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July 2014

Civil War graffiti house

The concept of defacing property with immature doodles, known to punks the world around as "graffiti", is not new-- not even a little bit. Ancient Greek and Roman graffiti has been found etched into stone, and even early Americans got in on the fun. One of the best-preserved examples of old-timey doodling on private property is the so-called Graffiti House in Brandy Station, Virginia, where Civil War soldiers let their imaginations (and their pens) run wild all over the walls of the building. 

Of course, The Graffiti House wasn't always the Graffiti House. It was built in 1858 and eventually came to be owned by James Barbour, who served on the staff of Confederare General Richard S. Ewell. Mr. Barbour likely used it for some commercial purpose, given its proximity to the railroad tracks and railroad station. However, the fact that it was so close to the station also made it very valuable during the Civil War. Both Union and Confederate troops used the building at various points during the war (often as a field hospital or shelter) and both sides left their mark on it. 

Read more from Anna Hider on


Traces of Lincoln's Courthouse Found in Illinois

DAVID PROEBER, The Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS—Excavations at the McLean County Museum of History have uncovered part of the footprint of the 1836 courthouse where Abraham Lincoln often worked as an attorney. “They found the corner and now can plot out the exact location. These are the physical remains of an incredibly historical episode in McLean County,” museum director Greg Koos told The Pantagraph. The two-story brick structure replaced a wood-frame building, until it was eventually torn down and replaced in 1868. Archaeologists Christopher Stratton and Floyd Mansberger of Fever River Research also found a line of fence posts, and they recovered pieces of glass, a pipe stem, ceramic pieces, spikes, and nails. The researchers will dig in the four corners of the property, including the site of two early jails.
Read more at The Pantograph

Elmira's Prisoner Camp

A view of prisoner of war camp that operated along the Chemung River in Elmira during the Civil War. Though more than 12,000 Confederate POWs were assigned to the Elmira prison camp, there was only enough barrack space for 5,000 prisoners.

By Ray Finger, Star Gazette

Elmira’s Civil War prison camp operated from July 6, 1864, until July 11, 1865, incarcerating a total of 12,121 Confederates. Here are 20 facts about that dark period in the city’s history to mark its 150th anniversary this month:

1 One day after the first 400 Confederates arrived from Maryland, two prisoners scaled the Elmira prison camp’s 12-foot stockade wall and escaped.

2 At the beginning of the Civil War, Elmira had been a military recruiting depot where soldiers attended basic training. Later in the war, Elmira was chosen as a draft rendezvous, and then it was turned into a prisoner of war camp.

3 When rats became a problem at the prison camp, a medium-sized black dog was used to catch them. Rat meat was sold to prisoners for 5 cents, but few could afford it. Eventually, two Rebel soldiers from North Carolina were sent to the guardhouse for 30 days after they captured and cooked the dog.

Continue reading "Elmira's Prisoner Camp" »

This week in the Civil War for July 27, 1864

Union forces capped weeks of stealthy underground excavation by exploding an underground mine beneath Confederate defenses near Petersburg, Virginia, on July 30, 1864. The Union aim: to overrun Confederate defenses and seize the city less than 25 miles south of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Confederate troops, weapons and debris were tossed in the air by the thundering blast. Despite the shock to the Confederate defenders, a planned Union attack after the blast went askew quickly. Federal forces charging into the huge crater created by the explosion became disoriented and confused. Their planned assault on the Confederate fortifications fell apart as the Confederates regrouped and fought back fiercely. Soon the Confederates had sealed off the gaping hole in their defenses and inflicted heavy casualties on Union forces. This day 150 years ago in the Civil War would mark a clear Confederate victory, though months of siege warfare would follow in the trenches before the Union would eventually prevail.

 From Yahoo News and the Associated Press

Image souce: wikipedia

We are losing our Civil War Battlefield sites


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How Quickly Are We Losing Key Civil War Battlefield Sites?

At current rates of development and due to rapidly increasing land prices, our nation loses approximately one acre of hallowed ground every hour. We calculate that the fate of the remaining unprotected ground will be determined within the next five to fifteen years, depending on its location.

