Monday, December 29, 2008

Naval Battery at Harpers Ferry, WV

The good folks at the Historical Marker data base, had a spotlight Jan. 27th on the Naval Battery at Maryland Heights, Harper's Ferry, WV, 300 feet above the Potomac River. It is on the grounds of Storer College.

It was the first Union fortification on the heights and built quickly in 1862 and armed with naval guns rushed from the Washington, DC, Naval Yard and manned by 300 sailors and marines.

Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign served as the impetus for construction. During the Antietam Campaign, its guns were turned up the heights at Confederates. The whole position was surrendered. Union forces returned a week later (after Sept. 22, 1862) and built forts along the crest of Maryland Heights. The Naval Battery was turned into an ordnance depot.

Here a Gun, There a Gun. --Old B-Runner

Sunday, December 28, 2008

144th Anniversary of the First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 4

Dec. 28, 1864-- 144 years ago.

MORNING-- The blockade-runner Banshee enters at New Inlet.

5:30 PM-- President Lincoln asks Grant, "If there be no objection, please tell me what you understand of the Wilmington expedition, present and prospective."

Grant replies, "The Wilmington expedition has proven a gross and culpable failure. many of the troops are now back here. Delays and free talk of the object of the expedition enabled the enemy to move troops to Wilmington to defeat it. After the expedition sailed from Fort Monroe, three days of fine weather were squandered, during which the enemy was without a force to protect himself. Who is to blame I hope will be known."

Why, that guy would be Beast Butler himself.

A great day for the Confederacy, but not long-lived. Union forces would come back in three weeks, this time under the command of General Alfred Terry.

So Much for the First Battle. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 27, 2008

144th Anniversary of the First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 3

Dec. 26th, Butler and army depart for Hampton Roads, Va. Bragg and Hoke reach Sugar Loaf.

Today, Dec. 27th-- Bragg allows the soldiers on the beach to escape. As the fleet sails away, Col. Lamb has the garrison fire a defiant parting volley.

At night, the blockade-runner Wild Rover runs the blockade into New Inlet. Business as usual resumes. Lamb and Whiting greatly dissatisfied with Bragg's inactivity.

Grant and Sec. of Navy Gideon Welles are infuriated to learn of the failure.

A Much-Needed Confederate Victory. But Would Have Been Better With the Capture of the "Abandoned" Troops. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, December 25, 2008

144th Anniversary of the First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 2

It was 144 years ago today, Christmas Day and the Union attacking Confederates at Fort Fisher, North Carolina.

Again, this is taken from the North Carolina Historic Sites.

MORNING-- About 20 Union vessels shell beach north of the fort, specifically Sugar Loaf, Battery Gatlin, and Battery Anderson to pave way for Union Army's landing.

2 PM- Union Navy force under Lt. Cmdr. Cushing look for channel at New Inlet for possible attempt by shallower-draft gunboats to get behind the fort.

2 PM- Union infantry land on beach. Union General N. Martin Curtiss first ashore, followed by 500 men. Fighting with Kirkland's skirmishers. Curtiss and 142nd and 112th NY strike and drive them away.

3 PM-- Union forces advance to within mile and a half of fort. Curtiss pushes to within 75 yards of Shepherd's Battery.

3:20 PM-- Lt. Waller of 142nd NY pilfers the large garrison flag from outside the fort. It had been shot down by the naval bombardment. Lt. George Simpson climbs a telegraph pole and severs the line. Saw the inside of the fort.

Gen. Butler, in overall charge, decides the fort is too strong and his forces are between two strong Confederate positions.

DUSK-- Dark clouds roll in and wind picks up.

NIGHTFALL-- Federal Chief Engineer Comstock, Second Division commander general Ames decide to attack the fort. Curtiss advances a skirmish line of 3rd, 117th, and 142nd NY toward fort.

DARK-- Union Naval bombardment ceases.

Inside Fort Fisher, Lamb and Whiting hurry Confederate troops from bomb proofs to face impending attack. Open fire on advancing troops. Comstock and Ames alarmed by this and decide to follow Butler's orders to withdraw.

Curtiss and his men remain near the fort until a staff officer arrives to tell him the Federal landing force has returned to the transports.

By the time Curtiss gets to the landing site, the weather is too bad to disembark so about 600 men and several hundred Confederates captured earlier are force to remain stranded on the beach for two days.

Will Gen. Bragg Take Advantage of This. Wait and See. --Old B-R'er

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

144th Anniversary of the First Battle of Fort Fisher

Today marks the 144th anniversary of what is sometimes called the Christmas Battle.

On this date, Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1864, the Federal attack on the Confederate fort began in earnest.

A Chronology of the battle.

1:40 AM-- The powder ship Louisiana is blown up off the fort with the hopes the concussion from the explosion will knock down the fort's earthen walls. It didn't.

DAWN-- In a thick fog, the Union fleet begins moving into battle positions off the fort.

12:40 PM-- Sixty-four ships open fire. Five of the Navy's largest ships, the Susquehanna, Wabash, Colorado, Minnesota, and Powhattan are among them along with the ironclad New Ironsides and four monitors. The USS Colorado alone mounts more guns, 52, than the entire fort, 47. The Union fleet mounts over 600 cannons.

1:00 to 4:30 PM-- Confederate Brig. General William Kirkland's 1,300 man Brigade, part of Hoke's Division, had reached Wilmington around midnight of the 23rd and reached Confederate defenses at Sugar Loaf, north of the fort. There they join about 1200 men and boys of the North Carolina Junior and Senior reserves, a regiment of cavalry and two batteries of artillery.

1 PM to DUSK-- Union fleet pounds the fort with over 10,000 rounds. Col. Lamb's headquarters, barracks, and other outlying buildings destroyed. Confederate return fire and hit some vessels.

LATE AFTERNOON-- Confederate Major General W.H.C. Whiting enters the fort and confers with Colonel Lamb.

DUSK-- The Union fleet hauls off to positions farther out to sea.

Confederate casualties first day= zero. Rounds expended= 672

From North Carolina Historic Sites.

