Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pemberton's Message in a Bottle

The Museum of the Confederacy has recently uncovered a coded message sent from General Joe Johnston to General John C. Pemberton. The message informs Pemberton that he will not receive any support from Confederate troops on the other side of the Mississippi River. Pemberton had been under siege in Vicksburg, MS for six weeks by Union forces under General U.S. Grant.

The message, in a vial with a bullet, was written in the Vigenere cipher" in which letters of the alphabet are shifted a number of places so that an "a" in the uncoded text becomes a "d" in the coded document. The date on the coded document is July 4th.

"Gen'l Pemberton
You can expect no help from this side of the river. Let Johnston know, if possible, when you can attack the same point on the enemy's lines. Inform me also and I will endeavor to make a diversion. I have sent some caps. I subjoin a dispatch from General Johnston."

Pemberton surrendered the city to Union forces on the same day that the cipher was sent.

Vicksburg was so scarred from the experience that the residents refused to celebrate the Fourth of July for the next eighty years.

Please see Battle of Vicksburg to learn more.

[Source: "Civil War Letter Decoded: No Help on the Way," Steve Szkotak, Associated Press]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas During the Civil War

Christmas was celebrated in both the north and south during the Civil War.

The Thomas Nast cartoon for Christmas 1862 shows a a wife praying at home and looking out a window and her husband praying on the battlefield.

Both soldiers and civilians sung Christmas carols such as "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (1850), "Jingle Bells" (1857), "We Three Kings of Orient Are" (1857), and "Up on the Rooftop" (1860).

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poem "Christmas Bells" on Christmas Day 1864 after visiting his son, Charles, who was recovering from wounds suffered the year before.

See Walter Gable's Christmas During the Civil War for a good discussion of how soldiers and civilians spent Christmas.

Please take a moment during this holiday to pray for our soldiers and their families. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

General Order No. 11

On December 17, 1862, Major General Ulysses S. Grant issued his infamous General Order No. 11.

General Order No. 11 demanded the expulsion of Jews from Grant's military district comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. The order stated that:

1. The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

2. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.

3. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.

During the war, an extensive trade in cotton existed between the North and South. Northern textile mills were dependent on Southern cotton, while the trade with the North was needed for the economic survival of Southern plantation owners. A limited trade was permitted by the US Government, under license by the Treasury and US Army. However, this system led to many opportunities for corruption, with unlicensed traders bribing army officers to allow them to buy Southern cotton without a permit.

The order was issued as part of a campaign against the black market in Southern cotton, which Grant believed was being run "mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders."

President Lincoln revoked the order a few weeks later after protests from Jewish community leaders, outrage by members of Congress, and editorial comments in the press. Grant later claimed it had been drafted by a subordinate and that he had signed it without reading.

Grant's claim is highly suspicious considering other communication he had on the subject. On November 9, 1862, he ordered General Hurlbut to: "Refuse all permits to come south of Jackson for the present. The Israelites especially should be kept out." The following day he instructed General Webster to: "Give orders to all the conductors on the road that no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad southward from any point. They may go north and be encouraged in it; but they are such an intolerable nuisance that the department must be purged of them." In a letter to General Sherman, he explained that his policy was occasioned "in consequence of the total disregard and evasion of orders by Jews."

The order is not directed at those engaged in trading cotton without a permit. The order also prohibits all Jews from making an application for trade permits. The Jews were singled out for punishment, not just those who were in violation of the law. This clearly displays Grant's prejudice against all Jews.

Possibly the order was intended to reduce competition for the trade permits, to allow Grant to exercise more control over the cotton trade, and to reward friends and business associates. Grant had engaged in questionable business behavior in California prior to his resignation. General Wilson suggested that the order was intended as a warning to Jesse Grant and other relatives who, with their Jewish associates, were seeking favors.

