Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Longstreet memorial service is Jan. 10

James Longstreet
As is their custom, the Sons of Confederate Veterans #1860 (Blue Ridge Rifles) in Dahlonega, Ga., and the Longstreet Society will be remembering the life of Gen. James Longstreet at a Jan. 10 memorial service in Gainesville, Ga.

The ceremony is set for 1 p.m. at Alta Vista Cemetery, where the Confederate general was laid to rest after his Jan. 2, 1904, death at age 82. The public also is welcome to an open house that follows at the Longstreet Society's headquarters, the old Piedmont Hotel, 827 Maple St., Gainesville. Refreshments will be served. Longstreet ran the hotel for several years. 

The society defends and promotes the legacy of one of Lee's Lieutenants. Members believe he was the scapegoat for what went wrong at Gettysburg and the South's loss.

Previous Longstreet coverage:
-- Granddaughter fought to vindicate him 
-- Southern-fried Longstreet, Part 1
-- Part 2: Vilification and vindication

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Legendary Civil War locomotive Texas moved

The 1856 Texas locomotive, famous for being the pursuer in the Great Locomotive Chase during the Civil War, is on the move again. The Atlanta History Center is sending the rare locomotive to the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C., to restore it for static display. The Texas for nearly 90 years was at the Cyclorama in the city’s Grant Park. It and the namesake mural of the Battle of Atlanta are being moved. • Article

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sultana disaster: Sister, brother recall learning of tragedy in family's long U.S. history

(Photos courtesy of Ely family)

David and Sharon Ely grew up as proud descendants of four brothers who came to the colonies only decades after the Mayflower Pilgrims landed on the shores of Massachusetts.

And while they could trace their family’s long American history to English ancestors who settled in Boston and Connecticut, it was only as young adults that they learned the full story of perhaps the most famous Ely of them all.

Sgt. John Clark Ely, an Ohio schoolteacher, was among 1,800 passengers – most of them Union soldiers released from prison camps – to die in the April 1865 explosion and fire on the steamboat Sultana above Memphis. It was the deadliest maritime disaster in U.S. history.

What made Ely notable, according to Sultana author Jerry Potter, is that he maintained a journal that includes entries on the journey up the Mississippi River.

Sgt. John Clark Ely
To my knowledge, his diary is the only one that is in existence,” Potter recently told the Picket. “While we have many accounts written later, his is the only one that we have that gives a day-to-day account leading up to the disaster. Plus, he is one of the few buried at the (Memphis) national cemetery with a headstone with his name. Finally, he became my hero who through his own words I got to know him.”

Sharon Ely Pearson, 60, of Norwalk, Ct.; and David Ely, 57, of Alameda, Calif.; recalled learning the details of their great-great-grandfather’s Civil War experiences.

Their late father, Clifford Seth Ely Jr., and Clifford’s cousin, Norman Ely, had some of the soldier’s belongings – including one of two journals (the other is lost) and a Bible -- and began doing research. Norman had a chess set that was carved by John Clark Ely.

Norman Ely told the Picket in 2012 that the cousins and their wives traveled to a reunion of Sultana descendants. They visited Andersonville, the prison in Georgia where John Clark Ely was held shortly after his December 1864 capture in Tennessee.

Norman Ely's mother told him about the small diary, which captures the soldier's despair, anguish, privations -- and hope. Ely said he became interested in the family's genealogy later in life.

"The fact that he went through this ordeal, the fact that he died there and left four children is very sad," he said. (Norman Ely, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., passed away in March 2013)

Pages from the diary recovered after Sultana disaster (Ely family)

Sharon Ely Pearson said she is not sure how John Clark Ely got to Ohio. He was born in Franklinville, N.Y. His widow, Julia, returned to Norwalk, where she died in 1873.

Clifford and Norman Ely pursued their interest in the Sultana while retired, and they set about writing their own memories.

Pearson was in her 20s when she heard of the diary. “My Dad didn’t share that kind of stuff.”

Pearson has since pursued an interest in genealogy and has wandered through cemeteries. “I think it’s very cool. It is not just my side. I have done on my husband’s side, too. We are New Englanders.”

