Kudos to Civil Warriors for this article on commemorating African American Civil War soldiers.
Ethan Rafuse, professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and blogger at Civil Warriors is delivering a lecture as part of the 44th Annual Lecture Series “Perspectives in Military History.” The lecture is entitled “We Always Understood Each Other So Well: McClellan, Lee and the War in the East.” If you are in the area of Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania on July 18, I urge you to take in his lecture.
Liftoff! World’s First Manned Civil War Balloon
Replica Begins Public Flights on July 4
Intrepid Cleared to Launch at Genesee Country Village & Museum
MUMFORD, N.Y., July 3 — During the past week, residents of Western New York may have seen an unfamiliar object rise into to the sky, only to disappear from the horizon after a few minutes. Now, following a series of test launches, the Intrepid – the world’s first replica of a manned Civil War balloon – has been cleared for public flights beginning Wednesday, July 4 at Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCV&M; www.gcv.org).
Weather permitting, the balloon will take guests – up to four at a time – approximately 300 feet (32 stories) into the sky, simulating what the world’s first military pilots (aeronauts) experienced 150 years ago over Civil War battlefields.
GCV&M, located between Rochester and Buffalo, is the largest living history museum in New York State, and maintains the third largest collection of historic buildings in the United States.
First announced this past February, the Intrepid project has captured the imagination of families, educators, historians and aviation enthusiasts across North America. Renowned documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, adventure balloonist and Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson, and the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum’s senior curator of Aeronautics, Tom D. Crouch, Ph.D., have praised the reconstruction.
“The Intrepid was the predecessor to modern-day military aviation, foreshadowing the future of military reconnaissance communications,” said Peter Arnold, GCV&M’s CEO and president. “The pilot would send intelligence information – troop movements, artillery compensation instructions, and more – to soldiers on the ground via telegraph. It was a remarkably innovative concept at the time.”
Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the Union Army Balloon Corps was personally approved by President Abraham Lincoln in June 1861. Like the genuine seven gas balloons used during the Civil War, the Intrepid is tethered to land for optimal convenience and safety.
GCV&M’s Intrepid utilizes helium instead of hydrogen, which was easily generated in the 1860s using iron filings and acid. A generous donation from Macy’s, Inc. during the current nationwide helium shortage allowed the project to carry forward on schedule.
Fifteen-minute flights cost $10 for GCV&M members or $15 for non-members in addition to standard Museum admission rates. Tickets are available on-site, and cannot be pre-ordered due to weather-dependent flight scheduling.
In addition to the balloon, GCV&M has constructed a permanent Civil War encampment at the launch site, which is open to all Museum guests.
A team of prominent advisors is assisting with the project, including Dr. Crouch; Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and Rob Shenk, director, Internet Strategy & Development, Civil War Trust. The Intrepid was built by AeroBalloon Inc. of Hingham, Mass., and painted by illustrator Todd Price of Elk Creek, Va.
Malcolm Spaull, chair of Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation, is shooting a documentary about the project. The film is expected to air on PBS later this year.
The initiative’s total estimated cost of nearly $400,000 has been partially offset by a number of generous donations. GCV&M will continue to seek additional financial support for the project.
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About Genesee Country Village & Museum
Genesee Country Village & Museum (www.gcv.org) helps visitors understand the lives and times of 19th-century America through interactive programs, events and exhibits. It is the largest and most comprehensive living history museum in New York State and maintains the third largest collection of historic buildings in the United States. The 700-acre complex consists of 68 historic structures furnished with 15,000 artifacts to provide an authentic 19th-century environment in which visitors can interact with knowledgeable, third-person historic interpreters in period-appropriate dress.
Katie Corbut, McDougall Travers Collins for Genesee Country Village & Museum
phone: 585-210-9585 or 716-464-4713
While visiting my folks in Illinois, I have been quiet on posting, though I do have some pictures, but that’s for another post. First, thanks to my good friend Dr. William Young on his first post on this blog. Beyond that wonderful item, I learned that I shattered the record for the busiest day by over 700 hits. Apparently, Father’s Day was the day to visit the site and specifically my post on the Medal of Honor during the war. Thank you readers for that wonderful surprise and fluke. I am still at a loss as to how it happened, but am not complaining. I will get a post up in the next day or so recounting some of the reenacting adventures I had this last month. On another note, please remember that this is the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, which warrants a link to this cool song.
Today (Saturday, June 16), from 9am-noon (since it is in Massachusetts, I am assuming it is Eastern Time) the American College of History and Legal Studies will be live-streaming a round table discussion on the Seven Days Battles. It will be led by our founding dean, Civil War Historian and Pulitzer prize nominee Michael Chesson.
You can either check it out via this link, or through the embed provided below.
Below is to participate in the chat:
More information is available here.
Apologies on the short notice, but I did not find out about this until two days ago and have been busy packing and traveling to Illinois to visit my folks, but I hope some of you are able to take in this interesting event.
