J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Civil War Trust”

The Haunting of the Perryville Battlefield

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Most people wouldn’t think of Perryville, Kentucky as being one of the most haunted places in the country. But on October 8, 1862, a terrible tragedy took place there that forever left an imprint on the land. Union and Confederate troops clashed for several hours, leaving approximately 7,600 young soldiers either, wounded, dead, or missing. The nearby Chaplin River ran red with blood from the fallen. The battle decided the fate of the state, and although the battle was a tactical victory for the Confederates, the Union army received enough reinforcements to force Confederate General Braxton Bragg back into Tennessee. His army would never again enter Kentucky. Because of this, the Federals had the opportunity to properly bury their dead. The Confederates, however, were unceremoniously thrown into mass graves and haphazardly left in unmarked plots on the battlefield.

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(Photo courtesy of Steve Stanely)

It isn’t surprising, then, that countless visitors to the battlefield have witnesses ghostly figures wandering the grassy fields, sometimes in broad daylight. Many reported seeing full-bodied apparitions marching across the fields, and have heard the deep percussion of heavy artillery and cannon fire echoing across the rolling hills. Disembodied voices have been captured on audio, responding to questions with intelligent responses that were indicative of 1862.

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Not only is the battlefield haunted, but so is the nearby Dye House, which served as a makeshift hospital after the battle. The structure witnessed hundreds of emergency surgeries, amputations, and painful, gruesome deaths. So much blood was spilled on the floors that, to this day, has been impossible to remove.  People have heard footsteps descend the stairs, and doors open and close by themselves. Recordings have been made where ghostly voices claim to be Civil War doctors.

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Joni House, the park’s preservation and program coordinator, has also witnessed strange occurrences. “I’m in my office and I hear people talking to me and nobody else is in the building. Or I come in here and see things that have happened in the museum. There’s no real explanation for why a mannequin’s head has been pulled off and is now in the middle of the floor.”

(The Perryville Battlefield was one of the Civil War Trust’s 10 most endangered battlefields in 2008.)

Stay tuned: on Halloween – It isn’t a battlefield but it’s still very scary.

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The Impact of Progress

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I find it very disheartening when I learn about another Civil War battlefield that has been lost to history due to urban sprawl. The first time I saw this was when I visited the Battle of the Wilderness area in Virginia. Housing developments had been built on the battlefield, not far from where trenches were dug and are still visible today. To me these areas are sacred and should be cherished.

On July 20, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood attacked a portion of Union General William T. Sherman’s army outside of Atlanta, Georgia, on the banks of Peach Tree Creek. Sadly, all that remains now is a sign marking the spot. The battle was one of the bloodiest during the Atlanta Campaign, with 4,250 soldiers being killed, wounded, or captured. And yet, nothing is left to remind us of the terrible struggle that took place there. It’s easy to forget about the sacrifices these men made when there is no reminder other than a few markers.

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On July 22, 1864, Union General James B. McPherson learned that his old West Point roommate, General John Bell Hood, was ready to strike. Skirmishers shot and killed McPherson. General Sherman wept when he saw McPherson’s body. The Federals rallied, crying, “Remember McPherson!” They staved off each Confederate assault until the Battle of Atlanta was finally over. It was the bloodiest battle of the Atlanta campaign. Again, there is no reminder of the terrible battle, since the field is now covered with gas stations, highways, and developments. The battlefield, like the one at Peach Tree Creek, is completely destroyed. The only reminder of McPherson’s death, an upturned cannon in a residential neighborhood, is basically forgotten. I think it is tragic that these men, who gave their lives for future generations, don’t receive a better legacy than this.

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Another example is Fleetwood Hill near Brandy Station, Virginia. The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil. Years after the battle, however, homes were built on the sacred field. Fortunately, the Civil War Trust managed to buy back Fleetwood Hill, and is now in the process of restoring it to its original condition prior to the battle. (You can read more about this battle in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.)

