Thursday, September 26, 2013

North and South joined hands for Chickamauga monument project

(Civil War Picket photos)

This time, it's built to last.

After years of slowly fading away at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, the Lytle Monument stands tall again, a tribute to a fallen Union poet-warrior and others who spilled blood in the 1863 battle.

The pyramid of 323 reproduction 8-inch shells produced by a local foundry was rededicated on Sept. 20, almost 150 years to the hour that Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle was killed leading a counterattack against Confederate forces who would carry the field at Chickamauga that day. He was a brigade commander in Sheridan's Division of McCook's Corps.

R.A. Davis, commander of Lytle SUV camp
Vandalism took its toll gradually after the Lytle Monument was dedicated in 1894. As the pyramid shrank to one level, some of the cannonballs – surplus artillery shells from the Civil War – were used to repair other monuments at the park.

For the restoration, Lookout Metalworks used 130 bags of concrete and welded each of the shells to a metal frame. The cannonballs aren't going anywhere.

"It still chokes me up," Lee Collins, a laborer for the company, said of the significance of the project.

People across the North and South came together to raise about $65,000 for the work.

Tom Reckner's great-great-grandfather fought with the 10th OVI
About 60 percent of the gifts came from outside the Georgia-Tennessee region, said executive director Patrice Glass of the Friends of the Park. Forty percent came from Ohio, home to Lytle, a hero in his hometown of Cincinnati.

"It has been a joint effort and labor of love," Glass told the crowd, seated around the monument and standing under the dappled sunlight on Lytle Hill.

The well-known poetry and bravery of Lytle, twice wounded in previous battles, brought him high esteem among his Confederate adversaries, who placed a guard around his body until it could be returned to Union lines.

Pete Sturdevant played at ceremony
Lytle early in the war led the 10th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

"He was not an officer who led from behind the lines," said Kerry Langdon of the General William H. Lytle Camp #10 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCV).

Graying warriors in the years after the battle placed monuments in the fields of glory, recognizing fallen men and the sacrifice of Confederate and Union units. The park was authorized by Congress in 1890, a tribute to hallowed ground "where they returned to shake hands," said Glass.

Tom Reckner, who re-enacts with the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, carried a reproduction flag of the 10th Ohio, the unit in which his great-great grandfather, Sgt. Michael O'Brien, served. 

"It touched my heart," Reckner, 53, said of his company commander's decision to let him perform the role during honor guard duties at the Chickamauga ceremony.

O'Brien's service with the 10th included the battles of Perryville and Resaca. According to pension records, he was believed to have contracted chronic bronchitis at Resaca. He died of complications in 1893.

Anthony Hodges of Friends of the Park

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chickamauga canister tree conveys horror

"Bullets, fragments of shell, grape and canister sing over and around, louder than songs of Southern katydids ... canister are cutting swaths of humans in the kneeling rows ... the blood-soaked earth is being dug up in chunks by ripping balls." 

This account by a soldier who took part in the Battle of Chickamauga 150 years ago last week captures the murderous efficiency of canister, an anti-personnel round fired from a cannon. The round resembled a coffee can and contained small, round, iron balls packed in sawdust and used for defending against infantry attack.

They were used throughout the Battle of Chickamauga, including on advancing Confederates at Snodgrass Hill. About 4,000 men died in the three-day battle, which ended in a Confederate victory. Union forces, however, broke out of nearby Chattanooga, Tenn., two months later and began their successful Atlanta Campaign.

On Saturday, while returning from a morning skirmish at the Battle of Chickamauga re-enactment in North Georgia, we stopped by the Gordon-Lee Mansion in the town of Chickamauga, Ga.

The stately home served as a hospital and headquarters for Union Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans, who fled for Chattanooga during a furious Confederate assault on the battlefield a few miles north of town.

One stop in the house tour is a museum that features military artifacts, weapons and news accounts. Of particular note is the remains of a tree cut at the Chickamauga battlefield in 1900. (Click photos to enlarge)

It contains multiple chunks of canister and is a chilling reminder of the helpless condition of soldiers who had no time to get out of the way of these deadly projectiles.

The home's parlor was used by Rosecrans to plot strategy. A portrait above the fireplace in that room is of Gordon Lee, the most famous resident of the house, which was completed in 1847 by James Gordon.

Both armies occupied the mansion during the Civil War.

