Friday, April 30, 2010

Gettysburg NPS preps for anniversary

With millions of new visitors expected to visit the area for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the National Park Service in Gettysburg is prepping for the celebration. The park is planning renovations to the historic Patterson, Klingel, Cobean, Sndyer, and Warfield properties, as well as the Eisenhower Farm, in anticipation of the 2011-2015 event. • Article

Thursday, April 29, 2010

'Conspirator' follows drama of Lincoln death

Any grade-school student can tell you the story of the 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater. But what happened next? Robert Redford's new film, "The Conspirator", follows the race to hunt down the band of Confederate sympathizers behind the attack. James McAvoy stars as a Union soldier who agrees to defend one of the accused, boarding-house owner Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), whose son was the lone conspirator to escape the manhunt. • Article

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From the National Archives' vaults, an interactive way to experience the Civil War

The aged Georgia document proves the Civil War adage, “rich man’s war, but poor man’s fight.”

In the North, a draftee could gain an exemption by paying a fee of $300 or by hiring a substitute.

The scenario played out a little differently in the Confederacy. Many Southern whites believed the draft favored the rich.

The "twenty Negro law," for example, exempted planters with 20 or more slaves. In February 1864 that requirement was reduced to 15 slaves, and Lycurgus Rees of Columbia County, “who had "fifteen able-bodied slaves,” applied for an exemption as "a Farmer or Agriculturalist." In return he agreed to furnish the Confederate War Department with 1,500 pounds of beef, bacon, or pork. (Click image to enlarge)

Documents like Rees’ exemption will come to life starting Friday in a two-part exhibition at the National Archives building in Washington, timed to mark the Civil War’s 150th anniversary. Entitled “Discovering the Civil War,” the show in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery draws from millions of records, letters and photographs at the archives.

“Our extensive use of primary source documentation will let visitors examine historical evidence and decide for themselves some of the controversial questions that swirl around the Civil War even today,” says National Archives public affairs specialist Miriam Kleiman.

Recent debate over slavery’s role as a cause of the Civil War proves that Americans are still divided on the war's cause or causes.

Curator Bruce Bustard said the Archives wants the documents on the sensitive issue of slavery to speak for themselves. The Confederate Constitution, similar to the U.S. Constitution in many ways, provides an explicit right to hold slaves as property.

"We want people to look at the documents, read the documents, ask questions about them and then ultimately make up their own minds," Bustard told the Associated Press.

This won’t be your father’s Civil War exhibit. Little-known incidents or stories will be told in new ways.

Visitors will access touch-screen machines. The archives is very active on social media, promoting the exhibit on Twitter and a scavenger hunt on Facebook. Visitors will be able to create a graphic novel, using comic-style cartoon panels, from Archives documents about the commerce raider CSS Alabama.

“Discovering the Civil War” also looks at the unusual places where the Civil War reached, including Japan, China, and France. There's an interactive globe that people can virtually "spin" and land on many of these different spots, with explanations and documents about what occurred there, Kleiman told me.

The original Emancipation Proclamation is rarely shown, but it will be displayed for three days in November. Another significant item at the exhibition is Virginia’s ordinance of secession.

The two-part exhibit is organized thematically. Part A topics are Breaking Apart, Raising Armies, Finding Leaders, We Were There, A Local Fight, and A Global War. Part B will cover six additional topics: Prisoners and Casualties, Innovation and Enterprise, Spies and Conspiracies, Emancipations, Endings and Beginnings, and Remembering.

“All theme areas contain original documents, facsimile documents, and photos. Most theme areas have either a computer or mechanical interactive,” says Kleiman. “For example, we have created a ‘Facebook’ type interactive that demonstrates the close relationships among Civil War military leaders.”

An educational Web page will launch on Friday to coincide with the exhibition opening.

Kleiman says she hopes visitors will “encounter unexpected people, viewpoints and events” through the exhibits.

