Monday, February 28, 2011

Momentum grows for park, re-enactment at site of Confederate cavalry win in Georgia

A rejuvenated group of citizens is helping a county southwest of Atlanta move ahead with plans for a historic site that will recognize a smashing Confederate cavalry victory during the Atlanta Campaign.

The Friends of Brown’s Mill Battlefield recently elected new officers and will aid work on the 105-acre site owned by Coweta County. It plans to continue mapping this northwest corner of the cavalry clash and begin clearing some areas for future trails and a meadow.

The county and the organization expect that phase 1 -- a trailhead, trails, interpretive signs, a small parking lot and a field -- will be ready for a re-enactment battle to mark July 30, 2014, the battle’s 150th anniversary.

“We need to take care of that battlefield,” said Carolyn Turner, president of the Friends of Brown’s Mill Battlefield, which is moving forward after relative inactivity in recent years.

Three camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are excited about the plans at Brown’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site and will assist, said Turner, a retired teacher.

The county eventually would like to build a visitors center and museum, when funding for those is available.

For now, it is working with a $300,000 federal grant administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation, said Coweta County comprehensive planner Sandra Parker. The county's match was $75,000.

The county wants to take advantage of the grant before it expires and recently authorized an 18-acre land swap with the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority, which may build a reservoir near the historic site.

In exchange for land for a reservoir spillway, the water authority will give the site land where a wartime cabin and federal artillery pieces likely stood, Parker said.

The Battle of Brown’s Mill on July 30, 1864, took place between Union cavalry under the command of Brig. Gen. Edward Moody McCook, and pursuing Confederate cavalry units under the command of Gen. Joseph Wheeler (top photo).

Union Gen. William Sherman had tasked McCook and Maj. Gen. George Stoneman with cutting vital railroads south of Atlanta so that he would not have to engage in a prolonged siege.

McCook failed to meet up with Stoneman and his 2,400 troopers left Lovejoy and headed north back toward the Chattahoochee River. Wheeler’s smaller force pursued him and ambushed the exhausted Union forces.

They clashed near Brown’s Mill, a few miles southwest of Newnan (photo below).

The county’s parcel is along Millard Farmer Road at the intersection of Old Corinth Road. It was the scene of much of the heaviest fighting.

The Confederates attacked south toward Union forces along Rickety Back Road (now Millard Farmer).

“Wheeler had his best day as a soldier,” says Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association. “This is where McCook lost control and was broken up.”

McCook’s forces fled and, eventually, more than 1,000 were taken prisoner. Wheeler freed about 500 Confederate prisoners and also seized supplies.

The fighting at Brown's Mill cost McCook about 100 killed and wounded, while Wheeler's casualties probably numbered less than 50, according to David Evans, author of “Sherman’s Horsemen.”

The Union cavalry failed to attain its goal, forcing Sherman to besiege Atlanta and use infantry at Jonesboro.

A passer-by would not know the battle occurred unless he or she spies a United Daughters of Confederacy marker placed on the northwest corner of the 105 acres more han a century ago. An auto salvage yard lies across Millard Farmer Road at the intersection with Old Corinth Road.

A 2004 master plan prepared for Coweta County said, “The Brown’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site will be the only Civil War park south of Atlanta as well as one of only two Civil War parks in the nation featuring a cavalry battle.”

A challenge, it said, would be attracting Civil War visitors south of Atlanta.

But the county believes it is on to something with its plans.

A master landscape plan includes trails, a memorial garden, a meadow for re-enactments and other activities, a pavilion, displays and extensive interpretive signs.

The friends group plans to do more extensive mapping of the county site, which has been heavily picked over by relic collectors.

Turner said individuals so far have raised about $3,000 to assist the effort. Another 60-acre site is available just northwest of the county’s park property, but it is too early to know whether the group can buy it.

The friends plan to launch a web page and expand its membership, Turner said.

“We want to do it right,” Turner said.

The battle covered a much larger area than the tract owned by the county.

