Ken Burns on Monument Debate

Ken Burns gives a great response to the Confederate Monuments debate. I’ll have to keep this in mind for the next time the topic comes up in our Round Table group.

At one point, Tulane professor Walter Isaacson asked, “Do you think that by pulling down these monuments we’re losing some feel for history?” Burns responded, “No, we’re actually increasing our feel for history. We’re making it much more dimensional. We’re asking other people who have been involved in this narrative, who have systematically and consciously been excluded from the narrative to come in and have a place…”

Source: Ken Burns and the Importance of Portraying History Through Film

Gettysburg ‘Witness Trees’

Turns out one of the “witness trees” on Gettysburg has proven to be unusually resilient.

Though water-loving honey locusts usually do not live much more than 100 years, this one is approaching 170 on high ground in the cemetery.

Even more, it seemed doomed a decade ago after a wind storm sheared off much of its top. Park officials worried that what remained would prove unstable and pose a safety hazard to the thousands of tourists who walk nearby each year.

But they gave it a chance. The tree proved more resilient than expected and has been re-growing its canopy, a little at a time, ever since.

Source: Gettysburg ‘Witness Trees’: How they survived, tell Civil War stories

How hardtack won the Civil War

Another small town article that I enjoyed. This one’s not quite as compelling as the Virginia story, but still has some fun facts to impart.

Bakers of the day played their part as well. They made the biscuits as hard as possible because the biscuit would soften and become more palatable with time, due to exposure to humidity and other weather elements.

Because it was hard and dry, with proper storage and handling, hardtack can last indefinitely. As a matter of fact, early hardtack used at the beginning of the Civil War was leftover from the Mexican-American War.

Source: In the Museum: How hardtack won the Civil War | News | chippewa.com

Virginia debated ending slavery after Nat Turner’s revolt

One of the reasons I check out every small-town paper’s Civil War related stories is that you occasionally find some delicious wheat amongst the “round table meets tonight” or “Lincoln impersonator to speak at library” chaff. This article is one of the kernels that makes it worthwhile. A surprisingly in-depth look at some radical proposals in the wake of the Nat Turner uprising, leading to some big historical what-ifs.

The first thing white people did after Nat Turner’s violent slave insurrection in 1831 was round up more than 120 black people and kill them.

But the next thing white people did was surprising.

Hundreds of them sent petitions to the Virginia General Assembly calling for an end to slavery.

Source: Virginia debated ending slavery after Nat Turner’s revolt – Plainview Daily Herald

Atlanta History Center acquires rare flag

The Atlanta History Centre has made a rare purchase, and boy is it a beaut! This USCT flag looks in great shape. I loved the added detail that there were famous flag-painters. Quite a niche specialty, but one that must have been a heyday during the war!

 

 

Measuring 72 by 55 inches, the silk banner depicts a black soldier carrying a rifle and bidding farewell to Columbia, the mythical goddess of liberty. A motto above the soldier reads “We will prove ourselves men.” On the flag’s reverse side, an American bald eagle bears a ribbon with the nation’s motto “E pluribus unum” — or, “Out of many, one.”

This is the only surviving example of 11 flags painted by African American artist David Bustill Bowser, who lived from 1820-1890. Bowser was a noted Philadelphia sign-painter, portraitist and anti-slavery activist noted for his portraits of John Brown and President Abraham Lincoln, the release said.

Source: Atlanta History Center acquires rare Civil War African American troop flag – Reporter Newspapers

The South’s Remedies Will Rise Again

When the Union blockade squeezed the South’s access to medicines, the Southern scientists turned to folk remedies. Modern researchers are turning to their findings, too, to test the efficacy of some of these remedies in our antibiotic-resistant era.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Union forces suffocated the South with a blockade, dramatically limiting the amount of goods available to the Confederacy—including its access to conventional medicines. With soaring infection rates among wounded soldiers, Confederate Surgeon General Samuel Moore commissioned Francis Porcher, a botanist and surgeon from South Carolina, to compile a book of medicinal plants found in the Southern states. Porcher was asked to include folk remedies used by white Southerners, as well as those used by enslaved Africans and indigenous peoples.

Source: Medicinal Plants Used During the U.S. Civil War Are Surprisingly Good at Fighting Bacteria

Charleston lab restores Civil War cannons

There are dozens of new “cannons recovered from swamp/river” stories every month, but this one is far more interesting and involved than most of the local news reports. Not only do you get a behind the scenes look at the preservation efforts, but you get a good deal of history – it was news to me that the Confederate foundries were churning out materiel in the last year of the war.

The cannons, recovered in 2015, were restored and preserved in a four-year effort by the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. They will be placed on exhibit outside the Veterans Affairs building in Florence at a date yet to be announced.

The ship might have been one of the South’s greatest weapons had it ever seen action. But it was finished in the desperate days of the Confederacy as the war drew to a close. While the Pee Dee likely never saw action, its guns had been powdered and primed. Conservators knew this because when they turned the key on a brass fuse it fizzed like a soda.

Source: Charleston lab restores Civil War cannons pulled from Pee Dee River in SC | News | postandcourier.com

The Lincoln Memorial as a pyramid?

The WaPo looks at the discussions (and arguments) that marked the Lincoln Memorial planning. We forget that the now beloved monument was once an edgy and divisive design. Included in this article are some of the designs that were rejected. It’s interesting to wonder if they’d have been accepted as the Greek temple eventually was.

Bacon’s design drew wide praise, but also criticism. The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects passed a resolution calling Bacon’s design “purely Greek and entirely un-American.” Sculptor Gutzon Borglum complained, “We are about to spend $2 million upon a … cold, classical meaningless temple” with no mark outside about the humble man it memorializes. “Into the middle of that,” he said, “we are going to drop a statue of Lincoln” and “upon the doormat we are going to put ‘Lincoln Memorial.’ ”

 

Source: The Lincoln Memorial as a pyramid? The crazy designs Congress considered. – The Washington Post

Antislavery Wasn’t Mainstream, Until It Was

The Election of 1856 seems to get a lot less attention than those of 1860 and 1864, which is a shame, because there was a lot of interesting political maneuverings to study. This article, while written a bit too twee-ly for my tastes, is a good shallow dive into the Republican Party’s first nationwide showing.

After Republicans lost their first election in 1856, the nineteenth-century Nate Silvers were happy to declare the antislavery movement a radical, fringe idea. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln won on a radical program of change.

Source: Antislavery Wasn’t Mainstream, Until It Was

La Niña and the Civil War

This article briefly touches upon the La Niña which occurred during the Civil War, and it made me conscious of the fact that weather must have played a part in some of the war’s big events. (Meade’s failure to chase Lee on July 4th comes to mind.) The only book I could find on the subject looks a little dry (pun intended), and only deals with Virginia. I’ll have to search for some other resources on the topic; my interest has been piqued.

The new research used tree ring data to reconstruct the influence of El Niño and La Niña conditions on droughts across North America for the past 350 years, including during the American Civil War.   The Civil War drought – one of the worst to afflict the U.S. in centuries – occurred in the mid-1850s to the mid-1860s. That drought is infamous for its effects in the U.S. Southwest and parts of the Great Plains, where it led to the near extinction of the American bison and played an important role in changing

Source: La Niña’s Effect On Droughts Traced To U.S. Civil War | Los Alamos Daily Post