Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vessel is now Florida preserve

A Civil War-era ship that participated in one of the nation's most famous naval battles before sinking in the mouth of Tampa Bay is set to become Florida's 12th underwater archaeological preserve. The wreck of the USS Narcissus tugboat off Egmont Key is just north of Anna Maria Island. • Article

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Step right up for trading cards

National parks with ties to the Civil War are using trading cards to generate interest and help people learn more about their significance. So far, 189 cards are available at Civil War–related park sites, with others such as Shiloh and Corinth being added as sesquicentennial dates near. • Article

Monday, December 26, 2011

A tale of two cycloramas: Atlanta studies Gettysburg as it mulls moving, other options

Long, long ago – before motion pictures, "The History Channel" and 3D – cycloramas were the storytelling spectacles of the time. The huge murals presented sweeping historical scenes and singular moments of intense personal bravery or sacrifice.

European artists in the late 19th century created the building-sized round paintings. The artists often traveled to the locales to ensure historical accuracy.

Most of the paintings are gone – lost to time, the elements and the evolution of mass entertainment.

Only two remain in the United States. They feature scenes from the battles of Gettysburg and Atlanta in the Civil War.

Although few people today even know what a cyclorama is, the two masterpieces remain cultural treasures.

Gettysburg’s has glittered more brightly in recent years.

The mural (photo above) reopened in 2008 -- after a $15 million restoration -- in a different building. After receiving a new backing it was, for the first time, properly stretched, ensuring even stress on the fabric. Technicians had to re-create 14 feet of "missing" sky.

“It really is the star attraction of the museum and the visitor center,” said Katie Lawhon, spokeswoman at Gettysburg National Military Park.

For $10.50 ($12.50 starting Jan. 2, 2012), an adult visitor can take in the Cyclorama, film and museum, Lawhon said.

Some 1.2 million visitors come every year to the battlefield set among the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania.

The Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum (right), nestled in the historic Grant Park neighborhood, draws only about 75,000 patrons a year, a far cry from twice that number 10 years ago.

It lives on a $500,000 annual budget, with little or no foundation help, unlike Gettysburg.

Times are tough for governments and museums. The state of Georgia and Atlanta have invested few funds to observe or market the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, with a focus on 2014.

Some 42 feet tall and 358 feet in circumference, the Atlanta Cyclorama is the largest painting in the country. It was last overhauled 30 years ago for about $11 million. Some observers said the mural, painted in 1885-86, is deteriorating and needs significant work, according to an Atlanta Business Chronicle article.

“There are a few ripples forming in the painting,” Cyclorama marketing manager Yakingma Robinson told the Picket.

But otherwise, he said, “it’s in pretty good condition,” a comment echoed by a member of the local neighborhood group.

With concerns about attendance, funding and the condition of the painting and exhibits, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed this year assembled a task force to study solutions. A small delegation, including a staff member with the separate Atlanta History Center, last week paid a visit to Gettysburg.

Several options are on the table in Atlanta -- including new revenue models, an estimated $10 million restoration or a more high-profile location.

Exhibits -- strong on old maps but little interaction with patrons -- could use a breath of fresh air.

Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, recently wrote about his visit to the Cyclorama.

“The Cyclorama looks tired — from the seating, to the diorama to the painting itself,” Riley wrote. “Even the narrated description of the battle, which sounds dated and some claim isn’t entirely accurate, crackles through the hum of aging speakers. Last weekend, I watched as a local restoration group did some annual maintenance work on the diorama, and it’s clear that the place has seen better days.”

The museum adjoins the Atlanta Zoo which, according to published reports, may one day have use for the property.

Key to any effort is support from foundations.

Areas under consideration for a possible move are the Atlanta History Center campus in Buckhead, the former World of Coca-Cola site in Underground Atlanta and a stretch of popular venues near Centennial Olympic Park in downtown.

Gettysburg has yet another advantage when it comes to luring visitors.

It is a large battlefield, where men in blue and gray slugged it out over three days in July 1863. Tradition holds the Union victory was the turning point in the four-year conflict that claimed more than 600,000 lives.

Sprawling Atlanta, as most people know, has precious little battleground left.

“It hurts when it comes to creating a full customer experience,” Robinson told the Picket.

At one time, the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum had 15 employees. It’s down to 3 full-time employees and one part-time employee. It operates only five days a week.

Still, Robinson does what he can with available resources at the museum, which has been in the same location since 1921. He noted a small increase in attendance over the past year.

The museum also houses the Texas, famous for the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862. Robinson is organizing a day of activities in April 2012 to mark the 150th anniversary of the chase.