Merry Christmas to Fort Fisher. --Old Blockade-Runner

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lincoln Cottage Reopening a Highlight of 2008-- Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

The 1842 house was used summer to fall from 1862 to 1864. Mary and Tad were also there. Robert was away at college. They would normally only use it for a few weeks at a time. Part of the reason to go there was for privacy to grieve their son Willie's death, probably from typhoid fever. They also went to escape Washington, DC's hot, swampy humidity as the cottage was on one of the highest points of the city and enjoyed cool breezes.

The commute to the cottage was dangerous. At first, Lincoln insisted on going alone through the streets. Later, a guard unit was sent with him. There were also 180 troops on the grounds. Lincoln would often wander out to their camp and it is believed that he may have liked their coffee to Mary's.

On one trip to the cottage in 1964, a bullet hole was discovered in Lincoln's top hat, but he insisted that it be kept quite.. Confederate leaders knew the route he took as did John Wilkes Booth, who one time planned an abduction.

Admission is $12 and groups of 15 or more the price is $8. There are 1-2 hour guided tours.

The Place to Be in Washington, DC. --Old B-Runner

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lincoln Cottage Reopening a Highlight of 2008

This past President's Day marked the official opening of President Lincoln's summer home. It is located about three miles from the White House on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home and was largely unknown for many years.

In the late 1990s, it was "rediscovered" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and in 2000 declared a national monument by President Clinton. The opening followed a 7 year, $15 million restoration.

It was the Camp David of its day, a place for the president and family to get away from DC for awhile. The modest, 4 bedroom, two-story, brick covered with stucco home was mentioned in a few history books, but thought to be long-gone. For years it served as the administrative offices of the retirement home.

The Lincolns used it for several years. No original Lincoln furnishings remain and no interior pictures exist, so restoration had to use the few details they had.

Some historians believe Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation here.

To Be Continued. --Old B-R'er

Mock Trial to Decide Confederate's Fate

On Feb. 13th this past year, a mock trial was held to determine whether or not a Confederate soldier's remains are buried in the wrong grave. This was put on by the US National Park Service.

Confederate Sergeant Ivy Ritchie is buried in a Union soldier's grave. The Ivy Ritchie SCV Camp 1734 in Albemarle, NC, contends that his remains were removed from the Appomattox Court House and accidentally buried in a Union cemetery as Sgt. J. Ritchie, Co. H, 14th NY Infantry.

SCV member Jim Harwood, "To know he's laying up there in a Yankee grave just tears me up. He hasn't rested in a hundred years or more."

The park service has refused to exhume his remains, but will hold the mock trial in the pre-Civil War Dinwiddie Court House south of Petersburg to let the SCV group makes its case.

FOLLOW UP: The Camp was found to be correct, but he still is there with the Feds.

In Thick With the Yankees. --B-Runner

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Santa Connection

The Dec. 19th Morris News Bee wrote about cartoonist and illustrator Thomas Nast, who in 1963 created the Santa Claus we know and love when he created a Christmas scene from a Union camp.

His Santa served as the prototype for Santas to come. Instead of a tall and thin Santa which were the norm at the time, he was portrayed as cheerier, plumper, and shorter one.

he also was the first to use the elephant to represent the Republicans and donkey for the Democrats.

Thanks Mr. Nast. --Cooter

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Burgaw, NC, Depot-- Part 4

Continuing with the history of the Burgaw Depot. Wilmington Star News Dec. 14th.

1896-- The Wilmington Evening Dispatch reports a thriving commerce going on around Burgaw

1898-- Passenger waiting rooms and railroad offices added to south end of depot

1906-1907-- Industries locate near rail line: Garysburg Manufacturing Co., East River Lumber Co., and the Union Brick and Tile Co.

1916-1917-- the north freight platform expanded as rapid rail transportation opens distant markets for produce

1967-- Passenger trains stop running at Burgaw Depot

1980-- Burgaw Jaycees use building as a clubhouse. Later, the Burgaw Historic Preservation Foundation formed

1982-- The Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, now Seaboard Line transfers ownership to city at no charge

1993-- State of NC negotiates a donation of 26.8 mile abandoned rail corridor

1996-- Hurricane Fran tears building's metal roof. FEMA provides a historic replacement

When you think of it, this timeline is essentially also the history of trains in the US.

Again, Thanks Mike Taylor for the Wonderful Research. --Old B-Runner

Friday, December 19, 2008

Burgaw, NC, Depot-- Part 3

From Dec. 14th Wilmington,(NC) Star News.

Here is a Timeline as compiled by Mike Taylor, who has done a huge amount of work documenting this historic, but little-known site.

1850-- Depot built. The Wilmington & Weldon Railroad had been completed in 1840 and at the time boasted that it was the longest railroad in the world. (There wasn't even a town there, but, as they say, build it and they will come.

1851-- Telegraph likely installed

1861-1865-- Part of the "Lifeline of the Confederacy"

1863-- Burned in Union attack

Feb. 1865-- Headquarters of retreating Confederates. Staging area for exchange of 8000 Union prisoners.

April 9, 1865-- A message from a Federal soldier reports that "telegraph operator at Burgaw Station was captured last evening and the wires were cut by the rebels."

1875-- Residents of northern New Hanover County petition to form Pender County

August 1877-- Burgaw Depot site ratified as county seat

1879-- Town of Burgaw incorporated.

More to Come. --B-Runner

USS Mohican at Fort Fisher

From Wikipedia, that font of knowledge.

The USS Mohican was a made-to-order US naval ship. It was not pressed into service or a converted blockade-runner.

It was commissioned before the war, in Nov. 1859 and decommissioned in 1872. After serving in the African Squadron intercepting slave ships, it was at the Battle of Fort Walker at Hilton Head, SC and accompanied the "Stone Fleet" to being sunk Dec. 18th and 19th, 1861, off Charleston, SC.

It then participated in the chases of the Confederate raiders Florida and Alabama before joining Admiral Porter's North Atlantic Blockading Squadron Oct. 7, 1864. Between Dec. 24th-25th it fired 500 shells at Fort Fisher.