(Courtesy of David Ely)

David Ely, retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, has a daily reminder of John Clark Ely’s Civil War service and sacrifice. On a wall of his home is a collage of photos of men in his family. From left:

-- John Clark Ely, Civil War

-- Clark Mead Ely, John’s son

-- Clifford Mead Ely Sr., Clark’s son and a U.S. Army veteran of World War I, European campaign

-- Clifford Seth Ely Jr., David and Sharon’s father, U.S. Navy, 1943-1946, Pacific campaign. He died in October 2013.

David and Sharon did not participate in observances this year marking the 150th anniversary of the sinking of the Sultana and are not active in the descendants group. They are busy with other matters. But nearly a decade ago, David made mention of John Clark Ely during a Memorial Day observation.

“It was Memorial Day and I brought the frame and four photographs and talked about the sacrifices our service members do. Sometimes, it is not in the heat of battle that they give their lives. But in this case, it can tell a story of men who were released from prison at end of war and on the way home to families, making that journey -- how tragedy strikes.”

Quilt made by Trinette Ely

One of last things he did with his father was to visit the Gettysburg battlefield. Clifford Ely’s late wife, Trinette, made a quilt honoring those on board the Sultana.

“It is inspiring to have that connection. The Ely came over in the 1600s from England but we don’t know much about a lot of the individuals, except for John Clark,” David Ely said. “The diary and story of Sultana is a very strong connection to the Civil War to our family …Now there is an incredible story.”

The surviving journal provides vivid details of the soldier’s transit to and time in Confederate prison camps.

Clifford Ely, who was a businessman in Norwalk, told the Picket in 2012 he was touched by his ancestor's time at Andersonville. "There was a lot of sickness around. Other people stole things from him. It was just a sad thing, day by day. People tried to escape, (but) he never did."

"He had all the great hopes. He couldn't wait to get home," Clifford Ely said. "When he got on the steamboat, he kept writing to her (Julia)."

Sgt. John Clark Ely, Company C, 115th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, boarded the overcrowded Sultana near Vicksburg, Ms. His last diary entry, written two days later, read: “Very fine day, still upward we go.”

Sharon Ely Pearson said her great-great-grandfather should have lived to see his family. Instead, he would perish in the April 27, 1865, disaster.

“It was sad and tragic, but so typical for what happened in the Civil War,” she said.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

N.C. history center collecting stories

The North Carolina Civil War History Center in Fayetteville announced plans to collect 100 family Civil War stories from each of the 100 counties of the state. Everyone who provides a story automatically becomes a founding member of the center through December 2016. • Press release

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Christmas at Appomattox: Surrender site in Virginia to show off improvements

Turkey wreath adorns a wall at Appomattox (NPS photo)

The folks at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park in southern Virginia are offering holiday cheer and punch Sunday at a free event that will show off greenery and park additions since this time last year.

“People will see the village dressed out for Christmas,” said Ernie Price, chief of education and visitor services. “We will have an ornament-making station targeting kids.”

Appomattox, of course, is the site of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865.

History buffs will have plenty to chew on at the open house, enjoying improvements made for this past April’s 150th observance of the surrender. “If you haven’t been here for a year, there are a lot of things to check out,” Price told the Picket.

Exhibit erected for sesquicentennial of surrender (NPS)

Upstairs in the visitor center – which is in the middle of the village -- is the traditional museum, featuring exhibits on Federal cavalry. Downstairs is a floor-to-ceiling trapezoidal exhibit case put in for the sesquicentennial. It includes the battle flag of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, a U.S. flag draped on President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin in Philadelphia during his funeral procession, and accoutrements belonging to Union Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan, who bottled Lee up at Appomattox.

Visitors can take in “With Malice Toward None,” a 14-minute film that debuted in March. It is an overview of the campaign, the meeting of Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, parole passes, the Confederate stacking of arms during the surrender, and the effects of the war, including the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, which were meant to ensure equality for emancipated slaves.

Wreath made of tobacco leaves

The most well-known structure at the park is the McLean House, where Lee and Grant met to discuss the surrender terms. The home’s kitchen has a tribute to U.S. Colored Troops.
“We are working toward getting something in the main museum. It is so packed right now,” said Price.

African-American soldiers in the XXV Corps were involved in the campaign, and two brigades fought at Appomattox on the morning of April 9, 1865, the day of the surrender. “There were casualties that were taken,” said Price.

