Saturday, November 10, 2018

Before the Iwo Jima flag-raising, these fellows unfurled Old Glory atop Lookout Mountain. That moment will be re-created this month

(Courtesy of Tennessee State Library and Archives)

Ranger-led hikes, artillery demonstrations, programs and the re-enactment of a flag-raising will be featured in this month’s commemoration of the battles of Chattanooga, termed the “death knell of the Confederacy.”

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Tennessee and Georgia has events planned in and around the city from Nov. 23-25.

“155 years ago, months of fighting culminated with a series of battles throughout the Chattanooga area,” the park said in a press release. “By the time the smoke cleared, Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Ringgold Gap were strewn with the wreckage of war, and the Confederate Army of Tennessee was in full retreat.”

The Federals held Chattanooga, the “Gateway to the Lower South,” which became the supply and logistics base for Sherman’s successful 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

Among the commemoration highlights is an event set for 9 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 25. Living historians will recreate a flag-raising by the 8th Kentucky Infantry (US) on that date in 1863, one day after three Union divisions assaulted Lookout Mountain. By midnight, it appeared Federal forces had prevailed. A general wanted Old Glory to be planted on top of the mountain.

Capt. Wilson (Library of Congress)
The next morning, with sunshine burning off the mist, a half dozen members of the 8th Kentucky, led by Capt. John C. Wilson, climbed up that morning to plant the flag. While they feared being shot upon, they found the ground had been abandoned by Rebel troops.

“(The soldiers) carefully ascended the summit of Lookout Mountain and entered present-day Point Park. Finding it abandoned by Confederates, they walked out on the point of the mountain. Perhaps foreshadowing the US Marines on Iwo Jima 82 years later, they unfurled an American flag from the commanding heights,” the NPS said.

Capt. John Wilson, who led the party, later remarked, ‘It was the highest flag that was planted during the war...and we were the lions of the day in the Union Army.’”

A newspaperman gave this account of the response:

“The right of the Federal front, lying far beneath, caught a glimpse of its flutter, and a cheer rose to the top of the mountain, and ran from regiment to regiment, through whole brigades and broad divisions, till the boys way around in the face of Mission Ridge passed it along the line of battle.”

A photographer asked the heroes to re-enact the moment with gallant poses on the craggy heights. After the battle, Lookout Mountain became the single-most photographed place during the war. Photographer Royal Linn and others took countless photos of soldiers and civilians standing dangerously close to the edge of outcrops.

Historic entrance to Point Park (Library of Congress)

The gallantry of the 8th Kentucky soldiers is now being remembered – 155 years later. The National Park Service said visitors can come to the Ochs Museum in Point Park atop Lookout Mountain to capture the moment. The flag-raising also will be shown live on the park’s Facebook page.

Printed schedules for the November programs are available at the Chickamauga battlefield and the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Centers, and a digital schedule, including times and descriptions, is available online at: https://www.nps.gov/chch/chattanooga155.htm

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The trauma endured by Civil War POWS was passed on to their sons. Here's what experts say about study that found a genetic link.

Union soldiers in the trenches at Petersburg (Library of Congress)

Trauma experienced by a father, it turns out, can be passed along to the next generation -- in a perhaps unexpected way.

A new study has found that postwar sons of many Union POWS had shorter lives than sons of soldiers who weren’t held captive during the Civil War. And it suggests an interesting genetic explanation.

Dr. Dora Costa led a team that used military, pension and other records and determined that by age 45, sons of POWs who suffered severe privation and trauma at Confederate prisons were 11 percent more likely to die at any given age than sons of men who were not imprisoned.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that these sons were more than twice as likely to die at the same age than their brothers born before the conflict. The researchers said the excess mortality of younger sons was largely from cerebral hemorrhage and cancer. The paper said the deterioration of Rebel prisons after inmate exchanges ended increased the trauma on captives (after mid-1863).

Because a father’s POW status had no impact on the health of daughters, the researchers determined something else was at play: the Y chromosome belonging to males.

“I originally thought the key factor in the children’s longevity would be socioeconomic status,” Costa said in a news article at UCLA, where she is on the faculty. “But then I started to notice the effect was only happening in the sons -- which is in keeping with an epigenetic cause -- and only to the sons born after the war.”

Epigenetics is the study of inherited biological triggers that affect genes and how cells in the body react to genetic information, but that do not alter underlying DNA sequences. Basically, the study found that fathers’ prison hardships, including food shortages, altered the function of his genes in ways that could be passed on to sons.