“We’re doing good considering the economy,” Robinson said.

“I’ve come to learn it’s a harder sell to people who don’t have an interest, he said.

The Atlanta Cyclorama, therefore, targets international tourists, senior citizens and school groups. Adult tickets cost $10.

Like the painting in Gettysburg, Atlanta’s features a diorama in the foreground, complete with models of artillery pieces, soldiers and equipment.

One soldier features the likeness of actor Clark Gable, star of the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind.”

Sitting on the 184-seat viewing platform is like a trip back in time – to a sweltering day in July 1864. The mural, all 9,334 pounds of it, is epic in scale and focus.

“The painting takes in a wide sweep of the area: the skyline of Atlanta, Kennesaw Mountain, Stone Mountain, and the smoke of a cavalry fight at Decatur,” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. “Details of the battle are as if the viewer stood just inside the Fifteenth Corps lines at about 4:30 p.m. on July 22.

“Confederates have broken through the Union lines and are resisting a Union counterattack. A prominent figure is the man who commissioned the painting, Gen. John 'Blackjack' Logan, galloping heroically to the battlefront ahead of reinforcements that will restore his lines.”

The focal point of the painting depicts fighting about a mile and a half from Grant Park.

The mural has been in Grant Park, just southeast of downtown, since the mid-1890s. And that’s where it should stay, according to an online petition and Paul Simo, historic committee chairman with the Grant Park Neighborhood Association, whose president serves on the mayor’s task force.

Grant Park is a public park named for Lemuel P. Grant, the donor of the park land and a Confederate engineer who surveyed the defensive fortifications around Atlanta. Tidy historic homes, many Victorian, surround the park.

Simo cites three reasons for keeping the museum where it is: Its historic ties to Southeast Atlanta; its history within the Grant Park neighborhood and a potentially larger economic impact, with “niche heritage tourism.”

The venue should be more dynamic, with enhanced exhibits that tell more of the neighborhood’s history, Simo said.

“You can step out of the painting into the next chapter where history continues,” he said.

While the Atlanta Cyclorama has a friendly relationship with the surrounding neighborhood, there appears to be little formal interaction.

“Our neighborhood is committed to do whatever we can do,” Simo said.

One idea, he said, is for bicyclists to have organized rides through Grant Park, East Atlanta and Kirkwood, all neighborhoods that saw heavy fighting. The Battle of Atlanta Commemoration Organization annually marks the anniversary of the battle with a variety of events in southeast Atlanta.

Even if the decision was made to move, there’s not enough time for a new museum to be built before the sesquicentennial, according to Simo. “I don’t want to see anything pushed through.”

“Our neighborhoods are the battlefield,” Simo told the Picket. “Hundreds of soldiers died all over here."

Gettysburg Cyclorama photo by Rick Lewis, National Park Service.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Alexander Gardner: Lasting images

Although often overshadowed by his former employer, Mathew B. Brady, Alexander Gardner was the one who actually took many of the Civil War’s most famous, and unsettling, pictures, including the dead at Antietam and Gettysburg. With the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the National Portrait Gallery is preparing a major exhibit on Gardner’s work. • Article

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas gift for Lincoln

On Dec. 22, 1864, as the Civil War entered its final months, Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman sent a message to President Lincoln notifying him that he had captured the city of Savannah, Ga., thereby completing his 300-mile “March to the Sea." The Union army employed a scorched-earth policy after it left Atlanta weeks earlier. • Article

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Anniversary events next week at upgraded Stones River battlefield

A new entrance, more wayside exhibits and improved trails and parking greet visitors to Stones River National Battefield, where events next week mark the 149th anniversary of the high-casualty clash in middle Tennessee.

From December 26 through January 2, 2012, park rangers and volunteers will present living history, artillery demonstrations and provide caravan tours of the site near Murfreesboro. (• Click here for details)

The Battle of Stones River was one of the most significant battles in the Western Theater, according to Gib Backlund, chief of operations at the park.

After three days of intense fighting, nearly one third of the 81,000 men who fought there became casualties, according to the National Park Service.

Monday through Friday next week (Dec. 26-30), park rangers will present a guided walk at 10 a.m., followed by a 1 p.m. program detailing the events of each day of the 1862 campaign. Daily programs will conclude with a guided caravan tour of the battlefield at 2 p.m.

Living history programs on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 (Saturday-Sunday) include stories of the most pivotal battle actions through the stories of soldiers. Programs will be presented at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., and 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

Union artillery will take center stage on January 2 (Monday), with firings at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Between firings, Union cannoneers will share their perspectives on the battle’s bloody climax on January 2, 1863.

