Ulysses S. Grant in Georgetown, Ohio – The Indispensable Man’s Boyhood Home

By Daniel J. Ursu
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017, All Rights Reserved

If you believe, as I and many others do, that the Civil War would not have been won by the North but for U.S. Grant, then a visit to his boyhood home in our own State of Ohio at Georgetown, about ten miles north of the Ohio River and 40 miles east of Cincinnati, will be inspiring, informative and worthwhile.

I made the trip on March 11, 2017 in conjunction with renowned Civil War historian Ed Bearss’ presentation to the U.S. Grant Homestead Association “Grant in the Wilderness” in Georgetown’s historic Gaslight Theater. This venue has become virtually a Mr. Bearss annual pilgrimage to Georgetown this time of year.

Ulysses S. Grant in 1843

On a sunshiny but brisk winter day sans snow, the small town was certainly evocative of what it must have been like during Grant’s childhood. In his Memoirs Grant states “I was born on the 27th of April, 1822, at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio. In the fall of 1823 we moved to Georgetown, the county seat of Brown, the adjoining county east. This place remained my home until the age of seventeen, when in 1839, I went to West point.”

Smartly preserved, the two-story red brick home itself sits a few blocks from the town square at a slightly lower elevation relative to the square. It is open to the public. As told by Ulysses, his father Jesse R. Grant “carried on the manufacture of leather and worked at the trade himself” at the tannery, a stout, white structure that is now a private residence across the street, easily visible but not open to the public.

Ulysses S. Grant’s boyhood home in Georgetown, Ohio

Quite apparent from the visit: Ulysses himself did not enjoy tannery work at his father’s business. Paradoxically, scholars assert that his work at the family business created a lifelong aversion to bloodshed – ironic in light of his future role in command of Union Armies at many of the most violent battles of the Civil War. He was labeled by some of the press and other critics of the time as a “butcher.”

On view in Grant’s home are the original quarters and bedroom where the family slept, as well as a later addition in which Ulysses had his own bedroom. His father Jesse was in Grant’s words “from my earliest recollection, in comfortable circumstances, considering the times,” and the home is furnished and decorated with period objects reflective of that standing. A visitor can easily imagine sitting in one of the rooms in the early 1800s on the south side of the home and looking through windows at the scene of the tannery’s prosperous business activity unfolding across the street.

Two other themes of Grant’s early life stood out as part of visiting the home. First, U.S. Grant as a boy thoroughly enjoyed horses and became an expert equestrian – that being one of the only distinguishing features during a mostly lackluster academic career at West Point. In wartime, his personal mount figured prominently in at least two battles. At Belmont, Grant was courageously the last man at the end of an organized retreat as his troops evacuated down steep banks to the Mississippi River onto awaiting steamboats. Grant skillfully maneuvered his sliding horse bottom down on the bank and onto a single, narrow wooden plank – and then at a trot into the waiting vessel – all within firing range of Confederate General Polk and his troops. On another occasion, during an intense rainstorm at the start of the Battle of Shiloh, muddy footing unfortunately caused his mount to collapse and fall heavily on Grant’s foot. The injury necessitated that the General be on crutches for the remainder of the battle.

Second, young Grant also enjoyed the nearby Ohio River, escaping there for recreation whenever he could elude his duties at the tannery. He also must have observed the many commercial vessels using this all-important transportation artery of the time. I have been involved in many a discussion at our Roundtable on Grant’s prowess in amphibious operations and his strategic understanding of the use of rivers to his military advantage. This advanced level of skill was exceptional and unique for a non-naval military officer of the time. One cannot discount that his frequent boyhood trips to the Ohio River might well have subconsciously embedded this later war talent into his psyche.

Ulysses S. Grant (left) and Alexander Hays (right) in 1845 during their journey to Mexico to serve in the Mexican-American War

A statue of U.S. Grant proudly overlooks the town square where the North’s most important General and future 18th President must have passed on foot innumerable times. The statue is modest but impressive, much like the man himself.

Most of what can be seen in the Georgetown area related to U.S. Grant is nurtured by the previously mentioned U.S. Grant Homestead Association. The organization can be further explored online at www.usgrantboyhoodhome.org. If you visit Georgetown, check ahead as times vary when Grant’s home is open.


Related link:
U.S. Grant Boyhood Home Rededicated

Sources: (Click on any of the book links to purchase from Amazon. Part of the proceeds from any book purchased from Amazon through the CCWRT website is returned to the CCWRT to support its education and preservation programs.)

Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, Vol. I, Fort Sumter to Perryville, 1958; Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, New York, NY.

Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S .Grant & Selected Letters 1839-1865, 1990 edition; Library of America, New York, NY.

Wiley Sword, Shiloh: Bloody April, 1974, reprinted 1983; Morningside House, Inc., Dayton, OH.

The Lincoln Forum – 2010

By Mel Maurer
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2011, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The Lincoln Forum (www.thelincolnforum.org) is an organization that “endeavors to enhance the understanding and preserve the memory of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.” Founded in 1995, the Forum meets each year in Gettysburg, PA, on the anniversary of Lincoln’s address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Several members of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable are also members of the Lincoln Forum and attend its meeting each year. CCWRT past president and Lincoln Forum member Mel Maurer once again agreed to our request to provide a recap of this year’s event. (Read Mel’s reports on the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012 Forums.)


The 15th Annual Lincoln Forum Symposium was held November 16th through November 18th, as always, in Gettysburg, PA (and again this year at the Wyndham Hotel). The theme this year was: “The Coming of Civil War: Enter Lincoln, Exit the South” (year one of a five-year focus on the Civil War Sesquicentennial: 2010-2015.)

Attending with me this year from our Roundtable were Kirk Hinman, Gordon Doble, Betty Bauer and Maynard Bauer. (A conflict in scheduling kept Dick Crews from attending – meaning I had to ask even more questions than usual to make up for his absence. He was missed.)

The speakers this year (a mix of Forum veterans and newcomers) and the information they presented were especially good – not just my opinion but also others attending. Included with this article are the biographies of the speakers whose presentations I will be summarizing in this article. In these summaries I try to focus on what we may not have heard or read before, including little things I learn that help to round out history.

November 16th

Frank J. Williams

The Forum opened as is its tradition with cocktails and dinner. Forum Chairman, Frank J. Williams, welcomed attendees (between 250 and 300), and introduced Tina Grim to welcome us to Gettysburg. Tina is the Program Manager at the Gettysburg Civil War Institute. She told us of the events planned for that week in town in commemoration of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, including the annual talk on the 19th with Sam Donaldson this year as the speaker, Remembrance Day Weekend, several programs at Gettysburg College and the Majestic Theater.

She also said that author, Jeff Shaara, would be receiving an award over the weekend. (Maynard, Betty and I ran into Shaara at a store in town on Thursday where he was signing books. I talked to him a bit and he told me his last book in his WWI trilogy would be out next year. He was then going to start a new Civil War trilogy with the Battle of Shiloh. I expect that it will focus on Grant.)

Harold Holzer

Frank then introduced Harold Holzer, Lincoln scholar extraordinaire and keynote speaker at The Soldiers and Sailors Monument rededication this year, to deliver the first paper of the Forum: “The New York Times and the Silent President.” Harold, the author of Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 and the newly published – with Craig Symonds as co-editor – The New York Times: Complete Civil War, 1861-1865, knows this subject very well – and how to present it. (This talk was also recorded by C-SPAN and was first aired in January. If you saw it you saw the back of my head – my best side – as I ask a question.)

