Sunday, July 24, 2011

Manassas Sesquicentennial Scenes - Events on Henry Hill - 7/21/11

The following photographs are all copyright 2011 by John F. Cummings III.
Fair use is allowed only when proper credit is provided.
8:30 AM, a view of the Dignitary Seating Area, flanked by a Media Platform.
The Henry House and Union Monument dedicated in 1865 in middle distance.

Looking west toward the stage and video screens. Rear of
Visitor Center and Bookstore Annex at left.

The rostrum awaits.

The Video Production platform.

Jackson stands like a stone wall in the summer morning haze.

The Living History Camp on the lawn of the Henry House.

Stacked arms.

An pre-war Virginia militiaman explains
rifled musket technology vs. smooth bore.

The grave of Judith Henry on the sesquicentennial of her death.

The Stone House and Buck Hill as seen from Henry Hill.

The Marine Corps Band opens the ceremony as seen from the production platform.

The speakers have taken their places as the Marine Band exits. 9:15 AM.

Dr. Edward L. Ayers delivers the Keynote Address.

One of the two giant video screens providing captioning of Dr. Ayers' speech.

The eastern media platform and their view of the stage.

Two gentlemen portraying Civil War veterans prepare for
a special presentation after the main program.

Taking a stroll up the Henry House Lane from Sudley Road.

Visitors to the Henry House could purchase special postal caches inside.

The International Press Community came out in force to cover the events.

A Louisiana Tiger trying to beat the heat.

Living historians gathered to answer questions.

Living historians surrounded by the International Press Corps.

A living historian explains the history of Necco Wafers
to an interested videographer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bloggers and Buffs Gather on the Plains of Manassas for 150th Commemoration

One word is to be universal in describing the 21st of July at Manassas: HOT! It got hotter than most would have imagined, but it didn't keep thousands of enthusiasts away from the anniversary commemoration.
The following is a photo essay of the friendly encounters which took place 150 years to the day after nearly five thousand casualties resulted from the Civil War's first major land engagement.
One of the first on the scene was preservation spokesman and Confederate
in the attic, Robert Lee Hodge. Friends of the Fredericksburg Area
Battlefields board member Ed Bell listens in at center.
Photo by James Anderson.

signs my copy of his new book, Manassas Battlefield Then & Now.
Photo by James Anderson.

Fellow blogger and Antietam Park Ranger Mannie Gentile came down
to lend a hand with the day's events.

Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields treasurer James
Anderson and I were caught trying to escape the heat at the Marine display.

Robert Quinn, great great grandson of Captain Lewis E. Lindsay of the
 4th Alabama, killed at 1st Manassas, July 21, 1861.


NPS historians from Fredericksburg, Greg Mertz, and Frank A. O'Reilly,
chat it up with James Anderson of FoFAB, on Henry Hill.

Owner and curator of the White Oak Museum,
D. P. Newton, came down to be a part of the moment.

Fellow blogger Jared Frederick and I met inside the Henry House.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania's Cultural Resource
manager, Eric Mink, put in time to help the visitors get around.

Chief Historian at Fred/Spot, John Hennessy was on hand to share
his expertise on the Manassas Battlefield.

Veteran volunteer Kevin Leahy takes a pause to cool down.

Fellow blogger and newspaper columnist Clint Schemmer was taking in the events.

Consummate battlefield trekker Chris Conti made the rounds.

The preceding photographs are all copyright 2011 by John F. Cummings III.
Fair use is allowed only when proper credit is provided.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bull Run Remembers 7/ 21/1861 - 7/21/2011

Thursday, July 21st will be the Sesquicentennial anniversary of the battle of First Bull Run/Manassas. The National Park Service is holding the official ceremony on Henry Hill, seen at the right distance in the March 1862 photograph below.
In 1961 my father attended the Centennial commemoration  of the battle and the reenactment held on Henry Hill. I was not quite four months old, and I stayed at home with my mother so as to not fry my infant brain in the extreme July heat. My father took a roll of color slides that day, which enthralled me as I grew up looking at them in a hand held viewer. Coupled with living in a house full of history books, it was a sure thing that I would have a deep rooted appreciation of our National heritage.

The backlit Pana-Vue slide viewer above, and one of the slides
showing Confederate reenactors forming up for the big show, below.

Below is one of my favorite books about the battlefield, written by the pioneering superintendent of
the park, Joseph Mills Hanson. It is still in print today and a must have for any library on the subject.


I shall report back on Friday with a follow up on Thursday's events. I have waited fifty years for this.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sculpture's "Twin", Depicting Reconciled Brothers, Resides in Spotsylvania Museum

Whereas a sculpture by artist Gary Casteel entitled "Brothers" was placed in the Virginia State Capitol on Monday July 11, its identical twin has resided for nearly two months in a recently opened satellite of the Spotsylvania County Museum. The Museum enjoyed a "soft" opening during the re-enactment weekend of May 21-22, 2011. The official grand opening is slated for later this month.
The Richmond "twin" has received extensive commentary in newspaper and Internet media over the past few days since its unveiling. The sculpture is intended to commemorate a reconciled nation during the Sesquicentennial observance of the Civil War. Rather than spell out the resultant debate that has exploded over a well intentioned gesture, I will provide the following sample site links, right here, here and also here.