During the second attack, Jan. 13-15th, it was in the first line of battle and lost one man killed and ten wounded.

After the war, the USS Mohican was in the Pacific Squadron. Decommissioned in 1872, it sank at its moorings and was towed to the Mare Island mud flats and broken up.

Stats: 198.9 feet long, 33 feet beam, 160 crew, two 11-inch and four 32-pdrs.

Finally, the 365th Posting for the Year!!! --B-Runner

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Burgaw, NC, Depot-- Part 2

The December 14th Wilmington Star News continued with its story on the old Wilmington & Weldon Depot in Burgaw, NC.

Mike Taylor, Library Director of Pender County Public Libraries and president of the Burgaw Depot Historical Preservation Foundation has done a lot of research on the subject. The depot being attacked and set fire during the Civil War has long been a part of local oral tradition.

Taylor has found mention in a Union cavalry battalion history that it was attacked in early 1863. A cavalry regiment from New Bern made a raid on the W & W Railroad and burned it. They were pursued by a heavy artillery battalion, but got awar. The W & W Railroad was referred to as the "Lifeline of the Confederacy" for all the supplies brought in by blockade-runners to Wilmington that were then transported by rail to Richmond.

The North Carolina Office of Archives and History says that the 1850 portion of the depot still stands but has fire damage.

The depot renovation is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2009.

It's a Depot Thing. --Old B-Runner

Update on the Hunley

The Jan. 10th Mooresville (SC) Tribune had an article about a Hunley Commission member giving a talk before the local SCV Camp.

Jack Marlar, chief technical advisor of the H. L. Hunley Commission. The technology on the Hunley was ahead of its time.

To cut through the water, an angled piece of metal on the top of the sub divided the passing water helping with stabilization and aerodynamics.

The sub had an air box, now called a snorkel, for air flow.

The seven crew members had to bend over to operate the crank, putting the weight of their bodies "exactly perpendicular to the axle" which helped keep it upright.

The four section ballast bar at the bottom allowed it to remain vertical and doubled as a safety device. Each section could be detached individually (it was still intact when the Hunley was raised).

There was also a fly wheel and balance tube to keep actuation (whatever that means).

The Hunley was "brilliant engineering."

Besides Lt. George E. Dixon's gold watch and a $20 gold piece, there was also a 9 diamond gold ring and a 37 diamond gold broach which have been discovered wrapped in a cloth under his seat.

All of these items can be viewed at the Warren Lasch Conservative Center in Charleston.

Looking Forward to When the Whole Submarine Will Be Open to the Public. --Old B-Runner

Houston's Buffalo Bayou Civil War Connection

The Jan. 13th Houston Chronicle reported about a walking tour attended by 150 people that was given by the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance.

About a year after the war started, citizens threw material from a former Confederate arsenal into the Buffalo Bayou. Near Milam, the Confederate boat Augusta sprung a leak and sank.

After the war, this area was a popular souvenir-hunting place for people who waded out to the old wreck at low tide and found coins, buttons, and musket balls.

Buffalo Bayou is where the City of Houston was founded. The final fight in the Texas War for Independence, the Battle of San Jacinto, also took place where the Bayou joins the San Jacinto River.

Unfortunately, the bayou is too shallow to handle large ocean-going ships.

Wonder If Anything Is Still There. Oh Yes, Snakes. --B-R'er

A Salute to Generals Lee and Jackson

Last January, Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Bob McDonnel released statements honoring the observances of Generals Lee and Jackson, something many politicians wouldn't do in this day of pc and kowtowing to certain special interest groups.

BOLLING: "They were legendary generals who embodied a sense of duty, leadership, courage, dignity and strength that should be respected by all Virginians. They were men of great faith and principle who led exceptional lives that had a profound impact on the direction of our state and nation."

MCDONNELL: "their lives and accomplishments are worthy of remembrance by all Virginians. Perhaps Robert E. Lee's greatest legacy is found not on the battlefields, but in the classrooms of the great Virginia university that bears his name and reflects his character. Stonewall Jackson's life, though cut short in the tragedy of war, is remarkable not just for his renowned Valley Campaign, but for how he valued faith and family first."

As the SCV In the Know said, "It's nice to know that political correctness has not seized the moral fortitude of all elected officials in the land."

Hey, I Understand Illinois Might Need a New Governor, Guys. --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lincoln Collection Stays in Indiana

The Dec. 13th Daily Herald reports that a $20 million Lincoln collection of photographs, documents, and books will be staying in Indiana after all and will be housed in the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.

It was once housed in the now-defunct Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne. THE 20,000 items are considered to be the largest private collection around. It was donated by the Lincoln Financial Foundation which relocated from Ft. Wayne to Philadelphia in 1999. Among the items are signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, his wallet, and the chair he sat in for the historic photographs of him.

And, Just in Time for the Bicentennial of His Birth. --B-Runner

Fort Fisher 145th Anniversary Celebration

There was considerable discussion in the Civil War Navy and Marine Forum by several members and Andrew Duppstadt, about navy and marine re-enactor involvement in the upcoming Fort Fisher 145th Anniversary Celebration. This e-group is composed mostly of these re-enactors.

The program will not focus on the navy's role, but there is an interest in a total naval treatment in the future between this one and the 150th in 2015.

The 145th will focus on the involvement of the United States Colored Troops. Professor Richard Reid, author of "Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina's Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era" will speak. There will also be US Colored Troops re-enactors.

One member wanted to know if there was to be black sailors included. William B. Gould, a former Wilmington, NC, slave escaped to the Union blockader USS Cambridge along with seven others, joined the Navy and fought against his former master. He kept a journal that has been published, "Diary of a Contraband" The Civil War Passage of a Black sailor."

Definitely an Aspect of the War That Needs to Be Better Addressed. --Old B-R'er

Confederate Descendants Say Their Heritage Under Attack

Let's file this under No Kidding.