The fighting comprised at least 1,000 acres, said Crawford, most of it east and south of the county site. There’s even more if you count the federal advance and retreat. The area is currently rural, with homes, a few businesses and timber forest.

Crawford is not thrilled with the water authority’s tentative plans to build a reservoir near the historic site.

Ellis Cadenhead, general manager of the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority, said he is not certain how much of the battlefield may lie under water if the reservoir, which will cover more than 300 acres, is built.

Plans call for it perhaps being built in 20-25 years, “if then,” he said.

There’s been no final decision and there are many required state and federal permits.

“To say the threat is imminent is not true,” said Crawford.

The authority bought the property in 2007 and 2010 and may build the reservoir for drought relief and flood runoff.

“We have excess water [now],” Cadenhead said. “You have to look after the next generation.”

The Atlanta Regional Commission recently released a new population estimate saying Coweta County’s population will double to 250,000 by 2040.

Crawford said at least part of the battlefield will lie under water.

But that may be better than residential development, he says.

“Once it is covered by houses you never get it back.”

Parker said the land swap, which requires state approval, will allow site visitors to see an area where George Cook’s home likely stood. Cook wrote a letter to a surgeon with the Federal army, asking for the return of his horses taken from his farm during the battle.

Soldier accounts indicate Union artillery was fired from that property, she said.

“The county and the [water authority] are willing to put together a win-win situation for the community by saving important (core) areas of the battlefield as well as prepare future water supply that the community will need,” she said.

In 2004, before the economy went south, the Georgia Battlefields Association nominated Brown’s Mill as an endangered site with the Civil War Trust because of development, which of course may return one day.

“You don’t want to be in the preservation business if you get depressed easily,” says Crawford (left).

The county purchased the 105 acres in 2001 for $450,000 under a state greenspace initiative, said Parker, a member of the friends group and a liaison between it and the county.

Most of the site will be south of a trail along Millard Farmer Road, she said.

The Georgia Battlefields Association is supporting the Friends of Brown’s Mill Battlefield and may provide donations for specific project.

“This is a positive step,” said Crawford. “Our goal is to help them exercise their potential.”

For more information on the Friends of Brown’s Mill Battlefield please call Carolyn Turner at 678-571-7718. Photo of the UDC monument courtesy of Charlie Crawford.

See Battle of Brown's Mill on this page for study, landscape plan

Thief takes Civil War heirlooms

A Colorado family is hoping thieves have respect for family, history and country and return two treasured family heirlooms. The two missing Civil War medals had been in Caitlin Rumery's family for almost 150 years, since her great-great-grandfather's service in the New Hampshire infantry. • Article

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poppin' good time at Battle of Aiken

The Picket was unable to attend this year's Battle of Aiken re-enactment in South Carolina. But just for fun, here's a kettle corn video we shot in 2010. Enjoy!
Article from the 2010 festivities
And information if you are going this weekend

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bridge burning re-enactment planned

Union sympathizers burned the Hiawassee River railroad bridge in Charleston, Tenn., during the Civil War, and there are plans in the works to do it again at an event this fall. • Article

Thursday, February 24, 2011

1862 Md. battlefield wins national status

The South Mountain Civil War battlefield in Maryland is taking its place on the National Register of Historic Places. • Article

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

$1.6 million going to revamp Virginia parks

The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is getting $1.6 million to revamp exhibits at its two visitors center. The park preservers and interprets sites of the four major Civil War battles fought in and around Fredericksburg. • Article

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adventurous? Try this hardtack recipe

This article on the typical diet for Union and Confederate soldiers concludes with a modified recipe for hardtack. • Article

Monday, February 21, 2011

Part 1 of Alfred Waud: Living historian brings Civil War sketch artist off the page

John Rapp would gladly walk in Alfred Waud’s shoes.

From his felt hat and bewhiskered face to his leather haversack and boots, Rapp projects a living image of the famous Civil War sketch artist -- minus the English accent.

For more than 10 years, Rapp, 55, of Cornelius, N.C, has researched and portrayed what some consider the greatest illustrator of the war.

Authenticity is paramount.

