Friday, December 31, 2010

Special on Robert E. Lee airs Monday

According to the Los Angeles Times, PBS' "Robert E. Lee" sidesteps the myths of the Confederate general created by his hero-worshipers, instead finding an ambitious, tormented man reluctant to go to war who went on to cause and sustain major casualties. The 90-minute program airs Monday. A portrait of Ulysses S. Grant comes the following Monday. • Article

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Georgia city buys more battlefield land

The Picket wrote in October about a Georgia city's plan to open a Civil War site by acquiring property for a 161-acre park.

This month, Dallas closed on another 66 acres "that contains more discernible earthworks," according to the Georgia Battlefields Association.

The earthworks were likely occupied by the 9th Kentucky (Confederate) Infantry during the ill-fated May 28, 1864, attack by the Orphan Brigade during the Hell Hole battles, the GBA said.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Civil War saluted in new stamps

Stamps including the 150th anniversaries of the beginning of the Civil War and of Kansas statehood and the 50th anniversary of U.S. manned spaceflight will be issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2011. • Article

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Upgrades planned at Atlanta Cyclorama

The Picket plans to follow upcoming changes at the Atlanta Cyclorama. Camille Russell Love, director of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, writes, "We are in the process of developing plans to commemorate the 150 Anniversary of the Civil War with emphasis on the 2014 anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta. We hope that we will be able to freshen up the interior and exterior of the Atlanta Cyclorama building and hope to be able to refresh the exhibits inside as well." • Previous article

Monday, December 27, 2010

Do you agree with this list?

Glenn W. Lafantasie, a professor of history at Brown University, posts his list of the best 12 Civil War books. Putting together such a list is, of course, a nearly impossible task, he concedes. All of his choices were published after WWII. Do you agree with his choices? Post a comment below or on the Picket Facebook page. • Article

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Message at Vicksburg deciphered

A message in a bottle delivered to a Confederate general during the Civil War has been deciphered by a retired CIA code breaker, 147 years after it was written. In the encrypted message, a commander tells Gen John Pemberton that no reinforcements are available to help him defend Vicksburg, Miss. • Article

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Picket!

Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyous holiday. Thanks for your support and interest in what we've been up to this year! We're always looking for story ideas, so please stay in touch.

Old money isn't Confederate

What Scarlette Poole thought might be a found fortune in Confederate currency turned into a history lesson about the Confederate States of America. A Civil War historian in Alabama filled her in on the history of authentic currency. • Article

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Family ties 3: Your Civil War stories

The Picket is sharing readers' accounts of their ancestors who served or were affected by the Civil War. We encourage you to get involved by e-mailing us at Bob Farrell, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans and the founder of the Civil War roundtable in Raleigh, N.C., provided this account of Pvt. Robert Taggart, who was married to a sister of his great-great-great grandfather, and was wounded twice.

This tailor by trade, enlisted in the service of his country on Sept. 3, 1862, at Whitehall, Washington Co., N.Y., at age 37. He was enrolled for three years by Captain Augustus D. Vaughn into Company F, comprised of residents of Fort Ann, Lisbon and Whitehall. Company D was recruited from Fort Edward and Kingston, Company A was recruited from towns east and southeast of Troy, all within Rensselaer County. The remaining seven Companies came from Troy. Thus it was named "The Third Troy Regiment."

The 169th New York Volunteer Infantry was commanded by Col. Clarence W. Buell and called into service the 7th day of October 1862, 915 strong. Like many other Eastern units, the 169th began by guarding Washington, D.C. and developing their military skills. Their introduction to combat came on the Edenton Road near Suffolk, Va., April 24, 1863. For the next year, they remained in the South Carolina area participating in the siege of Battery Wagner and the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

1864 found the 169th primarily in Virginia, mostly in the environs around Petersburg. It is interesting to note on Feb. 28, 1864, the 169th was transferred to northern Florida, in the Jacksonville area. The units personal effects were brought south on the U.S. Army transport " Maple Leaf. " In the 1990s, the remains of the Maple Leaf were found in the silt of the St. Johns River. When the artifacts were examined they were determined to be near pristine. Lack of funds, then and now, have precluded a complete recovery. However, they remain safe covered with the anaerobic silt of the river.

On the morning of the 1st of April, while traveling on the St. Johns River, the boat hit a Confederate torpedo sinking immediately, with the loss of four crewmen and all the personal effects of the 169th and three other regiments. In May and June of that year, they were to be found at the scene of many well known battles -- Port Walthall, Swift Creek, Drewry’s Bluff, Bermuda Hundred, Cold Harbor and the assault on Petersburg. During this period, they sustained 225 casualties -- 38 of which were enlisted, and 2 officers -- killed in combat

The most notorious event of the Petersburg Campaign was the famous Mine Explosion on the morning of July 30th. The 169th saw a great deal of action in the lines to the immediate right of the actual crater, a point at which there was a great loss of life on both sides. The 10th Corps, led by Brig. Gen. John W. Turner, and included the 169th N.Y. and the 97th Penna., held the Confederates in check throughout the morning. Had they not done their part, the Union could have suffered additional losses. It was here that Company F lost its Captain Vaughn, along with 18 other casualties to the regiment, a relatively small loss compared to the other units of the division. The remainder of the year saw the 169th participating in the battles of Dutch Gap, Strawberry Plains, Chaffin’s Farm and in December the first assault on Fort Fisher.

Jan. 15th, 1865, saw the second assault upon Fort Fisher, N.C., where the XXIV Corp, Second Division, including the 169th NYV and the 97th Pennsylvania, were the first to breach the line and carry the stronghold of the enemy. While sleeping on the grass early on the morning of the 16th, the 169th had placed themselves directly over the powder magazine, which was accidently detonated by drunken Union sailors. The killed numbered 33 and the wounded went uncounted.

The New York Herald numbers Robert Taggart among the wounded.