The Private E.F. Arthur SCV Camp 1783 Lee-Jackson Secession Dinner drew over 100 attendees last January. They claim their heritage is under attack and vow to fight it.

Former SCV Commander-in-Chief Ron Wilson said, "The battlefields today are no longer Manassas and Shiloh; they are in the living rooms for the hearts and minds of individuals."

Personally, I don't mind when other people are proud of their heritage, and actually, I certainly hope they are. However, I draw the line when they attack mine. I don't attack theirs and don't expect mine to be.

Naval Battle Roanoke Island, NC

The good folks at HMdb did a nice bit with photos of markers and inscriptions on the Naval Battle of Roanoke Island.

In late January, 1862, a Federal land-sea expedition under command of General Ambrose Burnside and Flag Officer Louis Goldsborough, determined to take Roanoke Island. The Union fleet with numerous transports and 20 war vessels commenced a bombardment Feb. 7th, of Fort Bartow.

The vastly inferior Confederate fleet under Captain W.K. Lynch waited behind a line of obstructions and then retired because of lack of ammunition. There are five other markers within 4 miles: Fort Huger, Fort Blanchard, Freedman's Colony, Fort Bartow, and Confederate Channel Obstructions.

These Guys Really Do a Great Job Collecting History. --B-Runner

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gen. Tilgham's Home Saved

Good news out of Paducah, Kentucky. The SCV and Tilgham Heritage Foundation have each gone in half on the $150,000 mortgage on CSA General Lloyd Tilgham's home at 631 Kentucky Avenue to save it and let it continue as a Civil War Museum specializing in events that took place.

It was built in 1852 for Tilgham who lived there until 1861. He led Confederate forces at Fort Henry and later at Vicksburg where he died at the Battle of Champion Hill. It was a private residence until 1906 and then served as a variety of commercial activities. It was slated for destruction in 1986, but saved. On August 13, 1998, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum is open March to November.

Save That Old House. Now Save the Maisenbacher House. --Old B-Runner

Battle of White Hall, NC, Marker Dedicated

In my Dec. 13th Running the Blockade, I mentioned that this marker was to be dedicated. here's a follow up.

The Dec. 13th ENC Today (Eastern North Carolina) had an article by David Anderson who covered it.

He estimated that 150 people attended the ceremony in the front yard of Dan and Wendy Boyette this past Saturday. They were mostly SCV and UDC members.

The granite memorial was taken from the supports of the nearly 200 year old Richmond Theater in Richmond, Virginia, and is inscribed with the names of 13 Confederates killed in the 1862 Battle of White Hall and the crew of the CSS Neuse. Both the battle was fought and the ship built near the Boyette's property.

It was erected on private property "because anything pro-Confederate erected on public properties such as court houses draws immediate community outrage." The Boyette's donated the land the memorial sits on.

The battle was fought to protect the CSS Neuse and to stop a federal raiding group headed for Goldsboro to destroy the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad bridge there.

Always Good to See a Civil War Marker Go Up. --Old B-Runner

Talking About Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast

The January 20th Albany (NY) Herald had an article by K. K. Snyder titled "Cruising Cape Fear."

"It's hard to believe how much variety in beach, culture and laid-back good times can be squeezed into such a compact area, but the Cape Fear Coast in North Carolina has done it to perfection." This is one northerner quite impressed with this bit of home for me.

"Encompassing the grand old city of Wilmington as well as nearby Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville beaches, the Cape Fear Coast continues to build itself as a great stateside vacation destination. From a world-renowned annual film festival to loads of World War II and Civil War history to great fishing and 31 miles of beautiful beaches, the area is a favorite for visitors, many of which return time and again."

The writer suggests the Wilmington Trolley as a great way to see the city as well as the Warehouse District and the battleship USS North Carolina.

Twenty-five years ago, downtown Wilmington was in decline, but that has changed. Many TV shows and movies are made here.

I especially like what was said about Carolina Beach. It is a "timeless beach town with fishing piers...a boardwalk...and game arcades." Fort Fisher and the popular NC State Aquarium were also mentioned. However, the last time at CB, the arcade was closed as were the old bumper cars. A highlight of the beach area is Britt's Donuts which unfortunately was also closed, but I understand open some weekends. Talk about some good doughnuts!!!

This area is one of my favorites to visit. My family used to go to Carolina Beach every summer, especially when my grandparents had a cottage on the Southern Extension until it was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Carolina Beach is getting built-up, but nowhere near as bad as Myrtle Beach.

A Great Place to Go for Fun and History. Then There's Nearby Fort Fisher and You Know How I Feel About That Place. --Old B-Runner

The Fort Fisher Hermit

For years, any trip to Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher was not complete without a stop for my family to visit with Robert Harrill, the Fort Fisher Hermit. To tell the truth, I was a bit afraid of him. He was like none of the other adults I knew.

For awhile, he was one of NC's top attractions and I'm glad to see that he is not forgotten.

"The Fort Fisher Hermit: The Life and Death of Robert E. Harrill" received a nomination back in January from the Nashville/Mid South Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for the Nov. 16th presentation at BMI's Nashville headquarters.

It was made by Common Sense Films based in Wilmington, NC, and received a nomination for historical documentary.

Barry Corbin narrates it. The hour-long show premiered on UNC Public TV and will be nationally distributed in April 2008.

For 17 years Harrill lived in a World War II bombproof at Fort Fisher.

Some Hermit Sites:

A Unique and Unforgettable Character. --Old B-R'er

Monday, December 15, 2008

John L. Worden, USN, Services

The Admiral Worden Camp 150 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War held a service at his grave this past Saturday. He was born in Westchester, NY, and commanded the USS Monitor in its epic battle with the CSS Virginia in 1863, the first battle of iron ships. He suffered serious eye injuries and was forced to retire but became a hero to the North.

He stayed in Pauling at the Mizzentop Hotel while recovering and was the first person to sign the guest book. He also helped name the place after a mast on a ship.

After his recovery, he participated in the attack on Fort Sumter and spent the rest of the war supervising the construction of new naval vessels.

