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Two new Civil War museums open

Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Seminary Ridge Museum opened on July 1. The new museum is housed in an 1832 building on the campus of Gettysburg’s Lutheran Theological Seminary that had served as the largest field hospital during and after the battle.

Exhibits in the four-floor museum include an in-depth look at the first day of the battle, waged along Seminary Ridge; stories of the people who tended to the wounded; and the role of religion in the Civil War and conflicting meanings of freedom.

And after 10 years of artifact collection and building renovation, the Missouri Civil War Museum opened its doors to the public on June 29. The museum is housed in the former Post Exchange & Gymnasium building at Jefferson Barracks Historic Site in St. Louis. Some 220 Civil War generals served at Jefferson Barracks at some point during their careers, including Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, William T. Sherman, James Longstreet, Francis P. Blair Jr. and George E. Pickett. Confederate President Jefferson Davis also served at the barracks during his military career.

The museum plans to open an educational center and a library in a building next door within the next 18 months. For more information on these museums, visit seminary-ridge or

Civil War Trust dedicates Hog Mountain battlefield

Hog Mountain, a pristine battlefield site in Alabama, was dedicated with the unveiling of two interpretive markers in April—coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Streight’s Raid—courtesy of the Civil War Trust.

Union Col. Abel Streight’s men raided Alabama while en route to Georgia to cut the Western Atlantic Railroad, a Confederate supply line. In April 1863, Confederate cavalry under Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest trailed Streight’s raiders and forced the Yankees to set up lines of battle at sites including Day’s Gap and Hog Mountain. The Battle of Hog Mountain began shortly after dark on April 28. Streight’s men established lines atop Hog Mountain and waited for Forrest. Streight succeeded in pulling away from Forrest and moving on to his destination in Georgia.

The trust’s acquisition of this property in 2011 marked the first time a battlefield involved in Streight’s Raid has been protected.

Sword ordered returned to Brown University

After legal proceedings lasting nearly two years, U.S. District Judge Douglas Miller ordered in early June that a Tiffany presentation sword be returned to Brown University.

The university maintained in a lawsuit that the sword had been “taken unlawfully” in the 1970s, but Donald and Toni Tharpe of Williamsburg, Va., countered that the sword had not been stolen and that their 1992 purchase of it at an arms show for $35,000 confirmed they were its rightful owners. The Tharpes had loaned the sword for display at the Lee Hall Mansion in Newport News, Va., where it was seen in the early 2000s by a military historian, who notified Brown.

The sword was originally given to Col. Rush C. Hawkins, commander of the 9th New York Volunteers, a Zouave regiment. It was part of the Annmary Brown Memorial collection Hawkins donated to Brown in honor of his wife, the granddaughter of one of the university’s founders.

After establishing that the sword had indeed been stolen, the judge ruled that “the thief could not convey good title to anyone, and as a result, even Tharpe’s good faith purchase for value from a later possessor could not establish title superior to Brown’s.”

Tag sale find comes home

A Civil War sword that turned up at a Long Island, N.Y., tag sale is going home to the Western Connecticut Masonic lodge from which it was originally presented to a Union vet. The sword was part of an allotment Carl Faust and Stephen Ryan, owners of a Setauket, N.Y., store, received from a tag sale. As it happens, both men are Masons, which helped lead them to the rightful owners.

The sword, which has a sharkskin scabbard, is inscribed, “Presented to Capt. Jas. A. Betts, Company A, Fifth Regiment, CT Volunteers, by Union Lodge 40.” Since a Masonic lodge had bestowed the artifact, Faust and Ryan contacted the Danbury lodge and made arrangements to return the sword, which will be placed on display.

Betts, of Bethel, Conn., enlisted in the Union Army in 1861. The News-Times of Danbury reported that Betts was wounded at the First Battle of Winchester (Va.), then captured and imprisoned. After four months in prison, he was exchanged for a Confederate soldier and returned to Danbury before eventually moving to Los Angeles.

New tombstones  recognize Medal of Honor awardees

Two Civil War Medal of Honor recipients were belatedly recognized recently with gravestones marking their achievements.

In La Porte, Ind., Walter Johnston’s descendants had worked for years to have an error on his gravestone fixed (he was mistakenly identified as “William”) and to recognize his award. Johnston received the Medal of Honor for heroism in a March 2, 1864, battle on the Mississippi River, where, though seriously injured, he defended the USS Hindman from attack. A dedication ceremony for his headstone was held in early June.

Meanwhile, through the efforts of Army veteran and retired insurance executive Donald Morfe of Baltimore, Luke M. Griswold of Springfield, Mass., was honored with a new headstone noting his Medal of Honor. His grave was previously marked by a small stone with only the number 297 engraved on it.

After months of wrangling with the Veterans Administration—Griswold had no traceable next of kin, a requirement for getting a government-funded headstone— Morfe arranged for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to install the marble gravestone at Griswold’s burial site in late April.


Originally published in the November 2013 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.