Renaming Army Forts in the South

Fort Gordon signThe campaign to purge all elements of the Confederacy from American life continues apace. First, it was the Confederate Battle Flag that was targeted. Their reason: Dylann Roof had been photographed with a Confederate Battle Flag.

It should be noted that most of the liberal leftists involved in this campaign are non-Southerners.

A vocal group of liberals forced retailers like Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears to announce bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise. This is amid an intensifying national debate over the use of the controversial flag. Well, that hasn’t seemed to work. It has spawned a cottage industry of flag makers to step in and fill the void.

Then, we had the license plate controversy. A number of Southern states have license plates with the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on it. The liberal left saw this as affront to non-Confederate backers. Several states under political pressure are removing these offending license plates from circulation.

Then, the same group began to agitate for the removal of monuments honoring Confederate war heroes. In my home state of Virginia there is a law that prevents the removal or destruction of any war memorial, irregardless of the war that they commemorate, so our monuments are safe.

However, in other Southern states the battle has been joined with the liberal left agitating for the removal of these monuments. Communities across the South are grappling with this situation on a daily basis. This group of deconstructionists are attempting to re-write history to their liking.

Then we have the Jefferson-Jackson dinners sponsored by the Democrat Party. There have been calls to change the name of this event. The reason: both men were slaveholders.

Even though both men were presidents. Even though Jefferson was the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence. Even though Jackson led the force that turned back the British invasion of New Orleans. These facts are far outweighed by the simple fact that both men were slaveholders in the eyes of the liberal left.

The latest attack on all-things Confederate is the complaint that a majority of the Army posts in the South are named for Confederate generals.

There are 10 U.S. military bases that are named after Confederate figures: Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beuregard.

The Pentagon has announced that there are no plans to rename any bases. Following the national debate on the Confederate flag, the Pentagon said Wednesday it did not expect military bases named after Confederate leaders to see those names replaced.

The Pentagon emphasized Wednesday that it is up to the individual military services to name their bases and said that is not likely to change.

“As of now, there is no discussion of adjusting the naming policy,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren.

Warren made the comments in response to questions from reporters about the Army having in the past named several bases in the South after Confederate generals.

But the left will not give up. Here is a quote from one irate columnist on the Daily Kos.

Why are so many US Army posts named after confederate generals?
What the hell is up with THAT??!!

Why are federal facilities named after rebels?
In the tradition of naming Army posts after people who killed American soldiers, I suggest  renaming Ft Benning to Ft Tojo, Ft Ord to Ft Rommel,  Ft Lewis/ Mchord to Ft Ho Chi Minh/ Mao and Ft Leonard Wood to Ft Saddam

Expect this anti-Confederate mania to continue for some time.



Navy Divers work in virtual darkness to raise CSS Georgia

US-Navy-Divers-Savannah-Ves-jpgSAVANNAH, Georgia (CNN)Imagine working in a world the color of Irish coffee, where you cannot see much beyond your hand. Where a constant force pushes you away from your task and upends you if you stay too long. And walking? Jagged pieces of iron and piles of debris await at every turn.

That is the office environment of a U.S. Navy team this summer as it salvages a Civil War ironclad vessel in the Savannah River. The team battles back against the underwater challenges, using years of experience and training. The goal: to retrieve artifacts and larger pieces while getting men out of the water before, as diver Cody Bumpass said, they are “literally flying in the current.”

“If you don’t know what you are doing, it could be a little scary,” said Bumpass, a Navy diver 1st class.

For Virginia-based Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, the recovery of the CSS Georgia, scuttled by its Confederate crew in December 1864, requires a mixture of old-school techniques and the latest in technology.

Reminiscent of intrepid divers in Jules Verne’s 1870 classic “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” the divers wear large helmets, full body suits and are attached to tethers, called “umbilicals,” that carry vital air and communication from the mother ship — in this case a salvage barge about 40-45 feet above.

When they make a discovery, divers run their gloved fingers around an item and give a description that is relayed to archaeologists assisting in the recovery.

Everything is built on safety and trust. Team members rotate jobs, from tending and feeding the “umbilicals” to divers, to handling communications and to supervising the dive team. It’s the ultimate form of “I’ve got your back.”

Those on the barge also watch for the massive container vessels that ply the Savannah River. They want divers to be at least 50 feet away from the ships’ churning propellers and wake.

“You can actually feel a bit of the suction pull you off (the site),” said Bumpass. “They are huge ships, and they are moving a lot of water. It just comes down to safety.”

Conversely, those supporting the divers must trust the underwater workers to give them a real-time feel for what’s below and whether they have time or the right conditions to salvage that item.

On one dive, for example, an object found on the river floor was described as looking like a bicycle spoke. It turned out to be some kind of wheel or damper.

Surprises on the river bottom

The CSS Georgia is not really a shipwreck, per se. That’s because previous salvage operations, including one shortly after the Civil War’s end, removed much of the ironclad. Dredging operations in the late 1960s further scattered the vessel, and the chain anchoring a red channel marker — or buoy — constantly shifts items.

That means there can be surprises. A part of the vessel may not be where archaeologists expect it to be, and jumbles of iron complicate the search.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Potts, the Navy’s on-scene commander, said the salvage work can be exhausting. Divers drop items into baskets or rig them to a crane that lifts them to the barge, which floats a few miles east of downtown Savannah, near Old Fort Jackson.

Communication, through a wire bundled in the “umbilicals,” is vital.

“We are listening to their respiratory pattern. We may hear a little gurgling in their diving apparatus, indicating water intrusion in their helmet,” said Potts. “We know each other well. We are listening to the tone of their voice … the words they are saying. We are listening to their opinions, we are listening to the factual information. We are listening to every single word they say and every breath they take to make sure they are safe on the bottom.”

A recent midday dive, like all such operations, included a rigorous predive protocol. Two divers, one dubbed “green” and the other “red,” sat on metal benches under a small awning shielding them from the summer sun. A standby diver who would be sent below if one fell into serious trouble sat between the pair. The third diver hasn’t been needed thus far on this mission.