Grant justified the order in a letter sent to the Secretary of War's office in which he stated that: "regulations of the Treasury Dept. have been violated, and that most likely by Jews and other unprincipled traders." However, as pointed out earlier, the order makes the Jews the exclusive violators and punishes all Jews for the crimes of the few.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Civil War Tintypes

The Library of Congress has recently received a donation of almost 700 tintypes from Mr. Tom Liljenquist. Mr. Liljenquist acquired his collection over the past 15 years. An exhibition is scheduled for April 2011, but you can view the images online at the following site: Liljenquist Tintypes.
Please see Civil War Photography for a two-minute video with selected iumages from the collection.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Stonewall's" Valley Campaign

On June 8th and 9th, 1862, "Stonewall" Jackson won the last two battles in his Shenandoah Valley Campaign. I had the opportunity to visit the sites of these engagements in October 2010. After these defeats, the Union armies retreated and gave Jackson control of the Shenandoah Valley. With the Confederates in charge of the valley, Jackson was free to move troops to help General Lee defend Richmond. Please visit the Cross Keys and Port Royal pages to view photographs. Please see Jackson's Valley Campaign for a good overview of the campaign.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grant and Cranberries

Cranberries have become a staple of our Thanksgiving feast. I was surprised to learn that this treat had some Civil War connections. It seems that the first mention of cranberry sauce was during the 1864 siege of Petersburg, VA. Grant ordered cranberry sauce to be served to his troops. The use of cranberries probably was due to health benefits, rather than as a compliment to turkey and dressing. Cranberries were widely used by sailors and soldiers as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy.

For my tastes, there is nothing like cold turkey sandwiches with a thin slice of dressing and a layer to cranberry sauce.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sarah Josepha Hale

Many Civil War students know that President Lincoln issued a proclamation in October 1863 calling for a day of "thanksgiving and prayer" to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Congress later moved the holiday to the fourth Thursday in November.
However, what is not remembered is the campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale was born in New Hampshire in 1788. She was widowed at an early age and became a writer to support her five children. She wrote the famous nursery rhyme that begins "Mary had a little lamb.."

She loved Thanksgiving, which was already a New England tradition. In her 1827 novel, Northwood, she described a Thanksgiving dinner:

"The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odor of its savory stuffing, and finely covered with the frost of the basting. At the foot of the board a surloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and a joint of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and a pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table .... There was a huge plumb pudding, custards, and pies of every name and description ever known in Yankee land; yet the pumpkin pie occupied the most distinguished niche."

When Hale became editor of a popular women's magazine called Godey's Lady's Book, she used it to press for an official national Thanksgiving. She wrote editorials from 1847 until 1863, and sent letters to the President asking for his support. In 1863, she finally got her wish as President Lincoln made the holiday a national day of observance.

I hope that you will take time this Thanksgiving to share her story with your family and say a prayer of thanks for our wonderful country and those who protect our freedom.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sargeant Museum - Louisa County Historical Society

Every once in a while in our travels we come across a gem like the Sargeant Museum. We discovered the museum in Louisa, VA as part of our search for the Battle of Trevilian Station site.

The museum is located in a two-story house that formerly served as the residence for the J. Frank Sargeant and W. A. Claude Pettit, Jr. families. The home was turned over to the Louisa County Historical Society to create a county museum. They have certainly succeeded in their efforts. The museum deals with six basic themes including the Civil War. The historical society has done a splendid job and Civil War enthusiasts should include a stop in Louisa.

The museum is also the visitor center for the Battle of Trevilian Station. The battle, which is sometimes called Custer's First Last Stand, took place on July 11-12, 1864. It is considered the largest all cavalry battle of the war. It matched General Philip Sheridan's Union forces (8,000 men) against General Wade Hampton's Confederates (5,000 men). The Battle of Trevilian Station Foundation developed a driving tour of the battle with excellent roadside signs.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Graffiti House

The Graffiti House was built in 1858, as a general store and residence for the local postmaster, John Stone. The house was occupied by both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
The soldiers used charcoal from the central fireplace to decorate the plaster walls with their signatures, drawings, and commentaries.
The house served many functions: field hospital, general's headquarters, Provost Marshall office, and barracks.
The graffiti was covered after the war and lay hidden for 130 years. The graffiti were discovered when the house was being renovated in 1993. The Brandy Station Foundation purchased the property in 2002.

