Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Learn about conservation of old flags

6th Regiment, N.C. Troops
You may recall a Picket post previewing a live webcast on the conservation of Civil War uniforms from North Carolina.

Next month, North Carolina Museum of History textile conservator Paige Myers will lead another session -- this one on flags. The museum has about 100 Civil War banners.

The webcast is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET on Dec. 10.

• Register for session here, more information

Monday, November 25, 2013

The fallen: 'Bringing Michigan back to them'

This past weekend, a group from Michigan brought a handful of hom  to the final resting place of 175 fallen soldiers at Gettysburg, Pa. Historian Bruce Butgereit and other members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War traveled for the 150-year remembrance of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863. Soil from all over Michigan was collected for the remembrance. • Article

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mysteries of the deep: Upcoming raising of ironclad CSS Georgia excites researchers

Possible photo of CSS Georgia (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The only presumed photo of the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia is actually a photo of a photo.

The grainy and chemical-blistered image, with a man in the foreground, was spotted and photographed a couple decades ago at a yard sale in Waycross, Ga.

“We agreed that it is a legitimate original photograph of the Georgia,” said Bob Holcombe, a naval historian.

Experts determined this by comparing the copy to sketches in Harper’s Weekly and by the process of elimination involving known designs of other ironclads in and around Savannah, Ga.

No one knows what became of that yard sale photograph. Was it purchased and put away in a trunk?

That’s just one of many mysteries associated with the CSS Georgia. (See bizarre update on photograph here)

Some of those mysteries may be solved when piece by piece, the remnants of the Civil War ironclad will break the surface of the Savannah River next summer, destined for conservation and, one day, display at a museum.

The CSS Georgia must be moved as part of a $652 million project benefiting the Port of Savannah. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, even larger ships will be able to travel to U.S. cities. That requires deeper channels.

While the CSS Georgia is not currently in the shipping lane, it must be raised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so that vessels will have more room to maneuver as they make their way to and from the Atlantic Ocean.

A rare opportunity to learn shipbuilding methods

Archaeologists and historians are thrilled because they finally will have the opportunity to learn more about the ironclad’s design and construction and its two casemates. There are no known surviving plans.

The CSS Georgia was a “one-off local design” rather than one provided by the Confederate navy department, said Holcombe, retired curator and historian at the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Ga. “The dimension of the vessels are not known with any degree of certainty.”

“We know so little about the vessel itself so there will be a lot of answers to how it was built,” Holcombe recently told the Picket.  “Even in chunks, and no lower hull, there should be answers.”

Recent recovery of casemate section (USACE)
The banging of war drums before the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor ushered the beginning of a whirlwind of activity for Alvin N. Miller’s machine and shipbuilding business in Savannah.

Miller and other business near River Street and on Hutchinson Island produced ships, parts and tools for the young Confederate navy.

High on their mind was ensuring Savannah’s strategic importance as a port. But the fall of Fort Pulaski -- also on the Savannah River, east of the city – to Union forces in early 1862 effectively bottled up the city. Attention now swung toward producing ironclads that might break through the blockade or protect Savannah from approaches by water.

Miller’s crowning achievement during the war, according to a paper at Armstrong Atlantic State University, was the building of the ironclad CSS Georgia in 1862.

“Miller designed and built the Georgia – thus making it his largest work for the Confederacy,” said the authors.

The Ladies’ Gunboat Association raised money across the state for the building of the CSS Georgia, reaching about $115,000.

Layers of wood supported the iron armor
Despite the dreams of a powerful ship, it soon became apparent that the CSS Georgia’s engine and propulsion system weren’t up to the task of nimbly slicing through the swift currents of the Savannah River and engaging in offensive action against elite Union vessels.

So she become a floating battery, a deterrent that never fired a shot in anger but helped keep the Federal navy away from the city.

Letters to the editor in local newspapers alternately denigrated and defended the CSS Georgia.

“They wanted something like the [CSS] Virginia,” said Michael Jordan, a Savannah filmmaker and student of the Civil War, said of the comparison to the Confederate vessel that clashed with the USS Monitor. “It is just murky what the builders intended. There are no surviving plans.”

