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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 on to 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.
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 throws 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 fiancée, 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 whom 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, but 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
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:
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.
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.