Cleveland Reopens War Monument
One of the nation’s most elaborate Civil War memorials recently re opened after a $2 million, two-year restoration. The 1894 Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, a granite and sandstone tower teeming with military symbolism that rises 125 feet above Public Square in downtown Cleveland, had long ago lost its luster inside and out. A leaky roof, harsh cleaning and clumsy touch-ups had leached the impact from the polychromatic walls, floor and ceiling of its memorial room, where marble tablets list the names of over 9,000 Cuyahoga County veterans.
Now its stained-glass windows have been restored and harsh fluorescent lighting has been updated with LED spotlights and corner chandeliers, which resemble the original gaslights. A decorative arts ex pert who re-inked the veterans’ names also retinted pilasters, ceilings and walls. Volunteers helped to re-create flowerbeds depicting 24 U.S. Army Corps badges and five postwar organizations with more than 17,000 annuals in time for the June reopening.
Shepherdstown Finally Gets the Nod From the Battlefield Commission
A n update of a 1993 report by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission recently documented the existence of a West Virginia battlefield that has long been slighted—a victory for the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, which has struggled to gain recognition for the site. The report lists the site as 1,035 acres in West Virginia and 500 in Maryland. On the Shepherdstown side, the association has conservation easements on 84 acres. On the Maryland side, most of the battlefield is within the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
As General Robert E. Lee led his troops from Sharpsburg back into Virginia, he crossed the Potomac at Boteler’s Ford on September 19, 1862, downriver from Shepherdstown. Federals clashed with the Rebels on the 19th and 20th, resulting in more than 600 casualties.
Strasburg Plans Great Train Raid’s 150th
The little Shenandoah Valley town of Strasburg, 80 miles west of Washington, D.C., hopes to draw crowds next spring during its re-creation of a wartime event from 150 years ago. During what is now remembered as Colonel Thomas Jackson’s Great Train Raid of May 1861, “Stonewall” purloined B&O locomotives, cars and equipment from Martinsburg (now in West Virginia) and transported them down the Valley to Strasburg, where he put most of them back on the tracks and dispatched them to Richmond and other points south. Currently scheduled for May 27-29, 2011, the reenactment will feature teams of horses pulling pieces of a replica locomotive down the Valley Pike (now Rte. 11) to the town’s old depot. Plans also call for a real Civil War–era locomotive to be brought by rail to Strasburg. The horses will be based at Cedar Creek Battlefield in Middletown, which plans additional events to mark the sesquicentennial. The procession to Strasburg is to take place on Sunday, May 29, followed by related activities.
Rare Georgia Battle Flag Has New Home
The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Ga., has acquired a rare regimental flag, with numerous bullet holes as well as bloodstains, that the 65th Georgia Infantry carried through some of the Atlanta Campaign’s hardest-fought battles. The flag was donated by the Davis family of Alabama. Don Davis— whose great-great-grandfather, Private John Davis, was the final color bearer at the November 30, 1864, Battle of Franklin—explained it was carried in fighting at Resaca, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta. Museum officials have since learned that the blood staining it belonged to William A. Martin, who was killed at Franklin after carrying the banner through the Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns. For more on the museum, see southernmuseum.org.
A Lonely, Mournful Row
Be the first to tell us why the six graves below at Andersonville’s National Cemetery are set off by themselves by sending an e-mail to dana.shoaf@weiderhistorygroup. com) or sending regular mail (19300 Promenade Dr., Lees burg, VA 20176) to Civil War Times Editor Dana Shoaf’s attention, marked “Graves.” The first correct answer will win the DVD The Life and Death of the Army of Northern Vir ginia. Congrats to last issue’s win ners, Chris Godart of Herndon, Va. (via e-mail) and Neil Buttermore of Toledo, Ohio (via snail mail), who correctly identified Madeira wine as Ewell’s elixir.
Abe’s Blue Pills
Like the man who shot his assassin, Abraham Lincoln may have suffered from mercury poisoning. Boston Corbett, who’s profiled in this issue (P. 38), inhaled mercury fumes as a hatter. Lincoln ingested mercury in “blue mass” pills, prescribed by 19th-century doctors for a variety of ailments, including what was called “melancholia.” Lincoln reportedly stopped taking the pills, which contained 9,000 times the safe limit for exposure to mercury, because they made him cross.
Of Mules and Men: Delving Into Damage Claims North and South
Soldiers on both sides tended to requisition whatever they needed on the spot. Sheep, cows, chickens, corn, hay, fence rails, horses and mules were all considered fair game. Civilians soon started demanding compensation for their losses, resulting in written records that today provide reliable and detailed documentation of the armies’ movements. The wartime taunt, “Mister, here’s your mule!” relates to these damage claims.
In the North, Congress passed an act on July 4, 1864, facilitating compensation provided certain prerequisites were met. The claimants were required to have supported the Federal government, and the damages must have been caused by U.S. troops. Claimants were asked to describe their property and give dates, witnesses’ names and military units responsible.
The resulting records, which constitute a remarkable source of information about the armies’ travels and actions, are now part of Record Group 92 in the National Archives. They have so far not been microfilmed or digitized.
Confederate officials also were asked to make good any losses that had been visited upon Southerners by CSA troops. These claims can be found in Record Group 109, filed under the name of the claimants in the “Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms” that have been put online. They can also be found through Footnote.com (see “Research Room” in the February 2010 isssue).
Opportunities for filing claims against the U.S. government extended several generations beyond the conflict. For the states that were regarded as being “in rebellion,” the Southern Claims Commission was created. Its records, dating from 1871 to 1880, can be found in Record Groups 217 (allowed claims) and 233 (barred and disallowed claims). They too are digitized and accessible on Footnote.com. As time went by, the claims categories were broadened—for instance, more churches and fraternal groups became eligible. For an example of the testimony you can find in these records, read John Hennessy’s June 11, 2010, post “History in the balance: Sherwood Forest and its crumbling slave cabin” on the Mysteries and Conundrums blog (http://npsfrsp.word press.com/).
Originally published in the October 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.