Thursday, April 24, 2014

Digging at SC's Camp Asylum

From the April 23, 2014, WFAE 90.7 FM NPR "Race to Unearth Civil War-Era Artifacts Before Developer Digs In" by Kevin Kniestedt. //// A dozen archaeologists are busily working in downtown Columbia, SC, on a 165 acre fornmer site of a prisoner of war camp for Union officers named Camp Asylum. //// Come April 30th, they'll have to vacate it so that a developer can start work. //// During the winter 1864-1865, some 1000 Union officers were housed here in a prison that was originally the exercise yard of the state insane asylum, which gave the camp its name. //// The prisoners were being moved around as Union General Sherman was moving his army through Georgia and South Carolina. The first prisoners arrived December 12, 1864, most with just a single blanket and there were no barracks, so they had to dig holes for warmth. //// So far, archaeologists have found buttons, combs and a few other items. Surprisongly, there was only one recorded death during the time it was a prison, mostly because the cold weather prevented the spread of disease, the biggest killer in prisons. //// --Old Secesh

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Civil War Art-- Part 9: Frank Vizetelly

In relation to the North, the Confederacy had no illustrated newspapers, other than Frank Leslie's and Harper's which made it across lines. However, the London Illustrated News sent noted British war artist Frank Vizetelly, fresh from covering fighting in Italy, to North America. //// He first covered the war from the North's perspective until he saw the debacle at the First Battle of Bull Run. His unfavorable drawings and description of the rout got him banned from Union lines. //// He now determined to cover the war from the Southern viewpoint. With the help of Confederate sympathizers and a freed slave, he crossed the Potomac River below the capital and joined the southern army along the Rapidan River. //// He took up the cause of the South. The South now had their own special artist. //// --Old Secesh

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Civil War Art-- Part 8: Censoring

As mentioned in the previous post where an Arthur Lumley illustration of Union troops pillaging at the Battle of Freedricksburg, both Harper and Leslie duid their part to shape public opinion, sometimes censoring images they considered to be too negative or graphic. //// For instance, Harper editors made Alfred Waud's drawing of a leg amputation at an Antietam field hospital to look less gory. //// Another Waud sketch of exhausted horses dragging artillery carts were given lifted heads and kicking up clods of mud. //// Even so, the general public was becoming aware of the horrors of war as the war progressed as a result of the illustrations. ////

Monday, April 21, 2014

Civil War Art-- Part 7: Did Union Troops Actually Pillage?

At the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, Arthur Lumley, an Irishman working for the New York Illustrated News sketched Union troops pillaging the town. //// He was incensed by the scene and wrote on the back of the drawing: "Friday Night in Fredericlsnurg. This night the city was in the wildest confusion sacked by the Union troops= houses burned down furniture scattered in the streets= men pillaging in all directions= a fit scene for the French revolution and a disgrace to the Union Army." The journal never printed this image. //// --Old Secesh

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fletcher Pratt's "Civil War in Pictures"

Since I have been writing about the artists would brought the Civil War to the people via their illustrations, I decided to go dig out my old copy of this book, over which I spent so much time back when I was a youngster. //// It is old, much smaller than I remembered and a bit dog-eared. My mother had used it in her classroom library when she taught. I see my very childish scrawl on the inside cover showing my address at the time as being at 129 North Library Street, Grenvile (well, actually Greenville as in North Carolina. That would have put me in 4th or 5th grade at that time. //// My mother had also written our address through junior high, high school and even first year at college. That would be 1102 E. Anderson, Pal. //// There are three pieces of tape holding the front and back covers together. //// My copy, which I think cost me a small fortune of $5 and bought at a small mom and pop book store in Greenville (maybe) was printed by Garden City Books, Garden City, New York. //// Copyright is 1955 by Fletcher Pratt, who also wrote a favorite paperback book of mine about the Civil War. I think it was called "A Short History of the Civil War." The Garden City Books Edition was printed in 1957. //// As I said a few days ago, this book was essentially a compilation of illustrations from Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly Newspaper. //// Hello, Old Friend. --Old Secesh

Friday, April 18, 2014

Civil War Art-- Part 6: Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast

Winslow Homer was born in Boston and destined for artistic stardom later, created many memorable sketches and paintings from the front lines. His work from NcClellan's failed Peninsular Campaign in 1862 is of particular interest. //// His Bavarian-born colleague Thomas Nast became America's most influential editorial cartoonist, completely supporting Lincoln and the Republican party and demonizing the Confederacy. His illustrations helped solidify Northern war effort and Lincoln's second election. //// --Old Secesh

Civil War Art-- Part 5: Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes

Alfred Waud was the most prolific special and created some of the most memorable sketches of Gettsburg and Antietam. On July 21, 1861, he traveled to the Bull Run battlefield on the wagon of his good friend, photograoher Matthew Brady. At one point he took up arms against the Confederates that day and used a pistol to deter a Union soldier trying to commandeer his horse on his return. //// He had good friendships with officers which allowed him great access to battlefields, but also was prone to showing the regular soldier. //// Edwin Forbes of Leslie'sIllustrated was very focused on human-interest and figure study of the regular soldiers and made sketches of soldiers relaxing, cooking, cleaning, reading, shaving and doing other daily activities. //// Just Regular Folk. --Old Secesh

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Loved Those Illustrated Books

Growing up, one of my first Civil War books was Fletcher Pratt's Civil War in Pictures. I looked through those pictures many times and wore out my first copy. I'd even go so far as to count the soldiers in the pictures, that's how bad I was. //// That book and the American Heritage Civil War were by far my two favorites. Later, when I had more money, I bought both oversized books, one featuring Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and the other Harper's Weekly. //// You couldn't get much closer to the war. //// --Old Secesh

