Saturday, May 19, 2012

SCV Grave Marker Dedication

Dedication Program
On Saturday, April 14, 2012 the Sons of Confederate Veterans St. Johns Rangers Camp 1360 and the United Daughters of the Confederacy Stonewall Jackson Chapter 1981 presented a headstone dedication and Confederate Memorial Day Service.

What started out as an overcast day cleared nicely as approximately 75 people attended a service at Oakdale Cemetery in DeLand, FL. Being honored was Private John Anderson Bradley, Jr. 2nd South Carolina Cavalry Co. A.

Private Bradley was born on October 29, 1842 in Chester Co. South Carolina. He came from good stock his grandfather having been a general in the War of 1812 and also Lt. Governor of South Carolina. His father was an elected sheriff and also served as state representative.

John attended the Citadel before he enlisted in the Confederate army at Richmond, VA in June 1861 serving in Co. A 2nd South Carolina Cavalry. He served until the unit was disbanded in April 1865. His service record shows him having been admitted to Jackson Hospital in Richmond during March 1864 having pneumonia. He returned to duty before months end. In August of 1864 he was granted a 20 day furlough and was reported absent. Despite several letters in his service file requesting a promotion Bradley ended the war as a private.

During the war the 2nd South Carolina cavalry fought at Second Manassas, South Mountain, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Brandy Station, Second Winchester, Gettyburg, Bristoe, Mine Run, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and other locations.

After the war John studied law and moved to Florida in search of better career prospects. After having lived in Enterprise the family settled in DeLand in 1888 where John served as a justice of the peace and also deputy clerk of the court. He and his wife Mary Lucinda Davis were the parents of eight children with four of them attending the local Stetson University.

In 1905 the state of Florida awarded Bradley a pension of $120 per year for his service to the Confederate army. His pension application contains reference to a hip injury that prevented him from working (that and the fact that he was 63 years old). The doctor put forth that this injury was the result of exposure during his time in the service. Also included in his pension application are transcripts of letters from General Wade Hampton: "...It gives me pleasure to state that he was a true and gallant soldier." Also included are transcripts from General M.C. Butler: "...was a faithful and gallant soldier in the Confederate states army...was a worthy comrade of the men in this splendid Brigade." Bradley's wife continued to receive his pension after his death in December 1910.

The new headstone that was dedicated on
April 14, 2012.

Several SCV leaders and speakers from the event
including Commander of Camp 1360 Byron Peavy,
Robert Meeks, and 3rd Lt Commander Don Young.

Descendants of Private Bradley including granddaughter
Sharon Malloy and great great granddaughter
Marissa Stanley on their way to place flowers on their
ancestor's grave.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Shiloh, 1862 Press Release and Book Giveaway!

I recently received this press release from the National Geographic Society regarding the new release Shiloh, 1862 from author Winston Groom. They were kind enough to send along a review copy as well. In addition they are offering readers of my blog an opportunity to receive a free copy of the book. They are willing to provide up to three (3) readers a complimentary copy. Just be one of the first three to reply to the post. I will confirm you are a winner and ask you to email me your address (my email is under the book review policy information). I will send your mailing address along to my contact who will have a copy of the book sent to you. No obligation. If you would like to post a guest review on my blog I would love to have it.

As always thanks to my readers and thanks to Mark at EMG Promotions for making this giveaway happen!

SHILOH, 1862
The First ‘Great and Terrible’ Battle of the Civil War

WASHINGTON (Feb. X, 2012)—The Civil War saw some of the most bitter battles fought by American soldiers. According to Winston Groom, distinguished Civil War historian and author of the best-selling “Forrest Gump,” one battle set the stage for those to come. In his new book SHILOH, 1862 (National Geographic Books; ISBN 978-1-4262-0874-4; on-sale date: March 20, 2012; $30 hardcover), Groom gives a masterful account of the Battle of Shiloh, fought by 100,000 soldiers in the wilderness of southern Tennessee, which marked a violent crossroads in the Civil War.
The Battle of Shiloh began on April 6, 1862, when Confederate troops led by Albert Sidney Johnston launched a bold, surprise attack on a Union stronghold under the leadership of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to gain control of the Mississippi River Valley. With improved weaponry, a decades-long buildup of hatred, and many untrained soldiers who had never fought in war before, the battle turned into a shocking tragedy for both sides. “It was so bloody and destructive that in many cases soldiers writing home could simply not find words to describe it,” writes Groom. In a single day, more casualties resulted in Shiloh than all previous wars combined, including the American Revolution. After two days of combat, Grant was able to bring his Union troops to a victory, but nearly 24,000 soldiers had lost their lives, and the American people knew the war they thought was ending was only beginning.
In SHILOH, 1862 Groom deftly crafts a dramatic narrative of the battle from beginning to end. Key characters are highlighted as he places their personal history in the context of the battle. Stories are woven together from a number of memoirs and diaries, including 9-year-old Elsie Duncan’s, whose home became a safe house for soldiers. Personal accounts from famed journalist Henry Morton Stanley and author Ambrose Bierce are also included, providing a thorough look at the battle through a variety of perspectives.

