Archive for November, 2011

Civil War monument in Hightstown, N.J. the focus of Christmas decorating debate

by Anne-Marie Cottone, NewJerseyNewsroom.com

Lights on the Square advertisement - IMAGE: HIGHTSOWNBOROUGH.COM

Hightstown officials are decorating the borough’s Civil War monument with Christmas lights this year, and that decision has sparked conflict in the Mercer County town.

Seven of the nine members of Hightstown’s Historic Preservation Commission resigned in protest, while borough council members are asking people to wait and see how the lights look,according to the Times of Trenton.

Critics won’t have long to wait. The lights and garlands on the monument, in the form of a Christmas tree, will be illuminated Friday night after a Santa Claus parade as part of an event called “Lights on the Square.” The borough’s website refers to it as “a tree lighting and United States Military tribute.”

Some residents have said that decorating the monument on Stockton Street is disrespectful, and opponents were hoping the borough council would reverse its decision at Monday night’s meeting, the Times reported.

But at the meeting, no member made such a motion, and each one present expressed approval of the holiday decoration. “I suggest that those with doubts reserve judgment until they see the completed project,” Councilwoman Isabel McGinty said.

The plan was based on the recommendation of Preservation Commission member Daniel Buriak, who did not notify the council that the other commission members were opposed, the Times reported. Buriak has not resigned from the commission, did not attend the borough council meeting on Monday, and has not been available for comment, according to the Times.

—ANNE-MARIE COTTONE, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

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What did the Rebel Yell sound like?

If you want to have an idea of what the famed “Rebel Yell” of the Confederates sounded like, check out this video put out by the Smithsonian.

It was taken from film footage of Confederate veterans in the 1930s who stood up to the microphone and did their best to give their version of the famed yell 65+ years after the war ended.

Historian: Civil War regiment endured much

By CHRIS SHOLLY, Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News

At the start of the Civil War, hundreds of Lebanon County men enlisted in the military, but many of them didn’t return, and many that did had the scars of battle to bear.

Local historian Greg Keller, dressed in a Union uniform, presented a history of some of these men during a program at the Lebanon County Historical Society on Sunday. Keller explained how the 93rd Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers were formed and what role they played in the war.

Local historian Greg Keller, right, talks with Ronald and Patricia Kaullen of Harrisburg about the Civil War following a program at the Lebanon County Historical Society on Sunday. Keller, dressed in the uniform of a Union soldier, presented the history of the 93rd Regiment, formed in the county in 1861. Patricia Kaullen is a descendent of Dr. William Henry Stoy, a Revolutionary-era physician in Lebanon County and in whose home the historical society is located. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS CHRIS SHOLLY)

“They suffered quite a bit. They suffered numerous engagements, and we see many, many men wounded and killed. Some of these men suffered from their wounds the rest of their lives,” Keller said during his talk.

The 93rd Regiment was formed by the Rev. James M. McCarter, a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church who was stationed at Lebanon. He had been chaplain of the Fourteenth Regiment for three months prior to being discharged. Keller said McCarter and Capt. Eli Daugherty wanted to continue their service to country, and in the fall of 1861, McCarter sought approval from the secretary of war to raise a regiment of infantry.

They held meetings around the county, and within the first week enlisted 500 men, Keller said. By the end of the second week, McCarter had 700 men to form a regiment.

One of the recruits was a 12-year-old boy, who wanted to be a drummer. Keller said they enlisted him but later discovered the boy was really a girl. She was discharged from the service.

Once the regiment formed, it camped at what was then the fairgrounds. The encampment was located in what is today Monument Park on South Eighth Street in Lebanon. The men drilled daily, and often citizens would come out to watch them or bring them food and other items they might need.

Keller said the camp was “quite festive” at times. Most people then believed the war wouldn’t last very long.

“They thought they would go out, fire a few shots, and it would be over,” he said.

On Nov. 20, 1861, the regiment of 1,020 soldiers headed to Washington, D.C., by train. When they arrived at the nation’s capital, the soldiers were put to work setting up fortifications.

Throughout the war, the regiment would see action in key battles, including Gettysburg, Yorktown, Antietam and Appomattox. In fact, there are two monuments at Gettysburg marking the participation of the regiment in battles at Little Roundtop between July 2 and July 4, 1863.

