Monday, August 3, 2015

Lincoln Statue in Cincinnati to be moved?

No, this does not have anything to do with the controversy over Confederate monuments. This story is a couple of months old and I missed it when it first came out. I guess I will have to try to pay more attention to local news now. :) 

The possibility of moving the Lincoln statue from one end of the park to the other is real, but no final decision about that has been made.
A park superintendent said Tuesday there would be a public hearing scheduled to get input from the community before any conclusion is reached.

I do not see any more recent updates.
This statue has an interesting history, including quite a bit of controversy. I will post a story about it soon.

Lytle park, with current location of Lincoln Statue, courtesy

The statue was dedicated in 1917, so perhaps an opportunity for a re-dedication on its centennial will present itself to the city. That might be nice.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Should Perryville become a National Park?

Perryville Battlefield is currently a Kentucky state historic site, basically a state park. I have heard brief mention in the past year or so of the idea of it becoming a national park and now that suggestion has come around again.  This article argues that turning it over to the National Park System and making it a national site would be a good idea and would benefit the region.

Chad Greene, President of the Friends of Perryville, and someone who has done a lot of work for the park, disagrees and posted these comments on Facebook. I hope the image shows up large enough. It's hard to tell from my iPad.

Most in the comments section agreed with his remarks, but a couple agreed with the article's premise. A park employee posted in the comments that many visitors he meets are surprised to learn that it is not a national park and is "just" a state site.

Personally, my first reaction is to leave it as is, as a state site, though funding from the state is not what it should be. I think the current park management has done a wonderful job with it and it is a beautiful, clean park, a great place to visit. I love Perryville Battlefield. As is, it's terrific. Would national park status provide more resources? I thought I had recently read about budget issues with the national park system, so I'm not sure about that. (One of the comments on Facebook mentioned the same thing.)

The article about the NPS' issues is here and states that the NPS delayed over $11 billion in maintenance projects last year. $11 billion. Is that a good situation to which to add Perryville? What would happen to the walking trails, an absolutely crucial part of the park? Would they still be mowed or allowed to become overgrown? Also, I know the park has started least discussed, perhaps even started,  new programs to reintroduce native grasses to the park and improve the habitat for quails, both of which souls make the land more like it was in 1862. Would these programs happen or be "deferred" like so much other maintenance?

The first article mentions the idea of a new visitor center, but I'm not sure I like that. I think the current welcome area/museum is fine, even without restaurants or other special areas. A bigger center would be nice in an ideal world, but is it worth it in this one? Should there be another modern building on the land, after several have been removed? 

Then again, I am not a resident of Perryville or Boyle County, so maybe more economic growth would be welcome. Of course, it's almost always welcome anywhere, but would a visitor center or national park status really attract more visitors or spur economic growth? The people interviewed in the story were already there even without such status. It would not affect my annual trek to the park, though I could see how the word "national" might get the attention of non-Civil War or history buffs since "national" sounds bigger, maybe more important, than "state." Perhaps it would increase attendance and donations, but would that last or just create a quick burst of initial curiosity?

The most well-known national park in Kentucky is Mammoth Cave. I have been there but never because it was a "national" park. I went because it was an interesting site (or because my parents decided to take us :), ) but I don't think "national" status had anything to do with it. There are a couple of other national sites and trails like the Lincoln Birthplace, but, again, the "national" aspect of them has no special attraction to me (though I also must admit I do not visit many state parks either.) I suspect the same would hold true for Perryville. If people are interested in the Civil War, they may visit, but if they have no interest in it, would the word "national" matter? If so, would it attract them more then once? I guess if you get them there once, you have the chance to catch their interest and give them reason to return, but would this change by itself attract many first-time visitors?

Also, the couple of times I have attended re-enactments at Perryville, I have found them to be absolutely terrific events. Knowing they were on the actual land where the battle took place added to the feeling of authenticity. With national status, re-enactments would either be eliminated or moved elsewhere. That does not sound good to me.

Another issue is the amount of time and effort needed to make a change. Are the federal bureaucracy and regulations worth it? 5 years of study and work seems like a lot.