Rapp takes school construction paper and weathers it to approximate the paper and colors used by Waud.

“I put it out in the sunlight to make the same shade,” he says.

Waud (pronounced WODE), saw it all with the Union’s Army of the Potomac -- from the bright-eyed optimism in 1861 to Gen. Robert E. Lee tired ride (below) following his surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in southern Virginia.

The artist, most famous for his illustrations used in Harper’s Weekly, was known for his bravery and quality of work.

Because reproducing photographs was in its infancy, Waud and other illustrators principally brought the action and army life to the public.

Why was Rapp, an 8th grade American history teacher in Charlotte, drawn to Waud specificially?

“The immediacy of his sketches,” Rapp says. “The freezing of action.”

“Here is a guy who was on the front line,” he added.

As a member of the Bohemian Brigade, a confederation of living historians doing impressions of Civil War correspondents and artists, Rapp has done significant research into the journalist he portrays.

“We are so far off the edge,” Rapp says of his Bohemian brothers. “Most of the people [who come to events] don’t know about artists. I am telling them something new.”

Rapp made several trips to the Library of Congress, which has a large collection of Waud’s works, and as a registered researcher he has held originals.

“It is chilling,” says the native of Shoemakersville, Pa., north of Reading. “It is thrilling. That this piece of paper was at Gettysburg.”

Rapp also has researched Alfred’s brother, William, a fine illustrator in his own right.

Other research includes a study of “Alfred E. Waud: Sketch Artist” by Frederic E. Ray and Philip Van Doren Sterns’s “They Were There,” a look at Waud and other Civil War journalists promoted by newspapers and weeklies of the time as “Special Artists.”

The four-volume, “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War” was the first significant Civil War book to portray the effort of these gregarious chroniclers.

Rapp, who sold RVs before switching to teaching, makes a reference to a Waud sketch (above) of the skirmish between the 14th Brooklyn and Confederate Cavalry at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.

“You can see the action going on,” he says.

Rapp, who includes sailing among his hobbies, has a particular fondness for doing his Waud impression at Gettysburg.

“Waud’s Rock” is the site of famed Civil War photographer Timothy O. Sullivan’s image of the jaunty artist, who was born in England in 1828.

Most of the time, Rapp sketches likenesses (right) of Waud’s work, but he sometimes does extemporaneous sketches for the public and friends.

He enjoys educating individuals about the amazing experiences of such artists.

“I’m a pretty good artist. Nothing fancy. I try to reproduce his work faithfully.”

Rapp does not sell his work. “I do it for the enjoyment and to educate.”

Some years, Rapp may go to 10 battle re-enactments or living history events. In 2011, so far he is going to an event in Rockford, N.C., a 19th century plantation and a meeting of a Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War camp.

“People want to know who I am and why I am dressed like that,” he says.

Readers had plenty of material during the war, including the New York Illustrated News and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Rapp totes copies of Harper’s Weekly, which was read by about 1.5 million people each time it was printed.

Among Waud’s contemporaries were Theodore R. Davis and Edwin Forbes. Forbes was “better artistically but the immediacy and intimacy of Waud was different,” says Rapp.

Civil War photos were limited generally to camp life and scenes after battles.

“If you want to know what war looked like you have to look at the sketches,” says Rapp.

Upcoming in Picket: A deeper look at Waud's work, why he is important and his legacy. We'll look at collections in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans and will speak with curators.

Images: Photo of John Rapp, "Waud Rock" and his drawings, courtesy of John Rapp; photograph of Waud by Timothy O'Sullivan, Civil War Treasures from the New York Historical Society, digital ID nhnycw/ad ad07001; Waud drawing at Antietam, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-21027; Waud sketch of Lee, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-21320

Mississippi river city plans events

Representatives of community and historical organizations have met in Natchez to begin planning for the city's commemoration of the Civil War, with a focus on 1863-64. • Article

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Here's one from the archives

I don't fancy myself as much of a photographer, but I do like this one from summer 2009 during the Battle of Atlanta at Nash Farm in Henry County, Ga. Tough these days to get to many such events, but I will try to get to at least one or two this year. To read more about the event, type in "Nash Farm" in the Search This Blog part of this page. Than return to top of the blog to find the articles, photos and videos. Enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

