Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ambulance wagon replica now on display

A hand-crafted reproduction of a Civil War-era ambulance wagon is now on exhibit at Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas and will enhance visitor understanding of Fort Scott's role in America's bloodiest conflict. The ambulance, historically used to transport wounded soldiers to hospitals, accommodates four patients on stretchers and up to six seated in front and back. (NPS photo) • Article

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Higher death toll raises new questions

Nearly 150 years after the last fusillade of the Civil War, historians, authors and museum curators are still finding new topics to explore as the nation commemorates the sesquicentennial. • Article

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cyclorama: 'Doing nothing isn't an option'

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed provides an update on options for the aging attraction, in an interview with the Saporta Report. “Doing nothing isn’t an option for me,” Reed said. “In the last 20 years, the Cyclorama has not been funded in a way to succeed.” • Article
Previous Picket article on painting's problems

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Calling all corn planters!

Volunteers are needed to help plant corn that will be a key part of an October re-enactment of the Battle of Perryville, one of Kentucky’s best-known Civil War engagements. • Article

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Upcoming exhibit: Ordinary Kentuckians, extraordinary bloody divide

Few white Kentuckians, whether they fought for the Confederacy or Union, had an abolition ideal during the Civil War. They longed for the status quo.

That status quo was not to be.

Like Missouri, wartime Kentucky provided a classic example of "brother against brother." Although the slave state was militarily in Federal control by late 1862, Confederate cavalry raids and vicious guerrilla warfare brought chaos and terror until the war's end.

The division is the subject of an exhibit, "Civil War: My Brother, My Enemy" at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. The exhibit, opening June 2, was produced by the Frazier History Museum in Louisville. (Photo above, child in mourning dress)

“It’s got a lot of weapons but it is not a battles and generals kind of exhibit," said Trevor Jones, the society's director of museum collections and exhibitions. “It focuses on families and what the impact of the war was on families. Most of those families are not particularly well known.”

The Davidson brothers of Todd County exemplify the fissures within the border state.

The coat and uniform of Maj. John L. Davidson, killed while fighting for the Union, will be on display. His brother, Frank, joined the Confederate army and survived.

“In the postwar, his family never mentions him again. He is ostracized," Jones said of Frank Davidson.

It's interesting that slave-holding families like the Davidsons chose to align with the Union.

“Kentucky tries to stay neutral the first couple months of the war," Jones told the Picket. "A lot of people are supporting the Union as the best way to save slavery.”

Artifacts on display include a casket wagon used to reinter soldiers, slave documents and plantation horns, dresses, flags, horse tack (photo), letters, and other personal objects, including the Mary Todd Lincoln collection.

Visitors will see pieces of the gallows used to hang partisan Confederate guerrilla Champ Ferguson (photo below) in October 1865. Ferguson, tried for 53 murders, was only one of two Confederates executed for war crimes.

“He was too wild even for (Brig. Gen. John Hunt) Morgan," said Jones. "He went around and killed everybody indiscriminately.”

The exhibit includes interactive features, such as iPads.

"You can be a spy and decipher codes," said Jones. "If you are a soldier you can pack your haversack. You can make choices on what to pack. In the end it will evaluate on whether you will be able to march and whether you packed the right things.”

The society is in the process of putting its entire Civil War collection online, including rosters for U.S. Colored Troops, who trained at Camp Nelson in Kentucky. The society's HistoryMobile will have a Civil War theme beginning in August.

Photos courtesy of Frazier History Museum and Kentucky Historical Society. The exhibit runs through Dec. 8 at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in downtown Frankfort.

