First Sesquicentennial Stamps Released
The first in a series of “Forever” stamps commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war are now available from your local post office. Two 1861 events, the bombardment of Fort Sumter and the First Battle of Bull Run, are featured on the initial two released by the U.S. Postal Service.
Marking the war’s opening shots in South Carolina is a lithograph by Currier & Ives, “Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor.” More recent artwork is featured on the Bull Run stamp, which reproduces Sidney E. King’s 1964 depiction of “The Capture of Ricketts‘ Battery” during the struggle on Henry Hill at Manassas. Additional stamps will be released throughout the Sesquicentennial, to mark other significant battles and events.
Virginia Launches Slave Name Database
The early history of slaves living in Virginia sometimes consists of nothing more than a servant’s first name that might have appeared on a slave owner’s records. The Virginia Historical Society’s records of such sources will soon be more accessible thanks to a new database. Once “Unknown No longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names” is launched—hopefully this September—users should be able to search by keywords such as name, gender, location, occupation or plantation. Find out more at vahistorical.org.
Research Room Some Searches Never End
Which Civil War general can boast the largest following, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, maybe even Nathan Bedford Forrest? Decades spent responding to inquiries at the National Archives have showed a strong preference for “none of the above.” The hands-down winner is actually George Armstrong Custer.
Beyond service and pension files, the records of an office held by any soldier are key to exploring his career, since they’re arranged according to the military’s organizational structure. Other broad topics of perennial interest at the Archives include regiments and places, battles and campaigns, and firearms and other artifacts. In broader terms, scholarly interest in African-American themes, especially as reflected in the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands and its predecessors, has also represented a groundswell of research for several decades now.
As enduring as the impulse to strike it rich is the search for lost army payrolls and other forms of buried treasure. Perhaps the most familiar targets are the lost wagon train in Pennsylvania and the fleeing Confederate Treasury hoard, dating from the end of the war. Sometimes even these quests are successful: Witness the 1980s discovery of the wreck of the steamer Central America. But then there’s hardly any subject related to the war that isn’t intensely interesting to someone—and most topics are reflected in the records.
Shelby Foote Collection Finds a Home
Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., recently acquired the extensive book collection and personal papers of Civil War historian Shelby Foote, who died in June 2005. Foote had delivered a series of lectures at Rhodes, and also received an honorary degree from the college in 1982. His collection includes research notes and hand-drawn maps.
Foote was best known for his widely acclaimed book The Civil War: A Narrative, but his commentary in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary The Civil War made him a household name. A special edition of the documentary, recently released by PBS Home Video and Paramount Home Entertainment, includes portions of a Foote interview not previously seen, as well as a new interview with Burns. The six-disc DVD is priced at $99.99
‘Nation’s Attic’ Civil War Treasures From the Smithsonian Institution
Because no ID tags were issued during the war, many soldiers devised their own means to ensure that they would be identified if they were killed in battle. Some men pinned slips of paper or cloth with their names written on them inside their clothing. Others marked their personal belongings. Troops could also purchase two types of manufactured identification. One was a pin made of gold or silver, marketed by Harper’s Weekly, inscribed with the soldier’s name and unit. The other form, pictured at left, was a lead or brass medallion with a hole at the top, so it could be worn around the neck. Medallions could usually be purchased from the sutlers. The gold medal shown here is engraved with an eagle and shield below the words “WAR OF 1861” on the obverse. The reverse is stamped with the soldier’s name, unit and hometown.
Pulitzer Nomination for Stephanie McCurry
Stephanie McCurry, whose article “Bread or Blood” appeared in Civil War Times’ June 2011 issue, was recently named a Pulitzer History finalist for her book Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South. A University of Pennsylvania professor, McCurry previously published Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country.
Find Ways to Stay in Tune With the Past
Rather than marching and reenacting battles, some Civil War buffs enjoy playing and listening to period music, whether it’s performed in the field or at a bandstand. Still others like to re-create the reels and quadrilles popular in war-era ballrooms.
Here’s a brief sample of some of this summer’s musical offerings. You’ll likely find lots more in your own area, given the ongoing Sesquicentennial commemorations around the country. Many such events are family-friendly and open to the public.
Fredericksburg? There’s a New ‘App’ for That
If you plan a trip to Fredericksburg battlefield, be sure to bring along your smartphone. As of this past May, visitors can make use of an innovative Fredericksburg “Battle App” to take four different tours of the battleground in addition to downtown Fredericksburg, incorporating audio and video as well as animated content.
The multimedia app, which uses GPS technology and Apple’s iPhone platform, was developed by the Civil War Trust in partnership with NeoTreks, with additional support provided by Virginia’s Department of Transportation. A similar application is available for Gettysburg.
Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.