A Los Angeles Times article on the study had this to say about maternal nutrition offsetting that paternal stress. “The life-shortening effect of a father’s POW status was magnified for the sons who were born in April, May and June, when food supplies tended to be leanest. But that effect virtually disappeared among sons born during September, October and November, when harvests are in and food is typically more plentiful.”

The Picket reached out to several Civil War prison experts to comment on Costa’s findings. Here’s what they had to say:
Gray
MICHAEL P. GRAY: Where you were imprisoned matters

“Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among Civil War US Civil War Ex-Prisoners” is an interesting study, but I am not sure how much this really tells us about entire post war-prisoner narrative, nor true consequences of Civil War incarceration on generations beyond. 

This analysis adds to a conversation started by Dr. Angela Riotto, historian at the Army University Press, who has addressed such numbers in her scholarship, particularly with Civil War prisoners and PTSD, which ultimately led to suicides. “Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among Civil War US Civil War Ex-Prisoners” would be greatly improved under the lens of a professional historian, like Riotto, so a better historical framework might be understood.

Although the article lacks historical context on a number of fronts, it does raise a variety of questions. In its grand scheme, the sample size is too small. The analysts write “2,342 children of 732 no-exchange period ex-POWs, 2,416 children of 715 exchange-period ex-POWs, and 15,145 children of 4,920 non-POW veterans, all born after 1866 and surviving to age 45.” However, more than 56,000 prisoners died during the conflict, and even that number most likely falls short of the actual amount of deaths. Moreover, the comparative with non-prisoners would be so large and daunting in tracking down family members generationally, it might seem impossible to even try. But at the very least, the authors do make an attempt.

However, their statistics are taken from sanitized pension records that might not deliver on the true experience of their captivity. Perhaps more investigation might be taken from other primary sources?  Furthermore, they need to address what prisons their sample size comes from. They write, “Thirty-five years after the end of the war, camp survivors faced greater mortality and health risks and had worse socioeconomic outcomes, if they had been imprisoned when camp conditions were at their worst compared with non-POW veterans and ex-POWs imprisoned when conditions were better.”

Andersonville prisoners in August 1864 (Library of Congress)

Well, they are assuming they were at their worst, but this may not be the case at all prisons.  

Civil War prisons were very unique and diverse and socio-economic not only come into play after the war regarding health concerns, but during the war. For example, the death rate at Richmond’s Libby Prison would be much lower to that of Georgia’s Andersonville. Or, if we venture into the North, the death rate at Elmira was 25% and Johnson's Island less than 2%. The authors might want to consider the difference between the enlisted men’s prison, like Andersonville and Elmira, to that of officer-only prisons, like Libby and Johnson's Island -- where death rates were lower, since “class” mattered.

Besides socio-economics in captivity, the authors generalize a bit, writing “Most POWs were exchanged immediately until mid-1863…”  This is not the case, as prisoners might be held for some time before being officially exchanged. The authors conclude, “There is growing concern that health can be transmitted across generations, leading to the persistence of poor health and socioeconomic status within families.” This might be very true, but what about the common Civil War solder campaigning in Virginia during 1864? And how would you track their sample size from a generational standpoint? Did Civil War captivity mean that your children were going to be in poor health?

This reader is not convinced as there are too many limitations and variables in their findings. But they have added to the conversation, and one only hopes their work will continue to add to the Civil War incarceration narrative.

Gray is professor of history at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. He has extensively studied Civil War prisons and is the author of a new book, “Crossing the Deadlines: Civil War Prisons Reconsidered.”

Greene
LANCE GREENE: Epigenetic effects getting more attention

The recent study looks at Union veterans of the Civil War who were held in POW camps late in the war and who suffered horrible conditions during their captivity. It also looks at their children and compares them with the children of Union veterans who served in the war but were not POWs. The study focuses on the effect of paternal POW trauma and attempts to identify the impact of negative effects on their children and identify the cause of these impacts.

The study focuses on possible epigenetic effects. Epigenetics is a study that has grown dramatically in the past decade. It studies how changes to a person’s genetic expression occur without changes to the DNA. For example, exposure to carcinogens may alter genetic expression by inhibiting the release of an enzyme. There are also natural occurrences in the body that can cause similar changes. Although these kinds of events do not change a person’s genetic make-up (DNA) they are potentially inheritable traits. Therefore, these changes that occur in a person’s life can be passed on to their children.

For their research, the authors collected data on almost 5,000 adult children of 1,400 Union POWs and data on 15,000 children of 5,000 non-POW veterans. Most of the data came from military, pension, and census records. The authors performed statistical analysis using the Cox proportional hazard model, which looks at a variety of traits (e.g. paternal POW status, sex of the child, socioeconomic status, birth order, maternal and paternal lifespan, etc.), and calculates the impact on survival of these different traits.