Hours of operation, fees, info on society

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When the war struck home in Maine

For 11 Bangor High School students, Tuesday afternoon’s re-enactment of a mob attack on a Bangor newspaper publisher 150 years ago was a living history lesson. On Aug. 12, 1861, residents destroyed the office of The Democrat, a Bangor newspaper published by Marcellus Emery, a Southern sympathizer. • Article

Monday, May 21, 2012

Photos: Scenes from 2012 Battle of Resaca

Several hundred re-enactors clad in blue and gray participated in weekend battles at Chitwood Farm near Resaca, Ga. I'm grateful to Greg Yount of Snellville, Ga., for sharing these photos of the action and camps on Saturday. The actual battle occurred in May 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign as the Union Army maneuvered and clashed with Confederates under Joseph E. Johnston. • Photo gallery

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stolen sword recovered in western Mass.

A $3,800 Civil War sword stolen from a Manchester, N.H., antique store has been recovered. The sword, one of only 814 made, is a Cross & Co. Civil War sword with "USA" and shields stamped on the blade with brushed metal around the handle. • Article

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Resaca re-enactment celebrates land buy

More than 1,000 re-enactors are expected at the Battle of Resaca in north Georgia this weekend (May 19-20), maneuvering near Civil War property that recently got a preservation boost.

The Civil War Trust, along with the Georgia Battlefields Association and the Friends of Resaca Battlefield, last month closed on the $153,000 purchase of 51 acres near Chitwood Farm, site of the re-enactment.

The parcel contains the site of the battery led by Capt. Max van den Corput, whose four guns were captured by the Federals on May 15, 1864. The Trust for Public Land was instrumental in the preservation.

The 28th annual event, hosted by the Georgia Division Reenactors Association, features battle re-enactments at 2 p.m. Saturday and Saturday.

"The spectator line is closer to the battles allowing spectators to better view the battles while seeing the smoke and hearing the thunder of history unfold," said event spokesman Ken Padgett.

On May 13-15, 1864, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s army and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee bloodied each other at Resaca. There was no clear winner. Sherman continued his march toward Atlanta, which he took several months later. ( Battle summary)

The fighting at Resaca demonstrated that the outnumbered Confederate army could only slow, but not stop, the advance of Union forces, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The event is located on the historic Chitwood Farm just north of Resaca off U.S. 41.

Camps open to the public each day at 9 a.m. A Saturday memorial service and Sunday church service are planned. Period sutlers and food vendors will provide services.

Battle of Resaca. Admission: $5 adults, $2 children under 12, free for infants. Parking is free. The Gordon County Antique Engine and Tractor Club will provide free transportation from the spectator parking area to the battle site each day. Visitors are encouraged to bring portable chairs and dress for warm weather.

Click here for directions and schedule.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Funeral home will be built on Ga. site

The Jonesboro City Council cleared the way this week for a funeral home to be built on about 11 acres after a contentious fight to preserve what is believed to be the last piece of unspoiled Civil War battleground in the county. • Article | • Battle summary

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cleaning these monuments a tall order

Excelsior (photo), who tops the New York State Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park, will get a little more TLC in June during preservation maintenance on three tall monuments.

The Gettysburg Foundation is covering the cost of renting a 150-foot lift.

The New York State Memorial, dedicated in 1893, is about 90 feet tall and is in the Soldiers' National Cemetery. Park staff repaired and cleaned the bronze figure of Excelsior last summer. The aerial platform will allow staff to steam-clean the stone work on the entire monument and apply another coat of wax to the bronze.

The approximately 55-foot Vermont State Memorial, dedicated in 1893, will also be fully steam-cleaned and the bronze figure of Gen. George Stannard will receive a coat of wax.

Work on the 100-foot Pennsylvania Memorial, dedicated in 1910, will be more involved and require occasional closures, according to park officials.

It begins with walnut-shell blasting and washing of the 7,500-pound bronze sculpture, the Goddess of Victory and Peace, at the top of the memorial to remove corrosion and grime. The goddess will then be waxed, and the crew will complete the work by steam cleaning the entire monument and waxing the lower figures and the interior rotunda bronze.

During the work, the upper level observation deck may be closed to visitors for long periods of time.

Photo courtesy of Gettysburg National Military Park

Thrilling, harrowing life of a combat artist

The Picket spoke last year with curator and writer Harry Katz about Alfred Waud and other superb Civil War sketch artists.

