Thursday, July 29, 2021

Now you see them ... now you don't. Civil War markers sometimes are casualties to manmade and natural forces. In Georgia, a historical society and volunteers make them whole

Marker in 2008 (Photo by Felch Dumas, and remnants of post, near stop sign (Picket photo)
It’s not easy being a historical marker. The elements take the shine off you, things fall from the sky, people sometimes want you moved and – worst of all – motor vehicles can take you out at any moment.

One of those casualty situations recently occurred in an Atlanta neighborhood. The “Battle of Atlanta Began Here” sign, detailing how marching Federal troops chanced into a surprise Confederate assault on July 22, 1864, was either hit by a vehicle or a downed power pole, said Henry Bryant, a local preservationist.

Like other safekeeping custodians of damaged markers in the area, Bryant is working with the Georgia Historical Society to see that repairs are made and the sign is put back up.

But that takes time, funding and the proper materials, depending on whether the sign, its pole or both are damaged.

A couple miles from where Bryant and a tour led by the Battle of Atlanta Commemoration Organization (B*ATL) encountered the damaged sign on July 18 is a spot where a suspected drunken driver knocked down another Civil War marker.

Marker before it was hit by car (Photo by Felch Dumas, and in storage (David Mitchell)
This one, with the mesmerizing title “Noon Under the Trees,” details how Union Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson met for lunch with other commanders before riding toward the sound of gunfire, only to be killed a short time later.

The DeKalb Avenue marker was damaged a few years ago and is currently being kept by David Mitchell, executive director of the Atlanta Preservation Center, until it can be repaired. The base, where the post is inserted into the sign, is gone, Mitchell said.

James McPherson
“The marker is on the Georgia Historical Society’s list of projects to be addressed in the future,” said Elyse Butler, the organization’s marker manager. “Due to the damage marker collar, it will certainly need to be recast prior to reinstallation.”

The state of Georgia ran the Georgia historical marker program from the 1950s until the mid-1990s. The historical society began to erect new markers in 1998. GHS took over the coordination for maintaining the older state markers in 2015, Butler said.

“As such, we are currently working through the state’s backlog of marker projects. While it may take some time to address the damaged marker (Noon Under the Trees), please be assured a plan for replacing the marker is currently under review.”

Charlie Crawford, president emeritus of the Georgia Battlefields Association, has led countless tours of area Civil War sites and is very familiar with pertinent historical markers.

It was common for 50-60 historical markers to be in a state maintenance shop awaiting repairs in the mid-1990s, he said. They came from around Georgia, but the highest concentration was from metro Atlanta, scene of the worst traffic.

“I feel comfortable saying that more markers were victims of vehicle collisions in the Atlanta area than elsewhere around the state. Often, the aluminum markers would survive a vehicle collision but the posts would not, so not all markers would need repair, but they might languish in storage until resources -- i.e., workers, materials, and funds -- were available,” Crawford wrote in an email.

Another view of damaged Clay Street sign post near utility pole (Picket photo)
Sometimes, markers are moved, Crawford says. They can be precipitated by road widenings or homeowners who want them to be relocated because people walk through their lawns to view them. And motor vehicles are a constant threat.

“The Surrender of Atlanta” marker that was at the V-intersection of Northside Drive and Marietta Street was knocked over so frequently that it was moved to the west side of Marietta Street. A Georgia Tech alumni and businessman paid for the relocation, Crawford said. When it ran the marker program, the cash-strapped state increasingly turned to donations for maintenance.

A homeowner in Kennesaw, northwest of Atlanta in Cobb County, does not mind having a marker in his yard but would like it relocated a few yards away so that it doesn’t block his view of traffic when trying to exit his driveway,” said Crawford.

In 2010, the Picket wrote about a Civil War marker that mysteriously ended up a few miles from its original location. The sign, which details the movements of the Federal left wing in Decatur in 1864, had been missing for some time. The state picked it up and the marker eventually was reinstalled at the proper location near Interstate 285.

Volunteers expect to have this sign back up soon (Henry Bryant)
Back in East Atlanta, Bryant is coordinating the return of the Battle of Atlanta marker to its longtime home on Clay Street near Memorial Drive. All that currently remains of the marker is half of its shattered post, rebar jutting from the exposed end.

“The sign was not significantly damaged. The post was a near total loss. The power pole is still on the ground at the site. Fortunately, I had another post for the marker,” he said in an email.

He has located a power auger and will work with volunteers to make the repairs and installation. “At this point a schedule for completion is a matter of logistics.”

Bryant described what can happen when a sign needs to be fixed or replaced. The “Bate’s Battle Line” sign a couple blocks east on Memorial Drive is listed by the GHS as missing.

