Thursday, December 29, 2011

Letter #4 -- Fort Hatteras, North Carolina -- December 22, 1861 I have my first big swing and miss at the plate!  I missed the 150th anniversary for letter #4....I have a reason, but not a good one.  You see...I have been using a type written transcription of the letters to present both a typed version and the original scanned version of the letters.  It seems that the letter dated December 22, 1861 was misfiled in the 1864 section of the type written transcription.  So...I followed that version vs. the hand written version.... Well, better late than never....

In this letter, JWD continues to write about his illness that was referenced in the November 28, 1861 letter #3.  He was able to write home himself, which is an improvement over the November letter that was written by Franklin Hoch.  Clearly, JWD is craving the foods of home and he writes to his father asking that some of his favorites be shipped to him in the field.  I find this letters somewhat humorous as he writes an ever growing list of the foods he wants sent...Apples, chestnuts, sausage, pudding (pudding is a type of liver sausage that resembles ring is gray in color and about 2 inches in diameter filled in a sausage casing and tied into a ring shape.  It is similar to liverwurst), bread and butter were on his list.  Do you think the coming of Christmas might have influenced his cravings?

Letter #4..............

                                                                             Fort Hatteras December the 22, 1861

My dear father I take my pen in my weak hand to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am better again.  I let you know that I was sick 6 weeks and father I let you know that I received you letter this day and was very glad to hear of you and to hear that you got that money with I sent to you.  And I let you know that Solomon Eyster wrote home fore a box and if you wish to send me my things along why you can put it in his box.  I wish you would send me some sausage and some pudding and sum bread and butter and some chestnuts and some apples and if you have anything else to send to me why do so.  And if you must pay the box when you send it of you, take sum of my money and pay my share of it.  Write a letter to me and let me know if you sent it or not.  Write to me as soon as you can.  So much of your dear son.

                                                                              John W. Derr

Direct your letter Fort Clark Hatteras inlet,  Company D 48th regiment Pa. Vol
North Carolina via Fortress Monroe Va.

Sorry for the delay...

Jim D.

Letter #5 -- Fort Hatteras, North Carolina -- January 1, 1862

Happy New Year to everyone and thank you for your continued support to this project.  Today I present letter #5 written by JWD on January 1, 1862 at Fort Hatteras, North Carolina.  The 48th PVI was stationed at this location shortly after their journey from Fort Monroe, Virginia in November of the prior year.  As was shown in the previous letter (letter #3 dated November 28, 1861), JWD contracted a "cold" that quickly progressed to bronchitis and/or pneumonia.   Through out his service in the war, JWD was frequently ill with bronchitis, pneumonia, rheumatism, etc...owing to a combination of exposure, diet, and exhaustion.   I have already written and posted the various pension affidavits and letters that show his chronic condition which ultimately lead to his early death in 1876 at age 36.

And now...the letter....

                                                                                    Fort Hatteras
                                                                                    January the 1, 1862

My Dear Father

            I take my pen in hand to inform these few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present and I hope that these few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  My dear father, I let you know that I was sick.  I had a bad fever.  I was sick for seven weeks long.  But now I am well again but I wasn’t on duty yet.  And further I let you know that we expect to have pay again till the 15th of this month.  We will get 20 dollars this time.  The other time we got only 19.50 dollars and fifty cents.  And I let you know that we don’t think we will stay long in North Carolina anymore.  I wish you would let Esther know that I am well again and let me know how she is getting along.  I must come to a close.  I want you to answer me this letter as soon as you can.
                                                                                    No more at present time.
                                                                                    Your Dear Son,
                                                                                    John W. Derr

Direct you letter to John W. Derr, Fort Clarke, Hatteras Inlet,
Company “D”, 48th Regt. Pa., North Carolina via Fortress Monroe,
In care of Capt. William W. Potts.

Enjoy and have a happy and healthy 2012!