The CSS Georgia was part of the so-called Savannah Squadron, which included the ironclads Atlanta, Savannah and Milledgeville.

Hours before the massive army of Major Gen. William T. Sherman took Savannah by land, the CSS Georgia’s crew lit a charge, creating an explosion and fire that sent the ironclad down nearly 40 feet deep, just a couple hundred yards from Fort Jackson, which itself is only a few miles east of River Street.

Confederates, before they fled, also burned the eastern wharves district, putting an end to Miller’s machine business and foundry.

Beyond the salvage of a few items, the CSS Georgia was largely forgotten until 1968, when a dredge struck the vessel. A similar incident occurred in 1983, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers placed a buoy above the wreckage and set about protecting the site and warning huge commercial vessels using the main shipping channel to steer clear.

Views of the CSS Georgia (USACE)
The new “super ships” resulting from the Panama Canal expansion will be 1,000 feet long or larger. 

They would dwarf the CSS Georgia, which is estimated to have been between 150 and 250 feet long and 45-60 feet wide.

The raising of the CSS Georgia -- with an estimate price tag of nearly $10 million -- was just a matter of time in recent years, and the funding for Savannah’s port expansion finally has enabled the Corps to construct a rough timeline for the archaeological effort, which will require Navy divers, using lights on their helmet, to work in extremely low visibility.

“You also are limited to diving around high or low tide,” said Julie Morgan, Army Corps archaeologist in Savannah. “The current is really fast through the Savannah River.”

Navy divers doing an assessment of the integrity of the CSS Georgia’s remains recently brought up a 5,000-pound piece of the wreckage. It has been sent to Texas A&M University so that researchers can study how to best bring up the vessel.

The debris includes possibly four out of her original 10 cannons, parts of the propeller and propulsion system, a boiler and casemate. The wooden hull is believed to have largely disintegrated over the years.

Riveted by design, building of casemates

Officials say the signature pieces are two casemates -- the compartments where artillery pieces were housed. Experts say the casemates are the only ones surviving from a Confederate ironclad. One is huge: 68 feet by 24 feet.

One of the recovered guns (Courtesy of Old Fort Jackson)
“We have one large section, the east casemate. She was clad in railroad iron,” said Morgan. “In 2003, the divers noted a lot of wood backing that was still attached to the iron. [But] there may have been deterioration over the years.”

The CSS Georgia was believed to have about 24 inches of pine and oak beneath her iron cladding. Historians and archaeologists are eager to see how all of that was held together.

Rods connected the iron and the wood.

“It went through there like a Tinker Toy,” said Jordan, who wrote a thesis about the CSS Georgia and has made several productions about the city and the Civil War.

The engine used by the ironclad likely came from another ship, according to Morgan.

Morgan said crews, utilizing barges and cranes, may have to cut some pieces to safely bring them to the surface.

And there’s a possibility of live munitions, even after 150 years.

“We know the cannon are there and don’t know if they were loaded,” Morgan told the Picket. Some ordnance was recovered in the 1980s; two artillery pieces are on display at Old Fort Jackson.

Shackles, shot and tools were recovered in dives during the 1980s, but officials don’t expect to find a trove of personal artifacts this time around.

Although wood associated with the CSS Georgia may be questionable, the iron is believed to be in good shape.

A sign at Old Fort Jackson, close to the shipwreck site.
“We know that we have an invasive species of mussels. It just coats the wreck, like shag carpet. It doesn’t seem to be harming it,” said Morgan.

The wreckage, over a field of about 300 feet by 150 feet, straddles the South Carolina-Georgia line.

“I think it probably settled very near its present location,” said the archaeologist. But because the CSS Georgia has been hit at least twice during routine dredge operations, “the arrangement of the artifacts are not [arranged] the way it went down in 1864.”

Divers expect to spend six to eight months raising the CSS Georgia, but the conservation of the ironclad will take longer, probably three to five years.

That is a considerably shorter window than the conservation of the CSS Hunley, the famed Confederate submarine that sank a Union ship off Charleston, S.C.

