Articles & Commentary

Micah and Max Neill Explore the Mexican-American Military Sites in Mexico

Micah and Max Neill Explore the Mexican-American Military Sites in Mexico

This report just in from Max and Micah Neill about their history trip to Mexico:

Max and Micah Neill went on a history tour into Mexico in June 2017. It included items relating to the Mexican-American War 1846-1847 (many Civil war generals and officers, both sides, including Jefferson Davis, fought here), the Confederates in exile in Mexico in 1865-1866, and the French intervention, with reign of Emperor Maximillian in Mexico, from about 1862-1867.

Places visited included Monterrey, Saltillo, Buena Vista battlefield, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro (where treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed; also Maximillian was executed here), Mexico City, Chapultepec castle area, Churubusco, the Pedregal lava field, Contreras, Puebla, and Cordoba (where the treaty was signed in 1821 granting independence of Mexico from Spain). Mexico had been a colony of Spain for 300 years.

We saw two of the tallest volcanos in Mexico, Popocatepetl and Pico de Orizaba (18,000 feet). We also visited the hacienda (plantation) which Maximillian had given to Confederate General Joseph O. Shelby and followers for their new home. The plan was to raise sugar cane, coffee, and cotton, plus build a railroad (big plans). However, it didn’t work out, because Napoleon III would not send more French troops to support Maximillian; Maximillian was eventually executed by Benito Juarez’s followers; and Juarez’s guerilla fighters harassed the Confederados until they couldn’t take it anymore; so they ended up coming back to the U.S.

Our trip was physically strenuous (long hours, lots of walking), but was packed with history. We heard from many Mexican historians at these different places (our tour company provided an excellent bus driver and a tour guide who translated), and got to hear the Mexican side of things. Great trip!

Note: The picture is of Max and Micah in front of the New Orleans Grays flag captured by Mexican troops at the Alamo.

Visiting the Shenandoah Valley and Antietam

Visiting the Shenandoah Valley and Antietam

Last week and early this week I had the pleasure of taking a Civil War Battlefield tour with Dr. Tom Murphy, Dr. Watson Arnold and Mac Arnold. It was a great trip with a focus on the Shenandoah Valley with a final day at the Antietam NBP.

The first day we spent "down" the Valley in Winchester, Kernstown and Cedar Creek. One thing you learn on a trip to the Shenandoah Valley is that "down" is North and "Up" is South. It is very confusing until you realize that the Shenandoah River flows from South to North. Highlights of the day were downtown Winchester, the Kernstown Battlefield and the Cedar Creek NBP. At Kernstown we had an excellent guide and he gave a great explanation of how First Kernstown, Second Kernstown and Second Winchester all took place on the same field. At Cedar Creek we took advantage of the audio App. This is a very large battlefield going over 6 miles from North to South which gives one some idea of the physical endurance of the Civil War soldiers.

The second day we spent at New Market Battlefield and at Cross Keys and Port Republic. The New Market Battlefield is owned by VMI. It is well preserved. Tom Murphy and I walked the Battlefield which is highly recommended. Of particular interest is the "Field of Lost Shoes" where the VMI Cadets were included in a charge on a Union line. The charge was instrumental in the Confederate victory.

Here is the advantage of walking a battlefield. How was the charge against a battery of canons firing canister successful? The answer is that the "field of lost shoes" is in a depression that protected the attackers until they were about 100 yards from the canons. By the time the Cadets reached the crest of the depression the Union gunners did not have a chance to reload. In short order, they were on top of the guns.

Day three was spent in Lexington. Washington and Lee and VMI are just as impressive as I had hoped. We also had a fine tour of the only house that Stonewall Jackson had ever owned.

Day four was spent at Antietam. In my mind, this is one of the "must sees" of Civil War sights. Of course, the battle was the bloodiest single day in American military history. But the Battlefield park is excellent. Everything from the movie at the Visitor's Center to the driving tour is clear, informative and educational.