Jim D.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Souvenirs, Artifacts and Heirlooms

My father told me that when his grandmother gave him "the letters" back in the 1950s, that she told him he could also have JWD's other war artifacts as well.  According to him, this included items such as JWD's uniform, musket, bayonet, forage cap, and other items.   Dad took the time to look at these items and, wanting to take them home to his house in Maryland, decided to wait until a later time to retrieve them when he would have place to store them properly.  They had been in his grandmother's attic, in a trunk for over 50 years, so a they could stay put a little longer.  At that time, he decided to take the letters, and some other smaller miscellaneous possessions with him, and come back later for the other larger items. Unfortunately, when he returned to retrieve them after his grandmother's death in 1959, they were gone.  Nobody in the family has been able to determine what actually happened to JWD's uniform, musket and other larger items.  While disappointing to both my father and myself, I feel fortunate to have the letters as well these other artifacts.   The items that I DO have, include various monies as well as his bayonet.  Below are some of these family heirlooms...common to some...priceless to me...

Civil War tokens privately produced during the metal currency shortage...1 cent

5 cent fractional currency carried by JWD

5 Dollar Confederate note carried by JWD

10 Dollar Confederate note carried by JWD

JWD's bayonet

Merry Christmas!

Jim D.

Monday, December 19, 2011

John W. Derr and the Battle of the Crater

I had the pleasure of corresponding this week with Brett Schulte, the author of the website/blog "Beyond the Crater"  Brett's website is dedicated to the history and research of the Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg, Va, in July of 1864.  Brett's website contains a vast array of information, diaries, letters, correspondence as well as behind the scenes views of the events leading up to and after the mine explosion.  I responded to Brett's call for diaries and letters from soldiers who participated in the digging of the mine as well as the assault on the crater after the detonation of the explosives in the mine.  As a member of the 48th PVI, JWD had significant participation in the digging of the mine.  His letter dated July 13, 1864 describes a bit of information that he probably should not have been writing about in his letters home.  The actual explosion of the mine on July 30, 1864 occurred more than two weeks after JWD's disclosure to his parents.  Below is the transcription of the letter as well as the actual letter facsimile:

                                                                                                Camp near Petersburg, Va.           
                                                                                                July 13th, 1864

My Dear Father and Mother,
            I take the present opportunity to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter today and I was very glad to hear that you are well all the time and I am happy that I can say the same.  I am also glad to hear that you got my money and I hope you will take good care of it, as you did before.  And if we don’t soon get paid I will be very apt to send for some of it but I hope we will soon get paid off.  We don’t need much money, but I want some once in a while.  I suppose you took good care that you got my pay all in good money for I wouldn’t like to have any bad money for I have to work hard for it.  We hear that the rebels are making a raid into Pennsylvania again but I hope it will be to their sorrow.  I hope they will lose more men then they did last summer at Gettysburg and they didn’t gain much that time by all appearances.  It is for no use to write anything to you about the war for you know more at home then we do out here for we do hear very little but what we see.  But I will let you know that we will have a great explosion here before very long.  We are going to blow up the rebels forts.  They are undermining them now.  They have two or three all ready now and our regiment is working at one and they are near done with it and I hope it will work all right, if they get it going. *
            I have no more to write today so I will bring these few lines to a close for this time with the intention of hearing from you soon again.  So I will remain your affectionate son.

                                                                                               John W. Derr

Answer soon and direct your letter as before.  Give my love to my brothers and sisters and to all inquiring friends.  Tell Josiah Fetterolf if he wouldn’t write a letter to me I would pin his nose up on his forehead.  G.D. the mules they shake too much I can’t write anymore.

I know this jumps the gun a bit on posting on the 150th anniversary of the creation of this letter, but I suspect that it doesn't violate any "rules" to post it more than once.  I appreciate the interest of Brett and his loyal following on the "Beyond the Crater" website and I encourage all of you to visit his is just plain excellent.

