Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Francis Bartow's Manassas Monument

Civil War battlefields that later became National Parks are often filled with monuments to the regiments and individual officers that fought there. The reason many generals have monuments on these battlefields is because they had earned a name and reputation fighting in previous battles. However, there is a monument at the Manassas National Battlefield Park who honors an officer who died in his first battle.

When it was mentioned on my recent extended tour how tragic it would have been to have died in the fighting at, say Sailor's Creek, or Appomattox with Lee's surrender only a few days or even hours away, it made me think. But it also struck me that dying early in the war prevented some soldiers the opportunity to be remembered as well as those that fought in many later battles and earned a respected reputation. For example, what if Thomas Jonathan Jackson had been killed at Manassas instead of "standing like a stonewall?" Would he have all the recognition he eventually received without his effective 1862 Valley Campaign or his significant role in the Battle of Chancellorsville? Not likely.

Francis Bartow's (pictured above) and Bernard Bee's monuments at Manassas honor two soldiers who fell in their first fight. They would not receive other military honors. But it makes one wonder what would they have done if they had lived. Would they have had outstanding careers? Or would they have faded or been transferred to some backwater of the war? We'll never know.

Francis Bartow had a lot to fight for. He was a wealthy attorney who had received about as good of an education as one could get in 19th century America. He married the daughter of a well to do Georgia politician, which added land and slaves to his growing riches. The 1860 census show Bartow owning over 80 slaves on is Chatham County, Georgia plantation.

Bartow started the war as the captain of a Savannah militia company, but was soon elected to the Confederate Provisional Congress. He decided a military career was a better fit and became captain of a company of the 8th Georgia Infantry in May 1861. The following month Bartow was made colonel of the 8th. His leadership would be short, as he was killed in the Manassas fighting on July 21. He fell near the Henry House, which was at the center of the fighting after attempting to rally his troops who had suffered a flanck attack from their Union opponents. He died after reportedly stating, "They have killed me, boys, but never give up the field." His body was returned to Savannah, and that same year a Georgia county was renamed in his honor.

Although Bartow was indeed leading a brigade when he died at Manassas, apparently he never formally received a brigadier general's commission.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Memorializing Virginia's Colonial History

I apologize for the lack of posts this month, but responsibilities have pulled me in several directions. One of the pleasant responsibilities was guiding a custom tour which took in some non-Civil War sites. Included on the list was Jamestown; site of the first permanent English settlement in America.

On the grounds is an impressive monument (pictured above). The towering granite obelisk honors those early settlers and the colony. It was erected and dedicated on 1907; the 300th anniversary of the founding of the settlement. The monument, called the Memorial Church and Tercentenary Monument, stands resolutely between the Old Towne and New Towne sections of Jamestown Colonial National Historical Park.

Statues to two of Jamestown's most famous personalities also grace the grounds. Inside the outline of the original fort is a monument to Captain John Smith (above), which was also dedicated around the 300th anniversary. Although Smith's actual stay in Jamestown was rather short, his impact on the settlement was significant. A statue to Pocahontas (not shown), Chief Powhatan's daughter, is just outside the fort and near the Memorial Church. Many myths about Pocahontas have emerged over the years since her death in 1617 in England, but her marriage to John Rolfe in 1614 helped create a somewhat more amicable relationship between the colonists and native people, if only briefly.

Starting with an initial purchase of twenty-two and one-half acres of Jamestown Island land in 1893 by Preservation Virginia, the historic site has grown and become a must-see for those wishing to learn more about early white settlements and their contact with Native Americans in Virginia. If you have not been to Jamestown, take time to go and appreciate this important story in our nation's history.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Manassas Patriots Monument Then and Now

Erected and Dedicated 1865

October 13, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Joel Walker Sweeney's Grave

Appomattox National Historical Park is a wonderful place that I have visited several times. However, I had not taken the time to locate the grave of banjo man Joel Walker Sweeney's grave, which is on the park grounds. This past Tuesday, I enjoyed yet another visit to Appomattox and determined to find it. 

Sweeney's grave is quite near where Gen. Robert E. Lee made his last official army headquarters and where he met Gen. Grant the day after the surrender at the McLean House. There are only a handful of marked graves among the simple rail-fenced cemetery. It appears that Sweeney's grave marker is a rather recent placement.

The beginnings of the Appomattox River runs near Sweeney's grave as well. It is difficult to believe that this small stream turns into the broad river it ends up being at Petersburg, and a little further downstream, where it merges into the James River.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

An Unwilling Slave Patroller's Account

Reading through American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, published in 1839, by abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, I came across the account of Hiram White, who had lived in North Carolina for over thirty years, but moved to Illinois, presumably to get away from slavery's influence.

Slavery as an institution of racial control is sometimes overlooked in favor of the economic interests that owners invested in the practice. The amount to which slaves lives were controlled was almost unfathomable to us today living in a era of almost unlimited rights and liberties. Slaves were often required to carry passes when away of their home plantations and were likely to be subjected to random searches both in their quarters and when found out and about at night by patrollers.

But back to our account:
"About the 20th, December, 1830, a report was raised that the slaves of Chatham county, North Carolina, were going to rise on Christmas Day, in consequence of which a considerable commotion ensued among the inhabitants; orders were given by the Governor to the militia captains, to appoint patrolling captains in each district, and orders were given for every man subject to military duty to patrol as their captains should direct. I went two nights in succession, and after that refused to patrol at all. The reason why I refused was this, orders were given to search every negro house for books or prints of any kind, and Bibles and Hymn books were particularly mentioned. And should we find any, our orders were to inflict punishment by whipping the slave until he informed who gave them to him, or how they came by them."

Later in his testimony, White provided a view of the results of the searches:
"At the time of the rumored insurrection above named, the Chatham jail was filled with slaves who were said to be confined in the plot. Without the least evidence of it they were punished in divers [sic] ways; some were whipped, some had their thumbs screwed in a vice to make them confess, but no proof satisfactory was ever obtained that the negroes had ever thought of an insurrection, nor did any so far as I could learn, acknowledge that an insurrection has ever been projected. From this time forth, the slaves were prohibited from assembling together for the worship of God, and many of those who had previously been authorized to preach the Gospel were prohibited."    

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.