Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Second cannonball will be blown up

A Savannah, Ga., police bomb squad and Fort Stewart’s Army EOD will conduct a controlled explosion Wednesday of a Civil War-era cannonball found at an excavation site near Broughton and Barr streets. It is the second found in recent days. • Article

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Camp Lawton museum adds reproduction gun, may build stockade, pigeon roost displays

(Courtesy of Georgia State Parks)

A small museum on the site of a Confederate prison camp in southern Georgia has added a reproduction version of a weapon used by reserve troops to keep watch on 10,000 Federal prisoners.

“We have tried to create some additions and keep it moving forward,” Judd Smith, an interpretive specialist for Georgia State Parks, says of the Camp Lawton exhibits at Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen.
Camp Lawton opened in autumn 1864 after Union troops were believed to be intent on capturing the infamous prison camp at Andersonville. Lawton was built to hold the POWS moved out of Andersonville. But it was emptied after only six weeks when Federal troops on the March to the Sea approached Millen. Lawton’s prisoners were sent elsewhere or back to Andersonville.
The 9-pound U.S. Model 1855 rifle-musket (a musket manufactured with rifling) went on display at the Magnolia Springs History Center in September. “It is a pretty faithful reproduction (sold by Dixie Gun Works). It is a shooter if you wanted to shoot it,” said Smith. “We wanted to display it.”
New mannequin at museum (Georgia State Parks)

The museum, which opened in a renovated building in October 2014, allows visitors to “check in” to assume the identity of an individual Federal POW, learn more about the experience of that soldier and find out his fate. It also features artifacts, interpretive panels, a replica of a prisoner tent and more.
Smith said future plans include the construction of a section representing the stockade wall and a “pigeon roost,” or sentry box used by the Rebel guards.
“The idea is to create that sense of place, the stockade, the pigeon roost. We want to … put people’s mindset back in the time, what it would have been like to be in this walled enclosure,” said Smith.
Officials also want to highlight some of the notable Lawton prisoners, including Boston Corbett, who was exchanged and credited with killing Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, and Robert Knox Sneden, who made riveting illustrations of Confederate prisons where he was housed.
On one end of the small building is a laboratory used by Georgia Southern University students who have conducted archaeological digs on the site, recovering hundreds of artifacts. After a two-year absence, students will be surveying and testing Camp Lawton during field schools next spring and summer.
(Georgia State Parks)

Ryan McNutt, the faculty member who now heads the Camp Lawton project, would like to see public days return to the site during excavations. Visitors can watch the work, screen soils for items and learn more about the camp’s history.
The Friends of Magnolia Springs State Park recently hosted a public information day in conjunction with the university.
Smith said he got the idea for the reproduction rifle-musket after buying a copy of the book “Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Civil War Collection at the Atlanta History Center.”
Gordon L. Jones, senior military historian and curator at the Atlanta History Center and author of the book, described the remarkable collection in 2014.
“George Wray set out … to just collect Confederate-made or used materials,” Jones told the Picket. “All of them have a Confederate association.”
The Camp Lawton exhibit includes images from the AHC and a description of the 1855 rifle-musket in the Wray collection. Wray obtained a weapon marked with the stamp of the Republican Blues, a volunteer militia group formed in Savannah, Ga. The 215 members of the company received the U.S. Model 1855 rifle-musket in January 1859. They were manufactured at the famous U.S. Armory in Springfield, Mass.
The Blues took their guns on a goodwill tour of New York City in July 1860, and had them when war broke out in April 1861. They were relegated at first to coastal defenses. While serving primarily as artillerymen, they had to turn in the Model 1855s in June 1862 to the state of Georgia, which wanted them for its infantry regiments.
“Joe Brown being Joe Brown he decided he wanted the muskets back,” Smith said of the wartime governor.
The weapon in the Wray collection was issued in 1864 to William R. Parker of the 3rd Georgia Reserve Infantry Regiment, a unit used for state defense. Parker, 18, punched his name in the stock and carried the rifle when he and others guarded prisoners at Camp Sumter (Andersonville) and Lawton.
(An antique guns auction site currently has what the seller says is one of the Republican Blues Model 1855s. The .58-caliber weapon, valued at $12,000, has no bids.)
(Georgia State Parks)

Smith said people who live near Magnolia Springs continue to support the park and its Civil War history. (Part of Camp Lawton is on the site of a closed federal hatchery next to the state park. That portion is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)
Officials hope to build tourism in the county. A sign on U.S. 25, for example, touts Camp Lawton.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Time capsule contents a sodden mess

Confederate money, badges, newspapers, photos and a likeness of Gen. Robert E. Lee were believed to be among the items in a time capsule placed in a Civil War monument near the University of Louisville (Ky.) in 1895. Much of the contents found in the brass box aren't likely to have survived. The box, which sat six inches beneath the memorial, was waterlogged and covered in mud, crews learned this week. • Article

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Salt's mostly gone from shipwreck's 20 Enfield rifles, but intensive conservation awaits

(Photos courtesy of Sweetwater Creek State Park)

Twenty Enfield rifles recovered from Charleston (S.C.) Harbor and on display in a freshwater tank at a Georgia state park remain in a “holding situation” until funding is procured for complete conservation.