In addition to this letter, I have other documents...well copies of other documents from the National Archives....which provide corroborating evidence of his work in the actual mine.  JWD's official records in the Archives, provide the pension application information and affidavits that I have previously mentioned in other postings.   These affidavits from fellow soldiers tell about how JWD participated in the digging of the mine and indeed became very ill from working in the cold damp conditions.  He eventually contracted bronchitis and was out of active duty for a few weeks after the mine explosion.  Below is the pension deposition from Sgt. Otto Bodo of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Co. "D"  (Click on image to enlarge):

Pension Deposition from Sgt Otto Bodo

Petersburg Mine Entrance in July, 1864

Petersburg Mine Entrance Now

Crater Now

Lastly....I really enjoy the humor that JWD put into some of his letters...such as the postscript for his friend Josiah Fetterolf.  He was irritated that his friend did not write enough letters to him...something you can understand... as a letter to a soldier in the field was worth its weight in gold.  Also, his cursing of the mules in his wagon train.  JWD, at this point in the war, also served as a teamster which allowed him to continue in the army service with a handicap from his leg wound at Second Bull Run.  It brings a more realistic perspective on the man.

Jim D.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bronchitis, Pneumonia, Rheumatic Fever or Tuberculosis?

In December of 1861, JWD was encamped at Fort Hatteras in North Carolina.  Eventually the specific location would be Camp Winfield at Fort Hatteras at the southern tip of the Outer Banks, Hatteras Island.  At this time, JWD was very illness captured in both his letters as well as the pension depositions.  It would appear that he was sick for over 7 weeks and that begs the question....what illness did he contract?

In researching Civil War illnesses, there were a vast array of diseases and maladies that afflicted troops on both sides of the conflict, due to the size and close quarters of the men in camp.  Additionally, the lack of basic sanitation coupled with the lack of knowledge and effective treatments, meant that 99% of all soldiers during the war suffered from dysentery or chronic diarrhea at some time during their service in the war.  Dysentery ranked #2 in the "deaths by disease" category just behind typhoid and just before pneumonia.  Horrible camp conditions with refuse, slop pits, animal parts, human waste and animal manure were routinely located near water or food sources.  As stated by a federal sanitation inspector at in 1861 upon inspection of various camps... "littered with refuse, food, and other rubbish, sometimes in an offensive state of decomposition; slops deposited in pits within the camp limits or thrown out of broadcast; heaps of manure and offal close to the camp."  The results were that bacteria, viruses spread throughout the camps causing more casualties than munitions during the course of the war.  Attempts were made, with various degrees of success, to improve sanitation conditions through centralized practices by the U.S. Sanitation Commission.

JWD more than likely, suffered his fair share of dysentery during his four years in the Union army.  He also, suffered throughout the war, his fair share of bronchial conditions.  I believe that this is the primary reason for his early death in 1876.  However, I question what really afflicted him?  Could it have started as a simple cold that lead to bronchitis, then pneumonia?....or was it more?  Did he suffer from both of these conditions as a result of a lingering case of tuberculosis?...or did he just progressively damage his lungs through repeated cases of bronchitis and pneumonia?  

Depositions from fellow soldiers as well as from his civilian doctor, indicate that he died of rheumatic carditis as well as a bronchial condition and "catarrh"...a term no longer used in America...but essentially meaning the same as a chest cold.   Clearly, his condition continued beyond his wartime service where it was documented on at least two separate occasions that he was sick and unable to fight.  The first is documented here in North Carolina in 1861 during the Burnside's expedition.  The second was after his efforts working in the mine while preparing for the Petersburg "Crater" assault.    Below are the letters and depositions of friends, soldiers and his doctor, providing insight to the pension board regarding the death of JWD.

Written Deposition from Dr. George W. Ebrite...Physician of John W. Derr

Pension Deposition of Dr. George W. Ebrite...Physician of John W. Derr

Pension Deposition of William Maurer - 48th PVI Co. G.

Pension Deposition of Charles W. Hoch (cousin of Sgt. Franklin Hoch, 48th PVI Co. D)


Union encampment at Fort Hatteras, North Carolina

Fort Hatteras Union encampment

Jim D.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Letter #3 - North Carolina - November 28, 1861

Letter #3 as provided here, though very short in length, reveals the first of many maladies suffered by JWD during the course of the war...maladies that plagued him for the rest of his abbreviated life.

This letter was written for JWD by Franklin Hoch, a neighbor, friend and fellow member of the 48th PVI Company D, who helped him during his illness.  Hoch, a Sergeant, would later provide a deposition for JWD's wife, in her military pension application for widows of war veterans.

