Tuesday, May 14, 2024

William Sherman's copy of George Barnard book with photos of his famous campaign sells for $144,000 at auction; his sword goes for $130,000

Remarkable clouds above railroad destruction in Atlanta (Fleischer's Auctions)
A rare copy of George N. Barnard’s “Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign,” thought to belong to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and signed in 1886 by his son Philemon, was sold at auction Tuesday for $144,000, before a buyer's premium was added.

The Barnard album garnered the highest bid for Sherman-related items in the Fleischer's Auction. 

Notable items from the family, many of whom live in western Pennsylvania, included the general’s copy of the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, with his annotations ($70,000), a trunk and sword $130,000) used early in the Civil War, shoulder straps with rank insignia, photographs of Sherman and his daughter Minnie and a family Bible ($17,000). The insignia sold for $37,000.

The Sherman House Museum in Lancaster, Ohio, said it had acquired the sword. It had asked for donations and pledges to make the purchase.

A map of Sherman’s March to the Sea went for $22,000. All of these prices were before buyer's premiums. With those, according to Fleischer's Auctions, the Sherman lots netted about $600,000.

The Barnard volume -- featuring 10 x 13 inches images -- includes scenes of the occupation of Nashville, the 1864 battles around Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, the Atlanta Campaign, Savannah, Ga., and South Carolina. In May 1866, Barnard traced the route of Sherman's North Georgia campaign, taking pictures at Resaca and elsewhere.

When Barnard arrived in Atlanta he took more, including his famous views of the downtown area that had been burned by the Federals before they left on November 15-16, 1864, says Civil War historian and author Steve Davis. 

Many copies of the volume are held by museums and other institutions.

Keith F. Davis, an expert on Barnard's work, said the volume went for a good but not an extravagant price.

"The buyer was astute and did very well," Davis said in a email, "It is so hard to guess how many complete copies of this are still in private hands, and thus could come on the market in the future, but I suspect the answer is: very, very few. Then you add the "subjective' factor -- the unbeatable provenance -- and the rarity of this album goes up several more notches."

Friday, May 10, 2024

After South Carolina's capital went up flames, state leaders burned papers in new capital 70 miles away. Now there is an effort to preserve that house in Union

The Thomas Dawkins House in Union dates to about 1845 (Photos: Preservation South Carolina)
It’s not every day you get an enticement this juicy while looking up a residential property on Zillow:

In one of the home's eight fireplaces, papers were burned that would have hung many a Southerner if they had fallen into Union or Federal hands.”

The real estate overview of the Dawkins House at 117 N. Church St. in Union, S.C., included this and other nuggets about its history – notably service as the state’s capital for a few weeks toward the end of the Civil War.

Gov. Andrew Magrath, before fleeing Columbia as Federal troops closed in, got in touch with college chum Judge Thomas Dawkins about using the home and others nearby to conduct business amid the chaos.

From about Feb. 15, 1865, until sometime in early March, Magrath tried to run the state from the Dawkins House as Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman sacked Columbia and moved on other cities, bent on destruction and submission of Confederate troops.

Judge Thomas Dawkins, Mary P. Dawkins and Gov. Magrath (Preservation SC)
Nearly 160 years later, the two-story clapboard is in pretty rough shape and in need of a rescue.

That’s happening now through the nonprofit Preservation South Carolina, working with supporters and $300,000 from the Legislature

Bennett Preservation Engineering of Charleston is studying the structure and the feasibility of its restoration, says Joanna Rothell, director of outreach and preservation for Preservation South Carolina. The group acquired the long-vacant property last year.

The hope is for the home – nicknamed “The Shrubs” by Dawkins and his wife Mary -- to once again be occupied, this time as an alumni and event center for nearby University of South Carolina-Union.

A need to hide evidence from the Yankees?

Extensive repairs, upgrades are needed in structure (Preservation South Carolina)
Andrew Kettler, an assistant professor of history at the small campus, has amassed a lot of research about the town’s history and Dawkins, a prominent political figure who came from a wealthy family. While a unionist before South Carolina seceded, he came to support the Confederacy.

His old pal Magrath was elected governor by the Legislature in December 1864. Before the Civil War, Magrath had served as a federal judge, and made a ruling that certainly made him unpopular with the North, as an article about him states.