Two take-aways for me. One is that my wife's Great Grandfather was wounded at Antietam and we were able to trace the path of his unit. Two is that being on the battlefield provides many "Eureka" moments. My favorite is that the terrain dictates how the "Sunken Road" went from a perfect Condederate defensive position to "Bloody Lane." There is a hill on the left of the Sunken Road and once the Union troops made it to the top of the hill, they had a perfect line of fire down the entire Confederate line.

Bottom line is that the best way to understand a battle is to walk the field. We are very fortunate to have the National Park Service and battlefield preservation groups like the Civil War Trust that work to give us this opportunity.

The New York City Civil War Vacation, 2015

The New York City <i>Civil War</i> Vacation, 2015

By Charles Deur

I never thought a visit to New York could be considered a “Civil War vacation,” but the trip with my wife to the Big Apple and its environs turned out to be one of the best little Civil War trips we have done. I identified three basic themes: Antecedents, Secret Missions and Agendas, and Memory.

The search for Antecedents took us to Hartford, CT and started with two neighbors: authors Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain. The Beechers were evangelicals who believed slavery was wrong. Harriet’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was the first American work of fiction to become an international bestseller. (After the Bible, it was the best-selling book of the 19th century.) In the Stowe house we saw Harriet’s handwritten research for the book, a photograph of Josiah Henson (the model for Uncle Tom), one of more than 20 volumes of signatures of British readers of Uncle Tom’s Cabin who endorsed Harriet’s anti-slavery position, her writing table and inkwell. Mark Twain, author of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, lived next door in a highly ornamented, 19-room house on three floors.

We were amazed that these famous writers—separated by a generation, but united in their anti-slavery views—could cross the driveway to borrow sugar. Twain was also a publisher and encouraged some of his visitors (including Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan) to write their memoirs. Why did Twain settle in Hartford? At the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Hartford was a major publishing center in North America.

Two blockbuster exhibits in New York City highlighted the Secret Missions and Agendas theme. The NY State Historical Society Museum on West Central Park hosted “Lincoln and the Jews” with several hundred artifacts and signed documents. Early in his career Lincoln was supported by Jews. Jewish families from Illinois were big suppliers of provisions for the Union Army. British Jewish immigrant Joseph Jonas became a major Lincoln supporter even though his family was divided—members served in both Union and CSA armies. When Confederate Charles Jonas ended up on Johnson’s Island (Sandusky, Ohio) as a POW, he was released on a three-week pass to attend his father’s funeral. (That pass was on display and signed by Lincoln.) We saw the commission papers of the first Jewish chaplain in the U.S. Army, read Grant’s “Order 11,” which ordered all Jews to be driven out of the Western Theater (Lincoln personally cancelled it), and discovered the Jewish version of “James Bond,” Dr. Issachar Zacharie. This physician became the presidential podiatrist (Lincoln had a serious bunion problem) and soon was promoted to secret emissary and agent. He traveled across the lines as a “health care professional” and carried out secret missions from his famous patient (A. Lincoln) to his co-religionist Judah Benjamin, Secretary of State of the CSA. (In 1864, while behind Union lines in Savannah under a presidential pass, Zacharie was arrested as a spy by the uninformed Secretary Stanton.) Jewish U.S. Army surgeon Charles Liebermann, the president’s last physician, hand-wrote his progress notes as Lincoln lay dying in the apartment house across the street from Ford’s Theater. The dried blood on the original pages brought tears to my eyes.

The other Agenda site was the J. Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum (225 Madison Ave.) where the exhibit “Lincoln Speaks: Words That Transformed a Nation” provided primary sources about the motivations of Honest Abe. We saw original copies of Lincoln’s inaugural addresses, the Emancipation Proclamation, letters of clemency (and letters of execution for captured spies), and—my personal favorite—the signed copy of the 13th Amendment, the only such document ever signed by a president. Documents about desertion, hiring of substitutes, and the great Draft Riot showed me other (disappointing) aspects of the Civil War.

Memory of this war rarely focuses on the role of New York City, but this urban area was probably one of the biggest contributors to the Union victory. If it were not for the thousands of Irish and Northern European immigrants who continually poured into the port of New York (and into the depleted ranks of the army), the North might well have lost.

