Saturday, September 29, 2018

How salt helped win the Civil War

Salt is easy to overlook today, but before refrigeration, it was essential for preserving food and curing leather, not to mention that a minimum amount is necessary for a healthy diet. Union officials realized early in the Civil War that salt was the key to feeding soldiers and civilians in the South. As soon as Southerners built their own facilities to make salt, they became military targets. • Article

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Owner offers a $20K reward for Henry rifle stolen from National Civil War Museum

(Photos: Harrisburg, Pa. police)

A $20,000 reward has been offered for the recovery of an 1860 Henry repeating rifle that belonged to President Abraham Lincoln’s first secretary of war and was stolen from a Pennsylvania museum.

The private collector made the offer for information that leads to the gun, Harrisburg police announced Monday. said the rifle, engraved with Simon Cameron’s name, is valued at between $400,000 and $500,000.

The rifle and two revolvers taken from the National Civil War Museum in February 2016 were presented to Cameron, secretary of war from March 5, 1861, to Jan. 14, 1862.

While the revolvers were owned the city, the rifle was on loan as part of the “Guns and Lace” exhibit sponsored by the National Rifle Association. The thief used a sledge hammer to break a window and display cases.

WPMT-Fox43 said one of guns is a .44-caliber army revolver, while the other is a .36-caliber Colt 1861 Navy revolver.

Police asked that anyone with information about the rifle should call them at 717-558-6900.

Patrons at Atlanta museum will get engineer's view of restored locomotive Texas when exhibit opens in November

A view of the locomotive during an August tour

The steam locomotive Texas, a star of the Great Locomotive Chase and an emblem of Atlanta’s meteoric rebound after the Civil War, will be back on public display Nov. 17 for the first time in more than three years.

Patrons at the engine’s new home at the Atlanta History Center will enjoy a hands-on experience: They will be invited to step up to the cab and get the engineer’s view of the 1856 locomotive.

(All photographs by the Civil War Picket)

For the past 16 months, the Texas has been preening before motorists who glide past the history center on West Paces Ferry Road. The fastidiously restored engine, built for the Western & Atlantic Railroad, is lit up at night and rests in a new glass-fronted gallery that will lead patrons to the Battle of Atlanta cyclorama painting when it opens in February 2019.

Both artifacts were housed for more than 85 years in Grant Park, just south of downtown Atlanta. That building closed in summer 2015 after the city and the AHC announced the move of the treasures to the Buckhead neighborhood. The Texas arrived in May 2017 after getting a $500,000 makeover in Spencer, N.C.

The accompanying 1886 circular painting is undergoing a significant restoration in a new AHC wing that has a gallery connecting the Texas to cyclorama exhibits.

AHC officials announced last week that the Texas will be the cornerstone of “Locomotion: Railroads and the Making of Atlanta,” a permanent exhibition opening in November. They want to tell more than the story of its role in the Civil War, a switch from interpretation at Grant Park.

(Civil War Picket photos)

“The detailed exhibition accompanying the Texas will interpret the major role railroads played in transforming Atlanta into the transportation hub and commercial center it is today,” the AHC said in a press release. “The exhibition captures Atlanta's beginning, in 1837, when a surveyor drove a stake into the ground in a North Georgia forest previously inhabited by Native Americans. The stake marked the end point for the Western & Atlantic Railroad designed to run north to the Tennessee River near present-day Chattanooga.”

Texas will lead to cyclorama gallery
The new Rollins Gallery has the look of a railroad repair shop, with exposed steel girder columns and a brick wall.

While the Texas is most famous for running down a load of Union raiders and spies in April 1862, AHC officials have long stressed the engine tells a much larger story of the postwar growth of the city, and they decided to paint it in an 1886 scheme, rather than the bright colors it wore at Grant Park -- in part because its surviving parts date closer to that year than the Civil War.

Jim Wilke, a railroad historian in California who has done extensive research on locomotive and tender paint schemes, lauded the restoration of the Texas and the decision to interpret it two decades after the Civil War. "The parts of the engine that were original and running around in Georgia in the 1860s you could put in the back of a pickup truck."

Like the locomotive General, the object of the chase, the Texas was saved (in 1907) from the scrap heap. The General presides at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Marietta, Ga. The Texas and General are the sole surviving locomotives of the Western & Atlantic, which played a large part in Atlanta’s early development.