McPherson monument in East Atlanta (Henry Bryant)
The post he will use for the “Battle of Atlanta Began Here” repair was initially intended for the Bate marker. “We have had the money to recast that sign, but had run into issues with obtaining property owner permission. Now a new (grocery) store is being built at that location.”

A traffic accident last year damaged the fence to an East Atlanta monument where McPherson was killed. Two volunteers reconstructed the fence's pipe rails and masonry posts, Bryant said in email.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Civil War graffiti at Fort Pulaski: Yankee and Rebel soldiers and a POW left their mark near Savannah through paint and carvings

(National Park Service illustration, modifications by Andrew Gast)
Among the 25 million bricks brought in to construct Fort Pulaski are some used for graffiti by Union soldiers and a Confederate who was held prisoner at the sentinel in the marshes near Savannah, Ga. They silently speak of homesickness, patriotism and defiance.

Reminders of those who spent time there include paintings in two casemates and carved names on various walls. Fort Pulaski was a U.S. military fort before the state of Georgia seized it after secession. It fell to Union forces in April 1862 and was occupied for the rest of the Civil War, serving as a garrison and prison.

The Civil War Picket last month visited Fort Pulaski National Monument. Park guide Elizabeth Smith showed us the graffiti and a few marks left by people who did not consciously decide to do so. They are fingerprints and a hand print of enslaved persons who shaped these bricks.

There’s no place like home, but this place will do

"The Union Now and Forever" painted above gold emblem (Picket photo)
The 48th New York Volunteer Infantry is perhaps the best known of Federal regiments that had garrison and other duty at Pulaski after it fell to a furious bombardment from batteries built on nearby Tybee Island. These boys from Brooklyn kept boredom at bay through a band, baseball games and a drama club, among other activities.

Two casemates still have messages painted into whitewash over the red bricks. Over one embrasure (window) is “HQ Drum Corps.” In the next casemate, on the ceiling are the remnants of the message “The Union Now and Forever.”

"HQ Drum Corps/" "This Way Out" created by 48th NY troops (Picket photos)
On the walls nearby are “This Way Out” and “A Soldier’s Home.” An interpretive sign nearby tells visitors the regiment was trying to find humor during its time at Pulaski while they were cut off from civilization.

“They were literally making this space feel more like theirs in a time when they were often very homesick for their real homes.”

The 48th was stationed at Fort Pulaski for about a year in 1862-63. The unit remained vigilant, always prepared for a Confederate counterattack, but that never materialized.

After it departed, the 48th saw extensive combat for the remainder of the war, taking part in battles in South Carolina (Fort Wagner), Virginia (Cold Harbor and Petersburg) and North Carolina (Fort Fisher), among others.

This 48th soldier was a carpenter by trade

John Charters was stationed at Pulaski for about a year (Picket photo)
A wall near the northwest staircase and powder magazine at Pulaski contains many carved names, some dating to the Civil War, some more recent. Among the best-preserved is that of Pvt. John Charters, a soldier with the 48th. Below his name he wrote Brooklyn, NY.

Smith provided this synopsis:

The Brooklyn-born soldier was a teen when he enlisted in 1861. His occupation was listed as carpenter. On the muster roll, John Charters was noted as being 5 feet 8 inches tall with brown hair, blue eyes and a “florid” complexion. 

When the regiment was sent south in late 1861, Charters and his comrades built and manned gun emplacements on islands near Hilton Head, S.C. “The islands were barely more than piles of mud, giving the 48th and other units a very difficult job of maneuvering heavy cannons into position to blockade the river and prevent ships from getting past to resupply Fort Pulaski,” Smith wrote on a park Facebook page.

Members of the 48th NY band in NW corner (Library of Congress)
During their garrison time at Pulaski, the unit helped repair the fort’s walls and made a few military incursions into South Carolina, though it’s not known whether Charters took part in those raids.

The 48th was officially mustered out of service on September 1, 1865, with Charters having achieved the rank of sergeant.

Park Guide Elizabeth Smith points out some of the names (Picket photo)
He returned to Brooklyn and resumed his carpentry trade. He was married and had two children. Newspaper articles show he was involved with the Grand Army of the Republic.

He died on May 10, 1909, at age 65. The park has been unable to local a photograph of him.

Near Charter’s name is an engraving for the 157th New York Infantry, which also saw duty at Fort Pulaski.

Confederate left his name, but you can't make it out

Fort Pulaski was built in the 1830s and 1840s to protect Savannah from a naval attack. Of course, at this time, it was a U.S. fortification.