We found a connection that was surprisingly relevant—the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The earliest photographic record of Teddy Roosevelt is of him leaning out the second floor window of his grandfather Cornelius’ home off Union Square to see Lincoln’s cortege pass. Later Roosevelt became a huge supporter of a little-known sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and they worked together in redesigning American gold coinage. New York City is the site of two of Saint-Gauden’s greatest monumental tributes to the leaders of the Union forces: the Farragut Memorial in Madison Square Park and the sculpture of General William Tecumseh Sherman in the Grand Army Plaza.

I hope this whets your appetite for little Civil War vacations.

The Wallers Go To Appomattox 150th Anniversary

The Wallers Go To Appomattox 150th Anniversary

This report just in from Mr. and Mrs. Lynn Waller, Members of the Fort Worth Civil War Round Table:

"When Curt Fields spoke at our February meeting as Ulysses S. Grant, he mentioned that he would be portraying the general at the 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox. We were so impressed with his presentation that we decided that would be an exciting event to attend. And it was.

There were activities all week long. The National Park Service took great pains to re-create everything as accurately as possible including such things as the time of the day and the amount of time spent at the McLean House by Lee and Grant on April 9. On the 10th were the Lee-Grant horseback meeting and later in the day the stacking of arms as the Confederates surrendered their weapons, flags, and even their drums. It was a most memorable and even emotional experience to see.

We are grateful that the CWRT had Curt Fields speak here which enabled us to hear about the Appomattox 150th."

For additional information, click here.

The Red River Indian War - 1874

The Red River Indian War - 1874

Peter Cozzens and Pete Brown at the site of Ranald MacKenzie's first camp for the Red River Indian War of 1874

USS Monitor and Mariners Museum - Newport News, Virginia

USS Monitor and Mariners Museum - Newport News, Virginia

This is an outstanding facility. It was started by the same people who were responsible for the Huntington Library in California. The Museum tells the story of ships, sailors and their exploits for the past 1,000 years. It is a well organized, beautifully displayed museum that covers everything from the ancient Chinese to Lord Nelson. But the "crown jewel" for Civil War buffs is that it is the conservator of the USS Monitor. They have taken this role very seriously and the Monitor exhibit is literally a museum within a museum.

For additional information, click here.

USS Monitor and Mariners Museum Curator Anna Holloway Was Our Host

USS Monitor and Mariners Museum Curator Anna Holloway Was Our Host

Earlier this month my wife, Kathy, and I were at a Convention in Williamsburg, Virginia. After it was over we decided to visit the USS Monitor and Mariner's Museum in Newport News. What a great experience! The Curator of the Museum is Anna Holloway. She is our speaker for November. When I contacted her she was thrilled to be able to show us her museum and the excellent work they are doing with the restoration of the USS Monitor.

For additional information, click here.

For more information, send email to jimrosenthal5757@aol.com.

The Story of the USS Westfield Conservation Project

The Story of the USS Westfield Conservation Project

By Justin Parkoff, MA
Project Manager / Conservator
Conservation Research Laboratory
Texas A&M University





This past Fourth of July, I went to Port O’Connor to watch the fireworks over Matagorda Bay. Thousands of people watched in awe along the shoreline, while hundreds of little fishing boats dotted the water. The display was loud and magnificent, contrary to the normally quiet life in Port O’Connor, or for any of the sleepy little towns that lie along the bay. As I sat there watching the celebration I found it hard to imagine that over a hundred and fifty years ago, a massive blockade of warships lined the coast of Texas and Union gunboats raided these towns. From where I was sitting, I would have been able to watch USS Westfield and USS Clifton steam by on their way to capture Indianola and bombard the town of Lavaca. This realization was very special to me, since for last five years I have been leading the efforts at Texas A&M University to conserve and restore thousands of artifacts that were recovered from the wreckage of Westfield.