Groom’s ability to bring context and meaning to this important battle 150 years later is evident throughout the book. Each epic moment is thoroughly detailed, giving readers an in-depth look into two days of chaos, disorder and bloodletting. Historian Otto Eisenschiml, an early chronicler of the battle, said even though “Gettysburg was bigger; Vicksburg was more decisive, Antietam even more bloody,” Shiloh was “the most dramatic battle fought on American soil.”
            “For those who endured it, Shiloh was more than a dream; it was a living nightmare that no one could forget. The sheer magnitude of the butchery staggered the imagination. In one sense, the battle had settled nothing except to keep the coffin makers busy,” writes Groom. “But the significance of Shiloh was not so much that the Rebel army failed to subdue Grant, or that Grant resisted it, than it was to impress on the nation — both nations — that there was never going to be some neat and exquisite military maneuver that would end the war — or even come close to ending the war.”

            With its comprehensive maps, photographs and epic storytelling that highlights the major personalities, politics and mind-set of the day, SHILOH, 1862 is a compelling look at a battle that changed the course of the Civil War and American history.

About the Author

Winston Groom is the author of 15 previous books, including “Vicksburg, 1863”; “Forrest Gump”; which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary; and (with Duncan Spencer) “Conversations with the Enemy,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In 2011, Groom received the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he lives in Point Clear, Ala., with his wife and daughter.

For more information on Shiloh 1862:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Contest Time--Win a Free Copy of America's Great Debate

My good friends at Simon and Schuster are offering  readers a chance to win a free copy of the new book by Fergus Bordewich, America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union.

Now for the good stuff: How do you win? Place a comment on the blog with why you would like to read the book. It's as simple as that. I will choose a winner and get back to you. You provide me with your shipping address (street address only) and Simon and Schuster will send you the book.

Please see some review excerpts and comments below. Comments are copied from the Simon and Schuster website.

“Long before the crisis of 1860 there was the crisis of 1850. With page-turning narrative skill, Fergus Bordewich re-imagines this threat to the Union not only in terms of Northerners and Southerners, slavery advocates and freedom champions, but as a rite of passage between the old lions of the Senate and Young America--a transformation that would at least postpone secession and civil war. Few writers have ever brought this neglected moment to life more vividly.” -- Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln: President-Elect 

"[A] vivid, insightful history of the bitter controversy that led to the Compromise of 1850 . . . Political history is often a hard slog, but not in Bordewich's gripping, vigorous account featuring a large cast of unforgettable characters with fierce beliefs."-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A peerless narrative of one of the most momentous--and ambiguous--episodes in American history: the compromise that both saved the Union and, ultimately, destroyed it.”-- Adam Goodheart, author of 1861: The Civil War Awakening
"Today's political differences pale in significance when compared with those that confronted Congress in the mid-19th century. What was at stake--as Fergus Bordewich reminds us in his stimulating, richly informed America's Great Debate--was nothing less than the survival of the nation."-- David S. Reynolds, The Wall Street Journal
“Anyone whose eyes have glazed over at the numbing details of the Compromise of 1850 should read this compelling narrative of that famous event. Focusing on the colorful personalities who fought out the issue of slavery on the floor of the Senate in 1850, Fergus Bordewich shows how they forged a settlement that avoided war but laid the groundwork for the Civil War that came a decade later.” -- James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book Review--The Richmond Theater Fire

Baker, Meredith Henne. The Richmond Theater Fire: Early America's First Great Disaster. LSU Press, Baton Rogue, LA. 2012. 317 pages, 241 pages of text, index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9780807143742, $39.95.