Lawton exhibits at Magnolia Springs State Park in Georgia

The results show a significant difference in mortality rates for the children of Civil War veterans. Boys born after the war to men who had been POWs were 1.10 times more likely to die than the offspring in the other categories, including children born to POWs before the war, girls whose fathers had been POWs, and boys whose fathers were Civil War veterans but who had not suffered the conditions of prisoners.

Because they looked at so many factors, the study suggests that having a POW father did not have a negative impact on your financial status but had a delayed negative impact on health. Excess death of sons was largely due to cerebral hemorrhage and to a lesser extent cancer, in the states where cause of death was recorded.

The study also makes a strong argument that the effects on sons were not driven by the behaviors of their father; those negative impacts did not affect the daughters of POWs or their sons born before the war. It strongly suggests an epigenetic effect, one that was passed on through the Y chromosome and therefore to sons only.

The study is important in many respects. Dr. Costa’s previous research has shown conclusively that the trauma suffered by these POWs had significant negative impacts on their health after the war. This research goes one step further and shows the continued intergenerational impact. It also supports a growing body of literature on the significance of epigenetic effects.

Greene is an historical archaeologist with Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He was the first director of the Camp Lawton research project, based out of Georgia Southern University. Camp Lawton held Federal prisoners for six weeks in late 1864, but did little to ease the suffering of POWs moved from Andersonville.

McNutt
RYAN McNUTT: Socioeconomic, other factors should be considered

I'm not necessarily surprised by the findings that the POW experience of harsh physical and psychological trauma could have an effect on descendants; previous research suggests this possibility for Native Americans and Holocaust survivors. However, there are problems with how some of these relate to epigenetics, as well as issues like small sample size, and some papers not addressing sociocultural factors, like the transmission of trauma via family stories and accounts, rather than through genetics. 

And in fact, this was one of my concerns with the article. I don't disagree with the premise that there is likely an epigenetic transfer of trauma -- but I'm not convinced the mortality correlation in sons of POWS from the non-exchange period can be satisfactorily linked to this, because it doesn't address some pretty big socioeconomic factors.

The non-exchange period in the article for example (between July 1863 and July 1864), corresponds almost exactly with the Enrollment Act, or Civil War Military Draft Act, enacted in March 1863. Every male citizen, and immigrants who had applied for citizenship, between the ages of 20 and 45, were required to enroll. Substitutes and commutations by those who could afford it meant, arguably, that the burden of military service fell on immigrants and lower classes to a great degree. The perception of this unfairness of the act led to the New York City draft riots in July 1863. And, indeed, it's likely that the first batches of draftees would have begun entering into the POW system in July of 1863, just at the period that exchanges stopped. 

My suspicion is that the high mortality rate of offspring of non-exchange period POWs is tied to this lower socioeconomic status of their fathers, rather than any causative link to experience trauma. Furthermore, cerebral hemorrhage is a catch-all term for cause of death in the early 20th century, so it is difficult to parse how this may be connected to the father's poor health.

Students conduct Camp Lawton field work during 2015 field school (GSU)

Finally, while the fact that sons of ex-POWs were 1.11 times likely to die (I'm not sure where the 11 percent is coming from -- I couldn't find it anywhere in the article) than the sons of non-POWs is statistically significant, it's still not to my mind high enough to prove a causative link for higher mortality rates outside of socioeconomic and psychological factors. 

It's very clear from the postwar career of ex-POWS that many of them struggled with ongoing health issues, almost certainly PTSD, and various other psychological issues as a result of their confinement.

This impacted their ability to keep employment, as did the massively high levels of substance abuse among veterans, including POW., all of which would have a down-the-line effect on the quality of life for their children, particularly the sons who may have had to shoulder more a of a burden of caring for the family both through adolescence, and into adulthood. And the lack of a similar mortality rate among daughters is par for the course: by the 1900s, the death rate for men was twice as high as for women. So the lack of a similar mortality rate for daughters of POWS is in line with other demographic trends of the day, as opposed to being a comparative marker for their male siblings’ epigenetic shortened life spans.  

It's a very interesting article, and I certainly think epigenetic transmission of historical trauma is a worthwhile avenue of research, but I'm not convinced that epigenetic transfer of trauma is sole direct causative reason for higher mortality rates among the children of ex-POWs.

I think that there are a host of socioeconomic, cultural, and historical factors that were not considered with due weight in the interpretation and conclusion -- which to be fair, the authors acknowledge as potential issues in their discussion. 