The 15th Annual Lincoln Forum, The Wyndham Hotel, Gettysburg, PA, November 16-18, 2010

After his election, Lincoln was known to have “said so little for so long” and for that matter, he didn’t have much to say on issues after he made his Cooper Union address. (After saying that Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, before 30,000 people was underappreciated, Harold threw in the fact that the “Lincoln Bible” used by Lincoln that day and later by President Obama was really the Supreme Court Chief Justice’s Bible – used when no other could be found.) The time between Lincoln’s election to the start of his presidency is sometimes called, “Secession Winter,” as various states led by South Carolina attempted to leave the Union.

During this time Lincoln felt that it was best to say nothing rather than to “encourage resistance.” He did not want to enter the ongoing debates on slavery. He maintained that he could say nothing that he had not already said and would not at this time be repetitive. Some have called this approach his “masterful inactivity.” He did not even approve of publishing his old speeches. Lincoln did have good input on the country’s affairs as they played out during this time and despite ever growing pressure for public declarations, he remained publicly quiet. The democrat papers were already misrepresenting his views and he had no intention of working towards any compromises – “would not pay a debt he did not owe.” One wag said that Lincoln only “opened his mouth to eat.”

In addition to not wanting to say or do anything that would further enflame discontent (“trying to keep feet out of wolf traps” – “Let Buchanan have his say”), Lincoln knew that he would not officially be president-elect until the Electoral College voted for him – there was some feeling that actions could be taken that would have thrown the election into the House where anything could have happened. He and Alexander Stephens – the soon to be vice president of the Confederacy – communicated during this period with Lincoln reassuring him that there was, “no cause for concern for the South. He was only for restriction and not elimination.”

Lincoln only began to open up after his election became official – privately he tells Congress – “No, orders it” – not to compromise or “we shall have to do this all over again,” telling Congress to hold firm as “if a chain of steel.” (Harold also added incidentally that “it’s myth” that Lincoln picked his cabinet on election night – the selection was actually a long, slow process.) Herndon described Lincoln as being “as firm as the Rocky Mountains.” There would be no secession and there would be no expansion of slavery. Lincoln then opened up publicly giving 101 speeches after February 11th – mostly on his way to his inauguration.

I asked Harold in the Q&A if the South would have tried to secede if anyone else but Lincoln had been elected. Harold agreed this question could be debated but felt that any northern person elected would have given them their excuse for secession.

November 17th

Edna Greene Medford

Our first speaker was Edna Greene Medford. Hearing her speak is like attending a class with a very good professor – which she is at Howard University. The title of her talk was: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Road to Freedom.” (Edna brought her whole class on the Civil War to the Forum – all three students, all ladies.)

Edna opened by reading an exciting, moving page from the book describing the enslaved Eliza’s escape from the South across a frozen river to freedom. (Edna, an African-American, also related how 29 of her ancestors had left the country for Canada in the 1850s). Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was published in 1852. With more than 500,000 copies sold the first year, it would help shape the nation’s and the world’s opinions on slavery.

Edna’s talk was not a book review but rather focused on the book’s impact during the 1850s as our country was “in decline towards disunion.” Its author was the daughter of a well-known preacher (Lyman Beecher) – she once lived in Cincinnati where she saw slavery escapes from Kentucky, but before the book had limited knowledge of slavery.

Although a novel, the book, in the words of Frederick Douglass, “aroused a sluggish nation on slavery,” and to some degree in the North, where there was no slavery but racial prejudice and segregation. Through its vividly drawn characters, the book humanized slaves for the masses as never before, creating great sympathy for their cause of freedom.

As the book became more and more popular, numerous attacks were made against it and its author. Harriet was criticized for stepping out of the “role of women – unsexing herself.” Southerners called the book “a gross misrepresentation of facts – wide of the truth.” “Uncle Tom is a lie,” they claimed and pointed to their books showing the happiness of slaves. Plays were created from the book, becoming very popular – extending the cause for freedom to new audiences. (The downside of some of these plays was the beginning of the caricature of some blacks that lived on for decades in popular culture. And much later, the name “Uncle Tom” was used negatively during the fight for Civil Rights.)

Europeans appreciated the book. Harriet received international honors including awards in Great Britain. America’s policy on slavery came under even greater attacks from abroad.

Edna in her conclusion said the book, of course, did not bring about the war but did during those times of change become an important element of what she called “a confluence of events that did lead to the war.”

We learned, in response to a question, that contrary to Civil War mythology, Lincoln probably never told Harriet, when they first met, that “She was the little lady who started the war.” Lincoln, in fact, said he never read the book. Holzer added that while that was true, Lincoln did read Harriet’s, “A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in which she defends the facts presented in her first book. Holzer also said that while Lincoln always claimed that he didn’t read novels, he actually did read them. (So much for “Honest” Abe on recreational reading.)

The question, “Did U.S. Grant own slaves?” was also asked – Edna deferred to John Marszalek for the answer. John said that Grant bought one slave and then later freed him and that he also inherited a slave that he also freed. Grant’s wife owned slaves from her father and Grant did not interfere with that ownership.

Gary Ecalbarger

Our second speaker was Gary Ecelbarger – his talk was entitled: “Lincoln’s Great Comeback.” Gary is a dynamic speaker – using no notes – he had us wondering whether or not Lincoln was actually going to get the nomination for president at the 1860 convention. (Some members may recall on our field trip to the Shenandoah Valley, when Maynard was president, that Gary led the tour of the Kernstown Battlefield.)

It would take 233 votes in the Republican Convention in 1860 to win the nomination for president. At that time it was the tradition that, “The office should seek you” and not you the office, so there was no overt campaigning by any of the candidates. Not that there wasn’t campaigning behind the scenes through various friends and associates. Gary reminded us that at this point in his career, Lincoln was a loser: he had lost two Senate races. He also had no national prominence – except as loser – and if nominated, the candidate would probably have to face Stephen Douglas, who Lincoln had lost to twice. Despite all of that, Lincoln told his friends in 1859 that he “wanted the presidency,” and a shadow campaign was initiated to get it.

Lincoln would then give 30 speeches in eight states throughout 1859 and then gave his seminal Cooper Union talk in February of 1860 – clearly stating who he was and what he stood for. Despite his work, Lincoln was not even listed as a candidate on the pamphlet for the convention. The first victory in his quest came when his supporters managed to have the convention held in Chicago (Lincoln’s home field), a supposedly neutral site.

The convention began on May 16 with balloting scheduled for the next day. Lincoln’s strategy was: 1) to give no offense, 2) to accumulate partial votes from states, 3) to get commitments for the second ballot, 4) to hold off Seward on the first ballot and get enough votes to come in second. (With a large number of Favorite Sons to be nominated, there was no way that Seward could win on the first ballot.)

Gary took us through the pre-balloting maneuvering, state by state as Lincoln rolled up enough votes (partial and whole states) to come in second on the first ballot also achieving his goal of getting at least 100 votes. Seward would get 173 votes and Lincoln, 102. The Lincoln strategy – getting partial votes and commitments for the second ballot paid off as on that ballot he got 181 votes and Seward 184.5. The momentum was now Lincoln’s as the third ballot was taken – ending first with Lincoln at 231.5 and Seward at 181 – and three votes were switched to Lincoln giving him, 234.5 and the nomination. (Some clever home town managing of the convention, on ballots and timing, also helped Lincoln to win.)

During the Q&A, we learned that Lincoln did not promise Ohio a cabinet position for Salmon Chase and that Seward had wanted Lincoln for his vice president. (I bought Gary’s book, The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination.)

Craig Symonds

Craig Symonds followed Gary with his talk entitled: “The Sumter Crisis: Learning on the Job.” (Craig was a speaker for us when Bob Boyda was president.) In this talk Craig takes us through Lincoln’s learning process as a man with no executive or military leadership experience as he faced his first military crisis at Fort Sumter.

