Florida: Controversy brewing over portrait of Robert E. Lee

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Lee County chapter of the NAACP wants to hold demonstrations because the county refuses to take down a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee that hangs in the commissioners’ meeting chambers.

In this Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 photo, Lee County commissioner Cecil Pendergrass listens to public comment during a session, in Naples. The Lee County chapter of the NAACP wants to hold demonstrations because the county refuses to take down a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee that hangs in the commissioners' meeting chambers. A member of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans told commissioners the group strongly objects to attempts to remove the portrait. / AP

In this Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 photo, Lee County commissioner Cecil Pendergrass listens to public comment during a session, in Naples. The Lee County chapter of the NAACP wants to hold demonstrations because the county refuses to take down a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee that hangs in the commissioners’ meeting chambers. / AP

The group says the portrait of the Confederate general is a slap to the face for local minorities.

The News-Press reports that a half-dozen or so supporters of the portrait — mostly members of local Confederate historical groups — talked about the painting during a County Commission meeting Tuesday night.

A member of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans told commissioners the group strongly objects to attempts to remove the portrait.

Waymond Edmonson of Cape Coral told the commissioners: “If anyone can come up with a better representative for the county, I’ll help them hang the portrait.”

Lou Stickles, chaplain for the group, said the general was the best example for Lee County. “He had to do more and more with less and less and keep morale up,” he said. “He was a perfect Southern gentleman.”

One commissioner said he’s received overwhelming support from the community for the county to keep the portrait in place.

Thomas Fyock, with the Sons of Confederate Veterans said portrait has nothing to do with racism.

“The portrait is there to honor the county that’s named for him,” he said.

No one from the NAACP spoke at the meeting. Local President James Muwakkil on Monday said his group would meet with the state NAACP before moving ahead with demonstrations.

“Lee County proudly displays General Robert E. Lee portrait in the Lee Commissioners Chambers. It is where all citizens gather to take care of official business,” Muwakkil’s email to the state and national NAACP said. “We now ask permission to engage in Direct Action in ways such as follow: a sit in within the County Commissioner chambers, permission to picket, permission to demonstrate, and to make signs calling voters to remove the four male commissioners who refused to second the only female on the Commission move to hold a public hearing on the portrait.”

Lee County is named after Lee, who commanded the Confederacy during the Civil War.

–The (Fort Meyers, Fla.) News-Press


Virginia: State to save 1,265 acres at 12 Civil War Battlefields

LEESBURG – As the Virginia commemorations of the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War cross the midway point between 2011 and 2015, Governor Bob McDonnell today announced 13 grant awards to organizations working to preserve historic battlefields for present and future generations of Americans.

The grants originate from the Civil War Site Preservation Fund that Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly established as a permanent fund in 2010. Funds for this year’s grants, totaling $2,252,663, will be awarded by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which determines the awards based on a rigorous evaluation process.

This year’s awards will assist in protecting more than 1,265 total acres associated with battles at Appomattox Court House, Ball’s Bluff, Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville), Brandy Station, Cedar Creek, Chancellorsville, Deep Bottom, Kelly’s Ford, Malvern Hill, Rappahannock Station (I and II), Second Manassas, and Sailor’s Creek.

The grant recipients are the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Civil War Trust, Richmond Battlefields Association, and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. These organizations will match state funds either to purchase lands approved as part of the awards process or to obtain easements on specific tracts. All awards will result in the donation of perpetual easements to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

“Through concerted efforts to conserve battlefields this administration and our partners are leaving to present and future Virginians a lasting legacy,” said Governor McDonnell. “It is fitting that coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War we have conserved through public-private partnerships lands that witnessed such immense sacrifice. In doing so, we save hallowed ground and honor the Commonwealth’s past while we simultaneously make an investment in its future through heritage tourism.”

This year’s grants mark the third consecutive year that Governor McDonnell has announced awards tied to the Civil War Site Preservation Fund (CWSPF), bringing the total of battlefield lands conserved through CWSPF grants during the McDonnell administration to 4,587 acres.

“Many of the major Civil War battles fought in Virginia took place along rivers, streams, and wetlands or on farmlands and in forests,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech.

“For that reason, battlefield conservation supports broad-based conservation efforts as it involves protection of significant riparian buffers and wetlands, working farms, timberlands, and extensive wildlife habitats. And in our growing urban areas, battlefield conservation also yields open spaces for recreation.”

The battlefields protected through the grants are geographically and militarily diverse. They cover areas ranging from the mountainous northern Shenandoah Valley to battlefields near Richmond in Hanover and Henrico counties to Piedmont lands in Appomattox and Spotsylvania counties. They include sites of significant Union and Confederate victories as well the place of the largest cavalry fight to ever take place on American soil, Brandy Station in Culpeper County.

In awarding the grants, the Department of Historic Resources based its evaluations in part on each battlefield’s significance as determined by the Congressionally-commissioned “Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields” originally issued in 1993 and subsequently updated, including a 2009 update on Virginia battlefields.

Other factors considered by the department included the proximity of each parcel to other protected lands; the threat of loss due to encroaching development, and the potential for education, recreation, research, or heritage tourism, among other factors.

“The Sesquicentennial of the Civil War offers Virginia an opportunity to pass forward a great legacy, namely the conservation of open space, natural resources, and historic ground of national significance through the protection of battlefields,” said Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, director of the Department of Historic Resources.

“This year’s awards will allow us to secure places with the power to connect us and future generations to the lessons of a defining period of our history. Time is running out. Each year, battlefield lands are lost forever.”



North Carolina: Civil War history comes to Fletcher Library

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. —  Henderson County has a wealth of Civil War heritage. That was the selling point that librarian Cindy Camp-Fisher used when she applied for a grant through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to bring a traveling exhibit to Fletcher.

Larry Allison, Civil War historian, talks about a short sword used during the Civil War. The sword is part of a display at the Fletcher Library, which received a stipend to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the war. MIKE DIRKS/TIMES-NEWS

Larry Allison, Civil War historian, talks about a short sword used during the Civil War. The sword is part of a display at the Fletcher Library, which received a stipend to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the war.

While the Fletcher Library did not win the grant, it was chosen as one of only 10 locations across the country to receive a $500 stipend.

“I chose one (grant), gave it my all and got something out of it,” Camp-Fisher said.

The library has used the stipend to celebrate the war’s anniversary by offering programs on Civil War history and music.

Camp-Fisher got the news in February. In May, author and historian Terrell Garren gave a historical presentation.

On Thursday, the library will host “America in Blue and Gray.” Sabrina Kumar and M. King Goslin will perform songs of the Civil War. The two musicians will play the songs on fife, piccolo, flute, bugle, cornet, guitar and cittern. The program, which starts at 4 p.m., will offer opportunities for the crowd to sing along.

The final program will be held in September, when Larry Allison will speak about Confederate money. Allison is one of many historians who have donated Civil War items for a display case just inside the doors of the library.

The case is lined with books about the war, guns, binoculars, bullets, Confederate money and swords.

“What she (Camp-Fisher) wanted was some Civil War relics to spiff up her display,” Allison said.

Allison of Weaverville is a member of the Sons of the Confederacy with the Zebulon Baird Vance Camp No. 15 in Asheville. His presentation will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 19.

Camp-Fisher is thrilled with the stipend and was more than happy to celebrate the historical milestone in Fletcher.

“I got to really take ideas and run with them,” she said. “I knew we had a big interest in this area.”



South Carolina: State Museum expands permanent Civil War exhibit

To coincide with the 150th anniversary commemoration of the War Between the States, the South Carolina State Museum has undertaken an ambitious expansion of its permanent exhibition on the conflict. Members of the curatorial staff have now reached the midway point in their efforts.

Already completed are exhibits on “The Coming of the Civil War,” which chronicles how our state was a primary player leading up to the war and the site of the first military engagement; “Soldiers of the Palmetto State,” which focuses on the daily routine of the approximately 60,000 South Carolinians who fought for the Confederacy; and “Naval Warfare and Failed Attempts to Take Charleston,” which is the most recent exhibit to open.

On a visit to the museum about two weeks ago, I focused some of my attention to that new exhibit, which highlights the fact that although our state was not invaded on a large scale until Sherman’s arrival in 1865, there was a great deal of military activity on the coast, both on land and at sea.

Early in the war, the Sea Islands, including the town of Beaufort, were occupied by Union forces as a result of the Battle of Port Royal Sound. In November of 1861, a U.S. naval force under the command of Samuel Francis DuPont, bombarded into submission the two Confederate forts, one on Hilton Head Island and the other on Phillip’s Island, that defended the sound.

This engagement featured a particularly poignant twist because two brothers from the same prominent Charleston family played principal parts on opposite sides. The Confederate commander was Thomas F. Drayton, and the commander of one of the Union vessels was Percival Drayton.

Although Union forces were never able to capitalize to any significant extent on their occupation of that part of the Carolina Low Country – the siege of Charleston continued throughout the war – the capture of this territory provided a major psychological boost to citizens in the North early in the war.

