Thursday, April 26, 2018

B*ATL still raising money to restore monuments to US, Confederate generals; city advisory panel suggests keeping both

Monument to Confederate general is only a battered remnant (Picket photo)
Vintage post card shows it had more features (Courtesy of B*ATL)

A neighborhood group that wants to restore two Battle of Atlanta monuments – one to a Federal general, the other to a Confederate – is carefully navigating the national conversation about what to do with monuments that honored Southern generals and leaders.

“The Battle of Atlanta can be the beginning of a conversation about race,” leader Henry Bryant wrote last year in a Zocalo Public Square article.

“Our group’s mission has always been to explore American history -- not just the Confederacy and not just the Union,” Bryant wrote. The nonprofit Battle of Atlanta (B*ATL) Commemoration Organization includes multiple aspects of the city’s history, including civil rights, in its neighborhood tours and activities, he said.

A monument fund-raising hike about the battle is planned for this Sunday afternoon (April 29).

Months after Bryant’s article, B*ATL spoke before a study committee appointed by then-Mayor Kasim Reed. That panel was tasked with making recommendations on what to do with city-owned monuments and street names paying tribute to the Confederacy.

15 -- McPherson marker, 16 -- Walker (Picket map)

B*ATL for several years has been raising money to cover a $192,000 restoration of old monuments to Union Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson and Confederate Maj Gen. William H.T. Walker. McPherson was killed when he rode into Confederate lines early during the July 22, 1864, Battle of Atlanta. Less than a mile away, Walker was knocked out of his saddle by a sniper.

Battle marker, or one with a message?

It’s the Walker monument, of course, that came under scrutiny.

“It was pointed out that both monuments, by marking the sites of the deaths, had as much to do with the shooters” as with the killed officers, Bryant recently told the Picket.

The advisory committee, while recommending changes for other monuments, recommended that what’s left of the weathered Walker monument – dedicated in 1902 and located on a small city patch of land – be kept.

The McPherson monument on McPherson Avenue (Picket photo)
How it looked in its early years (Courtesy of B*ATL)

In its report submitted in November, the committee said it considered a monument’s purpose and whether it omitted key information or glorified the Confederacy. The Lost Cause view of the war, promulgated by white Southerners in the decades following the conflict, contends the conflict was justified and about defending states’ rights. Such a view, the advisory committee found, “ignores the moral atrocities of slavery.”

While considering emotional attachments to monuments, the committee made distinctions about their purpose, and that thinking was evident in the Walker monument recommendation.

Gen. Walker
“This monument represents an important companion to the McPherson monument when telling the story of the Battle of Atlanta. The committee recommends that B*ATL be responsible for appropriate contextualization of this monument. It is the opinion of the committee that this monument is a battlefield marker and does not serve a purpose of glorification, but rather is a reminder of an important historical event. Public comments indicate that the neighborhood has embraced the two monuments and its site on the location of the battlefield as an important part of its identity. The committee supports retention of the monument and its continued support by B*ATL and the adjoining neighborhoods.”

Walker monument in limbo

The Walker monument’s fate is not certain. Reed left office without taking action in December, as had been expected. The matter is now under the administration of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

The issue of Confederate monuments, more than five months since the recommendations were filed, does not appear to be a priority. City Hall is under criticism or investigation for a number of reasons, including a bribery probe that predates when Bottoms took office.

The Picket asked Atlanta officials for a status update.

As of now, there aren’t any scheduled meetings of the committee, or possible updates or announcements confirmed,” said Melissa J. Martin, public information officer for the Department of City Planning.

Walker monument is off-center and near a busy road (Picket photo)

Bryant acknowledged that the issue remains sensitive, given the McPherson and Walker memorial are in small city parks. But he contends B*ATL provides an inclusive story about Atlanta and its residents.

“It’s not a story of black and white, but a story that is shaded with a wide range of tones,” he wrote last year. “We want to tell the whole story, not just one side. Our events have long featured programming about East Atlanta’s civil rights history as well as its Civil War history.

George Barnard photo of McPherson death site (Library of Congress)

Aging memorials need a facelift

The East Atlanta monuments each feature a cannon.

Time and, in one case, traffic have taken a toll on the memorials. They sit on dislodged or structurally weak foundations. The cannons have water damage and are rusting in places. In recent years, the McPherson cannon has taken on a green color from what appears to be lichen or moss and a surrounding fence and posts are aged and cracked in places.

