Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mercer Museum

Visited the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA today. Had a great time seeing artifacts and learning about our past. Sure was hot in there! Here's a picture of me with rifles from the Civil War.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mt. Gilead

Just visited the Mount Gilead African Methodist Episcopal church, located near the top of Buckingham Mountain. The church was founded by runaway slaves as a part of the Underground Railroad. Along side the church stands a graveyard. "Wherein sleep such noted characters as Governor Wells, Town Crier of Doylestown, and over which 'Big Ben,' the giant slave, exercised quasi-supervision before his tragic capture," as said by David Hanauer quoting the book Place Names in Bucks County.

Civil War Museum

I visited with Betty from the Civil War Museum in Doylestown, PA. This is where I learned about Lieutenant Jacob Swartzlander. Lt. Swartzlander is a native of Doylestown who served in the 104th Infantry in the 1870s. Here, I am holding his personal bible next to pictures of letters that he wrote to home.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Here I am with a life-sized mannequin of Malvina Gist, a very important lady to the history of Columbia, SC, and of the Relic Room.
During the war, as a young widow (her husband had been killed in battle), Malvina took a job proofreading and hand-signing Confederate currency. Each bill needed two signatures: Malvina signed more than 3000 a day. It was boring, repetitive work, but it helped her survive the war.
Malvina fled Columbia before Sherman's army arrived and burned the city down. She was a strong and resourceful lady. After the war, she slowly rebuilt her life, eventually writing two novels and helping start the museum. During WWI, she formed a group composed of former Confederate ladies, to help the American soldiers and sailors who were fighting in France.
Curator of History Joe Long says that one of the great untold stories of American history, is how ladies of the South followed General Lee's instructions, as they helped raise the next generation of young Southern men. Ladies like Miss Malvina taught that revenge was the wrong response to losing the war; that Southern honor should be shown in American patriotism instead. South Carolinians took this to heart, as they signed up for World War One in even greater numbers than their grandfathers had for the Confederate Army.
General Lee said, "Forget your animosities" (which means, "forget your bitterness, anger, hatred," things like that!) "and make your sons Americans". It's great that Preston and Johann are both American bears!

Now it's Johann's turn. The SC Confederate Relic Room has only one Union battle flag, a very unique banner. Several regiments of former slaves who lived near Beaufort, South Carolina, fought for the Union forces. (Some islands on the coast had been captured by the US Navy, and slaves on those islands were under Union control.) This is the last surviving flag of one of those regiments, the 2nd SC Volunteers, U.S.
In fact, Harriet Tubman actually marched under this flag at one point! (She was a guide for the 2nd on the Combahee River Raid.) Johann says it's true that many Union soldiers were NOT abolitionists at all - but, he says that every soldier in the 2nd South Carolina Union regiment must have been!

Here I am with Preston and the battle flag of the 3rd SC Regiment, which fought at Gettysburg. Names of other battles are stenciled on this flag, barely readable. About half of the Confederate battle flags at the Relic Room are "unsurrendered banners" which soldiers hid and brought home, but many of the others were returned to the Southern states by President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904. Roosevelt believed that the brave soldiers of the war, on both sides, should be honored, especially since the issues of the war were settled. (Preston calls it the "War Between the States".)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

With guides like these, I'm learning a lot! Notice, as we peruse a history book, that Johann's hat has crossed cannons and his coat has red trim: that's how you know that his job is firing cannons. The crossed sabers on Preston's hat show that he's in the cavalry, and the black chevrons (which look like "v" 's) on his jacket show that he is a Sergeant. As a cavalry soldier he would also wear big boots, but like Johann and I, he just has "bear" feet today.

Johann and Preston are serious students of tactics, and when I tell them I'm from Gettysburg, they immediately take out the map to discuss cavalry and artillery actions there.
Preston says the Confederate cavalry made a terrible mistake at Gettysburg. He talks about his hero, the brave horseman Wade Hampton III, who was wounded in a swordfight there against three men.
Johann describes the thick, black smoke and thundering cannons along the ridge where Union soldiers repelled the Confederate attack. All over the nation, in museums and history books, people still remember and take pride in what their state's soldiers did in that terrible battle near my home.

It's a fine day in Columbia, as I continue to enjoy the Southern hospitality of the SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. Here I am with my new friends Johann (a Federal artillery soldier) and Preston (of the South Carolina cavalry).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Visiting the Relic Room!

A beautiful Wednesday morning in Columbia, South Carolina. I've been so busy here that I haven't had a chance to blog; the archives room at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is full of so many interesting things! I've been reading, and talking with the Curator of History, Krissy Johnson, and later we're visiting sites in Columbia. (Some sites are still standing, even though Union General Sherman's men burned the city down in February of 1865).

The Relic Room has been a museum since 1896; it was started by a group of Confederate widows (and wives of former Confederate soldiers) about thirty years after the war, as a place to remember their history. They were proud of their soldiers, and proud of what they had done on the homefront during the war - managing farms and businesses while their men were gone to war. And when they started the museum, they didn't just save the uniforms and weapons of the men - they saved things that reminded them of their own experiences, like a coffee grinder that was used to make fake "coffee" from acorns. (Sounds pretty good to me, but then, I'm a bear!)

More later - lots to see here!