Thursday, April 28, 2011

Was one of your ancestors lost on the U.S.S. Monitor?

The skeleton to the left, victim “Monitor 2,” is shown
by digital overlay where it was uncovered after the photo
of the first victim was taken. (Monitor Collection, NOAA)
The United States Navy would like to identify the remains of two men found in the turret of the U.S.S. Monitor -- two of the 16 officers and crew who went down with the ship on New Year's Eve, 1862. If you think you might be a descendant and are willing to produce some DNA, contact  Jeff Johnston at (757) 591-7351, Thanks to Robert Moore for highlighting this article at Civil War News

List of Monitor casualties:

Attwater, Norman Knox: Acting Ensign
Frederickson, George: Acting Ensign
Hands, Robinson Woollen: 2nd Asst. Engineer
Lewis, Samuel Augee: 3rd Asst. Engineer

Cook, Robert: 1st Class Boy (b. Gloucester County, VA)
Howard, Robert H: Officers’ Cook (b. Howard County, VA)
Moore, Daniel: Landsman (b. Prince William or Loudoun County, VA)

Allen, William: Landsman (b. England) 24 yrs.
Bryan, William: Yeoman (b. New York City) 31 yrs.
Eagan, William H: Landsman (b. Ireland) 21 yrs.
Fenwick, James R: Quarter Gunner (b. Scotland) 23 yrs.
Joyce (Joice), Thomas: 1st Class Fireman (b. Ireland) 23 yrs.
Littlefield, George: Coal Heaver (b. Saco, ME) 25 yrs.
Nicklis (Nickles), Jacob: Seaman (b. Buffalo (?), NY) 21 yrs.
Stocking, John: Boatswain’s Mate (b. Binghampton, NY) 27 yrs.
Williams, Robert: 1st Class Fireman (b. Wales) 30 yrs.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Civil War: 1861 (Forever)

Get these nifty Civil War postage stamps (commemorating Ft. Sumter and First Bull Run) while they last. Avoid long lines and surly civil servants by ordering them online.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"The Apostle of Liberty" and The Gipper

Thomas Starr King

Ronald Reagan
under the rotunda
For most of the 20th century, California was represented in the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall by the likenesses of Father Junipero Serra, and the Unitarian preacher Thomas Starr King. King, as much as any one figure and much more than most, helped keep California in the Union (the state's popular vote totals were close among the top three candidates in 1860: Lincoln: 38,733, Douglas: 37,999; Breckinridge: 33,969). Thomas Starr King was a dedicated anti-slavery campaigner who helped put Leland Stanford in the governor's office, and who traveled the state giving fiery orations in defense of the Union. According to one source, "King covered his pulpit with an American flag and ended all his sermons with 'God bless the president of the United States and all who serve with him the cause of a common country.'" 

Alas, King's contributions to the state of California, and to the maintenance of the union, are no longer celebrated as they once were (though you can follow the Thomas Starr King Appreciation Society on Facebook, with its 110 members, hike two mountains named for him, and admire his namesake tree at Yosemite). In 2006 the California state legislature voted to recall King's statue from the National Statuary Hall and replace it with one of Ronald Reagan, a former Des Moines radio broadcaster. There was no public discussion about such a monumental change. No debate about whether John Muir, or Joe DiMaggio, or Earl Warren, or Jerry Garcia might have been more appropriate.  

The statue of "the orator who saved the nation" eventually found a new home in the Civil War Memorial Grove of Sacramento's Capitol Park. According to the Capitol Museum, the grove was planted
beginning in 1896 to the east of the capitol with saplings collected from Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Savannah, Five Forks, Yellow Tavern, and Vicksburg, and ultimately 34 other battlefields. The brainchild of GAR ladies from California and Nevada, the grove was intended to honor soldiers from both sides of the conflict, and was the first monument on the capitol grounds. 

Thomas Starr King's tomb, Starr King Way and Franklin, San Francisco
If it were up to me, I would have recalled Serra's statue from Washington (even if he is one miracle away from sainthood), and left King's -- Serra died in 1784, 66 years before California statehood. I was not consulted. Interestingly, the Californians of 1927 who voted to include King as one of the two most notable representatives chose a man who only lived in the state for four years. He arrived in San Francisco on the eve of the war in 1860, and died in March of 1864. 

