Tag Archives: Civil War

Civil War Cannons Retrieved From The Great Pee Dee River, South Carolina

Oct 23, 2016 George Winston

William Lockridge is part of a team that raised three Civil War cannons from the Great Pee Dee River.

“I had three children, and it’s kind of like having a child I guess, they show up and you’re happy and sooner or later when the crowd thins out I’ll go over and they’ll dry my babies out and I’m gonna kiss them,” he said.

The archaeologist was part of a team from the University of South Carolina.

 Each of the cannons weighs between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds. Two of them are Confederate Brooke Rifle cannons that are 11.8 and 12.25 feet each. The third is a captured Union Dahlgren cannon that is 8.9 feet long.

The cannons were artillery on the CSS Pee Dee. The gunboat was tasked with protecting the coast at the Mars Bluff Navy Yard. When it seemed the ship would be captured by the enemy, commanders ordered the cannons dumped into the river, and the ship set alight.

“Over the years ever since the guns were thrown overboard, people have always wondered about what happened to these guns, and so a number of individuals in the past, as well as present, were sort of looking for these guns,” underwater archaeologist James Spirek said.

It took twenty years for researchers to locate the first two cannons in 2009. The third one was located in 2012.

World War II veteran Catesby Jones was in the crowd watching the cannons get pulled out of the river. His great-grandfather made the Brooke Rifle Cannons in Selma, Alabama in 1863, WPDE reported.

 “I’ve been all over the country seeing these other tubes that were made in Selma, now that I’ve seen these two I’ve seen all of them,” Jones said.

“To the history of the shipyard, the history of the Confederacy, the Confederate navy, it’s a huge addition, and it can’t be measured. I don’t know that I have the words to properly express it,” Lockridge said.

Next up for the cannons is two years of soaking in preservation tubs at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. Eventually, they will be displayed outside of the new Veterans Administration building in Florence County.

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Mystery photo unseen for 30 years may show Civil War gunship

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FILE 2015: Divers prepare to descend onto the wreck site of the CSS Georgia near the channel of the Savannah River, Savannah, Ga. The recovery of the Confederate ironclad ship marks the beginning of the construction phase of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. (AP Photo/Georgia Port Authority, Stephen Morton)

John Potter says he was browsing for antiques at a yard sale in south Georgia when he came across an old picture frame containing an enigmatic image — the dark silhouette of a person in a hat and coat standing to one side and a long, boxy structure looming in the background.

Potter says he didn’t have the $175 the owner in Waycross wanted for the photograph, a hazy image further blurred by stains from water or chemicals. He also recalls finding a written clue to decoding the image on back of the frame. The inscription read: “CSS Georgia.”

“I knew exactly what it was,” said Potter, a Savannah native now living in North Carolina. “I thought, `This belongs in a museum.”‘

That was roughly 30 years ago. The only evidence of the mystery image are photographs snapped of the original to share with historian friends back in Savannah. Civil War experts say the image, if authenticated, would be the only known photograph of the CSS Georgia, an armored Confederate warship that was scuttled by its own crew 150 years ago as Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union troops captured Savannah.

“Believe me, if I had thought that the image was the CSS Georgia, I would have moved mountains to make sure we got it.”- Paul Blatner, museum curator

Experts still have many questions about the sunken ironclad, and they think the original photo could help them find answers.

“The photo is just as much a mystery as the CSS Georgia, because nobody has seen it in years,” said Julie Morgan, an archaeologist for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The federal agency is spending $14 million to raise the Confederate ship’s wreckage from the bottom of the Savannah River. Divers have been in the water since January and work is expected to wrap up this fall.

In a military sense, the CSS Georgia was an ironclad flop that never fired a shot in battle. The Civil War ushered in the era of armored warships. In Savannah, a Ladies Gunboat Association raised $115,000 to build such a ship to protect the city. But the 120-foot-long CSS Georgia’s engines proved too weak to propel its 1,200-ton frame against river currents. It stayed anchored off Fort Jackson as a floating gun battery before it was scuttled in December 1864.

