Alabama: Hurricane Isaac uncovers Confederate ‘mystery ship’

By Paul Conner, The Daily Caller

In the latest installment of a spooky pattern of events, Hurricane Isaac uncovered a boat believed to be a Civil War blockade runner on the beaches of Gulf Shores, Ala.

Photos of the ship were posted to Facebook by Meyer Vacation Rentals. Gulf Shores is about an hour’s drive from Mobile, Ala., to the west and Pensacola, Fla., to the east.

The ship was partially uncovered during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and in 2008 Hurricane Ike uncovered more of the boat.

Remnants of a ship believed to be a Confederate blockade runner.

When Hurricane Isaac swept through the Gulf Coast, making landfall to the west in Louisiana, the 9-12 foot storm surge pushed away more of the sand around the boat. When the water receded, it revealed most of the boat’s hull.

On its Facebook page, Meyer Vacation Rentals noted the uncanny pattern of events.

“Hmmm … 2004, 2008, 2012. All hurricanes with names beginning with I. All within a couple of weeks on the calendar,” the note read. “While we hope it’s the end of the pattern, we must admit it sure is interesting to see it appear!”

“That’s kind of spooky,” Meyer Vacation Rentals spokeswoman Sarah Kuzma told The Daily Caller with a laugh.

Some historians theorize that it was a blockade runner called the Monticello, although others say it could be the Rachel, built in 1919. Others say it is the Aurora, a rum-runner during Prohibition. Each theory has its downsides, so the ship’s identity remains a mystery, reports.

On April 19, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the Union blockade, which aimed to cut off Southern trade routes with European nations that were eager to buy Southern cotton.

“For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid,” Lincoln proclaimed.

“If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the Commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port,” he continued.

Blockade runners, possibly like the one found in Gulf Shores, were sleek, high-speed, low-cargo ships that tried to evade detainment by Union vessels and transport what few goods they could to interested buyers.

Kuzma said that the waters have mostly receded, although swimming is still not allowed. But she said that she is expecting a fair-weather Labor Day weekend, and that occupancy has actually risen despite the storm.

“It just makes me wonder what else is under my feet when I’m on the beach, because only these storms uncover this.


Florida: Confederate flag use prompts fight on high school campus

By Stephanie Wang, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

TARPON SPRINGS — After the last bell rang Wednesday, a student walked across the Tarpon Springs High School campus.

Around his shoulders, he wore a Confederate flag.

The controversial symbol sparked a fight among students, school principal Clinton Herbic said. As at least four students brawled, many other students jumped in to stop it.

Nobody was seriously hurt. But brothers Michael Manis, a 16-year-old junior, and Peter Manis, a 15-year-old freshman, were attacked as part of an ongoing racial feud, their family said Thursday.

It was Michael who carried the flag, which is most commonly associated with the Confederate cause. It’s a battle flag — a blue cross with white stars over a red background. But the 19th century symbol was also flown during the 20th century as an expression of resistance to the civil rights movement.

Herbic said the school would look at each case individually if students brought the Confederate flag on campus.

“Their First Amendment right does not stop at this schoolhouse door,” he said, adding that the school would respond to the use of a Confederate flag if it threatened the safety of students or led to a student being harmed.

Michael Manis carried the flag Wednesday because he “loves the flag” and “respects why the flag is here,” said his 23-year-old brother, Chris.

“Apparently, all the African-American guys found that offensive,” he said.

A St. Petersburg College student, Chris Manis contacted the Tampa Bay Timeson behalf of the family because his parents mostly speak Greek.

The school is investigating how the fight started. Herbic said he heard conflicting reports about whether racial slurs or other offensive words were uttered.

By the Manis family’s account, a group of 20 to 25 students confronted Michael and tried to grab the flag. When Michael pushed them away, he was punched. Michael fought back in self-defense, Chris Manis said, with Peter joining in to support him.

The two brothers now face a 10-day suspension, the family said.

