Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"It saved instant death": Bible struck by bullet during 1864 fighting is on display at Monocacy battlefield in Maryland

(Tracy Evans, Monocacy National Battlefield)
(Courtesy of Perry Adams Antiques)

A Confederate-issued Bible is on display at Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland, where visitors can learn about the bullet that passed through it and wounded a Virginia soldier.

Pvt. Thomas Cox, a member of the Red House Volunteers, Company A, 21st Virginia Infantry, was captured on July 9, 1864, at the battlefield near Frederick, Md. The 33-year-old farmer from Carroll County died on Aug. 15, 1864, at a Baltimore hospital.

Tracy Evans, curator and park ranger at Monocacy, said this is the first time the Bible has formally been on display. The exhibit was opened in May and the volume is expected to be out for a few more months.

The small Bible is closed, but visitors can see a photograph of it when opened and read some messages that were written on its pages.

“It’s not completely falling apart but to display it open could potentially cause it to,” said Evans. “If we turn it to a certain page the binding is fragile and you don’t want to tear loose the binding.”

Bible includes handwritten notations (Courtesy of Perry Adams Antiques)

The Bible is remarkable in its own way. There’s a gaping hole in the center of the book left by the bullet. “We are thinking it must have gone in sideways,” Evans previously told the Picket, adding that is perhaps the reason Cox was not killed outright.

Cox asked a fellow prisoner at the squalid West Building’s Hospital in Baltimore to inscribe a message in his battered Bible.

“The ball that struck this book entered my left brest (sic) and came out of right – it saved instant death & will be the means of saving my soul. Thomas Cox,” reads the penciled writing on the margins of a few pages. On succeeding pages is written: “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.”

(Monocacy National Battlefield)
In 2015, the park purchased the New Testament from $12,500 from brokers Perry Adams Antiques in Petersburg, Va. Attempts to find a Cox descendant have been unsuccessful, Evans told the Picket.

The park said the Bible is among the few items in its collection to have known Confederate provenance.

Cox said a conservationist examined the Bible and said it was best to keep it as is.

“It is a unique item,” she said. “I think people are interested in it because it has entries in it.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Recovered Enfield rifle stocks are holding up well, but crate and protective metal lining are showing more signs of deterioration

Enfield rifles are surrounded by a metal lining (Sweetwater Creek State Park)

A crate of 20 British-made Enfield rifles that never made it into the hands of Confederate soldiers has remained in water ever since it was pulled from the wreckage of the blockade runner CSS Stono in the late 1980s.

For the last six years, the weapons have been on display in a 300-gallon aquarium at Sweetwater Creek State Park west of Atlanta. Every six months or so, technicians with the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources clean the tank and check on the status of the artifacts.

“The rifles themselves are in great shape, as far as the wood goes. That’s kind of a mystery,” said Josh Headlee, a curator and historic preservation specialist.

The remnants of the wooden crate and metal lining have not fared so well.

While the rifle stocks are walnut, the crate is likely pine, a softer wood, said Headlee. And the metal lining, made of an alloy, appears to be waterlogged.

The tank was recently cleaned (Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources)

“The metal is taking on properties of cloth, becoming really soft,” he said. The rifles are bulging that metal outward.

Headlee and another specialist recently cleared the tank algae and loose reddish sediment. “I run my hand over (the rifles) and that removes the stubborn algae.”

Pending conservation of the artifacts, technicians have worked over the past several years to remove damaging salt (chloride).

“We are actually right at tap water,” said Headlee. “We feel most of the salts have already leached out.”

The CSS Stono, laden with precious arms, munitions and goods from Europe, in 1863 ran aground on a submerged sandbar off Fort Moultrie while trying to evade Federal ships.

Wooden crate (front) has softened over the years (Sweetwater Creek State Park)

“It looks like this crate had fallen off a stack and one end had busted completely out,” said Headlee. “A couple of the rifles were damaged. Because the crate was damaged all the sediment had washed in it and basically turned to concrete.”