Have other Civil War battlefields gone from state to national status recently? If so, how has that worked? Maybe I will try to look into that but if anybody knows of such instances, please let me know.

In the end, perhaps it's funny, or maybe ironic, that a discussion over a Civil War battlefield evolves into a debate over the roles of state versus federal government.

Photos from my 2012 trip to Perryville

Monday, July 27, 2015

Selling Dead Horses

"Horses and mules that went unsold were shot and sold as carcasses for less than $2 apiece at the rate of three thousand a month. One visitor to Washington witnessed horses being led down to the river one by one, shot, and thrown onto a pile of fifty carcasses. They were loaded onto barges and floated to a 'bone factory' near the Long Bridge. Horseshoes were removed for scrap iron, the hooves used to make hair combs and glue, the hides sold to tanners, and the hairs from the manes and tails exported to Europe for weaving into horsehair cloth. The shinbones were valued as imitation ivory for use in cane heads, knife hilts and pistol handles. Once skinned, the carcasses were boiled in a huge vat, 140 at a time, and the oil skimmed off and barreled for sale as a lubricant and an ingredient in soap. The bones were ground into 'bone dust' fertilizer. The sale of dead horses netted the government $60,000 per year."

I am currently reading Kenneth J. Winkle's Lincoln's Citadel: The Civil War in Washington D.C. and am enjoying it thus far. (I will write a review of it after I finish reading it.) I came across the above paragraph on pages 172 and 173 and thought it was rather fascinating. Civil War books and articles frequently describe soldiers being killed and though there are stories about the remains of dead animals on the battlefields (either being burned by the army which held the field or by local civilians after the stench from the corpses became too powerful), I had not seen the specific usages of dead horse parts as mentioned here. 

Some of the animals the government purchased for military use were not fit for service and were put up for auction, but not all of them sold, as discussed above. It is interesting that the government found a way to recoup some of the costs of purchasing so many animals for the war effort. Even the dead ones were worth money (At least there is no mention of the dead bodies being turned into food, though at times during the war a freshly killed horse may have sounded welcome to some soldiers.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

What Shaped My Viewpoints?: Life in a Border State

Continuing on the long and winding road of some recent posts, start here and herein which I discuss how I started liking the Civil War and what might influence how I think about it, I now offer these thoughts, comments and, especially, questions about how my home state and its history and culture might have influenced my viewpoints on the war.

I was born in Kentucky and have lived here my whole life; I have always identified myself as a Kentuckian and have no desire to live elsewhere. My family (direct ancestors) has lived in Kentucky since well before the Civil War, with only a brief interruption in the early 1960s. From both my dad and mom's paternal lines, I am a 5th or 6th generation Kentuckian. My dad's paternal ancestors came to Kentucky from Pennsylvania around 1841, with his maternal side coming from Switzerland and Germany, through Indiana and what became West Virginia. Much of my mother's side apparently came from England and then left North Carolina in the early 1800s, settling mainly along the Kentucky River area in eastern Kentucky. Kentucky stayed in the Union during the war, after an attempt at neutrality, but has a reputation as a "southern state" that "seceded after the Civil War," so it has a mixed Civil War legacy, at least from my perception. Both sides clearly influenced and affected this Commonwealth.

Adding to the above, I have lived in the northernmost section of the state my whole life, in Campbell County. (One way to identify a Kentuckian is that we name our home county when we are asked where in the state we are from, either in place of or immediately after the town name. We have a whopping 120 counties in a fairly small state, but county-identification seems to be a shared trait. Here is a brief story about this phenomenon.) This is where my dad's family settled in the 1840s. Sentiment here favored the Union side during the war, but southern sympathies existed as well. Its northern and eastern borders lie along the Ohio River, across which was the free state and Union territory of Ohio. 

My mom's family settled mostly in the area around Breathitt County in eastern Kentucky. This was farther south, but that mountainous region generally had strong Union feelings during the war.

