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

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

Hidden History

A brief, but interesting, history of Fort Monroe. Landing site for the first black slaves in America, and site of the “Doctrine” that started Emancipation down its track.

Ellis Island, New York, was the gateway to freedom for millions of European immigrants. They fled poverty and oppression, for a chance to achieve the American Dream.

Well, one noted historian says there was another Ellis Island, for African Americans.

Source: Hidden History: Army Post Played Major Role in Civil War, Offered Freedom to Slaves

Petersburg Battlefield Grows

More good news! I had to check that I hadn’t already posted this, but we’re getting a year’s worth of preservation in one week! Petersburg battlefield’s protected territory is expanding significantly. Here’s hoping I get to visit the newly massive-r park in 2017!

No property immediately will be added to the park, but the provision will authorize the National Park Service to incorporate battlefield land—up to 7,238 acres—that is now unprotected outside the park boundary. Over time, such additions could make Petersburg one of the largest historical parks in the nation.

Already, the national battlefield commemorates 18 separate battlegrounds figuring in the longest blockade in U.S. military history. Petersburg’s seesawing, hard-fought actions comprise one of the Civil War’s most complex struggles.

Source: Congress OKs bigger Petersburg National Battlefield, on track to be America’s largest Civil War park – Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia News

The Grant Presidential Library

I’m not quite sure how the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library ended up in Mississippi, but it’s being managed by John Marszalek, author of some wonderful Civil War biographies. The collection comprises official papers, diaries, photographs, and correspondence. If you’re a Grant scholar or even just a Grant enthusiast, it’s worth a digital visit.

Source: Mississippi State University Libraries Digital Collections

Brandy Station preserved

More great work by the Civil War Trust. If you’re looking for Christmas presents or year-end charity recipients, consider contributing to their campaign to save and restore the battlefields we study.

The newly restored Fleetwood Hill, located on the Brandy Station Battlefield in Culpeper, Va., will open to the public at 10 a.m. Monday following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, according to an advance announcement by the Civil War Trust.

Source: Restoration of site of Civil War’s largest cavalry battlefield is finished – The Washington Post

Alexandria, Virginia

This is an interesting chronicle of life in Alexandria, Virginia – just a short walk from downtown Washington, DC.  During the war it was Confederate territory, occupied by the Union.  Citizens and returning soldiers write about their lives on the front line of the Confederate homefront.

Voices from the Past, Alexandria, Virginia 1861-1865 | Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site | City of Alexandria, VA.

New Civil War Center in Richmond

I missed Richmond on my whirlwind trip to DC, but it looks like my frown might be turned upside down: A new museum is born!  Huzzah!

In a joint announcement, the museums said the new historic attraction in the former capital of the Confederacy has yet to be named, but $20 million has been committed to its construction. Ground will be broken in 2014, with an expected opening the following year.

The new museum will be located along the James River, at the Tredegar Ironworks, where many of the South’s cannons were forged during the war. It’s also the home of the Civil War Center.

The museums said that bringing together both institutions will “further establish Richmond as the foremost Civil War destination in the United States.”

via 2 Civil War museums in Va. team up for new center.

Tennis Swings

Some literal gallows humor in the title, there:  If you zoom in on the embedded map, you’ll be able to see the tennis courts at Fort Lesley J. McNair, in Washington.  At the time of the Civil War, these courts were the site of the Washington Arsenal, and it was on this exact ground in 1865 that the Lincoln conspirators were hanged.

From funeral black to tennis whites.


View Larger Map

38.86654,-77.017433 – Google Maps.

Battlefield Expansion

Good, if premature, news about preservation efforts in Virginia: The state’s two senators have proposed legislation that would make expand the Petersburg National Battlefield, making it the largest in the nation.

Note, though, that this proposal only allows the NPS to acquire it – there’s no money attached to the motion.  That’s where an organization like the Civil War Trust comes in; the charity raises money to purchase at-risk battlefield acreage.

To facilitate donations from my readers, I’ve added a sidebar link to the Trust. With both the holidays and the tax year end upcoming, why not make a donation for yourself or on behalf of a loved one?  Get them a Crater for Christmas!

Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced the proposal Wednesday. It would authorize the National Park Service to acquire more than 7,000 acres of land that is in danger of being lost to development. The land was the site of 18 major Civil War battles. It has been identified by the Civil War Trust as one of the most endangered groups of historic battlefields in the country.

via Va. senators propose battlefield expansion – SFGate.