Wednesday, August 26, 2009

History Defeated by Walmart

ABC News reported that Walmart had won its bid to build a new store near the Wilderness Battlefield.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 early Tuesday to grant the special permit after a majority of more than 100 speakers said they favored bringing the Walmart to Locust Grove, near the Wilderness Battlefield.

Residents cited three reasons for supporting the Walmart proposal: jobs, tax revenue and a cheap shopping option for the 32,000 residents of Locust Grove.

Once again mindless development takes precedence over historic preservation.

However disappointing the result, my main reason for this posting is to criticize ABC for their reporting. Quite simply, I wonder how any credible news service can talk about the fight to preserve the Wilderness battlefield without interviewing or mentioning the efforts of Jim Lighthizer and his team at the Civil War Preservation Trust. This group has been at the vanguard of the fight and ABC failed to mention their fine work in this engagement with runaway development or the victories they achieved in other preservation efforts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Army Names Are the Definite Article

It's hard to keep track of the different Civil War armies especially when battles may take place between the Army of Tennessee and the Army of the Tennessee or the Army of Mississippi and the Army of the Mississippi.

They key of course is in the definite article "the." "The" is a rather special word and is uniquely classified as a definite article. Civil War students will find the "the" important because its use helps to distinguish Union armies from closely named Confederate units. The "the" refers to a river, namely the Tennessee River or Mississippi or Potomac River. Union armies were generally named for rivers in much the same way that the Federals named battles. Confederates named their armies using states or geographic regions. Examples here are the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee.

So when you see the "the" you can bet that it is a Yankee unit.

For more on the subject, please see Armies of the Civil War.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vicksburg Guided Tours

We visited Vicksburg National Military Park last Friday and gained new insight into the battle thanks to our guide, Gary Millett. Vicksburg tours are provided through the center which has a booth in the visitor center. Gary gave us a two hour tour of the battlefield filled with annecotes and insights about the battle and its participants. As a native son of Vicksburg, he had a unique perspective of the national park and city. We complimented our battlefield tour with a driving tour of the city.

The tours are two hours long and can be arranged for individuals, families and larger groups. Guides drive or ride in the visitor's vehicle. Please make your reservation by calling 601-636-3827. The battlefield and city tours provide an excellent introduction to the various historic sites.

Gary recommends the following books:

> Warren Grabau's Ninety-Eight Days which provides considerable insight as to the decisions that had to be made by both Union and Confederate generals during the campaign. This book is required study for West Point cadets.
> Winston Groom's Vicksburg 1863 is a very concise, easy-reading account of the Vicksburg siege
> Gordon Cotton's, the last curator of Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum, Yankee Bullets, Rebel Rations presents the diaries of several of Vicksburg's citizens who weathered the seige. This book humanizes their experiences quite well and presents very surprising anticdotes of relations with Union and Confederate officers, slaves, and camp followers (sutlers) during the campaign.

Please click on the following links to learn more:

> Vicksburg, MS Site - Civil War Journeys
> Vicksburg National Military Park - National Park Service
> Vicksburg Guided Tours - National Park Service - ask for Gary Millett

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NPS Opens Trail at Glorieta Pass

The National Park Service opened a two mile trail at the Glorieta Pass battlefield on June 14, 2009. We visited the site last summer and were disappointed in its lack of development as a historic site. Today, visitors have the opportunity to explore the battle by safely hiking through the area and enjoying a panoramic view of portions of the battlefield.

Please see

New Mexico opens Civil War battlefield trail
Glorieta battlefield trail: Walk in the footsteps of the soldiers
Glorieta Battlefield Coalition
Glorieta Pass photographs

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Color Coordinated Units

While visiting the Little Big Horn battlefield, I came across the following exhibit indicating how the horses used by the various Seventh Cavalry units were coordinated. The coordination seems to make sense relative to identifying the various units on the battlefield. Has anyone heard of this practice among cavalry units in the Civil War?

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Soldier's Prayer

I found this prayer in today's Dallas Morning News.

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey ...
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things ...
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise ...
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God ...
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things ...
I got nothing that I asked for - but everything that I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
--- An Unknown Confederate Soldier

Many thanks to Jones Audiology & Hearing Centers for sponsoring this Memorial Day message.

