Thursday, May 26, 2016

Descendants want soldier to get medal

The New Jersey descendants of a Massachusetts man who believe their ancestor was the soldier who actually captured Confederate Major Gen. George Washington Custis Lee during the Civil War are hoping to get the Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to him. • Article

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

All is hushed at Shiloh: For Memorial Day weekend, park to display images of the fallen

Sgt. John P. Wright was killed, buried at Shiloh (NPS)

For Memorial Day, Shiloh National Military Park asked residents of counties surrounding the battlefield to send photos of soldiers and sailors who have died in America’s conflicts.

About 30 images will be displayed on a “Wall of Honor” beginning Friday at the visitor center, said park ranger Heather Henson. Ten served in the Civil War, while others fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere. A few were laid to rest after their military service.

“It is a way people can put a piece of their history into our exhibit,” Henson said.

Press releases went out to media in Hardin and McNairy counties in Tennessee and Alcorn County, Ms. A man living in Georgia found out from a newspaper in Tishomingo County, Ms. Some submissions came from elsewhere via social media.

The April 6-7, 1862, battle brought a staggering 23,746 casualties. A Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. Monday in the park’s national cemetery will remember those who died.

Among the Civil War soldiers whose images will be displayed are Capt. Humphrey Bate, 2nd Tennessee, who died at Shiloh, and Ole H. Gorehamer (or Gohamer), 12th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, who fought at Shiloh but died the next year of dysentery at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.

Henson said relatives of two World War II soldiers provided significant details of their service.

Also this weekend, at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, park patrons will enjoy the first of the park’s summer concert series. The free program features Bobby Horton and Olde Town Brass.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Field hospital flag exhibited in Atlanta aided stretcher-bearers, witnessed war's horrors

(Photographs courtesy of Atlanta History Center)

Before he became a renowned landscape and marine painter, Harrison Bird Brown created signs and banners. During the Civil War, his business in Portland, Maine, produced a U.S. Army field hospital flag that had a distinctive yellow background and contrasting green “H” for hospital (style specified in January 1864 Army regulations). One of Brown’s flags is among only a dozen such banners believed to have survived the Civil War.

Gordon Jones
The flag was donated last year to the Atlanta History Center, where it is displayed near the “Agonies of the Wounded” case at the center’s “Turning Point: The American Civil War” permanent exhibition. The Picket asked AHC senior military historian Gordon Jones about the donation from John and Joyce Shmale of Mahomet, Ill. (Jones first wrote about the gift in Civil War News). His responses have been edited.

Q. Any clue in which theater it was used?

A. None. It was made in Maine, so you have to think Eastern Theater, but you never know. 

Q. Why did the Schmales (who each have worked in the medical field) donate it specifically to the AHC? Have they done so previously?

A. No, this was their first donation to us, but not their first donation to a museum. They were looking for a good home, not to sell it, and decided on the AHC due to a recommendation from their appraiser. On our end, we were thrilled beyond words. The DuBoses (an Atlanta father and son who amassed thousands of items) collected for 35 years and never found one – and this is not something you find every day, or something you can just buy from the antique store. We probably would have never had one had it not been for this donation. And it really helps our interpretation of medical treatment during the Civil War, which we cover in “Turning Point,” and is included on all the tours, especially for school groups.   

Q. On the conservation of the 63-by-46-inch wool bunting flag by Kate R. Daniels, how much was involved in it? What shape was the flag beforehand?

A. The flag was in good shape beforehand and needed very little cleaning. The main thing Kate did was prepare the mount: a backboard to which is attached layers of soft cotton batting covered by plain-cotton cloth, then she lightly stitched the flag to the cloth. Then we had a local framer who prepares the frame – powder-coat aluminum frame with U/V-protected plexiglass front and cleats on the back for securing to the wall. This frame has to be precisely matched to the measurements of the backboard (everything has to be custom-made). The idea is that once the mount is placed in the frame, the flag is “sandwiched” securely between the cotton cloth and the plex front, preventing it from sliding around, stretching fibers, etc. It’s the safest way to treat a flat textile item like this. And, of course, we wanted the flag on display as soon as possible.

Q. Any general thoughts on the flag's significance? Why are they so rare?

A. It’s like a lot of other Civil War artifacts: That which was most common shall be least common. In other words, what was ordinary back then was not considered worthy of saving and was discarded, hence making it incredibly rare today. That is why enlisted soldier’s uniforms are so much rarer than fancy officer’s uniforms. Our artifact storage area is filled with wedding dresses and tuxedos. but no blue jeans – that sort of thing.   

