Battlefield Guide Services

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Quiet 149th Anniversary at Fredericksburg Battlefield - December 13, 2011

One hundred and forty-nine years ago yesterday, the town and surrounding landscape of Fredericksburg, Virginia was crowded with two massive armies. Over one hundred and eighty-five thousand men participated in a slug fest that left nearly two thousand dead and close to fourteen thousand wounded. Along with the human wreckage, the town itself had been severely damaged by an artillery exchange and resulting fires. Private residences and businesses were looted and ransacked by unrestrained factions of the Union Army. In the months leading up to the battle, Confederate forces had destroyed connecting bridges with Stafford County, across the Rappahanock River, as an impediment to anticipated Union occupation. 
December 13, 2011: The view from City Dock where Union men massed prior
 to funneling through the town streets, toward a severe defeat on an open plain beyond.

Looking toward the location of the middle of three pontoon bridge crossings
that streatched along four miles of the riverfront.
The boyhood home of George Washington, Ferry Farm, is on the opposite side.

"The Sentry Box", built by Revolutionary War general George Weedon,
sustained extensive damage during the Union bombardment of December
11, 1862. It was repaired in the years following the war, and remains a
private residence and landmark within the historic district of today's city.

A little under a mile beyond the dock, across the former open plain, the
 infamous stone wall and sunken road along the base of Marye's Heights
 is a silent reminder of the horrific exchange between North and South.
Confederate defenders took shelter here and poured a decimating hail
 of lead at approaching Union brigades who were time and time again
repulsed by the withering onslaught.

The site of the Martha Stephans house along the Sunken Road.
Legend holds that she remained in her home during the battle
so as to provide aid for wounded soldiers.

The moss covered, stately entrance gate to Brompton, the former
home of the Marye family, and the heights that bear their name.

Brompton, now the residence of the president of the University of
Mary Washington, stands atop the heights where Confederate
hellfire once rained down on the approaching blue waves below.

The monument to South Carolina soldier, Sgt. Richard R. Kirkland,
who, it is said, gave water the morning after the battle to the Union
wounded in front of the stone wall, earning the nickname, "The Angel
of Marye's Heights. A commemorative ceremony is held each year here.

Your blog host casts a long shadow around 11:30 AM with the camera
 looking south, along the road. At that time, one hundred and forty-nine
years before, the wall at left (rebuilt in 2004) was lined with thousand of
 Confederate defenders who successfuly repulsed the Union attacks as
the day wore on.  Near this spot, Confederate general Thomas R. R. Cobb
was mortally wounded. A small monument marks the location where he fell.

Earlier posts on this blog provide further information regarding the Sunken Road:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Legomania 1993 Presents: The Battle of Fredericksburg

I post this with tongue-in-cheek. Nothing serious here folks. As simplistic as this little film is, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to post it as we are in the anniversary days of the December 1862 battle. I came across it on the Internet, and I have nothing more to say about it. It is what it is, in the tradition of stop-motion classics of the Christmas season, Rudolph and Frosty. Take a gander.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Update to Alrich and Alsop Family Connection: From An Anonymous Tip

An Anonymous comment to our post of May 31, 2011, added 12/4/2011, points out the widow Alsop's obituary in the Daily Star, December 6, 1915. That obit clearly states that she died "peacefully at the residence of Mr. S.R. Alrich". This may indeed be a clue as to the connection with the Alrich family. That clue had remained embarrassingly unobserved by your blog host until this anonymous tip. An immediate assumption would make this "Mrs. S. R. Alrich" to be Annie, the wife of Samuel Alrich, but his middle initial was "W" according to census records. Those fine details remain still uncertain, but there is now a good indication that Susan M. Alsop was at least a friend of the Alrich family, possibly considered an "Aunt", as many times older friends of a family are called "Aunt" or "Uncle" by children, even if there is no blood or marriage connection. We shall persevere.
Our post of Jun 23, 2011, found here, provides other details in this story.
Our first post regarding this image appeared April 5, 2011, and can be found here.

The image found in the attic of the Alrich home.
Collection of Spotsylvania County Museum.
Image restoration by John Cummings.
The inscription on the back of that image.

Susan M. Alsop in her later years.
Courtesy of Jerry Alsup.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Gettysburg National Museum Site - Then & Now - Photo Essay

Continuing our field trip visit to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
 A look at the the famous Rosensteel Museum.

The original 1921 era National Museum which housed the Rosensteel
collection. The collection began in 1863 by sixteen year old John
Rosensteel, who started collecting artifacts off of the field of battle.
This image is from a souvenir postcard from that time.
This structure stood across from the entrance to the National
Cemetery on Taneytown Road.

The expanded museum building as it looked in March of 2009, during the demolition
process. The building was sold and its 89,246 piece collection given to the National Park
Service in 1971. The NPS continued to use the facility as their Visitor Center
until 2009 when a larger building was opened below Hunt Avenue, between
Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road. The site of the Rosensteel building
was to be torn down and the land restored to its 1863 appearance.
March 2009

November 2011

A view of the 1921 balcony in March 2009.
During their ownership, the Rosensteel family
lived above the museum. Those rooms became
offices for the NPS when they moved in.

