Sunday, January 31, 2010

Arkansas commission short on funding

State's Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission says there were more than 770 military actions there during the war — but it only has money for 33 markers for the 150th anniversary. • Article

Saturday, January 30, 2010

St. Louis revamping Jefferson Barracks

Ulysses S. Grant led the Union to victory in the Civil War and served as president for two terms, yet no presidential library bears his name. That could change under a proposal to revitalize the Jefferson Barracks military post in St. Louis County, Mo. Part of the plan includes a $13 million library and museum named for Grant, the nation’s 18th president. • Article

Friday, January 29, 2010

Coming up: Civil War show coverage

I'll be up in Dalton, Ga., next weekend for the Chickamauga Civil War Show and Sale. Will be traveling with some members of the Civil War Roundtable of Atlanta. Look for a report by Feb. 8. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any story ideas or feedback. Check the guestbook.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Senator wants to expand Petersburg site

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia is proposing legislation to add 7,200 acres to Petersburg National acres, located primarily in Dinwiddie County and southwest of Petersburg, would add 12 battlefields that historians consider among the most important. • Article

NPS joins foes of Wilderness Walmart

More legal support is coming to the groups and individuals suing Orange County, Va., over the giant development planned at the gateway to the Civil War battlefield where Generals R.E. Lee and U.S. Grant first slugged it out. • Article

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Former slave named to S.C. Hall of Fame

Almost 150 years after his daring takeover of a Confederate steamship, Civil War hero and Beaufort native Robert Smalls will be inducted into the S.C. Hall of Fame, the organization's board of trustees has announced.

At the start of the Civil War, Smalls was a pilot on the Confederate steamship CSS Planter. On the morning of May 13, 1862, Smalls led the takeover of the ship by its slave crew, sailed past the harbor's formidable defenses and surrendered the vessel to the Union fleet. • Article

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trendy neighborhood will once again have signs commemorating Battle of Atlanta

(Click for larger image)

The corner of Glenwood and Flat Shoals roads in East Atlanta has seen a lot in the past 200 years.

Native Americans once lived here and roamed trails that later became streets. The Creek and Cherokee eventually gave way to farmers and sawmill operators in the early 1800s. Plantations soon dotted a portion of Atlanta that was still considered country when the stillness of a summer day gave way to gunfire and death in July 1864.

A cannon held the Union left flank at the intersection when hordes of Confederates under Gen. William J. Hardee (right) tried to maneuver around the federals. The furious assault was rebuffed.

Thousands of men were killed or wounded in the Battle of Atlanta, including Union Gen. James B. McPherson, the highest-ranking Union officer killed during the conflict.

Fast forward past decades of commercial and residential growth, a decline after World War II and a rebirth in the past two decades.

The corner is now a focal point of East Atlanta Village, a hip commercial and residential area calling itself “an urban oasis of community and culture.”

But there’s been one problem. Yes, residents know about and recognize the battle’s importance. An annual event in July, dubbed B*ATL (left), marks the anniversary with tours, shopping and dining.

But visitors and customers in the district -- including at a bar and grill, coffee house and pizza place at Flat Shoals and Glenwood -- have no idea that so much blood was spilled just outside their windows. There are no interpretive signs or markers.

“Today there’s no sense that where they are drinking coffee is where the main part of the Battle of Atlanta took place,” says Chad Carlson, a historian with the Office of Environmental Services at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

That’s about to change.

Working with the City of Atlanta, the DOT is scheduled to embark late this year on a streetscape/landscape project in East Atlanta Village. In addition to new street lights, a revamped entrance to East Atlanta and other upgrades, the project will erect a $1,500 Battle of Atlanta interpretive panel at the intersection (top). It features an explainer, photos and a map of the battle.

Carlson solved a mystery during research on the project.