Bocock-Isbell home
County jail after restoration work (NPS photos)

In the last year, work has been done on the Bocock-Isbell house and the county jail. Upcoming is restoration of the Meeks stable and the Peers house.

The Appomattox Garden Club, per tradition, has been decorating the village for Christmas by using period-correct wreaths. The open house, Price said, is a good time in particular for local residents to see the changes.

The open house is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13. Admission is free that day. The park is open Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 434-352-8987, ext. 226, for more information.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Project in Columbia, S.C., river thus far finds no dumped Confederate munitions

A cleanup project in Columbia, S.C., thus far has yielded no remnants of captured Confederate munitions that were believed to have been thrown into a river.

“We recently completed the first phase of the Congaree River remediation project, during which several hundred metallic objects were removed from the soil along the shoreline,” Ginny Jones, senior public affairs specialist for SCANA, parent company of utility SCE&G, said earlier this week.

Gervais Street bridge (NPS)

“None of the objects were of historical significance. Recent heavy flooding washed a significant amount of silt onto the project site, adding a layer of complexity to the challenge of remediating the soil below,” Jones told the Picket.

Since early October, the region has dealt with the effects of heavy rainfall and flooding. The search for the metallic objects began in late September.

The State newspaper has reported that sonar and metal detection have located where the weapons were likely dumped into the Congaree River near the Gervais Street bridge. But no one is certain the objects are associated with the Civil War.

Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman
, on his way to North Carolina after seizing the South Carolina capital, kept what he wanted of Confederate ordnance and threw the rest into the river in February 1865.

SCE&G is conducting a remediation project in the Congaree River because of the detected presence of tar. It says tests show it to be coal tar created by manufactured gas plants that operated throughout Columbia more than century ago.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Plucky Cockspur lighthouse at Fort Pulaski gets help in fight against newer dangers

(NPS photo)

As lighthouses go, the sentinel on Georgia’s Cockspur Island is diminutive, measuring only 46 feet from base to the top of its cupola.

But don’t underestimate this structure, which has endured high tides, hurricanes, waves from ever-growing container ships, careless individuals, vandals and – for a deafening 30 hours – the bombardment of nearby Fort Pulaski during the Civil War.

The Cockspur light’s masonry base was built in the shape of a ship’s prow to deflect the forces that have worn away at her, consuming much of the small island that serves as its foundation. And while her light was extinguished more than a century ago, the beloved beacon exudes charm for boaters and those making the trek on U.S. 80 from Savannah to Tybee Island.

“She really is a tough lady,” said Harvey Ferrelle, head of the Friends of Cockspur Island Lighthouse, a group that works with the National Park Service staff at Fort Pulaski National Monument – which manages the lighthouse -- to preserve and protect the structure.

Robert Knox Sneden map (Library of Congress)

Remarkably, the lighthouse suffered little or no damage during the April 10, 1862, Union bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Crews manning 36 guns on 11 batteries stretching along the western end of Tybee Island likely used the lighthouse for sighting as they pounded away at the fort located about 1 mile beyond.

“Not much point to aiming at the lighthouse,” said Charlie Crawford, who as president of the Georgia Battlefields Association has led tours of Civil War sites in the Savannah area. “If the Federals could capture the port, the lighthouse would be useful.”

While the lighthouse weathered the war and helped mariners for a couple more generations, age and exposure to elements have taken a toll.

A new round of maintenance and restoration is expected to begin this Monday (Dec. 7). Ferrelle said he expects professionals and volunteers to repoint and clean interior bricks, put in a new door and seal glass and other fittings. Work on weakened wrought-iron railing will take place later.

Fort Pulaski’s Joel Cadoff said the friends group raised $25,000 for lighthouse protection through a Centennial Challenge Grant and the NPS matched it. A full restoration of the lighthouse would require much more funding.

The help can’t come soon enough for the Cockspur Island Lighthouse and island, which were recently closed to the public. NPS officials cited the precarious ecological situation and increased vandalism.

Fort Pulaski is a mile beyond the lighthouse (NPS)

In 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers placed boulders and rip-rap on the island to counter tides and higher shipping waves. The stabilization project also helped establish a base for oyster bed restoration, with the distribution of about three tons of oyster shells.