The same view on November 18, 2011

In this March 2009 photograph, the second expansion of the building
is being taken down. This section had housed the original Electric Map
attraction in 1938. It was a popular tourist destination and gave a narrated
orientation program that explained the three day battle.

The same view on November 18, 2011.

A Civil War Centennial era postcard with a bus load of tourists arriving.

Similar view as seen in March 2009, during the demolition process.
Brochures for the museum. At left is a 1957 version. At right is a 1963
edition after a larger and expanded Electric Map feature was opened.

The inside of the 1957 brochure discusses the 1955 expansion of
the building which tripled their collection display space.

From the 1963 brochure, a view of the improved Electric Map
auditorium with a 960 person capacity.

The beginning of tearing down the Electric Map auditorium.
March 2009.

The 1955 expansion and office space are falling to the wrecking
crew in this March 2009 photograph. Nothing remains today of
this facility except the large parking lot and sidewalk.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spotsylvania's 23rd USCTs Marched In Gettysburg Remembrance Day Parade 11-19-2011

The 23rd United States Colored Troops took a trip to Gettysburg, PA to participate proudly in the 148th Anniversary Commemoration of the Gettysburg Address, on November 19, 2011.
Forming up, moments before the start of the parade.
Left to right: Jimmy Price, Steward Henderson, James Anderson,
Kevin Williams, and John Cummings, your blog host.
Taking the turn onto Steinwehr Avenue (historic Emmitsburg Road),
from Baltimore Street, following the route taken by President Lincoln.
This photo courtesy of Rachel Zaborowski and Michael Colosimo.
Earlier that morning, keynote speaker Stephan Lang presented some
fittingly dramatic and moving remarks before the large audience
assembled at the National Cemetery Rostrum.
An actor and playwright, Lang is known for his many film roles
including portrayals of Confederate generals Pickett and Jackson.
Currently he stars in the science fiction television series Terra Nova.
After the program at the Rostrum, there was a graveside salute to
USCTs in the National Cemetery.
At right, Millicent Sparks gives a stirring presentation as
abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy, Harriet Tubman.
23rd USCT member Kevin Williams salutes the final resting place of one
 of two African American veterans buried in the Soldiers' National Cemetery,
Charles H. Parker, of the 3rd Regiment United States Colored Troops.
Photo by James Anderson.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gettysburg: Remembrance, Collective Memory, and the Space-Time Continuum

Please forgive your host for veering off of home turf, but allow me to take you on a field trip.
As I write, Gettysburg’s Remembrance Day is fast approaching, and with it the one hundred and forty-eighth anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. On the day it was delivered, November 19, 1863, it fell short for many who personally witnessed Lincoln’s presentation. It had been eclipsed by the oration of Edward Everett which went on for over two hours. Lincoln’s remarks came in at a little over two minutes, yet have become one of America’s masterpieces of ceremonial speeches.

Gettysburg itself became an immediate Mecca for memorializing, the dead and the living, almost as soon as the guns fell silent on July 3, 1863. Within twenty-five years of the battle, veteran organizations had begun dotting the landscape with what have now become approximately 1328 markers, monuments and memorials. Millions of visitors continue to make the pilgrimage each year, to walk the fields and climb the hills where over 35,000 men fell killed or wounded. Over eleven thousand more were captured or reported missing.

The Borough of Gettysburg, and the surrounding landscape, continues to evolve as man and nature make their impressions. The town has transformed into a tourist destination with all the trappings, both good and bad that come with that industry. One’s attitude towards that evolution can see it as inevitable or intrusive. Life must go on for those that make Gettysburg their home, and debates of appropriateness follow every step.

Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, as the procession makes its way
to the National Cemetery Dedication site. November 19, 1863.
The same view in March of 2009.

Out on the battlefield, the explorations of the annual visitors create numerous concerns for the caretakers of the site, the National Park Service. Erosion of the soil from constant foot traffic wears away at popular tour stops. Even the giant, diabase boulders of Little Round Top and Devil’s Den show the effects of time.

Visitors to Devil's Den -1909, from my personal collection
My wife and I emulate their experience - 2006
A veteran of the Federal Sixth Corps and his family, also visiting
Devil's Den. From my personal collection.
I attempt to walk in his footsteps, but will never fill his shoes.
November 2006, my wife and I emulate the countless visiting
veterans and their families who came to Gettysburg in November 1863,
and throughout the years, until none remained to return.

