Entries in Civil War (6)


Civil War Sailors Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(ARLINGTON COUNTY, Va.) -- Two unidentified sailors from the USS Monitor were buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery on the 151st anniversary of ironclad's famous battle with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. The descendants of the 16 sailors who perished aboard the ship when it sank in a New Year's Eve storm in 1862 are grateful for the considerable interest in Friday's interment.

A decade has gone by since the ship's turret was raised from the ocean floor in the waters off Cape Hatteras in 2002. Efforts to identify the two sailors have proved unsuccessful so far, though it has been determined that they were Caucasians who stood about 5'7" tall, one was in his late teens to early 20's, the other in his 30's.

Andrew Bryan from Maine told ABC News earlier Friday that the graveside ceremony would be an emotional event for him. His great grandfather William Bryan served as a yeoman on the Monitor when the ship sank. Based on Bryan's age and stature it was believed he could be the older of the two sailors identified through forensic work.

The DNA results from samples Andrew Bryan provided to investigators, however, have proven inconclusive. But he is hopeful that a positive ID could be around the corner now that a female relative in Australia has agreed to provide a DNA sample, making a mitochondrial DNA match possible.

"He spent his life on the ocean so if he's still there that's fine, but if this is him I want him to be recognized," said Bryan.

Bryan is gratified by all the attention the burial has generated and says this may be the last time the Monitor sailors are honored on the national stage, "but as for our family it's a continuance ... it helps keep the story going, there's an interest to it, people will better understand the roots of our country."

Another descendant has also been heartened by the interest the Monitor burial has generated. William Finlayson had two ancestors who served on the Monitor, one of whom was John L Worden, the Monitor's first captain, who was injured in the battle with the Virginia. The other ancestor was Worden's nephew who served as Worden's aide.

Finlayson is also grateful. He says that you get a sense among the descendants of the 16 who perished that "you can only feel in your heart if you're directly related to it by blood and to see so much interest and so many people turn up, it's just incredible."

Noted Civil War historian James McPherson called the recognition for sailors who fought for the Union long overdue as they deserve as much recognition as soldiers who died at Gettysburg. He pointed out that every sailor aboard the Monitor was a volunteer, just as every sailor in the Navy was at the time. However, he said they were undertaking a hazardous duty because of speculation at the time the ironclad was being put into service that it "would be a coffin for the crew and that it would sink, not float."

He describes Friday's burial as "our chance as a nation to pay our respects and say goodbye" the Monitor's sailors. The attention is "fully deserved" and recalling Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, he says, "they did pay their last full measure of devotion and in turn we ought to recognize and acknowledge that."

The remaining 14 sailors who perished aboard the Monitor are likely contained aboard the rest of the ship's wreckage which lies in waters 250 feet deep.

The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary contains about 85 percent of the ship's structure.

David Alberg is the superintendent of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, which he describes as hallowed ground. "We treat it as a gravesite, it is hallowed ground. It is a place where tremendous sacrifice was made in defense of our country." He says between 15 and 20 divers a year undertake the difficult dive to the ship's wreckage and they all come back saying the same thing. "It's history and they're coming face to face with something that everybody learns about in history books."

Alberg accompanied the remains Thursday as they were flown to D.C. He's struck by the interest in their burial and thinks it's a unifying event. He thought it was ironic that the sailors were fighting to preserve the union and that it was appropriate that their final trip took them over a country they had helped to create.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Remains of Two Civil War Sailors Head for Arlington

Original Artwork: Print by Currier & Ives. Photo by MPI/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The remains of two sailors from the Civil War’s USS Monitor arrived at Washington’s Dulles Airport Thursday morning in preparation for their burial Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.  The remains of the two unidentified sailors were found inside the turret of the iconic ironclad ship when it was found in the waters off of Cape Hatteras, N.C., in 2002.

The Union ironclad sank in a storm off the cape on Dec. 31, 1862, nine months after its landmark sea battle with the Confederate ironclad, the CSS Virginia -- previously known as the Merrimack.  The two sailors were among the 16 believed to have perished with the ship when it sank to the ocean floor. Fifty other sailors were able to survive the ship’s sinking.

