Archive for May, 2011

What is the true origin of Taps?

24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions

by Jari A. Villanueva

Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to render emotion than the call Taps. The melody is both eloquent and haunting and the history of its origin is interesting and somewhat clouded in controversy. In the British Army, a similar call known as Last Post has been sounded over soldiers’ graves since 1885, but the use of Taps is unique with the United States military, since the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying and memorial services.

Taps began as a revision to the signal for Extinguish Lights (Lights Out) at the end of the day. Up until the Civil War, the infantry call for Extinguish Lights was the one set down in Silas Casey’s (1801-1882) Tactics, which had been borrowed from the French. The music for Taps was adapted by Union General Daniel Butterfield for his brigade (Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac) in July, 1862.

Daniel Adams Butterfield 31 October 1831-17 July 1901

Daniel Adams Butterfield (31 October 1831-17 July 1901) was born in Utica, New York and graduated from Union College at Schenectady. He was the eastern superintendent of the American Express Company in New York when the Civil War broke out. Despite his lack of military experience, he rose quickly in rank. A Colonel in the 12th Regiment of the New York State Militia, he was promoted to Brigadier General and given command of a brigade of the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The 12th served in the Shenandoah Valley during the the Bull Run Campaign. During the Peninsular Campaign Butterfield served prominently when during the Battle of Gaines Mill, despite an injury, he seized the colors of the 83rd Pennsylvania and rallied the regiment at a critical time in the battle. Years later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for that act of heroism.

As the story goes, General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for Extinguish Lights feeling that the call was too formal to signal the days end and with the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, following the Seven Day’s battle. These battles took place during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. The call, sounded that night in July, 1862, soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was even used by the Confederates. Taps was made an official bugle call after the war.

The highly romantic account of how Butterfield composed the call surfaced in 1898 following a magazine article written that summer. The August, 1898 issue of Century Magazine contained an article called The Trumpet in Camp and Battle, by Gustav Kobbe, a music historian and critic. He was writing about the origin of bugle calls in the Civil War and in reference to Taps, wrote:

In speaking of our trumpet calls I purposely omitted one with which it seemed most appropriate to close this article, for it is the call which closes the soldier’s day. . . . Lights Out. I have not been able to trace this call to any other service. If it seems probable, it was original with Major Seymour, he has given our army the most beautiful of all trumpet-calls.

Kobbe was using as an authority the Army drill manual on infantry tactics prepared by Major General Emory Upton in 1867 (revised in 1874). The bugle calls in the manual were compiled by Major (later General) Truman Seymour of the 5th U.S. Artillery. Taps was called Extinguish Lights in these manuals since it was to replace the Lights Out call disliked by Butterfield. The title of the call was not changed until later, although other manuals started calling it Taps because most soldiers knew it by that name. Since Seymour was responsible for the music in the Army manual, Kobbe assumed that he had written the call. Kobbe s inability to find the origin of Extinguish Lights (Taps) prompted a letter from Oliver W. Norton in Chicago who claimed he knew how the call came about and that he was the first to perform it.

Norton wrote:

Chicago, August 8, 1898

I was much interested in reading the article by Mr. Gustav Kobbe, on the Trumpet and Bugle Calls, in the August Century. Mr. Kobbe says that he has been unable to trace the origin of the call now used for Taps, or the Go to sleep , as it is generally called by the soldiers. As I am unable to give the origin of this call, I think the following statement may be of interest to Mr. Kobbe and your readers.. .. During the early part of the Civil War I was bugler at the Headquarters of Butterfield s Brigade, Morell s Division, Fitz-John Porter s Corp, Army of the Potomac. Up to July, 1862, the Infantry call for Taps was that set down in Casey s Tactics, which Mr. Kobbe says was borrowed from the French. One day, soon after the seven days battles on the Peninsular, when the Army of the Potomac was lying in camp at Harrison’s Landing, General Daniel Butterfield, then commanding our Brigade, sent for me, and showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night, and was heard far beyond the limits of our Brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring Brigades, asking for copies of the music which I gladly furnished. I think no general order was issued from army headquarters authorizing the substitution of this for the regulation call, but as each brigade commander exercised his own discretion in such minor matters, the call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac. I have been told that it was carried to the Western Armies by the 11th and 12th Corps, when they went to Chattanooga in the fall of 1863, and rapidly made it s way through those armies. I did not presume to question General Butterfield at the time, but from the manner in which the call was given to me, I have no doubt he composed it in his tent at Harrison s Landing. I think General Butterfield is living at Cold Spring, New York. If you think the matter of sufficient interest, and care to write him on the subject, I have no doubt he will confirm my statement. -Oliver W. Norton