With its secession, South Carolina and then the Confederacy considered all military forts on “their land,” their property. The Union, under Lincoln, did not see it that way. Especially vulnerable to takeovers in South Carolina were Fort Moultrie, outside Charleston, and in Charleston Bay, Fort Sumter. Major Robert Anderson, commander at Moultrie had a garrison of 75 men – which included 14 musicians. Sumter which had been under construction since 1816, was still not finished and was occupied only by laborers. Anderson knew he couldn’t defend Moultrie and moved his garrison to Sumter to protect them. (Anderson told Lincoln that it would take 20,000 men to defend his position – of course there were only 15,000 men in the army at that time, before many left for the Confederacy.)

Craig pointed out that Sumter was bought and paid for by the Union and not the state but it quickly became a symbol of secession. Anderson made his move while Buchanan was still in office. The South accused him of violating a “gentlemen’s agreement” to take no action. Buchanan finally stood firm on something – he told them, “It was just a move,” and did not order the garrison to leave the island fort.

Anderson occupied the fort but without enough supplies to stay very long and when a supply ship – Star of the West, attempted to reach him it was fired on and had to withdraw. Things were heating up. Lincoln as president was faced with how to show resolve without firing the first shot – Craig asked: “Was he good or just lucky?” Both.

Lincoln sought the advice of experts, including General Winfield Scott (overweight now but still very sharp militarily), and members of his cabinet. Various approaches were considered, including abandoning Sumter and then making a principled stand at Ft. Pickens in Florida – a more readily defensible fort. Montgomery Blair said Sumter must be held. Scott suggested holding on to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. A consultant named Gustavus Vasa Fox was brought in to work out a plan to use tug boats, defended by warships to supply the fort under the cover of night. Fox even visited Sumter – with permission from the South who did not know his real mission. Fox believed that his tug plan would work.

A decision was made on March 28th to reinforce / re-supply Sumter and Pickens. Supplies would be sent in early April. Lincoln decided that he would send notice of the sending of supplies only after the mission started – only supplies but if challenged, reinforcements would then be sent. Did he do this to force the South to attack? That is not clear and if they had allowed the supplies, no military action would have been taken.

Jefferson Davis considered Lincoln’s notice and decided that to allow supplies would make him look weak, so he ordering the firing on Sumter. The South with its 9 million people (5 million free) and agricultural society began a war with the 20 million people (all free) and their manufacturing society in the North.

Lincoln, although inexperienced, knew enough to be patient and to seek advice from a variety of well-informed people before developing a plan that could have avoided hostilities – with cooperation from the South – if it worked and if it did not would make the South the aggressor in a war. He was learning on the job.

I asked Craig what, if any, advice Davis sought during this time. Craig said that Davis considered himself to be the expert and so did not seek much advice from anyone. Lincoln, the Mohawk War Captain of a few men who never saw battle, outfoxed Davis, the former Secretary of War.

I was also able to ask Craig at lunch (maybe that was why he never sat with me again) if it was prearranged that Anderson would surrender if fired on. He said, not directly, but that it was accepted that Sumter could not be held. He went on to describe how it all happened. The South began its bombardment at 4:30 a.m. Anderson waited to be sure it was what it seemed to be. He decided at 8:30 that it was and began to return fire. Eventually, the Sumter flagpole was hit and fell, downing the flag. The South wondered if this meant surrender, so under a white flag, General P.G.T. Beauregard rowed out to the fort to find out. Anderson told him that it did not mean surrender but as long as Beauregard was there, he would surrender the fort. (By now, Craig’s soup was getting cold so I asked no more questions.)

John Marszalek

Our first speaker in the afternoon session was John Marszalek. John spoke to our Roundtable on Halleck when I was president and will speak to us again in May – on U.S. Grant. His talk was entitled: “The Old Army on the Eve of War.”

John began by telling us that as conditions worsened during the 1850s pointing towards an eventual conflict, the North thought that the South was bluffing on secession while the South thought that the North would never fight to prevent it. He then described the contrasting development in both regions during the 1850s with the North’s focus on manufacturing and the South’s on agriculture, mostly cotton – King Cotton based on slave labor.

There were 15,259 men in the U.S. Army in 1859 including 1009 officers. Most of the Army was based on the frontier. West Point was considered to be elitist. There was a total of 200 West Point graduates in 1860. Of these, there were 821 still in service – 197 of these would become Confederates. (John noted that it was a “myth that most went to the South.”) West Point was primarily focused on engineering and many West Pointers had left service for jobs as engineers – canal building, manufacturing, etc. with better pay. (958 graduates did not serve during the war.)

The culture of the country at that time and before did not favor a large standing army – some even felt that no more than an army of 1000 would ever be needed (with the use of state militias as backup if needed.) When the war started, there were only two officers in service who had ever led a large force – one was 75 years old and the other 77 – and no one had ever led forces the size of those needed for this war. John also noted as an aside the lack of maps for military purposes, saying that good ones just did not exist. Obviously the “Old Army” would not be enough to win any war.

John then told us how no one could have predicted in 1860 that Grant, Sherman and even Halleck would lead the North to victory. They did enjoy the old army, Sherman was bored, Grant drank (but John told us the views of Grant as a drunk were hogwash), and Halleck, who had succeeded in the old army and who wrote the “Book on Military Theory,” was in administration. Grant and Sherman had both left the service and would need to use political connections to get back in. These three do succeed and with Lincoln, form a new army, moving, under their leadership, into modern warfare. The South, John told us, with Davis, Lee and Jackson never did grow out of the old army and its ways.

After the war, the army was once again reduced and then limited to frontier duty by act of Congress. It would take several more decades – until the 1900s – for real reform.

William W. Freehling

Our next speaker was William W. Freehling who was new to the Forum. We all hoped he would return for another talk. His topic was: “Lincoln’s Forgotten Southern Republicans.”

In trying to summarize these talks, I’m always aware of how poorly they represent the speakers – a “you had to be there” type of thing. This is especially true of this talk as the very distinguished professor, with great humor, led us through some facts and considerations on the South and its Republican influences.

Lincoln was not as little known in the 1850s as is often thought, Freehling told us, reminding some that Lincoln had come in second for the vice president nomination on Fremont’s 1856 ticket. Lincoln and his views on national issues were known to many. Cassius Clay (no not that one), a southern Kentuckian, who came in second, wanted to establish the party in the South. Freehling said that virtually no one talked about slavery in the South but Clay did and so did other southern Republicans. Some southerners feared a revolt of slaves if slavery were discussed. (The speaker’s claim that 20% of the South was Republican was questioned but he answered with the logic of how he arrived at that figure. He also pointed out that Lincoln did get some popular votes in the South.)

The real issue between 1852 and 1860 was the expansion of slavery, not its elimination. Freehling told us that, after Kansas and Texas, there were really no territories for slaves to be brought into – there were just not enough slaves for expansion. The Republican Party did not support John Brown and his actions.

He referenced a book of that era by a man named Hinton Helper entitled: Compendium of the Impending Crisis of the South in which a revolt is predicted against slaveholders. As the South did not talk about slavery, it also did not debate it: slavery was and always would be to them. The most prominent southern Republican was Frank Blair of Missouri who told his people: “We don’t need slavery.” His approach was to buy a colony property and ship freed slaves to it. (“We have slavery, because we have blacks.”)

With Lincoln, the South feared – far more than no expansion of slavery – was that he would build a Southern Party of Republicans through patronage to non-slaveholders, etc. and then, through debate in the South, achieve an end to slavery from within. Lincoln, when asked a direct question on this strategy after his election, avoids a direct answer but he does desire that the South find a way to free slaves itself even to considering a colonization plan with payments to slaveholders.

There was no more talk of any colonies with the Emancipation Proclamation – the South wouldn’t solve the slavery problem so Lincoln did and, had he lived, his planned moderate approach to reconstruction may have avoided the problems that followed the Radical Republicans’ reconstruction policies. While Lincoln did not initially believe that blacks should become full citizens, his views changed and he began to think in terms of full equality for them.

