Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022's Top 11 Picket posts: Manassas marker mystery, Enfield rifles, artillery finds, Mary Surratt's bonnet and much more

The top 11 Civil War Picket posts – by Blogger page views -- in 2022 covered the spectrum, with an abiding interest in artifacts and archaeology. Among them: discovered artillery shells at national parks, the return of a long last marker to Manassas and the bonnet belonging to Lincoln conspirator Mary Surratt.

We’ve got a few items in the works and we look forward to rolling those and others out in 2023. Thanks so much for your continued interest. Please tell a friend or two about us. Happy New Year!

11. THE SULTANA STORY: A new Arkansas museum focusing on this little-known Civil War maritime disaster will feature artifacts from the current two-room venue, recently collected items and professionally produced exhibits that will tell all facets of the story. – Read more

10. LITTLE ROUND TOPGettysburg National Military Park has been implementing rehabilitation projects at sites on the battlefield that have suffered from the effects of erosion and crowds that have worn down trails and other features. Little Round Top remains closed for improvements. – Read more

9. UNEARTHED ARTILLERY ROUND: A team working on a trail project at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park near Atlanta got a reading while using a metal detector. Their discovery: a Parrott round about a foot below the surface. -- Read more

8. USS MONITOR: Twenty years ago this past summer, the turret of USS Monitor broke the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast, the crowning achievement in the recovery of much of the legendary Civil War ironclad. – Read more

7. LINCOLN CONSPIRATOR’S BONNETMany visitors to the Drummer Boy Civil War Museum in Andersonville, Ga., are surprised to learn it displays a quilted black bonnet worn by convicted and hanged Lincoln conspirator Mary Surratt. A New Orleans conservator stabilized and did repairs on the unusual artifact. – Read more

6. REMEMBERING VINCE DOOLEYThe former University of Georgia football coach and athletics director, who died in October, brought celebrity and a real passion for history when he toured and backed preservation of battlefields or attended meetings of the Atlanta Civil War Roundtable. The Picket asked those who knew him about their memories and thoughts on Dooley's legacy in the history field. – Read more

5. SURPRISE FIND AT FORT SUMTERA keen-eyed visitor at Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, in August noticed a corroded cannonball protruding from the lower parade ground, prompting a bomb squad to be brought in. – Read more

4. MANSASSA MARKER COMES HOMEA missing stone fragment that once marked a position held by a bloodied Georgia regiment is back at the Manassas battlefield in Virginia, ending a saga that began decades ago. The Civil War marker’s story is a fragmented tale whose pieces finally came together earlier this year when the chunk of marble was donated to the park by a small private school in McLean, about 45 minutes away. How did it end up at the school? – Read more

A rural community in northern Ohio hopes to pick up the pieces – literally – and rebuild a Civil War monument that was obliterated when a tractor trailer careened through a downtown square. The stone memorial in LaGrange with a soldier on top was shattered and a flagpole was crushed. – Read more

2. RARE ENFIELD RIFLESConservation of 20 British-made rifles intended for Confederate use is in a significant new phase, as specialists in Georgia have removed two of them from an aquarium tank so they can be treated with a wood preservative. The Pattern 1853 Enfields were carried by a blockade runner and lost when it hit a sandbar in Charleston, S.C, in 1863. – Read more

1. RELIC HUNTER CAUGHT AT CHANCELLORSVILLEA Virginia man paid a civil penalty of more than $15,000 after he was caught using a metal detector and digging on the Chancellorsville battlefield in Virginia, officials said. The unidentified Alexandria man “was very forthcoming because he did not realize he was on federal property and gave up anything he had,” the park superintendent said. – Read more

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Ulysses S. Grant posthumously promoted to general of the armies in defense bill; supporters also cite his later support of civil rights

Lt. Gen Grant outside his headquarters tent in Virginia (Library of Congress)
Ulysses S. Grant, remembered for securing victory for the Union in the Civil War, has been promoted posthumously to general of the armies, only the third person to attain the rank.