The next four months till the end of the war , saw the 169th in the Carolinas where they were mustered out on July 19, 1865, at Raleigh, NC. At the end, they had lost to death, 157 in combat (KIA & DOW) and 371 other casualties (DOD or serious wounds). Only 25 other N.Y. State units suffered greater losses, and are so honored in "Fox’s Regimental Losses." They returned to Troy on July 24, 1865, to a gigantic outpouring of townspeople, celebrities and politicians.

On Aug. 3, they received their final pay and disbanded. Fewer than 120 of the original 915 recruits returning to their families.

Robert Taggart returned to Whitehall, having been wounded at Cold Harbor 6-30-1864 and at the explosion at Fort Fisher 1-16-1865. He died May 25, 1883, at age 58, the direct result of a service-induced condition. He is interred in the Bordman Cemetery, plot CC14.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Team finds Confederate gunboat in S.C.

A University of South Carolina archaeologist has found the wreck of C.S.S. Peedee, a Confederate gunboat that was destroyed so it would not be captured by Union forces. • Article

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Singers, NASCAR drivers in HBO miniseries

A number of country artists and at least one NASCAR drivers have signed on to star and/or create music for HBO’s forthcoming Civil War miniseries, “To Appomattox.” • Article

Monday, December 20, 2010

Close to official: 34,000 from North Carolina died serving Confederacy

Slow to secede, North Carolina eventually sent nearly 135,000 men in gray to Civil War battlefields across the land.

For years, many in the state boasted that at 40,000, the Tar Heel state lost more men than any other Confederate state. (Click image at left)

Two recent studies -- one by the state, and the other by a camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans – have found that the 40,000 figure bandied about for generations is too high.

Josh Howard, a research historian for the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, told the Picket that the North Carolina Civil War Death Study is almost complete.

Howard and Purser estimate that 34,000 Rebel troops from the Tar Heel State perished.

“It’s still a horrible figure and it still ranks as the highest toll for any Southern state,” said Howard, placing Virginia (24,000-25,000) and South Carolina (about 18,000) in second and third places.

Charles Purser of the SCV camp in Garner, N.C., has led the chapter’s own research and came up with similar figures.

Driving Howard’s research is an upcoming Civil War atlas, a map-driven project that will look at all kinds of North Carolina demographics by county. He expects the book to be published by 2013 or 2014.

Howard's research includes newspaper accounts, cemetery searches and, primarily, a 17-volume set of rosters, based on National Archives records.

“North Carolina records are pretty complete for most of our regiments, mostly in Lee’s army,” said the military historian (right), who is the co-author of two books about the Revolutionary War.

“We won’t know everyone who died,” Purser said, including he has looked at unit records from more than 70 regiments and is down to three.

Howard explains in detail on the state’s Civil War sesquicentennial website why he is completing the project. Mostly, it’s about the integrity of the record.

“North Carolina is stepping and looking at our figures and are making sure we have done as good as we can,” he tells the Picket.

Howard estimates perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 North Carolinians who served in the Union died, but he is still researching the number. Purser’s estimate is lower, at perhaps a few hundred.

Researchers are still finding North Carolina troops who died in the Civil War.

“I hope it opens the eyes of people of the sacrifices,” Purser says of the death counts. “It [the war] affected every family.”

The retiree has used grave records,, rosters and other sources to count the Tar Heel dead.

“My and his [Howard’s] thinking were kind of on the same line,” Purser said. “He wants to do the statistics. We want the names.”

The SCV honors those who served and died across the South.

Purser estimates 2,400 North Carolinians died in the Gettysburg campaign and about 6,000 succumbed as POWs or “under Union control.”

The SCV Garner Camp a few years ago researched 1,400 Confederate dead in Raleigh’s Oakwood Cemetery.

They found the graves of two Union soldiers wrongly identified as Confederate.

Upon finding the second grave, Purser contacted friend Bob Farrell of the John A. Logan Camp #4 of the Sons of Union Veterans in Raleigh.

“’You’re never going to guess what I found,’” Farrell says Purser told him. “’I found another Yankee on the hill.’ ”

Separate ceremonies were held for the pair of Union soldiers and their graves received appropriate new headstones.

Like Purser, Farrell said the SUV has an important mission.

“The purpose is to honor and respect your descendants.”

Farrell, a New York transplant, said seven North Carolina regiments, three of them African-American, served the Union.

“You had a huge portion that was against secession and was pro-Union,” he says of the state’s wartime population.

Estimates of men serving in blue range from 5,000 to 7,000.

Farrell, who founded a Civil War roundtable in Raleigh, said about 80 percent of its 160 members have Confederate ancestors.

“There is no harsh conversation on North vs. South,” Farrell said. “The same rain falls on friend and foe.”

Today's secession observance in S.C.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the United States, and several groups and organizations plan events in Charleston, including an NAACP protest. • Article
The State's ongoing coverage, with columnists, news and video

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Univ. of Georgia recruits Civil War prof

Let the search begin. The University of Georgia has posted a job listing for the Gregory Chair in the Civil War Era in the history department. Amanda and Henry D. “Greg” Gregory Jr. of Atlanta provided a $1 million gift. An additional $50,000 from the Gregorys will support research in Civil War era studies for graduate students and faculty members. "This Chair will bring to Georgia a scholar with an outstanding national reputation to continue and build upon the department's legacy of strength in the study of nineteenth-century America," the posting says.