“If left alone, they will reproduce and the stack will form new oysters,” said Ferrelle. “People have been trampling on the oysters we left there.”

Ferrelle, who operates a boat-based tour company, said before the closure people were seen hanging over the sides or sitting on top of the cupola.

Some people who paddled up to the island at low tide disregarded signs and went inside. A fall from the top, Ferrelle said, would have a single consequence: “They won’t get hurt. They’ll get dead.”

Eventually, officials would like to see the lighthouse and island reopen to visitors. The goal, Ferrelle said, is to “maintain her as a historic place and a treasure. It’s not just a toy you go out and goof around with.”

War comes to coastal Savannah

The South Channel of the Savannah River was the prime gateway to Savannah in its early years. One brick tower, used as a landmark, was built on Cockspur Island between 1837 and 1839. A major upgrade came about a decade later when an illuminated station was built. That tower has a focal plane 25 feet above sea level, according to the NPS.

A hurricane leveled the lighthouse in 1854 and a new tower was rebuilt the next year. The dawn of the Civil War brought a temporary extinguishment of its light.

Remnants of Battery Halleck (Picket photo)

Then the war itself came to Cockspur Island, home to Fort Pulaski.

The Union’s strategy was to put a chokehold on Southern commerce by controlling ports and coastal areas, including this area next to the Atlantic Ocean. Federal soldiers landed at Tybee Island and set about preparing for an attack on Fort Pulaski, a brick guardian just a few miles to the west.

Col. Olmsted
Capt. Quincy A. Gillmore, a Federal engineer officer, began the bombardment on April 10, 1862, after Col. Charles H. Olmstead refused to surrender.

“The Federal batteries were 1,500 to 4,000 yards away from the fort,” Crawford said. “Part of Battery Halleck is still discernible on the south side of the road. Had the Federals chosen to aim at the lighthouse, the closest batteries would have been about 700 yards from it.”

The Confederate garrison at Fort Pulaski would learn first-hand about advances in technology.

“When Fort Pulaski was built (1830s, with Robert E. Lee as one of the principal engineers), the rifled gun was not around, so thick masonry walls were the best type of fortification, and the distance to Tybee Island would prevent any 1830s-era gun from getting close enough to do significant damage,” said Crawford. “By 1862, the James Rifles blasted apart the walls relatively quickly.”

Rifled shot pulverized Fort Pulaski (Picket photo)

The situation steadily grew worse.

“When the breach on the southeast bastion allowed the Federals to shoot across the parade ground and start bouncing shells off the temporary wood wall in front of the powder magazine, Olmsted knew that a potentially catastrophic explosion was likely,” said Crawford. He surrendered on April 11.

Pulaski remained in Federal hands and the city fell in December 1864 in the closing months of the conflict. About a year after the war’s end, on April 25, 1866, the beacon was relit and painted white for continued use as an navigational aid.

A storm in 1881 destroyed the keeper’s residence and the surge filled the lighthouse interior with seawater. The plucky tower remained in duty for another three decades, but the writing was on its walls.

To accommodate large freighters, the Savannah port routed vessels to the deep, more navigable North Channel. Effective June 1, 1909, the beacon light was snuffed. Its Fresnel light is long gone.

Today, an overlook trail offers Pulaski visitors the closest look at the lighthouse.

Stairs lack safety rail in lighthouse (NPS photo)

Taking it for granted

Nature’s assault on the lighthouse has continued, with officials fighting back against the effects of erosion and shipworms on wooden support timbers.

In 2008, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation put the lighthouse on its annual list of 10 "Places in Peril."

Cadoff said short-term needs include work on the exterior envelope, floor surface, stair, interior wall cleaning, repointing, and all other metal and wood work conservation. Ferrelle, of the nonprofit friends group, said he expects a new, secure door will be placed in the structure. The interior stairway has no railing, another reason officials have been concerned about safety.

Concerns about erosion extend to the wharf area north of the fort itself. A recent project brought in tons of dredged sand.

Savannah Technical College is helping in the latest lighthouse effort, and the Savannah Community Foundation assists the friends group in fund-raising.

The friends group has been in existence officially since 2008. Ferrelle, a lifelong Savannah resident, said it became apparent the Cockspur Island Lighthouse needed more than a dash of TLC.

