Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Camp Lawton artifacts: Will they help answer questions about guards and prisoners?

One of two brass harmonica reeds found at Lawton (GSU)
Cruel? Indifferent? Empathetic?

Those are some of the questions archaeology students in Georgia have pondered regarding the Confederate officers and soldiers who guarded over 10,000 Union prisoners for six weeks in late 1864.

This past summer’s Georgia Southern University field school at Camp Lawton yielded even more Civil War treasures that will give voice to Americans long gone.

A friendship ring, brass harmonica reeds, a keg tap and glass fragments from bottles – among many other items -- have been added to the collection of hundreds of artifacts found at the site, located in a portion of Magnolia Springs State Park and an adjoining federal fish hatchery near Millen, Ga.

Friendship ring found in likely Confederate area (GSU)
Students worked on the possible location of the Confederate officers’ quarters, or barracks, and got a closer look at two sites home to “shebangs” -- the improvised structures made of cloth and other materials and used by Union POWs at Andersonville (Camp Sumter) and Lawton.

They also exposed several trenches where the stockade once stood. 

“The preservation in the stockade trenches is really amazing,” said Lance Greene, an assistant professor of anthropology who oversees the Lawton project for Georgia Southern. “Even where the posts have rotted out, we have dark stains in the ground, where the organic material has rotted out.”

Officials are particularly excited about upcoming digs at the shebangs and what they might say about life in camp. 

Excavation in what may have been Confederate barracks (GSU)
And a museum will allow visitors to Magnolia Springs State Park to learn more about the site.

The Magnolia Springs History Center is expected to open in early 2014, said Dustin Fuller, site manager of the state park. Visitors will be see rotating artifacts, audio/visual presentations, a medical kit, lists of soldiers and a reproduction of a shebang.

It’s way too early to make firm conclusions on the exact conditions the foes faced, but it’s known that disease, hunger and unusually cold and moist conditions that year exacted a toll, with 700 or more prisoners dying before they were shipped off in the middle of the night to other Confederate prisons.

“We focused a lot on where the Union soldiers were, but looking at how Confederate soldiers were living will help determine what it was like there,” said participant Megan Kise. “It is very early (in the studies), but I feel that the Confederates probably lived pretty decently…. (but) probably not that great.”

Glass, bottle fragments
The ongoing work at the preserved site provides an opportunity to help answer questions raised by soldiers and scholars.

 “(We are) comparing this question of what were the prisoners lives’ like compared to the Confederate soldiers who were guarding them?” said Greene. “Were Confederates intentionally abusing and mistreating, or were they doing the best they could with limited resources?”

Camp Lawton expert John Derden said the guards, many reservists with limited training, did not have an easy task.

“I am sure there were monsters who were guards, and I am sure there were those who were sympathetic.”

Andersonville’s “big little sister”

Don Perkins, who lives within a couple miles of the state park, said his grandmother’s much older brothers would visit Camp Lawton during its brief existence.

“When they were children they would slip off to the fort and take them bags of food and hand it to them (the prisoners),” Perkins, 79, told the Civil War Picket recently.

Perkins, an amateur historian, said of the prisoners: “Most of them were almost dead when they got there from Andersonville.”

But he argued, prisons in the North we no better.

Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman
Overcrowded conditions at the infamous Andersonville prison camp and Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's March to the Sea put pressure on the Confederacy to move POWs to other sites. Andersonville at one time held more than 30,000 Union soldiers.

Brig. Gen. John Winder looked to Millen, which had a railroad line that could carry people and supplies. He moved a large portion of Andersonville's POWs, some 10,000 men, to Camp Lawton, where they had more more space, better sanitation and fresh water. But conditions deteriorated rapidly.

“I describe Lawton as Andersonville’s big little sister. It shows the [Confederate] prison command is learning the lessons of this place,” says Eric Leonard, chief of interpretation at Andersonville National Historic Site.

Lawton was not as clear cut of trees as Andersonville and Winder built ovens for prisoners. The Confederates also made it more difficult for tunneling or escapes by setting the “dead line” at 30 feet at Lawton, as opposed to 15 feet for Andersonville. Prisoners who crossed that line between their primitive living area and the stockade wall would be shot.

“Guards and POWs don’t typically know each other on a first-hand basis,” said Derden, professor emeritus at East Georgia College.

By and large, he said, Union soldiers had genuine disregard for their Confederate captors. ”They often describe the guards as ignorant fools and they like to tell stories of how they fooled them.”