The diving supervisor asked a series of readiness questions, including the status of air and other gauges, and tugged on the divers’ gear before they stood up.

“Be safe while you guys are down there,” said Senior Chief Navy Diver Steve Askew. “The same for topside.”

With that, the divers took a long stride from the edge of the barge and plunged into the water.

“Once you take a step off that ledge, it is go time,” said Bumpass.

Divers receive extensive safety training

The $15 million removal of the CSS Georgia, under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the first visible sign of a long-anticipated state and federal harbor project. The aim is to deepen the channel to a uniform 47 feet so massive cargo ships can reach Savannah’s port from the Atlantic Ocean without relying on the tide.

Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, brought in after six months of archaeological dives by Army Corps contractors, has been in the water since the end of June and should wrap up its work in about three weeks.

The divers in March returned from a six-month combat support deployment that was based in Bahrain. Divers performed ship husbandry and conducted salvage and harbor clearance operations. Its previous salvage operations include the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, the Minneapolis bridge collapse, USS Cole, Swissair Flight 111 and TWA Flight 800.

Work can be dangerous: Two members of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 died in February 2013 while training at a pond in Maryland.

Divers are trained to learn the effects of pressure, especially in deeper depths, and have equipment topside to deal with any emergencies, such as arterial gas embolism.

At its home in Virginia, the unit trained extensively for the CSS Georgia project.

Working with an explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, team from the Navy’s Kings Bay base near St. Marys, Georgia, Navy divers were tasked with salvaging the ship’s four remaining cannons, artillery rounds, the propeller, engine and other components and the casemate, which is the sloped, armor-coated structure that housed the CSS Georgia’s guns.

The cannons, which include a massive 9-inch Dahlgren and two Brooke rifles, were lifted last month and are undergoing conservation at Texas A&M University.

Dive teams often use scuba gear, meaning they have fins, air tanks and can move pretty nimbly around vessels that are being maintained or salvaged. That’s impossible here, given the heavy current and little to no visibility.

“Everyone was excited to see the cannons,” said Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Richard Bledsoe of Kings Bay’s EOD Mobile Unit 6. “Everyone was stoked to be a part of something that’s been stuck in the water for 150 years. One day, they will be at a museum they can take their families to see and tell them the story they were part of.”

The team took advantage of the USBL, an underwater acoustic positioning system that has helped divers find items.

EOD divers have retrieved more than 130 artillery shells and explosive bolts.

The length of time the guns and shells have been in the water has increased the likelihood that water penetrated fuses and saturated black gunpowder. Still, the EOD and salvage divers treated the cannon as if they might have a round jammed into the barrel to prevent future use and injure those who tried to fire the gun. Archaeologists are not yet certain whether that occurred.

Physical training comes in handy when it comes to lifting artillery projectiles that weigh between 65 and 90 pounds.

Divers found about 60 rounds for the Dahlgren gun, but they were considered less potentially hazardous because a flame is required to light the fuse. The Brooke rounds, shaped like a bullet, were more problematic because they are “impact sensitive.” In other words: Don’t drop them.

“They knew to carry them in a nose-up attitude,” said Bledsoe.

‘No Confederate ghosts’

Every sunken vessel has a story, and that of the CSS Georgia includes some mysteries.

Researchers have no blueprints or proven photos of the Confederate ironclad, and they aren’t sure how it was put together or even its size.

The ironclad was underpowered and not able to engage in maneuvers against enemy warships. So it became part of the city’s formidable defenses, which included obstructions and torpedoes, or floating mines. The CSS Georgia, in essence, was a stationary, floating gun battery, with as many as 10 large guns.

It never, however, had an opportunity to fire in anger. It was sunk by its own crew so it would not fall into the hands of Union troops that would soon take Savannah.

There was no loss of life. “There are no Confederate ghosts with us,” quipped Lt. Liza Dougherty, public affairs officer for Virginia-based Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two. Dougherty’s duties have included posting real-time social media updates on the project.

Officials do know that a businessman, shortly after the Civil War, contracted with the U.S. government to salvage the wreck as part of an effort to clear the shipping channel.

Jim Jobling, a project manager with Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory, said the absence of fastener bolts and other components in some artifacts is evidence of salvaging.

Records indicate that the businessman, apparently in a dispute with the government over his work and payment, may have dumped portions of the wreck back into the river.

Gordon Watts, a longtime diver and owner of Tidewater Atlantic Research, said experts are hampered because so much of the CSS Georgia was taken in previous salvage operations. Watts is assisting the Army Corps of Engineers on the archaeological side of the operation and sits next to the Navy communications operator on the barge, helping provide direction and feedback to divers.

Watts co-wrote an archaeological evaluation that provides the framework used by all the gee-whiz technology on the barge. Technicians use a map that shows where parts of the CSS Georgia are believed to rest. More than 1,500 artifacts were retrieved by contract divers before the Navy team began lifting the heavier items.

Advanced technology guides dive teams

The barge features air-conditioned pods, where contractors and Navy personnel constantly monitor the sonar, GPS and other equipment.

The sonar system provides a 3-D, real-time image of what the divers are doing. Moving dots on some computer screens show the location of the divers and the I-beam used to lift some items. One of the divers carries a tracking beacon and crew members can follow the divers with an image of the plume made by their bubbles.

Divers are entirely dependent on the directions sent from the barge. “Face your umbilical and back up to your left,” may be one command. “We tell them, ‘You are almost on it,'” said Watts.

Watts, who first dived the CSS Georgia in the 1980s, said this is the first time all the available technology and electronic mapping have been combined in such a way.

Watts, 70, with experience at the USS Monitor and the CSS Alabama wreck sites, said the CSS Georgia had inadequate power, a limited hull design and a top-heavy casemate made of 24-foot long pieces of railroad iron, rather than preferred rolled plate.

