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Great Civil War Maps Now Available Online

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is releasing nearly 400 war–related maps, charts and documents in time for the Sesquicentennial. The collection, named “Charting a More Perfect Union,” is available at NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey website, at historical_zoom.asp.

Although battlefields might seem to be outside the U.S. Coast Survey’s purview, staff cartographers actually traveled with Union forces to produce many maps. Included in this fascinating collection are nautical charts used for naval campaigns as well as maps that detail troop movements and battlefields. Also among the documents is “Notes on the Coast,” prepared by the Coast Survey to assist the Federal forces in the blockades of Southern ports, in addition to annual reports that were submitted by the superintendent, describing the problem of keeping up with the escalating demand by the military for additional maps and charts.

‘Bloody Wheat Field’ Will Be Preserved

For the past two years the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield  has been looking to purchase two acres of land that saw some of the worst carnage during fighting near Culpeper, Va. Last October they succeeded, with $52,000 of the $65,000 price tag funded by a Transportation Enhancement grant and the rest to come from the FCMB and the Civil War Preservation Trust. Sometimes referred to as the “bloody wheat field,” the parcel encompasses an area where so many were killed or wounded on August 9, 1862, that survivors reported they couldn’t walk across it that evening without stepping on human flesh.

The group is now looking for donations as well as volunteers to help tear down a structure on the land. To find out how you can help, visit

Georgia Honors USCTs

Among the 150 markers the Georgia Historical Society is placing during the Sesquicentennial, one is dedicated to some of the few U.S. Colored Troops to fight in Georgia. This past fall the GHS commemorated members of the 14th and 44th Infantry who saw action in the northwest corner of the state near Dalton. On August 15, 1864, the 14th USCT helped drive off a Confederate cavalry attack on the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s main supply line during the Atlanta Campaign. On October 13, 1864, the 44th USCT was stationed in Dalton when the garrison commander surrendered to Lt. Gen. John B. Hood. Although that surrender saved the lives of the people occupying the fort, it also meant the 600 black soldiers would be returned to their former owners or sold into slavery.

‘Nation’s Attic’ Civil War Treasures From the Smithsonian Institution

This paymaster’s money box represents the final point of transfer for federal dollars to the rank and file. The National Archives holds records documenting the purchase of boxes such as this one, which is made of heavy iron, from several manufacturers, primarily in New York, in its Quartermaster Department files. As indicated by the stenciled name, this chest was used by David Gribben, an Irish-born New Yorker who entered the Union Army in 1864 and served as a paymaster until 1869.

Although they carried rank, paymasters were actually military accountants who lived more like civilians than soldiers.An officer serving at Fort Snelling, in St. Paul, Minn., in the 1850s recalled that the local paymaster spent his time “not doing military duty, seemed irresponsible and did about as he pleased. He allowed himself much latitude in dress, appearing in civilian dress, except at the pay table, when he appeared in uniform, or nearly so.”

Study the War While Touring London

Think you’ve already seen every site connected with America’s Civil War? Now you can get a different perspective on the war—from across the Pond. Tom Sebrell, who teaches at Queen Mary College, University of London, has identified about 50 sites there tied to the war. He’s developing walking tours, including one to the home of the Confederate emissary to London, William Yancy, offices of the London Emancipation Society and the Society for the Promoting a Cessation of Hostilities in America. Tours are slated to continue through the Sesquicentennial, ending in April 2015. To learn more, visit

Windfall for the LOC

The Library of Congress and the Civil War community as a whole benefited from the largesse of District of Columbia–area jewelry store owner Tom Liljenquist, who recently donated almost 700 tintypes and ambrotypes of Civil War troops, such as this one of an unidentified Union man wearing a Hardee hat. Liljenquist had been acquiring period photos for 15 years, paying as much as $19,000 for one image. An exhibition is scheduled to open in April at the library, but you can see a preview of some of the images by visiting print/caption/captionliljenquist.html.

