Saturday, October 29, 2022

Legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley had a passion for Civil War history. Here's what those who knew him say about that

With Ed Bearss in Athens, Ga., and Carolyn Turner in Newnan, Ga. (Skip Johnson, Charlie Crawford, GBA)
Former University of Georgia football coach and athletics director Vince Dooley 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.

Dooley, who died Friday at age 90, is being remembered, of course, for his sports accomplishments: college football’s National Championship in 1980 and six Southeastern Conference titles, among others. But he immersed himself in other interests, including gardening, political science and history. The Marine Corps veteran was a philanthropist and mentor.

“The Civil War probably is the most critical time in our history. It defined who we are,” Dooley told me in 2010. He later when on to write a book about a Georgia officer.

The Mobile, Ala., native had an ancestor who fought for the Confederacy. Pvt. George Stanter (the surname shared by Dooley’s mother) served with the 24th Alabama Infantry. Dooley was a fan of Patrick Cleburne, the Irish-born Confederate general who was “ahead of his time” in pressing for African-Americans to fight for the South. The idea was squashed until late in the war.

Dooley at a 2010 meeting of the Atlanta Civil War Roundtable (Picket photo)
The Picket asked those who knew him about their memories and thoughts on Dooley's legacy in the Civil War field. The coach made numerous trips to sites with others.

Below that list is reaction on social media from other individuals or groups. Some responses have been edited for brevity. This will be updated.

Gordon Jones, senior military historian and curator, Atlanta History Center:

What I respected most about Vince Dooley is that you would never know he was famous. When you met and talked with him, he was just an ordinary guy with an extraordinary interest in (and knowledge of) the Civil War. So it is with organizations like the (Atlanta) Civil War Roundtable – you know your friends not by their day jobs but by their particular historical interests. Someone at their first roundtable meeting would come up to me and say “Hey, isn’t that Vince Dooley?” and I’d reply, “Yeah it is. And we’re talking about Sherman.” His day job, however spectacular, was at that moment irrelevant. I love that. I think he did, too.   

Charlie Crawford, president emeritus, Georgia Battlefields Association (Dooley was a GBA member and attended many tours):

I first met Coach in 2003 when I led an Atlanta Campaign tour for him and his oldest grandson (then 16).  He was still UGA athletics director at the time and was frequently answering cell phone calls relating to the status of student-athletes in all the sports: women's basketball, women's gymnastics, swimming, baseball, equestrian, etc. How many times did he make a decision about a young man or young woman that affected their lives forever?

(It was) very enjoyable to watch the interaction and listen to the collective wisdom when Coach was with Ed Bearss and Bud Robertson, both of whom he knew very well. In addition to being a premier historian, Bud had also been a college football official for 28 years and officiated some Georgia games, including the last game that Vince coached. (Against Michigan State in the 1988 Gator Bowl.)

With Jack Davis and Dan Hanks in Macon, Ga. (Charlie Crawford)
Coach had an M.A. in history, and I think his passion was about learning from history, specifically, how knowing what occurred helps us understand and react to current situations. Certainly, he was well-informed about the Civil War, but he knew much about many topics.

Hard to predict his legacy relating to preservation. Much as we can't know every way in which his example of discipline, leadership, knowledge, fair play, love of learning and decency influenced the thousands of men he coached, neither can we know every way in which those qualities and his commitment to preservation have inspired (and will continue to influence) anyone who saw him on a battlefield or heard him at an American Battlefield Trust board meeting.

His fame had an effect when a GBA tour group would arrive at a historic site or eat at a restaurant. Every waiter or waitress would drop by his table even if they were not responsible for that table. Docents at museums or park staff would come by to shake his hand or ask to have a photo taken with him, and he was always very accommodating.  Somewhat in contrast, I think he appreciated being treated the same as everyone else among the other tour participants. I also think he enjoyed talking about history rather than football.