Gen. McPherson
After McPherson's death, Union Brig. Gen. Andrew Hickenlooper rode to the mangled woods where McPherson died. There were no homes in the area at the time. Hickenlooper nailed a sign to the tree at the death site, which was photographed by Atlanta Campaign photographer George Barnard.

An early fence surrounding the 1877 monument featured gun barrels at the corners, said Bryant, but they disappeared. “From the very beginning there was problem with vandalism,” he told the Picket in 2012.

The McPherson monument, now surrounded by homes, was moved in 1906. Eventually, it was raised to make it more visible.

The Walker monument to the east is more easily seen, but doesn’t get the protection the McPherson monument receives. It sits on a busy road (Glenwood Avenue at Wilkinson Drive) near Interstate 20. Walker was shot will leading his troops across the backwaters of Terry's Millpond in Kirkwood and East Atlanta.

Motorists have hit the marker several times, knocking it off-kilter on its pedestal. The red granite monument’s steps and plaque are gone. At least two feet of water and gunk are in the cannon barrel.

The memorial used to rest on a nearby hill, to make it convenient for visitors, but was moved to its current, more accurate location, in the late 1930s. B*ATL would like to move the monument to the center of a triangle and build steps to raise it, so it will match the appearance of the McPherson monument.

Proposed upgrade for memorial near Interstate 20, courtesy of B*ATL)

Bryant said the tiered steps were buried when the surrounding land was raised during road construction. “Only the top of the top tier is visible. The fencing and cannon balls were not moved from the original site.

“Hopefully, we can clean whatever is below ground and reuse it. If it matches the above ground base it will be orange (rust and red clay), both above and below ground stone to be returned to their gray granite color.”

Walk this weekend benefits effort

The campaign to restore the monuments has been a long march; the Picket first wrote about it in 2011.

B*ATL has about $150,000 to $155,000 in pledges and in the bank, Bryant said. Grants from the Frances and Beverly DuBose Foundation and matches account for $40,000 of that. The city’s parks department has pledged $32,000. but has not issued formal funding, he said.

McPherson monument has cracks at base, on features
(Picket photos)

“I do not have all of the money needed, but feel that we could come up with the remainder by going only to the neighborhood to pass the hat. There are other deadlines that might require that we begin before we have all of the money. We are trying not to lose any of the money that we have been given,” Bryant said.

B*ATL might consider reducing some landscaping and other features, or use concrete instead of granite curbing if it doesn’t reach the $192,000 target.

This Sunday is an opportunity for those who want to learn about the Battle of the Atlanta and support the monument restoration effort. B*ATL is doing a 5-mile “Battle in Reverse” hike at 3 p.m. “We start at the end of the battle traversing the Union front lines, seeing historic sites as we go towards the beginning where the Confederates entered the scene to challenge and then returning to the end,” Bryant said.

The tour will take up to three hours and costs $15. You can register here.

Current plans for restoration on McPherson Avenue (B*ATL)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sultana descendants meeting in Selma, where many passengers were Federal prisoners

Descendants of those on the ill-fated steamboat Sultana will visit a site in Alabama where nearly 1,000 of the passengers were held prisoner during the Civil War.

The overcrowded Sultana, chugging north on the Mississippi River, exploded and caught fire on April 27, 1865, killing more than 1,100 people. Most of the victims were recently released Union prisoners heading home. Gaunt men who had been held at Cahaba and Andersonville were lost or injured in the disaster.

Box made by survivor (Marion Chamber of Commerce)

The Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends is holding its 31st annual reunion this Friday and Saturday, said co-founder Norman Shaw.

“Our group has held reunions at every important site related to the Sultana story (Vicksburg, Memphis, Andersonville and Cincinnati, where it was built, etc.) except the prison site at Old Cahawba, which we will tour Saturday morning and spend the afternoon visiting the battle sites of Gen. Wilson's attack and victory over Gen. Forrest on April 2, 1865, during Wilson's raid through the South,” Shaw told the Picket.

