Friday, May 26, 2017

Plans for musket show-and-tell go awry

Braden River elementary and middle schools in Florida were locked down Thursday morning after a teacher brought a Civil War-era musket to school as part of a demonstration for his students. According to officials, a middle school history teacher had informed the school resource officer that he’d be bringing the weapon to his class, but when someone spotted the teacher leave his car and enter the school with the musket, the schools were locked down. • Article

Friday, May 19, 2017

Observance to recall grim Mo. skirmish

Efforts to create a living history site where a black Union infantry unit was ambushed by Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War will be marked by an observance in Joplin, Mo., on Saturday. The event will focus on site improvements, such as a plaque that tells the story of the site, and a split-rail fence that has been finished around the property. • Article

Monday, May 15, 2017

'Core battlefield': Civil War Trust acquires 37 acres on Barlow's Knoll at Gettysburg

(Photos courtesy of Civil War Trust)

Thirty-seven acres on Barlow’s Knoll, the site of a successful Confederate attack on the first day of fighting at Gettysburg, has been acquired by the Civil War Trust. The property eventually will be transferred to the National Park Service, officials said Monday.

Early on the afternoon of July 1, 1863, Union Brig. Gen. Francis Barlow placed his division of the Union 11th Corps on an overexposed small rise north of the Gettysburg Almshouse. 

Confederates under Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon attacked Barlow’s position, “steamrolling the Federals off the knoll and across the Almshouse property below,” the Trust said in a news release.

“Pockets of Yankees made short, desperate attempts to stem the tide, only to be washed away by Gordon’s impetuous men. Hundreds of men fell on the ground between the Almshouse and Barlow’s Knoll, including Gen. Barlow himself, who was captured. Half of Barlow's men became casualties at Gettysburg,” The Trust said. 

Battlefield photo taken early 20th century (Library of Conrgress)

The Trust raised $400,000 to buy the land from Adams County. It runs adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park near a monument to Barlow. The trust said acreage is used for crop farming, and the land use will not change.
"This is without a doubt one of the most important unprotected properties at one of the most hallowed places in America," said Trust President James Lighthizer. "Barlow’s Knoll saw crucial and costly fighting on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and this land will now be preserved for generations to come." 

Area in yellow was targeted property (CWT)

With this purchase, the Trust has helped save nearly 1,000 acres at Gettysburg, the group said.

In a video produced by the Trust during its campaign to acquire the land, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Jim Hessler said the 37 acres were “core battlefield.”

As a side note, Gordon after the war wrote that he personally assisted the badly wounded Barlow at Gettysburg and wrote to the latter’s wife that she would have safe conduct if she could visit the general.

On a Gettysburg park blog, D. Scott Hartwig wrote in 2012 about Gordon’s debatable account of aiding the enemy commander. Gordon said he and Barlow met in 1879 at a dinner, neither suspecting the other survived the war. It makes for interesting reading.

Working replica cannon set at courthouse

A thunderous boom announced the arrival the newest addition to the Montgomery County Courthouse lawn: A working replica of a Civil War-era cannon. The Leaf-Chronicle of Clarksville, Tenn., reports the gun is a gift from the Rotary Club to celebrate its 100th anniversary. It was built using original drawings of a Model 1841 6-pounder field piece. • Article

Saturday, May 6, 2017

5 Medals of Honor and a sitting duck

It’s the greatest Lowcountry Civil War story you’ve never heard. Five federal troops were bestowed the Medal of Honor for a single engagement on the Ashepoo River in Colleton County, S.C.. On Saturday -- 153 years later -- that heroism was recognized with the dedication of a marker near the scene, on today’s Bennetts Point Road off U.S. 17. • Article

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cheers, applause greet restored Civil War locomotive Texas at its new Atlanta home

Gordon Jones guides the caravan. (Civil War Picket)

A 53,000-pound iron horse made famous in the Civil War turned heads as it made its way Thursday to a new home at the Atlanta History Center.