When the Civil War broke out, the Union navy realized that they were ill prepared to fight naval battles in their own backyard. The warships in service were heavy and deep drafted vessels that would not be able to navigate the shallow bays and twisting rivers of the southern states. This led the navy to purchase thousands of shallow drafted vessels, including Westfield, which were converted into warships. Westfield was originally a New York Staten Island ferryboat, built for and owned by the famous Cornelius Vanderbilt. As a ferryboat, the vessel contained an identical bow and stern so that the vessel could travel in either direction. This feature allowed Westfield to travel into very confined spaces without the need to turn around. Additionally, Westfield was built to carry extremely heavy loads of passengers and horse teams, a design aspect that was utilized by the navy for carrying heavy artillery and other armaments.

After aiding Admiral Farragut in the successful capture of New Orleans, Westfield was sent to Texas to serve as the flagship for the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Her mission was to maintain the blockade, and to isolate or capture major port towns. As the largest port in Texas, Westfield first captured Galveston on October 9th, 1862, and used the city as a base of operations to conduct raids up and down the Texas coast. The Union held this city until the Battle of Galveston, on January 1, 1863. In the early hours of New Year’s Day, Confederate forces under the command of General John B. Magruder launched a joint land and naval attack on the city. During this battle, Westfield ran hard aground while trying to cut off enemy vessels. Facing capture, Westfield’s commander, William B. Renshaw, made the difficult choice to destroy the vessel rather than let her fall into enemy hands. Renshaw ordered that turpentine be poured upon the decks, the safety valves on the boilers be shut, and that the forward gunpowder magazine be opened. After lighting the fuse, the resulting explosion blew off Westfield’s bow, destroying the vessel, and accidently killed Renshaw and twelve of his men. For ten minutes the stern of Westfield sat smoking as the trapped steam from the boilers rose into a loud audible scream. Then, there was a second blinding flash when the boilers ruptured. The remains of Westfield burned to the waterline and slipped beneath Galveston Bay. By the end of the battle, Galveston lay in Confederate hands, and the remaining Union ships fled the bay.

In 2009, Westfield’s wreck site was relocated in advance of a major dredging operation planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The remains of the vessel consisted of a disarticulated debris field. To prevent the destruction of these remnants, the USACE orchestrated the largest archaeological salvage project that has ever been conducted in Texas waters. Over 8,000 artifacts were successfully recovered, including a 9 inch smoothbore Dahlgren cannon. These artifacts were ultimately sent to Texas A&M University for analysis and conservation.

Following conservation, a new problem arose in how to present these artifacts to the public. While many of the smaller artifacts from the crew were unique and educational, the majority consisted of shattered machinery and boiler parts. Very little survived that could be easily developed into an interpretive museum exhibit. Individually, these shattered artifacts meant nothing. However, if these artifacts could be combined and somehow exhibited together as a whole, the image of Westfield and her story might come to light. As conservators at Texas A&M University, our goal shifted. Rather than displaying individual artifacts from the ship, we are instead utilizing all of the artifacts together and rebuilding massive sections of the vessel's machinery. These surviving artifacts will appear in the Texas City Museum on a skeletal structure that will demonstrate the original size of the machinery. Secured to the skeletal frame, hundreds of twisted artifacts will help museum patrons experience the devastating nature of Westfield's explosion.

Raising funds for this exhibit has been a challenge. Along with support from the Texas City Museum, outside funding from groups like the Fort Worth Civil War Round Table have enabled this project move past this challenge and bring Westfield's story to light. Thank you for your time, financial contributions, and believing in this project. As the project progresses, the Conservation Research Laboratory will keep your organization updated, so that you might enjoy visiting during the grand opening of the exhibit, or in the years to follow.

Morgan's Raid and the One Civil War Battle Site in Indiana

Morgan's Raid and the One Civil War Battle Site in Indiana

On a recent trip to Indiana we found a small but interesting Civil War Battlefield site. Here is the story:

In the midst of the American Civil War, what began as a small diversionary foray into the North by the Confederate Army during the Tullahomma Campaign, became a full-fledged Southern invasion that stretched across a thousand Union miles.

Beginning in Tennessee and traveling through Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, this famous incursion has become known simply as Morgan’s Raid.

On July 8, 1863, the sound of shells exploding filled the air, as Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s troops crossed the Ohio River near the small town of Mauckport, Indiana.