President Joe Biden on Friday signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the appointment. Grant’s predecessors are George Washington (promoted in 1976) and John J. Pershing (1919).

The push for Grant to hold the rank was led by Sen. Sherrod Brown of his native Ohio and Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri. The bipartisan congressional resolution was linked to celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the officer’s birth. General of the armies is the highest military honor in the U.S.

The resolution recognized that victories achieved under Grant’s command “were integral to the preservation of the United States of America and that he “is among the most influential military commanders in the history of the United States of America.”

The general gained famed in the Western Theater – including wins at Shiloh and Vicksburg -- before he moved east to oversee the final campaigns to quell the Confederacy and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him lieutenant general in March 1864.

Grant served two terms as president, from 1869 to 1877.

“Grant’s exemplary leadership on the battlefield could only be overshadowed by his commitment to a more just nation for all Americans during the Reconstruction Era,” Brown said earlier this year.

Although Grant’s presidency was wrapped in scandal, he is remembered for supporting civil rights, suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, establishing the Department of Justice and endorsing the 15th Amendment, which granted African-American men the right to vote.

Anne Marshall, executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University, earlier this month wrote in support of the promotion.

“I believe that the promotion would be much more than a symbolic nod to a great military general,” Marshall said in an essay on The Conversation website. “Rather, it would highlight the overlooked legacy of a man who fought to end the last vestiges of slavery.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Cannonball found at Fort Sumter likely to be used for training

A cannonball spotted jutting out of the lower parade ground at Fort Sumter is being kept by the U.S. Air Force and likely will be used as a training aid, park officials said this week.

In August, a keen-eyed visitor at Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, noticed the corroded round. Experts from Joint Base Charleston were called in and they removed the ordnance (Photo: Charleston police).

The Picket asked Brett Spaulding, chief of interpretation at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historic Park, for information on what became of the cannonball.

It was found to be solid shot, with no potentially hazardous black powder or fuse, he said. Spaulding said he not know what type of ordnance was found.

Spaulding in August said officials don’t have any documentation that would provide clues to how the shell came to be buried in the parade ground, when that occurred and whether it had been fired. It’s possible it was on site for 160 years, but he warned against speculation.

Confederates bombarded the South Carolina fort in April 1861, leading to its surrender. Union forces pounded away at Rebel defenders for the remainder of the conflict. Officials said they are uncertain whether the shell was Confederate or Union. No measurements were made on site.

The park said artifacts occasionally surface. “While digs have occurred on site, foot traffic, weather, erosion from elements, etc. can cause resources to be uncovered,” officials said in response to a question over how the shell just now was seen.

The Picket reached out to Joint Base Charleston public affairs for comment.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

NPS staff members sink their teeth into building a yummy Fort Sumter replica. Ingredients included gingerbread, icing and other goodies

Staffers crafted the fort to include debris, damaged walls and cannonballs (NPS photo)
Another round of gloomy weather in the Atlanta area had me feeling the Christmas blues coming into this week. Then a Facebook post from Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historic Park in Charleston, S.C., came along, lifting my spirits -- and appetite.

Monday, in case you didn’t know, was National Gingerbread House Day, and the park’s staff did it up in style with a tasty recreation of the famous Civil War fort, albeit a representation of how it looked after a long siege -- including debris and embedded cannonballs.

It’s all part of December’s #GreatNPSBakeOff sponsored by the National Park Service. Staffers and those who follow parks on social media are encouraged to participate.

Fort Sumter ranger Summer Elcock provided the Picket details about the festive Fort Sumter delicacy. Her responses have been edited.

Fort Sumter, as imagined in a sweets eater's dreams (NPS photo)
Q.  What exactly is the Great National Park Service Bake Off?

A. The Great NPS Bake Off is a chance for people to show their love for the parks in a unique and fun way. During the month of December, we’re inviting anyone (regardless of baking skills) to get out a rolling pin and give it a go! Whether it’s recreating a historical landmark, such as Fort Sumter, or creating a tasty sweet inspired by nature, we look forward to seeing the outcome.

