Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fresno re-enactment to go on this weekend

Organizers of a re-enactment in Fresno, California, say they aren’t planning on doing anything different in the wake of a national outcry against Confederate symbols. Ruth Lang, executive director of Fresno Historical Society, which is organizing the event with the American Civil War Association, said the society is not a political organization. • Article

Monday, October 16, 2017

'Priceless' items belonging to Georgia cavalry officer to be displayed at Fort McAllister, on land he once owned and defended

Lt. Col. McAllister's personal items (Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources)

A saber, spurs, uniform vest and other items that belonged to a Confederate officer who died in the largest all-cavalry battle of the Civil War will go on display at a coastal Georgia fort named for his father and where the officer served early in the conflict.

The items, which include a photograph of Joseph Longworth McAllister, were donated by Carolyn C. Swiggart, an attorney in Greenwich, Conn., to Fort McAllister State Park outside Savannah. The cavalryman is her fourth great uncle.

McAllister grew up on the Bryan County rice plantation, a portion of which became the site of the South’s Fort McAllister. He lived in Strathy Hall, just to the west of the Ogechee River defenses.

A display case is being fashioned to contain the items, with an opening expected before the park’s annual winter muster and battle on Dec. 9.

“(Visitors) can see the face of the person who lived there,” said Swiggart. “They can see items he personally touched and used. They can see he is a wealthy man who made certain choices.”

(Georgia DNR)
McAllister, 43, died June 11, 1864, at the Battle of Trevilian Station, a Confederate victory in central Virginia. The lieutenant colonel with the 7th Georgia Cavalry fought to the last, throwing an emptied gun at Federal troops just before he was cut down by bullets.

State officials are thrilled to receive the collection, which includes a grooming kit and rank insignia.

“When you look at the value of the history of those items, those are priceless items,” said Judd Smith, a historian with Georgia State Parks. “It is rare to get something with so many items. You might get one item, a hat or some sort of a letter…(the fact you have a collection that) comes back to where it belongs, from starting out there in 1864 and finally arriving back in 2016, is amazing.”

The display will note that the items were donated in memory of Swiggart’s son, who had an interest in the family history. Navy Lt. James H. Swiggart died in the crash of a private airplane in December 2015.

Fort McAllister's interior (Picket photo)

The header for the exhibit will be “Strike for God and our native land!” – reportedly yelled by McAllister shortly before his death. His gravestone and books and writings indicate he served valiantly in Georgia and Virginia, where he died within days of arrival.

“It is my hope that the items will provide a view of Col. Joseph L. McAllister to the visitors of Fort McAllister – he’s now someone that a visitor can envision as a person, not just a name on a sign,” said Swiggart. “Yes, he was a slaveholder and he fought for the Confederacy, and those decisions cost him his life. It's history. History cannot be changed. We can -- and should -- learn from the past and become better Americans from those lessons."

The items descended through Swiggart’s great-grandfather, Dr. Thomas Savage Clay of Savannah. He was the grandson of Matilda Willis McAlliser Clay, McAllister's sister. 

(All donation photos courtesy of Georgia DNR)

This sword and scabbard – which have no engravings -- may have been carried by McAllister at the time of his death. It was returned to his family after the battle. During the first part of the Battle of Trevilian Station it appears the 7th Georgia Cavalry was mounted, according to Swiggart. She believes the officer gave his horse to a soldier before his final action. “A saber is typically a cavalry weapon most effectively employed while on horseback, and it would not have been any use to him when dismounted,” she said. It hung for decades at the Savannah home of Swiggart’s great aunt. The blade was “wrapped in aluminum foil, ostensibly to keep it from tarnishing.”

This item would have been attached to the weapon’s brass guard. It is too stiff to reattach without causing it damage, state officials told the Picket.

Since it is known that the officer was buried in his uniform, the vest is likely a spare. The item is made of blue wool; its brass buttons were manufactured in Waterbury, Conn. It bears McAllister’s insignia and, according to Swiggart, is a Confederate regulation pattern officer’s waistcoat.

McAllister wears civilian clothing in this photograph believed to be taken in 1859.

Three stars indicate the rank of a colonel. State officials say this is a bit of a mystery, because records show McAllister’s official rank was lieutenant colonel (two stars). It’s possible the patch was awarded as a posthumous promotion or was a brevet (temporary rank) patch issued when he was made regimental commander.