Guards and POWs did trade items, even though they were not supposed to. 

POW shebangs at Andersonville (Library of Congress)
It’s known that Winder did not like the reserve units he depended on by this late part of the war, thinking they were not capable soldiers.

Union prisoner Robert Knox Sneden kept a journal and made illustrations of his experiences at Andersonville, and later, Lawton. 

“Sneden has disdain for Confederate administrations, but when he sat around with the guards, he found them to be good-natured,” according to Derden.

“Sometimes the guards felt they were doing a task that was thankless,” said Derden. “Being a prison guard is not a very glorious thing. Family doesn’t want to hear about that. They want to hear about Pickett’s Charge.”

Did Confederate officers enjoy amenities?

Early on, the food was better at Millen than at Andersonville. But that, too, went downhill.

The ravenous prisoners had about a half dozen ovens for cooking for 10,000 men. They weren’t often used for their purpose. Some were used as sleeping spots, while others were pilfered by prisoners to support their huts.

Keg tap found in possible Confederate barracks area (GSU)
A civilian sutler inside the stockade “supposedly did a really good business,” said Greene. POWS fortunate to have money could buy pies, meats and potatoes.

Guard H.C. Harris complained about poor rations. 

“The officers probably had their own wherewithal and could secure food from local plantations,” said Derden.

The Lawton project believes it has found evidence that showed Confederate officers may have enjoyed that kind of comfort. Students worked on what’s believed to be the officer’s quarters, or barracks, but that not has been confirmed, says Greene, adding the building also was used after the war, up to about 1880.

A map by Sneden showed a large two-story frame house in the middle of the officer’s quarters.

“We discovered that the part of the site has never been plowed and that is pretty exciting,” says Greene. “We immediately came up material with a Civil War encampment of some kind.”

Flattened brass cylinder's exact use is unknown (GSU)
Discoveries included portions of thick, undecorated dishes -- durable china consistent with 1860s. Sherds of ironstone, some about 4 inches long, indicated large platters and other serving ware were used.

“By the 1860s, you have an expanded belief in cleanliness.” according to Greene. “People wanted to see that their dishes were clean and they started making these plain, white dishes.” 

The barracks site has yielded few military accoutrements, though brass boot heels could have belonged to an officer’s boots.

Excavated container glass includes rum and whiskey bottle fragments. “Officers and enlisted men are drinking a lot,” Greene told the Picket.

Researchers want to find the site where enlisted Confederates lived to see how they managed.

Prisoners made do with whatever they could find

Brig Gen. John Winder
Inside the prison, largely denuded of trees and cover, desperate Union soldiers made do with their few, hoarded belongings and any material that could provide shelter.

“There was very little in the stockade. For housing, they fended completely for themselves,” said Greene.

Prisoners used tree limbs, chunks of wood and clothing, blankets or tent halves to construct huts, or shebangs, which were dug into the ground and are discernible rectangles.

 “One shebang has a layer of bricks in one corner,” Greene said, indicating they were “borrowed” from one of the camp ovens.

The students have focused on exposing two of three identified shebangs located on the now-fenced and secured site of the federal fish hatchery.

Artifacts already have been found in the sandy soil, including part of a large folding knife and well-preserved animal bones.

“We want to know what they were eating. They were so starved they were burning animal bones and consuming bone meal,” according to Greene.

Experts say Camp Lawton is a remarkable site for artifacts, given its remote location and the fact the land has been government property for more than 80 years.

Sherman’s troops raced toward Camp Lawton in late November 1864, but arrived too late to stop the transfer of POWs to other Confederate prison sites in the closing months of the war. 

“These prisoners were awoken in the middle of the night and were marched away,” says Greene. “A lot of material was likely left behind. “It is a good thing for me, but it was a terrible thing for them.”

Magnolia Springs History Center will open in early 2014
Troopers saw a couple of bodies in the camp, perhaps victims of hypothermia, and after seeing the conditions at the camp they burned it to the ground, leaving evidence of burned wood in stockade trenches and campsites.

“Union soldiers see this horrible site, some bodies unburied and they burned a lot of the structures,” said Greene.

Not so easy to compare prisons in North, South 

Scholars have long debated the relative conditions at Northern and Southern prison camps. Neither side was prepared for a mass of prisoners, and the situation worsened when exchanges dropped steeply in the middle of the war.

“We dehumanize the people we consider our enemy and opposition. That is happening on both sides,” said Leonard, of Andersonville National Historic Site.