Q. Who on the Sumter/Moultrie staff came up with this idea? How long was the idea in the works?

A. Rebekah (Claussen), one of our interpretive rangers, is in a social media group for NPS and saw the upcoming campaign. She told me about it, and I came up with the idea to make a gingerbread version of Fort Sumter. 

Q. Can you tell me what the different components are made of, ie. the cannonballs, cannon, flags, etc.?

A. We decided to create what we thought the fort would have looked like in 1865 after the 18-month Union bombardment from Fort Morris (that ended in a Confederate evacuation). We used gingerbread for the walls and icing for the mortar. We then created a black icing to harden and cover little candies to create the cannonballs. Our cannons and the flag were made out of modeling clay to help them keep shape.

For the water around the fort, we pulled multiple icings together to create a color that best represents our harbor, complete with a swirling tide that we often see ourselves when out on the island.

Q. How long did it take to make?

A. It took five women across three different divisions (our historian, preservationist and our Interpretation team) plus one fun evening together to build the gingerbread fort. 

We made sugar cookies that night and realized Whoppers would be too big to represent a cannon ball. The scaling would have been way off.

Q. What will become of it?

A. It became a delicious treat for rangers coming in from the cold, and yes, it does get cold here in Charleston! 

Q. Anything else about the project?

A. We had so much fun coming together and collaborating on this piece. We’re very proud of how it turned out and can’t wait to do it again next year.

We’re already brainstorming bigger and better ideas, so definitely be on the lookout come next December.

One of the things we're making adjustments for next year is that we take more photos in the process. We were having too much fun!

Other NPS creations: Harpers Ferry, Grand Canyon, Tonto National Monument

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Unveiling of marker in Nashville will be the latest in the area to honor service of black Union troops (USCT) during the Civil War

Jack Richards checks out the new Civil War Trails sign (Courtesy of John Banks)
African-American troops --- many former slaves seeing combat for the first time – will be remembered this week in Nashville with the dedication of the latest sign in the region to honor their valor during the Civil War.

The Battle of Nashville Trust, local officials and STEM Prep Academy backed the Civil WarTrails marker focusing on U.S. Colored Troops (USCT).

“The fact that this small sliver of battlefield survives and is the place where this monumental event occurred is amazing.” Drew Gruber, executive director of Civil Trails, said in a press release. “It’s not hard to stand at the new sign and imagine the United States flags being unfurled as these men charged forward charting a new course for our nation.” 

The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 15) at the school.

A fanciful depiction of Nashville includes Black troops (Library of Congress)
Three USCT regiments (14th, 17th and 44th) took part in a futile attack on fortifications on Dec. 15, 1864, the first day of the battle. The sign, on school property, is placed where troops advanced that morning.

Their object was the so-called Granbury’s Lunette, named for a Southern general who died two weeks earlier at fighting in nearby Franklin. A deep railroad cut, stronger than expected forces and artillery doomed the USCT assault. A maneuver by seasoned troops trapped them, and the USCT regiments and white Union troops were forced to retreat within 10 minutes.

The 17th had nearly 120 casualties in the fighting.

Other USCT troops had a bit more success the next day in fighting at Peach Orchard Hill, which led to a Confederate retreat after intense combat. The 13th USCT suffered crushing casualties.

Granbury's crescent lunette was strongly defended (Battle of Nashville Trust)
The Tennessee Wars Commission provided grants for the new marker and one planned for Peach Orchard Hill. In 2021, the Tennessee Historical Commission erected a sign about a half mile from Granbury’s Lunette, emphasizing the role of African-American troops.

Also in 2021, the Battle of Franklin Trust and local officials unveiled a statue honoring former slaves who fought for the Union.

USCT units were relatively new when the Battle of Nashville took place and there were questions of whether they would make an effective fighting force.

Federal Maj. Gen. George Thomas inspected the battlefield and said to his staff, “Gentlemen, the question is settled; Negroes will fight.”

About 180,000 black men served in Union forces during the conflict.