“Although opposed to the trade personally, Magrath nevertheless handed slave-trade proponents a signal victory in 1860. In a decision associated with the cases surrounding the Echo and the Wandererships seized for illegally transporting African slaves, Magrath stated that the 1820 federal statute on piracy did not apply to the slave trade.

In his brief tenure as governor, Magrath knocked heads with the main Confederate government. At the Dawkins House and other places where he fled until his arrest in May 1865, he sent and received correspondence about military and economic challenges.

The University of South Carolina Libraries has a fascinating Feb. 27, 1865, published message from Magrath to South Carolinians. It was likely composed during his time in Union. (Public domain photo, left. Click to enlarge)

The governor describes Federal troops who took Columbia as exhibiting hate and causing wanton destruction as women and children suffered. He encouraged citizens to come to the aid of those left in the ravaged city.

“They are destitute, they are in want, they need food, give what you can, sell what you cannot give. Let your succor be promptly offered, for such suffering will not brook delay.”

According to histories and local legend, Magrath and his subordinates burned possibly incriminating documents and correspondence in the Dawkins House fireplaces. (The home served as South Carolina's capitol while the city was briefly is capital.)

Kettler told the Picket in an email nothing in accounts he has seen show anything about the contents of those papers.

Confederates burned documents for a lot of reasons, he said. Many went up in flames in Richmond, Va., as President Jefferson Davis fled.

“Generally, burning would be to avoid military secrets getting into the enemies hands,” Kettler said.But, at the late stages of the war, such secrets may have become secondary as Confederates may have also wanted to hide evidence of the original treason of the Confederacy in the first place, and any other actions that could have led to prosecutions and trials after the war.”

When asked about the significance of preservation of the Dawkins House, Kettler said such buildings are retained for their importance to historical memory. (Photo, right, taken decades ago. Courtesy: Preservation South Carolina)

The historical memory here is about those who committed treason against the Union finding their way to an escape house as fugitives and attempting to hide their treason through burning incriminating materials,” he wrote.

“Historical memory works to honor the past and critique its most problematic histories. This site is retained for those purposes and as a clear reference point from the community of Union that existed well before the Civil War and was important well after outside of those contexts," said Kettler.

What happened to the targeted town?

William Waud's illustration of Columbia's capture (Library of Congress)
Before Magrath traveled 70 miles to Union, South Carolina was the symbol of rebellion. 

Sherman and his troops entered the state from Georgia with an eye on a full prosecution of the war. While they are behind some fires that ravaged Columbia, others were caused by other parties.

Union was a community with a business district and nearby plantations. “Many Quakers left the county in the first few decades of the nineteenth century due to their general stance against the institution of slavery,” said Kettler. Enslaved people became a majority in Union County during the 1840s. (The area became a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity during Reconstruction.)

It’s evident that many papers associated with Magrath were not burned in Union or elsewhere.

The Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina contains many letters sent to Magrath at Union and elsewhere. One, dated March 16, 1865, informed him of the total loss of state ordnance in Columbia. (Image: A.G.Magrath Papers, #467-z, Wilson Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, click to enlarge)

Magrath and his staff raced away from Union as Federal troops moved in. He was eventually captured on May 25 and imprisoned at Fort Pulaski near Savannah, Ga., until release that December. (Interestingly, President Davis stopped by Union in April 1865 after he fled Richmond.)

As for the town of Union’s fate?

It was spared burning, as the story goes, because the Broad River was flooded and Sherman turned away.

Group thinks house can be 'brought back to life'

Rothell, with Preservation South Carolina, said the short-term goal is to stabilize and prevent further deterioration of the Dawkins House while assessing how much can be saved.

This is what the $300,000 from the state legislature is geared towards, though, that funding will likely not cover stabilization plans and work,” she told the Picket.

The group is looking at other legislative funding and grants, specifically from the South Department of Archives and History. And it is likely that local sources in Union will need to help pay for refurbishment.

The home's exterior in 2011 (Preservation South Carolina)
While it seems that the task of renovating may be daunting, we have seen buildings in far worse condition brought back to life," said Rothell.

Kettler said the foundation and standard structural integrity appear to be solid. “Some of the bones of the house date to the late eighteenth century, which is partly why it was granted National Historic Register site status in 1973.”

Mary Dawkins lived in the home until 1906, and there has been a succession of owners since, including the Faucett family for many years.