He argues observers should compare Southern prisons to Southern prisons, and Northern to Northern.

Each side had very different logistics, supplies and management systems for their prisons, according to Leonard.

The top-down, heavily centralized Confederate system led to the disaster at Andersonville, built to relieve a site in Richmond, Va. There was just one problem. Andersonville was built to house the same number of prisoners as Richmond – 10,000 – but had more than 30,000 at one point living in squalor. Almost 13,000 captives died at Andersonville died over 14 months. 

Main exhibit room at future state museum (Ga. DNR)
People should consider the scale and size of an operation, Leonard advised.

The North’s Elmira, New York, prison had a population of about 12,000 – about the number of dead alone at Andersonville. But its death rate of 24 percent wasn’t appreciably better than Andersonville’s 29 percent.

Leonard said Winder is portrayed as a “callous” or “invisible” villain who would have been prosecuted after the war for his role in overseeing Andersonville and Lawton had he survived. 

Confederate Maj. Henry Wirz, commandant of Andersonville, was tried on charges of conspiracy and murder and hanged. Defenders said he was a scapegoat for conditions he could not control.

Derden, author of the recent book “The World’s Largest Prison: The Story of Camp Lawton,” said conditions at Camp Lawton “reflect abilities and disabilities of the Confederacy in the last days of the war effort.” 

There were not sufficient rations.

“Toward the end of its existence, the soldiers were suffering pretty badly.”

Union POW’s diaries and accounts have told a large part of their side of the story. But researchers also want to learn more about the daily lives and quarters for the enlisted Confederates who guarded over them.

“There are dozens of prisoner accounts that were published and republished … they paint this picture of intentional Confederate abuse, lack of any kind of support or empathy by soldiers and officers,” said Greene.

Confederate officials painted a different picture – that their soldiers suffered, too, and were limited by the Union blockade in providing adequate food and supplies for the prisoners.

“You have these two extreme sides that very rarely meet in the middle," said Greene

Thus far, the unbiased, scientific methods of archaeology have been unable to determine who is right, or whether the topic will remain steeped in shades of gray.

Still, observers say the Camp Lawton site will make for years of discovery of analysis.

Will all of the voices of the past be heard – the prisoners, the guards and the slaves that helped build the massive site?

Georgia Southern graduate Megan Kise, now a contract archaeologist, will be keeping up with her colleagues as they continue their work.

“I personally think that there is something more that Camp Lawton is ready to tell us. There are still many missing pieces.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Update: Obama will not attend Gettysburg Address 150th anniversary program

Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg (NPS)
President Barack Obama will not participate in the Dedication Day ceremony on Nov. 19 that will observe the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Gettysburg National Military Park last week said he received an invitation, but Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell will represent the administration, it was announced Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson will be one of the speakers, Gettysburg National Military Park announced Thursday.

The 10 a.m. program, which is free and will last about 90 minutes, will feature a reading of the remarkable speech by Lincoln portrayer James Getty and the Oath of Allegiance to 16 new citizens.

The Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg holds the remains of more than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in battle. Lincoln's two-minute speech at the cemetery's dedication on Nov. 19, 1863, touched on the themes of human equality, sacrifice and a test of the nation's principles.

No backpacks, large bags, tripods, chairs or parcels will be permitted in the cemetery.

Live coverage of the event begins at 9 a.m. It will be available via the Internet by following links from the park website,, and the Gettysburg Foundation website,

• Read the Gettysburg Address

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

42 acres added to Kennesaw battlefield

Hays field between fortified hills (TPL)
A 42-acre site that includes Nodine's Hill, scene of fierce fighting in June 1864, has been added to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, the Trust for Public Land and the National Park Service announced Wednesday.

The land includes remnant Union entrenchments, rifle pits, and cannon placements, according to the announcement. The battle occurred as Federal forces maneuvered to Atlanta, which they took by early September. The hill is named for the Union commander whose brigade assaulted the Kennesaw position June 20 and June 21, 1864.

Known as Hays Farm, the property is adjacent to a 58-acre, 40-home subdivision built after an unsuccessful conservation attempt in 2005, according to the trust.

Arrow points to acquisition. Map courtesy of Georgia Battlefields Association
A a Civil War Trust post by historian Philip Secrist refers to Nodine's Hill: "Kirby’s and Nodine’s brigades gained and lost the hill several times on June 20. Reinforced the next day, and under direct orders from an impatient (Union Gen. Oliver O. Howard, the two tried again, succeeding this time in holding the ground despite counterattacks (by Confederates) and heavy concentrated barrages of artillery. The fighting here on this and nearby hills in mid-June was especially close and personal, combative and aggressive – often hand-to-hand and frequently continuing into the night."