With Ed Bearss, GBA's Cindy Wentworth in Augusta, Ga. (Charlie Crawford)
Ronald S. Coddington, author and editor, Military Images magazine:

I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing. I met Coach Dooley about 10 years ago. Somehow he got my telephone number and called. I was shocked and stunned to hear his easily recognizable voice! At first, I thought it was one of my college pals from UGA days pranking me. Turns out the Coach was visiting Washington, D.C., for a Civil War Trust meeting and invited me to lunch to discuss his research about Lt. Col. William Gaston Delony, the subject of the book he co-authored with Sam Thomas, The Legion's Fighting Bulldog.” I had written about Delony in my 2008 book, Faces of the Confederacy” and he wanted to compare research notes. We met in person a few weeks later and I was struck by his gentle manners and humble nature. I was also impressed with the depth and breadth of his research and his passion for history. It was a memorable afternoon, and one I'll never forget. 

Jim Ogden, chief historian, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park:

Vince's interest in Civil War history and battlefield preservation was real and long-standing.  A lot of folks forget that he was the Georgia Honorary Chairman (Dixie Carter being the Tennessee Honorary Chairman) of the Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park's Centennial campaign in the late 1980s-1990. He attended a number of the campaign big events in at least 1990, including the broiling Centennial day events on August 19, 1990.  I can still see he and Dixie just inside the Centennial addition's new front door hoping, mostly in vain, for some air conditioning relief, Dixie sitting on a bench fanning herself furiously.

Subsequently, he would frequently stop and visit when UGA AD business brought him this way; we had a big Auburn fan who worked the information desk for us for years who'd recognize Vince........know thy at least one-time "enemy," right? ... and he would buzz my office when he again saw Vince in the lobby so I could come out and talk with him a minute.

Georgia football fans were always surprised that I'd been with Coach Dooley at some Civil War (!?!?) event !?!?!  But his interest in History was real, witness his and Sam Thomas' “The Legion's Fighting Bulldog.” He helped promote the Georgia Historical Society, the Georgia Battlefields Association, the American Battlefield Trust's missions, but he visited sites and went on the tours and attended talks and lectures because he wanted to LEARN.  He was a real Scholar Athlete with more emphasis on the first, a Scholar.

Mary-Elizabeth Ellard, GBA and Atlanta Civil War Roundtable

He was just a history buff like all the rest of us, even though he was NOT like all the rest of us. "Passion" is not a word I would apply to what I saw. Rather, he always seemed so at ease. Perhaps it was a relief to be around people who just wanted to talk CW history and not SEC sports.

Legacy regarding history and preservation: Largely unsung, I imagine. First, because his football record will always (understandably) draw the most attention. Second, because many things he did remained quiet. Times we think he made a phone call to introduce the organization or an idea or to overcome an obstacle. Times where we can't prove it was he, but where we think no one else could have cleared the way.

We all called him, "Coach." He didn't seem to mind and took in the spirit of respect and affection that we intended. Also, it brought the group no little amusement to see the faces of people react as Coach Dooley would walk by in this otherwise very unimpressive parade of history nuts.

Regarding leadership: It always seemed so natural, to my mind, that someone who coached football would see value in understanding battlefield history.

One favorite memory was during our tour a few years ago in Columbus, Georgia. The group was arriving at the meeting room where were to have our supper. I had come in at the tail of the group, so Coach was already inside. I passed a lovely camellia bush in full bloom on the way in.  I went inside and asked Coach if he thought he might know what kind it was. So out we went to ID a camellia. He confessed they weren't where his gardening expertise lay, but he gave a few likely possibilities. He was so happy to chat flowers and so gracious to take the time.

I.J. Rosenberg, former The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports reporter, on Facebook:

For me, Dooley was so much more than a coach or AD ... his interests away from work varied, such as the incredible gardens he built at his home and ability to name every Civil War general from both the North and South and the battles they won and lost.

Ed Bearss (left) with Vince Dooley on battlefield tour (GBA)
American Battlefield Trust, with which Dooley served three terms on the Board of Trustees:

“Few earn the title of ‘Renaissance Man’ as fully Coach Dooley, who was as at home on the football field as he was on the battlefield, never mind the garden,” said American Battlefield Trust President David Duncan. “He leaves behind a permanent and tangible legacy in numerous fields, and I count myself lucky to have called him a friend. Our thoughts are with his beloved wife Barbara and the entire Dooley family.” Dooley was  instrumental in the protection of 180 acres associated with the February 14, 1779, Revolutionary War Battle of Kettle Creek in Washington, Ga., which enlarged the park by 233 percent. 

