Monthly Archives: October 2008

Stafford County Winter Encampment Site

Tip of the hat to Eric Wittenberg for a mention of an article from the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star.  A fellow marker hunter at HMDB, who lives in that area also passed along an earlier article discussing this “Valley Forge” of the Civil War.  The site includes about six hundred feet of earthworks, winter encampment sites, and (are you sitting down?) sections of corduroy road.  Non-Civil War structures include bridge abutments and quarry sites. The locations of the structures are detailed in a County Board of Supervisors memo (PDF).

Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites (FSCWS), a local preservation organization, is very active in this effort.  The bite I like from the March article:  “Having waited two years for officials to act, FSCWS is now “impatient” to see the sites made into a park, said Glenn Trimmer, the group’s director.” Unfortunately, their web site is off the net currently, otherwise I’d pass a link.  Stafford County, much like Culpeper County, contains many sites related to winter quarters of the Army of the Potomac.  If I’m not mistaken, the grass roots efforts there were galvanized when a section of the XII Corps campsite was destroyed by developers.  FSCWS efforts included adding interpretation for that site.

Another site in Stafford County, outside of those directly related to the Fredericksburg Battlefield, is White Oak Church.  There, a memorial indicates the Federal VI Corps winter camp.  As seen from a map of the Civil War markers in the county, sort of a “triangle” exists with Aquia Landing, Chatham Heights, and Hartwood forming points, and the winter encampments in the middle.  Wouldn’t be a bad investment of $10,000 to start development of a park, with interpretive resources, in the middle of that triangle.

“New” Gettsyburg Tablets?

I love finding odd-ball exceptions to the rules.

Remember some time back I compared the Antietam and Gettysburg tablets?  Of note, I found the Gettysburg examples to be lacking a bit in punctuation.  Earlier in the summer I photographed a set around the Peach Orchard.  Only recently, when examining all prior to posting, did I notice some differences and variations.  These tablets with variations seem to be “new” replacements of the older ones placed in the early 1900s.

The Wofford Brigade tablet along Emmitsburg Road stands out like a sore thumb:

Wofford's Brigade

Wofford's Brigade

Sweeping curved edges.  The top tab is an integral part of the tablet, not a separate piece attached by screws.  The typeset is different (and the paint smeared a bit).  The possessive for McLaws is in the accepted format.  Oh, forgot to mention all those periods in the text.  Perhaps someone figured, the metal saved omitting the extra “S” behind McLaws, the government could apply around the marker as punctuation.

Compare to the nearby Barksdale’s Brigade tablet:

Barksdales Brigade

Barksdale's Brigade

Note the lack of punctuation.  On the Barksdale’s Tablet, metal saved on periods was consolidated into the “s” behind McLaws’.

And other, less noticeable, oddities exist nearby on the Federal side.  Take a look at the tablet for Humphreys’ Division:

2nd Division, III Corps

2nd Division, III Corps

Looks like the others, except on close examination, there are periods AND commas!

I know what you are thinking.   This now throws the entire Gettysburg campaign into a different light.  Instead of the battle fought under the context of one long, run-on sentence, we now have evidence the Battlefield Board knew about punctuation!  A complete revision of Coddington is in order!

“….General, I told him, give me one semi-colon, and I will take that hill!”

All kidding aside, clearly the Wofford Brigade tablet (and possibly Humphreys Division) was replaced some time in the recent past.  I doubt it was for revision of the text.  More likely the tablets were damaged or somehow lost, then replaced by the Park Service.  The folks over at Gettysburg Daily might make a good article out of the story.  Otherwise it is just another piece of interesting trivia about the Gettysburg battlefield.

HMDB Civil War Update – Week of 27 October

After a down week, this week we have seventy Civil War related markers.  The week’s issue includes entries from California, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York City.  Here are some highlights:

Copperopolis, California, obviously named for its copper mining, was a leading supplier of the metal during the Civil War.  Copper sold for 55 cents a pound at the height of the war.

– From the land of the sand gnats, the markers for Fort McAllister are filling out.  However, I have yet to trace down the official report mentioning “Tom Cat.”

Camp Delaware was a muster and training site for several regiments of Ohio volunteers.  Listed on the marker are the 98th, 121st, and 127th OVI.  The later became the 5th USCT.  Additionally the 27th USCT also mustered at the camp.

– Continuing with the “Tour of Birthplaces of Confederate Generals,” this week head to North Augusta, South Carolina for the site of General Longstreet’s.

– As mentioned yesterday, the Chancellorsville History Trail, with markers on a 3.6 mile loop starting at the visitor center, is posted.

– Nick kept me busy with some Shiloh entries.

– And my Gettysburg project turned to the Peach Orchard this week.