The second half of the exhibit will open in November, exploring the war's consequences. Next year, the 6,000 square-foot exhibit will begin touring nationally, with stops in Michigan, Texas and Nebraska.

Admission is free. The exhibit will be presented in two parts. The first runs April 30-Sept. 6, the second Nov. 10-April 17. National Archives hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., March 15-Labor Day, and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., day after Labor Day-March 14.

Click here for more information on the exhibition.
Click here for YouTube preview.
Click here for National Archives' quarterly Prologue magazine.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gettysburg battles again over casino plan

Amid heightened efforts to protect vulnerable parts of the battlefield and restore other areas to their original condition, preservationists see a new threat on the horizon: a proposal to put a resort casino in an aging conference center a half-mile south of the battlefield on the storied Emmitsburg Road. • Article

Monday, April 26, 2010

Re-enactors hurt in cannon mishap

Two re-enactors were injured when an artillery piece fired prematurely at an event in Plymouth, N.C. • Article

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Grant's brigade fights push for Reagan on $50

Residents of southern Ohio are mounting a counterattack against a congressional proposal to replace native son Ulysses S. Grant with Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. Politicians have passed resolutions, businesses have put up signs and, of course, a Facebook page has been created for the cause of leaving Grant's image just as it is on the currency. • Article

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Old Clinton “War Days” Festival next weekend

The annual Old Clinton "War Days" event in Gray, Ga., is set for May 1-2, according to the Georgia Battlefields Association.

Gates open daily at 9 a.m., reenactor camps open at 10:05, and battle reenactments (Sunshine Church and Griswoldville) start at 2:05 p.m. The event also features food, crafts, and artifact displays. Proceeds ($5 for adults, $3 for children age 6 to 18) are used to preserve the Old Clinton Historic District. A candelight memorial service will be held Saturday evening.

Old Clinton is 12 miles northeast of Macon, and 1.5 miles southwest of Gray, just a block west of U.S. 129. For more information, call Earlene Hamilton at 478-986-6383 or the Jones County-Gray Visitor's Center at 478-986-1123.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fort Tyler: Last fort to fall in war worth a visit

At 16, Alexander Campbell Lanier joined the war, got captured and missed supper -- all on the same day.

Lanier had slipped away from his West Point, Ga., home when fighting began that morning and rushed uphill to Fort Tyler at the town’s highest point.

But the town’s resistance to 3,500 Union forces ended the evening of April 16, 1865, after the death of the earthen fort’s commander, Gen. Robert C. Tyler (below), a dozen other Confederates and the surrender of the outgunned garrison.

Lanier and approximately 250 soldiers and civilians were marched to the town below. The family was not aware of his being at the fort until he waved at his mother as he was passing the house.

Fort Tyler is a small footnote to the closing days of the war. It was taken a week after Lee surrendered at Appomattox and one day after President Abraham Lincoln died of a mortal shot to the head. Combatants knew of neither occurrence.

Townspeople are proud of this last-ditch resistance to Union troops bound on destroying vital railroad facilities. Because the gauges of the rails were different between Alabama and Georgia, train cargo had to be transferred between cars here, which necessitated a large railroad yard in West Point. Confederates meant to guard a wagon and railroad bridge.

“There are people here who have ancestors who were in the fort,” says Fort Tyler Association President Rea (pronounced Ray) Clark.

I paid a visit this week to West Point, which straddles the Chattahoochee River at the Alabama border near Interstate 85. Today, the town is best known for great fishing at West Point Lake and the new Kia Georgia manufacturing facility a few miles northeast of town.

Fort Tyler, the last to fall in the Civil War, might be called Fort Stateline, since a portion is in Alabama and another part is in Georgia. The fenced property abuts several residences.

Clark quipped that rifle demonstrations are OK, but not artillery. “We don’t want to have to pay for broken windows.”

The fort has quite an unusual history.