Please thank our veterans of all wars for their sacrifice so that our "unspoken prayers" may be answered.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wreath to be Laid at Confederate Memorial

In keeping with a decades old tradition, President Barack Obama plans to send a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

The White House plans to proceed with this event in spite of protests by Dallas-based historian Edward Sebesta. Mr. Sebesta sent a petition to the White House signed by 66 including James McPherson. Sebesta believes that the wreath glorifies the Civil War and "legitimizes the Confederacy."

Jane Durden, president general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said the controversy over the wreath reflects a misunderstanding that the Civil War was a defense of slavery rather than a patriotic call to arms.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center believes "neo-Confederates" will be invigorated if Obama doesn't end the tradition.

Unfortunately, all of these individuals miss several critical points:

1. The Confederacy doesn't need to be legitimized. It existed and the dispute about whether the southern states had a right to secede continues. This legality of the Confederacy is best left to Constitutional scholars.

2. The Civil War was fought to protect the wealth of southern slave-owners who led the secession movement. The maintenance of slavery as a means of preserving wealth must be recognized and accepted as a root cause of the conflict.

3. I'm not sure what constitutes a "neo-Confederate" but there are probably a great number of Southerners who relish their roots. Is every Civil War reenactor or living historian a "neo-Confederate?" Do they think that slavery was a good thing? Do they want their state to secede? I sincerely doubt it.

4. Most Confederate soldiers didn't own slaves and were not fighting to protect the "peculiar institution." In fact the northern draft riots showed that Union men were not interested in fighting to end slavery. In many cases, soldiers on both sides were fighting because their neighbors had enlisted. In the South, soldiers fought to defend against Lincoln's invasion. In the North, soldiers fought to preserve the Union and end the "rebellion."

5. Should we honor these Confederate soldiers? Yes. They were Americans fighting in a war between Americans. The descendants are Americans and we should honor their loss. Their deaths illustrate the price that we have paid as a country to grow and become the world leader. We should also honor them to recognize and remember the darkest days of our history in the hope that we won't repeat past mistakes. We should honor them because President Lincoln who saved the Union would have placed the first wreath on their memorial.

You can find pictures of the memorial at The Confederate Memorial.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grant's Letter to Widow Smith

In doing some research on Major General C. F. Smith, I discovered this letter from Major general U. S. Grant to Smith's wife. It seems appropriate on the Memorial Day weekend to read his comments.

Headquarters District of West Tennessee
Pittsburg Landing, April 26, 1862

Mrs. C. F. Smith
No. 191 East Fourth Street, New York:

It becomes my painful duty to announce to you the death of your lamented husband, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Smith. He died at 4 o'clock p.m. yesterday at Savannah, Tenn. In his death the nation has lost one of its most gallant and most able defenders. It was my fortune to have gone through West Point with the general (then captain and commander of cadets) and to have served with him in all his battles in Mexico and in this rebellion, and I can bear honest testimony to his great worth as a soldier and friend. Where an entire nation condoles with you in your bereavement no one can do so with more heartfelt grief than myself.

U. S. Grant

Thursday, May 21, 2009

McKinney, Texas Civil War Days

On April 18th and 19th The North Texas History Center and the Chestnut Square Historical Center held an entitled "The Reluctant Confederates." The exhibit depicted McKinney's involvement in the Civil War.

This exhibit, developed by the staff of the North Texas History Center, uses words, photos, and objects to tell the story of life in North Texas during the Civil War era.

Artifacts on display included Civil War clothing, newspapers, the latest medical equipment of the era, and much more.

Skirmishes reminiscent of those that occurred throughout the South were reenacted on at Chestnut Square Historic Village.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ordinary Men and Women in the Civil War

"Any power not specifically given..."

On May 15th the Senior University at Georgetown, Texas hosted a seminar on "Ordinary Men and Women in the Civil War." The program began with an excellent overview of the events leading to the Civil War. Dr. Tommy Stringer, VP for Institutional Development Navarro College. Dr. Stringer traced roots of the conflict from the "Constitutional Compromises" through the "Decade of Turmoil" in the 1850s.

"Go if you think it's your duty"

Baylor University's Julie Holcomb provided a personal perspective on the Civil War through reading correspondence between soldiers and their families. The letters portrayed a conflict that ripped apart families and made courting a long-distance campaign. She illustrated how the letters were slanted differently for wives and friends as soldiers tried to shield their families from battlefield dangers.

