Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Ohio community near Cleveland hopes to rebuild a 120-year-old Civil War monument crushed by a tractor trailer

The so-called Sherman statue before Tuesday's accident (Village of LaGrange)
Updated July 7: A rural community in northern Ohio hopes to pick up the pieces – literally – and rebuild a Civil War monument that was obliterated this week when a tractor trailer careened through a downtown square.

Officials in LaGrange told the Picket the big rig cruised through a stop sign at the circular intersection in the middle of the village on June 28. The stone memorial with a soldier on top was shattered and a flagpole was crushed.

An incident report from the Ohio State Highway Patrol said the driver told a responding officer that he fell asleep and ran a stop sign. The driver was not found to be impaired.

“There are four or five big pieces that are there, they weigh hundreds of pounds apiece,” village Mayor Kim Strauss told the Picket. While those remain on the ground, the broken soldier figure was picked up, as well as stone chips that could help in repairs. The soldier’s head was severed by the force of the accident.

The force blew the monument into pieces (Photo by Gary Burnett)
Called by residents the Sherman statue, the monument was erected in 1903 (some sources say 1904) for about $3,000. The project was a joint project of the village and LaGrange Township, a separate political entity.

The monument base carried the names of LaGrange area residents who served during the war, the names of a few battles and of Union generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan and George Thomas.

Strauss and Gary Burnett, one of three trustees for the township, would like to see the monument restored, though one expert said that may not be possible. Another option is starting over with a new monument. Strauss said officials will work with insurance carriers.

The statue literally is the focal point of the town, at the intersection of routes 301 and 303 (Main Street). When it was erected 120 years ago, the soldier was facing to the north, toward the county seat.

“There was a big commotion over that you are never supposed to turn your back to the enemy. They lifted him and turned him south” to face battlefields hundreds of miles away, said Strauss.

The mayor said the driver was headed south on 301 on a route often used by trucks to reach another highway. The driver was apologetic after the incident, which occurred around 2:30 a.m., he said.

“He is OK. That is the most important thing,” Strauss said.                               

Burnett said residents of the township – a metro Cleveland bedroom community and farming area -- want officials to work with village to rebuild the memorial.

“I personally would like to put it back up. It is part of our identity in LaGrange. Everyone feels a little connection to it.” Officials said they are unaware of any opposition to putting the monument back up. 

Township trustees asked the public to stay away from the site for now.

Nothing in the statue area can be touched and anyone attempting to take ‘souvenirs’ will be charged! The area has video cameras,” a Facebook post said.

The Sherman statue suffered another indignity 65 years ago, according to a Lorain County nostalgia blog. A newspaper article in November 1957 said pranksters tarred and feathered the base.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Monument to USCT dedicated in Tenn. city that was a recruitment center

A monument to U.S. Colored Troops was unveiled at Fort Defiance Civil War Park and Interpretive Center in Clarksville, Tenn. Hundreds gathered for a weekend Juneteenth ceremony filled with speeches, music, poems and dance in honor of the troops. Clarksville served as a recruitment center for escaped slaves who joined the Union army. -- Article

Monday, June 13, 2022

Georgia's Fort McAllister next month may formally dedicate wall panels about USS Montauk and other Union monitors

Interpretive panels explaining the role of the USS Montauk and other innovative Federal monitors in the siege of Confederate outposts on the Atlantic Ocean are expected to formally debut next month at a Georgia park.

Fort McAllister State Historic Park manager Jason Carter in May said the site near Savannah might reopen an exhibit detailing the vessels and the Rebel raider CSS Nashville (Rattlesnake) on July 4. The CSS Nashville was destroyed by USS Montauk near the fort in February 1863. Park officials on July 2 said the panels were not yet up, and a date would be announced.

Students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) produced the panels and a 3D model of the USS Montauk. The model is expected to be put on display later this year. There’s also hope for an accompanying film, though that would be down the road.

The five new wall panels in the museum will cover these topics: Civil War monitors, the Passaic class of monitors, armament, ironclads versus an earthen fort, and what happened to the USS Montauk and the others at Fort McAllister after the fighting. The panels will feature photographs, drawings and illustrations.

The Union navy, as it continued its chokehold on Southern ports and readied for offensive operations, sent the Montauk and fellow monitors Seneca, Dawn and Wissahickon to bombard and capture Fort McAllister in January 1863. It was considered a trial run of sorts for the armored vessels, which effectively brought to an end the day of the wooden fighting ship. (Fort McAllister thwarted the attacks and held on until December 1864.)

The skipper of the Montauk was John Worden, the USS Monitor’s captain when it clashed with the CSS Virginia in 1862.

