Friday, April 29, 2011

Portrait gallery opens 1st of 7 exhibits

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington is opening the first of seven exhibits to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. On Friday, the museum opens "The Death of Ellsworth." It features a historic painting of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, who was the first Union officer to be killed in the Civil War. Ellsworth commanded a volunteer regiment that invaded northern Virginia in 1861. • Article | • Exhibit images

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Museum examines native son's notoriety

Strawbery Banke Museum's commemoration of New Hampshire in the Civil War leads with the history of Fitz John Porter, the political intrigues that shredded Portsmouth native's illustrious career, his court-martial after the Battle of Second Manassas and the struggle for his ultimate exoneration — 125 years ago this August. • Article | • Exhibit details

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Donations help protect Georgia markers

Georgia’s Civil War signs could use a little love, in the form of donations for needed repairs and replacement.

According to a 2010 assessment of the nearly 1,000 markers, 60 percent need repair or repainting. Another 10 percent need to be replaced and more than 60 percent need new mounting posts.

The Georgia Battlefields Association in its May newsletter details the opportunity for the public to assist the effort.

The cost to repair or repaint a marker is $700-800 (depending on condition), to replace a marker is $2,200, and to replace a post is $300, according to the GBA.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources maintains the signs, according to Frankie Mewborn, cultural resources manager.

With the recession and government cutbacks, the state is now accepting private donations to help replace and preserve these educational signs.

If you’d like to contribute to historical marker maintenance, even specifying a marker that needs to be replaced or repaired, call Mewborn at 770-389-7271 or email him at

Listing of all Georgia historical markers (these do not reflect current condition)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Will trains in great chase be paired?

Marietta, Ga., Mayor Steve Tumlin will ask the city council on Wednesday to consider pursuing an effort with the city of Atlanta to obtain The Texas (left), a steam engine that trailed the General in the Great Locomotive Chase. Even if Atlanta agreed, getting it out of the building would be tricky. • Article

Bike tours to follow campaign routes

Many sites this summer will offer special tours marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, but one tour will allow participants to see history from a different perspective. Penn Trails will offer road bicycle tours through Cumberland, Adams, Dauphin, Franklin and York counties in Pennsylvania beginning in late May. The trips will include lodging. • Article

Monday, April 25, 2011

SCV camp installs Stone Mtn. headstones

For years, unknown Confederate soldiers who died of disease and wounds at hospitals in the village of Stone Mountain, Ga., rested under stones that became weathered or in disrepair.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans' Confederate Memorial Camp No. 1432 in recent months has been placing new granite markers in the historic Stone Mountain Cemetery east of Atlanta.

At this Tuesday evening's annual Confederate Memorial Day service, those in attendance will see the 144 markers put in so far. The camp plans to install 58 more. There are about 280 known and unknown Confederates in the city cemetery. The April 26 service starts at 6:30 p.m. at the cemetery.

The effort has been led by camp commander Jeff Bailey.

The 46 members' next goal is installing a Southern Cross of Honor on the graves of 80 known veterans.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tour guide touts life of female spy

There are battlefields, and then there's Belle Boyd, teenage temptress and Confederate spy. The Appalachian Regional Commission is betting Boyd is the sexier Civil War story and that tourists will want to visit the Martinsburg, W.Va., home of the notorious "siren of the South" who used her feminine charms to spy on Union soldiers for the Confederacy. • Article

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The joke is on them -- or me?

I snapped this photo of decorative attic vents during my recent stop at the Blue & Gray Museum in Fitzergerald, Ga.

The "colony" that later became the city drew hundreds of Union veterans and their family members in the 1890s.

Museum director Al Strom quipped that the top vent was placed in homes built for Yankee vets. If an old Rebel bought a home, he would place it upside down, as shown in the second vent. Hmmmm....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Confederate ironclad will be protected

One of the largest Civil War artifacts in eastern Carolina is getting a new home in Kinston. The hull of the ironclad CSS Neuse will be moving to a climate-controlled facility that will help preserve it. The project is a private-public partnership that the city of Kinston says it has been working on for over a decade. • Article | • History of vessel

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Network will show the Civil War in 3D

A new 3D network is developing a four-part series about the Civil War that will air this fall. According to the company's press release, the program will include period reenactments shot in 3D, combined with digitized archival stereoscopic still photos that were taken during that period of time. • Article

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Off the blue highways: Blue & Gray Museum and the Jeff Davis capture site

I’ve always been a fan of getting off the beaten path or, more precisely, interstate highways.

