Heritage & News - December 2002

'Monitor' Turret - Chancellorsville, VA: development - Wilson's Creek, MO: management plan - Franklin, TN: library plan - Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act - 'Gods and Generals'. (From 'Crossfire' No. 70, the magazine of the American Civil War Round Table UK)


By David Hughes ACWRT(UK)


Monitor turret starts its 10-year treatment following seabed recovery


The 150-ton turret of the Union ironclad USS Monitor has been lifted 240 feet from its resting place on the seabed, 16 miles south-east of Cape Hatteras, NC, and taken to the new Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA, where it will go on display after undergoing 12 to 15 years of conservation. It will be housed with 600 other Monitor artefacts recovered from the site, which was discovered in 1972 and turned into the first US marine sanctuary.



The Monitor, designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, featured innovations including the first revolving gun turret. It sank in a storm Dec. 31, 1862, landing upside down. Sixteen sailors died; the skeleton of one was recovered with the turret, and given a military funeral. It was initially thought that remains of two more had also been found. A joint US Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team used a huge crane to raise the turret and place it on a 300-foot barge.


Among the other items that will be put on display at the museum are the ship's 36-ton steam engine, raised last year, and the ship's nine-foot propeller, lifted from the seabed in 1998. The ship itself cannot be raised intact as it is too fragile, but future excavations will be conducted to retrieve as many artefacts as possible from the site. The museum in which they will be displayed is expected to cost $30 million. Newport News, a major naval port, is about 160 miles north of the recovery site.



Chancellorsville preservationists condemn developer's proposal as "trickery"


The Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield has described the Dogwood Development Group's latest proposal as an bad deal for Spotsylvania County, VA, the battlefield's location.


Dogwood Development Group is planning a development on the Mullins Farm, one of the landmarks of the battle where, on May 1, 1863, Union and Confederate armies met in the opening clash of the battle. The coalition declared that "Dogwood's newest proposal is nothing more than a common tactic used by developers. They propose something large, anticipating a public outcry, then offer something smaller that seems like a compromise. But, despite this public posturing, the construction of 2,000 houses and 1.2 million square feet of strip malls and office space on the Mullins Farm remains the most inappropriate use imaginable. The new proffers only make worse what was already an extremely bad deal."


The coalition claims that by proposing a special tax on businesses in order to widen Route 3 in and around the proposed development, Dogwood President Ray Smith is confirming what the group has been saying all along: that it will spawn more "mega-developments" and strip mall sprawl along Route 3. They say that Dogwood promises to fix only the portions of Route 3 that access the development will not solve traffic problems caused by the new town that will be created along that road and the River Road behind it.


"We also have serious questions about Dogwood's fuzzy revenue numbers," said the coalition. "The decision to cut the amount of commercial and office space by 50 percent while only cutting the number of houses by 15 percent calls into serious question Smith's claim that his proposal will generate $10 million a year for county 8 coffers. If the original proffers were supposed to generate $11 million for the county, how can Smith cut the business side of the development in half and still claim eight-digit revenue figures for the county?"


In a public opinion survey conducted in late August, 66 percent of Spotsylvania County voters stated they oppose development of the Mullins Farm.


The Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield is an informal group of 11 national and local preservation, conservation and civic groups representing more than 600,000 members nationwide. The coalition is dedicated to preserving and protecting Chancellorsville battlefield.


Management plan for Wilson's Creek is published


The Wilson's Creek National Battlefield's Draft General Management Plan (GNP) is out for review.


Civil War enthusiasts have been encouraged to look over this document and comment on it, to counteract the comments of people who want the battlefield to be turned into a recreational area. Persons who want the area's present condition to remain unchanged have been encouraged to send a note or post card to a named Senator of their choice, c/o U.S. Senate, Washington DC 20510, and a named Representative c/o House of Representatives, Washington DC 20515.


Preservationists believe the local residents' priorities are their own welfare and convenience, "and to hell with the battlefield." It is vital, they say, for as many enthusiasts as possible to read and comment on the GMT. Wilson's Creek is one of the best-preserved battlefields as far as historic scenery is concerned, they claim.


Library condemned as poor way to preserve last few acres of battlefield


One hundred thirty-eight years later, the reminders of the Battle of Franklin are quickly fading.


"We have 10 years left and it'll all be gone," said historian Thomas Y Cartwright, who says the battlefield is the victim of urban sprawl. A Pizza Hut now stands where Gen. Patrick Cleburne fell and a Domino's Pizza marks the spot where many of his men died. Now, the Williamson County Library is claiming the last piece of open battlefield, a decision that has critics questioning the town's commitment to what's left of its legacy.