Job posting | • Background on the position

Friday, December 17, 2010

Petersburg tells stories of Native Americans

The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War is nearly here and a recent event at Petersburg National Battlefield underscored a bit of history that often escapes much notice—the role of American Indians in the conflict. Payson Wolfe (left) of Company K was captured at Petersburg and spent time at Confederate prison camps. • Article

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Secession ball flap grows in Charleston

Organizers of Civil War anniversary events sought Wednesday to distance themselves from a ball being held Monday to celebrate secession. “I won’t be going,” Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joe Riley said after a news conference where the mayor and those organizing events to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War underscored their desire to bring attention to historic events without celebrating the war. • Article

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Family ties 2: Your Civil War stories

The Picket is sharing readers' accounts of their ancestors who served or were affected by the Civil War. We encourage you to get involved by e-mailing us at Jeff Hightower, a member of the SCV and a resident of McDonough, Ga., provided this story about his great-great-grandfather, George Washington Bright, who served in the 22nd Georgia Heavy Artillery, Co. A, the "Bartow Artillery" He enlisted at Griffin, Ga. and trained at Camp Stephens in Spalding County, Ga. Bright (left), who lived to 82, in 1913 wrote to the Alabama Pension Board in reference to their inquiry as to why he had appeared on a list of deserters. The board cleared his name and he received a pension until his death in 1927. The wording and spellings are as written.

State of Ala. Cleburne CO. Oct 9 1913

Dear friend, I have received your notice concerning our pension and I am glad that I can inform you that I never deserted my command. But me and a corporal and two others was placed on picket at the spindles at a [creek] four miles below Savannah our company was stasion at fort Jackson and when we come off picket the next morning and went back to fort Jackson our army had cross the Savannah river and left us on the other side of the river and no way left for us to get over and the enemy closed in on us and we had to give up or be shot down. This was at fort Jackson 3 miles below Savannah. We never deserted our company but they put us on picket duty and went a cross the river and left us. So while you good people have seen fit to give us old Soldiers a little pension to help us in our old age I appreciate it very much. But please dont call me a deserter now 50 years after it is all over. But I dont blame you for it for you was not there and dont no anything a bout it. So of course you will have to go accordin to the laws that is made I was in the Bartow artillery company that went from midle Georgia & I was in the company A 22 Battalion Georgia Artillery and served as a good soldier until I was captured and taken a prisoner. I went in service some time in March of 63 and was taken prisoner some time in December of 64 and carried to hilton head and put in the stock ade with the other prisoners and was kept there until the war ended and then they turned me loose and I went home to midle GA So now I am getting old and not able to defend my self. So give me justice and do the best for me you can.

Yours truly,
George Washington Bright
Fruithurst, Ala Rout 1

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Citadel cadets to re-enact firing on vessel

Citadel cadets in Charleston, S.C. plan to re-create a key moment in Civil War history next month. On Jan. 8, more than a dozen cadets and faculty will travel to Morris Island to re-enact the firing on the Union supply ship Star of the West. • Details

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rich finds at Alamance battleground

During a visit to Durham, N.C., the Picket stopped by a nearby battleground some say witnessed the beginning of the American Revolution.

But there's a lot of Civil War history, too.

The Regulators fought back against tryanny under Britain. They were upset with excessive taxes and dishonesty. Gov. Tryon rounded up the North Carolina militia and marched on the Regulators in early 1771.

Militia members were neighbors of the rebellious farmers, and at first balked at firing on May 16, 1771. Eventually, the militia carried the day, but discontent in the Tarheel state remained until the Revolution officially began just four years later.

Recently, an archaeological dig found items that proved the battle occurred as history states.

Researchers also found a Revolutionary War button (U.S., right) that belonged to someone in a Delaware unit. Capt. Robert Kirkwood led the Delaware Light Infantry on a raid against British General Charles Cornwallis’ forces at the site on March 5, 1781, just 10 days before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse west of Alamance County.

During the Civil War, area Quakers and Moravians, like in generations past, assisted those wounded in conflict.

Confederate units under Gen. William Hardee camped at the battleground, making it home to three different "wars." This button from a 3rd North Carolina Junior Reserve (older men and young boys) unit commanded by Col. John Hinsdale during the Civil War was also found at the site.

Alamance Battleground Site Manager Bryan Dalton provided an excellent overview of these tumultuous times. About 150 items were found in recent digs.

More about the Alamance research

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cleaning ironclad Monitor's engine

Conservators at The Mariners' Museum and its USS Monitor Center are working to restore a steam engine from the Civil War ironclad. Navy divers and NOAA archaeologists recovered the 30-ton engine from the Atlantic Ocean in 2001. But it was covered with sand, mud and corrosion from the minerals in the water. • Article

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Family ties: Your Civil War stories

The Picket is sharing readers' accounts of their ancestors who served or were affected by the Civil War. We encourage you to get involved by e-mailing us at Here is our first entry.

My great-great grandfather, Charles E. Gay Sr., was a 20-year-old law student in Columbus, Miss., when the war broke out. According to family tradition he opposed secession and a letter to his sister dated a month before Fort Sumter indicates he was hesitating to join the army because his sweetheart was against it. But records show he joined the 10th MS "Southern Avengers" just a few weeks after the letter. A written family history says was accompanied to war by a "bodyguard" (slave) named Brack from the family farm in nearby Oktibbeha County, Miss. It's unknown what became of Brack. C.E. Gay was assigned an artillery unit and promoted to sergeant, serving in the Mississippi battles of Corinth, Okolona and Jackson. In 1864 he was transferred to the 14th MS and assigned to Joe Johnston's army opposing Sherman in Georgia. He served in the Atlanta campaign from Resaca to Jonesboro - including Kennesaw Mountain, a few miles from his great-great grandson's home in Marietta, Ga. - then was transferred back to Mississippi where he was paroled in May 1865. C.E. Gay later became longtime clerk of court in his home county and lived into the 1920s. During WW1 he sent supplies to US troops and according to family tradition rarely, if ever, talked about his service in the Confederate army.
- Charles Gay V, Marietta, Ga.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wreaths Across America: Remembering soldiers in the Civil War, other conflicts

On Saturday (Dec. 11), thousands of volunteers, many dressed for brutal cold, will fan across the nation’s cemeteries, placing holiday wreaths at the graves of veterans, including those who fought in the Civil War.

Adorned with a red bow, the wreaths will represent a nation’s remembrance to those lost to battle and old age.

