28 03 2007

I belong to an email discussion group, The Civil War Discussion Group (CWDG), which for the past five springs has gathered for battlefield tours.  Each year has alternated between eastern theater and western theater battlefields.  Last year featured the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign with guide Gary Ecelbarger. 

This year, June 8-10, the plan is for three days of touring at Shiloh.  Guides will be the group’s own Dave Powell, who you may recognize as the author of several magazine articles and the designer of a few popular war games, and longtime NPS ranger Charlie Spearman.  Operations will be based out of Corinth, MS.

If you’re interested in attending or want more info, leave a message here in the comments section.  Be sure to use a valid email account when you leave your message.  The fee has yet to be determined, since it is dependent upon the number of attendees.  But the group is not in this for profit.  The price will include the tour bus, guide expense, any park fees, lunches and one dinner.  Lodging and other meals are on your own.

Update – Yes, the one dinner will be at Hagy’s.

The Tag Line

8 02 2007

You may have noticed that I’ve added a new piece of text above the “About” widget on the right.  “Dulce bellum inexpertis” is a Latin phrase which loosely translated means “War is delightful to those who have not experienced it”.  The quote has been variously attributed to Erasmus (1466 – 1536) and Pindaros (c520 BC – c440 BC).  This used to be my signature on several online bulletin board discussion groups back when I was an active participant on them.  I started using it when folks on these groups would ask “If you could be present at any event of the Battle of XYZ, which one would it be?”  The first time I saw this question all I could think of was Max California (Joaquin Phoenix) in the film 8 MM: There are some things that you see, and you can’t unsee them.  Know what I mean?

It’s easy to view the Civil War romantically.  The portraits, the clothes, the nostalgia for a simpler time.  To fight off such temptation, I keep The Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries within easy reach.  It fixes me right up.  Every time.


Rowland E. Ward, a 46 year old private in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery, was struck by a shell fragment during the fight at Reams’ Station on August 25, 1864.  The result was the complete destruction of the floor of his mouth.  The above is a photo taken before two surgeries to reconstruct – somewhat – his face.  That’s not a salt-and-pepper beard or a defect in the negative; it’s a gaping hole where the lower portion of Ward’s face once was.  By the standards of the day, the operations were successful.  See the Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries, pp. 150-151, 164.



6 12 2006

I had a great time in Charleston.  It’s always fun to get together with my brothers (3), and sisters (2), and in-laws, nieces, nephews, and now great nephew and great niece (I am way too young to be a great anything, but facts is facts).  I had a little time on Saturday to stop in and see the Confederate Museum run by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 


The museum is situated on the upper floor of the southernmost of the market buildings (no, these buildings were never slave markets), at the intersection of Market and Meeting Streets.  It was closed after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and only recently reopened.  They have some very cool stuff in there, including Barnard Bee’s sword and a slightly larger than life size full portrait statue of Governor Wade Hampton that really freaked out my son.  I asked the staff for some contact info to get some images for my future website, and was told that they “don’t do that”.  While I have seen photos in at least one magazine and one website credited to the museum, I didn’t want to make a federal case.  It could be they just weren’t happy with my John Brown Ale T-Shirt.  And no, I didn’t see any other Free State Brewing Co. apparel in the Holy City.

On Monday I spent a little time exploring the churchyard of the James Island Presbyterian Church at the corner of Folly and Ft. Johnson Roads.  I’m always on the lookout for the resting places of Civil War veterans.  I found a significant number of Bees, though the General is buried in the northern end of the city at Magnolia Cemetery – time would not permit a visit there (though born in Charleston, Bee is buried in St. Paul’s Episcopal Churchyard in Pendleton, SC).  The coolest find was the first marker I saw, that of Samuel “Goat” Smalls. 


Smalls was the inspiration for the novel “Porgy” and the opera “Porgy and Bess”.  I learned on a carriage ride later that day that DuBose Heyward, the author of the book and Gershwin’s collaborator on the opera, is interred in St. Philip’s Church cemetery in town.

With over 350 years of history spanning pirates, patriots, and rebels there is plenty to see in Charleston.  And it is very hard to find a bad meal there.  Put it on your list.  There are many threads between Bull Run and Charleston, and I’ll talk about some of them in the future.



Back from Secessia

5 12 2006

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile.  I spent the four day weekend in Charleston, SC – a surprise birthday party for my brother who lives on James Island.  There really wasn’t much time for Civil War sightseeing, but I did manage to squeeze some in.  I’ll post a few thoughts later today.

Kansas Again

17 11 2006

I was able to find a few more bits related to the Eldridge Hotel (and I’m sure I could find a whole lot more).  Various history organizations in the state have put beau coup stuff online.  Here’s an image of  Sheriff Sam Jones, courtesy of Kansas History Online by way of Google Images.


And here is an image of the ruins of the Free State Hotel after Sheriff Sam burned it down.  This is from Territorial Kansas Online


 It turns out that Shalor Eldridge vowed to rebuild the hotel with an additional floor were it ever destroyed by pro-slavery forces, and he was true to his word twice.  Here he is with his family, thanks to Territorial Kansas Online once again.  Click the image for a full size version.


And here are the rules for guests of his establishement from TKO again (click on the image to get a more legible one).


