Monday, December 24, 2012

Trust buys Franklin, Tenn., shopping center

The Civil War Trust has finalized purchase of a shopping strip center in Franklin to eventually restore the land to its battlefield appearance. This site along with the 110-acre Eastern Flank will expand upon the battleground near the historic Carter House, which is overseen by the Battle of Franklin Trust. •  Article

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reporter films re-enactment with POV camera

Haven't seen one quite from this angle before. A Michigan newsman, dressed as a Confederate, placed a camera on his forehead to film a re-enactment of the Battle of Sheperdstown in what is now West Virginia. Photos and video

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Confederate shell is a family heirloom

A Pennsylvania family has kept a 10-pound artillery shell ever since it was dug up on their property in 1917. The round was fired by McGregor's Battery, part of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry forces that clashed with Union cavalry on June 30, 1863, in and around Hanover. The Blettner's would like to see the shell put on display, perhaps with the Gettysburg electric map that was recently purchased by a businessman for a proposed Hanover Heritage and Conference Center. • Article

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fresh insights into the Civil War

Civil War medicine, diplomacy and the Emancipation Proclamation will be discussed at an October 13 symposium entitled “1862: Following the Path to  Freedom” at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

The 9 a.m. to noon event is sponsored by the school’s Civil War Center in partnership with Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Speakers include:

-- George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md., will share insights on Civil War medical practices.

--  Howard Jones, research professor at the University of Alabama, and author of numerous publications, will lecture on diplomacy efforts.

-- Craig L. Symonds, professor emeritus at the U.S.  Naval Academy where he taught naval history and Civil War history for 30 years, will discuss Abraham Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and the president's efforts toward colonization.

The free symposium is at Kennesaw State University, 1000 Chastain Rd., Kennesaw, Ga 30144, Social Sciences Building, auditorium room 1021. Free parking will be available in the West Parking Deck, on Campus Loop Drive. More details on the center.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Picture perfect: Trust's 2012 contest winners

Buddy Secor from Stafford, Va., was the grand prize winner in the Civil War Trust's annual photography contest. "His beautiful photo of a misty dawn at Fairview on the Chancellorsville Battlefield took our breath away," the battlefield preservation group said. See winning photos

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spielberg to speak at Gettysburg Address event

Director Steven Spielberg, whose "Lincoln" is scheduled for release the previous week, will speak Nov. 19 on the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

Spielberg will take part in a Dedication Day ceremony at Soldiers' National Cemetery, sponsors of the event announced Tuesday. 

“It is an honor to be asked to speak at such a hallowed place on the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address," the director said in a statement. "I look forward to visiting Pennsylvania and commemorating this important moment in our nation’s history.” The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis.

The 9:30 a.m. ceremony is open to the public. • Details

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Book review: Grant, savior of the Union

Civil War and scholar Russell Bonds reviews H.W. Brands' "The Man Who Saved the Union," a sweeping look at Ulysses S. Grant and 19th century America. Writes Bonds: "Mr. Brands drives home one point on which detractors and admirers can agree: Time and again, Grant accomplished what he set his mind to." • Review

Friday, September 28, 2012

Yosemite as a soothing place to heal?

You might not connect Yosemite National Park to the Civil War. But Frederick Law Olmsted, co-creator of Central Park, certainly did. Eyewitness to the horrific destruction wrought by the war when he served as general secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission, a Red Cross-like operation for the North, Olmsted despaired as the nation became, in his words, a "republic of suffering." In 1864, when he was briefly relocated to California, Olmsted envisioned the Yosemite Valley as a convalescent, even redemptive, site of national healing. • Column

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Learn more about the use of bugle calls

On Saturday, Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia welcomes William Stallings, who will demonstrate the role of bugle calls. Formal presentations begin at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Eastern Front Unit Visitor Center. • Article

Friday, September 21, 2012

Soldier's grave to be rededicated

The grave of a Minnesota Civil War soldier that became overgrown will be rededicated during a formal ceremony Saturday. Pvt. Edmund Sampare, who died on Sept. 17, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam, was a member of the Second Regiment, U.S. Sharpshooters, which saw action until nearly the end of the conflict. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, and his gravestone laid flat in 1940 to protect it from further erosion. The stone became overgrown, but was found by a member of the Minnesota Historical Society. • Article

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Battle flags: 'Red, White and Battered'

A flag used by the 9th Volunteer Infantry and eight other banners from New York's battle flags collection are part of the newest installment of an exhibit commemorating the Civil War's sesquicentennial. Officials on Wednesday open the new exhibit, titled "1862: Red, White and Battered." • Article

Monday, September 17, 2012

Remembering America's bloodiest single day

Today I am thinking of Antietam, for Sept. 17, 1862, always makes me circumspect about its significance. The outcome laid the groundwork for the Emancipation Proclamation and the reunification of this country. I think, also, of all those lives lost and shattered on the fields of western Maryland at Sharpsburg.
On this 150th anniversary, I recommend following the Facebook link below. The park staff been doing a great job the past week of posting fresh articles, photos and video, almost as they happen. I've included a few Picket links inspired by my 2010 visit.
Updates throughout the day from battlefield
Picket archives: Burnside the bumbler
Then and now photos of Bloody Lane, elsewhere
The serenity of Dunker Church
Lessons we've learned from Civil War medicine

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The day powder ripped Pittsburgh arsenal

On Sept. 17, 1862, as the Civil War's single bloodiest day of fighting raged at the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Md., 156 women worked feverishly at the U.S. Allegheny Arsenal in Lawrenceville, Pa., to make ammunition for Union troops. Suddenly, three thunderous explosions rocked the factory. Ultimately, 78 people perished in the Civil War's worst civilian disaster. • Article

Friday, September 14, 2012

Palmyra Massacre: Missouri community once divided by war remembers raid, executions

For residents of a small, agricultural town 125 miles north of St. Louis, Mo., the front line of the Civil War was in their fairgrounds on Oct. 18, 1862.