The editor did write to Butterfield as suggested by Norton. In answer to the inquiry from the editor of the Century, General Butterfield writing from Gragside, Cold Spring, under the date of August 31, 1898 wrote:

I recall, in my dim memory, the substantial truth of the statement made by Norton, of the 83rd Pa., about bugle calls. His letter gives the impression that I personally wrote the notes for the call. The facts are, that at the time I could sound calls on the bugle as a necessary part of military knowledge and instruction for an officer commanding a regiment or brigade. I had acquired this as a regimental commander. I had composed a call for my brigade, to precede any calls, indicating that such were calls, or orders, for my brigade alone. This was of very great use and effect on the march and in battle. It enabled me to cause my whole command, at times, in march, covering over a mile on the road, all to halt instantly, and lie down, and all arise and start at the same moment; to forward in line of battle, simultaneously, in action and charge etc. It saves fatigue. The men rather liked their call, and began to sing my name to it. It was three notes and a catch. I can not write a note of music, but have gotten my wife to write it from my whistling it to her, and enclose it. The men would sing , Dan, Dan, Dan, Butterfield, Butterfield to the notes when a call came. Later, in battle, or in some trying circumstances or an advance of difficulties, they sometimes sang, Damn, Damn, Damn, Butterfield, Butterfield.

The call of Taps did not seem to be as smooth, melodious and musical as it should be, and I called in some one who could write music, and practiced a change in the call of Taps until I had it suit my ear, and then, as Norton writes, got it to my taste without being able to write music or knowing the technical name of any note, but, simply by ear, arranged it as Norton describes. I did not recall him in connection with it, but his story is substantially correct. Will you do me the favor to send Norton a copy of this letter by your typewriter? I have none. -Daniel Butterfield

On the surface, this seems to be the true history of the origin of Taps. Indeed, the many articles written about Taps cite this story as the beginning of Butterfield’s association with the call. Certainly, Butterfield never went out of his way to claim credit for its composition and it wasn’t until the Century article that the origin came to light.

There are however, significant differences in Butterfield’s and Norton’s stories. Norton says that the music given to him by Butterfield that night was written down on an envelope while Butterfield wrote that he could not read or write music! Also Butterfield’s words seem to suggest that he was not composing a melody in Norton s presence, but actually arranging or revising an existing one. As a commander of a brigade, he knew of the bugle calls needed to relay troop commands. All officers of the time were required to know the calls and were expected to be able to play the bugle. Butterfield was no different-he could play the bugle but could not read music. As a colonel of the 12th N.Y. Regiment, before the war, he had ordered his men to be thoroughly familiar with calls and drills.

What could account for the variation in stories? My research shows that Butterfield did not compose Taps but actually revised an earlier bugle call. This sounds blasphemous to many, but the fact is that Taps existed in an early version of the call Tattoo. As a signal for end of the day, armies have used Tattoo to signal troops to prepare them for bedtime roll call. The call was used to notify the soldiers to cease the evening’s drinking and return to their garrisons. It was sounded an hour before the final call of the day to extinguish all fires and lights. This early version is found in three manuals the Winfield Scott (1786 -1866 ) manual of 1835, the Samuel Cooper (1798-1876) manual of 1836 and the William Gilham (1819?-1872) manual of 1861. This call referred to as the Scott Tattoo was in use from 1835-1860. A second version of Tattoo came into use just before the Civil War and was in use throughout the war replacing the Scott Tattoo.

The fact that Norton says that Butterfield composed Taps cannot be questioned. He was relaying the facts as he remembered them. His conclusion that Butterfield wrote Taps can be explained by the presence of the second Tattoo. It was most likely that the second Tattoo, followed by Extinguish Lights (the first eight measures of today’s Tattoo), was sounded by Norton during the course of the war.

