New Statue of General George Thomas

Much to my surprise, here is another local story about the Civil War. This one came out late last week, but I just learned about it Monday and saw the link today.

In recent years, stories about Civil War-related statues have frequently been about controversies surrounding the removal, destruction or vandalism of these monuments (usually Confederate.)  The number of Confederate statues in Kentucky is much higher than the number of Union memorials, but this article is different as it discusses a new statue being created in honor of Union General George Thomas, for whom the Northern Kentucky military outpost (now a city) called Fort Thomas was named.

I was glad to hear this news and look forward to seeing the statue, wherever they place it in the city. 

From the first link above: A small-scale model, known as a maquette, of General George H. Thomas in full dress uniform.

Local Discovery of a Civil War artifact

I saw this story on Facebook and thought I would share it here. It only includes a small  tidbit about the Civil War, but it is a neat story and a cool artifact. It is a belt bucket mold - actually, I believe it is only the female half of the mold - for a “US” Civil War  belt buckle.

I was lucky enough to see and hold this mold a few weeks ago and was surprised by how heavy it was.

Here are two pictures a of it, the second with a picture of an actual belt buckle. (This was at a historical society meeting, not a Civil War specific group, so the presenter included the photo of the buckle to help people see the finished product.)

For those unaware, Newport is a city in Northern Kentucky, along the Ohio River, across from Cincinnati, Ohio. During the Civil War, it was home of Newport Barracks, a United States military installation, and several defensive positions were constructed in the area for the Siege of Cincinnati in September of 1862, so Union troops were certainly in the region during the war.

Who knows how this piece found its way into a house, but I am glad it was found by someone who appreciates history and is sure to preserve such an artifact. Other contractors may not have realized what a cool find this was.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (the Play) Comes to Cincinnati, 1862

I stumbled upon this in the Cincinnati Enquirer of October 7, 1862, and thought I would share it.

I wonder how it did attendance-wise, especially with all the controversy the book had aroused and, at the time of this performance, the ongoing bloody war. Cincinnati  was in a “free state” and was a home to some abolitionists  but also was a hotspot for slave catchers and was not known for great feelings for African-Americans or abolition in general (it is located close to Kentucky, a slavery state at the time) so I was surprised to see this play advertised. Maybe a wave of patriotism for the war encouraged the opera house to host this show, but this was just a few weeks after the “Siege of Cincinnati,” during which Cincinnati police had originally refused to accept African-American volunteers for the defense of the city, saying it was a “white man’s war.” They soon reversed course and began rounding up African American men to force them to work on local defenses. Eventually local judge William Martin Dickson took charge of what was known as the “Black Brigade,” but the episode shows some of the racial issues Cincinnati faced.

Given the use of minstrels, I am sure that stereotypes of African-American behavior was part of the play, but that was likely true of theater throughout the entire country st the time.

Potential Danger to KY Civil War sites

This story has nothing specific about any Civil War site in my beloved Kentucky, but it sure does seem like a dangerous precedent, with bad potential down the road.

I understand that this state does not always a good job of funding and caring for parks and historic sites, but I am not sure that this is a good idea. In fact, I think it is a bad one, with potential to be awful or terrible, whichever adjective is worse. How can we know if the private groups - in this case a church - can or will do any better? Will such groups even care about history or will they just look to turn such gifts into profit?

It is bad enough that this has happened to a site where Daniel Boone, one of the most famous names in Kentucky history, lived. What happens to sites without such a well-known name attached to them? As a person who loves the Civil War, I wonder what will happen to small Civil War sites around the state? This is a bigger issue than “just” Civil,War sites, but I admit that was my first thought when I saw this story, even though I appreciate all history. I admittedly am writing this story to fit in with this blog’s purpose.

What site will be next? There are rumors about White Hall State Historic Site, Home of anti-slavery politician Cassius Marcellus Clay, being given to Eastern Kentucky University, though that is not official, at least yet. Official or not, it is still concerning given what has already happened. 

Relevance of the Book Version of the Official Records of the Rebellion

Anyone that has ever researched the Civil War knows of, and has most likely used, the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, and virtually any book published bout the War includes these records (normally noted as "OR") in its bibliography. Readers of this blog surely know that already.

What I am wondering is: is the book version of these records still relevant?  In the age of compact discs and so many publications, including the OR, digitized online (see the OR  here or here ), with handy "find" features, is the original 128 book version of these records still worth having? 

A historical group I belong to is fortunate enough to have a full set of the OR (though one person suggested one volume is missing. I have not confirmed that.) The group now is considering putting these books in storage somewhere in order to display other items, probably additional non-Civil War military uniforms. 

This is not a Civil War group and its mission is beyond just that one period of time, so it is understandable that some people want to show other items from our collection, but the willingness to hide (or possibly even get rid of) the OR frustrates me.

I understand the books are online now and that we could purchase a CD of these books. Both of these options have search functions and take up much, much less space than the dozens of thick, heavy OR books. I have trouble arguing against such logic.

On the other hand, I like how these books look. They are a modern printing, with the dark blue covers, and I think the collection looks really good on the shelves. When I think of Civil War research, these shelves are what that looks like to me. These books ARE Civil War research. 

I must also reluctantly acknowledge that these books rarely leave the shelves in our office. We do not get a lot of Civil War researchers visiting us, though I have used them occasionally (but not very recently). Maybe a Korean War uniform would attract more interest from visitors, and it would be something unique to our displays. We have other uniforms on display, but none from that conflict. 

Again, I must admit that the logic behind changing exhibits seems strong and I have not found a good counter for it, but as a Civil War student, I really like the OR collection. Even if we do decide to remove it from display, I will absolutely make sure we either store these books safely or find a good home for them. In a worst case scenario, I would take them to my house, finding room to keep them, but that is unlikely as I know of another organization that would likely accept them. So from that sense, they are safe - they will end up well-stored or in another good home, so destruction is not a threat, but I still emotionally like seeing them in the office, on the shelves. They really do make a handsome collection, but maybe that's just the Civil War enthusiast in me, as others in the group do not share my view. It is frustrating on some level, but others have acknowledged that throwing away these volumes is not an option. I think I have expressed my feelings of the importance of the books enough at least to ensure they will be treated with respect, even if not on display. 

What do others think? Is it fine now just to rely on digitized versions of these records and forget about the actual books? I have used these new versions so and probably will continue to, but I still appreciate the book version. The convenience of the electronic versions is undeniable. I do still read actual books instead of e-versions, but for a research project, it is nice to hit "ctrl-F" or another find function to locate key information. I think the digitized versions of these records are a major improvement, but I do appreciate the original format. The Official Records are far from perfect sources, but seeing all those books shelved together still makes me happy, and I know this may not be logical. I make no claim to be another Spock. 😊 Hopefully this modern world finds a way to feature the convenient electronic copies while not losing the actual books. There still is a place for real books and real records. At least I hope so.

As I proofread and edit this post, perhaps it truly is more about books in general than just the OR, though the situation with the OR is real and did inspire my rant.

I also hope I'm not just being an old-fashioned, "get off my lawn" type of grouch, but as I read and re-read my post again, my main points seem to be about sentimentality more than practicality. That said, there is room for such feelings in the world today and while 128 volumes of several hundred pages each may not be the easiest or fastest approach to finding information, I do still find these books to be relevant. 

Popular Posts