In light of Den Bolda’s great inaugural post on Union uniform coats, I thought I would share a paper I wrote for a class I took on material culture a couple years ago that dealt with Civil War soldiers. Being involved in reenacting since then, I have a greater appreciation for the objects and materials that constituted a soldier’s life and person during the war. On Friday, I head to Fort Sisseton for their history festival, so I will be absent from the blog for the weekend, but will post soon after I return on the fun of the weekend.
To aid the Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site, Stuart, Joe, and I headed down on Saturday to do some living history for the day. We met the new supervisor, Thomas Casler, who is quite enthusiastic and interested in reenacting as well. We put out a bit of equipment and set ourselves up in the guard-house. Though the day started slow and rainy, it eventually picked up. We did pass the time as soldiers might have (although illegally) by playing cards (our pot was coffee beans). About thirty people came out throughout the day, including one couple who traveled all the way from Philadelphia, coming to North Dakota to visit forts and the Badlands.
Several youngsters came with their parents and we demonstrated the sequence for firing the weapons and talked about our gear. We also raised and lowered the flag over the post. Overall, it was a good day, despite the iffy weather, and we had a good time helping them commemorate Memorial Weekend. Our next trip will be to historic Fort Sisseton in South Dakota to take part in their annual historic festival. Below are some pictures (courtesy of Thomas Casler) from our day at Abercrombie.
I would like to welcome friend and fellow reenactor Den Bolda to the writing staff of this blog. Den brings a lot of great knowledge to the table in the realm of reenacting and material culture related to the war. Look for postings from Den in the near future and give him a hearty welcome.
In light of my recent visit to Ellen Hopkins Elementary School to present on the war, I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to educators that are likely getting to the Civil War in their history curriculum to ask questions about the war that they would like more information on. Any topic goes.
Teachers, if you are interested in using this site to enhance your Civil War curriculum, please use the comment section of this post to ask your question, or a question from your students. I, or one of my esteemed colleagues, will do our best to answer the question in a separate post. If you are interested in having students do brief writing assignments on the war as guest posts, please let us know and we can make that happen (I will edit the commenting on such posts to ensure safety). We look forward to your questions.
On Wednesday, May 16, members of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry (Joe Camisa, Stuart Lawrence, Den Bolda, and I), also known as the Fort Abercrombie Garrison, brought some of our gear and presented on the Civil War to an eager group of fifth grade students at Ellen Hopkins Elementary School in Moorhead, MN. Special thanks to Mrs. Cheri Puetz for allowing us the opportunity to come and talk with her students. It was a beautiful day and we were situated in the shade. We set up a tent, as well as our colors, and a small ground cloth with some soldier equipment on display. We also dressed and wore some of our gear. It was a lot of fun and we had kids from the lower grades coming up to us and asking us questions for an hour after school let out, which was really awesome. They were really excited by our stuff and if we did not need to return to Grand Forks so soon, we would have stayed longer. There were some good questions posed and the students came away with a great introduction to their study on the war. Below are photos taken from that day, courtesy of Mrs. Puetz.
Today marks this blog’s fifth birthday. My little blog is just growing up so fast, as it seems like yesterday it was only a couple posts and an idea (couldn’t resist relating it to someone turning five). It also marks my 250th post as well. While I have not reached some of the goals I set out from last year, I am happy that I have been able to keep this site up with being busy with Ph.D. studies. I have covered some of the events related to the sesquicentennial of the war over the last year, as well as some of the excitement of reenacting (we have a great season lined up this summer). I have tackled a couple tough subjects, which have sparked some great discussion. We currently have over 150,000 hits and I hope to make 200,000 by year’s end. I am looking to get a couple new writers posting to the blog to keep the content a bit more regular, but with summer upon us, I hope to also get posting more often as well. Now having a laptop with a webcam, I hope to do a few video posts as well, so look forward to those. I want to thank you all for your readership and support.
In Savannah, Georgia, one of the busiest ports on the Atlantic for container vessels, government officials are attempting to deepen the waterway connecting the port to the Atlantic. There is a significant obstacle to their plan, the remains of the CSS Georgia, an armored gunboat that was scuttled by Confederate forces to avoid capture by William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union army when he captured the city in December 1864. Currently, the vessel is on the National Register of Historic Places and dredging is prohibited within fifty feet of the wreckage.
In order to allow for the port expansion, the Army Corps of Engineers is going to raise and salvage the remains of the Georgia. Currently, two large pieces of the armor, as well as cannons, parts of the engines, and a propeller. The Corps notes that caution will be in order, as munitions are present and may still be active. The wreckage is important, as the war was the beginning of the age of iron-hulled vessels and was a fine example of what the South could do, despite a lack of industrial base. It will also represent what went wrong for the Confederacy during the late war.
This will be a wonderful opportunity for preserving another part of Civil War history, as only a few other naval vessels from the period have been preserved, including the USS Cairo, which sank in the Yazoo River in Mississippi, soon before the Vicksburg Campaign, which I have visited a couple time and is well worth seeing.
