Saturday, February 27, 2016

Names of freed slaves put into database

Larry Terrell Crudup can trace his ancestors back to slaves working on a plantation in North Carolina. But the Round Rock, Texas, resident doesn’t know what happened to those slaves when they were freed after the Civil War, or whether he’s related to any of the Crudups living on the East Coast. That’s why Crudup is participating Sunday in a national project to put the records of freed slaves into a free, searchable online database. The project uses records gathered by the federal government when it started the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1865. • Article

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Kennesaw battlefield a step closer to expanding, adding historic Wallis House

The Wallis House about 10 years ago (Georgia Battlefields Association)

A dilapidated 1853 farmhouse that at one point was in imminent danger of being demolished may soon became part of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, which could use it to more fully tell the story of Union strategy in the battle and the role of African-Americans in the Civil War.

Efforts to have eight acres containing the Wallis House and Harriston Hill added to the park in north Georgia have been more than a decade in the making. The U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 24 voted in favor, with a similar bill to be considered next by the Senate.

“It is very exciting for us. We know that once this happens this is just a first step,” said park Superintendent Nancy Walther. “We are really thrilled about the opportunity and it is nice to ride the surf in.”

The two-bedroom home, built by Josiah Wallis, had several uses during the Kennesaw campaign in June 1864. It was first used as a Confederate hospital, then was the headquarters for Union Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard. His boss, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, was at the house during the Battle of Kolb’s Farm to the south.

“Adjacent to the Wallis house is Harriston Hill, which offers a sweeping vista of the valley leading to the Confederate line atop Kennesaw Mountain,” a National Park Service official said in 2010. “From this position, it is clear why General Howard picked this site for his headquarters and signaling position.”

The campaign to save the house, give it permanent protection and have it help tell the story of the battle during the Atlanta Campaign is a long one.

(Courtesy of GBA)

Cobb County, just northwest of Atlanta, for years saw an incredible housing boom and development. While that was a boon for newcomers, preservationists and historians decried the loss of Civil War sites or land to development.

The county, working with the Georgia Civil War Commission and the Cobb Land Trust, spent $320,000 to buy the property in early 2004 so that 43 homes could not be built on it and adjoining parcels, Walther told the Picket.

The park needs congressional approval in order to expand its boundaries and accept donation of the house and hill from the county.

Several years ago, then-Superintendent Stanley Bond helped lead a community effort to recommend ways to increase African-American visitation to the park – and tell the story of slaves, freed individuals, U.S. Colored Troops and more.

O.O. Howard
Bond told the Picket in February 2011 that he hoped the Wallis House could house an expanded exhibit on African-American soldiers and civilians. There’s a direct connection, because of the home’s association with Gen. Howard.

Howard University, a historically black school in Washington, D.C., was named for the white officer, founder of the university and commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Walther said while there currently are no formal plans for interpretation at the Wallis House, she cited Bond’s efforts to more fully tell the stories of African-Americans and people who lived near Kennesaw Mountain. “We want to tell the whole story,” she said.

The Wallis House, near a subdivision, is just west of the main park on Burnt Hickory Road near Barrett Parkway. A paved parking lot and a sidewalk leading up to the property line were put in several years ago.

Vegetation has grown up around the house and while relatively structurally sound, the residence would need a lot of work before opening. People in the community have wanted the park to clean it up, but that could not be done because the land was in a holding pattern until congressional action.

The superintendent said she has been inside the structure.

“When it was still inhabited it was a nice enough home. It’s not large, maybe 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. There are outbuildings. It has been vacant for so long it is very dilapidated. We want to take it back to the original structure. Part of the house is (postwar) additions. We would be ripping those out.”

The cost of restoration and other aspects of the project could be about $1 million, said Walther. “There is a lot of support to help with the renovation of the house.”

That’s considerably less than a previous $5 million estimate.

It could be five years or more before the Wallis House is open for interpretation.

First will come the submission for federal funding, which could take two to three years. “The first matter is to formulate a plan of action,” Walther said. “Funding will be the backbone of everything that will happen.”