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I consider all Civil War battlefields to be hallowed ground, and I only hope that what remains will be preserved. It seems every other aspect of the Confederacy is under attack, and it would be a shame and an insult to our children if we did not preserve these places.

The Civil War Trust is now in the process of saving over five hundred acres at four different Western Theatre battlefields: Shiloh, Stones River, Rocky Face Ridge, and Bentonville. For more information, check out http://www.civilwar.org/?referrer=https://www.google.com/.

https://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469570084&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

Update on Lee’s Headquarters

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I recently blogged about the Civil War Trust’s efforts to restore the Widow Thompson House, where General Robert E. Lee had his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. The CWT’s goal is to restore the house to its appearance in 1863. The Civil War Trust also intends to restore the surrounding landscape and install an interpretive trail.

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(Photo of the Widow Thompson’s House on Chamberlain Pike taken circa 1861 – 1865.)

The stone house, built in the 1830’s, was owned by Thaddeus Stephens, the Radical Republican Pennsylvania congressman who played an important role in Civil War financing and the anti-slavery movement. The house was leased to Mary Thompson who, in 1863, was a widow living in the house with her eight children. The property surrounding the house played a pivotal role during the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Located on Seminary Ridge, the house was first in the center of the Union line of defense and then became a key position for the Confederates. Lee’s army pushed out the Yankees, and the Confederate general quickly took control of the house as his headquarters. For the next three days, the house served as a hospital, fortress, and nerve center for the Confederate army.

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In the 1890’s, the house was left out of the National Military Park and fell into private hands. The site became a popular attraction. Campgrounds, cottages, and a museum popped up around the house. In the 1960’s, Larson’s Motel (later Quality Inn) and a large restaurant surrounded the house.

Two years ago, the Civil War Trust announced plans to purchase and restore the property, as well as four acres surrounding the house, at a cost of $6 million. After receiving donations, the property was purchased last year. This year, restoration to the property’s 1863 appearance began with the demolition of the restaurant and motel. This first phase will be completed this month.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/quality-inn-at-general-lees-headquarters-gettysburg

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/preservation/gettysburg-lees-headquarters.html?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=51116

 

A Battlefield Victory

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It’s always amazing when something like this happens. A few days ago, I received an email from the Civil War Trust, stating that they had secured 10 acres of the battlefield at Brandy Station. The area is known as Fleetwood Hill, where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart had his headquarters before the surprise battle took place.

The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to take place on North American soil. It happened on June 9, 1863, following  a Grand Review by Stuart’s troops. Union General Gregg saw the dust that was stirred up and surprised the Confederates early the following morning. The Rebels managed to reign the day and fulfill their mission, which was to mask General Robert E. Lee’s infantry as they made their way north. Brandy Station was a prelude to the Battle of Gettysburg.

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Last year, the CWT secured 56 acres of the battlefield. This is significant, because housing developments had been encroaching on the area for years. It doesn’t make sense how this could have been allowed to happen, since it is hallowed ground in my opinion, but it isn’t the only Civil War battlefield that has been neglected or destroyed. The CWT has now secured over 1,900 acres at Brandy Station.

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Other significant battlefields that the CWT has been working on include Antietam and Gettysburg. A few years ago, I visited the Wilderness Battlefield, and was appalled to see how many houses were built on the hallowed site. Hopefully, the CWT can secure more land in that area as well.

Read more about the Battle of Brandy Station in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462942766&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

A Bright Spot in the Dark

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With all the negativity that has been cast toward the Confederacy, there are still a few things that have happened recently. They disregard the nasty notion that the South was evil and fought to defend slavery.

One positive is that the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a preliminary injunction preventing the city of New Orleans to move ahead with removing four Confederate monuments. The injunction will remain in place while the case is being appealed.

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3509449/Removal-Confederate-symbols-turns-nasty-New-Orleans.html

Another advancement is the updating being done in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; specifically, General Lee’s headquarters. The Civil War Trust has begun a renewal project, and has started demolition of the hotel and restaurant that were built onto the historical building way back when. The Mary Thompson House will be restored to look like how it appeared in 1863.