Ten men, a mix of Confederate soldiers and Southern sympathizers, sat on the foot of their coffins as a firing squad stood 30 feet away.

Union Maj. Isham Dodson called the squad to attention and, according to an article on the Missouri Civil War Sesquicentennial website, gave the orders: “Ready, aim -- thus perish all traitors to their country’s flag -- fire!”

The incident became known as the "Palmyra Massacre." The Union colonel in charge of a militia unit defended his decision to have the men executed when a Union sympathizer taken during a Rebel raid in Palmyra was not safely returned. Outraged Confederates, for their part, used the episode as a recruiting tool.

"Missouri was very conflicted. This was a federally held town even though the majority of the residents were Confederate sympathizers," said Cindy Stuhlman, event coordinator for this Saturday's "Palmyra Civil War Remembrance Day."

These were the days of allegiance oaths. Marion County farmers, some of whom owned slaves, knew where their neighbors stood -- for the Union, or for the South. In some cases, it was brother against brother.

Donations made at Saturday's event, which includes a noon Missouri Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans ceremony at a monument marking the massacre, will go toward maintaining the Old Marion County Jail and the Gardner House Museum, both managed by a local group called the Heritage Seekers Historical Society.

The old jail housed the 10 prisoners selected for execution. This year's event focuses on the Porter Raid, which precipitated the bloody incident.

Confederate Col. Joseph E. Porter was on a recruiting mission in mid-September 1862, when his forces stormed into Palmyra, freed about 50 prisoners and took captive Andrew Allsman, 60, an alleged Union informant.

Col. John McNeil, who commanded the Union’s 2nd Missouri State Militia in Palmyra, demanded the safe return of Allsman. He posted a newspaper notice warning Porter to return Allsman within 10 days or 10 men jailed in Palmyra and Hannibal would be shot. Most of the prisoners had taken part in Porter's campaign.

"What exactly happened to Allsman has never been clearly established, but he was undoubtedly shot and killed by someone," according to the Missouri sesquicentennial website.

When no word came from Porter, the 10 men were taken from the jail to the fairgrounds. Only three died instantly; the remainder were finished off with pistol shots. The bodies were returned to the town square so relatives could retrieve them.

McNeil (left) was labeled the "Butcher of Palmyra," and despite his explanations, remained the subject of bitter feelings during and after the war.

Palmyra moved on after those difficult, dark days. But many residents still don't like to talk about the raid and massacre, Stuhlman told the Picket. She said Palmyra was "polarized" and "conflicted" during the Civil War.

Saturday's remembrance day will cover more than the raid and massacre.

The public can enjoy trolley rides, a Sanitary Commission and quilt display, a ladies' tea and an evening dinner-theater featuring a meal, fiddle music and a living history of Palmyra and the war.

An Underground Railroad quilt presentation is planned at the Gardner House, according to curator Sharon Harrison of Palmyra Heritage Seekers.

"Legend has it quilts were hung out by those who operated safehouses along the way," said Harrison, explaining the quilts contained secret messages that aided escaped slaves.

Visitors can also tour the old jail (right), which is undergoing restoration.

The Palmyra Massacre wasn't the only shocking incident that occured in Missouri. Confederate guerrillas removed two dozen Union soldiers from a train in Centralia in September 1864 and executed them.

Three years ago, the Picket interviewed Dr. William Piston, a professor and historian at Missouri State University in Springfield.

“Missouri was the worst place to be [in the United States] between 1861 and 1865,” Piston said of the border state.

Palmyra photos courtesy of Cindy Stuhlman

Palmyra Civil War Remembrance Day schedule
Read more about Porter Raid, Palmyra Massacre

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Death, through 19th century eyes

Ric Burns' grim, gripping documentary "Death and the Civil War," which premieres on PBS on Sept.18, strongly suggests that the war's great charnel house not only changed society's view of war and death but helped create a new kind of nation as well. • Article

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teams start mapping Gulf shipwreck of boat sunk by famed raider Alabama

Divers on Monday deployed 3-D mapping sonar at the wreck site of a Federal gunboat forced to surrender during a brief broadside battle with the famous Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama.

The USS Hatteras, largely buried in sand 20 miles south of Galveston, Texas, was the only Union warship sunk in combat in the Gulf of Mexico.

The side-wheeler went down Jan. 11, 1863, after the disguised Alabama lured it into battle (Hatteras at right in illustration).

A memorial service was held Monday at the site in memory of the two U.S. sailors who died during the battle, said Shelley du Puy, education and outreach coordinator for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in Galveston. "Their bodies were never found. They are presumed to be still in the vessel," she said.

