horrell, a senior marine archaeologist for the Department of the Interior.

The images, taken by a roughly 2-foot-long cylindrical device deposited near the wreckage, were used to position divers who then used 3-D scanning devices to map the site. The sand and silt-filled water near the seafloor limited the divers’ visibility to 3 to 10 feet, and it makes filming or photographing the wreckage difficult. But it doesn’t affect the sonar technology, which produces images by analyzing sound waves bouncing off of objects, allowing scientists to capture a more complete look at the wreckage.

Delgado said he’s hoping to post the images online for the public by January, in time for the 150th anniversary of the battle. He said he also hopes researchers review them to look for ways to preserve the wreckage.

“Whatever we can do to make it accessible,” Delgado said. “We want to share this with folks and show people history is real.”

The wreckage site was discovered in the early 1970s by a Rice University professor, according to Amy Borgens, the Texas state marine archaeologist.

“We knew it was here but didn’t know exactly,” she said. “One of the problems with shipwrecks is you can’t take people down there to show them.

“And there’s all this drama with shipwrecks, which are almost always the result of a tragedy.”

The Hatteras wreck is in waters administered by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the ship itself still remains property of the U.S. Navy.

According to the Navy Historical Center, the 1,126-ton Hatteras was built in 1861 in Wilmington, Del., as a civilian steamship. Later that year, it was purchased by the Navy, commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and assigned to join the blockade of the Florida coast to keep vessels from delivering supplies and munitions to the Confederacy. It had an active tour, in Florida, raiding Cedar Keys, destroying at least seven schooners and facilities before being transferred to the Gulf.

On Jan. 6, 1863, it joined the fleet commanded by David Farragut, of “Damn the torpedoes” fame, for similar assignments off of Galveston, which was then the most prominent city and port in Texas, which had joined the Confederacy. Five days later, it pursued and tracked down a three-masted ship that identified itself as British, but later opened fire on the Hatteras from 25 to 200 yards away and revealed it was actually the CSS Alabama, a notorious Confederate raider.

Forty-three minutes later, with the Hatteras was burning and taking on water, Cmdr. Homer Blake surrendered, and he and his crew were taken aboard the Alabama as prisoners, eventually winding up in Jamaica. Of the 126-man crew, two were lost and are believed entombed in the wreck, which became the only Union warship sunk by a Confederate raider in the Gulf.

“It’s hard to believe we’re in the middle of a battlefield,” said Ed Cotham, the project historian, who carried with him Monday an original photograph of Blake, a formal portrait showing the officer in his uniform. “It’s the first time he’s returned since January 1863.”

Before the work began, a wreath was placed in the Gulf, red and white rose petals were scattered on the water’s surface and a priest, the Rev. Stephen Duncan, conducted a brief memorial service for the two crewmen, William Healy, 32, a coal heaver, and John Cleary, 24, a stoker, in what was likely the first religious service for them ever at the site. Both men, from Ireland, probably were Catholic, he said. No relatives are known to be in the U.S. and it likely took years for their relatives back in the Civil War times to learn of their fate, he said.

The Alabama, which was credited with some 60 kills, was eventually sunk thousands of miles away, when a Union ship attacked it in the English Channel in June 1864 after it underwent repairs in a French port.


Virginia: Newman Library Unveils Lincoln, Civil War Exhibit

By Donal Murphy, Virginia Tech Collegiate Times

Virginia Tech is kicking off an exhibition on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War in Newman Library today, along with a corresponding speaker series.

“Lincoln, the Constitution and the Civil War” will cover the life of Lincoln during the crisis and his decisions during that period. A majority of the exhibit will focus on how the Constitution affected Lincoln’s actions. Original and secondary productions of letters from the era, displays pertaining to Lincoln’s actions, an interactive video game, and a Lincoln reenactor will all be featured.

Aaron Purcell, director of special collections at Newman Library, has been overseeing Tech’s involvement in the exhibit and has spent time in Philadelphia learning how to organize the event.