The house also serves as a visitor center for the Battle of Brandy Station.

Please see Graffiti House for more information.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fredericksburg Revisited

Like many visitors to Fredericksburg, my previous visit began and ended at Marye's Heights. I walked along the sunken road, saw the film and viewed the exhibits. Then I got in my car and drove to another battlefield.

What a monumental mistake. It is impossible to really understand the battle without visiting Lee's Drive and the Slaughter Pen Farm. On my visit this October, I skipped Marye's Heights and navigated very carefully across the road to, a not well marked, Lee's Drive. There I really understood Edward Porter Alexander's remark to Lee that "A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it." The drive takes the curious visitor from Lee's command post on Telegraph Hill down along Jackson's line to Henson Hill and finally to Prospect Hill. You have a compelling view of the field where the Union breakthrough occurred and the railroad tracks. This perspective, like all battlefield visits, helps explain the disaster that befell Burnside's troops.

Then, I drove down the road to the Slaughter Pen Farm. The CWPT recently gave this land to the NPS. I had to ask a Ranger at the Visitor Center for directions because it's not on the park brochures. I walked around the field which features a number of trail guides. I crossed the irrigation ditches and saw where Meade's forces broke through Jackson's line. I had seen where General Gregg was killed on my walk along Lee Drive.

Please see the Battle of Fredericksburg for more pictures.

On your next trip or first trip, be sure to venture beyond the visitor center and walk these two areas to really understand this battle.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lloyd Tilghman House in Paducah, KY

General Lloyd Tilghman lived in this house from 1852-61. The Greek revival house was built for Mr. Tilghman, who was a railroad engineer for the New Orleans and Ohio Railroad, by Robert Woolfolk. Tilghman rented the house for his wife, seven children and five slaves. Tilghman spent most of his time working on a railroad in the Isthmus of Panama.
When Tilghman left to join the Kentucky State Guard, Woolfolk moved into the house. During the Union Occupation of Paducah, Woolfolk made the mistake of showing his Southern sentiments by flying the Confederate flag. Soldiers of the 11th Indiana saw the flag and threatened to burn the house down. Mrs. Woolfolk appealed to Brigadier General C. F. Smith and sent an aide to prevent the Union soldiers from removing the flag. The Union soldiers refused to obey the officer. When Smith tried to have the men arrested, Smith's subordinate offices, General Lew Wallace and Eleazar Paine, refused to obey his command.

Smith, a stickler for discipline, was outraged. However, he wanted to prevent a mutiny and so issued General Order 36 in which he addressed those involved "in a kindly spirit" and decided to "let it drop without investigating." He reminded the men of Kentucky's fragile allegiance to the Union and reminded them that they were sent here as protectors "of a loyal State." Smith also told the men to exercise "moderation, obedience and charity."
This incident was to brand Smith as a "Southern sympathizer" and postpone his promotion to Major General.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Pittsburgh Arsenal Fire

On the battle of Antietam claimed 23,000 casualties in the bloodiest day of the Civil War. In Pittsburgh, PA a local tragedy was being played out.

Around 2:00 pm on Wednesday September 17, 1862 the arsenal lab exploded killing 78 workers and shattering windows in the local community. The site was the largest single civilian disaster during the war.

Most of the workers at the lab were young girls who were employed in making cartridges. The facility employed 1,100 people with 158 located at the lab. The local fire department responded to the blast, but by the time the fire was extinguished 78 people were dead and the lab was reduced to a pile of smoldering rubble. The devastation was so severe that 54 of the bodies could not be identified and were buried in a mass grave in the Allegheny Cemetery.

