Slave Names

Another local story, this one dedicating a local square in the name of a USCT soldier. This article added an interesting point about slave names that I’d never considered before.

But when enlistment opened for men of color in Cape Girardeau, the Army wants you to have a first name and a last name. And in the course of the study that I’ve looked at, over 200 men who enlisted in Cape Girardeau, it was pretty typical that they, maybe by default, or you know just the pressure of the moment when they stood in front of the enlistment officer, they needed a first name and a last name. And so most of them chose the last name of their last enslaver.

Source: Remembering James Ivers: A Look Back On The Story Of A Slave-Turned-Soldier In The Civil War | KRCU

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 |

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

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 |

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

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

Mystery Submarine

I’m disappointed that this article doesn’t have more answers as to why and when this sub was designed, but its guesses that it was an answer to the blockade of New Orleans’ port certainly fits. Strange that there’s no accompanying history to the Hunley and the David, both of which were well-known and documented.

Imagine this. It’s Bayou Boogaloo and you’re on the raft you built with your buddies. You plunge your oar into the waters of Bayou St. John and feel it scrape something hard.

What could it be? A hunk of concrete? A stolen car? Or … a submarine?

If you found a sub in these waters, it’d definitely be a story, but it wouldn’t be the first time. Because that distinction goes to a mysterious vessel discovered here way back in the spring of 1878./blockquote>

Source: Today a picturesque waterway, Bayou St. John once harbored a Civil War submarine | Entertainment/Life |

How Memorial Day began

Happy Memorial Day, my American friends! Being Canadian, I’m celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday today instead, but I’ll spare some thought for the American celebration. It’s worth remembering that it was only in the past few years that the Memorial Day origins came to light, discovered in an archive by the Yale professor David Blight.

This day has many stories of its origin, and all quite probable. Basically we know for sure it was started after the Civil War. Civil War Veterans were its main focus. In May of 1868 three years after the war, former slaves in the Charleston South Carolina area began to dig up the 257 Grand Army of the Republic solders buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison yard. Their idea was the result of an appreciation for their freedom. It took them two weeks to give these soldiers proper burial. Then 10,000 people were led by 2,800 African American children in a parade to the cemetery where flowers, prayers and singing of hymns took place.

Source: How Memorial Day began – News – Nebraska City News-Press – Nebraska City, NE – Nebraska City, NE