BBC's take on Montgomery weekend

On Saturday, a group will gather in Alabama to mark the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the first president of the Confederacy, 11 Southern slave states that left the U.S. in 1860 and 1861. They say they are honouring their ancestors and their heritage but, as the BBC's Daniel Nasaw reports, critics view the group as celebrating slavery. • Article

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Battle diorama finds a new home

A diorama depicting the 1863 assault by Union forces on the Confederate Battery Wagner near Charleston, S.C., will serve as a centerpiece for a restored lodge's new life: as a museum for the rich but unheralded history of James Island. • Article

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Part 2 of African-Americans and the Civil War: Recommendations for Kennesaw park

During the Civil War, 88 African-Americans, most of them slaves, worshipped at First Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.

In 1866, one year after the war ended, First Baptist granted the emancipated parishioners letters of dismissal and Zion Baptist Church was born in April 1866. The congregants met at a brush arbor and a wooden structure before building a brick church in 1888.

Today, Old Zion Baptist Church is a museum, and the large complex across Lemon Street serves as the worship center.

A sign in front of the current sanctuary reads, “Founded by former slaves in 1866.”

“That part means a lot,” longtime church member Louis Walker says. “It goes all the way back -- to your beginnings.”

The two congregations acknowledge their shared past.

Walker (below), 67, provides tours of the museum, which includes a history of African-American educational institutions, the church and its leaders and members. Original pews and musical instruments surround the massive wooden pulpit.

The church, old and new, imbues a message of struggle, perseverance, triumph and achievement.

A recent report recommending ways to increase African-American visitation at nearby Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (KEMO) suggests incorporating Zion Baptist’s history as a means of providing more culturally relevant material.

(Read Part 1 of study and report)

The report also recommends a more comprehensive presentation on slavery and the role of U.S. Colored Troops. Black soldiers, by the end of the Civil War, comprised about 10 percent of the Union’s fighting force.

“We seem to glance over the soldier’s story,” said Brad Quinlin, a local historian and park volunteer. “We need to realize what courage it took for these men to enlist.”

The park, in a cooperative agreement with the Center for Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University, recently produced the report on African-American attitudes toward the Civil War.

Entitled, “The War of Jubilee: Tell Our Story and We will Come,” the effort stems from focus groups held last year with nearly 60 members of organizations that have primarily African-American membership.

Because the Visitor Center won’t likely be expanded any time soon and funding is limited, the park is pinpointing certain strategies, according to Superintendent Stanley C. Bond.

A video shown to visitors is being redone to tell more of the African-American story, he said.

The park is awaiting congressional action so that it can restore the nearby Wallis House (left), used as headquarters by Gen. O.O. Howard.

Howard University, a historically black school in Washington, D.C., was named for the white officer, founder of the university and commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau.

Bond hopes the Wallis House can house an expanded exhibit on African-American soldiers and civilians.

The park is making more use of social media, including Twitter, and is working on a cell phone tour pinpointing six areas within the June 1864 battlefield, Bond said.

“What would draw me occasionally is a genuine effort to tell a true story,” says Deane Bonner, president of the Cobb County branch of the NAACP.

Among the report’s recommendations, which are being studied by Bond, to make the park more relevant:

-- Explain the role of African-American slaves in the South, what a typical day was like and provide narratives
-- Provide context for the formation of the U.S. Colored Troops and Sailors. Put on battle re-enactments or living histories that include their stories
-- Develop a biography of William H. “Ten Cent Bill” Yopp, the only African-American Confederate veteran buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta
-- Include storytelling. For example, have two brothers discuss why they joined different sides; or an enslaved and free woman talk about what the Civil War meant to them
-- Implement interactive kiosks rather than traditional textual references on markers
-- Prepare curriculum materials for public school and home school educators
-- Provide public dialogue forums and oral histories with African-American civic and religious organizations
-- Employ local hip hop artists to create a Civil War modern jingle and perform it at KEMO
-- Invite African-American fraternities and sororities to partner with KEMO on marketing strategies and support
-- Purchase television and newspaper ads in African-American publications

African-Americans, as slaves, helped build the massive Confederate defenses at Kennesaw. Others served as cooks and teamsters for the Union army or occupied and guarded the battlefield.