“The Texas locomotive symbolizes Atlanta’s longtime relationship with railroads and the city’s importance as a hub for people, commerce, and ideas. No artifact can be more important for telling Atlanta’s origin story than this Western & Atlantic locomotive,” AHC CEO Sheffield Hale said in a statement.

New Jersey locomotive maker Danforth, Cooke & Co. manufactured the Texas in the 4-4-0 design (4 leading wheels, 4 driving wheels and 0 trailing wheels).

Wilke told the Picket that the engine is one of a few remaining from the 1850s and helps tell the evolution of American railroads. By the time the Texas was retired, it was dwarfed by larger and more powerful locomotives, he said. "This change was happening all over the nation."

(Civil War Picket photos)

The exhibit will include a circa 1900 waiting room bench, signage from a 1949 Pullman sleeping car, a 1940s operating signal from Atlanta’s Terminal Station, gate signs and Western Union telegraph signage and clocks.

Patrons also will learn about the experience of working on the railroad, segregation on the rails and the science and mechanics of a steam locomotive, the AHC said.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Great Locomotive Chase depot in NW Ga. gets one bidder, who says 'glory days' will return with new food, bar areas after overhaul

(Courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

The sole bidder for a Dalton, Ga., building that once served as a Civil War-era railroad depot said it’s possible that a portion could be used for a small museum.

Locally based Barrett Properties has offered $300,000 and plans to have the depot, built in 1852, divided into restaurant and bar space, vice president Barry Slaymaker Jr. told the Picket in an email.

The city of Dalton, which contracted with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to market the old Western & Atlantic depot downtown, put the property up for sale for $500,000.

The city required bidders to submit a written preservation plan and abide by a signed rehabilitation agreement. The Trust's primary goal is seeing that historic features in the building are saved.

The Dalton Depot -- which needs extensive remediation and upgrades inside -- had its moment of fame on April 12, 1862, when Northern raiders who had commandeered the locomotive General in Big Shanty, above Atlanta, chugged toward Chattanooga, Tenn., intent on destroying parts of the railroad.

The pursuing locomotive Texas picked up a telegraph operator who rushed to the Dalton depot and wired Confederate troops ahead in Chattanooga. Although not all his message got through, Edward Henderson’s alarm sent troops toward the track. The Andrews Raiders were captured near Ringgold when the General ran out of steam. They had accomplished little.

The Daily Citizen newspaper earlier this week first reported on Barrett Properties’ bid. The Trust is reviewing the bid, officials said. Ben Sutton, historic properties coordinator for the group, would not comment further to the Picket.

(Courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

City Administrator Jason Parker told the Picket he plans to present the proposal to the mayor and council at an Oct. 1 meeting. “The City Council reserves the right to accept or reject bids, but if this bid and proposal are accepted at that meeting, the city will move as quickly as possible to close on the property with the bidder,” Parker said in an email.

"While it’s still under review, the preservation and rehabilitation plan proposed by Barrett Properties for the Dalton Depot property appears to be sound, and would ultimately lead to continued preservation of this historic gem,” said Parker. The plan is for two tenants to be inside the property.

The 12,100-square-foot brick building was “a pretty high-style example of Georgia depot architecture” and has Greek Revival features, Sutton previously said. It features stone lintels, brick pilasters and door entablatures. The depot is the oldest commercial building in the city and once provided passenger and freight service.

The trust marketed the building through its revolving fund, which it says provides alternatives to demolition or neglect of a historically important property. Sutton says the building, which is owned by the city, is pretty intact. It last served as a tavern, which closed in late 2015.

The depot’s southern end retains features interior ticket windows and other rail service features. Slaymaker said that location, which used to hold the waiting room, would be ideal for a museum.

The Trust hopes a buyer donates a conservation easement so that the group can ensure historical features are protected and conduct an annual inspection. Slaymaker did not comment on whether Barrett Properties would consider doing so.

The developers say they plan to bring the depot back to its “glory days.” They told the Daily Citizen the city is undergoing a renaissance downtown that will see additional housing, hotel and entertainment options.