You see, this is the thing with pulling threads.  It’s really not conducive to the bleeding-kansas.jpgcompletion of a narrowly defined project.  I could go on and on with web research alone.  There are a number of books written on “Bleeding Kansas”, and here is a recent one.  It is by Nicole Etcheson, a history professor at Ball State.  I’ve not read the book, so if any of you have, I welcome your comments.

Now, some of you may be asking “What the heck does Kansas have to do with Bull Run?”  Well, come back within the next week or so and I’ll tell you.  And I promise it won’t be the standard “The Civil War started in Kansas” line (even though it is a valid link).  For now, here’s a hint:


I can hear him thinking to himself: “Will it be Delawarians, or Delawarites?”

The Eldridge Hotel

15 11 2006

A few days ago on the To Purge This Land With Beer post reader Eldridge HotelPat Jones mentioned that the Free State Brewing Co. is located nearby the historic Eldridge Hotel.  I thought I’d flesh that out for everyone who may not be up on their Kansas history and did a little surfing.  I knew the hotel played a prominent role in “Bleeding Kansas” and in the Civil War, but I wanted to get a little more info so I went to the horse’s mouth, in this case the website of The Eldridge and that of the Kansas Historical Society. Like so many other historic hotels (Chattanooga’s Read House and Willard’s of Washington, DC), the present day Eldridge, while situated on the original site, is not the same structure which was present when the historic events with which it is associated occurred.  The first building, The Free State Hotel, was constructed in 1855 and was to serve as temporary living quarters for members of the Boston based New England Emigrant Aid Society.  This organization was funneling settlers and money to Kansas in order to assure its admission to the Union as a free (non-slaveholding) state. 

Pro-slavery forces under Sheriff Sam Jones burned down the Free State Hotel in Palmetto Guards Flag1856.  Prior to burning the building, a contingent of South Carolinians called the Palmetto Guards flew this flag from its roof.  Proprietor Col. Shalor Eldridge soon rebuilt the hotel, but in the infamous William Clarke Quantrill led raid on Lawrence in 1863 it was again burned to the ground.  Rebuilding the hotel once more, Col. Eldridge lent his own name to the establishment.   That hotel stood until 1925 when the deteriorated structure was torn down to make way for yet another incarnation of the Eldridge Hotel.  In 1970 the building was converted to apartments, but was renovated and converted back to a hotel in 1985.  In 2005, the current owners executed a multi-million dollar renovation. 

I’m sure I could write a lot more on the Eldridge Hotel.  That’s what usually happens when you pull a thread.  Pat really knows her Kansas history, and I encourage her to post as much as she likes about the Eldridge Hotel in particular or Civil War Kansas in general in the comments section here.  That goes for all of you…if you’ve got something you’d like to share, please do!  That’s why I have the comments feature turned on. 

Eldridge Hotel photo from Yahoo Travel Palmetto Guards Flag photo from Kansas Historical Society


Tragic Prelude

9 11 2006

Tragic Prelude

It dawned on me that some readers may not be familiar with the artwork parodied by Free State Brewing Co. on their T-shirts and included in my post To Purge This Land With Beer.  Above is the original artwork by John Steuart Curry, The Tragic Prelude, one of two murals he painted for the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.  I got this image on the Famous Trials website.

Curry was born in Kansas in 1897, and eventually became a well respected resident of the Westport, CT art colony.  With Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, Curry established the US style of art that became known as regionalism.  Signature pieces of the three artists are Baptism in Kansas (Curry), Boomtown (Benton), and the iconic American Gothic (Wood).

In 1937, despite the fact that his work had never been well received in Kansas, at the instigation of several powerful newspapermen Curry was commissioned to cover the statehouse walls with paintings depicting the history of the state.  As work progressed, critics felt the murals (The Tragic Prelude and Kansas Pastorale) did not show the state in a favorable light, focusing on its troubled past and the difficulty of life on the prairies.  The Kansas Council of Women protested “The murals do not portray the true Kansas. Rather than revealing a law-abiding progressive state, the artist has emphasized the freaks in its history – the tornadoes, and John Brown, who did not follow legal procedure.” In 1941, after the completion of the panels in the second floor hallways but before work began in the rotunda (this was to focus on the dangers of poor soil management), the state legislature ordered work halted.  Curry was so outraged that he left the state never to return.  He never signed the paintings, and died in 1946.  Today the paintings are considered masterpieces. 

In 1991, the Kansas Senate issued a resolution which officially recognized the legislature’s poor treatment of one of the state’s most famous sons.  More here.

To Purge This Land With Beer

7 11 2006

I’m working on a number of things for posts here.  In fact, I have taken to yhst-67605305109593_1886_30797.jpgkeeping a notebook with me so that I can write down these ideas as they pop into my head.  This bit is not earth shattering, but cool nonetheless.  Last year I took part in an online book discussion of Stephen Oates’ “To Purge This Land With Blood”, and have to say that Brown is a fascinating character –  I’m envious of the man’s clarity.  There must be great contentment and freedom that goes along with being able to see everything as either black or white.  At left is a version of the Kansas Statehouse mural that I had never seen before.  Thanks to e-quaintance (that’s someone I’ve never met and know only via the internet) and Kansan extraordinaire Pat Jones for supplying the link to Free State Brewing Co.   I asked the wife for one of the long sleeve T-shirts as a birthday present.


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