North Carolina
November the 28, 1861

My Dear Father,
            I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am not very healthy, that I am sick.  I had a fever but I ain’t well yet.  I am very weak.  I do not mind any pain but all that ails me and I have no appetite to eat anything.  I got paid the 27th of this month.  I sent my money home.  It is 18 ½ dollars.  I sent my money in Pottsville to Andrew Russel, there you can get it.  His office is at the second corner in Mahantengo Street.  It is 18 ½ dollars and you can get it any time that you go to Pottsville and take it home and keep it till I come home.  Write me as soon as you get this letter and write to me whether you got my money or not.  I must come to a close so excuse me I can’t write much just now at present time.

                                                                                    John W. Derr
Direct your letter Company D. 48th Regt, Penna. Vol. Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, via Fortress Monroe.  Writer Franklin Hoch.

* there is an error in the muster roles for the 48th PVI that identifies Sgt. Franklin Hoch as "Hock".

Jim D.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Humbling Visit to Spotsylvania Courthouse and the Wilderness

Having the Thanksgiving week off from work and owing to a need for unadulterated "down time", I decided to take the short drive from Maryland to the Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park in Virginia. The drive took a little longer than expected, though I should know better, due to various traffic choke points on Interstate 95 south.  I arrived in Fredericksburg around noon on Monday and immediately started my investigation.   I was primarily interested in the Spotsylvania Court House (CH) and Wilderness battlefields, which are part of the larger Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park.  Included in that park are the aforementioned battlefields plus the Chancellorsville battlefield.  All of these battlefields are within 20-30 minutes of the main headquarters in Fredericksburg.  There is a visitor's center in Fredericksburg and at the Chancellorsville battlefield, but none at the Spotsylvania CH or Wilderness battlefields.  Instead, those sites have self guided tours with appropriate markers and maps to help the Civil War enthusiast in their researching and touring activities.   Fortunately for me, I stopped in Fredericksburg first and spent some time with the Park Ranger on duty, Steward Henderson, who provided invaluable information and insight into the battles and their impact on the war.  Additionally, he was able to help in locating exact positions of the 48th PVI during the timeline of battle which supported me in my research.  I highly recommend that if you ever visit these battlefields, you should spend some time with these knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic Rangers.  Without Ranger Henderson's help, I would never have been able to pinpoint exactly (within a few hundred yards), the location of JWD during the progression of the battles.  For that, I thank him.

As part of this research project, I have decided to try to visit each location from which the letters were written.  My first attempt in August to visit Fort Monroe and Forts Clarke and Hatteras, were thwarted by Hurricane Irene which made the trip south of the Oregon Inlet on Hatteras island impossible.  The trip to Fort Monroe, had to be delayed due to power outages, etc...  Fortunately, I have been close to Forts Clarke and Hatteras (not really accessible as the road ends a significant distance from where the forts were located and the shifting sands make finding them impossible), on previous trips and have some knowledge of their general locations.

So...even though the Spotsylvania CH and Wilderness battles did not happen until 1864 (with regard to the 48th PVI participation), I decided to make the trip anyway.  I am glad that I did.

The battle of Spotsylvania CH encompassed a 12 day period from May 7th, 1864 and the race to Spotsylvania CH by Union and Confederate forces to May 19th, 1864 with the battle at Harris Farm.  I'm not going to go into the details of the battle as there are many accounts available by better historian than I, but I will focus in on the role JWD played in the battle.

JWD was part of General Ambrose Burnsides IX Corp and his regiment was organized under Brigadier General Robert B. Potter.  The 48th PVI was part of the assault on Confederate General Ambrose Ewell's salient known a the "Muleshoe".  Images below give you a feel for why this bulge in the Confederate lines was called the "Muleshoe".  The 48th PVI was part of the attack on the eastern front of the salient and resulted in many unit casualties.  Grant's attack on Ewell began on May 10th and continued through the famous battle at the "Bloody Angle".  The 48th PVI was part of this assault and as I have said...many men were lost.

