Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Longstreet Society seminar at Manassas

Some of you may recall the Picket's two-part report on Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, who spent his last years in Gainesville, Ga.

I find his controversial legacy one of the most fascinating aspects of postwar scholarly and public debate.

The Gainesville-based Longstreet Society is holding its annual seminar Oct. 1-2 at the Manassas battlefield in Virginia. Longstreet was present at both battles there. Society president Richard Pilcher said Longstret's performance at the 1862 clash was among his best.

Preview of this year's seminar
General's vilification and vindication
Southern-fried Longstreet

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dressmaker strives for authenticity

In addition to those she sews for others, Ellyn Painter has made herself more than a dozen dresses and several ball gowns. The Michigan woman wears them to re-enactments and to dances sponsored by Civil War re-enactment groups. • Article

Saturday, August 27, 2011

New quarter features USS Cairo

Vicksburg National Military Park on Aug. 30 will unveil the "America the Beautiful" Vicksburg quarter. The coin features the USS Cairo, a gunboat used during the Civil War and the first to be sunk by a naval mine, on the Yazoo River in 1862. • Article

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gettysburg removes non-historic structures

Gettysburg National Military Park is demolishing 10 non-historic structures, many of them old homes, on parcels obtained within the battlefield.

"The economic slowdown of the last three years has resulted in more willing-sellers of land within the park boundary coming forward and talking with the National Park Service about selling their property," according to From the Fields of Gettysburg, the park's blog.

Amnong structures to be removed are post-Civil War homes, a pond, fencing and a golf cart storage shed.

"Once we acquire a parcel of land, as often as not there is at least one modern house or other structure on it," the park said. "We then go through the process required to tear down the post-battle era buildings and return the land more to its 1863 look."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy birthday! Picket turns 2

Two years ago today, barely understanding the technology, I posted my first Civil War Picket blog item -- on the re-enactment of the Battle of Atlanta.

It's been a great adventure since. I've made a few trips, taken some photographs and have had the opportunity to talk with a bunch of interesting folks.

I'd like to thank each of you for your interest, time and support. The Picket would love to get your feedback from time to time, so please go to our Facebook page or drop a comment on the postings themselves.

Just for fun, I thought I'd list some of my favorite items over the past 12 months. Click on each to read the story:

Son of Confederate veteran recalls stories he heard
Artist Alfred Waud | Living historian portrays him
The bumbling, likeable Ambrose Burnside

Descendant returns Confederate unit's flag to fort
Neighborhoods to restore monuments to generals
African-American attitudes on Civil War | • Part 1
Recounting the dead in North Carolina
No farbs here: Authentic Campaigner website
Fascinating French flag ruse
From slaves to warriors in blue

Firing guns at Fort Sumter during re-enactment
Charleston lectures mark 150th anniversary
Young German re-enacts on first U.S. visit

The Atlanta battle you'd never heard about
Road trip! Jeff Davis, Blue & Gray museums
Fixing up cemetery next to Confederate hospital site
River city sent soldiers, guns and steel
Touch the map and zoom in on Battle of Atlanta

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Exhibit details Tennessee's vital role

A traveling exhibition opens Wednesday in Brownsville, Tenn. "Hoofbeats in the Heartland: Civil War Cavalry in Tennessee," organized by the Tennessee State Museum, will run at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center until Oct. 31. • Article

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mansion on hanging site for sale

A piece of Civil War history important to both Virginia and West Virginia is going on the auction block — a 19th century mansion on Charles Town land where abolitionist John Brown was hanged more than 150 years ago. • Article

Friday, August 19, 2011

Memorial service this weekend for Battle of Lovejoy's Station casualties

The Friends of Nash Farm Battlefield are hosting a 10 a.m. memorial service on Saturday (August 20) to honor those who fought and died during the Battle of Lovejoy's Station in August 1864 near Hampton, Ga.

The keynote address will be given by David Evans, author of "Sherman's Horsemen."

More than 400 names of Federals and Confederates who were killed, wounded or missing in the battle will be read.

"Additionally, 500 US and CS flags are placed in the field to represent the known casualties of the battle. Their waving in the breeze is a magnificent site to see," the group says.

The ceremony starts at 10 a.m. at the Nash Farm Battlefield, 100 Babbs Mill Road, Hampton, Ga. 30228. The museum will be open and show new acquisitions since its opening in February.

National Park Service summary of the battle: Maj. Gen. William Sherman sent Judson Kilpatrick (photo) and his cavalry to raid Rebel supply lines. Leaving on August 18, Kilpatrick hit the Atlanta & West Point Railroad, tearing up a small area of tracks. Next, Kilpatrick headed for Lovejoy’s Station on the Macon & Western Railroad. In transit, on the 19th, Kilpatrick’s men hit the Jonesborough supply depot on the Macon & Western Railroad, burning great amounts of supplies. On the 20th, they reached Lovejoy’s Station. Rebel infantry (Cleburne’s Division) appeared and the raiders were forced to fight into the night, finally fleeing to prevent encirclement. Although Kilpatrick had destroyed supplies and track at Lovejoy’s Station, the railroad line was back in operation in two days.