Previously, Morgan had deployed a spy, Thomas Hines, to discover whether Hoosier feeling would be in any way sympathetic to the Confederates. He found little support for the Southerners, and was forced to flee back to Kentucky when it was discovered that he was an interloper.

Stealing two steamboats, the J.T McCombs and the Alice Dean, on the Kentucky bank, the cavalry evaded the inexperienced artillery fire of the Indiana home guard, sending them scrambling under a heavy barrage of artillery fire. In total, it took 17 hours for all of Morgan’s troops to successfully cross the river.

Undeterred by the skirmish and clear Confederate orders to remain behind, Morgan continued to push his forces northwest, reaching Corydon, Indiana’s former capital until 1825, the following day. A few miles outside the city, the general was accosted by 400 enthusiastic but inexperienced Union volunteers, who had been hastily organized by Governor Oliver Morton, a strong supporter of the Union cause.

The town’s valiant efforts to defend itself came to an abrupt end when Morgan’s troops fired two warning shots that resulted in 15 Corydon casualties. Immediately realizing the hopeless situation of protecting the town from 2,500 advancing cavalrymen, Union Colonel Lewis Jordan raised the white flag in surrender to avoid unnecessary loss of life.

The Confederate cavalry, encouraged by their victory and Morgan’s orders, rushed in to the town, raiding and ransoming what they could find. In addition to a few civilian deaths, the damaged or stolen goods totalled almost the equivalent of $500,000 in modern currency, most of which was reimbursed by the government.

Though the Battle of Corydon itself was a Confederate victory, Morgan’s Raid concluded with Morgan’s capture and eventual death. It was one of the few Civil War battles fought in the North, and remains the last battle to have been fought within Indiana borders.

Corydon is a beautiful little town and the site of the first Capitol of the State of Indiana. Nice place to visit and a touch of Civil War history to boot!

Preparing to Enter the USS Monitor Restoration Lab

Preparing to Enter the USS Monitor Restoration Lab

In order to enter the laboratory where the USS Monitor is being restored, Kathy was asked to wear rubber boots to protect her feet. All of the parts that have been raised from the Monitor are saturated with salt from being in the sea water for 150 years. Before these items can be displayed they need to have the salt drawn out. The process to do this involves submerging the parts in a special solution and enhancing the process with electrolysis and a slight electrical charge. The boots were worn to prevent exposure to the solution should their be a spill.

The Big Guns of the USS Monitor Are Being Restored

The Big Guns of the USS Monitor Are Being Restored

Only a small part of the USS Monitor is currently being restored. The balance is still at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Hatteras. The turret house and the big guns of the ship are at the Museum. One of the guns is shown here in the restoration tank. The Monitor had two 11-inch smoothbore muzzle-loading cannon. This meant that the gun had to be retracted and loaded after each round. One can only imagine what it must have been like in the turret when the ship was engaged in action.

For additional information, click here.

Still Pristine After 150 Years on the Bottom of the Ocean

Still Pristine After 150 Years on the Bottom of the Ocean

While it will take years to restore many of the pieces of the Monitor, there were some items that were found virtually untouched by the wear of nearly a Century and a half at the bottom of the Ocean. Here is a brass wheel that was used on one of the cannon. It looks like it was made yesterday. It is interesting to note that even though the design of the Monitor was not done for looks, this was the "Age of Ships" and many parts were made to be beautiful as well as functional. This wheel is a great example.

For additional information, click here.

The Prop of the USS Monitor

The Prop of the USS Monitor

The prop of the USS Monitor is on display in the Museum. It is not clear whether it was damaged before the ship sank in a storm or was damaged when the ship hit the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It is also in excellent condition and looks like with a few repairs it could be used today.

For additional information, click here.

Berkeley Plantation - James River, Virginia

Berkeley Plantation - James River, Virginia

Berkeley Plantation with it's beautiful grounds and mansion is a delightful stop. Berkeley was the sight of the first Thanksgiving in the New World in 1619. It was also the sight of the first whiskey distillery, a shipyard that built an 18 gun ship for the Revolution and a stopping place for Abraham Lincoln when he went to visit General George McClellan during the Penisula Campaign. Add to that it was the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison - a signer of the Declaration of Independence - and of President William Henry Harrison and you have enough historical significance for anyone.