Below are maps of the battlefield progression:

So...below is the map I used (annotated by Ranger Henderson) to find the locations of JWD's regiment during the course of the battle.

Ranger Steward Henderson - Fredericksburg Battlefield Park

......more images from Spotsylvania CH Battlefield....

....looking out from Confederate trenches to the Union positions at the "Bloody Angle"......

 .....Union Trenches - Burnsides IX Corps......still visible today....

I haven't done justice to the Wilderness Battlefield visit today...but I will in the future.

Monday was a really special time for me to explore, research and LEARN.  To be able to stand in the location of your ancestor and imagine what it must have been like in those terrible days.  The day was overcast...the temperature was moderate....the park was virtually silent.   It gave me time to reflect and appreciate what was done here 147 years ago in another time and in another world.    It is quite humbling....and moving.

I know I am jumping the gun here with publishing this...but I will do it again in 3 what the heck!

From JWD letter dated May 16th, 1864....

                                                                                                Spotsylvania Court House, Va.
                                                                                                May 16th, 1864

My Dear Father and Mother,
             I take this present opportunity to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  You must excuse me for not writing to you any sooner because we was busy this two last weeks after the rebels.  We had two pretty hard fights since.  We are out and are now laying on the battle field for the six last days firing at the rebels and are fighting with them every day.  But all the boys from around there are safe yet as much as I know.  But John Boyer got wounded today but it ain’t very bad.  It is only a flesh wound through the left leg above the knee.  And John D. Weikel is missing.  Nobody knows anything about him and I don’t know where he is or where he got to.  He got away from us in the morning that we went into the battle.  He was along when we advanced in line of battle.  Thank God that I am safe yet and I hope that I always may get through safe.  We have some hard nuts to bite.  But I hope we will be successful in taking Richmond for we are bound to have it or else all die.  This is the cry all through the Army.  I also seen some of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  I seen Daniel Derr and Elias Derr and Isaac Yarnall and Emanuel Bolich and they are all well and look hearty.  So I must close this few lines for it is getting dark and I have no more to write for this time.  This few lines from your beloved son.

                                                                                                John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct your letter to John W. Derr, Co. D 48th Regt. Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps Washington, D.C.

Jim D.             

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Steamship S.R. Spaulding....You Learn Something New Each Day!

I just finished reading the most recent blog from Ranger John Hoptak's and learned something new as it relates to JWD and the 48th PVI.  I encourage all of you go and read his blog as it is the best resource for information pertaining to this regiment and has chronicled a whole series of subjects over the last 5 - 6 years.  So, where my blog is more of a family reflection, Ranger Hoptak's is a well researched anthology on the 48th PVI and the Civil War in general.

The posting to which I refer, is dated Tuesday, November 8, 2011.  The subject is the transport of the 48th PVI to Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, during the Burnsides Expedition.
Ranger Hoptak describes the transit of the 48th via the steamship S.R. Spaulding, a side-wheeled steamer of 210 feet in length by 33 feet in width.  This information was new to me and helps supplement my growing understanding of environment under which my ancestor fought.  As you know from prior postings, I have described the one steamship that JWD references in his letter of 1862 during the movement of the 48th from Hatteras Island to New Berne prior to the battle of New Berne, North Carolina.  Now, I have a second ship to add to this research.  Thank you Ranger.

Posted here is the same image that is in 48thpennyslvania blogspot, but in doing a deeper dig, I have found being an inked image from the Library of Congress.

Pencil Drawing of S.R. Spaulding (Library of Congress)

.....The last bit of information I found was that the Spaulding was eventually used by U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton during ceremonies to commemorate the assault and capture of Fort Fisher in North Carolina on January 12th, 1865.  Fort Fisher was used by the Confederates to keep the port at Wilmington, North Carolina open for the blockade runners so desperately needed by the South.  In the letter below, Stanton accepts the captured flag of the fort and thanks the Union soldiers, sailors and marines on behalf of President Lincoln.  This is the kind of indirect linkage to JWD that I love......