Dedication of a related marker in October 2021 (Battle of Nashville Trust)

Monday, December 5, 2022

Shiloh's visitor center is closed for months during a museum overhaul that will focus on stories rather than objects

The museum is being largely gutted during the work (NPS photo)
Shiloh National Military Park has gutted its visitor center museum, with plans to transform the space from an object-based presentation to one that highlights compelling stories from the April 1862 battle, officials say.

The federal park in southern Tennessee recently announced the closing of the visitor center for several months. The film “Shiloh: Fiery Trial” is still being shown in the auditorium. Restrooms are available nearby.

The museum is long overdue for the overhaul: The exhibits are about 35 years old.

Park ranger Chris Mekow tells the Civil War Picket in an email that among new items to be displayed is the frock coat of Col. Francis Eugene Whitfield, commander of the 9th Mississippi Infantry.

Park officials remove artifacts, exhibits from the walls, floor (NPS photo)
He was wearing this coat in the Battle of Shiloh when he was seriously wounded. The bullet hole and blood are still there. We are very excited to get this on display for the first anywhere,” Mekow said.

The coat came from a private collection with help from grants and donations through the Friends of Shiloh National Battlefield Park. It was donated to the park several years ago.

F.E. Whitfield
Whitfield was wearing the coat on April 7, 1862, during fighting at the Hornets Nest. He accepted the surrender of Lt. Col. William Shaw of the 14th Iowa.

Whitfield, wounded in 1864 at Resaca in Georgia, survived the war and died in 1885.

The Civil War in North Mississippi Facebook page says the double-breasted coat appears to be made of imported gray wool and was finely tailored, with French blue facings, a gold sleeve braid and a three-button cuff.

In September 2017, noted Civil War collector Rafael Eledge donated uniform trousers Whitfield wore after the battle to the park (photo below).

The Picket has asked Mekow for more details on the nature of story-based items and interpretation that will greet visitors after the museum overhaul.

As for other new exhibits, you will just have to wait,” he wrote previously.

Col. Whitfield's pants before conservation (NPS)
During the work, a temporary station will be set up outside of the 87-year-old building and manned by rangers to assist visitors. Battlefield grounds and park’s bookstore remain open during the project.

Officials say updates will be provided on the park's website and Facebook page.

Visitor center exterior and dismantled exhibits (NPS)

Monday, November 28, 2022

Volunteers will fix memorial to Ohio veteran whose family suffered greatly

A cemetery monument honoring Ohio Civil War veteran Dr. Noah Webster Yoder is getting a facelift. Several organizations in the Sugarcreek area are asking the community to help fund a project to restore the memorial. The 10-foot tall marble obelisk is leaning badly and needs to be repaired. There are many cracks in the marker, and water has gotten into the stone. It marks the final resting place of Yoder, his wife Catherine, and two of their children -- a family haunted by unimaginable tragedies. -- Article

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Rogers named new superintendent at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania

Lewis Rogers, whose 38-year National Park Service career has included service at 12 sites with historic and cultural themes, has been named the next superintendent of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia.

Lewis Rogers
Rogers, currently the superintendent at another Civil War site, Petersburg National Battlefield, will start his new position on Dec. 18.

At Petersburg, Rogers guided the park through the Civil War sesquicentennial and he spoke often about the important role of African American soldiers (U.S. Colored Troops). A postage stamp honors Black troops who fought during the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg in July 30, 1864. Rogers also backed expansion of the Petersburg park.

“I am proud to be a steward of America’s history,” Rogers said in a press release Friday.

“The most exciting thing about national parks is the intersection of story and place. This is the stuff that makes your hair stand up. But too often in public history, too many faces have been cropped out of the whole picture. To understand what really happened, stewards of our shared history need to reveal the entire picture, with all of its participants. That’s what makes history so interesting.”