The restored locomotive Texas and its tender were greeted by cheers and applause as tractor trailers carried them up a driveway in front of the Buckhead museum.

From there, they were plucked by cranes and placed on railroad tracks in a specially built gallery that will be enclosed. Hillary Hardwick, AHC vice president of marketing communications, said that part of the move was completed about 7 p.m. "They complement each other quite well," she said.

The pair will be an important companion piece to the Atlanta Cyclorama painting, which is currently being restored in a new circular building on the campus ahead of its opening in 2018.

“I am happy to have delivered this baby” to work crews, said Gordon Jones, the AHC’s senior military historian.

(Civil War Picket)

He and other AHC officials took part in a weekend event in Spencer, N.C., where the Texas was restored over 16 months. The caravan to Atlanta took two days. The smokestack, cowcatcher and headlamp were removed to keep them safe during the journey.

The timing of the arrival early in the afternoon appeared providential. The rain had cleared and AHC officials, guests and the curious snapped photographs and video. The Texas' bell softly clanged as it entered the driveway.

Among those on hand was Harper Evans (left, with his niece), 95, of Griffin, Ga. He grew up in the city’s Grant Park neighborhood, where the Texas and painting were housed for decades before the building was closed ahead of the move of the large artifacts.

Evans was about 5 when he was able to scramble into the Texas’ cab in 1927, the year it was moved inside the building at Grant Park.

The locomotive was famous for being in the 1862 “Great Locomotive Chase” from Big Shanty toward Chattanooga, Tenn. It successfully pursued Union raiders who were trying to destroy track of the Western & Atlantic Railroad.

The tender was carried on a a separate trailer.

AHC officials chose to paint the Texas in colors from its postwar operation in 1886. The engine, built in 1856 and most famous for its Civil War glory, became a workhorse as the city became a prominent railroad hub.

Some critics on Civil War and railroad forums have questioned why the refurbished Texas does not have a Civil War appearance. They also wonder whether it should have retained the name Cincinnati, which it gained several years after the war and apparently carried to the end of its service.

Tender is set onto tracks (Georgia Battlefields Association)

Jackson McQuigg, vice president of properties for the AHC, said the locomotive “is still the Texas.”

It’s true that only the frame and a few other parts survive from the Civil War, but that’s almost always the case for engines that served for decades, McQuigg said. “A locomotive is a collection of spare parts” and they wore out and were interchangeable.

“We know what the name Texas means to Atlanta,” said McQuigg. The Texas, officials say, is “true to its parts” and will tell many stories of 19th century Atlanta.

Locomotive merchandising arrived at the AHC before the engine and tender. Sheffield Hale, the center's president and chief executive officer, sported a Western & Atlantic ballcap for Thursday's welcome.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Texas two-step: Specialist who helped restore famed locomotive does a walk-through before it returns to Atlanta

(Photos courtesy of Atlanta History Center)
The restored Civil War locomotive Texas returns to Atlanta this week and Steam Operations Corp.’s Max Sigler and Nathaniel Watts, who spent 16 months at the North Carolina Transportation Museum on the project, will move on to other tasks. The pair got to show off their work this past weekend at a major event at the museum in Spencer. The Picket spoke by phone with Sigler about the 1856 locomotive, which was restored to an 1886 appearance and will be showcased at the Atlanta History Center.

Texas (No. 49) before its restoration. (Picket photo)
BACKGROUND: Danforth, Cooke & Co. manufactured the locomotive (53,000 pounds). Except for the frame and some aspects of its power system, most of the locomotive was replaced over the years because of wear and tear and technology gains. The tender (20,000 pounds) was not the original used with the Texas.

SMOKESTACK: The stack is new. Historian and artist Wilbur Kurtz first, who saved the locomotive from potential salvage, restored the Texas in the mid-1930s while it was housed in Atlanta’s Grant Park.

“We found some drawings that Kurtz had made of some of what new he put on and what he took off,” Sigler said. Basically, Kurtz had returned the Texas to a Civil War appearance.