“We will be working closely with the Georgia Trust, State of Georgia HPD (Historic Preservation Division) and the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission to ensure that we take all of the proper steps to rehabilitate to Department of the Interior standards,” Slaymaker told the Picket.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Civil War and African-Americans: Kennesaw Mountain battlefield's action since focus groups urged park 'to tell our story'

In February 2011, the Picket reported and wrote about an initiative by Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park near Atlanta. It wanted to expand its story, particularly about people of color. The park, in a cooperative agreement with the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University, produced a report on African-American attitudes toward the Civil War.

Entitled, “The War of Jubilee: Tell Our Story and We will Come,” the effort stemmed from focus groups with nearly 60 members of organizations that had primarily African-American membership. It was shared with other national parks. Some participants wanted more exhibits and programs on slavery, Reconstruction and black troops who aided the Federal war effort.

We wondered whether anything resulted from the initiative and made an inquiry this summer. Below are actions the park said it has completed to address some of the recommendations made from the focus groups. With the exception of a few revisions, the material is presented as written by the park staff.

-- A new and updated park film was completed in September 2013. The focus was to be more inclusive and highlight roles of African-Americans (specifically, Emma Stephenson, a former enslaved person who served as a nurse for the Union army, and Austin Gilmore, a former enslaved person, who enlisted in that army, served as a stretcher bearer and was mortally wounded while rescuing a soldier at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain).

Monemia Johnson panel (click to enlarge; courtesy of NPS)

An exhibit at the park museum tells the sad story of Monemia Johnson (above), a freed black in nearby Marietta, Ga. Yankee cavalrymen in November 1864 sack her restaurant and home, ostensibly for supplies. Both sites are burned in a fire set by the Federals when they evacuated Marietta. She learned later her husband, James, had died in Nashville. Johnson eventually receives $246 in damages, well below what she sought.

-- Members of a USCT group gave formal programming on two occasions, before and after the CW150th. For various reasons, these groups have not returned; finding a somewhat "local" group was very challenging; low participation on their part; and the cost involved for their programs). 

-- The park hosted a social media art exhibit which highlighted various users in the Georgia national parks for the "Find Your Park' campaign.

-- The park hired an African-American intern in the fall of 2017 to specifically conduct oral interviews of African-Americans within the community. He started first with slave narratives (which was a recommendation from the focus group) for background information before talking with community members.   

Lorenzo Bright conducted oral interviews with local African-Americans within the community. We put a call-out to the community to gather historic materials and stories through a press release and via our website and the park's Facebook page, but had no response. The intern’s work is highlighted on the park website and can be found here.

The intern and a park ranger worked together to create a facilitated dialogue program for high school students as a way to discuss slavery. This is developed, but has not been presented as of yet.

Robin Robinson
-- Another intern was hired to conduct an oral history project focusing on veterans. The focus was to include various minorities (women and African-Americans) in the sharing of their stories. Among those interviewed was former Navy Petty Officer Robin Robinson. Those interviews can be heard  here. 

-- Park staff worked with a local elementary school to develop a play to highlight ALL roles during the Civil War (this included USCT, slaves, women, and children).  This play was performed at the park in the spring of 2018, and we anticipate it being performed again.

-- Park staff has worked with the NPS Harpers Ferry Center to develop new waysides, one of which will highlight stretcher bearers, some of whom were African-American. These should all be complete and installed throughout the park by December 31, 2018. Waysides are interpretive signs (typically with illustrations or photos, and text).

-- Park staff and a summer teacher ranger teacher have recently developed new curriculum-based programming to discuss slavery as a cause of the Civil War. This will be available this school year 2018/2019. Marjorie Thomas, chief of interpretation at Kennesaw Mountain, said the program has been developed but not yet presented to any groups.

-- During the park’s CW150th, the NPS Kennesaw Mountain NBP sesquicentennial magazine entitled The Sentinel, showcased stories, researched and written by park staff, about African-Americans in the local communities. Additionally, park staff led the "150 Stories for 150 Years of Change" as a project to highlight (and curate) stories that recounted social change within the society. These stories were posted on the park's Facebook page.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cemetery appearance: Neat or natural?

A group and the city of Muskego, Wisc., remain at odds over the upkeep of a city-run cemetery where three Civil War veterans are buried among 70 graves. The local Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War wants the plot kept neat and trimmed. But the city said the patch is part of a prairie and should retain its natural appearance. The dispute is the subject of a lawsuit. • Article