A granite boulder and bronze plaque (right) provided by a Masonic lodge was dedicated in December 1937 at the historic intersection. (Click photo to read inscription)

They had disappeared by sometime in the late 1980s. Carlson isn’t sure what happened, but he was able to locate the plaque at the lodge, which has since moved to Lithonia, about 20 miles east of Atlanta.

The DOT is making a replica of the plaque and will place it on a new granite marker near the interpretive sign. The cost for both is about $2,000.

See 1964 Georgia Department Transportation map superimposing the Battle of Atlanta over streets and highways.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Exhibit on black soldiers at Chickamauga

Black in Blue and Gray, a pictorial exhibit recognizing the contributions of former slaves and free blacks toward their freedom in the Civil War, will be on display Feb. 3-28 at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. • Article

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cyber-searching for Civil War soldiers

Have an ancestor named Smith who fought in the Civil War, but that's about all you know. In the past, finding details about long-deceased Confederate relatives would have been difficult. Now, thanks to dozens of volunteers, that information is just a fingertip away for descendants of Alabama soldiers. • Article

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Group promotes secession monument in S.C.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans are proposing a monument in Charleston to commemorate the ordinance by which South Carolina seceded before the Civil War. • Article

Friday, January 22, 2010

Civil War anniversary has gone Facebook

Social media is everywhere, including coverage of the Civil War's 150th anniversary.

Last night I became one of 2,700 fans of the Facebook page, "Civil War Sesquicentennial Network." The page was started in October 2009.

The page is updated often, and is replete with headlines from across the country. It has a prominent link to the Civil War Preservation Trust.

It looks like they will be adding some events info and photos in the near future. As you know the topic is only going to heat up, as governments and re-enactor groups plan activities for 2011-2015.

Check it out if you are on Facebook. I'll do a deeper item soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why South failed to get European support

The true lost cause of the American Civil War might have been any effort by Confederate diplomats to secure sovereign recognition by European powers, writes a University of Alabama professor in his latest book, "Blue and Gray Diplomacy." • Article

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DVD shows walking tour of wartime Atlanta

The Georgia Battlefields Association is selling a DVD of a walking tour of downtown Atlanta, which endured fierce fighting and a bombardment before falling to Union troops.

Famed historian Ed Bearss led the tour in March 2008. Members of the association and others visited many of the city’s sites photographed by George Barnard in September 1864 (a view above).

The tour was recorded by Three23 Films, and is entitled “Civil War Atlanta: A Walk Through History.” You can see the intro at this link. A walking tour map is included.

GBA is selling the 52-minute DVD, including a tour map, for $10 ($15 if its mailed). DVDs are available at Civil War Round Table of Atlanta meetings or whenever the GBA conducts a tour or gives a presentation. Send a $15 check to GBA, 7 Camden Road NE, Atlanta GA 30309.

For more info, contact GBA or

10 major events to mark 150th anniversary

Civil War re-enactors - blue and gray - have voted to support 10 major events to mark the 150th anniversary of the war. • Details

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New battle plan for Chickamauga

Leaders among Civil War Re-enactors have drawn up a battle plan for the war's 150th anniversary and have agreed to support Chickamauga as one of 10 major events during the five-year celebration. That could mean 8,000 re-enactors and 16,000 spectators at the 2013 battle, according to Chickamauga city manager and Georgia Civil War Commission Chairman John Culpepper. • Article

Monday, January 18, 2010

SCV to install crosses at graves

A Confederate heritage group in South Carolina is locating graves of Civil War soldiers to be marked with crosses of honor. • Article

Sex life of the Civil War soldier

Johnny Reb and Billy Yank had a secret life, one that they and their families tried to hide from posterity and Ken Burns.

In a volume that might otherwise be buried deep within the annals of weird books, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War (Stackpole, 1994), Thomas Lowry, M.D., addresses the issue through original research.