Franklin, TN, is the site where soldiers fought on a scale that even Civil War re-enactments can't fully capture. On 30 Nov. 1864, more than 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died or were wounded in the deadliest five hours of the Civil War. Only 11 acres remain of the battlefield.


"What would happen to the property if the county hadn't purchased it?" asked Williamson County Executive Clint Collicot. Collicot said the county administrators were hoping to preserve their piece of history by creating a lucrative, taxable real estate base. But preservationists say the move to bring in income has taught the town a hard lesson in balancing history with economy.


"We thought we were doing something to preserve the area," Collicot said. County commissioners say the library will at least be a learning center, and tours to the Confederate cemetery will continue. Preservationists say that still misses the mark.


"The Civil War is a tremendous heritage tourism draw. People come from all over the country to see Civil War battlefields and they bring money," said Mr. James Lighthizer of the Civil War Preservation Trust. But in Franklin, finding a pizza is a lot easier than finding the past.


US Senate passes Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act in one of final legislative acts of session


The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) has praised the US Senate for passing the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2002 (H.R. 5125) on 20 November. The bipartisan bill authorises a $10 million a year program to preserve endangered Civil War battlefields. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent in the final days of the 107th Congress. The bill now moves on to the President for his signature and enactment.


"This bill underscores Capitol Hill's commitment to saving America's Civil War battlefields" remarked CWPT President James Lighthizer. "Without this legislation, many of our nation's most hallowed battlegrounds would be lost to development during the next few years."


The Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act officially authorises a matching grant program funded by Congress in the fiscal 1999 and 2002 Interior Appropriations bills. Since its creation, the program has helped protect nearly 8,000 acres of historic battlefield land in 12 states. In the past year alone, the program has helped save historic property at Prairie Grove, AK; Antietam, MD; Chancellorsville, VA; and Harper's Ferry, WV.


The Senate bill was introduced by Senators Paul Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, and James Jeffords, a Vermonter, who is the Senate's only Independent member, in mid-September. Sarbanes regards the bill as "an important opportunity to maintain and preserve tangible links to our past so that future generations may experience firsthand this most critical moment in our nation's history."


The Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act formally establishes a program that targets priority Civil War battlefields outside National Park Service (NPS) boundaries. The American Battlefield Protection Program (an arm of NPS) competitively awards grants from the program. By requiring matching funds, the program gets both the public and private sector actively involved in saving battlefield land.


Companion legislation introduced by Reps. Gary Miller, and George Radanovich, both of whom are California Republicans, passed the US House of Representatives on 1 October. According to Miller, "these battlefields are living classrooms to remind future generations of our national history." Since the House and Senate bills are identical, no conference agreement is necessary and the non-controversial bill now heads to the President for his expected signature.


With 43,000 members, CWPT is the largest non-profit battlefield preservation organisation in the United States. Its mission is to preserve the nation's endangered Civil War battle- fields and to promote appreciation of these grounds and the events that took place there.


Is it history, or is it romance? Whichever, bring your hankies, says artist


Civil War artist Mort Kunstler and Civil War historian James I 'Bud' Robertson Jr. have served as consultants to the upcoming movie "Gods and Generals".


At The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA, the two men discussed their roles in the movie with the local paper, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, reports Jerry L. Russell. The men told how they have worked together on a companion book to the motion picture. Kunstler provides the artwork for this 143-page book while Robertson provides the historic text.


"Take your Kleenex with you," Robertson said about the movie. "It's not a war movie; it's a character study." Kunstler, who has been doing Civil War painting for about 14 years, called the movie "a five-hankie job." The movie is based on writer Jeff Shaara's historical fiction book of the same name.


"It will be the greatest Civil War movie ever made, but I am a little prejudiced," said Robertson, whose 957-page biography on 'Stonewall' Jackson - which weighs about three pounds - was a principal source of inspiration for the movie.


The three-hour movie tells the story of the first two years of the Civil War from early in 1861 to the Battle of Chancellorsville. The movie focuses on Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Jackson and Union commanders Winfield Scott Hancock and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Robertson said. It is the 'prequel' to the popular movie "Gettysburg," which was adapted from Shaara's father's novel, "The Killer Angels." Hollywood heavyweight Robert Duvall portrays Lee and Stephen Lang plays Jackson. Ron Maxwell is the director.



ACWRT(UK) 2002