Outside of the Civil War markers this week, we had several markers for the Cowpens Battlefield.  Although a Revolutionary War site, the markers may be of interest to some.  When I was stationed in Augusta, GA in the 1990s, Cowpens was a frequent day trip destination.  So the “new” markers at the battlefield are welcome additions.

Chancellorsville By Markers

Following my trip to the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania Battlefields last week, I was able to “color in” the last segment of the Chancellorsville Battlefield pending for my marker hunting endeavors.  These markers are “hosted” off the Happel Panel at the Visitor center.  That marker was replaced recently by a new “billboard wayside” type National Park Service marker.   Here’s a breakdown of the marker sets by geographic grouping:

– Chancellorsville First Day Battlefield (list) (map).   This section was recently opened up through the efforts of CWPT and Central Virginia Battlefields Trust.  The trail is roughly two miles around through open, rolling ground and is well interpreted.

– Confederate Right Wing – McLaws’ Line to Cathrine Furnace (list) (map).  This is a diverse set of markers including several Happel panels on the park driving tour, new National Park Service waysides, and even three markers at the Five Mile Forks shopping mall.

– Jackson’s Flank March and Attack (list) (map).   One of the few portions of any battlefield that I would say “you are better off driving…”  This set covers the Happel panels and National Park Service waysides around the Jackson flank march tour.

– The Wounding of Jackson (list) (map).  This set starts with the Wounding of Jackson trail near the park Visitor Center, but includes markers and monuments related to Jackson’s amputation and death at Guinea Station.

– Hazel Grove – Fairview (list) (map).  These markers are mostly along the park’s walking trail for the central section of the battlefield, however a few monuments are off the beaten path a bit.

– Chancellorsville Intersection (list) (map).  Covering the Chancellor Inn and related sites nearby.

– Bullock House (list) (map).  A small set at stop two of the Battlefield tour.

– 2nd Fredericksburg Battlefield (list) (map). Four markers discussing the 2nd Fredericksburg.

– Salem Church (list) (map).  The battlefield was mostly lost to development, but many markers and monuments serve to remind us of the site.

– Chancellorsville History Trail (list) (map).  Some overlap with a couple of the other sets above.  This 3.6 mile trail starts at the Visitor Center, passes through the Chancellor Inn site, along the final Federal lines, and back to the Confederate lines near the Visitor Center.

Chancellorsville offers the battlefield stomper more variety than most fields.  The settings vary from urban, developed sections out to the remote and secluded sections of the Wilderness.  As noted above, the battlefield features several two or three hour hikes.  In terms of men engaged and geographic area, the Chancellorsville battlefield is every bit as big as Gettysburg or Antietam.  As such, I’d recommend a dedicated day for even the most cursory examination.  Better still, take the trails and spend a couple of days!

Fairview seen from Chancellor Inn Site

Fairview seen from Chancellor Inn Site

HMDB Civil War Update – Week of 20 October

This week, somewhat of an off week, only thirty-eight Civil War related markers added.  Diversity points for locations in Alabama, District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.  While numbers were down, the contributors to HMDB were still offering some interesting entries:

– Near Fort Stevens, Washington, D.C., a new interpretive marker discusses Lincoln at the fort during the skirmish/battle of July 9, 1864.  The marker is part of a series erected by D.C. Cultural Tourism covering the Brightwood neighborhood.  Gotta love the title, “Get Down You Fool.”  Certainly one of my favorite lines in Presidential history.

– At Fort McAllister, Georgia, parts of the C.S.S. Nashville are on display.

– On the opposite side of the Savannah area, is a marker detailing a relatively obscure ravine warfare episode of the war.  On a bluff overlooking the Savannah River, Winegar’s battery (XII Corps veterans from Gettysburg) opposed two Confederate gunboats with their tender.  The incident is rather interesting, just thinking of the opposing forces – rifled field artillery opposing light draft river gunboats.  From a marker hunting perspective, the entry is interesting as the marker (and another located nearby) were moved, quite possibly as a result of an explosion near the original site.  Sometimes the history of the marker is just as engaging as the history *on* the marker.

–  Our sole Maryland entry for the week was a “Road to Gettysburg” site at Mount Airy.

– Couple of markers from Ashville, North Carolina worthy of mention.  The first discusses a Confederate Armory site where rifled muskets were produced.  The facility was said to reach a peak of 300 muskets per month in 1863.  Nearby is a marker noting the late war Stoneman Raid through North Carolina.  I’m not an authority, but seems to me George Stoneman gets the nod for most number of raids by a Federal cavalryman during the war.

– From Columbus, Ohio, we have the “Andrew’s Raid” marker of the week.  This marker is in memory of Ovid Wellford Smith, a private from the 2nd Ohio who volunteered for the raid.  Here’s what is odd – Smith did not actually participate in the train chase, but was awarded the Medal of Honor.  Smith’s infiltration had been compromised as the raid kicked off, and he attempted to pose as a Confederate volunteer from Kentucky.  After a short stay in jail (incidentally the same one holding the other raiders), Smith was returned to a Confederate unit and eventually escaped back to his unit.