Walther said the staff is excited about the opportunity to provide students and others more education. That can be done through Kennesaw Mountain’s natural and manmade features – and the Wallis House.

“When you can touch history, it can have a lasting impression on you.”

Monday, February 22, 2016

Archaeology at Pea Ridge: Looking beyond artifacts to show how crucial battle played out

Jami Lockhart collects magnetometry data (Credit:AAS)

Asa Payne came back to Pea Ridge some 49 years after the momentous Civil War battle. The beardless boy now was a gray-bearded man in his mid-60s, living a quieter life after fighting for Emperor Maximilian I in Mexico and seeing adventures on the Santa Fe Trail.

The real estate broker found the battlefield in northwest Arkansas to be little changed since he fought there. An apple orchard now grew near the famous Elkhorn Tavern.

"I stayed all night in that old tavern but all was quiet, the booming of cannon and the wails of the wounded were hushed forever,” Payne wrote for a newspaper in Carthage, Mo., where he lived. 

“I was lulled to sleep by the tinkling of cow bells in the nearby mountain and was awakened only by the hoot of owls which seemed to me were hooting their last long hoot in memory of the past."

A half century before, this farm land trembled, sustaining the largest cannonade in American history to that point. Green troops, led by men with untested tactics, clashed in a battle that proved to be a disaster for the Confederacy.

Sign at Ruddick's Field (Courtesy of Jami Lockhart)

Payne, who fought for the 3rd Missouri Infantry, wrote of the fierce scene on Benjamin Ruddick’s cornfield just south of the tavern. About 3,000 Confederates charged a Union position late on March 7, 1862. Union canister and shells and infantry fire ripped through the Rebel lines. It was over in 15 minutes, the survivors limping back toward Elkhorn Tavern.

As it was during Payne’s return trip, Ruddick’s Field – now part of Pea Ridge National Military Park – today lies quiet and undisturbed. But recent months have seen new activity as archaeologists have surveyed the field and prepared for excavations beginning in March, the first time digging has taken place on the site.

Experts have a battery of technological weapons they did not have 15 years ago, when metal detectors were used elsewhere on Pea Ridge. This is believed to be the first time large-scale remote sensing has been used on such a battlefield, experts tell the Picket.

The “super precise” technology, combined with GPS maps, is allowing archaeologists to do a complete study of a largely pristine battle area.

“You are looking on the screen while you are walking across the field and you know when you are standing on top” of an artifact, said Jami Lockhart, director of remote sensing for the Arkansas Archeological Survey.

Lockhart and his Survey colleagues, working with the National Park Service, are attempting to fine-tune the historical record of Pea Ridge – using data and mapping to pinpoint where infantry or artillery were positioned, to follow the trajectory of fire and see where bullets and artillery landed, often with devastating effect.

(Courtesy of Arkansas Archeological Survey)

“You get an idea of where the actual lines are as they move across. With artillery, you have aerial bursts above them. We are seeing where that is landing on the ground,” said Steven De Vore, a regional archaeologist with the NPS.

Thousands of “magnetic anomalies” – likely artillery shells and fragments, bullets, horse bridles, weapons parts or personal items associated with the battle -- have been detected within two feet of the surface at the cornfield site. Archaeologists plan to excavate a limited number for further study and possible display at the visitor center – all part of an ongoing effort to more fully interpret what happened here.

“The most important thing to come out of this kind of work, by developing a clear understanding of how that battle progressed … is to give us an opportunity to tell us (what) our ancestors endured and what their experience was and how that experience feeds into their later life and our collective memory,” said Carl Drexler, a battlefield archaeologist with the Survey.

'The war was won in Arkansas'

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.

Field is shown in map of Federal counterattack (NPS)

“It is no exaggeration to say that the Pea Ridge campaign permanently altered the balance of power in the Trans-Mississippi. Few Civil War operations had such an impact on the course of events,” according to the National Park Service.

“The cascading effect or Pea Ridge not only locks up northwest Arkansas and Missouri, it allows St. Louis to be base of operations for Grant’s campaigns in Vicksburg,” said Drexler. “The war was won in Arkansas.”