The downstairs library -- used as an operating room for Union troops -- features bloodstained floors now covered by rugs.

"Amputated limbs were thrown out the French doors to waiting wagons," a tour brochure says.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

1890s infographic mapped entire war

The "History of the Civil War in the United States, 1860-1865" was published by The Comparative Synoptical Chart Company back in 1897. And while its gloriously complex form has been preserved by the Library of Congress in great detail, instructions on exactly how to read it properly seem to have been lost to time.Click the bold link and give it a try!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Veterinary care during the Civil War: Quacks and a few good men (part 2)

Edwin Forbes sketch of a "played-out mule" (Library of Congress)
Overworked. Underfed. Bad shoes. Unclean.

Those attributes of the typical Civil War soldier were shared by the horses and mules that hauled the supplies and were the quick mounts necessary to sustain a campaign.

Modern medicine was decades away and only a few schools trained veterinarians – and none of those professionals were in the U.S. Army when war broke out.

Horse and cattle “doctors” who cared for military animals generally had no formal training.

“He was almost like a used car salesman. There is an air they are quacks, and often they were,” says David Gerleman, an author and speaker on the topic of horses and the Civil War.

They did more harm than good, in most cases, Gerleman contends.

Solicitation to provide horse care**
The challenge of providing adequate care for horses and mules was enormous. While some infirmaries were set up by each side, hundreds of thousands of animals died of starvation, disease and exhaustion. An estimated 1.5 million animals died, a small fraction of that total perished on the battlefield.

Veterinarians used poultices, linaments and other remedies to stave the losses – but they had no antibiotics.

Animals often were beset by highly contagious Glanders, a disease that causes respiratory and skin lesions. It could spread quickly when horses shared water and feed troughs.

Glanders, which today is under control in the United States, was generally a death sentence.

Harsh conditions and weakened immune systems made the animals susceptible to a variety of ailments, says Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Ellard, an Atlanta veterinarian who has studied the care of horses during the War of Rebellion.

Lameness and worn hooves were particularly a problem for the South, because horseshoes were at such a premium. Horseshoes were essential for the well-being and performance of horses.

“No horse in the wild has to walk on asphalt or pull a heavy object,” says Ellard.

Farriers, who specialized in hoof care, were considered the primary caregivers for horses.

Mary-Elizabeth Ellard
“Much of what (horses) faced are foot problems,” says Ellard. “A competent farrier can do a lot with a simple knife to help that horse.”

The belief was that farriers “were veterinarians in disguise,” says Gerleman. That idea holds true through the Civil War. “The U.S. Army didn’t need (veterinarians) because there wasn’t much respect for them or they were not deemed necessary.”

Grooming of horses and mules was necessary, but often overlooked. Ellard likens the wearing of saddles and yokes to a person carrying a 50-pound backpack around the clock.

Mules and horses developed sores, and skin lesions were common.

The North had a better saddle – the McClellan – named for the general who traveled to Europe before the war and learned about how those units cared for horses. Veterinary surgeons in European armies were treated with respect, according to Gerleman.

The McClellan saddle was “designed for the comfort of the animal and not the rider,” says Ellard.

Confederate cavalry and other units typically used the Jenifer saddle style, but it would create sores when an animal lost weight or was overworked.

A rebel horseman prized a saddle taken from a captured or killed Union animal.

Of course, most horses and mules were used to pull wagons and artillery pieces and caissons. Those pulling cannons into battle were fortunate to endure 18 months of service.

“It was a life of exhaustion. It depended on the quality of your teamster. Some cared and some didn’t,” says Ellard. “If he was lucky, he survived the war.”

Eventually, Union cavalry had veterinary medicine chests.

Union farriers in Virginia (Library of Congress)
“You have to have some knowledge of these various drugs in order to make them effective,” says Gerleman, citing the case of a Pennsylvania unit that mixed some and unwittingly killed most of the treated horses.

Cavalry units brought on veterinary sergeants, but most federal monies went to pay for civilian veterinarians – such as they were.

One unit, the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, had the benefit of a surgeon who had professional veterinary schooling. George F. Parry kept diaries during his service.

“February 16 inspected the horses and classified according to orders from the War Department in four classes…. March 2 horses in bad condition from poor feed – musty corn. Suffering from diarrhea, colic and indigestion,” he wrote in one entry. 

Prescriptions included expectorants, salves, nerve stimulants, diuretics and sedatives.