– From Mount Veron, Ohio are two marker entries of note on the town’s center square.  First a marker detailing the wartime contributions of Mary Ann Ball, also known as “Mother Bickerdyke.”  I still feel there was no greater tribute to her efforts than when Sherman simply said, “She ranks me…”  The bookend to Bickerdyke’s is a marker nearby discussing a speech by Peace Democrat Clement Vallandigham.

– Continuing in Ohio, this time from the town of Homer, we had a state marker entry for General William Rosecrans.  Once again, we see that Ohio is a good steward of the public purse with regard to historical interpretation.  Instead of erecting two markers, the back side of this one details Bishop Sylvester Horton Rosecrans.  Virginia would have dropped three markers, if for nothing else to run up the tally.

– And also from Ohio, from Newark is a monument to John L. Clem, the “Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.”  Clem was born in Newark, Ohio, but ran away from home, eventually joining the 22nd Michigan Infantry.

– Here’s one for Jenny Goellnitz.  From Culpeper, Virginia, we “found” A.P. Hill’s boyhood home.

– From West Virginia, we have a marker discussing the life of Martin R. Delany.  Delany, born a free man in Charleston, West Virginia, was among only a few African-Americans commissioned during the war.  He served as a Major during the war.

– Lastly, my Gettysburg project shifted to the First Day battlefield this week, with entries along Stone-Meredith Avenue.

Sorry for the delay getting the rollup out this week.  Lots of interesting markers already in the queue for next week however!

Wilderness Walk

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a Civil War Preservation Trust sponsored walk at the Wilderness Battlefield.  Of course the walk was intended to focus attention on the issues with a proposed Wal-Mart expansion to the north of the Virginia 3 and 20 intersection.

The weather was perfect for a battlefield walk.  Not too cool, but enough for a jacket.  Light winds and a light overcast.  But with a command voice reminiscent of a Sergeant Major, our guide for the walk, park historian Frank A. O’Reilly, cut through the crisp morning.  The tour started at Saunders Field and followed part of the Gordon Flank Attack Trail.  By my count we made four stops.  At each stop I took away at least one new perspective of the battle.

View of the field from the first stop.

Saunders Field

Saunders Field

Looking directly into Griffin’s Division line of march.  Note the Exhibit Shelter Pavilion on the left.  It is hard to see in the photograph, but the ground here affords the attacker a slight advantage.  A defender at the main Confederate line (about 25 paces to the rear of the camera) could not directly engage the Federals until the peaked over this fold.

Another view of Saunders Field.  This from the north side of Highway 20.  Note the Pavilion is inside the clump of trees just to the left of the road.

Attack of the Zouaves!

Attack of the Zouaves!

Visible on the south side of the highway, about where the truck and bass boat are passing, is the low ground mentioned above.  The 140th New York charged up this slope, also benefiting from the dip in the ground.  Note how the trail drops out of sight, well before the regiment’s monument.

Other stops along our walk featured the advance location reached by the Zouave’s charge and Gordon’s flank attack of May 6.  Photos in those heavily wooded areas are always difficult, so I won’t inflict upon readers my poor photos of fallen leaves and trees.

The turn out was good, well over seventy attended.  Which made the Sunders Field parking area look like a Gettysburg tour stop:

Confederate Earthworks

After Mr. O’Reilly’s tour, we traveled to Ellwood for lunch and some news about the Wilderness Wal-Mart issues.

Jim Campi, of CWPT, driving the point home.

Wal-Mart continues to press for a re-zoning of a site just north of the National Park grounds, opposite the intersection of Virginia 3 and 20.  The maps on CWPT’s site detail the proposed location better than I can describe, but the main issue I see is encroachment into the area around the battlefield.  The ground Wal-Mart has its eye on is within the defined battlefield area when the park was initially created.  Like many battlefields, the area was defined, but land was not purchased.  Since it was not a “core” battlefield area, little effort has been made to acquire it or designate it.

While the Wal-Mart may have a large foot-print, in my opinion that will be dwarfed by the follow on… or should I say pile on… development which will undoubtedly follow.  Have you ever seen a Wal-Mart anywhere all by itself?  Big store fronts tend to attract a lot of strap hangers.  All of which of course leads to traffic congestion.  So the Virginia Department of Transportation is already considering expansion and re-alignment of Highway 20.  As indicated on the CWPT maps, this would bring development across the final lines of the Federal right flank.

Some have complained the Wilderness Crossing Wal-Mart isn’t the right preservation effort, when resources are scarce.  After all, the intersection is already heavily developed with several convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and a strip mall.

Wilderness Crossing - The proposed Wal-Mart site is behind the trees.