The subsequent investigation suggested that the fire was started by the metal horse shoe which struck a stone and caused a spark that ignited loose powder in a roadway near the lab. The fire quickly spread to the porch where it set off two barrels of gunpowder. However subsequent testimony suggested that the powder trail was due to leaking gunpowder barrels which were refilled by the manufacturer DuPont Powder Company. The testimony was so conflicting that Col. John Symington and his subordinates were found innocent of any wrong doing and the court concluded that" the cause of the explosion could not be satisfactorilly ascertained."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The First Engineering School

It may come to a surprise to many to learn that the United States Military Academy at West Point was the country's first engineering college. On March 1, 1802, Congress authorized President Thomas Jefferson to create a corps of engineers to be :stationed at West Point ... and shall constitute a military academy."
Thus West Point became the first engineering school and its graduates helped build much of America's infrastructure before the Civil War. Rensselear Polytechnic Institute became the first private engineering school in 1824 followed five years later by Rochester Institute of Technology. The United States Naval Academy was established in 1845.

Most of today's premier engineering schools (arranged in order of U.S. News & World Report rankings for schools with doctorate programs) were founded after the Civil War: MIT (1861), Standford (1885), University of California - Berkeley (1868), California Institute of Technology (1891), Georgia Institute of Technology (1885), University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign (1867), University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (1817), Carnegie Mellon University (1900), Cornell University (1865), and Purdue University - West Lafayette (1869).

After more than two centuries, West Point's engineering program contains to be well respected ranking fourth in U.S. News and World Report's listing of engineering schools without doctorate programs.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Daniel S. Donelson

In 1821 Daniel S. Donelson entered West Point and graduated 5th in his class in 1825. His military career was short-lived and he resigned his commission after six months to become a planter in Sumner County, TN. He did serve in the Tennessee militia as a brigade major (1827) and later a brigadier general (1829).

When the Civil War broke out, Donelson volunteered for the Tennessee militia and was returned to duty as a brigadier general. In May 1861 he approved the location of Fort Donelson which was named in his honor. After Tennessee joined the Confederacy he became a brigadier general in the army and fought at Perryville and Stones River. He rose to command the Department of East Tennessee. He died in April 1863 of chronic diarrhea before his promotion to major general was approved by the Confederate Congress.

In February 1862 U. S. Grant's Union forces captured Fort Donelson after a brilliant attack led by Brigadier General Charles Ferguson Smith. The irony was that Smith and Donelson were classmates in the 1825 graduating class with Smith ranking 19th out of 37

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Salt Peter

As most Civil War enthusiasts know, salt peter is a primary ingredient in gun powder (75% salt peter (potassium nitrate), 10% sulfur and 15% charcoal). Most salt peter came from mining or harvesting operations in caves from bat guano. Salt peter or "nitre" was also collected from animal and human wastes. The human wastes were collected from public outhouses and individuals.

So desperate was the Confederacy for nitrates that they actually solicited contributions from ladies in charge of their households while their husbands were fighting the Yankees. On October 1, 1863, the Nitre and Mining Bureau placed an advertisement in the Selma Sentinel resopectfully requesting the ladies to collect the night's deposits in the household chamber pots to make "nitre." The urine was collected by wagons with barrels operated by the Bureau. The request was signed by John Harrolson.

The request resulted in the following poem:

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
You are a funny creature;
You've given to this cruel war
A new and curious feature;
You'd have us think while ev'ry man
Is bound to be a fighter,
The women, (bless the pretty little dears)
Should be put to making nitre.

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
How could you get the notion
To send your barrels 'round the town
To gather up the lotion.
We think the girls do work enough
In making love and kissing.
But you'll now put the pretty dears
To patriotic pissing!

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
Could you not invent a meter,
Or some less immodest mode
Of making our salt peter?
The thing, it is so queer, you know ---
Gunpowder, like the crankey ---
That when a lady lifts her shift
She shoots a bloody Yankee.

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
What e're was your intention,
You've made another contraband
Of things we hate to mention.
What good will all our fighting do,
If Yanks search Venus' mountains,
And confiscate and carry off
These Southern nitre fountains.

The information is from the Duke University Library Digital Collections.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

54th Massachusetts at Battery Wagner

On Friday July 16th re-enactors gathered to honor the heroic charge on Battery Wagner by the African American regiment the 54th Massachusetts. The 54th participated in a skirmish on July 16, 1863 designated the Battle of Sol Legare. The site of the skirmish is identified by a marker.
Two days later, the 54th was one of several Union regiments that attacked Battery Wagner on Morris Island.