Parry may have been the very first U.S.-trained veterinarian to enter the service of the United States.

He often wrote about starving horses and the lack of feed.

David Gerleman
What is now known as the American Veterinary Medical Association was founded in 1863, during the middle of the war.

In March of that year, Congress authorized for each cavalry regiment a veterinary surgeon with the increased rank of sergeant major and vastly increased pay of $75 per month.

But Gerleman argues “very little change came out of the war” in regard to military equine care. The impetus to make improvements went away for decades as the country settled into peacetime. It is not until 1916 that the Army creates a formal veterinary corps, with officers.

“It is a long process and often a sad one,” Gerleman tells the Picket.

(**McClure letter comes from the National Archives, Record Group 92, Records of the Quartermaster General, Entry 301, letters received by the secretary of war and transferred to the Quartermaster General, 1861-1862). 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Horses and mules: Valuable weapons of Civil War were considered expendable (part one)

Union Lt. Col. Orson Hart at Brandy Station (LOC)
You may recall a particularly harrowing scene in “Gone With the Wind.” Rhett, Scarlett and the others make a break for Tara from Atlanta, escaping a city thrown into chaos by the imminent arrival of Yankees.

Everyone, it seems, wants their horse and wagon. But Rhett uses his whip and fists to break through the mob and out of the burning city.

The scene, while used for dramatic effect, illustrates a key point: The Confederacy was desperately short of horses.

Gen. Robert E. Lee, relatively early in the conflict, asked for more horses, including Texas mustangs.

The equine disadvantage was clear before the first shot was fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861.

Dead mule at Gettysburg (LOC)
David Gerleman, an expert on horses in the Civil War, estimates Northern and loyal border states had 4.2 million steeds, compared to 1.7 million for the Confederacy.

Horses and mules were, in many ways, the muscle of the armies. They pulled artillery pieces, food and other equipment. Messengers galloped through the lines and saber-swinging cavalrymen occasionally clashed, such as the momentous Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia.

“The horse and the mule were the fossil fuel of that era,” says Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Ellard, an Atlanta veterinarian and board member of the Georgia Battlefields Association.

“A horse for military service is as much a military supply as a barrel of gunpowder or a shotgun or rifle,” said Union Quartermaster Montgomery C. Meigs, who worked tirelessly to supply them to units.

Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Ellard
Horses and mules were both expendable and loved by many of their riders and caretakers.

Speaking of “Stonewall’ Jackson’s favorite, Henry Kyd Douglas described Little Sorrel as "a remarkable little horse. Such endurance I have never seen in horse flesh. We had no horse at Hd. Qrs. That could match him. I never saw him show a sign of fatigue." Little Sorrel was captured from Union forces at Harpers Ferry, West Va.

Ellard says many soldiers felt deep grief when a horse died or was captured. “There are touching, touching accounts from people’s diaries saying you were the best horse I ever had.”

Lee, whose favorite horse was Traveller, wrote of the mount’s endurance through “toil, hunger, thirst, heat and cold, and the dangers and sufferings.”

Sufferings indeed.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine estimates about 1 million horses and mules died during the war. Many other sources place it much higher, at about 1.5 million.

Their status also made them primary targets, particularly horses pulling artillery. Still others were killed instead of being allowed to fall in enemy hands. 

The South’s Nathan Bedford Forrest had 29 horses shot from under him.

Most fell to illness, starvation and exhaustion, says Ellard, who spoke this summer about the plight of horses and mules to a military history class at Georgia Tech.

Library of Congress
Only 10 percent died of their battle wounds.

According to the National Park Service, 80 out of one battery’s 88 horses died in a single battle.

Then there was the disposal problem. 

“Almost every account of a battlefield mentions the sight and stench of rotting horses strewn across hills and roads. Already overburdened with human casualties, both armies resorted to the practice of burning the bodies of the noble animals that had sacrificed so much in this war,” the NPS writes.

There is limited scholarship on the role of horses and veterinary care in the Civil War, and few good books.

Gerleman, whose interest in horses stems from growing up in Iowa farm country, has written articles and given talks, such as at the Illinois Horse Fair.

He spoke with one publisher about perhaps expanding his college dissertation -- "Unchronicled Heroes: A Study of Union Cavalry Horses in the Eastern Theater -- Care, Treatment & Use, 1861-1865" -- into a book.