Off Fort Fisher, January 16, 1865
The Secretary of War has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the flag of Fort Fisher, and in the name of the President congratulates you and the gallant officers and soldiers, sailors, and marines of your commands, and tenders you thanks for the valor and skill displayed in your respective parts of the great achievement in the operations against Fort Fisher and in its assault and capture. The combined operations of the squadron and land forces of your commands deserve and will receive the thanks of the nation, and will be held in admiration throughout the world as proof of the naval and military prowess of the United States.
Edwin M. Stanton
Secretary of War.
Major-General TERRY and
Rear-Admiral PORTER,
Commanding, etc. appears that after the war the S.R. Spaulding became the S.R. San Salvador, a passenger ship in the West Indies....a far cry from the impressive service it served during the war.

Jim D.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friends - What about John Snyder?

I was doing a bit of research today, deciding that it would be better than watching another football game...or what seems to pass for football in Washington, DC.  I know I am laying myself out there for the Pennsylvanians who root for that not-to-be-named eastern Pennsylvania team...but what the heck!  As I was saying...I decided to do some research and did a Google search on a name contained in one of the later letters from JWD.  That name was, Emanuel Bolich, mentioned in a letter from May of 1864.  I came across the CivilWarTalk forum website  and saw a posting from a couple of years ago talking/asking about information on an Emanuel Bolich from the 17th Pa. Regiment.  Interestingly, JWD's letter had Bolich contained within.  Additionally, the Bolich's being a prominent family in the Barry Township area of Schuylkill County, meant that many of the other documents I have in my possession have Bolich's contained within...e.g.  Mortgages, land sales, etc...  I decided to post to the forum in hopes that any information that I might have can help this family researcher in their quest.  I guess that is one of the reasons I am doing this hopes that names I have contained within the letters might help another person doing like research on their ancestors.  Hopefully, JWD was mentioned in some other soldier's letter and the favor can be returned.  Thus is the investigative nature of this kind of work.

Tonight, I did a little bit of research on John Snyder...mentioned in Letter #2 posted last month.  The reason I have very little is because I found very little.  Actually, during the research I found many John Snyders referenced in the ARIAS system (Pennsylvania State Archive database), but determined that only one could possibly be THE John Snyder that JWD referred to in his letter.

John H. Snyder was a private in the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, company E.  Snyder enlisted in the 96th on March 14th, 1864 at the age of 23.   I have no information on what he was doing prior to his enlistment late in the war, but his occupation is identified as a "wheelwright".

Though he is mentioned only once in the letters, I found his story as interesting as any of the others I have researched.  What I do know is that John H. Snyder enlisted in the 96th PVI in March of 1864, just in time to fight in the bloody battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse,  during the Rapidan Campaign of May 1864.   According to Samuel Bates account in his book "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865", John H. Snyder was listed as missing in action (MIA) on May 10, 1864 at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia.   This means that Snyder was active in his unit for less than 2 months before he went MIA during this vicious battle.   I have been unable to find any record of him resurfacing during or after the war, but he is not listed anywhere that I can find as a Killed in Action (KIA).

I was saddened by the thought that apparently he was never found, never identified.  He continues to be listed as MIA in the official records.  Since JWD fought at these battles, I wonder whether he saw him...talked to him...or fought with him during the time he went missing.  I guess this is just one of the sad stories and duties that returning soldiers such as JWD had to tell to anxious family members back home.  I can only imagine.

Pennsylvania State Archives ARIAS Record of John, H. Snyder

Samuel Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 (page 400)

Jim D.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fort Monroe Designated a National Monument

A timely bit of news on Fort Monroe from today's Washington Post.  I plan to visit this site next year.  

Obama signs proclamation designating shuttered Fort Monroe in Virginia a national monument

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday took a shuttered Army fort in Virginia with an important role in the nation’s slavery history and made it a national monument.
Using his authority under a century-old law, Obama signed a proclamation designating Fort Monroe a national monument. That saves it from major development and preserves its history for generations.