My book, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes in detail the cavalry battle that took place outside of Gettysburg.

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You can purchase it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459277699&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

For more information regarding the renovation of Lee’s headquarters, check out:

http://www.civilwar.org/education/war-department/lees-headquarters-update.html?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=Marchupdate2

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/gettysburg-history-articles/ten-facts-about-lees.html?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=Marchupdate2

The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

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The ugly – It was decided last week by the mayor of New Orleans that three Confederate statues will be taken down. The statues in question are of General Robert E. Lee, General P.G.T. Beauregard, and President Jefferson Davis. They have been in place for nearly 130 years, but now, all of a sudden, they are considered inappropriate. This is just another example of politicians caving to the pressure of political correctness, and in this case, I think it has definitely gone too far.

The bad – The state of Mississippi is under fire for having the Confederate battle flag included in the banner, but citizens are fighting back. On Tuesday, January 19, a rally will be held at the Capitol in Jackson. The event is scheduled to take place from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Even though the people voted to keep their flag, it has recently become an issue again, because the state flag contains the Confederate battle flag in its emblem. I hope the Sons of Confederate Veterans are successful in obtaining enough signatures to petition keeping the flag as it is.

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The good – Another small victory came when the Northeast Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas decided to keep the name of Robert E. Lee High School. Erasing history is an ongoing battle that doesn’t show signs of letting up. Using racism as an excuse for getting rid of all things Confederate is, well, inexcusable.

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In another note, the Civil War Trust sent me a link to this awesome addition to their animated map collection: the entire story of the Civil War in 27 minutes. This is amazing so check it out:

http://www.civilwar.org/maps/animated-maps/civil-war-animated-map/

Hallowed Ground Retained

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Recently, two separate Civil War battlefields received more protected ground due to the efforts of the Civil War Trust. One is the area known as Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station, Virginia. During the course of the war, Brandy Station changed hands several times between Union and Confederate troops. It is also the site of the largest cavalry battle to ever happen in North America. This battle took place on June 9, 1863. Prior to the preservation, Fleetwood Hill was privately owned, and houses were built on it. But now, this 56-acre hill crest has been converted back to its original state, and appears the way it did 150 years ago.

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The second battlefield to attain protection is a plot of land known as the North Woods Tract at Antietam National Military Park. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) took place on September 17, 1862. Although the battle was a draw, President Lincoln declared it a Union victory, and used it as a catapult to launch his Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of battle that this country has ever seen. The Civil War Trust raised $300,000 in 45 days to acquire 1.2 acres of the North Woods Tract.

These two victories are part of an ongoing process. Sadly, many battlefields and significant places are being destroyed. The Civil War Trust strives to preserve these national treasures. For more information, visit civilwar.org.

http://www.civilwar.org/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=NorthWoods2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cwpt/sets/72157660370326701

The Fight to Reclaim America’s Battlefields

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150 years ago on November 30, 1864 — Union and Confederate soldiers fought their way across a Tennessee field in Franklin just as reenactors do today. But it was no spectator sport that day. A crippling defeat for the Confederacy; the Battle of Franklin came to be known as “Bloody Franklin.”

The casualties on both sides added up to almost 10,000. Nearly 1,500 of the Confederate dead are buried nearby in the McGavock Family Cemetery at Carnton Plantation.

“When you look today at the battlefield, what do you see? I see Targets and Hardee’s and businesses,” said bestselling author Robert Hicks. “We can over this next decade undo some of that.”

In 2005, if you stood in the cemetery and looked over the fence to where hundreds of the soldiers died, you saw a golf course.

“Hopefully, the day will come that it will be back to what it was,” said Hicks.

The golf course is a park now, and Franklin has become the poster child for something almost unheard of: a major victory in the war to reclaim Civil War battlefields.

“If we’d failed on the golf course, then we would never have gone on,” said Hicks.

“Parts of them disappear every day,” said James Lighthizer who heads the Civil War Trust, which raises money to save endangered properties. “We guesstimate at about 30-40 acres a day because of development, so it’s going pretty fast.”