“That produced a much higher and heavier casemate,” said Watts. The local builders and Confederate navy wanted to get the vessel into the water as quickly as possible and cutting the railroad iron would have been time-consuming.

Jobling said they are confident there is enough casemate left to show a sloped side, corner and gun port for museum display.

It takes time and patience to find all the pieces that remain.

Archaeologists and the Navy were surprised so much timber remained with the iron rails making up the casemate. They tried a couple of approaches before fashioning a device resembling a guillotine to cut through the armor and wood. Sections weighing about 10,000 pounds are then lifted to the surface.

The outer suits the Navy divers wear allow them to walk on the bottom to reach an artifact. Divers carry about 150 pounds of extra weight on their boots, belts and elsewhere to reduce their buoyancy. This time of year the water is mild — in the low to mid-80s — and divers typically work in a “slack tide,” the window each day when there is little movement in the tidal stream.

Because of the relatively shallow depth, divers are able to use surface air.

“You don’t want to foul your umbilical around yourself or cut yourself,” said Watts. “You have to move pretty carefully when you are down there.” The added weight makes it impossible for a diver to rise to the surface — their tenders hoist them slowly up to a ladder on the edge of the barge.

To an observer, it’s tempting to look at the helmet (which is mounted with a camera), outer suit and support system and compare such diving to being on the moon.

“In a bizarre way, it is kind of like space because you are in a hostile environment,” said Watts. Neither individual would survive without a complex support system. “In space, you can see what you are doing. Here you are blind, and feeling (by hand) with the ability to conceptualize things.”

An underwater brotherhood

Bumpass, 31, of Austin, Texas, has a ready smile and a can-do work ethic.

He described how he and Spencer Puett slowly moved part of a hawsepipe, a part of the anchor chain system, across the river floor to the waiting basket.

“I’m pretty sure it’s 3,000 pounds, but they said 200,” Bumpass said with a laugh.

Diver 1st Class Kurt Eberle, 32, of Racine, Wisconsin, said divers are competitive and want to be on the best team. “Everyone likes to poke fun at each other. It boosts morale, also builds competition and a healthy work ethic.”

One example was a line uttered at the dive station when the crew hadn’t heard from the divers in a while. “Are they getting their mail down there?”

Six months of dive school whet the appetite for excelling in the unit’s tasks, which include ship maintenance and repairs, salvage and force protection. As Watts said, divers know they have to respect the environment in which they work and understand the limitations of their equipment.

“Everyone up there takes this dead seriously,” he said.

Eberle said the work requires a well-rounded individual with expertise in many subjects and the ability to roll with the punches.

“It takes hard work and strong desire to be among the Navy’s 1,000 divers. Many try. Not that many make it,” said Potts.

And, always, there has to be trust.

“Trust in sending that person down below the water line to accomplish the mission,” said Potts. “To repair a ship, you consider the fact that we send our divers down to replace 55,000-pound propellers on a submarine, and we send that submarine to sea to go out and support our combatant commanders on that one person’s or two people’s word that that ship is ready to go. That’s an immense amount of trust.”


The Back-to-Africa Movement

MonroviaBefore there was a full-blown abolition movement. Before John Brown led his band of abolitionists in Kansas and Harpers Ferry. Before the Confederate states seceded and fired on Fort Sumter, there was a Back-to-Africa movement that encouraged those of African descent to return to the African homelands of their ancestors. Lost in the devastation of four years of civil war is the story of the Back-to-Africa movement of the antebellum period.

In the period before the Civil War the the black population in the United States increased dramatically. Many of these African Americans were freed people seeking a better life. Many Southern freed blacks migrated to the industrial North to seek employment while others moved to surrounding Southern states for the same reasons.

In many cases they were met with hostility and fear by whites. Many whites in the North had never met a person of African descent and they didn’t know how to live with them. In the South there was the fear of slave revolts especially in light of the violent and bloody affairs that had taken place prior to Nat Turner’s Revolt in 1831. Some historians have found records of approximately two hundred and fifty revolts and conspiracies in the history of American Negro slavery. Others have found as many as 313.

In Southampton County, Virginia, Turner and about 70 armed slaves and free blacks set off to slaughter the white neighbors who enslaved them. They killed between 55 and 60 white people before they were captured. The white retribution was fearful. Turner and 21 of his followers were hanged. Another 16 were sold away from the region. When the state of Virginia reacted with harsher laws controlling black people, many free blacks fled Virginia for good.

Many whites felt very strongly that those of African descent should return to Africa.  In Virginia (now West Virginia), one proponent of the Colonization movement, Solomon Parker of Hampshire County, was quoted as having said: “I am not willing that the Man or any of my Blacks shall ever be freed to remain in the united states…. Am opposed to slavery and also opposed to freeing blacks to stay in our Country and do sincerely hope that the time is approaching when our Land shall be rid of them.”

Riots spread throughout the nation in the early years of the 19th century, usually in urban areas where there had been recent migrations of blacks from the South. In 1819 alone there are records of some 25 riots around the country with many killed and injured. The Back-to-Africa movement was seen as a solutions to these problems by both sides.

In 1811, Paul Cuffee, “a black man who was a wealthy man of property, a petitioner for equal rights for blacks” began to explore the idea of black people returning to their native land as he was convinced that “opportunities for the advancement of for black people were limited in America, and he became interested in African colonization.” With the help of some Quakers in Philadelphia he was able to transport 38 blacks to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 1815.

Blacks often viewed the movement with suspicion, especially among the middle-class, and worried that the Colonization movement was a ploy to deport freed African Americans to keep them from making efforts against slavery. Shortly after the foundation of the American Colonization Society, for example, 3,000 free blacks gathered in a church in Philadelphia and issued forth a declaration stating that they “will never separate ourselves voluntarily from the slave population of the country” and black leaders such James Forten who had previously supported the Colonization Movement found their minds changed by mass black resistance to the idea.

