Friday, September 12, 2014

Off Topic--1,000 Year Old Viking Ring Fortress Site Discovered in Denmark

 Trelleborg in western Zealand. Photo: Thue C. Leibrandt/Wikimedia: Viking 'ring fortress' discovered in Denmark Commons

Viking 'Ring Fortress' Discovered in Denmark, The Telegraph, September 12, 2014

Historians believe distinctive geometric fortresses may have been built by Sweyn Forkbeard as a military training camp from which to launch his invasion of England.Archaeologists in Denmark  have discovered a distinctive ring-shaped Viking fortress which historians believe may have been used to launch an invasion of England.  The fortress found on the Danish island of Zealand, around 30 miles south of Copenhagen, is the fifth circular fortress to be unearthed, and the first in over 60 years. “This is great news,” said Lasse Sonne, a Viking historian from the Saxon Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

“Although there were Vikings in other countries, these circular fortresses are unique to Denmark. Many have given up hope that there were many of them left.” Like previously discovered ring fortresses, the Vallø Borgring is thought to date back to the late tenth century and the reign of Harald Bluetooth, the king who Christianised Denmark and Norway.

However, some historians contend the fortresses were constructed by his son Sweyn Forkbeard, the first Danish King of England, as a military training camp or barracks from which to launch his invasions of England. Sweyn Forkbeard seized London in 1013 and was declared King of England on Christmas Day of that year.

The newly discovered fortress has a diameter of 475 feet, making it the third-largest of its type, and consists of a 35-foot wide circular rampart surrounded by a palisade of wooden spikes.
Although only small portions of the new fortress have been uncovered, it appears to match the design of Denmark’s other ring fortresses, sticking to a strict geometric pattern.
The fortresses have four gates facing outward in different compass directions, and an interior courtyard symmetrically divided into four quarters. It is thought that Viking “longhouses” would have been constructed within the fortress.

Historians believe the geometric design may have been inspired by old Roman army camps found by Vikings during their raids on England.Denmark’s ring fortresses are also known as Trelleborgs, after the location of the first to be discovered in western Zealand.  The other three are located in Aggersborg and Fyrkat in northern Jutland, and Nonnebakken near Odense.

 viking fortress excavation

 Text Source: The Telegraph
Another News Story and Images at Archaeology and Huffington Post
Top Image: The Telegraph
Bottom Image: Huffington Post

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

News--Did A CSA Agent Target Northern Cities in 1864 For A Yellow Fever Epidemic?

Yellow JackYellow Fever Plot of 1864 Targeted Lincoln, U.S. Cities, Mathew W. Lively, Civil War Profiles Weblog, July 13, 2014.
Excerpt: In the summer of 1864, Dr. Luke P. Blackburn, a Kentucky-born physician turned Confederate agent, allegedly instituted a bioterrorism plot against United States cities and President Abraham Lincoln. Blackburn’s goal was to “release” Yellow Fever through the distribution of infected clothing, with specific articles being sent directly to Lincoln. The plot was unsuccessful, however, mainly due to a 19th century misunderstanding of how Yellow Fever is transmitted, but also because a disgruntled fellow conspirator revealed the plot to U.S. authorities.
 Yellow Fever, also known as “Yellow Jack,” after the flag that was flown from quarantined ships in harbors, was a deadly disease in U.S. coastal cities during the 1800’s (an 1853 outbreak in New Orleans, Louisiana, produced 9,000 deaths – 28% of the city’s population). The disease was notorious for causing “black vomit,” an ominous clinical sign resulting from hemorrhage in the stomach. 

Today we know that Yellow Fever is a virus that is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes. But during the Civil War, which occurred prior to the discovery of germs being the source of disease, medical science and the lay population believed Yellow Fever could be contracted from direct exposure to those who were infected, primarily through contact with “black vomit.” It was this belief that led Blackburn to “contaminate” clothing for distribution.

The island of Bermuda was a major base of blockade running for the Confederacy and when a Yellow Fever epidemic occurred there in the summer of 1864, Dr. Blackburn, who had extensive experience treating the disease in the Deep South, traveled from Canada to Bermuda to lend his expertise in controlling the outbreak. While on the island, Blackburn took the soiled bedding and clothing of infected patients and packed them into trunks with new shirts and coats in an effort to “infect” the unused garments with Yellow Fever particles. 