No photographs of the ironclad have been confirmed. Neither have blueprints or construction plans. Several artists drew renderings of the CSS Georgia, but they differ in their details.

If the image Potter found the 1980s could be authenticated, would it necessarily be the CSS Georgia?

Robert Holcombe, former curator of the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, dug up archival information on the CSS Georgia for a report to the Army Corps in 2003. Holcombe said the shape in the photo conforms with known aspects of the CSS Georga’s design that made it unique among ironclads — namely an armored casemate that covered the ship’s entire deck with sides sloped at 45-degree angles.

“If it’s an original, it’s certainly the Georgia, just by process of elimination,” Holcombe said. If the photo isn’t authentic, he said, “it’s an awfully good fake.”

The Army Corps is spreading word that it’s seeking the original photograph through its website and by using social media. Morgan said she hopes the owner may have other relics related to the ironclad.

Potter said he tried unsuccessfully to reconnect with the photo’s owner, who soon moved away from Waycross. He donated a photo of the original image to the Georgia Historical Society, which confirmed it received Potter’s gift in March 1986.

A couple of years later, Potter said, he got a letter from a family member of the original image’s owner. He said the letter, which he no longer has, claimed the original photograph had been donated to the Savannah History Museum.

Paul Blatner, the museum’s curator and director from 1984 to 1990, said he never saw a photograph of any Confederate ironclad during his tenure.

“Believe me,” Blatner said, “if I had thought that the image was the CSS Georgia, I would have moved mountains to make sure we got it.”

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American Cities at the Turn of the 19th Century

Photos of American cities from Civil War era to 1912…

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1863: Stokes Illustrated Almanac of Fashion (Middle of Civil War, includes Military and Civilian Wear)

SOURCE: US National Archives

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Image found of Confederate White House housekeeper

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Mary 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

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.

The tintype adds a human dimension to what is a tantalizing but frustrating portrait of a woman who left her children in Baltimore to oversee the White House in the capital of the Confederacy during the duration of the Civil War but publicly revealed little of the experience.

O’Melia was among a staff of 20, was a confidante to the first lady, and may have been in the mansion in April 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln visited after Confederate defenders left the city smoldering. Historical records are unclear on that point.

The discovery is important nonetheless because the museum, which is next door to the White House, has strived to piece together the often untold lives of the African-American slaves, free people of color and European immigrants who worked as domestics for the Davis family.

“One of the more elusive figures was Mary O’Melia,” Wright said.

O’Melia was a central character in this Southern version of “Downton Abbey” and she remains a bit of an enigma. Even her name is a mystery. It’s been spelled various ways through the years — O’Melia, O’Malley and O’Malla.

This much is known: she was born Mary Larkin on April 7, 1822, in Galway, in western Ireland. She was educated in a convent, and apparently the fine needlework the religious order of nuns taught her may have influenced her hiring by Varina Davis.

She married a ship captain, Matthias O’Melia, but was widowed at age 25 when he was lost at sea.

While the circumstances of her journey to America are not known, Mary O’Melia settled in Baltimore in about 1850. In 1861, she left her children with relatives and headed to visit friends in Richmond, where she was marooned when Virginia left the Union.

Told by friends Varina Davis could help her return north, she appealed to the Roman Catholic bishop to intercede on her behalf.

Ultimately, Davis prevailed upon O’Melia to take the position as housekeeper and companion to the first lady despite O’Melia’s separation from her children.

O’Melia would eventually remain at the Confederate White House until Richmond’s fall in 1865.

Despite her perch within the Confederate seat of power, O’Melia left little written accounts of her years in Richmond. She left it to others to speculate on her employment, including a reporter who wrote after her death of all the “exciting conferences” she would have witnessed.

When the first family left Richmond in April 1865, O’Melia remained to oversee the mansion.

Writing from Danville days after his departure, President Jefferson Davis wrote to his wife: “Mrs. Omelia behaved just as you described her, but seemed anxious to serve and promised to take care of everything which may mean some things.”