Yankee troops burned two depots in West Point and blew up the powder magazine in the fort, creating a crater. Around 1897, the city filled in the hole with concrete and made a reservoir, which operated until the 1920s or 1930s.

Fort Tyler was gone.

That’s when townspeople got busy. They raised money and rebuilt the fort in 1996-97, dedicating it in 1998. Because there are no photos of the fort, they worked from first-hand accounts to re-create the 35-yard rectangular salient.

I was impressed by the many interpretive signs that line the shaded zig-zag trail to the top. You can walk through the fort and learn more about its three artillery pieces.

Clark said a living history and fundraising dinner were held last week on the Battle of West Point’s 145th anniversary.

The association and the West Point Visitors’ Center will soon begin filming a 17-minute film on the battle. It will be shown to visitors and schoolchildren at the Visitors’ Center in the old downtown depot.

“It will be Ken Burns caliber but without a Ken Burns budget,” Visitors’ Center Executive Director Malinda C. Powers says of the film.

For now, the association uses its Web site to publicize the well-maintained fort. Clark says he doesn’t know how many visitors the venue draws.

He’s hoping the Visitors’ Center can one day house a Fort Tyler museum and some relics found on the property.

The Visitors’ Center opened last year in conjunction with the Kia plant beginning operations, says Powers. She hopes business will pick up downtown when the economy improves and Kia workers start buying homes.

“Once we get people moving in we will have more stores.”

The Kia plant is a boon for West Point and nearby Alabama towns, which were home to cotton and textile manufacturing plants, long gone overseas.

I concluded my visit with a stop at Pinewood Cemetery, where Gen. Tyler and 76 Confederate and Union troops, most of them unknown, are buried.

The enigmatic Tyler, who lost a leg earlier in the war, was shot by a sniper and died under a battle flag made by the ladies of West Point. He was the last general to die in the Civil War.

From West Point, Union Gen. James Wilson's Raiders destroyed 19 locomotives and burned 340 cars, and moved east up the tracks to LaGrange and eventually to Macon.

Click here for more info on the Fort Tyler Association.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bomb squad checks out cannon ball

The Paducah (Ky.) Police Department Bomb Squad responded to a call from Daniel McKendree about a cannon ball that he moved from his parents' yard on Kentucky Avenue. McKendree moved the ball to his home on Clay Street and thought it might be a live ordnance. • Article

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Couple gives money to UGA for studies

Amanda and Henry D. “Greg” Gregory Jr. of Atlanta recently gave the University of Georgia history department $1 million to expand its Civil War era studies. • Article

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Students build Hunley lantern replica

A group of Hamburg Area High School students are working to solve a mystery that's nearly 150 years old. Two witnesses reported seeing a blue light in the waters off Charleston, S.C., when the submarine H.L. Hunley attacked Union ships. It is speculated the Hunley's lantern cast that light, so the researchers have asked the Pennsylvania students to re-create and test a working lantern replica. • Article

Monday, April 19, 2010

Georgia working on 150th anniversary Web site

A budget shortfall has Georgia late out of the gate in marking the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.

The state’s Department of Economic Development hopes to launch a sesquicentennial Web site in October or early November. Some 16 states already have sites that promote such events and places of interest.

Working with the Georgia Civil War Commission (GCWC), the department also is updating and expanding the book “Crossroads of Conflict,” a book guide to more than 350 sites across Georgia. The revision also should be out in the fall.

Both GCWC Chairman John Culpepper and Barry Brown, heritage tourism specialist with the economic development department, cite the lack of designated state funds to mark the anniversary.

Some $500,000 initially meant to promote events was cut from the state budget. Instead, Brown says, the department is using discretionary money and support from the Georgia Humanities Council to build the Web site and promote events.

Across the country, local governments and tourism leaders hope to bring in money from Civil War re-enactments and heritage tourism. But trying to raise money for marketing campaigns during a recession and major state budget shortfalls has proven difficult.