Asa Payne wrote eloquently about his experiences at Pea Ridge while just a teen.

“I remember some of our boys would laugh and mock the shells and others were as pale as death, while still others had great drops of sweat on their faces.”

The soldier took part in the doomed Missouri assault on Federal troops under the command of Col. Eugene Carr at snow-covered Ruddick’s Field. The arrival of reinforcements and additional guns turned the tide against the Confederates led by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price.

Eugene Carr
"By this time it was almost dark," remembered Payne, "and we got so near the battery that the fire from the guns would pass in jetting streams through our lines."

The valiant but costly attack in Ruddick's Field late on March 7 was the high-water mark of the Confederate war effort west of the Mississippi River and the final instance in which Van Dorn held the initiative at Pea Ridge, said the NPS. “Henceforth, Curtis would control the course of the battle.

More than 150 years later, historians and scientists are delving into the past at Ruddick's field.

“We are seeing a massive overrepresentation of cannonball fragments to show how severe an event this was,” said Drexler.

The artillery duel 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.

Archaeologists and historians over the years have benefited from the park’s remote location. That generally means fewer postwar ground disturbances and relic hunting, though officials remain sensitive about the latter.

Annual visitation to Pea Ridge’s 4,300 rolling hills and fields is about 120,000, said Superintendent Kevin Eads. “That is the beauty of the park. It is extremely well-preserved.”

The Arkansas Archeological Survey, a part of the University of Arkansas system, expects the four-year Pea Ridge project to study up to nine areas on the federal property. Officials hope to operate a field school at Leetown, which contains foundations of buildings at a hamlet that existed during the battle.

“I think this project will give us some amazing information,” Eads told the Picket.

Pea Ridge's Elkhorn Tavern (NPS)

High-tech gadgets take to the field

The Survey is “very cutting edge in high-tech technology,” said Jamie Brandon, a regional archaeologist on the team.

Excavations at Pea Ridge in 2003 and earlier used traditional methods, including metal detectors and cordoned strips.

“This is the first time we will use these high-tech ways of looking at the ground before we dig, Brandon said.

Visitors to Pea Ridge in recent months have seen archaeologists using H-shaped magnetometers to peer beneath the surface of the cornfield’s 22 acres.

Researchers have employed five remote-sensing technologies for this project: Gradiometers, electrical resistance, electromagnetic conductivity, magnetic susceptibility and ground-penetrating radar. The effort will be supplemented by the traditional metal detector during small, pinpoint excavations this spring.

Earl Van Dorn
“Each senses a different physical property in the soil,” said Lockhart, the technology guru of the team. “We are trying to determine, because we can sense big concentrations of metal … where troops were shooting from and to.”

He and others speak of what makes this project particularly interesting. Rather than sifting through pottery sherds, shed foundations or wall fragments, they are “tracking” thousands of pieces of metal in a moving battle. Brandon likens it to the power of Doppler radar.

De Vore, with the National Park Service, said the benefit of this type of field survey is clear: Metal detectors leave gaps. “The advantage right now with doing the magnetic survey in large, open area is we can cover the ground with really good coverage. We are not missing a lot.”

“Plus, it gives you a map of display of where things are located,” he said. “You get a pattern of what is going on.”

Researchers, for example, can better see the radial patterns of shell bursts. “You will have dropped bullets. You can find how lines are progressing,” said De Vore. “You can find out where other infantry is firing on, where the bullets landed.”

Filling in personal stories

Eads, the superintendent, said discoveries at Ruddick’s Field and elsewhere at the park will help the NPS make management decisions and tweak interpretation of the battle, if necessary.

“The Officials Records may say one thing and we find something that is inconsistent or dead-on.”

The visitor center was redone a few years ago, complemented by some new exhibits. But officials hope many recovered artifacts will go on display.

“We have a few items from the field, but not very many,” said Eads. “Most are reproduction. We hope to bring in more of these artifacts on a rotational basis.”

Autumn scene at Pea Ridge (NPS)

Make no mistake: Archaeology can help shape the telling of history.