Georgia Historical Society, on Facebook:

Along with his exceptional record as football coach and athletics director at the University of Georgia, Coach Dooley served as Chairman of the GHS Board of Curators from 2016 to 2018 and was appointed by the Office of the Governor and GHS as a Georgia Trustee in 2011. As in every other thing he led, Dooley took GHS to new heights with his remarkable leadership and enthusiasm for our educational and research mission. His service to the people of Georgia, to athletics, to history and gardening, are unmatched. GHS established the Dooley Distinguished Fellowship in 2018, which honors and secures his legacy for his lifelong commitment to history and higher education. GHS is proud to house the Vince Dooley Papers, ensuring that his documentary legacy will live on forever. The GHS Board and Staff join our fellow Georgians in remembering this extraordinary man and send our deepest condolences to his incredible family.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

A team approach preserves Virginia Civil War redoubt at George Mason University, which is nestled in suburban sprawl. Here's how they did it

Round table members lead tour of redoubt after dedication (Joshua Cruse, GMU)
An earthen fortification that survived urban sprawl has been preserved in a corner of George Mason University in Northern Virginia, a success story brought about by a six-year-old partnership between a Civil War round table and the school.

An Oct. 7 dedication ceremony for the redoubt, built by Confederate forces near Fairfax in 1861, celebrated the effort to protect and interpret the site. The fortification, about 80 feet in diameter, did not see action during the war, but was an important early-warning outpost for both Rebels and Yanks who occupied the site.

Efforts to save the site in the early 1990s and early 2000s went nowhere. Concerned by its condition, the Bull Run Civil War Round Table (BRCWRT) approached history department leaders in late 2015 and early 2016.

Nathan Loda's view of how circular redoubt, Farr's Cross Roads might have appeared (BRCWRT)
The conversation began and students in a Civil War and Reconstruction class at George Mason have since visited the site – which is near a campus parking lot -- with round table members as guides.

In 2019, the campus grounds department removed four large trees that threatened the redoubt’s structural integrity and cleared the site and its surrounding area of vegetative undergrowth and tree saplings.

The redoubt became completely visible for the first time in more than 75 years.

Groundskeepers have since cleared routes for access trails and installed two interpretive markers created by the George Mason-BRCWRT team.

8th Green Machine Regiment Band performs at event (Joshua Cruse, GMU)
“Education and preservation are the core missions of the Bull Run Civil War Round Table -- and central to our purpose -- to learn about and to learn from  America’s Civil War history,” Blake Myers, preservation chair with the BRCWRT, said at the event. “The preservation and interpretation of this site is a great example of those two missions in action.”

The redoubt was constructed by Col. Robert Rodes’ 5th Alabama Infantry, Ewell's brigade, in June 1861. It was built on high ground along two well-traveled thoroughfares – the current Braddock Road and Route 123 (Ox Road).

It’s difficult to know how many men were deployed at the redoubt at any given time. It was used as an observation post and a command post for the units/soldiers manning picket posts along the trench lines to the east or west (depending on which side was controlling this part of Virginia) of the redoubt.  

The redoubt at Farr’s Cross Roads was among several fortifications built to monitor and discourage Federal troops from marching from Washington and Alexandria, Va., toward Manassas Junction.

Dust kicked up by Federal troops in July 1861 signaled a Federal advance. When Confederate forces withdrew to their main defensive line along the Bull Run on July 17, the site was occupied by Union forces under the command of Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, according to the round table. The Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), the first major land battle of the conflict, occurred just days later.

The hastily constructed fort exchanged hands during the war, but was held mostly by Union troops, including the 16th New York, 1st New Jersey and 2nd Massachusetts infantry. While it once had a parapet up to 6 feet high, most of the ring currently is half that height.