The GCWC, for example, currently has no funding for next year. It was able to provide less than $50,000 to the state for the Web site and “Crossroads” update.

“We’re in the early stages of developing the Web site,” says Brown. “It is meant to build heritage tourism.”

Georgia’s sesquicentennial Web site will mirror the state’s approach to tourism, breaking it into nine regions. Brown expects the site will include a guide to sites, 150th events, the war day-by-day and soldier diaries. A Civil War timeline also will be posted.

Many cities, including Columbus and Stone Mountain, will sponsor events in 2011, early in the sesquicentennial. Others, including Chickamauga, will handle events in 2013 and 2014.

“The state has no plans to mark the sesquicentennial at this time,” Brown says.

Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, a non-profit group, has been the state’s leading source for Civil War driving tours and interpretive signs.

Its main mission is education, economic development (tourism) and preservation, says executive director Steven Longcrier. His organization gets little state money, depending more on cities, counties and the U.S. Department of Transportation for interpretive sign grants.

“Our Web site will greatly expand as more of the elements of our trails are in place,” says Longcrier.

“Although Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails is not a heritage tourism program that begins or ends with the Civil War sesquicentennial, the increased public awareness brought about by this significant anniversary is certainly benefitting our efforts, too,” Longcrier says.

CWHT is working to have three of six heritage trails in place by the war’s sesquicentennial: The Atlanta Campaign, the March to the Sea and Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ unsuccessful effort to avoid capture by the troops in blue. The trails are meant to be driven and are supplemented by interpretive markers.

The Georgia Civil War Commission’s Web site is largely dormant.

Culpepper, who also serves as city manager in Chickamauga, recently started the Tri-State Civil War Association to combine resources and promote related sites and events in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The Battle of Chickamauga re-enactment in 2013 will be the largest in the Deep South.

The Tri-State Web site is selling sponsorships and the group will produce 100,000 rack cards.

So far, the association has brought in $18,000 from member cities and counties in northwest Georgia, southern Tennessee and eastern Alabama, Culpepper says. "By pooling our resources together, we can get the job done," Culpepper told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Like Brown, he stresses the importance of the Civil War in Georgia. The Confederate loss of Atlanta assured the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln.

“We are promoting the war ended in Georgia,” says Culpepper.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Selma re-enactment returns after hiatus

Beginning Thursday and con­tinuing through Sunday after­noon, the locally produced Battle of Selma (Ala.) is expected to attract up to 3,000 re-enactors, vendors, spectators and schoolchildren from across Alaba­ma. • Article

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fewer than 100 children of soldiers remain

At 98, Jim Brown is part of an exclusive group - the surviving children of Civil War soldiers, removed by a single generation from the nation's bloodiest conflict. Records show fewer than 100 sons and daughters of the blue and gray veterans remain nationwide. Tennessee boasts four Confederate sons - two in the Knoxville, Tenn., area, including Brown - along with a Union son and daughter. • Article

Friday, April 16, 2010

150th a 'minefield throughout the South'

As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell discovered when he proclaimed April as Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery (an omission he corrected after a volley of protests), pitching Dixie's past during the run-up to next year's 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War could be challenging. • Article

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking in the Southern Museum, Big Shanty

The Great Locomotive Chase, the Southern Museum points out, actually began on foot.

Western & Atlantic Railroad conductor William A. Fuller was shocked to see a group of men commandeer “The General” while passengers and crew were enjoying breakfast at the Lacy Hotel in Big Shanty, Ga., on April 12, 1862.

Fuller and a couple others ran north after his train. He didn’t yet know it had been taken by James Andrews and a group of nearly two dozen Union commandos. Andrews was on a doomed mission to destroy track and disrupt communications.

The conductor ran across a handcar and three trains and 86 miles later he -- along with Confederate horsemen who had been reached by telegraph -- had chased Andrews to Ringgold, a few miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn. Out of fuel and water for the locomotive, Andrews and his party fled, only to be captured.

