28/02/2002 - Preservation News Update - February 2002
Gettysburg: New Visitor Centre - Submarine H L Hunley - New James Longstreet statue - Washington Avenue, Philadelphia - Perryville, KT - Franklin TN: battlefield park - Port Hudson, LA - Wilmington NC: earthworks restoration.
By Anne Hughes ACWRT(UK)
Artist's impression of the new museum and visitor centre. By kind permission and copyright of Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation.
Plans were unveiled in Gettysburg in January 2002 for the new museum and visitor centre complex at the Gettysburg National Military Park. The new 139,000 square feet centre has an estimated cost of $95 million and construction is scheduled to start in 2004.
The current facility is visited by around 2 million people a year and is situated on land that was part of the battlefield on those July days of 1863. The aim of this project is to make the complex fit in with the land, and the centre will be relocated to a new position half a mile away, leaving the current site to be returned to as close to its historic landscape as possible.
The new centre, on 45 acres, will house the visitor centre itself, with more exhibits, and will include the famous Cyclorama diorama, park archives, library and two theatres. Of great interest to visiting Brits, the bookstore will be included in the new centre!
Parked buses and cars will be shielded from view by the landscape, and visitors will walk to the visitor centre and battlefield itself along wooded paths.
More info: www.friendsofgettysburg.org/New_Museum.htm and www.gettysburgfoundation.org
Again, in Gettysburg, The Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg (FNPG) have provided the funds to purchase the four acres around the First Shot Marker on the Chambersburg Pike. This purchase has secured the house and land and will mean that the area of the marker can be made more easily visible. Having passed by the site, at the junction of US30 and Knoxlyn Road, last year, I can testify that it would be easy to miss it, at present, if one wasn't aware of the marker's location. Traffic conditions make it very difficult to just stop and look at the marker, currently.
The marker was placed by the man who claimed to fire the first shot, Lieutenant (later Captain) Marcellus E Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry. Three members of Company E returned to Gettysburg in 1886 to place the marker, which they had paid for themselves.
Still in Gettysburg, a meeting of the Borough Council discussed a preliminary report on the structural integrity of the David Wills' House on the main square in Gettysburg. This is the house where Abraham Lincoln stayed the night before he delivered his famous Gettysburg Address. The report centres on the issues relating to increased use of the building, and restoration/preservation of its appearance and use. The study was funded by the National Park Service.
A historical architect with the Gettysburg National Military Park told the council that there are structural issues with the building and that it also needs bringing up to current building codes, without damaging the historic fabric. One section, a kitchen, must be demolished and rebuilt as there are problems with foundations in that area. The upper floors will also need reinforcing, as it is intended that the building will become a museum dedicated to President Lincoln. Improved rest rooms and disabled access are also planned.
SUBMARINE H L HUNLEY
Scientists are concentrating on the remains of the crewmen from the ill-fated H L Hunley. It is hoped that the crew can be identified from the remains and they will be buried in due course.
Eight pairs of leather shoes are being excavated, containing bones. X-rays, photographs and sketches are being made, to show the positioning of the bones in addition to determining the state of preservation of the shoes. Senior Conservator, Paul Mardikian, explained that the ultimate goal of the work is to record as much information as possible before the bones are removed from the shoes. Three shoes have been CAT scanned and this gives a three dimensional look at the relics. Specialists from the Smithsonian Institute are being brought in to study the information collected so far and assist with the forensic work on the crew.
X-rays so far have indicated the presence of a pocket watch and binoculars on the remains believed to be Lt Dixon. A clasp has also shown up on an X-ray - this may be part of a diary of logbook, giving raise to hopes that, as the Chairman of the Hunley Commission put it "the Hunley may speak from the past in words instead of through clues".
The investigations have indicated that the age of the crew ranges from around 17-20 at the younger end of the scale to a crew member in his 40's. The dress of the crewmen is raising questions, as the two men behind Lt Dixon are possibly dressed in naval clothing, whilst another crewman may be wearing the clothing of a Confederate artillerist. Yet another appears to be in civilian clothing. More info: www.hunley.org
Thousands of people have already visited the Hunley and the tour schedule for the remainder of the year is now posted on the Hunley web site, as above. Tickets may be purchased via www.etix.com.
GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET, GAINSVILLE, GEORGIA
A new memorial to Confederate General James Longstreet was unveiled towards the end of last year, at the site of his former home in Gainesville. Many descendants of General Longstreet were in attendance, and Dan Paterson, a great grandson of the General gave a keynote speech. The General's granddaughter, Mrs Jamie Longstreet Paterson, unveiled the statue, along with Gregory Johnson, the sculptor and members of the monument committee of the Longstreet Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Sons of Confederate Veterans and 1st State Line provided both Colour Guard and a twenty-one gun salute. After the ceremony, Taps was played by a bugler, and events concluded with the rendering of "Dixie".