“We have to be relevant to all Americans,” Bond (below) says of the exhibits and interpretive programs.

From Feb. 26 to March 28, the Visitor Center will host the Gilder Lehrman traveling exhibit "Free At Last: A History of the Abolition of Slavery in America."

The park and the Kennesaw center on March 25-26 host their annual joint symposium. This year’s theme, “Civil War to Civil Rights” is intended provide new interpretations of the conflict.

Members of the focus groups were appreciative of the opportunity to provide input to KEMO, which is sharing its findings with other federal Civil War sites.

“People are excited the Park Service is moving in the right direction,” says Hermina Glass-Avery, associate director of the Kennesaw University center and author of the report.

What’s perhaps new about this initiative is finding a way to tie in a battlefield park with the lives of people in the surrounding communities.

The Cobb NAACP used to meet at Zion Baptist Church, which has grown to more than 1,300 members. “It has always had a significant role in civil rights in Cobb County,” Bonner says of the church.

Zion occasionally has programs with predominantly white churches, said Walker, adding churches could be part of the park’s marketing efforts.

On Feb. 13, Zion hosted the third “Celebration of the Negro Spiritual,” an afternoon concert (right) featuring a racially and ethnically diverse mass choir and performers.

One of the songs performed was “No More Auction Block.”

“No more auction block for me. Many thousands gone,” is the refrain in the poignant song about human bondage.

But the celebration ended with a sign of unity many hope the sesquicentennial of the Civil War will engender.

Worshippers of all colors joined hands and sang the immortal words of one of the most well-known spirituals.

“We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Debate over black powder limits, safety

Civil War re-enactor Bill Safford says a typical weekend battle can require up to 100 pounds of black powder. But in Washington state, the legal limit for storing and transporting black powder is five pounds. Rep. Barbara Bailey has introduced a bill that would significantly increase the limit for storing and transporting black powder to match federal regulations. • Article

Monday, February 14, 2011

Family ties 5: 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 John R. Bryan of Conway, Ark., provided this account of his fourth great-grandfather, who fought in a Mississippi unit.

Howell Best Shelton came from a family with roots deep in American history. His grandfather was a private in the American forces fighting for independence from England, and Howell’s father was a corporal in the Georgia militia and was awarded a land grant for his service during the War of 1812. Born on June 29, 1816, in Georgia, Howell was the eldest child of Thomas Jr. and Mary Tarver Shelton. When Howell Shelton was grown, he moved to Chesterville, Mississippi -- a town his father helped found -- and bought a farm outside the town, located near Tupelo.

According to the 1860 Federal census, Howell Best Shelton’s family numbered at 8 children plus his wife, Salina; a year later, his ninth and final child, a son, would be born. This same census valued his total assets at $1,300, including a house, farm, and personal affects. No slaves are mentioned as property in this or previous censuses.

When the states began to secede from the Union following Abraham Lincoln’s election as president, Shelton patiently watched and waited. Finally, at age 46, Howell Shelton enlisted as a private in the newly-formed G-Company, 31st Mississippi Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. J. A. Orr and mustered in at Pontotoc County, Mississippi. His term of enlistment was listed as “3 years or War.” During the months that followed, Company Muster Rolls show him to be present for duty through training and campaign during the months of March through September, then absent due to sick furlough that expired on December 29, 1862.

January through March, 1863 show him again present for duty when the 31st MS, part of Featherston’s Brigade, Loring’s Division, was encamped in the swamps north of Vicksburg, near Fort Pemberton. On April 22, when the army was preparing to move out to the defenses surrounding Vicksburg, Pvt. Shelton was left behind at Camp Loring, sick yet again with what appears to be a lingering illness of devastating proportions for the middle-aged Shelton. On May 14, 1863 he was transferred to the field hospital at Edward’s Station, near the Big Black River Bridge.