After the war, he commanded the USS Pensacola in the Pacific, In 1868, he was promoted to commodore and became superintendent of the US Naval Academy for five years. Then he became a Rear Admiral and retired in 1886 after serving as European Squadron leader from 1875 to 1877.

He died in Washington, DC, October 18, 1897. He and his wife Olivia, a Pawling native, are buried in Pawling.

From October 23rd Pawling (NY) News Chronicle.

A Northern Hero. --Old B-Runner

Naval Ensign Ira Harris, Jr, at Fort Fisher

Terry B of Nashville, Tennessee, had several entries in the Civil War Talk Forum about a Civil War veteran he is doing some research on by the name of Ira Harris, Jr. I have never heard of him, but Terry's research is of interest. AND...he was at Fort Fisher.

He was wounded in the naval assault Jan. 15th, but Terry can't find much about his service during the battle and before it. However, there is quite a bit on his post war career.

He was the son of a senator from Albany, NY,. His sister Clara and step-brother Major Rathbone were sitting with the Lincolns that fateful night in April at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. Major Rathbone later married her and stabbed her to death in Germany. (Definitely a story here.)

Ira went to the Naval Academy in 1860, and, as a member of the Class of '64, sent into action in 1863.

he volunteered for the assault on Fort Fisher as an Acting Ensign from the USS Powhattan. Another man had been named to lead the attack, but Harris said he was single and from a large family. The other man was married and Harris was chosen.

He resigned his commission in 1871 and went into iron-working near Kansas City. He was US Inspector of Ports in New York City in the 20th century.

He is mentioned in the Naval Official Records, Series I, Vol. 11 which relates the family story and mentions that Robley D. Evans was also wounded in the attack.

Interesting Guy. --B-R'er

Here's How to Teach the Civil War in High School!!!

This definitely isn't your standard lecture and yawn way to teach what many high schoolers consider "BORING!!! The Dec. 13th Charlotte Observer had an article about Jeff Joyce's Advanced Placement Class at the Northwest School of the Arts by Ann Doss Helms.

This is totally interactive and student involvement, and, in this day and age of standardized high stakes NCLB tests. Jeff Joyce bucks the trend and has come up with a true learning experience, one of a role-playing trivia game.

"We killed two of them and six of us are dead," was the report after an early morning Union ambush. But there was no bloodshed despite the casualties. "The decision was made to "Stay up and study. Study, study, study!!"


The school is divided into Union and Confederate territories. Anyone caught venturing into enemy turf can be "attacked" by the other side with questions. Answer wrong and you give up a ration card. Get it right and you take one. Lose them all and you're dead. Teachers are spies as well.

Each "army" researches and writes their own questions and refresh them constantly, but Joyce must approve them for correctness, clarity, and meaningfulness.

The armies wear blue and gray, but are open to modifications. No Confederate flags are brought to school for fear of appearing racist (Oh well.)


During class change, one Confederate confronted a Union soldier "What did Lincoln use to kill the Wade-Davis Bill?" Answer from Union soldier "The 10% Solution." Wrong and loss of one ration card. Correct answer was "Pocket Veto." I would have lost a ration card on that one. Never heard of the Wade-Davis Bill.

At the end of the "war," Confederates elect a General Lee and the Union a General Grant. They meet at Appomattox Court House (Joyce's room), tally points, and demand surrender. So far, the Confederates gave won six times and Union five.

Definitely a way to make learning more fun. However, this is a special school and an upper level class. I'm not sure it would work with regular students, but who knows?

You can view the article at

Worth a Shot. Way to Go Mr. Joyce. --Old B-R'er

"It's a Wonderful Life"'s Civil War Connection

This past Saturday, I watched my third favorite all-time Christmas movie "It's a Wonderful Life." It is one I try to see every season along with my #1 favorite, "A Christmas Story" and #2 "Christmas Vacation."

Came across a blog by Alabama PBS guy, Tim Lennox's OFFair & ONline. Like me, IAWL is a favorite and that it is especially poignant this year because of the economy and the death June 6th of Robert J. Anderson, 75, who played the young George Bailey.

And now, for the Civil War connection. The movie was based on the short story, "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern who was also a Civil War historian and author of several books on it, including one of my favorites, the "Pictorial History of the Confederate Navy."

So, There You Go, a Favorite Movie AND, a Favorite Period of History. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Running the Blockade: Burial Ground-- NC Novel-- Confederate Marker

Some New News About an Old War.

1. BURIAL GROUND-- The Nov. 14th Roanoke Valley (NC) Daily herald reports that a lot of work has been done cleaning up what is called the Old Soldiers Burial Ground where 150 Confederate soldiers are buried at the end of First Street. Most of them died of disease. The United daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans began the cleanup back in 2004.

2. NC NOVEL-- The Read NC Novels blog by Eileen McGrath had a posting about a novel by Robert W. Hester called "The Battle for North Carolina: History of the War Between the States." Published by Book Surge out of Charleston, SC, 2008. It is about events along the Carolina coast in 1865, so should ave some stuff on Fort Fisher and Wilmington. Worth checking out.

3. CONFEDERATE MARKER-- The Dec. 12th Goldsboro (NC) News-Argus reports that a Memorial to 13 Confederates killed at the 1862 battle of White Hall between Union forces on their way to attack Goldsboro and Confederate defenders of the CSS Ram Neuse. It also honors the Neuse's crew.

It's a North Carolina Thing. Now, You Know. --B-R

Ghosts at the Fort?

I came across a Dec. 12th entry on the Paranormal blog about good old Fort Fisher.

In it, the author talks about the battle and says that General Whiting is the most famous ghost to haunt the environs.

"He is seen walking the ground and still commanding the fort. Staff has also reported another Confederate soldier standing watch in another section of the fort. People have also heard the sounds of footsteps on wooden walkways, seen an apparition walking from the fort to the water, and hearing the sounds of battle over the ocean throughout the night. Photos taken in the area reveal orbs and some possibly show the figure of the old general himself."

