Sharpsburg and Gettysburg

4 06 2012

Say it like Peter Brady.

This weekend I shot down to Sharpsburg, MD, for a Save Historic Antietam Foundation board meeting. I was so engrossed in thougths about some things I wanted to discuss that I missed my exit on the PA Turnpike. If you’re a SHAF member (and you should be), there are some interesting things in the works for us. First and foremost make sure you’re connected to us via our website and Facebook page. These will be the places to go to keep abreast of happenings in the organization. We are dragging ourselves kicking and screaming into 2008 :-)

After lunch with friends Tom and Angela Clemens and David Langbart, I stopped into the ANB visitor’s center and said a quick hello to ranger Mannie Gentile, whom I was glad to see at work behind the reception desk.

Then in keeping with the theme established that morning, I again missed turns on a trip I’ve made many times from Sharpsburg to Gettysburg. I made a quick stop at the visitor’s center, and equally brief visits with friends Bernadette at Battlefields & Beyond Military History Book Shoppe and Jim at The American History Store. I checked into my room and took a little nap, then drove back into town and made the acquaintance of fellow Monongahela Valley native Ronn Palm at his fine (and free) Museum of Civil War Images on Baltimore Street. It’s really quite a fantastic collection he has there, mostly of Pennsylvania soldiers, many identified, and artifacts related to them and their regiments. Give it a tumble when you’re in town.

Sunday morning I had a nice breakfast with friend and now Gettysburg Resident Chris Army. Then it was back on the road to Pittsburgh – I can’t count how many times I’ve made that trip. This time I made it missing two turns. But at least it was a nice day for it.





Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

7 02 2012

The setting at the foot of Capitol Hill is magnificent. Up close, the triptych in memory of U. S. Grant (the mounted sculpture of him alone is the second largest equestrian statue in the world) is massive, but set in Union Square between the Capitol and the reflecting pool it shrinks and is strangely isolated – not the impression intended by the Senate Park Commission’s 1902 plan. Sculpted by Henry Merwin Shrady and dedicated in 1922 (the same year as the Lincoln Memorial on the opposite end of the Mall), the bronze work consists of Grant and two tableaux depicting artillery and cavalry, 13 horses in all. It is recognized as the world’s preeminent equestrian sculpture.

You can spend days photographing it.

The content is stark. Not so much symbolism, as in the Meade Memorial, so not much interpretation is needed. War is men and equipment and movement. Movement, terror, and tension abound in the faces and bodies of the animals, troopers and artillerists as they move quickly, desperately, to some unnamed point. And amidst – in fact, above – all the action sits the steady, determined figure of Grant. While the movement is toward the general, his gaze is inexorably fixed on a far off, larger objective. There’s a whole lot to see, but to see all one need do is look. You don’t need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows.

For more on the story of the memorial, I once again refer you to Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, DC, by K. A. Jacob. Below are some shots I took, unfortunately in low resolution, back in June 2011. Here are a few of the longer shots – click on the thumbs for larger images:

     

Next, the central figure:

            

Now let’s take a look at the “left” group (when facing the front of the monument), the Cavalry. I can only suspect that cavalry made a more interesting artistic subject than infantry, given the minimal contribution of the former arm to the outcome of the war – there, the bait is set:

     

And last, the King of Battle:

        

A must see for anyone visiting the capital. Well worth minor pedestrian/car traffic inconvenience.





Ford’s Theater

2 02 2012

As part of my little tour of Washington, D. C. back in June 2011, I walked over to Ford’s Theater. I’d never been there before. The current complex has a much larger footprint today, but you can still make out the original building (click on all the below images for larger ones):

The Petersen House across the street, where AL died, was closed for renovations:

 

There’s a lot of cool assassination ephemera in the basement museum, including the door to the President’s box, the gun that did the deed, the boot that Dr. Mudd cut off Booth’s broken leg, and one of the hoods worn by (most of) the conspirators as they made their way from their cells to the courtroom:

   

But my favorite was this fundraiser quilt that was signed by notable figures of the day, including my two favorite Georges:

   

I feel bad for Zach Harton (2nd panel, top row), don’t you?