For additional information, click here.

St. John's Episcopal Church - Richmond, Virginia

St. John's Episcopal Church - Richmond, Virginia

This small, beautiful church is in operation today with an active congregation. Guided tours are available on weekends or can be arranged by contacting the Church in advance. It's claim to fame is that this was the spot where the Virginia patriot Patrick Henry gave his "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" speech. The speech was given during the second Virginia Convention held in the Church. This was an interesting visit with a young tour guide that gave us a rousing rendition of the Patrick Henry speech. Well worth the stop.

The Museum of the Confederacy - Richmond, Virginia

The Museum of the Confederacy - Richmond, Virginia

The Museum of the Confederacy has an outstanding collection of Civil War artifacts. They are only able to exhibit a very small percentage of their collection at any given time. But everything they display is meaningful to the battle or event they are trying to illustrate. For example, their exhibit of an officer's field tent was none other than Robert E. Lee's. Ed Bearss claims this is the finest collection in existence. I agree.

For additional information, click here.

Volunteers Make the Difference at Museum of the Confederacy

Volunteers Make the Difference at Museum of the Confederacy

Museums need capable and enthusiastic volunteers. The Museum of the Confederacy is lucky to have their share including Abdur Ali-Haymes - our tour leader for the visit to the White House of the Confederacy (which is next to the Museum). Abdur was born and raised in Richmond, served his career in the U.S Army and returned to his home town for retirement. He is active in the Museum and also serves as the Museum Operations Assistant. For us the most important thing was that he was a knowledgeable and entertaining tour guide. He knew his history and his building. Best of all - he knows how to tell a good story! If you go to the Museum of the Confederacy the half hour guided tour is a must. Maybe you will be as fortunate as we were to listen to Abdur.

For additional information, click here.

Petersburg National Battlefield Park - The Crater

Petersburg National Battlefield Park - The Crater

During the siege of Petersburg, Union troops who had been coal miners before the War convinced the Union Command that they could dig a mine beneath the Confederate works, load it with explosives and blow a hole in the Confederate lines. This would be followed by a frontal charge through the gap and a Union victory. The first few steps of the plan worked and the explosion sent men, artillery, dirt and debris into the air. In one of the classic command blunders of the War untrained men were sent into the Crater left by the explosion. Instead of moving forward they stopped to gape at the carnage. Confederate troops did not hesitate in shutting the gap in their lines and rushed to the Crater. Union troops were helpless and easy targets. Casualties on the Union side were over 5,000 men. Confederate losses were minimal. Grant decided to stop any further frontal charges and the Siege of Petersburg went on for many more months.

The Dictator

The Dictator

This famous 13" mortar lobbed shells into Petersburg throughout the siege.

The Five Forks Battlefield is a Welcome Addition to the Petersburg National Battlefield Park

The Five Forks Battlefield is a Welcome Addition to the Petersburg National Battlefield Park

Five Forks was the decisive battle that broke the defense of Petersburg and forced General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia to retreat westward. This led to the fall of Richmond and to the surrender of Lee's Army at Appomattox.

The Five Forks Battlefield was purchased by the National Park Service in 1990 and added to the Petersburg National Battlefield Park. This impressive and functional Visitor Center is a recent addition to enhance the experience of visiting this site.

Albert E. Fernald Received Congressional Medal of Honor for his Actions at the Battle of Five Forks

Albert E. Fernald Received Congressional Medal of Honor for his Actions at the Battle of Five Forks

Last year I was doing some geneology research and found that one of my distant cousins received the Congressional Medal of Honor. I mentioned this to my wife, Kathy, during our trip to Virginia and she did the research to find that he received the Medal for his actions during the Battle of Five Forks in 1865. My ancestor was Albert E. Fernald. Here is a summary of the action from the Civil War Research Database.