In January 1861, shortly before Georgia seceded from the Union, state troops occupied the deteriorated outpost. The moat was filled with mud and no cannons were in proper place when they swept in, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Companies from Macon and Savannah formed the garrison.

Slaves impressed from rice plantations aided in the cleanup and preparations for possible contact with U.S. forces, and by the time Col. Charles H. Olmstead took command in December 1861, the fort's defenses had improved dramatically.

The mostly illegible carving above was made by an unknown Confederate on Oct. 30, 1861, Smith said.

Experience at Pulaski left Capt. Lemon bitter

Capt. James Lile Lemon served with Company A, 18th Georgia Infantry, part of John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade. He enlisted as a second lieutenant in 1861 for a three-year term. Lemon was described as having a “light complexion, dark hair, blue eyes, [and] 6 feet” in height, according to Smith, whose research included Ancestry, Fold3 and the officer's diary.

The regiment fought in numerous eastern battles – including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Second Manassas and Chancellorsville. The farmer and merchant from Acworth had a close call at Gettysburg, when a Yankee bullet struck his canteen, causing it to strike his head. His combat days came to a close in November 1863, when Lemon was severely wounded by a Minie ball in the pharynx and taken prison after an assault on Fort Sanders in Knoxville, Tenn. 

Lemon recalled his wounding in his journal, saying: “I had left my sword in the mud & had drawn my pistol & moved up firing as fast as I could when I suddenly felt a tremendous blow to my head & lost consciousness & next regained my faculties later that day & it was then I knew we were repulsed & I a prisoner. A Yankee doctor told me of my wound which was very painful & which prevented me from swallowing. He told me I had nearly died from blood & fluid in my lungs but that my wound had been cleaned & drained & I should recover soon.”

By the time he arrived at Fort Pulaski in October 1864, Lemon had already been in at three Federal prisons: One in Louisville, Ky; Camp Chase in Ohio and Fort Delaware, Delaware. 

The captain’s brief time at Pulaski is part of the story of the “Immortal 600,” a fascinating footnote to the conflict. The story is involved, but here’s a summary:

In summer 1864, Confederate Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones essentially used 600 captured Union officers as human shields, in a section of Charleston, S.C., in the line of fire. The North retaliated by transporting 600 POWs from Fort Delaware to Morris Island, S.C., in direct line of Rebel guns.

“For nearly three months, the stalemate continued. It wasn’t until yellow fever broke out in the city of Charleston that the Confederacy removed the Union prisoners to newly erected prison camps further inland,” the National Park Service says. “With the Union prisoners removed from Charleston and no longer under fire from Union artillery, there was no need to keep the Confederate prisoners on Morris Island. With this realization, the next phase of their journey began and the Immortal 600 began the journey south, to Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski.”

Capt. James L. Lemon's  name etched in 1864 (Picket photo, click to enlarge)
The officers arrived on Oct. 23, 1864. “They presented a forlorn picture. Uniforms in tatters, barefooted, suffering from diarrhea and hacking coughs, their ranks had already been reduced to 520," according to an old park brochure.

"He was one of the approximately 300 prisoners who remained at the fort -- about 200 had been removed after only a few weeks to be held at Hilton Head due to a lack of space at the fort -- and at some point in the five months he remained, it appears he carved his name into the whitewash," said Smith. "The name can be found above the embrasure in Casemate 18, though it is not often pointed out to people as the nature of the whitewash makes the carving very fragile."

The Rebel officers were guarded by the 157th New York Infantry and for a time their lot improved. The regiment’s commander apparently resisted efforts to put the prisoners on a starvation diet – as retaliation for the treatment of Union soldiers at Confederate prisons -- but he eventually relented and they were placed on the harsh diet for more than a month.

A Virginia cavalry officer wrote that corn meal was rotten and contained bugs and worms.

“About December 10th scurvy made its appearance in our prison amongst the weakest of the prisoners. Most every man in the prison was suffering more or less with dysentery and a large majority were from the starvation diet, unable to leave their bunks."

Marker just outside walls describing POW deaths (Picket photo, click to enlarge)
By January 1865, when a Union surgeon ordered the POWs be given full rations and medicine, 13 had died, mostly of dehydration due to dysentery. They are buried outside the fort, where a sign tells the story and a stone monument bears their names. Lemon apparently did not write a journal during his few months at Fort Pulaski.

In March, the Rebel officers, including Lemon, were returned to Fort Delaware, where they were held until the end of the war. Shortly after their return to Delaware, the captain’s diary describes harsh conditions at Fort Pulaski and alleged mistreatment by his captors. 