It seems possible that these two calls were sounded to end the soldier’s day on both sides during the war. It must therefore be evident that Norton did not know the early Tattoo or he would have immediately recognized it that evening in Butterfield’s tent. If you review the events of that evening, Norton came into Butterfield’s tent and played notes that were already written down on an envelope. Then Butterfield changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. If you compare that statement while looking at the present day Taps, you will see that this is exactly what happened to turn the early (Scott) Tattoo in Taps. Butterfield as stated above, was a Colonel before the War and in General Order No. 1 issued by him on December 7, 1859 had the order: The Officers and non-commissioned Officers are expected to be thoroughly familiar with the first thirty pages, Vol. 1, Scott’s Tactics, and ready to answer any questions in regard to the same previous to the drill above ordered Scott’s Tactics include the bugle calls that Butterfield must have known and used.

If Butterfield was using Scott’s Tactics for drills, then it is feasible that he would have used the calls as set in the manual. Lastly, it is hard to believe that Butterfield could have composed anything that July in the aftermath of the Seven Days battles which saw the Union Army of the Potomac mangled by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Over twenty six thousand casualties were suffered on both sides. Butterfield had lost over 600 of his men on June 27th at the battle of Gaines Mill and had himself been wounded. In the midst of the heat, humidity, mud, mosquitoes, dysentery, typhoid and general wretchedness of camp life in that early July, it is hard to imagine being able to write anything.

In the interest of historical accuracy, it should be noted that it is not General Butterfield who composed Taps, rather that he revised an earlier call into the present day bugle call we know as Taps. This is not meant to take credit away from him. It is only to put things in a correct historic manner. Following the Peninsular Campaign, Butterfield served at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam and at Marye’s Heights in the Battle of Fredericksburg. Through political connections and his ability for administration, he became a Major General and served as chief of staff of the Union Army of the Potomac under Generals Joseph Hooker and George Meade. He was wounded at Gettysburg and then reassigned to the Western Theater. By war’s end, he was breveted a brigadier general and stayed in the army after the Civil War, serving as superintendent of the army’s recruiting service in New York City and colonel of the 5th Infantry. In 1870, after resigning from the military, Butterfield went back to work with the American Express Company. He was in charge of a number of special public ceremonies, including General William Tecumseh Sherman’s funeral in 1891. Besides his association with Taps, Butterfield also designed the system of Corps Badges which were distinctive shapes of color cloth sewn on to uniforms to distinguish units.

Butterfield died in 1901. His tomb is the most ornate in the cemetery at West Point despite the fact that he never attended. There is also a monument to Butterfield in New York City near Grant’s Tomb. There is nothing on either monument that mentions Taps or Butterfield’s association with the call. Taps was sounded at his funeral.

How did it become associated with funerals? The earliest official reference to the mandatory use of Taps at military funeral ceremonies is found in the U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations for 1891, although it had doubtless been used unofficially long before that time, under its former designation Extinguish Lights.

The first use of Taps at a funeral during the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia. Captain John C. Tidball of Battery A, 2nd Artillery ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Since the enemy was close, he worried that the traditional 3 volleys would renew fighting.

During the Peninsular Campaign in 1862, a soldier of Tidball’s Battery – A of the 2nd Artillery – was buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced position, concealed in the woods. It was unsafe to fire the customary three volleys over the grave on account of the proximity of the enemy, and it occurred to Captain Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be the most ceremony that would be substituted. The custom, thus originated, was taken up throughout the Army of the Potomac, and finally confirmed by orders. Colonel James A. Moss Officer’s Manual Pub. George Banta Publishing Co. Menasha Wisconsin 1913 Elbridge Coby in Army Talk (Princeton, 1942), p.208 states that it was B Battery of the Third Artillery that first used Taps at a military funeral.

This first sounding of Taps at a military funeral is commemorated in a stained glass window at The Chapel of the Centurion (The Old Post Chapel) at Fort Monroe, Virginia. The window, made by R. Geissler of New York and based on a painting by Sidney King, was dedicated in 1958 and shows a bugler and a flag at half staff. In that picture a drummer boy stands beside the bugler. The grandson of that drummer boy purchased Berkeley Plantation where Harrisons Landing is located. The site where Taps was born is also commemorated. In this case, by a monument located on the grounds of Berkeley Plantation. This monument to Taps was erected by the Virginia American Legion and dedicated on July 4, 1969. The site is also rich in history, for the Harrisons of Berkeley Plantation included Benjamin Harrison and William Henry Harrison, both presidents of the United States as well as Benjamin Harrison (father and Great grandfather of future presidents), a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

It must be pointed out that other stories of the origin of Taps exist. A popular one is that of a Northern boy who was killed fighting for the south. His father, Robert Ellicombe a Captain in the Union Army, came upon his son’s body on the battlefield and found the notes to Taps in a pocket of the dead boy’s Confederate uniform. When Union General Daniel Sickles heard the story, he had the notes sounded at the boy’s funeral. There is no evidence to back up the story or the existence of Captain Ellicombe. As with many other customs, this solemn tradition continues today. Although Butterfield merely revised an earlier bugle call, his role in producing those 24 notes gives him a place in the history of music as well as the history of war.