Civil Air Patrol cadets and Boy Scouts will place a couple hundred wreaths after a noon ceremony at Andersonville National Cemetery near Americus, Ga. The Sons of the American Revolution and the Patriot Guard also will be on hand, rain or shine.

They’ll place the wreaths after remarks from Robert “Chappy” Kelly, a police chaplain with the Americus Police Department and a major in the Civil Air Patrol.

“It’s pretty emotional,” Kelly said of the annual observance put on by the non-profit group Wreaths Across America.

The program got its start in 1992 when the head of the Worcester Wreath Co. had the idea of honoring veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Since, then it’s spread to hundreds of other cemeteries, including Andersonville.

The organization has grown from 13 volunteers to more than 160,000. It will deliver 219,000 wreaths to Arlington and to more than 300 state and national cemeteries, overseas, and to ships at sea.

“You meet a lot of nice people who need closure,” said Kelly, indicating he sends photos of headstones with wreaths to relatives who cannot come to the cemetery.

Eric Leonard, volunteer coordinator at Andersonville National Historic Site, which adjoins the site, told the Picket the cemetery is one of about a dozen national cemeteries holding the remains of Civil War soldiers.

Andersonville, of course, was the site of an infamous Confederate prisoner of war camp. About 13,000 Union soldiers died there.

Wreaths Across America this week dropped off about 150 wreaths, but Leonard said others will be placed by individuals at several hundred of the nearly 20,000 graves.

“We really want families to bring wreaths during the month of December,” he said.

He asks that they be about 20 inches wide and made of Fraser fir. Each also has a red velveteen bow.

“We keep them out as long as they look good,” Leonard said.

Most of the Andersonville wreaths will be placed at those who have died in recent years, but several will also go in the Civil War-era sections.

“To really understand the scale [of the Civil War graves] you need to get out of your car and walk the rows,” Leonard said.

Andersonville is one of only two national cemeteries administered by the National Park Service still classified as open. It holds the remains of five soldiers killed in Afghanistan in Iraq. About 13 NPS Civil War sites are affiliated with national cemeteries.

“It’s just a way to honor those that went before,” said Kelly, who organized the annual event at Andersonville.

Photos courtesy of Andersonville National Historic Site

More on Wreaths Across America, event locations

Battle of Goldsborough Bridge this weekend

On December 17, 1862, Union troops reached the railroad near Everettsville, N.C., and began destroying the tracks toward Goldsborough Bridge. Clingman’s Confederate brigade delayed the advance but was unable to prevent the destruction of the bridge. The weekend event includes two re-enacted battles. • Details

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hunley lantern replica given to museum

Pennsylvania students' efforts to re-create history are part of a museum display. The National Civil War Museum, Harrisburg, has accepted a replica of a lantern such as those that may have been used on the Confederate submarine, the H.L. Hunley. • Article

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The house where Joe Johnston slept

Knowing the gig was almost up, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston wintered at the Dickson Home in Hillsborough, N.C. I swung by the house Monday, which has been moved a couple miles to the downtown area of the quaint city. Johnston wintered here in March 1865, and was in the vicinity when Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va.. Despite orders from Confederate President Jefferson Davis to fight on, Johnston rode east from Hillsborough toward Durham and met Union Gen. William T. Sherman at Bennett Place. He surrendered 89,270 Southern troops who were still active in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. This was the largest surrender of troops during the war, and effectively ended the Civil War.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fire destroys chapel in Gettysburg

A fire that destroyed a controversial Civil War-themed chapel in Gettysburg was set intentionally, police said Saturday. There are no official suspects, but investigators are seeking three teens reported to be in the area at the time of Friday's pre-dawn blaze, borough Officer William Gonzalez said. • Article

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One more from Antietam: 'Turner Rifles'

The cemetery at Antietam has a marker with a German inscription. I've since learned about the "Turner Rifles", a unit of German-American volunteers with the 20th New York. Turner societies were strongly anti-slavery and supported the new Republican Party. Turners also were involved in the very popular German-American schutzenverein -- shooting societies -- which fostered marksmanship along with reform.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Flag flap in Lexington, Va.

The City Council in Lexington, Va., limits the prominent public display of Confederate flags to the days preceding Lee-Jackson Day and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. • Article

Friday, December 3, 2010

Family donates bullet that killed soldier

The bullet that killed Theodrick "Tod" Carter at the Battle of Franklin (Tenn.) was handed down from one generation to the next like a family heirloom. That ended Thursday — the anniversary of Carter's death on Dec. 2, 1864 — after family members and supporters of the Carter House unveiled what they believe is the bullet that killed Carter. • Article

Autumn scene at Antietam

Here's another shot of Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md. I had forgotten since my last visit just how small the battlefield is. Bodies were stacked like cordwood in many places. Western Maryland is gorgeous and, sometimes, you can't visualize the violence.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'History Detectives' looking into cannon

Does a vial of metal shavings in fact contain metal from one of the Confederacy's most famous guns? That's the question that the cast and crew of PBS' "History Detectives" television series are trying to answer during their visit to Charleston, S.C. A cannon known as "Old Secession" was fired on Dec. 20, 1860, to mark the state's new Ordinance of Secession, and an antiques dealer asked the series to determine if his shavings came from that gun. • Article

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Re-enactment Dec. 11 at fort near Savannah

Fort McAllister near Savannah, Ga., withstood seven Union naval assaults during the Civil War, but a land assault on Dec. 13, 1864, would be the sentinel’s undoing.

Unlike the brick and supposedly impregnable Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River, McAllister had a unique design of earthworks that thwarted the Union navy. Its guns drove off attackers and troops replaced damaged areas with dirt and marsh mud.

Taking the fort on the Ogechee River was a vital part of Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s siege of Savannah. He wanted it eliminated so that ships could resupply his hungry and tired army.

“He thought he was going to have fight his way to Savannah,” said Danny Brown, park manager at Fort McAllister State Park, which is sponsoring a Dec. 11 battle re-enactment.