(NPS photos)

“It is one of those things you take for granted,” he said. “It is just part of the scenery. It became a great place to go fishing.”

He said he is concerned about a trend of higher tides that hammer away at the tower’s foundation. Water comes up over the doorway a couple of times a year. A better door and sealed bricks will help fight the effects, he said.

Until deeper federal and private funding is secured, work on the lighthouse sometimes feels like triage.

“We have to do maintenance that will keep her in good state while looking out for the long term,” said Ferrelle.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Quite a find while doing some cleaning

The Maryland State Fire Marshal bomb squad reported to an address in Sharpsburg after a man said he found Civil War-era weapons in his basement. The homeowner told investigators that he was cleaning his basement when he discovered the items. The Battle of Antietam occurred nearby. • Article

Monday, November 30, 2015

Then and now: Railroad depot after fall of Atlanta and burned lard oil factory

(Library of Congress)

The Civil War brought a cacophony of sights and smells to Atlanta, a burgeoning railroad town that would literally soar from the ashes after all the fighting and burning were done.

Atlanta’s importance to the Confederacy could not be overestimated. It was a transportation nexus and prize manufacturing and logistics center. Key to its role were four railroad lines, including the Western & Atlantic, which ran a 137-line line from Atlanta to Chattanooga.

The W&A was approved in 1836, shortly before a settlement called Terminus was founded. The area was renamed Marthasville, with the final name change to Atlanta in 1847.

(GBA map)

George Barnard took the top photo of the Western & Atlantic depot and the massive roundhouse in November 1864, a couple months after the city fell to Union forces. With the negatives was this note: “These were all destroyed a few days afterwards.” William T. Sherman left nothing of military value behind as he marched his men to Savannah, Ga.

Many of the downtown railroad tracks remain in the same beds today. They are under and surrounded by buildings important to modern Atlanta, including CNN Center, Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome (all in the background of the modern shot). The old Atlanta Journal-Constitution building is on the right.

Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association, believes Barnard took the depot shot from Bridge Street (now called Broad Street).

(Library of Congress)

Within a mile of the depot were scores of buildings also vital to the Confederacy, such as offices and military warehouses.

This second photograph was taken after the city’s fall. How can we tell?

A close inspection of the box cars shows the words “USMRR” – the U.S. Military Railroad, which operated on captured lines.

On the left of the historic photo is Holland Warehouse, the home of the Atlanta lard oil factory.  Author Stephen Davis wrote that it burned Aug. 24, 1864, after it was struck by a Union shell during the bombardment of Atlanta.

The Atlanta Intelligencer a few days later reported that the shell set to fire 120 bales of cotton, destroying the warehouse.

Lard oil was popular in the mid-19th century before coal and petroleum oil controlled the market. It was cheaper than whale oil, but was smelly and considered of lower quality. It had several uses, including for lanterns.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Atlanta Mayor James M. Calhoun asked businessman Sidney Root to form a “board of direct trade” during the Civil War. Resulting industries included the lard oil factory and paper mills.

The old photograph shows the Macon & Western line beginning a bend to the South. Crawford suspects it was taken from the depot. It’s impossible in a modern view to get the exact angle and proximity, but this version may be close.

(The Georgia Battlefields Association map shows the locations of wartime buildings)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ball busters: Experts render safe ordnance recovered from CSS Georgia

A Dahlgren round is rendered inert (Photos by Jeremy Buddemeir, USACE)

While the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia didn’t get to fire upon the enemy during the Civil War, her underwater graveyard was packed with potential peril for 150 years. That’s been remedied, thanks to a crew of technicians and engineers who rendered more than 100 artillery projectiles harmless after they were brought up by Navy divers.


Brooke shell will undergo conservation (USACE)

The 9-inch Dahlgren and 6.4-inch Brooke rifle rounds were recovered -- along with much of the scuttled ship’s wreckage -- from the Savannah River in Savannah, Ga.

The MuniRem Environmental crew used an array of technology and equipment to drill holes into each round and extract black powder, all the while ensuring they’d be safe during the “breaching” process. It used a chemical solution to flush black powder.
View from barrier with drill mechanism in background

The company said on its website: “Contrary to some expectations, less than 1% of the munitions had seawater seepage; the black powder main and primary charges were essentially dry and of high energetic hazard.”