Funding for the $1.76 million addition came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), officials said.

“(The park) is a great destination for both history enthusiasts and nature lovers, and this addition to the park offers something for every visitor,” said Curt Soper, Georgia state director for The Trust for Public Land, in a statement. “It was particularly important to protect Nodine’s Hill in the Civil War’s sesquicentennial years and permanently preserve the site of fierce fighting in the Atlanta Campaign.”

• More details on acquisition

Monday, October 21, 2013

They had names: Students want to tell story of slaves who built Confederate prison camp

Slave market in nearby Louisville, Ga. (Library of Congress)
One survey and excavation at a time, often in hot and muggy weather, Hubert Gibson is trying to unearth a story that has yet to be fully told.

“Whenever we think of Civil War memory, they talk about Confederacy, the Union, prisoners and guards -- and not address slavery,” said Gibson.

Gibson and other students at Georgia Southern University are trying to learn more about all of those who played a part at Camp Lawton, a Confederate prison camp north of Millen in east-central Georgia. 

Up to 10,000 Union men, most from the infamous Andersonville prison camp, were held at Lawton before they were moved elsewhere. Death estimates range from 685 to 1,330. 

Hubert Gibson at work at Camp Lawton site in Georgia
While prisoner accounts, mostly notably of Robert Knox Sneden, were published, almost nothing is known of  the slaves who helped build the huge stockade and other buildings.

Records on Lawton are scant or non-existent, including any drawings that may have aided in its construction in the summer of and autumn of 1864.

No one knows for sure exactly how many slaves were used to build Camp Lawton. Most estimates are about 500. Their names are long lost to history.

“They are not actively talked about,” said Gibson, 24, a master’s student who was an archaeology field school supervisor on site this past summer. “They were part of this very large undertaking.”

The Atlanta Campaign by Union Maj. Gen William T. Sherman and his aim to march to Savannah put pressure on the Confederacy to build sites away from Andersonville.

Brig. Gen. John Winder and others looked to Millen, which had a railroad line that could carry prisoners and supplies.

Brig. Gen. Winder
“The factors included railroad, access, water, timber, land…. and the potential of an area where there are slaves, said John K. Derden, professor emeritus at East Georgia College.

When war broke out, Burke County had more than 12,000 slaves and a white population of fewer than 6,000 according to records. (The prison site these days is in Jenkins County, carved out of Burke in the early 20th century)

Plantation owners were very hesitant about hiring out slaves for the construction and operation of Camp Lawton. They feared disease from the weakened Union prisoners.

“They felt it was a dangerous situation,” said Derden, author of the recent book “The World’s Largest Prison: The Story of Camp Lawton.”

Winder resorted to impressing slave labor, from Burke County and beyond. 

“He has these plantations dotting the landscape,” according to Lance Greene, an assistant professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University.

It’s not known how or whether slaveholders were compensated.

POW Sneden's map of Lawton (Library of Congress)
As the story goes, a family with more than 100 slaves near Camp Lawton did not receive a penny. 

Area resident Don Perkins, whose ancestors owned some slaves, believed that might have been the widow of prominent citizen Batt Jones.

Perkins, 79, lives in a community of the same name just north of Magnolia Springs State Park, the boundaries of which contain much of the site.

The retired advertising executive and historian and the local historical society could not recall the names of direct descendants of slaves who built the camp. “It is really hard to trace the slaves,” said Perkins.

“I have never known them (local African-Americans) to ever say their family worked building Fort Lawton,” Perkins recently told the Picket.

Perkins said his ancestors came to Burke County in 1800 from Wilmington, N.C. Cotton indeed was king.

Stockade feature
The slave population soared after the invention of the cotton gin, he said. “It was a very rich area with a lot of culture.”

Two Perkins men started a lumber company across from Magnolia Springs and supplied products for the Confederacy.

Derden echoed comments from others about the dearth of records about the slaves and was unaware of any oral histories. “I have not done a real hard search for that kind of material.”

About 300 Union prisoners are believed to have aided in the construction of Lawton, which was in operation for a scant six weeks.

Georgia Southern students studied three sections of the stockade trench. Much of the camp was burned by angry Union soldiers who found the camp empty after prisoners were evacuated.

