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A Fight Over George Meade’s Horse

The dispute over what is left of Old Baldy, the horse that carried Union General George Gordon Meade through eight engagements, including the Battle of Gettysburg, recently ended up in court. Baldy’s handsome stuffed head and neck was displayed for many years at the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia before it closed in 2008, and images were also incorporated into its promotional literature and website. But when Baldy went into storage while the museum sought financing for a new building, another Philadelphia institution, the Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library, claimed that it actually owned the head and had only loaned it out in the 1970s.

In the end, both museums came out winners. For the immediate future, Old Baldy will be on display at the G.A.R. museum, but the Civil War Museum has responsibility for its protection. Fans of Old Baldy should be able to visit him again this September when the G.A.R. museum holds a grand homecoming and reception for him.

Virginia’s Governor Signs Preservation Legislation

Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell joined legislators and officials on April 21 to celebrate the Commonwealth’s role in historic land conservation at the Wagner Farm at Chancellorsville, a site recently preserved by Virginia in partnership with the Civil War Preservation Trust. He signed legislation establishing the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund, a matching grants program to protect battlefield land, which has already saved nearly 2,000 acres at 24 battlefields. McDonnell also announced $300,000 in grants for seven properties, five to be preserved by the CWPT and two by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and Department of Historic Resources. CWPT President James Lighthizer said, “It is the finest program of its kind in the country, and I am confident that its permanent establishment will be a lasting benefit to future generations of Virginians and Americans.”

Will Reagan Replace Grant?

North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry has proposed that Ronald Reagan’s portrait re – place Ulysses Grant on the $50 bill. John Marszalek of the Grant Association argues against the change, citing the Grant administration’s role in developing U.S. currency.

J.E.B. Stuart Saber Goes to Texas

On May 31, 1862, a massively built Prussian rode into the camp of the First Virginia Cavalry carrying a sword that he would present to his new commander, Major J.E.B. Stuart. Major Heros von Borcke had left his native country to experience combat, and he would find just what he sought in Stuart’s service. “His whole person seemed to me the model of a daring, adventurous cavalry general,” von Borcke wrote. For more than a year he would serve as Stuart’s aide-de-camp.

Stuart’s new saber was made of brass and steel with a sharkskin grip, featuring a brass hilt with a lion’s head at the top and a leopard’s head gracing the bottom tip of the guard. Below the detachable bas ket guard, a brass Virginia dogwood flower and shield represented Stuart’s native state.

Owned by the Stuart family for decades, the saber was recently purchased by a private collector, then sold to the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth, where it will go on permanent display.

—Donald L. Barnhart Jr

United States Colored Troops Records

There are comparatively few memoirs, unit histories and other printed sources for U.S Colored Troops. Monuments are rare, and some reminders of their service, such as regimental colors, have been deliberately destroyed. Moreover, since large numbers of the men could not read or write, letters and diaries are uncommon. Not so the overall documentary record.

Perhaps most important are the individual Compiled Military Service Records, because they constitute the troops’ official record of service. Filed alphabetically, they are arranged by regiment, with officers— who were usually white—interfiled. Since officers had generally served earlier in white regiments, they also have separate service records with their original units. There is even richer and more wide-ranging in – formation on the USCT men in pension files.

Much more is available, including regimental record books, unbound unit files, hospital registers, casualty lists, ordnance returns and inspection reports. In addition, the men were extensively documented by clerks of the Bureau of Colored Troops, which oversaw their organization and deployment.

Awareness of the USCTs’ contributions to the war has gradually gained a foothold in America’s historical consciousness. Early television documentaries such as Lost, Stolen, or Strayed (1968) paved the way for Edward Zwick’s feature film Glory (1989), for example. The solid phalanx of scholarly volumes highlighting the USCT troops produced in the past half-century has more often than not been grounded in the National Archives holdings.

—Mike Musick

Mapping Stonewall’s Way

A selection of maps produced by Jedediah Hotchkiss, Stonewall Jackson’s cartographer, is on display at the Library of Congress through July 31, 2010. The exhibit was created by the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. After leaving the LOC, the collection will move to the Harrisonburg Rockingham Heritage Center in Dayton, Va., for six months.


Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here