Backlund said current plans for 2012 -- the 150th anniversary of the battle -- include a scholarly symposium in late October and a program in May that features baseball and other recreational pastimes during the Civil War.

Stones River currently receives about 200,000 visitors a year. A new entrance (above) on Thompson Lane might lure more.

"We think the new main entrance may make it easier to find us," said Backlund.

The battlefield has added pedestrian and bicycle amenities, including a path from the visitors center to the cemetery, which holds about 6,100 dead from the four-year conflict.

The park is trying to reach more school groups and a broader audience. "I think there is a little more diversity" among visitors, Backlund said.

Exhibits at the visitors center touch on secession and Reconstruction.

Additional wayside exibits are designed to capture the attention of visitors, who tend to spend only a minute reading them.

"They tell you what happened on the piece of ground you are standing on," Backlund said.

Telling the story of what happened at Stones River is hindered somewhat by the lack of any wartime photographs showing the site.

After Gen. Braxton Bragg’s defeat at Perryville, Ky., he and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi retreated, reorganized and were redesignated as the Army of Tennessee. They then advanced to Murfreesboro and prepared to go into winter quarters.

Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans’s Union Army of the Cumberland found Bragg’s army on December 29, 1862, and went into camp that night, within hearing distance of the Rebels, according to a National Park Service summary of the battle.

On Dec. 31, Bragg’s men attacked the Union right flank, where they made progress before being stopped by a stronger Federal line. On Jan 2., 1863, Bragg hurled a division at a Union unit. The Confederates drove most of the Federals back across McFadden’s Ford, but with the assistance of artillery, the Federals repulsed the attack, compelling the Rebels to retire to their original position. Bragg left the field on the January 4-5, retreating to Shelbyville and Tullahoma, Tenn.

"Stones River boosted Union morale," according to the NPS. "The Confederates had been thrown back in the east, west and in the Trans-Mississippi."

Photos courtesy of the National Park Service. Stones River National Battlefield is at 3501 Old Nashville Highway, northwest of Murfreesboro. Additional information is available at the visitors center or by calling (615) 893-9501.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Go deep on Gettysburg at seminar

Civil war buffs, and those fascinated by American history in general, can make plans now to attend the 2012 Gettysburg Seminar, which will explore some of the long burning issues of the battle at Gettysburg. The seminar, scheduled for April 13-15, is sponsored by Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation. • Article

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Views from the Lincoln cottage

President Abraham Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington is opening an exhibit featuring images of wartime in the nation’s capital during the Civil War. “Seat of War” includes historic prints from the collection held at Lincoln’s summertime retreat. • Article

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Elmira prison granary may be rebuilt

The sole remaining building from the infamous Elmira Civil War prison camp in New York may be reconstructed close to its original site. The granary building, which was painstakingly dismantled and its pieces numbered, has been in storage at various locations for years as historians and others try to figure out what to do with it. • Article

Friday, December 9, 2011

Second Antietam event organized

A living history group is announcing plans for a second re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam in western Maryland next September to mark the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest day of the Civil War. Events will be held on private land. • Article

Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Great Locomotive Chase': Plans for 150th are gathering steam

(Updated March 21) Ceremonies, model trains, movie screenings, music and tours will be part of April 2012 observances of the 150th anniversary of the daring Union effort to disrupt rail traffic between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., during the Civil War.

James Andrews and his band of raiders tried to destroy much of the Western & Atlantic Railroad and communications as they rushed northward on April 12, 1862. They achieved little success and eight of the nearly two dozen captured participants, disguised as civilians, were later hanged in Atlanta as spies. Andrews was among them.

The Picket got in touch with cities along the route of the Great Locomotive Chase, which began in Big Shanty (present-day Kennesaw) and ended just above Ringgold, below Chattanooga.


The Andrews Raid began above Atlanta, but the museum at Grant Park houses the Texas (right), the locomotive that eventually caught up with the General.

The Atlanta Cyclorama is planning activities, said marketing manager Yakingma Robinson, but on March 21 they had not been finalized.


Andrews and his men rendezvoused in Marietta, just northwest of Atlanta, to begin their journey north. They intended to destroy track, trestles, bridges and telegraph lines. A dogged pursuit left them little opportunity to do much damage.

The city has a bevy of events planned over a week, said Theresa Jenkins of the Marietta Welcome Center. There will be some free events. Contact the welcome center for more details.