The Society was an early advocate of the idea of resettling American-born blacks in Africa. Founded in 1816 by Charles Fenton Mercer, it was made up of two groups: “philanthropists, clergy and abolitionist who wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to return to Africa. The other group was the slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from America.” Notable members of the American Colonization Society included Thomas Buchanan, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, Daniel Webster, John Marshall, and Francis Scott Key.

Since its inception, the American Colonization Society struggled to garner support from within free black communities; however, during the late 1840s and early 1850s, the creation of an independent Liberian state splintered the nearly uniform voice against colonization. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which provided the United States government ample power to recapture fugitive slaves, many black leaders promoted immigration and colonization to a nation that would provide and protect their rights.

Despite this, several black critics were outspoken against the Back-to-Africa movement and the activities of the American Colonization Society. A report from a free black political conference in New York warned: “all kinds of chicanery and stratagem will be employed to allure the people [to the colony]…the independence of its inhabitants; the enjoyment and privileges of its citizens, will be pictured forth in glowing colors, to deceive you.” The discussion between Society’s proponents and anticolonizationists did not stop blacks from migrating to Liberia despite numerous challenges.

According to the Encyclopedia of Georgia History and Culture, “as early as 1820, black Americans had begun to return to their ancestral homeland through the auspices of the American Colonization Society” and by 1847, the American Colonization Society founded Liberia and designated it as the land to be colonized by all black people returning from the United States of America. By the decline of the Back to Africa Movement, the American Colonization Society migrated over 13,000 blacks back to Africa.

THe Back-to-Africa movement began to decline after the Civil War but revived again in 1877 at the end of the Reconstruction as many blacks in the South faced violence from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Interest among the South’s black population in African emigration peaked during the 1890s, a time when racism reached its peak and the greatest number of lynchings in American history took place.

Ex-slave repatriation or the immigration of African American, Caribbean, and Black British slaves to Africa occurred mainly during the late 18th century to mid-19th century. In the cases of Liberia and Sierra Leone both were established by former slaves who were repatriated to Africa within a 28-year period.





The assault on the South’s Confederate heritage

Virginia Confederate License PlateEver since the horrendous mass murder of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church left wing groups have waged a continual assault on the South’s Confederate heritage. First, they attempted to eliminate the manufacture and sale of Confederate battle flags.

The first to go was the Confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina capital in Columbia. Then Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears all announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise, amid an intensifying national debate over the use of the controversial flag.

Johnna Hoff, an eBay spokesperson, said that the Confederate flag has “become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.” It is banning the sale of Confederate flags and “many items containing this image,” Hoff said.

Sears Holdings Corporation, which operates Sears and Kmart, also said it would remove confederate flag merchandise sold by third-party vendors online. It does not currently sell confederate flags at its stores, Sears Holdings spokesman Chris Brathwaite told CNN.

As of Monday, Walmart.com carried the Confederate flag as well as attire featuring the flag’s design, such as T-shirts and belt buckles, and the auction site eBay also carried the Confederate flag and accessories such as handbags and jewelry. Amazon.com list pages of Confederate flag-related products, ranging from the flag itself to folding knives, T-shirts, blankets and even shower curtains).

The campaign against all things Confederate continues apace with the various state license plates with the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans squarely in the cross-hairs. Almost immediately after the South Carolina flag issue was settled Virginia announced that it would attempt to recall all 1,691 of its Confederate plates. The State Legislature has since codified the removal of those plates from circulation.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that it’s unclear how quickly the flag tags will disappear from state highways now that the plates are being recalled and replaced following a federal judge’s ruling Thursday lifting a 2001 injunction that allowed the image. “We’re working as quickly as possible to get this done,” Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Brandy Brubaker told theMaryland Confederate License Plate paper.

Vehicle owners with the flag plates will be sent new Sons of Confederate Veterans tags along with a letter of notification informing them that the old plates will become invalid in 30 days. However, the replacement tag doesn’t exist yet. The DMV plans to come up with a new flag-less plate design in consultation with the veterans group. Meanwhile, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are promising a fight over the issue.

Over in Maryland, the debate over a similar plate continues. The fate of a petition to remove what organizers describe as racist symbols from the Maryland State House and the University of Maryland football stadium (Byrd Stadium) seemed uncertain Wednesday as Gov. Larry Hogan (R) hedged on the issue, despite saying he wants to end the use of the Confederate battle flag on specialty license plates.

“The Confederate flag is a divisive symbol, and that is why the governor called for its removal from Maryland license plates,” said Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer. But Mayer offered a different message in regard to the Move­On.org petition, which calls for removing a statue at the state capital and renaming the U-Md. football stadium. “Maryland has a 381-year history, and we should be very cautious about removing historical landmarks depicting figures and events from our past,” Mayer said. “Rushing to judgment isn’t the right way to go about this.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh asked a federal court in July to lift a nearly 20-year-old injunction that prevents the state from recalling license plates with Confederate logos.


New Market Today

New Market, Virginia is still a small Valley town. It has a population of 1,859 as of July 2009. The town bills itself as the historic heart of the Shenandoah Valley with a preserved downtown on VSH 11. New Market is located at exit 264 on I-81, the main north-south highway in the Valley. I-81 bisects the town with the business district to the east and the battlefield to the west. The entrance to the battlefield is on the right side as your heading west on 211.

The battlefield part is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and operated by the Virginia Military Institute. The main buildings are about a mile off the road. You will pass a museum that is not part of the battlefield site before you reach the Virginia Museum of the Civil War. Park and enter to pay your admission fee of $10 before your self-guided tour of the museum and battlefield site itself. The museum supplies an annotated map of the entire battlefield with drawings and explanations of significant parts of the battle. The Hall of Valor Civil War Museum is well-done, informative and chock-full of Civil War memorabilia, particularly from Virginia. There is an excellent movie about the VMI cadets’ part in the battle called Field of Lost Shoes.

