Wednesday, March 27, 2013

There's an app for Appomattox

The Civil War Trust is rolling out its latest app for smartphones. The Appomattox Battle App culminates with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. • Article

Monday, March 18, 2013

Medal of Honor petition launched

A western NY group kicked off St. Patrick's Day festivities by announcing it has launched a campaign to get a Medal of Honor awarded to an Irish-born war hero raised in Rochester. • Article

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Weekend event in Atlanta tells of war through the eyes of a young girl, others

Carrie Berry performer at Atlanta History Center
“We were fritened almost to death last night. Some mean soldiers set several houses on fire in different parts of the town. I could not go to sleep for fear that they would set our house on fire. We all dred the next few days to come for they said that they would set the last house on fire if they had to leave this place.”

Thus read the Nov. 12, 1864, journal entry of Carrie Berry, a 10-year-old girl living in Atlanta during the fall and occupation of the city. Hers is a very personal account of the shelling of her neighborhood, hiding in the family cellar and taking care of her younger siblings. In between were the seemingly mundane tasks of sewing and ironing. Carrie kept this diary from  August 1864 to January 1865.

Carrie's diary (AHC)
Carrie’s story is being told this Saturday as part of a free 11 a.m.-4 p.m. program at the Atlanta History Center.

Citizens and Soldiers: The American Civil War” tells the stories of soldiers and those enduring hardship on the home front.

Re-enactors will be on hand at an encampment on the grounds and visitors will learn about 1860s life at the Smith family farm. There will be firing and march demonstrations and a cartridge rolling activity. Families and individuals can partake in bread riot and inflation activities, meant to depict the harsh conditions in Atlanta.

Local historian Brad Quinlin will speak at noon about U.S. Colored Troops buried at a national cemetery in Cobb County. Stephen Davis, author of What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman’s Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta,” is on a 2 p.m. program.

Actors will portray Carrie Berry, businessman Jasper Smith, slaveholder Celeste Johnstone and a 44th Regiment soldier, Nate Barker.

The center also will provide guided tours of its comprehensive permanent exhibition “Turning Point: The American Civil War.”

• Details of Saturday’s program

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sites named national historic landmarks

An Oklahoma battlefield was among three Civil War-related venues named national historic landmarks Monday. The program, administered by the National Park Service, began in 1935. The department, in a press release, provided these details:

Camp Nelson Historic and Archaeological District, Jessamine County, Ky. One of the nation’s largest recruitment and training centers for African-American soldiers, Camp Nelson is also significant as the site of a large refugee camp for the wives and children of the soldiers who were escaping slavery.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Hartford, Conn. Though best known to modern audiences for her anti-slavery work, including the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Harriet Beecher Stowe was widely recognized in her lifetime as a highly prolific and nationally significant reformer for a wide variety of causes.

Honey Springs Battlefield, McIntosh and Muskogee Counties, Okla. The Battle of Honey Springs on July 17, 1863, was the largest battle in Indian Territory in which Native Americans fought as members of both Union and Confederate armies. The latter failed to take Fort Gibson and the Union victory left the North in control of Indian territory north of the Arkansas River. A re-enactment is planned Nov. 8-10.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Weekend artifact show launches commemoration of burning of coastal town

A coastal community in southeast Georgia, rebuilt from the ashes, this year is marking the 150th anniversary of its burning at the hands of Union troops.

Leaders of the effort have launched a “Burning of Darien” website and are getting the word out through Facebook about events, culminating June 15 in a commemoration at the town’s downtown district and a living history encampment on nearby Butler Island.

First up is a Civil War artifact show planned from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Fort King George, the British crown’s southern outpost in the 1720s and 1730s.

Residents are encouraged to bring in items and explain their backstory.

"These artifacts may include those handed down from ancestors, or the neat stuff you happened upon in your yard when planting that garden, or maybe even interesting items you bought off others since you are a serious collector," the Facebook page says.

Experts will explain the items' significance.

“We are trying to get people to bring in effects and loan them to the museum for the 150th events,” said Steven Smith, site manager at the fort and a leader of the Darien sesquicentennial committee.

Smith said artifacts and other items will be displayed in a new Civil War museum at the town’s Trailhead Center.

About 500 residents had largely fled inland in the weeks prior to Union troops moving from St. Simons Island on the town, known then for its rice and timber exports. It held little strategic importance, historians say.

Col. Robert Gould Shaw (left), who objected to the deserted and undefended town’s burning, commanded the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was ordered to seize any supplies and commit the destruction by Col. James Montgomery, commander of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers, which also participated.

Only a few structures survived the June 11, 1863, incident, depicted in the 1989 film “Glory.”

“This is something that didn’t happen in the Civil War,” coastal historian Buddy Sullivan told the Picket.

Events leading up to the June 15 commemoration include lectures, a screening of “Glory” and the unveiling of a new bridge mural.

COMING SOON: The Picket takes a closer look at the Darien incident and efforts to promote tourism in the region.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bringing them home: Details of services, burial of two USS Monitor crew members

USS Navy photo of Monitor crew
Thursday, on an airport tarmac in suburban Washington, D.C., in a choreographed military display of respect, flag-draped caskets bearing the remains of two men who died on active duty will be taken from a plane to waiting hearses.

Unlike service members who died in Afghanistan, Iraq or other places, no one knows these men, or for that matter, their identities.

They were lost along with 14 of their shipmates, more than 150 years ago, when the ironclad USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The bodies of the two were found in the Union vessel’s gun turret in 2002.