More than decade ago, Drexler worked with NPS archaeologist Douglas Scott at Little Bighorn, where Lt. Col. George Armstrong, a Civil War hero, and much of the 7th Cavalry met their doom in 1876. Scott’s research showed movement of the regiment’s companies and the breakdown of command and control during the Indian attack.

“Soldiers are trained to behave in a certain way on the battlefield,” said Drexler. From well-ordered lines “you can see points where those lines become jumbled, erratic movement that is indicative of when the men start to panic, run in ways inconsistent with their training.”

Drexler said remote sensing can show “disturbance” features, including possibly burial areas or shell depressions in Ruddick’s Field. The shape of a crater can show the location of the battery that fired a round.

“You are going to find things. A metal detector will key on artifacts,” he said. “It will not show a disturbance of soil that may be a result of human impact, such as a furrow from shell impact.”

The archaeologist gave examples of previous discoveries:

-- Experts found evidence of a Colt revolving rifle used at Leetown.

-- At Wilson’s Creek battlefield in Missouri, archaeologists did not find civilian ammunition, despite a widespread belief that Confederates grabbed rifles off the fireplace mantle in order to shoot Yankees.

 -- Experts proved that an artillery battery with a 24-pound howitzer was in fact at Pea Ridge. And they determined the Federal army salvaged parts of Enfield and Springfield rifles, rather than obsolete weapons.

(Courtesy of Arkansas Archeological Survey)

Of course, until the first shovel turns earth at Ruddick’s Field, no one knows for sure whether any part of Pea Ridge’s story will be rewritten.

“There probably is going to be a fair number of bullets. I expect there to be literally buckets of shell fragments given the artillery duel focused on the north edge of the field," said Drexler. "Possibly a few weapons parts and personal items.” If human remains are found, there could pieces of equipment – such as buttons -- that came off over time.

Drexler spoke of battle descendants who have conducted genealogical research. “Their connections are strong and emotional.”

“By helping the park present the battle accurately, when people will come with a personal story, they can sense this landscape is important and (possibly the location) of the final act of that ancestor’s life.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Road may be named for black soldier

Inspired by South Carolina pulling the Confederate flag from the front of its Statehouse, an effort by Washington state lawmakers to remove a symbol of slavery passed the House unanimously Monday. House Joint Memorial 4010, which heads to the Senate for consideration, would name Highway 99 after black Civil War veteran William P. Stewart of Snohomish. • Article

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gettysburg: A trip down memory lane

The folks at Gettysburg National Military Park observed the 121st anniversary of its establishment with a nice collection of photos and sketches from its early days. Management assistant Katie Lawhon writes of the veterans’ determination in seeing that the battle’s story be told through the ages. • Photos

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Aluminum foil ironclad on the port bow!

Alaric Fulton, 9, learned that using a layered design for his replica steam-propelled warship could help it withstand attacks. The boy took part in the ironclads session of “Civil War Tech: Science Adventures in History” at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill. Participants used tinfoil to make an ironclad. They could bombard another’s ship with pennies, magnets, cotton balls, pencils and marbles. • Article

Thursday, February 4, 2016

It's official: Resaca battlefield park transferred to Ga. county; will open in spring

(Georgia Battlefields Association)

An historic site that will use hiking trails and interpretive signs to tell the story of the Battle of Resaca during the Federal army’s push toward Atlanta reached a crucial milestone this week.

Gordon County in northwest Georgia on Tuesday evening formally accepted transfer of the completed site from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Ken Padgett, a leader of the Gordon County Historic Preservation Commission and Friends of Resaca Battlefield, told the Picket that a May 13 grand opening is set, with a soft opening expected in late March or early April.  

Resaca Battlefield Historic Site, off an exit of Interstate 75, will feature well-preserved trenches from both sides and most of the battlefield on the early afternoon of May 14, 1864. Late-afternoon action is on the east side of the interstate. While the battle was a stalemate, Confederates withdrew and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman continued his eventually successful march on Atlanta.

Padgett said he expects the site to be open initially on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There will be staff on hand, but no interpretive center.

