Monthly Archives: September 2012

The War Returns to Loudoun: Looking at the Loudoun Valley fights

I’m looking about a month out of the sesquicentennial schedule here, but there’s a couple of events coming at the start of November worth plugging into the calendar.   My title is a bit misleading, as even I would contend that the war never left Loudoun, Virginia in 1862.  Both sides sparred with regularity through the early fall during the lull after Antietam.  Stuart brought his cavalry back across the Potomac after his second ride around McClellan in the middle of the month.  But the war activity picked up when the Federals began movement into Loudoun Valley at the close of October.

Once into Loudoun, a series of cavalry fights occurred as the Federals advanced. I find these little known fights rather interesting for several reasons.  In some ways, the fighting resembled that which would occur eight months later in the same area, just oriented north-south instead of east-west.  The actions involved many of the same personalities and units engaged the following year.  Federal cavalry was, arguably for the first time in the war, employed as cavalry is supposed to fight.  As such, I’ve argued the Loudoun Valley cavalry actions were the first indications that Federal arm was gaining on their Confederate counterparts.  If you really want to appreciate what happened at places like Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, Hanover, Gettysburg, and beyond, you should start with the cavalry clashes of November 1862.

Looking a month out, there are three events that will focus attention on the Loudoun Valley fights of 1862.

On October 27, the annual Unison Heritage Day will focus on the fighting that took place around that community.   Hosted by the Unison Preservation Society, the event includes a tour and talk by battle historian Mitch Diamond, recreations of portions of the battle, living history displays, and a lot of less martial activities.  The date is not, strictly speaking, on the 150th of the battle, but close enough.

A few days later, on November 1, the Loudoun Sesquicentennial Committee, the Snickersville Turnpike Association, the Mosby Heritage Area Association, and Camp 21 – Sons of Confederate Veterans are hosting “Fighting at Philomont!” The event starts at 7:30 PM at the Roszell Chapel Methodist Church, 37141 Snickersville Turnpike, in Philomont.  Historian Brian Boucher presents “The Aftermath of Antietam: The War Returns to Loudoun”  The talk is preceded by lasagna dinner at the Philomont Firehouse.  Cost is $10 for adults and $6 for children.

Then on November 2, the Mosby Heritage Area Association hosts “From Unison to Fredericksburg” presented by historian Frank O’Reilly, at the Unison Methodist Church.  That talk starts at 7:30 PM.  I don’t have details as to admission or other logistics at this time.

Good to see the Loudoun Valley fights of 1862 getting their due this sesquicentennial.


National Public Lands Day: Other facets to battlefield use

At least once on every visit a “cannonball” park, I’ll encounter someone who’s out on the field for something other than touring the battlefield. Most often, such as at Manassas, the person is jogging or walking. But a good number of non-battlefield oriented visitors are just taking in the greenspace and enjoying nature. While not true “dual-use” this does indicate some visitors use the park’s resources for something other than that covered by the primary mission of the park.

For example, since I brought up nature and Manassas, that park is debuting its Stone Bridge Nature trail today. Timed for National Public Lands Day. From the Park’s Facebook page:

Just in time for National Public Lands Day, Manassas National Battlefield Park is proud to announce that we have a new natural resource cell phone tour along the park’s Stone Bridge Trail to go along with our current historical Henry Hill cell phone tour. To take the tour just pick up a rack card at the park visitor center, or at the head of the Stone Bridge Trail, enter the telephone number provided; (your cell phone minutes plan applies) then enter the trail stop number. New signs have been placed along the trail to direct visitors from stop to stop. You can stay connected while walking to the next stop or end the call and call back. This new cell phone tour highlights how the setting and climate has changed and provides other information on natural resources within the park. There is a tour for adults and another for children. These tours are currently offered English with a Spanish version coming soon.

National Public Lands Day (NPLD)?

Yes, I must confess, that is new to me. Apparently it’s been around since the 1990s. According to the day’s website, the National Environmental Education Foundation uses this day to promote popular enjoyment and volunteer conservation, in the spirit of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. The program is not just exclusive to national parks, or even just federal lands, but across a broad range of public lands.

The nature trail at Manassas and NPLD bring to the fore an interesting angle of visitor perspective to the preserved battlefields. While we battlefield stompers look across that bottom land near Stone Bridge and think about troop movements, other people will draw as much, if not more, enjoyment considering the natural setting. Of course there are times, such as when a doe and her fawns step out of the trees to munch on the grass, that all of us are nature lovers.

Regardless, that land is not there exclusively for a single group or class of users. And that is not to say there is contention or conflict over the use of battlefield lands. Quite the opposite. At places such as Manassas, preservationists and conservationists have more often than not worked in consort (although sometimes there is contention). There’s some common ground there – both metaphoric and physical.

The 150th Anniversaries have a way of drawing a crowd

From my files on Antietam, here the group photo from Antietam 147th Anniversary hikes:

Antietam 17 Sept 09 012

Probably about 80 folks. there in 2009.