The Georgia is not as “concreted” as the Hunley and the Savannah River’s salinity is not as high as the Atlantic Ocean’s, according to Morgan.

Concretion, a mix of iron corrosion and carbonates from seawater, actually protects such shipwrecks from rapid deterioration.

The CSS Georgia was a member of the Savannah Squadron, a half dozen vessels intended to conduct offensive and defensive operations.

Divers must use lights to see wreckage (USACE)
The CSS Atlanta saw action near Wassaw Sound before it ran ashore. It was captured and subsequently used by the Union navy.

The CSS Savannah and CSS Milledgeville, the latter still under construction, were scuttled on Dec. 21, 1864, the same day the CSS Georgia was destroyed to keep it from falling into Union hands.

While there were some salvage operations on the CSS Georgia immediately after the war, she proved too difficult to move. “It was a difficult project with very limited success,” said Morgan.

“We have no indication in the harbor of the [other] ironclads. They were probably removed earlier to clear the waterway.”

Holcombe said the CSS Georgia was built of T-shaped railroad iron, before rolling mills were set up. “They would put a layer down on the wood.”

The CSS Georgia’s iron might not have held up to the 15-inch guns used by some Union monitors, but it would have done well against others, said Holcombe.

That’s if she had been capable of plying the rivers and coastal waterways.

Serving on CSS Georgia was no picnic

There was not much excitement to serving aboard a floating battery. Morale often was a problem because of the lack of combat.

“I think people hated serving on it. It was hot and dull,” said Jordan. He cited leakage, darkness and ventilation on the CSS Georgia.

There was one moment of excitement for the crew in June 1864. They took part in a successful raid that resulted in the capture of the USS Water Witch in Ossabaw Sound.

Still, beyond a couple of rosters, little is known about the 200-300 sailors that served the CSS Georgia. Holcombe said he is not aware of any letters or journals.

Their numbers included immigrants and a few African-Americans.

Another rendering of the Georgia (USACE)
“By all accounts, they were well-trained and efficient,” said Holcombe. “They were basically Georgia farm boys.”

Malaria and heat-related problems were among the afflictions.

“It was not pleasant duty and probably most of the people aboard would rather have been somewhere else,” said Holcombe. “There was a lot of disease on the station.”

The retired curator said he is fascinated by the construction of the CSS Georgia. And while the ironclad did not live up to expectations upon its launching, Holcombe marvels at an innovative design brought to production by unskilled labor in a largely agrarian society.

“The South was able to produce a modern system of war in a very short time.”

COMING SOON: Ideas for public outreach on CSS Georgia and possible exhibiting.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cemetery ceremony marks 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

Civil War historian and author James B. McPherson and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell were among those on the program today at the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park. Here is the Civil War Picket's account of events, viewed as they happened via a video stream, followed by the words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

11:34 a.m.: Conclusion of the ceremony, with mention of a noon ceremony at the graves of U.S. Colored Troops.

11:29 a.m.: Benediction, followed by the playing of Taps.

11:27 a.m.: Pledge of Allegiance followed by a musical selection, "God Bless America."

11:25 a.m.: President Barack Obama, in a recording, welcomes the new American citizens. He mentions their solemn oath to their country and mentions "great responsibilities." No dream is impossible, Obama says. "You can help the write the next great chapter in our American story."

11:20 a.m.: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia prepares to administer the oath to new U.S. citizens. He reminds people that freedom is not free. About 15 take the oath, raising their right hands. "Welcome, my fellow Americans," Scalia says, as the crowd stands and applauds.

11:12 a.m.: Wayne Hill sings several stanzas of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

11:09 a.m.: James Getty, who portrays Abraham Lincoln, reads the words of the Gettysburg Address. He stands hatless, like Lincoln, to give the remarks. Getty wears a black suit, black bow tie and white gloves at the lectern.

11:07 a.m.: Morgan Brooks, law enforcement ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park, reads words from President Barack Obama, who is not attending the ceremony. Obama remembers those who gave the "full measure of devotion for the country they love." Obama talks about a self-made man who believed that it falls to each generation to preserve the freedom for which its predecessors "so valiantly fought."