Like, Boo!! --Old B-Runner

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fortifications at Pittsburgh, Pa.-- Part 2


During the next three weeks, 11,000 men constructed 12 miles of earthen redoubts, powder magazines, and batteries around the city perimeters. A total of 37 forts and redoubts were built. Not all, however, were fully developed.

Only Fort Black in Greenfield was a true fort. Most everything else consisted of redoubts and earthworks.

Construction was completed July 3rd, the day Lee met his defeat at Gettysburg.

The fortifications are now mostly lost to erosion, urbanization, and vegetation. A rough map, known as "Defenses of Pittsburgh" was ordered on July 20, 1863. It shows 17 redoubts, 14 battery sites, and one fort.

Lee is a No-Show. --Old B-Runner

Fortifications at Pittsburgh, Pa.

Back in mid- June to early July. 1863, citizens of Pittsburgh fully expected Confederates in Robert E. lee's army to come a-knocking at any time. This was the only time the city was actually militarily-involved in the conflict.

Referred to as the "Emergency of 1863," Union Major General William Brooks, commander of the Department of the Monongahela in Pittsburgh received a dispatch June 11th outlining the possible invasion of the city.

Pittsburgh was uneasy throughout the war due to its 70-mile proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line. Known as the "Arsenal of the Union," the city with its location on both rivers and railroad connections as well as industries, was an ideal object for a sudden Confederate thrust. Large cannons were turned out at the Alleghenny Arsenal and Fort Pitt Foundry.

City business and federal leaders met June 14th at the Monongahela House, the finest hotel in the city and decided to close everything to use the manpower to build fortifications.

To Be Continued. --B-R

Corvettes at Fort Fisher

Late News, but of interest.

On January 5th, a Corvette club posted pictures of a cruise they made to Fort Fisher, NC. They had a good turn out with what looked to be at least 40 Vettes. Great shot of the Vettes at sunset. They filled up the parking lot of where they ate as well as that of Fort Fisher. They also proceeded down to the end of US-421 at the Rocks. That sure had to be a sight.

Corvettes and Fort Fisher, How Could You Go Wrong? --Blockade-R

Indiana Flag Looking Good

The Nov. 3rd Indainapolis Star reports that the 34-star Co. K, 27th Indiana flag has been restored. It was in three major battles and fell into disrepair over the next 140-plus years. It went on display Nov. 9th at the Dubois County Museum.

Co. H consisted of 101 members from Dubois County (in southern Indiana). This unit was at Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg and was carried by one of the tallest men, 6 foot 1 inch Andrew Streigel. The flag was mustered out with the remaining members Nov. 4, 1864. A group of Jasper women made it and presented it at a farewell dinner August 6, 1861.

After the war, it was handed from one Co. K veteran to another until the last survivor, Conrad Eckert, died in 1932. It was then given to his granddaughter, Ruth Buecher who turned it over to the Dubois County Courthouse, where it remained for years.

Then, it went back until she died in 1996. Her son, Phil Buecher then donated it to the historical society.

The Dubois County Museum last year sent it to Indianapolis for restoration by textile specialist Jennifer Hein. It was in very bad shape and in pieces when she unrolled it Surprisingly, it still had its ribbon, cord, and tassel.

A Little Bit of History Preserved for Posterity. --B-R'er

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fort Fisher Medal of Honor

Cabin Boy John Angling, USN.

Born 1850 in Portland, Maine. Accredited to Maine G.O. No.59, 22 June 1865.

Served on board the USS Pontoosuc during the capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington Dec. 24, 1864 to January 22, 1865. Carried out duties faithfully. Recommended for gallantry and cool courage under enemy fire.

Again, I see that like many other Medals of Honor, there are not a lot of specifics about his service.

High Honor. --Old B-R

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Burgaw, NC, POW Swap

The Nov. 29th Wilmington Star News reported that Mike Taylor, Library director of the Pender Co. Public Library and president of the Burgaw Depot Historic Preservation Association has been doing some research on a large prisoner exchange that took place at the site during the waning days of the Civil War. His organization is raising money to renovate the station.

A new marker was erected by the Civil War Trails program recently.

General Grant had decided to stop prisoner exchanges towards the end of the war. Exchanged Confederate soldiers soon found their way back to fighting forces.

After Fort Fisher fell in January, 1865, it was another month of operations before Wilmington was captured.

As Sherman's army was approaching, 6,000 Union prisoners at Florence, SC, were sent north and exchanged for Confederate prisoners at Burgaw. The Confederates turned over 1,400 Union prisoners a day during one stretch, including 120 black soldiers. By March 4th, 9000 prisoners had been exchanged.

And I Didn't Think There Were Any Prisoner Exchanges After 1864. --Old Blockade-R

Where's the Monitor's Cat?

The Civil War Naval and Marine Forum recently had an article on the fate of the USS Monitor's ship's cat. It was taken from an account by Francis B. Butts, a survivor of the sinking, in the 1885 Century Magazine.

As the crew was preparing to abandon ship, "A black cat was sitting on the breech of one of the guns, howling one of those hoarse and solemn tunes which no one can appreciate who is not filled with superstitions which I had been taught by the sailors, who are always afraid to kill a cat. I would almost as soon have touched a ghost, but I caught her, and placing her in another gun, replaced the wad and tampion; but I could still hear that distressing yowl."

It will be interesting to see if there are skeletal cat remains in the barrel of one of the Monitor's guns when they get that far on the Monitor's turret.

These are the little stories that make the war so interesting to me. This one could be called a "Kitty" story.

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty. --B-R'er

Elizabeth City, NC, Gets Markers

Diana Mazzella in the Nov. 2nd Elizabeth City Daily Advance had an article about the new Civil War Trails markers in town. It was the site of a battle and burned in 1862.

One marker details the Confederate soldier executed in the retaliation of a Union soldier and family's death in an ambush by Confederate guerrillas. In 1863, there was violence between Union forces and a detachment of black Union soldiers.


