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.

Monday, July 16, 2012

'No ordinary seminar' about Antietam

About 70 history buffs will join some of the nation’s top historians at the Greater Chambersburg (Pa.) Chamber of Commerce’s next Civil War seminar. One of the largest groups of Antietam authorities ever assembled at a single seminar will be presenters at “Antietam: The Bloodiest Day” from July 25 to 29. • Article

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Charleston events Wednesday will mark crucial role of the 54th Massachusetts

Every year, Joseph McGill and his comrades return to the island where the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry secured its place in American history.

They’ll do so again Wednesday afternoon, traveling on three boats to Cummings Point on Morris Island, where the regiment assaulted Confederate Battery Wagner.

Although the July 18, 1863, lead assault by the 54th was not a tactical success – although the damaged fort guarding Charleston, S.C., held on for just two more months – it has come to stand for so much more.

“You have to look at the social aspect of it and what it meant to the African-American race and this nation,” said McGill, member of Company I, 54th Massachusetts Reenactment Regiment. “There were doubts on the ability of these men to actually be soldiers. These men did prove they could be soldiers.”

The 54th, made famous in the 1989 film “Glory,” is undoubtedly the most famous U.S. Colored Troops unit in the war.

“It helped to convince me African-Americans had a major role in the Civil War,” McGill, a former Fort Sumter park ranger, said of “Glory,” which starred Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick.

Company I, with about 15 active members, on Wednesday will host members of other 54th re-enacting units from along the East Coast.

Battery Wagner – which guarded the southern approach to Charleston Harbor -- is long gone, a victim of erosion. The beachhead fort and remains of those killed in the assaults were washed out to sea.

About 280 of the 600 charging 54th soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. Col. Robert Gould Shaw was among those killed.

The boats, carrying re-enactors and spectators, will travel from three locations to Cummings Point. Participants will disembark for the 3:30 p.m. ceremony.

A wreath will be placed and members of the 54th will fire a salute.

McGill said owners of private boats are welcome to attend the event.

Also Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fort Moultrie, on the north end of the Charleston harbor, will sponsor events honoring the 54th’s service.

A special Junior Ranger program, which can be completed in less than an hour, will focus on the role of the 200,000 men in the U.S. Colored Troops. Children who complete the program will earn a special patch.

At 2 p.m., scholar and researcher Russell Horres will lead a free discussion in the visitor center.

“It is a fun way to engage them to learn about history,” Chief Ranger Dawn Davis said of the program for youth, geared to those between the ages of 4 and 12. Teens also can participate.

Davis told the Picket she and McGill’s group will soon start drawing up plans to mark Battery Wagner’s 150th anniversary next year.

“It’s an integral part to the story. It’s part of what we talk to on a daily basis,” she told the Picket.

The 54th’s bravery in Charleston inspired more African-Americans to join the Union army and Navy “It proved that they would stand up and fight their freedom,” Davis said.

McGill said African-Americans are playing a larger role than in the 1961-1965 Civil War centennial. Fifty years ago, African-Americans were engaged in a different fight: civil rights.

“There was not a whole time to commemorate a war that should have given us those rights,” said McGill.

Civil War scholarship has improved, he said, and colleges are telling the story that “Glory” helped along.

“We are a little more receptive to talking about this institution of slavery and not sugarcoating and falsifying information about it,” McGill said.

Some members of the 54th taking part in the Morris Island ceremony may try to get over to Fort Moultrie at some point Wednesday.

“We don’t just put these uniforms on for show,” McGill told the Picket. “We are obligated to make sure the story of these guys is told and not forgotten. That is not relegated to a footnote of history. What those guys did on the island was very important to not only African-American history, but to American history.”