He said Selma was essential for munitions production and was a Confederate naval building center, producing the ironclad CSS Tennessee, which was forced to surrender during Union Adm. David Farragut's successful capture of Mobile in August 1864.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Annual Sultana festival will spotlight Civil War maritime disaster, plans for a new museum

The Sultana, a day before disaster (Library of Congress)

The greatest maritime disaster in U.S. history will be remembered Saturday in the Arkansas town near where the Sultana exploded and burned, with speakers focusing on why and how it happened and plans for a new museum about the Civil War tragedy.

The free 3rd Annual Sultana Heritage Festival in Marion will include a series of speakers from 9:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Trinity in the Fields Anglican Church.

The steamboat, chugging north on the Mississippi River, exploded and caught fire on April 27, 1865, killing hundreds. Many of those on board were released Union prisoners, including gaunt soldiers who were held in Andersonville. They were heading home at war’s end. Marion was the closest community to where the overcrowded 260-foot sidewheeler came to rest and residents helped rescue those thrown into the chilly water.

Gene Salecker: How many actually died?

While estimates have varied over the years, many histories list 1,800 killed passengers and crew members. Military historian and Sultana artifacts collector Gene Salecker has argued that number is much too high.

Salecker with a Sultana model in Marion

Salecker told the Picket he has checked government lists, adjustant general reports, pension and burial records, along with obituaries, newspaper accounts and genealogies.
He found a total of 2,137 on the Sultana, with 953 surviving – meaning an estimated 1,184 soldiers, crew members, civilians and guards died.

“If the Sultana disaster was a Civil War battle, it would rank number 12 among the most costliest battles in the Civil War -- and most of the battles were two and three day affairs,” he said. “The Sultana disaster lasted about five hours. By the way, we used to think that about 200 people died in Memphis hospitals after being rescued. I have found only 31.”

Louis Intres: Drumming up interest in permanent museum

The adjunct professor and Sultana expert was hired by the city to serve as museum development director and raise about $3 million for a new venue. Officials hope to draw visitors from all over the country, including from Memphis, Tennessee, across the Mississippi River.

Currently, the story of the steamboat is told in small museum staffed by volunteers. Intres will give an update on the plans, which he described in a Picket interview last year,

Intres told the Picket on the eve of the festival that he will begin work full time on the project beginning May 1, now that he is ending his teaching career in the history department at Arkansas State University.

He said a city advertising and promotion committee has committed $845,000 for the construction of a new venue and operation of the current museum.

Intres wrote: “I have also just completed a professionally designed promotional package for national distribution to targeted benefactors, foundations, trusts, and private philanthropies.  Lastly, I have begun to identify and recruit members of various segments of the national economy who have an interest in U.S. history, philanthropy and a history in supporting museums, libraries and large public educational attractions like ours. Thus far, several people have indicated a real interest in becoming a part of our national fund-raising effort.  Lastly, my committee and I are beginning to arrange appointments with private, state, and federal agency personnel for support and funding opportunities.”

Meanwhile, the city of Marion is giving the temporary museum a face-lift with a remodeling, Intres said.

Judge John Fogleman: Townspeople came to rescue

The circuit judge told the Picket he will portraying his great-great grandfather, John Fogleman, who along with his sons, Dallas and Leroy, and three neighbors helped get those who remained on the Sultana safely to the Arkansas shore.

“I will also be covering the efforts of another great-great grandfather, Franklin Hardin Barton, in helping the victims of the Sultana.”

The judge also will discuss the Federal burning of the Arkansas villages of Mound City and Hopefield in responses to Confederate guerrilla activities and the trial of a man accused of instigating the hanging of an abolitionist.

Jerry Potter: Why did the disaster happen?

Potter, a Memphis lawyer and Sultana expert, has written about a kickback scheme between the vessel's financially-strapped captain, J. Cass Mason, the steamer's captain and master, and an Army quartermaster, Lt. Col. Reuben B. Hatch. The Sultana was way above passenger capacity at the time of the explosion.

In the end, no one was formally held accountable for putting too many men on the Sultana and sailing despite documented concerns about the safety of one of the boat's boilers. The Picket has reached out to Potter for comment on what he hopes to cover in his talk.

Current Sultana museum (Gene Salecker)

Jimmy Ogle: Memphis before, during and after the war

The tour guide told the Picket he will briefly cover early explorers and settler, then the development of the steamboat landing and cobblestone wharf. The opening of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in the middle of the 19th century “led to Memphis to being an important center of transportation prior to the Civil War, and then a target for quick Union occupation.”