"We shall meet, but we will miss him"

After a brief break for a light lunch, it was back to the Civil War with songs of the period. Dr. Paul Lehman, Professor Emeritus from the University of Michigan, led us through a wonderful presentation with recorded songs of the period from Dixie's Land to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Listening to the music was enhanced by copies of the lyrics which prompted a mass sing along to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

"Religious rival followed conflict"

Dr. Steven Woodworth, Assistant Professor, Texas Christian University, presented an overview of the soldier's life from food to uniforms. Soldiers lived in two-man or "dog" tents, cooked their own meals supplemented by blackberries and treats from the sutlers, and spent their leisure time in camp playing cards and dominoes.

The day concluded with a panel question and answer session. The discussion was moderated by Senior University faculty member Dr. Stephen Benhold. Dr. Benhold ran an excellent program allowing amble time for questions but keeping us on the program's tight schedule.

We would also like to thank Ann and Michael Kessler for hosting us at their home in Sun City.

The program was sponsored by the Senior University at Sun City. The Texas Hill Country, golf courses, Austin and fellowship make Sun City an attractive retirement venue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ed Bearss - Historian

On Tuesday February 11th Ed Bearss spoke to the Dallas Civil War Roundtable on his life and achievements. While a look back at his contributions to the National Park Service, battlefield preservation and Civil War studies may be appropriate, Mr. Bearss shows no signs of slowing down at age 85.

His talk traced his roots in Montana playing historical games with his grandmother to his current activities as a historical guide. Along the way he told how became a voracious reader and leader in the fight to save our nation's endangered battlefields. He shared his experiences as a Marine in World War Two and how he received multiple wounds at a battle in the Pacific.

After recovering from his wounds he obtained his masters degree in history and joined the National Parks Service as a historian. His time at Vicksburg was marked by the discovery and recovery of the USS Cairo. Please click on the link Ironclads to see pictures of the USS Cairo and other vessels.

He said that his proudest accomplishment was helping to pass the American Battlefield Protection Act of 1996. The American Battlefield Protection Program promotes the preservation of significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil.

In 1966 Bearss was transferred to Washington, DC. In 1981 he was named Chief Historian of the National Park Service, a position he held until 1994. From 1994 to 1995 he served as special assistant to the director. After his retirement in 1995, he received the title Chief Historian Emeritus.

Please click on the link to learn more about Mr. Bearss' achievements.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Battle Still Being Fought at Cedar Creek

The year may be 2009, but the battle continues at Cedar Creek. The foes this time are the CWPT and a mining operation.

Jim Lighthizer has issued an appeal for help to preserve this important site.

Please see the following links for more information

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Granbury's Texas Brigade Subject of Lundberg Book

My wife and I had the pleasure of attending our first Dallas Civil War Roundtable meeting on Wednesday January 14th.

The speaker was Dr. John Lundberg, Assistant Professor of History at Houston Baptist University, who spoke on Granbury,s Texas Brigade. Dr. Lundberg provided a review of the transistion of the units that composed the brigade from raw recruits to their designation as "The Color Brigade" of the Army of Tennessee.

He traced the unit's roots from the measles that decimated the ranks of young recruits to the dessertion of disgruntled cavalry who left after being converted into infantry. Lundberg 's extensive research indicated that the former cavalrymen were under considerable pressure because they were ten years older than their infantry peers and more than half were married men with responsibilities.
Dr. Lundberg described how the units suffered through capture at Fort Donelson and Arkansas Post and incarceration at some of the north's worse prison camps to the destruction at Franklin, Nashville and surrender in North Carolina.

Through the unit's history they served under Hiram Granbury and from whom the brigade acquired its name.

Dr. Lundberg's was a summary of his doctorial thesis which is being published by LSU Press. Students of Texas Civil War history will want to add this volume, Granbury's Texas Brigade, C.S.A: The Color Brigade of the Army of Tennessee, to their collection.

For more information on General Granbury, please read Our Hero General Hiram Brinson Granbury.

The Dallas Civil War Roundtable was established in 1987 and meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Divine Coffee Shop in Dallas. This is a fine group of scholars and historians with a first rate schedule of speakers. Its hard to imagine doing better than Ed Bearss who will be speaking on February 10th. I don't know his topic, but it seems that Fort Donelson would be fitting.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Battle of Mill Springs

The 147th Battle of Mill Springs will be honored on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. at Zollicoffer Park in Nancy, KY.
The Mill Springs Battlefield Association is an excellent example of how an organization can work to preserve a Civil war battlefield. The association gets high marks for its annual events and e-mail outreach program.

If you can't make the ceremony, please plan to visit the battlefield and museum this year.

I hope my pictures and description will whet your appetite.