Compare to the group photo from the 150th, this year:

Yep. Officially at 585. But several stragglers showed up after we got to the cornfield and pushed that over 600. Give or take a few.

As Robert wrote, there’s quite a number of us actively following the sesquicentennial.

While out at the Antietam 150th hikes, I finally got to meet Scott Manning. Although not a “Civil War blogger”… perhaps more of a general military history blogger… give me some time to work on him. He’s got a great post up covering the day’s activities. If you didn’t attend those hikes… well … you’ll have to work that much harder for your sesquicentennial certification!

More Civil War news from the Trans-Mississippi

Following up from yesterday’s post, here’s three more news items from the Trans-Mississippi.

From the Herman (Missouri) Advertiser-Courier:

Gasconade County’s last surviving Civil War veteran remembered at Hermann cemetery

After Saturday’s re-enactment of the Civil War Battle of Hermann, troops from Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War conducted a headstone dedication ceremony at the Hermann City Cemetery. They dedicated a marker at the grave of Pvt. Rudolph Baumgaertner, who was Gasconade County’s last surviving Civil War veteran. He was born in September 1839 and died in May 1934. He was 94 years old. Baumgaertner served in Company B of Missouri’s 4th Infantry company. He served from October 1861 to February 1863. On Saturday, Glen Alsop of St. Clair, with other men dressed as Union soldiers, gathered around the grave that Baumgaertner shares with his wife, Louisa, who preceded him in death. Union soldiers fired a 21-gun salute. (Story here)

From the Sun Times of the Greers Ferry Lake area of Arkansas:

Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission approves Cleburne County Historical Marker

The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission has approved an application for an Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Historical Marker in Cleburne County, ACWSC Chairman Tom Dupree announced recently.

The historical marker will be located at the Cleburne County Courthouse in Heber Springs and will commemorate Cleburne County in the Civil War. Cleburne County and the Cleburne County United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter 1757 are sponsoring the marker.

Through the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Historical Marker Program, the ACWSC works with local partners to help tell the stories of how the Civil War affected communities around the state. The Commission hopes that there will be at least one marker in each of the state’s 75 counties by the end of the Sesquicentennial commemoration in 2015. (Full Story)

And from the Daily Statesman of Dexter, Missouri (… S-A-L-U-T-E! … you are probably too young to know where that is from):

Fatal Tree Monument Unveiled

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. — In this modern, civilized age, motorists driving along Highway 25 past the First Commercial Bank of Bloomfield would never guess that the location holds a deadly secret.

According to an article in the Cape Girardeau Missouri Democrat of July 3, 1862, three “Union men” were hanged at the location on a tree called the “Fatal Tree.”

The story is further corroborated by a Pvt. Josiah Ripley White of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry, who wrote his wife about the incident on July 4, 1862:

“We are encamped just outside of the town. There were about 1000 inhabitants here before the Rebellion. The most of them left at that time. They are coming back again some of them. I am in sight of a tree where there were 3 union men hung and 4 graves. I filled my endurance to hang 4 here from ropes and 4 graves but one was not hung. He got away or became Secesh. (Confederate).” (Read More)

Ample evidence that folks outside our “Eastern Theater” are thinking about how the Civil War touched their localities 150 years ago.

Someone back in SEMO… please do me a favor and enter that Fatal Tree marker in the Historical Marker Database.



Looking for the mass grave at Moore’s Mill, Missouri

From the Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune:

Callaway group to seek mass Civil War grave

A Civil War heritage group in Callaway County is trying to track down a 150-year-old mystery: What happened to the dead, Union and Confederate, from the Battle of Moore’s Mill?

In the July 28, 1862, Union victory just south of Calwood, Col. Odon Guitar of Columbia led a force of about 900 men in an attack on rebel guerrillas, estimated at 325 to 1,000 in number, under the direction of Col. Joseph Porter. Casualty estimates vary widely: The Confederate dead have been reported as numbering as few as 11 or as many as 52, while more consistent numbers for the Union force put the number at about 15.

“We fought about four hours when the rebels retreated,” Elijah Hopper of Columbia recalled when he was interviewed on Oct. 7, 1908, for the book “With Porter in North Missouri.” “Our command had 13 killed and 55 wounded. We collected the dead — both sides — after the fight and buried them near a store on the 29th.”

Finding that mass grave and determining which soldiers might be buried there is the latest project of the Elijah Gates Camp No. 57 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. If the site can be located, the camp plans to erect a monument marking the location, said Noel Crowson, camp commander.

Crowson said the best guess now is that the current Wright Brothers Store on Route C is close to the location of the 1862 store. “We have found an actual county map from 1865, only a couple of years after the battle, and there is a store marked on the map, right where the store is today in Calwood.”

The estimate of 52 Confederate dead comes from Guitar’s official report, written weeks after the battle. A Union officer who helped lead the burial detail found dozens of wounded rebels in homes near the battlefield and reported an estimated loss of more than 50 dead and 100 wounded.