Freehling’s belief that, with Lincoln, the South feared the rise of the anti-slavery Republican Party in the South, which would eventually end slavery, provided us with a new perspective on the South. As we will learn in the first talk the next day by Peter Carmichael, “You don’t want to mess with Southern culture.”

At dinner that night, Frank Williams presented the Annual Leonard Volk Life Mask Award (the award being a replica of the life mask made of Lincoln by Volk in 1860.) Prior recipients were Ford’s Theater and The Soldiers’ Home. The Lincoln Home in Springfield received the award this year – accepted by its curator, Tim Townsend.

George Buss

After the award presentation, George Buss, noted Lincoln re-enactor, who has spoken and performed at our Roundtable twice, read excerpts from Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address – excellent as always.

Frank Williams was the speaker that evening. The title of his talk was simply: “Lincoln’s Education.” He began by reminding us of the enigma of Lincoln – “one of the examples of the American Dream.” How did this backwoods boy become our greatest president? Through intellect, strength of character, a disciplined mind and a self education through his extensive and varied reading as a person, politician and military leader.

Frank walked us through the young lawyer Lincoln’s reading of the law, treaties, and court sessions as he handled cases on land, bad debts, libels, etc. He was admitted to the bar in 1837 and was known to “root for facts” digging them up and analyzing them in his work – and he never stopped working to improve his writing – honing his skills as a lawyer (or just as a thinker – using resources of the Library of Congress to study Euclidean Geometry to improve his logical talents.)

Lincoln said that if all of his time were put together, that he had about one year of formal education. One time, when filling out a form, next to the line reading “Education,” he wrote “Defective.” However he read anything he could get his hands on. His early books included: A Life of Washington, Aesop’s Fables, The King James Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress. (Close readings of Lincoln’s words will see how these works influenced his thinking and writing.) His hero was Washington; his biography showed Lincoln the potential of man.

Early life experiences also added to his education: a harsh father without ambition, losing his mother when he was nine years old, life on the prairie including the terrible winter of 1816, the building of his flat boat and his ferry boat business, the Black Hawk War (lack of supplies for troops) – “he studied everything – he learned.” (Some trivia: Lincoln used his flat boat at times to ferry passengers to larger boats in the river. He was charged with running a ferry boat without a license but was then found not guilty since his boat was not technically a ferry boat under the law.)

Other books he read that influenced him were those brought to his home by his stepmother, Sarah. These books included: Arabian Nights, Lessons in Elocution and Robinson Crusoe. Sarah recalled that it took Lincoln awhile to learn, that: “he must understand all of it – and then he didn’t forget it.” We also know that he had a love of Shakespeare and the poems of Robert Burns and Walt Whitman (who he loved to read out loud.) As president he read and studied books on military strategy.

Lincoln’s father never supported his reading and thought Lincoln to be just lazy (and maybe he was at times since he always hated physical labor.) Contrary to some historians, Lincoln was not in bondage to his father – it was the system at that time that wages of children belonged to their parents until they were 21 years old. (Lincoln’s father hated slavery and was known for his storytelling, so Lincoln did receive this much of a legacy from him.)

“What do we take from his education?” “He was not a naturally brilliant man.” (But maybe he was; someone in the audience later pointed out that someone had pegged Lincoln’s IQ at 140) He worked to learn and to use what he learned. Lincoln was taken as something of a plodder in his studies. (Horace Greeley called him an “exhaustive” learner.) Lincoln knew how to learn and with his love of reading and great books it may be said (as I always tell the students I speak to) that he had some of the best teachers in the world.

In answering a question, Frank said that history shows that Lincoln was always against slavery and for the preservation of the Union. He also pointed out that the First Inaugural Address was a stern speech in support of the Union.

November 18th – Morning

After a short report on the state of the Forum by Frank and a preview of next year’s programs – the theme will be “Lincoln on the Home Front” (Ed Bearss will lead a battlefield tour for the first 50 to register for the Forum), our first speaker was introduced.

Peter Carmichael

Peter Carmichael’s topic was: “Southern Perception of Lincoln in the Wake of the 1860 Election.” (This talk was recorded by C-Span and was aired in January so it may be on again some day.)

In this talk Carmichael sought to give us an understanding of the Southern culture with its ingrained traditions of honor (its way of life) and slavery. It seemed that some in the audience thought he was trying to justify the South and they showed some displeasure. Others, like me, appreciated the perspectives he gave us that help explain the great differences that led to the war. (As was pointed out in the Q&A, misunderstood and unappreciated cultural differences still lead to wars and insurrections. The more we understand such things the better.)

Carmichael is a bright guy who has an evangelist’s style of speaking. His background in Civil War history – North and South – was apparent in his talk. I’ll just try to cover some of his main points – hoping that you will see him on C-Span one of these days. He told us the South had a long tradition of “honor” (protection of self, home, family, friends and country) and which, if offended in any way, needed “satisfaction” to resolve, often in a duel. He pointed out that all cultures have their own unique systems that help to make them what they are. Any attack on slavery was an attack to them – not on the practice itself – but on their way of life.

It was this “honor” for example that led Lee, while opposed to secession, to the South once the states were attacked. Lee cared deeply about slavery – it did matter to him but it was his honor that made him a Confederate according to Carmichael. It was for the South, “Honor over Union.” We often hear that most of the southern soldiers did not and never did own slaves – they fought for their honor, their way of life especially when Union forces came into their states. The North also had its culture – community, family, faith etc. – but with a broader mix of people from different cultures it did not have the long held traditions of the South.

After this talk, I had a better understanding than before of the Southern culture, including slavery, in what it thought was its modern society. I had the impression, although not put this way by the speaker, that war could have been avoided if some way could have been found for the South to come to a realization that slavery had to be eliminated on its own since it would never accept any other entity telling it what to do especially when it came to its “principles.” Ingrained cultural principles still play a part in differences between nations – sometimes still leading to wars. They must be addressed if we are ever to have meaningful relationships with other countries especially those that seem so strange to us. (For example, I doubt that China will ever be browbeaten into improved Civil Rights – given its culture, those improvements must come from within.)

The second feature presentation that morning was the annual panel discussion – a favorite where we are given the opportunity to participate with our questions. The topic for the panel (Frank Williams – moderator, Harold Holzer, Craig Symonds, Michael Lind, Peter Carmichael and William Freehling) was: “Could the War Have Been Avoided?

Freehling went first. He said the broader question was how things got so bad between the North and South in the 1850s and focused on John Brown – his capture and the speech he gave before being hung – and the influence it had. The 1850s for all panelists were the road to war. Carmichael focused on the two economic systems – wage labor vs. slave labor setting up an inevitable conflict. Holzer agreed that a collision was inevitable given the actions of the 1850s. And to Harold, any Republican elected president would have brought on secession – maybe Lincoln just faster than someone else. Symonds called the actions of the 1850s over slavery, new territories, extension of practices, etc. those that led to an inevitable confrontation – sooner or later. Marszalek said it all came down to slavery. All seemed to agree that by 1860, not much could have been done to avoid a war of some kind and duration without allowing secession.

Some thoughts and facts that came out of the questions that were asked: Symonds pointed out that at the beginning of the 1850s, the South was stronger than the North and it could have won a war at that time – timing was critical. The roles reversed as the decade progressed and manufacturing developed in the North. Holzer said that no one had a clue about what it would take to wage or to win a war. Lind said there was a gradual polarization of sides.

I had the last question. If war was inevitable, as all of the panelists agreed, why was there no preparation on either side of any significance before it broke out? They really didn’t have a good answer. (This presentation was recorded by C-Span and was to have been aired on January 22 and 23rd. It may be repeated at some future date.)