At a signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Obama said the fort had played a “remarkable role in the history of our nation.” He said he looked forward to visiting and taking daughters Malia and Sasha along to get “a sense of their history.”
The fort and the land it sits on are historically significant because it was where Dutch traders first brought enslaved Africans in 1619. It remained in Union possession during the Civil War and became a place where escaped slaves could find refuge. Confederate President Jefferson Davis also was imprisoned there after the Civil War.
Obama said the fort also helped create the environment that led President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
But the government decided in a 2005 cost-cutting move to close the fort and many other military installations. In September, the Army ended its 188-year presence there.
The fort occupied a strategic coastal defensive position at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, having been built after the British sailed north from there and burned Washington.
Beyond the historical issues, Obama noted the economic value of Fort Monroe’s designation as a national monument. He said local officials have estimated that a plan for reusing the site would help create nearly 3,000 jobs in next-door Virginia. Obama won the commonwealth in 2008 and it may prove crucial to his re-election bid.
“Fort Monroe has played a part in some of the darkest and some of the most heroic moments in American history. But today isn’t just about preserving a national landmark. It’s about helping to create jobs and grow the local economy,” Obama said in a paper statement released earlier Tuesday. “Steps like these won’t replace the bold action we need from Congress to get our economy moving and strengthen middle-class families, but they will make a difference.”
The proclamation signing was the latest in a series of executive actions Obama has taken while his $447 billion jobs bill remains stalled in Congress. He took advantage of having several lawmakers with him for the occasion, telling them “I still need some action from Congress” on the bill.
Obama’s decision to turn Fort Monroe into a national monument marked the first use of his authority under the Antiquities Act. Presidents dating to Theodore Roosevelt have used the 1906 law to protect sites deemed to have natural, historical or scientific significance, including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

Jim D.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Insights, Addendum and Thank you

Thanks to everybody who has commented and made recommendations to date, and thank you for the great responses that I got from the last letter.  It's really nice to hear the comments and reflections from friends and followers who remember stories of family traditions such as "snitzing parties".  I think it's important that we remember and repeat those stories so that those old American traditions are not lost in the flow of time.

The next letter will be published on Monday, November 28th.  I will warn you that this particular letter is rather short and not very exciting, only being a paragraph long.  However, if you are following the entire JWD story from the time he entered the Army until his death in 1876, you will see that this letter is the first indication of troubles that plagued him for the rest of his short life.  Essentially, this period in his life was the beginning of the decline in his health.  References to this part of JWD's service are seen in the pension applications affidavits that I have already posted and ones that I will post later in this blog.   Fortunately, or can reference such seeminly innocuous letters and see the sad decline...and where it began.   I will never really know what ultimately killed JWD, but these letters provide some measure of the symptoms he suffered and possible linkages to common ailments of soldiers during this period in time.

Now, some filler and addendum to prior posts.....

Camp Hamilton (origination of the Letter #2) was organized on the site of what is now Phoebus, Virginia and provided an overflow camp to Fort Monroe.  Visitors to Phoebus, can see where the camp was located as well as the cemetery containing those soldiers who were the unfortunate victims of the typical camp diseases of the era.   The camp was located just prior to the bridge connecting Fort Monroe to the mainland.

Here is a link to the Civil War Today website's posting of information on Camp Hamilton:

Camp Hamilton from a  Stereo Opticon image from the National Archives

Fort Monroe today

Fort Monroe plans from the Virginia Historical Society

Ok...the next image has nothing to do with the subject matter this week, but I needed to get it into the blog record for completeness.  My good friend and brother RDML Sinclair Harris helped me with some research on my favorite ship....the George Peabody.  As you remember from prior postings, I had a somewhat obsession with researching this particular ship that carried JWD to the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the conduct of the Burnside's Expedition.   After exhausting all of the avenues that I knew of in finding informational "tidbits" and images....I decided to go to an expert.  Who better than a friend who happens to be an Admiral in the United States Navy?    The results included information that I had previously posted, and the following image that I have not yet posted.  I find this picture of the George Peabody to be most special, as it is a hand drawn image that is housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  RDML Harris correctly pointed out to me that the George Peabody was not a United States Ship, but a private vessel...hence my change from USS.    Many thanks to RDML Harris....ok...Sinc to me....for a great addition to my blog.

George Peabody (Library of Congress)

Jim D.