The winter muster and re-enactment will happen at 5 p.m., “right when the original took place,” said Brown.

The tide was out that day and the vastly outnumbered Rebels were looking into the sun when troops rushed into the fort. The intense fight was over in 15 minutes.

“Federal infantry poured across the narrow causeway linking Genesis Point with the mainland, despite the mining of the approaches to the fort by the Confederates,” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. “Sherman observed the successful attack from a vantage point atop the rice mill of the Cheves Plantation across the river.”

Confederate Gen. William Hardee evacuated Savannah a few days later.

The site became a prison camp and fell into decay after the war. Auto magnate Henry Ford funded a restoration of Fort McAllister in the 1930s.

About 100 re-enactors will be hand from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at the fort, which is near Richmond Hill, about 20 miles southwest of Savannah. Confederates will be preparing for the assault and Union troops will practice an assault and scaling ladders before the 5 p.m. battle, Brown said.

The re-enactors will explain the battle and the public can witness cannon fire demonstrations. Units will include the Emmett Rifles and 22nd Georgia Heavy Artillery from Savannah. Union units to be represented include the 25th Ohio and Illinois troops.

The cost is $3.50 for children and $5 for adults.

More info on Fort McAllister State Park

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Erroneous grave marker to be replaced

A Maryland resident is correcting an error on the tombstone of his great-great grandfather that misidentifies the man as a Confederate soldier. • Article

Monday, November 29, 2010

Update: Monteith Swamp battlefield survey

Monteith Swamp was a small but important engagement during the Union conquest of Savannah, Ga. The Picket wrote in August about a non-profit archaeological group winning a federal grant to document the forgotten battlefield, which mostly sits on private land.

Daniel Elliott of the LAMAR Institute was on site in November and has provided updates on his personal blog.

Using ground-penetrating radar and other technologies, LAMAR has located two portions of the December 1864 battlefield along the Chatham and Effingham county lines.

“One is in the northwest corner of Harrison’s Field and the other is further north in the swamp margin. Finds include grapeshot, bullets, a scabbard tip. Other finds may be related to the Civil War period, including cut lead, cut brass, many 19th century buttons, and various iron and brass hardware,” writes Elliott (above).

The search has also yielded a "fine specimen" of an earlier Union uniform button and fired brass percussion caps “that clued us into the battlefield landscape.”

“Since then we have been plugging along unearthing and mapping an assortment of battle and post-battle objects in Harrison’s Field,” writes Elliott.

Harrison's Field photo courtesy of Cindy Wallace

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Profs use podcasts to share history

Two Longwood University professors have begun a podcast series called "That a Nation Might Live," giving weekly dispatches about the people, events and issues of the American Civil War. The podcasts, at civilwar150.longwood .edu, will run through 201as part of the sesquicentennial commemoration. • Article

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sunken Road / Bloody Lane

For several hours on the afternoon of Sept. 17, 1862, wave after wave of Union troops to dislodge a much smaller force of Confederates solidly entrenched in the Sunken Road, used by Sharpsburg, Md., to reach their fields. Finally, the men in gray were pushed back to Piper Farm. A famous photograph shows piles of bodies in Bloody Lane a couple days after the battle. I walked the road on a recent rainy weekday. I was alone, deep in thought about the lives lost that desperate day at Antietam.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grant will help preserve portion of Franklin

A state grant of $960,000 was awarded to help preserve part of the Franklin, Tenn., battleground upon which a strip mall currently exists. The money will help purchase the property so that preservationists can install a park. • Article

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Va. boy finds Civil War-era sword

It's truly the gift that keeps on giving. A week after receiving a metal detector for his seventh birthday, Lucas Hall's gift is already paying dividends for the first-grader. While metal-detecting with his father, Gary, on private property outside Berryville, Va., Lucas had a feeling that the two needed to stop and look. His hunch paid off. Buried six inches deep was a sword believed to have been used during the Civil War. • Article

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Alabama promotes Civil War trail

The state tourism agency is launching a new push to promote Civil War attractions across Alabama, according to the Associated Press. A new brochure highlights 47 sites and attractions. It includes the dates of 14 war re-enactments that are held each year. Prominent sites include the Capitol and the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, along with Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan at the entrance to Mobile Bay, the AP says.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The non-violent Dunkers of Antietam

The Battle of Antietam brought the horrors war to Americans in a new, compelling way. The business of photography was still relatively young and the process of making images was, to say the least, laborious.

Still, a few enterprising souls accompanied the Union army in the East. A day or two after America's bloodiest day, Sept. 17, 1862, lensmen made the familiar photos that made civilians gasp. Among them are photos of bloated bodies of young men along Hagerstown Pike and other locations on the Maryland battlefield.

Arguably, the most recognized photo focuses on a pile of corpses near a little white church.

According to the National Park Service, "This historic structure began as a humble country house of worship constructed by local Dunker farmers in 1852. It was Mr. Samuel Mumma, owner of the nearby farm that bears his name, that donated land in 1851 for the Dunkers to build their church. During its early history the congregation consisted of about half a dozen-farm families from the local area."

During the Battle of Antietam, Dunker Church was the focal point of a number of Union attacks against the Confederate left flank. The heavily damaged church was repaired after the battle and saw service for many more decades, until a storm flattened it in 1921. A home was later built on the site, but it, too, eventually was gone, replaced by the restored church in the early 1960s. It incorporated materials from the church that existed at the time of the battle.

I sauntered into the plain building during a recent tour of Antietam. Dunker Church is about 150 yards from the vistors center.

The serenity matched the rest of the park, which sits on farm land that witnessed 23,000 casualties.

The Church of the Brethren's website provides details about the pious, anti-slavery and pacifist congregation at Sharpsburg.

"Typical of the derisive labeling experience of many religious groups, they were called Dunkers by outsiders because they fully immersed or “dunked” their baptismal candidates in nearby streams," according to the website. The faith has origins in Germany.