The Gordon County Board of Commissioners’ acceptance of operations and maintenance of the park is welcome news for park advocates. For two decades, supporters of the site have been frustrated by false starts, permit problems, negotiations by state and local governments, construction delays and a massive road project at the interstate interchange at Resaca.

County Administrator John A. King told the Picket on Thursday a lot of work remains for the park to open, and the window for the “soft opening could possibly shift in either direction.”

King said officials are considering a traffic counting system as well as video surveillance options.

The Friends of Resaca said the vote was the culmination of a 20-year, "exhausting" effort.

"With the addition of the Resaca Battlefield Historic Site to a long list of key areas including, Fort Wayne Historic Site, the Resaca Confederate Cemetery, the WPA Roadside Park, the conservation easement property, and the State’s oldest annual Civil War Reenactment held the third weekend in May, we are looking for Gordon County to become a national tourist destination."

Monday, February 1, 2016

An old shirt and a very young man -- a poignant Civil War story from Alabama

The shirt of Henry W. Reese Jr. (Courtesy T.H. Biederman)

In today’s world of mass production and two-day shipping, a man’s shirt can be easily replaced. Got a stain or rip? Order another online.

The brown-and-white checked garment hanging on a museum wall in Montgomery, Ala., however, was not about efficiency. Rather, it was about love and a statement of pride.

The homespun shirt was custom-made for a tall, skinny teen boy who came from a prosperous family. Untold hours went into picking, washing and carding and spinning the dyed fiber. Then came the arduous tasks of weaving the fabric on a large loom and hand sewing the pieces.

Made for a mother’s first-born child, the shirt featured higher fashion than most – rounded pockets, a French cut and purple and white glass buttons.

“When I first saw it, I said to myself: ‘This was (for) somebody’s darling,’” said Terre Hood Biederman, a weaver and living historian.

That precious boy was Henry Winston Reese Jr., the son of a physician who in the mid-19th century established a plantation on the outskirts of Demopolis, a town of about 7,500 today in west-central Alabama. The 16-year-old in early 1863 decided to enlist in the Confederate army.

Reese shirt and boots (Alabama Archives)

Reese’s garment and a pair of boots and a pouch were given by the family to the Alabama Department of Archives and History in 1978.

The shirt, surrounded by other Civil War items, is on display at in the “Alabama Voices” exhibition of the Museum of Alabama. To the passerby, it may be just a shirt. But this artifact has a story to tell, supplemented by threads of love, hope, passion and, eventually, sorrow.

Winston, as he was called, was fond of music and a natural leader. He likely had the shirt with him at the University of Alabama, where he was a first lieutenant in the cadet corps. Reese and some classmates tried to form a company of sharpshooters and join the Confederate army. But when parents found out, the plan was quashed. Winston and a few others ran off anyway.

Shortly afterward, on Feb. 26, 1863, he wrote a letter from a Rebel camp near Vicksburg, Ms.

Reese had not heard from his parents about his decision to join Company A, 31st Alabama Infantry. He asks the recipient of his correspondence to give a message to his mother.

“I wrote that I was very sorry that I had to leave without their consent, but did not regret the step, & if I was so situated again, would do the same thing again. I wish when you write, you would advise them to forgive me, for it will go very hard with me if they do not. My parents have thought that I could not stand the life of a soldier at all, but so far I have gotten along very well.”

Two days after his 17th birthday, Reese would see his first real test, at the Battle of Champion Hill, also known as Baker’s Creek, in Mississippi.

A homespun patriotic statement

Reese’s father, Henry Winston Reese (Sr.), was a native of Virginia. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school in 1834. He and his wife, Julia, were soon drawn to Demopolis.

Gaineswood, one of  the town's fine homes (Library of Congress)

The town initially was settled by French political exiles who were banished following the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte. “From 1820 to 1870, King Cotton was coming into its own as the southern money crop, and the Demopolis area prospered,” the city says on its website.

Newcomers also were drawn from Virginia and the Carolinas by the rich, black soil, said Mary Jones-Fitts, president of the Marengo County History & Archive Museum. Mansions soon popped up around the town and county, with the doctor and his family settling on the edge of Demopolis, in the “beginning of the country.”

