31/05/2001 - Preservation News Update - May 2001

Harper's Ferry - Submarine H L Hunley - The Monitor - Loudoun Valley - The Gettysburg Pub - The General Meade Society of Philadelphia.


By Anne Hughes, ACWRT(UK)


Northern Virginia


Some good news from the beleaguered Loudoun Valley, (which recently had the "honour" of being listed as one of the 10 most endangered battlefields in America). It looks as if a proposed Western Bypass which would have cut through Prince William, Fauquier and Loudoun counties will not, now, go ahead. The Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted recently not to include plans for the bypass in the county's long-term plans. As the State of Maryland has also refused to permit the construction of a bridge across the Potomac, it looks as if this project is, for the moment, dead.



Having recently spent some time in the Northern Virginia area, I was horrified at the march of development in that part of the state, as commuterland moves ever further out from Washington DC. Historic sites and beautiful countryside are disappearing under the developers' bulldozers. When discussing this with local residents, one fact soon became apparent; when development is under way, it is amazing that no artefacts or remains are recovered, despite the fact that the houses and strip malls are being constructed on land that was fought over frequently during the Civil War. You can draw your own conclusions from this! I would urge you, please, to assist if you see requests for petitions or letters to authorities regarding proposed developments.


Something to think about: Of the 384 battlefields identified in America, in a congressional study, as having a significant influence on the nation's history, 70 have been entirely lost to development and 85% of the remainder are not protected in any way, so are liable to development.


Photo : Goose Creek Bridge (scene of 1863 cavalry battles), Loudoun Valley. This bridge was saved in the 1950s when the State decided to re-route the highway a quarter mile to the south, rather than endanger the bridge. Picture Anne Hughes, all rights reserved



Harper's Ferry, West Virginia


The first steps have taken place towards granting permission for a 188-unit housing development adjacent to Harper's Ferry National Park. This development would include not only the houses, but a 130 foot water tower, and treated sewage would be emptied into the Shenandoah River.


The 100 acre site, Murphy's Farm, is among more than 600 unprotected acres known as School House Ridge. The National Park Service (NPS) has identified this area as critical to preserving the historic and scenic integrity of Harper's Ferry. A coalition of local citizens, state and national organisations has started a campaign to protect Murphy's Farm . Initial steps included a letter writing campaign seeking to influence the outcome of the public hearing on the developer's application to build a treatment plant and discharge up to 70,000 gallons daily into the Shenandoah. More info:


Submarine H L Hunley


Work continues on the excavation of the Confederate submarine, H L Hunley. Latest news at 10 May is that brain tissue has been found in the six skulls removed from the vessel. The presence of soft tissue was detected on CAT scans conducted on the skulls. The Hunley Commission Chairman, Senator Glenn McConnell has emphasised that the remains will be handled with utmost respect.


Following earlier excavations, scientists now believe that the Hunley was, in fact, cranked by seven men. Originally, they believed that it took eight men to turn the crank, but as they were excavating around the bellows, they realised that the crank stopped, leaving room for only seven crew members. They now believe that the eighth crewman was responsible for operating the bellows, and getting air into the vessel.


Personal effects such as penknives, and a slouch hat have been removed from the Hunley recently. Interestingly, a named "dogtag" has also been found on one set of remains. This has given rise to something of a mystery, as the name on the tag is, in fact, that of a Union soldier, Ezra Chamberlin. It is recorded that Chamberlin died on July 11th, 1863 in the Battle at Fort Wagner. It is unknown at this time whether any other Hunley crew members were at the Battle of Fort Wagner. Documentation shows that there is a grave and headstone for Ezra Chamberlin in Connecticut. "The artefact seems to be made out of copper, and was found in association with a skull of a crew member. It would appear that the sailor was wearing the tag around his neck," said Project Director, Dr. Robert Neyland.

More info:


The Monitor


Diving is once more under way on the Union vessel, The Monitor, off Cape Hatteras. The USS Grapple is being used as a base for the Navy dive team who are hoping to recover the engine from The Monitor. The team are currently having to replace some of the wire slings that they placed at the wreck last year, but which have corroded since then. They are also attaching hydraulic rams to the framework, to pull the engine out of its compartment. Once the engine is recovered it will be taken to The Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia. The organisers hope to recover the famous turret after the engine recovery, before corrosion makes the turret too fragile to lift. More info:


The Gettysburg Pub


Gettysburg Borough Council has approved architects' plans to rebuild The Pub and Restaurant, the historic building which burnt to the ground earlier this year. The Pub site is on a corner of Lincoln Square, Gettysburg. It is hoped that building work will commence shortly and the building will be rebuilt to look as it did before the fire.


General Meade


The General Meade Society of Philadelphia is collecting signatures on a petition asking the US Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp of the General. 1,000 signatures are needed and, at present, the Society has collected approximately 700.


ACWRT(UK) 2001