Eight, including its leader, were later hanged in Atlanta for espionage and conspiracy. Fuller became a Georgia hero.

Today, Big Shanty is known as Kennesaw, a Cobb County suburb about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta. The city lies near Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield and is home to fast-growing Kennesaw State University, whose dorms rise along nearby Interstate 75.

I spent a few hours Thursday at the museum and in downtown Kennesaw, which hosts the Big Shanty Festival this weekend.

I was impressed by the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, a well-landscaped brick building which rises alongside the busy tracks used by up to 70 CSX trains a day.

The front portion gives an insightful history of the crucial role played by railroads during the Civil War. The exhibits include weapons, photos and uniforms and civilian clothing.

Like almost every aspect of the war, the North had more materiel than the South. In 1860, its rail production was 234,000 tons vs. 26,000 tons. And the Union had an amazing military railroad system. Both sides leveraged tracks to move thousands of troops into Chickamauga, Ga., and Chattanooga.

Another fascinating feature of the Southern Museum is a display on Pullman Porters and a large re-creation of Glover Machine Works, which produced 200 small but versatile locomotives between 1902 and 1930 in nearby Marietta. The family-owned company continued to make pipe and other parts into the 1950s.

The museum acquired Glover tools, parts patterns, locomotives and more when the complex was cleaned out and leveled in the mid-1990s. This part of the museum is a must for railroad buffs because it shows a side of railroading you rarely see.

The facility also has a hands-on Education Center for kids.

A large theater presents a fine 25-minute drama on the Great Locomotive Chase. Outside are photos of the Andrews raiders and several of the key Georgians who went after them. The presentation includes a description of the Medals of Honor the raiders received. One medal on display was posthumously awarded to hanged raider Sgt. John Scott.

After that tribute, you walk in to the room with the “The General,” the museum’s star attraction. Remarkably, the train was reconditioned after the war and made several tours, including during the Civil War centennial in the 1960s.

Although its paint scheme and features changed over the years, “The General” still looks imposing enough. And its boiler is certified to operate through 2019 in the very unlikely chance it will return to the tracks after its 40-year rest.

The only other surviving train involved in the chase, “The Texas,” is housed at the Atlanta Cyclorama. Fuller and crew had to drive it in reverse to catch up with Andrews at Ringgold. Interestingly, the Southern Museum says “The Texas” doesn’t get as much notice as it should, given it was “the true eventual winner” of the race.

Afterward, I crossed the tracks to a small park, home to several signs remembering Big Shanty, Fuller and the Andrews Raiders. Big Shanty was also home to Camp McDonald, which trained Confederate troops. The camp was on land near the current Kennesaw City Hall.

Kennesaw Trains owner Kevin Mills told me business in downtown has been slow over the past few months and a couple of restaurants have relocated or closed. But condos and offices are expected to go up when better times return.

Main Street is also home to Wildman’s Civil War Surplus Shop operated by Dent Myers. Myers in 2008 applauded a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming Americans' right to defend themselves with guns.

In 1982, Kennesaw passed a law that every head of household must own a firearm. That law is still on the books.

Nearby, the city is building a pedestrian tunnel so that visitors and locals can walk from one side of the busy tracks to the other.

Unfortunately, it will not be completed in time for this year’s Big Shanty Festival, which is this Saturday and Sunday. It features more than 250 arts and craft booths, a parade and fireworks.

Click here for more info on the Southern Museum.
Click here for more info on the Big Shanty Festival.