As soon as Taps was sounded that night in July 1862, words were put with the music. The first were, “Go To Sleep, Go to Sleep.” As the years went on many more versions were created. There are no official words to the music but here are some of the more popular verses:

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
‘Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
‘Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.


Jari A. Villanueva, jvmusic@erols.com is a bugler and bugle historian. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory and Kent State University, he was the curator of the Taps Bugle Exhibithttp://www.arlingtoncemetery.com/tapsproj.htm at Arlington National Cemetery from 1999-2002. He has been a member of the United States Air Force Band since 1985 and is considered the country’s foremost authority on the bugle call of Taps.

His website, www.tapsbugler.com includes a history of Taps, performance information and guidelines for funerals, finding buglers for sounding calls, many photos of bugles and buglers, music for bugle calls, stories and myths about Taps, Taps at the JFK funeral, ordering his 60 page booklet on Taps (24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions) and many links to bugle related sites. Jari is also working on book on the History of Bugle Call in the United States Military.


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Honor the Civil War dead

By James G. Wiles

Next Monday is the first Memorial Day of this 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War.

With America now in the 10th year of the War with Jihad, it’s hard to get past the fact that U.S. soldiers are being wounded or killed in combat every day. Nevertheless, the Sesquicentennial observance is a good time to recall that Memorial Day itself originated as the day to commemorate the nation’s 618,000 Civil War casualties. As it happens, two of our active local national cemeteries – Florence and Beaufort (as well as Salisbury, N.C.) – also contain Union Civil War dead. Numerous Horry County cemeteries contain graves of Civil War veterans as well.

Beginning in the North as Decoration Day, Memorial Day (first so named in 1882) evolved into an important step towards national reconciliation. Union veterans’ organizations, principally the Grand Army of the Republic, promulgated the idea of a nationwide holiday on May 30. In 1968, Congress moved it to the last Monday in May.

Confederate veterans had their own observances. This was continued by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Daughters of the Confederacy and other organizations. Today, eight states still observe a Confederate Memorial Day, including South Carolina.

Ninety-eight of those Confederate dead were from Horry County.

Other than heroism, there is little to celebrate about a war in which American killed American.

Therefore, this Memorial Day, I have a suggestion. If it’s your custom to visit veterans graves on that day, why not this year consider also visiting the grave of a soldier who fought on the other side of America’s most terrible war?

It’s not as hard as you might think. As noted, Union dead are buried in the Florence, Beaufort and Salisbury National Cemeteries. The largest is Salisbury, which contains at least 11,600 Union graves, principally from the Confederate prisoner of war camp which was located there.

Here in Horry County, the graves of Confederate veterans are maintained by Litchfield Camp 132 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Its website, scv132.org, has a list of their locations, together with the names and units of the men buried there.

A moving alternative, if you wish to visit the Union dead, is to visit the nameless graves of the 2,800 Yankees who died during the five-month life of the Florence Stockade. The POW graves form the heart of the old part of Florence’s National Cemetery.

Locally, Franklin G. Burroughs, a founder of Burroughs & Chapin, suffered in a federal POW camp in Illinois.

Andersonville – located in southwestern Georgia – was the most notorious of the Confederacy’s POW camps. Nearly 45,000 Yankees were held there, of whom 12,920 died. Eye witnesses described some survivors as “walking skeletons.” Its commandant became the only Civil War officer to be executed for war crimes.

Andersonville and Salisbury, however, were not the only death traps. Yankee camps were similar in kind, if not in degree: bad and insufficient food and clothing, exposure to the elements, terrible sanitation, no medical care. At the North’s deadly POW camp, in Elmira, N.Y., some 2,900 Rebels died.

Florence’s POW camp was a direct result of Andersonville. After the fall of Atlanta in mid-1864, Andersonville’s able-bodied prisoners were transferred to a newly-built camp outside Florence. Prisoners soon began dying the rate of more than 100 a week. They were buried in trenches.

When I visited Andersonville last month, a group of warrant officer candidates from Fort Rocker, Ala., were receiving a guided tour. Andersonville’s Chief of Interpretation and Education, Eric Leonard, told me the U.S. military regularly runs tours to Andersonville.

So far, Andersonville’s National Cemetery contains five KIA’s from the present war. One veteran who was instrumental in raising the money for the National POW Museum located at Andersonville – and himself a former Vietnam POW – is now interred there with his wife.

“The continuation of the story,” Leonard said, “is very moving.”

The writer lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Tattered Confederate flag gets new life

Restored Civil War flag resurrects some rebel ‘Greys’

By Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post

Cathy L. Heffner works on a Civil War-era flag restoration project at Textile Preservation Associates in Ranson, W.Va. Katherine Frey / THE WASHINGTON POST

In the summer of 1862 the men of the Caroline Greys, having suffered the rigors of the first year of the Civil War, realized that their elegant silk flag was much too fine for the campfire and battlefield.

A remarkable banner, it bore a painting of the Confederate unit in fancy dress uniforms, exquisitely rendered on the dark blue fabric. It was grand, and refined, and captured the innocence of prewar pageantry.

So that July it was left for safekeeping at Richmond’s new Spotswood Hotel. If the Greys, organized in Caroline County, Va., didn’t survive the war, perhaps their flag might.

Over the next three years, the outfit was devoured in battle at places like Antietam, Drewry’s Bluff and Dindwiddie Court House. Only 11 men of the original 70 were left to surrender at Appomattox.

Their flag fared better, as they had hoped. But it, too, was eventually defeated, by the relentless assaults of time.

Last week, after a campaign waged with tweezers, tiny erasers and a humidifying gun, Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy returned the once-tattered flag to display for the first time in 35 years.

In so doing, conservators preserved one of the most striking banners to survive the war and resurrected the Greys, who march again as they did in 1861, watched over by a smiling angel painted on silk.

The conservation also uncovered a forgotten mystery of the flag — a strangely altered numeral — and the signature of the flag maker, George Ruskell, which had been obscured by 150 years of grime.

“We had an idea that it was really a special and unique flag,” museum curator Catherine Wright said Monday. “But it wasn’t until it was at the conservator and they went through the process of flattening and straightening it” that its real beauty was revealed.

The flag is 4 feet by 5 feet and is trimmed in gold fringe. On the “front,” or obverse side, the center of the flag bears the painted state seal of Virginia, with a female warrior, the symbol of virtue, standing over a fallen tyrant whose crown has toppled off.

The reverse side shows 36 men, most dressed in dark gray uniforms with gold buttons, white belts and old-fashioned military caps topped with red pompons. Many of the faces appear somewhat distinct, and curators wonder if some might be miniature portraits.

The group is being led by two musicians in red jackets and light blue pants and a bearded man with a sword and epaulettes who is clearly their commander.

Curators noted that the bearded figure resembles a photograph of the unit’s early commander, Robert O. Peatross.

Beneath a green ribbon that reads “Presented by the Ladies” in gold letters, the angel, reclining on a cloud, gazes down at the soldiers.

Underneath the portrait is a painted red ribbon that reads “To the Caroline Greys, May, 1861.”

Over the years, curators said, the paint on the flag had deteriorated, shrinking and curling and tearing holes in the center so that both sides looked like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle.

Its condition was so bad that the flag had never been displayed in the museum’s new building, which opened in 1976, Wright said.

The bulk of the $21,000 cost of the restoration is being paid by retired Houston businessman B. Floyd Tyson Jr., 80, who said he grew up in Richmond hearing stories of the war and of elderly Confederate veterans.

“We hold these people very dear because of the sacrifices they made,” he said Thursday. “I am so happy for the museum because it’s something that they can present to future generations.”

A hamlet’s pride

The Caroline Greys, later Company E of the 30th Virginia Infantry Regiment, got its flag on April 27, 1861, two weeks after the war began, according to a story a few days later in a Richmond newspaper.

There were about 70 men in the company, according to the report, which was filed from Ruther Glen, a hamlet north of Richmond that still feels much like it probably did in 1861.

The Greys began as a militia group; it was formed Dec. 12, 1859, in response to the abolitionist John Brown’s attempt to spark a slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry two months before, the museum said.

Peatross was one of three members of his clan to join up.

The Mason brothers, Camillus, 23, a teacher, and his brother, Francis, 19, a student, also joined. Their father was a farmer who lived in a place nearby called White Chimneys, according to census records and a history of the 30th Virginia by Robert K. Krick.

Camillus was killed at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. Francis was wounded there and sent home; he died in his father’s house two weeks later.

The Turner brothers of Ruther Glen — George, 22, William, 21, and Joshua, 18 — all joined the company on the same day in 1861. Joshua died of disease a few months later. William was killed at Antietam, where George was wounded.

Antietam, one of the war’s bloodiest battles, also claimed the Greys’ Thomas W. Blunt, a carpenter who was 25 at enlistment, Albert C. Dimue, 19, Louis G. Goldsby, 21, and Edwin Jackson, 25.

“Very few of the young men who left here came home,” said Susan Sili, a Caroline County historian.

Putting pieces together

When the battered flag was delivered last year to Textile Preservation Associates in Ranson, W.Va., the company’s president, Cathy L. Heffner, rejoiced.

Despite its dreadful condition, Heffner, a veteran flag conservator, realized that almost all the pieces of the crumbled painting were there — twisted, curled and fragmented, but present on pieces of the flag silk.

All she had to do was “relax” the fragments with a humidifier, flatten them, and put the pieces back together like a puzzle.

“I could tell by the amount of folding and creasing that these pieces were going to open up and that there was going to be a substantial amount of flag left,” she said. “I was really excited.”

Once reassembled, the flag was sent for cleaning to Art Care Associates, of Frederick, and painting conservator Nancy R. Pollak.

Using tweezers and a small eraser, she began meticulously cleaning each fragment, and then painting, with water colors, small paper patches to fill the few gaps.

In the process she discovered Ruskell’s name under the grime, which prompted a debate as to whether he was the painter or the flag maker, or both.

She also stumbled upon the mysterious altered numeral. On the front of the flag, which bears the motto, “Presented to the Caroline Greys, May, 1860,” Pollak noticed that the zero in 1860 and originally been a 1, as in 1861.

The 1 had been switched to change the front date to 1860, while the date on the reverse side remained 1861.

Why?

County historian Sili believes she knows: The Greys “wanted to make it clear that they had been ready to fight a year beforehand.”

Unaware of the suffering that was ahead, she said, “they were pretty hot to fight.”


On This Date in History – May 22, 1861 – 1st Union Casualty of Civil War

On May 22, 1861, in what’s generally regarded as the first Union combat fatality of the Civil War, Pvt. Thornsbury Bailey Brown was shot and killed by a Confederate soldier at Fetterman Bridge in present-day West Virginia.

Click here for more information on this story and the location of his gravesite at Grafton National Cemetery.

Could ‘chain of lakes’ be Isles, Harriet – Humphrey?

A Civil War history buff wants Lake Calhoun’s name changed because John C. Calhoun was passionately pro-slavery. The lake’s name has been debated before, but changing it is no small matter.

John Winters, it seems, can’t get enough of Civil War history. Now, the Minneapolis retiree hopes that knowledge helps bring change to the city’s biggest lake.

He is asking that the Park Board rename Lake Calhoun to Lake Humphrey.

The request would swap the lake’s longstanding dedication to John C. Calhoun, history’s most passionate pro-slavery orator — and a South Carolinian, no less — with a nod to Hubert H. Humphrey, the homegrown civil rights champion.

Winters, a retired computer programmer who lives near Lake Harriet, is not the first to suggest dropping Calhoun’s name. A 1993 proposal seeking to restore the lake’s original Indian name went nowhere.

His request to the board Wednesday came under a 1999 policy that allows nominations to name or rename a park or facility so long as there’s no “political or frivolous motivation.”

Dawn Sommers, a Park Board spokeswoman, said that consideration by the board “is not automatic.” An assistant superintendent will review the request and recommend how to proceed, she said. If the board decides to consider the change, it would conduct two hearings, and would be prohibited from acting for at least two years.

That, she said, “shows it is a serious process.”

Winters, 65, has known of Calhoun’s slavery stance since grade school, he said, and can recite passages from his speeches by memory. He said Friday that he decided to push for the Lake Calhoun name change after a recent disagreement with his sister about the root cause of the Civil War.

Humphrey, he said, deserves recognition in the city where he served as mayor for spurring the Democratic Party in 1948 to add a civil rights plank to its platform.

In addition, he said, Humphrey has gotten the “short end” of it lately, with the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome now carrying the name “Mall of America Field” for Vikings games.

Lake Calhoun, middle of the popular “chain of lakes” trio that includes Lake of the Isles to the north and Lake Harriet to the south, was named long before the Park Board’s creation in 1883. One theory has the lake being dedicated to Calhoun in recognition of his 1817-25 stint as secretary of war, when he ordered the establishment of Fort Snelling.

But he also was part of “the great triumvirate” of orators who dominated politics during the first half of the 19th century, engaging in debates that foreshadowed the Civil War.

In 1836 he told the U.S. Senate that slavery as a permanent institution in the South was not a matter open to debate: “The relation which now exists between the two races has existed for two centuries,” Calhoun said. “We will not, cannot, permit it to be destroyed … come what will, should it cost every drop of blood.”

The first hearing on a name change would be within six months, if the board moves ahead with a review.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109

UPDATE: The attorney from the Minneapolis Park Board has determined that the city has no authority to change the name. You can read the updated story here.


This week in the Civil War – Week of May 22

(AP) On May 23, 1861, voters in a Virginia convention ratify an ordinance for the state’s secession from the Union as a divided nation lurched toward all-out war. South Carolina had been the first state to secede in December 1860. It was followed afterward by six other Southern slave states, including North Carolina on May 20. Virginia initially was among states seeking a way out of the crisis and delegates initially opposed secession in February 1861. But the Confederate artillery attack on federal troops at Fort Sumter, S.C., in April joins other developments in shifting the mood on the political landscape. In late May, Richmond replaces Montgomery, Ala., as the capital of the Confederacy and its president, Jefferson Davis, arrived there to great fanfare on May 29, 1861. Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina secede this month, bringing to 11 the number of Southern states forming the Confederacy.

Best-selling author signs copies of new Civil War book in Hagerstown

By KATE S. ALEXANDER

kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN—  A stack of letters bound in ribbon and hidden in an Eastern Shore (Md.) home ignited an acclaimed book telling the stories of little-known Civil War heroes and skyrocketed author Adam Goodheart to the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.

Click on the image to go to the Amazon.com page for this book

Goodheart — a son of Maryland and lecturer in American Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Md. — came to the Visitor Welcome Center on Potomac Street in HagerstownWednesday to sign copies of his new book, “1861: The Civil War Awakening.”

The book by the Washington, D.C.-based author is listed as No. 13 on the Times’ best-seller list for the week of May 15.

“His book is a unique perspective on Civil War history,” said Beth Rowland, who together with her husband, Tim, writes a column for America’s Civil War Magazine.

Tim Rowland is also a columnist for The Herald-Mail

Beth Rowland, who lives near Boonsboro, said it was significant for an author of Goodheart’s caliber to visit Hagerstown for the day.

David Hanlin, development coordinator for the Washington County Free Library, arranged Goodheart’s visit in connection with the library’s fundraising dinner Wednesday night at Fountain Head Country Club.

His visit, which included the book-signing and speaking engagement at the dinner, was also sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Echoing Beth Rowland, Hanlin said Goodheart approaches history as a journalist, telling not just facts in detailed chronology, but stories, deep with emotion and humanity.

“He grasps the forces at work that led to the Civil War, and he uses those stories to highlight that pivotal year,” Hanlin said of the book.

Too often the start of 1861 is overshadowed by the following years of blood and devastation, Goodheart said.

“I hope that people really come away with a sense of the history, the places and the people that make it,” he said of his work.

Goodheart said reading those ribbon-bound letters — penned by Col. William H. Emory — immersed him in that moment of uncertainty as Emory, like many Americans at the time, grappled with a choice: Betray his country and fight for the South, or join the Union and chance fighting against his home.

For about a decade, Goodheart’s research grew that story of uncertainty into a much larger tale of the genesis of war, spanning American experiences from sea to shining sea, he said.

Yet, his book does not follow the long-trodden path of many Civil War tomes, telling history in what he calls “big, general abstracts.”

Rather, it reads almost as a novel, unfolding stories of America’s unsung participants as they shape the critical first months of 1861, he said.

Although his book only follows events through July of 1861, Goodheart said he does not plan to write books for each of the years of civil war.

However, he said he has another work under way, details of which he would not disclose.

“For now, it is still just a glittering in my eye,” he said.

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