A marker at Waterfront Park which describes the Union Navy's destruction of the Confederate "Mosquito Fleet' Feb. 10, 1862, on Pasquotank River was replaced. The city was burned the following day when locals asked retreating Confederate soldiers to burn the town. The Pusquotank County Courthouse was destroyed in it.

Another marker is located where a Union lieutenant and civilian Unionist were shot to death returning from a celebration of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

Another one tells of the ongoing violence between Union symphatizers and Confederate guerrillas in 1863 which prompted local citizens to ask both the Union general in the area and North Carolina's governor to withdraw troops from the area. This request was not accepted and the violence continued until the end of the war.

The last marker is for the ten day posting of black soldiers from the 1st US Colored Troops to quell violence.

Sounds like the Civil War was particularly nasty in Elizabethtown. Why would civilians ask for their town to be burned? They must have REALLY hated the Union.

Great Program, that Civil War Trails. --Old B-Runner

Also, there is a new one describing the Confederate execution Feb. 9, 1863.

Wilmington National Cemetery Cleanup

Si Cantwell in the October 31st Wilmington (NC) Star News reports that tombstones are being raised an realigned at the cemetery. Over the years, little depressions have formed around the the gravestones, causing them to become uneven and some leaning over.

The cemetery was created in 1867. By 1870, there were2039 internments, 698 known and 1,341 unknown. These were all Union soldiers as Confederates were buried at Oakdale and other cemeteries. The remains were removed from Wilmington City Cemetery, Fort Fisher, and other sites around the area.

There are also the graves of 28 Puerto Rican workers who died in the 1918 flu epidemic. They were among a group of 1.900 Puerto Ricans going to Fayetteville to build Fort Bragg. The epidemic broke out on Nov. 14th on the government ship City of Savannah docked in the Cape Fear River.

Today, the cemetery covers 5.1 acres and 6,200 veterans and spouses are buried there.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Running the Blockade: Who Stole the Flags?-- 54th Mass at Inauguration-- Kentucky CW Tourism-- West Va. CW Tourism

Running the Blockade. Some New News About an Old War.

1. WHO STOLE THE FLAGS?-- The Dec.8th Winchester (Va) Star reports 13 Confederate flags missing after the October 18-19th Cedar Creek Re-enactment. All 13 will be replaced by next year's re-enactment at a cost of around $400. All Right. Fess Up

2. 54TH MASS AT INAUGURATION-- The Dec. 8th reports that members of the all-black 54th Massachusetts ceremonial National Guard group will march in President Obama's inauguration parade. Obama said he was looking for organizations that "embody the best of our nation's history, diversity and commitment to service."

3. KENTUCKY CW TOURISM-- The City of Elizabethtown and Hardin County, Kentucky, are hoping the Lincoln bicentennial will boost Civil War tourism.

No major battles were fought in the area, but lots of skirmishes.

4. WEST VA. CW TOURISM-- West Virginia lawmakers are hoping the state's, considered a "child of the Civil War" because it was created during it, tourism officials will push its connections, especially since 2011 will mark the 150th anniversary of its beginning.

Tourism Commissioner Betty Carver says she has already enlisted the help of the Civil War trails Program to help build a network of interpretive signs. Always a good start.

Isn't It Nice to Feel Wanted. --Old B-R

New SUVCW Camp Forming

Adriana Janovich in the Oct. 21st Yakima (Washington) Herald reports that a new camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is forming to serve eastern Washington state. That in itself is great news. Any group devoted to preserving our heritage is worthy. But what really makes this story is that it is a high school junior who has gotten the show on the road.

Thomas Hull, a student at West Valley High School. At age 13, he traced his lineage back to the Pilgrims and became a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

According to Rod Fleck, who 14 years ago organized the Governor Isaac Stevens Camp No. 1 in Washington, there are 120 SUVCW members in Washington state. Hull's camp in eastern Washington would become the second camp and 3rd in the Pacific Northwest. They will be able to start with six members, but must have fifteen within a year. So far, this new camp only has ten, three of whom are from Yakima.

Thomas Hull, 17, has at least five direct descendants who are Union veterans. Four of them are great-great-great grandfathers and one is a great-great-great-great grandfather.

One of the triple greats is Henry Hubbard Hull who mustered into Co. I, Heavy Artillery, First Wisconsin on Nov. 3, 1864. His son, Nathan Porter Hull came west and started a ranch where Apple Tree Golf Course is today.

Andall this while many teenagers are looking to get the newest video system.

Here's Hoping Young Mr. Hull Lots of Luck. --Old B-Runner

Major William W. Clemens, a Hero at Fort Fisher

The Nov. 13th Schuylkill County Pennsylvania Military History blog by J. Stuart Richard had an entry about Clemens who died in Pottsville June 2, 1894 at the age of 56.

He fought at Fredericksburg where he charged up Marye's heights and became commander of Co. A 129th Pennsylvania upon the death of Capt. George J. Lawrence.

Even though in the army, Clemens was appointed Chief Signal Officer to Rear Admiral Porter in the attacks on Fort Fisher since it was to also involve land attacks by the army.

It was Clemens who gave the signal for the land attack to begin and Porter recommended him for "valor and dauntless courage" and he was appointed 2nd Lt regular US Army as a result.

After Richmond was captured, Porter invited him to accompany him and President Lincoln up the James River to Richmond. That was quite the honor.

On January 17, 1865, Porter wrote that Lt. W.W. Clemens taught the army code to at least one officer on each ship "which has enabled me to often communicate when naval signals would have been to no avail....Through Mr. Clemens I was in constant communication with General Terry, and was enabled to direct the fire of the New Ironsides to the traverses occupied by the enemy without fear of hurting our own people...."

Evidently, Lt. Clemens Deserves a Lot of Credit for the Operation's Success. --BR

Monday, December 8, 2008

Running the Blockade: Fortress Monroe-- Wal Mart Vs Wilderness-- Flying the Flag-- No Jeff For You

Some New News About an Old War.

1. FORTRESS MONROE-- Estimates have the cost of rehabilitating the 570 acre site of Fortress Monroe, Virginia, once the military leaves it at $500 million. Among the items on the agenda are buildings and structures and a museum. Jefferson Davis was held here for awhile after the war.