Swiggart said her ancestor, while an amateur soldier, inspired his troops and got the job done. A fellow officer was resentful because McAllister was promoted above him back in Georgia.

I don't think there is any question about McAllister's enthusiasm for the Confederacy.  Whether it was founded in the hope of military glory for himself, or for economic survival -- I don't know," Swiggart said.

These were among personal effects and the saber returned to the family in Georgia. Swiggart believes they were an extra pair left at camp, since McAllister’s boots, hat, uniform buttons and insignia were removed by the enemy. “The spurs were given to me when I was a child, and my mother kept the other items in a trunk. The smell of camphor was a familiar one because my grandmother and mother used it to keep moths out of the clothing trunks.” 

The late 1840s English- and Irish-made kit includes silver-topped jars featuring the engraved initials “J.L. McA.” Officials don’t believe the entire kid was carried on battle campaigns. Two items are absent: a small grooming razor and what appears to have been a nail file, items that would easily fit into a haversack.

Slaveholder ran rice plantation

McAllister came from a family that traced its American roots to Pennsylvania, with one member a hero of the American Revolution.

Research indicates a Capt. James MacKay purchased the property around what became Fort McAllister in 1748. He built nearby Strathy Hall and began rive cultivation.

George Washington McAllister, who came to Georgia to seek his fortune, bought Strathy Hall and Genesis Point in 1817. The family had one of the largest plantations in that part of Bryan County. “The McAllister family was pretty well-known,” said Swiggart, author of “Shades of Gray: The Clay and McAllister Families of Bryan County, Georgia, during thePlantation Years.”

McAllister property (left) marked in relation to fort (Georgia State Parks)

Washington McAllister’s son, Joseph, attended Amherst College, but did not graduate. He toured Europe for a long time and returned to join the family rice business. “He didn’t go the route his cousins, did, which was law. He stayed at the plantation,” said Swiggart.

The descendant points out that McAllister, who owned 271 slaves in 1860, had received them by inheritance, rather than purchase. “This is a major, major point.” Evidence shows he probably was not a harsh master and he ensured his slave’s care, she added.

Thomas S. Clay, in 1833, wrote an essay about the proper “moral improvement of negroes on plantations.” It called for proper housing, care and religious instruction of slaves.

The family was split on secession. Looking back, Swiggart wishes “they had sold the whole damn thing.” But the family believed it could not sell the plantations and the slaves, because it would destroy families and shred plantation community, she said. Thomas Butler King did that in 1859 and the sale became known as "The Weeping Time." The family believed slavery would become obsolete, that it was a burden, she said. Her great aunt said the South would have done better if Abraham Lincoln survived.

Strathy Hall and fort marked in red (Georgia State Parks)

But Joseph McAllister was prepared to fight.

After the Civil War broke out, he sold land to the Confederacy for the construction of the fort named for his father, who died in 1850.

Amateur soldier inspired troops

Soon after Confederates shelled Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, McAllister was commissioned a captain of an artillery unit at the fledgling Fort McAllister.

In April 1862, McAllister formed the Hardwick Mounted Rifles, comprised of volunteers from Bryan County. The regiment, one of several homegrown units in the Savannah area, helped guard against Federal invasion of the coast.

The Hardwick Rifles fired on sailors who were part of a significant Union attack -- made up of ironclads and mortar boats -- on Fort McAllister on March 3, 1863. The Federal fleet did little damage to the fort, and withdrew the next day. It was apparent the defenses would likely have to fall to infantry, which happened in late 1864 during Sherman’s March to the Sea.

McAllister after it fell to Union forces (Library of Congress)

After years of duty around home, the men finally got their chance to fight at the front in Virginia. McAllister and two companies from the Hardwick Mounted Rifles joined other units to form the 7th Georgia Cavalry in February 1864.

McAllister became regimental commander after the death of his predecessor, and the unit was ordered to support the Army of Northern Virginia. It left in late April and made a rugged journey from South Carolina and Virginia, lasting until early June.

McAllister wrote to his sister, Emma, about the trip and heat that killed a few horses and mules.