November 18th – Afternoon

The Forum tried something new this year for this afternoon – breakout sessions wherein most of the speakers held Q&A meetings with the attendees divided between them – with up to 20 at each of the meetings. This is a good idea but it did not work well for the session I attended which shared a room with another session, making it very difficult to hear or to engage in any conversations. These were the only sessions sharing a room and such sharing will not be repeated next year. (There was also an option for new attendees to take a bus tour of the battlefield.)

November 18th – Evening – Dinner

The happy couple: Maynard and Betty Bauer

Our own Maynard and Betty Bauer were honored at dinner as the couple which has been married the longest – 60 years and counting. Each received a small prize. Congratulations to them.

The Annual Richard Nelson Current Award was presented to Mark Neely Jr. – described as “The Lincoln Scholar of his generation.” Professor Neely was also the speaker. His topic was: “The Essence of Anarchy: The Problem of Secession after 150 Years.”

Mark Neely Jr.

Neely teaches constitutional law and hearing him was as if we were sitting in his classroom – it was a very scholarly presentation, one in which he, among other things, emphasized the importance of constitutional law and the teaching of it. (I had the impression from his words such teaching must be a dying profession.)

Neely began by telling us that constitutional history is crucial to understanding secession. He said that Lincoln didn’t think about secession very much or very long – really not until 12-16-1860 with the South Carolina Convention. What Lincoln thought about secession: 1) No state can get out of the Union without the consent of other states, 2) In his First Inaugural, he called secession the “essence of anarchy” and 3) He also said it was not democratic but rather anti-democratic.

Neely asked if secession was stampeded, some kind of coup or a popular movement. He then led us through the process of ratifying or de-ratifying a constitution raising these questions on the secession process: was it rushed, was any delegate fraud involved, was it debated and fully heard by people and was it a popular movement?

His answers were: 1) Yes, it was rushed in South Carolina. It took this state 116 days to ratify the Constitution and only 86 days to de-ratify it. 2) Fraud? Out of 889 delegates only one was contested – should have been more, 3) Debate adequate? Ratification allowed plenty of time for debate, de-ratification did not – much based on 166,000 copies of various documents and pamphlets and 4) Popular? No, it was anti-popular and the convention did more than it was supposed to.

He also pointed out that the ratification process likewise had some problems with some fraud and tricks, too, but the conclusion relative to secession is that those states seceding did not follow constitutional law – and he closed by saying without the study of constitutional law we would never know that.

Jim Getty

The final presentation of the evening and the 2010 symposium was given by Jim Getty – who has been a speaker for us – reading selections from Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. He was excellent as always.

One of the treats of these symposiums is the opportunity to literally rub elbows with its speakers and presenters and others in attendance that may also be authors. One of these authors was John G. Sotos, a doctor who has written a book entitled, The Physical Lincoln Complete. It’s a comprehensive examination of every aspect of Lincoln health – or lack thereof. Dr. Sotos concludes that Lincoln would not have lived much more than a year if he had not been shot. And that it was not Marfan syndrome that would have killed him but rather something called “multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B)” a type of cancer. I now have this book and will be writing an article about his findings for The Charger. I was able to discuss his conclusions with him in the buffet line one day. (The book is a brick and looks imposing but it’s really two volumes in one: the first volume is the narrative and finding and the second is a complete reference volume with all of his research. It’s written for civilians in a very readable style with some humor, too. It’s far from dry and is as much history book as medical.)

Hank Ballone

The success of any event can be measured by how sorry you are to see it end and how much you look forward to the next one. The 2010 Lincoln Forum was a great success.

My thanks as always to Hank Ballone for his generosity in allowing me to add his great photos to this report – and for his patience every year as Crews and I pester him to take our pictures.

My thanks too to Betty and Maynard Bauer for their invaluable editing of this report – correcting misspellings and typos and for getting my train of thought back on track from time to time.

The Lincoln Forum website

Biographies of the 2010 Lincoln Forum Speakers
(from the Forum program)

Click on a book title to purchase from Amazon. Part of the proceeds from any book purchased from Amazon through the CCWRT website is returned to the CCWRT to support its education and preservation programs.

Peter S. Carmichael, newly named Director of the Civil War Institute, and Fluhrer Professor of Civil War History, at Gettysburg College, previously taught history at Penn State (where he earned his Ph.D.), Western Carolinas University, Virginia Commonwealth University, UNC-Greensboro, and West Virginia University. A highly popular lecturer, his books include The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion. He is at work on a new volume entitled Black Rebels, exploring the experience of slaves who served as soldiers in the Confederacy.

Gary Ecelbarger is the author of seven books, most notably The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination (2008). He has also written biographies of Frederick W. Lander and “Black Jack” Logan and a history of Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah. The Western New York native was educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spent 16 years working in medical intensive care units. A professional history tour guide, Ecelbarger has written dozens of articles about personalities and events of the Civil War era.

William W. Freehling, Singletary Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at the University of Kentucky and Senior Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities is considered one of the most distinguished historians of the Civil War era, and the leading scholar on the secession period. His most recent book is The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861, which historian David Brion Davis called “brilliant and indispensable.” In addition to The Road to disunion, Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, his other books include, Prelude to Civil War, which won the Bancroft Prize.

Harold Holzer, vice chairman of the Forum, served as co-chair of the U. S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission from 2001-2010, and now chairs its successor organization, the Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. Author, co-author, or editor of 36 books, including the award-winning Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861, he won a 2005 second-place Lincoln Prize for Lincoln at Cooper Union, and the 2008 National Humanities Medal from the President of the United States. His new book, co-edited with Craig L. Symonds, is The New York Times Complete Civil War.

John M. Marszalek, W. L. Giles Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the Mississippi State University, is executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and editor of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. A longtime member of the Forum’s Board of Advisors, Marszalek is the author of many books, including, Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion For Order, Sherman’s Other War: The General and the Civil War Press, Assault at West Point, which became a TV film (look for a Marszalek cameo!), and Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of General Henry W Halleck.

Edna Greene Medford, a frequent speaker at The Lincoln Forum, where she serves as a member of the Board of Advisors, is professor of history and chairman of the department at Howard University, where in 2009 she chaired a major bicentennial conference on Lincoln. The former director of New York’s African Burial Ground project, she has appeared regularly on C-SPAN, and was recently elected a member of the Board of the Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. The author of many articles and reviews, she is the author of Lincoln and Emancipation and a co-author of The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views.

Mark E. Neely Jr., McCabe-Greer Professor of Civil War History at the Pennsylvania State University, won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. His other books include, The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America, The Union Divided: Party Conflict in the Civil War North, and with Harold Holzer and Gabor Boritt, The Lincoln Image: Abraham Lincoln and the Popular Print. With Holzer he authored The Union Image, The Lincoln Family Album, and Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Civil War in Art. He is currently working on a book about Civil War nationalism.

Craig L. Symonds, co-editor of The New York Times Complete Civil War, was co-winner of the 2009 Lincoln Prize for Lincoln and His Admirals. Professor of history emeritus at the U. S. Naval Academy, he is the author of biographies of Joseph E. Johnston, Patrick Cleburne, and Franklin Buchanan, along with the recent The Civil War at Sea (2009). Symonds won the prestigious Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt award for the best book on naval history for his Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History (2005). He serves on The Lincoln Forum executive committee.