Last Friday, I paid brief visits to two Civil War sites within a few miles of each other in South Georgia – the site of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ capture and Fitzgerald (left), where Union veterans flocked to form the “Colony City.”

A visit to both sites is affordable and can be accomplished in a few hours.

The Blue & Gray Museum in Fitzgerald is housed in an old railroad depot on North Johnston Street.

Director Al Strom, another staff member and a fine film gave us a wonderful overview of the town, which was settled in 1896 by a land company under the direction of Philander H. Fitzgerald, a former drummer boy in the Union army.

The idea was to draw thousands of Union veterans and their families to settle here, and live among the locals and Southern Civil War vets.

Fitzgerald worked with Georgia Gov. William J. Northen to build a town in what would become Ben Hill County.

“There was little strife among the new colonists, who proved their dedication to unity by naming an equal number of streets in the city proper for Union and Confederate notables,” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. “In one of the first public-works constructions in the United States, a mammoth four-story hotel was built; it was named the Lee-Grant Hotel, to honor the leaders of the opposing sides of the Civil War.”

The boom times lasted several years, with two railroads, 25 miles of streets and 250 businesses within the colony by June 1896. The city claims it was the first to offer free public schooling in Georgia and that it had a model form of government.

We briefly drove around the city, noting blue and gray patterns on a sidewalks and a water tower with the same motif. Some homes remain from the time, although the Lee-Grant Hotel is gone.

The Blue & Gray Museum features about 1,200 items, including photos of the town’s development, medals bestowed to soldiers of both sides, weapons, mementoes, a replica of a "Shacktown" tent a Northern family would live in before a home was built, and a good deal more.

Among the 300 or so Union veterans buried at Fitzgerald’s Evergreen Cemetery is John C. Buckley (below), who received the Medal of Honor for gallantry during the Siege of Vicksburg on May 22, 1863. The medal is displayed at the museum.

The museum hosts a Roll Call of the States, in which visitors from every state in the Union are photographed with their respective state flags.

Strom told me the city supports the museum and local first-graders visit. Otherwise, about 430 people a year come. I hope the Civil War sesquicentennial brings at least a few more.

We next drove to the farming community of Irwinville and the Jefferson Davis Historic Site.

The museum and site is has been operated by Irwin County since the budget-conscious state handed it over in June 2009.

A film provides the story of the capture of Jefferson Davis “as bit by bit the Confederate government was falling apart.”

Forced to flee the capital of Richmond, and with a $100,000 reward on his head, Davis still have hopes of traveling west to the Trans-Mississippi and hooking up with generals there to continue the cause. The movie calls Davis “optimistic but not realistic.”

He and his family rode through the Carolinas and into Georgia, where on May 10, 1865, Union troops nabbed him in Irwinville.

According to legend, Davis, who would spend two years in Fort Monroe, Va., but never faced charges, was wearing women’s clothing.

A popular song of the era was "Jeff in Petticoats," and the major tabloids featured artists' renderings of the fallen leader dressed in everything from a wig to a hoop skirt, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The film goes to lengths to show that account was propaganda and a falsehood. Some accounts say he put on his wife’s overcoat in the confusion to help build a disguise.

A historic marker indicates the spot where Davis was arrested, and the park features the museum, nature trail and picnic facilities.

The museum includes Davis personal items, weapons, Civil War artifacts and a few regimental banners, including one belonging to Company H, the 50th Georgia (Colquitt Marksmen), which saw heavy action.

The site draws between 12,000 and 15,000 visitors a year, but is down a bit due to high gas prices. It has a special program June 4 that will feature re-enactors to mark Davis’ birthday.

The Jefferson Davis Memorial Site, 338 Jeff Davis Park Road, Fitzgerald, is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 229-831-2335 for information. There is a small admission fee. The Blue & Gray Museum, 116 North Johnston Street, Fitzgerald, is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for students. Call 229-426-5069 for info.