Thursday, April 12
The city’s celebration begins at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre with the “re-premiere” of the 1956 Disney film “The Great Locomotive Chase,” starring Fess Parker. It will include a red carpet, dinner, organ recital, the movie and a champagne and dessert reception. Current schedule is 6 p.m. until about 11 p.m. Ticket prices: $75 for VIP (includes red carpet, dinner, movie and champagne reception); $35 general Admission (includes movie & champagne reception)

Friday, April 13
10am-5pm: Civil War Home Front Days. How the home folks fared during the war. – Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, Marietta Museum of History, Root House Museum
10am-5pm - Tours of Old Zion Heritage Church
10 a.m. and 2pm – “Technology during the Civil War,” Marietta Museum of History
11am-5pm – “Homes & Heroes of the Civil War Exhibit”, Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art
11am & 1pm – Historic Marietta Trolley Tours
8pm - Showing of “The General” and organ concert, Earl Smith Strand Theatre

Saturday, April 14
11am-3pm Living history on the Marietta Square – characters from the chase as well as Marietta’s Civil War history will tell their stories.
10am-5pm - Tours of Old Zion Heritage Church
10am-5pm – Civil War Home Front Days – Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, Marietta Museum of History, Root House Museum
10 am & 2pm – “Technology during the Civil War,” Marietta Museum of History
11am-4pm -“Homes & Heroes of the Civil War Exhibit”, Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art
11am-4pm – “Texas III and Me Tour: From the Rails to the Road”
Enjoy a tour of the Great Locomotive Chase segment from Marietta (Marietta Museum of History in the Kennesaw House) to Kennesaw (Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, home of the General). The tour takes place aboard the Texas III a replica of the original Texas, the chase locomotive (converted from an army truck). Tours begin at Glover Park, Historic Marietta Square
11am & 2pm – Civil War music concerts. 8th Regiment Band of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Glover Park, Historic Marietta Square
4pm-6pm – Disney Party for Kids sponsored by Radio Disney, Glover Park
8pm Showing of “The General” and organ concert, Earl Smith Strand Theatre

Sunday, April 15
10am-4pm – Civil War Home Front Days – Marietta Museum of History & Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum
11am-4pm -“Homes & Heroes of the Civil War Exhibit”, Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art
1pm-5pm - Statue Dedication at Marietta Confederate Cemetery & cemetery tours
1pm-5pm - Tours of Old Zion Heritage Church

More details, related websites


The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History is a big player in the anniversary events. After all, it houses the General and related exhibits. The city also is organizing events, and is helping to host a breakfast on the actual anniversary.

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

Western & Atlantic Railroad conductor William A. Fuller was shocked to see a group of men steal the General while passengers and crew were enjoying breakfast at the Lacy Hotel in Big Shanty.

Fuller and a couple others ran north after his train. He didn’t yet know it had been taken by the Union commandos. The conductor ran across a handcar and three trains and traveled 86 miles -- along with Confederate horsemen who had been reached by telegraph -- after the raiders.

The Southern Museum has released a list of activities:

-- Civil War Symposium: March 23, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. A film, lecture and tour will be held at the museum in partnership with Kennesaw State University.

-- April 12 (Thursday): Breakfast and at 6 a.m. at the Trackside Grill with actors to re-create the beginning of the Great Locomotive Chase near the original location of the Lacy Hotel. Tickets are $20.

Free commemoration ceremony at 8:30 a.m. in the depot area, with speeches by dignitaries and a citywide parade. Starting at 9:30 a.m., all-day free admission and guided tours of the museum.

Programming includes the donation of Sgt. John Morehead Scott’s Medal of Honor to the museum by the Waggoner family of Ohio. Scott was one of the raiders.

Following a sold-out fund-raising dinner at the Trackside Grill; the museum hosts “Dessert at the Southern Museum” featuring musician Bobby Horton, who will be performing Civil War-era songs; tickets are $25. The event is set for 8:30 p.m.

-- April 14-15: Several re-enactment units will interpret Camp McDonald, the Confederate encampment once located across the tracks from the Lacy Hotel. This event, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, is to take place on the lawn across the street from the museum. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 4-12, while children 3 years old and younger are free. Tickets also allow entry into the museum, which will operate normal hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 14 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 15.

-- May 26: Descendants of participants in the chase will unite for a day of storytelling and camaraderie. This is an invitation-only event that includes the Great Locomotive Chase bus tour, followed by a catered dinner.


On April 21, tour Allatoona Pass, where the chase continued, with interpreters and re-enactors providing accounts. Sponsored by Red Top Mountain State Park. Allatoona Pass Battlefield, Old Allatoona Road, Emerson, Ga. $5 parking. 770-975-0055.


The raiders had to wait for almost an hour at Kingston while several southbound freight trains cleared the tracks, according to the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Four minutes after the General left Kingston's yard, the Confederate crew arrived on the Yonah. Instead of trying to negotiate the complicated Kingston rail yard, the Confederates took a locomotive owned by the Rome Railroad and continued the chase.

