Posts tagged ‘Harpers Ferry’

Excerpts from Midnight Rising: John Brown and the raid that sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz

A new book on the famed abolitionist John Brown will be released next week (Oct. 25). It is written by Tony Horwitz, who previously wrote the best-seller, “Confederates in the Attic.” Bloomberg recently posted five excerpts in advance of this book, which are made available here. We’ll review this book in approximately 2-3 weeks, once the book is released and we read it fully.

From the author’s website, www.tonyhorwitz.com:

The author of Confederates in the Attic returns to the Civil War era to tell the gripping drama of a man and a mission that changed the course of history.

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry ruptured the union between North and South. Yet few Americans know the true story of the militant idealists who invaded Virginia before the Civil War. Now, Midnight Rising paints Brown’s uprising in vivid color, capturing a nation on the brink of explosive conflict.

Unlike most abolitionists, Brown was prepared to shed blood in the cause of freedom. After fighting against slavery in Bleeding Kansas, he secured money and guns from clandestine backers called the Secret Six, and convened a guerilla band that included three of his sons, his teenaged daughter, a former slave desperate to free his wife from bondage, and a dashing poet who acted as a spy inside Virginia. Then, late one autumn night in 1859, Brown marched from his mountain hideout into Harpers Ferry, seizing the town’s federal armory and vowing to liberate every slave in the South.

The bloody fight at Harpers Ferry prompted a counterattack by U.S. Marines under Robert E. Lee and shocked an already divided nation. While Southerners branded the raid an act of treason and terror, Brown’s bravery and eloquence made him a hero to many Northerners. The crisis also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure the president once labeled “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”

In this riveting book, Tony Horwitz probes the troubled soul of Brown, the desperate passion of his followers, and the spirit of a sundered nation. The result is both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a fiery time that still resonates in our own.

“With his customary blend of rich archival research, on-location color, and lyrical prose, Tony Horwitz has delivered a John Brown book for our time. Part biography, part historical narrative, Midnight Rising is a riveting re-creation of the Harpers Ferry Raid, told with an unblinking sense of Brown’s tragic place in American history. Writing with enveloping detail and a storyteller’s verve, Horwitz shows why Brown was-and still is-so troubling and important to our culture.”  -David Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Bloomberg’s excerpts are in five parts, which you can find in the links below:

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 1)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 2)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 3)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 4)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 5)

 

National organization recognizes battlefield preservation champions from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee


(Chattanooga, Tenn.)
 – During a ceremony this evening Fairyland Club on Lookout Mountain, the Civil War Trust, a national battlefield preservation organization, will recognize three outstanding historic preservation advocates with its Chairman’s Awards for Achievement.  The awards, presented by the Trust’s chairman, Henry E. Simpson, will honor Alabama historian Daniel Fulenwider, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park historian James Ogden and Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association executive director Mary Ann Peckham.

“The long term commitment to historic preservation and education demonstrated by each member of this trio is inspirational,” said Simpson.  “Their enthusiasm for American history knows no bounds and their work will continue to benefit the public for generations to come.”

For more than two decades, Daniel Fulenwider of Cullman County, Ala., has worked to promote appreciation and understanding of “Streight’s Raid” — Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest’s pursuit of Col. Abel D. Streight across north Alabama in the spring of 1863.  He has led tours of the campaign for military personnel from 27 countries and has traversed the entire route, from Mississippi to Georgia, on foot.  He was instrumental in orchestrating the Trust’s efforts to purchase of land at Hog Mountain, scene of fighting during the Battle of Day’s Gap, and continues to be involved in efforts to promote and interpret the site.

Mary Ann Peckham is the Executive Director of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association a statewide organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Tennessee Civil War Battlefields.   She retired from the National Park Service in December 2000, after serving in six National Park areas.  Her final assignment was as Superintendent of Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  In addition to her work with TCWPA, she is active with a number of area conservation organizations, including serving on the advisory board of the Southeast Region of the Land Trust for Tennessee.

Since 1988, James Ogden has been the historian for Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.  Earlier in his career, he done interpretive and research work for the Maryland Park Service at Point Lookout State Park, site of the largest Civil War prison, and for the National Park Service at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Russell Cave National Monument and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.  Ogden speaks regularly on aspects of the Civil War to historical organizations and leads tours of battlefields throughout Georgia and Tennessee.  He has taught Civil War history courses for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, published a variety of articles and appeared on both A&E’s “Civil War Journal” and the History Channel’s “Civil War Combat.”

Beyond his involvement with the Civil War Trust, Simpson is a member of the law firm Adams and Reese/Lange Simpson, LLP in Birmingham, Ala.  He has previously served as a lecturer at the University of Alabama, the state chairman of the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society and the state chairman of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States.  Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds.  To date, the Trust has preserved nearly 30,000 acres of battlefield in 20 states.  Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

Public re-enactment of South Mountain, Antietam battles will be held in 2012

Two-day event on private land near Boonsboro will mark 150th anniversary of Civil War battles

By HEATHER KEELS heather.keels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN—

An estimated 4,000 Civil War re-enactors will stage a public re-enactment of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam on Sept. 8 and 9, 2012, on private land near Boonsboro, organizer Chris Anders said at a press conference Monday.