During war, some heroes had hooves

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md., provides fascinating information on animal care during the Civil War. Horses and mules were the lifeblood of the military, yet the very act of feeding and caring for these animals was a monumental task, author finds. • Article

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lost movie on Lincoln found in barn

A contractor cleaning out an old New Hampshire barn he was about to demolish found the only known copy of a 1913 silent film about Abraham Lincoln. "When Lincoln Paid" was directed by and starred Francis Ford, the older brother of famed director John Ford ("The Grapes of Wrath," "The Quiet Man"). In addition to battle scenes between Union and Confederate forces, the film's plot includes the mother of a dead Union soldier requesting that Lincoln pardon a Confederate soldier whom she had initially turned in. • Article

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ironclad re-enactors rescue boaters

A group of men aboard a replica of the CSS Albemarle, headed to a Civil War re-enactment, ended up saving three North Carolina boaters whose boat had capsized; they were unable to locate a fourth boater. • Article

Monday, April 12, 2010

CNN: Confederate pride or prejudice?

Last week's flap over the Virginia governor's proclamation has spread. Don Lemon delves into the issue of Confederate pride, the role of slavery and why emotions still run high. • Video

Looking for treasure with metal detector

On any given day, one might spot Lancaster, Ohio, resident Mike Haer in an open area with a metal detector in hand, looking for his next small treasure. His rarest and most exciting find? A Civil War button he unearthed in the same spot where the soldiers conducted their training. Haer wants to help banish the stigma some people have of those who use metal detectors. "I want to educate them that we're not making money at this -- many of us do it for the thrill and are willing to donate our finds to museums," he said. • Article

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tactical maneuvers displayed at Shiloh

Volunteer re-enactors will gather in force at Shiloh National Military Park today and Sunday to mark the 148th anniversary of the Civil War battle. Instead of depicting two opposing lines of fire, choreographed tactical scenarios will demonstrate authentic field maneuvers interpreting how each combat branch of army service would have operated separately and combined.

Programs on the role of naval operations during the Civil War also will be presented daily on the lawn adjacent to the Shiloh battlefield Visitor Center. Living historians will interpret the experiences of the sailors, their duties both on shore and on water, and their critical role in the military actions and events that shaped how the war was fought.

Friday, April 9, 2010

War's toll through one shattered family

A new exhibit at Fredericksburg and Spotyslvania National Military Park focuses not only on the tragedy of a lost life, but on the very real consequences of a family's loss of its breadwinner. "A Family Shattered" uses a very rare wooden cemetery headboard as the centerpiece to reveal the story of the family of Colonel John W. Patterson of Pittsburgh. • Article

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kennesaw battlefield conducting focus groups with African-Americans

Hoping to widen the scope of its exhibits, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is talking with African-Americans about their attitudes on the Civil War.

The park wants to know what would draw more African-Americans and what kind of exhibits or themes might better tell the black narrative on the conflict.

“The African-American side of the Civil War has been left out” at most sites, said Kennesaw Mountain (KEMO) Superintendent Stanley C. Bond.

The park, working with the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at nearby Kennesaw State University, will be hosting five focus groups this spring. Each group will have 8-10 participants. The groups will include officials and members of several organizations, such as the NAACP Cobb County branch.

KEMO’s recommendations and actions following the study will be shared with other federal Civil War sites later this summer. National Park Service sites are charged with discussing the causes and consequences of the war, Bond says. It’s part of the “From the Civil War to Civil Rights” initiative.

Bond says the popular suburban Atlanta battlefield does have some mention of the homefront and the African-American story during the Civil War, but needs to do more.

“We would like to see more people here for historical purposes,” says Bond, who contends about 80 percent of park visitors come for recreational purposes, such as hiking, walking and horseback riding.

Conducting the focus groups is Hermina Glass-Avery (above), associate director of the KSU center.

Glass-Avery contends that slavery, race and emancipation got short shrift during the nation’s 1961 observation of the Civil War centennial. She hopes that changes during the sesquicentennial commemoration starting in 2011.

A controversy this week has rekindled the issue of perspective.

Virginia Gov. Bob McConnell apologized Wednesday for failing to include slavery in his proclamation declaring April as Confederate History Month. He said he wanted the month to mark the valor of Confederate soldiers, but critics said he should have first acknowledged the ties between slavery and the war.

