Posts from the ‘Graves’ Category

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.

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150 Years Ago: Battle of Ball’s Bluff Oct. 21, 1861

Ball’s Bluff was a small battle by the standards of the Civil War, but it had ramifications far beyond its size. It was only the second significant battle in the east, and received a great deal of attention in both North and South. Edward Baker, a senator from Oregon and close personal friend and political ally of President Lincoln, was killed during the battle and became a martyr to those who took a hard line against the Confederacy. Perhaps most importantly, the defeat spurred the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War by Congress; the Committee became a persecutor of those who were considered to be soft on defeating the Confederacy and destroying slavery.

George McClellan took command of Union forces around Washington, D.C., in the wake of the defeat at Bull Run in July 1861. He immediately set about training and improving the state of his army. As the good campaigning weather of fall 1861 passed, however, he began to feel pressure to advance on the Rebel forces just across the Potomac River from Washington. Probes and raids by Yankee forces over the Potomac combined intelligence gathering with training. On 19 October McClellan ordered General George McCall to conduct a reconnaissance toward the village of Dranesville, Virginia, covering a topographical survey of the area. McClellan alerted neighboring commander General Charles P. Stone of the movement and told him to keep a vigilant watch on the town of Leesburg; if the Rebels evacuated it, he could move in. A “light demonstration’ on Stone’s part would help move them on.

Stone moved one brigade to the Potomac opposite Leesburg. When an inexperienced scouting party crossed into Virginia during the night of 20 October, it mistook shadows for an unguarded Confederate camp. Stone ordered Colonel Charles Devens and 300 men to make a dawn attack. If no other Confederate forces were found, Devens was to stay on the Virginia side and conduct a further reconnaissance. When Devens found no camp, he pushed on to Leesburg, which he found empty of enemy troops. Devens requested reinforcements so that he could hold Leesburg.

When Stone ordered additional troops to join Devens, only three boats were available to ferry soldiers to the Virginia side and so movement was slow. Colonel Edward Baker was ordered to take command of the larger force, totaling 1,640 men. Baker was an inexperienced soldier, but he was also an old Illinois friend of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, in fact, had named his second son after Baker. After he had moved west, Baker was elected senator from Oregon. He had turned down a commission as brigadier general, because it would require his resignation from the Senate. An outspoken enemy of any who would compromise with the slaveholding South, he looked forward to an opportunity to prove his point in battle.

Baker ordered his men to form a line of battle in a clearing near the river. Immediately in the rear of his position was 100-foot Ball’s Bluff; a single narrow path led down to the Potomac. More experienced officers worried about a wooded ridge immediately in front of Baker’s line. Confederates on that height would be able to shoot down at the Union soldiers in the clearing below.

Actually, Confederate units under the command of Colonel Nathan “Shanks” Evans were slowly arriving on the battlefield and exchanging shots with the Yankees. At 3:00 p.m. the Confederates launched a general assault on the four regiments at Ball’s Bluff. Soon, Evans’s 1,600 Rebel soldiers in wooded cover were pouring shot into Baker’s forces in the open. For three and one-half hours, the Union soldiers held on. Baker was killed around 5:00 p.m. Unable to stand the fire and unable to retreat in an orderly manner, the Yankee formation began to crumble. Some leaped off the bluff in an attempt to reach the river, and many were killed or injured by the fall. Others climbed safely down Ball’s Bluff, but the few boats were swamped by the numbers trying to regain the Maryland side. As the Confederates fired down from the top of the bluff, boats sank and scores drowned in the river. By 7:00 p.m. the battle was virtually over and most Federal survivors were prisoners.

Union losses totaled 49 killed, 158 wounded, and 714 captured or wounded. Confederate casualties amounted to 33 killed, 115 wounded, and one man missing. The obvious disparity in losses was clear to all and trumpeted by the Confederates, while the defeat having occurred so near to Washington ensured that newspaper reporters would quickly spread the news to the rest of the country.

National Cemetery at Ball's Bluff

The effects were quickly felt in the north. For Lincoln, Baker’s death was a personal blow. When informed, Lincoln stood stunning and silent for several minutes. He walked slowly back to the executive mansion with bystanders noting tears rolling down his face. Baker was buried in a state funeral attended by the president, vice president, congressional leaders, and the Supreme Court. He immediately became a martyr to the cause of the Union, despite the fact that his inexperience had contributed to the disaster.

Nonetheless, the political establishment was intent on discovering darker motives for the disaster. Although many regular officers blamed Baker, Republicans who favored a hard war policy and the destruction of slavery blamed McClellan and Stone. On 20 December, Congress created the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Representatives from both the Senate and the House of Representatives thus formed a permanent committee to inquire into and investigate how the war was being directed. Investigations were conducted in secret, and the committee was soon persecuting those suspected of having Southern sympathies.

Their first victim was General Charles P. Stone. Witnesses denounced Stone, alleging that he secretly communicated with unnamed Southerners and returned runaway slaves to their owners. He was also blamed for failing to reinforce Baker at Ball’s Bluff. The Committee took their findings to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who ordered Stone relieved of command and arrested on 8 February 1862. Stone was never tried, but enough testimony was released to the newspapers to paint him as a traitor. Stone was released from prison in August 1862, and though he served again, his military career was virtually at an end. Stone’s experience remained an example and warning to Union commanders throughout the remainder of the war.