Significant commercial and residential development in suburban Washington has erased most of the earthen structures erected by both sides, so it is somewhat of a minor miracle that the redoubt survives, given it being bounded on all sides by asphalt and buildings.

A BRCWRT article a few years ago detailed the project and partnership with George Mason.

“While construction of the Mason Inn and parking lot and the enlargement of student parking lot K has reduced the overall size of the site and potentially obliterated some of the earthworks, the redoubt still remains and is in remarkably good condition.

Myers told the Civil War Picket in an email that a 50-foot section of a trench line presumably built by Union troops survives west of campus along Braddock Road.

Remains of the redoubt lie behind this marker on the George Mason campus (BRCWRT)
Among university officials who worked with the BRCWRT to preserve the site was history professor Brian Platt, who brought the redoubt’s attention to the administration. In prepared remarks at the ceremony, he used the term “Fairfaxed” to describe rampant development in the area.

“My first thought, at the time, was how lucky we were that this site was here on the campus, and not on private land, or in a real estate developer’s viewfinder,” Platt said.

“After all, if a preservation project were to happen anywhere in a highly developed suburban landscape – if a site were to avoid getting ‘Fairfaxed’ – surely it would happen at a university -- a place with a scholarly interest in studying and preserving our historic and cultural heritage.”

Fairfax County was home to numerous Civil War fortifications and features, a legacy reinforced by the discovery of a cedar-logged highway near George Mason in 2014. The so-called “corduroy road” is believed to date back to the Civil War.

The round table commissioned a drawing by GMU alumnus Nathan Loda of the area as it may have appeared in 1861.

The dedication took place in Parking Lot K (Joshua Cruse, GMU)
“The sketch depicts our informed view of what the redoubt, the cross roads and the Farr property may have looked like in June 1861,” Myers said. “We have yet to find any period photographs or sketches of the redoubt or the area....what we know about the redoubt has been gleaned from unit histories, the Official Records, soldier letters, etc.

Myers told the audience on Oct. 7 that it was a day to savor what has been collectively accomplished, but more work likes ahead.

We continue to work with GMU to pursue additional preservation and interpretation on the site - remnants of a stone building on the site, site overlooking corduroy road discoveries in 2014 & 2015, remnants of the farm road/trench line on the site, enhanced interpretation using virtual and augmented reality technologies,” he wrote the Picket.

Wood chip-trail leading to Civil War redoubt (GMU)

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

N.C. city votes to fund controversial Civil War, Reconstruction center

The Fayetteville City Council agreed Monday to pay $6.6 million toward the construction of a history center — a move the co-chair of the center's board says practically guarantees that the facility will be built in the North Carolina city. Some residents have raised questions about how the center will tell the story of the Civil War. Some of those concerns were echoed by council members. The motion by Councilman Mario Benavente to approve the funding included a stipulation that the center would tell the “true story” of the war and its aftermath rather than the “myth of ‘Lost Cause’ narratives.” -- Article

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

A facelift for Gettysburg's Virginia Memorial as it continues to serve as a place to discuss thorny issues related to the Civil War

Technician uses a torch to heat wax over the patina on Virginia Memorial (NPS)
Gettysburg’s Virginia Memorial, fresh off preservation work that included application of a more vibrant finish on its figures, will continue to be a battlefield focal point for discussion on causes and interpretation of the Civil War.

National Park Service technicians recently applied a new patina that remedied its dull and flat finish.

Jason Martz, spokesman for Gettysburg National Military Park, told the Picket in an email that experts found the bronze beneath the patina to be in great shape. “Removing the old patina took a little longer than anticipated due to all the nooks and crannies.”

The memorial honors the 20,000 Virginians who fought at Gettysburg and their commander, Gen. Robert E. Lee. The general and his horse Traveler look toward the area of Pickett’s Charge, the disastrous failed attack on July 3, 1863. Below them are figures representing artillery, infantry and cavalry.

Crews prepare statue for patina application in late September (NPS)
The 41-foot memorial, dedicated in 1917, was the first Confederate state monument at Gettysburg National Military Park, and it came with controversy. Union veterans objected to its construction and officials had to walk a tightrope regarding its inscription.