2. WALMART VS WILDERNESS-- Reports have Wal Mart eying a new store at the Wilderness battlefield. An anti Wal Mart group is girding for battle and has a video out featuring Grant and Lee lamblasting the store. The group is called Wal-Mart and you can view the video at

3. FLYING THE FLAG-- This time the flag battle is out west. The Visalia Times of Delta, California, reports that Dr. John Riddle is flying the former Georgia state flag, which features the Confederate battle flag on it. Riddle says he lived a long time in Georgia and puts it up when he feels homesick.

His neighbors are disgusted, "That flag stands for a lot of really bad things that happened in our past." They say the flag went up just recently after Obama's victory in November.

4. NO JEFF FOR YOU-- The SCV blog of Nov. 22nd reports that the statue of Jefferson Davis will not be put up or stored at the American Civil War Center after all.

Now, You Know. --Old B-R'er

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pearl Harbor Anniversary Today

Even though this is a Civil War blog, I always observe this anniversary, starting back when I taught school. My seventh graders always got a unit of Pearl Harbor and World War II at this time. (Even though originally our seventh graders had world geography and then later US History up to the Civil War (because of testing).

I tried to get other social studies teachers to do likewise, but with little success. I pointed out that Pearl Harbor was that generation's JFK assassination just as 9-11 was a day that will be remembered by all of their group.

It is especially important to observe it now with all the participants both at home and on the battlefields dying off at such a rate as they are.

It's the Least We Can Do.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

CSS Virginia vs. USS Cumberland

The Civil War Navy and Marine Forum on Yahoo had a notice about the battle between the Virginia and Cumberland preceding the USS Monitor-CSS Virginia battle. These were taken from military telegraph postings as the battle unfolded.

The messages were from George Cowlam who was observing the fight.

"She is steering straight for the Cumberland.-- The Cumberland gives her a broadside-- She keels over, seems to be sinking--No, she comes on again-- She has struck the Cumberland and pored a broadside into her, God!-- The Cumberland is sinking-- The Cumberland has fired her last broadside."

From "The Military Telegraph During the Civil War."

The News as It happens. --Old B-Runner

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Old Joe" Just Might Be a Yankee

Gainesville, Georgia, the adoptive home of Confederate General Longstreet, and the statue of Confederate soldier "Old Joe" who came through the terrific 1936 tornado unscathed, might just be in for a surprise. I saw pictures of the town and square after the tornado, and there stands Joe, standing tall and gray amid a tremendous amount of devastation.

It would appear that "Joe" might be a Yankee instead of a Rebel. Just don't tell the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter. Old Joe's kit bag has the letters "US" on it and the rifle he holds is an 1873 Model Springfield, eight years after the war. The uniform is also like that worn by soldiers in the Spanish-American War.

It was made on a standard model by the now-defunct American Bronze Company of Chicago. The UDC chapter bought it in 1898 for $2,500 raised by bake goods and thrift sales.

Yankee or Rebel. Only "Old Joe" Knows AND, He Isn't Saying Anything. --B-R'er

Gainesville, Georgia's "Old Joe"

The September 20th Access North had an article about a statue of a Confederate soldier that everyone calls "Old Joe" who is at least 100 years old. Plans are to move him because the square is being rearranged, but the UDC vows to fight it. Plus, the years are definitely wearing on him.

"Old Joe" is a survivor of the 1936 tornado and is one of several Confederate statues manufactured in Chicago around 1900 under the generic name "At Ready Standard Military Statue." Two other "Old Joe's" elsewhere have fallen apart as they all suffer from interior framework rust.

No one knows how he picked up the name "Old Joe."

Just Plain Old Joe. --B-Runner

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Markers in Collierville, Tennessee

That Civil War Trails Program continues to bring aspects of the war not generally-known to the public's attention. The City of Collierville just got two markers according to the Nov. 14th Memphis Commercial Appeal.

One is for the October 11, 1863 Battle of Collierville where Sherman's favorite horse, Dolly was captured by Confederates.

The second one is for the November 3, 1863 raid by troops under Confederate General James R. Chalmers and stands in Walnut Street Park in downtown.

These are part of the Civil War Trails Program as I said earlier. The state of Tennessee has received $1 million in federal grants to fund 300 markers. The first 18 across the state have been installed.

Collierville matched $1,100 per marker.

Keep Upthe Good Work CWT. --B-Runner

Monday, December 1, 2008

Running the Blockade: Confed. Flag at Ark. Motel-- Old Fort Fisher News-- Fort Fisher Ferry Closing-- SC Blasted

Some New News About an Old War.

1. CONFED. FLAG AT ARK. MOTEL-- The Faubus Motel in northwest Arkansas has replaced the US flag with the Confederate flag, and according to the owner, not because President-elect Obama is black, but because he is Marxist. This motel was once owned by Orval Faubus, the Arkansas governor who tried to keep Little Rock's Central High School segregated. Pretty lame reason if you ask me.

2. OLD FORT FISHER NEWS-- The Wilmington (NC) Star News had a look back to November 4, 1958, news, and reported that a step was taken toward preserving Fort Fisher as a Civil War Battle Site when the state entered a lease agreement with the US for the property. The federal government was using it as a buffer zone for the Sunny Point ammunition terminal across the Cape Fear River. Sure glad they did.

3. FORT FISHER FERRY CLOSING-- As of today, the Fort Fisher-Southport ferry across the Cape Fear River, is closed for two months. Businesses in Southport especially fear this since it is happening during the Christmas buying season. A land commute from Pleasure Island (where the fort is located) to Southport is an hour and ten minutes, but half that by taking the ferry.

Looks like they could have done the closing in February or March instead.

4. SC BLASTED-- The Nov. 19th really lamblasted the SC legislature for spending $30 million for the preservation of the Confederate submarine Hunley while ranking a dismal 51st in the US in spending to prevent of youth smoking. Well, that's Up in Smoke.

Now You Know. --Old B-R'er