The aim Monday and Tuesday is to document the storm-exposed remains, about 60 feet beneath the surface. A paddlewheel and the stern are partially exposed.

Du Puy said she had not yet learned the condition of the wreckage, but federal agencies previously said it was believed to be largely intact. The hull is believed to be entirely covered by sand.

"It is mapping little sections of the wreck one at a time," Du Puy told the Picket about the work of sonar. "It will be pretty high resolution. They will stitch these pieces together as one 3D mosaic (image)."

"We want to help further the knowledge base and use this in our education and outreach."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is working with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the state of Texas on the mapping project.

According to Du Puy, 2008's Hurricane Ike and other conditions made this week an ideal time to map the wreck.

"Typically, the visibility is not good," given heavy silt and currents, said Du Puy. "There is a lot of wave action going on."

Because it is a U.S. Navy ship and two men died, the 210-foot USS Hatteras -- listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- has special protection.

Recreational divers are allowed, but they are not permitted to disturb or damage the wreck or take any artifacts, said Robert Neyland, head of the underwater archaeology branch at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington.

The Hatteras was part of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron commanded by Union Rear Adm. David Farragut. The squadron blocked the passage of goods, supplies, and arms to and from the Confederacy on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Built in 1861 as the St. Mary, the iron-hulled Hatteras was converted into a gunboat. After successful service in Florida, the boat joined Farragut's squadron and captured seven Rebel blockade runners off Louisiana.

According to Edward T. Cotham, Jr. of the Terry Foundation, Union vessels were sent to avenge the loss of Galveston to Confederate forces.

On Jan, 11, 1863, the Hatteras was ordered to pursue a vessel that showed on the horizon.

"She chased the intruder for four hours, closer and closer into shore, and farther and farther from her supporting fleet," according to an article on the BOEM website. "Finally, as dusk was falling, the Hatteras came within hailing distance of the square-rigged, black-hulled vessel."

Skipper Homer C. Blake demanded to know the identity of the ship commanded by Raphael Semmes (photo above; as a side note, Semmes mistakenly thought Union forces had retaken the city and had arrived to harass transports supporting an invasion).

"Her Britannic Majesty’s Ship Vixen," came the reply. Blake ordered one of Hatteras’ boats launched to inspect the "Britisher."

At some point, the Confederate crew identified the ship as the Alabama.

The battle was a mismatch. The Alabama was a superior vessel and was well-manned, according to Neyland.

Eights minutes into the broadside exchange, a Confederate shell set a fire near the Hatteras' magazine. Meanwhile, many of its armor plates had been blown off and water poured in.

With his vessel immobile and about to be the subject of deadly raking fire, Blake surrendered, according to Cotham. Two men died and the remaining 121 surrendered.

The battle was over in 13 minutes; the USS Hatteras soon sank.

Asked whether the USS Hatteras had a chance, Neyland told the Picket, "There is always a chance of a lucky shot."

NOAA said it plans to present results from the mapping mission in Galveston next January during local events marking the 150th anniversary of the sinking of the Hatteras.

After Galveston, the CSS Alabama went on to greater fame when it battled the USS Kearsarge, which sank the Confederate raider off Cherbourg, France, in June 1864.

The Alabama also is the property of the United States, said Neyland. Many of its artifacts, including three guns and personal effects, were removed. Items are stored or displayed in locations in the United States, including Mobile, Ala.

Illustration and photos credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center

More on the battle, Hatteras shipwreck

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Digitizing artifacts, pix in Missouri Bootheel

An effort at Southeast Missouri State University to digitize historical information is on pace to be complete by next summer. The project at Kent Library is titled "Confluence and Crossroads: The Civil War in the American Heartland." • Article

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Replica artillery put in Memphis park

Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, four replica cannons were installed in Confederate Park in downtown Memphis on Wednesday. Two 12-pound field howitzers, a three-inch ordnance rifle and a six-pound field gun were bolted in place at a park overlooking Mud Island and the Mississippi River. • Article

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Grant aims to help safeguard earthworks built during Sherman's push on Atlanta

A volunteer civic association in suburban Atlanta has received a $75,000 National Park Service grant to develop a preservation plan for Confederate and Federal earthworks dug during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

The grant to the Mableton Improvement Coalition (MIC), awarded in July, comes at a vital time.

A previous study showed "that the overall historic integrity of the Chattahoochee River Line battlefield has been adversely affected by modern construction and development."

The plan to be developed by a consultant will cover a relatively small portion of the battlefield -- two tracts totaling 127 acres, owned by Cobb County, near the Chattahoochee River and Nickajack Creek. The county supports preservation of the tracts.

The Chattahoochee was the last natural obstacle for Union troops moving on Atlanta.

In a recent newsletter, the MIC said it wants to safeguard the fortifications and educate the public.

“It is our goal to make the battlefield available and accessible to the public for their enjoyment and their education about the historical resource there," MIC Vice President Robin Meyer told the Picket this week.

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, a mative of Mableton, provided $5,000 for the project -- giving the coalition $80,000 to work with.

The previous NPS-funded study included an archaeological survey and GIS mapping.

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston (photo, above) ordered a series of defenses north of the Chattahoochee River to be built largely by slaves.

Union Maj. Gen William T. Sherman, using his familiar flanking strategy, crossed the river elsewhere, forcing Confederates to retreat to Atlanta.