"The church was small and plain, just like the plain Dunker people who built it. No steeple adorned its entrance because the Dunkers considered them immodest or worldly," the Brethren say. "Services of worship convened each Sunday morning with men entering the door facing toward the Hagerstown Pike with women and children entering through another door in the south wall. This was in keeping with the trend of Brethren congregations whose meeting houses were usually segregated by gender."

On a rainy autumn day, I felt calm as I spent a few moments alone in the church. I thought about a question someone asked at the visitors center: How could Americans come to kill each other?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vicksburg may add 10,000 acres

Vicksburg National Military Park would be expanded to include the entire Vicksburg Campaign, based on legislation pending in Washington. The bill would permit the park to add the battles of Champion Hill, Port Gibson and Raymond. • Article

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Colonel's coffin moved to plantation

A Civil War soldier’s coffin was moved on to Travellers Rest Plantation in Tennessee as part of a celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Col. William Shy's coffin was moved with care from the Carter House in Franklin. • Article

Friday, November 19, 2010

Part 2 of the Civil War sign saga

You may recall a recent Picket item on a Civil War marker propped incongruously against a utility pole near a busy metro Atlanta highway.

What you don't know is that these signs sometimes have legs.

I had noticed the sign at Memorial Drive and Interstate I-285 in DeKalb County, about 10 miles east of downtown Atlanta. I called the local government. Steve Longcrier, executive director of the Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, read a blog item I posted and suggested I contact the state.


Thursday, an employee for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources picked it up.

The sign, which details the movements of the Federal left wing in Decatur in 1864, had been missing for some time, said Frankie Mewborn, cultural resources manager.

In fact, it had orginally been placed two miles north of where it was spotted.

"If it's not damaged, we put them back up," said Mewborn.

He estimates the state gets calls once a week about missing or broken signs. With zero budget, the DNR depends on discretionary funding, the Georgia Historical Society and civic groups and individuals to fund the repairs or installation of signs. A new post alone costs about $200.

"Across the state there are people who have a keen interest in this," Mewborn said.

Mewborn estimates there are about 700 such Civil War signs across Georgia, with nearly 500 describing the Atlanta Campaign.

Signs are often displaced by road and commercial work. Some signs are stolen, he said. "It's a rare thing."

Of course, not all historical signs are about the Civil War. Mewborn related the story about a sign in Darien, Ga., that went missing. Fort King George was an early British garrison in Georgia before the Revolutionary War.

A sign about the fort ended up at a local gas station. It was located and an individual with a tie to the fort's history helped to pay for it to be put back up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ambrose Burnside: A likeable bumbler

Behind those fierce muttonchops, a less-confident Ambrose Everett Burnside resided.

I’ve been tracking the Union general the past few weeks, through the written word and a visit to hallowed ground.

I'm reading “The Horrid Pit,” wich details the fiasco at the Crater during the Petersburg siege in summer 1864.

Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac’s IX Corps, approved a subordinate’s idea of blowing a line in the Confederate defenses, followed by a sweeping attack that would roll up Lee’s exhausted army and perhaps end the war.

It did not end that way. Poor communication with his superiors and subordinates turned the assault into a disaster, with Union troops cowering in the Crater and Rebels pouring hot lead into them.

A subsequent inquiry and Gen. Ulysses Grant’s anger at Burnside basically finished his military career.

Things appeared much brighter two years earlier, when Burnside earned a few small victories and led an assault late on Sept. 17, 1862, at Antietam Creek.

Just this week, I made a brief tour of the Antietam battlefield, spending a few moments at Burnside Bridge, where the general’s troops finally squeezed their way across the stone bridge, pushing pesky Georgians from their deadly perch.

Critics say Burnside did not do adequate reconnaissance before the attack, and commander Gen. George B. McClellan told an aide, “Tell him if it costs 10,000 men he must go now."

At the moment Union army appeared poised to shatter the weary Confederate right, A.P. Hill’s men arrived from Harpers Ferry, West Va., and stalled the assault. Lee’s army was saved.

Months later, Abraham Lincoln put Burnside in charge of the entire army, a command Burnside knew he was not qualified to lead. Burnside sent wave after wave of men to their deaths at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Born in Indiana, the general was a West Pointer who fought in the Mexican War. He went bankrupt after getting into the carbine-manufacturing business in the 1850s. He saved the family’s finances by working for railroads before the Civil War.

Alan Axelrod, author of “The Horrid Pit,” describes Burnside this way:

“Ambrose Burnside did not seem a man spun on the wheel of tragedy. Far from it. Dark he most certainly was not. His popularity sprang not just from his concern for his command, but from his all-around likeability. Happy-go-luck, many called him.”

Grant called Burnside liked and respected, but unfit to command an army. Burnside, known to be obstinate and unimaginative, agreed. He probably should never have been promoted beyond colonel.

Often, it seemed, he was the victim of plain bad luck.

Author Jeffrey Wert wrote this about the general’s demotion after Fredericksburg: “[Burnside] had been the most unfortunate commander of the Army, a general who had been cursed by succeeding its most popular leader and a man who believed he was unfit for the post. His tenure had been marked by bitter animosity among his subordinates and a fearful, if not needless, sacrifice of life.”

Burnside, who died at 57 in 1881, got back into railroad work after the war. His legacy is the term “sideburns,” a play of his name and distinctive facial hair.