Bond and Glass-Avery cite the following as examples of little-known aspects of blacks in Georgia:

-- Some 250 African-Americans from the era, many federal soldiers, are buried at the National Cemetery in Marietta. One African-American, “Ten Cent” Bill Yopp, served with Confederate forces and is buried with them at the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta.

-- African-Americans, like their white owners and neighbors, suffered late in the war. “When Sherman went on the March to the Sea he took everything,” Bond said.

-- Large numbers of black women died in contraband camps because they were left without support when freed men joined the federal army.

-- Plantations symbolize the antebellum South. “You don’t hear from the silent hands that made them operate,” said Glass-Avery.

-- African-American soldiers “were present and agents of change for their freedom.” At least 200,000 served.

Glass-Avery and Bond hope their focus group findings may bring about new interpretive approaches and exhibits that could increase the number of black visitors.

“Their [African-Americans’] story is not held with the same respect as other narratives,” said Glass-Avery, who contends the election of President Barack Obama has made the time right to discuss the war, race and civil rights. She says the Compromise of 1850, Jim Crow laws, the Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Civil War all shaped the push for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

KEMO recently participated in the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era’s recent symposium, “Alternative Realities: African-Americans and the American Civil War: Freedom, Memory and Identity.”

Glass-Avery says the “Lost Cause” touted by many Southerners after the war and at the 1961 centennial has given way to the discussion of many other issues and beliefs related to the Civil War.

In the end, Glass-Avery hopes that Americans will be open to different views of history.

“It is ethical for us to be respectful of one another.”

Governor still in hot water over proclamation

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) apologized late Wednesday for failing to include slavery in his proclamation declaring April as Confederate History Month. • Article

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Volunteers needed April 10 for Park Day

The Civil War Preservation Trust is leading preservation and clean-up efforts this weekend at dozens of historic sites. • Article

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Historic lamp post will get new marker

You may recall last week's post on the downtown Atlanta Civil War centennial map. (Click here)

It included a reference to the "Eternal Lamp of the Confederacy." I wasn't sure of the lamp's current location, but two readers pointed out it is next to the MARTA station entrance in Underground Atlanta, the business and entertainment complex.

According to Georgia's Virtual Vault, The lamp post was one of the original 50 street lights first lighted for Christmas 1855. During a bombardment by federal troops in 1864, a shell fragment ricocheting off the post struck and mortally wounded freed African-American barber Solomon Luckie. The lamp was relighted for 1939's "Gone With the Wind" premiere.

The lamp post at some point was placed on street level before returning to Underground.

The Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails will be installing one of its Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail interpretive markers adjacent to the lamp post, according to executive director Steven Longcrier.

Virginia town plans weekend event

Infantry, cavalry, camp followers, cooks, officer’s wives and profiteers will all be on hand in Waynesboro when the federal forces of General George Armstrong Custer breath through the flank of the Confederacy Saturday and Sunday. • Article

Monday, April 5, 2010

A man of contradictions: Visiting the home of 'Little Alec' Stephens, Confederate VP

Diminutive and sickly in life, Alexander Stephens stands taller in marble.

From the pedestal on the fresh-cut lawn of his home, Liberty Hall, the Georgia statesman looks south toward the downtown of Crawfordville, a small town that sits on the sidelines of Interstate 20 and prosperity.

Most known for serving as vice president of the Confederacy, Stephens lived nearly 50 years at this residence that served relatives and wayfarers traveling between Atlanta and Augusta, which is about an hour east of Crawfordville.

I visited A.H. Stephens State Historic Park on Easter Sunday, while my family was away. Walking first through the small downtown was a journey back in time. Kudzu vines climbed red brick walls of abandoned businesses. And while the main street (U.S. 278) has a few antique businesses, many of the buildings are shuttered.

A courthouse expansion and a branch of Athens Technical College seem like the only new touches in Crawfordville. 2010 Census signs hang near the Taliaferro (pronounced Tolliver) County courthouse. The tiny county has only 2,000 residents, and is trying desperately to hang on to every one.