Keller related several stories about the soldiers who served in the regiment. One of the more famous tales is that of Capt. Eli Daugherty. In late May 1862, the 93rd regiment fought at Fair Oaks, Va. Daugherty narrowly escaped death when a bullet pierced his vest pocket, hitting a gold pocket watch and passing through 600 pages of the Bible he was carrying. The bullet wounded him, but the watch and the Bible had taken the brunt of the bullet’s force, saving his life.

The 93rd Regiment served until June 27, 1865. In total, the regiment lost 274 men, and hundreds more were wounded.

The Historical Society at 924 Cumberland St. has a number of items from the Civil War and the 93rd Regiment, including two of the original flags given by G. Dawson Coleman, the key sponsor of the regiment. Among other items are the Bible and pocket watch that saved Daugherty’s life.

The society’s next program will feature a talk on toys, trains and holiday trees at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. The free program is open to the public.

chrissholly@ldnews.com; 272-5611, ext. 151

 

Copper thieves steal sword at Lincoln tomb

CHICAGO (AFP) — Thieves have snatched a copper sword from the burial site of president Abraham Lincoln, one of the most revered leaders in US history, local media reported.

Thieves have snatched a copper sword from the burial site of president Abraham Lincoln local media reported (AFP/File, Karen Bleier)

The roughly three-foot (90-centimeter) sword was brandished by the statue of a Civil War artillery officer at the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, located in Springfield, Illinois.

The sword was broken off at the handle, The State Journal-Register reported Friday.

The theft was apparently the first since 1890, when the same sword was stolen from the statue, the newspaper said. At that time, the sword was made of bronze that largely came from melted-down Civil War cannons.

Four statue groupings are mounted on the terrace of Lincoln’s tomb, each representing the artillery, cavalry, infantry and navy during the bloody 1861-1865 conflict.

“We just cannot imagine why someone would even think about doing it, let alone climb up the steps and actually do it,” Illinois Historic Preservation Agency spokesman Dave Blanchette told Journal-Register.

Four flights of steps lead to the terrace, which features a cordon of 37 shields that each bear the name of a state that made up the Union when the site was originally built in 1869-1874.

The thieves probably went to work after the cemetery where Lincoln’s tomb is located closed for the day, according to Blanchette. He said plans were underway to repair the statue, which was left intact except for the sword.

The tomb, which features a 117 feet (36 meters) high obelisk atop a rectangular base, is made of mostly of granite. A fragment of the ancient Roman Servian Wall built in 578 BC and presented as a gift to Lincoln from the people of Rome is attached to the obelisk.

Lincoln was shot and killed by a Confederate sympathizer in April 1865, just days after southern military forces surrendered. He was 56.

Oklahoma’s largest Civil War battlefield may become National Park

by Sean McLachlan 

1st Kansas Infantry was a black regiment with distinguished service at Honey Springs (Photo by farmalldanzil via Flickr)

The Honey Springs Battlefield Park in Oklahoma may become a new addition to the National Park Service, the Tulsa World reports.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said in a report that there’s “potential action” for “support designation of Honey Springs as a National Battlefield Park.” Now Oklahoma history buffs are scratching their heads over just what that means. The Tulsa World couldn’t get an answer.Hopefully that government-speak translates into real action. The Battle of Honey Springs was the largest Civil War battle in Oklahoma, which was the Indian Territory back then. The battle was notable in that white soldiers were a minority on both sides.

On July 17, 1863, a Confederate army was gathering at Honey Springs in order to attack the Union position at Fort Gibson. About four or five thousand rebels had assembled, mostly Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw. More reinforcements were coming, so the Union troops at Fort Gibson, which only numbered 2,800, decided to attack before it was too late. The Union side was mostly black and Indian troops, some from the same tribes as the rebels.

After a night march, the Union army attacked the Confederate position in a pouring rain. The rain ruined much of the rebel gunpowder, and this helped decide the battle. Nonetheless there was enough powder left for the rebels to put up a hard resistance. After a few hours they were forced to retreat, having to burn part of their wagon train to keep it out of Union hands.

The Confederates lost 150 men killed, 400 wounded, and 77 taken prisoner. The Union lost only 17 killed and 60 wounded. The rebels lost control of the Indian Territory north of the Arkansas River. This helped open up Arkansas for invasion and led to a Union army capturing Little Rock that September.