Rothell said the goal is for the Dawkins House to be preserved and used by the community

“We are currently working closely with USC-Union, the city of Union, and the County of Union in developing a plan for its future. We hope that USC-Union will purchase it from us and use it as an alumni center, but we do not have an agreement with them yet,” she said.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Cavalry raids and the March to the Sea came calling in 1864. An historical society in middle Georgia has put on Old Clinton 'War Days' for more than 40 years

Participants take a breather during Griswoldville scenario (Photo: Event volunteer Chad Carlson)
A central Georgia historical society that safeguards a village targeted by Sherman’s March to the Sea marked its 50th anniversary this past weekend with its annual “War Days.”

The Old Clinton Historical Society and the 16th Georgia reenactment group put on the fundraising event about 12 miles northeast of Macon and near the town of Gray.

Events included two battle reenactments – of the July 1864 Confederate cavalry victory at Sunshine Church and the Union win at Griswoldville in November 1864, during Sherman’s march. Both clashes occurred in Jones County.

A highlight was a Saturday evening memorial service in the Confederate cemetery of the antebellum Methodist Church, said longtime society president Earlene Hamilton. (Photo of reenactor by Chad Carlson)

“I think there are 29 men included,” she said. “A reenactor is positioned at each grave site with a candle-lit lantern and as the veteran’s name and unit are called, the reenactor responds, ‘Present in spirit, sir’ and then extinguishes the candle."

Over its 50 years, the society has purchased, restored and now maintains five of the original buildings in the Old Clinton Historic District, three of which are antebellum. “We have secured almost 25 acres of open land in what was originally part of antebellum Clinton. The funds we raise from War Days all go to this ongoing mission,” Hamilton said in an email.

Sherman’s enormous 15th Corps and Federal cavalry moved through Clinton on Nov. 19-20, 1864, during the March to the Sea, inflicting damage or destroying many structures, she said.

A Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails marker said the Federal may have been in a foul mood when they reached Clinton after finding two unburied Union soldiers who apparently were killed at Sunshine Church nearly four months before.

An Old Clinton marker by the trails group reads:

Despite Clinton's depressed economy, some structures remained for the Federal troops to burn. Major Thomas Osborn, Howard's chief of artillery wrote, "Some of the men captured with General Stoneman were now with General Union Major General Kilpatrick and it was with Peter J. Osterhaus much difficulty he restrained them from burning the, [entire] town."

The Federals destroyed most of the remaining industrial and commercial buildings before advancing to Griswoldville, where they engaged Confederate militia a couple days later. By then, Union Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry troopers had burned the Griswold and Gunnison factory that used enslaved labor to produce Confederate pistols.

Hamilton told the Picket there were about 1,100 paying guests over the two days at Old Clinton, reflecting a pretty steady turnout over the past few event years. Attendance was larger in the 1980s and early 1990s. Vendors and soldier camps also were present over the weekend.

“There are still a couple of reenactors able to come who have been involved since the first year and a good number involved in the last 35 years of the event,” she said. “I have been here for all 43 of them, plus the 50 years of the historical society. My mother was one of its founding members and considered by many as THE engine that got it started.

The district is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Georgia Battlefields Association mentioned "War Days" and a 2022 tour of the area in a recent newsletter.

"Earlene Hamilton provided an evocative narrative that helped us imagine the site’s appearance when Stoneman’s cavalry passed through the town twice during his July 1864 raid and when part of Sherman’s forces passed through during the March to the Sea in November. War Days provides an opportunity for visitors to have a similar experience."

Friday, May 3, 2024

The scrappy 'Jersey Boys' are getting their due with a sign at Battle of Williamsburg site in Virginia. Here are events tied to Sunday's 162nd anniversary

Steve Barnes and Don Klein of Williamsburg Battlefield Association place sign along road;
Five members of the 7th New Jersey from Fairfield; nearby Redoubt Park in Williamsburg)
Four regiments of “Jersey Boys” had barely been battle tested when on May 5, 1862, they were rushed in to reinforce Union troops tangling with Confederates at Williamsburg, Va.

With the 5th New Jersey supporting artillery, Brig. Gen. Francis E. Patterson (photo, below) of Hooker’s division ordered the men of the 6th, 7th and 8th New Jersey regiments into a ravine near the Rebels’ Fort Magruder.

