Sunday, August 19, 2018

Lincoln hat, gloves may be auctioned

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, which supports Lincoln’s museum in Springfield, Ill., has found itself $9.7 million in debt on a loan it took out 11 years ago to purchase a collection of rare artifacts. Now, hundreds of Lincoln’s personal possessions, including a beaver-fur stovepipe hat that Lincoln purportedly wore, as well as letters and other artifacts, are at risk of ending up on the auction block. • Article

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

No longer missing in action: Atlanta Cyclorama painting restoration brings back trimmed sky, two vertical sections in battlefield

Decatur Road swath was gone for 97 years (AHC photos)
This is what the result of the lopping looked like at Grant Park

And the section returned this year (AHC)
Over the past year and a half, a team restoring the "Battle of Atlanta" cyclorama painting has worked to make it whole again -- literally.

They have added 7 feet of sky and painted two sections of the circular mural that were removed over the years, for different reasons.

“The main driving force for us in conserving this painting has been to return to it to what the artists originally intended in 1886,” said Gordon L. Jones, senior military historian and curator at the Atlanta History Center, the cyclorama’s new home.

When the attraction opens in February 2019, AHC officials say patrons will see a painting that will transport them back to when it was completed by German, Swiss and other artists in Milwaukee. 

Gone will be a number of clouds painted in over the years to cover water damage and incorrect shades of paint dabbed on the Belgian linen during previous restorations.

Visitors also will see much more sky than when the giant painting was at Grant Park. Before it was put in that building, portions were lopped off during the attraction’s traveling days. 

(Those who saw the painting at Grant Park will remember sitting on a revolving platform. That’s gone. Instead, visitors will stand on a circular stage and turn to take it all in, as the artists intended, Jones said.)

The Atlanta Cyclorama depicts a crucial moment during the July 22, 1864, Battle of Atlanta. Union Maj. Gen. John "Black Jack" Logan is rallying his troops to successfully thwart a Confederate breakthrough at the Troup Hurt House east of downtown.

Trees to the left of the Troup Hurt House have made a return
(Photos courtesy of AHC)
Artists earlier this year painted in a 6-foot wide section showing Decatur Road. That vertical strip had been trimmed so that the painting could squeeze into its Grant Park home in 1921.

The other restored section was near the hip-roofed Troup Hurt House (left). That 54-inch-wide strip was excised between 1892 (when the painting was in a building on Edgewood Avenue) and 1901.

Jones said there were two reported instances of major damage during the time – from a roof collapse during an 1893 snowstorm and a roof collapse, rot and structural failure in 1898, when the mural was in an early building at Grant Park.

“My guess would be that the excision was in 1893, because shortly thereafter they rolled up the painting to move to Grant Park and probably just lopped off the damaged section before they rehung it,” he said. 

Photo placed on viewing platform (Civil War Picket photo)

Photographs (above) taken shortly after the painting was finished have been invaluable to the restoration effort.

Jones told the Picket a few years ago that the history center had 1:10 scale preliminary drawings that were given to the original artists in Milwaukee.

“To reproduce the preliminary drawing, sets of 10 photos were made of the entire length and distributed to the artists working on the painting,” Jones said in 2014. “We now have seven of the 10 – a great aid to restoration – but we do not have the section covering the Decatur Road – only the photo of the finished painting.”

With the added sections, the art work is now 371 feet in circumference and 49 feet high.

1886 artists worked from these sketches (AHC)

I recently took part in a 90-minute, behind-the-scenes tour of the painting restoration and the locomotive Texas, made famous in the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn. It had been three years since I last saw the monumental painting depicting moments of triumph, loss, chaos and resolve on a hot summer day in 1864.

City officials in 2014 announced the painting would be relocated to the history center. In early 2017, the mural was rolled onto two huge scrolls and trucked from Grant Park to the history center.

Coming soon: A deeper look at the painting's restoration and what's planned for exhibits and interpretation.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Hidden tattoos revealed pride, patriotism

Atlas Obscura: “The Civil War helped tattooing begin a transition from the military to wider society, and ushered in the style of classic tattooing unique to America. Tattooing had long been widespread among sailors, but during the war men who would never have considered getting a tattoo before wanted a way to show their allegiance to their cause and to identify themselves in the event of death." • Article

Monday, August 6, 2018

Beauregard statue time capsule opened

History was revealed when a time capsule from beneath the P.G.T. Beauregard pedestal was opened in New Orleans' French Quarter. The box contained newspapers, currency and other items. The time capsule was placed under the monument in 1913. Historians said while there was some water damage to the artifacts, they believe much of the items can be salvaged. The equestrian statue of Beauregard was taken down by a crane more than a year ago after a contentious public battle. •Article

Friday, August 3, 2018

Portion of Confederate defensive trench will be preserved in new Atlanta-area park

A view of the trench looking southwest (Georgia Battlefields Association)

A new park northwest of Atlanta will feature the remnants of a trench briefly occupied by Confederates during the Federal army’s push on Atlanta in summer 1864.

Cobb County commissioners last year purchased 94 acres from the Kemp family – which has been in the area for seven generations – for $6.5 million. An opening date for the park, off Burnt Hickory Road west of Marietta and above Harrison High School, has not been set.

At the time of the purchase, county officials said they were grateful because the Kemp family could have made more money by selling to developers.

Charlie Crawford, head of the Georgia Battlefields Association, said experts indicate the defensive trench was occupied for a few days by Mercer’s Georgia brigade after Confederates withdrew from the New Hope Church line on June 4, 1864.

“Mercer’s brigade and Vaughan’s Tennessee brigade to its right (northeast) were in an advanced position from the Lost Mountain-Brushy Mountain Line and were withdrawn to the main line not long after Federal forces advanced,” the GBA said in a recent newsletter lauding the park acquisition. “The adjacent advanced position on Pine Mountain farther northeast was abandoned after the death of Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk there on 14 June 1864.”

Tommy Kemp provided a tour of the property (GBA)

Federal and Rebel forces clashed on June 15-16 at Gilgal Church, just east of the park.

Crawford, who attended a recent park preview, said the trench “is easily discernible but not exceptional.” He estimates it to be at least several dozen yards long. It continues north across a road to property still owned by the Kemps. There are still some cows on the land.

“A trail already crosses the trench, and I assume a better trail will be part of the county plan,” he said. An historic map in Baylor University Libraries’ digital collection shows the Kemp farm and mill.

Charlie Monroe, natural resource manager for Cobb County parks, said the master planning process will begin later this year. "Included in that process are public input meetings where residents are encouraged to provide us with feedback on what they want to see in the park," Monroe said. The master plan and design documents will guide decisions on how to interpret the trench, he said.

Monroe said there is no money currently available for development and construction.

County Commissioner Bob Weatherford told the Marietta Daily Journal last fall that the property near Allatoona Creek has two homes, a family cemetery and the Civil War site, which he said will be fenced off and protected. At that time, plans were for the tract to be a passive park, emphasizing the natural habitat.