11:04 a.m.: Sally Jewell, secretary of the Interior, says Lincoln was wrong to say Americans would not long remember his words. "We are reminded of the sacrifice of so many for freedom." She cites the bravery of Rosa Parks and others. Speaking of Lincoln, she says he personified honesty and decency.

11 a.m.: Director of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, says his staff is appreciative of Americans' love for their national parks.

10:56 a.m.: The U.S. Marine Band plays "The Old One Hundredth," a song familiar in 1863.

10:52 a.m.: McPherson says that Lincoln in two minutes brought the past, present and future together and weaved in additional images -- death, rebirth, among them. Americans should closely study and analyze the words of the Gettysburg Address, the historian says. "Men died that the nation might live." McPherson said the institution of slavery also died. McPherson asks the crowd whether Lincoln's vision will be around for another 150 years. He says Americans should commit themselves to fulfilling the task of Lincoln and the soldiers buried at the cemetery.
10:47 a.m.: Pulitzer Prize winner and historian James McPherson, author of "Battle Cry of Freedom," says people should reflect on Lincoln's life and speech at Gettysburg. "During the many dark days of that war ... it looked like the nation ... might indeed perish from the earth." Lincoln's legacy has inspired people of other lands, he says. McPherson talks about 4 million slaves who were to become forever free. Citing MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, McPherson says King praised Lincoln. The historian tells the crowd that Lincoln had a reverence for the generation that brought forth a nation in 1776. The Civil War was a great test to see whether Lincoln's generation was worthy of that heritage.

10:41 a.m.: Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs says the "battle swept through our campus." A building was used as a Confederate field hospital. Freshmen at the college re-create a walk from the town to the cemetery to reflect on the address.

10:36 a.m.: Honoring of a Pennsylvania student who wrote an address that was in tribute to the Gettysburg Address. Lauren Pyfer took part in "In Lincoln's Footsteps." She tells the crowd that it is up to citizens to nurture and preserve the rights of freedom and humanity in all nations. "Intentions are good, but actions are lasting." She said the world needs to fulfill the vision of Abraham Lincoln.

10:32 a.m.: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett: "President Lincoln sought to heal a nation's wounds by defining what a nation should be."

10:30 a.m.: Sen. Bob Casey talks about recent wars, including the deaths of Pennsylvanians in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We do need to recommit ourselves to the unfinished business this country faces today." The cause then was the Civil War and the future of the country. Casey says the cause of veterans is crucial today. "Let us recommit ourselves to those who serve us."

10:28 a.m.: Sen. Pat Toomey says Abraham Lincoln used words that matched his deeds. (See Gettysburg Address text at the bottom of this post).

10:24 a.m.: Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania talks about "intense political rhetoric" in 2013. He mentions Lincoln's promise of a new birth of freedom. "Everything we have achieved since this time" is born out of the sacrifice of soldiers who fought at Gettysburg.

10:21 a.m.: Gettysburg National Military Park Supt. Bob Kirby describes the battle in July 1863 and the Union victory. He cites the 51,000 casualties, including 7,000 deaths. He also outlines the history of the cemetery at Gettysburg and Lincoln's attendance and speech. "Lincoln's 272 words brought meaning to the terrible sacrifices ..." The legacy of the address shows that the bid for freedom and equality did not end with the Civil War, says Kirby. "This truly is hallowed ground."

10:15 a.m.: The Rev. Michael Cooper-White, giving the invocation, mentions Lincoln's consecration of the hallowed ground at Gettysburg. "Give us to the courage to heal our divisions so that freedom once again might again flourish," says the pastor.

10:11 a.m.: The program is being live streamed to about 70,000 classrooms across the country. The 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry fife and drum corps, dressed in Federal uniforms, accompanies the presentation of the colors. The U.S. Marine Band plays the National Anthem.

10:06 a.m.: A moment of silence is held for those who, President Abraham Lincoln said, did not sacrifice in vain.

10:03 a.m.: The program has begun. Various dignitaries are placing patriotic wreaths in front of the stage at Soldiers' National Cemetery.

9:55 a.m.: We appear to be only moments away from the start. Re-enactors, politicians and children waving U.S. flags are bundled against the chill. Skies are gray.