The first image shows the location  of Campbell County, and the second shows Breathitt County, courtesy family

From my view, Kentucky is neither a true northern state nor a true southern one. I don't think I'm alone in that opinion. At a historical society meeting a few years ago, the speaker asked the attendees "Are you southern?" Only a few people held their hands up. He then asked "Are you northern?," and, again, only a few people held up their hands. Most people, myself included, did not respond to either option. It was just one group, but there was no real sense of identity with either of those terms, at least among those at the meeting.

On the other hand, I have heard some people say northern Kentucky is really part of Cincinnati (and likewise have heard Cincinnati called a part of Kentucky) while others state that northern Kentucky and the Louisville area are midwestern and the rest of the state southern. Which, if either, is correct?

Does such a mixture of feelings influence how the war is taught, understood or remembered in Kentucky?  In the post-war years, there were many Confederate monuments built in Kentucky, various stories and books written with Confederate/Southern themes, ex-Confederates elected to office and other activities that gave the state a Confederate reputation. (Let me recommend Anne Marshall's book Creating A Confederate Kentucky for more information on Kentucky's reputation. It probably is my favorite Civil War era book.) Does that image still exist? If so, what influence did it have on my youth? I do not remember when or how I learned about the war in school. 

Does the history of "neutrality" or "border-ism" affect today's culture and memory of the war, including my own? Kentucky has a monument to the birthplace of Jefferson C. Davis, but also the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace and the Lincoln Boyhood Home. Additionally the state did not ratify the 13th amendment that abolished slavery until 1976. What does that mean? Even I was alive by then, 111 years after the nation had adopted that change. 

Had my family's experience been in, let's say, Michigan or Alabama, how different would my understanding, interests or viewpoints be? I don't intend to say everyone from those states thinks the same way, but I would imagine pro-Union sentiments have been more common in the North and pro-Confederate feelings more prominent in Dixie-Land over the years. Has my experience in a border state helped shape my views or what I have been taught? How? What about my family history - both slave owners and Union soldiers, though not an overwhelming number of either, are in my family tree. The only members from my family tree who were in the war were on the Union side. Was all my family at the time supporting the Union and, if so, did that influence future generations?

I read and write about both sides of the war, but I admit that reading about battles that end with Union victory sometimes satisfies me more than stories that are more positive towards the Confederacy. I also am glad that the Union won the war as I think that was the best possible outcome. Perhaps these are indications that I have northern leanings, but I do not feel anti-southern at all. In fact, I almost feel a bit like Kentucky did early in the war - trying to appreciate both perspectives, but with perhaps a bit more interest in the Union side. I do not believe I have any hidden agenda against the Confederacy; at least I try not to. My only agenda is to study what I enjoy and to find more that interests me about the war. That's one way this blog, and seeing so much in the blogosphere, has really been good for me. Still, human nature would seem to make it impossible for anyone to be completely unbiased about something they have so much interest in, at least according to my amateur psychology. Maybe I'm wrong about that.

With all this said, my original interest in the war goes back to my discovery that Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky. I still have a fascination with his life and probably have more books about him than any other single Civil War-related topic. I have some Lincoln busts and collectibles I found on eBay. I also have visited his birthplace and boyhood home multiple times and the Lincoln Museum in Hodgenville as well, but have not seen the Jefferson Davis Birthplace or made any special tips to see other Confederate monuments like the one in Louisville. What, if anything, does this say about my approach to studying the war?

I guess these are questions I must answer for myself, but maybe asking them here will lead me to ponder and explore them more and perhaps even to find some answers.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Another week, Another Civil War Ancestor

When it rains, it pours I suppose, this time in a good manner, as after a long drought with little luck combining genealogy with the Civil War, I have discovered another connection only one week after finding one great-great grandfather in the war.

While still working on research for John Conrad Hofstetter, I found that maternal grandmother's other grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Davis, was a private in Company D of the 7th West Virginia Cavalry.  (He even had a patriotic name!)

He was a native of Virginia, a Confederate state, but lived in the far western portion of it, in Mason and Putnam counties. By the time he enlisted in February 1864, that part of the state had become the new state of West Virginia, as the people in the western area of the Old Dominion had their own culture and did not support slavery or secession as those in the eastern region did. This means that both of my grandmother's grandfathers were Union cavalrymen.