Blackburn then traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in June 1864 with five trunks and one valise of infected clothing. Once there, he offered a man named Godfey Hyams the sum of $100,000 to smuggle the trunks into “Washington City, to Norfolk, and as far South” as he could go “where the Federal Government held possession and had the most troops.” He instructed Hyams to dispose of the new clothing by auction with the exception of the valise, which was to be delivered by express to President Lincoln as a gift. Blackburn also specified the contents of the largest trunk were to be sold in Washington, D.C., callously remarking: “It will kill them at sixty yards.”

Mathew W. Liverly's online article is continued at Civil War Profiles July 13, 2014
Image Source: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, provided by Matthew Lively.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Author Interview: Uzal W. Ent And The Pennsylvania Reserves In The Civil War

The Pennsylvania Reserves In The Civil War: A Comprehensive History, Uzal W. Ent, McFarland Publishing, 2014, 401pp., appendices, bibliography, index, chapter notes, $75.00.

Uzal W. Ent, a brigadier general retired from a 34 military career, has authored three books and has been published in 19 magazines and five encyclopedias and the of The Pennsylvania Reserves In The Civil War: A Comprehensive History which was published in July. Ent is the author of Fighting on the Brink: The Defense of the Pusan Perimeter [1998] and The First Century: A History of the 28th Division [1979].

Because Josiah R. Sypher published his History of the Pennsylvania Reserves in 1865 and Samuel P. Bates his History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in 1869, the accounts of many of the individual regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserve division have never been adequately researched and studied with two exceptions being:  Bouquets From The Cannon's Mouth: Soldiering With The Eighth Regiment Of The Pennsylvania Reserves [2005], Three Years in the Bloody Eleventh: The Campaigns of a Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment [2002].  Notable is the extensive work done by August and Angela Marchetti and colleagues at the online Pennsylvania Reserve Historical Society [] whose Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps online research center develops and offers new resources.

CWL: The Pennsylvania Reserves In The Civil War: A Comprehensive History is certainly comprehensive. When did you begin your research for your work?
UWE: About 16 years ago after I completed a book on the Korean War's Pusan Perimeter in 1996-1997.  McFarland Publishing edited it over several years. I began with my great, great grandfather' copy of  Joseph Sypher's History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps first published in 1864 and then updated in 1865. Sypher's work is somewhat faulty regarding casualties because is was written at the end of the war.  Yet Sypher kept in contact with Pennsylvania Reserve soldiers and received immediate feedback regarding his work, which he later updated in the next editions. By 1869 the casualty figures were released by the federal government. Broadfoot Press' work in regimental rosters is accurate and significant.

CWL:  When did your interest first develop in the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps?
UWE: After completing Fighting on the Brink: The Defense of the Pusan Perimeter in 1997. I was familiar with the Pennsylvania Reserves because I am related to two Pennsylvania Reserve veterans: one in the 6th Pennsylvania and one in Rickett's Battery.

CWL: During your research, what were the most illusive pieces of information?
UWE: None especially yet I was always looking .

CWL: What difficulties did you have acquiring maps and photographs for the book?
UWE: Since I am not a cartographer, every map I drew was rejected by the publisher.  McFarland Publishing acquired maps from Louisiana State University Press, Savas Beatie Publishing, Hal Jesperson and the National Park Service. The photographs are from the collection of the Library of Congress and those found in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, which are in the public domain.

CWL: For such a large book, how did you construct the index?
UWE: A librarian and friend at the United States Army Military History Institute in Carlisle [Pennsylvania] constructed about 90% of the index and nearly all my research was done at the institutes' library.

CWL: You quote extensively for newspaper of the era.  Tell us of your experience with newspaper morgue books and the online and digitized archives you used.
UWE:  Regarding newspapers, most of what I needed was on microfilm and what is online and digitized was found for me by librarians.

CWL:  What material did you use to which possibly Sypher did not have access?
UWE: At the USAMH library there is a large collection of letters, memoirs, newspapers. In neighboring Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Museum's library there is another trove.

CWL: In what ways does The Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War: A Comprehensive History move beyond Sypher's and Bates' work?
UWE: It relies on those regimental histories published after Bates' work was published. Also the diaries, letters, memoirs and narratives available in the USAMHI archives and at the Pennsylvania State Museum library. Scholarly and popular articles published in the last 100 years and of course, The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion published in 128 volumes between 1880 and 1901.  In the appendices are biographical sketches of the principal Reserve Corps officers along with the initial organization, including the 14th Reserves which is an artillery unit and the 15th Reserves which is a cavalry unit.

