Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cannons pulled up near Florence, S.C.

Three Civil War cannons were raised from the muddy water of the Pee Dee River on Tuesday, remnants of Union General William Sherman’s march through the Carolinas in 1865. The cannons were thrown off of the CSS Pee Dee as Sherman's troops approached after the burning of Columbia. • Article

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Mississippi monument at Shiloh focuses on courage of soldiers, not their cause

Clay sculpture figures (Courtesy Kim Sessums)

Having emerged from the confounding thicket and swampy bottoms below Shiloh Church, the men of Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne’s brigade began their assault on Union camps.

One of Cleburne’s units, the 6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, moved upon the 53rd Ohio, which had higher ground and was supported by artillery.

What happened next on Rea Field earned the Mississippians the nickname, “The Bloody Sixth.”

Murderous fire caused a staggering 70 percent casualty rate – 300 of 425 men went down. Such was the carnage on April 6, 1862, at the Battle of Shiloh that Cleburne’s brigade almost ceased to exist.

The valor of the 6th and other Mississippians who fought at the site in south-central Tennessee is captured in a new battlefield monument that will be dedicated at 11 a.m. CT on Oct. 10.

The day will have extra significance because Mississippi was the only Southern state that had a significant number of troops – nine infantry regiments, seven artillery batteries and two cavalry detachments – at Shiloh not to have a monument.

2012 tour of Rea Field (NPS photo)

Dr. J. Kim Sessums of Brookhaven, Ms., has created a bronze and granite work that will rise nearly 25 feet above Rea Field. While the monument will be a memorial to all Mississippi troops, it will portray a moment that will conjure the 6th’s determined, but futile assaults on the enemy.

A color bearer has been hit. “He is recoiling back, going backwards trying to hold on to the flag,” Sessums recently told the Picket. Two comrades come to his aid, determined to hold the flag aloft.

For Mississippi, which sent troops to Shiloh from Corinth, about 30 miles away, Oct. 10 will be the culmination of a stop-and-start effort. There was an effort about 100 years ago, but a large United Daughters of the Confederacy monument erected in 1917 may have slowed the cause.

Monuments are expensive. The Legislature two years ago appropriated $250,000 and another $150,000 was raised privately.

“It’s been a long time coming. I grew up coming to this park as a kid,” said Timothy Arnold, a park ranger at Shiloh National Military Park. “Mississippi re-enactors and organizations have been talking about it for a long time.”

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kimble Johnson, a member of the Mississippi Veterans Monument Commission, said people are surprised to learn there had not been a monument at Shiloh.

“It’s fantastic," Johnson said of the addition. "It is long overdue, obviously."

Each turned its own way

It’s not that the involvement of Mississippi troops has not been told at Shiloh. They are mentioned in many of the 600 iron tablets.

The two-day battle was the largest at that time in the western theater; the Confederate offensive, while it had successes, was finally stopped by a fierce Federal resistance. The Southerners have to leave the field, resulting in a Union victory. Casualties were staggering: 13,000 Federal troops, 10,700 Confederates.

Dr. Kim Sessums
Over the years, states began paying for and erecting monuments at Shiloh. Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Kentucky are among those represented. The most recent was Tennessee’s in 2005.

While years in the planning and making, the dedication of the Mississippi monument may not be coming at the most fortuitous time. 

The June church shooting in Charleston, S.C., allegedly by a young man who had photos of himself with a Confederate battle flag, has raised a debate across the South about what to do with existing Confederate memorials, paintings and monuments. While advocates say it represents Southern heritage, others say the flag is offensive and has been used by some as a racist symbol.

The flag on the new monument at Shiloh is not a battle flag -- it is a Hardee pattern flag used by the unit.

Sessums, who won a national competition sponsored by the state’s monuments commission, is aware of the controversy about Confederate symbols.