The Jacob Bushong Farm about a half mile northeast of the museum  is accessible by either a walking trail or driving. In fact, there is an extensive walking trail that will take you to all of the main sites of the park. The farm with a number of outbuildings is well-preserved and informative with both audio and written descriptions of farm life in the mid-19th century. The cellar of the farmhouse where the Bushong family took refuge during the battle is accessible to the public as are rooms on the first and second floors. You are also able to visit a number of outbuildings surrounding the main house. The wheelwright building and the blacksmith building have audio explanations of each craft. The Bushongs used both of these buildings to fashion wagon wheels and metal tools and equipment. The open fields to the west and north are probably like they were in 1864.

They are a number of cannons located around the field indicating the locations of different batteries during the battle. The battlefield is bisected north and south by I-81. If you wish to visit the east side of the battlefield you can either drive over or if you’re walking go through the tunnel on the highway. The only significant site on this side of the battlefield is a large monument dedicated to the 54th Pennsylvania Infantry. This regiment had a 45% casualty rate in the battle with 32 men killed, 180 wounded and 42 captured.

You should allow two to three hours for you visit to the New Market Battlefield in order to explore the museum and the grounds. The museum shop offers many items for all ages of visitors including hats, books and a variety of memorabilia.

In honor of the VMI cadets who were killed at New Market, the Cadet Corps holds a special ceremony every May 15th at VMI. As the name of each fallen cadet is called, a cadet in the formation will answer: “Died on the Field of Honor, Sir”. The ceremony is held at VMI in Lexington, Virginia in front of the monument entitled Virginia Mourning her Dead.

The Battle of New Market took place on May 15, 1864. New Market, Virginia was a small market crossroads in the central Shenandoah Valley. By this time in the war the South was reeling from a number of shattering defeats. On the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains Ulysses S. Grant’s armies were relentlessly pursuing Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

New Market was distinguished by the charge of the cadets from Virginia Military Institute. The Confederate forces, led by Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, were small in numbers with between 4,000 and 4,500 men. Breckenridge needed as many men (or boys) that he could collect so he asked the Commandant at VMI to dispatch the Cadet Corps to join his army. The cadets marched some 81 miles in four days to join the Confederate forces on the eve of the battle. The Corps was led by 24-year old Col. Scott Shipp and consisted of 257 cadets, some as young as 15 years of age. Breckenridge intended to use the cadets as a reserve force behind his main line.

The Federal force was led by Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel who commanded a total force of 6,500 at New Market. Grant’s original intent was to have Sigel draw off Confederate forces from Lee’s army in central Virginia by threatening the Confederate breadbasket of the Valley. Sigel was a politician who even though he was only in this country for ten years was a favorite of Lincoln’s because he could deliver votes from the German immigrant community for President Lincoln in the upcoming election.

Opposing him was Breckenridge, a Kentuckian, who had been the youngest Vice President of the United States under James Buchanan and came in second (of four) against Lincoln in the 1860 Presidential election. He also served in the House and the Senate. Breckenridge led Kentucky’s “Orphan Brigade”, a unit that could never go home since their state had remained in the Union. Breckenridge had been a commander in the Western Theater who had distinguished himself on the field of battle. He turned out that the politician was a fair commander, too. An antipathy between Braxton Bragg, the Army of Tennessee commander, and Breckenridge led to his transfer to the Eastern Theater where he was put in charge of Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley.

Sigel’s forces began their march down the Valley in early May 1864. Breckenridge began to collect his forces at Staunton, some 35 miles south of New Market. Breckenridge moved his forces north with the intention of bringing the Federal forces to battle. They met at New Market on May 15th in a drenching rain. The Confederate infantry brushed aside Federal skirmishers about a mile south of the Jacob Bushong Farm. They engaged the main Federal force with rifle and cannon fire about a mile north of the farm. The Federals using double grape and canister (essentially the cannons acted like giant shotguns) tore huge holes in the Confederate lines. At this point Breckenridge was forced to use the Cadets to plug a huge gap in his line. “Put the boys in,” Breckinridge ordered, “and may God forgive me for the order …” Col. Shipp ordered his Cadet Corps to advance. They split their force as they went to either side of the Bushong Farm, two companies to the east and two to the west. The fire was intense and cadets began to fall. They took cover to protect themselves, behind anything that would shield them from the enemy’s fire, tree stumps, rail fences, trees.

Sigel, realizing that the Confederates were disorganized, ordered a counterattack. It lurched forward and was ineffective. The counterattack failed and Sigel ordered his artillery to withdraw. The reduction of the Federal artillery fire encouraged Breckenridge. He ordered his infantry to advance against the Federal line. They moved across a rain-soaked wheat field that was later renamed the Field of Lost Shoes by one of the cadets. Many of the soldiers and cadets had the shoes literally sucked off their feet by the thick mud. The Federal line broke under the pressure and the Confederates swept over the position. General Sigel ordered his forces to retreat to Strasburg. An artillery battery commanded by Captain Henry A. DuPont covered the Federal retreat. Captain DuPont was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864.  On May 15th he simply saved his comrades from utter defeat.

The Battle of New Market was a small battle based on the slightly under 11,000 total soldiers engaged. Casualties totaled 1,380 total (840 Federals, 540 Confederates) killed, wounded, captured. The VMI Cadet Corps lost 10 killed, 45 wounded; a 23% casualty rate. The next month the Federals got their revenge on VMI by burning the school to the ground. It would not reopen until 1866 and it would take five years to recover.

Franz Sigel was relieved of command and replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter as commander of the Army of the Shenandoah and the Department of West Virginia on May 21, 1864. Grant ordered Hunter to employ scorched earth tactics similar to those that would be used later in that year during Sherman’s March to the Sea; he was to move through Staunton to Charlottesville and Lynchburg, “living off the country” and destroying the Virginia Central Railroad “beyond possibility of repair for weeks.”