After Georgia acquired the guns from South Carolina, technicians chipped off the encrusted material.

Other crates containing the highly prized Pattern 53 rifles are still lying in Charleston Harbor.

At least one of the weapons bears the mark, “T. Turner,” a reference to well-known English gunmaker Thomas Turner, who turned out quality weapons in the mid-19th century.

The iron rifle barrels, locks and bayonets in the crate are heavily deteriorated from saltwater corrosion. Brass components, including butt plates, trigger guards and the nose cap at the end of the barrels, better withstood the ravages of longtime submersion. Researchers also found a bullet mold, tools and tampions, or cork and brass plugs inserted into the muzzle to ward off moisture. Those items are not in the aquarium.

The metal lining sealed the cargo from salt air and ensured the rifles were not tampered with. Inside, the rifles were placed in an alternating butt to muzzle pattern. Wooden blocks were used to prevent the weapons from shifting.

The artifacts have been in a “holding pattern” until money is secured for conservation.

The 3,000-gallon tank after recent cleaning (Sweetwater Creek State Park)

In the short term, Headlee may look at a fungicide as a way to cut down on algae.

“I would love something more done with them,” he says of the rifles, crate and lining.

Officials are looking into a possible heritage grant to do extensive conservation that will take the artifacts out of the water. For now, the items remain in a protective water environment. 

But even that can’t prevent degradation.

“We are doing everything we can do to slow it down,” said Headlee. “I am noticing it is picking up.”

Monday, July 1, 2019

Cleveland to mark monument anniversary with added names

A ceremony marking the 125th anniversary of a Civil War monument in Cleveland is set for Thursday. The Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument honoring the county’s citizens who fought and worked for the Union was dedicated July 4, 1894. The anniversary celebration is set for noon on Public Square. • Article

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Treasures from the CSS Georgia: Conserved artifacts from vessel are carefully stored, awaiting their moment in a museum's spotlight

Shanna Daniel examines cannon (U.S. Navy: Spc. 2nd Class Mutis A. Capizzi)
CSS Georgia ammunition fuzes (US Navy photo)

More than 4,000 artifacts from the ironclad CSS Georgia that have undergone conservation are at the Washington Navy Yard, where officials are cataloging and storing them in hopes that an institution will eventually come forward with a exhibit plan.

The items -- which run the gamut from ammunition and machinery to an artillery piece and propeller -- rest in crates, wooden boxes and other containers.

Many are put in archival bags and are covered with foam and padding, said Shanna Daniel, a conservator with the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch.

The first shipment from Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory in College Station arrived in Washington earlier this year and another was recently received.

Propeller is pulled from Savannah River (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Savannah)

Daniel and others ensure that the artifacts are kept in relative humidity between 40 percent and 50 percent and that rooms have a constant temperature of between 65 and 70 degrees. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers help keep conditions stable.

While items would normally go in cabinets, where they can be seen, the boxes will soon be moved to another facility as the warehouse is renovated.

The CSS Georgia was a floating battery on the Savannah River that kept any Union marauders away during the Civil War.

The scattered remains of the scuttled Confederate ship was moved by the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of a massive harbor-deepening project in Savannah. The contemporary salvaging of the ironclad began with the symbolic raising of a piece of casemate -- protective armor made up of railroad track iron -- in November 2013.

Since then, at least 14,000 artifacts were sent to Texas for conservation, which for several items will last many more years.

Daniel shows a brass elevation sight (U.S. Navy photo)

A unique aspect of the CSS Georgia was its armor: Builders in Savannah -- limited by resources and technology – used sections of railroad track for the casemate and other protective features. Some of those railroad pieces are now in storage at the Navy Yard.

“One archaeologist said there were seven types used to put this ship together. It was ingenious to come up with these resources to do that,” Daniel recently told the Picket.

The conservator said that story and those about other artifacts could be educational for a variety of audiences.

The US Navy -- which owns the vessel – has encouraged museums “to obtain a vision” on how they might display artifacts and tell the CSS Georgia’s story. Several institutions visited the salvage site in 2017, but there has been no recent contact from any, Daniel says.