McNutt is assistant professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro and director of the university’s Camp Lawton project. His research in conflict archaeology have included sites in the United Kingdom, France and Poland.

Wallsmith
DEBBIE WALLSMITH: Trauma seeps down to new generation

The article by Costa, Yetter and DeSomer is very interesting and provides the foundation for future research on POWs from other wars.  It is not surprising that being a POW would result in long-lasting effects.  However, it was not expected that these effects would impact the health of their sons. In some cases, the former POWs had difficulty returning to civilian life but there were some who became very successful.

A common factor among most of them was that they had health issues related to the malnutrition and diseases they experienced while imprisoned that plagued them the rest of their lives.

It is not surprising that both physical and mental health issues would have affected family life. Although many died while relatively young, some POWs lived into their 80s and 90s.

Wallsmith is environmental review archaeologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division. She has researched prisoners held at Camp Lawton and has maintained a database about them.

The Camp Lawton POW database contains the names of 3,750 men. Age at death information is available for 680 former POWs. Age at enlistment ranges from 13 to 53. The youngest to die was 16, the oldest was 98. The table below indicates the age ranges at which those men died:

Age @ death
# dead
20 or younger
19
21 - 30
152
31 - 40
55
41 - 50
33
51 - 60
42
61 - 70
102
71 - 80
129
81 - 90
119
91 - 100
29
Total
680

Monday, October 29, 2018

Treasured part of Atlanta history will now be visible to the public, but some preservationists say it should not have been moved

Zero Mile Post after its move. (Atlanta History Center)

A granite post that marked the birth of the city of Atlanta and survived the Civil War has been moved from the location it occupied since 1850 to a museum several miles to the north, sparking criticism by preservation and civic groups.

While the Atlanta History Center and Georgia Building Authority say Friday's relocation will protect Zero Mile Post and better interpret its story, some organizations are unhappy with the agreement, saying the precious landmark should have stayed where it is.

The aged rectangular post, which marked the southeastern terminus of Western & Atlantic Railroad, will be paired at the AHC with the restored 1856 locomotive Texas in a new exhibit about Atlanta’s origin and railroad history. The Texas is famous for its role in the Civil War’s Great Locomotive Chase in April 1862. Opening day is set for Nov. 17.

“It was this railroad that provided the impetus for the beginning and subsequent growth of the city of Atlanta and marks the center of the city from which the Atlanta city limits were measured,” says the National Park Service. The Western & Atlantic was vital for the Confederacy, sending both supplies and troops to the front.

Post at old location (NPS)
Cut a few years before, the post was moved to its longtime home in 1850, when the town took on the name Atlanta. For 70 years it sat in the open, but the growth of the city’s viaduct system led to the Central Avenue Bridge above it and the feature was enclosed in a building in the 1980s. With the exception of a few groups, the marker had not been visible to the public since 1994.

Maria Saporta, founder of the Saporta Report, wrote in February, “If you want to find Atlanta’s heart – our zero mile post – good luck. It is buried beneath a downtown parking deck in a state-owned building surrounded by chain-link fences in addition to spiked metal bars topped with barbed wires.” (Her column argued that developers in what’s called the Gulch area downtown should have included a multimodal station in their plans. She has since decried the move of the post in a Nov. 5 column.)

Zero Mile Post’s fate became the subject of debate when development plans firmed up and news that two bridges – on Central Avenue and Courtland Street – were tapped for replacement. The GBA said it needed to raze the building so that a parking deck between the bridges would have additional exit and entrance options.

Agency: Artifact needed protecting

“We endeavored to get a lot of different perspectives on what do with the post,” including from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said Morgan Smith-Williams, communications director for the state authority, While the agency said it knew the significance of the marker was its location, protecting the artifact was foremost, she said.

This building under a bridge enclosed the artifact since the 1980s (Picket photo)

That’s because of the fear that motorists or pedestrians might damage the Zero Mile Post because it would be much more exposed, said Smith-Williams.

“The original marble marker is fragile -- any outdoor location would expose it to the elements and potential for vandalism, and endanger its survival,” the history center said Monday in a press release.

A replica of Zero Mile Post that has long been at the Atlanta History Center in the Buckhead neighborhood will replace the original. It will be accompanied by a marker with text provided by the Georgia Historical Society, officials said.

Click Georgia Battlefields Assn. map for wartime spots

“The marker and replica post will be positioned along sidewalks that will be constructed around the original site, increasing the visibility and awareness of this preserved historic spot on a daily basis, something that could not be done previously,” the AHC said.

It said the use of replicas is commonplace, particularly when fragile items are exposed to the elements. "By doing this, the artifact is preserved, but the historical significance of the location is also acknowledged."