The tour concluded with the reconstructed theater:

  

Of course, I’m always looking for the sights and sites less seldom seen. In this case, it was the back of the building, and as usual I had the place to myself. I made my best bet as to which doorway was the one used by Booth to exit the building, mount his Peanut-tended horse, and make his escape up the alley (he had to make a left right around the spot where I took the first photo below). Even without the lovely Carol Merrill’s help I think I picked the right door, based on what I found on the threshold:

    

Craig Swain’s visit to the Ford’s Theater museum.

Robert Moore’s relative was on stage that fateful night!





George Meade Memorial, Washington, DC

1 02 2012

Back in June 2011, I had a chance to do a little sight-seeing in our nation’s capital. While on my way to the Capitol, I came across the memorial to Major General George Gordon Meade between 3rd & 4th Sts. NW on Pennsylvania Ave. OK, I didn’t just happen upon it, I was seeking it out. Meade is a favorite of mine – I think he gets the short end of the stick, memory-wise. But his statue is as glorious as it is touching (click for a larger image):

Here’s the message in the pavement:

There was a trio of young adults from somewhere south of the border who asked me to take their photo in front of the statue. I suspect they just thought it was a cool sculpture – and it is – but who knows? Maybe they knew exactly who Meade was.

Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, DC, by K. A. Jacob is a wonderfully written and illustrated book that I highly recommend for anyone touring the city. It tells me that the Meade memorial was sculpted by Charles Grafly out of marble and was dedicated in 1927, after 12 years of bickering over the design. Meade and seven other figures circle the memorial. Loyalty and Chivalry lift the mantle of war from Meade’s shoulders, “as he strides confidently toward the future.” In the rear of the memorial, which I did not photograph for some reason which I photographed 7/22/2013, the winged figure of War stands with his back to the General, glaring into the past. You can see the wings framing the symbol of the Army of the Potomac above Meade’s head in my photo. Making up the rest of the total of eight figures are Energy, Fame, Progress and Military Courage. War strikes a less imposing figure now than he did in 1927: his smallish nose is a replacement for a more brutal one that broke off years ago.

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Meade was originally installed in front of and to the north of the massive U. S. Grant memorial at the base of the Capitol. In 1969, it was dismantled to allow for construction under the mall, and was stored away for 14 years before being reassembled in 1983 in its current location to the northwest. Ms. Jacob describes the significance of the new site’s perspective:

Meade looks out onto Pennsylvania Avenue to the spot that marked one of his proudest days. At nine o’clock on the morning of May 23, 1865, Meade rode down the avenue on his garlanded horse at the head of the Army of the Potomac as the leader of the Grand Review of troops. As he passed, the enormous throng picked up the chant of the Pennsylvanians in the crowd, “Gettysburg, Gettysburg, Gettysburg!”





The Lincoln Pew

30 01 2012

In early June, 2011, I made  a trip to Washington, DC to speak to the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable (you can read about it here). It was a logistically challenging trip. I stayed with friends in Arlington on Sunday evening, then headed into the District Monday morning on the Metro. It was a hot day and I intended to do some site seeing, so I took my speachafying clothes and dropped them off with friend Ron Baumgarten. Then it was off on a free form tour. I’ll share some of the photos from that sojourn over the next few days or so.

My first stop was one I think most folks don’t make: the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. This church – albeit in a different building at a different location – was frequented by the Lincoln family while they lived a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue. Inside the new building is a very cool artefact (click the icons for larger images):

  

The Lincoln family pew. I had the whole place to myself. And yes, you can sit in the pew. And yes, you can scoot your butt from one end to the other just to make sure you were in the right spot (though AL often stood during service). Check it out, but be respectful.





CCNMP Study Group 2012 Seminar in the Woods

21 11 2011

I received the following from friend Dave Powell:

CCNMP Study Group 2012 Seminar in the Woods.

March 9-10, 2012

Friday: All Day, on bus: meet at 8:00 a.m. at the CCNMP visitor’s center

Friday Morning  – 21st Corps in the Chickamauga campaign.