Dan Paterson said that it was fitting that the monument was located at the site where the General's house had burned, and he also referred to General Longstreet's final years in Gainesville.
The monument is a life-sized statue of the General, with his foot on an ammunition box and one hand on his beard, with the other holding his order book.
WASHINGTON AVENUE, PHILADELPHIA
Funds are being raised in Philadelphia to re-inter the remains of presumed Civil War soldiers from under Washington Avenue. Coffins and remains were unearthed during street renovations last October, in an area close to known Civil War and other historic cemeteries. It is believed the remains are from 1861 war dead from the area hospitals. Four Civil War historic and preservation groups have combined to co-ordinate the project to raise the necessary finance to exhume and rebury the bodies in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia. They have already obtained a Court Exhumation and Reburial Order.
Four coffins have been removed from beneath the site. Two have been taken to Laurel Hill Cemetery and the other two are being examined at Temple University to try to determine sex, race, cause and date of death. Clothing will be examined in an attempt to discover if any were in uniform. The remaining coffins have, hopefully, also been recovered by now and there will be checks to make sure that any additional burials have not been missed.
There is a deadline to this project, as the authorities have unexpectedly decided to resume work on the site. This has meant that because of the time constraints, the group has had to agree to pay for additional contracting to meet the city's deadline, putting them over budget on funds already received.
Donations and pledges may be made to "Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery" and sent to Southwark Civil War Historic Committee, 842 South 2nd Street, No 319 Philadelphia, Pa 19147, for the attention of Suzanne L Haney, Washington Avenue CW Project Co-ordinator.
More info: e-mail: Dr. Andy Waskie: email@example.com or
Suzanne Haney: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association (PBPA) has bought the historic Dye House and Farm, including 50 acres of battlefield land and a Confederate HQ building. It is believed that Confederate Major General Simon Buckner used the house as his headquarters. The farm was used by his division as a staging area and post-battle the house was used as a hospital. The upper floors of the house still show bloodstains.
Parts of the house are likely to be used to interpret the building as a field hospital and headquarters. It is hoped to relocate maintenance and recreational equipment to the farm, from its present location in the middle of the respective lines of battle.
More info: www.perryville.net
The Public Assets Committee of the City of Franklin recently voted to recommend to the Board of Mayor and Alderman that they fund half the cost of a study which would be required to establish a battlefield park at Franklin. The city's share of the cost would be $17,500, although it might be reimbursed at a later date by Federal funding.
The county owns the Battle Ground Academy, where a new War Memorial Library is being planned and it is planned that this would be the focal point of a new battlefield park.
More info: www.civilwarinteractive.com/franklincityvote1.htm.
PORT HUDSON, LOUISIANA
Archaeologists and Civil War enthusiasts are attempting to discover what happened during 15 minutes in May 1863 an an area of Port Hudson State Historic site. On 27 May 1863, the first use by the US Army of black troops at regimental strength, in a major assault, took place at this site. General Nathaniel Banks sent the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guard regiments into battle against one of the strongest areas of natural fortress. The troops were hit by rifle and artillery fire and sustained heavy casualties.
The site is inaccessible for large periods of time as the Mississippi floods over its banks and is expected to do so again later in the month of February.
The archaeologists have used thermal imaging equipment to find the location of an old road used by the advancing troops. Volunteers have joined the Port Hudson staff members to search for metal artefacts in the overgrown bottomland.
Recent finds include part of what is believed to be a shell fired from the Confederate river battery. It will be examined and treated to stabilise the metal before a decision is made as to whether it is put on display or studied further. Other artefacts include an intact 8 inch cannon ball, the breastplate from a uniform belt, and a cone-shaped Minie ball.
WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
Work is to begin to restore some of the breastworks and a road at the site of the Battle of Forks Road, which was the last stand for the Confederates at Wilmington on 20 February 1865, after the defeat of Fort Fisher.
A local historian, students from the University of North Carolina, University archaeologists and enthusiasts are hoping the work will be finished by the middle of April, which is the date of the opening of the new art museum which was built at the historic site.
It is hoped that a 25 foot section of the breastworks can be reconstructed; small trees and shrubs will be removed from the area and the samplings will be used as breastwork reinforcing. The mounds will also be restored to their original height.
The art museum plans to erect education markers detailing the site's history, together with walkways and a meditation area. In addition the museum is planning to have information about the site available in the museum, to encourage visitors to look at the restored site.