Rogers’ time at the National Park Service has involved a variety of roles, including law enforcement, wildland firefighting and interpretation. He has served in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

His previous NPS posts included Booker T. Washington National Monument, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Valley Forge National Historical Park and Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Survivor artifacts and memories: A detailed look at current plans for the new Sultana Disaster Museum in Arkansas, gallery by gallery

Banners for survivor reunions in the late 19th century (Sultana Disaster Museum)
A new museum remembering the steamboat Sultana maritime disaster will feature artifacts from the current two-room venue, recently collected items and professionally produced exhibits that will tell all facets of the Civil War story.

Gene Salecker (below), a Sultana author and lecturer, said renovated and expanded space in the old high school in Marion, Ark., will be much larger and in a more prominent spot in town. Groundbreaking was held Friday, on Veterans Day.

The Sultana exploded and caught fire in the Mississippi Rover not far from Marion on April 27, 1865. About 1,200 passengers and crew perished. Hundreds of Federal soldiers, many recently freed from Confederate prisons, including Andersonville and Cahaba, were on their way home, a cruel fate after enduring months or years of privation.

The school’s gymnasium-auditorium will be largely gutted, though crews will try to preserve as much of the original floor as possible. “In addition to the renovations of the existing structure, a new addition will be built onto the south side of the building, which will house the main entrance, ticketing station, museum store and … the auditorium and orientation theater,” said Wyley Bigger, director of special operations and projects for the Sultana Disaster Museum. (The groundbreaking was held in the old gym)

Section-by-section look at museum experience

The Picket asked Salecker, who has donated many items to the museum, to provide details on the experience for visitors once the new location opens. Some responses have been edited for brevity.

Q. I need a big picture description, please, of what all will be in the museum, how the visitor flow will go and the principal themes. What should be the takeaway when someone leaves? 

Current floor plan for new museum in Marion (Sultana Disaster Museum, click to enlarge)

. Our initial concept, and it may vary once we get heavily into the actual layout of the museum, is to have people enter the museum and see a short video explaining what the Sultana disaster is and how it impacted so many people -- survivors, families of the slain, rescuers, descendants and etc.

We plan on having people then walk through a section that will cover an overview of the Civil War and the importance of steamboating on the Mississippi River. Next, a person will enter a display on the building of the Sultana and on her first two years of service. The next section will be devoted to Civil War battle, capture and prisons. (Read about one former prisoner who kept memory of disaster alive to dying day.)

John H. Simpson was a passenger (photos courtesy of Gene Salecker)
Next will come a section devoted to Camp Fisk, the neutral exchange camp outside of Vicksburg where the prisoners gathered in hopes of being exchanged and sent home. Our next section will discuss the bribery and the greed and corruption that surrounded the three steamboats that carried the ex-prisoners northward. Emphasis will center on the Sultana.

From there we are hoping to immerse people into the loading of the Sultana by having a scale mock-up of the steamboat that people can board and see the boilers, the engines, perhaps the staterooms. Here will be stories of the loading and the overcrowding, and of the two day trip upriver.

The next section will explain the explosion, the fights for survival and the activities of the many rescuers. This section will include information on the hospitals, the rescue boats, the activities at Fort Pickering (the fort guarding the southern waterway approach to Memphis).

Our next section will include information on the aftermath of the disaster -- the (Capt.) Speed trial, the establishment of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, and the laws passed to prevent such a disaster from happening again.

The visitor to the museum will then step into an area showing our Wall of Honor, which will list every person on board the Sultana between April 24-27, 1865 as she made her way upriver from Vicksburg - ex-prisoners, guards, crew and civilian passengers. Where possible, we will have actual photos of the person. 

Photos of some on board Sultana are currently on exhibit (Sultana Disaster Museum)
The last two sections will feature the information on the reunions of the Sultana survivors, the current Sultana Association reunions, and on the various monuments and markers that have been put up to memorialize the greatest maritime disaster in American history.

The permanent museum will also contain a temporary exhibit area which will feature rotating exhibits on loan from other museums. These exhibits will not only be Civil War-related, but any and all American wars, as well as other interesting American displays. We will also have an auditorium that can be used for Sultana Disaster Museum seminars, events, and more.

Q. What will be the "signature" artifacts or constructed objects that will most grab a visitor's attention?

A. The signature artifacts, of course, will be that actual pieces of the Sultana that have been collected over the years or were carried by many of the survivors on board the Sultana. These pieces include:

Fire bricks (top) and shaker places from the furnace (G. Salecker)
-- Several pieces of fire brick and heavy metal shaker plates from the furnaces of the Sultana
-- Pieces of wood taken from the wreck years afterwards and given to survivors as cherished mementos
-- Wooden mallet made from the wood of the Sultana
-- Couple of buttons from the frock coat saved during the disaster by the captain of the guard unit
-- Couple of hand-made wooden combs (one below) carved by the prisoners while they were in a Confederate prison and carried aboard the Sultana

Carved comb made in a Confederate prison (Gene Salecker)
-- Cartridge box sling found along the shore of the Mississippi River shortly after the disaster
-- Cane made from the wood of the Sultana
-- Display board made from wood from the Sultana containing several small metal artifacts taken from the wreck
-- Knife made from a file and carried by one of the ex-prisoners aboard the Sultana
-- Steamboat engineer's wrench said to be from the Sultana
-- Cotton bale hook salvaged from the wreck of the Sultana

Additionally, our museum features dozens of items that were used at the many reunions of the Sultana Survivors’ Association -- reunion ribbons, numerous flags, a welcoming banner, an embroidered eagle banner, metal adjutant collection box, journals, minutes, envelopes with Association letterhead, lap desk from the association secretary, and a few wall plaques.

Curios crafted by survivor William Lugenbeal (Sultana Disaster Museum)
One of the most remembered survivors was Pvt. William Lugenbeal, who survived by slaying the Sultana's pet alligator and floating to safety in its sturdy wooden crate.

Our museum has two canes from Lugenbeal, one pipe, one napkin ring, and a curio box all decorated with the image of an alligator and inscribed to the man who was "saved by a alligator." 

And, since we will also be a museum that discusses the importance of steamboats on the Mississippi River, we also have many 1850-1860 steamboat memorabilia -- an 1857 first class steamboat ticket, an 1858 second-class deck passage ticket, a main saloon meal ticket from the 1860s, a hand-written menu from an 1860s steamboat (exceedingly rare, at left), an 1858 steamboat pilot's license and an 1854 steamboat engineer's certificate.

After the disaster, not only were the pilots and engineers required to be licensed but also the captain and first mate. We, therefore, have an 1881 steamboat captain (master) license and an 1889 first mate's license.

And, I would be remiss if I forgot to state that we have an actual 1840 engine from the steamboat LeRoy.

Q. Are all items/artifacts in the current museum going to be displayed on Military Road? Are there some in storage that will debut at the new site? If so, what are they?

A. Hopefully, we have room for all of the items currently on display in our interim museum -- and in the back room -- to go on display in our permanent museum. Any item that we do not have space for will be rotated with items on display so that all of the items will eventually have their moment to shine! We have a couple of pieces that are not on current display in the interim museum because of space limitations. One is the actual 1840 steamboat engine from the steamboat LeRoy and the other is another 14-foot model of the Sultana, this one depicting that moment after the disaster with the hole blown in the middle of the boat, the smokestacks down, the pilothouse gone, the decks collapsed on top of one another, and tons of steam escaping through the blast hole.

The current museum has only two rooms; it is off a side street
All of the artifacts that I owned in 2020 were donated to the museum at that time. I am imagining that all of them will be put on display in the permanent museum if space allows. If not, then they will be rotated with other items a few times a year. About 85-90 percent of the pieces in the museum come from my collection.

There are some items that I picked up in 2021 and 2022 that have not been donated to the museum. I am hoping that they will have their debut when the permanent museum opens.

Gym site provides nostalgia for local residents

Wyly Bigger, the director of projects for the Sultana Disaster Museum, said “that while constructing a brand-new building (as first envisioned) may have allowed for more freedom in architecture and exhibit design, I believe having the museum in this historic space adds a new element to the museum that can enhance the experience for history lovers.”

Photo by Mark Hilton,
The building (above)
was completed in 1938-1939 during the New Deal era by the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (later known as the Public Works Administration). It hosted exhibition basketball games by the University of Arkansas and Louisiana State University.

“In addition to the history, it is a place of fond memories for a lot of locals who attended school and played ball there. By preserving this building and giving it a use where it had none, we’re combining its history with that of the Sultana and creating a rich collective of histories in one place,” Bigger said.

Retired John Fogleman, head of the Sultana Historical Preservation Society, told the audience at the groundbreaking of the role of the disaster survivors.

“This museum idea did not begin with us. The seed for the idea of a museum was planted by the actual survivors. Not for a museum. All they wanted was a monument" along the Mississippi River. That effort never came to fruition. Now is the time to rectify that, Fogleman said.

Former US Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater discussed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln nearly two weeks before the Sultana exploded. Slater said Lincoln stressed that no soldiers died in vain during the war and all men were created equal. He asked the crowd to bless the memory of the disaster's victims

Haizlip Studio rendering of exterior includes mock smokestacks (Sultana Disaster Museum)

Thursday, November 10, 2022

National Park Service awards $345K in new grants to help restore battlefields in Virginia and Pennsylvania

Huntsberry farm near Winchester, Va. (SVBF via NPS)
With a focus on restoring “day of battle” conditions at historic sites, the National Park Service has awarded $345,000 in grants for the study of and improvements at Civil War battlefields in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The agency this week announced the inaugural Battlefield Restoration Grants, emphasizing they will conserve open spaces and restore landscapes.

Here’s a brief look at the five projects that “build on collaborative conservation efforts among state and local governmental and nonprofit partners,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams in a news release.


Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg ($62,500 to the American Battlefield Trust): With financial support from a Battlefield Restoration Grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program, the American Battlefield Trust will synthesize research on the civilian landscape at Seminary Ridge, including the Mary Thompson House, the James Thompson House, the Dustman Barn and the ruins of the Alexander Riggs House; all properties that witnessed the opening stages of the battle. The Trust’s plan will build upon previous research to gain a complete understanding of the Seminary Ridge landscape and provide a roadmap to restoring day-of-battle conditions to a view shed essential to visitors’ experience at the Gettysburg battlefield.– Details here


Edwin Forbes' illustration of the clash at Brandy Station (Library of Congress)
Brandy Station 1863 cavalry battle ($175,000 to the American Battlefield Trust): “The American Battlefield Trust will develop a comprehensive report on the landscape features of the Brandy Station Battlefield, including the archaeological remains of fighting and historic buildings that witnessed the battle. The report will also explore lesser-known stories, such as the experiences of enslaved and freed African Americans as the battle came to Elkwood Downs plantation. The American Battlefield Trust hopes that the report’s findings will lead to the continued preservation of these resources and narratives ahead of the battlefield’s incorporation into Virginia’s new Culpeper Battlefields State Park.– Details here

Third Winchester in 1864 ($79,428 to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation): NPS’s award supports the foundation’s on-going restoration of the Third Winchester Battlefield with the installation of period fencing at both portions of the (Huntsberry) farm. The fences that once brought order to the property will now give a sense of place to the farm and help visitors understand the battlefield’s landscape: how it was used by the people who called this place home, how it was traversed by the soldiers who fought here, and how it can be a place of renewal today.– Details here

New Market battle in 1864 ($28,277 to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation):  “The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) will pave the way to advance the New Market Greenway Trail, an interpreted greenway linking New Market’s downtown with nearly 400 acres of protected battlefield” – Details here

The federal money for the new grants program comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The NPS’s American Battlefield Protection Program administers the new program, along with Battlefield Land Acquisition, Preservation Planning, and Battlefield Interpretation grants.

“Battlefield Restoration Grants empower preservation partners to inspire wonder, understanding, and empathy at the places that witnessed some of our nation’s most challenging events,” the park service says.