Confederates chasing the General switched to the Texas in Adairsville, and ran it in reverse as they followed Andrews (left).

The 1847 W&A Railroad Depot, 101 Public Square, features displays of Adairsville's role in the raid, its local history and tributes to early life in Adairsville.

-- Events in Adairsville April 12-14 include depot tours, re-enactors in period dress, dinner theater at the 1902 Stock Exchange, special exhibits, an afternoon tea, old-time games, treats and live Civil War-era music. There also will be a showing of "The General" by Buster Keaton, and Walt Disney's "The Great Locomotive Chase." • See full schedule of events. Directions: I-75 Exit #306, GA Hwy. 140 west. Straight through traffic light across US Hwy. 41, then left onto Main Street. Continue one mile to Adairsville's historic Public Square on the right.

-- The chase will be remembered in Kingston at 1:30 p.m. on April 12. The city will recognize Uriah Stephens, who attempted to stop Andrews on a siding at the town depot. Stephens specifically resisted Andrews' demands to "throw the switch" to return the General to the main line. • More details


Events are planned April 14 around the Calhoun depot and GEM Theatre, according to Ken Padgett of the Friends of Resaca Battlefield.

Padgett told the Calhoun Times that raiders cut telegraph lines when they went through the city. In Resaca, men on the General detached a rail car and set it on fire on the rail bridge in hopes of burning it down. The bridge was not burned completely because of a rainstorm, Padgett told the Times.

Fuller first spied the Union raiders just south of Resaca, near the Oostanaula River.

Festivities in Calhoun kick off at 3 p.m. April 14 (Saturday). Re-enactors will display weapons and an artillery piece.

The Gordon County Historical Society will host a signing of the book "Crossroads to Conflict," a complete history of Georgia and the Civil War, by author Barry Brown. 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the GEM Theatre. The volume will be sold at a reduced price.

At 3:30 p.m., Padgett will present a light-humored telling of the Andrews Raid as it relates to the Calhoun and Resaca area. At 4 p.m., the GEM will show the 90-minute Walt Disney movie, "The Great Locomotive Chase." The screening is free.

At 7:30 p.m. at the GEM, Bobby Horton is in concert, featuring stories, songs and period instruments. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students.

More information on the event.


One of Andrews’ targets was supposed to be the 1,477-foot tunnel blasted through Chetoogeta Mountain at appropriately named Tunnel Hill, a town 110 miles north of Atlanta.

A tour on Saturday, April 14, is sold out, said Ty Snyder, manager of visitors centers for the Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The day will include a stop at the abandoned Western & Atlantic rail roadbed in Tilton, and the stone trestle and site of Green’s Wood station. Lunch will be held at the Western & Atlantic Depot (Dalton Depot Restaurant) in downtown. Participants also will see the Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel & Museum in Tunnel Hill.

Because pursuers were closing fast on the General, it could take on only a little water and wood in Tilton.


At about 1 p.m. April 12, 1862, the General ran out of wood and water two miles north of this city, with the Southerners, aboard the Texas, fast upon them. The Confederates rounded up all the raiders.

Eight of the 20 were tried as spies and executed in Atlanta. The rest either escaped or were exchanged, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Andrews and a couple other raiders were civilians. The rest were soldiers. The very first Medals of Honor were given to some of these Federal men.

City Manager Dan Wright told the Picket an interpretive marker about the chase recently arrived. A new rail-viewing platform (above) also has been dedicated at the depot.

Credits: Chase map, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia; W&A tunnel photo courtesy of Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; rail platform photo courtesy of city of Ringgold

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wilson's Creek artifacts off display

The Civil War museum at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield closed last week, and its artifacts won't return to public view until April 2013. Conservation specialists will be at the Missouri battlefield in January to determine what needs to be done to clean and repair pieces in the collection. • Article

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Antietam aglow with luminarias

When dusk falls Saturday night, Antietam National Battlefield will be alight with 23,110 luminarias, each representing a casualty of the Sept. 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam. More than 1,400 volunteers were expected to be out Saturday morning to place the luminarias on the battlefield, which saw the bloodiest single day of fighting of the Civil War. • Article

Thursday, December 1, 2011

West Va. releases regional videos

The state Division of Tourism is marking the 150th anniversary of the war by unveiling a series of nine heritage videos. The roughly six-minute video for the Mid-Ohio Valley, for example, talks about battles in Cairo, Burning Springs, Grantsville, Spencer, Ripley, Buffington Island and Belleville Island. • Article