"If Kilpatrick had succeeded in crippling Atlanta's last remaining supply line, as Sherman hoped, the Confederates would have had to abandon the city, retreating southward or risking everything on the outcome of a pitched battle," according to Evans. In order to cut the single remaining railroad that was Atlanta's sole source of supply, Sherman now turned to his infantry.

More artifacts found at Ga. prison site

Georgia Southern University archaeology students uncover more Union prisoner items --including a badge, man's ring, keys and pocketknife -- at the site of the large Confederate prison near Millen. • Article | • Museum acquires POW letter

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hari Jones at Cyclorama lecture

Civil War expert and curator Hari Jones is taking part in a lecture, "From Civil War to Civil Rights," Thursday night (Aug. 18) at the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum.

The free program, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., also features Gordon L. Jones, senior military historian and curator at the Atlanta History Center, and Alexis Scott, publisher of the Atlanta Daily World.

Jones is curator of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, which reopened in a new space last month in Washington, D.C. An exhibit, "The Glorious March to Liberty," spans the Civil War to the civil rights era.

"This story is one of the best-kept secrets in American history," Jones recently told the Washington Examiner. "Well-educated Americans will often find the true story unbelievable. We're taught that African-Americans did little or nothing to free themselves."

Jones' lectures have included U.S. Colored Troops and African-American spies.

Using documents and research, the panelists will discuss how the Civil War helped lay the foundation for the civil rights movement.

The lecture is sponsored by the city's Office of Cultural Affairs. The Cyclorama is at 800 Cherokee Avenue SE.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Events planned at Outer Banks community

Civil War buffs who enjoy the beach are in for a treat. Flags Over Hatteras, a major component of North Carolina's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the war, will take place Aug. 25-28 in the Hatteras community. • Article

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dig deep into history at Petersburg

Virginia is rife with Civil War battle sites, many of which are part of the National Park system. One that seems to rise above others, according to National Parks Traveler, is Petersburg National Battlefield, which history has left with a massive crater from a poorly executed Union attack. • Article

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fascinating finds in USS Monitor turret

A team in Newport News, Va., is carrying out the last mechanical cleaning of the Civil War turret recovered in 2002, making discoveries along the way. • Article

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rare artifact given to Marine Corps museum

The head of one of the sledgehammers that Marines used to batter the doors of abolitionist John Brown's hideout at Harpers Ferry, West Va., on the eve of the Civil War has been donated to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. • Article

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Plans made for Antietam, South Mountain

An estimated 4,000 Civil War re-enactors will stage a public re-enactment of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam on Sept. 8 and 9, 2012, on private land near Boonsboro, Md. • Article

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bullets discovered in Gettysburg tree

For years, visitors and staff at the Gettysburg battlefield would occasionally come across bullets and pieces of artillery shells lodged in trees.

But as time passed, and the number of "Witness Trees" declined, such discoveries plummeted.

Last Thursday, maintenance workers at Gettysburg National Military Park came across at least two bullets when their saw cut through a fallen tree on Culp's Hill, Superintendent Bob Kirby announced Tuesday.

"It's part of the story," park historian John Heiser told the Picket. "There are still relics of this battle surviving on the field."

Two sections of the trunk where the bullets were discovered have been moved to the park’s museum collections storage facility. The sections will be treated to remove insects and mold and then added to the museum collections.

One of the bullets is believed to be a minie ball, said park spokesperson Katie Lawhon.

The bullets were in an oak tree that fell several years ago and was lying on a boulder, said Lawhon. Due to the steepness of the rocky slope, the remainder of the tree will remain in place, officials said.

Lawhon said the bullets struck about 13 feet up the oak, which was likely 100 years old at the time of the July 1-3, 1863, battle in southern Pennsylvania. Culp's Hill was a critical part of the Union defensive line, the right flank of what is described as the "fish-hook" line.

"The tree may have twisted and rolled when it fell so we may never know which side of the tree the bullets hit: the downhill or the uphill side," the park says in its blog. "That clue might have helped us know whether they came from Union guns or Confederate."

The tree almost touches a small monument to Maj. Joshua G. Palmer. Palmer, a dentist from Urbana, Ohio, was leading elements of the 66th Ohio Infantry Regiment when he was mortally wounded July 3, 1863, on the eastern slope of Culp's Hill.

Early that morning, the 66th Ohio was sent in to clear Confederates below the main summit and earthworks, Heiser said. "It was an effort to sweep the front of the hill."

Heiser estimates the bullets struck the tree the evening of July 2 or the morning of July 3. That part of the Culp's Hill was held by the Union 12th Corps and New Yorkers under Brig. Gen. George S. Greene.

Although there has never been a inventory conducted of witness trees (those in existence in 1863), "there are a lot more ... than anybody knew about," Lawhon told the Picket.

Some, like ones near Hancock Avenue and Gen. Daniel Sickles' headquarters, are near public routes. Others are less accessible.

In the late 1980s, wind pushed down several trees on Culp's Hill, yielding bullets, Heiser said.

Fewer than 100 witness trees remain at Gettysburg, with several dying in the past couple decades, Heiser said.

"Time marches on," he said.