9:40 a.m.: Band performing as crowd awaits beginning of program. It's a chilly morning at Gettysburg, with a current temperature of 40.

Gettysburg Address (delivered by President Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Photos of the CSS Georgia piece recovered from the murky Savannah River

Exultant workers lift a piece of the CSS Georgia from Savannah River
Barge used in Nov. 12 recovery (USACE Savannah photos)
Coast Guard vessels keep watch near Old Fort Jackson
Navy divers used helmets with lights to see through darkness
5,000-pound piece of iron from CSS Georgia casemate
The moment had long been anticipated: A section of the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia was lifted by U.S. Navy divers just a couple miles east of the famed River Street in Savannah, Ga. Archaeologists want to analyze this section before proceeding with the removal of the rest of the shipwreck as part of the deepening of the shipping channel. The CSS Georgia was scuttled in late December 1864, just a day before Union forces took the port city. These photos are courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.  • More details

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Portion of CSS Georgia brought to surface

Contemporary sketch of Georgia (USACE)
This week, U.S. Navy divers, working with archaeologists for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, retrieved a 64-square-foot section of the ironclad CSS Georgia, a precursor to the long-anticipated removal and preservation of the shipwreck so that Savannah's vital shipping channel can be deepened. The removal is expected to begin in summer 2014, although funding has not been finalized. • Article

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

At new Georgia sites, you'll learn of soldiers, civilians and assume a POW's identity

My memory of visiting Civil War battlefields during my youth largely consists of those large iron signs, depicting Union forces in blue, Confederates in red.

Silhouette for Resaca panel
The disposition of fighting units, of course, is integral to telling the story of why a battle occurred at that spot and its tactical or strategic importance.

But recent years have witnessed a more inclusive story – of combatants, yes, but also the impact of war on civilians and their way of life. 

Even within the military realm, much is to be written about the operation of Civil War prisons and the larger questions of how humans treat each other during difficult circumstances.

In time for 150th anniversary observations, the state of Georgia is preparing to open a park and a museum that will help tell that fuller story.

Resaca Battlefield State Historic Site, along a stretch of Interstate 75 in northwest Georgia, is expected to open in early 2014, a few months behind an earlier projection. The contractor is finalizing work, including the installation of about 20 interpretive panels.

The site, to be operated by Gordon County, will have loop trails, two kiosks, three pulloff areas, picnic tables and a comfort station, though no museum -- due to budgetary limitations.

Well to the south, near Millen, the Magnolia Springs History Center will have a soft opening, possibly in January, although officials say opening dates are estimates and subject to several factors. (January 14 update: The center is not yet open; no firm timetable)

That museum, in a renovated building at Magnolia Springs State Park, will tell the story of Camp Lawton, a Confederate prison built to handle the overflow at Andersonville. It held more than 10,000 Union soldiers for six weeks in the autumn of 1864. Among the planned displays will be artifacts recovered from the site.

One of the interpretive panels for Resaca (Ga. DNR)

State and local officials hope both venues also will be an economic boon to those regions.

Interstate 75 literally cuts through the Resaca battlefield; visitors will be able to exit and be inside the park within a couple minutes.

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

The state site covers a portion of the western side of the clash.

Debbie Wallsmith
“When you pull off the highway area, before you head downhill into the river bottom, there will be three interpretive panels that will get you oriented and provide the basic background,” said Debbie Wallsmith, interpretive specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division.

“One of the neat things we have gotten are life-sized silhouettes of cannons and soldiers and a cavalryman,” she told the Picket. While driving or walking, “You will come across someone pointing a gun at you.”

The low-lying site can be fairly soggy at times and trails were set back from a stream.

Among the interpretive panels will be ones “designed just for kids. They explain the difference between the flags and the uniforms and why they were fighting in the first place.”

Others will explain the impact on townsfolk in Resaca and the history of the Confederate cemetery in town. The Friends of Resaca assisted in the project.

And while there are battle maps, with red and blue lines, Wallsmith believes visitors will have several points of entry.

