Middleburg’s Mount Defiance protected
A public–private partnership will preserve Mount Defiance, a five-acre ridge on the Middleburg, Va., battlefield, that includes a period tavern and blacksmith shop. At a ceremony at the National Sporting Library and Museum, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said the state would provide $432,000 to preserve the site. The Civil War Trust will finance $54,000 from multiple sources, including $10,000 from Middleburg’s own Childs and Elaine Burden. By entering into the partnership, McDonnell said, “We are honoring the commonwealth’s past and simultaneously making an investment in its future.”
The Battle of Middleburg was fought June 19, 1863, two weeks before Gettysburg. Befitting Middleburg’s reputation as prime horse country, the battle represented some of the war’s largest and costliest cavalry action.
Hunters seek access to more federal lands
Could the sound of gunfire once again crackle across the hallowed fields at Gettysburg? Supporters of the national military park were holding their breath to see how the U.S. Senate would vote on a controversial Sportsmen’s Heritage Act passed by the House in the spring.
The act would open new public lands to hunting, target practice and other recreational pursuits that opponents believe is inconsistent with the missions of most protected national lands. It also fires pre-emptive strikes against potential challenges to the act, prohibiting lawsuits and environmental reviews.
National parks and monuments are excluded in the act, but not necessarily national battlefields or national sites, such as the Eisenhower Farm adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park.
“There are plenty of public lands, both federal and state, that provide appropriate opportunities for hunting and recreational shooting,” said Craig Obey of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Yet in the absence of a perceived national need to hunt squirrels in Frederick Douglass’ backyard, or conduct target practice at the Gettysburg Cemetery or the Flight 93 Memorial, the House has passed legislation that would seem to contemplate such ridiculous notions.”
Park Service sites would still have the option to prohibit sporting activities on grounds of public safety.
Spinning in the grave for 150 years
Imagine the indignity of laying down your life for your country and then being buried in a grave marking you as a member of the army of the enemy. That might be the case for a handful of Union soldiers buried in an Ohio cemetery, says researcher Dennis Ranney. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Ranney was checking out the grave markers at the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery when he noticed the name of John Kennedy. Kennedy was identified as a member of a Kentucky CSA regiment that, Ranney found, didn’t exist. Nor did his name turn up in any Confederate records. A John Kennedy did show up, however, in the Union records as a member of the 33rd Kentucky Infantry.
Ranney told the Dispatch that he believes as many as 10 or more soldiers might be similarly misidentified. Local historical society members believe Ranney’s research is likely correct, although how the grave information he has dug up will be used has yet to be determined.
Trust announces preservation awards
Two advocates for Virginia’s Ox Hill (Chantilly) Battlefield Park and a leading land-use attorney have been honored by the Civil War Trust with the Edwin C. Bearss Lifetime Achievement Award for their commitment to battlefield preservation.
Edward Wenzel, of Vienna, Va., and Clark B. “Bud” Hall, of Heathsville, Va.—along with the late Brian Pohanka—were among the earliest crusaders for preservation of the Chantilly battlefield, and were instrumental in getting the fledgling Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites off the ground. They have helped protect Virginia battlefields from developments, including a mall and a Formula One racetrack.
Tersh Boasberg, of Washington, D.C., a leading land-use and preservation attorney, provided the legal acumen that enabled some of the earliest battlefield preservation victories. In addition, Civil War Trust honored Mark Perreault of Norfolk, Va., as Preservationist of the Year for helping usher Fort Monroe into the National Park System, and the Museum of the Confederacy and Friends and Descendants of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison in Ohio as Organizations of the Year.
CSS Georgia to surface
Confederates routinely scuttled ships in their harbors to cause headaches for the Yankees, and 150 years later at least one of them is still doing its job. The ironclad CSS Georgia was sunk to keep it out of General William T. Sherman’s mitts after his men captured Savannah in December 1864. Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to dredge the Savannah River to facilitate the nation’s fourth-busiest harbor, but the old wreck—historically significant and untouchable—lies in the way.
So the Corps will raise and preserve the remains of the Georgia at a cost of $14 million. That’s more or less 122 times what it cost to build the boat, whose $115,000 price was financed by the Savannah Ladies Gunboat Association. Built by novices out of rail iron, its engines were hopelessly underpowered and the Georgia proved unable to defeat the river current, much less anything the U.S. Navy might throw against it. But it still stands as a forensic blueprint for the South’s failure to produce a formidable navy.
Civil War history, suburbs style
Montgomery County, Md., might be best known for defense contractors and traffic tie-ups on the Capital Beltway, but during the Civil War this tony county on the doorstep of Washington, D.C., was witness to a strange brand of Civil War history. With the seat of power to the east and major battles to the west, Montgomery County saw all manner of troop-staging, feints and dodges, chronicled in a commemorative sesquicentennial Web site under the umbrella of Heritage Montgomery (motto, “History where you least expect it,” and searchable at heritagemontgomery.org).
A nugget from the group’s 32-page brochure outlining the history of local communities: The war wasn’t a year old when the locals began petitioning the federal government for costs. In 1861, Mary E. Chiswell of Poolesville petitioned the government for nearly $500 (equal to $12,000 today) for fence rails, corn and fodder seized by the Yankees. A year later, 40 Poolesville men cut the telegraph wires and skipped across the Potomac to join the Confederacy. They were known as Chiswell’s Exile Band, commanded by Colonel Elijah “Lige” White, who became enough of a local hero that the Conrad Ferry across the river was re-named for him. Today, White’s Ferry remains the only operating ferry across the Potomac.
Volunteers dig up foundation of Camp Douglas
An archaeological investigation on Chicago’s near South Side revealed the remnants of Camp Douglas, the Union Army’s training camp and prison for Confederate prisoners of war. Volunteers from Loyola University and Northern Michigan University, sponsored by the Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation, uncovered what they believe is the foundation of the headquarters building in Garrison Square.
Camp Douglas was described as the North’s Andersonville for its poor conditions and high death rate. Condominiums fill most of the 30-acre site and further development is planned.
The foundation hopes the discovery brings attention to Chicago’s role in the Civil War. Follow developments at campdouglas.org.
Union soldier monument restored
For more than five years, the Crystal Lake (Ill.) Historical Society worked to restore a beloved monument honoring Union Civil War veterans. The statue of a soldier, first erected in 1889 in Union Cemetery, had fallen victim to age and vandalism before several organizations, including Crystal Lake American Legion Post 171 and Crystal Lake VFW Post 12014, raised the $60,000 it took to restore the monument.
Conservator Andrzej Dajnowski, who restored the zinc statue—marketed as “white bronze” at the time of the original installation—told crystallake.
patch.com that the material was “very difficult to work with. Imagine working inside that base for a couple hours on a hot day.”
“The final product is extremely gratifying and a true reflection of the many people and hours dedicated to preserving this landmark,” historical society President Diane Kenney told the Northwest Herald. “Hopefully, the soldier will guard over the cemetery for another 100 years.”
The restored monument was returned to Union Cemetery in June, with new lighting, flagpoles and landscaping.