Capable Confederate gunners at Fort McAllister hit the USS Montauk 13 times in its first action, but caused little damage. A second attack on Feb. 1 found the ironclad, according to histories, pounded by 48 shells.

USS Montauk receives fire from Fort McAllister as it pounds CSS Nashville, upper right.
Its big day came on February 28, 1863. The sidewheeler CSS Nashville, which was bottled up and hiding under the guns of Fort McAllister for protection, tried to get away from the Federal ironclads via Seven-Mile Bend on the Ogeechee River

The 215-foot ship commanded by Lt. Thomas Harrison Baker became a sitting duck after it ran aground near the fort.

“During the February 28, 1863 attack, Montauk’s XV- and 11-inch Dahlgrens were able to destroy the former commerce raider CSS Nashville. Worden was pleased with his destruction of ‘this troublesome pest’” wrote John V. Quarstein, director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center in a blog post. “However, Montauk suffered a huge jolt when it struck a Confederate torpedo en route down the Ogeechee River. Worden’s quick thinking saved his ironclad and he, the hero of USS Monitor, received even greater laurels for his newest decisive actions.”

CSS Nashville artifacts in the museum (Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources)
While the Montauk was scrapped in the early 1900s, Fort McAllister’s grounds and museum have a large number of CSS Nashville artifacts and facsimiles.

A pavilion houses several pieces of the engine and the interior collection includes part of a cannon, ship fixtures, fittings, cargo tag, personal items and much more, including a model of the CSS Nashville.

Carter said the current exhibit on the CSS Nashville will remain the same. “We are going to create a ‘loading dock’ scene in the corner once we have the panels up. There will be boxes of rifles, munitions, etc, stacked up.” 

Friday, June 10, 2022

1842 home of family that supported Confederate war effort, sent 6 sons to fight is lost to suspected arson fire in Morrow, just below Atlanta

Remains of the three homes, including Napier at far right (Civil War Picket photo)
A stately mansion that belonged to a businessman who was a major financial supporter of the Confederate war effort and sent six sons to battle was lost in a recent suspected arson fire in a suburb of Atlanta.

Built in 1842, in Macon, Ga., the Greek Revival home of slave holder Leroy Napier Jr. was sent in pieces in 2007 north to Morrow, where it was the anchor of a 19th-century style commercial town square called Olde Towne Morrow, more recently The District.

The development lasted a couple years before going bust, but city officials hope it can still be revitalized, despite the loss of the Napier home and two other empty and historic structures in the fire that occurred late last Friday or early Saturday. The homes were moved to the site at a cost of up to $200,000 each, according to reports.

The city on Wednesday announced that three juvenile boys have been arrested in the fire, which apparently started in one building and spread to the others. A few other structures escaped damage.

Morrow zoning administrator Martha “Marti” Tracy told the Picket this week the city approached Macon when it learned the Napier house might be demolished to make way for an expansion of Central High School. It purchased the home for $1 and brought it up I-75 to Morrow, which is just south of Atlanta.

The home had lost two of its wings and a basement when it was moved from its original location to Napier Avenue in Macon in the 1920s, according to Clayton News Daily. It maintained its distinctive appearance while it was turned into an apartment building in Macon.

“This large, columned house is similar in architecture to the Napier-Small house on Rogers Avenue in Macon. The Napier brothers, Skelton and Leroy, built these almost identical houses thought to be designed by Elias Carter,” said a 1971 application for the mansion to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Skelton’s 1846 home is still in Macon and is a private residence.

The Napier home while is had businesses at Olde Towne (City of Morrow)
In 1861, Col. Leroy Napier Sr. made a large investment in the Confederate loan fund, subscribing $58,000 in bonds.

Six of the seven sons of Napier and his wife Matilda were in the Rebel army. Leroy Napier Jr., a West Point grad and former member of the U.S. cavalry, was a captain in the Napier Artillery organized in Macon in the early days of the Civil War and later was adjutant for the 10th Georgia Infantry.

The elder Napier’s son-in-law, Stanford B. Chaille, served as a surgeon for the Confederate Army of Tennessee and at military hospitals in Macon and Atlanta.

In the 1870s, he gained prominence for studying a yellow fever epidemic. “A national figurehead, Dr. Chaille was spokesman for the establishment of community sewerage and drainage systems, street paving, pure water supplies and mosquito control,” according to Tulane University in New Orleans.

The Napier house years ago in Macon (City of Morrow)
The Napier home underwent some repairs and restoration after it was moved to Morrow, with its original chandeliers in place. “They used real wood to restore the columns out front,” said Tracy.

It housed two businesses in the early days of Morrow’s Olde Towne: A pound cake store and an art studio. For a while, there were businesses in a few other spots in the development.