"First Lieutenant Albert E. Fernald, of Company F, Twentieth Maine Infantry, was with his regiment in the last line when the battle opened, but was in the first line when the works were reached. The left of the regiment struck the works first, he being somewhat in advance, and as he cleared the breastworks ran toward a body of Confederates with a rebel color-bearer. He rushed among the crowd and secured the flag of the 14th Virginia Infantry before even his regiment had gotten into the works."

While at the new Five Forks visitors center I asked the Ranger on duty where this action took place on the battlefield. He knew about the event and the location. A short drive and an equally short walk later, we were standing on the spot (shown here). Who says studying the Civil War is boring?

For additional information, click here.

The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier at Pamplin Historical Park

The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier at Pamplin Historical Park

This museum is dedicated to understanding the life of the Civil War soldier. It is a well designed and beautiful facility featuring an interactive gallery covering all aspects of a soldier's life from enlistment to training, from camp life to battle, from armaments to the importance of mail call - all explained through an audio program. An added touch is that you are able to select one Civil War soldier that you would like to follow. The program then explains each aspect of a soldier's life and gives specific quotes from "your soldier." This is an outstanding learning tool that keeps your interest. The information is accurate and detailed but not at all tedious. It is self-paced so if you want to move on to the next topic, you can do so seamlessly. The program is well worth the 45 minutes to one hour involved.

The one thing I was a little disappointed in was that they would not let me take a picture inside the gallery. I explained that I would not use a flash and that I was going to use the picture for the Fort Worth Civil War Round Table website. This would be free publicity and a good link from our site. Not only was I told that I could not take a picture but I also received a lecture on the fact that I could not take a picture. Perhaps a more enlightened view would have produced a better explanation of why I feel this is a must see for visitors to this section of Virginia.

For additional information, click here.

The Interactive-Audio Program at the Museum of the Civil War Soldier, Petersburg, Virginia

The Interactive-Audio Program at the Museum of the Civil War Soldier, Petersburg, Virginia

This is the audio system used in the display. You can see some of the Civil War personalities you can select as well.

For additional information, click here.

Glorieta Pass Battlefield Preserved Inside the Pecos National Historical Park

Glorieta Pass Battlefield Preserved Inside the Pecos National Historical Park

We had just arrived in Albuquerque for the annual "cousins" trip and we were discussing what we planned on doing on our five day stay in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico. Shopping seemed to be high on the list for the ladies. But my wife,Kathy, had a whole list of museums to visit as well. Then there were the side trips to the Pecos National Historical Park, Taos and Bandelier National Monument. I casually mentioned that I would like to see the Glorieta Pass Battlefield. After all I had read Don Frazier's Pate Award Winning Book - Blood and Treasure. And this was the pivotal battle of the 1862 campaign of Texas troops under Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley and the end to the Confederacy's quest for a Southwestern empire. Unfortunately, Kathy and my children gave up on trying to stay interested in Civil War Battlefields many years ago. So the prospect of a trip through a New Mexico battlefield was not high on her list. But Cousin David Nancrede and Cousin-in-Law Tom Mehaffey earned my eternal gratitude by saying that they would both like to go.

The next day we spent the afternoon at Pecos National Park and saw the ancient Indian Pueblo and the Spanish era mission remains. However, I was fortunate to meet Park volunteer, Jean Higgins, who along with her husband, Rich Higgins, were instrumental in creating the Glorieta Pass Battlefield Trail. She gave us the maps and brochures on the battle as well as the code to the lock on the gate that controls access to the Trail.

So two afternoons later David, Tom and I made the drive back to Pecos for our Civil War Battlefield tour while the ladies shopped in Santa Fe. Thankfully, the combination to the lock worked and we were on our way on the trail. It is an unpaved but well maintained trail of 2.25 miles and is described as "moderately strenuous." The elevation change is 500 feet and the brochure says it takes about 1.5 hours.

The area is heavily wooded today. At the time of the battle the area was devoid of underbrush and had only a few trees. So like many Civil War battlefields one has to use imagination to visualize exactly how the battle took place. However, the trail is well laid out and it gives you a good idea of the terrain and the distances involved in the fighting. In short, it is well worth the trip.