 “We have recently returned to this place after a most brutal & cowardly outrage against humanity. I cannot now speak of the sufferings & deprivations & humiliations we were subjected to. Many among us are now dead from starvation, disease, shot or beaten to death and the rest of us are about used up from the shameful journey forced upon us by the Yanks. I know not of the reason for this but we are told it is for some reported offense against a few of their prisoners in Charleston.”

At war's end a few months later, Lemon refused to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, citing his treatment, but he eventually did take it in June 1865, according to Smith.

A descendant lives in captain's home (Acworth Tourism Bureau Authority)

In his journal, which the park has in its collections, Lemon wrote: “I have done the unspeakable but I am now paroled & to day set out for home. My duty to my country is done, mine to my family remains.”

Lemon returned to Acworth and had 11 children with his wife Eliza. He was a retail merchant and then a bank executive. He was serving as president of the bank when he died on June 12, 1907, at age 72.

A descendant lives in the home today and has written extensively about the captain. The residence is shown on the city’s tourism website and is on a walking tour.

Enslaved persons left reminders of a harsh life

Smith in the southeast corner of the fort (Picket photo)
Millions of bricks were shipped to Cockspur Island during the fort’s construction from 1829-1847. Most were made by enslaved people. In Casemate 16, near where Lemon and others were held, are two bricks – one gray and one red -- in the embrasure. They contain fingerprints left by their makers. On one side is a small handprint.

Smith said enslaved people played a large role in the construction and maintenance of Fort Pulaski, "though sadly very little information is known about any individuals or even what it was like."

The red bricks were made in Baltimore and Alexandria, Va., and transported to the site. 

Smith's hand is next to handprint left in brick (Picket photo)
“The grey bricks, however, were made right here in Savannah on the Hermitage Plantation, hence the nickname Savannah Greys. The Hermitage relied on the enslaved men, women and children to make the bricks, which is most likely when the fingerprints were left in the bricks.”

The embrasure is in Pulaski’s southeast corner, which took the most damage during the Union bombardment in April 1862. “You can still see that damage in this embrasure in the width of the window and the lack of bricks. The fingerprints and handprint in this embrasure used to be hidden beneath a layer of bricks, but the battle damage removed those bricks and exposed the fingerprints and handprint," Smith told the Picket.

In February, the park wrote about the fingerprints in a Facebook post, saying “they serve as a tangible reminder that while the architecture and the military history of the fort may be impressive, there is another vitally important story that sits right in front of our eyes if we only just look for it.”

Fingerprints left by enslaved person (Picket photo)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

On this day in 1864, a Federal counterattack saved the day in Atlanta. Who was artillery Capt. DeGress, a hero depicted in the Cyclorama?

Gen. Logan and Capt. DeGress rush toward captured cannons (Atlanta History Center)
If you are familiar with the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, the first image likely to come to mind is the brick Troup Hurt house, scene of a brief Confederate breakthrough during the fighting of July 22, 1864 -- 157 years ago today.

While the 370-foot circumference painting has dozens of small scenes and thousands of figures, the house is clearly the focal point of the battle – misinterpreted for years by its Southern promoters as showing a Rebel victory. Instead, something big is about to happen that will ensure this day will, in fact, see a Federal triumph.

Galloping furiously to the rescue, hat in hand, is Maj. Gen. John A. “Black Jack” Logan, head of the Army of the Tennessee. Behind him is Capt. Francis DeGress, whose artillery battery had been overrun shortly before.

Rebel breakthrough at Troup Hurt house (Picket photo)
“It is the point at which the 15th Corps is pushed back. Like a rubber band, it springs back,” says Gordon Jones, senior military historian at the Atlanta History Center (AHC), which houses the mammoth work of art.

DeGress, already a respected veteran, is about to become a folk hero to the Northern cause. He retakes the four 20-pounder Parrott guns and turns them on the retreating Confederates.

“He is an example of the sort of mid-level officer who was a natural leader, on whom the troops really came to depend. On whom the battle depended,” said Jones, adding it is the privates, sergeants, lieutenants and captains who are controlling the battle.

Exhibits at the AHC include several DeGress artifacts, including a saber he likely carried that day, a Pond revolver he purchased a few months before the battle, a 15th Corps badge and a bit that was used by one of the battery’s horses during the fighting. They were donated by family members. The AHC has papers related to DeGress at its Kenan Research Center.

The German-born artilleryman, commander of Company H, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, was a veteran of several campaigns by the time he arrived in Atlanta. The 23-year-old’s battery was deployed in a vulnerable part of the Union line, east of the city and near a railroad line. (Sketch of DeGress, left, appeared in Harper's Weekly)

At 4 p.m. on July 22, the battery was firing canister as fast as it could. The determined Confederates continued to push forward and were about to be upon them.