The 7th West Virginia Cavalry stayed mainly in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia during Davis' (he apparently went by "Franklin" per a cursory glimpse of his records on time in the unit.

I actually have a couple photographs of him, obviously prior to the invention of safety razors, though probably far after the war. Also, I just found a family history site that has more genealogical information, under the Hofstetter section, I will be using that site quite frequently.

Wife and husband, Mary Jane Baylous and Benjamin Franklin Davis. 

Benjamin Franklin Davis, from

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How I Came to Like the Civil War, Part 2: More Thoughts

recently posted about how I came to like the Civil War and what in my background might have influenced (or still influence) my viewpoints on it.  See the link here. After publishing it, I thought of a few other things that I wanted to add. 

When I was about 10 years old, I read an article in the Kentucky Post (which no longer even exists) about William Corbin and Jefferson McGraw. This story of something so local (I lived near where they were caught and very close to their burial places) from the Civil War stuck in my head and was something I never forgot. Years later, I went to college and wanted to read the story again. I was lucky enough to find the article by searching through page after page of microfilm, (not quite as quick or easy as Google or Yahoo are now.) I included one link of the story above, but there are plenty more available, though much of the information is probably very similar. I believe this is a transcription of the actual article that originally caught my attention. Their story is a fascinating one, at least for me, especially once I learned that this incident eventually led Union officials to threaten the execution of Robert E. Lee's son Rooney, who had been captured in the summer of 1863. That was not in the original story I first saw.

My understanding is that the small, private family cemetery where Corbin is buried is now cleaned up and fenced in, thanks to the property owner, but the last time I visited the church cemetery where McGraw is buried, it was a mess, though McGraw's marker was in fine overall condition.

Corbin grave, courtesy Campbell County Genweb at

Here are two photographs I took of McGraw's monument a few years ago. I do not know why an American flag was placed by it.
It reads: "Lt. T.J. McGraw C.S.A. shot at Johnson's Is. May 15, 1863 by S. N. Burbridge order for recruiting in Ky. Erected by Mrs. Basil Duke chap. U.D.C."

An interesting aspect of the story is that the monument states that he was shot under General Stephen "Butcher" Burbridge's order, but that general was not in charge in Kentucky until early 1864, months after their arrests and execution. Ambrose Burnside was in command in the region (office in Cincinnati) when Corbin and McGraw were arrested and executed. Of course, one controversy was that they were arrested under Burnside's General Order Number 38, issued days after their arrest.

With the recent controversy over the Confederate battle flag still hanging on, I must say that I was a big fan of the television show The Dukes Of Hazzard as a child, but do not believe I connected items like the General Lee (and its roof) and J.D. (Jefferson Davis) "Boss" Hogg with the war, though I seem to recall one episode with Boss' brother Abraham Lincoln Hogg appearing, wearing all black in contrast to Boss' all white suit. I just thought it was a cool show, especially the car jumps (yeeeee-haw) and the dynamite arrows that blew stuff up. It had a great theme song too.  It was just a fun show and I do not believe it influenced my interest in the war at all. I do feel TVLand is overreacting a bit with its decision to stop airing it, though I suppose that is their right.

Something else that grabbed my attention came just a few years ago when a cousin, who has an incredible knowledge of family history, informed me that we did have ancestors in the war. I liked both genealogy and the Civil War but had never been able to join the two together, so this was extremely welcome news to me. Here is a post I wrote about two of my great-great-great-grandfathers,  Nimrod McIntosh and Henderson Turner.  My original research, however, was not very good and I need to make updates and correct some of the information in it, which I will do in a separate post which will also include information on some other ancestors, including a couple of recent discoveries

I may also put together some thoughts and ideas on how or if living in Kentucky - a Union state with Southern ties - may have influenced my viewpoints and affected my interest in the war.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Civil War on the Twilight Zone (repost)

In honor of SyFy channel's annual Twilight Zone marathon, I repost this story I wrote a few years ago.

Happy Fourth of July!