“At this point, the crate of rifles is pretty well desalinated,” said Josh Headlee, curator with the Historic Preservation Division. “The conservation is a process that will take a good while to complete and the cost could be considerable. Furthermore, once that process is started, it can’t be stopped without irreversible damage to the rifles.”

The British-made weapons, which have been on display for three years at Sweetwater State Park west of Atlanta, were intended for the hands of Confederate soldiers.

But they never made it ashore in Charleston. 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.

An archaeological diver pulled up the crate in the late 1980s.  Georgia later acquired the guns from South Carolina.

The rifles rest in crate at the bottom of the large tank maintained by park staff. Visitors at Sweetwater often ask about the rifles and can read about them.

The Picket first spoke about the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-muskets with Headlee in December 2013. That post ranks second of the most-popular articles on this blog.

“While they are in freshwater, (the rifles) are in a relatively safe environment and can be kept stable,” Headlee said this week.

Visitors to Sweetwater 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.

Friday, November 11, 2016

3 black vets being moved to national cemetery

The remains of three African-American veterans of the Civil War are being moved from their overgrown graves to the cemetery at central Pennsylvania’s Fort Indiantown Gao. PennLive reported that a pair of public ceremonies next week will mark the transfer of the bodies of William Anderson, Greenburg Stanton and John Nelson from Huntsdale, Pennsylvania, to the national cemetery about 50 miles away.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Rocky Face Ridge: Civil War Trust announces preservation of Atlanta Campaign site

Charlie Crawford/Georgia Battlefields Association

A 2,000-foot long continuous entrenchment and pristine earthworks at the Rocky Face Ridge battlefield will be preserved and become a historic and recreational site in northwest Georgia, Civil War Trust and local officials announced Tuesday at the end of a national campaign.

“This acquisition is one of the most important pieces of land we have ever saved in Georgia, and is one of those priceless few places where not one but two Civil War battles were fought on the same hallowed ground,” Trust President James Lighthizer said in a statement.

The Trust said the 301 acres known as Grant Farm will be transferred to the park system of Whitfield County, which has an adjoining 625-acre tract. Fortifications were built by Confederate troops trying to halt the advance of Sherman’s Federal legions. Whitfield County is believed to have the most surviving Civil War fortifications in the country.

The 301 acres that were purchased for $1.38 million were part of the May 1864 Battle of Rocky Face Ridge and the February 1864 Battle of Dalton.

The transfer will create a seamless interpretive experience, giving visitors a greater understanding of both the battle and the movements of the opposing armies during the opening days of the decisive Atlanta campaign,” the Trust said. 

“I hope Whitfield County will become a benchmark on bringing divergent interests together to help preserve our environment, history, and health,” Commission Chairman Mike Babb said in a statement.

(Courtesy of Whitfield County)

Plans for the site have not been without some controversy.

The Georgia Battlefields Association withdrew its offer of $45,000 to help in the recent property purpose because of concerns about possible damage from proposed mountain biking trails. Officials said trails would be installed under supervision of a historic preservation planner to avoid rock trenches and entrenchments, the GBA noted in a newsletter in September.

“In a discussion among the GBA trustees, we were especially influenced by a trustee who had seen off-road bike trails attract not only responsible bikers but also those who view earthworks, rock formations, and ecologically sensitive sites as challenges on which to hone their biking skills,” said the GBA. “We concluded that damage to the rock trenches on the top and the slope of Rocky Face Ridge was likely and would be impossible to reconstruct accurately, despite the existence of conservation easements requiring the repair of any damage.”

Mitch Talley, communications director for Whitfield County, told the Picket plans are still on for the bike trails, “but they will not be allowed in the actual battle areas to prevent damage to the historic features.”

The trails will likely be on both tracts, he said.

A Whitfield County park will bring new synergy to the northwest corner of the state as a Civil War tourism market.

More fortifications on preserved property (GBA)

Upon the opening earlier this year of Resaca Battlefield Historic Site to the south, Jim Ogden, historian with Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, told the Picket he could direct those interested in the Atlanta Campaign to a well-preserved site between Chickamagua and Pickett's Mill or Kennesaw in suburban Atlanta. Now it looks like Whitfield County will be adding another site.