The school is still pursuing disciplinary actions against all four students involved in the fight, the principal said.

Citing privacy laws, Herbic declined to identify the students by name or race.

He said he hopes the incident serves as a learning experience for the entire school.

“We’re a microcosm of society,” he said. “Anything could happen, and we hope we react in the correct way.”

But problems still exist between “any Greek person and this group” that attacked the brothers, Chris Manis said.

“Now it’s just going to be one big war,” he said, “and I don’t understand why.”

The Manises say they intend to pursue legal action against the students involved, the principal and a school resource officer.

“Hate crimes,” Chris Manis said, “can go both ways.”


Georgia: County considers purchase of historic property

By G.G. Rigsby,

It’s a 71-percent-off sale that didn’t interest Effingham County commissioners.

Commissioners declined at their Aug. 21 meeting to commit to a $150,000 match to purchase 250 acres at Ebenezer Creek, a pristine cypress swamp with frontage on the creek and the Savannah River that was historically significant during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

George Washington traveled the road on the property, which runs between Augusta and Savannah.

And during the Civil War, dozens of freed black slaves drowned in the swollen Ebenezer Creek. A pontoon bridge was pulled up by federal troops before they could cross.

After public outcry over the deaths, President Lincoln approved Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, known as the “40 acres and a mule” provision granting property to former slaves.

State tourism experts say it’s a “world-class” historic site that should be preserved.

The property is privately owned by a group of people who have a hunting club. The only way people can see the site is if they get permission first.

Despite that hurdle, busloads of tourists have visited the site this year.

Federal grant

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is applying for a federal grant to purchase the property, with 71 percent of the money coming from federal funds and the remaining 29 percent coming from Effingham County.

The county’s share is a little higher than the standard 25 percent to boost the chances that it would win the grant, said Sonny Emmert, coastal resource specialist with the DNR.

He said the grant that’s being sought, from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, is very competitive. But he thinks the ecological and historical attributes of the property give it a good shot at being awarded.

Emmert, who is based in Brunswick, said the estimated cost of $2,000 per acre for 250 acres came from County Administrator David Crawley, who spoke with the owners to find out if they would even consider selling the land.

Emmert said the price is a ballpark figure and that with grants the idea is to come in high because you can negotiate a lower price later but you can’t increase the amount later.

He said the federal grant would require an extensive appraisal that would ensure that neither the federal government nor the county would pay too much for the land.

Emmert said the county commission would have the opportunity to back out of the deal even after it signed the commitment letter.

“More than likely, it’ll work out to be less,” Emmert said. “We needed a number for the grant.

“It’s a national grant so we’re facing some pretty heavy competition,” he said. He said the only similar grants received in the state of Georgia were related to the Altamaha River.

If the county purchases the property, it could ensure that the cypress trees are not cut — something the private landowners could do now and which would be very lucrative for them, said Betty Renfro, secretary of the Historic Effingham Society.

“You can’t find a place more involved in history in Georgia outside downtown Savannah,” Renfro said. “If given the proper funds, it could be a jewel in tourism in this area. …This is a once-in-a-lifetime historical opportunity.”

The grant would allow passive recreation at the site — walking trails, nature trails, bird viewing and educational activities — but not active recreation such as a boat ramp.

State tourism experts who visited the county last year presented a five-year plan to boost tourism. They said the site has potential as a National Heritage area.

Fiscal prudence

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Aug. 21 not to send a letter of financial commitment for $150,000. Commissioner Reggie Loper stepped down during the 10-minute debate and vote, citing a conflict of interest. Two of his stepsons are among the owners of the property.

“Two-thousand dollars an acre for wetlands seems kind of pricey,” said Commissioner Steve Mason.

Commissioner Phil Kieffer said the current owners purchased the land in 2004 for $105,000.

Commissioner Vera Jones said that fact wasn’t included in the information that came from county staff, who recommended that the commissioners sign the letter of financial support.