Our Visit to the Petersburg Driving Tour

After we visited Malvern Hill and Grant’s Headquarters we finished off our day by taking the Petersburg Driving Tour. This was the second time for me but the first time for my wife who gives new meaning to the word trooper.

Petersburg, a prosperous city of 18,000, was a supply center for Richmond, given its strategic location just south of Richmond, its site on the Appomattox River that provided navigable access to the James River, and its role as a major crossroads and junction for five railroads. Since Petersburg was the main supply base and rail depot for the entire region, including Richmond, the taking of Petersburg by Union forces would make it impossible for Lee to continue defending Richmond.

The Siege of Petersburg was 9 1/2 months long with a total of some 70,000 casualties. The siege lines eventually stretched over 30 miles and were the most elaborate ever seen on the North American continent. Today, over 150 years later the fortifications can still be seen in parts of the battlefield. The Union Army started at 67,000 men but eventually rose to a staggering 125,000 soldiers. The Confederates averaged about 52,000 soldiers.

The Union Army of the James led by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler attempted to storm the poorly-manned Confederate fortifications on June 8, 1864. Petersburg was protected by multiple lines of fortifications, the outermost of which was known as the Dimmock Line, a line of earthworks and trenches 10 miles (16 km) long, with 55 redoubts, east of the city. The 2,500 Confederates stretched thin along this defensive line were commanded by a former Virginia governor, Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise. Despite the number of fortifications, because of a series of hills and valleys around the outskirts of Petersburg there were several places along the outer defenses where cavalry could easily ride through undetected until they reached the inner defenses of the city.

Butler planned to overwhelm the defenders with a force of 4,500 troops but a number of problems prevented them from making a concerted effort. The Confederate Home Guards fought tenaciously and suffered heavy casualties but they managed to hold off the Union attackers until General P.G.T. Beauregard could rein force them. The two sides settled down for a long and costly siege.

The Union Army continued to advance South and then West forcing General Robert E. Lee to follow suit. Grant had his cavalry continually cut the railroads into the city creating a serious shortage of supplies. Eventually Lee’s lines were so poorly manned that the Union Army was able to pierce them in a number of locations on April 2, 1865. One of those locations, the Breakthrough of the Vermont Brigade is at the modern-day Pamplin Historical Park.

The 16-stop tour itself covers some 33 miles of driving. It begins at the Visitors Center near Fort Lee. It’s a very nice drive with reconstructions and actual fortifications sprinkled throughout. The first reconstruction is an example of a fortification. Then, you can visit Fort Stedman, the Confederate Army’s last attempt to break the siege (March 25, 1865). The next major attraction is the site of the Battle of the Crater where the Union Army attempted to blow a hole in the Confederate lines. They failed at the cost of several thousand troops.



Our Visit to Grant’s Headquarters and City Point

On a recent trip my wife and I visited Malvern Hill, Grant’s Headquarters and the Petersburg National Battlefield. Today we’ll take a look at the headquarters of General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, (now Hopewell) Virginia.

General Grant was to spend 9 1/2 months there from mid-June 1864 until early April 1865. City Point was located eight miles behind the Union lines. Grant issued orders and coordinated the movement of all of the Union armies throughout the United States.

City Point was the main receiving port for supplies and replacements. Overnight it went from a small town to one of the busiest ports in the world. On any given day 40 steamers, 75 sailing ships and over 100 barges delivered supplies for the Union army.

Goods were unloaded at a half mile long wharf that was constructed by African-American laborers under the supervision Army engineers.Warehouses were built along the waterfront that were used to stockpile vast amounts of supplies.

On an average day, the Union Army had thirty days of food stockpiled and twenty days of forage. This translated to 900,000 meals and 12,000 tons of hay and oats for nearly 120,000 soldiers and 65,000 horses and mules.

Union Army built a rail yard, warehouses, stables and quartermaster buildings. They extended the existing short railroad so that it was 22 miles and added it to the United States Railroad system.

Initial railroad operations began along 9 miles of the Petersburg and City Point Railroad’s line. As the Union Army steadily extended its siege lines to the south and west, the construction corps followed in the Army’s wake extending rail service from City Point to positions behind the new Union left flank. Eventually the rail line added 21 additional miles of track which partially encircled Petersburg from the east to the southwest.

Click to enlarge.

NPS Map of City Point

The land that the headquarters was built on was owned by Dr. Richard Eppes. The 2,300 acre plantation and the house was over 100 years old. Dr. Eppes had a total of 130 slaves at the start of the war. This made him one of the richest men in the South. Dr. Eppes initially served in the Confederate cavalry but spent most of the war as a contract surgeon in Petersburg.

The Eppes’ eventually fled their estate when it became too dangerous to live there. Mrs. Eppes and their children moved to Philadelphia where she had come from. Dr. Eppes moved into Petersburg. After the war ended they all returned to their home and rebuilt their estate. By then all of the slaves had left.

The Eppes home, Appomattox Plantation, still is on the site. It was used by Grant’s quartermaster and other staff members while Grant lived in a cabin built by his men. That too still exists. The main house can be toured. The tour starts with a video and continues through the lower floor.




Our Visit to Malvern Hill

Recently, my wife and I spent a day visiting a number of sites on the eastern side of Richmond and Petersburg. We began our touring at the Glendale/Frayser’s Farm and Malvern Hill Visitor’s Center.

The visitor’s center is on the Glendale battlefield and is staffed with a single ranger who styled himself as the ‘Lone Ranger’. The facility has a number of well-done exhibits that explain the ammunition and weapons of the early war.

I had told him that my great great grandfather had served in the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry and had fought at Malvern Hill. While we went through the exhibits he looked up the unit and told us where they were positioned at the start of the battle.

Malvern Hill is not what you would expect. On the Union right it’s just a gradual slope. But it’s just enough to have slowed down the Confederate attackers and allow the Union soldiers to lay down devastating rife and artillery fire. The Union forces were facing North and the Confederates advanced over open fields in the face of furious rifle and cannon fire.