By drilling a hole in the side of the munition, the crew was able to not disturb the fuze, the most hazardous part of the entire shell. “With the removal of the main charge the threat of a detonation and fragmentation of the munitions case was avoided,” the Georgia-based Muni Rem said. “The amount of explosives remaining within the projectile was contained within the fuze. Subsequently, the fuze was rendered safe by drilling directly though the fuze body to access and neutralize the explosives.”

A Dahlgren round resembles a bowling ball (USACE)
A fuze after removal from Brooke shell

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district in Savannah has overseen the CSS Georgia recovery. The shells were sent to Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory for conservation.

• More details of the delicate operation

A Dahlgren round is readied for breaching (USACE)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tickets on sale for Pulaski candlelight tours

Hot cider, cookies and holiday caroling await visitors to Fort Pulaski near Savannah, Ga., during the annual evening tours by candlelight and lamps. The commemoration of the Confederate nog party takes places on Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19. The original party, held during Christmas 1861, gave the Confederate garrison at Fort Pulaski a respite from the tension of impending battle. Tickets are on sale now. • Details

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Live blog: Garrison Keillor gives keynote at Gettysburg Address anniversary


The Civil War Picket today watched a live stream of Dedication Day events marking the 152nd anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Garrison Keillor (left) of “A Prairie Home Companion” gave the keynote address. The ceremony, which included the naturalization of 16 new American citizens, is usually held at Soldiers’ National Cemetery. It was moved to Gettysburg College because of weather concerns. (NOTE: The Picket was not in Gettysburg).

11 a.m.: Dedication Day event concludes. The colors are retired.

10:55 a.m.: Following the benediction, Taps is played.

10:51 a.m.: Recording of President Barack Obama welcoming new citizens is played, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and "God Bless America."

10:48 a.m.: Sixteen people from 12 countries -- including Ghana, Iraq, China, Vietnam and Russia -- take part in a naturalization ceremony making them U.S. citizens. A video image captures the array of diversity among the new citizens. The crowd gives a standing ovation after they take the oath of allegiance. 

10:41 a.m.: Soloist Wayne Hill sings the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

George Buss recites the Gettysburg Address (USCIS)

10:37 a.m.: Lincoln portrayer George Buss, who is about the same height and weight of the 16th president, recites the Gettysburg Address (full text is at the bottom of this post)

10:34 a.m.: Officials give Keillor the flag that was to have flown at the cemetery during the ceremony. 

10:32 a.m.: The radio variety show host says people are "awestruck" about what happened at Gettysburg and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. "God bless their memory."

10:27 a.m. Keillor, in a dark suit with a red tie and socks, recites a riveting "mashup" of letters that 12 soldiers, two from the South, wrote to loved ones back home about marching and camp life, including details of food, scenery and being homesick. Among the letters he quotes: "The boys are enthusiastic in their admiration of Pennsylvania and the nice girls in particular." Another young man wrote, "We marched a distance of 30 miles and I was pretty much used up ... I slept all unconscious until the first streak of daylight and reveille." One asked his mother to remember him in her prayers. "I hope and pray that I might be spared to see you." All the letter writers died at Gettysburg.

Keillor
10:20 a.m.: Steven Herr, president of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, introduces Garrison Keillor.

10:16 a.m.: Joanne M. Hanley, president of the Gettysburg Foundation, describes the group's role in supporting the park and mentions a Lincoln statue. "It is our duty ... that the powerful stories of Gettysburg .... are told and retold for generations."

10:13 a.m.: Ed Clark, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park describes the role of volunteers in preserving the battlefield and establishing Soldiers’ National Cemetery. He said President Lincoln challenged America to remember what the soldiers did there. Americans today should be committed to service, he said.

10:10 a.m.: Gettysburg College's president talks about the battle's impact on the campus. Janet Morgan Riggs says students and faculty went to hear President Lincoln at the new cemetery for the fallen. "We are very proud to have played a part in these historic events."

10:06 a.m.: The Rev. Maria Erling of Gettysburg Seminary gives the invocation, asking people to be inspired by those who gave their lives. 

10:02 a.m.: After a welcome, the National Anthem is played as a color guard in Civil War-era uniforms stands in front of the stage.