He writes of wanting to take part in “glorious fights.” He got along well with a conceited subordinate and recollected Virginians greeting the troops with flowers and pails of milk.

The bachelor shared a story about young women presenting the young cavaliers with bouquets, according to Swiggart’s book.

“Some funny notes attached to the bokets,” the officer wrote his sister. “They all seem to think that the matrimonial chances are daily lessening – and every note wants you to write – these as a matter of course are plain country girls just from school. Some pretty some ugly.”

But there also were moments of resolve.

“Keep up your spirits – to take care of me if I get a bullet in me – which I trust will not be the case – still we must all do our duty in this struggle and while I shall not foolishly expose myself, I will not disgrace our names.”

'Strike for God and our native land'

The 7th’s first major battle in Virginia came at Trevilian Station on June 11. Nearly 40 percent of the regiment would become casualties.

Union troops wanted to draw off Confederate cavalry so that forces could move on the James River. Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s troopers raided Louisa County, threatening to cut a Confederate railroad.

Sheridan’s troops attacked Confederate divisions led by Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee at Trevilian Station. For a while, the Rebels had to dismount and make a defensive stand.

“From this advantageous position, they beat back several determined dismounted assaults,” the National Park Service says of the battle. “Sheridan withdrew after destroying about six miles of the Virginia Central Railroad. (The) Confederate victory at Trevilian prevented Sheridan from reaching Charlottesville and cooperating with Hunter’s army in the Valley. This was one of the bloodiest cavalry battles of the war.”

McAllister’s led a counterattack on the first day’s fighting, cyring out to his men, “Strike for God and our native land!” Historian Eric Wittenberg, in Glory Enough for All: Sheridan’s Second Raid and the Battle of Trevilian Station, wrote that McAllister was surrounded and mounted when he was first hit by enemy.

McAllister threw an emptied revolver at the enemy and was shot four or five times. Many members of the 7th Georgia Cavalry were captured.

The gallant officer and Capt. John Hines, also of the 7th, are among about 85 Confederates buried in what is now called Oakland Cemetery in Louisa (below). His marker reads “Soldier. Scholar. Gentleman.” His enslaved body servant, Jack, returned his personal effects to Strathy Hall after the funeral.

Marker with McAllister reference (Photos courtesy of Ed Crebbs)
McAllister grave is to left of stone with flag

Group tries to publicize battle

The cemetery is one of several stops on the Virginia Civil War Trails driving tour in the central Virginia Community. Another group, the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation, is restoring a house used by Brevet Lt. Col. Gen. George A. Custer during the clash. Custer captured Hampton’s divisional supply train but suffered significant losses, including having his trains and personal baggage overrun.

Ed Crebbs, secretary of the foundation, told the Picket his group also offers a driving tour that comes out of Louisa and makes several stops. He said the foundation is trying to raise awareness of the two-day battle and draw more visitors to the rural crossroads.

“It’s underappreciated and almost unknown because it didn’t have the biggest names of the Civil War,” he said. “It did not have infantry. It did not have tremendous destruction with it.”

Visitors to Oakland Cemetery can take in an interpretive panel that includes the story of McAllister and the 7th Georgia Cavalry.

Donation 'brings it all home'

As Sherman’s troops moved on Savannah from Atlanta – months after McAllister’s death -- some houses and property were destroyed by Federal troops. Strathy Hall escaped such a fate. Swiggart said that’s because Union officers knew that ancestors of McAllister had residences and connections in Newport, R.I.

But the South’s loss in the war destroyed the family financially.  After the war, Strathy Hall and Genesis Point, located near the city of Richmond Hill, were sold to a nephew of McAllister's who owned them until 1924.

Fort McAllister fell into ruin until the 1930s, when it was restored as a site for the public through funding from auto magnate Henry Ford, who owned the land. It now belongs to the state. Strathy Hall a private residence, is surrounded by a subdivision.

Strathy Hall today (Kenneth Dixon, Wikipedia)

Smith said the Friends of Fort McAllister State Park paid for the design of the exhibit. The $30,000 wooden case will be secure and provide proper lighting “where it is not going to damage the artifacts over time.” The display will include interpretive signs and sit next to an exhibit about Strathy Hall and the McAllisters.

As Swiggart said, McAllister’s personal belongings will add to the story.