Q. Did a yellow or red field hospital flag prove effective in deterring enemy fire on the sites?

A. It was probably not about deterring enemy fire as much as being recognizable to one’s own stretcher-bearers in the smoke and confusion of battle. The field hospitals should have been far enough from the front lines to avoid direct fire, but they had to be easy to find in order to bring in the wounded quickly. The same type of flags, but larger, were used to designate buildings used as more permanent hospitals in towns and cities -- so again, to make sure everybody knew this was a medical facility. It was a way of making medical care more timely and efficient. If you recall how unprepared and overwhelmed the medical services on both sides were early in the war – hence the terrible suffering of the wounded -- you know why this was so important. (About 30,000 emergency amputations were conducted by U.S. Army surgeons during the war.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Strike up the bands! Sounds of brass will waft over Gettysburg during annual festival

(Photos courtesy of Gettysburg Brass Band Festival)

Perhaps there is no more appropriate place for a U.S. brass band festival to take place than Gettysburg, Pa., where history and the arts intersect.

Lawn chairs, a blanket and a yearning for Americana are all that is required for those who attend the Gettysburg Brass Band Festival, which got its start 19 years ago.

“You will have all types of music played, from traditional marches and overtures, to jazz, patriotic songs and popular songs arranged for brass bands,” said Ben Jones, a member of the June 9-11 festival’s steering committee. The event is free.

Fourteen bands will perform around town and at Gettysburg National Military Park

Among them are the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, Spires Brass Band, the Rockville Brass Band and the Atlantic Brass Band. Most of the performances are at the historic Lutheran Theological Seminary.

The Wildcat Regiment Band (above), representing the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, will perform at 2 p.m. June 11 on the lawn of the park’s visitor center. The band will have a “Grand Concert” at 6 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Monument.

“They have been here every year. They are very popular and an excellent playing band,” said Jones, a retired school band director who performs with his own band, Gettysburg Brass. “Those old horns are a challenge. They dress in military style from the period.”

Jones and other members of the volunteer-driven nonprofit group tout the festival’s contribution to the town’s culture and tourism.

Benfield Brass Band debuted at the Gettysburg festival

But there’s another benefit. Nearly all those in the brass bands are well out of high school.

“If you look at our mission statement, we have a ‘life after high school’ emphasis and we want to show students in high school bands there are opportunities to play after high school,” said Jones. “For the most part they volunteer because they love to play.”

Most of the groups who come to Gettysburg follow the British-style brass band model.

Jones told the Picket the musical form represents 19th-century town bands. Musicians often joined regimental bands during the Civil War.

A traditional British-style band uses cornets, which put out a mellow sound, instead of the trumpet, which makes a brighter sound. Tenor horns, trombones, flugelhorns, Eb and Bb tubas and euphoniums are featured, along with percussion.

The typical band will feature 25 to 30 musicians. The Hanover Lancers will bring about 60.

“I am a tuba player and I love the sound of brass bands,” said Jones. “It is such a gorgeous sound with a cornet.”

While the trumpet has surpassed the cornet in popularity in the past decades, he notes interest in the British-style brass band growing since the 1980s.

Last year, about 3,000 people, a mix of local residents and some visitors, attended the concerts, which featured more than 400 musicians.

Gettysburg is known for its active and varied arts scene. A local conservancy is having a barn art sale and show downtown the same weekend and the “History Meets the Arts” show will be held at Gettysburg College.

One of the brass band festival highlights is the playing of Taps at sundown at different locations on the battlefield (such as Little Round Top and Devil’s Den) and the cupola of Schmucker Hall on the seminary campus.

Jones said: “We have received comments from tourists who happened to be here… it is going dark and all of a sudden a bugler appears and sounds Taps. It is a very moving experience for them, and the bugler.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Resaca Battlefield Historic Site opens with a bang (and volley), nice weather

Grand opening (Gordon County Chamber of Commerce photos)

Sunny weather greeted visitors this past weekend to the new Resaca Battlefield Historic Site in Gordon County, Ga. “I’ve received 100% positive feedback,” said county Administrator John King.

A grand opening was held Friday afternoon at the pavilion of the park, which is located off Exit 320 of Interstate 75.

Don Holley, who heads Gordon’s parks department, told the Picket he saw about 20 visitors Saturday morning while walking the Blue Battlefield Trail. He saw about 25 people on Sunday afternoon.

“We are expecting a larger crowd this weekend with the re-enactment going on at the Chitwood property,” he said.

The May 20-22 Battle of Resaca re-enactment is held a couple miles east of the historic site. It includes 2 p.m. battles on Saturday and Sunday, living histories, camps and services.

Photos by Gordon County Chamber of Commerce