Civil War Art-- Part 4: Dominant Pictorial Weeklies

Two national pictorial weeklies dominated the national scene in 1861, both published in New York City: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly. //// Henry Carter, known as Frank Leslie, his pen name, had managed the engraving department at the Illustrated London News, the world's first pictorial weekly. He did well after immigration to America, debuting in 1855 and with weekly publication of 100,000 copies. They claimed to be neutral in approach to the war. //// Fletcher Harper, publisher of Harper's Weekly, stood firmly with Lincoln, the republicans and abolitionists. As such, his pictorial magazine was not much liked in the South when it began in 1857. At first Harper's had been more literary than journalistic, but that changed with the coming of the war. In short time, Harper's had hired top talent, including Alfred Waud, Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast. //// --Old Secesh

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Civil War Battlefield Art-- Part 3: From Battlefield to Newspaper

"Special artists had to work fast, identifying a war scene's focal point, blocking out the composition in minutes and fleshing it out later at camp." //// They took great pride in their making their renderings as accurate as possible. They would then dispatch their sketches by horse courier, train, or ship to the publisher's office, where a home artist copied the image onto blocks of wood. Engravers then carved different sections of the drawing, the more experienced working on detailed figures and complex compositions while apprentices took on the simpler background tasks. //// Once the engraving was completed, it was electrotyped-- copied onto metal plates in preparation for printing. //// Usually it took three weeks to get from the special artist to print, but major battles might get rushed into print within a matter of days. //// --Old Secesh

Civil War Battlefield Art-- Part 2: Hardships Abound

Famed illustrator Alfred Waud wr5ote in 1862: "No amout of money can pay a man for going through what we have had to suffer lately." //// English-born Waud and Theordore Davis were the only two specials to remain on the job throughout the entire war. Davis later recalled what it took to do the job: "Total disregard for personal safety and comfort; an owl-like propensity to sit up all night and a hawky style of vigilence during te day; capacity for going without food; willingness to ride any number of miles horseback for just one sketch which might have to be finished by night by no better light than that of a fire." //// --Old Secesh

Civil War Battlefield Art-- Part 1

From the May 2012 National Georgraphic Magazine by Harry Katz. //// Photography during the Civil War by such as Matthew Brady and Timothy O'Sullivan was way too slow to record movement in any other way than a blur. Nor, did they have an easy time maneuvering their bulky equipment over rough terrain. They had more success recording after action scenes. //// To give readers an idea of battlefield action, newspapers sent amateur and professional illustrators out to the battles and these "special artists" or "specials" became America's first pictorial war correspondents. //// And, it was a rough, even deadly experience. One special, James R. O'Neill, was killed by Quantrill's Raiders. Two others, C.E.F. Hillen and Theordore Davis were wounded. //// Frank Vizetelly was nearly killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virgina, i9n December 1862, when "a South Carolinian had a portion of his head carried away, within four yards of myself, by a shell." //// More to Come. --Old Secesh

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Poor Hampton, Virginia: Sacked and Burned Three Times, Then....

First, the town, by the Chesapaeke Bay, was sacked by the British in 1813, during the War of 1812. And, then, it was burned twice during the Civil War. //// As if that were not enough, ion April 9, 1884, much of the downtown was destroyed in a fire. ///// A fire company was then organized with most of the prominent members having served in the Confederate military or Union Army, stationed at nearby Fortress Monroe. //// --Old Secesh

The "Real" Thing: Robert Lee Hodge in Confederate Uniform

As I mentioned in the previous post, Robert Lee Hodge is shown in a Confederate enlisted man's re-enactment uniform. And, he definitely looks authentic. None of that new "sutler store-bought" or officer stuff for Hodge. A sidebar points to four items he is wearing and gives you more information. //// SLOUCH HAT-- The broad-brimmed sluch hat was often more suitable to endure the rain and sun. This sluch hat is made of wool felt and has seen, according to Hodge, some "hard campaigning." //// COAT-- The cloth is a jean-weave of 85% wool and 15% cotton. North Carolina was the leading domestic manufacturer of uniforms. A whole army ofprincipally women and slave labor was heavily involved in the production of Confederate uniforms. //// BUTTONS-- The non-matching buttons are a combination of domestic North Carolina manufacture and federal officer and enlisted buttons. Brass buttons were the most common, but there were also those made of pewter, tin, glass and wood. //// SHIRT-- The shirt is a reproduction of a Confederate-issue cotton shirt. //// A Properly-Dressed Sesh. --Old Secesh

A Real Preservation Character: Robert Lee Hodge-- Part 2

"To see tbe obliteration of these things I had in my mind on a high mantel with reverence, it was a rude awakening." Since 1980, he has been a re-enactor, mostly Confederate, but, if necessary, a Union soldier (sadly, sometimes there are not enough Union re-enactors). (A picture of him as a Rebel appears to be the real thing.) //// His interest in all things Civil War, and especially Confederate, earned him a photo on the cover of 1998 Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Horowitz's best-seller "Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War." (A great book.) He also had pages in the book about him. //// In addition, he has appeared on the History Channel, A&E and the National Geographic Channel. //// His group has saved nearly 1,000 acres around the Fredericksburg, Va., area, most recently 15 acres in Chancellorsville and $1 million to the Civil War Trust for purchase of a part of the Fredericksburg battlefield. //// A Committed Man. --Old Secesh