Remembering clash in Baltimore

The Civil War may have started at Fort Sumter, but the fighting and dying would begin on the streets of Baltimore. On April 19, 1861, the first 16 who would perish in that conflict fell along the city waterfront as a pro-Southern mob clashed with a regiment of Massachusetts volunteers answering Abraham Lincoln's call to defend the nation's capital. • Article

Monday, April 18, 2011

Last shots were fired in Bering Sea

A unique battle flag hangs in the Confederate Museum in Richmond, Va. It's the flag of the only ship in the southern navy to have circumnavigated the globe. The one that fluttered as cannons fired the final volleys in the war. The last to be lowered in surrender. And the only Civil War ensign -- Yankee or Rebel --to have flown in action in Alaska. • Article

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Three more from Charleston Harbor

My thanks to Lt. Col. Steve Riggs of Bachmann's Battery in Charleston, S.C., for sending me these very fine photos.

The crew had the honor of firingt the first shot Tuesday at Fort Sumter as part of the commemoration of the beginning of the Civil War 150 years ago.

These were taken at Fort Johnson, which now serves as the headquarters for South Carolina's marine research.

The gentleman in the brown suit firing the gun is a direst ancester of Lt. Henry Farley, who fired the first shot on April 12, 1861.

The battery used a 10-inch sea coast mortar that likely saw service during the conflict.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lee sword moving to Appomattox

The Richmond-based Museum of the Confederacy announced Gen. Robert E. Lee's sword and surrender uniform will be “the two biggest rock stars of the exhibit” at the new Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox. • Article

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A more inclusive look at the war

My whirlwind trip to Charleston, S.C., concluded around 11 a.m. yesterday in Marion Square, where young college students sunbathed, rode bikes and sipped coffee.

Above, them South Carolina statesman John C. Calhoun, at the top of a tall statue, looked grimly toward the South.

The man who called slavery a "positive good" and defended states rights seemed a bit lost in time.

Musical programs and lectures I attended Monday and Tuesday showed me this was a very different Charleston that celebrated the war's centennial in 1961.

The buzz word for 2011 is "commemoration."

Speakers reiterated that secessionists really did think the war was about slavery and race. The states rights argument, they said, was built in support of slavery. I realize all of this can be argued -- and will be -- through 2015 and beyond.

In 1961, programs no doubt failed to mention the service of U.S. Colored Troops in the Union army and the toll of slavery on generations of African-Americans.

Monday night, a concert included several period tunes, including "Dixie" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Jay Ungar and his band performed "Ashokan Farewell," the haunting violin song that was the theme song for Ken Burns' Civil War TV series.

African-American Union re-enactors and men in Confederate gray stood together in front of the outdoor audience on a beautiful spring evening. It was a moment of real unity.

To the east across the park in the Battery, Fort Sumter glowed in red and blue.

Today, as then, the city also remembers the destruction it suffered during the war and its loss of young men to a cause in which they believed.

I was only a few years old at the time, but I can't imagine Charleston was this introspective during the centennial.

For all this, I noticed very few African-Americans at the events, parks and bombardment re-enactments I attended around Charleston this week.

It was a reminder, that although many civil rights gains were made only a few short years after the 1961 centennial, there appears to still be a racial divide in commemorating the Civil War. It would be an understatement to point out the pain that slavery and subsequent segregation brought to the African-American community.

Going forward, I hope events over the next four years will capture at least some of Charleston's spirit of reconciliation.

Chicago library opens 3-month show

Swords carried by Union officers; a saddle that Ulysses S. Grant used at the Battle of Wilderness and during the Appomattox campaign; Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s non-regulation hat and a spoon-and-knife set are among artifacts now on display at the Harold Washington Library Center. • Article

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Signing off from Charleston

Taking leave of this fair coastal delight this morning. Hope you enjoyed our posts the last couple days. Know many of them likely seemed rushed (because they were).

Now if I can get back and finish part 2 of the Battle of Utoy Creek ....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

German re-enacts on first U.S. visit

Alexander Querengasser packed his gear Tuesday afternoon on a grass field overlooking Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter.