A couple logs were found many years ago in the springs, and the digs over the past few years have yielded some small sections of post and many areas in the sediment that show signs of fire.

“Construction methods are very well done and planned out,” said Greene.

Courtesy of Hubert Gibson
Thousands of tall posts made of yellow pine – up to 20 to 25 feet long -- were placed 6 feet deep into the sand and clay soil on the side of trenches up to 4 feet wide. The posts were backfilled very tightly so they would not push out, increasing escape risks.

The stockade wall was one mile all the way around.

“This was not a small little camp the Confederacy threw together,” said Greene.

Of course, Camp Lawton is not the only place where slaves were used to build structures or fortifications for the South. In Georgia alone, they were used to build much of the defenses at Kennesaw Mountain and the so-called River Line just north of Atlanta, along the Chattahoochee River.

Gibson has studied construction techniques at Andersonville and Camp Ford, a Civil War prison in Tyler, Texas

Gibson at Blackshear, another Georgia Civil War
At Lawton, the builders used areas of clay in the area to buttress the stockade walls in what was normally sandy soil.

“They had a method or process for what they are doing. They were really thinking this through,” said Gibson. “You want to do it right because there could be a danger of post collapsing.”

Confederate officers probably had stronger POWs as part of the work crews. “Slaves were accustomed to doing these things every day of their lives,” according to Gibson.

The student, who grew up in Harriman, Tenn., west of Knoxville, has had an interest in the Civil War and slave history.

“Why not try to combine the two to try to interpret the life of slaves?” he told the Picket. “They were important as laborers for both sides. Some were forced or volunteered to work on fortifications or build roads.”

Sneden, the Union prisoner, mentioned gambling with slaves in his journals, according to Gibson, and there are some documents indicating slaves disregarded escape attempts.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division has no specific information on slaves at Lawton.

"We know that they were involved in building Camp Lawton  ... and that they drove wagons carrying food into the prison, but that is about all that is known," said DNR preservation specialist Debbie L. Wallsmith.

Courtesy of Hubert Gibson
"We also have very few specifics about the CSA soldiers who worked at the prison. I would love to hear from people who had family members associated with the prison so I can tell their story."

Gibson said the slaves also helped cook and build Confederate officer quarters.

He and others have been looking for remains of meals slaves might have consumed during stockade construction, but so found have found nothing in the trenches. Gibson has found no artifacts directly tied to slaves.

The grad student acknowledges the topic is an uncomfortable part of African-American history, but Camp Lawton shows that they are a vital piece of Civil War history.

“I think it provides a testament. The slaves were an active part of this process in building something so big. They were human, they were people. They were not just servants. They were thinking of this when they were digging it.”

Gibson said his thesis will be on stockade construction and interpreting the lives of slaves and prisoners.

Archaeology is a vital tool in telling those stories.

“It is important thing to bring to people’s awareness,” said Gibson. “Slavery is a nasty thing in our past, but in order to overcome and force this ghost in the past we have to face it.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ranger-led walks: Tramping down trails, seeking insight and avoiding poison ivy

NPS photo

Jim Ogden (above) and other staffers at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park last month led 16 “real-time” walks during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga in North Georgia. He estimates at least 1,000 people participated in the walks across the battlefield, timed to the hour and dates events occurred. The park historian, 54, spoke recently with the Civil War Picket about the tours.

Q. What were the walks like, given you led 14 groups and were hoarse by the last one?

A. I did roughly 22 hours of interpretation over two and a half days. We did not really do anything strenuous and did not cover that many miles. The poison ivy is an issue because it is the predominant force on the forest floor. The other issue in the woods and trails is that people get strung out, and you wait for people -- not unlike what a military commander had to do.

NPS photo
Q. Tell me about the people who took part.

A. I think the groups that we had were a cross of the entire spectrum. Some people were very knowledgeable about the Civil War in general, and this battle and campaign more specifically. They know the battle story pretty well and are probably capable of giving a tour of some depth in and of themselves. There were people this was their first introduction to the Battle of Chickamauga. You have to be constantly watching your group and seeing how you are engaging them. Seeing the looks on people’s faces and sense whether you are offering a little to everybody in the group.

Q. How do you handle comments from participants with more than a casual knowledge?

A. I don’t mind interjection. Usually, some folks can offer something from a different perspective or put it in a different way where someone can better connect. I really encourage it with military groups (staff rides), whether there is a more extended multi-person conversation. The primary thing is to have an enhanced awareness that something utterly important happened on this ground. That this is hallowed ground -- an event that helped shape our country in utterly significant ways happened here.