“From his owning the plantation that the fort sits on and the fact that not only did he serve in the war, but served for a time right there at Fort McAllister – (it) brings it all home, said Josh Headlee of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division.

“I think Civil War artifacts are impressive in their own right, but when you have artifacts that belonged to someone that you know was there and you can relate their personal lives to it, that really makes a great and lasting impact,” the curator said.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hero's gravestone corrected in Maine

The city of Auburn, Maine, has rededicated the corrected gravestone of a Civil War hero. Union Cpl. Moses C. Hanscom captured a Confederate flag on Oct. 14, 1863, at the Battle of Bristoe Station in Virginia, but his name was misspelled on the marker in Oak Hill Cemetery after his death in 1873. • Article

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

SC black Confederates monuments proposed

Two Upstate legislators want to erect a Confederate monument at the South Carolina Statehouse — the country's first-ever honoring black soldiers who purportedly fought for the South. Historians point out that most African-Americans in the Confederate ranks were slaves forced into the military service. "The stories about slaves in the war have been distorted to make them out to be soldiers. The myth of the lost cause allows white Southerners to reconfigure what war is about — that it's not about slavery,” said historian Kevin Levin. But one of the bill’s sponsors said some free blacks voluntarily enlisted. • Article

Thursday, October 5, 2017

NPS continues investigation of 'Stonewall' Jackson monument vandalism at Manassas

(National Park Service photo)

The National Park Service is continuing to investigate vandalism – in the form of poured and sprayed paint – on the famous Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson monument at Manassas National Battlefield Park, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

NPS spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said “no more details are available for release at this time.”

The monument after it had been scrubbed (NPS)

Crews by Thursday afternoon had removed all the paint and will repolish the black granite base at a later date, the park said in a Facebook post about the vandalism that was discovered at about 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

White paint was poured on three of the four sides of the polished granite base. The word “Dead!!!” was written in gold spray paint. 

The monument was erected in 1940 near the Henry House. It’s where Jackson received the nickname “Stonewall,” at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861.

(NPS photos)

An NPS web page said this of the dedication, which came during World War II but before the United States entered that conflict: “Mounted atop an eight-foot base of black granite etched with Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee's immortal phrase, "There Stands Jackson Like a Stone Wall," the stalwart Jackson in the saddle projected the same strength and determination that Americans needed in the current perilous affairs.

NPS law enforcement park rangers are investigating Wednesday’s incident; anyone with information is asked to call 301-714-2235.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Civil War-style funeral held for re-enactor

Tennessee Civil War re-enactor Colonel T. Michael Cheaves has been laid to rest with a 21-gun salute as family, friends, and fellow re-enactors dressed in period costumes paid their last respects. Since he was a retired detective from the Knox County Sheriff’s Department, he received another 21-gun salute. Cheaves was known for refurbishing saddles and training horses to prepare them for the sights and sounds of battle during events. • Article

Friday, September 29, 2017

At Washington state ceremony, Civil War veteran finally honored for his service

A retinue of re-enactors, National Guard musicians, Patriot Guard riders and volunteers who ensure military veterans receive a proper burial on Thursday honored the service of Pvt. Zachariah Stucker, who fought in numerous campaigns during the Civil War.

An interment ceremony was held at the Washington Veterans Home Cemetery in Retsil, across Puget Sound from Seattle.

Stucker – a member of the 48th Illinois Infantry -- died at the home in 1914. His cremains were never claimed by relatives (he never married) and they remained in storage at a Seattle funeral home and cemetery until last week. The Missing in America Project led the effort to find Stucker a final resting place.

(All photos courtesy of Bob Patrick, Missing in America Project)

“What is really sad is that he has been missing for 103 years," said Lourdes “Alfie” Alvadrao-Ramos, director of the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, during the ceremony, according to the Kitsap Sun.

“That is 103 Memorial Days where nobody put a flag by his headstone. This is countless holidays, Christmases, where he didn’t get a wreath on his grave. But now, that’s over.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Well done, soldier, welcome home: Union veteran finally to receive burial near Seattle

Urn containing Pvt. Stucker's cremains (Courtesy of Bob Patrick)

On June 28, 1914, Zachariah M. Stucker died of heart failure at a veterans’ home near Port Orchard, Wash. The body of the 69-year-old former Union soldier was removed from his bed and sent to Seattle for cremation.