Sometime in the aftermath following the battles of Champion Hill and Big Black River Bridge, the sick, and possibly wounded, Pvt. Howell B. Shelton was captured by the advancing Federal forces and sent to Federally-occupied Memphis, Tennessee on May 25. He was then promptly loaded onto trains of the Illinois Central Railroad along with several thousand fellow prisoners-of-war and shipped to Camp Morton, Indiana (photo, above).

On June 9, 1863, Shelton was among the first of two large groups of Confederate POWs to arrive at Fort Delaware. Here he remained for nearly a month; a chronically ill Confederate soldier, confined on Pea Patch Island off the Delaware shore. Finally, on July 3, 1863, the word came; he would be paroled, along with 1,696 other POWs and 1 civilian prisoner, and shipped by boat to Virginia to be reclaimed by the Confederate government. On July 6, two days after the fall of Vicksburg who Shelton fought to defend, the Fort Delaware detainees arrived in City Point, Va., where they were received by their comrades-in-arms.

At some point later this same day, Pvt. Howell Best Shelton, loving husband, father of 9, defender of thousands, took his last breath. His final resting place remains unknown. He is my 4th great-grandfather by his youngest child, George Best Shelton, who was barely 2 years old at the time of his father’s death.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Olustee kicks off Florida observances

The 35th re-enactment of the Battle Olustee, scheduled for Feb 18-20, headlines a full year of Sunshine State events to mark the Civil War sesquicentennial. • Article

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rediscovered map shows slave numbers

NOAA, the agency better known for tracking weather, climate change and marine interests, says it has found a historic map that President Abraham Lincoln used to develop a war strategy against the South. The map, drawn by the U.S. Coast Survey, NOAA’s predecessor agency, in 1861, shows the heaviest concentrations of slavery. • Article

Friday, February 11, 2011

Relic hunting probe yields artillery shell

National Park Rangers asked for assistance from local and State Police Thursday after serving a search warrant on a home in Petersburg, Va., and finding a potentially live Civil War-era Schenkl artillery shell. • Article

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Part 1 of African-Americans and the Civil War: "Tell Our Story and We Will Come"

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is, in many ways, metro Atlanta’s largest playground.

Every year, about 1.5 million visitors throng to the 2,900-acre park in Cobb County, taking advantage of its trails, picturesque views and grassy meadows.

Of course, there’s also history there.

A frontal assault by Union Gen. William T. Sherman failed in June 1864, producing 4,000 additional casualties in the bloody, but eventually successful, campaign to take Atlanta.

About 20 percent of the visitors come to learn about the Civil War, and they find plenty to delve into – from the film and visitors center to signs and monuments in combat zones such as Cheatham Hill, Kolb Farm and Pigeon Hill. Interpretive programs and living histories help tell the story.

International visitors, including a recent surge of people from Asia, find the war fascinating.

But one segment of American society feels the story is incomplete.

African-Americans have a complex connection to the Civil War, one that includes celebration of liberty and pride over their ancestors’ contributions, but also the lingering sting of slavery, the states rights argument and segregation.

African-Americans, as slaves, helped build the massive Confederate defenses at Kennesaw. They served as cooks and teamsters for the Union army. Thousands served in battles across the South, wearing blue as U.S. Colored Troops.

Stanley C. Bond, superintendent at Kennesaw, says many may not feel the Civil War is part of their story. They may not find enough pertinent information or interpretation during a visit, he said.

“The Civil War in our community is not a conversation we are happy to talk about,” says Deane Bonner (photo above), president of the Cobb County branch of the NAACP.

That attitude, she says, has begun to soften recently with an effort by Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park to expand its interpretation of the Civil War “to an inclusive model that is more culturally and ethnically diverse.”

The park, in a cooperative agreement with the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University, recently produced a report on African-American attitudes toward the Civil War.

Entitled, “The War of Jubilee: Tell Our Story and We will Come,” the effort stems from focus groups held last year with nearly 60 members of organizations that have primarily African-American membership.