Gettysburg Monument in Search of Inscription

It’s many long years since anyone could read the inscription on the monument for Cooper’s Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, on East Cemetery Hill, which was manufactured of soft marble that rapidly deteriorated. The NPS agreed to let the modern Cooper’s Battery B group have a replacement capstone made, stipulating that the original inscription be used. But the group has had difficulty confirming what the original said, and now they’re asking readers for help. If anyone has a record of the text, please contact Keith Foote at parafeet@, or call 570-975-5034.

Research Room- The Real Thing

As researchers can attest, most of the manuscripts they get to see these days are reproductions in some form or other. This has obvious benefits, and makes information—what most archives users are seeking—increasingly available. Yet archivists who work with original records behind the scenes, and sometimes researchers as well, get to experience the past in a unique way.

Robert E. Lee’s signed report of the Battle of Chancellorsville, hundreds of telegrams in the handwriting of Abraham Lincoln, Rebel casualty lists from the Gettysburg Campaign, the order book that prison commander Henry Wirz kept at Andersonville, the enlistment papers of a soldier in the U.S. Colored Troops who was awarded a Medal of Honor: These are all part of Americans’ national patrimony. The chance to touch these artifacts, to feel the texture of the paper, see the ink color, balance the weight of a record book in one’s hands, is granted to a decreasing few, but it can foster an unmatched sense of intimacy with the people and events of the 1860s.

What springs from the chance to handle actual historical documents is an appreciation for the flesh-and-blood existence of all those great and small who took pen in hand to make their indelible mark on their times. This is the real thing. It imparts a particular awe and reverence for what has been passed down to us over time, and an immense sense of gratitude for that very special reward.

—Mike Musick

MOC: Probing the Past

Two recent developments point up the reasons behind the Museum of the Confederacy’s continued success 150 years after the CSA ran its brief course. Last fall the museum celebrated breaking ground on its new satellite facility at Appomattox, Va. Also in the news was an ongoing collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University, the original museum’s next-door neighbor, involving imaging and forensic research into two fashionably dressed “secret agents.” VCU’s Medical College is helping curators investigate how two large dolls, “Nina” and “Lucy Ann,” may have been used to smuggle desperately needed quinine or morphine past Union blockaders.

Virginia’s War: Still a Matter of Debate

Last April Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell discovered just how controversial the Civil War was 149 years after it began when he proclaimed Confederate History Month and failed to mention the role that slavery played in the war. He later amended his proclamation, and in late September he once again addressed the thorny issue before a conference for scholars and historians in Norfolk, “Race, Slavery, and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory.” Calling his earlier omission an “error of haste, not of heart,” the governor said he would declare April 2011 Civil War in Virginia Month. Clearly hoping to put an end to the controversy, he concluded, “One hundred and fifty years is long enough for Virginia to fight the Civil War.”

When it comes to the textbooks used in Virginia’s schools, however, the fight for historic accuracy is apparently still ongoing. The Washington Post reported in October that a 4th-grade social studies text, Our Virginia: Past and Present, by Joy Masoff, includes an erroneous claim that thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy, “including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” Noted historian James McPherson was quoted in the Post as saying, “Confederate heritage groups have been making this claim for years as a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery.”

Union Hospital Site Saved Near Winchester

The Millbank House, site of a Union hospital during Third Winchester, was on the verge of being torn down when a local preservation group convinced the Frederick County–Winchester wastewater treatment authority to donate the house and two acres. The Fort Collier Civil War Society is soliciting grant money and private donations to preserve the site. For more information, visit

Female Secret Agent

Be the first to name the spy pictured above by sending an e-mail to or via regular mail (19300 Promenade Dr., Leesburg, VA 20176) to Civil War Times Editor Dana Shoaf’s attention, marked “spy.” The first correct answer will win the DVD The Life and Death of the Army of Northern Virginia. There were no winners for the tough December quiz. The nine generals who came from the ranks of the 5th New York Infantry are: Felix Agnus; Charles G. Bartlett; Henry E. Davies; Hiram Duryea; Abram Duryea; Jacob Duryee; Joseph E. Hamblin; Hugh J. Kilpatrick and Gouverneur K. Warren.


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