Federal and Confederate forces faced off in earthworks and redans along the River Line for nearly a week in early July 1864 before the withdrawal.

Sherman called a unique fortification on the River Line “one of the strongest pieces of field fortifications I ever saw.”

The timber and earthen redoubts – known as Shoupades -- were built manned for a brief period early in July 1864.

The arrowhead shape of the forts (model by Bill Scaife) allowed defenders to shoot in several directions. Connecting them was an infantry trench. Attackers could be fired on from several angles.

Nine Shoupades have survived along the line, much of which is now private property.

The previous study said that while the River Line no longer exists as a continuous entity, identification and development of “pocket parks” could give visitors a sense of the size and scale of the defensive line.

The 127 acres currently are "wide open to trespass," said Meyer, adding a fire damaged a couple acres.

While the economic slowdown eased preservation pressure somewhat, growth in the area continues. The preservation plan, once submitted in 2014, will need support to make it reality.

“In the end it all comes down to money," said Meyer. "We are in an age when governments are trying to close parks and we are trying to open one.”

Archaeological inventory of Chattahoochee River Line
Mableton Improvement Coalition
The Riverline Historic Area

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Safeguarding a loving mother's tribute

After two fires threatened a Civil War-era flag, a Colorado couple donated it to the Lake County Discovery Museum in Illinois. The 4-by-8-foot American flag was made by Edward Murray’s mother upon his enlistment in the 96th Illinois. Murray had his own harrowing adventures during the conflict. • Article

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Harsh reality comes through at Antietam

A guided visit to Antietam National Battlefield can provide a visceral reminder of the cost of war — and also of the prize: the abolition of slavery — eventually secured nearly three years later. • Article

Friday, August 31, 2012

Telling story of 'hard luck' Minn. regiment

A new book looks at a historical incident I've never read about. In November 1863, a group of soldiers from the Ninth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment heard the agonized pleas of a slave, a father whose wife and children were about to be sold off and separated, and set off to rescue the family — in defiance of orders. As a result, the liberators were charged with mutiny and starred in a case that caught national attention. • Article

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trust rolls out app for Second Manassas

The Civil War Trust, a battlefield preservation group, on Tuesday marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Second Manassas with the release of its latest free smartphone "battle app."

"Like its predecessors, which explore the battles of Bull Run, Cedar Creek, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Malvern Hill, the new Second Manassas Battle App includes video segments from top historians, period and modern imagery, and detailed topographical maps, all of which help bring the battlefield to life," the Trust said in a statement.

Principal tour stops include Brawner’s Farm, the Unfinished Railroad position and Longstreet’s attack.

The apps are underwritten with grant funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation and created in partnership with NeoTreks, Inc. • Additional details

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Crowds remember Second Manassas

Saturday, visitors sought out the fields around Manassas, searching for insight into the battle and marking its sesquicentennial. It was one of the South’s great victories. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army outmaneuvered and outfought the army of Union Gen. John Pope, opening the door for the Confederacy’s first major incursion into Union territory in the East. • Article | • Schedule

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Submerged relics could have new home

Selma, Ala., has received a grant to study ways to protect weapons dumped into the Alabama River in the last days of the Civil War. Union troops burned the city and tossed into the war items produced at a Selma armament manufacturing plant. • Article

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lecture: 'Blue Coats Under the Big Sky'

After the Civil War, several Union generals went west to subdue and remove Indians, notably in the 1876-77 campaigns in Montana.

"Battles throughout the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains within those months were fateful for both United States expansion and the lives of thousands of American Indians," according to the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, which is co-sponsoring a program at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Missoula.

Tate Jones, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History (RMMMH) at Fort Missoula, will give the talk, entitled "Blue Coats Under the Big Sky." It is being held on the front lawn of the museum.

Subjects include George Armstrong Custer, Gettysburg veteran and Big Hole battle commander Col. John Gibbon (photo), Fort Missoula founder Capt. Charles Rawn, New England Civil War volunteer and later U.S. Army Commander in Chief General Nelson Miles, and Army of the Potomac field commander Gen. Oliver O. Howard.

After the Civil War, Howard headed the Freedman's Bureau for assistance to freed slaves and engaged in action against the “non-treaty” Nez Perce in 1877.

Jones told the Picket that the generals came out of the Civil War "determined there would be one central government" and an end to Western conflicts.

Howard, Jones said, had a somewhat humanitarian, but patriarchal view of the Native Americans. According to Jones, Gibbon was a competent workaday soldier, and "Custer got all the press but Miles did most of the work."

Miles played a major role in the Indian Wars and intercepted Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce in 1877. The campaign of scouring the West of Indians effectively ended with the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. Miles was not directly involved with that incident and criticized the commander.

Generals out West had much more local autonomy then under the Union command structure during the Civil War, said Jones. Soldiers from Fort Missoula participated in the 1877 campaign.

The national historic trail follows the 1,170 mile route of the 1877 war and flight of the Nez Perce.

More details on the program

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ala. pair recall hauling around artillery piece

Dr. Sidney Phillips and George Edgar and some other Mobile pals acquired a century-old bronze artillery piece and restored it in 1961. The group donned reproduction woolen Confederate Army uniforms and began to travel to events around the South. They once shattered windows of a railroad depot. • Article

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Artifacts displayed at Kentucky State Fair

Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s sword and Colt revolvers once owned by Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge (photos below) are among the artifacts displayed this month at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.