Who owns that unprotected land?

In most cases, it is held by private landowners. Some families have owned battlefield properties since the War. Until it is officially preserved, that land can be sold to a developer or rezoned for development by government action literally at any moment.

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

Henry O. Nightingale- Eyewitness To History


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Henry O. Nightingale- Eyewitness To History-

The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln

His 1865 diary describes one of the most infamous events in American history. On April 14, Nightingale attended a performance at Ford’s Theatre. There, he witnessed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Nightingale recounted the horrific scene, writing:


A beautiful April day. Remained all day in the Hospital. In the evening, attended Ford’s Theatre and in the last act a most astounding crime was committed the President; Mr. Lincoln, shot through the head, the assassin then leaped out of the box on the stage and drew a large dagger and exclaimed “I have done it. Virginia is avenged. Sic semper tyrannis” and made his escape. the President was conveyed to a neighboring house in dying condition. a fearful night is this. Other [monstrous] crimes the Secretary of State his sons and [illegible] servants staffed found [illegible] God pit the rebellion now for men, will how no mercy death to every Confederate my Rebel sympathies, intense excitement all over the City. is under Martial Law.

Henry O. Nightingale (1844-1919) was an abolitionist from Rochester, New York who at 18 years of age enlisted in the Northern army at the start of the Civil War. Nightingale fought in numerous battles, including the Battle of Gettysburg.

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

Confederate White House housekeeper

Confederate Housekeeper660Mary OMelia is seen in an undated photo provided by the American Civil War Museum. OMelia served at the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va.,as housekeeper for Jefferson Davis and his first lady, Varina Davis, and was a confidante of the first lady.The American Civil War Museum

RICHMOND, Va. –  Mary O'Melia left Ireland for America as a young widow with three children before she was hired as housekeeper at the White House of the Confederacy. An intimate witness to history, she also has been much of a mystery.

That was until this year, when a woman with a distinctive Irish lilt to her voice called The American Civil War Museum. The housekeeper, the woman said, was related to her late husband, and she had in her possession a necklace that Confederate first lady Varina Davis gave O'Melia.

But there was more.

"What really took my breath away is she said she had a photograph of Mary," said Cathy Wright, curator at the Civil War Museum, formerly the Museum of the Confederacy.

 "Considering that it's been almost 150 years since she left the White House that anyone has been able to look at her face is just remarkable," Wright said in an interview.

Continue reading "Confederate White House housekeeper" »

This week in the Civil War for July 20, 1864

Union forces led by Maj. Gen William T. Sherman continued pressing toward Atlanta, bidding to capture the key Southern city 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. Union forces fought it out with Confederate rivals on the outskirts of Atlanta July 22, 1864. At the time, Confederates led by Gen. John Bell Hood sought to attack a Union column east of the city. But the Southern attack quickly lost momentum as fighting escalated. Sherman, in the end, positioned artillery on a hilltop, halting Confederate advances and inflicting high casualties on the Confederates at the gates to Atlanta.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press

Image source: Wikipedia

Cahaba Federal Prison

Cahaba Prison

By PETER COZZENS, New York Times
For more than the obvious reasons, Civil War soldiers in both armies despised military prisons. Not only were the inmates held against their will, but the hunger, filth, vermin, rampant disease, overcrowding, brutal treatment and soul-crushing ennui made prison camps slaughterhouses of slow death. Andersonville, the infamous Georgia prison, was the ultimate abattoir; during the summer of 1864 nearly one in three Union inmates died. In other Confederate prisons, the average mortality rate was 15.5 percent; in Union prisons, 12 percent.

There was one remarkable exception: the virtually unknown Cahaba Federal Prison, 15 miles southwest of Selma, Ala. At Cahaba, the mortality rate was just 3 percent, a lower death rate than that among American prisoners in German stalags during World War II. According to federal figures, only 147 of the 5,000 prisoners interned at Cahaba died there.

What made Cahaba unique among Civil War prisons? Read more at The New York Times