I don’t know exactly why I am drawn to Burnside. He was simple, honest and friendly. Although much of his legacy is bleeding his troops, I find him to be a sympathetic everyman who got swept into circumstances that were just too much for him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Louisiana forts open to the public

Twin Pineville, La., forts built during the Civil War to stave off a Union attack during the Red River Campaign will open to the public this week as a historic site. • Article

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Web exhibit brings you the war in 3-D

It is a portal into the past, but unlike most photography that conjures a bygone era, "Post Civil War Images of South Carolina" is in 3-D. It's all courtesy of Web designer Buff Ross of Sullivans Island and the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia. The exhibit features "anaglyphs" of 53 steroscopic images taken by Sam Cooley and two others. • Article

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fort Donelson re-enactment this weekend

Some 1,300 Civil War buffs gathering in northern Mississippi this weekend will re-enact a battle that actually took place in Tennessee. People dressed as Union and Confederate soldiers are recreating the Battle of Fort Donelson, which took place in February 1862 near Dover. • Article

Thursday, November 11, 2010

143 years later, monument becomes reality

Residents of the tiny southern Minnesota town of Wasioja will mark Veteran's Day by dedicating a Civil War memorial that was first proposed for construction 143 years ago. • Article

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

History on the sidelines

I'm glad to see that more interpretive signs are being placed in pedestrian or roadside areas that allow for safe reading without the risk of being rear-ended. But this marker on Memorial Drive at Interstate 285 in DeKalb County may be lost to history. I've noticed it for awhile and called the county yesterday about it. Perhaps the state is in charge of signs on that stretch of Memorial Drive. Click the photo to read about Sherman's left wing in Decatur.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tennessee begins sesqui events

Tennessee, which played a huge role in the War Between the States, kicks off a 4-and-a-half-year observation of the war's sesquicentennial this week with several free events. Gov. Phil Bredesen and others will host a program Friday at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Also this week, the State Library & Archives unveils a new exhibit of Civil War-era artifacts and photographs that runs through Nov. 30. • Article

Sunday, November 7, 2010

150-year-old photo mystery

Here's an interesting yarn from a gentleman who challenges assertion no photos exist from Nov. 6, 1860, the day Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th president. • Article

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New York honors fallen soldier

A tombstone is being unveiled this weekend in an upstate New York cemetery for a Civil War soldier who survived some of the conflict's bloodiest battles only to be killed just before his enlistment was up in 1864. • Article

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photos: Atlanta's historic Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery, a mile east of downtown Atlanta, is a burial ground dating back to the 1850s. It is the resting place for 5,000 Confederate and 16 Union soldiers. John Bell Hood witnessed the Battle of Atlanta from a home that once stood on the site. • More Oakland Cemetery photos

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Savannah website reviews 'The Conspirator'

Wednesday night's feature at the Savannah Film Festival - kept secret until just before the projector rolled - was "The Conspirator", the Civil War drama about the Lincoln assassination directed by Robert Redford. Most of the film was shot in the Georgia city. • Review

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Virginians can share own piece of history

A Civil War spinoff of the "Antiques Roadshow" is coming to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park on Friday. The Shenandoah County Civil War sesquicentennial committee will scan papers as part of the Civil War 150 Legacy Project. • Article

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day primer: Start with A. Lincoln

Election Day is upon us. Analyses will be written tonight, new careers will be born, others will fade away.

Monday, on the eve of the voting, I drove down to the Atlanta History Center to see the Library of Congress exhibit, “With Malice Toward None,” honoring the enduring legacy of the 16th president.

The show moves on after Sunday and I figured I’d never have another chance to see such an assembly of Abraham Lincoln writings, photographs, sketches, personal items and, yes, the items found in his coat pockets after he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre.

Lincoln was a consummate politician and a lawyer. He knew the shrewd game of give and take.

His sole term in the U.S. House of Representatives was a disappointment. But he learned as he went and persevered.

Few Americans knew Lincoln’s name in 1858 when he debated Stephen Douglas seven times during his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois.

His speeches lifted him to the national stage, even in defeat, and a familiar line made itself into the American lexicon.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”

“With Malice Toward None” opens with a multimedia presentation that explores the myth and realities of Lincoln. Video commentaries reveal personal connections to the documents the 16th president wrote.

Photos throughout the exhibit depict Lincoln over the years, with the Civil War’s heavy toll evident in an Alexander Gardner portrait taken several weeks before he died.

A cane-bottom chair from an old law office tells you a lot about the man from Springfield, Ill.

“The strength and durability of furniture is said to have interested Lincoln more than its appearance.”

The exhibit has the powerful documents we know so well: Drafts of his second inaugural address, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.

But the “little” letters speak of Lincoln’s humanity.

In October 1860, Grace Bedell (left, during the 1870s), a young girl from New York, wrote to candidate Lincoln asking him to grow whiskers because his face was so thin.

“All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President,” reads a portion of the letter, which is in the exhibit.

Shortly afterward, Lincoln grew his now-familiar beard.

In December 1862, as the war wore on, the president wrote to Fanny McCullough, the daughter of a friend killed in battle.

“I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time,” Lincoln wrote. “You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again.”

I make no political statement here. It's my hope at the end of today that we appreciate the resiliency of our political process. And that we continue to turn to Lincoln for lessons in statesmanship, discourse and love.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One writer's take on the war's 150th

The Picket urges you to take in this eloquent op-ed piece by Tony Horwitz, author of "Confederates in the Attic." It includes this: "The Civil War isn’t just an adjunct to current events. It’s a national reserve of words, images and landscapes, a storehouse we can tap in lean times like these, when many Americans feel diminished, divided and starved for discourse more nourishing than cable rants and Twitter feeds." • Column

Saturday, October 30, 2010

N.C. planning events, May symposium

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is planning the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the war. • Article

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Civil War items are missing in Pa.

A new audit says a Pennsylvania state agency can't locate more than 1,800 historical artifacts, including sculptures worth $42,000 and Civil War items, including a rifle. • Article

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dolls checked for signs of smuggling

Two Civil War-era dolls thought to have been used to smuggle medicine past Union blockades were X-rayed, disclosing hollowed papier-mache heads that once could have contained quinine or morphine for wounded or malaria-stricken Confederate troops. • Story

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Modern waterproofing for ironclad replica

The addition of NASA-approved waterproofing technology to the CSS Neuse II has enabled the Civil War ironclad replica to do what the original ram could not — stand the test of time. • Story

Sunday, October 24, 2010

University has Camp Lawton website

Georgia Southern University students earlier this year found artifacts from a short-lived prison camp near Millen. A recent web page has an overivew of the project, a history, illustrations, details on the museum exhibit and a Facebook page • Website

Saturday, October 23, 2010

From Hardee hat to correct footwear, Authentic Campaigner website espouses accuracy

It appears no detail or footnote is too small for the dedicated Civil War living historian.