The new Spotsylvania County Museum is located at 9019 Old Battlefield Boulevard, 1st Floor, in the Merchant Square Building.
The new County Museum entrance.
It is open Wednesday - Monday 9-5.


Click on any of the photographs for enlarged viewing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

NPS Summer Staff Member Brings Civilian Story to Life at the Sunken Road

As reported by NPS historian Eric Mink at Mysteries and Conundrums here, summer staff member Katie Logothetis is presenting "first-person" programs along the Sunken Road Saturdays and Sundays only at 11:15, 12:15, 2:15, and 3:15.

My wife and I attended yesterday's 2:15 performance and were delighted.  The program brings the civilian refugee experience of Fredericksburg to life in a comfortable 15-20 minutes. The research and writing of the program's content was done by the Park's Chief Historian John Hennessy, but Katie makes it her own with a smoothly articulated and confident delivery. The experiences of diarist Mary Caldwell is a must see this season. Even if you have visited the park many times over, this makes stopping by again well worth it.

Katie Logothetis as Mary Caldwell.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A New Look at a Fredericksburg Burial Trench

While recently examining the two Brady & Company images that together make an extraordinary panorama of the "open plain" battleground of Fredericksburg, I began to consider numerous points of interest that fall within the confines of its cone of vision. It is both sad and remarkable that in the post Civil War years, Fredericksburg, the town, began to expand into a sizable city and consume, perhaps cathartically, the landscape that became one of the most horrifying places in American memory. To stand on the ground today, amidst the residential and commercial structures that now fill the former vastness, it can be difficult for visitors to visualize just how suicidal and ill-conceived the frontal assaults were that December day. Coupled with the fabled stories of urban street fighting, it is hard to decipher where the 1862 town ended and the open ground to the west began, at least in the mind's eye. With the help of these images, and the scattered landmark structures that have survived to this day, we can walk the modern streets, like trying to conquer a labyrinth, and gain some perspective of a once near desolate landscape.

To create the panorama, the two images must be placed to overlap.
The left edge of the brick structure's roof provides a focal point.
The horizon line will come together where the Marye mansion sits.
Click images to enlarge for greater detail.

Some of the most poignant scars the war left on the terrain have been erased, if only to be redrawn in a more fitting location on Willis Hill. I refer to the original burial trenches that contained Union dead from the December 1862 battle and later those who did not survive wounds received during the Spring Campaign of 1864. I will discuss the latter in a future post. Here I will focus on what I believe is visible within these images.

In his now classic two-volume work, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, National Park Service historian Noel G. Harrison presented documentation as to the nature and the location of these grim features. In referring to the "easternmost north burial trench", Noel provides a post-war recollection, quoted from a Confederate officer, Captain C. H. Andrews, who had witnessed the site first hand in January 1863:

"A short distance nearer the city and where the open field made a sudden dip or step, was a line of earth-works, thrown up hastily as a protection against the bullets of the Confederates, and in this earth-work defense dead horses were placed, and with them had been laid the bodies of dead Federals, for here and there the legs of horses and arms and legs of soldiers were thrust out, and overall loose dirt was piled up, intended to cover and bury them. It shocked us greatly -- the inhumanity to brave, dead and now helpless comrades."

The "sudden dip or step" is a strong clue toward identifying this position on the ground. The only place along the plain that best fits that description is on the south side of Hanover Street, and east of Weedon Street. Reinforcing this belief is what I believe is photographic proof, seen in the panorama images. Seen atop the edge of the hill that is today above Lee Avenue, there appears to be a dark line, a berm, that runs between Hanover and the location of modern Mercer Street. Basically it looks as if it hugs the lip of where west bound waves of Union soldiers would have topped the hill and sought to achieve cover from the gunfire raining down on them from nearly 375 yards away, well within the effective killing distance of the rifled muskets of the era. The ground behind (coming back toward the camera position) has been terraced and manicured as residential property today. Looking up at it from the Hanover Street intersection with Kenmore Avenue, one can imagine the desperate struggle all along the battlefront. Another 187 yards to their slight left oblique, stood the lone Stratton House, behind which other wounded and desperate men had begun to huddle for safety. A white line running from in front of the Sisson Store, running southerly toward Stratton, is a road that follows present day Littlepage Street, roughly 182 yards ahead of the trench.

From the left hand glass negative, the detail of the likely burial trench is
indicated by the white brackets placed at either end. Click image to enlarge. 

The horizontal white line between Weedon Street
and Lee Avenue indicates the approximate
location of the burial trench, based on the 1864 photographs.
The yellow horizontal line indicates a previously suggested location.
Click to enlarge for greater detail.

The "sudden dip or step" as seen from the intersection of Hanover Street
and Kenmore Avenue, the location of the "old mill race" or "power canal".
Lee Avenue runs on a diagonal toward the left, below the step.

Supplement Please review the comments section of this post and read the message sent by NPS historian Noel Harrison, and my reply. Find below the map drawn by the Pennsylvania soldier that Noel refers to. Click the image to enlarge.