– Tim J. Watts

[Source: Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 167-169]

Additional Links:

The U.S. Army has a detailed look at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff that was published previously as Ball’s Bluff: An Overview and is now on line. You can find that here.

The Civil War Trust has a webpage dedicated to the Battle of Ball’s Bluff with additional resources, including recent efforts to preserve the historic battlefield from development encroachment. You and find their Ball’s Bluff page here.

The Balls’ Bluff National Cemetery contains 25 burial plots containing the remains of 54 soldiers. Only one, plot #13, is identified as James Allen, a soldier from the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority began its Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Restoration program in 2004, to restore the park’s appearance to what it looked like in 1861. You can find more information about those efforts here.

You can read a brief biography of Senator-Colonel Edward Dickinson Baker here.

For further reading:

Farwell, Byron. Ball’s Bluff: A small Battle and Its Long Shadow (1990).

Grimsley, Mark. “The Definition of Disaster.” Civil War Times Illustrated (1989).

Holien, Kim Bernard. Battle at Ball’s Bluff (1985).

Stears, Stephen W. “The Ordeal of General Stone.” MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (1995).

Tap, Bruce. Over Lincoln’s Shoulder: The Committee on the Conduct of the War (1998).

Civil War soldiers in Lakeside Cemetery

By Kay Laughlin – Westlake-Bay Village Observer, Westlake, Ohio

Our nation’s Civil War began in April 1861 with the firing of canons on Ft. Sumter. This year, 2011, is the 150th anniversary and commemoration of the Civil War. Activities are planned to remember the men who fought and made sacrifices.

Nine men from North Dover Township who answered the call of their country are buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Bay Village. They are: James Conklin, Washington Elmer, Alonson Grant, Luman Griswold, John Schultz, Chauncey Stevens, Alfred Wolf, Michael Wolf and an unknown union soldier.

This is the story of Luman Laomi Griswold who was born to Luman and Margaret Marilla Smith Griswold in Orange Township, Cuyahoga County, in 1835. At the time of Margaret’s marriage to Luman (the elder) she was living with Caleb Eddy in Dover Township.

When Luman Laomi was a small boy, the family moved to Avon Township to farm. Luman had blue eyes, light hair, was slight of build and 5’6’’ tall. As a young man, Luman began courting Melinda E. Smith, his neighbor. Luman was 15 in 1850, when his mother, now a widow, married Caleb Eddy and moved Luman and his sisters to Dover Township.

Luman enlisted as a three-year soldier at Camp Chase in Cleveland, on the August 17, 1861, with the newly-formed 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Private Griswold served in Company I which was made up of men from Lorain County. While at home in June 1863, he married Melinda Smith.

Flag of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

This regiment organized for three months service on May 2, 1861, and for three years service on June 26, 1861. It served in West Virginia until March 1862 when it moved to the Shenandoah Valley and engaged in battles at Cedar Creek and Winchester, Va.

In July it was ordered into the Peninsula, where it took part in operations along the Chickahominy River. It is believed that it was during this march to the Peninsula that Luman contracted the “bloody diarrhea disease.” He was sent to a convalescent hospital in Alexandria, Va., to recuperate and then returned to his unit.

In August the 8th O.V.I. moved north and fought at South Mountain and Antietam. It sustained heavy losses at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. The 8th took part in Grant’s battles through the Wilderness campaign and when its term of service expired was withdrawn from the trenches at Petersburg, and mustered out July 13, 1864. Three soldiers of the 8th O.V.I. received the Medal of Honor for heroism at Gettysburg and the Wilderness.

Luman still had time left to serve, and he was transferred to the West Virginia 4th O.V.I. until his discharge August 22, 1864. Luman came home sickly from disease and never fully recovered. He walked with a cane for more than a year before he died in Sheffield Township on May 1, 1867. Luman and Melinda had one child who died in infancy.

We invite you to visit Lakeside Cemetery and take a walk down Row Two, between David Foote and Chauncey Stevens, and visit Luman’s grave. Their grave sites are decorated with company identification markers and will be decorated with American flags during Bay’s Memorial Day services.

Sources: “Retracing Footsteps” by Catherine Burke Flament, The History of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

On this date in 1865: Tragedy on the Mississippi – Sultana explodes, thousands die

SULTANA

On 27 April 1865, the steamboat Sultana exploded and sank in the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee, causing the greatest marine disaster in U.S. history. Approximately 1,700 people, mostly discharged Union soldiers, lost their lives on a frigid spring night when boilers aboard the over-crowded steamer exploded. April 1865 brought turmoil in America with General Lee’s surrender, President Lincoln’s assassination, and John Wilkes Booth’s death. As a result, the Sultana tragedy was given few headlines in American’s influential newspapers.