Those numbers are likely exaggerated, Crowson said. Several of the dead Confederates have been found, including three buried in unmarked graves in Hillcrest Cemetery in Fulton, he said.

One Confederate, reportedly killed at the battle, lived until 1927 and is buried in the cemetery of the old Confederate home in Higginsville, he said.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate, as a historian, as to who may or may not be buried in the mass grave, unless you have evidence,” Crowson said.

The goal is to locate the grave and prepare the best possible list of who might be buried there, then determine what kind of marker is appropriate, said Don Ernst, monuments chairman for the camp. The goal is to have it in place within a year.

The kind of marker will depend on whether the grave can be located and if it is accessible, he said. “A lot has to do with the landowner,” Ernst said.

Many of the combatants at Moore’s Mill were neighbors. Guitar’s force included many men from Callaway, Boone and other Central Missouri counties, as did Porter’s rebels.

“From a romantic point of view, it is kind of interesting that these people in death are lying side by side,” Crowson said. (Read Full Article)

You may recall that I spent my undergraduate years in Callaway County, studying at nearby Westminster College in Fulton. The “Kingdom of Callaway” has an interesting, if minor, place in the study of the Civil War. Earlier this summer, the county recalled the battle and placed a marker (part of the Missouri’s Civil War series).

From what I recall of the battlefield, much of the ground has turned over the plow considerably since 1862. I would give long odds that anything of the grave site could be found today. But I wish those looking for the grave site all the luck I might spare.

Long range planning for the Sesquicentennial

I’m still in a buzz over the last thirty days of sesquicentennial events. Hard to believe just a few days shy of a month ago the 2nd Manassas events kicked off. Lots of trail miles between there and Antietam. Lots of pictures. Lots of conversations with friends. Lots of tweets. And lots of memories.

Can’t help it, but I’m a sesqucentennialist trying to keep the buzz going and look forward to the next event!

We have several local events coming up in the next few months. I’ll be sure to highlight those as those dates near. Oddly, some event organizers have asked me not to publish notice more than a few days out from the event. They fear more attendees than they are prepared to handle! But before the tourism development directors out there get all excited, these are events with anticipated headcounts of fifty. So if a hundred show up, the facilities are swamped. It’s all relative.

But the larger events – the big battles particularly – require some long range planning. The next one on my radar is Fredericksburg. The park already has a schedule posted. Given many positive comments about the park’s History at Sunset series, I’m looking forward to the programs for the 150th of that battle. The way I see it, this is the “first of four” that Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania will host over seventeen months – so set the bar!

A bit out of my adopted eastern stomping grounds, I’ve been considering the events for Stones River. My wife rolls her eyes every time I speak of it, but it is back to my Civil War roots in the Western Theater. Add a light coat of snow and New Years Day on the banks of Stones River would make up for missing Shiloh in April! Who’s up for a road trip?

Further out on the calendar, I know there will be more local events at the start of the new year. I’ll forgo any “Mud March” events, thank you. But I’ve begun to wonder if Kelly’s Ford will pass unnoticed on the calendar. By the first week in May, we’ll turn to the “second of four” as Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania hosts Chancellorsville (and we have but a whisper of the planned events right now…).

But after Chancellorsville, my attention will be split between the two ‘burgs – Gettysburg and Vicksburg. While the first week of July, 2013 in Gettysburg should be a grand experience, so would celebrating the Fourth of July in Vicksburg. However, since most of the “action” in the Vicksburg Campaign took place in the months leading up to July, there’s a chance – as my wife rolls her eyes again – to take in BOTH campaigns. Vicksburg National Military Park plans include Memorial Day events highlighting the siege. Perhaps an extended road trip? Some battlefield stomping around central Mississippi along with some BBQ and catfish?

Beyond that… well Chickamauga just finished what sounds like a superb 149th anniversary observance. Jim Ogden and the staff there will not disappoint for the 150th.

So with all that said, I’m already allocating vacation days. Hope to see more of you on the fields at these events.


Live fire! 8-inch Siege Mortar

Since I’ve been on a mortar kick this summer, here’s a clip from the Company of Military Historians YouTube video channel:

The mortar is an 8-inch Siege Mortar, Model 1861. Yes, the video is a bit dated, probably a VHS copy ported over for YouTube. But there’s a lot to take in as the crew goes through several iterations. Notice how the crew uses the fixtures on the mortar bed as part of the maneuvering process. While the plumments around the mortar differ from those shown in the manuals, the concept is the same. Not mentioned in the manuals, but perhaps a logical and safe addition to the firing process, is the board placed on the rear transom when firing. … And I just LOVE those shells bursting in the air!

As mentioned, the video is from the Company of Military Historians channel. All told there are over 100 videos posted there, accounting for over 17 hours of viewing. If you are interested in military history or militaria then you should consider joining the Company of Military Historians.