Information courtesy of Associated Press.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported, which FoxNews.com picked up, that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois are in a quandary over a stovepipe hat supposedly having belonged to Mr. Lincoln. The hat, which is of beaver felt, bore the mark of a Springfield hat maker, and was the same size as Lincoln’s head is disputed over how a farmer came to own the hat. The story holds that William Waller acquired the hat from Lincoln in Washington during the war, but this is not supported by evidence. The other possibility is that Waller received the hat after one of the 1858 debates with Stephen A. Douglas, but there is no evidence to support this.
The hat is part of a larger collection of Lincoln artifacts that the ALPLM acquired several years ago for a significant amount of money and the hat is appraised at $6.5 million. Both articles insist that the hat is not a fake and that the Museum was not duped, but that it needs to be somewhat cautious in how it presents the story to the public, suggesting that both scenarios be noted. Having visited the site a couple of times, I have seen the hat (assuming it is the same one), which also (if I recall correctly) may have had his fingerprints on the brim, which were slightly visible. It is a truly humbling experience to view artifacts related to the man.
Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer doubted the stories, as there is no evidence that Lincoln gave away the hat, but does note that the hat likely belonged to Lincoln, but that increased effort is needed to trace its origins. I have to agree with Mr. Holzer, as, even in that day, a beaver hat was not something casually given away, as it was still a fairly expensive item.
It will be interesting to see where this story goes, but I urge anyone heading to Springfield soon to check out the site and see the artifacts. While the museum itself has a lot of technological aspects that are designed to make it more accessible to the public, which is not my thing, but worth seeing, the library is really worth a stop, as they hold a large amount of wonderful historical items, including manuscripts, newspapers, and other materials for scholars researching on a wide array of topics related to Illinois history, the Civil War, and Lincoln. I donated a copy of my thesis to the library as a thank you for providing assistance and material that went into it.
That this story came out on April 15 is appropriate, as it is the anniversary of the death of Mr. Lincoln in 1865. May he continue to rest in peace.
Here are some clips off YouTube related to the Battle of Shiloh that come from Ken Burns’ The Civil War.
Yesterday, April 6, and today mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee. This battle is significant in several ways, some which are explored in a New York Times article published yesterday. One of my buddies and fellow reenactor attended one of the 150th events last weekend and there is a buzz about them on one of the major reenacting forums. However, this battle is still one that is popular for people to read about and study, though not to the level of Gettysburg, but one of the most studied in the Western Theater.
The battle that began near Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, near a small church called Shiloh, which meant place of peace, came to symbolize the carnage that characterized the Civil War. The Union forces were pushing down the Tennessee River towards the rail junction of Corinth, Mississippi. Having achieved two important victories in February against Forts Henry and Donelson, the Union was beginning to take the war to the South, under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant. It was part of the larger strategy to gain control of the major inland waterways to cut the Confederacy in two. Confederate forces were hopeful of thwarting the Union strategy by delivering a major blow in the West, which reflected the state of the war in the East that was going in the South’s favor.
On April 6, General Ulysses S. Grant had established his camp on the bank of the Tennessee River, at Pittsburg Landing, the night before and was not prepared for General Albert Sydney Johnston’s Confederate army, which was encamped nearby. The Confederates launched a surprise attack on the Union camp that morning, which sought to drive the Union away and back up the river. Though initially caught off guard, Union troops rallied and fought a bitter fight against the Confederates along a line extending from the river for over a mile to Owl Creek. Part of the Union line engaged in heavy fighting, which became known as the Hornet’s Nest, where Union forces held firm. Fighting raged all along the line, with hundreds falling, including General Johnston, who was wounded in the back of the knee and bled to death. Johnston was the highest ranking officer killed on either side during the war.
After the first hard day of battle, a storm raged, with lightning flashing, showing hogs among the dead. Wounded soldiers came to a small pond to drink and bathe their wounds, dying the water pink, earning the small body the name “Bloody Pond”. William Tecumseh Sherman approached Grant under a tree, sheltering during the storm after the first day, and said, “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant replied, “Yes, lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”
The second day, April 7 brought bad luck for the Confederates. The Union army was reinforced by General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio, which arrived the previous night. Further, the Confederates were disorganized by the loss of Johnston, which placed P.G.T. Beauregard in command, who did not realize he was outnumbered. In addition, Confederate command was rife with problems revolving around personality conflicts and subordinates not following Beauregard well. Facing a Union counterattack, Confederates were forced back from their gains the previous day and withdrew from the field, eventually back to Corinth.
The battle was the bloodiest in American history up to that time, and some claimed more casualties were suffered than all American wars combined to that time. Union casualties were 13,047 (1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 missing), while Confederate losses were 10,699 (1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded, and 959 missing or captured). In addition to Johnston, Union general W.H.L. Wallace was also killed. Though initially vilified for his handling of the battle and the cost, Grant’s career was cemented by this victory. Though rumors circulated that he was drunk and calls for his job were made, Lincoln retained him, saying “I can’t spare this man; he fights.” Sherman also emerged a hero, and was a trusted subordinate and friend of Grant. This battle is quite important for the course of the war in the West and there are several great books on it, including:
Sword, Wiley. Shiloh: Bloody April. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992.