As the year 1811 drew to a close many unusual events took place. An annular eclipse happened, a massive earthquake shook the New Madrid fault line, and war with Great Britain seemed a certainty. Author Meredith Henne Baker points out though that with the Christmas season upon them Virginians were able to look past the uncertain and partake of the social season which increased the population of Richmond.

A popular form of entertainment was the theater and so on December 26 approximately 650 patrons of all social classes crowded a Richmond theater to see the main event of the night Raymond and Agnes: or, the Bleeding Nun, a popular pantomime written by Matthew Gregory Lewis. Here in a cramped theater, with little attention paid to building safety, more than 70 theater goers would lose their lives as a candle on a chandelier set hemp backdrops on fire. A fire that would quickly engulf the building and change the course of Richmond history for the foreseeable future.

With expert skill and story telling ability author Meredith Henne Baker takes us on a tour of early Richmond and the theater setting. As you are reading you almost feel like you are in the cramped areas looking for a way out whether by an inward opening door or through a window and the resulting long drop to the ground all the while the flames are nipping at your heels or taking the staircase out from under your feet. If you are lucky enough to not be on the staircase you still might meet your death by being trampled or breathing the hot carbon monoxide fumes.

The day after the fire the city began the long road to healing. Members of all social status had perished from young children all the way to the governor of Virginia, George William Smith. On December 27 several committees were formed; burial, census (to determine the number of dead), collections (to build a monument), and an investigative committee. The theater company was eventually cleared of wrong doing and on December 29 a funeral was held at the theater site.

Many organized religions of the day were already vocally against the theater as a whole, considering it to be wasted time, against the virtue of thrift, a lead into temptation including prostitution (many times theaters were used as a meeting place), and the lives of actors and actresses were many times immoral. Preachers claimed the fire to be a sign from God that the United States should repent for it's ways including the embrace of slavery and a failure to take care of it's soldiers.

Monumental Church. Taken from
 the archives of Historic
Richmond Foundation.
(photo by Richard C. Cheek)
With difficulty in raising the needed funds the monument committee eventually merged with a church group and Robert Mills was chosen to build what became known as Monumental Church, eventually becoming an Episcopal church. The seeming merger and splitting of the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches is well covered as is a controversy in the design competition.

Baker traces the growth in religion in Richmond and discusses the four major religious branches practiced there: Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian. Each is given considerable treatment of their beliefs and how the church grew and prospered after, and in many cases because of, the tragic fire. The major figures of each branch are discussed as well. Also covered are how the new views toward religion affected women and African Americans.

Richmond Theater in 1858
As would be expected, time moved on and a new theater was eventually built, opening in 1819 despite calls that it was disrespectful to those who had perished in the fire. With all organized religion firmly against it, the new theater struggled at the beginning, attracting only inferior acting companies. The theater stayed open however and the building received major upgrades in 1837-38 and by the 1850's Richmond was considered the entertainment capital of the upper south. A young actor by the name of John Wilkes Booth performed there in 1858-59. In 1862 the Marshall Theater burned to the ground only to be rebuilt using smuggled materials. No longer seen as a reminder of the dead the theater was an escape from the horrors of the Civil War. The rebuilt theater was eventually closed for good in 1895.

Don't be fooled by this being a university press title. While the scholarship and research are there (over 40 pages of notes and a 17 page bibliography loaded with primary sources) this is a highly readable work. I would rank it alongside Norman MacLean's classic Young Men and Fire as a must read for those interested in books dealing with fire disasters, though they are two completely different books. This is highly recommended for those interested in early Richmond or Virginia history, early American religious growth, disaster literature, or anybody who likes good solid non-fiction.

The Richmond Theater Fire is the 2012 winner of the Jules and Frances Landry Award as awarded by LSU Press for the most outstanding achievement in the field of southern studies.

*Thank you to LSU Press for providing a complimentary review copy.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Civil War shipwreck in the way of Ga. port project

By RUSS BYNUM | Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Before government engineers can deepen one of the nation's busiest seaports to accommodate future trade, they first need to remove a $14 million obstacle from the past — a Confederate warship rotting on the Savannah River bottom for nearly 150 years.

Confederate troops scuttled the ironclad CSS Georgia to prevent its capture by Gen. William T. Sherman when his Union troops took Savannah in December 1864. It's been on the river bottom ever since.

