Friday, July 31, 2009
It is a neat little book with one of those concepts that makes you wonder, why hasn’t this been done to death already? It may have and I haven’t seen it before – but either way I like it. On the even page it shows a picture of a battlefield during the civil war and on the odd page, what the area looks like now. Mr. Campi did a great job of trying to recreate the pictures as close as possible – where he could. But some just couldn’t be done – because of progress.
A picture of Fort Sedgwick near Petersburg hit me like a ton of bricks. For you see Fort Sedgwick took part in the Siege of Petersburg. It was a Union fortification that was nicknamed Fort Hell by the soldiers that manned it. Near it was a Confederate fortification nicknamed Fort Damnation and the two would fight against each other during the entire siege.
Shortly after the fall of Petersburg, it looked like this
Fort Damnation would become part of the Petersburg National Park; Fort Hell would not and now looks like this.
Thirty years ago, who would have thought Woolworths or Montgomery Wards would be a thing of the past? How close did Sears and K-Mart come to falling before merging?
How many big box stores have been closed as new and better ones have been built to replace it? In Charleston there is a huge former Wal-Mart that did amazing business – but was closed down when two other Wal-Mart stores were built nearby to better serve the community. This isn’t new. K-Mart did the same thing in Charleston over a decade ago, closing four other stores for a new one. All the stores are being used now but most took time. Two of the four look worse than before and quite frankly an eyesore, is that what is destined for the new Wal-Mart in Wilderness?
We have an opportunity to save a battlefield and cannot afford to let it pass through our fingers.
Go now to the Civil War Preservation Trust and learn how you can help. Time is short, every voice will count.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
On November 5, 1862, several weeks after a tainted victory at Antietam, the Army of the Potomac’s Commander-in-Chief Gen. George Brinton McClellan established his headquarters here. That same day President Abraham Lincoln wrote the orders relieving McClellan of command. On the snowy evening of November 7, Gen. C.P. Buckingham arrived at McClellan’s tent with Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Buckingham handed McClellan the dispatch. When he finished reading, McClellan declared, “General Burnside, you are now in command of the Army. After bidding farewell to his troops in nearby Warrenton on Nov. 10, Gen. McClellan returned to civilian life. In 1864 he ran against Lincoln as the Democratic Party candidate for president.
Depiction of Burnside superseding McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
The narrative continues:
The depot at this site was in use during the war and the building which houses farm equipment was one of Mosby’s headquarters/ The stone building in front of you was used as a Federal prison and still has traces of graffiti drawn by prisoners.
A sad affair for both North and South is summed up in this portion of the narrative:
Rectortown also was the site of a deadly raffle on November 6, 1864. Because Col. John S. Mosby’s men attributed the execution of seven of his Confederate rangers to Union Gen. George Custer, Mosby ordered the execution of an equal number of Federals, to be selected among 27 prisoners. Two drummer boys were among the prisoners, and one of them drew a fatal slip. When Mosby was informed of the circumstances he heeded the plea of a young artillery officer to allow a second drawing for a substitute. Ironically, the death lot was drawn by the officer whom made the request. Ultimately, that officer and three others survived. Three of them were hanged.
Mosby and his men supervising the drawing of lots by Union prisoners.
A monument at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal, Virginia was dedicated in 1899 by veterans of Col. John Mosby’s 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry to commemorate the seven comrades executed near Front Royal on September 23, 1864. In spite of what commonly passes for fact, Union General George Armstrong Custer vehemently denied that he ordered the executions. The monument bears the names of Thomas E. Anderson, ___ Carter, David L. Jones, Lucien Love, William Thomas Overby, Henry C. Rhodes, and Albert C. Willis.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Caption to sign:
On June 15, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North began here as 2,000 of Gen. Albert G. Jenkins’s infantrymen splashed across the Potomac River. For the next eleven days, almost 50,000 soldiers under Gens. James Longstreet and A.P. Hill entered Maryland here at Williamsport. Hungry Confederates temporarily occupied the town, and many residents welcomed them with tables in the streets loaded with milk, bread, and meat.