The Navy plans to bury the two unidentified sailors on the 151st anniversary of its encounter with the Virginia in the Battle of Hampton Roads.  The battle of the ironclads was considered a draw, but the era of wooden ships was over.

For the past decade the Navy has tried to identify the sailors’ remains through genealogical research and forensic work conducted at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, the same lab that identifies the remains of Americans recovered from the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam.

Though their identities still remain to be determined through DNA analysis, the forensic work determined that both were Caucasians who stood about 5-feet-7, one was in his late teens to early 20s, the other in his 30s.

A year ago, clay models of what they may have looked like were made public after a forensic reconstruction of their skulls.


The two flag-draped caskets were transported from Hawaii aboard Delta Airlines flights.  The plane that arrived at Dulles was a connecting flight from Atlanta.

Following military custom and the law, Navy officers and a Navy Ceremonial Guard were on the windswept tarmac as part of the Dignified Transfer to escort the remains to two waiting hearses.

The plane’s passengers remained aboard the aircraft as airport workers made preparations to off-load the caskets from the plane’s cargo hold onto a conveyor belt.  Throughout the Dignified Transfer many of the passengers could be seen peering through the plane’s windows snapping photos with their phones.  The ceremony was also witnessed by people inside the terminal looking out the picture windows by the plane’s  airport gate.

As each casket was moved down the conveyor belt it was greeted by a Navy chaplain and other Navy officers who stood at attention and saluted the remains.

As the chaplain said a brief prayer over each casket, airport workers could be seen bowing their heads in prayer.

Sailors from the Ceremonial Guard then approached to carry solemnly each casket to its hearse.

The burial of the two sailors has generated nationwide interest.  Juan Garcia, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, the senior official on hand for Thursday’s arrival, said the interest is easy to explain.

“This resonates for the Navy, for the Navy’s and for the whole country. Everyone has a stake in this,” he told ABC News.

He described it as a message that carries over to today’s service members.

“The sense of ’thank you, folks,’ for paying the last full measure of devotion, for being willing to raise their right hand, to go into harm’s way.  And fulfilling our promise to bring them home and to lay them to rest properly, even if it takes a century and a half to do so,” Garcia said.

Navy officials have said that these sailors could be the last two Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, a cemetery established during the Civil War on Robert E. Lee’s estate.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


National Archives Unveil 3,000 Civil War Docs Transcribed by Walt Whitman

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- To mark the 150th anniversary of Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War, the National Archives unveiled nearly 3,000 Civil War-related documents and records transcribed by one of America’s most revered authors and poets -- Walt Whitman.

Best known for writing “Leaves of Grass,” Whitman transcribed these documents while working as a government clerk in Washington, D.C. in the decade following the Civil War.  Whitman worked as a clerk for the Army Paymaster's office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Attorney General's office.  Ralph Waldo Emerson first helped Whitman obtain his clerkship by recommending him on literary and patriotic grounds.

Though the documents unveiled Tuesday do not contain Whitman’s original thoughts, they provide insight into Whitman’s post-war writing and thinking.  

“We’ve tended to think of Whitman in two ways during the Civil War as the person who was attentively visiting these soldiers and as this great poet of the Civil War, and people don’t think about the third life he had going on in Washington, D.C.,” Price said.  “It’s the life the city directory records as his fundamental life.  It’s the life that funded the other two lives.”

The documents previously sat hidden in the National Archives until Whitman scholar Kenneth Price, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, uncovered them over the past three years.

Price became familiar with Whitman’s handwriting while editing his previously unedited poetry manuscripts in 2000.   Few of the records contain Whitman’s signature of “W.W,” but Price said the meticulous handwriting matched that of Whitman’s.

The documents and records released Tuesday cover a variety of topics from the post-Civil War era -- from the trial of Jefferson Davis to railroad expansion to the West to concerns about polygamy and Mormons in Utah.  Another document displayed Tuesday was a letter Whitman wrote under the name of President Andrew Johnson, including his signature which Whitman penned.