“When they put I-20 out there [in the 1960s] the town just dried up,” said parks employee Margie Edwards, who gave me a fine tour of Liberty Hall and a museum housing a collection of Confederate and civilian artifacts from the period.

The mid-19th century surely was a busier time for Crawfordville. The trains dropped off passengers while others rode carriages to and from Atlanta and Augusta.

Born in 1812 a few miles outside town, “Little Aleck" Stephens, an accomplished orator, topped out at 96 pounds and was frail most of his life. An accident ruined his hip. He often used a wheelchair and crutches.

While his voice was described as shrill and unpleasant, at the beginning of the Civil War a northern newspaper described the statesman, who also suffered from depression, as "the Strongest Man in the South" because of his intelligence, judgment and eloquence.

The brilliant attorney was elected governor, U.S. senator and U.S. representative. In 1848, he was stabbed by a political foe in Atlanta.

Stephens appears to me a man of contradictions.

Stephens at first opposed secession, but became vice president of the Confederacy. Believing that President Jefferson Davis was dictatorial, the vice presidency was a string of frustrations for Stephens, who favored states rights, opposed conscription and eventually sought peace negotiations.

“Little Alec” served nearly five months in prison after the South surrendered In 1865. He wrote, “A Constitutional View of the Late War between the States” (1868-70), his two-volume apology for the Confederacy.

Stephens had about 35 slaves on his farm. By all accounts, he treated them better than many and ensured many were educated, even after the war. Some sources said he personally opposed slavery. Publicly, however, he declared slavery as the natural condition of blacks. (Above, two of his slaves, Harry and Eliza Stephens)

Fond of wine and games of whist at Liberty Hall, Stephens was a longtime friend of Robert Toombs, a robust and blustery politician who appeared in many ways his opposite. An upstairs room at Liberty Hall was reserved for Toombs when he made a visit. Relatives of Stephens lived upstairs.

Liberty Hall, while by no means sumptuous, was a comfortable stopping point. Because of his infirmities, Stephens, a lifelong bachelor who was orphaned when 14, lived on the first floor of the home, next to the men’s sitting room.

“The beds Stephens would sleep in were in the north-south direction,” Edwards told me. “Someone told him the magnetic currents were good for him.”

Many of the pieces in Liberty Hall, including an earthen commode and sofa, are original. A building in the back of the home served as a library for Stephens, who died in 1883 while serving as Georgia governor. He is buried with his stepbrother, Linton, in front of the home.

The museum isn’t long on interpretation but has a few nice belongings and many quotations from the Civil War.

One of my favorites, penned by a Georgia private on the march to Gettysburg, reads, “I saw a little girl probably about eight years of age, standing on the stoop in front of her house and heard her say, ‘Mama, are these men rebels?’ ‘Yes my daughter.’ ‘Why Mama, they haven’t got horns. They are just like our people.”

Parking at the state park is $5. The tour of the home and museum costs an additional $4.

Click here for more information of the historic site.

Gettysburg Cyclorama Building wins reprieve

Lovers of modern architecture have won a round in their fight to preserve a half-century-old building at Gettysburg despite efforts by the Civil War purists to demolish the structure to restore the battlefield to its original appearance. • Article

Friday, April 2, 2010

Civil War trails on Google Earth

I'm looking for more communities to get on this bandwagon in the coming months. The Pennsylvania Tourism Office is showing off its Civil War trails with an online tool that blends Google Earth, interactive GigaPan high-definition panoramic images, and informational narratives in the form of “story stops” about 40 historic destinations. • Article

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chickamauga sets sececession crisis program

In commemoration of the pivotal events that occurred 150 years ago during the volatile year of 1860, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park will present a symposium about the critical events of 1860 and how they affected the Chattanooga area as the country slid toward civil war. • Article