“I am not taking sides” on the Civil War cause, said Sessums, who is an OB/GYN physician in Brookhaven. “I am trying to honor the memory of these guys.” The sculptor previously created the African-American Monument at Vicksburg National Military Park, also in Mississippi.

“It seems to me there was plenty of personal blame to go around for how did we come to this point in our nation. This division.” The monument will include a passage in Isaiah 53:6. “Each of us has turned to our own way.”

Johnson said he was not concerned about the timing.

“They (the soldiers) did everything their country asked them to do and they should be recognized. A lot of the Union vets would agree. They can separate the cause from soldiers."

Randy Reeves, chairman of the monument commission, said the event and long-planned monument are not part of the battle flag controversy. “This is not what it is about,” he said. “We need to honor the sacrifice they made as Mississippians.”

Sessum's son, Jake, works on clay of cartridge box

In an essay he sent to the monument commission, Sessums said other monuments may tell the broader story of the war. "My goal with this monument, in spite of the complicated and disturbing history of the War itself ... (is) to give the man of the ranks his rightful measure of consideration."

The memorial, he wrote, is "yet another reminder that 'these dead' have not died in vain and that 'this Nation' has not perished."

Dale Wilkerson, superintendent at Shiloh, said, “The story of the Civil War is the story of how America got to where it is today.” He cites the fighting at Shiloh, which had more casualties that all the previous U.S. wars.

“People had thought war was a glorious thing. Every generation, we forget war is horrible,” said Wilkerson. After Shiloh, both sides realized the war would not be over by Christmas and it would be a bloody affair.

According to TV station WBBJ, Shiloh made some changes over the summer because of a directive from the National Park Service. It pulled three items from the gift shop -- a Confederate battle flag, a set of dog tags and a set of coasters -- because they only had a Confederate flag displayed on them. Memorabilia is available as long as the image also has an American flag.

Questions have been raised on social media about whether battle and other flags will be allowed at the dedication.

“We are asking people to keep items brought into the event area small in order to provide for a safe area and not to obstruct the view of others present,” said Wilkerson. “Handheld flags are fine, and we ask folks to respect the dignity of the ceremony.

Attendees will not be prohibited from bringing a hand-held flag of their choice, Wilkerson said, adding the battle flag was not present at the battle.

The Mississippi state banner includes a battle flag in one corner. 

'It is going to be beautiful'

Dedication site, click to enlarge. (NPS)

The public dedication and donation of the monument to the National Park Service will include speeches and a 21-gun salute. 

Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts will unveil the monument and members of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team will serve as the color guard and rifle team. The Mississippi National Guard unit traces its history to before and during the Civil War, said Reeves.

The ceremony will be solemn, said Reeves. "I am proud to be a small part of honoring Mississippians."

Wilkerson said the park’s 4,000 acres have an appropriate number of markers and monuments to tell the story. “It is not crowded by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. 

“Visitors can contemplate without saying ‘Here is one, here is one, here is another.’”

Shiloh’s two most popular monuments may be the 75-foot-tall Iowa memorial near the visitor center and the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s work, known as the Confederate Monument. Wilkerson expects the Mississippi memorial will garner a lot of interest.

“It is a large monument. It is going to be beautiful. It will be one of the featured spots people will go to,” the superintendent said.

Johnson said state chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have been instrumental in the project. A representative of the state United Daughters of the Confederacy will be on the dais, also.

Sessums, who has traveled twice to the battlefield, said a living historian with a degree in archaeology helped ensure his figurative work would be realistic. “We talked about stitching, cartridge boxes and backpacks.”

Although the three figures are anonymous, it’s known that several men of the 6th who carried the flag were shot down. Regimental commander Lt. Col. John Thornton was severely wounded in the thigh after he grabbed the flag.

Larry Lugar (center) during mold-making process (J.K. Sessums)

Sessums also read material and letters in the Mississippi archives. “These are real figures.”