The fighting was fierce. Terrain was won and lost as men fought in tangled undergrowth and on swampy ground. Finally, Alabama and Mississippi regiments commanded by Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox pushed back the men in blue, who were exhausted and out of ammunition.

The outnumbered New Jersey troops had their largest casualties of any battles in which they participated, but they won acclaim for their valor. Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker was said to have called them bulldogs.

That sacrifice will be remembered Sunday morning as a new Civil War Trails marker is dedicated not far from the ravine. About 40 members of the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable of Philadelphia, most living in New Jersey but some traveling from Colorado and North Carolina, are expected to participate.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our organization and members for sponsoring this sign,” said Frank Barletta, a board member with the roundtable. “I cannot think of a more fitting memorial to this overlooked major battle of the war.”

Fort Magruder and other Rebel works near Williamsburg (Wikipedia)
The inconclusive Battle of Williamsburg, according to the National Park Service, was the first pitched battle of the Peninsula Campaign following the Confederate retreat from Yorktown.

Hooker’s division attacked the Southerners at Fort Magruder, but was repulsed. Confederate counterattacks ultimately wore out and they made a nighttime withdrawal toward Richmond. Casualties numbered more than 3,800.

The American Battlefield Trust and other groups in 2020 protected the "Bloody Ravine" and 29 acres for posterity.

Another 162nd anniversary commemoration will take place from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday about a half mile away at the Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center. The Williamsburg Battlefield Association will lead the program, which includes historical displays and costumed interpreters, music by the William & Mary brass band.

“Learn about the battle, its impact on the emancipation movement, medical practices during the war and female soldiers,” the association says in a program overview. “See the battle and 19th-century town of Williamsburg through maps and images, and understand current battlefield preservation efforts.”

Nov. 2021 dig at powder magazine wall (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
A highlight will be a 2 p.m. presentation by archaeologists with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. They will talk about the remains of four Confederate soldiers found early last year near the powder magazine at the venue. Some wounded troops were treated at a nearby hospital, officials said. Bullets, buttons and suspender buckles were found with the skeletal remains.

The ceremony for the new Civil War Trails marker will include a color guard from Joint Base Langley-Eustis. A wreath will be laid and there will be a reading of a New Jersey Senate resolution that praises the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table for its commitment to the sign and “ensuring that the brave soldiers from New Jersey are memorialized for posterity.”

The roundtable is taking a bus from Cherry Hill, N.J., on Saturday morning and will tour the battlefield, site of Fort Magruder and Redoubt Park in the afternoon. After the 9 a.m. Sunday sign dedication, the group will tour the Lee Hall Mansion in Newport News before heading home.

Based in Williamsburg, Civil War Trails is considered the world’s largest “open air museum,” with signs and markers at about 1,500 sites across six states: Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The bravery of the New Jersey soldiers also is honored by the Lawrence Township Historical Society in the state. Dan Casella with the group said it has books that have newspaper articles and correspondence from Cedarville and Cumberland County soldiers in southern New Jersey who served in the 5th, 6th and 7th volunteer regiments.

Casella in 2022 wrote a fascinating article about his research on a photograph  (right, Library of Congress) showing five 7th New Jersey boys from Fairfield. He wanted to know their fate. One, Capt. Benjamin F. Ogden, wrote about the battle two weeks later.

“I must speak of our contest,” Ogden wrote, “although it makes me feel sad every time, I mention it; for it renews the recollection that one of our number still lies beneath the battle ground…when the battle commenced, six of us Cedarville men were in the front rank. At night, one lay dead on the field, and two in hospital wounded. Three came out without a scratch, although I had three bullet holes in my overcoat cape….”

He went on to discuss other casualties. (You can read Casella’s article here to learn the fate of Ogden and the four other soldiers in the photograph.

“General Hooker says we were whipped three times yesterday but did not know it; he says we are not Soldiers, but Bulldogs! We do not stay in one place long but keep closing on Richmond.”

Richmond did not fall for another three years, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of casualties.

The new Civil War Trails sign is located at the Teamsters Hall, 7294 Merrimac Trail, Williamsburg. Guests attending the ceremony are encouraged to park along nearby Orange Drive.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

National Preservation Month: Gettysburg visitors on May 11 have rare opportunity to see inside of 4 historic homes that were in the thick of things

The Brian house is a quarter mile north of the Angle (NPS photo)
Next Saturday is your one chance in 2024 to step inside four noteworthy homes on the Gettysburg battlefield as the park participates in National Preservation Month.