This month, Katz writes for National Geographic about the "specials" and their contributions to informing Americans about battles and leaders.

"The world came to understand the Civil War through the eyes of battlefield artists," Katz writes. "Living alongside the troops, combat illustrators risked death, injury, and disease to convey the blow-by-blow of battle with pencil and pen, charcoal, and crayon. Their work, sketched in the direst of circumstances, shows terrible violence, but also moments of surprising grace."

Katz' new work, "Civil War Sketch Book," is being released today.

Article about artists, gallery

Illustration, Battle of Shiloh, Becker Collection, is in May issue of National Geographic. "Shell burst in the spot sketched [center left] killed horses & wounded all the postition [sic] and tore Sergeant Tosey previously wounded in pieces," wrote Henri Lovie. He called this scene the Union's "Desperate Retreat."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Remembering the '62 Valley Campaign

In June 1862, Stonewall Jackson’s historic Valley Campaign came to a thunderous climax at the Battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic in Rockingham County. This June 9, 150 years later, guests from across the nation will gather on the Cross Keys battlefield for a landmark Sesquicentennial program: “If This Valley Is Lost”: Preserving the Legacy of Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign. • Article

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sesquicentennial moves on to Richmond

Richmond's big chapter in the battlefield history of the Civil War will begin its 150th anniversary commemoration Wednesday and continue with 60 days of events. Activities will stretch from Chesterfield to Hanover counties with the theme "On this date. In this place. At this time." • Article

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tour highlights Civil War Knoxville

True tales of Civil War personalities, places and events are told along 14 winding blocks of downtown Knoxville in a walking tour created by the Knox Area Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. • Article

Friday, May 4, 2012

Petersburg sets Saturday evening series

Six Saturday evening programs at Petersburg National Battlefield will delve into events that eventually sealed the fate of Richmond and Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

The series kicks off May 19 with a free walking tour, "Follow the Cavalry," at the Five Forks Battlefield, one of four park units stretching about 37 miles.

At Five Forks (above), often called the "Waterloo of the Confederacy," Lee ordered Maj. Gen. Georgia Pickett to hold the vital crossroads and railroad line at all hazard.

On April 1, 1865, Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s cavalry and Gouvernor Warren’s V Corps overwhelmed 9,000 Confederates. The additional pressure on the Petersburg siege line forced Lee to recommend the evacuation of the city and Richmond.

The Five Forks tour begins at the visitor center, 9840 Courthouse Road, Dinwiddie.

Park ranger Grant Gates said the evening series began in 2011.

"We're trying to reach out to the audience working during the day," he said. "We want to open their eyes to the scale of events."

Cooler evening weather also might be a draw.

Here's the rest of the schedule:

June 16: “Marble Men” – Poplar Grove National Cemetery
June 23: “Battle of Fort Stedman” – Eastern Front Unit, Tour Stop 5
June 30: “Initial Attacks on Petersburg” – Eastern Front Unit, Tour Stop 1 (Visitor Center)
July 7: “City Point and the Civil War” – General Grant’s Headquarters Unit in Hopewell
July 14: “Charge of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery” – Eastern Front Unit, Tour Stop 5

All programs begin at 7 p.m. Dress appropriately for the weather and bring water. Call Petersburg National Battlefield at 804-732-3531 for more information. Illustration, Library of Congress; NPS photo, Jimmy Blankenship providing a tour by the remains of the Taylor House dependency at Tour Stop 7 at the Eastern Front.

Petersburg National Battlefield

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Marking 150th anniversary of Taps

This year, Taps turns 150 years old, and on May 19, buglers from across the country will gather to play the call at the nation's most sacred site, Arlington National Cemetery. • Article

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Video: Descendant describes Bible's journey

Robert Clayton of Islesboro, Maine, provides an overview of the fascinating history that goes with this small New Testament. It belonged to his great-grandfather, William Z. Clayton. For photos and details, read the Picket article.