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Confederate Sunset at Pea Ridge

This video was shot by Jeffrey S. Williams, the moderator of This Week in the Civil War, on Aug. 22, 2011 at 8 p.m.

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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.


Quilt block tells Columbia family’s Civil War story

BY ANNE KONCKI, Columbia-Missourian

From left to right, Laurie Bentley, Marilyn Russell and Nicky Dalzell work on a quilt in the Community United Methodist Church off Broadway. Russell is dedicating a block to her family history with the Civil War. Photo by Christie Megura

COLUMBIA — During the Civil War, Marilyn Russell’s great-great-grandfather, Joseph Alexander Cook, noticed a cannonball lodged in a tree where he lived in southern Arkansas.

After the war, he went back to the tree with his sons and cut it down. He took the cannonball and hauled it home in a wagon. Russell said the cannonball has been passed down in the family since.

Currently, her father, Norris Walthall, owns the cannonball. He is 96.

“I think it means a lot to him,” Russell said. “Family means a great deal to him.”

With this family story in mind, Russell, 72, and her friends in a Columbia quilting group are making a special quilt for her husband, Robert Russell. One of the blocks tells her family’s story about the cannonball.

She said the spot where it was stuck in the tree, between Lafayette and Columbia counties in Arkansas, is not known as a spot where a skirmish or battle occurred. The start of the Civil War wascommemorated last month.

“We don’t know if it was some sort of practice or what,” she said. “We’ve never been able to find that out.”

Russell was inspired to make the quilt with friends after she read “The Civil War Diary Quilt” by Rosemary Youngs. The author read diaries of women who lived during the Civil War, took a word or a phrase from some entries and made quilt blocks from them. She combined the quilt blocks and the stories that inspired them into a book.

Russell and her friends then decided they would make a Civil War diary quilt of their own and give it to her husband.

Although Russell said it would be another four to six months until the quilt is completed, it is already quite detailed. It embraces autumnal colors — browns, oranges, reds and dark blues. Several of the blocks have tiny flower-patterned fabrics quilted into them. One block has a stamp of Abraham Lincoln on it.

The cannonball block inspired by Russell’s story has two green triangles and two brown triangles in its corners, which Russell said represent the tree where the cannonball was lodged. She appliquéd a small black circle in the center as the cannonball.

Russell said she loved the challenge of working on this block.

“It was done with Civil War reproduction fabrics, and I just love those,” she said. “They tend to be nice fabrics in interesting colors. I really loved doing it.”

Quilter Martha Klemme, 74, enjoys working on Russell’s Civil War diary quilt. She said she likes the variety of the quilt and the history behind it.

“The history of the Confederacy interests me because of how far we’ve come,” Klemme said. She looked at the quilt and added, “None of the blocks are alike; they’re all different. It’s not one person making everything.”

“It takes longer to work on them, but it’s just unique,” quilter Helen Malizia said. Malizia, 80, said that she likes the social aspect of quilting and that she and the women talk about “a little bit of everything” together.

The women meet every Tuesday in an open room in Community United Methodist Church to work on a few quilts together. Most of the 16 women are retired. Some gather to work on quilts for themselves, and others work on quilts they plan to raffle for charity.

On a recent Tuesday while Russell and the other women talked and quilted together, she looked up and said, “This is one of the fun things about quilting, that we really do get involved in one another’s lives and stories.”

Her friend, Nickey Dalzell, who has been quilting with the group for 20 years, said, “We don’t schedule anything else on Tuesdays because we have this.”

Tribute to Maplewood, Minn. police sergeant Joe Bergeron

Even though this has nothing to do with the Civil War, it was one year ago today that the Maplewood, Minn. Police Department lost Sergeant Joe Bergeron, who was killed in action while responding to a carjacking. The editor of this blog wishes to have you take a moment of silence in Joe’s memory and then watch this video. Thank you.

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