Commission Chairman Dusty Zeigler said the county “is sitting on enough property.” He said there seems to be no real plan for the property and that the move would take it off the tax rolls.

Still alive

There’s still time for commissioners to change their minds. The letter of financial support from the county would have to be done by Sept. 7, which is when the full grant application is due.

That leaves one more county commission meeting for supporters to try to convince commissioners to get on board.

Crawley said he’ll ask the commissioners if they have any interest in acquiring the property.

Emmert said he would be glad to come to a workshop to help explain the grant process. He also said it’s possible that the financial commitment letter could be reworded to something more palatable to commissioners.

“It could say they’re committed to the project, whatever the amount shakes out to be,” he said.


North Carolina: Charlotte put men, ships, gunpowder into Civil War

By Sam Shapir, Charlotte Observer

Review: “Civil War Charlotte: Last Capital of the Confederacy” by Michael C. Hardy

Unlike many towns and hamlets destroyed during the Civil War, Charlotte was spared the cauldron of battle. Although Tar Heel soldiers suffered among the most casualties of any Confederate state, North Carolina did not experience war to the same degree as its neighbors Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina.

It might have gone another way.

In February 1865, Mecklenburg County residents were on high alert. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s forces were marching in its general direction, having left South Carolina’s capital in ashes. However, after destroying much of the rail system north of Columbia, Sherman veered towards Fayetteville, to connect with Federal forces in control of Wilmington.

By then, the Confederacy was into its death throes. On April 19, 1865, “Mecklenburg County and Charlotte were abuzz with activity on the impending arrival of Stoneman’s raiders.” However, the closest the Union came was the Catawba River, outside Mecklenburg County, and after setting a bridge ablaze and skirmishing with Confederate cavalry, they withdrew.

“Civil War Charlotte: Last Capital of the Confederacy” is Michael C. Hardy’s new book. Hardy, a prolific author of Civil War histories, has produced a long-overdue account of Charlotte’s war (and postwar) years. Carefully researched and engagingly written, it makes a strong case for Charlotte’s significance to the Confederacy – not as a site for battle, but a place for industry to make battle possible.

The railroad had a lot to do with it. Throughout the war, trains were the life’s blood of both sides (making rails constant targets of sabotage). Before the war, Charlotte had been a major railroad junction, but starting around 1862 it became indispensable. Supplies, machinery and men moved in and out, bound by rail to embattled points across the South.

Charlotte’s accessibility by rail would also factor into the government’s decision to construct the Confederate Naval Yard in what is now known as First Ward. Shipbuilding became the primary industry, but the city also operated the Sulphuric Acid Works, Mecklenburg Iron Works, and North Carolina Powder Manufacturing Company.

With each year, the demands of the Confederate war machine accelerated Charlotte’s growth.

“Wartime industry expanded the commercial district of Charlotte, while bringing hundreds of new people, laborers and other refugees to the Queen City.”

Hardy also devotes a chapter to individuals – long forgotten – swept up by the conflict. Written as mini-biographies, and accompanied by archival photos, this section turns out to be one of the most illuminating.

We learn, for example, of Egbert Ross, who attended Charlotte’s N.C. Military Institute. Soon after becoming captain of a militia group called the Charlotte Grays, Ross and his unit were transferred to a brigade headed towards Gettysburg. Killed on the first day of that great battle, Ross is buried in Charlotte’s Elmwood Cemetery, along with 100 other Confederates. (Hardy cites an official statistic listing 638 Mecklenburg County soldiers killed during the war, although he estimates that number as low.)

And what of the book’s subtitle? While it’s true Charlotte was the “last capital of the Confederacy,” the fact alone can be misleading. As the Union Army converged upon the Confederate capital of Richmond, Jefferson Davis and his presidential cabinet evacuated. Two weeks later, on April 19, 1865, they arrived in Charlotte, accompanied by cavalry and what was left of the Confederate treasury.