By bus, we will explore the movements of the Union 21st Corps as it occupies Chattanooga and then advances on Ringgold between September 9th and 11th, 1863. Less studied than the more famous action in McLemore’s Cove, Major General Thomas L. Crittenden’s advance on Ringgold still posed a threat to Bragg’s rail connection, moving south along the Western and Atlantic while the main Rebel army was falling back to LaFayette. Actions at Graysville and Ringgold highlight this phase of the campaign.

Lunch: Since we will be close to the park for most of the day, we will arrange for lunch at a local restaurant, probably the Park Place, between Noon and 1 PM.

Friday Afternoon  – Retreating as fast as they can go? Thomas at Rossville, September 21, 1863.

By bus, we will explore the Union retreat from the battlefield on the night of September 20th, and examine the position Major General George Thomas adopted by dawn on September 21st. Far from fleeing in disorder, the Army of the Cumberland had largely re-organized and was ready for a fight on Monday morning. We will also discuss the various Confederate efforts at reconnaissance of this new Union position, and how successful those efforts were.

Saturday Morning, 8:30 a.m.: Horatio Van Cleve’s Division on September 19th, on foot.

Between about 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on September 19th, two brigades of Van Cleve’s 3rd Division, 21st Corps, attempted to turn the Confederate flank in Brock field. After some initial success against Marcus Wright’s Tennessee Brigade (including Carnes’ Battery) however, Van Cleve’s men met with more Confederates under A.P. Stewart, producing a bloody slugfest in the woods. Eventually, the Federals themselves were outflanked by elements of Bushrod Johnson’s Rebels, resulting in a collapse of the Union line.

Car Caravan from the visitor’s Center.

Saturday Afternoon, 1:30 p.m.:  Thomas J. Wood and the Battle of Chickamauga, on foot.

No general is more controversial than Tom Wood. His actions on September 20th will be examined in detail, from his infamous movement out of Brotherton Field to his final position on Snodgrass Hill. Along the way we will discuss his culpability in creating the crisis of “the gap,” his relations with other officers in the army, and his contributions to the defense of Horseshoe Ridge.

Car Caravan from the visitor’s Center.

Optional: Sunday, March 18thAndersonville, with Frank Crawford – car caravan.

Frank has offered to take us down to the National Prisoner of War Museum and historic site at Andersonville. Andersonville lies about 2 hours drive southwest of Atlanta, or roughly four hours south of Chattanooga. While it is remote, that very isolation only adds to the impact of the park and cemetery. Those who wish to attend would drive down on Sunday morning, and spend midday at the park (plan on a couple of hours.) For the return, for those flying it would be best to fly into and out of Hartsfield, in Atlanta.

Cost: Beyond the fee for Friday’s Bus, there is no cost for tour participation. Meals lodging, transportation, and incidentals, however, are the individual’s responsibility.

Tour Departures: All tours will meet at the Chickamauga Visitor’s Center at the designated start time, and will depart from there after some brief overview discussion. We will board the bus or car caravan to the designated parking area, and from there, we will be on foot. We will be on foot for up to three hours, so dress and prepare accordingly. Tours will depart rain or shine. Participants are responsible for their own transportation, and should plan accordingly. All tours are designed to be self-contained, so participants who cannot attend the full schedule are still welcome to join us for any portion of the weekend.

Lodging and Meals: Everyone is responsible for their own lodging and meals. There are many hotels in the greater Chattanooga area, for any price range. The closest are in Fort Olgethorpe, Georgia, with the least expensive in Ringgold. Each tour is designed to leave at least 90 minutes for lunch, and there are several family and fast food restaurants within minutes of the battlefield. There are designated picnic areas near the Visitor’s Center, for those who wish to bring a lunch and eat on the field.

What to bring: Each tour will involve extensive walking. Proper clothing and especially footgear is essential. Dress in layers, wear sturdy, broken-in walking shoes or boots, and be prepared for some rain, as spring can be quite wet in North Georgia. We will be walking on dirt and gravel trails, uncut fields, and through stretches of woods. The ground will be wet and muddy in places. Bring your own water and snacks.

Reading up on the subject: Many people like to prepare in advance for these kinds of events. I suggest the following works might be of help.

Cozzens, Peter. This Terrible Sound. University of Illinois, 1992. The best modern study of the battle.

Powell, David with Cartography by Dave Friedrichs, The Maps Of Chickamauga. Savas-Beatie, 2009.

