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Irish Regiment Painting Resurrected

A large painting of the 69th New York State Militia that had been forgotten for decades will be making a reappearance in Gotham City at the New-York Historical Society. Created by artist Louis Lang in 1862, the tableau shows Captain Thomas Meagher on horseback amid a swirl of troops greeting wives and children during the regiment’s return to New York City following First Bull Run. In 1886 Lang gave the 7-by-111⁄2-foot canvas to the society, where it was on public display until 1945, and then it was placed in storage. By the time the painting was rediscovered, it had been badly damaged. Conservators have managed to piece together the fragments of the painting, which will be unveiled this Veterans Day. That event will also mark the reopening of the society’s museum after an 18-month renovation.

New Park Honors 1st Kansas Colored Troops

In October 2012, the state of Missouri will open a new park honoring the ground where the first black unit, the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, fought in the Civil War. Staunch abolitionist Brig. Gen. James Lane (pictured below) didn’t care that the 1st Kansas, which he organized in August 1862, was illegal. He believed the former slaves and free blacks had a right to fight their oppressors, and on October 29, 1862, they did just that at the Battle of Island Mound in Bates County, Missouri.

The 40-acre park was once the home of Confederate sympathizer and guerrilla John Toothman, who was in jail at the time of the battle. The 1st Kansas had seized his house and was planning to march on a guerrilla supply base about two miles away when allies of Toothman arrived to stop them. At one point a small group of black soldiers was surrounded by a much larger force that demanded they surrender. Instead the soldiers took on the guerrillas in hand-to-hand fighting. An officer of the 1st Kansas later reported: “I have witnessed some hard fights but I never saw a braver sight than that handful of brave men fighting 117 men who were all around them. Not one surrendered or gave up his weapon.”

When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the 1st Kansas was the first black unit to be mustered into the Union Army—less than two weeks after the proclamation was announced.

Ironclad Turret Gets a Good Scrubbing

Nine years after the ironclad Monitor was raised from the ocean floor, a seven-member team is giving its 120-ton turret a final cleaning. Since the turret’s arrival at the conservation lab of the Mariners Museum in Newport News, Va., visitors have been able to watch the removal of encrusted silt, minerals and rust from the submerged structure. The last step will be an electro-chemical treatment to gradually remove corrosive salts.

Civil War Treasures From the Smithsonian

After the Battle of New Market Heights on September 29, 1864, General Benjamin F. Butler commissioned a silver medal to honor the African-American troops in his command for their gallantry. Inscribed on one side is the motto Ferro Ilis Libertas Perveniet, meaning “Freedom Comes to Them Through Arms.” The other side bears the words “Distinguished Courage Campaign Before Richmond 1864.”

Sadly, the honor was short-lived. After General Butler performed poorly in 1865, he was relieved of his command, and the 300 medal recipients in the U.S. Colored Troops were forbidden to wear the awards on their uniforms.

Officially known as the Army of James Medal but commonly called the Butler Medal, the award was designed by Anthony C. Paquet (who also made the dies for the first Medal of Honor) and was produced by Tiffany. It was the only medal ever struck for black troops.

Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation Gives Grants

Eight grants were recently announced by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. Winning projects included a National Portrait Gallery exhibition focusing on African-Americans, a display on mourning and memory at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., and an archaeological investigation at Camp Douglas in Illinois. Applicants for future grants can find information at

NPS Grants Go to Civil War Sites

Eight Civil War sites in six states were among the winners of grants by the National Park Service to protect battlefields. Virginia received three awards, while Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio and South Carolina each received one. The grants will fund efforts ranging from digital maps of battlefields to workshops that teach citizens how to respond to development threats to battlefields.

Vet Graves Honored in Wyoming

William Wood’s quest to learn more about his great-grandfather, Samuel Wood, has resulted in belated recognition for a group of Civil War veterans buried in Saratoga, Wyo. After Wood came across some old photos in his parents’ attic in Casper, Wyo., he wanted to learn more. A distant relative in Arizona finally made the connection between one of those images and Samuel Wood, who served with Company G of the 5th Massachusetts Infantry. That discovery motivated Wood to visit the cemetery in Saratoga where his great-grandfather was buried, and create an appropriate marker for his ancestor.

In the course of his research, Woods discovered 10 graves of other Civil War soldiers—none of whom had any markers to identify their service. Wood created plaques for all the graves. On the anniversary of Samuel Wood’s discharge from the Army, descendants of the 11 men gathered at the cemetery to honor the veterans.

Miller House’s Hidden Treasures

National Park Service staffers uncovered this mix of civilian and military artifacts during their work on the David Miller farmhouse at Antietam National Battlefield (see P. 62). Many of the items were discovered in the daubing between the logs or underneath the rebuilt porch. They include a medicine bottle; the tip of an English-made bayonet scabbard; candlewick trimming scissors; two different shoes; an Enfield bayonet in remarkably good shape and the handle of a bone toothbrush. The artifacts are slated for conservation.


Originally published in the December 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.