The fair begins Thursday (Aug. 16) and continues through Aug. 26 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Kentucky Historical Society staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the artifacts and to talk about the Civil War tour on the recently launched smartphone app, “ExploreKYHistory.”

The show will be located in South Wing B in the special areas “War Hawks & Valiant Volunteers: Kentuckians in the War of 1812” and “United We Stand, Divided We Fall: Kentucky & the Civil War.”

The Civil War exhibit includes a Kentucky floor map, interactive computer programs, re-enactors depicting Union and Confederate soldiers and graphic panels that introduce various aspects of Kentucky’s Civil War story.

Photos courtesy of Kentucky Historical Society

Exhibit details | • Kentucky State Fair site

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Statue of marching soldier pushed over

A statue honoring Civil War veterans was likely the target of vandals at a historic Boston-area cemetery. Officials at Fairview Cemetery in Hyde Park found this statue on the ground early Thursday. • Article

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gun salute to accompany site opening

A newly restored Civil War cemetery in northern Virginia will be formally dedicated next month in a ceremony that is expected to draw descendants of the 10th Alabama Infantry Regiment soldiers who died there during a disease outbreak. • Article

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blood, sweat and special effects: The making of a Civil War visitor center film

First of two parts

The special effects alone are frighteningly realistic.

Paintballs filled with dust fly through the air, mimicking bullets as they make contact. A shell burst brings terrors to advancing troops, who move around fake boulders put in place by the film crew.

Then there’s the artillery.

Black powder and a small charge, buried in a pot, push up sod and cork to approximate explosions.

“They don’t blow it right where you are walking. Maybe a foot away. It doesn’t hurt you,” said Travis Devine (left), 26, of Sweetwater, Tenn.

Devine, caked in fake blood and dirt, was among about 175 re-enactors taking part in a film shoot in June for a new film at the visitor center at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Officials expect it to debut before the 150th anniversary of the failed Union assault during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

Devine has taken part in other films, including one that will debut in October at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

While Devine says film shoots are fun, he realizes there’s a serious dimension to what he does, given the ghastly cost of the Civil War.

“When you are doing a historical film, you try to do your best in honor to the guys that fought,” said Devine. “You want to make it the best you can.”

The effort begins and ends with accuracy.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield’s Chief Ranger Anthony Winegar and historian Willie Johnson traveled to Chitwood Farm in Resaca, Ga., for filming of several battle scenes, including the fighting at Cheatham Hill and Pigeon Hill.

They provided details of the Confederate earthworks at the “Dead Angle” on Cheatham Hill, scene of a fierce Union assault on June 27, 1864. Hundreds of men were killed or wounded in the dogged, but failed, attack waves.

“We knew the story of Kennesaw Mountain would be a story of earthworks,” said Winegar. “I said if we are going to do it, we need to do it right. We needed to show how substantial those lines were in 1864.”

Working from those plans, executive producer and director Chris Wheeler of Denver-based Great Divide Pictures hired a contractor to build a re-created section of the “Dead Angle.”

It took a week for the contractor, a Civil War re-enactor, to haul in dirt and build the fortifications, which includes pine logs and poles.

“We found some places where the terrain was pretty close” to the actual battlefield, Winegar told the Picket. “That’s the closest I have ever seen to textbook 1864 earthworks.”

Illinois regiments assaulted the “Dead Angle,” a relative weak spot in the Rebel line.

“There were no mutual fields of fire by the defending troops. Everywhere else the Confederate line is in a zigzag fashion to support each other,” said Winegar.

In addition to combat, the new visitor center film -- entitled “Kennesaw: One Last Mountain” -- will convey the war’s impact on Georgia civilians and two former slaves, Emma Stephenson and Austin Gilmore.

Stephenson served as a 17th Army Corps nurse. She fell ill while caring for white soldiers and later died. Gilmore enlisted in the 111th Illinois Infantry to fight for freedom. A stretcher bearer, Austin removed bodies of wounded and dead soldiers during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. He was mortally wounded while rescuing a soldier.

Wheeler and his 25-member crew also filmed in Dalton, Ga., and at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site.

Wheeler, whose company has made many films for the National Park Service, said special effects and animated graphics give productions like the recent “Shiloh: Fiery Trial” a certain wow factor.

“(But) We’re not trying to sugar coat or minimize the battle,” he said. “If you were still alive in 1864, fighting in this war, you had to be one tough SOB.”

“I’m not sure how to get my head around the carnage. It happened in our our back yards,” Wheeler added. “We are trying to convey and touch this nerve to get people interested.”

Great Divide Pictures paid most re-enactors about $50 a day, plus expenses, including food and powder, for the Kennesaw project. “These guys don’t do it for the money. We wish we could pay them more,” said the director.

The crew has worked with the same group of “hardcore” re-enactors.

“They practice how you react after being shot and what is the reaction when you have artillery going off,” said Wheeler.

Winegar did double duty at the film shoot.

A re-enactor with a Federal hardcore unit, he “got blown up twice and shot once, much to the satisfaction of several of my employees, I’m sure.”

Winegar, historian Brad Quinlin and park historian Johnson helped ensure accuracy.

