Ongoing Fight to Save Franklin Battlefield
A $960,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation will help reclaim the battleground in Franklin, Tenn., where on November 30, 1864, 30,000 Federals under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield took on John Bell Hood’s 33,000-man Army of Tennessee. Hood’s disastrous defeat at Franklin, in which he lost 6,261 men killed or wounded, compared with 2,326 Union losses, effectively halted the war in the Western Theater and left a deep scar on residents’ memories.
By the start of the 21st century, suburban sprawl had largely overwhelmed the battle site, but in recent years local preservationists have joined the Civil War Trust in buying developed or threatened battle lands. The new state grant is about half the amount needed to purchase the land where the Carter family cotton gin stood, site of some of the battle’s most furious fighting—but currently home to a Domino’s Pizza restaurant and strip mall. In 2008 plans were made to develop a new park on that site with a re-created cotton gin, which should open in 2014. For related preservation efforts, see battleoffranklin.wordpress.com and franklinscharge.com/cotton-gin.
New Showcase for Mosby and Stuart
Devotees of Mosby’s Rangers can see an unusual range of artifacts at the new Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum, which opened in October in Centreville, Va. On display are weapons, strands of J.E.B. Stuart’s hair and more, including a sizable remnant of the stump of a tree on which John Mosby hanged several Yankees. The museum is built of stone salvaged from a home where Mosby and Stuart met in 1861.
Civil War Medicine in Maryland
Aficionados looking to bone up on Civil War medicine have a new destination: Silver Spring, Md., where the National Museum of Health and Medicine has relocated from cramped quarters on the Walter Reed Hospital Campus in Washington. Opening on May 21, the museum’s 150th anniversary, is a new exhibit focusing on the Civil War, including visitor favorites such as the bullet that killed President Abraham Lincoln, the right leg of Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, and the hipbone of Maj. Gen. Henry Barnum. Among thousands of war items are letters and documents, surgical kits and an extensive skull collection showing head trauma of all sorts.
In 1862, when Congress saw the need to document the effects of wounds and disease, Army surgeons were directed to “collect and to forward to the Office of the Surgeon General all specimens of morbid anatomy, surgical or medical that may be regarded as valuable; together with projectiles and foreign matter removed….” Museum spokesman Tim Carter Jr. explained: “The remains were sent along with the case records so they could be catalogued by type of wound and type of treatment. As a result, bulletins were sent to the field concerning a possible new practice or treatment.”
Will the Atlanta Cyclorama Get a New Home?
Atlanta leaders are considering moving the 126-year-year-old panorama of the Battle of Atlanta because both the painting and the building housing it are in poor condition. The 42-by-358-foot oil painting is one of two Civil War panoramas extant in the U.S. (Gettysburg’s the other one).
Freedom Landmark Reopens in Boston
On December 9, a brilliant new gem joined Boston’s historic crown jewels when the oldest meetinghouse in the United States built by free African-Americans reopened after a meticulous $9.5-million restoration. Built in 1806, the three-story brick church on the north slope of Beacon Hill hosted renowned abolitionists and served as a recruitment hub for the first African-American soldiers to serve in the war. Among the speakers were William Lloyd Garrison, who founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society there in 1832; Maria Stewart, an anti-slavery and women’s rights activist, who spoke in 1833; and Frederick Douglass, who spoke in December 1860.
Boston’s Museum of African-American History acquired the building in 1972, and in 1982 it was named a National Historical Landmark. A $4 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 helped restore the meetinghouse to its 1855 condition.
Native American Sharpshooters
The Road to Andersonville: Michigan Native American Sharpshooters in the Civil War is a forthcoming documentary about the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters, Company K, an all-Indian company raised in June 1863 that fought at the Wilderness, Petersburg and other battles. When the company came home at war’s end, only 50 of the original 100 soldiers were left. Created by the Clark Historical Library at Central Michigan University, the documentary will premiere in the fall on WCMU, a television station run by the university.
Tar Heel State Honors the Sesquicentennial
An artillery crew in silhouette graces the new North Carolina license plate commemorating the Civil War. Proceeds from the sale of the plates will help to fund the Department of Cultural Resources’ Division of State Historic Sites and Properties. The special plates will be sold through 2015.
Long Lost Commitment Records for Mary Todd Lincoln Discovered
Long thought destroyed or lost, the original asylum records as well as court papers concerning Mary Todd Lincoln’s involuntary commitment in 1875 to Bellevue Place, an asylum in Batavia, Ill., have been found and preserved. Her controversial commitment, initiated by her son, Robert, ended after three months, when Myra Bradwell, a lawyer friend, successfully challenged Mary’s confinement. In 1933 Dorothy Daniels, the daughter of a new owner of the institution, found the admission ledger bearing Lincoln’s name, as well as a copy of the warrant for her arrest and transfer to Bellevue and other documents. Her heirs recently sold the papers for $37,000 to the Frazier Museum in Louisville, Ky., where they are now on display.
Copies of the court papers had circulated among scholars and historical societies, but the originals were probably hidden for protection in the circuit court files in Cook County, Ill., according to Mary Lincoln expert and author Jason Emerson. The original documents include Robert’s petition to have his mother declared insane, a subpoena and summons for her to appear in court and a jury verdict finding her insane. Two members of the Illinois Supreme Court located the papers during research for re-creating the trial. The circuit court clerk, Dorothy Brown, agreed to have the papers transferred to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.
Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.