The soldiers he created for posterity are 8 and a half feet tall. The white granite is from Coldspring in Minnesota and the 4,500-pound bronze casting was done by Larry Lugar in Eads, Tenn. All of the Mississippi units that participated will be listed.

“I think it will be a moving piece,” said Sessums.

His subjects had their bloody baptism of fire on that morning at Shiloh. “They are moving forward. It is trying to capture the heroism and courage and steadfastness,” said the artist.

“This is the place where history happened. At Rea Field, they have kept it open. You can imagine in your mind … the chaos that was going on right there before you.”

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Georgia keeping car tags with battle flag

Georgia will resume selling specialty license plates featuring a Confederate battle flag after halting sales earlier this summer. Local media report that the Department of Revenue and the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said this week they reached an agreement on a redesign. • Article

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Know anything about these items brought up during CSS Georgia salvage?

(Julie Morgan, USACE, Savannah)

A five-finger grapple has pulled up more fascinating items from the CSS Georgia salvage site in Savannah, Ga.

This recently recovered belt buckle and sword hilt appear to have been made for the Federal government.

“(It was) very common for Confederates to wear pre-war U.S. equipment, especially items that the Confederates had difficulty manufacturing,” said Charlie Crawford of the Georgia Battlefields Association.

Update: Gordon Jones, senior military curator at the Atlanta History Center and an expert on such items, says: "Definitely Federal, and yes, commonly used by Confederacy. U.S. Model 1832 artillery short sword and U.S. Model 1851 sword belt plate. Very cool!"

Russell Wicke, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- which is removing the Confederate ironclad from the Savannah River -- said officials don’t currently have further details on the two artifacts. That will commence after field work is completed and the items have been cleaned at a Texas A&M University conservation lab.

Do you have any thoughts on manufacturer, type or service branch use for these items? Please comment below.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Letters an 'unwashed' look at Civil War

A piece of history has found a home at Missouri State University West Plains. John Arnold, a sergeant for the Union during the Civil War, penned over 50 letters from 1860 to 1864. Most of them are addressed to "mother and father" and signed "your affectionate son.” • Article and video

Sunday, September 20, 2015

At Andersonville, closure 150 years later

(NPS photo)

A simple wooden casket, covered with a U.S. flag and placed on a raised bier, bore witness for thousands of Civil War soldiers who died while under the guard of fellow Americans. Battlefields were the places for winners and losers. But survival was the only matter of magnitude at prisons in the North and South, the audience was told Saturday during the "Funeral for 13,000" at a national cemetery in southwest Georgia. • Article

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tew sword, for years in Canada, is now on display at The Citadel's library

Click to enlarge: Cadets conduct sword drill before display case (Daniel Library)

A sword, cup and other items that belonged to The Citadel’s first honor graduate have been reunited for the first time in 153 years.

Col. Charles Courtenay Tew died Sept. 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam while leading a North Carolina unit. The weapon, his watch and a cup were taken as trophies of war. Just this week, a Canadian military unit that had the sword for several decades transferred it to the military school in Charleston, S.C.

A ceremony was held Thursday at The Citadel’s Daniel Library. The sword will remain on display in the library. The cup is on loan from Tew descendants until the end of the academic year.

(Photos courtesy of Daniel Library)

Lt. Goble David Goble (left) is director of the library and was involved in planning the return of the sword to Charleston. Caroline Sloan (center), a Tew descendant, told the Picket recently that the family has long searched for the sword, knowing only that it was in Ohio. In 1963, a woman who moved from the United States to Ottawa gave the sword to a relative in the 33 Signal Regiment of the Canadian Army.

Michael Martin (right) is the head of the regiment’s foundation. He and others spent years proving the weapon’s provenance after the unit moved from one building to another. Canadian officials decided the sword rightfully belonged at The Citadel.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Writings show the emotional toll of war

The journals of a Civil War veteran have been rediscovered and are the basis of an exhibit at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago.  Erasmus Corwin Gilbreath gave vivid accounts of his service in the 20th Indiana Volunteer Regiment. Said a museum official: “He was kind of like a Forrest Gump of 19th century American history, quite frankly, the things that he saw, the people that he met, you could very easily make a play or movie out of these journals.• Article

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sword belonging to officer who fell at Antietam officially handed over to The Citadel

(National Park Service photos)

The Citadel, in a ceremony at Antietam National Battlefield, on Wednesday formally received a sword that belonged to a graduate who died at the 1862 battle.

A contingent from Charleston, S.C., traveled to the western Maryland battlefield for the ceremony on Sunken Lane, just one day shy of the 153re anniversary of Confederate Col. Charles C. Tew’s death.

Tew, who led the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, had brief command of his brigade when he fell with a bullet to the head during an assault. His sword, cup and other belongings were taken by Federal soldiers, most likely from Ohio.

The sword subsequently had a long journey, for many years on display in Ohio before ending up with a Canadian military unit in Ottawa. A foundation associated with that regiment, after proving the provenance of the weapon, decided that it should go to The Citadel, where Tew was in the first group of students and was its first honor graduate. His descendants for generations had tried to locate the sword.

Citadel cadets and staff before the ceremony (Courtesy of David Goble)

The Citadel contingent will now return to the school, which will have a Sept. 17 (Thursday) reception at Daniel Library with the cherished sword on display, and an official transfer on Sept. 18 on Summerall Field, just prior to the traditional Friday cadet dress parade.

The ceremony, on a day with weather reminiscent of the bloody battle, involved the 33 Signal Regiment in Ontario handing Tew's sword over to the National Park Service, which was then to tender it to The Citadel cadets. The sword was given to Tew in 1858 by cadets at the Arsenal Academy, which was affiliated with The Citadel.

(Click here for video of Wednesday's ceremony)

Michael Martin, chairman of the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation, told the Picket that it was a "spectacular ceremony." After speeches, a wreath was placed near where Tew fell and Taps was played.

Descendants of the colonel and The Citadel alumni were present, Martin said. He spoke of the long process of proving the history of the sword and the preparation for its return to the United States.

“We all became vested in the process. Col. Tew became a real person as we looked at the archives and letters from the family. He was a scholar, father, an academic and natural-born leader. He was exceptionally worldly. He had traveled all through Europe as a young man.”

Tew's death at 34 robbed the world of a leader with even more potential, Martin said. 

Antietam park ranger Keith Snyder, who transferred the sword from the Canadian unit to The Citadel, called the event "moving, a perfect tribute."

(Courtesy of David Goble)

Surprise! Another gun from CSS Georgia is brought to the surface in Savannah

This Dahlgren was raised on Sept. 15 (USACE photo)

Recovery of the remnants of the CSS Georgia in Savannah has yielded another archaeological treasure: A third Dahlgren gun.

It’s known that the Confederate ironclad, which was part of the Georgia city’s defenses, had at least 10 guns at some point – but no one knew exactly how many were on board when the vessel was scuttled in December 1864.

Two guns were found years ago and sit outside Old Fort Jackson nearby. A U.S. Navy diving team this summer salvaged four guns, including one 9,000-pound Dahlgren, two Brooke rifles and a smaller gun.

Now there’s a seventh gun. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Russell Wicke said that the massive Dahlgren brought up Tuesday was a bit of a surprise because it apparently evaded earlier archaeological and sonar surveys because it was deeper in the muck. It was scooped up by a large grapple that went into use this week.

Jim Jobling, a project manager with Texas A&M University's Conservation Laboratory, theorized a second Dahlgren would be found, according to an Army Corps article. A wartime manifest of the ship didn't mention them.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Scoop and grapple: New phase of CSS Georgia recovery bringing rush of artifacts

The grapple in action on Sept. 15 (Courtesy of USACE)

A dozen young archaeologists, 150-year-old chunks of iron and wood and an inexhaustible supply of mud are the ingredients for what could be an exciting new phase in the recovery of the CSS Georgia in the Savannah River.

A team working from two barges a couple miles east of downtown Savannah, Georgia, on Monday used a device called a five-finger grapple to bring up artifacts and pieces of the Civil War ironclad.

They brought up 13 loads from the glistening water, said archaeologist Jim Jobling, a project manager with Texas A&M University’s Conservation Laboratory. He has been on the site for several months as the recovery has progressed.

“It is very, very exciting, a real wide array was recovered,” Jobling said from a barge during a late-afternoon phone call.

Just Monday, the archaeologist brought up ceramics, a brass door handle, gun carriage pieces, hinge parts, parts of two shoes and hooks for hanging coats.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the recovery of the remnants of the Confederate ironclad as part of a harbor deepening project, calls this the mechanized phase. It follows hand retrieval of artifacts by contract divers and the recovery of large items by a U.S. Navy salvage team.

Machinery parts from river bottom on Sept. 15
An anvil amid pieces of timber (Photos: USACE)

The grapple and a clamshell scoop are in place after the departure of the Navy team, which was on site for about two months. So far, at least 1,750 artifacts have been recovered this year.

“MDSU (Mobile Diving Salvage Unit) 2 did a fantastic job salvaging large artifacts and casemate sections from the wreck,” said Jobling. “Their help was invaluable to the archaeologists and we would not have been able to do it without them.”

Navy divers completed their work Sept. 9, said Corps spokesman Russell Wicke. 

Mechanized recovery is scheduled to last through late October, officials said. “Our teams have done, and continue to do an excellent job in this recovery process,” said Wicke.

Conditions for diving and salvage operations have been challenging.

Navy divers, working in low visibility, heavy currents and brief diving windows, brought up the vessel’s four remaining cannon, 133 pieces of ordnance, a propeller with attached shaft, remaining parts of the propulsion system and more than 43,500 pounds of small casemate sections.

But there are at least another 100 tons of the CSS Georgia strewn across the river bottom, Jobling said. While the Navy was able to get much of the casemate, there’s more to go. And officials expect to find many additional artifacts.

The CSS Georgia was part of the so-called Savannah Squadron, which included the ironclads Atlanta, Savannah and Milledgeville. The leaky ship lacked much engine power and became a floating battery as part of the city’s defenses. Its Confederate crew scuttled the ironclad in December 1864 shortly before Federal forces took the city.

Jobling said the grapple is dropped into archaeological “squares” on the river bottom. The crew also places the grapple on the intersection of four squares so that it picks up additional pieces of the ship. 
The grapple’s jaw closes by gravity and it is brought to the surface.

Remnants of a CSS Georgia gun carriage (U.S. Navy)

“It lands on the concrete deck of the barge and we have a partition and we have a fire hose and sluice all the mud through the screen,” said Jobling.

Sometimes, only five artifacts may be found in the pile of muck. Other times, there are dozens of items inside. But the volume of artifacts has increased markedly with the introduction of the grapple.

The dozen archaeologists, some of whom are working on their masters degrees, received additional training on the barges and are helping separate artifacts from the mud.

“They are young, bright and extremely motivated,” said Jobling. “Today is the roller coaster because you are downhill when the artifacts start coming in. Wow. How do we start processing?”

Not all of the items brought up will be conserved. Those that don’t make the cut, such as broken pieces or twisted piping, will be reburied.

Dredging for the harbor deepening, meanwhile, officially began Monday in the outer channel off Tybee Island.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Part 2 on sword coming to The Citadel: C.C. Tew dedicated life to teaching cadets

(Courtesy of Daniel Library, The Citadel)

Charles Courtenay Tew wielded the sword metaphor several times during his address to fellow Citadel graduates in 1846. Only 18 years old, Tew spoke eloquently of the glory and horror of war, saying the sword could be “dazzling" in its influence and the patriot soldier should use it only for “God and country.”