Hon. Frank J. Williams is founding Chairman of the Lincoln Forum, former member of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and a newly elected member of the Board of the Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. Among his many books are Judging Lincoln and, with Roger Billings, the new Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America’s Greatest President. He earlier served as President of the Lincoln Group of Boston and the Abraham Lincoln Association (whose prestigious “Lincoln the Lawyer” award he earned in 2009), and currently serves as President of the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

Civil War Travelogue

By Paul Siedel
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017, All Rights Reserved


A Visit to Fort Jackson

Another Civil War site off the beaten path and one that is well worth visiting is the National Historic site incorporating Fort Jackson at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Fort Jackson is located about 60 miles southeast of New Orleans on Rt. 23. An easy drive down Rt. 23 affords one a good picture of the agriculture, orange groves, cattle farms and oil industry that make up much of the state’s economy. Also located along the route is “Woodland Plantation” where David Farragut stopped and spent the night. The Woodland Plantation House is famous in its own right as it is the house that is featured on the label of Southern Comfort Whiskey. The plantation is also a nice place to stop and have lunch if one is so inclined.

Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the Mississippi River

In April 1862 the U.S. Gulf Blockading Squadron under the command of Commodore David Glasgow Farragut entered the mouth of the Mississippi River with the intent of seizing New Orleans and establishing a Federal foothold in the deep south. New Orleans was by far the South’s largest city with a population of around 175,0000. Guarding the approaches to the city were two heavily armed forts at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Fort Jackson today

Forts Jackson and St. Philip were manned by the Confederates under General Mansfield Lovell and had to be passed in order for the Federal fleet to reach New Orleans. Farragut unsuccessfully battered the forts for 10 days and then decided to run the fleet by them and put troops down far above the forts – an aggressive move that would have been beyond most commanders. This effort was successful and Federal troops landed in New Orleans on April 25, 1862. With the city in Federal hands the forts could no longer be supplied and soon surrendered. The forts remained in Federal hands for the duration and were used as training facilities for many United States Colored Troops, many fleeing the plantations of the lower Mississippi River basin. Fort Jackson was also used as a military prison during the War.

Today, Fort St. Philip on the east bank of the River is not accessible to anyone except very experienced hikers, the terrain being the domain of alligators, snakes and a human phenomenon known as “the cracker”. Fort Jackson however is part of a National Historic site and is well preserved. Although there is no access into the interior of the fort one can easily walk the perimeter and get a feel of what it was like during those tumultuous times back in 1862. A great side trip for any Civil War Buff.


On the Route of The General

One of the more interesting excursions any Civil War buff will make is with Jim Ogden and the Blue and Gray Education Society to follow the route of Andrews Raiders on The Western and Atlantic Railroad through northern Georgia. Some of our members have taken advantage of this opportunity and I’m sure they would agree that it was a weekend well spent.

Our tour began on a Friday with a lecture by Mr. Ogden on the history of railroads in the antebellum period and the place the Western and Atlantic had in founding the city of Atlanta. He went into why this rail line was so important to the Confederates and why it was chosen for the raid, generally setting the stage for the conditions leading up to the actual operation itself.

The next morning we boarded two vans and drove to Marietta, Georgia where we saw the hotel which served as the staging point for the raiders and where they stayed prior to the action. We then went on to The Southern Museum of The Civil War and Locomotive History which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution at Kennesaw, Georgia (which was called Big Shanty at the time of the raid). Here, one can see the actual locomotive and view railroading artifacts from the mid-1800s. The museum is a must-see and well worth the stop one can make going down I-75 just north of Atlanta.

After lunch at a southern barbecue restaurant we spent the rest of the day driving the route of the “General” as it made it’s way through the towns of Acworth, Kingston, Adairsville, Calhoun, Resaca, Tunnel Hill, Dalton, and Ringgold. We walked through the tunnel used by the Western and Atlantic Railroad during the War and saw the spot where the train finally came to a halt just north of Ringgold. Here, after running our of fuel and being closely pursued by William Fuller, the conductor of the stolen train, every man bailed out and took to the woods. All were later captured and eight of the twenty two participants were hung in June 1864 in Atlanta. The rest were eventually exchanged and were the first individuals to receive the Medal of Honor for their part in the operation. All were from Ohio and one Jacob Parrott was the first of receive the honors. Later the bodies of the executed men were reinterred in the National Cemetery at Chattanooga, Tennessee. The graves are set on a plot by themselves and the State of Ohio has erected a monument in their honor.

In 1956 The Walt Disney Studios told this story in a movie called “The Great Locomotive Chase” starring Fess Parker of Davey Crocket fame. The film showed on the Walt Disney program on NBC and went on to receive great acclaim later that year. Earlier, Buster Keaton starred in a silent version of the story which also has become a classic.

Many books have been written about the raid such as “Stealing the General “by Russel Bonds, and “The General and the Texas, A Pictorial History of the Andrews Raid” by Stan Cohen and James Bogle. One may also obtain a copy of the account written by Willam Pittenger, one of the raiders himself, called “Daring and Suffering, a History of the Great Railroad Adventure.” This is a first person account that traces their horrible treatment in the Chattanooga jail and the eventual escape, recapture and execution of James Andrews, the leader of the party.

Fascinating stuff and a great weekend for anyone interested in American history, the Civil War or the history of Railroading.


A Stroll Through New Orleans’ Metairie Cemetery

The south, in my opinion, has at least three large cemeteries that are well worth walking through if one is a Civil War buff. A stroll through one of these will go far in satisfying the curiosity of one wishing to visit the final resting places of the men and women that were prominent players in that conflict. There is of course Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond and Oakwood Cemetery in Atlanta, but then there is also Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. Seldom does a cemetery have such a storied past and one which comes about as a result of our Civil War.

In 1838 The Metairie Race Course Company acquired title to the property just outside the city limits of New Orleans and proceeded to build a “first class” racing facility. It soon became the south’s leading race track and by 1854 was the talk of the nation’s racing circles. The track reached it’s zenith in 1854 when it hosted the Great State Post Stakes. Horses from Louisiana, Kentucky, New York, Mississippi and Alabama were listed as entries. Kentucky’s entry named Lexington won that year and Louisiana’s horse Lecomte came in second.

This all came to an end in 1861 when upon the secession of Louisiana racing was temporarily halted and the track was converted to Camp Walker a training grounds for state troops entering Confederate service. The facility was later moved to Camp Moore near Mississippi and racing was not restored during the War. According to Henri A. Gandolfo in his book Metairie Cemetery: An Historical Memoir, “Things were never to be the same again. The War had drained Louisiana of much of it’s wealth and it’s young manhood, so by 1872 the Metairie Jockey Club as it became known was ready to sell. So out of the shambles of the ‘Lost Cause,’ Metairie Cemetery was born.”

Today the Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the south’s leading figures. P.G.T. Beauregard, John B. Hood, Richard Taylor and several other prominent figures rest there. Among the more prominent monuments are those to The Army of Tennessee, The Army of Northern Virginia, and The Washington Artillery. Moreover after the War many of the south’s chief figures made their homes in New Orleans, among them Jefferson Davis who’s remains were temporarily buried at Metairie until they were removed to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

Although the entrance is relatively hard to find the staff is more than helpful, I was even invited to bike through the Cemetery, and was more than two hours admiring the architecture of the above ground burial vaults. The Cemetery is located on Metairie Road near the Interstate 10 exit on Canal Blvd. Be sure to pick up a who’s who list of prominent burials at the office, it will save you some time. Being right in New Orleans, Metairie Cemetery is a great site for Civil War buffs when visiting the Crescent City.


A Visit to Alabama’s Arlington Plantation and the Lost Village of Elyton

One doesn’t usually think of Birmingham, Alabama as a place that would contain any Civil War sites of significance. That is, of course, until they hear the story of Arlington Plantation and the lost village of Elyton. Arlington Plantation is easily accessible, being right off Interstate 59 & 20 just southeast of downtown Birmingham.

The village of Elyton was incorporated in 1821 and soon became the county seat of Jefferson County, Alabama. In 1822, Mr. Stephen Hall came to Elyton and purchased property there and built a fine home overlooking the little village. The estate prospered as a cotton plantation until 1840 when Stephen Hall died and his son took possession of the property. He soon however was forced into bankruptcy and the estate was purchased by Judge William S. Mudd. Judge Mudd owned and worked the property from then until the end of the Civil War.

