J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Mystery of the Girls in the Tintypes

Civil War soldiers lost many personal belongings while they were on the march or engaged in battle. Remnants are still turning up at old campsites and battlefields, such as buttons, belt buckles, horses’ bits, coins, and weaponry. Most are decayed and rusty, but occasionally, something turns up that someone has preserved or saved for further investigation.

Such is the case of the mysterious tintype photos. Tintypes were inexpensive photographs used during that time period. Because photography was in its infancy, everyone wanted to have their likeness duplicated so that it could be passed down to generations. Photographers such as Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner made names for themselves as wartime photographers. After the Battle of Gettysburg, one photograph turned up of three small children, and after much publicity, the widow of the soldier who was killed carrying the picture was found. The money raised helped to bring about Orphan’s Homes.

Now the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia is trying to trace the descendants of two girls who appear in separate photos. The museum is also releasing six other photographs. This is a fascinating project, and it would be amazing if some of the children’s descendants were found. For more information, check out:

http://news.yahoo.com/civil-war-photos-help-sought-solve-old-mystery-092732336.html

 
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The Case of the One-Armed Soldier

It is no mystery that thousands of men lost appendages during Civil War battles. One of the many horrors of that war was the arms and legs that were amputated to prevent gangrene from setting in. Old photographs show some of the gruesome piles of body parts, and many veterans were photographed later with their arms or legs missing.

One of the most famous amputees was Union General Dan Sickles. After he lost his leg at Gettysburg, Sickles (who was a little sick in the head, if you ask me) insisted on keeping the limb, so he sent it to the U. S. Army Medical Museum (now the National Museum of Health and Medicine) in Washington, D. C., with his calling card, “Compliments of D. E. S”. For the rest of his life, Sickles frequently visited the leg.

Bones and remnants of long- lost warriors are constantly being found. The forearm of one of these soldiers was discovered by a local farmer after the Battle of Antietam. Nearly 150 years later, an anonymous donor gave it to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland. The right forearm appears muddy, and the skin and hand are still attached.

After the farmer discovered the arm, he kept it in a barrel of brine until he gave it to a local surgeon, who preserved it in embalming fluid. Eventually, the arm ended up at a private museum in Sharpsburg, and was displayed for years in a glass-topped pine case, with a placard that read, “Human arm found on the Antietam Battlefield.” The elbow joint appears undamaged, but the skin and tendons look to have been violently twisted.

Forensics experts are examining the limb to try and determine the nationality of the owner, as well as his diet and age. It is highly unlikely that they will ever discover who the arm actually belonged to, but who knows. The case could someday be solved.

Astounding Graffiti

Many Civil War sites are constantly battling encroachment. Progress dictates the destruction of numerous acres to make way for strip malls, parking lots, and God forbid, casinos (as is the never-ending debate taking place in Gettysburg). The Brandy Station Foundation is no exception.

The Battle of Brandy Station happened on June 9, 1863. It was the largest cavalry battle to take place on North American soil. The Brandy Station Foundation is constantly trying to procure additional land where this astounding battle took place. On Fleetwood Hill, houses have been built, and the land has been parceled off to private owners. However, with sufficient funding (and it’s a lot, let me assure you), the foundation is slowly obtaining more land to be designated for preservation.

On the tracks of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, which are still very much in use, stands an old structure now known as the Graffiti House. This two-story white clapboard building is believed to have originally been used for storage. Because Culpeper County changed hands 78 times over the course of the Civil War, the house was occupied by both Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

Much work has been done to the structure, which was literally falling over on its side. In the process, “graffiti” has been discovered underneath the old wallpaper and paint. Because the plaster is separating from the lathing which holds it in place, special preservationists have been called in to do restoration work. In the process, they have discovered signatures, drawings, and various testimonials, the most recent being a weather report stating “First Snow Nov. 9th, 1863.” It is nothing less than fascinating to see what these specialists will find next. One of the signatures belongs to none other than J. E. B. Stuart himself!

For more information, please visit:

http://www.brandystationfoundation.com/

Astounding Graffiti

Many Civil War sites are constantly battling encroachment. Progress dictates the destruction of numerous acres to make way for strip malls, parking lots, and God forbid, casinos (as is the never-ending debate taking place in Gettysburg). The Brandy Station Foundation is no exception.

The Battle of Brandy Station happened on June 9, 1863. It was the largest cavalry battle to take place on North American soil. The Brandy Station Foundation is constantly trying to procure additional land where this astounding battle took place. On Fleetwood Hill, houses have been built, and the land has been parceled off to private owners. However, with sufficient funding (and it’s a lot, let me assure you), the foundation is slowly obtaining more land to be designated for preservation.

On the tracks of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, which are still very much in use, stands an old structure now known as the Graffiti House. This two-story white clapboard building is believed to have originally been used for storage. Because Culpeper County changed hands 78 times over the course of the Civil War, the house was occupied by both Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

Much work has been done to the structure, which was literally falling over on its side. In the process, “graffiti” has been discovered underneath the old wallpaper and paint. Because the plaster is separating from the lathing which holds it in place, special preservationists have been called in to do restoration work. In the process, they have discovered signatures, drawings, and various testimonials, the most recent being a weather report stating “First Snow Nov. 9th, 1863.” It is nothing less than fascinating to see what these specialists will find next. One of the signatures belongs to none other than J. E. B. Stuart himself!

For more information, please visit:

http://www.brandystationfoundation.com/

Mississippi State SCV Convention

 

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Last weekend, the annual Sons of Confederate Veterans Mississippi State Convention was held in Brandon (near the state capital of Jackson).

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The event was attended by several hundred members. A Civil War Relic Show was held in conjunction with the event. I had the opportunity to sell numerous copies of my books, including my new novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie.

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Despite heavy rain at times, many people came out in high spirits. Thank you, Mr. Tim Cupit, for organizing such a wonderful event.

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Saved By the Cavalry!

This weekend marks anniversaries of two very significant cavalry battles that took place during the Civil War. Saturday will be 149th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia. It was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil, and yet, it is obscure in that most people have never heard of it. The battle was a confrontation between Confederate cavalry commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart, and Union cavalry under General David Gregg. It was considered a Confederate victory, even though it was more like a draw, and the Rebels were taken by surprise, which nearly cost them the battle. For more information, please read my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

On the battlefield is a fascinating piece of history that was nearly lost. The Graffiti House stands near the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. After years of neglect, the building was almost demolished, but in 1993, a discovery was made. Under layers of paint, signatures of both Union and Confederate soldiers, along with drawings they made, were written in charcoal on the walls, one of which was by General Stuart himself. Since that time, the structure has become part of the Brandy Station Foundation, and is in the process of being restored.

Another significant event, which took place on June 10, 1864, was the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in Lee County, Mississippi. Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s 4,787 cavalrymen confronted the 8,100 troopers of Union General Samuel D. Sturgis. Despite the odds, Forrest came out victorious. It is a remarkable example of how his genius prevailed by the use of better military tactics, mastery of the terrain, and aggressive use of offensive action. 

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