Ogle also will touch on the naval battle for Memphis, wartime occupation, immigration of formerly enslaved persons, yellow fever epidemics and the city’s first major bridge (1892).

Marion Chamber of Commerce President Tracy Brick told the Evening Times newspaper that the speaker series set for Saturday “is going to be factual enough so that someone who is a real historian will enjoy it, but also entertaining enough for the person who lives in town who wants to learn more about the Sultana. So I think we have something where we can reach a pretty broad audience.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Archaeologists return to Chicago home's back yard to search for evidence of Camp Douglas

Archaeologists and volunteers are returning to a Chicago residence to dig for more artifacts and evidence of Camp Douglas, a Federal military training center and prison camp during the Civil War.

Last fall's dig (Michael Gregory)
Last fall, a team unearthed debris, several postwar artifacts and one that did date to the period: A .58-caliber Minie ball, about 75 centimeters (30 inches) down, a depth where they were expecting to find Camp Douglas materials.

Diggers will again work in a backyard vegetable garden inside what is believed to be the prisoners’ living area. They will be working in two spots in the garden.

The Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation is trying to find precise locations of camp features in an urban area that has seen extensive development in the past century, and where much of history is covered by miles of pavement and buildings. 

Archaeologist Michael Gregory, a member of the foundation’s board, said the work began Thursday and will likely continue through next Wednesday, April 25. The team found a half dime from 1854, he said Friday.

The home, built in 1885, is in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

Bullet found in home's back yard (Michael Gregory)

The resident had visited one of a half dozen such digs at nearby John J. Pershing Magnet School for Humanities on Calumet Avenue“He loves the neighborhood and loves everything that goes along with it,” Gregory said this week.

Gregory said the goal this time is to get a better view of the camp layer deposit, recover artifacts if present “and maybe find some type of feature --pier support for a building, pit, fence post holes, etc.-- that we can relate to plans we have for the camp in order to know more specifically where within Prisoners Square we are excavating.”

He believes the location where the bullet was found was relatively undisturbed since the end of the Civil War.

The foundation is trying to bring protection to the 60 acres by having it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That's an involved process that requires evidence that camp-related features survive, even if underground. No buildings survive.

Camp Douglas originally served as a Union training facility for about 40,000 soldiers – including African-Americans -- being rushed to the front. Much of the site was converted to a prison camp for 26,000 Confederates. About 4,000 Rebels died at the prison.

Gregory said the organization also hopes to conduct ground-penetrating radar surveys at six sites, most on public right of way, later this spring. The GPR can see deeper in the soil for any undisturbed camp features.

Camp Douglas exhibit at museum in Wisconsin (Michael Gregory)

Some of the artifacts found in the neighborhood in the past few years are on temporary display at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisc.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fort C.F. Smith in Arlington was among 68 that kept Lincoln's Washington safe; park's new visitor center tells the story of these defenders

Men of the 2nd New York Artillery (Library of Congress)
New visitor center at Fort C.F. Smith Park (Arlington Co. Parks)

The boys of the 164th Ohio Volunteer Infantry were quite pleased with their new post after they completed a journey that took them from Cleveland to Washington, D.C.

Upon arrival, they marched down dusty capital roads, across the Potomac River and onto the ridges and ravines of Arlington Heights, on the Virginia side. There, they joined the garrison of Fort C.F. Smith, the last in a string of defensive fortifications that stretched southeast toward occupied Alexandria.

The troops could feast on luscious blackberries in the thickets (though the grounds had been denuded of trees so that the artillery would have a clear line of fire), or saunter down to the Potomac River, less than a mile away, to harvest tasty fish and eels.

“We have a most splendid location, at an elevation of two hundred feet above the Potomac river; overlooking the country in every direction,” a soldier wrote on May 21, 1864, to the Tiffin Weekly Tribune (left) back home. “Off to the east, in full view, is the city of Washington, and the capitol of our nation; to the south lies Fort Strong; in the west the Potomac winds its way through the hills, and in the distance may be seen Ft. Ethan Allen; to the north a beautiful array of hills, with splendid residences dotting them here and there.”

That sense of relative calm and comfort was common for thousands of artillerymen and infantry who occupied 68 enclosed forts encircling the capital. Twenty-two of them were in Alexandria (now Arlington) County.