Arlington Plantation

In March 1865 James Wilson’s U.S. Cavalry left Huntsville, Alabama with the objective of destroying Alabama’s iron and steel making capacity. The raiders, 13,500 strong, moved south from Huntsville and entered Elyton on March 30, 1865. Wilson set up headquarters at the Arlington House, the Mudds having fled shortly before his arrival. Wilson described Elyton as “a poor insignificant Southern village, surrounded by old field farms, most of which could have been bought for $5 an acre.” From here he dispatched detachments to destroy Confederate factories, munitions stores and the military school at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After leaving Elyton, Wilson moved south and after doing battle with Nathan Bedford Forrest at Ebenezer Church, Alabama, on April 1, 1865, he completely destroyed the industries in Selma. He then went on to capture Montgomery the former capitol of the Confederacy and then on to Columbus, Georgia where he defeated Gen. Tyler. From there Wilson proceeded east and took control of Macon, Georgia where he received Jefferson Davis after his capture on May 10, 1865.

Shortly after the War, a group of citizens in Jefferson County, Alabama realized the importance of the several rail lines the Confederacy had constructed to ship out iron ore and other raw materials. These rail lines came together just east of the village of Elyton and the spot where they intersected later became the City of Birmingham. From it’s founding in 1871 the city boomed as a rail hub and an iron and steel capitol. By the 1880s it had earned it’s nickname “The Magic City”, and the “Pittsburgh of the South”. As Birmingham grew it eventually overwhelmed the little village of Elyton and the old Arlington Plantation. Today Elyton is a neighborhood of Birmingham and the acres of Arlington are beautiful neighborhoods filled with flowering dogwood and redbud trees. The house however remains and is owned by the City. It is open to visitors daily and is well worth the visit for any Civil War Buff willing to go off the beaten path.


A Visit to Camp Moore, Louisiana’s Primary Confederate Training Camp

While visiting New Orleans this past winter, I decided to check out Camp Moore, Louisiana’s main training facility for volunteers during the Civil War. I had my misgivings, it being well off the beaten path of Civil War sites but I decided to risk it. As it turns out, I made the right decision. Camp Moore is a well maintained site complete with a bookstore and gift shop. The Confederate Cemetery is very well maintained. Being about fifty miles north of New Orleans via Interstate 55, Exit 57 and Rt. 440 it is a good day’s activity for any Civil War buff.

Camp Moore was established in May of 1861 as one of the largest Confederate training camps in the South. In 1861 the state’s main training camp was at Metairie Racetrack in New Orleans, today the site of Metairie Cemetery. The state was determined to move the base away from the disease prone environment of the closely packed city of New Orleans and away from the temptations that a major city would offer young men. Camp Moore was selected because it was on high ground, had an abundance of water and was in close proximity to the New Orleans-Jackson Railroad.

Camp Moore

During the war, thousands of troops from Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas were trained and based at what became the largest Confederate training camp in the western theater of war. Named after Louisiana Governor Thomas Moore, Camp Moore received authorization directly from Jefferson Davis to serve as the principle base of operations in the region.

Camp Moore also served as the focal point for many offensive operations on the part of both Confederate and Federal armies.

During the course of the war, the Federals made four efforts to destroy Camp Moore. It was however overrun and completely destroyed in the fall of 1864. This left the camp virtually useless for the duration.

Camp Moore gradually went back to it’s natural state until veterans and ladies organizations reclaimed the cemetery in 1903. Additional acreage was purchased and the museum was built in 1964. Today all that remains of the original camp is 6.5 acres including the cemetery.

Other than the cemetery the site contains several monuments to the many men that died of disease there. A very moving site well worth the visit for any Civil War buff visiting New Orleans and curious about it’s lesser known historical sites.


Whatever Happened to Camp Cleveland?

The largest Civil War training camp in Northeast Ohio was Camp Cleveland, located in the Tremont neighborhood just to the south of downtown. Along with the U.S. General Hospital it covered approximately 80 acres and according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History eventually trained 15,230 U.S. troops. It also served as a transit camp for troops moving from one front to another and housed two groups of Confederate prisoners. Camp Cleveland was, however, the only west side facility. Camps Wood, Taylor, Tod and Brown were located along Woodland Avenue between East 55th and Ontario Street. Today, this is the route of the Inner-belt.

Along with the training camp, the U.S. Army General Hospital was located just to the east of what is today is West 5th Street. One of the men affiliated with the hospital was Dr. George Miller Sternberg. He is considered by some to be the Father of American Bacteriology. Sternberg was in the U.S. Army and served in the Battles of Bull Run, Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill. He was later assigned to the Cleveland Hospital and was here from May 1864 to July 1865 when the Camp closed. In later years he documented the causes of yellow fever and malaria and confirmed the roles of bacilli in both tuberculosis and typhoid fever. In 1886 he was instrumental in establishing the Army Medical School known today as the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Dr. Sternberg died in 1915 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Barracks buildings at Camp Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio.
Each building was designed to hold 32 men.

One of the most commonly asked questions on the Civil War Tour of Cleveland is, “Are there any buildings from Camp Cleveland left”. The answer is not on their original sites.

In 1865 the Camp was closed and the Government was in a hurry to demobilize and downsize. Several auctions were held to liquidate the various camps. In November 1865 an auction was held at Camp Cleveland and the Cleveland Leader advertised such items as “spades, rakes, garden tools of all kinds, horses, working harnesses, boots, shoes, and leather good of all types, roles of telegraph wire, cook stoves, wash boilers, frying pans and kitchen supplies of various types.” The list goes on and on. Camp Cleveland was systematically disassembled, the property was returned to the lessor, Mr. Silas Stone, who sold it to a group of investors and they had the property surveyed and divided into building lots.

When the camp was liquidated many of the barracks were sold to private individuals and therefore, although it has never been researched, many likely ended up as tool sheds or chicken coops on various properties scattered around the city. In that case there is no telling if there are indeed any Camp Cleveland structures left standing today. I personally don’t believe it’s probable, but, as we know, nothing is impossible.


The Bower: A Surprising Find

Last June while attending the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg I decided to take a detour on my way home and look for a house called “The Bower”. Located somewhere between Martinsburg and Charlestown, West Virginia, it was, during the Civil War owned by the Dandridge Family and the house was offered by them to General Jeb Stuart to serve as his headquarters during the autumn of 1862 shortly after the Battle of Antietam.

While Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet had their headquarters at Bunker Hill Virginia, on the Valley Pike (today U.S. 11) between Martinsburg and Winchester, Virginia, Stuart chose to stay at “The Bower”. Here during the months of September, October and into November was located the famous “boys club” which revolved around Stuart and his group of officers which included Stuart, John Pelham, Heros Von Borke, Wade Hampton and much of the the cavalry of Lee’s Army. The house was the site of many entertaining nights with Stuart and Von Borke reciting and acting out scenes from Dickens and Shakespeare. Lively conversation, dances and games of whist, chess and cards were all enjoyed by the folks both military and civilian during their sojourn at the Dandridge home.

The Bower, near Leetown, West Virginia

It was from this location that Stuart launched his Chambersburg raid in October 1862. John Pelham became enamored with Sallie Dandridge at this time and the two spent many evenings walking through the fields and woods of the Dandridge property. No one knows, however just how involved they actually became with each other as Pelham was killed 5 months later at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia and Sallie was married to a local man shortly after the close of the War. She died in childbirth shortly thereafter. The whole lively sojourn came to a sudden halt when Burnside began to move on Fredericksburg. The “boys club” was broken up, Stuart, Pelham and Von Borke rode away from “The Bower” never to return.