To wit, FranklinGuards NYSM went online to ask, “How do YOU break ranks.” He added a couple sentences from some of what he had read and asked other groups what they do.

“Casey's Tactics, Vol. I, School of the Soldier Part III, para. 426; Hardee's do., para. 411,” was the one-sentence reply from Pvt. Schnapps, posted on the Authentic Campaigner.

Since 1999, the Authentic Campaigner website has served a loyal community of living historians, many of whom do their research on what life, drill and fighting was like for a Civil War soldier.

They come to the site to learn about events and join the myriad discussion threads on authenticity, preservation, music and other topics. They also buy, sell and trade items. They have a fondness for "Events By Us and For Us" or "EBUFU", which unlike most re-enactments, are closed to the public and promote scenarios that are as close to the real thing as possible.

The Civil War Picket recently spoke with the website’s founder Paul Calloway, a 41-year medical sales professional in Fort Wayne, Ind. Calloway is a member of the Tar Water Mess, a living history unit based in Kentucky and Indiana.

Q. Why did you set up Authentic Campaigner?
A. Several units had websites. I first set up a glorified list of resources. The purpose was to take the good news of authenticity and share it with everyone. This wasn’t secret information. The originators just wanted credit. I could post a link to it or I could host.

Q. What is the principal message?
A. To do your best to be as much like a Civil War soldier as possible.

Q. How would you describe the different classifications of re-enactors/living historians?
A. FARBs (those who show an indifference to authenticity in behavior and gear); mainstreamers, who tend to buy uniforms and equipment off the rack; progressives, who are trying to improve their impressions; and hardcores, who flat out try to do it right. We look at research on uniforms, what they wore and ate. For some re-enactors, the coolers come out after dark when the public is away.

(Click this link for a more detailed description of re-enactors).

Q. What is the evolution?
A. As you move along, you tend to steer clear of doing a particular impression. When you look at some guys, particularly for the Trans-Mississippi, they can do 10 different impressions.

Q. Who are your readers? What kind of page views?
A. They cross the entire spectrum, but they trend toward progressive and hardcore. Sometimes we have to dial down the mainstream discussion if it strays from authenticity. Our civilian forums section has continued to grow. We get between 10,000 and 15,000 page views a day, with big interest particularly in spring and early summer.

Q. What about politics and moderation of forums?
A. We have several moderators. Our mission is to steer clear of modern-day politics. People who post on forums must use their real names.

Q. What kind of costs are involved for you and readers?
A. For $10 a year, a reader can access the site to buy, sell and trade items. (There are no fees to be in discussion groups). It costs us about $300 a month to run the site. Advertising helps. It’s not a profit-making website.

Q. How about fundraising? I’ve seen where the Authentic Campaigner has partnered with the Civil War Preservation Trust.
A. We have been able to donate some money for preservation. We were able to give money to help present the McRae Family Papers at the South Carolina Relic Room & Military Museum.

Q. What about research for the hobby?
A. Guys want to look at records and photos to better understand the battles. Some regiments have a lot of details [in archives or libraries] while others do not. You can get information at the Library of Congress and local libraries. My advice is to get off the computer and go to the library. To research the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, we went to Ashtabula to read postwar accounts, letters and to learn what they ate. We wanted to be sure we were acting appropriately.

Q. How can the layman spot authenticity?
A. Look at the way the fabric falls o a uniform. You can tell by how someone is wearing the equipment. You can look at photos to learn these things. A lot of re-enactors look at what they guy next to them is using [without thinking about it]. If you are on a march and see wall tents that weren’t in that area during the war, you know it’s wrong. For example, with the 105th Ohio, we knew they didn’t have knapsacks in one battle.

Q. Are there some authentic events that particularly stand out?
A. In 2000, Craig Hadley of the Cracker Outpost put on an event in at Lookout Mountain, Tenn. Twenty-five young men around 20-years-old practiced drills. It was very impressive. Perryville 2003 was good. RippaVilla Plantation in Spring Hill, Tenn. These events are best when you are living like a soldier. No freeways. Fill your canteen from the river. It’s not as hard as you think to speak in the first person (portrayal of a character).

Q. Today’s re-enactors are heavier and older than the lean young men of the Civil War?
A. There’s not a lot we can do about the latter, but we can do something about the former.

Q. What about authenticity of camps during events?
A. It’s interesting. Kids recognize the difference right away. They’ll say ‘these are the real soldiers.’ They can tell uniforms and camps are different. They way we interact is different.

Q. Who are your competitors?
A. The Civil War Reenactors home page is a big site. It tends to be more mainstream. We work with them and aren’t really competitors. Both serve an audience.

Q. What trends have affected the hobby in recent years?
A. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have taken a lot of the guys out of the ranks. A lot are part timers. The hobby has a lot of people from the military. The hobby will be around. The 150th anniversary series of re-enacted battles will provide an opportunity for the hobby to restore itself.

Q. What about costs and the way to get into the hobby?
A. I’d say a gear and gun for the mainstreamer will run around $1,000. That will be about $1,500 for authentic. People look at vendors on the site for that kind of thing. A mainstream Hardee hat will cost about $70. A Tim Bender hat, with authentic material and hat forms, might go for a little more than $100. Start with an infantry impression and then branch out to something like the cavalry or artillery.

Q. What’s the outlook for your website?
A. It’s odd in that we don’t care about money. We don’t want to grow at the expense of authenticity. We want to do this the right way. You’re going to find people from all walks of life on the site. We don’t want to promote FARBism.