None in the county saw action, but there was always the threat of a Confederate rush on the capital, which occurred in July 1864, sending the city into panic. That effort was rebuffed at Fort Stevens in Maryland, on the northern outskirts of Washington.

Fortification remnants at C.F. Smith (Arlington Co. Parks)

Earthwork remnants in the 19-acre Fort C.F. Smith Park are considered the best preserved of those 22 Arlington-area forts. While most traces are gone, the ruins of the lunette fort include a bomb proof, the fort well, the north magazine and 11 of the 22 gun emplacements.

Visitor center tells story of these sentinels

Arlington County park officials late last month opened a new visitor center at the site. Inside are artifacts, photos, a searchable database for soldiers stationed at the fort and items geared for children, including a tent and uniforms they can try on.

While the park draws birders, walkers and others interested in a meadow and generous tree canopy, officials want people in the county to know more about its Civil War past. For a long time, that was limited to Arlington House, also known as the Custis-Lee Mansion, said John McNair, acting park historian at Fort C.F. Smith.

 “Our goal is to … stir excitement in the local Arlington community for the Civil War history in their back yard,” said McNair.

 C.F. Smith and other forts (click to enlarge; Library of Congress)

The perimeter forts were abandoned in 1865 at war’s end. A few remnants exist, including at the county’s Fort Ethan Allen Park, which was located to the northwest of Fort C.F. Smith. Today, the site has a nearby county dog park.

A 1994 Washington Post article about the purchase of land for Fort C.F. Smith Park cited Civil War historians who said the capital's series of surrounding forts, trenches and cannon batteries made up a "largely forgotten legacy that literally is woven into the region's landscape."

Local counties and the National Park Service are trying to spark interest in their unheralded contributions to the war effort. After all, they kept the capital safe.

Trees were cleared and their wood used

Engineer Brig. Gen. John Gross Barnard designed and built the 68 forts, a task made much more urgent by the ignominious Union defeat at First Manassas in July 1861. Rebel troops weren’t far from the capital – in Falls Church, Va. The Union Army Balloon Corps spied on them from Fort Corcoran.

More scenes from Fort C.F. Smith (Library of Congress)

Alexandria County (which was renamed Arlington County in 1920) was largely made up of farms during the war. McNair said because the forts needed to be in cleared areas, few trees in those areas today are more than 160 years old. Barns and fences were taken down for fuel. The impact on Alexandria County residents was substantial.

Laborers cut down trees that were used for camp buildings, and the whole operation created new roads and infrastructure around the capital.

Barnard wrote: “Possession was at once taken, with little or no reference to the rights of the owners or the occupants of the lands -- the stern law of ‘military necessity’ and the magnitude of the public interests involved in the security of the nation's capital being paramount to every other consideration.”

Gen. Robert E. Lee’s victory at Second Manassas in 1862 brought renewed concerns.

“Fortifications suddenly grew stronger thanks to soldier and contract labor,” fort expert B. Franklin Cooling wrote in a feature article for the Civil War Trust. “A free black landowner watched her house crumble beneath soldier axes and sledgehammers as Fort Massachusetts was expanded and became Fort Stevens.”

About 20,000 soldiers were required to adequately man these forts. Generals who likely would have wanted them at the front knew that President Lincoln was consumed with protecting the city.

For some young men deployed in Virginia, it was their first experience in seeing plantations and enslaved persons.

“When soldiers enter Arlington from Washington they sometimes talk about entering the South, even the Deep South, like Arlington is like Alabama or Mississippi,” David Farner, a senior staffer with Arlington County Parks & Recreation, says in a video posted on the Fort C.F. Smith Park website.

It bristled with firepower

Fort C.F. Smith, built in early 1863, was considered to be well-designed and sophisticated, with C-shaped earthworks and protected areas for infantry.

C.F. Smith
Built on land owned by Thomas Jewell, it eventually was named for Maj. Gen. Charles Ferguson Smith, a mentor of Ulysses S. Grant who later served as a subordinate. Smith died of a non-combat injury shortly after the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862.

Armament included a seacoast howitzer, 24-pounder siege guns, 12-pounder field howitzers, Rodman rifles, three siege mortars and other guns, for a total of 17 to 20 artillery pieces.

The property included barracks, officers’ quarters, a cookhouse and other buildings. Photographs kept by the Library of Congress show a pleasant camp, a haven well back from the front lines to the south. 