Artifacts in shipping crates (U.S. Navy: Spc. 2nd Class Mutis A. Capizzi)

That’s not a rare situation, she said. The museums may be waiting for more of the artifacts – especially the larger cannon – to complete conservation. And institutions must comply with regulations regarding federally owned and administered archaeological collections and come up with a good bit of money for such an exhibit.

The Picket has reached out to the Army Corps’ office in Savannah for more information on the status and timetable of artifact conservation.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

More Camp Lawton prison site artifacts: Railroad spike, sash clasps, bricks, whiteware sherd and a copper rivet

Clasp for sash worn by a Confederate (Camp Lawton Archaeology Project, GSU)
A spring-fed stream and a towering stockade wall separated Federal prisoners and the young men in gray who guarded them at Georgia’s Camp Lawton for a few short weeks in autumn 1864.

A lingering question for archaeologists who have been working on the site for nearly a decade is what else separated them -- especially when it came to food, supplies, shelter and general living conditions.

The 10,000 Union captives lived mostly on a hillside while their captors were scattered in different areas of the stockade exterior and artillery fortifications. The Federals built shebangs and other structures to provide shelter while the Confederates, mostly members of Georgia reserve regiments, apparently depended on tents and perhaps a barracks for officers.

Based on some archaeological finds in the past couple years, evidence suggests it “seems like the guards are a little better supplied than initially suggested,” said Dr. Ryan McNutt, director of the Camp Lawton Archaeology Project at Georgia Southern University in nearby Statesboro.

The Picket spoke recently with McNutt about artifacts that are linked to the Confederate troops who occupied camps in what is now Magnolia Springs State Park. The following items were found this year. You can read here about a stirrup found last week.


DIE-STAMPED SASH BUCKLES/CLASP

Clasp for sash worn by Confederate (Camp Lawton Archaeology Project, GSU)

Sashes apparently were used as marks of rank for Confederate militia and quasi-military officials. Different colors may have been used by company officers or noncommissioned officers.

They were commonly found in Savannah, at jails and courthouses, said McNutt.
One of the buckles found at Camp Lawton (top image) has a crown motif; it may have come from Europe into Savannah via blockade runners, he said.

It’s known that elements of the 1st through 5th regiments of the Georgia Reserves were stationed at the site.

LINE OF BRICKS

Courtesy of Camp Lawton Archaeology Project, Georgia Southern University

McNutt is not yet sure how these were used. While it could be the remains of a chimney, they also could have been used as a foundation for a wall tent, with planks placed above. Bricks previously have been found in the prisoner area, the remains of ovens and tent foundations.

RAILROAD SPIKE

(Courtesy of Camp Lawton Archaeology Project, Georgia Southern University)

This likely came from the depot at Lawton, the terminus of a railroad line that carried Federal prisoners from the small town of Millen. It could find all kind of uses in a camp, including tents and other structures.

CERAMIC // WHITEWARE SHERD

Courtesy of Camp Lawton Archaeology Project, Georgia Southern University

From a Camp Lawton Facebook post in May: “Our whiteware sherd from yesterday has two possible sources. One is Clementson Bros, a North Staffordshire manufacture that produced a variety of plain and transfer print wares for the North American domestic market, and starts trading under the Clementson Bros name in 1867. However, the edge of the decoration appears to be a quasi royal arms, with a recumbent lion. You can just make out the paw. This doesn’t match any of their marks. It may be from Clementson & Young, which were imported into New Orleans for the southern market during the mid-19th century.”

COPPER ALLOY RIVET FROM A SOLDIER’S ACCOUTREMENTS

Courtesy of Camp Lawton Archaeology Project, Georgia Southern University

The Georgia Southern team the past couple years has concentrated on finding evidence of the Confederate camp and stockade features.

McNutt said they may return to the prisoner occupation area next, to look at how the camp was set up, what artifacts say about ethnic divisions among the POWs and to search for the sutler’s cabin.