Powell, David. Failure In The Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joe Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign. Savas-Beatie, 2010.

Woodworth, Stephen E. Six Armies In Tennessee: The Chickamauga And Chattanooga Campaigns. Lincoln, Nebraska. University of Nebraska Press, 1998. An excellent overview campaign study.

——————-, A Deep Steady Thunder: The Battle Of Chickamauga. Abilene, Texas. McWhiney Foundation Press, 1998. Concise but very useful account of the battle, designed as an introduction to the action. 100 pages, very readable.

Note: Friday’s Tours will be by Bus, as we move from site to site. While the tour itself is free, we do have to pay for the bus.

Pre-registration Fee: $35 Due by February 1st, 2011

Send to:

FRANK CRAWFORD

34664 ORANGE DRIVE

PINELLAS PARK, FLORIDA    33781

Frank will hold your payments. If you pay by check, note that Frank will not cash those checks until we have sufficient entries, so that if we have to refund, Frank will simply send your checks back to you.

Please also note that this fee is NON-REFUNDABLE after February 1st, 2011. Once we are committed to the bus, we will be charged the booking fee.

If you wish to attend the Sunday trip to Andersonville, please inform Frank at this time.

On-site Sign up Fee: $40

We MUST have 20 attendees registered and Paid by Feb 1st, or we cannot reserve the bus. Once we confirm the minimum, you will be able to join the tour the day we depart, for late add-ons. If we do not meet the minimum, we will car-caravan for Friday’s tours.

Final note: Last year we raised a sizable amount of money over and above the cost of the bus, and were able to contribute a number of new titles to the CCNMP research library, mostly regimental histories of recent vintage. The park currently does not have operating funds allocated for these kinds of acquisitions, and depends entirely on donations to fund library additions. I feel that this is an ideal use for any excess funds we raise, in keeping with the “study group” mission.





Your Grandpa’s Maryland Campaign – NOT!!!

18 09 2011

It would appear the worm has turned at Antietam National Battlefield. From the get-go of yesterday’s all-day hikes, it was apparent that much of the tried and true narrative of the 1862 Maryland Campaign has been scrapped by the National Park Service, at least as far as rangers Keith Snyder and Brian Baracz are concerned. There were quizzical looks on the faces of some of the 125 or so folks on the tour as no mention was made of a cowardly, traitorous, or even just plain stupid George McClellan. These were for the most part veteran tourists of the battlefield, conditioned to the old-line tales of the single greatest threat ever faced by our Union – no, not Jeff Davis, not R. E. Lee, not the Confederate armies, not the fire-eaters, not the KGC, not the Copperheads, not the slaveocracy. Those forces combined could never compare to the evil spectre of the Young Napoleon, especially in September, 1862. The debate was closed.

Or was it? To sum up the gist of the seven hour presentation, the Army of Northern Virginia, while defeated at Sharpsburg (What?) was saved from ultimate destruction by the advantages of a its more experienced soldiery (What?), favorable topography (What?), and interior lines of communication (What?). While the Union commander had a good plan (What?), he also had poor lines of communication (What?), many green troops (What?), and experienced troops in not so great condition (What?). It seemed to me that a few grizzled vets in the crowd were thinking “This is bull. That coward McClellan had 300,000 well equipped and experienced soldiers and Lee’s “battle plans”, this battlefield is flat as a board, just like the maps in Landscape Turned Red, despite what my bursting quads are telling me, and Lee won a victory here with three couriers and a one-armed orderly.” Well, there will always be folks whose minds were made up by Bruce Catton back in the 4th grade. But there were a surprising number of younger (well, not older) folks in the group whose minds are just possibly open enough to consider other lines of thought.

It appears the works of modern-day scholars like Joe Harsh, Tom Clemens and Ethan Rafuse have been making dents in the armor of the Maryland Campaign. And the good folks at the Park are contributing as well. Of course, they only work with the literature, artifacts, and battlefields of this campaign every day all day, so what do they know?

Thank you, Ranger Snyder and Ranger Baracz. It was a great day on the field, with great company including my stomping buddy Mike and fellow blogger Craig (whose thoughts on the day can be read here).








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