Yes, the Chancellorsville 150th is the most recent major battle anniversary, but on a recent trip up I-95 came the opportunity to visit the Fredericksburg NBP and to walk the sunken road and then follow the path through the national cemetery. For those who haven't visited recently, the walking path and the reconstructed stonewall more clearly educate on what it was like for the Confederates to defend the position against the Union charges from their comparative safety:
More to the Michigan point, however, it takes the visitor just a few more minutes to follow the trail into the cemetery.
There, immediately after entry, one finds this:
A closer look reveals a Michigan grave:
And the story of James T. Avery? Died May 12, 1864. He was a member of Company A, 17th Michigan Infantry, 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, IX Corps, Army of Potomac. Residence: Adrian MI; 19 years old, enlisted on June 4, 1862 at Adrian, Lenawee Co., MI as private; on August 19, 1862 he mustered into "A" Co. MI 17th Infantry. Wounded in February 1864 at Knoxville, TN. Promoted to Sergeant. Killed In action in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
This national cemetery is full of such headstones, such graves, such stories. And each one is worth stopping at to pay silent respect to the sacrifice of one of our Michigan forebears.
I've heard from fellow Commissioner and MI CWS Committee Chairman Brian James Egen of the following amazing story ... with a request for help:
We found an oil painting of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade Monument at Gettysburg in our collections here at The Henry Ford. It is a great painting of a bucolic scene with sheaves of winter wheat shocked in piles around the monument with the Rummel Farm in the distance. We are very excited about this painting and have been frantically doing research trying to find the back-story of whom, when, where, and more importantly why – particularly the Michigan Cavalry Brigade monument of all the others on the main battlefield?
The painting was done, we believe in 1890, by Jessie C. Zinn (Lohr) who was born in Gettysburg (possibly in nearby York Springs to be exact) on July 4, 1863. She was married on July 15, 1891 to Lindsy [sic] Luther Lohr Lohr who was supposedly trained at the Lutheran Seminary in town. Since the painting was signed Jessie C. Zinn we presumably speculate that it was done between June 12, 1889 (Michigan Day at G-burg) and July 15, 1891 when she was married. We have found an amazing amount of information and tracked down her grandson, Lawrence Lohr. The family is not aware of any other military themed paintings that she did – at least that they are aware – except for one. Mr. Lohr told us his cousin John Zinn, who lives in Gettysburg, has another Jessie Zinn painting done around the same time of people out visiting the “High Water Mark”. He described it as “people on a Sunday afternoon stroll visiting the battlefield.”
Our painting, which is approximately 43” x 57”, is substantial enough and unique to the artist’s other works, that we are currently thinking it may have been a commissioned piece. That being said, someone from Michigan (probably from the Brigade) must have commissioned it. Russell Alger? Libby Custer? James Kidd? Custer family? Cavalry Brigade Association? Although the accession record contains very little about the particulars we understand it was donated to The Henry Ford with a Tecumseh, MI/Detroit connection. Although we have found a ton of material on the artist and her family from Gettysburg, the trail goes cold as to the Michigan connection and why. Here is what we know about the Tecumseh/Detroit connections at the moment: Joseph Elliot Gray was one of the founding family members of Tecumseh. His son Elliot was 1st Lt. Company B, 7th MI Cavalry. He was wounded at Gettysburg and discharged about 10 days later somewhere nearby. He apparently was instrumental in the GAR 140th Post in Tecumseh, MI. Alger, who just ended his term as Governor, mentions Lt. Elliot in his speech during the Monument’s dedication so we presume Elliot was in attendance – did he meet the artist during that time? Did someone commission her after the dedication? So many questions.
As you can imagine, it is pretty exciting and we are eager to find out more and have it displayed during Civil War Remembrance weekend. It is also has recently been published to our online collections web site - THF You will see it in the middle of the thumbnails.
Brian asks: Is anyone out there with more information?
Being near the Beaufort National Cemetery last week, several of us from Michigan went over on a brilliant Spring afternoon to pay tribute to the sacrifice of black Michiganders who never made it home from their Civil War service. To stand near their graves and think of the measure of courage they had to risk their lives down in the Deep South is truly humbling. Our memorial wreath attempted to pay honor, but Dudley Randall's poem of that name, which we read aloud (trying not to choke up), says it perfectly.
One hundred sixty-four years ago today, Ulysses S. Grant reported to Detroit. It was not the first time; he had reported on November 17, 1848, only to be told of reassignment to Sacketts Harbor, NY, where he promptly set out for. But on April 18, 1849, he was back in Detroit, reporting to the headquarters of the 4th U.S. Infantry. He would remain here on duty until reporting again at Sacketts Harbor on June 12, 1851.