Battle of Malvern Hill map

My great great grandfather’s unit were located behind and to the right of the Nathaniel West house as I faced it. In front of the are two immense trees. I wondered if they were there in 1862 but I found an old photograph which shows them before they became gigantic.

The 61st along with the rest of Caldwell’s brigade moved forward into the fight. Ultimately, the Army of the Potomac won this last of the Seven Days Battles. However, General George McClellan lost his nerve and withdrew his troops to Harrison’s Landing.

According to New York State records the 61st NY lost a total of  227 men, killed wounded, missing, from the time that they landed on the Peninsula. At Malvern Hill they had a total of 13 dead. They must have lost a number of men to sickness because the regiment that left New York with 1,000 men were only able to muster 100 men at Antietam.

The first picture is a contemporary photograph of the original Nathaniel West House. If you click on it you can start a slide show and see all 12 images in a larger size. Please be patient, it’s not the fastest slideshow. You can also click on the map to expand it.

The cemetery is Glendale National Cemetery. Some 2,000 Union soldiers are buried there. The Union forces were facing North and the Confederates advanced over open fields in the face of furious rifle and cannon fire.



Our Visit to Pamplin Historical Park

Last Friday, my wife and I visited Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg, Virginia. The part was established by the Pamplin family on the site of the Boisseau family, direct ancestors of the Pamplins.

The park originally opened in 1994. At the time the site encompassed 103 acres. Today, Pamplin Historical Park has grown to 424 acres. Within the site there are two museums, a number of reconstructed period buildings and the site of the Breakthrough by the Vermont Brigade on April 2, 1865. The Breakthrough led to the withdrawal of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from their fortifications around Petersburg and Richmond west where Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.

The Museum of the Civil War Soldier is located in the beautiful main building. Perhaps 750,000 soldiers died from wounds or disease in the four years of war. More than one million were wounded. If the United states were to sustain the same proportion of casualties today the numbers would be around 17,500,00. Almost all soldiers were volunteers. I am the proud great great grandson of two such men: Michael Patrick Murphy of the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry and Asa H. Dykeman of the 46th New York State Militia.

The museum uses a unique way of educating its visitors. You pick a soldier and are given a compact CD player that has the descriptions of what you are viewing. I certain points personal stories of your soldier are given in the first-person. The museum gives the visitor a thorough view of how the Civil War soldier experienced their military life.

I don’t think that modern Americans can understand what these men went through while serving their country whether it was the North or the South.This museum gives you a flavor.

The park has a recreation of the Boisseaus’ Tudor Hall Plantation. It includes their home which during the siege was the headquarters of Brigadier General Samuel McGowan‘s 1,400-man brigade. He commanded a brigade in A.P. Hill‘s famous “Light Division” and was wounded several times. Ezra Warner‘s book, Generals in Gray, claims that “McGowan’s career and reputation were not excelled by any other brigade commander in the Army of Northern Virginia.” Prior to the Civil War, McGowan practiced law and served in state politics. He also served in the Mexican-American War with the Palmetto Rifles. He was commended for his gallantry near Mexico City and rose to the rank of staff captain.

The various rooms of the house reflect the occupancy of General McGowan and his staff. The Boisseaus moved into Petersburg during the siege. When they returned their land had been devastated. Fences and outbuildings had been torn down. The wood was used for fires and winter quarters. Fortifications had been constructed by both sides complete with moats, pointed wood stakes and cheval de frise. During the Civil War, the Confederates used this type barrier more often than the Union forces. A reconstruction of the fortifications is on the grounds.

The present-day plantation consists of the main house, detached kitchen building and a variety of barns and other outbuildings. Live goats and chickens are raised on the plantation. There are well-maintained walking trails with audio stops along the way. The second museum is the Battlefield Center that primarily focuses on the events that led to the April 2, 1865 Breakthrough. There is a military encampment with several reenactors. Finally, there are extensive walking trails for the athletic. They wend their way through the original Confederate earthworks.

Pamplin Historical Park represents the very finest Civil War experience for the visitor. It is well worth a visit if you’re in the Richmond-Petersburg area.

Here are some images of various sites within the park.



The Great Compromiser Henry Clay

Young Henry ClayIn order to understand the history of the United States from the Missouri Compromise until the firing on Fort Sumter we must understand two legislators, Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas, who were instrumental in the legislation of that period. Today, we’ll look at the Great Compromiser, Henry Clay of Kentucky.

Clay represented Kentucky in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the U.S. Congress. He served three different terms as Speaker of the House of Representatives and was also Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. He lost his campaigns for president in 1824, 1832 and 1844.

Clay was a very dominant figure in both the First and Second Party systems. As a leading war hawk in 1812, he favored war with Britain and played a significant role in leading the nation to war in the War of 1812. In 1824 he ran for president and lost, but maneuvered House voting in favor of John Quincy Adams, who made him secretary of state as the Jacksonians denounced what they considered a “corrupt bargain.” He ran and lost again in 1832 and 1844 as the candidate of the Whig Party, which he founded and dominated.

As part of the “Great Triumvirate” or “Immortal Trio,” along with his colleagues Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, he was instrumental in formulating the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850. He was viewed as the primary representative of Western interests in this group, and was given the names “Henry of the West” and “The Western Star.”[2] A plantation owner, Clay held slaves during his lifetime but freed them in his will.

In the summer of 1811 Clay was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected as its Speaker on the first day of the first session. This extraordinary event was the only time other than the first Congress that a member was elected on his first day. During the fourteen years following his first election, he was re-elected five times to the House and to the speakership.

Clay would make the Speakership as the second most powerful position in the U.S. government. He immediately appointed members of the War Hawk faction (of which he was the “guiding spirit”) to all the important committees, effectively giving him control of the House. This was a singular achievement for a 34-year-old House freshman. During his early House service, Clay strongly opposed the creation of a National Bank, in part because of his personal ownership in several small banks in his hometown of Lexington. Later he changed his position and, when he was seeking the presidency, gave strong support for the Second Bank of the United States.

Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun helped to pass the Tariff of 1816 as part of the national economic plan Clay called “The American System,” rooted in Alexander Hamilton’s American School. It was designed to allow the fledgling American manufacturing sector, largely centered on the eastern seaboard, to compete with British manufacturing through the creation of tariffs.

After the conclusion of the War of 1812, British factories were overwhelming American ports with inexpensive goods. To persuade voters in the western states to support the tariff, Clay advocated federal government support for internal improvements to infrastructure, principally roads and canals. These internal improvements would be financed by the tariff and by sale of the public lands, prices for which would be kept high to generate revenue. Finally, a national bank would stabilize the currency and serve as the nexus of a truly national financial system.

In the early 1820’s Clay fostered the Missouri Compromise when a dispute erupted over the extension of slavery in Missouri Territory. Clay helped settle this dispute by gaining Congressional approval for a plan called the “Missouri Compromise“. It brought in Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state (thus maintaining the balance in the Senate, which had included 11 free and 11 slave states), and it forbade slavery north of 36° 30′ (the northern boundary of Arkansas and the latitude line) except in Missouri.

Clay was named Secretary of State by John Quincy Adams in March 1825. Many of his political opponents saw this appointment as a “corrupt bargain” after Clay was eliminated from the House voting because he came in fourth. Clay supported Adams because he felt would be both more sympathetic to Clay’s political views and more likely to appoint Clay to a cabinet position, which he did.

Clay had been elected by the Kentucky state legislature as their U.S. Senator in 1831. He had been in the Senate twice before for two very short terms in 1806 and again in 1810. He would serve in the Senate this time from 1831 until 1842 and then again from 1849 until 1852. He died ion office in 1852.

After the passage of the Tariff of 1828, dubbed the “tariff of abominations” which raised tariffs considerably in an attempt to protect fledgling factories built under previous tariff legislation, South Carolina declared its right to nullify federal tariff legislation and stopped assessing the tariff on imports. It threatened to secede from the Union if the Federal government tried to enforce the tariff laws. Furious, President Jackson threatened to lead an army to South Carolina and hang any man who refused to obey the law.

In 1833, Clay helped to broker a deal in Congress to lower the tariff gradually. This measure helped to preserve the supremacy of the Federal government over the states, but the crisis was Older Henry Clayindicative of the developing conflict between the northern and southern United States over economics and slavery.

In the early 1830’s Clay was part of the politicians that formed the Whig Party, primarily to oppose Andrew Jackson and the Democrats. hey opposed the “tyranny” of Jackson, as their ancestors had opposed the tyranny of King George III. Clay strongly opposed Jackson’s refusal to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, and advocated passage of a resolution to censure Jackson for his actions. In 1832 Clay ran against Jackson for the Presidency but was crushed by a margin of 55% to 37%.

He ran again in 1840 and lost to James K. Polk, the Democratic candidate. Polk won by 170 to 105 electoral votes, carrying 15 of the 26 states. Polk’s populist stances on territorial expansion figured prominently—particularly his opinion on US control over the entire Oregon Country and his support for the annexation of Texas. Clay opposed annexing Texas on the grounds that it would once again bring the issue of slavery to the forefront of the nation’s political dialog and would draw the ire of Mexico, from which Texas had declared its independence in 1836.

Clay’s warnings about Texas proved to be accurate. The US annexation of Texas led to the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) (in which his namesake son died). The North and South came to increased tensions during Polk’s Presidency over the extension of slavery into Texas and beyond.

After losing the Whig nomination in 1848 to Zachary Taylor Clay retired to his estate. He had been out of the Senate for 7 years when he was reelected one more time. During his term, the controversy over the expansion of slavery in new lands had reemerged with the addition of the lands ceded to the United States by Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. David Wilmot, a Northern congressman, had proposed preventing the extension of slavery into any of the new territory in a proposal referred to as the “Wilmot Proviso“.

On January 29, 1850, Clay proposed a series of resolutions, which he considered to reconcile Northern and Southern interests, what would widely be called the Compromise of 1850. Clay originally intended the resolutions to be voted on separately, but at the urging of southerners he agreed to the creation of a Committee of Thirteen to consider the measures. The committee was formed on April 17. On May 8, as chair of the committee, Clay presented an omnibus bill linking all of the resolutions. The resolutions included:

  • Admission of California as a free state, ending the balance of free and slave states in the senate.
  • Organization of the Utah and New Mexico territories without any slavery provisions, giving the right to determine whether to allow slavery to the territorial populations.
  • Prohibition of the slave trade, not the ownership of slaves, in the District of Columbia.
  • A more stringent Fugitive Slave Act.
  • Establishment of boundaries for the state of Texas in exchange for federal payment of Texas’s ten million dollar debt.
  • A declaration by Congress that it did not have the authority to interfere with the interstate slave trade.

The Omnibus bill, despite Clay’s efforts, failed in a crucial vote on July 31 with the majority of his Whig Party opposed. He announced on the Senate floor the next day that he intended to persevere and pass each individual part of the bill. Clay was physically exhausted; the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him began to take its toll. Clay left the Senate to recuperate in Newport, Rhode Island. Stephen A. Douglas separated the bills and guided them through the Senate.

Clay was given much of the credit for the Compromise’s success. It quieted the controversy between Northerners and Southerners over the expansion of slavery, and delayed secession and civil war for another decade. Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi, who had suggested the creation of the Committee of Thirteen, later said, “Had there been one such man in the Congress of the United States as Henry Clay in 1860–’61 there would, I feel sure, have been no civil war.”

Clay continued to serve both the Union he loved and his home state of Kentucky. On June 29, 1852, he died of tuberculosis in Washington, D.C., at the age of 75. Clay was the first person to lie in state in the United States Capitol.