“This also means, for Civil War round tables or other history-based groups, particularly if they'll do a little walking, there's now … enough in the Tunnel Hill-Dalton-Resaca area to make a multi-day tour of just that part of the campaign,” Ogden said in the spring. 

The Whitfield County site was purchased for $1.38 million using a grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, along with private donations by Trust members and other groups, officials said.

Local historian Greg Cockburn contacted the county in 2014 and took  Babb on a tour of the property to point out the reasons it was important to local Civil War history, said Talley.

(Courtesy of Charlie Crawford)

A recent wildfire (above) covered a large portion of the 625-acre tract, and the GBA has expressed concern about damage to historic features, including sections of rock trenches of both Federal and Confederate lines. The smaller Grant Farm also had fire damage.

“Other than vegetation very little damage was done by the fire,” said Talley. “The fire breaks did cross some Confederate trenches but (did not do) much damage because they were blading, not plowing.

On May 4, 1864, Sherman led 100,000 men into northwest Georgia against the Army of Tennessee camped at Rocky Face Ridge. The general ordered one quarter of his men to strike a railhead at Resaca, cutting the Confederate supply line, while the rest of his forces acted as a diversion.

“The fighting began in earnest on May 7, with Union columns pressing toward Mill Creek and Dug Gap. Hurling rocks when they ran out of ammunition, the deeply dug-in Confederates held their position, and the Federals moved to meet Southern forces at nearby Resaca," the Trust said.

There is no current timetable for the site's opening and its name, Talley said.

Pickett's Mill candlelight tours postponed

The extension of a burn ban in drought-stricken Paulding County, Ga., led to the postponement of this coming weekend’s candlelight tours at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site. The tours include a campfire, candle lanterns and the firing of black powder weapons.When the fire danger is this high, fires of all types start quickly and burn intensely,” said the Friends of Pickett’s Mill Battlefield. The event will be rescheduled, likely in March 2017. Registration money will be refunded. • Details

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Plans made for dig at Pea Ridge's Leetown hamlet; analysis of artillery site continues

Foundations are all that remain in Leetown (NPS photo)

The few Leetown residents who stayed after the Battle of Pea Ridge didn’t stick around a whole lot longer. The 1881 building of a railroad line a dozen miles away in Rogers brought new opportunities and the end to this northwest Arkansas community.
Nature reclaimed the area that once held about 15 one-story, log-frame houses and a small store. Leetown was only a half mile from the pitched fighting of March 7, 1862. Homes were used for hospitals, woods and fields were filled with battle debris, and the stench of death permeated the air, according to the National Park Service.
The Arkansas Archeological Survey, a part of the University of Arkansas system, is in a four-year project examining up to nine areas in Pea Ridge National Military Park.
Carl Drexler, a battlefield archaeologist with the Survey, said the University of Arkansas Global Campus will host a multi-week field school at Leetown in summer 2017. The site contains some foundations. The hamlet witnessed a major part of the first day's fighting and was the site of a U.S. Army field hospital.
(NPS photo)

Two Confederate generals died near Leetown
 (above) during assaults after their units were separated during a flanking movement. The Confederates were forced to withdraw.
The Picket has published posts about spring 2016 excavations in Ruddick’s Field, a couple miles to the east of Leetown. Archaeologists recovered 540 artifacts – the largest a 6-pound solid artillery shot – from the cornfield and in wooded areas.
“These have all been analyzed, at least on a preliminary level, and plotted in mapping software,” Drexler said recently. “More analyses of the items, including what their locations can tell us about gun positions, troop movements, etc., are still in the pipeline.”
NPS' Alex Swift with piece of case shot or musket ball at Ruddick's Field.

One aim of the project is to ascertain, by analyzing artillery fragment locations, just where the guns were located, the distance from targets and perhaps even the trajectory of the shots. 
An artillery duel at Ruddick’s involving 40 Federal and 30 Rebel guns speaks to the psychological and morale toll of artillery. “The smoke and the explosion of the cannonballs created such an overwhelming assault on the senses that the cumulative effect … was often greater than just what the bodily destruction was,” Drexler said earlier this year.
About 3,000 of the Confederate Missouri State Guard charged a Union position late on March 7, 1862. Union canister and shells and infantry fire ripped through the Rebel lines in the cornfield. It was over in 15 minutes, the survivors limping back toward Elkhorn Tavern.
The March 6-9, 1862, Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) has been called by some historians “the Gettysburg of the West.”
Forces under Union Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis defeated the men of Confederate Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, whose leadership has been faulted by historians. On March 7, the Rebels controlled Elkhorn Tavern, but the failed attack at Ruddick’s Field presaged the next day, in which consolidated Federal troops made a counterattack, sweeping Van Dorn’s brigades from the field.
The Union won control of Missouri and weakened the Confederate hold in Arkansas.
Those taking part in next summer’s excavations at Leetown, which was established in the 1840s, know it was a humble community.
An Iowa surgeon wrote after the battle: "In all, the windows were few and very small, admitting little light and an insufficiency of air, even when the sash frames were entirely removed.....They contained but few of the ordinary domestic appliances, and were wholly wanting in the usual necessaries found in more settled regions."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Corinth's Grand Illumination will feature candles, camels and holiday open house

(National Park Service)

After a four-year absence, the Grand Illumination returns this weekend to Corinth, Ms., an event that will combine a Civil War memorial and merchants holding their first holiday open house of the season.