I left Gettysburg and drove to Sharpsburg, Maryland where I was able to obtain information on a place called The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War in Shepherdstown, Maryland. and it was while visiting the Center that I happened just by chance to read the plaque on the wall of the charming old house in which it was located. It seems that the house was purchased by actress Mary Tyler Moore and donated to Shepherd College in honor of her father George. I was thoroughly surprised however knowing not only that Mary Tyler Moore was from this section of the country but also that Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters in Winchester was at one time owned by an ancestor of the actress.

The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherdstown, Maryland

It was here that I met Mr. Thomas White who was more than helpful and assisted me in finding “The Bower” on a local map. Although I had found the approximate location on Google Maps I did not know what condition the roads were in and if the owners would be friendly. I drove down Sulfur Springs Road and came upon the home which is the centerpiece of a huge working farm in rural Jefferson Co West Virginia. The owners were more than happy to show me around while we talked and I took pictures. They were well aware of the historic significance of the home and showed me the exact location on the grounds where the soldiers had pitched their tents. I left feeling fulfilled in that I had visited a Civil War landmark that many of us have read about and knowing that it would be there for many more years to come.


A Visit to the H.L. Hunley and a Dose of Southern Culture

A Visit to the H.L. Hunley and a Dose of Southern Cu Every year it happens, we receive invitations to fundraisers for our pet causes and each year we say “Next year I’m going to do this.” Well this year was my year to take in the annual “Friends of the Hunley” barbecue and oyster roast in Charleston, South Carolina. What an experience it was!

It was a ten hour drive down I-77 to Columbia S.C., which is well worth taking in if one is a Civil War Buff. The next day it was onto Charleston, which is a fantastic tourist town for anyone interested in any aspect of American History. The day of the members’ tour arrived and I drove to the Warren Lasch Conservation and Research Center in North Charleston, a huge hall named after Mr. Warren Lasch a former Clevelander now affiliated with Clemson University and where the Hunley currently resides.

Inside we were shown the ongoing recovery efforts by a group of conservators, and the slow painstaking work it takes to bring this Civil War submarine back from the dead. We were shown how each article was desalinated by leaching out salt water and replacing it with a polyethylene solution that will keep the submarine and artifacts from deteriorating. Much of this is groundbreaking work and many of these methods have never before been used. The vessel itself is submerged in a huge tank of desalinization solution which must be drained each time research is done. A very moving sight and one I will remember for a long time to come.

A sketch of the H.L. Hunley

At 7:00 that evening I met some friends and we took in a good old southern oyster roast. Held in the bus barn where tourists meet their tour busses, we were treated to all the pulled pork, coleslaw, baked beans and rolls we could eat. Then came the oysters. Huge baskets about the size of a stretcher were thrown onto tables made of plywood. As I stood there wondering what to do, the crowd dove in and began shucking and devouring oysters at an amazing rate. I acquired an oyster knife and my friend Mary Ellen showed a Yankee how to shuck and eat oysters. In the middle of the table was a huge hole under which was a fifty gallon drum, and as one eats the oyster one throw the shell into the barrel. Needless to say, that combined with a good glass of beer, this whole affair put me in a food lover’s “seventh heaven”. There were easily three hundred in attendance and a live band played country music. After about two hours, I managed to make it back to the car and back to the hotel room. This event is definitely on my calendar for many years to come.

There was a very touching story told by the one of the staff regarding the Hunley and how it affects people even today. The ship was lost in February 1864, after sinking the U.S.S. Housatonic. She signaled the crew on shore that she had accomplished her mission and was coming in. She never did. The Hunley vanished and was never seen again for one hundred and thirty one years. There were no survivors. The ship was captained by George Dixon, and his fiancé, although she lived on until 1933, never spoke of Dixon or the War. Upon her death, the family members were going through her effects and came upon an old scrapbook which contained pictures of the people who had made up her life. One page held a photo of a young man who no one in the family could identify. In 2014, as the descendants were going through the Conservation Center, they were shown the facial reconstructions of the crew members. The face of the Hunley’s Captain George Dixon bore a striking resemblance to the photo in the old scrapbook.

Mysteries of the Hunley

What actually happened to the Hunley? To this very day no on knows why the ship never resurfaced after the attack on the Housatonic Many theories continue to be put forth, however none have been proven.

What happened to the crew members? There was no evidence of panic. The skeletal remains were found at each man’s duty station.

Why was part of the propeller guard missing?


Peter Diemer & Curtis Phillips: The Last Civil War Veterans From Cuyahoga County

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Cleveland

Not too long ago while visiting the Soldiers and Sailors Monument downtown I overheard a docent telling someone that the last Civil War veteran from Cuyahoga County died in 1943. His name was Peter Diemer.

I also learned that the last Cavalry soldier to pass away in Cuyahoga County was Curtis Phillips. Mr. Phillips died in 1942 and was buried in Butternut Ridge Cemetery in North Olmsted. Being from that part of town I decided to visit Mr. Phillips. My visit to Mr. Phillips’s gravesite made me wonder just who, exactly, these last two Cuyahoga County Civil War veterans were, where they lived, what their war time experiences were, what they did following the war and where they died. I decided to see what I could find out.

I began my detective work with a return visit to the Soldiers & Sailors Monument. The guys there were more than helpful and we found the service records of both gentlemen. I also went to The Western Reserve Historical Society and was able to go online and get a much more detailed account of their lives and Civil War service. Here’s what I learned:

PETER DIEMER

According to the Plain Dealer and sources at the Soldiers & Sailors Monument the last living Grand Army veteran from Cuyahoga County was Peter Diemer. Mr. Diemer was born in Cleveland in 1844, when the city had a population of 9,000. His father had come here from France six years before. Peter went to work for the E.I. Baldwin Company, an early dry goods firm in Cleveland.

In September 1864 he was drafted into the 150th Ohio Infantry for 100 days and went directly to Washington D.C. There, he did guard duty at Forts Lincoln and Totten, both of which were part of the vast network of defense forts surrounding Washington. He served in and around Washington D.C. for the duration for the war and was mustered out in July of 1865.

Upon returning to Cleveland Mr. Diemer took up his old position with Baldwin & Company. He lived at 1910 E. 89 Street between Euclid and Chester Avenues (the house has long since vanished as the property now belongs to the Cleveland Clinic) and, after the death of his wife in 1917, went to live with his daughter in Montreal, Canada. He passed away in February 1943 and is buried there. Mr. Diemer’s name however is listed proudly at the Soldiers & Sailors Monument along with other members of the 150th Ohio.

CURTIS PHILLIPS

According to the Plain Dealer and sources at the Soldiers & Sailors Monument the last Cavalry officer and second to last member of The Grand Army Memorial Post 141 in Cuyahoga County was Mr. Curtis Phillips. Mr. Phillips was born in July 1844 in Salem, Ohio. He enlisted from Columbiana County and, therefore, is not listed in the Monument downtown.

He entered the 12th Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Cavalry when the was 18 and served for the duration. The 12th Regiment operated in the West Virginia and North Carolina mountains throughout the war. Interestingly enough, the 12th was part of Stoneman’s Cavalry’s raid through North Carolina in April 1865 and almost captured Jefferson Davis and the remaining members of the Confederate Government. They finished the War in Nashville, Tennessee from where they were mustered out in November 1865.

Mr. Phillips returned to Salem and was associated with his father in the tanning business. He moved to Cleveland in the 1890s and became a druggist. He lived at 2901 Jay Avenue and his store was located at 1887 Fulton Road in Ohio City. He retired in 1930 and at that time was living at 1666 Winton Avenue until moving to 1371 Clarence Avenue in Lakewood. He passed away in December 1942. Services were conducted at Daniels Funeral Home in Lakewood by members of Lookout Camp of The Sons of Union Veterans. He was buried at The Butternut Ridge Cemetery in North Olmsted, Ohio.