But Gerleman says he was told, “'People are interested in battles and leaders, but not in horses.’”

Gerleman, assistant editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project, has seen in his research at the National Archives correspondence between President Abraham Lincoln and others about horses.

One inventor-businessman wanted to produce concentrated horse feed, in pellet form, for the Union.

The dried sludge of ground oats and corn would be easier to carry on a long campaign, he explained.

David Gerleman
The inventor included another pitch: “Soldiers, if they run short of rations, can actually cook it and eat it themselves,” Gerleman notes.

Lincoln ordered the Army to give it a try, but a report came back declining the idea.

Ellard, who is active in animal welfare and sheltering issue, provided the Picket an overview of the incredible demands on beasts of burden.

Union Gen. William T. Sherman, for example, had about 20,000 horses and mules for the Atlanta Campaign. About 520 wagons were required just to feed them, let alone troops and cavalrymen.

The animals “were in a hopeless calculus of needs,” says Ellard, referring to the requirements of hauling battlefield equipment and other teams to haul hay and grain for the beasts.

Military horses, which the veterinarian likens to athletes, required perhaps 14 pounds of hay and 12 pounds of grain. They usually received far less.

“Lee as early as 1862 is telling President (Jefferson) Davis that ‘some days we get a pound of corn per horse, sometimes more,’” according to Ellard.

Even Sherman has starving horses and mules. “These animals were incredibly physically taxed.”

From reading the Lincoln papers, Gerleman learned the Army of the Potomac fed 30,000 animals daily.

“When an army starts moving from a river or railroad depot the clock is always ticking. A lot of wagon trains have to drag forage and hay to feed the animals to keep them moving.”

Gen. Lee with his famous steed Traveller
Mules were more common in the South. But it had a problem once war broke out. Many were produced in the Midwest and border states -- and those supplies were soon cut off.

There were cultural differences, too.

“Up north, the prosperous farmer or businessman did not ride a horse. He wanted to be in a buggy and a horse pulling him,” says Ellard. Buggies and harnesses also reflected wealth and status.

In the South, the upper class road expertly -- not to say riders in the North were not comfortable astride.

“The roads down here were worse,” Ellard says. “Both horse and rider must be adept at handling rough terrain.”

Both in peacetime and war, mules principally were used for pulling. They had better endurance than a horse and required less food, but were not as fleet or known for sheer pulling power. Plus, they generally were more skittish around gunfire.

“If you have to have quick power you are going to have a horse,” says Ellard. “To get the cannons atop Kennesaw (Mountain), you use horses.”

Both armies wanted males, usually geldings.

Gen. Ulysses Grant with Cincinnati
“The armies were employing people to buy horses who did not know diddly squat about them,” says Ellard.

Sometimes, blind and pregnant horses were delivered.

Generally, only cavalrymen and officers rode horses.

“Both armies like to use a horse that is 12 to 14 hands tall,” says Ellard, describing a hand as four inches. “In the cavalry, you don’t want a really tall horse. You don’t want to have to get up and down and up and down.”

Of course, providing enough horses to the front, when many died from poor care, was a huge challenge to both sides.

Not many Confederate records remain, but it is known there was a horse recruitment depot in Lynchburg, Va., according to Gerleman.

A Union remount depot in Maryland, just outside Washington, was a “huge complex” capable of  holding up to 30,000 horses.

Early in the war, men provided their own horses, but only the Federal government was able to supply new ones to the cavalry when one wore out or died.

“For a Southern cavalry trooper, if your horse gets sick and dies, you are responsible for going out and replacing it," says Gerleman.

That could be accomplished, ideally, by capturing one, or buying one, sometimes valued at a steep $1,000 to $2,000, from a civilian.

Alfred Waud sketch of a dead horse (LOC)
In any case, commanders and soldier alike generally considered animals to be expendable.

There are numerous accounts of animals being shot and sabered – either because they were no longer of use or to keep them from the enemy.

In the first couple years of the war, the Union might trade or turn loose a broken-down animal. By 1863, policy called for them to be shot.

“It is better to have them dead than helping the Confederate army keep functioning,” according to Gerleman.

Generals and other officers sometimes chastised their men for mistreating the animals.

Speaking of Meigs, Ellard says, “Officers would constantly say we would need more horses but he would fuss back at them to take better care of what you have.”