Winston Reese was the first of a half dozen children born to the doctor and his wife. The senior Reese had more than 100 slaves, according to the 1850 U.S. Census, and his growing family lived in a Gothic Revival home called Forest Hill.

(Courtesy of T.H. Biederman)

Ryan M. Blocker, a curator in the museum collection of the Alabama archives, said it’s not known whether a slave made the Reese shirt. (A dress in the collection made for a wealthy woman in Tuscaloosa was made by a slave, she said.)

While never formally conserved, “for a shirt of this age it is in good condition,” said Blocker. It would have been worn over underclothing and seen daily use. It has wear in spots, including the underarms.

Blocker and Biederman are not certain what the shirt was made from. While paperwork shows it as wool, sketches since then show it to be cotton.

“The weave of a man’s shirt, especially those meant as outdoor wear (like this one), are typically a coarser weave than what is found in women’s clothing,” said Blocker.

“Terre and I also talked about the cut of the shirt. She reminded me that the French cut shirts are fashion shirts tailored to fit the individual. This cut is individual and uses more fabric than a square cut shirt. The square shirt is boxy and cut on a fold at the shoulders to save fabric. So, the shirt in question is most probably early war.”

Pouch donated by Reese family (Alabama Archives)

Biederman said the Reeses wanted to convey something extra in the shirt’s design and craftsmanship. It could be called a “protest” battle shirt.

"It is in your face, the South can do all by itself. It was a homespun patriotic statement,” said Biederman.

The war of course, had a large impact on Demopolis, with losses to families and the deaths of hundreds of Confederate soldiers treated in area hospitals. In the years since, Jones-Fitts said, farming largely played out, and today’s Demopolis employers include a cement plant and paper company.

“We have a historic district that shows like it used to be in the day,” Jones-Fitts told the Picket. “There are a lot of antebellum homes and a lot of brick buildings that housed carriage houses.”

‘I can hold my head up among many’

Winston Reese was popular among his classmates at the University of Alabama, which increasingly came under the clouds of war. By early 1863, he and others had hatched the idea of forming a company. After their plan fell through, eight cadets headed for Mississippi anyway.

In his letter to a “Mrs. Tuomey,” Reese wrote of arriving in Vicksburg while the Yankees were shelling the vital river city.

“We thought that we had arrived too late in time to take a hand in the fight, which to fresh boys like ourselves, seemed imminent, but after a few hours firing, their boat was run off by our guns,” he said.

(Reese’s transcribed letter is among three about him in the collection of University Libraries at the University of Alabama).

The 31st Alabama, which later in the war fought in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina before its surrender in April 1865 in North Carolina, was formed with men from Cherokee and Talladega counties, among others – but not Marengo. It’s not known how or where the Alabama cadets joined their ranks. Reese makes mention of Col. Daniel Hundley, who led the regiment along with Lt. Col. Thomas Arrington.


The young soldier also cites the capture of the Federal ironclad riverboat gunboat USS Indianola (above) on Feb. 24, 1863.

And he writes achingly of seeking his parents’ approval of his decision to join up. “I do not know what they will do about my leaving.”

But the teen ends the letter with a feeling of pride.

“I now feel that I am doing my duty, & can hold my head up among any. I think that the ladies about Tuskaloosa (sic), instead of encouraging us, as they did, in staying there, ought to have driven us off by their scorn & contempt. I know that you and all my friends think more of me now, or will for joining the army, than if I had stayed out of the war.”

The 31st Alabama suffered heavily at Port Gibson and the May 16, 1863, battle at Champion Hill, considered the bloodiest action of Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. It ended in a decisive Union victory, leading to the Confederates being boxed in at Vicksburg, where the 31st was among surrendering units in early July.

University of Alabama classmate and friend William Garrard, in 1905, wrote to Reese’s younger brother from his law office in Savannah, Ga.

(Wanda Stewart, volunteer for Find A Grave.)

“In that action your brother Winston, charging with all the cadet crowd at the head of the regiment, was shot down and died from the wound. I never saw him after the fight, as we were marched off immediately, and retreated to Vicksburg, after fighting (the) battle of Baker’s Creek.”