A sailboat sauntered past as the young German from Saxony spoke about his first visit to the United States.

The 24-year-old studying history in Leipzig knows his stuff. Irish and German emigrants served in large numbers in both armies, he said. He's also interested in the Confederate submarine Hunley.

Querengasser has done Civil War and Napoleonic living histories in Europe. Querengasser used jean cloth to make his Civil War frock coat.

At Fort Moultrie, he and a few other Europeans served with the Washington Light Infantry of South Carolina. Querengasser was a garrison guard and a private, "the lowest of the lows."

"I always had an interest in military history."

One day he hopes to work in a Dresden museum or serve as a curator. For a few more days he will enjoy the Lowcountry.

"Charleston is a real nice place," said Querengasser.

A Troubled House: Charleston lectures

Over the past few days, the Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Historical Trust has sponsored thought-provoking talks on "why they fought."

"A Troubled House" at First (Scots) Presbyterian on Meeting Street in Charleston featured two prominent historians.

Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, explored the logic of secession.

Key points for the South are cotton, slavery, moral and religious superiority and a scorn for Abraham Lincoln, who they believe to be a regional president, Ayers (above) told the crowded church.

"The Confederaocy is going to be a nation in the world."

He explored why and how Virginia's debate on secession was much more prolonged and contentious.

Republicans in the North wrongly thought non-slaveholders would oppose secession, said Ayers, author of many books on the war.

Despite their thoughts on secession, those in favor took a terrible path, Ayer argued.

The University of Georgia's Emory Thomas lectured on the "The Dogs of War: 1861," the title of his latest book.

"Slavery and race provoked secession," the history prof repeated several times. "Secession doesn't necessarily provoke war."

Both North and South wrongly believed the war would last only weeks or months. They also underestimated the ferocity of combat and the ghastly effective of rifles and newer weapons, Thomas said.

Each thought the other's soldiers were inferior. Lincoln never truly understood Southerners, Thomas said, and Davis tried several approaches to warfare, but none were ultimately successful, he added.

No one expected prisoners, and Blue and Gray each preached a refrain: God is on our side.

2nd video: Cannons at Patriots Point

Re-enactment of Sumter bombardment

Several hundred folks were at Patriots Point before dawn to witness the re-enactment of the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter. (click photos to enlarge)

In 1861, the gunfire began around 4:30 a.m. The launch time in 2011 was a more comfortable 6:43 a.m.

As I write this, I can hear the occasional thump of atillery fire a couple miles from our hotel.

Cannon fire at Patriots Point

Ten artillery pieces, including two originals, were fired at Fort Sumter today on the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. My daughter did a nice job of catching the flames and the Rebel cheers.

We could hear the occasional thump of the guns even after we left Patriots Point near Charleston.

Sunrise Concert: When Jesus Wept

In observance of the moment the first shots of the Civil War were fired, we attended a brass ensemble concert early this morning in the Battery.

Songs included "Amazing Grace" and "Lord of the Dance."

Very somber and moving.

We were impressed by the number of young folks there.

As we walked to the car, we noticed the light at Fort Sumter had split in two, representing two countries in conflict in 1861.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Enjoying a fresh breeze at the Battery

Tonight, as we sat on chairs and enjoyed the breeze rippling through the Battery in Charleston, I felt peace about our nation's reflection on the Civil War.

We attended a concert that featured military songs and music from the Ken Burns Civil War series of PBS.

Speakers talked of things likely skipped over in the Civil War centennial -- race, slavery and the role of U.S. Colored Troops in the Union army.

Tomorrow we are up before dawn for a memorial concert of sorts and then on to Patriots Point to watch the bombardment re-enactment.

Earlier Monday evening I attended a program entitled, "A Troubled House."

Historian Emory Thomas talked about how each side thought the war would be over quickly and little blood would be shed. That was before they knew the impact of deadly rifles, disease and casualties from mass troop formations.

"They believed the war would be short because the enemy was full of absolute cowards," Thomas said.

Fort Sumter is bathed in alternating red and blue, a beam of light soaring into the sky.

