Site of War’s Largest Cavalry Battle Expands by 782 Acres
Thanks to history-minded Culpeper County landowners, 782 acres were recently added to Virginia’s Brandy Station battlefield via two conservation easements. The 349-acre northern tract includes nearly a mile of Hazel River frontage and the site where Union Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry fought Confederates under Brig. Gen. W.H.F. “Rooney” Lee in the spring of 1863. The southern tract, encompassing 433 acres, preserves the area where Union Colonel Thomas Devin’s cavalry repeatedly clashed with Southerners led by Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton. The Civil War Preservation Trust and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources were involved in negotiations for both the easements.
To find out more about ongoing preservation efforts in Culpeper County, check out brandystation foundation.com.
Civil War Conservation Corps Loses a Champion
The Civil War research community lost a tireless advocate when Budge Weidman, longtime manager of the all-volunteer Civil War Conservation Corps, died this past July at age 75. She and her crew were responsible for examining and preserving Civil War records—many untouched since the war— at the National Archives for microfilming or digitization. Weidman was there at the group’s inception in November 1994. To date the corps has prepared Compiled Military Service Records, the field reports of the Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Land Bureau (the Freedmen’s Bureau) and begun work on the Civil War Widows Pension Files. Weidman and her husband Russell each donated nearly 25,000 hours to the CWCC. Interested in helping? To volunteer at National Archives locations across the nation, see archives. gov/careers/volunteering.
Nat Turner Rebellion Tour Starts in 2011
On August 21, 1831, Nat Turner initiated a revolt in southern Virginia. He and fellow slaves killed at least 50 white people in the next 24 hours, starting with his own master, Joseph Travis, and his family. Turner and 19 cohorts were captured and hanged, but the incident gained lasting importance because it showed Northerners that slaves were willing to die for their freedom. Many Southerners subsequently restricted slave travel and gatherings.
As the 180th anniversary of the insurrection approaches, according to Southampton County Historical President Lynda Updike—quoted in the Virginian-Pilot—“Many believe that the slave insurrection led to the Civil War.”
Now federal and state funds have been allocated to create a Nat Turner Rebellion Tour following Turner’s bloody path. The Rebecca Vaughan House in Courtland, the last place where people were killed by Turner’s men, will become a visitor center. Part of the presentation will focus on slaves who saved their owners by hiding them during the insurrection. The Historical Society hopes to begin tours next year.
Pennsylvania Museum Recovers a Treasure
An ornate sword presented to Union Captain Augustus Plummer was recently purchased by the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh, Pa. As it turns out, that sword had earlier been part of the museum’s collection. It surfaced last July at an antique show, after which collector David Aeberli notified the museum.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, poor records and a lack of funds have led to the loss of some artifacts and the inability to repair others, including a command flag used by Union Colonel Jacob B. Sweitzer at Gettysburg.
Camp Lawton Prison Camp Discovered
The remains of a long-lost Con- federate prison known as Camp Lawton were recently discovered on the grounds of Magnolia Springs State Park in southeast Georgia. Georgia officials have described the site—which students from Georgia Southern University are currently helping to excavate—as one of the most significant Civil War discoveries in decades.
Lawton, a 42-acre stockade that housed up to 10,000 Federals, was created to relieve overcrowded Andersonville in the fall of 1864. Between 725 and 1,330 prisoners died during the six weeks of its existence. Survivors recalled that conditions there were not much better than at Andersonville, though Lawton had a better water supply thanks to Magnolia Springs. Lawton was evacuated that November before Sherman’s March to the Sea.
How Many Tar Heels Paid the Ultimate Price?
North Carolina has long claimed to have recruited the most soldiers and lost the most men to the Southern cause. Since the war ended, the state has used the figure of 40,239 (19,637 who died in combat and 20,602 of disease) lost during the war, numbers based on a report by U.S. Provost Marshal General James B. Fry. The most lost and largest recruitment claims date to 1875, lifted from a magazine editorial by Baptist minister Theodore B. Kingsbury. Though Kingsbury cited no source for his claim, it was widely repeated.
Once North Carolina’s new Civil War Death Study, now underway, is complete, it may still be inaccurate due to missing records. But it will for the first time include figures for black and white residents who fought for the Union.
Most of us hold our documentary heritage sacred. But some folks will do anything to turn a buck, even when it comes to scavenging irreplaceable papers. Such “researchers” might look and seem trustworthy. For example, a grayhaired art historian with a British accent, a Vietnam veteran who’s an esteemed author, a firearms collector and battlefield relic hunter with a beard like J.E.B. Stuart’s: all three of these seemingly legitimate researchers have recently been tracked down, tried and convicted for their roles in stealing and selling valuable Civil War documents.
The bulk of many archival collections has so far eluded—and will probably elude for the foreseeable future—reproduction, despite the digitization, microfilming or photocopying of reams of material. Anyone who wants to see these documents still has to travel to an archive or museum to examine it in person, and deal with increasingly stringent security measures.
By now, most researchers know all too well that heroic efforts are employed to safeguard original records. Registration procedures define who is allowed in, guards, staff and cameras are carefully positioned, and just who sees what is carefully noted. Researchers have to read and sign off on procedures, and their writing implements, electronic equipment and even clothing are all monitored.
Regardless of all those precautions, a few people will always try to beat the system. But in stealing priceless original documents, the wrongdoers not only dishonor themselves, they rend asunder the very fabric of our shared history.
If you think you’ve seen a document that was illegally removed from the National Archives, you owe it to future generations to take immediate action. Contact Missing Documents, Office of the Inspector General, NARA, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. The e-mail address is Missing Documents@nara.gov; or call 301-837- 3500 (in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area) or toll-free outside the metro area at 800-786-2551.
Exploring a Prewar Slave Village at Monocacy
Students from four universities are among the workers on-site at the Monocacy battlefield in Maryland to unearth remnants of what has been called the “largest known slave habitation site in the MidAtlantic.” In addition to traditional archaeological methods, researchers are using ground-penetrating radar to help pinpoint slaves’ homes near the former L’Hermitage plantation.
Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.