The Atlanta History Center has aimed to show the engine in its modified, postwar career. The new stack was built in three sections and is lighter than the original one (the locomotive doesn’t operate).

(Courtesy of Atlanta History Center)
BOILER JACKET (replaced, above): This part of the restoration also took extensive research by the AHC. The boiler produced the power necessary to move the train and is the longest part of the locomotive. The new blue color on the boiler was painted to resemble the finish on Russian iron, historically pressed in the Ural mountains. “It was cheaper and easier to maintain as an alternative for their jackets. It would not oxidize as quickly as a regular piece of pressed iron,” Sigler said.

BOILER BANDS: They are four inches wide, fastened with copper rivets. A patina effect dulled the color.

BELL: Besides the warning whistle, the Texas carries this picturesque bell. While likely not the original, it’s been on the Texas since at least the Kurtz restoration.

The metal component or bracket that holds it is believed to go back to the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862, Sigler said. “Of the original pieces, that is one that made it on with all the changes.”

HEADLAMP:  The main purpose was to warn people ahead to clear the track. By the Civil War they had been standardized in the form of a box with a glass front. Sigler said the one on the Texas is probably from its last few years in service, around 1903-1907.

The history center, he says, is still looking for one that would have been in use in 1886. “If an old and better thing comes along, it can be swapped out.”

 No. 212 at the end of its life (Courtesy of AHC)
NO. 12: The numeric designation is a bit complicated. The Texas carried the number 49 immediately after the Civil War as it continued service in Georgia for the Western & Atlantic Railroad. In 1870, it was renamed the Cincinnati and given the 12 number. It was converted from wood to coal power. In 1890, the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway leased the locomotive, and it was renumbered to 212, which it kept until retirement. Kurtz returned the number to 49 during his restoration and the new effort picked No. 12, to meet the 1886 history of the engine. Follow that?

(Courtesy of AHC)
COWCATCHER: The one put on by Kurtz is being retained for exhibit at the Atlanta History Center. The new one is hand-built. “We had a basic degree of angle we wanted off some Baldwin research on pilots.” It attaches to a horizontal pilot beam. The purpose is to deflect items on the track that might derail the train.

(Courtesy of Bob Kassel)
CAB: The roof and portions of the interior are painted in a deep red, which was found in paint samples. The back of the boiler that the crew would be facing is flat back.

SAND DOME/BOX: These carried sand that would be dropped on the track to gain traction to pull the engine forward. A cab lever was used to drop the sand from the dome and down tubes to the rail. Sand was delivered by gravity or a steam blast, depending on the engine design.

Smooth wheels on smooth rails are effective, but the sand helps during slippage.

(Courtesy of AHC)
LETTERING ON TENDER: The crew in Spencer turned to other specialists for some of the work. Sign painter Louis Brady of North Carolina did the lettering. “We based it on old photos of the Joseph E. Brown operated by the W&A,” said Sigler.

The Texas was a 4-4-0, meaning it had four leading wheels and four powered, larger driving wheels, and no trailing wheels. These were common in the United States before the Civil War. The pilot/leading wheels helped with guiding the train.

Sigler said the Texas was “rode hard and put up wet” when it went out of service more than a century ago. While Kurtz did an extensive restoration, Sigler and Watts had to remove rot and worn parts, especially on the tender.

Jackson McQuigg, vice president of properties for the Atlanta History Center, has emphasized how much of the Texas had been modified or changed out during its half century of service. He notes the discovery of an 1871 stamp on the boiler. While some have wanted the restoration to go back to the presumed Civil War appearance, the AHC said the engine was also important in building Atlanta as a railroad center in the postwar, and they want to tell both stories.

Scott Lindsay, who heads up Steam Operations Corp., said it was a privilege for his team to restore the Texas. Meticulous AHC research and detailed craftsmanship combined for the final product. “Everything is a custom piece. Nothing is off the shelf.”

Thanks to Howard Pousner of the AHC for the photos taken at the North Carolina event.