The district near Southlake Mall collapsed during the economic downtown in 2008-2010 and amid questions about its operation and oversight. That squashed dreams of the city making millions from retail and possible hotels and condominiums, as officials told Clayton News Daily in 2007.

Napier home and another lost in the fire (City of Morrow)
The city had tried multiple times to sell the property at a loss, with one of the latest attempts reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution back in 2019 at a listing price of $1.6 million.

There had been problems with vandalism at the site before the fire.

Officials say they plan to move forward with the 16-acre project and would like to rebuild the lost homes.

“Two of the buildings in The District were under contract, and architectural plans are being reviewed for two others even as new requests for commercial space are being processed by the City,” said City Manager Jeff Baker in a statement. “This is a devastating setback just as we’ve begun to turn the corner and fill the long-vacant spaces at The District.”

A prayer vigil for unity is scheduled for Saturday morning in The District, 1065 Olde Towne Morrow Road. “The word that comes up is sad. We are grateful that no one was hurt in the fire," said Tracy.

Other buildings at The District. They were not hit by the fire (City of Morrow)
On a side note, Morrow was the home of William Fuller, the conductor who led the pursuing party in 1862's Great Locomotive Chase in north Georgia.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Kennesaw Mountain park in Georgia gets back Civil War artillery shell that was taken away by bomb squad after its discovery

Bomb squad members gingerly removed this round from the battlefield (NPS photos)
Months after a firestorm erupted when the possibility arose of it being destroyed by a bomb squad, a Civil War artillery shell found on the Kennesaw Mountain battlefield in Georgia has been returned to the federal agency that administers the park.

“It is an archeological artifact and has been turned over to the National Park Service,” Cobb County Police spokesperson Officer Shenise Barner told the Picket in a recent email.

A team working on a trail project at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in late February found the Parrott shell during a metal detecting survey. The NPS’s Southeast Archeological Survey said it “had a percussion fuse that did not ignite when it hit the ground.”

While police and the park would not indicate whether the shell was intact when it was returned by the bomb squad, their responses to Picket questions left the impression it may have been.

The shell was returned to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (KEMO) as soon as the bomb squad rendered it inert and safe, which was approximately two weeks ago,” Chief Ranger Anthony P. Winegar wrote in late May.

Winegar was the trail team member who dug open the area containing the Parrott round, which was about 10 inches deep.

“No modifications were made to the shell other than what was necessary by the bomb squad to render it safe. Live munitions and explosives are rendered inert by removing all explosive compounds,” he recently wrote. “As stated before, the National Park Service (NPS) treats all munitions with extreme caution. The preservation of human life always takes precedence over the preservation of even the rarest museum objects.”

After he uncovered the ordnance, Winegar called the Cobb bomb squad, which took it away. A subsequent social media post about the find by Join Cobb Police brought a crescendo of concern about the shell’s fate, with some saying it could be easily and safely neutralized.

The page responded: "The bomb squad stated that they would love nothing more than to preserve this piece of history, however there is no way to safely render it without counter charging it. They try to use the smallest charge appropriate. This charge is very small and will perforate the case. Unfortunately, even small amount of live explosives can set the whole shell off."

Given that, it appeared the round would be destroyed in the process. In March, Barner told the Picket the ordnance was collected by the bomb squad for safe keeping.

The Picket remained in touch with the park and Barner in the past couple months. While they responded, answers were measured, possibly indicating the sensitivity of the topic.

When asked by the Picket on how the round was handled and whether it was soaked in water or its powder removed, as some experts suggested, Barner said: “We have no additional information to provide on this incident, and we can't disclose the practices and techniques to render inert any explosive compounds.”

Some historians, munition experts and others have questioned why it might be necessary to destroy or damage the item.

"Absolute travesty to destroy this historical object. These are easy to make inert," wrote one person on the Join Cobb Police Facebook page. Jack Melton, publisher of the Artilleryman Magazine, told the Washington Post that a solution was dipping the round in water.

“These shells used paper fuses and black powder, which is not unstable,” he told The Post. “Black powder becomes inert when it gets wet. Given that it was found 10 inches below the surface, it probably already is inactive. I’m sure it got wet from rainwater more than a few times in the past 157 years.”

Winegar and Cobb County police have stressed safety is the absolute priority.

“KEMO does not yet have a plan for what it will do with the shell,” the chief ranger said. “The Park has several inert Parrott shells in its museum collection, including a shell identical to the one found (Feb. 28.)”

Federal and Confederate forces tangled at Kennesaw Mountain and nearby sites from June 19 to July 2, 1864. A large frontal assault by Union Gen. William T. Sherman failed on June 27. Combat over several days produced about 4,000 casualties in the campaign to take Atlanta.