Launched from Cincinnati, Ohio, in January 1863, the side-wheeled steamer was named Sultana meaning a sultan’s wife, sister, or mother. It was considered one of the best steamers of its time with its new lightweight tubular boilers. The boat measured 260 feet in length and had the capacity to carry 1,000 tons while trimming only 34 inches of water; thus making it ideal for travel on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers. It provided accommodations for 376 passengers including crew, which was the Sultana’s legal capacity.

Like many boats during the Civil War, the Sultana came under fire. Twice in 1863, Rebel forces fired at the boat, causing heavy damage to its upper works. The Union ironclad Eastport also fired upon the Sultana later that year on the Mississippi River. As the Union began to seize more of the Mississippi River Valley, the Sultana began to carry troops, supplies, and cargo for the Federals.

Ill-fated Sultana, Helena, Arkansas, on or about April 26, 1865

On 21 April 1865, the Sultana departed from New Orleans with 100 passengers and headed north on the Mississippi River. As the boat steadily moved upriver, a Sultana engineer noticed a leaking boiler and sought out a boilermaker in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to repair the problem on 23 April. The boilermaker, R.G. Taylor, told Captain J. Cass Mason that two sheets on the boiler had to be replaced. Concerned about time and money, Captain Mason told Taylor to patch the boiler and promised to finish he repairs once he reached St. Louis. Taylor disagreed with Mason, but made the patch for the Sultana anyway.

Owners of the Sultana, which included Captain Mason, anxiously awaited the layover in Vicksburg. In Vicksburg, they hoped to find former Union prisoners of war from Cahaba and Andersonville prisons because a government contract offered boats five dollars per enlisted soldier and ten dollars per officer to take them back north. Even though there were two steamboats docked at Vicksburg, Captain Mason and other Sultana officers lobbied prison officials to let their steamboat take all the soldiers. The tactic worked. The Sultana left the dock on the evening of 24 April 1865 with approximately 2,100 troops, 200 civilians, and cargo, more than six times its legal carrying capacity. The former prisoners, weakened from disease, dysentery, and malnutrition, were cramped together but in good spirits because the war had ended, and they were only a few days from reaching their homes.

On the evening of 26 April, the Sultana reached Memphis, Tennessee, to unload cargo, and then crossed the river to Arkansas to buy coal. Soon afterward, the boat slowly moved against the stream at 1:00 A.M. despite continued boiler problems and a strong current. Meanwhile, the Mississippi River rose to flood stage from spring rain and levees and dikes ruined by the war.

Seven miles north of Memphis at 2:00 A.M., the Sultana swung around a bend and began to labor through Paddy’s Hen and Chicken Islands. An explosion instantly tore through the decks above the boilers. Red-hot shrapnel and steam from the boilers killed or maimed scores of passengers instantly. The eruption hurled many people into the air and out into the frigid river. Passengers threw doors, shutters, mattresses, bales of hay, and anything else buoyant overboard. Few life preservers, only one lifeboat, the flood conditions, darkness, and weakened passengers made the chances of survival slim.

The explosion was audible in Memphis, but it took two hours for help to arrive. A steamboat heading down river and boats from Memphis went to help after hearing the screams and seeing the flames. But for most, it was too late. While rescuers attempted to save people still clinging to makeshift rafts or treetops, they saw the river full of dead bodies floating downstream. Boats searched for survivors all morning but stopped looking by midday. Of the estimated 2,300 passengers, only 600 survived. The rest died in the explosion, drowned in the dangerous currents, or died soon after their rescue.

On 30 April 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton created a board of inquiry to investigate the Sultana disaster. Rumors circulated that a Confederate had placed a torpedo in a lump of coal during the refueling in Arkansas, but nothing was proved. The board received testimony from surviving crew, passengers, and steamboat experts, but their reports only shifted blame from one person to another. Without conclusive evidence, the board decided that insufficient water in the boilers created the explosion, and that overcrowding did not cause the catastrophe. No individual was blamed for the tragedy, and no one knew definitively what caused the boiler malfunction.

With the nation’s mind focused on the closing scenes of the Civil War, little attention was given to the Sultana tragedy. The passengers who were lucky enough to survive formed the Sultana Survivor Association, which met every 27 April. More people died in the Sultana disaster than did on the Titanic 47 years later, yet the tragic story remains largely overlooked due to the dramatic events at the end of the war.

–          Nathan R. Meyer [Encyclopedia of the Civil War pages 1901-1902]

According to the National Park Service, “Sites at the bottom of rivers become land sites when the river channels change and get filled-in. In Tennessee, this happened with the paddlewheel steamboat Sultana. In 1865, just days after the end of the American Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the Sultana exploded and sank in the Mississippi River near Memphis. Built to carry 376 people, the Sultana was overloaded with Union soldiers going home after release from Confederate prison camps. Accounts vary on the cause of the explosion and the extent of casualties but agree this is the greatest maritime disaster in United States history. In 1982, the remains of the Sultana were discovered in an old filled-in river channel near Memphis on the Arkansas side.

For further reading

Elliott, James W. Transport to Disaster (1962).

Potter, Jerry O. The Sultana Tragedy: America’s Greatest Maritime Disaster (1992).

Salecker, Gene Eric. Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865 (1996).

Walker, John L. Cahaba Prison and the Sultana Disaster (1910).

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