Gettysburg, site of the bloodiest battle ever on American soil, became a National Military Park in 1895. But significant landmarks were left out, including Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters.Today, a motel stands next to Lee’s headquarters.

“It’s a sacrilege,” said Lighthizer. “I mean, it’s a destruction of a part of American history.”

For $120 a night, you can actually stay upstairs — that is, for a while longer. The Civil War Trust is raising $5.5 million to buy and restore the property and tear down the motel next door.

“When it comes to preserving land, it’s really all about money,” said Lighthizer. “There’s nothing else to it. Good intentions are just that — they get you nowhere.”

According to the Civil War Trust, 42 percent of the principal battlefields have been lost, or close to it —  casualties to development. The fights are not always black-and-white, and good guys against bad guys.

Last November, Franklin, Tennessee came one demolition closer to reclaiming another big piece of its battlefield. A decade ago, it had been written off as lost. But then Franklin had a change of heart – thanks in part to Robert Hicks and lawyer Julian Bibb.

“The battlefield, which had been looked at as forgotten or, ‘Gosh, it’s gonna be way too expensive to do what you all are trying to do,’ that took the convincing,” said Bibb. “And once that began to happen, it completely changed the support we were recognizing politically, locally and statewide.”

“This year we will probably have over 100,000 people come to Franklin [as] heritage tourists,” said Hicks.

The worst part of the fighting was around the site of the Carter House (now a museum) and a Pizza Hut when we first came to Franklin in 2005. Since then, It’s been “now you see it, now you don’t” — one property after another gone. Just like Dominoes, which will be going away in January. All to make way for a 20-acre park on the reclaimed land. The price tag: $14 million. So far, from private donations, the Civil War Trust, and the city, state and federal governments.

“This is hallowed ground” said Hicks. “I don’t know how to say it any other way. Something holy happened here.”

Who knew that people would still be fighting the Battle of Franklin today, 150 years after the fact? The front lines then . . . are the front lines now.

(Courtesy of General William Barksdale Camp 1220 Sons of Confederate Veterans, Columbus, Mississippi, January, 2015)

More Advancement for Brandy Station

Recently, The Civil War Trust, which is America’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, secured a contract with a property owner to obtain 61 acres of Fleetwood Hill. The hill is a significant part of the Brandy Station Battlefield which, on June 9, 1863, became the site of the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil.

The CWT plans to eventually preserve the entire battlefield site. So far, its efforts have secured 1,800 acres of Brandy Station – more land than at any other battlefield in the country. Right now, houses dot the landscape of what was once a pre-Gettysburg contest between Confederate Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s troopers and Union Major General Alfred Pleasonton’s men.  Approximately 20,000 troopers fought it out, and about 1,000 died, were wounded or went missing. Right now, the main goal is to raise the $3.6 million required to secure the land.

During the Civil War, Culpeper County, Virginia changed hands 78 times. The Battle of Brandy Station was a Confederate victory, but also a wake up call for Stuart and his men, who had considered themselves invincible up until that point. After being surprised and nearly overtaken, the Confederates marched on into Pennsylvania, arriving at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. They were two days late, as the battle commenced on July 1. This year marks the 150th anniversary of both the Battle of Brandy Station and the Battle of Gettysburg. For more information, please visit:

www.brandystationfoundation.com

www.civilwar.org

Sacred Land For Sesquicentennial

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States, the Civil War Trust (CWT) recently announced that it is launching a national campaign to protect 20,000 acres of battlefields. This grand endeavor is planned to take place over the next five years.

The project was announced at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg by CWT Chairman Henry Simpson. Called the “Campaign 150 Initiative,” other board members present to make the announcement included Gettysburg Military National Park Superintendent Robert Kirby, Pulitzer Prize winning author James McPherson, and new member, country singing star Trace Atkins.

The CWT has protected over 30,000 acres in 20 states. Because this year kicks off the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, the time is rife for the CWT to take advantage of public awareness and support by making a large-scale initiative to preserve battlefield land across the country.

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