CWL:  Thank you for your work on behalf of the Pennsylvania Reserves division.
UWE: And thank your for the interview.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

News--Gettysburg Magazine Issue 50 and University of Nebraska Press

Notes on Gettysburg Magazine, Issue 50, Cover Date: January 2014 arrived in the U.S. mail on Monday July 28.

1. Now glue bound instead of staple bound

2. Thicker paper used for cover; more glossy

3. Articles: 3 in number focusing on sesquicentennial remembrance

4. New Section: Documents.  Includes Henry E. Jacob's recollections of November 19, 1863; John Hay's description of the Address; Ward Hill Lamon's recollections of the Address; Woodrow Wilson's 1913 address, FDR's 1938 speech at Peace Light Memorial

5. Two advertisements: inside front cover--Adams County Historical Society; last pag--University of Nebraska Press' series This Hallowed Ground which consists of seven guides to the Civil War battlefields

6. Cover, back cover and inside back cover are contemporary color photographs

7. Total page count: 74

Over all, Issue 50 is not a military issue but is an historic character and contemporary author reflection issue.  

The University of Nebraska Press' website notes:

"The University of Nebraska Press is proud to announce that Professor James S. Pula of Purdue University will be the new editor beginning with Issue 50. He is currently accepting submissions for future issues."

Text Source:  University of Nebraska Press 
Image Source: CWL scan of Issue 50 cover

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New and Noteworthy--Making, Managing and Creating Memories of Gettysburg National Military Park

On A Great Battlefield: The Making, Management, and Memory of Gettysburg National Military Park, 1933-2013, Jennifer M. Murray, University of Tennessee Press, 2014, 312pp, notes, bibliography, index, 3 maps, 34 b/w photographs.$49.00.

Certainly with 82 pages of notes and 14 pages of bibliography, Jennifer M. Murray was provided one of the very best studies of the history of Gettysburg National Military Park [NM]. The first chapter covers the first 70 years of the park. The next ten chapters details the 80 year span between 1993 to 2013. Murray, currently an assistant professor of history at University of Virginia's College at Wise is formerly a seasonal interpretative ranger during nine summer at at Gettysburg NMP.

Of contemporary interest is the coverage Murray provides for the planning, the fundraising and the bitter controversies regarding expansive changes at Gettysburg. The public/private partnership to build the $103 million visitor center, the landscape rehabilitation, and the inclusion of exhibits presenting slavery, abolition, secession, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the visitor center may well be studied and redirect the mission, tasks and future of the National Parks Service and its historical parks.

The final years of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century is viewed as a watershed era in the story of the park. Excepting the years between 1933 and 1940, when the park had available funds from the New Deal, no other era contained the degree of expansion and improvement to the battlefield. Eight of the 11 chapters focus upon the era of 1946-2013. Though initially a Phd. dissertation, Murray's narrative in On A Great Battlefield is clear, concise, cogent and accessible to the general reader.

Monday, July 21, 2014

News---Lee's Arlington House Receives $12.35 Million for Restoration and Improvements From Billionaire

National Park Service Press Release, July 15, 2014:  David Rubenstein Donates Lead Centennial Gift of $12.35 Million To The National Park Foundation to Restore Arlington House

Today a gift made history and saved history. National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and the National Park Foundation  (NPF)  President and CEO Neil Mulholland joined businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein to announce Rubenstein’s $12.35 million donation, a lead gift in the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, to restore and improve access to Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
located within the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

The gift complements President Obama’s Centennial Initiative for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, a multi-year effort to invest wisely in the park system’s most important assets, use parks to enhance informal learning, engage volunteers, provide training opportunities to youth and enhance the National Park Service’s ability to leverage partnerships to accomplish its mission.

“Arlington House, originally constructed to memorialize George Washington, tells America’s story from its founding, to the shame of slavery and a nation divided, to a nation again made whole,” Jarvis said. “We are honored by Mr. Rubenstein’s patriotism, his generous gift, and his dedication to the future of America’s treasures. We are eager to start the transformation that his ‘patriotic philanthropy’ will make possible.” 