Image: The Flag of Fort Sumter, The Museum of the Confederacy

On the eve of war -- Sumter anniversary

Fort Moultrie, sadly, is little known by most Americans.

Compared to Fort Sumter, Moultrie appears to be an anonymous neighbor.

But it has a richer history -- defending Charleston from the Revolutionary War through World War II.

I always enjoy visiting, in part due to the beautiful beach and Victorian homes also on Sullivan's Island.

Today, we watched a drill and spoke with a few of the couple hundred living historians encamped at Moultrie.

On April 12, 1861, guns from several batteries and forts along the harbor fired upon the Union garrison at Fort Sumter. Moultrie was one of the closest.

Ironically, Union troops were garrisoned at Moultrie before slipping away to Sumter.

A strange fog hung over the city this afternoon, making Sumter difficult to see from the ramparts.

An artillery team explained to a flock of visitors how the 32-pound guns on Moultrie operated. Each person has a specific role during the firing.

Ken Buckey of North Carolina portrayed a surgeon of the 1st South Carolina Rifles.

I asked if the surgeon expected to be busy Tuesday.

"I think the other people [Federals] are going to have that problem," he replied. Ready for batle? "Of course, as all Southern boys should be."

Members of the 26th North Carolina drilled Monday afternoon in the grassy field between Fort Moultrie and the harbor. They are portraying the Meagher Guards, a Charleston militia unit that provided security during bombardment of Sumter.

We're eating in downtown Charleston tonight and will attend a sesquicentennial program tonight at a park in the Battery, the very tip of the peninsula.

It's called "Voices from the Civil War," and features the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Sean Newhouse, guest conductor; CSO Spiritual Ensemble & Mount Zion AME Spiritual Singers.

Video: Troops at Fort Moultrie, S.C.

Our second stop in Charleston was Fort Moultrie. Here, the 26th North Carolina drills as the Meagher Guards of Charleston, which served at the fort for the April 12, 1861, bombardment of Fort Sumter. About 300 troops were encamped over the weekend, fewer today. Sorry I could not get better video resolution.

Here she is: Gun that fires first Tuesday

We hit the mother lode on our first stop in Charleston today.

Members of the Bachmann's Battery unloaded the 10" mortar that will fire the first shot at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor during Tuesday morning's re-enactment cannonade. (click photo to enlarge)

This is a real piece that was cast well before the beginning of the Civil War on April 12, 1861.

A 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, at Fort Johnson on James Island, Steve Riggs and the other 10 or so members of the crew will fire the bombardment signal shot.

Re-enactors around the harbor will follow suit.

"We'll be dressed to beat the band," said Mike Keller of Greenville, S.C.

The sea coast mortars, during the conflict, were set behind earthworks and below a parapet.

In action, the 100-pound shell would have been lobbed 2,100 yards or so the Union fort's interior. Gunners would have used string and trigonometry to figure the distance and trajectory.

"This is one of the defining moments of American history," said Riggs, of Charleston.

The mortar is on loan from Paulson Brothers Ordnance Corp., which makes guns for re-enactments.

Descendants of the officer who fired the first round on Sumter will be on hand Tuesday for the event, which includes, the Pledge of Allegiance and a memorial to Confederate and Union troops who died in the war.

"It's exciting," said Doug Bostick, of James Island, head of the events at Fort Johnson. "We've been working on this two years."

The mortar weighs nearly 1,900 pounds. Crews poured about 10 pounds of powder. Two men lifted a ball with a pole and another wiped the barrel clean.

Maj. Robert Anderson, who commanded the Union garrison, before the war wrote an artillery manual, Riggs said.

"He gave us the instructions on how to use it," Riggs quipped.

When the solemn moment comes Tuesday, a nearby tube will fire a round that will produce a starburst shell effect over Sumter. Blue and gray light beams will soar above the fort.

Picket says 'yellow' from South Carolina!