They asked some re-enactors to remove hats or leather haversacks that wouldn’t have been worn by soldiers in that war theater.

“We had some younger children that were there in support roles as musicians. There was one scene at Cheatham Hill, having a 10 or 11 year old face there, we politely moved him to another part of the scene,” said Winegar. “It’s a delicate balance. You want to keep that spirit in a young kid. At same time, you don’t want to give the American public who views the film the wrong impression.”

A few women who disguised their gender were among those filmed.

Scott MacKay, president of the Kennesaw Mountain Trail Club, which does vital trail improvements in the battlefield, witnessed filming in Resaca, some of it in rainy conditions.

“There was smoke, explosives, soldiers and shouting,” MacKay said. “There is some standing around. I have been to other shoots. You feel like you are in 1864 until shortly after they say ‘cut.’ You see the smart phones come out and them checking it.”

Wheeler said work begins a year before shooting.

“The planning of these Civil War movies are monsters,” he said. “I know in my head what we want. We have a script. That said, we’re also flexible. Sometimes things happen you don’t anticipate -- and you must take advantage.”

The principal day of shooting for the Shiloh film was a “complete disaster” brought on by severe storms.

“The whole day was shot as far as I planned. (But) There was a silver lining,” Wheeler said. “There were incredible shots of guys in the rain … the mood that was created by that.”

Like others, Travis Devine portrayed both Confederate and Union soldiers in the Kennesaw filming.

Days are long and there were moments of hurry up and wait.

“One scene we shot almost 15 times. There would be noise in the background, someone was smiling or they could not hear it,” he said.

Devine is a member of a mainstream re-enacting unit.

“I’m working on my impression to get better,” he told the Picket. “I do campaign, but I don’t have the best of uniforms yet. It’s a work in progress.”

Devine said he’s satisfied with the modest pay.

“It pays for the gas and you have fun and you are doing something for the battlefield.”

CREDITS: Photos 2, 3 and 4 courtesy of Scott MacKay. All others courtesy of Travis Devine.

COMING SOON: These aren't your grandfather's visitor center films. Parks are telling a more inclusive story about the Civil War.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Plans shaping up for Perryville 150th

A re-enactment of the Battle of Perryville is set for Oct. 6-7 with three battles and weekend living history demonstrations. • Article

Friday, August 3, 2012

When campus was a battleground, garrison

Archaeologists working in William & Mary University's Brafferton Yard continue to uncover evidence of a time a when the normally placid Virginia campus was a Civil War battleground. Crews have have uncovered, among other things, remains of ditches that marked palisades erected by Union troops in 1865 to defend their position against possible attacks by Confederates. • Article

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mystery of the marker: Group wants sign back at scene of pivotal Atlanta battle

Robby Mitchell has a simple mission that will take some work to accomplish: Returning a marker to a piece of land where Abraham Lincoln's presidency's may have been saved.

Mitchell (left), of Loganville, Ga., came across the plaque at an antiques mall east of Atlanta. How and when it got there remains a mystery.

Entitled "Leggett's Hill," the marker briefly recounts failed Confederate efforts to take the rise (then called Bald Hill) during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864.

The monument was erected by the East Atlanta chapter (No. 108) of the Order of the Eastern Star, a fraternal organization.

Mitchell, a past president of the Georgia-based Armory Guards living history group, paid about $250 on the organization's behalf for the marker.

"The long-term plan is to get it back out there in some shape or form," Mitchell took the Picket during the recent B*ATL (Battle of Atlanta) weekend in East Atlanta, where he displayed the tablet.

"It's quite possible that the most significant battle of the entire war took place in Atlanta," said Mitchell. "This (marker) is a secondary piece of history that has been misplaced. It is a way to attach to these events."

Mitchell will have to use the skills of a detective to find where the monument stood, where it could fit in now -- and who even owns it.

The East Atlanta chapter of the O.E.S. folded in 1989.

Because of its size and configuration, the marker likely was screwed into a piece of rock, wall or a table, Mitchell said. (Click photo to enlarge)

Most of the hill was erased in the early 1960s to make way for Interstate 20. Mitchell suspects the marker, likely made in the 1940s or 1950s, may have been removed during construction.

Two larger Battle of Atlanta and Leggett's Hill historical are in place today along Moreland Avenue at I-20.

Even if the Armory Guards can donate the plaque or receive permission to erect it, finding the original or appropriate location could present challenges.

"Where do you put it where it is visible to everyone and it has some kind of meaning?" asked Mitchell.

He might find an ally in the B*ATL and other East Atlanta/Kirkwood associations that have helped revive interest in the Civil War and the combat that occurred across the neighborhoods.

Many historians write that the Union's success at Atlanta ensured the re-election of Lincoln, who faced stiff opposition from Democrat George McClellan. The victory proved the war was winnable.

Following is a National Park Service summary of the July 22, 1864, Battle of Bald Hill, which became known as Leggett's Hill after the commander of the XVII Corps division that defended it, Brig. Gen. Mortimer Leggett (above).

