Monthly Archives: June 2009

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of 29 June

Well only nineteen new Civil War related markers this week.  These represent Civil War related sites in Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Not bad for a summer week’s batch of entries.  Here’s the rundown:

– Three markers in Polk County, Georgia relate the passage of the Federals during the Atlanta Campaign, May 23-25, 1863.   This was Sherman’s move to the right past Cassville toward the Dallas Line  – Davis & Dodge at Peek’s CreekLogan at Swaintown, and McPherson’s March to Dallas.  Another marker, further south near Dallas in Paulding County discusses the 20th Corps Detour to New Hope Church on May 25, 1863.

– On the other side of the 1864 campaigning season in the Peach state is discussed on a marker in Social Circle, Walton County, Georgia. The 14th and 20th Corps passed through in the middle of November during the March to the Sea.

– A couple of entries this week highlight the history of Fort Scott, Kansas.  Once used as a frontier post, it was abandoned in the decade before the war.  However during the war, the U.S. Army reoccupied the fort for use as a headquarters and supply depot.

– Another marker of note from the great cavalry battle of Mine Creek, Kansas this week.

– Continuing with what must be “border war” week at HMDB, a marker in Harrisonville, Missouri discusses the “Burnt District” and actions around General Order No. 11.  Notice the monument in place at the site, an entry in the queue for next week.  Cass County, like many counties in Missouri, witnessed some of the most bitter partisan fighting of the war.

– Two entries this week indicate the route of Stoneman’s raiders in March-April 1865 through North Carolina.  One is in Morganton.  The other stands in Boone.

– A War Department tablet on Lookout Mountain discussing the activities of Garrity’s Alabama Battery in the battle of Chattanooga, features a view of the city and the Tennessee River.

– A wayside marker at Amelia County Courthouse, Virginia offers the story of Mrs. Samatha Jane Neil.   She came south in 1865 searching for the remains of her husband.  Instead of finding him, she found a life-long calling to educate the former slaves in the county.

– Three “Southside” Virginia Confederate soldiers memorials this week – Brunswick County, Lunenburg County, and Nottoway County.

– Great photos of the fortification, bridge, and old railroad bed supporting a marker stone for the Battle of Staunton River Bridge, near Randolph, Virginia.

– In Northern Virginia, the Hunter Mill Defense League sponsored a new Civil War Trails marker near Vienna, Virginia.  The marker, along the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail, and near the banks of Difficult Run, mentions the March 1862 campsite of the Pennsylvania Reserves.  Great effort by the preservationists to interpret the surroundings.

Just a reminder that this week is “Gettysburg Week” over at The Order of the Civil War Obsessively Compulsed.   If you look at the list of those offering their favorites, you’ll see an impressive list of bloggers.  Somehow, Brett allowed me to slip in amongst them and offer my favorites, scheduled for the afternoon of July 2.   There is certainly a wide range of interests represented on the list of authoring bloggers.  I’d expect to see very little overlap between the book lists.  So stay tuned, and follow them as they publish!

In line with “Gettysburg Week,” my closing photos today include the Wisler House on the Cashtown Pike:

First Shot of Gettysburg

First Shot of Gettysburg

One hundred and forty-six years ago tomorrow, Captain Marcellus Jones fired his carbine into the early morning, which commenced the Battle of Gettysburg.

A short time later, this 3-inch Ordnance Rifle was the first Federal cannon to fire in the battle.

No. 233 of Calef's Battery

No. 233 of Calef's Battery

Just a few “Parthian shots” in this post looking at the first shots of Gettysburg.

Civil War Preservation Trust Marker Links

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working a side project to support the Civil War Preservation Trust’s new Battlefield pages.  The Trust has been referring links over to the Historical Marker Database since last fall, but this arrangement is a bit more direct in some ways.  Our goal was to present a listing of what markers, monuments, and memorials stand at the battlefields – just a small supporting bit of information for readers in addition to the wealth of materials and maps already offered on the pages.   So with some crafting of links to HMDB, and help from friends Bernie Fisher and Robert Moore to get the right arrangements, we submitted the list of links to the Trust earlier today.

Just as with the “virtual tours by markers” or related sets mentioned here on the blog, these are lists of marker entries, usually arranged in some logical sequence.  The reader might browse through these, and if we marker hunters have done our jobs properly, see the item in question, a view of the ground around it, photos of the events related to the marker or monument, and lastly links to additional resources.   Some of the Trust’s links point directly to HMDB, particularly where the number of markers are small.  Others point to the battlefield pages on this blog.

Of the 94 battles currently listed by the Trust, sixty are paired to related sets.  Many of these are already listed on my “Battlefields by Markers” page (in need of some update now!).    We’re working on some additional groupings of markers already in the database.  But at the same time looking for more input, particularly from the Western Theater!