Now, the Civil War shipwreck sits in the way of a government agency's $653 million plan to deepen the waterway that links the nation's fourth-busiest container port to the Atlantic Ocean. The ship's remains are considered so historically significant that dredging the river is prohibited within 50 feet of the wreckage.

So the Army Corps of Engineers plans to raise and preserve what's left of the CSS Georgia. The agency's final report on the project last month estimated the cost to taxpayers at $14 million. The work could start next year on what's sure to be a painstaking effort.

And leaving the shipwreck in place is not an option: Officials say the harbor must be deepened to accommodate supersize cargo ships coming through an expanded Panama Canal in 2014 — ships that will bring valuable revenue to the state and would otherwise go to other ports.

Underwater surveys show two large chunks of the ship's iron-armored siding have survived, the largest being 68 feet long and 24 feet tall. Raising them intact will be a priority. Researchers also spotted three cannons on the riverbed, an intact propeller and other pieces of the warship's steam engines. And there's smaller debris scattered across the site that could yield unexpected treasures, requiring careful sifting beneath 40 feet of water.

"We don't really have an idea of what's in the debris field," said Julie Morgan, a government archaeologist with the Army Corps. "There could be some personal items. People left the ship in a big hurry. Who's to say what was on board when the Georgia went down."

Also likely to slow the job: finding and gently removing cannonballs and other explosive projectiles that, according to Army Corps experts, could still potentially detonate.

That's a massive effort for a warship that went down in Civil War history as an ironclad flop.

The Civil War ushered in the era of armored warships. In Savannah, a Ladies Gunboat Association raised $115,000 to build such a ship to protect the city. The 120-foot-long CSS Georgia had armor forged from railroad iron, but its engines proved too weak to propel the ship's 1,200-ton frame against river currents. The ship was anchored on the riverside at Fort Jackson as a floating gun battery.

Ultimately the Georgia was scuttled by its own crew without having ever fired a shot in combat.

"I would say it was an utter failure," said Ken Johnston, executive director of the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Ga., who says the shipwreck nonetheless has great historical value. "It has very clearly become a symbol for why things went wrong for the Confederate naval effort."

As a homespun war machine assembled by workers who likely had never built a ship before, the CSS Georgia represents the South's lack of an industrial base, Johnston said. The North, by contrast, was teeming with both factories and laborers skilled at shipbuilding. They churned out a superior naval fleet that enabled the Union to successfully cut off waterways used to supply Confederate forces.

Despite its functional failures, the shipwreck's historical significance was cemented in 1987 when it won a place on the National Register of Historic Places, the official listing of treasured sites and buildings from America's past. That gave the Georgia a measure of protection — dredging near the shipwreck was prohibited.

Still, a great deal of damage had already been done. The last detailed survey of the ship in 2003 found it in pieces and its hull apparently disintegrated. Erosion had taken a large toll, and telltale marks showed dredging machinery had already chewed into the wreckage.

Salvaging the remains will likely move slowly.

Divers will need to divide the site into a grid to search for artifacts and record the locations of what they find. The large sections or armored siding will likely need to be cradled gently by a web of metal beams to raise them to the surface intact, said Gordon Watts, an underwater archaeologist who helped lead the 2003 survey of the shipwreck.

The Army Corps' report also notes special care will be needed find and dispose of any cannonballs and other explosive projectiles remaining on the riverbed.

"If there is black powder that's 150 years old, and if it is dry, then the stability of it has deteriorated," Watts said. "You'd want to be as careful as humanly possible in recovering the stuff."

Once the remains of the Georgia are removed from the river and preserved by experts, the Army Corps will have to decide who gets the spoils. Morgan said ultimately the plan is to put the warship's artifacts on public display. But which museum or agency will get custody of them has yet to be determined.

Right now the Confederate shipwreck legally belongs to the U.S. Navy. More than 150 years after the Civil War began, the CSS Georgia is still officially classified as a captured enemy vessel.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' CSS Georgia page,

This undated artwork provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows the CSS Georgia, a Confederate warship that sank in the Savannah River nearly 148 years ago in Savannah, Ga. The Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend $14 million to raise and preserve the sunken Confederate ironclad to make room for deepening Savannah’s harbor. (AP Photo/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)