Thomas B. Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, leads a press conference Monday about the plans for the re-enactment of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam as re-enactment coordinator Chris Anders, left, and Ed Wenschhof, Antietam National Battlefield's acting superintendent and Dan Spedden, superintendent of the South Mountain Recreation Area, listen. (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer / August 8, 2011)

The event, called “Maryland, My Maryland,” is being staged by The Southern Division, an all-volunteer re-enactment organization, and will be sponsored by theHagerstownWashington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Anders said.

Re-enactment of the Battle of Harpers Ferry might also be included, he said.

The event will be open to 2,000 spectators per day, and tickets will go on sale soon from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, he said. Tickets will cost $25 for one day or $40 for both days, CVB President Thomas B. Riford said. Those 6 and younger will be admitted free.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Central Maryland Heritage League to help preserve and interpret South Mountain State Battlefield and to Brittany’s Hope Foundation, a charity that helps with the adoption of special-needs children worldwide, Anders said.

The re-enactment will be held on about 100 acres of land at the foot of South Mountain near the intersection of Alt. U.S. 40 and Md. 67 east of Boonsboro.

“We’re setting up the event to be a very authentic event so people get a true Civil War experience,” Anders said.

Anders said he has organized about 20 re-enactments and is a partner in Rear Rank Productions, which specializes in coordinating logistical aspects of re-enactment events, such as water and signs.

His caps of 4,000 to 5,000 re-enactors and 2,000 spectators mean the event will be considerably smaller than the Battle of Antietam re-enactments staged in 1997 and 2002, which each attracted about 13,000 re-enactors and as many as 100,000 spectators.

Anders said smaller numbers will allow for higher authenticity and better views for spectators.

“The goal is that people actually see what happened in September 1862, what the troops looked like, how they camped, how they fought, not a fantasy world-type representation thereof,” he said.

Though the re-enactment commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Maryland Campaign, it is scheduled for several days before the actual dates of the battles to encourage visitors to attend commemorative events at the respective battlefields on the actual anniversary dates, Anders said.

The Battle of South Mountain was fought Sept. 14, 1862, for the possession of three mountain passes — Crampton’s, Turner’s and Fox’s Gaps — and resulted in about 6,000 casualties, Riford said.

The Battle of Antietam, three days later on Sept. 17, was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with 23,110 casualties.

Dan Spedden, superintendent of the South Mountain Recreation Area, announced at the same press conference Monday that the South Mountain State Battlefield’s sesquicentennial events will include the opening next spring of the battlefield’s first professionally designed museum exhibits.

The exhibits will be in three buildings — the visitors center at Washington Monument State Park, and the hall and lodge at Gathland State Park — and will interpret the Battle of South Mountain, Boonsboro’s Washington Monument, and the life of reporter and Civil War correspondent George Alfred Townsend.

The buildings that will house the exhibits are under renovation and will open in April, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in May, Spedden said.

South Mountain State Battlefield’s commemorative events will include tours, hikes and living history displays each weekend beginning in June 2012. On Sept. 14 and 15, 2012, the battlefield will have living-history and artillery demonstrations, hikes and real-time battlefield tours, he said.

At Antietam National Battlefield, lectures and symposiums are scheduled throughout 2012, culminating Sept. 9 to 22 with speakers, tours, real-time hikes, Civil War-era music, a family activities tent, artillery and infantry demonstrations, and a Sept. 17 ceremony, said Ed Wenschhof, the battlefield’s acting superintendent.

On the Web
More information about the re-enactment is online at http://marylandmymaryland.marylandcampaign150.org.

This Week in the Civil War – Week of June 12, 2011

1861 – A telegraphed dispatch via The Associated Press reports more U.S. army troops, backed by cavalry, are headed to Washington as Lincoln masses his forces. There are occasional sightings of Confederate soldiers on the Virginia side of the Potomac River and one dispatch June 8 notes a New York regiment “took five prisoners and three horses” and seized cattle from a party herding the livestock to “the secessionists.” Reports indicate breastworks are being thrown up and cannons sent by federal forces to northern Virginia amid at least one minor skirmish near the Fairfax courthouse. One dispatch reports of federal forces: “The troops labor hard during the day and sleep soundly at night, disturbed only by an occasional exchange of shots between their guards and the Virginia scouts.” On June 14, The Boston Herald reports from Frederick Md., that “a special agent of the Associated Press has returned from Maryland Heights overlooking Harper’s Ferry” in what is present-day West Virginia. The dispatch reports Confederate forces near there had withdrawn and, later, a “tremendous report was heard, caused by the explosion of mines” under the 100-foot-long Baltimore and Ohio road and rail span crossing the Potomac. “In one hour the entire structure was in ruins” and a telegraph station and railroad works of the federal government also were destroyed. (AP)

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.”


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