DeGress knew the horses could not pull back the guns in time, Jones said, and he had two guns spiked. The captain and Sgt. Peter Wyman stayed with the other two weapons, firing double canister. They eventually had to flee; Wyman was killed while DeGress fled back to the collapsed Federal line.

Fast-forward to the scene depicted in the cyclorama: Logan rallying his troops and rushing toward the breach. DeGress soon regains possession of the battery and gets back into the action.

Bit that belonged to one of the battery horses (Picket photo)
The painting also depicts the death of horses that pulled guns, caissons and limbers for Company H.

“You are seeing in the painting the Confederates are killing the horses because they are about to be overrun,” says Jones. But there’s a chance that DeGress ordered some of them be shot before his retreat. It was not unusual occurrence, because armies did not want their own guns used against them.

“Perhaps the mostly skillfully rendered figures in the painting are the horses,” says Jones. “The closest the artists got to real horror, they are showing them writhing in agony.”

Among the German and Austrian artists who created the cyclorama in 1886 was Albert Richter. He painted the horses based on sketches made at a Milwaukee slaughterhouse, where he apparently paid to use dying horses as models.

Depiction of the killing of battery horses (Picket photo)
Harper’s Weekly illustrator Theodore R. Davis is largely responsible for DeGress being depicted in the painting. Davis, who traveled with the Federal army, submitted an illustration and article for the publication about the officer soon after the battle and served as an advisor to the artists in Milwaukee.

DeGress’ battery took part in the March to the Sea after Atlanta and the campaigns in South Carolina and North Carolina, and was present at the surrender of Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston near Durham in April 1865.

After the war, the soldier went into business in Mexico, with a firearms company among his ventures. He died in 1883 – three years before the cyclorama was painted -- in Mexico City and is buried there.

DeGress' revolver (Picket photo)
Charlie Crawford, president emeritus of the Georgia Battlefields Association, said it is clear DeGress was highly regarded by superiors, subordinates and fellow artillery commanders.

“One measure of this regard is how quickly he was able to reconstitute his battery (H, 1st Illinois) after his guns were reclaimed on 22 July 1864,” says Crawford. “This is a testament to his own leadership and to how readily the other artillery batteries provided horses, harnesses, limbers, caissons and other equipment.”

The cyclorama shows the moment Alabama and South Carolina troops in Brig. Gen. Arthur Manigault’s brigade punctured the Union line. The AHC has the saber Manigault carried that day.

The Troup Hurt house is long gone. A church was built on the site, and now that structure is a private residence.

Troup Hurt house was where this home was erected (Picket photo)
It’s important to note the battlefield on July 22 was much larger than what is shown in the painting. For example, troops clashed for a much longer time on Bald (Leggett’s) Hill south near current Interstate 20.

By evening, Confederate troops under Gen. John Bell Hood were repulsed with heavy losses. Fighting continued in and around Atlanta for several weeks, until the Rebels evacuated and the city fell.

Among the clashes was the little-known battle at Utoy Creek. From late July to late August, Federal troops made several thrusts toward the vital Rebel rail line in nearby East Point. Ultimately, victory had to come elsewhere.

"The War in Our Backyards": See the AJC's 2014 comprehensive interactive on the Atlanta Campaign

DeGress swords, saber at top believed used in battle (Picket photo)

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

These 3 men fought at Peachtree Creek on this day in 1864. One carried a wound that eventually killed him. Their belongings tell their stories at Atlanta History Center

Pvt. Johnson's coat, Lt. Young's hat, Capt. Lindsay's sword (Courtesy Atlanta History Center)
Alabama Pvt. John E. Johnson had yet to meet his infant son. Capt. David J. Lindsay, who had been deemed too indispensable to be allowed to resign, was with his men of Company I, 149th New York Volunteers.  And 1st Lt. George Young of the 143rd New York Volunteers was about to go on a horseback assignment that would change his life.

On July 20, 1864, the lives of these three men and thousands of others collided near and in the wooded ravines above Atlanta in the Battle of Peachtree Creek -- Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s ill-fated debut as the head of the South’s Army of Tennessee. Hood had hoped to isolate and destroy Union Maj. Gen. George Thomas’ command before two other Federal armies could come to his help.

Lt. Young (Courtesy Seward Osborne)
Johnson, of the CSA’s 29th Alabama, and Lindsay were killed in the pitched fighting. Young suffered a leg wound that would eventually take his life 45 years later.