Today, a marker on Tryon Street identifies the spot where Davis stood when informed of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Seven days later, Davis and his cabinet met for what would be the final time, at the William Phifer home on North Tryon Street.

Hardy’s book has been timed perfectly to coincide with the Civil War’s 150th anniversary. Historians, both casual and scholarly, will find much to admire.

Sam Shapiro is adult system program director for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. He also teaches film studies at UNC-Charlotte.

N.C. museum to display Gone with the Wind film items

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Sprinkled throughout an exhibit of memorabilia from the movie “Gone with the Wind” at the N.C. Museum of History are reminders that racial attitudes during the era when the film was released had not changed much since the period shown on screen.

The exhibit, “Real to Reel: The Making of Gone with the Wind,” opens Friday. On display are 120 items from the personal collection of Jim Tumblin, a former head of the Universal Studios makeup and hair department who lives in Oregon and Hawaii.

It includes costumes, Vivien Leigh’s Academy Award and the story boards created by William Cameron Menzies. Curator Katie Edwards also notes the ugliness of the times, such as the original segregation of the set in Culver City, Calif., and the banning of the black actors from the December 1939 premiere in Atlanta.

“Just like you can’t talk about the Civil War without talking about slavery, you can’t talk about ‘Gone with the Wind’ without talking about racism,” said Steve Wilson, film curator at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, home of producer David O. Selznick’s papers.

Selznick decided early on not to mention the Ku Klux Klan in the movie, Wilson said, and the n-word also wasn’t used. Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy, and Butterfly McQueen, who played Prissy, were three-dimensional characters, which was unusual for the times, yet they also were stereotypes, he said.

The curator’s notes highlight aspects of the era in which the movie was filmed, including this one: The Culver City, Calif., set was segregated until an extra complained about the separate bathrooms to Clark Gable, who said the actors would quit if it continued.

The stars of the show are the clothes: Scarlett O’ Hara’s dress from the Shantytown scene; Bonnie Blue’s velvet dress from her final scene; Belle Watling’s burgundy velvet jacket and fur muff; and the uniform that Ashley Wilkes wore when he returned home at the end of the Civil War.

The Shantytown dress was Tumblin’s first acquisition after he saw it on the studio floor and learned it was going to be thrown away. He bought it and a rack of clothes from other movies for $20. He paid $8,500 for his next item, Scarlett’s straw hat from the Twelve Oaks barbecue, and $500,000 for Leigh’s Academy Award.

The exhibit also includes a copy of the script that Selznick gave McDaniel, who became the first black person to win an Academy Award, and a copy of “Gone with the Wind” that Tumblin owned.

Tumblin said he fell in love with the movie when he first saw it at age 7. His mother gave him money for a bus ticket and movie admission. When he returned, he told her the movie ended with a woman eating dirt. That scene actually marks the intermission of the four-hour movie.

“She gave me another $1 the next day and said to stick around until it said “The End,” Tumblin said in a phone interview Thursday.

Wilson is working on an exhibit in 2014 to mark the 75th anniversary of the movie. He believes it was popular when it came out during the Great Depression because the lead character, Scarlett, gets through tough times herself.

“The survivor aspect of her character really resonates with people,” he said.

The exhibit complements three historical exhibits, including one about North Carolina and the Civil War, said museum director Ken Howard. Accompanying programs focus on how filmmakers and writers have created a romanticized version of the Old South and how fiction and film have reinterpreted Civil War history.

“Gone With the Wind” is an idealized version of a past that never existed, said Dale Pollock, professor of cinema studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. It remains popular because it’s a beautifully made movie, he said. “If you hear that score cue, it evokes emotion in you,” he said. “It’s almost impossible not to.”

It was racist, but not as virulent as others of that time, he said.

“We have to recognize it as a document that reflects a certain time looking back at the Civil War,” he said.

