Thursday, October 29, 2009

The 48th PA at Fort Mahone. . .

My good friend and Schuylkill County Civil War Historian Stu Richards has posted an excellent account of the 48th's last battle at Fort Mahone, Petersburg, on April 2, 1865.

Click here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

When Next In Gettysburg. . .

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. . ..you must take the time to visit the new Gettysburg Museum of History, located at 219 Baltimore Street in the heart of town. Be prepared to spend several hours, for the collections and artificats on display are simply incredible. Owner/Curator Eric Dorr, with whom I have had the great pleasure to become acquainted, has a real passion for history and for preserving it through his exhibitions. There is no charge for admittance, but please be sure to donate generously. Eric's grandparents once owned the home and he had ancestors living in town during the battle. A large collection of items, never before displayed, and which were gathered from the fields of Pickett's Charge by Dorr's ancestors are on display. Eric is fond of remembering spending hours in his grandparents' basement as a kid going through and cataloging the collection. From an early age, then, Dorr became interesting in relic collecting, a passion that continues to this day. A remarkable collection of Civil War relics and artificats are, of course, featured prominently, and not just from the battle of Gettysburg.
Uniforms, rifles, buckles, flags. . .everything you can imagine. . .are exhibited. Be sure to check out the "Antietam Obelisk," a painted shingle from off the Dunker Church, and even this monogramed doorknob from Robert E. Lee's home in Arlington.
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Next to the Civil War Room is a room devoted to American Presidents from Washington to Obama, including a large collection of Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln assassination relics.
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The president's room is amazing. Dorr has locks of hair from George Washington, Harry Truman's Fedora, and even Truman's hospital wristband, which was on his wrist when he died.

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While the Civil War and presidents' collections are worth the visit in of themselves, perhaps the most amazing collection is that which is featured in the museum's two back rooms. . .all on President John Kennedy.
Dorr has an actual suit worn by Kennedy while he was a senator, a box of unsmoked cigars which were on his White House desk when he took that fateful trip to Dallas, and just too many other amazing artifacts to do any justice to in a short blog post. You must see this for yourself.
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Eric Dorr's new Museum of History is one of Gettysburg's must-see spots, and when you're planning a trip down here, be sure to schedule several hours to spend in this remarkable place. In the meantime, watch this video of a local newscast, which features several live broadcasts from the museum. . . .






Thursday, October 8, 2009

Eleven & Twelve. . .

. . .that's how old two vandals, recently charged with toppling and destroying dozens of tombstones in Pottsville's Charles Baber Cemetery, are.
Unreal.
Let's hope they get just punishment.
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Charges Filed In Cemetery Vandalism Case
By FRANK ANDRUSCAVAGE
Published: August 26, 2009
From the Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald

Two Pottsville boys will be charged through the juvenile justice system in connection with three separate acts of vandalism in the Charles Baber Cemetery in the city.
Capt. Ronald Moser said the boys, one age 11, the other 12, face felony charges of institutional vandalism and desecration of venerated objects as well as a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief.
He explained that after receiving estimates of damage from cemetery officials, police will file a juvenile allegation formally outlining the charges and reasons for filing them.
Moser said the estimates the police expect include the damage to tombstones, benches and other items that were vandalized and the materials and man hours needed for repairs.
Moser said newspaper articles about the three acts of vandalism put the word out that police were looking for those involved and information received from a Pottsville family led to identifying the boys responsible.
The two were interviewed and admitted to the vandalism, Moser said.
On June 30 or July 1, Patrolman Joseph Murton Jr. said 33 tombstones were damaged, some dating back to the 1800s.
Two weeks later, on July 14, another 10 tombstones were found damaged.
Finally, on Aug. 2, the two boys allegedly toppled a tombstone and destroyed other items at the gravesite of a 14-year-old boy who had been hit by a car and killed while riding his bicycle in 2002.
The Rev. James A. Rinehart, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church, Pottsville, said he was surprised of learning the young ages of the boys responsible.
"It's a shock to me that young people would do that," he said. "I guess I don't understand that."
Despite their ages, he said the two must take responsibility for their actions.
"They are responsible for the thousands of dollars of damage that they did," Rinehart said. "I'm concerned for them. I'm concerned for their families."
He said cemetery trustees are compiling the list of the damages they expect to turn over to police soon.
Moser credited the residents who came forward with the information that led to the case being solved.
"It was good help from the public," he said.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day Trip To Hollywood Cemetery