But family never came to accept his remains. Pvt. Stucker, who served throughout the Civil War with Company A, 48th Illinois Infantry, and saw at least 15 battles, had no wife or children. His unclaimed remains languished for more than a century at a funeral home and then a cemetery in Seattle.

On Thursday (Sept. 28), the rediscovered soldier finally will receive full honors during his interment at a cemetery near the state facility where he spent his last years.

“I think it will be respectful and dignified,” local historian James Dimond said of the ceremony. “He is going to be buried with his fellow veterans.”

Dimond, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, assisted Bob Patrick and others with the Missing in America Project – a national group that arranges for proper burial of unclaimed cremated remains of veterans – on research about Stucker, who was only 16 when he enlisted in southern Illinois.

In recent years, the MIA Project and local groups have worked together to bring about such burials with honors. Often, the deceased had no family or their descendants lost track of the remains or did not pay for burial or temporary storage.

“They just got lost in the tides of history,” Dimond said.

From battlefield to farms, gold mines

Stucker enlisted on Sept. 1, 1861, in New Liberty, Ill. The blue-eyed Pope County farm boy was listed as 5 feet 4 and 1/2 inches tall. He served as a musician, at least initially.

Vicksburg monument (NPS photo)
He had to grow up quickly in the Army. The 48th Illinois endured numerous campaigns in the Western Theater, including Atlanta and in the Carolinas. They charged Confederate works at Fort Donelson and had considerable casualties at Shiloh. A monument at Vicksburg cites the regiment’s service and contains Stucker’s name.

Because there are no surviving biographies or diaries, nothing is known about Stucker’s specific service. But he served honorably and, as was the case with musicians, Stucker likely served as a stretcher bearer for wounded comrades. He mustered out a couple months after the war’s end in 1865.

According to a Findagrave profile written by Peter Braun, the MIA Project volunteer who found Stucker’s name on a list of unclaimed remains, Stucker farmed in Indiana and eventually made his way west, working as a gold miner, laborer and teamster in Oregon and Washington.

Stucker, a member of the Bremerton, Wash., chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, applied in 1910 to live at the Washington Veterans Home built on a Puget Sound inlet in Retsil (near Port Orchard). The infirm and indigent veteran died there four years later, living on a pension of $19 per month.

The profile continues: “Unfortunately, for reasons still unknown, his cremains were not returned home in a ‘timely manner’ … sitting on the shelf in community storage at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle for 103 years.”

On the shelf, rarely claimed

In 2015, Patrick gave a talk to funeral home and cemetery operators about the MIA Project. He received a list from the nonprofit Lake View Cemetery of 1,100 remains (funeral homes for years had sent unclaimed cremains to the cemetery).

Dimond and his wife, Loretta, were involved about that time in another case of a Civil War veteran awaiting burial. In a 2016 Seattle Times article, George Nemeth, manager of Lake View, said about 1,700 remains were stored in empty crypts. “It happens periodically that people who come claim them,” Nemeth said.

From the list provided by Lake View, Patrick and Braun determined about 85 veterans of all wars and spouses were eligible for interment at a national cemetery. They obtained death certificates and sent letters to presumed descendants.

Urns used by Missing in America Project (Courtesy of Bob Patrick)

That list was advertised so that any descendants could accept the remains or allow them to be interred in the area’s national cemetery.

“I mail a lot of letters to dead people because it has been so long,” said Patrick. The volunteer said that of 400 MIA Project-involved burials in the state, only two funerals drew relatives.

Patrick served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1964-1968 and has been a rider with the Patriot Guards. The retiree said doing research on these kinds of cases “is emotionally hard because I get to know the person.”

Such an effort brings up circumstances of an individual’s life and death. Despite his cremains being in limbo for more than a century, Stucker had a “fairly clean passing” – as opposed to those who are homeless or have “horrible family acrimony,” Patrick told the Picket.

After the Department of Veterans Affairs said it could not verify all of Stucker’s records to make him eligible for such a burial (Dimond and Patrick say they have numerous supporting documents), the state agreed to bury him at the cemetery in Retsil.