The American Battlefield Trust has a detailed article on the monument’s history and how its backers helped perpetuate the Lost Cause narrative rather than reunification. The Lost Cause ideology says states’ rights, not slavery, was the Confederacy’s principal cause. Most historians say evidence shows that was not the case.

“As the largest and most prominent Confederate monument in the park, the Virginia Memorial is an excellent place for park interpreters to discuss issues of memory and commemoration at the Gettysburg, how the Lost Cause has manifested itself on the battlefield, and how Gettysburg has evolved over time from a Union Memorial Park to one that embraced a more reconciliationist narrative,” said Martz.

“Interpretive walks offered through the summer have used the VA Memorial to highlight this, Student Education programming focused on monumentation utilizes the memorial, and primary source material related to its creation has been made publicly available online.”

The park said the work was needed to replace brown ferric patination, applied in the 1980s, that failed in many areas and left the memorial with “little to no depth when viewed.”

Patinas bring a creative effect and highlight striking features of a work.

“It’s used to accentuate pieces, provide contrast, imply age, introduce color to the bronze, and sometimes to add a dose of reality to our detailed statues,” according to the Randolph Rose Collection, which makes bronze pieces. (It was not involved in the Gettysburg project).

The NPS said the new patina “will result in a darker finish that is historically correct and is the primary sealer in use for bronze elements throughout the park’s monument collection.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The few, the proud. Marines had an impact on the Civil War

During the Civil War, members of the Marine Corps were primarily assigned to blockade duty aboard U.S. Navy ships, which were critical in strangling the Confederate states’ ability to continue fighting. Without the blockade, supplies, arms, ammunition, and money coming in from cotton, the South might have been able to fight on indefinitely. The Corps had an especially critical role in the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay. -- Article

Friday, October 7, 2022

More than a century after his death, research leads to a black Civil War naval veteran finally receives a headstone in Tacoma, Wash.

Wreaths were placed near new headstone Saturday (Oakwood Hill Cemetery)
Updated Oct. 10

In life, David Franklin and David Phillips may have rubbed elbows at a Tacoma, Wash., post of the Grand Army of the Republic in which they were members. Custer Post No. 6 was a home away from home for those who served the Union during the Civil War -- a place where veterans shared food and drink and accounts of their harrowing experiences while they were younger.

Sketch of David Franklin (Alan Archambault)
In the hereafter, Franklin and Phillips lie within steps of each other. But while Phillips, a white man who served in the 4th Minnesota, has a marked grave, the final resting spot of Franklin, Tacoma’s only black Civil War naval veteran, was topped only by grass.

That unfortunate situation was rectified this week with the installation of a marble Veterans Administration-approved headstone.

A dedication ceremony Saturday morning (Oct. 8) at Oakwood Hill Cemetery in Tacoma finally brought Franklin an honor he has long deserved.

The effort to recognize Franklin, who died in 1920 at age 79, was led by Loran Bures, Phillips’ second great-grandson. Bures, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the successor to the GAR, came across Franklin in 2017 while conducting research on veterans who lived in Pierce County, home to Tacoma.

The SUVCW’s mission includes researching GAR records, the registration of graves and Civil War memorials and monuments.

Bures (pronounced Burruss) came across a biographical card produced in 1939 during research by the Works Progress Administration into Civil War veterans in the area.

“It speaks volumes the information it doesn’t have,” Bures told the Civil War Picket this week.

The card does indicate Franklin died of heart disease on March 16, 1920, and was buried in the GAR section at Oakwood Hill.

But it had no information on any marker, the veteran’s military service and the fact that Franklin was black. While the GAR was open to all ethnicities, there were only three black sailors among the 2,000-5,000 Civil War veterans living in Washington, according to Bures, a 69-year-old retired librarian, archivist and researcher.

Bures came across Franklin’s death certificate and a National Park Service database that showed the man served as officers’ steward and cook on the USS Dawn. The steam-powered vessel took part in Federal blockades and captured several ships. Much of its service was on the James River in Virginia.