Up this morning and stopping first at Fort Johnson, where an opening salvo was fired at Fort Sumter one hundred and fifty years ago tomorrow. Then on to Fort Moultrie for living history, encampment and living histories. Tonight, a sesquicentennial concert at the Battery in downtown Charleston. Yesterday afternoon, saw this beautiful field of collards gone to seed near Greensboro, Ga.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

He's heading up Tuesday's artillery salvo

Lancaster County, S.C., resident Claude Sinclair intends to start a war on Tuesday. At exactly 6:45 a.m., the 61-year-old social worker will order troops to bombard Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor - for the second time in 150 years. • Article

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Appomattox: A place of peace

For months, like many of you, I've been reading about the approach of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Folks, it's here.

I have been fascinated with the discussion about the war's legacy, why it happened, what we can learn from it.

At times, I am overwhelmed by it all.

That's when I let my mind wander to a quaint village in southwestern Virginia -- Appomattox Court House.

On April 9, 1865, (146 years ago today), Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia. Other units would follow suit in the following weeks.

The blood-letting was over.

Years ago, our family made a stop on the way to Washington, D.C. My kids loved the place -- it was that relaxing and peaceful.

Tomorrow, I head to Charleston, S.C., where the war started, to blog from Fort Moultrie, the Battery and other sites. Look for reports Monday into Wednesday.

I hope the next four years bring fruitful dialogue on the war. Calm, reasoned discussion and the realization that what we have in common is far greater than our differences.

150 years of Civil War re-enacting

Before the Civil War ended, reenactments began. Soldiers, freshly home from combat, recreated battle scenes to educate townspeople and honor fallen comrades. For Gettysburg's 50th anniversary in 1913, more than 50,000 Confederate and Union veterans returned to Pennsylvania. • Article

Redford's 'Conspirator' opens next week

Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator” (opening across America on Friday, April 15 — the 146th anniversary of Lincoln’s death), looks at the immediate aftermath of America’s first presidential assassination. The story explores the military tribunal that tried and convicted four people accused of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to murder Lincoln. In a Salt Lake Tribune interview, Redford talked about “The Conspirator,” the political parallels between the 1860s and today, and “what story sits underneath the story we think we know.” • Article

Friday, April 8, 2011

Yes, there is a Robert E. Lee V

Two of every three Americans have an ancestor who lived through the Civil War. It helps explain why so many people — re-enactors, treasure hunters, genealogists, collectors, hobbyists, preservationists, tourists, battlefield rats — feel so connected to a war that began 150 years ago. • Article

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Worry in Charleston over possible shutdown

A looming government shutdown is threatening to close the gates to Fort Sumter, meaning the touchstone of the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War could be dark next week for long-planned activities. • Article

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Iowa regiment witnessed carnage, showed bravery at the Battle of Shiloh

As I write this, park rangers at Shiloh National Military Park are escorting visitors across and around the fields, ponds and lanes of the battlefield, relating the story of the two-day Civil War clash that produced 23,746 casualties.

Today is significant, for April 6 and 7 mark the 149th anniversary of the Tennessee battle that sobered Americans to the reality of the cost and anticipated length of the Civil War. It lasted three more brutal years.

Spring was in full bloom in April 1862. Young soldiers were off on a big adventure, or so they thought.

At the end of the fighting at Shiloh, the Confederacy lost Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston and the battle to Union forces under Gens. Ulysses Grant and William Sherman, who came close to a disastrous loss the first day.

I last was at the battlefield more than 10 years ago, when my brother and I walked 7 or 8 miles, from Indian mounds, to the Peach Orchard, the Hornet’s Nest, Bloody Pond, Shiloh Church and back to the picturesque cemetery overlooking the Tennessee River.

The divisions of Gens. Benjamin Prentiss and W.H.L. Wallace held the center of the Federal 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.

As Confederate forces chipped away at Grant’s flanks, especially on the west, thousands of Union troops repelled attacks at Duncan Field, next to the Hornet’s Nest.

The 7th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment was among several from the Hawkeye State deployed along the Sunken Road, slowing the Confederate advance and enabling Union forces to organize reinforcements for a successful counterattack the following day.

“[The 7th] held its position, repelling a number of attacks, until late in the afternoon, when the brigade was ordered to fall back,” the National Park Service battle summary says. “In the retreat the regiment was subjected to a severe fire from both sides. It reformed in a new line of battle along a road leading to the [Pittsburg] Landing, and held that position during the night.”