Less than a month later, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, reeling from the defeat at Gettysburg, returned. The first of the wounded arrived on July 5, the day after the battle ended, but were trapped here by the rain-swollen river. Williamsport became a “great hospital for the thousands of wounded,” according to Confederate Gen. John B. Imboden, who ordered every family in town to cook for the casualties.
Ferryboats soon began transporting the army across the river as Union signal corpsmen watched, and by July 14, most of the soldiers had left Maryland behind. Even after the water subsided, however, the current remained swift. The tallest men formed two lines from shore to shore with their guns interlocked to mark a strong and stable lane. Despite their efforts, ammunition was soaked and Gen. Richard Ewell’s corps lost 8,000 pairs of shoes to the rushing waters.
The crossing of the Potomac at Falling Waters
Falling Waters, which is approximately four miles below Williamsport, can be reached by following the C&O towpath on foot or bike, or by driving about six miles to Falling Waters Road and then hiking down an unmarked path for a mile until reaching National Park Service markers placed along the towpath. The signs are approximately a quarter mile inland from the Potomac. Lumber to build the pontoon bridge used to cross the Potomac at this point was floated down river from Williamsport.
Caption to sign:
"Retreating after Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was trapped for seven days by the swollen Potomac River. July 13th – 14th Gen. Lee with Longstreet’s and Hill’s Corps crossed here on a pontoon bridge. Ewell’s Corps forded the Potomac above Williamsport."
Caption to sign:
“Finally on July 10, the Confederates completed a pontoon bridge, but it took two days for the ambulances and hundreds of ordnance and artillery wagons to cross. By the early evening of July 13, during another downpour, Gen. James Longstreet’s infantry corps began tramping across, guided by bonfires on both shores and signal torches on the bridge. Gen. A.P. Hill’s corps followed, and by mid-morning the next day, 30,000 Confederates were across.”
“Lee’s army had escaped.”
“Quartermaster John Harman, who previously had served as Stonewall Jackson’s chief quartermaster, built 16 pontoon boats in two days from dismantled sheds and warehouses and wood from a Williamsport lumberyard. When the lumberyard manager complained, the Confederates retorted: “Just charge it to Jeff Davis. Our army is worth more than all your lumber in gold.”
The Potomac, where Lee, Longstreet, and Hill crossed
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Battle of Funkstown
July 10, 1863
After Gettysburg, in order to mask entrenching operations along the Potomac River by General R.E. Lee, Confederate troops, led by General J.E.B. Stuart, engaged Union forces under General John Buford. The day-long battle east of the road resulted in 479 casualties. The Cheney House served as a hospital and at the Keller home Major H.D. McDaniel, later Governor of Georgia, survived wounds.
The Confederate presence at Funkstown threatened any Union advance against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s position near Williamsport and the Potomac River as he retreated to Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, posted at Funkstown, posed a serious risk to the Federal right and rear if the Union army lunged west from Boonsboro.
Stuart, meanwhile, determined to wage a spirited defense to ensure Lee time to complete fortifications protecting his army and his avenue of retreat. As Gen. John Buford’s Federal cavalry division cautiously approached Funkstown via the National Road [current Rt. 40 ] on Friday morning, July 10, 1863, it encountered Stuart’s crescent shaped, three-mile long battle line.
It was Stuart’s first defensive battle – here holding a stationary position – since entering Maryland. The high ground constituted Stuart’s extreme right, held by Preston Chew’s horse artillery. The stone barn and barnyard wall visible in the distance proved a superb defensive position for the 34th Virginia Battalion’s dismounted cavalry.
Col. Thomas C. Devins’s dismounted Union brigade attacked here about 8 a.m. By mid-afternoon, with Buford’s cavalrymen running low on ammunition and gaining little ground, Col. Lewis A. Grant’s Vermont Brigade of infantry arrived and jabbed at the Confederate center less than one mile away. Unbeknownst to the Vermonter’s, Gen. George T. Anderson’s brigade now faced them, the first time opposing infantry had clashed since Gettysburg.
By early evening, the Union army began withdrawing south toward Beaver Creek, where I, VI, and XI Corps had concentrated. Stuart had kept the Federals at bay for yet another day.