Perhaps a more telling gesture of O’Melia’s connection to the first family of the Confederacy was her correspondence with the Davis family after they parted and a wedding she and Varina Davis attended in 1867. They were the only white people in attendance at the wedding of Ellen Barnes, who had served in the White House.

When Jefferson Davis died in 1889, O’Melia attended a memorial in Baltimore. A reporter said she “attracted considerable attention” and was described as “a well-preserved old lady.”

Wright said O’Melia’s story resonates particularly with her because she calls herself the “modern housekeeper of the White House of the Confederacy.

“I’m supposed to be over there keeping it clean and maintaining it so I’ve always felt a personal affinity for her,” she said.

After her service at the White House, O’Melia returned to Baltimore where she operated boarding houses until her death in 1907.

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American Holocaust

In World War 2 some 50-80 million people died.  The Holocaust, the actual planned extermination of people by the Nazis resulted in 12-14 million deaths, about half Jewish, the others slavs, political opponents, communists, performers and anyone else considered an enemy of Aryan rule.

In the United States at the height of slavery, Slave owners held captive around 4,000,000 black people as slaves.  During the Civil War, 620,000 men died in battle, or roughly the same amount as every other American war combined, including WW1, WW2 and Viet Nam.  A full 2% of the American population, or 1 in 50 died in the conflict.

I am sure you know about World War 2, the Holocaust and the Civil War fought to free 4 million slaves.  But what about the ongoing American Holocaust?  Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, over 56 million abortions have occurred in the United States.  Black children are aborted at four to five times the rate of other children.  Though only 17% of the population, they represent half the abortions.

In the United States, roughly 9,000 murder victims are identified each year.  Half of them are black victims.  93% of the perpetrators are also black.  Why are these numbers not a clarion call for change?

We have lost around 28 million potential black American citizens in the last 50 years to abortion.  Seven times the number of slaves prior to emancipation, and twice the total number of dead in the holocaust, four times the numbers of Jews slain in the holocaust.

In murders, we lost another 250,000 young black people, many at the hands of their own fellows.

It’s time we stop race baiting over comments made on blogs or by politicians or by sports figures and look at the horror of our own American Holocaust.  Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, I plead with you to consider the socio-economic impacts of a country that eliminates the same number of its citizens as the entire world lost in WW2.  And, like WW2, the victims are the poor and the minorities.

Something has to be done.  We have lost two generations of young black Americans that could have done so much for this country.  Help support adoption, birth control, strong families, counseling, domestic abuse prevention and our churches in needy communities.  If we have to, start small.  Adopt one child.  Pay for one family to choose life and adoption over abortion.  Help one family have housing and food.

Will history sweep under the rug one of the greatest atrocities in cost of life?  Is this magnitude of impact what any pro-choice advocate wants?  Let’s work together to stand up.  We need the next generation.  ALL of the next generation, not just the wealthy, not just the white, but everyone.

How many black leaders and heroes like the following have we missed out on their lives due to our holocaust?

 

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We Used to Be Tougher

We used to be tougher people.  I like looking at old movies, books and pictures to get a feel for how things were.  It is hard to get rid of our own lifestyles in our head and put ourselves in earlier times.  In 1893 the Industrial Revolution was well under way, America was connected by railroads across the continent, the Civil War had ended 28 years earlier, so it was the last generation’s war.  Oil, steel, and the Industrial barons were on the scene and big cities sprung up with hazardous conditions.

Still, you wore proper outfits.  Princeton, an Ivy league school of prestige, even then, was where gentlemen went to become the leaders and even Presidents of tomorrow.  But we were not a people who settled our quarrels through attorneys or played video games.  A man was expected to fight and take his licks.  The following is a picture of college students following a Freshman vs. Sophomore snowball fight.  It is remarkable to me because if you saw this picture today on TV with the caption – Princeton students after snowball fight – imagine the lawsuits, the TV coverage, the outrage, etc.  Back then, it was a picture they probably kept and showed their families with a chuckle.

Princeton students after a Freshman / Sophomore snowball fight. Princeton, NJ, 1893.

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