According to a reader blog, collectors of military history, Civil War, or sexology literature should consider adding the book to their shelves. • Article

Sunday, January 17, 2010

10 years ago: 50,000 marched against flag

A multi-racial, multi-generational throng of more than 50,000 people packed downtown Columbia, S.C., for a King Day rally a decade ago, demanding the Confederate flag be removed from atop the State House dome. • Read about impact of march

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A last-ditch Rebel stand at Fort Fisher

I wish I were on the road this weekend to lovely North Carolina. The site of an important coastal fortification beckons.

Author Rod Gragg called Fort Fisher the "Confederate Goliath."

Considered by many to be the Confederate's strongest such palisade, much of Fisher is now in the Atlantic Ocean, washed away over the years.

This weekend marks the 145th anniversary of two bloody and momentous battles at Fisher, which is on Kure Beach, south of Wilmington, N.C. Re-enactments and other events are being held at the state historic site.

I have a copy of Gragg's book, but until now it has been gathering dust on a bookshelf.

Publishers Weekly wrote of "Confederate Goliath": Late in the Civil War, Wilmington, N.C., was the sole remaining seaport supplying Lee's army at Petersburg, Va., with rations and munitions. In this dramatic account, Gragg describes the two-phase campaign by which Union forces captured the fort that guarded Wilmington and the subsequent occupation of the city itself--a victory that virtually doomed the Confederacy."

A December 1864 assault failed to take the fort. But on Jan. 15, 1865, more than 3,300 Union infantry, including the 27th U.S. Colored Troops, assaulted the land face. After several hours of fierce hand-to-hand combat, Federal troops captured the fort that night.

Once Wilmington fell, the supply line of the Confederacy was severed, and the Civil War was soon over.

More information about visiting Fort Fisher

Friday, January 15, 2010

Civil War show Feb. 6-7 in Dalton, Ga.

Members of the Civil War Roundtable of Atlanta will be attending the Chickamauga Civil War Show and Sale. More than 400 exhibitors and vendors will be offering relics, uniforms, buckles and other items for sale at the the NW Georgia Trade Center a few miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn. • Details

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Florida re-enactor has horse sense

Robert Niepert of Winter Garden, Fla., has been involved in cavalry re-enactment for the past 12 years, and for the past six years has served as coordinator of cavalry troops at the annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment. Commanding troops on horseback is not an easy job, Niepert says. Working with upward of 80 participants requires planning, tact and a lot of patience. • Article

Re-enactment this weekend at Fort Fisher

Thousands of people will convene on a tiny piece of land in southern New Hanover County, N.C., to watch a reenactment of a battle that helped bring the Civil War to an end. • Article

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Untangling history: A critical look at Shiloh's mythical Hornet's Nest

Gettysburg has Pickett’s Charge. Antietam has its Bloody Lane. Picture Fredericksburg and you’ll probably think of the corpse-littered Sunken Road.

These portions of famous battlefields have become the symbols of the fiercest or most important fighting.

Shiloh has its own such mythical place: The Hornet’s Nest.

Visitors to the national military park in southern Tennessee are told in film and maps that the federal stand at this salient saved Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s army during the devastating Confederate attack on April 6, 1862. They’re told that the fighting was the principal factor that allowed Grant to regroup to fight the next day, when Union forces rallied and pushed their foes off the field.

Not so fast, says historian Timothy B. Smith.

“Was the Hornet’s Nest really that important?” Smith queried members of the Civil War Roundtable of Atlanta on Tuesday night. “It did not see the most vicious fighting.”

Smith, a faculty member at the University of Tennessee-Martin, is the author of “The Untold Story of Shiloh”, which fills in gaps on what is known about this important battle in the Western Theater.

Smith (right), who worked seven years at Shiloh, argued that the heaviest fighting came elsewhere at Shiloh, especially in the west. Confederate commanders Albert Sydney Johnston and P.G. Beauregard split their forces and mostly bypassed the center of the Union line in their primary effort to roll up the Union flank.

This left a vacuum in the center, known now as the Hornet’s Nest, which was named by Confederate troops who likened the sound of whistling bullets to a swarm of hornets.