The Whitman documents will continue to live at the National Archives and will be digitally published at the Walt Whitman Archive online.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Texas Town Raises Confederate Flag, Sparks Racial Tensions

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PALESTINE, Texas) -- The raising of the Confederate flag along with the U.S. and state flag outside an east Texas courthouse has divided the town over whether the flying of the "Stars and Bars" is a tribute to racial oppression.

A replica of the original Confederate flag was raised outside the Anderson County Courthouse in Palestine, Texas, Friday after county commissioners narrowly approved a motion to fly the flag there throughout April in honor of Confederate History Month.

Though the officials said the decision had nothing to do with race, some members of the community said they cannot see the Confederate flag separate from the South's support for slavery, which was the central issue in the Civil War.

Kenneth Davidson, a veteran and president of the local chapter of the NAACP, led a protest at the ceremony, when a group of residents turned their backs as the flag was raised.

"I did not fight for this flag," Davidson told ABC affiliate KLTV in Longview, Texas. "This flag was hung over my people as they were hung. This flag was flying. So, how can you celebrate this and say this is for education for me. It's not."

But other residents of the area said the raising of the flag was a moment of pride and a tribute to the 1,100 men from Anderson County who fought in the Civil War.

After the demonstration Friday, Palestine mayor Bob Herrington called an emergency meeting for Monday to consider passing a resolution asking the county to remove the flag.

Other groups of southern veteran and historical groups have looked to spread their love of Confederate history across Texas and other parts of the U.S. south. The Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans have said they want to build a Confederate memorial near the Louisiana border, and a program called Flags Across the South has made efforts to have the Confederate flag flown on private properties.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


South Carolina Secession Draws Debate 150 Years Later

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- It's been 150 years since South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union ahead of Civil War, and Monday the legacy of that watershed moment in American history remains a flashpoint for debate.

Organizers say the "Secession Gala" in Charleston Monday night was to commemorate the event as a show of courage in the face of encroachment by the federal government on state's rights. But some historians and civil rights groups are protesting the event as the glorification of a defense of slavery.

Dozens of Civil War buffs and Confederate reenactors are expected to attend the $100-a-head event, where they will sip mint juleps, nibble on Carolina crab dip and mingle to the tune of "Dixie" in the presence of the state's original Ordinance of Secession, signed in 1860.

Some participants will reenact scenes from the secession convention, according to the program posted on the event website.

"We are commemorating the lives of 170 men of South Carolina in the same fashion that today we celebrate the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence -- that was a secession document from the crown of Great Britain," said Mark Simpson, South Carolina division commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group sponsoring the gala.

"These 170 signers in South Carolina, at the risk of their lives said, 'We are doing what we believe we must do to determine our future.'" Simpson said the spirit of his Confederate forefathers deserves recognition and is still evident in southern politics and culture today.

But during the lead up to the Civil War, historians argue, states' rights meant the ability to preserve the institution of slavery from federal government attempts to bring it to an end. And some say any attempt to separate the issue of state autonomy from the specter of slavery is historical revisionism.

"Slavery was the principal cause of the Civil War, period," said Bob Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service. "Yes, politics was important. Yes, economics were important. Yes, social issues were important. But when you get to the core of why all these things were important, it was slavery."

The South Carolina chapter of the NAACP planned to hold a silent protest and vigil outside Monday night's gala.

The state of South Carolina marked Monday's anniversary by unveiling a new historical marker in downtown Charleston at the site where delegates signed the original Ordinance of Secession.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Confederate Flag Draws Criticism, Protests

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SUMMERVILLE, S.C.) -- Residents of a predominantly black South Carolina neighborhood marched this weekend to protest the display of a confederate flag outside an area home.

The flag, which hangs outside the residence of Annie Caddell, a white woman, drew criticism from the crowd who says it represents Civil War-era sentiments of racism and slavery.

Nearly 80 residents of Summerville, S.C., protested the display.

On the opposite side was a group of approximately 15 of Caddell's supporters who gathered in front of her home with confederate battle flags.

The woman, who has the legal right to display the flag, has refused to take it down, calling it a symbol of her heritage.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio