Augusta in the Civil War Tour and Day

A few months ago, a new local movement began to help publicize and promote the Civil War Battle of Augusta of September 27, 1862 and to bring attention to the Civil War sites around that pretty river town.

The people involved in this group started a Facebook group called Augusta in the Civil War that I follow and recommend to others. It has been an active group, holding several meetings to plan how to promote the important actions in and around this area. Unfortunately, I have not attended any of these meetings, either due to other events/meetings on the same dates or just not feeling like travelling an hour away for another meeting. That is regrettable and I hope I can correct that in the future, but I did get to start such a correction on this past Saturday, April 13, as they held a Civil War Walking Tour and a Civil War Day, a prelude to a hopefully bigger event in September (September 27 - Brookville to Augusta - Duke's Approach and September 28 - Battle of Augusta Anniversary Event - see the Facebook page's event list for more info.)

It was a beautiful day and as I arrived in Augusta - my first visit there in literally decades, probably three of them, I realized what a pretty little city it is, especially on Riverside Drive, an appropriately named route alongside the Ohio River. I have lived near that river for a while, but the views I am used to are of the buildings and structures of Cincinnati on the other side, with bridges full of vehicles speeding from one place to another, but Augusta's views are of quiet hills - just starting to turn green as the annual rebirth that spring brings to the land ramps into full speed - and of a more natural, peaceful scene than my eyes usually witness. It is truly a pleasant spot just to stand and look and feel the nature, at least with weather as cooperative as Saturday was.

The tour that Darryl Smith (see Waking with History LLC.) led was wonderful. I have mentioned him before, but his combination of knowledge (thanks to terrific research) and enthusiasm for the war and related subjects make for a fine tour leader and speaker.

The tour lasted a bit more than 90 minutes. The walking was not long and was on mostly flat even surfaces -sidewalks and the small road - which helped make it fairly easy and more enjoyable. It was not hilly and uneven ground like at Perryville, nor very crowded even with over 70 people in attendance - a wonderful turnout. Every now and then, we had to move out of the way of a vehicle that wanted to use the roadway, but most cars saw the crowd and turned down other streets to avoid us. (At one stop, though, a car waved us through the crosswalk, though I don't know if the driver realized how many people would have to cross before she could move. 😄 ) The information given during the tour, especially the first person accounts, and the houses and buildings where we stopped were all appropriate and meaningful.

I stayed around town for a bit to get a bite to eat (and to rest my tired legs, to be honest) and look at a few of the displays for the Civil War Day. They had some nice banners with good information about the battle and some of its participants, and had a few re-enactors and collectors displaying various collections and items that soldiers carried during the war. It was not the biggest event ever, but the people there were friendly, helpful and very appropriate for such an event and there was a good energy around town, though perhaps that was due to the weather and me not having been there for  such a long time. From the view of an outsider and visitor (I have to say it was nice attending an event without helping organize it), it seemed to go smoothly for a first time event. I thought it was nice, a promising start that should help with planning for the September event. I even met a couple of presenters who may be able to help at Battery Hooper Civil War Days at the Ramage Museum in August

Here are a couple photos from the tour and the displays.

Thinking of Abraham Lincoln on April 14

On this April 14, I decided to write a few lines about my thoughts on Abraham Lincoln. This is not a book review or anything I have researched or drafted - just a few random thoughts that I decided to share on this 154th anniversary of such a sad, tragic day.

I've always admired Lincoln's work ethic and focus. Even when he lost an election in Illinois, struggled to make a living in New Salem or faced difficulties dealing with women, he just "kept on keeping on." He did have a bout of depression and certainly had tough times, but none of them stopped him until the horrendous act at Ford's Theater on that awful Good Friday. He kept moving forward in life, from poor boy, to store clerk, to surveyor, attorney, state legislator, Congressman and President.
Of course, it is impossible to write about Lincoln without noting his writing skills. His speeches and papers are so incredible. I especially like his Second Inaugural, even though every time I start to claim that as my favorite of his works, I keep coming back to the brevity of and phrasing in the Gettysburg Address. I simply cannot make a decision on which I prefer, though I think the Second Inaugural deserves more attention than it gets. "With malice towards none, with charity for all" is just a brilliant phrase, even if not as well-known as "Four score and seven years ago."

Part of this post, I admit, is because I have not written much lately, but on Facebook this morning I someone mention that he/she makes a Lincoln post on this date every year. I don't know that I will do that, but it is a good idea that I wish I had thought of and I am going to "borrow" that idea at least for today.

Lincoln was born in Kentucky and when I was in elementary school, I learned that fact. Since I also was born in the Bluegrass State, that fact caught my attention. I guess I have always enjoyed stuff with a local connection or else a love of Kentucky was always a part of me. I have admired him since my school days and when I read about Lincoln, the Civil War was a natural off-shoot of that reading and my love of the war developed from there.

A few years ago, I took a trip to Lincoln's birthplace and boyhood home in Hodgenville. The birthplace building was closed for renovation so I did not go through it and have not made a return trip. That would be a good idea for this summer, but I said the same thing last year. It is easy to say things or make plans than to do them.

Last year, I did read a biography on John Wilkes Booth. I had previously thought I would never do such a thing, as it felt weird to study the creator of such a horrible act, but I am glad I read it. It humanized Booth, yet still showed the awful, perhaps cowardly, side of him that led to the tragedy at the theater. His life was more than that one act and though April 14, 1865 properly does define his legacy, there was a lifetime that led up to it and he did have family and friends, just like other people. He was not born a monster who spent his entire life doing such deeds. I still have not read any of the books specifically about the assassination and the hunt for Booth and maybe I should. Like the travelling, though, that is easier said than done.

I know this is far from my best or most in-depth post, but it does feel good to type these words and express my thoughts on this date and I am glad I saw the Facebook post that gave me the idea.

Abraham Lincoln is, has been and will continue to be the historical figure I admire the most. There is no doubt about it. His strength, ambition, persistence, intelligence and many other traits made him a fascinating character and the situation in which he found himself as President gave him the opportunity to prove his greatness. He was the right man at the right place at the right time.

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.

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