Union troops retreated to the Hornet’s Nest during the furious assault to the west.

The divisions of Unions Gen. Benjamin Prentiss (left) and W.H.L. Wallace held the center of the line, withstanding a 50-piece artillery onslaught and at least seven or eight attacks before having to surrender late on the afternoon of April 6.

But Smith said there were higher casualties elsewhere, including Ray Field, Bloody Pond and the Peach Orchard. And although the Hornet’s Nest did buy Grant some time, it’s likely the Union commander could have rallied anyway. Smith doesn’t believe Confederates could have broken the last line of defense near the Tennessee River.

In fact, Smith said, Grant later wrote was unhappy that Prentiss and Wallace stayed too long and were captured.

“Maybe it was not the key to the battle as we have been led to believe,” the historian told the roundtable.

Smith says the term “Hornet’s Nest” wasn’t used in official records and didn’t become associated with Shiloh until nearly 20 years after the fighting, when veterans started talking up its importance, even forming the “Hornet’s Nest Brigade.” Reburial details in 1866 found fewer bodies around the Hornet’s Nest than in other parts of Shiloh.

Smith attributes a good bit of the lore to David W. Reed, the first historian at Shiloh National Military Park.

Reed was a veteran of the battle, serving with the 12th Iowa.

Which fought smack dab in the middle of the Hornet’s Nest.

It’s not that the Hornet’s Nest is not an important part of the Battle of Shiloh, Smith says.

It’s just that Reed, Prentiss and other veterans in that part of the battlefield did a better job of pitching their accounts than other Union survivors.

“In the film [at Shiloh] it’s Hornet’s Nest, Hornet’s Nest and only Hornet’s Nest,” said Smith.

Apparently, the Hornet’s Nest Brigade won the Battle of PR.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Curator to experience life of Civil War soldier

Brett Kelley's plans for two weeks in the Union Army include picket duty, 10-mile marches, improving defensive position and taking care of Twitter and YouTube.

It is not the Civil War of the 1860s.

Kelley, curator of collections at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa., will serve two weeks standing guard at the museum in a fund-raising and consciousness-raising activity. He will sleep in a wood-floored tent and cook meals in a cast-iron stove. • Article

Monday, January 11, 2010

He wants to build a 'Civil War Williamsburg'

A Virginia developer wants to return the scene of two Civil War clashes to its roots with the establishment of Culpeper Crossing, a Civil War-themed tourist destination on 14 acres of wooded, riverfront land adjoining the battlefield. • Article

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Palmetto State skimps on 150th

South Carolina - where the war began and still permeates the landscape - state officials have put almost no money into events for the sesquicentennial. And even though the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession is less than a year away, that's not likely to change any time soon. Some people fear the state is going to miss out on some needed tourism dollars. • Article

Friday, January 8, 2010

Click it, Part 3: Battle of Ezra Church

Here is the final portion I'm posting from the Georgia DOT's centennial map remembering the 1864 Atlanta Campaign. As you can see, I-20 had not been completed when this map was made.

The Battle of Ezra Church was yet another Confederate setback, this time on July 28. Click here for a pop-up. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces had approached Atlanta from the east and north. Sherman now decided to attack from the west.

He ordered the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard, to move from the left wing to the right and cut Hood’s last railroad supply line between East Point and Atlanta. Hood foresaw such a maneuver.

The Rebels assaulted Howard at Ezra Church, thinking he would be surprised.

Howard was prepared and repulsed the determined attack, Confederates accounted for about 3,000 of the 3,562 casualties. Howard, however, failed to cut the railroad. 

The DOT map is a moment in time, and newer names project a more contemporary image.

Interstate 20, shown in dashes, was still under construction on the west side of downtown Atlanta. Gordon Street, named for a Confederate general, is now called Ralph David Abernathy in memory of the civil rights activist.