"On the evening of July 21 Hardee's Corps, accompanied by Wheeler's cavalry, began marching southward with the object of swinging around the Union left flank to Decatur, where it would strike McPherson's forces, after which it was to join Cheatham's and Stewart's Corps in sweeping the rest of the Union army toward the Chattahoochee. When it became evident that Hardee could not reach Decatur by morning, Hood authorized him to attack the immediate rear of McPherson. Hardee could not accomplish this until afternoon on July 22. His two right divisions, Walker's and Bate's, encountered Dodge's XVI Corps, which repulsed them. Only Cleburne's and a portion of Maney's division succeeded in penetrating a gap between the XVI and XVII Corps, in the process killing McPherson, and then bending back the XVII Corps until it occupied a line facing southward that was anchored on an elevation called the Bald Hill (No. 19 in map). Hood sought to transform this partial victory into a complete one by having Brown's and Clayton's Divisions attack the XV Corps. Two of Brown's brigades broke through along the Georgia Railroad. But a counterattack by the XV Corps drove back Brown's troops and ended the Confederate threat in this sector. Even though Hardee continued to assail the Bald Hill until nightfall, he failed to seize it and the battle ended in another bloody defeat for Hood."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Driving tour a bit confusing in Corinth

Corinth, Ms., will replace dozens of 15-year-old Civil War signs. “Over the years, the Tourism Office changed the driving tour, but the signs were never changed,” said park ranger Tom Parson. “It’s very confusing for people coming from Shiloh who are on the new driving tour and they see the small driving tour signs.” • Article

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Telling the stories of real people

During the 150th commemoration of the War Between the States, National Park Service officials want to engage the public by sharing even the lesser-known but remarkable stories that affected the nation, not just the major battlefields. • Article

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monocacy to display 'Lee's Lost Order'

Monocacy National Battlefield near Frederick, Md., will display Special Order 191, popularly known as "Lee's Lost Order," which gave a vital bit of intelligence to Union forces -- Confederate commander Robert E. Lee had divided his forces.

The copy of the order made for Confederate Maj. Gen. Daniel Hill, on loan from the Library of Congress, will be display at the battlefield visitor center from Aug. 1-Oct. 31.

The hill on the Best farm where the lost order was discovered was a key Confederate artillery position in the 1864 Battle of Monocacy.

Lee issued the order September 9, 1862, during the Maryland Campaign. It outlined his plans for the Army of Northern Virginia during the campaign and divided the army into four sections to secure garrisons and supplies, and capture Federals at Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry, and Boonsboro, while Lee went to Hagerstown.

According to the National Park Service, copies of the orders were written for each of Lee's commanders. One of the orders, written for Hill, was lost. Hill had already received his orders from Major General Thomas Jackson, (his immediate superior until the next day when he would have his own command), thus did not realize another order had been sent to him from Lee's camp. In fact that order was lost. How it was lost remains a mystery.

On Sept. 13, 1862, members of Company F, 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry discovered the orders in an envelope with two cigars.

Here is the LOC's summary of the order's significance.

"Fol;owing his tactical success in the Battle of Second Manassas (Second Bull Run, August 28–30, 1862), Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into western Maryland to secure supplies and recruits -- and in the vain hope of winning its people to the Confederate cause. His Special Order No. 191, popularly known as “Lee’s Lost Order,” was discovered by Union troops at an abandoned Confederate campsite near Frederick and turned over to McClellan. Armed with the knowledge that Lee had divided his forces, McClellan realized he could destroy Lee’s army piece by piece. However, once again McClellan’s overly cautious nature proved his undoing, giving Lee enough time to reconcentrate his forces."

While McClellan subsequently stopped Lee at Antietam, many historians contend he failed to fully utilize intelligence gleaned from the lost order.

Panel discussion on order set for Aug. 4

B*ATL: One more from the road

Concert by the 8th Georgia Regiment Band during the B*ATL (Battle of Atlanta) annual commemoration in Atlanta on July 21, 2012. Sorry that I was able only to post a portion of the selection, but you get a taste of the rousing French national anthem.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Union knocks trips to battlefields

Raleigh, N.C., Police Chief Harry Dolan is once again defending a three-day trip officers made to Civil War battlefields in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania in June as part of the department's leadership and management training program. • Article

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Scenes from 2012 B*ATL weekend

The neighborhoods of East Atlanta and Kirkwood on Saturday, July 21, sponsored B*ATL, a day of ceremonies, music, tours and storytelling to mark the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta.

Members of the Armory Guards portrayed Confederate and Union soldiers at a living history presentation at Gilliam Park.

Jonah McDonald led a bicycle tour of significant battle sites as Abraham Lincoln impersonator Dennis Boggs of Nashville, Tenn., gave a presentation on the 16th president's life and the importance of a Union victory at Atlanta for his re-election.

8th Regiment Band plays B*ATL in East Atlanta

The 8th Regiment Band of Rome, Ga., performed on July 21 during the annual B*ATL weekend, marking the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta.

Among the selections was "Hail Columbia," considered an early national anthem for the United States. It is now the entrance march for the vice president of the United States.

Band leader John Carruth said the band has about 25 performances a year, presenting itself as a Union, Confederate or town band. Saturday, members were dressed as both Confederate and Union musicians.

The band has cornets, tenor horns and alto horns, but no trumpets or trombones.

"They have a very mellow tone compared to modern brass," said Carruth. Civil War instruments also had a higher pitch.

The band, started 26 years ago, has about 30 original instruments, but they are known to "break regularly," he said. Bands in both the Federal and Confederate armies largely played similar tunes.