They all fought in the sector where Rebel forces perhaps had their most success that day: against the far right of the Army of the Cumberland. The end of the day saw a Union victory, just two days before the Battle of Atlanta. Confederates suffered about 2,500 casualties in just a few hours.

Lindsay’s sword, Johnson’s bloodstained frock coat and the hat, coat and trousers that Young was wearing that day area in the same display case at the Atlanta History Center’s “Turning Point” permanent exhibit on the Civil War and Atlanta.

“What is the chance of those three (soldiers’ belongings) surviving from the same part of the battlefield?” asked Gordon Jones, the AHC’s senior military historian and curator. “These three objects, the way they work together is spooky. They really speak to you.”

These were ordinary men who fought in a battle that helped shape the future of the country. On the anniversary of the battle, here’s more about the three and their units.

Peachtree Creek artifacts are at left (Picket photo)
1st Lt. George Young, 143rd NY Volunteers

At 4:30 p.m. on the afternoon of July 20, Young, 23, of the 143rd New York, was riding with urgent orders to regimental commanders from the brigade commander, Col. James Robinson. Confederate forces had launched an unexpected attack, and Robinson’s brigade was under heavy fire.

Bullets killed the officer’s horse and struck Young’s leg in the right tibia below his knee, splitting two bones. Young spent four days in the hospital and returned to New York, but his combat days were over due to the disability. An honorable discharge was issued on Oct. 26, 1864.

While he went on to marry and father two sons, work in the foundry business in Ellenville, N.Y., purchase a paper mill and serve as Ulster County sheriff, Young could never escape the effects of his wound.

He endured repeated operations and procedures to heal his leg, but the wound became reinfected each time.

An account of Young’s life and his medical condition were detailed by Seward R. Osborne Jr. in the March-April 1980 issue of the North South Trader. A copy of the article and other documents and papers pertaining to Young are in the AHC’s collections. (Photo at left, courtesy of Atlanta History Center, shows bullet hole in Young's pants)

Osborne wrote about how the veteran endured excruciating suffering. By 1906, he was losing weight and strength. On March 31, 1909, a doctor wrote of Young:

“His suffering was intense and had become general throughout his right side including arm as well as leg.” Young died at noon April 1 after trying to write some letters and drink eggnog.

The chronic infection had finally claimed his life -- 45 years after the Battle of Peachtree Creek.  The chief cause of death was "Gunshot wound, right tibia, chronic septic infection many years." Young was 66 or 67.

Osborne – a Civil War historian, collector and writer – for several years had Young’s hat, coat and trousers. He recalls paying about $200 for the items from a seller who likely got them at an estate sale. “This guy bought cheap and sold cheap.” Osborne told the Picket this week.

“What drew me to it was it was the first uniform that I have ever owned,” he said. “The fact it had a bullet hole, this is just dripping with research material, which I love to do. It just snowballed from there.”

Rebel attack at Peachtree Creek (Courtesy Georgia Battlefields Assn.)
Osborne, formerly of Olivebridge, N.Y., said he was unaware that Young’s clothing was at the AHC until the Picket contacted him this week. “I am ecstatic to learn where it is,” adding he became emotional upon seeing a photo of the exhibit. He’s been to Young’s grave several times

Osborne, now 75 and living near Gainesville, Fla., said he sold the uniform several years later for $15,000. He said he regrets having sold it, knowing the soldier grew up and later lived not far from where he lived. (The AHC acquired the items in 1992)

Osborne detailed the conditions of the hat, trousers and coat in the North South Trader article more than 40 years ago. 

He described the hat as a felt Stetson with gold braid. A five-pointed star made of red velvet represents the 1st Division, 20th Army Corps. “The crown has numerous repaired tears which were undoubtedly mended in the field, either by Young or an (aide), giving it great character.”

The coat, made of dark blue broadcloth and standard issue for a first lieutenant, is single-breasted with nine brass buttons. “Its condition is extremely fine with only the most negligible moth damage.”

Osborne found the trousers to be the most compelling item. They are made of heavy wool with gold cord on the outer seam, designating an officer of the general staff and staff corps.

“Just below the right knee, still very prominent, is the bullet hole. This jagged, gaping orifice tells the awful tale at a glance. The events from his wounding until his death literally flashed before my eyes as I viewed the trousers. The magnetism was powerful. Upon close examination it becomes quite apparent that the trousers have never been cleaned. They have remained virtually the same since the wounding. One sees, mingled with the Georgia clay, the stains of the life blood shed by George Young for his country and the preservation of the Union.”

The AHC also has a canteen that belonged to the young officer.