King Statue, Sacramento

Monday, April 18, 2011

1861: The Civil War Awakening

Unidentified soldier in Union officer's uniform at Point Lookout,
Tennessee. (Liljenquist Family Collection, Library of Congress)

Slate published an interesting interview with Adam Goodheart on Friday. He is the author of the brand-new 1861: The Civil War Awakening, and is a main contributor to the New York Times Disunion blog. Go to the Slate article and launch the slide slow for some select images from the Liljenquist collection that was recently donated to the Library of Congress. 

Slate: Americans have a sense of the whole scope of the Civil War, but what is it about the year 1861 that we miss when we look back and see the Civil War as a single complete event?

Goodheart: We tend to think of the Civil War in a very fatalistic way, as a sort of vast national martyrdom. It's hard to recover the fact that things could have turned out very, very differently. It's also hard to grasp the idea that Americans at the beginning of the war had no sense of the way that things were going to unfold. When I wrote the book, I really wanted to recover that moment of uncertainty and change – to convey how people, then and now, experience history not as seen from 30,000 feet as the History Channel might, but as a barrage of individual events coming at them, alternately thrilling and terrifying.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Seven Days Travelogue, part two

History is all explained by geography.
— Robert Penn Warren

Dateline: Princeton-by-the-Sea, California

So this is what a blog post from an iPad looks like in Blogspot. If there's an app out there that allows one to compose with more sophisticated formatting, I've not found it yet. Might have to go back and format this after the fact. For now, I'm just happy to be able to dock the iPad on a full size keyboard.

The last two days of the 15th Civil War Forum Battlefield Conference transpired without a hitch. It was a beautiful thing to walk out into the heart of the Glendale battlefield and listen to Bobby Krick read personal accounts related to the particular plot of protected land we were standing upon.

After a spectacular lunch of fried chicken at the Elko Community Center, done up only as country church ladies can do, the balance of the afternoon was spent at Malvern Hill. Revelations abounded as we walked the Confederate assault route to the "high water" mark near the site of the slave cabins, and ultimately moved into a swale on the Confederate left to experience first-hand how two separate and parallel fights occurred out of sight of each other. Reading a description of that phenomenon is fine, but seeing it is to understand it.

At the close of the day, we stopped at the Jeb Stuart monument at Yellow Tavern, mere yards from our hotel, for a short talk on the 1864 fighting there. Sunday morning was warm and sunny, with great visibility, just perfect for our visit to Drewry's Bluff and Battery Dantzler. For decades I've pictured that stretch of the river below the guns at Drewry's Bluff, images evoked from countless written accounts, but this was the first time I was able to commit the actual view to memory.

Now I'm 3,000 miles away again, in a small fishing village overlooking the old Romeo Pier and planning next year's conference. The votes are in, and we're headed to Bentonville and Fort Fisher in 2012. Invitations are already out to guides Mark Bradley and Chris Fonvielle.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Seven Days Travelogue, part one

[CONFERENCE] Day One -- twenty or twenty-five of us met up with author and researcher Chris Ferguson at the South Cherry Street entrance to Hollywood Cemetery, and spent the next three hours hiking and driving through the graveyard with numerous stops to hear Chris relate the history of the cemetery, and stories about individuals buried there. Best quotes came from the records of the Old Soldiers Home, regarding the antics of a spritely and heavily-armed 80-year-old. 

-- Mechanicsville through Gaines's Mill with Bobby Krick, the best tour guide we've had in 15 years of conferences, and we've had many of the best that Civil War battlefield touring has to offer, including his father. I don't say that lightly. He's the consummate pro -- aware of his audience, able to distill an exceedingly complex campaign into a comprehendable narrative, with a perfectly engaging delivery and an absolute command of the subject matter. But it's more than that. There's a long list of qualities, some intangible, that I would highlight in recommending him to anyone else. 

Highlight of the day: the Civil War Forum, thanks to the brand-new acquisition by the Richmond Battlefields Association, became the first group to traverse the Gaines's Mill battlefield in the tracks of the 4th Texas Infantry, starting on the Confederate side of the creek, descending into the creek bottom and crossing on a rudimentary "Krick bridge," before scaling the slope to the site of the Confederate break-through. The yellow box on this Richmond Battlefields Association map shows the new parcel acquired by RBA, the first preservation success at Gaines's Mill since Douglas Southall Freeman and friends purchased a small part of the battlefield in the 1920s (and the first piece on the CSA side of Boatswain's Creek to be locked off from development). 

Friday night Bobby gave a fascinating talk on "Drewry's Bluff, Gibraltar of the Confederacy," making us all realize how little we actually knew about that otherwise commonly known story.

Tomorrow: all the way to Malvern Hill, and beyond.