The Abraham Brian, Lydia Leister, Jacob Hummelbaugh and Mary Thompson houses will be open for only four hours – on May 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to Gettysburg National Military Park.

“Doors Open Gettysburg” launched in 2016 and occurred annually through 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic and staffing shortages shut it down after then until this year, park spokesman Jason Martz told the Picket

Park staff will open the “magnificent” structures on that day. The event is free. “The selected buildings range from those newly restored to those in need of repair,” the park said.

Superintendent Kristina Heister said in a news release that the event “highlights the park’s important historic preservation mission and the stories these buildings can tell.”

Here are the pertinent dwellings:

Lydia Leister house is along Taneytown Road (NPS photo)
Lydia Leister house (Meade’s headquarters): Home of the widow Lydia Leister and her children, the two-room structure became the headquarters of the Union Army of the Potomac. Maj. Gen. George G. Meade held his famous “Council of War” here on the evening of July 2, 1863. The artillery bombardment prior to Pickett's Charge on July 3 caused considerable damage to the house. The barn was located in the rear of the center of the Union battle line and used to shelter Union headquarters staff and horses until they moved because of heavy gunfire. It later served as a temporary aid station and field hospital when headquarters was relocated elsewhere. Like the Brian Farm, the biaxial roofing on the residence was recently returned to this historic structure, restoring a character defining feature of one of the most historic buildings on the battlefield. Park in the National Cemetery parking lot or along Hancock Avenue.

A Rebel general died at the Hummelbaugh house in July 1863 (NPS photo)
Jacob Hummelbaugh houseThe farm house was for a time occupied by Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton of the Union cavalry as a headquarters during the battle. It was used as a field hospital and rallying point on July 2, 1863. Confederate Brig. Gen. William Barksdale died here the next day and was temporarily buried in the yard. The home will be rehabilitated and stabilized in 2024. Park on Sedgwick or Hancock Avenue. Do not park on Pleasanton Avenue.

Abraham Brian family houseThe free black man lived on this 12-acre farm with his wife, Elizabeth, and two children. He purchased the land in 1857, grew wheat, barley and hay, and tended a small apple and peach orchard. Afraid of being captured and sold into slavery, Brian and his family left their home when Confederate troops entered Pennsylvania. Following the battle, they returned to find their home riddled with bullet holes, windows smashed, and furniture thrown about the yard. The crops and orchard were ruined, and their farm fields a graveyard for hastily buried soldiers. Brian repaired his home, replaced his fences, and farmed his land until 1869, when he moved to town and worked at a local hotel. National Park Service preservation experts recently restored the biaxial roof on this historic home. This distinctive roofing style, which had largely vanished by the 20th century, is also found on the nearby Lydia Leister house. Park on Hancock Avenue and at the National Cemetery parking lot.

Lee's headquarters (Photo: Melissa Winn, American Battlefield Trust)
Mary Thompson house (Lee’s headquarters): Rehabilitated and restored by the American Battlefield Trust, this famous battlefield landmark was used by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee during the battle. The Thompson home, built in about 1833, was co-owned by U.S. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens. Thompson, about 70, lived across the road from one son (also part of the Trust property); seven other children lived elsewhere. Trust employees will be on hand for the day. Park in the designated lot at the Mary Thompson house.

Mary Thompson may be figure at right in post-battle photo (Library of Congress)
The buildings are not wheelchair accessible. No tickets or reservations are necessary for “Doors Open Gettysburg.”

Martz says staffing issues preclude the four homes from being open all year. “In order to open any of these buildings we must have staff on-hand to ensure the resources are protected.”

Also on May 11, the David Wills House will open for the season, according to the park.

David Wills houseThe home of Gettysburg attorney David Wills was the center of the immense cleanup process after the Battle of Gettysburg and where President Lincoln put the finishing touches on his Gettysburg Address. The museum features six galleries, including two rooms that have been restored to their 1863 appearance: The home features Wills' office, where he planned for a Soldiers' National Cemetery after the battle; and the bedroom where Lincoln stayed and prepared the Gettysburg Address.

Admission to the David Wills house, 8 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, Pa., is free. Open Friday-Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm.

If you can’t make it to Gettysburg, you can take virtual tours of the Leister, Wills and Brian homes here.