Edwards said she hopes the exhibit will be popular with all races. The movie “is definitely a romanticized version of the Old South,” she said. ” … That’s why we delve into the racial conflicts.”


South Carolina: USC historian recounts property seizures that hurt Confederate morale

By BRUCE SMITH – The Associated Press

WALTERBORO — In a little-known chapter of Civil War history, while Confederate troops fought in the field, lawyers called receivers were back home systematically seizing an estimated $20 million worth of property and goods from anyone suspected of having Union leanings.

The system robbed the Confederate government of needed funds and tore at the morale and loyalty of Southerners as their fledgling nation fought for its existence, said Rodney Steward, a historian who teaches at the University of South Carolina-Salkahatchie.

“What you find is there was another layer to the Confederate home front. It’s ugly. It’s really ugly,” he said. “It’s a state that is highly intolerant of any type of dissent. It’s highly suspicious of its own people to the point where it deprives some of them of their lives.”

Steward has written a biography of David Schenck, a receiver for the Western Piedmont District of North Carolina, and is working on a second book on how the process worked across the Confederacy. Steward’s book “David Schenck and the Contours of Confederate Identity” was published this summer by the University of Tennessee Press.

In the summer of 1861, the U.S. Congress passed an act allowing confiscation of any property, including slaves, belonging to anyone in rebellion. The Confederate Congress quickly countered with the Act of Sequestration.

“It asserts that the government of the Confederacy will confiscate all goods, chattel and credits belonging to Northerners,” Steward said. There were about 100 receivers appointed across the Confederacy and only a fraction of what was seized got to Richmond.

Receivers moved to seizing property owned by anyone felt to have Northern leanings.

In one case, property was seized from a North Carolina widow whose son lived in California and was considered an enemy alien. In another, a man who owned Wilmington property was delayed for a time on the Outer Banks behind Union lines. When he finally returned home, his property had been seized and he was turned over to the local military authorities as being a Union sympathizer.

That usually meant people were hanged, Steward said.

“Receivers could order people to give account of their property. And if they find what they are looking for – and even if they don’t sometimes and just made it up – they could issue a writ to seize the property and sell it at auction,” he said.

Much of the property is thought to have gone to the people who turned in neighbors. A large part also ended up with the receivers or an inner circle of ultra-nationalists like Schenck, who left extensive diaries, Steward said.

“In his diary, if you read between the lines, if people complain about the war it’s because they are disloyal and they lack virtue – they are not true to the cause. It almost sounds like Nazi Germany,” Steward said.

Schenck writes about building a new house in Lincolnton “at the precise moment that the economy of North Carolina and the Confederacy wasn’t just getting bad, the bottom was literally falling out,” Steward said.

He estimates Schenck personally seized as much as $50,000, about $2 million in today’s money.

While the Act of Sequestration was to compensate Southerners who had lost property to the Union, Steward says he’s not found any evidence money went to reimburse people.

And he wonders how many New South fortunes may have be built on money taken from fellow Southerners. The system, he said, hurt the Southern cause at a time when it needed support from everyone.

“I think sequestration in the long run had the effect of crushing the will and creating a profound sense of disillusionment,” he said.

Tennessee: New Civil War Trail Marker Unveiled
HENDERSON, Tenn.- If you are a student of the Civil War, there is now another site on the list of Tennessee Civil War trails.

Wednesday, local and state leaders installed an interpretive sign in Chester County noting the impact of the war in one city. The sign outlines the occupation of Henderson by Confederate troops during February and March, 1862. The troops were led by General Benjamin J. Lee.

Leaders said the signage will help draw visitors to the area.

“It’s designed to generate visitors to come to your town, to enjoy your town, to bring tourism in the those dollars for your community when they eat in your restaurant and when they stay in your hotel and when they shop in your shops,” said Beth Naylor with the Chester County. Leadership Alumni, Class of 2010.

The site is one of many listed across Tennessee highlighting Civil War history across the Volunteer State.