Gettysburg Grows by 45 Acres
Gettysburg residents Wayne and Susan Hill recently donated 45 acres to the Gettysburg Foundation. Located near the eastern base of Big Round Top at the southern end of the battlefield, the acreage encompasses an area where Union skirmishers maneuvered on July 2, 1863, and Federal cavalry units participated in some of the final engagements of the three-day battle on July 3.
To date, the Gettysburg Foundation has helped to preserve more than 600 acres. Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latschar summed up the most recent addition’s significance to the battlefield: “This is a win-win for everybody because there was battle action in this area, but the real significance is environmental. It’s Plum Run, which is a famous name on the battlefield as well as critical wetlands and wildlife habitat.” Wayne Hill, a former board member of the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg, said, “The land is a natural, beautiful spot, and now we’re sure it will stay that way.”
Napoleon Gets a Mount in New Jersey
Almost a year ago the staff and volunteers of the New Jersey National Guard Militia Museum at Sea Girt decided they would mount one of its Model 1857 bronze 12-pounder smoothbore Napoleon barrels on a reproduction carriage. Made by Ames of Chicopee, Mass., in 1861, the barrel is the early type, with handles atop it.
Since the tube had stood guard outside the National Guard Armory in East Orange for many decades, the team’s initial task involved removing layers of grunge and industrial pollution. As the clean-up progressed, a volunteer building team—with a set of confusing pre–Civil War plans in hand—went about the work of crafting a carriage. Meanwhile a group of generous sponsors, including the museum’s board of trustees, the New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association, the Phil Kearny Civil War Roundtable of Northern New Jersey, the George A. Custer Camp, Sons of Union Veterans, Jeff Cohen and his 6th New York Battery reenactment unit and others all contributed parts and money to purchase ironwork for the new exhibit.
As the project neared completion, nationally known cannon carriage maker Jeff Stafford consulted with the group about the finishing touches. When the newly mounted cannon is rolled out—as of this writing, scheduled for sometime this fall—it will be the only Civil War fieldpiece on display in a museum in New Jersey. The finished display will be enhanced with a limber donated by Jeff Cohen.
Richmond Museum Finds a Home in the Bluegrass
The new Battle of Richmond Museum and Visitors’ Center, which quietly opened in Kentucky in October 2008, was officially dedicated by representatives of the Blue Grass Army Depot, preservation groups and local officials this past August.
The Depot, the U.S. Army’s major source for chemical defense equipment, had given three acres of land and the prewar Rogers House to Madison County, Ky., in 2005 (the Army still owns 400 acres of battlefield land). The home was used as a hospital for some time following the August 29-30, 1862, battle. A decisive win for the Confederates, the three-stage fight there ranged over an unusually long and narrow track of land: 10,000 yards wide and eight miles long.
A laser topographical map, film and display of objects found nearby are on view in the house. Local artifacts—on loan from the Depot—include shrapnel, cannonballs and horseshoes.
Face-lift for the Bloedner Marker
Roughly half the German inscription on the Bloedner (32nd Indiana Infantry) Monument, the oldest Civil War monument in the U.S., had crumbled to dust in the years it stood watch at Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville, Ky. Carved in February 1862, it marked the graves of 13 Union dead after the Battle of Rowlett’s Station, near Munfordville. In 1867 the remains of 11 soldiers and the monument were moved to Cave Hill. The recently repaired marker will be relocated to an as-yet unnamed new home; a new Bloedner Monument is planned for the Cave Hill site.
Winchester Hotel’s Fate Hangs in the Balance
The Taylor Hotel in Winchester, Va., which served as headquarters for both Union and Confederate forces during the war, could soon be demolished. Its current owner has failed to maintain it since part of the roof collapsed two years ago.
The three-story building, now located on a pedestrian shopping mall, once faced the Valley Pike. Wartime residents and visitors crowded its three balconies to cheer the local boys marching off to war or watch for the enemy. It was also here that “Stone – wall” Jackson promoted Turner Ash – by to general 10 days before he was killed, and Stonewall also posed here for his famous “missing button” portrait by a Winchester photographer.
When developer Denver Quinnelly bought the 1836 building, which most recently had been used as a store, he announced it would be renovated and turned into condominiums and up scale shops. But in addition to his problems with the roof, the economic crisis has led to further difficulties for the developer. The bank has foreclosed on seven of his unfinished subdivisions.
Officials have warned Quinnelly that the fire inspector has declared his property unsafe. If the developer fails to generate a plan to fix the hotel, Winchester can opt to seize his property and demolish it.
Brandy Station and Graffiti House
Fought on June 9, 1863, Brandy Station was ultimately won by the Confederates, but it marked the beginning of the Union cavalry’s rise. The fight’s significance—it involved nearly 20,000 horsemen—is reason to preserve the site, as well as the Graffiti House, so-called because of drawings troops scrawled on its walls. So far the Brandy Station Foundation has managed to safeguard most of the battlefield from developers. To find out how you can help, visit brandystation foundation.com or contact Brandy Station Foundation, P.O. Box 165, Brandy Station, VA 22714-0165.
Wilderness Walmart Wins Approval Despite Protests
Despite a battle by preservationists and prominent historians that attracted national attention, this past summer Virginia’s Orange County Board of Supervisors granted a special permit to build a Walmart Superstore in Locust Grove, close to the Wilderness Battlefield. Walmart representatives claimed the store will not be within eyesight of the site’s 2,700 protected acres, so it won’t detract from the battlefield. The supervisors were also swayed by the promise of hundreds of new jobs for county residents. Opponents had pointed to increased traffic and congestion as likely to cause problems, and vow to continue the fight.
Vox Populi, Confederate-Style
A file labeled “Letters Received by the Confederate Secretary of War, 1861-1865” sounds like its contents must surely have come from bigwigs. In fact, all the high-level reports were removed from these re cords by the victorious Union Army and later published in War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
But modern-day researchers can still find communications from an astonishing range of Southern citizens in one series of Record Group 109, the War Department Collection of Confederate Records, at the National Archives. Most everyone, from well-educated nabobs to hardscrabble farmers who signed with an “X,” is represented. Perhaps a provost marshal had arrested a fellow with a suspicious New England twang, or a blockade-runner sought government funding—all wrote to the secretary. More common still were pleas for exemption from military service.
Since many requests came in the form of petitions, lots of names are preserved in such records. A name index enables researchers to look for individuals, and there’s also a limited subject index. When all is said and done, this remarkable resource lets us peer over the shoulder of “Rebel War Clerk” John B. Jones and have a front-row seat to the rise and fall of the Confederacy.
Mike Musick is the former subject area expert for the Civil War at the National Archives.
National Archives Exhibit Comes to You
The National Archives’ plan for its Civil War Sesquicentennial exhibit, which will open in April 2010 in Washington and travel to a handful of major cities, is finally complete after two years of work. Displays will include a dozen original war-related documents as well as 1,300 to 1,500 facsimiles and hundreds of photos.
“Discovering the Civil War” is not organized around battles, generals and a chronological order of events but around subjects such as raising armies, selecting leaders and the war’s global impact. The exhibit is so large that it will be divided into two shows in Washington because of space constraints. But when it goes on the road it will be seen as one show at much larger venues in Detroit, Houston, New York, Atlanta, Denver, Omaha and perhaps one other city.
In preparing for the massive exhibit, planners have wrestled with a variety of specialized problems, including how to ship and handle original documents in moving from city to city. Because each original can only be exposed to light for the maximum of a year, substitutes will be cycled into the exhibit. Another problem is illegible or lengthy documents. In some cases the tour will incorporate audio highlights of archived material.
Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.