City Council wanted it to stay put

The relocation has faced opposition, including from Atlanta City Council, which in May adopted a resolution calling for Zero Mile Post to stay put.

It said the artifact, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, “is arguably the single most important object relating to the story of Atlanta’s founding.”

The resolution noted that the post “survived the construction of the 1853 Union Depot, Gen. William T. Sherman’s destructive entrance and exit from the City in 1864, the construction of the viaducts in the 1920s, more demolitions and fires, and has remained in the ground since 1850.”

It added that it could have been a draw for visitors once the surrounding, unoccupied building was removed.

The old marker for Zero Mile Post

That’s the viewpoint of the Atlanta Preservation Center, which has Zero Mile Post on its endangered list. The group argues the downtown street grid grew around the marker and railroad lines.

David Mitchell, director of operations for the group, said news of the move Monday was a dark day for preservation. “It is always better to leave things in their original location.”

“I would have liked to have seen further conversation to whatever alternatives could have been provided,” he told the Picket. “This belongs to the city of Atlanta and its citizens and no singular entity has governance over what belongs to the general public.”

Mitchell said engineering students at Georgia Tech could have helped come up with a plan to protect the original post once it was out in the open. Many other monuments are exposed to the elements, he said.

“The stone has been there for 150 years. It is 5 inches wide by 7 feet tall. You are telling me this is thwarting a multimillion project?”

In a newsletter during the summer, the Georgia Battlefields Association noted: “We’re confident the post will be preserved, but where it will be preserved is uncertain. Its significance derives from its location, which adds to the complexity of the issue.”

Smith-Williams, the spokesperson for the Georgia Building Authority, said the replica will be in the same location, but will be “more sturdy and weatherproof than the original.”

A second replica will be placed near by the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, she said. The arrangement with the AHC is a five-year lease.

“I think this is a win-win for Georgians,” Smith-Williams said. The original historic artifact is with the authority that is best-suited to preserve it.”

Post was near railroad car shed destroyed by Federals

Ongoing debate over the decision

The history center said it will be a good steward of the “irreplaceable artifact” of Atlanta’s railroad history.

“Positioning the Zero Mile Post beside the recently restored Texas locomotive, one of the two remaining Western & Atlantic locomotives [the other being the General] that would have passed by that very mile post scores of times during its service offers valuable interpretive possibilities, AHC President and CEO Sheffield Hale said in a statement. "Railroads build and created Atlanta, and these two objects tell Atlanta's origin story like no others."

Kyle Kessler, community program manager for the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta, called the move a “major disappointment.”

He quoted the National Park Service by saying, “Moving a property destroys the relationships between the property and its surroundings and destroys association with historic events and persons.” The move threatens the status of the post on the National Register, he added.

Kessler said the “clandestine operation” came before adequate input from agencies and the public.


Many of those who commented Monday on the AHC’s Facebook page, which showed a video of the marker being pulled into the Texas gallery, were critical of the move, saying there should have been more discussion. “Happy for you guys, but really disappointed in Atlanta and how they protect history. Other states don’t do it this way,” one commenter wrote.Others were more supportive.

Markers like Zero Mile Post informed train crews where they were along a route. One side of this marker is engraved with "W&A RR OO" – the W & A indicating the Western & Atlantic Railroad and the double-zero designating the beginning of the rail line. The other side of the marker is engraved “W&A RR 138.”

When removed from the ground, entirely exposed, the 800-pound marker measures 7 feet 5 inches, and weighs approximately 800 pounds. That is how the Atlanta History Center will display it, as opposed to 42 inches exposed in its old location.

The center said the Solomon Luckie lamppost will be in an adjacent gallery, adding to the story of the city's early history. Luckie, a free African-American, was killed during Union shelling of the city in summer 1864.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Grant will go for Va. battlefield purchase

The Shenandoah Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) will receive up to $255,000 in grant money to preserve local battlefields, the Winchester star reported. According to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, more than 562 acres of battlefield overall will be placed under protection through grants from the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund. The  $255,000 grant will be used to purchase a 2-acre land tract in Frederick County associated with the Third Battle of Winchester. • Article

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dalton agrees to sale of historic depot

By the end of 2020, the historic railroad depot in Dalton, Ga., could once again be a center for dining and nightlife. Members of the City Council voted 3-1 this week to approve a $300,000 bid from Dalton's Barrett Properties for the depot. The depot -- which needs extensive remediation and upgrades inside -- had its moment of fame on April 12, 1862 – during what became known as the Great Locomotive Chase. • Article
• More about the Civil War history of the depot.