To learn more about the battle, please see Fort Wagner and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The story of 54th was popularized in the movie Glory. See an excerpt from the movie at American Rhetoric.

Sleeping in Slave Quarters

Joe McGill, a program officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has been speending nights sleeping in slave cabins in South Carolina to attract attention to preserve these structures. He plans to spend Saturday night (July 24th) at the cabins at Hobcaw Baroney.

McGill said he was doing this for the slaves "to give them a voice for what they endured." He has slept five nights in various slave quarters which has helped "him connect with his ancestors."

McGill is also a re-enactor with the 54th Massachusetts.

For those readers who wish to experience slave life there are several bed and breakfasts that offer the opportunity to sleep in former slave quarters. You might also want to read Family Life in the Slave Quarters: Survivial Strategies by Mariee Jenkins Schwartz.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill

The ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico not only threatens fishing, wildlife and beaches, it also impacts Civil War history. The coastline is home to fortifications including Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip in Louisiana, Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan in Alabama, and Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas in Florida. Tourists flocking to the once pristine beaches take a break from sunbathing to visit these historic sites and learn about the Civil War. The empty beaches and restaurants will drastically reduce needed revenue for the maintenance of these areas.

As a veteran of the oil and gas industry, I am enraged at BP's disregard of safe operations. The problem is evidence of BP's emphasis on profitability at all costs. We can only hope that our government will force BP to restore beaches and rescue the endangered species including those who earned their livelihood from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

We recognize the inherent risk associated with exploring for oil and gas, but believe that a moratorium on drilling penalizes the industry for the actions of one poorly operated company, hurts the local economy by adding oil field employees to the list of those Gulf Coast residents hurt by the disaster, and increases our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. We applaud the decision of the New Orleans judge who put aside the ban.

The environmental disaster caused my family's vacation plans at Gulf Shores to be cancelled. I can only wonder when I will be able to return to the Alabama coast to enjoy the beach and take my grandchildren to Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines.

Friday, June 18, 2010


On June 18, 1865 Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops landed at Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and to enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19th General Granger stood on the balcony of Ashton Villa and read "General Order 3."

General Granger was a veteran of the Mexican American War and had fought in battles in the Western Theater of the Civil War at Wilson's Creek, New Madrid, Corinth, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Mobile Bay and Fort Blakely.

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection hertetofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain in their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

The original document was probably handwritten and copies were made for distribution throughout Texas. The Dallas Historical Society has the only known copy of the document. Please see copy of the document courtesy of the Dallas Morning News.
Today at 2:00 pm in Dallas City Hall, a member of the historical society will read the order and lead of discussion of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Please see Dallas Historical Society article in the Dallas Morning News to learn more about this event.

Monday, May 31, 2010

History of Memorial Day

"The 30th of May 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers , or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observation no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such special services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit." --- General Order No. 11 - General John A. Logan, Grand Army of the Republic, May 5, 1868.

The commemoration was originally known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day was first used in 1882. By the late 1800s, many communities hand begun to celebrate Memorial Day to honor Americans who died in all wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
The picture is of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery luminary which was held this year on May 29th with more than 15,300 candles honoring those who gave their life for this country.

Friday, May 21, 2010

West Point Admission Test - 1867

The 1867 Guide to West Point and the U.S. Military Academy with Maps and Engravings contains a description of the admissions examination. I was impressed by its difficulty and I wonder how many of today's high school seniors could pass. The requirements in each area are summarized below:

1. Reading - Read with facility from any book, giving the proper intonation and pauses, and to write portions that are read aloud for that purpose, spelling the words, and punctuating the sentences properly.

2. Arithmetic - Demonstrate proficiency in the primary functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Be able to convert decimals into "vulgar" fractions such as 0.750 into its fractional equivalent 3/4.

3. English Grammar - Exhibit a familiarity with the nine parts of speech and the rules in relation thereto, and must be able to parse any ordinary sentence. Parsing a sentence means to break a sentence into parts, explaining the grammatical form, function, and interrelation of each part.