For more information on the Morris Island event, and to learn whether any boat seats are available, contact Joe McGill at 843-408-7727. Illustration assault, courtesy of Library of Congress; Morris Island photo, courtesy of Joseph McGill; Fort Moultrie photo, courtesy of the National Park Service

More information about Fort Moultrie
History Channel's page on the 54th

Friday, July 13, 2012

Petitions begin for Battle of Franklin stamp

A Battle of Franklin first-class postage stamp now has the support of Franklin city aldermen, but its likelihood of becoming a reality is anything but signed, sealed or delivered. Supporters will need all the help they can get. As many as 40,000 requests for stamps come to the postal service annually for consideration. • Article

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

B*ATL to unveil plans to restore monuments to two generals killed at Atlanta

A group leading the effort to restore monuments to two generals killed July 22, 1864, during the Battle of Atlanta is planning to unveil plans next week and move forward on necessary fund-raising.

Since it received last year a federal grant to begin the study, the Battle of Atlanta Commemoration Organization (B*ATL) has gleaned fascinating tidbits about the monuments' histories.

B*ATL chairman Henry Bryant said the group is finalizing plans through the city of Atlanta, which has oversight of the small parks. The group also must meet U.S. Interior Department and Georgia Department of Natural Resources requirements.

The aim is to restore the monuments so that they will appear to be "bookends" of the fierce fighting in East Atlanta, Kirkwood and other neighborhoods.

Bryant said the results of studies by an architectural firm and researchers will be unveiled during the eighth Battle of Atlanta (B*ATL) weeklong event, which culminates with living histories, lectures and tours on July 21. B*ATL will hold wreath-laying ceremonies at both markers.

B*ATL has provided about $12,000 of the nearly $30,000 needed to conduct a thorough study of the monuments' condition, their history and a restoration proposal.

Bryant estimates the restoration will cost between $150,000 and $200,000. B*ATL would like to see at least some work complete before July 2014, the 150th anniversary of the major battle.

“The first priority is to stabilize the monuments in some way," said Bryant. “They both need to be dried out, cleaned and both will be taken apart to one degree or another.”

Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, a favorite of Union Gen. William T. Sherman, was killed when he rode into Confederate lines.

Less than a mile away, Maj. Gen. William H.T. Walker, a grizzled Confederate veteran nicknamed “Shot Pouch” for the numerous wounds he received during the Mexican-American War, was knocked out of his saddle by a sniper.

Monuments, each featuring a centerpiece cannon, went up years after the war in East Atlanta.

Time and, in one case, traffic have taken a toll on the memorials. They sit on dislodged or structurally weak foundations. The cannons have water damage and are rusting in places.

Research shows the McPherson monument was erected in 1877, earlier than what historians estimated, according to Bryant.

After McPherson's death, Union Brig. Gen. Andrew Hickenlooper rode to the mangled woods where McPherson died. There were no homes in the area at the time. Hickenlooper nailed a sign to the tree at the death site, which was photographed by Atlanta Campaign photographer George Barnard (left).

An early fence surrounding the monument featured gun barrels at the corners, said Bryant, but they disappeared. “From the very beginning there was problem with vandalism.”

The McPherson monument, now surrounded by homes, was moved in 1906. Eventually it was raised to make it more visible.

A search at the DeKalb County Courthouse indicate Sherman's name is still on the deed for the property used to build the monument, according to Bryant. “You can imagine my excitement when I saw Sherman’s name all over the deed.”

Sherman served as an officer in the Society of the Army of Tennessee after the war.

A bench, mosaic tiles, trees and flowers surround the fence and the monument, fittingly located on McPherson Avenue at Monument Avenue.

A close look shows the foundation is in rough shape and mortar has disintegrated. It’s as if the pedestal and cannon are floating by their own determination, Bryant said.

The name “MCPHERSON” is fading on the white granite. The cannon is not sealed and is rusted at the base.

The Walker monument to the east is more easily seen, but doesn’t get the protection the McPherson monument receives.

It sits on a busy road (Glenwood Avenue at Wilkinson Drive) near Interstate 20. Walker (left) was shot while leading his forces across the backwaters of Terry’s Millpond in Kirkwood and East Atlanta.