These next two years may, in fact, have been the happiest of U.S. Grant's entire life. He had been married to Julia Dent on August 22, 1848, and so spent only a few months as a newlywed before the posting in New York. It was during their Detroit residence that Frederick Dent Grant, the Grants' first child, was born, on May 30, 1850. You do the math.
More to come -- let us hope, during this momentous 150th of the Civil War -- about the Grants in Detroit, and, let us hope, soon.
As promised, here are some never-before-heard-about items connecting USG to Michigan, well beyond what's been written in all (so far as we know) the major works on him.
But there's more. To come.
Two short of that, to be exact, General R.E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to forces under command of General U.S. Grant. The two years leading up to that point -- could anyone have seen that the war in Virginia would be over, in some 700 more days, on that April 9th of 1863? So long a time period, and yet so short.
Grant had a number of Michigan connections. We'll take a look at those over these next few months, so stay tuned.
What would you say if you stumbled across an artifact from one of our Nation's wars that you never expected to see on your home turf? For example, would you be shocked if you were walking through your town's central park and there, mounted for all to see for many years but always overlooked, was ... George Washington's sword ... Teddy Roosevelt's hat and glasses ... George S. Patton's sidearms ... Norman Schwartkopf's uniform ... a piece of the World Trade Center ... or some other memento that evokes in its physical presence what words alone can never bring alive?
In Michigan, unbeknownst to most, are at least a half-dozen such artifacts from what is arguably the most memorable U.S. Navy ship of the Civil War. Not the Monitor, for its fame derives largely from one battle. No, the vessel in question is the U.S.S. Hartford, the flagship of the most famous Northern admiral, David Farragut. Years after the war, when the ship was being scrapped, a congressman representing northern Michigan somehow designated a number of the ship's Dahlgren cannons for removal to his district. At least several remain.
Where? Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Mackinaw City, Cheboygan, Boyne City, and Gaylord all are said to be home to at least one.
If you can find them out, let us know where they are ...
And just to be clear, this ain't no April Fools joke.
Craig Symonds' 2008 Lincoln and His Admirals is truly an admirable book. Beyond the Monitor and the Merrimack, beyond the Kearsarge and the Alabama, beyond almost all other short-hand accounts of the naval aspect of the Civil War, the book tells the fulsome story of ships and their role in the conflict. How many Civil War enthusiasts know that African-Americans served aboard U.S. Navy ships from the beginning of, even before, the War? How many understand Lincoln's approach to naval affairs? How many have looked at the OR but not the ORN? This is a classic volume that belongs in every Civil War library.
Did Michigan have any role in this sphere? The book makes a mention, at page 301: "That night a large crowd, led by the band of the 27th Michigan regiment, marched to the White House to serenade Lincoln in celebration of Grant's presumed victory in the Wilderness." Oops: that's an infantry unit! Guess you have to go to Michigan and the Civil War: A Great and Bloody Sacrifice to find out.
But post no. 2, to emerge in the next few days, will tell a story about Michigan and the naval side of things that neither book mentions ...
As a blog that's been around a while, sometimes a contact is received suggesting some free advertising. This blog doesn't allow ads, sticking strictly to info. But it is okay to pass this along:
A new Civil War film is to be released in June from Ron Maxwell (director of God and Generals and Gettysburg), called Copperhead, about a Northern farmer who opposes the war. In Upstate New York, 1862, "dairy farmer Abner Beech despises slavery – but just as passionately opposes the war that President Lincoln is waging." "Abner is neither a Yankee nor a Rebel. He is what is known as a Copperhead. A local anti-slave zealot named Hagadorn stirs up the town against him, first with pamphlets, then with rumors that prompt shopkeepers to boycott Abner’s dairy products, next by coaxing the community to shun his family." And there's a subplot where Abner’s son falls in love with Hagadorn’s daughter, enlists to please her, and goes missing in action. The furnished synopsis goes on to say: "American political issues may have evolved since 1862, yet the uncertainty and violence with which we deal with them has not – as Copperhead vividly demonstrates time and again. Copperhead is a parable of the Civil War and perhaps for our own time."
What also caught my eye was the name of the antagonist: Hagadorn. It's a main road in East Lansing where yours truly went to college.
Here's hoping the movie will be a fitting addition to the pantheon of memorable Civil War films. Click on the "Film" link to this blog to see prior entries on CW movies, including a May 2008 post on favorites.