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More Room for Artifacts at Gettysburg

General Robert E. Lee’s field desk, the litter used to carry Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson off the Chancellorsville battlefield, a prayer book cut through by a bullet, and a patriotic apron made by a Northern woman are just a few of the rarely seen treasures being readied for exhibit at Gettysburg National Military Park’s new Museum and Visitor Center, scheduled to open in April.

Conservators who specialize in the restoration of historic items made of fabric, wood, metal and other materials are working full steam ahead on the Civil War gems that will be displayed in the multiple galleries of the $103 million museum, which is being financed through funds raised by the private, nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation, working in partnership with the National Park Service.

Various state-of-the-art galleries will tell the story of the entire war and its causes, with a heavy focus on the campaign and Battle of Gettysburg. The new museum also will house the 377-foot-long cyclorama painting of the battle, long a favorite of tourists. Conservators, who have made invisible repairs to the artwork and are replacing the sky that was cut away decades ago, hung the first of 14 panels in mid-August. The cyclorama room is set to open in September 2008.

Museum May Move to Multiple Locations

Officials of the prestigious Museum of the Confederacy may resolve its current accessibility problem by taking its collections to a statewide system of facilities while maintaining a headquarters and research center in Richmond.

A state-owned medical complex has crowded out the museum, and consideration was given to build a new Richmond facility and to move the nearby Confederate White House.

In September, MoC president and CEO Waite Rawls announced the decision to disperse the collections as a way to take the artifacts to an interested audience. “We are not giving our artifacts away,” Rawls clarified, “we are expanding our museum by adding new locations.”

The proposed sites for additional museums are Appomattox, Chancellorsville and Fort Monroe. The first two would require new buildings near, but not on, National Park Service land, and the last would be a retrofitted building on the historic military base, Rawls said.

In Richmond there might be a new building for the research and archives arm of the museum or it may stay in the present museum building.

The White House isn’t going anywhere, and a $100,000 fix-up, including the purchase of new carpets and draperies as well as a fresh paint job, are planned, Rawls said. About $50,000 has been raised for the project.

The cost for the three new MoC facilities is projected to be about $17 million. If all goes well, Rawls said, they would be opened by 2011, just in time for the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.

Confederate Colonel Remembered in Scotland

Robert Alexander Smith was born in Edinburgh but moved to Jackson, Miss., as a 14-year-old to live with a brother and widowed sister. Twelve years later he died defending his adopted home state when, as a colonel in the 10th Mississippi Infantry, he was mortally wounded during the Battle of Munfordville, Ky., on September 14, 1862. He died a week later and is buried in Jackson.

In 1884 Robert’s brother James traveled to the United States. He visited the battlefield at Munfordville, where he erected a monument of white limestone to his brother that still stands.

Back in Edinburgh, another memorial stone in the shape of an obelisk had been placed for Smith in Dean Cemetery, but according to the Edinburgh News the monument is so weathered that the inscription is mostly illegible. The One O’Clock Gun Association, a historical organization, held a memorial service in September 2007 to honor Smith.

Byrd Backs Shepherdstown Site

Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) has introduced legislation calling on the National Park Service to conduct a study of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown to determine its national significance and the feasibility of making the site an official part of the national battlefield system.

Byrd’s legislation would also authorize the Secretary of the Interior to determine whether the Shepherdstown battlefield should be included as part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or the Antietam National Battlefield.

The nonprofit Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association has been working to raise awareness about the engagement for the past three years. The association began as a local citizens’ effort to prevent a developer from building 152 houses on a 122-acre farm in rural Jefferson County and expanded to become a struggle to prevent the development and save the battlefield, a 200-year-old farmhouse and the remains of a former cement factory that had sheltered soldiers during the battle on September 19 and 20, 1862. If Congress approves the Byrd legislation, the battlefield association will request federal funding to purchase land within the core of the battlefield.

Commemorative Coins Planned for Harrisburg Civil War Museum

Officials at the six- year-old National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa., have partnered with the American Mint LLC of Mechanicsburg, Pa., to create a series of commemorative coins. Director Janice Mullin said a direct mail campaign will begin in January 2008 for the first coins, which will honor either Robert E. Lee or Gettysburg. Other coins would be struck with images of artifacts in the museum.

Battle of Shepherdstown

The two-day Battle of Shepherdstown closed the 1862 Maryland campaign. On September 19, the artillery of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia dueled across the Potomac River. At the end of the day, a detachment of Union troops crossed the river and captured some of the Rebel artillery.

The Federals hoped to follow up on that success the next day. Portions of two Union divisions crossed into Virginia on the 20th and overtook elements of General Robert E. Lee’s army on the land beyond the bluffs.

The Union troops were outnumbered roughly 2-to-1, however, and retreated across the river. Approximately 9,000 men took part in the battle, with 640 total casualties.

Crampton’s Gap Medal of Honor Donated

On September 14, 1862, fighting that presaged the Battle of Antietam broke out along South Mountain, Md., at Turner’s, Fox’s and Crampton’s gaps as the Union Army of the Potomac pursued the Army of Northern Virginia. First Lieutenant George W. Hooker, who fought with the 14th Vermont Infantry, was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing Confederate Major Francis Holladay, his men and the regimental flags during the Battle of Crampton’s Gap.

In September 2007, during celebrations in Sharpsburg, Md., that marked the 145th anniversary of the Maryland campaign, Hooker’s family gave the medal to the Antietam National Battlefield.

Hooker’s great-grandson, Henry Willard, presented the award to Antietam superintendent John Howard. The medal is currently displayed in the visitor center lobby, and will soon have its own exhibit space.

Unusual Monument on a Maryland Mountain

If you go to Antietam to visit George Hooker’s Medal of Honor (see above) make sure you get directions to Gathland State Park, site of the Battle of Crampton’s Gap. There, you will find the War Correspondents Arch, one of the odder Civil War monuments.

War correspondent and novelist George Alfred Townsend first saw Crampton’s Gap at South Mountain during the war when he was with the Army of the Potomac. After the conflict he bought a large piece of property in the gap and built a sprawling retreat he called Gathland, which he took from his pen name, Gath.

The 50-foot-high by 40-foot-wide stone monument, built in the Richardson Romanesque style, has a wide Moorish arch topped by three smaller Roman arches and finished with a square crenellated tower on one side.

Decorations include several horses’ heads; small statues of Mercury, Electricity and Poetry; quotations about the war correspondent’s craft; and four large tablets inscribed with the names of 57 writers and artists.

Townsend raised the funds for the memorial through subscriptions, which may account for the selection of inscribed names, as many correspondents were left off the list.

When the arch was built in 1896, it was one of a series of stone structures at Gathland, which included Townsend’s 11-room house, a den and library building with 10 upstairs bedrooms, a lodge used as servants’ quarters and a mausoleum.

In 1904 the arch was given to the National Park Service as a national monument. The remainder of the property, including several surviving buildings, was deeded in 1949 to the state of Maryland and is part of Gathland State Park.

The memorial remained exactly as it was built until 2003, when White House and media officials held a brief ceremony there to add a new plaque in memory of four American journalists killed in Iraq.

Nearby plaques explain the Battle of Crampton’s Gap and its role in the 1862 Maryland campaign. In Burkittsville, a short drive from the gap at the eastern foot of the mountain, a wayside marker in front of the antebellum German Luthern Church describes that structure’s role as a hospital after the fight.


Originally published in the January 2008 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.