The USS Dawn’s most famous action came in May 1864 in the defense of Wilson’s Wharf in Virginia. The vessel’s guns and the Federal garrison made up of U.S. Colored Troops drove back the Confederate assault.

As a cook and steward, Franklin’s primary role would not have been combat, but it was common practice for a crew member to have a second duty station.

The USS Dawn was built in 1857. (Wikipedia)
At Wilson’s Wharf, “he most likely was helping bring powder and ammunition below deck to the three guns on the deck,” said Bures, adding there is no way to verify that.

Franklin is listed as an ordinary seaman in the NPS file.

Group does not know of living relatives

There are gaps in what’s known about Franklin, including when he moved to Washington and whether he ever married. His death certificate says he was widowed, but Bures said he has found no information about a spouse. The local SUVCW is asking any possible descendants or relatives to contact the organization.

It is known that Franklin was born in 1840. “He was born free in New York City to parents who were free people of color,” said Bures.

Franklin joined the Navy at age 23 in November 1863, midway through the Civil War. The NPS database lists him as being 5 foot 5 inches tall and working as a cook. He served on USS Dawn until near war’s end, mustering out in March 1865.

Bures believes the veteran came to Pierce County between 1885 and 1888. He is listed in a GAR roster for the latter year and a 1907 volume includes Franklin among 752 members (comrades) in the Custer post.

Records show that Franklin joined the Washington National Guard infantry as a cook in 1906.

Ensuring proper honors for veteran

Bures traveled to Oakwood Hill Cemetery several months ago to inspect Franklin’s grave.

He suspected it might be unmarked because of the WPA card and a Findagrave profile that had no photo of a headstone. (Researchers have been unable to find a photograph of Franklin. Bures' second great-grandfather, 1st Sgt. David Phillips, is buried at Tacoma Mausoleum, which adjoins the cemetery.)

Oakwood Hill verified the seaman was buried there and had not been exhumed, officials told the Picket .

Franklin’s resting place was a gap in a row of headstones for other GAR members. Bures and others put together verification information for the VA, including evidence of a Navy pension.

Franklin's graves was marked only by a flag (Loran Bures)
Bures would speculate on why Franklin’s grave received no marker. “There could be a lot of reasons for it.” Oakwood Hill Cemetery co-owner Corey Gaffney told the Picket he, too, did not know why a headstone was not set in 1920.

Gaffney, who purchased the business with his wife, Jennifer, in 2021, told theTacoma News-Tribune the cemetery was providing resources to ensure Franklin received proper honors.

The grave is among weathered headstones that appear not to have been cleaned in recent years. The businessman told the Picket that the couple is working to make improvements at the cemetery and funeral home and restore the site to "its former glory."

"We believe that in 3-5 years this property will be completely viable and unrecognizable to some. That’s our hope and our goal."

Gaffney told the Picket in an email after the ceremony that "the definition of integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. While we did have coverage of this event and dedication, there are countless other actions we’ve took for the benefit of this cemetery that have gone unnoticed.  We do not do things for accolades; more for knowing at the end of the day that we acted appropriately on behalf of those in our care that cannot do so anymore themselves."

Bures said there are other unmarked graves of Civil War veterans across the state.

“It is important they receive recognition for their service to the Union, as any veteran deserves proper recognition.”

The SUVC's Gov. Isaac Stevens Camp No. 1, in which Bures is an officer, led Saturday's headstone dedication. The ceremony included a wreath laying, remarks, a biography of Franklin and funeral honors performed by re-enactors.

Loran Bures stands on Franklin's grave before marker was placed; behind is a mausoleum. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles papers go for $281,000 at auction

The highlight of Swann Auction Galleries’ September 29 Americana auction was a large archive of family papers of Gideon Welles, who served as secretary of the Navy through the Civil War. It went for $281,000, including buyer’s premium, according to Antiques and the Arts Weekly. The extensive archive of Welles’ personal and family papers comprise more than 1,000 items in six boxes, including his letters to his son regarding the Lincoln assassination and Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, four of his prewar diaries and more. -- Article / -- Swann listing