Monthly Archives: May 2011

HMDB Civil War Updates for the Month of May

A fairly busy month of May in the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database.  187 entries and updates to discuss. Since this is the last day of the month, and a Tuesday (my usual day for marker updates), I’ll provide the highlights of markers added since the last update on May 5.

- Robert Moore posted entries for the First Alabama (US) Cavalry and the Confederate Veterans Plaque located on the Marion County courthouse in Hamilton, Alabama.

- A marker in Arley, Alabama notes unionist sympathies and the proposal for Winston County to secede from the state – the Free State of Winston.

- Markers in Milledgeville, Georgia note the state’s secession convention of 1861 and a memorial to Confederate soldiers who died at Brown Hospital during the war.  Just outside of town a state marker notes the passage of Kilpatrick’s cavalry during the march to the sea in 1864.

- The lone Atlanta, Georgia Civil War marker for this month notes the extension of Confederate lines in the later stages of the Atlanta Campaign, to meet Federal maneuvers against the railroads.

- In Riverdale, Georgia a marker notes the location of Renfroe’s Plantation, a landmark for Federals making those maneuvers toward the railroads outside Atlanta in August 1864.

- Near Hampton, Georgia a marker discusses actions at Lovejoy Station on November 16, 1864 during the early part of the march to the sea.

- Near Fayetteville, Georgia a marker notes a July 30 skirmish fought at the locality of Shakerug.

- On April 11, 1863, a group of Columbus, Georgia women armed with knives and pistols marched into the city’s business district raiding the stores of speculators.

- A memorial in Winamac, Indiana lists those from Pulaski County who served in the Civil War, most in the 46th and 87th Indiana Volunteers.

- Iowa honored its Civil War veterans with a towering memorial in Des Moines.

- A marker in North Oxford, Massachusetts points out the birthplace of Clara Barton.

- In Detroit, Michigan, a marker discusses the formation and service of the 24th Michigan Volunteers.

- Near Richfield, Michigan a marker discusses Civil War activity at Fort Snelling.

- A recently placed memorial in Corinth, Mississippi discusses the actions of Texas troops in the fighting around the town in 1862.

- A state historical society marker in Lamar, Missouri notes the multiple burnings of the town during the war.

- In Higginsville, Missouri, the Lion of Lucerne honors the Confederate dead buried at the former state Confederate Veterans Home.  Among the dead buried in the cemetery are the remains of William Quantrill.

- Students at the Danville Female Academy, in Danville, Missouri, helped save the campus from Confederate raiders in October, 1864.

- Hazen, Nevada is named for Union General William B. Hazen.

- A memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey honors the city’s Civil War veterans.

- Two Napoleon Guns guard the G.A.R. memorial in Ocean County, New Jersey.

- Even Staten Island, New York has a Civil War memorial.

- On April 15, 1865, elements of the Army of Tennessee camped on Regulators’ Field in Burlington, North Carolina.  There they received word of the surrender at Appomattox – symbolic as the site is closely associated with an earlier North Carolina rebellion in 1771.

- A marker near Carlisle Springs, Pennsylvania notes the “farthest north” of any Confederate regulars during the Gettysburg campaign.

- A plaque in Columbia, South Carolina notes the location of the Palmetto Arsenal, which made guns for the Confederacy.  Sherman’s men destroyed the arsenal in 1865.

- After leaving Columbia, Sherman’s men fought a brief skirmish with Confederate rear guards at Killian’s Mill on February 18, 1865.

- Leading a relief force to Chattanooga in November 1863, General W.T. Sherman crossed the Elk River near Elkton, Tennessee.

- About 100 entries added in May to our collection of markers and monuments at Shiloh, Tennessee.  All from one of my fellow Missourians.

- A Civil War Trails marker near Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee discusses the importance of Gibbs Crossroads during the war.

- Three markers adding to the coverage of the Franklin, Tennessee battlefield – Attack on the Union Left, Carter House, and Opdycke’s Brigade.

- A marker in Sheldon, Vermont notes the retreat of Confederate raiders from St. Albans on October 19, 1864.

- Several markers from Bedford, Virginia including Avenel, the home of John Goode, and General Hunter’s June 1864 Bivouac site.  Hunter used the road through Peaks of Otter leading from Bedford.

- A marker in Centreville, Virginia provides details about the Confederate military railroad line extended from Manassas during the first fall and winter of the war.

- Loudoun County, Virginia has a “crop” of new markers this spring including those for the Battle of Unison, Harrison Hall, the Ankers’ Shop, and Waterford.

- A new state marker near Quicksburg, Virginia discusses the October 1864 action at Mill Creek during the burning of the Shenandoah.

- A marker near Camp Creek, West Virginia notes the May 1, 1862 battle of Cark’s House.

- The 23rd Ohio Infantry, with three officers who later achieved high station, stayed at Camp Jones, near Flat Top, West Virgina, during 1862.

- Wausau, Wisconsin can boast the Lysander Cutler G.A.R. Post memorial.  And  Baraboo, Wisconsin has the Sauk County Civil War memorial.

Memorial Day: Remember The Beyond the Battlefield Casualties

Memorial Day, like other American holidays, is often transformed in practice to something it was not intended to be.   The tendency is to use the holiday to honor a wide, broad group.  I’m often embarrassed on Memorial Day when folks shake my hand to thank me for serving.  I usually respond that, “Veterans Day is my holiday.  Today we should be thanking those who didn’t come back.”

