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December 2011

Tenth Alabama Regiment cemetery in Virginia uncovered 150 years later


Brian Smith, right, and his son Dane consult as volunteers help clean up part of a Civil War camp site where soldiers from Alabama are buried. The work is part of the project Dane Smith embarked upon to earn Eagle Scout status. (The Birmingham News/Mary Orndorff)

Published: Thursday, December 29, 2011

By Mary Orndorff -- The Birmingham News 

BRISTOW, Va. -- About an hour west of Washington, D.C., on a scrubby plot of land overrun by pricker bushes and in the shadow of dense modern townhouse developments, an Alabama cemetery was born.

Civil War preservationists with no personal links to Alabama admit to muttering a "Roll Tide" or two as they walked across the newly cleared land, the final resting place of between 75 and 90 soldiers with the Tenth Alabama Infantry Regiment.

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William Charles Kueffner

I spent the morning at Walnut Hill Cemetery in Belleville, Illinois looking for the grave of former Sheriff Frederick Ropiequet (served in 1866 and 1880).  Found my sheriff and then saw this imposing monument.

William Charles Kueffner (February 27, 1840 – March 18, 1893) was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War who served in the 9th Illinois Infantry in the Western Theater in several campaigns. He was later brevetted as a brigadier general for bravery in combat and was a noted attorney in southern Illinois following the war.

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Civil War veterans formed groups, attended reunions

Dan Fleming: Newark Advocate

Remembering our veterans became a high priority nationwide at the end of the Civil War. Veterans wanting to share their experiences formed many types of groups.

Largest was the Grand Army of the Republic, which began in Decatur, Ill., in 1866. It reached a peak membership of 400,000 by 1890. The nine Licking County chapters were formed between 1881 and 1884. It was a fraternal organization that had considerable political clout for elections and lobbying causes, founded on the principles of "Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty." The GAR dissolved nationally in 1956.

It was the GAR that first officially proclaimed the Memorial Day holiday -- originally called Decoration Day -- on May 5, 1868, although many from North and South already had been decorating graves of soldiers. Newark's first Memorial Day coincided with the first reunion of the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on May 30, 1878. That was a grand event, attended by President Rutherford B. Hayes and generals, including James A. Garfield and William T. Sherman.

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Civil War's 150th stirs a trove of memories

This photograph provided by the Library of Virginia William Henry Taylor, left, and Stephen Stewart, members of the 11th Virginia Infantry. The photograph is among the 25,000 mementoes the Library of Virginia has scanned as archivists travel the state seeking documents, letters and diaries dating to the Civil War. Virginia is among a number of states attempting to collect Civil War documents that are in the possession of families, tucked away in trunks and attics. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the Library of Virginia)

By STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press 

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A diary with a lifesaving bullet hole from Gettysburg. An intricate valentine crafted by a Confederate soldier for the wife he would never see again. A slave's desperate escape to freedom.

From New England to the South, state archivists are using the sesquicentennial of the Civil War to collect a trove of wartime letters, diaries, documents and mementoes that have gathered dust in attics and basements.

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Christmas Night of '62



The following is a poem by Confederate soldier William Gordon McCabe giving his thoughts on Christmas Night 1862.

The wintry blast goes wailing by,
the snow is falling overhead;
I hear the lonely sentry's tread,
and distant watch-fires light the sky.

Dim forms go flitting through the gloom;
The soldiers cluster round the blaze
To talk of other Christmas days,
And softly speak of home and home

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This week in the Civil War - December 25, 1861


Christmas in a divided nation is a more muted holiday than in years past, but still not absent its celebrations. Though fathers and sons have soldiered off to war, the carols and feasts go on around the Christmas tree, both in the North and the South. On this Christmas Day 1861, President Abraham Lincoln holds yet another strained Cabinet meeting as he seeks an end to an impasse with Britain over the seizure of two Confederate envoys seized by his Navy from a British packet ship. 

The same evening he presides over a Christmas party, pressing for a semblance of holiday cheer despite a diplomatic crisis, war and the absence in his country of "peace on Earth." On this day a blockade runner is snared by the Union Navy and there is some minor skirmishing in Maryland and Virginia. 

New Year's Day of 1862 is about to dawn, but even that holiday will not be spared hostilities. On Jan. 1, 1862, Union warships unleash a barrage on targets around Pensacola, Fla., and the Confederates respond by bombarding Union-held Fort Pickens in the Florida Panhandle. Despite the ongoing conflict, 

The New York Herald-Tribune reports many in New York City have paused to rejoice on Christmas Day as churches filled to overflowing, ice skating was had on frozen ponds and many made merry. "The little ones ransacked the repositories of Chris Kringle, shouted the elves hoarse with delight over the treasures which the jolly old fellow had dropped for them over-night ... and after that the winged hours of the long Winter evening passed imperceptibly away, with song and dance, and jest and laugh, lightening the heart, and making each participant more happy and content with his burden, brightening the future with new hope."

via ABC News Go

The first Christmas of the Civil War was not very merry, on either side

Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus with an illustration for the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly The first Santa Claus appeared as a small part of a large illustration titled "A Christmas Furlough" in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. This Santa was a man dressed up handing out gifts to Union soldiers. Copyright note: the creator of this work died in 1902.

No merry Christmas in 1861

When the fathers and older brothers marched off to war in the spring of 1861, most left behind families filled with patriotic pride. But as Christmas drew near, their families were filled with sadness at the thought of the holiday without them.

At least they didn’t have to worry about losing their loved ones in battle. Not much fighting went on during the winter, so the armies stayed in camp, drilling and trying to keep warm. Mothers and children packed Christmas boxes to send them. Apples, baked goods and other treats to share — maybe even a ham or a pound of butter! — and knit socks and gloves.

On Christmas Day, most children went to church with their mothers and received small presents. This early in the war, there was enough food for a special Christmas dinner, too. People sang carols and tried to be cheerful. But in army camps on both sides, it was an ordinary winter day: drilling, writing letters and bringing in firewood. In the evening, though, the cooks prepared a special meal, and often there was singing as well as races and games.

This first wartime Christmas was not a joyous one, but those that followed it would be much worse.

The Washington Post

Christmas in the Confederate White House

Residence of Jefferson Davis

The wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote this article describing how the Davis family spent the Christmas of 1864 in the Confederate White House. It was published in The New York World, December 13, 1896 and has since been reprinted often. This excerpt was obtained via the website "The American Civil War, 1861-1865."  and on The Civil War Trust

By Varina Davis

...Rice, flour, molasses and tiny pieces of meat, most of them sent to the President's wife anonymously to be distributed to the poor, had all be weighed and issued, and the playtime of the family began, but like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided, as well as one pretty prize for the most orderly girl among the orphans.

The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years.

The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy-hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children's treasures for a contribution to the orphans' tree, my little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure: eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children's toys that gather in a nursery closet.

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Civil War soldier's teeth point to ancestry

BildeLarry McKee, right, senior archaeologist with TRC, points to a green glass bead found near the remains of a Civil War soldier in Franklin in 2009. / Tennessean file photo

Written by

Kevin Walters | The Tennessean

Report in archaeology journal says remains suggest he was at least part American Indian 

FRANKLIN — Franklin’s “unknown soldier” had a mix of Native American and European ancestry and probably did not die as a result of a gunshot during the Battle of Franklin.

Those details are part of newly released archaeological findings that offer more insight about the male skeleton that was accidentally unearthed from an unmarked grave in 2009 during construction of the Columbia Avenue Chick-fil-A. The skeleton was later buried in Rest Haven Cemetery during a ceremony that attracted thousands of people and national attention.

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