It is being shared with other National Park Service sites and non-government institutions and museums.

The biggest challenge from Kennesaw and other National Park Service sites that are working under the theme, “From Civil War to Civil Rights”: Making programs and museum exhibits relevant to African-Americans, thereby increasing their attendance at such locations.

Some observations by focus group members:

-- “I learned in school that the North came to the rescue of the blacks in the south. I did not have a good understanding of what the Civil War was about ... because I did not know where blacks stood.”
-- “African American history is not a part of that park.”
-- “The Civil War is part of the South’s DNA.”
-- “We need a way to overcome the shame or embarrassment of slavery - to see humanity. [We] need a picture to see humanity.”
-- “There has to be a desire to see the human aspect of the Civil War ... including stories of African Americans in the war and afterwards.”
-- “Kennesaw was critical to the taking of Atlanta during the Civil War battles.”
-- "One thing I will give the Confederate advocates is that they really know how to get their point across. They know how to get it across to their children, their grandchildren, etc. It is keeping the memory alive. They are going off of their emotions, so facts are not always present. You will hear about the glory, locations, and you hear about who won and who lost and names. You won’t hear about concepts leading to what happened afterwards."
-- “Looking at the Civil War, it was a battle for cheap labor – low wage labor. In the south, the Blacks were working for free with a gun to their heads. In the North, you had the low wage Irish immigrants who came in and worked in the factories. After the war, the blacks still worked for low wages, cheap labor.”

The Kennesaw visitor center does tell some of the African-American story. There are displays on slavery, labor performed by African-Americans and their service in the military.

The park has oral interpretive programs, such as one scheduled for this Saturday (Feb. 12) on African-American soldiers interred in nearby Marietta National Cemetery (photo, right).

But Bonner and members of the focus group argue there could be more on the history of African-Americans in Cobb County, their role as civilians and soldiers and a fuller dialogue on slavery and its implications. They’d like more information on emancipation, post-emancipation and Reconstruction years.

“We fought too,” Bonner says.

The report says participants are willing to engage in a “tough dialogue” on the war and its legacy. On slavery, "The expectation is that it would convey a dynamic message of what is was like," says Hermina Glass-Avery, associate director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University.

“There needs to be a true accounting that it [the war] was about slavery,’’ says Bonner, who had never visited the park until a November reception given for those who took part in focus groups.

Although they weren’t part of Sherman’s combat troops during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, U.S. Colored Troops fought in Dalton, Ga., and helped occupy Kennesaw after the battle. A few were likely killed in skirmishes at Kennesaw after the battle, according to Bond.

Historian and park volunteer Brad Quinlin said two U.S. Colored Troops regiments served as guards over vital bridges and railroads in the Atlanta Campaign and two former slaves were wounded at Kennesaw near Pigeon Hill while serving as military stretcher bearers.

Glass-Avery (left) organized the focus groups and prepared the report.

“They were genuinely interested in the Civil War,” she says of the participants, who she believes are interested in “racial uplift.”

She believes some of the hesitation to visit Civil War battlefields may stem from perceptions following the war that African-Americans might not feel welcome at battlefieds. Blacks still remember that the Ku Klux Klan once lit fiery crosses on nearby Stone Mountain, she says.

“The [1961] centennial,” she writes in the report, “was built on a racially exclusive interpretation of the Civil War.”

“Back then we couldn’t speak up,” echoes Bonner, adding she is not overly optimistic that the 150th commemoration beginning this year will adequately tell the African-American story.

The report’s findings indicate some optimism among focus group participants, who feel the Park Service is interested in incorporating some of their opinions.

“They expressed overall elation to tell the story,” says Glass-Avery.

But there also was a sense of pessimism.

“How will other groups perceive not so much of a reinterpretation, but the addition of the African-American experience?” Glass-Avery asks.