Jones said of the Young items: “There’s no better way to relate the human experience of combat (that was) literally in people’s back yards, a mile from where we stand, then to see the artifact with the hole in it.”

(Photo above right of Lt. Young, courtesy Seward Osborne Jr.)

Pvt. John E. Johnson, 29th Alabama Volunteers

The 29th was formed in Pensacola, Florida, in February 1862. Its members were recruited from the Alabama counties of Blount, Shelby, Talladega, Barbour, Russell, Montgomery, Bibb and Conecuh. After service in Mobile, the regiment joined the Army of Tennessee with 1,000 men in spring 1864. It would endure heavy casualties over the next year.

While Confederate forces were poorly coordinated and faced challenging terrain at Peachtree Creek, Maj. Gen. Edward C. Walthall’s division created a crisis on the Federal right flank, briefly collapsing it.

The 29th Alabama, part of Cantey’s Brigade (led by Col. Edward O’Neal), broke through the Union line and charged into a wooded ravine (map at left courtesy of Georgia Battlefields Association)

Union troops overlooking the ravine soon caught the Southerners below in a terrible crossfire,” the AHC says. “A bullet tore through John Johnson’s neck.” The coat was hit by two bullets; Jones said he does not know if Johnson was struck by the other.

The Southern attack, which had brief success, was repulsed by Brig. Gen. John W. Geary’s Second Division.

Jones said Johnson’s wife and son traveled about 100 miles to see him and were perhaps en route when he was fatally wounded. They likely saw him in the hospital at some point.

“John Johnson died on Aug. 9. His wife saved his bloodstained coat as a reminder of her slain husband. It is likely that she made it herself; his initials are embroidered above the right interior breast pocket,” the exhibit says.

A Findagrave page indicates Johnson, of Company C, is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Ga. He likely passed away at a hospital in that city. The AHC does not have a photo of the soldier.

The AHC received a package with the coat from a Houston man in the mid-1980s, saying he wanted the center to have it. The donor, Jones told the Picket, said the frock coat was made by his great-grandmother for Johnson in 1862.

Pvt. Johnson's coat on exhibit (Civil War Picket photo)
The coat is clearly homemade and Jones said the maker used extra strips of cloth in one area where material ran out.

The battlefield long ago became a busy residential neighborhood in the Buckhead community. Jones believes Johnson and Lindsay died in the same area, perhaps near current Springlake Park, above Collier Road.

In 2014, on the sesquicentennial of the battle, the AHC led a tour of the battlefield and, in a rare moment involving an artifact, took the coat to the site. Someone in a neighboring residence came out. “He had a box of Minie balls he found in the yard and he wanted to show to us,” Jones told the Picket.

Bloodstains near the garment's collar (Atlanta History Center)
The Alabama Department of Archives and History details the 29th’s heavy losses during the last year of the war:

“The Twenty-ninth was engaged at the battle of Resaca with a loss of about 100 killed and wounded, out of 1,100 men engaged. At New Hope the loss was very heavy, and at Peachtree Creek the regiment was cut to pieces. Again, July 28, near Atlanta, half of the regiment was killed and wounded in the fierce and protracted assault on the enemy's line. The Twenty-ninth then moved into Tennessee with Gen. Hood, and lost very heavily in casualties at Franklin, and largely in casualties and prisoners at Nashville. A remnant of it moved into the Carolinas, and was engaged at Kinston and Bentonville with considerable loss. About 90 men surrendered at Greensboro, N.C.”

Capt. David J. Lindsay, 149th NY Volunteers

The 149th and Lindsay were veterans of many battles in the east, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain.

A few months before Peachtree Creek, Lindsay, in his mid-30s, tried to leave the army so he could attend to his family and his failing business, the exhibit says. “Lindsay’s colonel considered the captain indispensable and refused to allow him to resign.”

Regimental colors for the 149th (New York State Military Museum)
Jones said Lindsay, a builder, must have become concerned about whoever was running the business while he was in the service. The officer made one leave request and two attempts to resign, but a document said Lindsay was a good officer and the regiment would be harmed by his leaving.

On July 20, the 149th was deployed with Geary’s division near the far right of the Union line. It was in the 3rd Brigade, commanded by Col. David Ireland.

A report by regimental commander Col. Henry A. Barnum recounted the fighting that day and how Yankee troops formed a new line against the Rebel onslaught (which included the 29th Alabama).

“At this time Gen. Hooker rode along the line, and with stirring cheers, the contest was renewed, and the enemy thoroughly repulsed. At about 6 p. m. the brigade advanced to the ground it occupied in column before the attack, and threw up works on the second line. In the brave effort to check the mad onslaught of the enemy Lieut. Col. Charles B. Randall and Capt. David J. Lindsay were instantly killed, at about the same time.”