“We thought this was a really good place to do it because this was kind of an intersection between North and South in a lot of way,” he said. “We have an enormous collection of primary sources and secondary sources related to the study of the Civil War.”

Tech’s special libraries divion is well-known for its Civil War archives, which was started by a large donation of several thousand volumes from the era. The archives have been used by historians, reenactment groups and Civil War heritage groups .

In addition to the exhibit, Tech is also running a speaker series focusing on the Civil War and Lincoln himself. The first speaker will be Bud Robertson, professor emeritus of the history department and noted Civil War scholar. Robertson will be speaking tonight at the Inn at Virginia Tech at 7:30 p.m.

Peter Wallenstein, a history professor at Tech, will also be speaking as part of the series. He has been active in the field of 19th Century and Civil War, having written several books and articles pertaining to the era. His focus will be the Morrill Land Grant Act and how it relates to the history of Tech.

“Without the land grant act passed during the Civil War, there is no Virginia Tech,” Wallenstein said.

Tech has combined this Lincoln Exhibit with the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created the land grant college system and allowed for the creation of what would become Tech.

Wallenstein plans to go over how much the school has grown since its creation.

“I’m going to get the school started but I’m also going to bring it to the present. So I’m going to chart the broad contours of the history of the school,” Wallenstein said.

The traveling exhibit, based out of the Philadelphia American Constitution Center, is partially funded by a $2,500 grant from the center, The American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The money is mostly to cover travel costs and speaker fees, while Tech provides the materials beyond the exhibit itself.

The exhibit has been planned since 2009 and was originally set to end in 2013, with Tech being the only Virginia location within the initial 25 venues. The list has since added another 25 venues and will continue for the next few years.


Second Manassas Monument to honor Texas dead

By The Associated Press

MANASSAS, Va. — The Texans who played a key role in the Civil War Battle of Second Manassas are being honored with a monument.

The Texas Historical Commission will dedicate the monument Thursday to Hood’s Texas Brigade at the northern Virginia battlefield. The monument will pay homage to the Texas soldiers who played a critical role in Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s decisive battle in late August 1862.

On the third day of the battle, the Texas Brigade helped Lee’s men collapse the Union’s left flank, forcing the retreat of the Union Army of Virginia. It opened the way for a Confederate invasion of Maryland.

The Texas monument in Manassas is not the first dedicated to Civil War soldiers from that state. Others are in the Wilderness and Gaines’ Mill outside of Richmond.


West Virginia: Harpers Ferry marks Civil War Sesquicentennial

By Cecelia Mason, West Virginia Public Broadcasting

September 10, 2012 · One hundred fifty years ago, in September of 1862, the U.S. Civil War came to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in a big way.

It was 10 months before the western counties of Virginia broke away to form a separate state. On the heels of a big win the first week of September at the battle of Second Manassas, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee wanted to keep up the momentum and bring the war to Pennsylvania so it more directly affected people living in the north.

Sign at the entrance to the battlefield area.

The first battle of the 1862 Maryland Campaign took place September 14 on South Mountain, near Frederick Md. It was followed the next day by what some historians, including Dennis Frye, at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, consider Jackson’s biggest victory, Harpers Ferry.

“This was a key location in the northern Shenandoah Valley,” Frye said. “The railroad passed through here, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was so essential to northern interests. It was a supply line for the north. The north used it to move troops east and west. And there was a bridge across the Potomac here.”

About 14,000 Union soldiers, known as the Railroad Brigade, were stationed at Harpers Ferry. Frye said Lee expected the brigade to move north after the Confederates cut off its supply and communication lines from the east.

“They didn’t, they were ordered to remain here,” Frye said, “and that’s the reason General Lee orders the great assault against Harpers Ferry in mid September of ’62.”

“Keep in mind, Harpers Ferry, that place is basically a ghost town by September 1862,” Mark Snell, director, Shepherd University’s George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, said.

“They had lost basically their means of living, the Harpers Ferry Armory and Arsenal is burned down in April 1861 so Jefferson County economically is hurting at the time,” Snell said.