When the projects are completed, visitors will see Arlington House as it was in 1860, with every room restored to its historical appearance. An important aspect of this project is to restore the slave quarters to better represent and tell the stories of the enslaved. Visitors will learn from park rangers and volunteers, or via new mobile and web assets, in addition to audio tours and changing exhibitions. As visitors move between the mansion and the new museum and bookstore, they will pass along accessible paths that stretch through the restored grounds, including heirloom gardens and new trails. People who cannot visit in person will enjoy a more robust experience through virtual tours, complete with detailed displays of the rooms and museum objects. 

Rubenstein said, “I am honored to support the National Park Service’s renovation of historic Arlington House built in honor of George Washington and located on hallowed ground atop Arlington National Cemetery. I hope that upon its restoration, Arlington House will appropriately remind visitors of America’s rich history and our country’s good fortune to have such a unique site to honor our veterans, especially those who gave the last full measure of devotion on behalf of this nation.”

The National Park Foundation, as the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner of the NPS received the gift that will make the critical projects at the memorial possible. 

Mr. Rubenstein has set the tone for a new era of investment in America’s national parks. For 100 years, generous philanthropists have stepped forward to keep the national parks beautiful, vital and accessible. Rubenstein’s donation is the largest gift associated with the NPF’s Centennial Campaign. In preparation for the milestone anniversary, NPS Director Jarvis has asked the NPF to spearhead and implement the Centennial Public Engagement and National Fundraising Campaigns. Through these efforts, NPS and NPF will celebrate the NPS’s centennial and reintroduce the NPS’s work and opportunities to a new generation of Americans, inviting them to protect America’s special places, working together to connect all people to their parks, and inspiring the next generation of park stewards to visit and get involved with their national parks. 

“Mr. Rubenstein’s transformative philanthropic support will not only restore and rejuvenate Arlington House, enlivening it for new audiences, but it also provides an inspiring example of how public-private partnership is vital to ensure these special places thrive,” Neil Mulholland, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation said. “America’s national parks belong to each and every one of us, and, as such, we share the responsibility to protect and preserve them now and for the next generation.” 

The residence of Robert E. Lee and his family before the Civil War, the story of Arlington House connects to many important figures, issues and events in American history. Built by George Washington Parke Custis and his slaves between 1802 and 1818, the house and grounds have served many purposes over the last 200 years: a family home for the Lees and Custises, a plantation estate and home to 63 slaves, a monument honoring George Washington, a military headquarters for Union troops, a community for emancipated slaves and a national cemetery. With 650,000 visitors per year, Arlington House is the most visited historic house museum in the national park system. 
CWL, Explanatory Note:  Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial is managed by the George Washington Memorial Parkway. It also manages the Clara Barton National Historic Site, the Clause Moor Colonial Farm, Glen Echo Park, Great Falls Park, Lyndon Baines Johns Memorial and the Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Text Source: National Park Service
Image Source: National Park Service

Friday, July 18, 2014

News----- 36 Pounds of Coffee A Year; Grounds For War; Ohio Barrista Becomes President

How Coffee Fueled the Civil War, Jon Grinspan, New York Times,   July 9, 2014 

It was the greatest coffee run in American history. The Ohio boys had been fighting since morning, trapped in the raging battle of Antietam, in September 1862. Suddenly, a 19-year-old William McKinley appeared, under heavy fire, hauling vats of hot coffee. The men held out tin cups, gulped the brew and started firing again. “It was like putting a new regiment in the fight,” their officer recalled. Three decades later, McKinley ran for president in part on this singular act of caffeinated heroism.

At the time, no one found McKinley’s act all that strange. For Union soldiers, and the lucky Confederates who could scrounge some, coffee fueled the war. Soldiers drank it before marches, after marches, on patrol, during combat. In their diaries, “coffee” appears more frequently than the words “rifle,” “cannon” or “bullet.” Ragged veterans and tired nurses agreed with one diarist: “Nobody can ‘soldier’ without coffee.”

Union troops made their coffee everywhere, and with everything: with water from canteens and puddles, brackish bays and Mississippi mud, liquid their horses would not drink. They cooked it over fires of plundered fence rails, or heated mugs in scalding steam-vents on naval gunboats. When times were good, coffee accompanied beefsteaks and oysters; when they were bad it washed down raw salt-pork and maggoty hardtack. Coffee was often the last comfort troops enjoyed before entering battle, and the first sign of safety for those who survived.