9:58 a.m.: Program is about to begin.

9:43 a.m.: A small band of school-age musicians in Union uniforms is performing music at the Gettysburg College Union Ballroom.

The Gettysburg Address (delivered on Nov. 19, 1863)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Museum for black soldiers at Stone Mountain?

An official says a plan to build a museum focused on black Civil War soldiers at Georgia’s Stone Mountain, which honors Confederate history, has taken priority over a proposed monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association voted to explore the museum proposal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. • Article

Monday, November 16, 2015

Enfield rifles recovered in shipwreck stay on display, await long-term conservation

Recent photo of the rifle crate. Water will be changed soon.
(Georgia State Parks)

An unusual display greets campers, hikers, boaters and Civil War aficionados who venture into the visitor center at Georgia’s Sweetwater Creek State Park west of Atlanta.

The curious skim through the text of wall panels to learn more about the jumble of wood and corroded metal resting in the middle of a large freshwater tank.

The carefully constructed box of British-made rifles was intended for the hands of Confederate soldiers. But they never made it ashore in Charleston, S.C. The CSS Stono, a blockade runner laden with precious arms, munitions and goods from Europe, in 1863 ran aground on a submerged sandbar off Fort Moultrie while trying to evade Federal ships.

This rare crate of 20 Enfield rifles remains in “suspension” until funding is procured for their permanent conservation so that they can be displayed outside a water environment at Fort McAllister State Park near Savannah.

(Georgia State Parks)

The Picket first spoke about the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-muskets with Josh Headlee, senior preservation technician with the state’s Historic Preservation Division, in December 2013. That post ranks in the top five of the most-popular articles on this blog.

One of the challenges that we face now is coming up with a way to support the crate without causing further damage to it,” Headlee recently said. “The lining of the crate … is made up of a tin composite material.  This tin is quite malleable now, given that it has rested in saltwater and now freshwater for over 150 years.  In essence the weight of the stack of rifles is wanting to fall down and burst open what is left of the crate.”

The technician said he plans in the next six months to install a brace to disrupt further degradation of the metal lining.

Over time, the freshwater tank environment has helped draw out salt and other contaminants.

“Most of the sodium chlorides are out of the water,” said Headlee. “Most of the metal parts of the rifles are gone. What is left we don’t want to corrode. We have fragments of barrels and locks.”

Rifles are placed in tank in 2013

Water was changed about once a week when the salt levels were especially high. But, over time, the interval has changed to about every six months.

Headlee says he and others are surprised at how intact the walnut stocks appear to be. Weapons found in other saltwater environments haven’t fared so well. “I wondered if the rifles weren’t wrapped in oil cloth before they were crated up, and that helped preserve them.”

Brass components, including butt plates, trigger guards and the nose cap at the end of the barrels better withstood the ravages of longtime submersion. Researchers also found a bullet mold, tools and tampions, or cork and brass plugs inserted into the muzzle to ward off moisture.

Three of the tampions found with rifles (Ga. DNR)

The CSS Stono was previously known as the USS Isaac Smith, a steamer that saw Federal service before its capture by Confederate land forces.

Some of the CSS Stono’s contents were retrieved by the South, but others, including the crate of Enfields, could not be salvaged, apparently because they were below the water line. In 1865, the “stuck” ship was burned to prevent it from falling into the hands of Federal troops.

An archaeological diver pulled up the crate from the shipwreck in the late 1980s. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources acquired the guns from South Carolina. 

Headlee said he expects conservation of the rifles could run into the tens of thousands of dollars. An outside contractor could guide the department in an appropriate technique, perhaps by freeze-drying the material to remove moisture without causing further damage.

Typical Pattern 1853 Enfield (NPS)


“They are on the radar screen and (officials) are well aware of the fact that as long as they are in the water and monitored and are being taken care of, the status quo is OK for now. And they are available to the public.”

There is no timetable for the conservation.

Fort McAllister is a suitable permanent home, Headlee says, because of its focus on Southern blockade runners. The site has a display on the CSS Nashville, a vessel that was destroyed nearby by Union forces in early 1863.

The rifles have been on display for two years. Visitors to Sweetwater Creek State Park often walk down to the ruins of the New Manchester mill, which produced textiles for the Confederacy before it was burned by Union troops in 1864.