The history, tradition, and lineage of Memorial Day has deep roots in the Civil War generation.  And yes, the original observances had a tone which is absent from our current observances.  That is what 150 years will do, particularly as each generation has found the need to memorialize its respective war differently.

The common definition of Memorial Day is to honor those who answered the nation’s call to war (be that a good war or bad war), but did not return.  But what is the definition of “war dead”?  Common handling of the term refers to those who received mortal wounds on the battlefield.  I’m sure there are many who would raise a fine point about the particulars.  I’ve seen “died of lingering effects of wounds received in the war” often in obituaries.  Perhaps making a sharp point of such definitions is counter-productive to the spirit of the holiday.   I’d argue that imposing a precise definition on the term “war dead” serves to dehumanize – reducing the sacrifice to simply some tally to post in a book.

And I would also bring up another aspect of “war dead.”  Not all casualties of war are “blood” casualties.  Indeed some of the most horrific effects of war are not the physical, flesh-and-blood wounds, but rather the internal wounds carried by those who were not touched by a sword or bullet.

Last fall, HBO ran a documentary titled Wartorn: 1861-2010.  The two hour piece received good and bad reviews.  But in the whole, Wartorn did the best with a subject that many have not contemplated, much less tried to understand.  The documentary offered evidence that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has existed through all recorded history.  But as indicated with the years chosen in the title, the producers presented cases from the Civil War through current times.

The first segment in Wartorn offered the story of Angelo Crapsey, who enlisted in the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (later 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry).  Crapsey first saw action at the battle of Dranesville, Virginia.  The next two years put Angelo in some of the war’s largest battles.  Captured at Fredericksbug, he spent time in Libby Prison.  Exchanged, Crapsey saw action again at Gettysburg. But following that battle, his physical condition deteriorated.  He was discharged in October 1863.

Wartorn cited letters and the recollections of those around Crapsey as a way to demonstrate how the war had changed him.  Upon returning home, Angelo remained depressed and disconnected.  He attempted suicide on several occasions, finally killing himself in August 1864.

Although there is some confusion about his records, most likely Angelo Crapsey never shed blood in battle, under the definition of “wounded” used when the after action reports were tallied.  But he suffered unseen wounds.

And those wounds lead to his death.

And Angelo Crapsey is not a singular case, as Wartorn aptly demonstrated.

And looking around today, the Veteran’s Administration notes that 95% of all returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from some form of PTSD.

But we come to recognize those mental wounds differently, perhaps more slowly, than the physical wounds.   Indeed, society tends to put PTSD into the category of “mental problems.”  I find that somewhat disconcerting.  PTSD is not so much a “illness” but a natural, and in some ways proper, reaction to a highly emotional event.  No healthy human being can experience combat (or other traumatic event) without later encountering issues that need resolution.  Such issues are not indicators of an imbalance or illness, but rather that the person is indeed responding to the issue the way the human brain is wired to do. (And for those who wish to explore that further, I would encourage the works of Dave Grossman – On Combat and On Killing.)

I guess the physical wounds, no matter how ghastly, are easier to explain.  And where explanations fail, the imagery of war speaks volumes. The mental wounds remain unseen, and difficult to describe.  Myself, I’ve experienced three wars, and been diagnosed with PTSD.  Yet words fail me right now as I try to relate the nature of it.  Perhaps we, as a society, should start looking at ways to better explain the mental wounds.

On this Memorial Day, I am thinking of all those like Angelo Crapsey, who walked beyond the battlefield, yet were casualties of it.

Great Train Raid Reenactement

Today we visited Strasburg, Virginia to watch the end of the “Great Train Raid” reenactement.

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Here’s a video clip of the procession:

I don’t go to a lot of reenactement events anymore.  And those I do attend, often have “novelty” factors as this one.  Perhaps that is just me getting on in the years.  Just looking for something different I guess.

I know… the stitch counters will come unglued about the totally out of costume train crew.  And the non-period tack.  Oh, and yes, the train looked more like something fabricated for Thomas the Tank Engine.   (But how many authentic train engine owners are willing to have their machines pulled down the street like this?)

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And there were the flags with battles yet to be fought in 1861.

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A Parrott Rifle that might have matched better to the Battle of Big Bethel.

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I would say the motley assortment of uniforms would certainly pass for “early war event” when I reenacted in the western theater of war.  But I’m no authority of the eastern uniforms of the period.  So you make the call.

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But having worked on some reenactments and living history event committees, I do appreciate the resources needed to pull of such.  And in this case, the “event site” was not the typical farmer Brown’s field.  Rather the event spanned a 4.5 mile segment of a major US highway.   And since this was not a “shoot ‘em up” event, organizers really had to pitch the event to an audience with more than enough sequicentennial events competing for ever pressured travel budgets (both reenactors and visitors, mind you).

Personally, I’m happy that other folks out there are looking at unique ways to remember events 150 years back.  I can take my six-year-old to this event, and know he will “tolerate” the wait and go home with positive memories.  I can’t say that about the John Janney tour – which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way – that took place earlier this week in Leesburg.

And it is HIS generation, not ours, that will be around for the Civil War bicentennial.  So maybe a mix of clean fun along with the intellectually stimulating is a good thing for the sesquicentennial.  Might help for that “memory” thing we are always concerned about.

Just saying….