Other findings include:

-- While the different groups demonstrated a strong desire to know more about the African American experience during the Civil War, there were strong feelings among the participants that the history of African Americans and the Civil War will continue to be misinterpreted in the South.
-- However, many individuals also expressed hope that a more accurate view of history could emerge if historians would move beyond traditional viewpoints and methodologies to capture stories told within African American families, churches and social organizations.
-- Still others used the focus groups as a forum to relate significant African American Civil War efforts. As the participants shared family memories and accounts of war activity, each of them reinforced the belief that their history exists and that it needs to be gathered piecemeal from their families and kinship networks.

In the strictest terms, what mostly occurred at Kennesaw was a ferocious battle. But as the Park Service’s key Civil War site in metro Atlanta, the staff is charged with telling more than what happened there in a few days in June 1864.

“We have a very diverse staff,” says Bond, indicating it has several African-Americans, including two interpretive rangers and one law enforcement ranger.

Bond believes the park can do a better job of reaching out to more visitors from all backgrounds. “We have to be relevant to all Americans,” the longtime National Park Service employee from Beaufort, S.C., says.

“It was a very complex time in history, and there were many voices,” he says. “People fought here for things they believed in.”

His hope?

“I want to see us a single, united nation. We went through a terrible split to come to that.”

Louis Walker, 67, a retired Cobb educator and member of Zion Baptist Church in Marietta, did not participate in the focus groups, but has been to Kennesaw and knows the story of U.S. Colored Troops.

Referring to the Civil War, he repeats a refrain heard on other subjects:

“You need to know where you come from as a group and where you are going.”

NEXT WEEK IN PICKET: Focus group recommendations for Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and what’s currently being done or considered.

More information on the Kennesaw battlefield

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New flags to fly for Civil War vets

Two men plan to place a 33-star banner like one that flew over Fort Sumter on the grave of 154 Civil War veterans in Alsace Cemetery in Reading, Pa. • Article

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recalling Lincoln's journey to Washington

This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the trip by then President-elect Abraham Lincoln from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. The National Park Service will commemorate the journey by sponsoring programs from February 11 to February 23 in sixteen cities and towns where Lincoln made stops and remarks during the trip. • Article

Monday, February 7, 2011

She unearths train chase starting place

Marietta, Ga., archaeologist Melissa Scharffenberg uncovers the foundation of the Lacy Hotel in Kennesaw, scene of the Great Locomotive Chase. • Article

Sunday, February 6, 2011

College of Charleston sets conference

Professor and Civil War historian James McPherson will give the keynote lecture at the College of Charleston’s “Civil War—Global Conflict” conference. The lecture is part of a three-day (March 3-5, 2011) conference that considers the war in a global context, and is the academic kickoff for a series of commemorative events marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. • Article

Friday, February 4, 2011

If in Rome (Ga.), share your stories

Rome, Ga., including Fort Norton, saw its share of action during the Civil War before its capture in May 1864.

The Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau (GRCVB) has partnered with the Rome- Floyd County Library to record a oral history of county residents.

Stories, both spoken and written, will be posted on a Civil War heritage website.

According to a statement, stories should relate to Rome or Floyd County in some way. Stories may reflect an ancestor’s involvement in the war, military action within the county or life during and after the war.

Oral stories stories can be recorded at the libary on Feb. 17 and 24 from 9 a.m. to 11a.m. Written stories should be less than 1,000 words. Stories may be submitted to

For information, call 706-295-5576.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Va. exhibit focuses on human stories

Although nearly 60 percent of the Civil War's battles were fought in Virginia, an exhibition opening Friday does not entirely focus on the fighting. William M.S. Rasmussen, lead curator and the Lora M. Robins curator at the Virginia Historical Society, said the war is difficult to tell in its entirety. • Article

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dentists were keen on extraction

A Galveston, Texas, museum is showcasing a rare dental kit believed to originally have belonged to a Confederate soldier trained as a dentist and features more than 50 instruments, including forceps, dental elevators and picks, in a hand-fabricated rosewood box. • Article

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Illinois launches website Thursday

According to the Evansville Courier & Press, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will launch a website that includes a comprehensive 150th events calendar. Agency director Jan Grimes says she hopes the website will become an official guide for "all that's going on in Illinois." • Website