Georgia DNR
“We discuss it in terms of the battle that really shouldn’t have happened. It was a matter of circumstance that it took place.”

She said there likely will be a major event at the site in May 2014, the actual sesquicentennial of the battle.

Dusty Fuller, site manager of Magnolia Springs State Park, is excited about the addition of the museum, which will be within sight of the main park office.

It will tell the story of the springs, Millen and the Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was in place from the mid-1930s until 1942. Its principal focus is Camp Lawton, which sat on the park property and what became a federal fish hatchery across the springs.

Most of the park’s visitors currently come for camping, fishing and family reunions.

For those who want to know about the Civil War, Fuller gives them an orientation at the park office and walks them to the approximate location of the stockade wall.

One of the planned exhibit rooms at Magnolia Springs State Park (DNR)
“From there, we go to the fort, explaining how many soldiers were outside (the prison area),” he told the Picket. “From the fort, usually we progress back down to the plain to a couple of excavation trenches,” referring to ongoing work by Georgia Southern University archaeology students.

“The last thing I do is we go across the plain, following the stockade wall down to where it would have crossed the stream.” He talks about the use of water for drinking and bathing and latrine use.

The history center will appeal especially to the “hard-core enthusiast. For several years, we have not had much to show them,” according to Fuller.

Patrons will see a visual presentation, likely a photo slideshow, providing an overview of the POW camp and ongoing excavations and research.

Another area in the museum, which will feature state-of-the-art security, will provide timelines, including the construction of Lawton.

To personalize the experience, visitors will be checked in as an actual Camp Lawton prisoner.

Artifacts found at Lawton (Georgia Southern University)
Most will be from the 14th and 15th Illinois infantry regiments, said Wallsmith, citing an excellent online database that provides hometowns, height, hair and eye color and marital status and occupation. The state has 1,200 names to assign. Most soldiers survived, although an estimated 700 died at the prison.

The “roll call” room will feature a Civil War-era field desk, information on diarists and a mannequin in Confederate clothing.

The main room features a reproduction amputation kit, copies of prisoner “shebangs,” or shelters, and displays, among others, about food and health, the stockade and the economy within the Union ranks.

Interestingly, the prisoners conducted their own voting for president in 1864, choosing between incumbent Abraham Lincoln and former Gen. George B. McClellan, who was considered a peace candidate.

“Even though a lot were distraught over the fact they had not been paroled or exchanged -- they were beginning to feel they were forgotten -- they still voted for Lincoln,” said Wallsmith.

As they prepare to leave, visitors will check on the status of the prisoner’s identity they had assumed.

“If you died in prison, there will be a number of the gravesite in Beaufort, South Carolina,” where bodies were moved after the war.

As part of her research, Wallsmith traveled to the Virginia Historial Society and was able to handle the diaries and drawings of prisoner Robert Knox Sneden, the most famous diarist at Camp Lawton.

“The last time I shook (that much) when I held artifacts is when I had to move effigy figures at Etowah,” she said, referring to a state Indian mounds site.

Rear entrance of Magnolia Springs History Center
For artifacts display, the DNR is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has oversight of the hatchery  built over the main prisoner encampment.

Officials hope to eventually rotate the numerous artifacts found at the hatchery site and at the state park. The Confederate officer’s quarters and related buildings are on the state side.

Fuller said he is pleased visitors finally will see “real artifacts, with real professional research.”

Overall visitation at Magnolia Springs State Park has been in decline over the past several years, in part due to other swimming areas and the opening of large water parks. And only about 10 percent of patrons come to learn about the prison site.

Fuller hopes those doing quick getaways will enjoy renovated cottages and check out the park’s rich Civil War story. Perhaps, he said, there could be a new dynamic.

“To come for the history, and stay for the overnight facilities.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Civil War-era church fears road closure

The pastor of Sudley Church, which sits on a Northern Virginia hillside in Manassas National Battlefield Park, worries that protecting the park’s history will destroy his congregation’s future. That’s because the 19th century church, where the floorboards are no longer stained with soldiers' blood, lies along what is now a busy commuter route. To protect the historic park, the National Park Service would like to shut down the stretch of Route 234 in the battlefield. • Article