Tree and bullet photos by the National Park Service. Photo of Palmer monument by Craig Swain, HMdb.org

Monday, August 8, 2011

Great-grandson returns surrendered Rebel flag to Civil War site in coastal Georgia

Civil War Picket exclusive: First of 3 parts

Last autumn, Robert “Bob” Clayton left the vacation community he’s called home 43 years for a visit to coastal Georgia.

Among his stops was Fort McAllister Historic Park, nestled in tall grass along a river bank southwest of Savannah.

Clayton walked through the remains of the earthen Civil War fortification, which fell to Union forces near the end of Gen. William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Clayton asked park manager Daniel Brown if the state might be interested in something he had back home in Islesboro, Maine.

“Maybe it’s time for me to send it back,” Clayton recalled thinking.

A few months later, the homebuilder, 66, donated a silk unit flag that his great-grandfather, an artillery officer, received and kept as a souvenir when Union troops captured McAllister on Dec. 13, 1864.

With Clayton's gesture, the headquarters flag of the Emmett Rifles, Company F, 22nd Battalion, Georgia Heavy Artillery, was back home.

“This is very significant,” said Jim Dunigan, a 31-year-old in the Emmett Rifles living history group. “Savannah is getting a piece of her history back.”

The banner that belonged to the Emmett Rifles, a local militia-home guard company, was one of at least five taken by the victors at Fort McAllister, which guarded the Ogechee River approach to Savannah, said Brown. It is in very good shape and is currently being conserved.

It will be formally unveiled Dec. 10 during McAllister’s annual winter muster and battle re-enactment. (Editor's note: The ceremony has been rescheduled for April 21, 2012)

“It’s a piece of history,” Brown said. “You can’t put a price tag on this thing.”

Unlike the brick and supposedly impregnable Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River, McAllister had a unique design of earthworks that thwarted the Union navy during seven assaults.

But it was designed to fight ships, not large numbers of troops.

By late 1864, Sherman was tightening the noose on Savannah, determined to make it a Christmas present for President Abraham Lincoln.

Taking McAllister was crucial to the siege. Sherman wanted it eliminated so that ships could resupply his hungry and tired army. It also gave him access to vital Confederate railroads.

On Dec. 13, 1864, more than 3,000 forces in blue overwhelmed the 230 defenders. The fight was over in 15 minutes.

After the Civil War, McAllister, which had an arsenal that included 8-inch and 10-inch Columbiad seacoast defense guns, largely slipped into obscurity before auto magnate Henry Ford reconstructed much of it, including the central bombproof, in the 1930s.

“A large part of the fort is still there,” said Roger S. Durham, author of “Guardian of Savannah,” which details McAllister’s service to the Confederacy.

In April 1862, Fort Pulaski was pulverized by Union rifled cannons, effectively bringing the end to masonry defenses.

The two companies of men assigned to McAllister near Richmond Hill, Ga., had an advantage. “It was easier to shovel sand (back) into place than a pile of bricks,” said Durham.

Durham, who served as superintendent at McAllister many years ago, said the return of an item like the Emmett Rifles flag is unusual.

“It doesn’t happen that often.”

Clayton’s son found the flag about 20 years ago among items in two cardboard boxes stored by Clayton’s father in an upstairs bedroom.

The flag includes two dates: Feb. 1, 1863, when the ironclad USS Montauk led an attack, and March 3, 1863, when the Confederates rebuffed four ironclads whose weapons damaged the fort during an eight-hour bombardment. Repairs were quickly made.

Clayton placed the Emmett Rifles in a frame and displayed it in the living room.

But the New Jersey native was mindful of a note that was stored along with it:

“To be return(ed) to Savannah or Atlanta sometime.”

The great-grandson made good on that wish.

PART 2: An indepth look at the role of home guard/militia units like the Emmett Rifles and Savannah Republican Blues.
PART 3: The man who returned the flag, William Zoron Clayton, was wounded at Shiloh, led full life.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wilson's Creek re-enactment coming up

Wednesday marks 150 years since Nathaniel Lyon was killed in a battle in southwest Missouri, becoming the first Union general to die in the Civil War. Before the day of fighting was over, he was joined in death by 258 Union soldiers and 277 Confederate and pro-Southern Missouri State Guard soldiers. A re-enactment of the battle is set for Aug. 12-14. • Article

Friday, August 5, 2011

Slate launches Civil War series

If you've ever visited Civil War battlefields or watched re-enactors stage non-lethal facsimiles of famous skirmishes, you've no doubt tried to imagine what it would have been like to witness the real deal. It turns out some tourists did just that 150 years ago at Manassas, Va. • First podcast in series

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wilder Brigade monument shut for repairs

The Wilder Brigade Monument on the Chickamauga Battlefield will be closed from Aug. 8-Sept. 2 in order to replace stairway handrails, along with the safety railing at the top, officials said. On September 20, 1863, Wilder's brigade was one of the few Union units that was not immediately routed by a Confederate onslaught.• Article

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tredegar center adds actor to its board

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar has added some star power to its board. The Richmond, Va., attraction says Norfolk native Tim Reid is among four new members named to its board. • Article