To this day, volunteers and officials have not heard from any living descendants of Stucker.

'Going to do right by him'

While there have been other stories about unclaimed remains of a veteran finally being placed in eternal rest, the story of Stucker is drawing headlines because he served and died so long ago.

James Dimond holds Stucker's remains (Bob Patrick)

In a press release, the Washington state Department of Veterans Affairs said Stucker “will be returned home” for final military honors and interment at its cemetery.

The Picket reached out the veterans’ home on Wednesday but did not receive a reply.

Veteran benefit specialist Cindy Muyskens told the Kitsap Sun the facility didn’t hesitate to bury Stucker after Patrick contacted officials.

The only record the home had was a card with Stucker’s name, age and branch of service.

“(The funeral home) had no family to contact, so after they cremated him they stuck him on the shelf,” she told the newspaper. “It is strange for me to fathom that he just sat there for 100 years without anyone picking him up and saying, ‘What do we do with this?’

“We’re going to do right by him, finally,” Muyskens said.

Somber moments and tears

Thursday afternoon’s interment, in a cemetery south of the veterans' home, will finally bestow the type of honors on Stucker that he likely would have received in 1914.

Part of program for Thursday includes emblem of GAR medal

Typically, members of the Grand Army of the Republic, a large fraternal organization of Federal veterans, would serve as pallbearers carrying remains from a service to the cemetery. G.A.R. rituals will be followed at the Stucker interment.

The ceremony will include speeches and music from the 133rd Army National Guard Band (including “Battle Hymn of the Republic”). Members of the 4th US Civil War Reenactors will fire a salute, followed by echo taps. An upright stone will be place on Stucker’s grave at a later date.

For Patrick and Dimond, the burial will close the latest chapter in their bids to bring dignity and closure to veterans who served their country.

Dimond said he expects the service to be very moving. He said he was in tears when he first held the box containing Stucker’s remains.
Cemetery containing graves of Civil War veterans, others

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Building cool toys for big kids: How military miniature-diorama maker does his work

Bert Floyd customizes from similar molds (Napoleonic, Civil War)

Our May 2010 post about a NASA design engineer in Ohio who crafts military miniature figures and dioramas remains among the most popular Picket articles. We recently caught up with Bertram Floyd, 60, of Victory Miniatures, and asked him to provide more details on how he does his work. Floyd works from his home in Sheffield Village; most of his products are available online and two larger dioramas have been featured at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, Ohio. His responses have been edited for context and brevity.

Q. Who are your customers these days?
A. This is a small hobby. The newer generation coming up has played video games and is not so used to playing with toy soldiers. Most of my buyers are between 50 and 60 something. They want the quality. They want unique stuff. Everything at the (trade) events is mostly unique.

Bert Floyd (all photos courtesy of Floyd)

Q. How does your profession fit in?
A. I work at NASA’s Glenn Research center and do a lot of space communications and quantum communications. I started off in electrical engineering, which led to fiber optics. I do mainly fiber obits for the space station, mission to Mars. When you are working with fiber optics you have to have patience. Everything is real small and tiny. That translates to working with the miniatures, even though fiber optics is smaller than soldiers.

Q. What time periods and conflicts do your miniatures cover?
A. I go back to Roman period all the way up to modern times. (Floyd’s dioramas include knights, World War II, the American Revolution, French and Indian War and the Anglo-Zulu War, including the Battle of Isandlwana). My biggest selling thing is the Civil War stuff. Then next would be the Napoleonics. I try to do everything historically accurate. The cheapest dioramas go from $150, all the way $1,000 or more. Some may have one figure, some may have several. Some people buy unpainted figures. People like the Napoleonics because of the color of the uniforms. They are uniforms to die in.

Q. You have some molds and you often buy manufactured figures and customize them to a particular conflict. How does that work?
A. Most are all-metal, made of lead, tin or pewter, especially the 40 millimeters figures. The bigger figures are made of metal and resin. If there is a pose I need, I may cut legs and arms and run wire to get the pose. For hands, I put the gun on and mold the hands around it. I may change the face around, add beards, take a hat off and put a different hat on. Small figures typically sell for $35 to $65.