Civil War Picket photo
Q. Tell me about your approach on some walks?

A. On Snodgrass hill, (Union Col. Charles) Harker used it essentially as a parapet behind which to position and protect his troops. He advanced them to top, fired, withdrew, advanced. I illustrated that by moving back and forth over the crest of the spur. I don’t care if someone remembers all of Harker’s tactics. I want them to understand a really complex fight went on in. I hope they (tour participants) would think about how individual choice made an impact on the battlefield. I present a lot of what they (commanders) knows right now and the condition right now -- who knows what will happen in the future? When Longstreet orders four divisions forward at 11 a.m., by pure dumb luck three of those divisions strike the Union line exactly where a Union division is in the process of being replaced by another and thereby find the weak spot in the line. There are innumerable places that decisions made at higher and lower levels changed the course of the action.

Ranger Lee White leads tour at Snodgrass Hill (Picket photo)
Q. What about soldiers’ descendants who take part?

A.  On a daily basis we have a couple people who asked about the walks. I try to tell them which program would be the best relative to their particular interest. We had one family that were descendants of 17th Indiana mounted infantry with Wilder’s Brigade. I brought that role in a little more specifically than I might have otherwise.

Q. Are there times you don’t have a ready answer to a question?

A. I do get stumped sometimes. I hope this happens on a daily basis. This is a multimillion piece jigsaw puzzle. We no longer have the box or all the pieces. We only generally know that it is a nationally significantly battle. We don’t know what that picture looks like. Some pieces we may not be able to put into the picture because we don’t know how they fit into the section.

NPS photo
Q. What about the appearance of the battlefield, compared to 1863?

A. It is important to preserve, restore and maintain the scenes of some of this action. The pattern of fields and forests here is close, about 80% of the way that it was. Some fields are too large, others are no too small. Some are entirely grown up. When you zoom in, a lot of work stills to be done. The difference now is the nature of the forest, which in 1863 was a lot more open than it is today. Reasons include agriculture practices at the time where unfenced livestock ate vegetation. Second is the absence of fire. Today, fire is suppressed. The final part is the plants. Chinese privet was not here in 1863. It has increased dramatically since my first summer here in 1982. It is an utterly detrimental plant in the forest understory.

Q. Tell me about source material at the park?

A. I worked at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania. I did some archives research at Gettysburg. This park does not have as much as Gettysburg or Fredericksburg. They have larger staffs and acquired more material. But it is not just staffing. It is the interest of the staff member. They may look at a descendant’s letter. They should ask for a copy.

Q. Studies indicate the age of national park visitors is increasing. There also is a question of diversity at Civil War parks. Is that a concern?

A. The hump in the bell curve has been moving up further up the age spectrum. There are fewer younger people involved in history activities. The average age of re-enactor is getting older. My observation, having been raised by educators, is that about 40 or 50 years ago there was a change in the way that history was taught in the United States. Many are not given that background -- that spark of interest. The National Park Service is addressing this problem of reaching out. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, has an urban wildlife refuge initiative in which they are reaching out to urban populations.

Picket photo
Q. How does technology affect what you and the park do?

A. The NPS has a cell phone tour here. The Civil War Trust rolled out their Battle of Chickamauga animated map. What I am doing is old school. I am not opposed to putting in new technologies. The question is practicality. We have the ability to present maps and graphics by a smartphone or tablet. But that is hard to show to a large crowd. 

Q. In March, you will be part of a Georgia Battlefields Association tour in North Georgia. What do you aim for?

A. My goal is for folks to have a great appreciation of that site and this history when they finish. I am trying to improve that experience.

• Plan now: Special programs in November to mark 150th anniversary of Chattanooga battles

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Re-enactments this weekend near Knoxville

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War battles of Fort Sanders and Campbell's Station is being marked this week near Knoxville, Tenn. A brass band will play Civil War-era instruments, and Dan Paterson, the great-grandson of the Confederate commander during the battle, is expected to attend. Battles will take place Saturday and Sunday near Corryton. • Details

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mississippi city recalls 1863 raid

A new marker in Starkville, Ms., tells of Union Brig. Gen. Benjamin Grierson's raid that started in Tennessee and smashed through much of Mississippi in 1863. The raid was a blow to Southern morale.  • Article

Read more here: