Monday, November 30, 2015

Then and now: Railroad depot after fall of Atlanta and burned lard oil factory

(Library of Congress)

The Civil War brought a cacophony of sights and smells to Atlanta, a burgeoning railroad town that would literally soar from the ashes after all the fighting and burning were done.

Atlanta’s importance to the Confederacy could not be overestimated. It was a transportation nexus and prize manufacturing and logistics center. Key to its role were four railroad lines, including the Western & Atlantic, which ran a 137-line line from Atlanta to Chattanooga.

The W&A was approved in 1836, shortly before a settlement called Terminus was founded. The area was renamed Marthasville, with the final name change to Atlanta in 1847.

(GBA map)

George Barnard took the top photo of the Western & Atlantic depot and the massive roundhouse in November 1864, a couple months after the city fell to Union forces. With the negatives was this note: “These were all destroyed a few days afterwards.” William T. Sherman left nothing of military value behind as he marched his men to Savannah, Ga.

Many of the downtown railroad tracks remain in the same beds today. They are under and surrounded by buildings important to modern Atlanta, including CNN Center, Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome (all in the background of the modern shot). The old Atlanta Journal-Constitution building is on the right.

Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association, believes Barnard took the depot shot from Bridge Street (now called Broad Street).

(Library of Congress)

Within a mile of the depot were scores of buildings also vital to the Confederacy, such as offices and military warehouses.

This second photograph was taken after the city’s fall. How can we tell?

A close inspection of the box cars shows the words “USMRR” – the U.S. Military Railroad, which operated on captured lines.

On the left of the historic photo is Holland Warehouse, the home of the Atlanta lard oil factory.  Author Stephen Davis wrote that it burned Aug. 24, 1864, after it was struck by a Union shell during the bombardment of Atlanta.

The Atlanta Intelligencer a few days later reported that the shell set to fire 120 bales of cotton, destroying the warehouse.

Lard oil was popular in the mid-19th century before coal and petroleum oil controlled the market. It was cheaper than whale oil, but was smelly and considered of lower quality. It had several uses, including for lanterns.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Atlanta Mayor James M. Calhoun asked businessman Sidney Root to form a “board of direct trade” during the Civil War. Resulting industries included the lard oil factory and paper mills.

The old photograph shows the Macon & Western line beginning a bend to the South. Crawford suspects it was taken from the depot. It’s impossible in a modern view to get the exact angle and proximity, but this version may be close.

(The Georgia Battlefields Association map shows the locations of wartime buildings)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ball busters: Experts render safe ordnance recovered from CSS Georgia

A Dahlgren round is rendered inert (Photos by Jeremy Buddemeir, USACE)

While the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia didn’t get to fire upon the enemy during the Civil War, her underwater graveyard was packed with potential peril for 150 years. That’s been remedied, thanks to a crew of technicians and engineers who rendered more than 100 artillery projectiles harmless after they were brought up by Navy divers.

Brooke shell will undergo conservation (USACE)

The 9-inch Dahlgren and 6.4-inch Brooke rifle rounds were recovered -- along with much of the scuttled ship’s wreckage -- from the Savannah River in Savannah, Ga.

The MuniRem Environmental crew used an array of technology and equipment to drill holes into each round and extract black powder, all the while ensuring they’d be safe during the “breaching” process. It used a chemical solution to flush black powder.
View from barrier with drill mechanism in background

The company said on its website: “Contrary to some expectations, less than 1% of the munitions had seawater seepage; the black powder main and primary charges were essentially dry and of high energetic hazard.”

By drilling a hole in the side of the munition, the crew was able to not disturb the fuze, the most hazardous part of the entire shell. “With the removal of the main charge the threat of a detonation and fragmentation of the munitions case was avoided,” the Georgia-based Muni Rem said. “The amount of explosives remaining within the projectile was contained within the fuze. Subsequently, the fuze was rendered safe by drilling directly though the fuze body to access and neutralize the explosives.”

A Dahlgren round resembles a bowling ball (USACE)
A fuze after removal from Brooke shell

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district in Savannah has overseen the CSS Georgia recovery. The shells were sent to Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory for conservation.

• More details of the delicate operation

A Dahlgren round is readied for breaching (USACE)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tickets on sale for Pulaski candlelight tours

Hot cider, cookies and holiday caroling await visitors to Fort Pulaski near Savannah, Ga., during the annual evening tours by candlelight and lamps. The commemoration of the Confederate nog party takes places on Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19. The original party, held during Christmas 1861, gave the Confederate garrison at Fort Pulaski a respite from the tension of impending battle. Tickets are on sale now. • Details

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Live blog: Garrison Keillor gives keynote at Gettysburg Address anniversary

The Civil War Picket today watched a live stream of Dedication Day events marking the 152nd anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Garrison Keillor (left) of “A Prairie Home Companion” gave the keynote address. The ceremony, which included the naturalization of 16 new American citizens, is usually held at Soldiers’ National Cemetery. It was moved to Gettysburg College because of weather concerns. (NOTE: The Picket was not in Gettysburg).

11 a.m.: Dedication Day event concludes. The colors are retired.

10:55 a.m.: Following the benediction, Taps is played.

10:51 a.m.: Recording of President Barack Obama welcoming new citizens is played, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and "God Bless America."

10:48 a.m.: Sixteen people from 12 countries -- including Ghana, Iraq, China, Vietnam and Russia -- take part in a naturalization ceremony making them U.S. citizens. A video image captures the array of diversity among the new citizens. The crowd gives a standing ovation after they take the oath of allegiance. 

10:41 a.m.: Soloist Wayne Hill sings the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

George Buss recites the Gettysburg Address (USCIS)

10:37 a.m.: Lincoln portrayer George Buss, who is about the same height and weight of the 16th president, recites the Gettysburg Address (full text is at the bottom of this post)

10:34 a.m.: Officials give Keillor the flag that was to have flown at the cemetery during the ceremony. 

10:32 a.m.: The radio variety show host says people are "awestruck" about what happened at Gettysburg and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. "God bless their memory."

10:27 a.m. Keillor, in a dark suit with a red tie and socks, recites a riveting "mashup" of letters that 12 soldiers, two from the South, wrote to loved ones back home about marching and camp life, including details of food, scenery and being homesick. Among the letters he quotes: "The boys are enthusiastic in their admiration of Pennsylvania and the nice girls in particular." Another young man wrote, "We marched a distance of 30 miles and I was pretty much used up ... I slept all unconscious until the first streak of daylight and reveille." One asked his mother to remember him in her prayers. "I hope and pray that I might be spared to see you." All the letter writers died at Gettysburg.

10:20 a.m.: Steven Herr, president of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, introduces Garrison Keillor.

10:16 a.m.: Joanne M. Hanley, president of the Gettysburg Foundation, describes the group's role in supporting the park and mentions a Lincoln statue. "It is our duty ... that the powerful stories of Gettysburg .... are told and retold for generations."

10:13 a.m.: Ed Clark, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park describes the role of volunteers in preserving the battlefield and establishing Soldiers’ National Cemetery. He said President Lincoln challenged America to remember what the soldiers did there. Americans today should be committed to service, he said.

10:10 a.m.: Gettysburg College's president talks about the battle's impact on the campus. Janet Morgan Riggs says students and faculty went to hear President Lincoln at the new cemetery for the fallen. "We are very proud to have played a part in these historic events."

10:06 a.m.: The Rev. Maria Erling of Gettysburg Seminary gives the invocation, asking people to be inspired by those who gave their lives. 

10:02 a.m.: After a welcome, the National Anthem is played as a color guard in Civil War-era uniforms stands in front of the stage.

9:58 a.m.: Program is about to begin.

9:43 a.m.: A small band of school-age musicians in Union uniforms is performing music at the Gettysburg College Union Ballroom.

The Gettysburg Address (delivered 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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Museum for black soldiers at Stone Mountain?

An official says a plan to build a museum focused on black Civil War soldiers at Georgia’s Stone Mountain, which honors Confederate history, has taken priority over a proposed monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association voted to explore the museum proposal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. • Article

Monday, November 16, 2015

Enfield rifles recovered in shipwreck stay on display, await long-term conservation

Recent photo of the rifle crate. Water will be changed soon.
(Georgia State Parks)

An unusual display greets campers, hikers, boaters and Civil War aficionados who venture into the visitor center at Georgia’s Sweetwater Creek State Park west of Atlanta.

The curious skim through the text of wall panels to learn more about the jumble of wood and corroded metal resting in the middle of a large freshwater tank.

The carefully constructed box of British-made rifles was intended for the hands of Confederate soldiers. But they never made it ashore in Charleston, S.C. The CSS Stono, a blockade runner laden with precious arms, munitions and goods from Europe, in 1863 ran aground on a submerged sandbar off Fort Moultrie while trying to evade Federal ships.

This rare crate of 20 Enfield rifles remains in “suspension” until funding is procured for their permanent conservation so that they can be displayed outside a water environment at Fort McAllister State Park near Savannah.

(Georgia State Parks)

The Picket first spoke about the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-muskets with Josh Headlee, senior preservation technician with the state’s Historic Preservation Division, in December 2013. That post ranks in the top five of the most-popular articles on this blog.

One of the challenges that we face now is coming up with a way to support the crate without causing further damage to it,” Headlee recently said. “The lining of the crate … is made up of a tin composite material.  This tin is quite malleable now, given that it has rested in saltwater and now freshwater for over 150 years.  In essence the weight of the stack of rifles is wanting to fall down and burst open what is left of the crate.”

The technician said he plans in the next six months to install a brace to disrupt further degradation of the metal lining.

Over time, the freshwater tank environment has helped draw out salt and other contaminants.

“Most of the sodium chlorides are out of the water,” said Headlee. “Most of the metal parts of the rifles are gone. What is left we don’t want to corrode. We have fragments of barrels and locks.”

Rifles are placed in tank in 2013

Water was changed about once a week when the salt levels were especially high. But, over time, the interval has changed to about every six months.

Headlee says he and others are surprised at how intact the walnut stocks appear to be. Weapons found in other saltwater environments haven’t fared so well. “I wondered if the rifles weren’t wrapped in oil cloth before they were crated up, and that helped preserve them.”

Brass components, including butt plates, trigger guards and the nose cap at the end of the barrels better withstood the ravages of longtime submersion. Researchers also found a bullet mold, tools and tampions, or cork and brass plugs inserted into the muzzle to ward off moisture.

Three of the tampions found with rifles (Ga. DNR)

The CSS Stono was previously known as the USS Isaac Smith, a steamer that saw Federal service before its capture by Confederate land forces.

Some of the CSS Stono’s contents were retrieved by the South, but others, including the crate of Enfields, could not be salvaged, apparently because they were below the water line. In 1865, the “stuck” ship was burned to prevent it from falling into the hands of Federal troops.

An archaeological diver pulled up the crate from the shipwreck in the late 1980s. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources acquired the guns from South Carolina. 

Headlee said he expects conservation of the rifles could run into the tens of thousands of dollars. An outside contractor could guide the department in an appropriate technique, perhaps by freeze-drying the material to remove moisture without causing further damage.

Typical Pattern 1853 Enfield (NPS)

“They are on the radar screen and (officials) are well aware of the fact that as long as they are in the water and monitored and are being taken care of, the status quo is OK for now. And they are available to the public.”

There is no timetable for the conservation.

Fort McAllister is a suitable permanent home, Headlee says, because of its focus on Southern blockade runners. The site has a display on the CSS Nashville, a vessel that was destroyed nearby by Union forces in early 1863.

The rifles have been on display for two years. Visitors to Sweetwater Creek State Park often walk down to the ruins of the New Manchester mill, which produced textiles for the Confederacy before it was burned by Union troops in 1864.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Work at Petersburg's Poplar Grove cemetery will return headstones to upright position

Gravestones lie flat on the ground at Poplar Grove (NPS photos)

Ann Blumenschine recalls the day a group of Vietnam veterans stopped at the visitor station of the Five Forks unit of Petersburg National Battlefield. They had made a stop at Poplar Grove National Cemetery – resting place for 6,000 Union soldiers – and were disappointed by its condition.

Perhaps they weren’t expecting to see gravestones placed on the ground rather than standing upright. Occasional flooding from poor drainage had eaten away some of the writing on the stones. The flagpole was in rough shape, as were historical buildings on the property.

“I did not know what to say,” said Blumenschine, a Petersburg park ranger and public information officer.

Now the park has an answer. A dozen years after the push for a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation project began, proper and lasting honor will be restored to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country at this Virginia battlefield in 1864 and 1865.

Typical Poplar Grove grave (NPS)
This Sunday (Nov. 15) is the last day for people to visit Poplar Grove National Cemetery before it closes for an anticipated 18 months. 

Maintenance employees and contractors will repair drainage issues, put in new – and upright – marble gravestones, and repair a brick boundary wall and the buildings, including a lodge that one day may serve as a visitor stop. (The cemetery currently is not staffed.)

Officials said they are unaware of any other cemetery maintained by the National Park Service that contains flat gravestones.

Betsy Dinger, a park ranger who maintains a database of soldiers buried at Poplar Grove, told the Picket earlier this year that her heart sank when she first saw the peculiar arrangement of stones, which are of different sizes. “I thought this doesn’t look right.”

The park superintendent in the early 1930s believed that cutting off the bases of the gravestones and placing the remaining marble on the ground was a good way to save on maintenance money. 

Tombstone House off of I-85 (NPS)

Hundreds of the bottoms from the sawed-off monuments found a new, inappropriate purpose. They were sold to a man who used them on the exterior of his Petersburg house and sidewalk.

While park employees don’t second-guess the superintendent’s maintenance decision, they are well aware that the action needs to be remedied.

Dinger said that the new, familiar military gravestones with a rounded top will “make it easy for elements to roll off and protect the inscription.” Because of poor drainage, some of the current stones have become hosts to lichen.

Blumenschine said a storm once brought down trees, including one that brought up a gravestone in its exposed roots. Rumors that coffins were exposed were unfounded, she said.

Lodge at Poplar Grove National Cemetery
1932 photo shows cemetery with upright markers (NPS)

In accordance with protocol, the old gravestones will be ground up and disposed of in order to prevent their use in a dishonorable way.

Poplar Grove National Cemetery, about in the center of the sprawling battlefield, was surveyed in 1866. The Rev. Thomas Flower’s farm was chose. The War Department administered the site until turning it over to the NPS in 1933.

About 6,200 soldiers are buried there, with about 4,000 of them unknown. In some instances, multiple soldiers are buried together. A few Confederates rest at Poplar Grove.

1869 burial register
Many of them fell along the battlefield’s western front. Some died at hospitals, including at City Point. The last burial at Poplar Grove came in 2003.

Rangers said the rehabilitated cemetery will benefit from a maintenance crew up to the task.

“This project is not just important to Civil War soldiers who sacrificed and died,” said Blumenschine. “It will show the respect we have” for fallen sevicemembers today.

Visitation to Poplar Grove during the project will be very limited. Officials said requests for tours will need to be made at least 30 days in advance. Updates on the project will be posted on the park's website and on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Civil War items taken from Vermont home

Vermont State Police are asking for help in recovering Civil War memorabilia stolen from a Shrewsbury home during a burglary. The memorabilia includes a 6-inch flintlock pistol with a small leather powder horn, a post-Civil War era bayonet and a Union soldier’s leather ammunition case. • Article

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Civil War 'Refreshment Saloon' at Philadelphia museum serves up good eats and education

Philadelphia saloon and hospital (Library of Congress)

How to make 1862 lemonade: Slice three lemons and place in bowl. Pour a half pound of white or brown granulated sugar over the fruit, and mash together. Pour in 1 gallon of water. Stir well. Serve.

A scene described by 19th-century Philadelphia physician S. Weir Mitchell in his book “In War Time” summarizes the power of hospitality and this particular beverage.

A loaded wagon brings apprehensive men to a Union hospital in Philadelphia. Hospital stewards and orderlies come out to the wagons, greet the soldiers and offer them ice-cold lemonade.

“Just the idea of someone saying, ‘I am going to help you, you are in a place of safety, and take this drink’ would increase your morale immeasurably,” said Robert Hicks, director of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum. "That has health consequences.”

On Sunday (Nov. 8), visitors to the museum at 19 S. 22nd St. will get to enjoy lemonade and other recipes at “Refreshment Saloon,” an event that will highlight the venue’s Civil War exhibit and provide an overview of food’s impact on the health and spirits of soldiers, whether they were well or being treated at hospitals.

Sunday's event will include use of this room (Mutter Museum)

Refreshment saloons, which were located in several Northern cities, provided a haven for tired troops on the way to or from the front. “This (was) a good example of community volunteerism, local fundraising and local help,” said Hicks.

Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon and Hospital, near the Delaware River in Philadelphia, was a hive of activity.

“At their busiest, they were serving 17,000 meals a day,” he said. “Some of the cooks became local celebrities. There was a small cannon that was fired ... when word came that troops would arrive by train or boat.”

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Mütter patrons will be able to take in a variety of activities that highlight the types of food consumed by soldiers and civilians alike. The museum will be giving out a recipe booklet that lists the ingredients and the use of each item by the military.

Some food and drink items – such as beef jerky, dried apples and lemonade (used to induce sweating and a natural diuretic) -- will be served all day. Others will be scheduled: Soda biscuits with pumpkin preserves at 11 a.m., pickles at noon, and so on. (Pickled cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and other vegetables, by the way, are preserved in an acid solution strong enough to kill harmful bacteria)

(Library of Congress)
You might want to try hotchpotch – a root vegetable stew -- and hardtack at 1 p.m. Hardtack is a long-lasting, hardened cracker or biscuit. It was a staple of Civil War soldiers.

“We have used a period recipe,” said Hicks. “People will have heard of it but not know exactly what it is. Ours will be fresh, with no weevils or maggots in it.”

Local confectioners and ice cream shops will serve up some sweets later in the afternoon. Philadelphia’s famous Franklin Fountain will provide “gangrene” ice cream.

Hicks came up with that colorful idea. “I imagine it will have blue, green, red and who knows what.”

While visitors will enjoy the tasting, officials hope they pick up some education on Civil War medicine and health care, too. 

Regarding the ice cream: “After you sample this contemporary treat, check out the interactive booth in the “Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits” (exhibit) to see how your own arm might look with a case of gangrene."

The Mütter Museum is associated with The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The "Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits” permanent exhibit features artifacts, anatomical specimens and illustrations to tell the story of the city’s role in tending to the sick and wounded.

“The two large hospitals in Philadelphia … really took extreme pains to meet soldiers’ needs,” Hicks told the Picket. Surgeons going through the ward would order a specific dietary combination for an ailing soldier. (Not in Sunday’s family-friendly lineup: Milk punch, consisting of milk and brandy).

Robert Hicks with pet leeches, Harvey and Hunter (Mutter Museum)

The museum stresses that modern medicine owes a lot to the Civil War: Triage, ambulances, specialized physicians (such as neurologists) and more.

“People’s expectations of hospitals changed as a result of the war,” said Hicks. “Before then, people would not go. It was a place where poor people go to die. The Civil War changes that. The hospital became the focal point of medical care.”

One of the items to be displayed is an invalid feeder. It resembles a porcelain gravy boat.

During the Civil War, they might contain a mild watery porridge with nutrients, such as arrowroot. The feeder would feature an elongated spout for pouring food into the mouth of a wounded soldier who might not be able to chew.

Display includes invalid feeder at lower right (Mutter Museum)

Physicians would try to make the right guess on different medicines, tonics and remedies but it was not an exact science – and there were no antibiotics.

“They did not recognize bacteria as a source of infection,” said Hicks. “Recent scholarship is pointing out how close they came to making those connections.”

In her book “Learning from the Wounded,” Shauna Devine argues Union doctors overcame limitations to come up with study and experimentation that would have a lasting impact on medicine.

Nearly two-thirds of the Civil War’s estimated 700,000-750,000 deaths were caused by disease.

Philadelphia's largest such wartime venue (Library of Congress)

The Confederacy, largely because of an effective blockade of its ports, constantly struggled to import medicines. Officials looked for natural substitutes, with Francis Peyre Porcher of South Carolina enlisted to write a handbook of Southeastern flora and fauna that could be used by physicians and others.

While it’s been said that major medical discoveries were not made during the Civil War, the Federal military medical system set the table for the large-scale manufacturing of medicines, including quinine, used to combat the effects of malaria. Philadelphia later became a major manufacturing center for quinine, with the purity coming under government oversight.

It was a constant struggle for both sides to feed the troops. When available, fresh and preserved food were prepared at Federal campsites.

Mutter Museum's Civil War exhibit

For the North, “in some cases the U.S. Sanitary Commission brought fresh food and medicines the army did not have at the moment,” said Hicks. Hospitals well behind the lines featured the best food for sick soldiers.

While at the front or in camp, soldiers hunted, bartered and occasionally stole food.

“If you are accustomed to farms and hunting for food, you apply those skills to get what you need,” said Hicks.

The museum director, who also oversees the college’s medical library, said he hopes the refreshment saloon event provides a “way to engage the past and make it present.”

After all, everybody has to eat.

“I hope (visitors) take away a sensation that by the experience of eating some of the same food it reminds people that the Civil War is not ancient history. Those soldiers had to eat and go through the same day-to-day concerns and much more on top of it -- deprived, scared and away from home in battle.”

The Refreshment Saloon takes place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Nov. 8. All activities are included with regular museum admission.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Place your own luminary at Antietam house

A tourism group is asking travelers to add lights to the 23,000 that will decorate the Antietam National Battlefield during the traditional illumination on Dec. 5. The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area plans to place candles in paper bags outside of the Newcomer House, a farmhouse where the Federal army cared for wounded after the Sept. 17, 1862, battle. • Details