The coast around Charleston was to see two more significant military engagements. The First Battle of Charleston Harbor in April, 1863 was a failed attempt by DuPont, now a rear admiral, to capture the city by sea with the use of armored vessels; the Second Battle of Charleston Harbor was more successful. Highlights of this battle included the eventual capture of Fort Wagner on Morris Island – the assault by John Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts was the subject of the film “Glory” – and the reduction of Fort Sumter to rubble.

Despite all of these efforts, however, both Charleston and Fort Sumter remained in Confederate hands until 1865. General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, principal defender of the city during much of the war, wrote to Francis Pickens, Edgefield native and our state’s governor during the first two years of the conflict: “As I understand, it is the will of all that the city shall be defended to the last extremity.”

Our part of the state has a number of connections to this particular part of the Civil War story. Pickens might be rightfully called the Father of the Carolina Navy; it was he that gave the order to develop a state maritime force, both as a defensive measure and in support of blockade running. The current exhibit contains a number of scale models of ships built by South Carolinians both for combat and for carrying cargo in and out of Charleston harbor past Union warships.

Arthur Ford, whose house still stands on Barnwell Avenue, saw action on the South Carolina coast during the war; his “Life in the Confederate Army” is a first-hand account of his service to our state. The current exhibit contains ordnance and other items with which he would have been familiar in his service as a gunner. One of the most vivid sections in his book is his eyewitness account of the assault on Fort Wagner.

Pennsylvania native Martha Schofield, founder of her own school in Aiken, came south after the occupation of the Sea Islands by Union forces; she taught freed slaves on Wadmalaw and St. Helena. Coincidentally, on nearby Folly Island in 1987, the bodies of 19 African-American soldiers were unearthed – all of them members of the 55th Massachusetts, formed just after the legendary 54th. The faces of two of those men have been reconstructed as busts, which will be added to the State Museum’s growing Civil War collection.

Three more exhibits are scheduled to open before the end of the 150th anniversary commemoration in 2015: “Family Work and Sacrifice,” “Sherman’s March,” and “Reconstruction.”For more information on the Civil War exhibition, visit the museum on the web at www.southcarolinastatemuseum.org.

A recipient of the prestigious Carolina Trustee Professorship in 2008, Dr. Tom Mack holds the G.L. Toole Chair at USC Aiken. For more information on area connections to the Civil War, please consult either “Circling the Savannah” or “Hidden History of Aiken County,” both published by the History Press.

–Aiken Standard


Tennessee: State installs Civil War exhibits at Welcome Centers

Permanent Civil War exhibits were recently installed in Tennessee Welcome Center. The purpose of the Civil War exhibits is to educate visitors and Tennesseans as to the important role Tennessee played in the Civil War. Each Tennessee Civil War Exhibit features an overview of Tennessee’s role in the Civil War, as well as the regional impact of the Civil War and will also promote rural tourism development through the Tennessee Civil War Trail and Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways programs.

“Tennesseans are proud of our commitment to tell the whole story of the Civil War through our statewide auto trail system, our many historic sites, and national battlefields,” said Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. “The new Welcome Center exhibits not only introduce our story and approach to any and all visitors; they are also part of the commitment that Tennesseans today make to the future: to tell the whole story of the Civil War and to remind everyone that the Civil War era issues of national unity and citizenship still shape our world.”

A ribbon cutting and dedication will be held Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 1 p.m. EST at the I-81 Sullivan County Welcome Center, located at the southbound mile marker 75.3 in Bristol, Tenn.

Permanent exhibits can also be found at Tennessee Welcome Centers located at I-40 Shelby County – Memphis; I-65 Robertson County – Mitchellville; I-24 Hamilton County – Tiftonia; I-65 Giles County- Ardmore; I-40 Smith County – Buffalo Valley; I-75 Campbell County –Jellico; I-26 Unicoi County –Erwin; I-40 Cocke County – Hartford; I-75 Hamilton County – Chattanooga; I-24 Montgomery County – Clarksville; and I-155 Dyer County – Dyersburg.

This project was made possible through a partnership with Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, and the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and was funded by the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, State Capital Commission.

For more information on Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial, or to download a complimentary Tennessee Civil War 150 iPhone app, visit tncivlwar150.com.

The Tennessee Sesquicentennial Commission also sponsors a series of major signature events. Presenters will discuss the battles, events, and stories of the Civil War, as well as offer brief dramas and musical entertainment during the free event, Oct. 9-12, 2013 in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Nov. 13-14, 2014 in Franklin, Tenn.