Prominent in the fight on the Union side was the First Kansas Colored Volunteers, a black unit of mostly escaped slaves that was the first American black regiment to see combat when they defeated a larger force of rebel guerrillas at the Battle of Island Mound in Missouri on October 29, 1862. The victory made headlines across the country and helped dispel a widespread belief that black soldiers wouldn’t fight.

The First Kansas Colored Volunteers fought in several engagements in Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas yet they aren’t very well known. The justly famous 54th Massachusetts has inspired books, a monument, a movie, even a rap video, but the First Kansas remains largely forgotten. I’ve been sending a book proposal on the regiment around to publishers for a few years now, and despite being an established Civil War author I keep getting told there’s an “insufficient market” for the subject. Apparently the American public can only deal with one group of black heroes at a time.

Here’s hoping the Honey Springs battlefield will become a National Park and the First Kansas will get some of the recognition they deserve. Thanks to Jane Johansson over at the The Trans-Mississippian blog for bringing this to my attention. Jane blogs about all aspects of the Civil War west of the Mississippi and is worth reading.

 

Northampton Community College celebrates opening of Civil War exhibit

By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times 

A crowd quickly developed around Brian Alnutt as he guided visitors through the Civil War exhibit on loan toNorthampton Community College.

Alnutt is an assistant professor of history at the college and was acting as a docent during the grand opening of “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” in the college’s Kopecek Hall.

Northampton is one of 200 sites to be selected to host the free, traveling exhibit, which delves into how President Abraham Lincoln tackled the war’s constitutional and political challenges.

Abraham Lincoln in Illinois at the Lincoln Exhibit (Photo courtesy of the Express Times)

This is the only local showing of the exhibit, which was created by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. It is funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

It runs until Dec. 13 and dovetails into Northampton’s yearlong educational programming around the Civil War.

Alnutt’s tour of the exhibit began with a small group of four or five people and quickly grew as visitors stopped to hear him share tidbits about Lincoln.

Before becoming president, Lincoln only served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, he said. Lincoln was not a national political figure but he’d spoken out against slavery so states seceded before his inauguration, Alnutt explained.

More slave states followed but not all seceded, he said, leading to some slave owners fighting against the Confederacy. The states that seceded initially hoped for a peaceful secession but Lincoln fought to preserve the union.

The exhibit explains Lincoln called the secessions undemocratic. If a minority group who lost an election could just break up the government, government by the people could never survive, Lincoln said.

It was only later that Lincoln decided to tackle slavery, Alnutt said, predicting that if the South had fallen quickly slavery may have survived. Alnutt noted that most other countries had abolished slavery by 1861.

“Lincoln” made an appearance at the event. James Hayney wowed a crowd of about 100 people in Lipkin Theater as he assumed the persona of Lincoln, down to the beard and stovepipe hat.

Earlier Thursday morning, a group of fourth- and fifth-graders from Fountain Hill Elementary School and kindergartners from the college’s child care center were treated to time with Hayney. Students clamored to have their photo taken with Lincoln, to shake his hand and even high-five.

Northampton sophomore Claire Mulicka, of Bethlehem, came to the event to earn extra credit for a class. She left touched by Lincoln’s speeches and his determination to finish the fight.

“I thought it was fantastic,” she said of Hayney’s performance.

Hayney, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lincoln, never missed a beat as he talked about his life as the nation’s 16th president.

Lincoln would’ve retired from politics if not for Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas’ introduction of the Kansas Nebraska Act, which extended slavery into the new territories by repealing the Missouri Compromise, he said. Lincoln ran for the Senate twice and lost but he gained national recognition debating Douglas on slavery.

Lincoln actually beat Douglas in 1860 to become president. Hayney spoke about the difficulties his Kentuckian wife Mary Todd faced as one of 16 children, whose family was split between the war’s two sides. The Eastern press tore his wife apart, calling her the mole in the White House, Hayney said.

ENDOWMENT FUNDS CIVIL WAR ANNIVERSARY EVENTS
The exhibit is open 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

Prior to being selected to host the exhibit, Northampton was planning events based on the theme of “The Meaning of Freedom: Civil War 1865 to Today.”

The yearlong events are funded through an endowment built with donations and a separate $800,000 National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant Northampton was awarded in 2008. The endowment is meant to annually fund humanities-focused educational programs surrounding a theme.

 

 

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