Winston Reese lingered for several weeks, dying on July 23. A book about Hundley and the regiment says the teen died in Demopolis. He and other family members are buried at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Prairieville, east of Demopolis.

Iowa troops captured the 31st Alabama’s flag at Baker’s Creek. It stayed in Iowa until 2012, when it went on loan to Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, Ala. It was recently returned to the State Historical Society of Iowa museum in Des Moines.

Bill Rambo, site director at Confederate Memorial Park, wrote in an email: “It's an outstanding flag. I love the simple but profound statement in the canton: ‘God And Our Native Land.’ Henry Winston Reese Jr. was mortally wounded defending that flag in a bloody fight.”

(Image courtesy of the State Historical Museum of Iowa, Des Moines)

It’s not believed that the young private was wearing the checked shirt in the battle.

For his part, Garrard wrote his memories of Reese were “both pleasant and sad.”

After he was paroled from Vicksburg  and was at Demopolis in autumn 1863, Garrard visited his friend’s home.

“It became known to me that possibly the family blamed me somewhat in leading off from the University some of the cadets, including your brother, and therefore I wanted to put myself right with your family. I told your parents that such was not the fact, but that Winston left of his own accord, from a high sense of duty, just like I did, and just like the others of our crowd did.”

‘I dreamed that he would come home again’

Garrard wrote his letter to Henry Fontaine Reese, believed to be the youngest of the family. He was born only months after his oldest sibling fell in battle.

“Certainly your birth during the year of his death, must have been considered by your parents as a Godsend,” Garrard wrote.

Patrick Henry (LOC)
Why the same first name? H.F. said the name came from a famous patriot ancestor, Patrick Henry of Virginia. (Winston derived from William Winston, Patrick Henry’s uncle.)

Julia Reese, the boys’ mother, died in September 1866 and their father passed away in 1898.

By then, Henry Fontaine Reese was living in Selma and was involved in politics. He was a member of the Alabama Senate for many years. (He apparently favored a poll tax to keep African-Americans from voting.)

In a letter written in about 1910, also in the University of Alabama collection, the younger Reese – who had Winston’s violin -- said in the intervening years he had spoken with Winston’s classmates, other acquaintances and former family slaves. He had learned that Winston was of “strong character,” a good physique and had a pleasing personality.

“Strange to say that when I was a young child, I dreamed about him and I dreamed that he would come home again.”

A true labor of love – and time

His fancy shirt, the boots and the pouch are the only visible symbols of Winston Reese’s short life. The Picket was unable to find a photograph of him.

While living historians and those steeped in 19th century clothing might be most interested in the design and construction of the shirt --- the love and labor that went into it might speak to a broader audience.

Biederman says to full understand what went into the shirt, you have to understand the context.

(Courtesy of T.H. Biederman)

She mentioned “This Cruel War: The Civil War Letters of Grant and Malinda Taylor,” a couple who lived in Pickens County, Ala. In October 1863, Malinda stated, “I have put the children’s winter clothes on the loom today.”

“My heart breaks at this statement,” Biederman said. “It’s October. She has a houseful of little children, including a new baby conceived during an ill-advised trip down to the Dog River where Grant was stationed. “If first frost has not fallen, it is days way. And she has just started weaving winter clothes. She has a farm, relies on hired help, and has both sets of elderly parents to care for. What did it take for her to put the children’s winter clothes on the loom today?”

Without distraction and at her fittest as a weaver, Biederman says she can personally weave close to a yard an hour of shirting weight cloth.

“It’s an extremely physical job -- I will drop several pounds a day in liquid weight despite drinking large amounts of water when weaving. I cannot keep up that steady pace for more than a couple of days at a time.”

A weaver would have made more than one thing at a time, not wanting to waste hand-spun yarns.

The hours add up. The rule of thumb says seven hours of fiber prep and dying are needed for every hour of spinning. And about seven hours of hand spinning are required for every hour of weaving. 

“How long did it take to weave the Reese shirt?” Biederman asked. “All the time you have.”