Feel free, if you run across a correction or update that should be made to the listings, to contact me here about those lists.  In many cases, the maintenance will fall on me anyway, feel free to go directly to the chef.  I’ll be working through the entries over time to ensure there’s plenty of links back to CWPT’s battlefield pages also.  Feels good to help out with the preservation efforts, if even in such a small way.

Preserve the battlefields for future generations, yes!  And also interpret them so future generations understand why we preserved it!

Edwards Ferry – Wartime Photographs

I was asked via email last week about photos of Edwards Ferry and the pontoon bridges.  As best I can tell, no photos of the Edwards Ferry pontoon bridges exist.  The closest fit I’ve found are several photos of the crossing at Berlin (modern Brunswick), Maryland in the fall of 1862, after Antietam. (I would add that some sources state these photos show the bridges at the same site during the pursuit from Gettysburg, but I’ll go with the Library of Congress description until further information comes to light.)   Two of those photos offer useful visualizations for comparison.

Pontoon Bridge at Berlin, MD

The photo, likely looking across the Potomac from the high ground above the old section of Berlin (on the left).  Also just left of center are the remains of the pre-war bridge that crossed here.  The two pontoon bridges were placed close together, close enough to cause traffic issues similar to those at Edwards Ferry.  Note also the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and also a mill race running just this side of the Potomac.  I don’t see any bridges traversing the canal or mill race.  From walking that section of the canal, I would speculate the Federals used one of several existing canal crossing points over the C & O.  Furthermore, there is an “island” between the river and the mill race which could have provided ample space for the wagons moving to the bridges.

There does not appear to be much confusion or chaos at this 1862 crossing.  But then again, the photo was likely taken late in the crossing cycle during the slow motion advance of the Army of the Potomac in October 1862.  There are two sets of wagons, approaching each other, separated by a trio of unhitched wagons.  Perhaps that’s a scene which aptly summarizes the Federal pursuit after Antietam.

Another photo provides a closer view of the bridge abutments:

Abutments at Virginia End of Bridge

Abutments at Virginia End of Bridge

In this view, the old bridge piers are on the right and the town at the far side.  But not seen is the second pontoon bridge.  Was this photo taken before or after the one from the Maryland shore?  Regardless, three points to make about the abutment.

First note the gradual slope down of the last bay of the bridge to the shore.  I really wish the photographer had captured a wagon crossing, or at least some led horses, over that last pontoon.  Such would capture the increased displacement on the bridge due to traffic, and illustrate the flexibility required for the decking.

Second, three “guards” are posted to the right of the bridge.  Odds are if you arrived there with your troop, they would say something like, “dismount and lead those horses, sir!”  Or, to marching infantry, “route step!”  A small post next to those “guards” appears to have a sign.  I wonder if that sign carried a written version of that verbal warning.

The last item I’d call attention to is the road grade leading up to the bridge abutment.  The ground on the lower left of the photo appears freshly disturbed.  Perhaps that is due to the heavy traffic rutting the path.   But perhaps disturbed as the engineers built up a path up the bluffs on the Virginia side.  In fact, the entire left side looks like a “spit” of land artificially extended to support the bridge crossing.

Now I would be remiss by failing to mention a scene that did not make it into the movie Gettysburg which shows the coordination between the Army Staff and General Henry Benham.  In this clip, General Daniel Butterfield, played by Donald Sutherland (Jack Bauer’s dad to you and I) converses with General Henry Benham, portrayed by Seinfield’s Uncle Leo (Len Lesser) :

Kind of hard to follow as they are talking in code – “bank heist”, “crap game”, “big Joe”, and “little Joe.”

OK, you caught me pulling your leg again!

Actually I should pause and point out that Kelly’s Heroes, one of the most popular war movies of all time, was first released in the U.S. on June 23, 1970.  So it’s a good 39 years old, as of last Tuesday.  The movie has aged well.

Off topic a bit, still the conversation between “Oddball” and SGT Bellamy mentions a few things that are timeless with regard to bridging operations.  Bellamy is concerned about the security of his team if he accepts the chore of building the bridge.  He also indicates the need for manpower to build the bridge.  If we go back and look at the dispatches between the engineers and staff officers in June 1863, those two issues stand out in the conversation.  Also, of course, there is the friction between the “warfighter” who sees the river as an impediment to his operation which must  be crossed without delay, and the engineer who sees the bridging as an operation unto itself.

River crossings are inherintly an action where man wishes to move contrary to the wishes of nature.  Bridging operations supporting those crossings must therefore involve an abundance of resources.  Those realities have not changed in spite of technology.