Took a road trip yesterday with my friend and fellow ranger Mannie Gentile. Over the past four years, we have taken several Civil War-focused day trips (to Manassas, South Mountain, Gettysburg, Washington and so on), and yesterday decided that our next will be down to Lexington, Virginia, with a stop at the New Market Battlefield on the way back. But that's in the future; now, back to yesterday. The trip began early, really early. Rolling out of bed at 4:00 a.m., I picked up Mannie at 5:40 and we hit the road, ultimately covering more than 450 miles. It's funny how so much time in a car makes one exhausted. Traveling down 270 to 95 South, we got off at the Falmouth Exit, passed through the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Wilderness Battlefields to our first stop. . .Todd's Tavern. Phil Sheridan's failure to open the road to Spotsylvania on the night of May 7-8, 1864, meant that Lee's Army of Northern Virginia arrived at the Courthouse first, winning the foot race, with Richard Anderson's First Corps setting up a line of defense on Laurel Hill. The opposing armies would remain locked in a fierce struggle at Spotsylvania for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, Sheridan earned the wrath of General George Meade who, following Grant's instruction, detached Sheridan with 10,000 troopers in an effort to destroy Jeb Stuart's vaunted Confederate cavalry. Mannie and I followed in the hoof prints of Sheridan's troopers, for the most part, as they headed south toward Richmond.
Driving down the Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1), our next stop was at Massapanox Baptist Church, site of the Grant/Meade council of war captured in the famous photographs of Timothy O'Sullivan.
The Massapanox Baptist Church
Historical Marker at the church. . .
This was the first time Mannie and I were here, so we were sure to follow O'Sullivan's example and snap a number of photographs.
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We continued south on Route 1 all the way to Richmond. After a frustrating search, complete with many turn-arounds and numerous inquiries as to its location (all to no avail), we finally located the site of the battle of Yellow Tavern. On May 11, 1864, a trooper from Michigan made good on Sheridan's promise when he shot Jeb Stuart, mortally wounding the famed Confederate cavalier. Stuart died the next day in Richmond, as Sheridan's men turned eastward, luring the Confederate horsemen to more destruction.
Not much remains of the battlefield at Yellow Tavern. . .
Monument on the site where General Stuart fell mortally wounded.
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After dodging all the traffic around the Yellow Tavern battlefield, Mannie and I next headed into Richmond to spend the late morning and early afternoon hours tramping around the incredible Hollywood Cemetery. My parents took me to Richmond when I was a kid, so this was my second visit to the famed cemetery. It is truly a remarkable place, which I am sure I will visit again.
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The Hollywood Cemetery is the final resting place for many Confederate notables, including the first and only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and his wife, First Lady Varina Howell Davis .


Jeff & Varina Davis lie buried beneath this bronze statue of President Davis
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A veritable Who's Who of the Confederacy are buried within the walls of the Hollywood Cemetery; many well known, many more not so well known, including Robert H. Chilton, Adjutant General of the Army of Northern Virginia. On September 9, 1862, in Frederick, Maryland, Chilton penned the copies of Special Orders No. 191. . .one too many copies, as it turned out.
The grave of Robert H. Chilton is in the background, his gravestone in the shape of a cross. The cross in the foreground marks the final resting place of Chilton's son-in-law, Confederate General Peyton Wise.
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Not far from the grave of Robert Chilton is the Confederate Officer's Section, marked with this stone arch. . .
Within this rather small section lie three better-known generals:
Edward "Allegheny" Johnson, who commanded a division in Ewell's Second Corps and who, at the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania used his cane to help stave off Union troops before falling into enemy hands;
David Rumph Jones
Jones served on P.G.T. Beauregard's staff at Fort Sumter, then commanded a brigade and later a division (which would one day be led by George Pickett) under Longstreet. Jones died of a heart attack at age 37 in January 1863.
And John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders, killed in action at Petersburg on August 21, 1864.
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Jeb Stuart's grave in the Hollywood is no doubt among the most visited. Stuart died on May 12, 1864, on day after falling mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern. His beloved wife, Flora Cooke, was later buried by his side.
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Hundreds of Confederate dead surround this impressive stone monument, mostly those killed during the battles around Richmond. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Major General George Pickett is another Confederate notable buried at Hollywood. . .his grave overlooks those who fell during his futile attack at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.
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Row after row. . .most of the graves pictured here are for those who fell during Pickett's Charge. Among the remains are those of Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett, whose remains were never identified. Like Robert Gould Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts, Garnett was initially buried in a mass grave surrounded by those who fell while serving under his command. Colonel Lewis B. Williams, commander of the 1st Virginia Infantry, was among the list of fatalities in Pickett's Division at Gettysburg.
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Major General Fitzhugh Lee, Robert E. Lee's nephew, cavalry commander and governor of Virginia, lies buried near President Jefferson Davis. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Major General Henry Heth, whose Third Corps Division initiated the battle of Gettysburg, was interred in the Hollywood Cemetery.
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Major General Raleigh E. Colston, division commander under Jackson. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The last general in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to die in battle was John Pegram, who fell just a short time before the surrender at Appomattox.
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Brigadier General Eppa Hunton lies buried near Fitz Lee and Jeff Davis.
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Brigadier General William E. Starke was the first of six general officers to be killed or mortally wounded at Antietam. He was shot down while leading his Lousianans in a counterattack against Abner Doubleday's advancing Union troops. Starke's remains were buried next to those of his son, Lt. Edwin Starke, who was mortally wounded two months before his father's death, during the Seven Days' Battles.
The graves of Edwin Starke (left) and his dad, General William Starke.
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Colonel Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, Mexican War Veteran and commander of the famed Louisiana Tigers, was killed at the battle of Gaines's Mill on June 27, 1862, and buried in the Hollywood Cemetery
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Colonel Henry C. Pate, 5th Virginia Cavalry, was killed at Yellow Tavern.
David G. McIntosh was one of Lee's finest artillery commanders, as was. . .
. . .W.E. Cutshaw. The two artillery officers lie buried near one another.
Hundred of "Unknown" Confederate dead also call Hollywood Cemetery their final resting place.
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For all the history that lies buried within the gates of Hollywood Cemetery, it is also a remarkable place to see some incredible and haunting statuary decorating the gravesites.
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Perhaps the most famous "residents" of Hollywood Cemetery are not the military and political leaders of the Confederacy, but two Presidents of the United States. . .
JAMES MONROE
5th President of the United States
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And, Tyler, too!
JOHN TYLER
10th President of the United States

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