The Union Army encouraged this love, issuing soldiers roughly 36 pounds of coffee each year. Men ground the beans themselves (some carbines even had built-in grinders) and brewed it in little pots called muckets. They spent much of their downtime discussing the quality of that morning’s brew. Reading their diaries, one can sense the delight (and addiction) as troops gushed about a “delicious cup of black,” or fumed about “wishy-washy coffee.” Escaped slaves who joined Union Army camps could always find work as cooks if they were good at “settling” the coffee – getting the grounds to sink to the bottom of the unfiltered muckets.

For much of the war, the massive Union Army of the Potomac made up the second-largest population center in the Confederacy, and each morning this sprawling city became a coffee factory. First, as another diarist noted, “little campfires, rapidly increasing to hundreds in number, would shoot up along the hills and plains.” Then the encampment buzzed with the sound of thousands of grinders simultaneously crushing beans. Soon tens of thousands of muckets gurgled with fresh brew.

Confederates were not so lucky. The Union blockade kept most coffee out of seceded territory. One British observer noted that the loss of coffee “afflicts the Confederates even more than the loss of spirits,” while an Alabama nurse joked that the fierce craving for caffeine would, somehow, be the Union’s “means of subjugating us.” When coffee was available, captured or smuggled or traded with Union troops during casual cease-fires, Confederates wrote rhapsodically about their first sip.

The problem spilled over to the Union invaders. When Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union troops decided to live off plunder and forage as they cut their way through Georgia and South Carolina, soldiers complained that while food was plentiful, there were no beans to be found. “Coffee is only got from Uncle Sam,” an Ohio officer grumbled, and his men “could scarce get along without it.”

Confederate soldiers and civilians would not go without. Many cooked up coffee substitutes, roasting corn or rye or chopped beets, grinding them finely and brewing up something warm and brown. It contained no caffeine, but desperate soldiers claimed to love it. Gen. George Pickett, famous for that failed charge at Gettysburg, thanked his wife for the delicious “coffee” she had sent, gushing: “No Mocha or Java ever tasted half so good as this rye-sweet-potato blend!”

Did the fact that Union troops were near jittery from coffee, while rebels survived on impotent brown water, have an impact on the outcome of the conflict? Union soldiers certainly thought so. Though they rarely used the word “caffeine,” in their letters and diaries they raved about that “wonderful stimulant in a cup of coffee,” considering it a “nerve tonic.” One depressed soldier wrote home that he was surprised that he was still living, and reasoned: “what keeps me alive must be the coffee.”

Others went further, considering coffee a weapon of war. Gen. Benjamin Butler ordered his men to carry coffee in their canteens, and planned attacks based on when his men would be most caffeinated. He assured another general, before a fight in October 1864, that “if your men get their coffee early in the morning you can hold.”

Coffee did not win the war – Union material resources and manpower played a much, much bigger role than the quality of its Java – but it might say something about the victors. From one perspective, coffee was emblematic of the new Northern order of fast-paced wage labor, a hurried, business-minded, industrializing nation of strivers. For years, Northern bosses had urged their workers to switch from liquor to coffee, dreaming of sober, caffeinated, untiring employees. Southerners drank coffee too – in New Orleans especially – but the way Union soldiers gulped the stuff at every meal pointed ahead toward the world the war made, a civilization that lives on today in every office breakroom.

But more than that, coffee was simply delicious, soothing – “the soldier’s chiefest bodily consolation” – for men and women pushed beyond their limits. Caffeine was secondary. Soldiers often brewed coffee at the end of long marches, deep in the night while other men assembled tents. These grunts were too tired for caffeine to make a difference; they just wanted to share a warm cup – of Brazilian beans or scorched rye – before passing out.
This explains their fierce love. When one captured Union soldier was finally freed from a prison camp, he meditated on his experiences. Over his first cup of coffee in more than a year, he wondered if he could ever forgive “those Confederate thieves for robbing me of so many precious doses.” Getting worked up, he fumed, “Just think of it, in three hundred days there was lost to me, forever, so many hundred pots of good old Government Java.”
So when William McKinley braved enemy fire to bring his comrades a warm cup – an act memorialized in a stone monument at Antietam today – he knew what it meant to them.