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Newly recovered Hood papers refute Spring Hill story

Confederate General John Bell Hood has always been blamed for allowing Union Maj. Gen. John Schofield to slip past him at Spring Hill, Tenn., on November 29, 1864, setting the stage for the Rebels’ defeat at the Battle of Franklin the following day.

But a collection of Hood’s papers, believed lost forever but found last fall, may ultimately absolve the general of culpability for the loss at Franklin, where six prominent Confederate generals were killed. The son of one of
Hood’s granddaughters recently gave the papers to Sam Hood, a collateral descendant who has written a book about the general.

The documents include correspondence from such Civil War luminaries as Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and William Sherman, among others.

Sam Hood said the papers dispel the common belief that Hood, a double-amputee who reportedly relied on laudanum for pain relief, was so impaired at Spring Hill that he let Schofield evade him during the night and set up a solid defensive position at Franklin.

Historian Richard Nelson Current dies at 100

Richard Nelson Current, 100, longtime dean of Abraham Lincoln scholars, died October 26, 2012, in Boston. During a career that spanned 61 years, Current authored, co-authored or edited more than 30 books, and won the Bancroft Prize (1956), the Logan Hay Medal (1989) and a lifetime achievement Lincoln Prize (2000). Current taught American history at colleges throughout the world, mentored several generations of students who became historians in their own right, and once took on Gore Vidal on the subject of truth and accuracy in historical fiction. “We need not be ashamed of what we have made of Lincoln,” he once said. “In
honoring him we honor ourselves.”

Civil War cannonball unearthed—in Philadelphia

A contractor removing a tree stump in Philadelphia’s historic Independence Square made a startling discovery in late October: a cannonball left from a Civil War recruiter’s encampment, tangled in the stump’s roots.

The 2.8 pound ball is 2.9 inches in diameter and harmless, X-rays by the Philadelphia Police Department Bomb Squad confirmed. The solid sphere is worn from its 150 years in the earth, park archaeologists said.

In September 1862, the war had become increasingly unpopular and enlistments declined in the North. Philadelphia officials appealed to the locals’ patriotism to join the army, establishing Camp Independence as a military recruitment center on Independence Square.

USS Hatteras makes an appearance

Shifting sands on the ocean floor have provided divers with a glimpse of the USS Hatteras, the only Union gunboat to be sunk in the Gulf of Mexico. Taking advantage of this opportunity in October were teams of archaeologists and technicians under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who created a 3-D map of the wreck.

Hatteras was a converted steamboat that went down outside the port of Galveston, Texas, during a confrontation with the Confederates’ celebrated commerce raider Alabama.

“This will create a detailed visual representation of a long-buried wreck in murky waters that we can share with the public while also using it to plan for USS Hatteras’ long-term protection as an archaeological site and war grave,” said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, in a statement.

The 210-foot-long hulk is embedded in muck under 57 feet of water; storms exposed the wreck, but NOAA believes the window of opportunity will soon close and sands will cover the ship once again.

New Gettysburg museum to open July 1

The Seminary Ridge Museum, housed in the building with the famous cupola where Union Brig. Gen. John Buford scouted the countryside as the Battle of Gettysburg unfolded, is on track to open July 1 as part of Gettysburg’s 150th anni-
versary commemoration.

Located on the campus of the Lutheran Theo­logical Seminary of Gettysburg, the building—known then as “Old Dorm”—was used as both a Union and Confederate hospital after the first day of fighting. It has been called the most important Civil War structure not owned by a public entity.

The museum will occupy 20,000 square feet on four floors of the building and will tell the stories of the soldiers, nurses and residents of Old Dorm who fled the seminary during the three-day battle, as well as African Americans who sought freedom in the Gettysburg area before and during the war.

For more information, call (717) 338-3030 or visit

17-year-old hero, 150-year-old problem

It’s an issue playing out across the South, and now it’s come to Arkansas—how to recognize the heroes of the Civil War without endorsing their beliefs.

In Little Rock, David O. Dodd is revered for his work as a Confederate spy, and his decision to hang rather than to rat out his compatriots. And he showed such gumption when he was only 17. A street and a school are named for Dodd and he is commemorated annually by a host of admirers. But a proposed marker on the site where he was nabbed by Union soldiers has not won universal acceptance.

“It’s a very sad story, but at the end of the day, Dodd was spying for the Confederacy, which was fighting a war to defend the institution of slavery,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Jeannie Nuss of the Associated Press.

The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission approved the marker last summer.

Tredegar building to begin construction ahead of schedule

Despite the sluggish economy, the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar completed an $8 million fundraising campaign ahead of schedule, allowing groundbreaking for a new building within a year. Located on eight acres on the James River in downtown Richmond, Va., the center is a National Historic Landmark and contains five surviving buildings from the Iron Works era. Early completion of the fundraising “puts us in line to begin work on the new building about six months earlier than we originally intended,” said center president Christy Coleman in an October announcement. “It allows us to shift attention a little bit to think about the programming elements inside.”

The building will house a 100-seat “experience theater” depicting Richmond’s burning in the war’s waning days. The campaign also helped finance a visitor orientation center on the first floor of the Pattern Building, home of the Richmond National Battlefield Visitors Center.

Major donations came from New Market Corp. and Bruce C. Gottwald, MeadWestvaco, Dominion Resources and Altria, among others.

Appearing as the Daily Beast, William Sherman?

Get ready for the cybersoldier. Thanks to the Library of Congress, a number of Civil War personalities are about to get their own blogs.

The twice-weekly, first-person blogs coincided with the opening of the exhibition “The Civil War in America” in November. The blog posts were pulled from diaries, letters and papers of well-known generals and lesser-known individuals, such as slaves and politicians’ wives.

“While poring through the collections in preparation for putting together this exhibition, it struck us that the wealth of first-person accounts provided such a rich and personal narrative for the exhibition and could be repackaged in a modern-day format to evoke the immediacy of what these people were experiencing directly,” said exhibit director Cheryl Regan. “And posting this material throughout the duration of the exhibition will provide a memorable and unique experience even for individuals unable to travel to Washington.”

The blogs will be accessible at, and will be available while the exhibit is on display in Washington, D.C., through June 1.

Civil War Trust announces photo contest winners

Photography and the Civil War share ancestral ties—think Brady, Gardner, et al.—and with that in mind the Civil War Trust has been sponsoring a photography contest for the past 17 years.

This year CWT sorted through 2,200 entries to pick the winner, Buddy Secor of Stafford, Va., for his photo “Chancellors-ville at Dawn,” which the Trust called “a beautiful depiction of the field where the Confederacy won what was arguably its greatest victory.”

Winning images can be viewed online at To browse all of the images submitted, visit the Trust’s Flickr page, More images will be added throughout the year. Information on entering the 2013 contest will be available this spring.

Black Jack Battlefield gets its due

The National Park Service designated the Black Jack Battlefield in Baldwin City, Kan., a National Historic Landmark in October, heartening boosters who believe it to be the first true fight of the Civil War.

Three years before John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry, the abolitionist battled slavery advocate Henry Clay Pate in the spree of violence known as Bleeding Kansas.

On June 2, 1856, Brown led a Free State militia against Pate’s pro-slavery force, leading to Pate’s capture. About 100 men took part in the battle, which occurred after Pate had set out after Brown to avenge the Pottawatomie Massacre. Pate was later released under orders of Kansas Territory Governor Wilson Shannon. Brown called the scrap “the first regular battle between Free State and pro-slavery forces in Kansas.”