“There are no aspirations to imminence over the slaughtered bodies of his fellow men,” he told two dozen peers at the military academy in Charleston, S.C.

The school’s first honor graduate concluded his remarks with encouragement to fulfill one’s responsibility: “The same principle which impelled him to arms, sustains him in their unsanguined use. Strongly attached to life, he is yet willing, ready, eager to lay it down for the public.”

Sixteen years later, Tew, 34, would lay down his life for the Confederacy. He died amid the carnage on the Sunken Road, or Bloody Lane, at the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) in western Maryland.

The colonel’s sword was taken by a Federal soldier, as were other items as trophies of war. Now, 153 years later, the sword is being given by a Canadian military regiment and foundation to The Citadel in ceremonies next week. Descendants had long looked for the sword, which ended up in Ottawa.

The loss of Tew, who led the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, was felt keenly by loved ones and his home state. Before the war, he was known as an erudite academic who instilled discipline and duty in cadets on three campuses in the Carolinas. Students were grateful for his dedication, and in 1858 they presented him the sword at the Arsenal Academy in Columbia, S.C.

Great-great-granddaughter Caroline Sloan of Portland, Ore., says the graduation speech shows Tew was a “product of his time.” A soldier was trained to take up arms, when necessary.

In his 1893 “History of the South Carolina Military Academy,” John Peyre Thomas wrote:

Tew's sword will be displayed at The Citadel library

"Col. Tew was no ordinary man. In temper he was cool and equable. His tastes were literary and yet practical. His intellect was trained and disciplined for almost any work. With mathematical and scientific attainments, he was also conversant with the dead languages; had acquired several of the Continental Languages, as to French, he was an accomplished scholar of that tongue. The power of mental concentration he possessed in large degree and what he attempted he mastered thoroughly. As a friend he was steady and loyal; as a man direct and upright; as a husband and father, tender and devoted. Among The Citadel dead, no other graduate has done more honor to the Academy then Charles Courtenay Tew."

Tew’s father was from a French Huguenot family and his mother had Irish ancestry.

While not all that prominent or wealthy, the Tews ensured Courtenay (pronounced Courtney), as he was known, would get what they considered an ideal education for a South Carolina lad.

“He wanted to be an educator,” Sloan said.

After graduation, the professor taught and led students at the Arsenal Academy for five years, spent a year in Europe and returned to The Citadel as second officer in rank. He enlarged and expanded his department before returning to Columbia in 1857.

He then followed his own dream, moving to North Carolina with his wife, Elizabeth, and children to start a new school: The Hillsborough Military Academy.

!937 view of Hillsborough barracks, now gone (Library of Congress)

“It was modeled on The Citadel,” said Richard Barnes of Raleigh, N.C., who has researched the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, the unit Tew led during the Civil War. “He was a good tactician. He was an academic man. He loved to instruct young men.”

Tew didn’t get to lead the North Carolina academy for long. While apparently not a slave owner, Tew sided with the Confederacy and led troops during a number of Virginia and Maryland campaigns, ending at Antietam.

The officer won admiration for tactics from his peers, including Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw and Lt. Gen. D.H. Hill, who described Tew as having “no superior as a soldier in the field.”

But Tew felt he could help the cause most by returning to North Carolina to turn young students into prospective soldiers. His resignation was forwarded to the government in Richmond, but it had not been acted upon when the battle at Sharpsburg was fought.

The academy in Hillsborough did not last long after the war’s end and Tew’s widow died in 1870, leaving the care of their three surviving children to her father-in-law.

Sloan, who will speak about Tew and the sword during a Sept. 17 event on The Citadel campus, has taught her 7-year-old son that it is best that the South did not prevail.

Still, she said, “I am proud of (Tew). The Civil War was a terrible, terrible thing. The family loved him and never got over his death.”