“It was withdrawn from a threatened position in time to escape,” says Shiloh park ranger Charlie Spearman, who said the Hornet’s Nest was quickly being cut off by Confederates.

Some 383 were present for duty, including officers, musicians and teamsters, The 7th’s loss: 1 officer and 9 men killed; 17 men wounded; and 7 men missing.

Not so fortunate was the nearby 12th Iowa, which was ordered to hold. Of its 489 men, only 10 were not killed, wounded or captured – a staggering casualty count. Many died in prison, the Park Service says.

Historians and scholars in recent years have debated how critical the Hornet's Nest was to the battle's outcome.

The service of the 7th Iowa is being remembered by a mural and upcoming Civil War exhibit at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge, north of Des Moines.

Local artist John W. Neal spent 400 hours producing the 23-foot by 10-foot mural (click image to enlarge) showing the 7th in action on the Sunken Road.

The museum will be placing five or six uniformed figures in front of the mural to complete the image of the stand, said museum historian Michael Musel.

The museum is at the headquarters of the Iowa National Guard and recalls the military service of Iowans since the Mexican-American War. More than 76,000 Iowans fought for the Federal armies during the Civil War.

“We sent our share of troops,” Musel told the Picket.

The National Park Service is holding battle anniversary hikes at Shiloh through Friday, with a living history to follow Saturday and Sunday. The weekend events are expected to be held, even if the federal government shuts down because of a budget impasse.

The 7th Iowa was commanded by Lt. Col. James C. Parrott. His boss was Col. James M. Tuttle (right), who commanded the 1st Brigade under Wallace.

Two of Tuttle's four regiments were compelled to surrender on April 6.

"The officers and men under my command behaved nobly and gallantly during the whole time,” Tuttle wrote.

The 7th went on to fight at Corinth, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain and Bentonville, and took part in Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Iowa Gold Star Museum | • Shiloh National Military Park
Previous Picket post on the Hornet's Nest

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gazing at the faces of the young, innocent

The Library of Congress will open a new Civil War photography exhibit April 12 to coincide with the 150th anniversary. “The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection,” features 400 haunting pictures. • Article

Monday, April 4, 2011

Buckeye State begins observances Sunday

Ohio will go all-out to observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, starting with a ceremony Sunday that will re-enact the muster of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry in response to Lincoln's call after the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter. About 330,000 Ohioans served and 24,951 died in the war. • Article

Sunday, April 3, 2011

He fired first shot at Gettysburg

Lt. Marcellus E. Jones of the 8th Illinois Calvary, seeing approaching Confederate troops, wanted to have the honor of drawing first blood in the pending fight at Gettysburg. The Napierville man opened fire with a carbine. • Article

Friday, April 1, 2011

Preservationist honored, dedicates marker

The Civil War Trust recently honored Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association, and two other battlefield advocates in Georgia.

Crawford, of Atlanta, (left, in photo) received the trust's Chairman's Award last month in Savannah.

"Charlie Crawford is an indispensible source of information on all aspects of the preservation movement in the state," the trust said of the honor.

Also honored were Fort McAllister interpretive ranger Talley Kirkland and Rossville, Ga., history teacher Robert Stinson.

The GBA has assisted in the research and writing of historical markers, including one unveiled in downtown Savannah after the awards ceremony.

On January 16, 1865, Union Gen William T. Sherman issued his Special Field Order No. 15. The short-lived order redistributed roughly 400,000 confiscated acres of land from South Carolina to Florida to newly freed black families in 40-acre segments.

On January 12, Sherman met with 20 black leaders of the Savannah community, mostly Baptist and Methodist ministers, to discuss the question of emancipation, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The meeting helped convince him many of the slaves could operate their own farms, says Crawford.

"Sherman had an immensely practical orientation," Crawford added. "He knew very well that his orders would be effective only until the president and Congress addressed the issue, but he was unwilling to leave all these people unable to provide for themselves. As the last sentence of the marker explains, President Johnson rescinded the orders a few months later."

Photo by Cindy Wentworth, GBA vice president

More on awards | • History of Sherman's order