4. Descriptive Geography - Name, locate and describe the natural grand and political divisions of the earth, and be able to delineate any one of the States or Territories of the American Union, with its principal cities, rivers, lakes, seaports and mountains.

5. History - Name the periods of the discovery and settlement of the North American continent, of the rise and progress of the United States, and of the successive wars and political administration through which the country has passed.

These tests were administered via recitations at the blackboard in the presence of other classmates. No pressure here!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Casino near Gettysburg

There is a new battle raging around Gettysburg, PA. This time its between the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and a group called Mason-Dixon Resorts, LLC. The Mason-Dixon Resorts folks want to build a casino about one-half a mile from the battlefield. The project will feature 307 hotel rooms, 600 slot machines, and 50 table games. The complex will also have 2,000 parking spaces. Jim Lighthizer and the people at CWPT are opposed to the project and want to see it defeated like the one they prevented four years ago.

This is another example of battle that historic preservationists wage with developers. Unfortunately sitting in Texas, I lack the proper perspective to evaluate the project. As a historian I want to see the battlefield preserved and protected from commercial encroachment. But the fact is I don't live in Gettysburg or Adams County. I visit the park occasionally and these trips don't include assessment of the local economy and employment rate. Some commercial enterprises are required by park visitors --- hotels and restaurants. After a hot and humid summer day at the park those indoor and outdoor pools sound inviting.

So the issue comes down to the gaming and here is where I have problems. Does the community really need a casino? The smoke filled rooms are hazardous to your health and pocketbook. I find that an establishment where the odds of success are stacked against me is not a place that I would want to frequent.

The casino environment is at odds with the family and educational environment contained at the national park and cemetery. This type of business can have a negative effect on the community. In a scholarly study that appeared in The Review of Economics and Statistics, the researchers found that the rate of crime was 12 percentage points lower in non-casino communities. They note that the first two or three years there is little or no effect, but in the fourth and fifth years most forms of crime begin to increase in casino communities.

So I think I'll place my bets and money with the Civil War Protection Trust

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Grant's on the Money

Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has introduced a bill to put Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill replacing the incumbent U. S. Grant. Mr. McHenry even has 17 co-sponsors for his misguided proposal.

Grant's impact on American history far exceeds any contributions of former President Reagan. While Grant bashing is a popular sport in the South, he is considered the major contributor to preserving the Union.

If McHenry wants to honor Reagan, let's issue another denomination or series of bills honoring 20th century Presidents. Say a $25 for Franklin Roosevelt, $35 for Harry Truman, and $45 for Reagan. I'll let you suggest other candidates.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

3D Civil War Photos

In the latest issue of CWPT's Hallowed Ground, there is an article about 3D Civil War Photography. The site contains a series of images that must be viewed using the red and blue 3D glasses. You can order one for free or purchase up to 30 for $20. See the example I downloaded from the CWPT site.

The lesson plan can be found at Civil War Photography: Photography as a Primary Source. You can view the images and learn more about Civil War photography at The Center for Civil War Photography website. The Center also has a very nice video on wet plate photography.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bennet Place Surrender Site

After Major General Sherman's infamous March to the Sea, his army turned north to begin the Carolina's campaign. News of Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 had reached General Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston realized that his army could not continue the fight and contacted Sherman to discuss a truce. The two men agreed to meet and selected the farm of James and Nancy Bennett as convenient and private location to hold their talks.

They met on April 17, 1865 and Sherman informed Johnston about the assassination of President Lincoln. They met again on April 18th and signed terms of surrender. Unfortunately, government officials in Washington were enrages with Sherman because they felt he had exceeded his authority and granted terms for favorable than Grant had given Lee. The generals met again on April 26th and signed the final surrender papers for 89,270 Confederate soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The 145th anniversary reenactment was held on April 17th at Bennett Place Historical Site in Durham, NC. Steve Brantley captured the event with 160 pictures which can be found at Bennett Place 145th Anniversary Surrender Reenactment .