Care of horses and mules was rudimentary at best, and usually fell to unqualified soldiers or teamsters. Some civilians portrayed themselves as knowledgeable about equine care.

“There is a lot of quackery going on,” according to Ellard. “We do not have modern concepts of medicine.” 

• Coming soon: The sorry state of veterinary care during the Civil War

Monday, September 9, 2013

Landscapes of War: Architecture students focus on forts, combatants and environment

Panels show where fortifications ran on what is now Georgia Tech
Most of Laura Hollengreen’s architecture students in her class, “Landscapes of War,” are native Georgians. But few knew much beforehand about the Civil War, which occurred literally in their front and back yards.

Their course work and time spent producing an exhibit on display at Georgia Tech campus whetted an appetite to learn more about the conflict, and its impact on the land and people.

The class researched and assembled “Surface + Depth: Civil War History Under Our Feet,” on display on the third floor of Clough Commons until Oct. 18.

“The students felt better informed about a local history that they have probably heard about their entire lives but did not connect directly to something they are doing today,” said Hollengreen, a historian and associate professor in the School of Architecture.

Rebel line ran where Grant Field sits.
Some even visited Andersonville, site of the infamous prison, in central Georgia. The visit became a personal connection for one student who lived nearby.

“Something in the context of the class had them look again,” the professor told the Picket recently.

The exhibit, featuring informational panels and large banners depicting photos, many taken by George Barnard after the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, is divided into two parts: The history of weaponry and defensive fortifications and what happened to combatants in Civil War landscapes.

The panels provide a wealth of information, often in academic terms. Still, visitors can get a broad understanding of the impact of “total war” on the environment and people.

Hollengreen hopes they will glean a deeper appreciation of the complexity of military systems – from fortifications to communications.

Prof. Hollengreen
“The battlefield (by the Civil War and World War I) has expanded immeasurably beyond what Napoleon experienced.”

The property where Georgia Tech now stands was largely a dangerous no man’s land as Union and Confederate troops warily eyed each other during the siege of Atlanta. Most of the activity involved soldiers trading sniper fire and artillery shells.

The heavily fortified Confederate line ran east-west on hills dotting the extreme southern edge of the campus, near North Avenue.

“That is where these forts were placed for maximum, strategic advantage,” says Hollengreen. Today, those sites are home to some of Georgia Tech’s main administration buildings, including Tech Tower.

The Union front line paralleled 10th Street on the northern edge of campus. 

For their part, the architecture students in Hollengreen’s spring class learned about how historical events and settings can help foster “a notion of place, as opposed to space.”

She doesn’t expect their work on the exhibit to have a direct effect on design, but “the better informed of a history of place, the more sensitive and responsive a designer can be.”

The discourse over “place” and “space” played out in the 1970s as a backlash against modernism and buildings that “were put up pell-mell without a context of place,” says the professor.

“Those buildings were kind of arrogant and domineering and sort of generic in not responding to places where they were put.”

There was a new push to design at least some buildings that incorporate the past and context, “so that spaces are not super boring and generic, or so overbearing as to be unpleasant to be in.”

The “Surface + Depth” exhibit includes detailed descriptions of components of fortifications and where they stood on Georgia Tech. The hilly campus did not open until 20 years after the Atlanta Campaign.

One section describes memorialization of the dead, while another talks about landscapes and the human body.

"The body is the last redoubt in war: everything eventually telescopes down to that. The battlefield images exhibited here demonstrate the indignities of the dead in several of the major conflicts of the Civil War."

Diagramming fortifications at Ponder House
Visitors also will learn about the psychological toll of war in close quarters and outmoded military tactics in an era of deadlier weaponry.

"With these kinds of tactics and new heavy artillery resulting in merciless slaughter, is it any wonder that soldiers felt a complete lack of agency and control over their own fate?"

Hollengreen says her students were adept at conceiving the design of the exhibit. They chose Mylar as a material for the photo banners. Its translucent property allows visitors to see through the Civil War image to notice other visitors. "That would put the present and the past in a similar space."

A box on one edge of the exhibit shows a photograph of the damaged Ponder House. The image is broken into several successive panels to show the layers of Confederate fortifications in the area.

Such attention to detail is crucial for architects in the making.

"We want students and graduates to be .... observers of the sites they build," according to Hollengreen. "We want them to investigate those minute details (and) to see them in the first place."

• More details on the Tech exhibit