Another view of Capt. Lindsay's sword (Picket photo)
Lindsay was shot in the heart as he and others met a charge head-on. The officer from Onondaga County (Syracuse) left a wife, Mary, and three small children, Albert, Mary and Cora.

The regiment reportedly suffered its most casualties of the Atlanta Campaign, with 17 killed, 25 wounded and 10 missing at Peachtree Creek.

Jones said the staff and field officer sword, engraved with Lindsay’s name, became part of the DuBose family collection, possibly in the 1970s.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Search for a spot at Fredericksburg cemetery to bury remains of Civil War soldiers makes a surprise find of road, culvert

A NARP archaeologist trowels around the culvert (NPS photo)
The search for a suitable location to bury remains of Civil War dead took an interesting turn recently at Fredericksburg National Cemetery in Virginia, with the discovery of a long-covered road and brick-lined culvert.

The National Park Service’s Northeast Archeological Resources Program was brought in to determine whether there were unmarked burial spots or other features that could be affected by interment of bone fragments found several years ago near the site of a temporary Civil War hospital in town.

Using ground-penetrating radar and magnetometer surveys, the team made the discovery, the program said in a Facebook post this week. They didn’t locate graves but decided to excavate an unexpected feature in the soil where the new vault had been proposed.

During excavation we uncovered a road/path that went around a site where a monument was proposed during the early design of the cemetery. That monument was never erected and through time the road was buried. Fortunately for us, the geophysics were right, and no evidence was found of a grave ever existing where we excavated,” the post said. “

The search also yielded the culvert. The post did not provide details on the length of the road or its construction. “Projects like this show just how complex park sites can be even just a few centimeters below the surface,” it said.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park thanked the program and said it is evaluating the location and alternatives for the reinterment. The NARP will submit a report on its finds.

Eric Mink, historian and cultural resource specialist at the park, told the Picket in an email the bricks apparently were part of a gutter that once lined a drive or avenue in the cemetery.

“These gutters assisted drainage in the cemetery and were installed about 1867-1868. About 1878, the gutters were filled in to accommodate a horse-drawn lawn mower and ease pedestrian traffic in the cemetery. What was uncovered by the archaeologists may very well be a portion of one of those brick gutters. How much of the gutter survives is unknown, as the archaeologists only excavated a small unit.”

Mink said the avenue that was on the southern end of the cemetery was a circular drive around the Monument Mound. “It was reserved during the early design of the burial ground for a Soldiers Monument that was never erected. The mound was later used as a flower bed, before being removed in the 1880s. Even later, a rostrum was erected at this location.

Wartime image of the town, shows Rowe-Goolrick home at right foreground, 
facing the Eliza Eubank home at left (Library of Congress)
The cemetery holds the remains of more than 15,000 soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War; only about 2,500 are identified. It sits on Marye’s Heights, a strategic area located southwest of the town’s historic downtown. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, Confederate troops held the high terrain and successfully repelled numerous Union attacks.

The cemetery has not had a soldier or veteran buried there since 1945, but the city has asked the NPS to bury the remains at the cemetery.

John Hennessy, chief historian and chief of interpretation at the park, told the Picket: “This is part of the process of identifying a site for the permanent burial of the remains in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. As you can see, they came across some unexpected features. The process continues.”

Hennessy said that the reported 100 bone fragments were found on city property – the site of the downtown Riverfront Park along the Rappahannock River – by a cultural resources firm working with the city.

Park officials have made no decisions about the timing or nature of any ceremony that may attend the reinterment of the soldiers’ remains.

A November 2015 article by The Free Lance-Star newspaper detailed the discovery of the bone fragments near the Rowe-Goolrick house, which served as a hospital during the December 1862 battle. A report said the bones were found mixed in with buttons and bits of fabric from Union infantry uniforms and other items in what may have been a root cellar.

The discovery was made after a Masonic hall next to the Rowe-Goolrick house site was torn down and officials called the company in to study the site. Presumably, remains of soldiers who died at the hospital were buried in the adjoining parcel.

Recent grave site testing at the national cemetery (NPS photo)
The Rowe-Goolrick house was demolished in 1973 to make room for a parking lot that has since been removed as part of work on the park.

As at other battle sites, temporary hospitals were established in Fredericksburg.

According to the Free Lance-Star, there are written accounts from several individuals, including some serving in the 14th Connecticut Infantry, that describe convalescing on the house’s grounds. Park officials in 2019 said graves were often overlooked in the years following the war.