Despite the hard economic times, Frye said the population of Harpers Ferry grew prior to the battle. Most of that growth came from former slaves. About 2,000 came to the town seeking refuge behind Federal lines.

“These people were experiencing freedom and living here working in many cases for the Federal soldiers who occupied the town,” Frye said. “It was the very first job they had where they got paid for their work,”

“Many of them we know were living here in the lower town living in the buildings along Shenandoah Street, High Street, Potomac Street and during the battle of Harpers Ferry they were hunkered down here under the protection of the Federal Army,” Frye said.

But the freedom the slaves experienced was short-lived. Once the Confederates controlled Harpers Ferry they seized not only the Union soldiers, but the African Americans as well, and returned them to slavery.

Understanding the topography around Harpers Ferry is essential to understanding why many historians consider this Stonewall Jackson’s greatest victory of the war.

This is where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet. Rising up from the confluence are three steep forested mountains laced with rocky cliffs, Maryland Heights, Bolivar Heights and Loudon Heights.

Union Col. Dixon Miles and most of his 14,000 troops were located in a good spot, on top of Bolivar Heights with the Confederates on lower ground at School House Ridge.

So Jackson ordered his troops on the night of September 14 to snake their way along the Shenandoah River, hoisting cannons up the steep banks and ravines, so they were situated at the Chambers Farm on Bolivar Heights behind the Union soldiers.

“So on the morning of the fifteenth at first there’s this thick fog that covers the Potomac and Shenandoah Valley but as the sun begins to rise and burn it off, it’s like a white curtain that rises on the stage of Harpers Ferry,” Frye said. “And as that curtain rises Confederate gunners can see the Union troops and they open up.”

Frye said after about an hour, as the Confederate infantry was preparing to launch an assault from the Chambers farm, Miles met with his officers and they decided to surrender.

At about 9 a.m. on September the 15th, a Monday morning, the white flags go up,” Frye said.

One factor in Jackson’s ability to capture Harpers Ferry that September day 150 years ago was the lack of experience of the Union soldiers.

“Jackson’s veterans, most of them had been in the army for 16, 17 months, since the outbreak of the war. These were hardened veteran soldiers,” Frye said. “On the other hand, the Federal soldiers fighting here, about two thirds of Col. Miles’ men had only been in the army for three weeks.”

“Now this doesn’t mean they went to boot camp and then were in the field for three weeks,” Frye added. “They’ve had a uniform on for three weeks and arrive here and are suddenly surrounded by the most feared general in the Confederacy, Stonewall Jackson.”

Historian Tom Clemens said there are several reasons for the disparity in experience between the north and south. The way the Confederacy recruited soldiers meant those who were inexperienced always served beside those with experience. On the other hand the Federal government recruited entire regiments consisting of soldiers with no experience.

In addition the north had closed the recruiting offices and by mid summer of 1862 the Lincoln administration realized this was a mistake. Clemens said the federal government launched a major recruiting campaign that included a song called ‘We’re Coming Father Abraham 300,000 More.’

That meant a lot of new, barely-trained recruits arriving in Washington, D.C., just in time to fight the seasoned Confederate Army at Harpers Ferry, Va. and South Mountain and Sharpsburg, Md.

“This would be criminal today, people would be brought up on charges ordering soldiers that inexperienced into combat,” Clemens said. “But this is a national emergency.”

Once Stonewall Jackson’s troops secured Harpers Ferry, they headed up the Potomac River towards Sharpsburg where they planned to meet up with Gen. Lee.

Dennis Frye said it was Lee’s plan to continue the march towards Pennsylvania.

“General Lee never intended to fight at Antietam, that might surprise a lot of your listeners that was not the plan,” Frye said. “The plan was to wait for Jackson’s forces to come and join him from Harpers Ferry and then move from Antietam to his objective in Pennsylvania.”

But Lee’s plan did not pan out. Tomorrow we’ll look at how fighting at Sharpsburg turned into the bloodiest one day battle on American soil.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will commemorate the sesquicentennial of the battle Sept. 13-16, 2012, with a program called “Prelude to Freedom: the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry.”