Events Saturday and Sunday include period music by Bobby Horton, living histories, tours of Civil War-era homes and infantry firing demonstrations. See the schedule here.

(NPS photo)
The signature moment will be the lighting Saturday evening of 12,000 luminaries representing casualties during the 1862 siege and battle of Corinth. About half of the luminaries will be placed at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, a unit of Shiloh National Military Park. The others will be placed along streets leading to and in downtown Corinth.

“You think about 12,000 casualties. It is hard to comprehend,” said Ashley Berry, Shiloh supervisory park ranger. “When you stand on the hill, looking downtown … it is breathtaking and puts it into perspective.”

One sight sure to turn heads will feature two camels and the 16th Alabama Infantry re-enactor group. The 16th will be portraying the 43rd Mississippi Infantry, which fought at Corinth and Iuka and was trapped in the Union siege of Vicksburg. A camel dubbed Old Douglas carried baggage and musical instruments for the regiment.

Doug Baum of the Texas Camel Corps will provide the beasts, which will have their own “hotel” and veterinarian, Berry told the Picket. The interpretive center will "ring in" old Douglas with artifacts from the U.S. Camel Corps experiment, including the bell shown below.

(NPS photo)
An article in an old issue of Confederate Veteran magazine recalled the “faithful” service of Old Douglas with the 43rd: “When the regiment was ready to start Douglas would be led up to the pile of things he was to carry, and his leader would say, ‘Pushay, Douglas;’ and he would gracefully drop to his knees and haunches and remain so till his load was adjusted and he was told to get up. His long, swinging gait was soon familiar with the entire command, and ours was called the ‘Camel Regiment.’”

In a recent Facebook post, Shiloh Superintendent Dale Wilkerson wrote about Old Douglas' refusal to be tethered. "The loose ranging camel scared horses on several occasions, causing stampedes."

Alas, Old Douglas was killed by a Federal sharpshooter at Vicksburg, and legend has it that his famished human companions consumed his remains.

The timing of the Grand Illumination, the last National Park Service centennial event for Shiloh, was coordinated with the Corinth Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. (The Battle of Corinth occurred in early October 1862).

Corinth Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Christy Burns, the bureau’s executive director, has worked with Shiloh on getting about 120 volunteers needed to place and light the luminaries. The Grand Illumination, which also depends on donations, is returning largely because of an NPS grant, officials said.

“It fills all of my tourism hats,” Burns said of the event. “All the boutique businesses are having their first holiday open house that weekend.” She cited a list of new or signature downtown businesses, including Blazing Noodlez and Borroum’s, the “oldest drug store in the state (and) with great milkshakes.”

A view of Fillmore Street (CACVB)

Besides events at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, people can see Civil War-related items at the Crossroads Museum at the old depot and visit the antebellum Verandah and Duncan houses.

“Christmas decorations are going up as we speak,” said Burns. “Our downtown is another jewel we are trying to sell as one unit.”

The bureau touts industry and businesses that employ many of the northeastern Mississippi city’s 15,000 residents. “History is only half our story,” Burns said. Major employers include the hospital, Caterpillar and Kimberly-Clark.

(NPS photo)
The NPS interpretive center in Corinth is 12 years old. It’s about a half hour drive from the Shiloh battlefield in Tennessee. It’s designed to be the starting point for those wanting to learn about the action at both Corinth and Shiloh. It also tells the broad story of the war’s causes, impact and significance today, said Berry.

She said a large number of slaves flocked to Corinth after President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862.

A contraband camp was established in Corinth and its hospitals, churches and schools served about 6,000 African-Americans until January 1864, when the Union army moved its headquarters to Memphis, Tenn.

Berry said the Friends of the Siege and Battle of Corinth works to preserve Civil War sites “scattered around town.” The city was a strategic railroad hub for the Confederacy, and the Federal army meant to control the crossroads.

The siege and battle were two separate events. Federal troops laid siege to the town in late April 1862 (a few weeks after the clash at Shiloh), eventually forcing the outnumbered Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard to withdraw. Rebel units marched on Corinth in early October, only to be defeated.