"The music is cheaper to find than the horns," said Carruth.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

In Lynchburg, the famous -- and not so famous

From Harper’s Ferry to John Wilkes Booth, the story of the Civil War is laid out in a new traveling exhibit at the Lynchburg Museum. The exhibit, a project of the Virginia Historical Society, tells the story of how the war affected everyday people. • Article

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What to do with these backyard finds?

Donate them to a museum, ask for big bucks, call the bomb disposal squad or put them on the mantle once you know they are safe.

Those are the options that have been facing radio personality Jenn Hobby of "The Bert Show" on Q100 in Atlanta.

Hobby and her husband, Grant, came across three Civil War 12-pound cannonballs when they moved into their Atlanta home. Landscapers hired by the previous owner apparently uncovered them while planting trees.

"We started looking at them and thought these could be artifacts," Hobby said on the show Thursday. An acquaintance told them they were likely Civil War artillery rounds. Hobby said they moved the rounds and tried to wash them off with a hose.

Gordon Jones, senior military historian and curator at the Atlanta History Center, weighed in Thursday, saying the shells were typically used by the Union Army, which fired 100,000 rounds in one month alone during the Atlanta Campaign in 1864.

"You don't have anything to worry about," said Jones. "They are not going to go off."

The cannonballs are encrusted with corrosion. The timed fuse, made of lead and tin, is now plugged up and incapable of being ignited after so much time in the ground, Jones (right) said.

Hobby's Facebook page has featured posts from readers telling her to sell them on eBay or to an antiques shop. Others have urged caution in handling the artifacts.

"The only way this thing would go off if you would put it in a fire or try to grill it with your hamburgers or something like that," said Jones, who cited scary examples of people trying to burn the rust off.

Jones said they might sell for about $150 apiece.

Besides reburying them, the couple could call police, who are mandated to have them destroyed.

Collectors using the proper equipment can safely disarm and clean the cannonballs, Jones said. "You probably just have a nice souvenir to put on the mantle piece."

Hobby told listeners she would have the rounds disarmed before she would put them in her house.

Jones indicated there could be more shells in the yard if they were part of a larger cache.

"We get these calls maybe two or three times a year," he said. "Sometimes we can figure out which battle it was in. Sometimes we can't. There was so many of these things around."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Forrest's dramatic ride into Murfreesboro

As they were known to do, Nathan Bedford Forrest and his band of audacious Confederate cavalrymen caught the Union army sleeping at Murfreesboro, Tenn.

On July 13, 1862, Forrest struck the important Union supply center, capturing camps and crucial venues en route to scooping up prisoners. The 1,400 Confederates -- utilizing mobility and bluff -- destroyed supplies, freed prisoners held by the Union and tore up portions of railroad track before leaving the city.

"The main result of the raid was the diversion of Union forces from a drive on Chattanooga," says the National Park Service. "This raid, along with Morgan’s raid into Kentucky, made possible Bragg’s concentration of forces at Chattanooga and his early September invasion of Kentucky."

Stones River National Battlefield and Oaklands Historic House Museum, scene of the humiliating Federal surrender, this weekend (July 20-22) are partnering to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the raid.

Gib Backlund, chief of operations at the battlefield, said the raid was the first of three important battles in Murfreesboro, the other two being the bloody Battle of Stones River in December 1862 and the Battle of the Cedars in 1864.

“Overall, we hope people understand in a broader sense military approaches and also how the war affected civilians in places like Murfreesboro," Backlund told the Picket.

The Oaklands Historic House Museum helps tell that civilian story.

Visitors this weekend can tour the mansion and see one of the largest private collections of historic clothing (photo, below). The PNJW Collections exhibit contains original Civil War-era clothing, jewely, shoes, photographs and more.

"The men’s vests are incredible with wild patterns," said tour guide Raina van Setter.

The home was occupied by the affluent and influential Maney family. Forrest clashed with Federal troops on the plantation grounds.

Union Col. William Duffield, commander of the 9th Michigan Infantry Regiment, was wounded in the skirmish and taken into the house, where he was treated by the family. He decided to surrender to Forrest.

According to van Setter, Adaline Maney served black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes and cornbread at the surrender ceremony.

Before the raid, Adaline held off with a pistol Union soldiers who came to the home to obtain furniture to be used as fuel for fires.

“She was a headstrong woman," said van Setter.

Here's an overview of weekend events:


July 21-22
: "Galloping to Victory" program at the park, 1563 N. Thompson Lane. At 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. both days, the Seventh Tennessee Cavalry will demonstrate the tactics used by Forrest's troopers while a ranger tells the story of the raid from the Confederate perspective.


-- $5 tours of the mansion, 900 North Maney Ave., Murfreesboro. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The 8,000-square-foot house is interpreted to 1863. One third of the furniture is original to the Maney family.

-- Historic clothing collection described above. Hours: Friday, 10-4, Saturday, 10-4, Sunday, 1-4. There is a separate $5 fee for this exhibit. Maney Hall, attached to the visitors center. Photography is allowed at the exhibit.

-- Free living history on the grounds, featuring the demonstration of tactics employed by the 9th Michigan Infantry. Infantry demonstrations will be presented at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Stones River National Battlefield
Oaklands Historic House Museum

Top photo, courtesy of National Park Service. Other photos courtesy of Oaklands Historic House Museum.