Friday, April 16, 2010

Battle of Bentonville - 145th Anniversary Photos

I just received an email from Steve Brantley about the 200+ photographs he took at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville reenactment. I have just scanned some of the images and Steve shows just how good reenactment photography can be. Steve's pictures can be seen at Steve Brantley Photography. For information about the battle, please see Bentonville, NC.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Governor Fails History Class

Governor Bob McDonnell conceded "a major omission" for not noting slavery in declaring April "Confederate History Month in Virginia." As criticism ranged following his historical brain freeze, the Governor inserted a paragraph condemning slavery as "evil and inhumane" and blaming it as the cause of the Civil War.
In issuing his apology he said he wasn't focused on slavery in drafting the decree but on Civil war history.
We give Governor McDonnell an F in history! Slavery was an integral part of Civil War history as anyone with a passing knowledge of the conflict knows. Let us also consider the role that African Americans played during the war as soldiers (mainly in the north) and as laborers (in both the north and south). Perhaps the Governor recalls the Emancipation Proclamation "freeing" slaves in the Confederacy and the role that document played in ending political recognition by Britain and France.
We might also remind him of the Virginia Ordinance of Secession which states:
"... the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of Southern slave holding states ."
We suggest that the Governor be required to take an American history or Virginia history public school class to better understand the role of the Civil War in shaping Virginia.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Congressmen Behaving Badly

In 1856, during the Bleeding Kansas crisis when "border ruffians" approached Lawrence, Kansas. Charles Sumner, a Republican Senator from Massachusetts, denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act in his "Crime Against Kansas" speech on May 19th and 20th. Sumner attacked the authors of the act, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina, and compared Butler to Don Quixote and Douglas to Sancho Panza.
Sumner said Douglas was a "noisome, squat, and nameless animal ... not a proper model for an American senator." He also portrayed Butler as having taken "a mistress who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight --- I mean, the harlot, Slavery." Sumner's three-hour oration later became personally insulting as he mocked the 59 year old Butler's manner of speech and physical mannerisms, which were impaired by a stroke.
Two days later, on the afternoon of May 22nd, Preston Brooks, a Democratic congressman from South Carolina and Butler's relative, confronted Sumner as he sat writing at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber. Brooks was accompanied by Lawrence M. Keitt also of South Carolina and Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia.
Brooks said, "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks began beating Sumner on the head with a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head before he could reach his feet. Summer was knocked down and trapped under the heavy desk that was bolted to the floor, but Brooks continued to bash Sumner until he ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber. Several other Senators tried to help Sumner, but were prevented by Keitt who was holding a pistol and shouting, "Let them be!"
The recent behavior of our elected officials in Washington, DC brings to mind this dastardly act. While this behavior certainly isn't new (Please see Norman Ornstein's article "Foul mouths in Congress? Big [expletive] deal") for a list of Congressional bad deeds.
The actions of this Congress started with the "you lie" shout by Representative Joe Wilson (R, SC) during the State of the Union Address and continued with the "baby killer" outburst by Representative Randy Neugebauer (R, TX). We can add to the roll the apparent lack of vocabulary on the part of public officials. Vice President Joe Biden cursed over an open mike when congratulating President Obama. Let's not forget the bad manners that President Obama displayed during the State visit of Israeli President Netanyahu. Since when is good diplomacy defined by the President of the United States refusing to have his picture taken with a visiting Head of State or leaving a diner in Netanyahu's name.
Disrespectful manners among our nation's leaders seem be the only bipartisan effort underway in DC. It is fine for Republicans to trash Democrats it is business as usual political rhetoric, but when Democrats ravage Republicans it is bad behavior. The same holds true for the Democrats.
Both parties set a horrible example for young people with their lack of respect and bad language. The actions are childish and unworthy of our nation's leaders. However I guess it could be worse, they could be using gutta-percha canes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bentonville Ghosts

I got a call this morning from a re-enactor in North Carolina about pictures that I had taken at the Bentonville, NC battlefield. He told me to check out the photos of the Harper House and said that there were some strange blurs on two of the images that were not present on the others.

Well, I'm not sure what these are but I'll let you judge for yourself.