My personal journeys to Gettysburg began in the summer of 1969 with what became for many years a family tradition over the 4th of July holiday, my mother’s birthday. Throughout my childhood there grew many more excuses to visit the battlefield, supplemented by my own excursions as I became a freewheeling young adult. Now, at fifty, I continue my over forty year relationship with the most famous site of our nation’s defining struggle. I reflect on my own experiences, and those who have gone before me. I have watched many changes over the years, improvements and disappointments. It has become a place not only of national significance, but also a place of my own fond memories. Gettysburg is, as photo historian William Frassanito so aptly titled his first book, “A Journey In Time”.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

In Review - Looking at This Blog's Five Most Popular Posts, Thus Far

From time to time we can all benefit from reflecting on what we have done with ourselves up to our present condition. How have we come to where we are today? Unfortunately, most of our personal life experiences do not have solid analytical data to reflect upon. Hosts of blogs such as this do however, have statistics available we can review to judge our performance as publishers so to speak. In looking back over the statistical history of this blog, I can determine what the most popular posts have been and examine the Internet traffic that brought my visitors to the site. This can help to shape future postings, by having an idea of what my audience seems to find interesting. That's my job, and in the next twelve months we shall see how that shakes out. I hope my current and future audience will find it beneficial.

The following are the current, five most viewed postings at Spotsylvania Civil War Blog, with most views happening within the past year as our traffic has increased with growing exposure and popularity of the overall subject. This first year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration has been a large factor in our growing popularity. Overall traffic to Civil War sites on the Internet has grown and referrals from other blogs and websites has increased exponentially.

1. Related Lands - Andersonville Prison, Macon and Sumter Counties, Georgia: Posted Oct. 9, 2010

2. Placing Some of the Dead at Widow Alsop's: Posted March 24, 2011 

3. Grave Torn Open In Freak Storm - Fredericksburg, July 16: Posted July 20, 2010

4. Gross! What Are They Doing? Latrine at the Fredericksburg Power Canal? A Not So Pleasant       Consideration: Posted July 1, 2011
5. Is This The Widow Susan Alsop? A treasure from the attic: Posted April 5, 2011

I hope my longtime viewers, and new visitors, will enjoy this look back. Thank you for stopping in.

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spotsylvania's Homegrown, 23rd USCT, Attends 96th Annual ASALH Meeting in Richmond, VA

The reorganized 23rd Regiment of United States Colored Troops were proud participants October 5, at the 96th Annual Meeting of the Association For The Study Of African American Life and History (ASALH). This year's meeting agenda was based on the theme of African Americans and the Civil War. The five day gathering consists of panel and paper sessions, receptions and tours of the area battlefields and historic sites. Visit their website by clicking here, for more information on the conference.

Members of the 23rd USCT, Steward Henderson and Kevin Williams assisted in the unveiling of commemorative art prints by artist Charles Bibbs. Seen here are at left, James Stewart, President of ASALH; Steward Henderson; Kevin Williams; Sylvia Y. Cyrus, Executive Director of ASALH; and artist Charles Bibbs.

One of the earlier panel discussions featured from left, Kate Clifford Larson of Simmons College and a biographer of Harriet Tubman; John W. Franklin of the National Museum of African American History & Culture; Robert Stanton, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior; Alan Spears, of the National Parks Conservation Association; and Barbara Tagger, of the National Park Service.

 Also in attendance were members of the 3rd USCT and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry regiments.

Later in the evening, the re-enactors provided living history demonstrations for attendees during a special tour of the American Civil War Center and Historic Tredegar Iron Works. The modern Richmond skyline contrasts starkly against the historic cultural landscape.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"The Angel of Maryre's Heights" Plays to Family Weekend Crowd at the University of Mary Washington

A year after its official release in July of 2010, the short documentary, The Angel of Marye's Heights continues to draw appreciative audiences at screenings across the country. This past weekend, on September 24, the University of Mary Washington offered two showings as part of the annual Family Weekend event on the campus. Current students, family members, and alumni gathered to share the rich history and life that is UMW. For the Angel film, this was the second year as an offering, this time held at the Jepson Alumni Center, across from Brompton, the home of University President Richard Hurley, and a historic treasure itself, having endured two Civil War battles in 1862 and 1863. Below Brompton, along the Sunken Road, stands the monument to Richard Kirkland, the legendary subject of the film.
Storyteller Megan Hicks and historian John Cummings
introduced the documentary in the Jepson Alumni Center Ballroom.
Photo by James Anderson
The first of two audiences at the Jepson Alumni Center.
Photo by James Anderson
President of the UMW, Richard V. Hurley and his wife, were presented
a copy of the documentary at their home Brompton, after the public viewings.
 Left to right, James Anderson, treasurer of Friends of the Fredericksburg Area
Battlefields, President Hurley and his wife Rose, and John Cummings, chair of
Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields.
Photo by kind assistance of Abbie McGhee, UMW staff.
Blog host, John Cummings, filmed at the Civil War Life Museum, provides
commentary throughout the documentary, along with other historians.
Clint Ross, Michael Aubrecht and crew, shown during filming in Fredericksburg.
Photo by Mike Morones, The Free Lance-Star
Storyteller Megan Hicks provided a special dimension to the film.
She is seen here at the Stone Wall, with the Kirkland Memorial behind.