Q. What about the dioramas?
A. For most of the larger dioramas, I use 40 millimeter figures. They look better and are easier on the eye. You see more detail on them. The dioramas with one or two figures, they are usually 54 millimeters and up. I start off with a green blanket, put figures and roads and add terrain pieces. I populate them with trees. I use crushed foam for bushes. I talk to the individual on what their needs are and whether it is a permanent diorama. All the trees, houses and fences are handmade. I make everything from scratch.

Q. How much time do you put into this and where do you work?
A. I put in about an hour a day. In the winter time there is a lot more time I put into it and I paint. In summer months, I design what I want to do. I do the painting in the upstairs morning room. I have dioramas set up in the basement and do most of my sculpting there.

Q. Tell me about your re-enacting, thoughts on Confederate monuments
A. I am with a group 5th U.S. Colored Troops out of Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Columbus and Youngstown, and Pittsburgh. Most events we do are living history. You have to get the history out there. Attending re-enactments is like a family reunion and picnic. As for the Confederate battle flag, the one (appropriate) place is in the museum and on the battlefield, the field of honor (re-enactments).

Q. You’ve been making miniatures since the mid-1980s. Why do you do this?
A. It’s a love that I have. When I was a kid I played with miniature toy soldiers. After I got married, I became a homebody and you go back to what you did as a little kid. I plan on doing this until I can’t do it anymore. You are never going to be compensated for your time. The hobby pays for itself.

• More photos of Floyd's work

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tropical storm-battered Fort Pulaski mops up, aims for reopening by next weekend

Sandstone pier prepared for placement of bridge (NPS photos)

Fort Pulaski National Monument near Savannah, Ga., has again rolled with Mother Nature’s punches, this time from the mess left by Tropical Storm Irma.

The park closed on Sept. 6 as forecasters included Savannah as possibly in the path of the then-hurricane. But the path shifted, and the area had to deal more with flooding than sustained high winds.

“This is our third natural disaster in less than a year and it certainly has taken its toll on the park. Part of the reason why we may not open as quickly as people would like is … we are still dealing with after effects of (Hurricane) Matthew and the tornado (in May),” said Joel Cadoff, park spokesman and chief of interpretation.

The park hopes to reopen by September 30 in time for volunteer work and debris removal on National Public Lands Day.

Crews will pump remaining water in fort demi-bastion
The scene a day after Irma pushed through

Cockspur Island recorded a tidal surge of 12.24 feet during Irma, the second-highest on record. And while Irma caused extensive temporary flooding in the dike system of the fort, and to a lesser degree in the park maintenance shop, the famous brick fort that fell to a Federal siege in April 1862 fared much better than it did during Matthew, nearly a year ago.

“The fort actually made out quite well. The floors are in good shape. The only real visible damage is the roof of the veranda on the inside,” said Cadoff. Crews will need to pump standing water from the fort’s flooded southwest demi-bastion.

Park staff was glad that the site lost fewer trees than during the previous calamities.

A bridge was shoved against wall of visitor center

Two wooden foot bridges that lead from the visitor center to the fort interior were again washed away. But the paths they took this time showed how capricious storm surge can be.

“With the wave action and flooding, the demilune bridge wound up lodged against the visitor center steps. In Matthew, that bridge we couldn’t find for several months later until Google maps updated their satellite imagery.”

The sally port bridge, closest to the fort entrance, floated just several yards away during Matthew, lodging on an earthen mound. “This time, it floated north, escaped the clutches of the demilune and we found it almost 400 yards away, near the entrance gate to our parking area.”

Metal parts of wooden doors are treated
Lighthouse lost only a single pane of glass

Bridges have been set back into place. “We are looking at different means to try to anchor the bridges for whenever the next flooding event occurs,” said Cadoff.

The park’s visitor center has been closed since the tornado in late May. It is undergoing ceiling, roof and other repairs.

Pulaski got a bit of a break, compared to Matthew, because of a few less inches of storm surge and less rainfall. A wind gust was recorded at 70 mph, below Matthew’s top speeds.

Ahead of Irma’s arrival, staff raised items of importance from the floor of the fort and maintenance shop.

Matthew’s damage was estimated at $1.8 million. There’s no numbers yet for Irma. “We were … much more prepared this go-around,” said Cadoff.

Maintenance shop had some wall damage from high water. (NPS)