Federal snipers reported seeing a man on a large horse.

“He rode across the creek into the woods, checking things out," said Bryant. "When he rode back out of the woods, they shot and fired (at him) in the clearing.”

Motorists have hit the marker several times, knocking it off-kilter on its pedestal. The red granite monument’s steps and plaque are gone. At least two feet of water and gunk are in the cannon barrel. An inscription is difficult to read and the stone has turned orange from rust.

Bryant said the monument was dedicated in 1902. It used to rest on a nearby hill, to make it convenient for visitors, but was moved to its current, more accurate location, in the late 1930s.

B*ATL would like to move the monument to the center of a triangle and build steps to raise it, so it will match the appearance of the McPherson monument.

“We are trying to make it seem more monumental," said Bryant. “We want to tie them together more. They tell the same story.”

McPherson death site photo courtesy of Library of Congress

B*ATL website on July events marking battle anniversary

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Twitter adds new dimension to re-enactment

Deliver the breaking news of the Battle of Gettysburg to the world in 140 characters or fewer. That's the goal of the first live team-tweeting effort by journalists covering this weekend's annual reenactment of the epic battle - or at least one pivotal skirmish. • Article

Friday, July 6, 2012

1864 recipes updated in new cookbook

Taste the Civil War as the Bangor Museum and History Center unveils “The Bangor Sanitary Fair Cookbook Bangor 1864.” The group sent wine, brandy, whiskey, jellies, and pickles, things that would make the trip to Virginia or other Southern states where Maine units were stationed. The recipes in the publication have been updated for the "modern cook." • Article

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer of '62: Impact of Seven Days Battles

Over seven days -- June 26, 1862 through July 1, 1862 -- Confederates under Robert E. Lee engaged in a series of six fierce clashes with Federals bent on taking Richmond, Va.

Historians sometimes argue that Gen. George B. McClellan didn't seem too bent on the taking the Southern capital -- given his caution and tendency to inflate enemy numbers. But on this occasion, he and Lee did fight, with significant consequences.

Writing this month in the Weekly Standard magazine, Geoffrey Norman details Lee's swing to the offensive outside Richmond.

The culmination of the Union's Peninsula Campaign, however, appeared to be inconclusive. Some 36,000 casualties later, McClellan left the field despite his subordinates urging him to press the attack after repelling Southern forces at Malvern Hill (above).

"The Seven Days is, in this regard, analogous to the Battle of the Marne in the First World War: Confused, inconclusive, and a tragically missed opportunity for both sides, after which the war would not merely go on, but take over and become a force beyond human control," writes Norman, spending much of his article taking McClellan to task for his hubris.

The Seven Days Battles is the subject of an upcoming lecture by Civil War historian and author Gary W. Gallagher (right).

The July 11 program in Richmond, co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the Virginia Historical Society, is entitled, "More Important Than Gettysburg: The Seven Days' Campaign as a Turning Point."

Gallagher, editor of "The Richmond Campaign of 1862: The Peninsula and the Seven Days" (2000), will discuss ramifications of McClellan's failure to take Richmond and where the armies went next as a result.

The Civil War Trust's summary of Seven Days says Lee's strategic victory would mean three more bloody years of war.

And Thomas Donnelly, also writing in the Weekly Standard, says between the conclusion of Seven Days and Gettysburg, "the course of the war, the fate of the American continent, and the prospects for human liberty hung by a thread."

Malvern Hill illustration, courtesy of Library of Congress. Gallagher's lecture is set for 5:30 p.m.- 7 p.m. July 11 at the Virginia Historical Society, 428 N. Boulevard, Richmond, Va. For more informaton: or call 804-226-1981.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Digging into Chicago's most famous site

Last week was the first known excavation of a Chicago camp where 4,000 Rebel prisoners died. The Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation hopes to one day construct a replica barracks with a museum commemorating both Camp Douglas and the broader role of African-Americans in the Civil War. • Article