Wilderness Crossing - The proposed Wal-Mart site is behind the trees.

On the other hand consider the Wilderness is among the largest battles ever fought in the Western Hemisphere.  Coupled with Spotsylvania, the period from May 5 to 21, 1864 was perhaps the greatest clash of arms in an open field engagement of the war.  There were a lot of moving pieces during those critical days.  And a significant part of those “moving pieces” moved between where that red car is paused in the photo and the bank in the background.  To put it in perspective with a more studied battlefield, this spot is analogous to the Baltimore Pike at Gettysburg or Boonesboro Pike at Antietam.  It is the “rear” of the Army of the Potomac, but it was also the objective of Confederate counterattacks.  This intersection helps define the true “depth” of this battlefield to the modern visitor.

From what I understand, the ground is outside some boundary, and therefore not eligible for CWPT acquisition efforts.  Still, if Wal-Mart is bent on turning those trees into a parking lot, then at least they should be asked to make some compromises.  And I’m not talking about just a couple of markers in the parking lot.  What concessions can be made to guarantee the asphalt doesn’t spill over south of Highway 3? And to protect view sheds?

Bottom line, this is a grass roots effort.  A lot will depend on decisions made at the local level.  Maybe the land is not noteworthy enough to preserve.  But at least the development should be curbed.  Personally, I’ve sent my sentiments to the Orange County Supervisors, and urge others to do so.  Beyond that, I’m crafting letters to my state representatives to inquire about the use of state funds on any highway modifications in the area.

In closing, many thanks to Mr. O’Reilly for a well conducted, and thought provoking, battlefield walk and to Jim Campi for the ride around the battlefield.

HMDB Civil War Markers Update – 13 October

This week, over eighty entries published or updated in the Civil War category.  Markers this week come from Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.  Notice…. no Virginia this week.  Very odd, or perhaps have we tapped out all the Virginia Civil War markers?  Not likely!

Here are some markers of note, which our contributors have offered this last week:

– From Alabama, we have the Emma Sansom monument in downtown Gadsden.  Emma was the girl who guided Gen. Forrest to a ford during his pursuit of Col. A. D. Streight in 1863.

– From Sacramento, California is the G.A.R. Memorial Plot marker, which explains a bit of the history behind the plot, the memorial, and the G.A.R. itself.

– The Confederate States Central Laboratory which was located in Macon, Georgia, has its own marker.  The main purpose of the lab was supporting research for improved ordnance.  For all those alternate history types, not exactly a Los Alamos.

 – Also from Georgia we have several markers discussing Ringgold Gap.   Of these, published this week was a marker discussing actions around Ringgold in November, 1863, discussing Gen. Cleburne’s stand which staved off disaster in the aftermath of the debacle at Missionary Ridge.  Note the accompanying photos of the WPA-era exhibit.  Five of these were built during the 1930s – Ringgold, Mill Creek Gap, Resaca, Cassville, and New Hope Church.  These usually are accompanied by a National Historic Landmark marker.   A similar marker was added this week for Cassville

– And a flurry of entries covering Andersonville Prison, also a Georgia Civil War site.  A handful are the standard NPS interpretive waysides, but most are memorials placed by states or organizations. 

– Missouri tends to be “wordy” on their markers.  One official State Historical Society marker discusses the history of New Madrid, Missouri from the time of settlement to the mid-20th Century – two sides.  But not to be outdone…. the State Department of Natural Resources posted a marker offering fine details of the Siege of New Madrid and Island Number 10.  Lots of illustrations and lots of text.  By comparison, Virginia would have sprung for at least three markers to cover this one topic.  We Missourians tend to be frugal with our state funds I guess!

– Near the old Illinois State Capital is a marker indicating a couple of men started their journeys into the Civil War at the building – Lincoln and Grant.  But don’t get the idea that every trek from Springfield has a good ending.  A nearby marker also points out the Donner Party started their ill-fated trip from the same spot about fifteen years earlier! 

– About a day’s drive removed from the Wheatfield, at Notre Dame, is a marker discussing a memorial to Chaplain Corby of the Irish Brigade. 

– Two entries this week are memorials in Ohio detailing Medal of Honor recipients from their respective counties – Fairfield and Auglaize.  I do wish more localities and states followed this pattern.  As I’ve said on other venues, I believe the “Blue Star Memorial” marker system, however well intended, misses the mark.  The CMH stones shown here are quite specific reminders of the sacrifices of those from the locality.  The Blue Stars are too generic for my tastes.

– We have a marker for General Heintzleman’s birthplace in Manhiem, Pennsylvania. 

– Lastly, more progress on my personal Gettysburg project.  Some 24 entries added this week.  I’ve detailed those along the West Confederate Avenue in another post. 

All in all a busy week for the Civil War category.  Lots of states represented.