Years of intense research and forensic analysis thus far have not ascertained their identity, but efforts continue at Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii.

Facial reconstructions of two sailors
The U.S. Navy is providing full honors to the two sailors, expected to be the last seamen from the Civil War whose remains will be located. Burial is scheduled for Friday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery. Members of the public can attend the interment.

"The fact it has been 150 years or two days (since a death) doesn't make any difference,” said Stuart B. McLean, director of ceremonies and special events in Naval District Washington.

Ten families that possibly may be descendants of the sailors will attend. Each family has been assigned a casualty assistance officer.

The Picket this week learned details of events related to the USS Monitor crew interment.


The event at Dulles International Airport in Virginia is called a “dignified transfer of remains.”

The caskets are being carried aboard a commercial flight from Honolulu, home to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), where the bones and teeth were analyzed. Based off those, experts have narrowed down from 16 individuals that were missing from the Monitor to about six who could be the two sailors.

2002 expedition (U.S. Navy)
Media will be on hand to witness the flag-covered caskets being taken from a conveyor attached to the plane. “Hand salute” and other commands will be uttered as the remains are solemnly carried by teams to the two hearses on the tarmac.

"It will be quick, but stirring,” McLean said of the remains transfer.

The remains will be held overnight at an area funeral home.


Descendants of the Monitor crew will attend a luncheon hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in Alexandria, Va.

4 p.m., invitation-only funeral service at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel.

Family members, dignitaries and others will attend the non-denominational Christian service. It was determined that the sailors were Christian, McLean told the Picket.

Speakers are Navy Secretary Ray Mabus; Kathryn Sullivan, former astronaut and acting under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere; and Civil War historian and author James B. McPherson.

Scripture readings and a homily are planned, as well as the singing of the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father.”

About 4:30 p.m.

The caskets will be carried on caissons from the chapel to Arlington National Cemetery. 

Family members and mourners will follow the Army’s Old Guard military escort.

Burial will take place in section 46 of the cemetery, which is between the amphitheater and the USS Maine Mast memorial.

“There’s lot of interest” by members of the public in attending the interment, said McLean, although he could not estimate how many might attend. At least 50 people in period costume will be on hand, but weapons of any kind are not allowed.

Driving to the grave site also is prohibited and the public cannot take part in the funeral procession. Attendees may park in the ANC Welcome Center parking garage and either walk or take, for a fee, the Martz tour tram to the Amphitheater.

Turret recovery (U.S. Navy)
The specific date of the interment was chosen to recognize the Monitor's role in the Battle of Hampton Roads 151 years ago on March 8-9. The Monitor sank off the North Carolina coast on Dec. 31, 1862.

A monument bearing the names of the 16 lost sailors will be erected at a later date, according to McLean.


Forensic experts will continue their efforts to identify the two sailors. Military records from the Civil War aren’t good and there are no dental X-rays, making the task very challenging.

"What I would like people to know is that we're here, and committed to the ideal of bringing home our fallen," says U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Danang McKay, JPAC command senior enlisted leader. "It doesn't matter if that happened during World War II or it happens in future conflicts, we will always be here. We'll bring you home."

The biological profiles concluded that the sailors were both white males, one was 17 to 24 years old; the other was in his 30's. Both stood about 5 foot 7 inches tall.

Forensic anthropologist Robert Mann, director of the Forensic Science Academy for JPAC, in a statement said teams are trying to locate other descendants of other missing Monitor crew members to take DNA samples.

"We will never give up trying to identify these sailors," said Mann.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Free tours this month of Civil War Atlanta

This month provides an opportunity for those interested in the Civil War to take part in free, guided tours in areas of the Atlanta Campaign. The Atlanta Preservation Center is marking the decennial of its “Phoenix Flies” program, a celebration of “living landmarks.”

The organization works with experts and other groups to put on the program, which runs March 9-24. Although some of the other events may touch on the Civil War, these are specific to the topic.

Most of the events require reservations.

Click each date below to get details, including times, and availability.

-- March 9, 23: Civil War Atlanta walking tour, put on by the Georgia Battlefields Association. Participants will learn about the city’s role during the war and see where well-known photographs of Atlanta were taken.

-- March 10, 17, 24: Battle of Utoy Creek and cemetery tour. Event includes an extensive amount of walking. Read this Picket article to learn more about this little-known clash during the Atlanta Campaign.

-- March 14, 21: Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War History Museum. World’s largest oil painting, depicting Battle of Atlanta, and the Texas of Great Locomotive Chase fame.

-- March 16, 17, 23, 24: Tour of Shoupade Park in Cobb County. Two each day. The River Line Historic Area helped save these two unique 1864 forts from development. Many of the shoupades built by Confederates along the Chattahoochee River no longer exist. Another community group, the Mableton Improvement Coalition, says this in a recent newsletter: “MIC is working on a Preservation Plan for the Civil War fortifications in Mableton, some of which contain shoupades. This is a great opportunity to see a shoupade up close, which isn't possible now in Mableton. Hopefully the Preservation Plan will be another step in opening the battlefield park to the public.”

-- March 17: (Event is full) Front lines of the Battle of Atlanta.

Why is the program called “Phoenix Flies”?

"The phoenix is a mythical, flying creature that is born from the ashes of its own incineration, the Atlanta Preservation Center says on its website. “Like this powerful creature, so too was Atlanta reborn from her ashes after the Civil War.”