Hunter Road, named for a slave owner, was renamed Marlin Luther King Jr. Drive. Bankhead Highway (U.S. 78-278) crosses the top edge of the map.

 • See 1964 Georgia Department Transportation map superimposing the Battle of Atlanta over streets and highways.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Re-enactors battle to draw in Va. courtroom

In a Civil War re-enactment that went too far, two Union and Confederate cavalry commanders who tussled on the field of battle each were found not guilty of assault. • Article

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Budget battles put flag preservation at risk

They made it through Shiloh, Antietam and Gettysburg, but many of the Civil War battle flags sitting in the nation's state-owned collections might not survive the budget battles being waged in some statehouses. • Article

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ky. museum will house oldest memorial

The nation's oldest Civil War memorial, which had sat deteriorating in Louisville's Cave Hill National Cemetery for more than 140 years, will be moved to a museum. • Article

Monday, January 4, 2010

Click it, Part 2: Centennial map of the bloody Battle of Peachtree Creek

Some of you may recall me posting several weeks back this 1964 Georgia Department Transportation map superimposing the Battle of Atlanta over streets and highways.

Here's a similar map for the Battle of Peachtree Creek, which happened two days before on July 20, 1864.

Click the map for a pop-up.

As many of you know, the battlefield lies in Atlanta's tony Buckhead district. Very little remains because of development. Wine bars and restaurants vastly outnumber the few plaques remaining along roadways and inside Tanyard Creek Park.

Interestingly, most of the road names still exist 45 years after this map was issued. Yes, Peachtree Battle Avenue is named for the bloody fight. Much of the Confederate attack occurred along Collier Road.

Piedmont Hospital is at the northwest corner of the intersection of Collier Road and Peachtree Road (second red arrow from the right). Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and Bobby Jones Golf Course are just above Overbrook Drive (center-left of red shaded area). They are bordered by Northside Drive on the west, Peachtree Creek on the north and Dellwood Drive on the east.

The battle was a disaster for the Confederacy. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who had fought a defensive, cat-and-mouse campaign against Union Gen. William Sherman, had just been replaced by John Bell Hood.

Hood, wrongly as it turns out, began to go on the attack against Union forces. He made this assault after Union forces crossed Peachtree Creek while others moved toward the east and south. The Union lines were bent but not broken under the weight of the Confederate attack. By the end of the day, the Rebels had failed to break through anywhere along the line. Estimated casualties were 6,506: 1,710 on the Union side and 4,796 on the Confederate.

Two days later, Hood ordered another failed assault at the Battle of Atlanta.

The gig was up.

Colonel's belongings auctioned in Hawkinsville

The president of Bowdoin College in Maine bought a chest containing a kepi (a type of military cap), an ostrich-plume dress hat, epaulets, belt buckles, personal papers and other items that had belonged to Col. Almon Libby Varney. The lot went for $5,500 at a midstate Georgia auction in Hawkinsville. • Article

Sunday, January 3, 2010

SCV preps for Battle of Aiken

The Barnard E. Bee Camp is readying for 16th annual re-enactment, which portrays Joe Wheeler and his Confederate troops' historic campaign against Gen. Judson Kilpatrick.

On Saturday, Feb. 20 and Sunday, Feb. 21, gates open at 9 a.m. to spectators. On Sunday, the period church service begins at 11 a.m.


Black troops to get recognition in S. Carolina

The treasure hunter who discovered remains on Folly Island 23 years ago is working to have a historical marker put at the site of the first graves of 19 Union soldiers. • Article

Friday, January 1, 2010

Blast from the past: Childhood pictures

I was doing some New Year's cleaning and came across these on a pegboard wall in the back of my garage.

My brother and I had 5-6 depictions of the military hanging in our room(s). These views are of New York militia at the start of the Civil War and Federal infantry in 1862.

My parents picked them up somewhere while my dad was stationed in 1964-5 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. (No, he was not in the prison!)