Between 100 and 300 might be at Fort C.F. Smith at a time. The number included heavy artillerymen, who also could be deployed as infantry.

Among the units stationed there were the 3rd Battalion, 5th New York Heavy Artillery; the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery; the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, Battery H; and the 30th Company of Unattached Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. The 2nd New York is the unit featured in the Library of Congress photo collection.

Fortification remnants at C.F. Smith (Arlington County Parks)

All quiet on the Potomac?

The forts on the Arlington Line, plus Ethan Allen, were built to complement each other. “One fort doesn’t need to protect everything. It can rely on other forts,” said McNair.

That’s why most of the guns in the lunette at C.F. Smith are trained to the northwest, to cover the gap between it and Ethan Allen, instead of to the south, where Confederates attackers would likely emerge. Fort Strong took care of that sector.

The elaborate Arlington Line was meant, in part, to guard the Key Bridge and Aqueduct Bridge approaches to Georgetown and Washington. While there was plenty of drilling, training and marching, there would be down time. Baseball was popular.

In late May 1864, another soldier with the 164th Ohio writes that morale is good.

“All is quiet on the Potomac. But the grand veteran army of the Potomac is not quiet.”

Searchable kiosk at park's visitor center (Arlington County Parks)
Young visitors can try on uniforms

Things certainly weren’t too quiet north of the Potomac River, just two months later. Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early decided to attack the capital via Silver Spring, Md., where Fort Stevens’ guns bristled.

There was real cause for concern. The capital’s defensive fortifications had about 9,000 troops -- less half of their ideal staffing -- in the summer of 1864, because so many men had been sent to Grant’s Army of the Potomac for the push on Richmond and Petersburg. Many of those holding the fort, so to speak, were poorly trained reserves.

Reinforcements rushed to near Fort Stevens helped stem Early’s advance, on July 11 and 12, ending the only Rebel action against Washington. Some men of the 164th Ohio took part in the fighting there. President Abraham Lincoln went to Fort Stevens on July 12, and famously stood on the parapet. According to legend, young officer Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, “Get down, you damn fool!”

Entrance to visitor center, more earthworks

'Quality' earthworks remain at Fort C.F. Smith

After the war ended, Fort C.F. Smith’s structures were removed and it was largely forgotten, returning to residential and agricultural use. The 107th U.S. Colored Troops for a time occupied the Arlington forts, said McNair.

Some families whose land was taken were able to get compensation for the loss of property and damage during the war. The 65-year-old Jewell testified that he lived on the property with his family until "the soldiers robbed my house and ordered me off” what became Fort C.F. Smith. 

Artifacts are on display
The property was never developed, but the construction of 24th Street on Fort C.F. Smith’s southern edge plowed through one-third of the site, and other features wore away, leaving few. Not many earthworks are left.

But some well-reserved, unrestored ones remain, and they are the focal point of a park that includes a half-mile trail near George Washington Parkway and the Spout Run Parkway.

“Our earthwork remains … considering the condition of the individual gun platforms and ramparts, I am surprised at how good a condition they are in,” McNair told the Picket. “It was a quality over quantity issue.”

The property and a house used for events and weddings was acquired from the Hendry family, which witnessed rapid growth in the area -- “the story of the agricultural community giving way to suburban homes,” said McNair.

According to the Post article, only three perimeter forts, Stevens, Foote and Ward, are restored close to their wartime appearance.

Park offers programs and tours

Fort C.F. Smith Park is nestled into an Arlington neighborhood, where homes typically sell for $1 million to $3 million.

Trail at Fort C.F. Smith Park near George Washington Parkway

Day visitors include joggers, dog walkers and students out of school. “We do have a very good, dedicated birding population out here. This is a big site in Arlington for bird watchers.”

“Our big goal is to get people more invested in the role that Arlington County played during the Civil War,” said McNair. “By and large, Arlington County residents are very passionate about their local park spaces and curious about the history they never learned otherwise.”

The county is offering history-based summer camps, school trips and guided tours of Civil War sites. “Fort C.F. Smith historic programming is going strong now and will get bigger and better with the help of the new visitor center.”

The staff is contemplating doing more on the war’s home front, including interpreting the lives of white civilians and enslaved persons.

2nd New York at Fort C.F. Smith (Library of Congress)