Artillery played a major role in the fighting, according to the NPS. Sherman, eliminating the element of surprise, launched a barrage from below the mountain on June 27 before the assault.

Parrott guns were a mainstay during the war; here one at Gettysburg (Wikipedia)
It had little effect on the Confederates above, who effectively used their guns to halt the subsequent Union attack.

Among the guns used at Kennesaw Mountain was the 10-pounder Parrott rifle, which had a range of nearly two miles.

When asked how the round came to be in the location, Winegar said in March: “I can only say that orientation of the artifact in situ would indicate that it came from the Confederate line towards the Union line. Based on the depth it is possible that it was fired and impacted, likely short of its intended target, and did not detonate. That, however, is speculation.”

At the time, he indicated the round would be “disrupted” – meaning it would be hit with a charge to render it safe. The park would then take custody of the remaining pieces. 

“This is common practice involving potentially unstable unexploded ordinance (UXO) that is not a rare item. Rarer pieces may be treated differently so that the intact piece is not lost. This does not appear to be a rare item.”

Subsequent responses by police and the park have not indicated the shell is now in pieces, but there was no confirmation of its current appearance.

Another view of the Parrott artillery round (NPS)

Friday, June 3, 2022

H.L. Hunley: Skipper's gold pocket watch goes on display. What does it tell us about the night the famed submarine disappeared?

Of the myriad personal belongings discovered among the remains of the crew of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, it seemed one piece in particular could help establish or affirm a timeline for the vessel’s disappearance.

That hope thus far hasn’t panned out.

The hands of the gold watch belonging to Capt. George Dixon, commander of the eight-man crew, stopped at 8:23 – at least 20 minutes before survivors of the USS Housatonic, the Union ship sunk by the Hunley, say the moonlight attack occurred.

For the first time, beginning this weekend, the public will get its first look at the meticulously conserved watch and chain.

They are in a display case at Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, S.C. “Treasures of the Past” includes jewelry Dixon kept in his pockets and a disfigured gold coin that absorbed a bullet during the April 1862 fighting at Shiloh and saved his leg.

A Friends of the Hunley news release on the exhibit outlines questions surrounding the watch.

“The watch could help answer a lingering mystery: How long did the crew survive after the sinking of the USS Housatonic? If Dixon set his timepiece accurately before entering the submarine, the watch represents the first opportunity to place a timeline on events that transpired the night of the attack.

Watch hands are at 8:23 (Photos courtesy of Friends of the Hunley)
On Feb. 17, 1864, Hunley made history by becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy warship. The 40-foot iron vessel -- bullets pinging off its iron exterior -- planted a torpedo in the hull of the USS Housatonic, setting off a charge that sent the warship and five crew members to the sandy bottom within minutes.

The Hunley then disappeared beneath the waves and entered the realm of legend. To this day, historians, scientists and others debate what caused it to end up on the ocean floor. While one researcher says the crew died from torpedo blast injuries, others say the sinking may have been caused by other factors.

Discovered a few miles off Charleston in 1995, and raised in 2000, the Hunley is being conserved at the Lasch Center. The interior of the vessel was a time capsule, and conservators recovered items and human remains from mud and silt.

Dixon’s watch would have helped the crew time their mission to ride the tide out and back to land without having to propel the hand-cranked vessel against the currents, the Friends of the Hunley say. It would have stopped working if it was wet or suffered a hard blow from the explosion that night.

Union records show that those on board the Housatonic said the attack occurred between 8:45 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The Friends of the Hunley said that raises three questions:

-- Did Dixon’s watch work properly?

-- Did Federal forces use the same time as Confederates on shore? If not, and if the Union forces kept time about 20 minutes ahead, perhaps the times will line up. Standard time was not instituted in the United States until about 20 years after the Civil War.

-- Will the watch help solve the mystery of what happened to the Hunley?

Kellen Butler, president and executive director of the Friends of the Hunley, told the Picket there is no current active research on the artifact. But that could change if evidence points to possible conclusions.

Watch with brooch, ring and gold coin in background (Friends of the Hunley)

Dixon’s watch is now in a case with other items he carried during the mission: The coin, a ring featuring nine diamonds totaling one carat and a 15-carat brooch with 37 small diamonds. The jewelry was meant to be worn by a man as a statement of wealth and success.

Experts told the Post and Courier in Charleston that the internal mechanism of the watch was made in England in the 1830s or 1840s. The case may have been fashioned shortly before the Civil War.

Archaeologist Nicholas DeLong told the newspaper the watch was in pristine condition and its main spring intact, indicating it was working the evening of the attack.

The watch was found in Dixon's clothing (Friends of the Hunley)