January, 2009

J.D. has an excellent post on his blog today titled “The Forest From the Trees”, which does the best job of explaining why we’re doing what we’re doing with our trilogy on the Gettysburg Campaign I’ve yet seen, my own words included. I commend it to you.

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I had heard that the Eternal Peace Light Memorial at Gettysburg had been senselessly vandalized a couple of days ago, but I had not heard just how much damage was done. Then, our friends at Gettysburg Daily documented it on their blog today.

Some moron spray painted obscenities all over the Peace Light, spewing hate and damaging a monument to peace, brotherhood and unity dedicated at the final reunion of the veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg. As it was stated on Gettysburg Daily, “The words are profane, and the drawings are vulgar.” They are so bad, in fact, that the National Park Service had to cover the worst of it up with plywood.

It will cost a great deal of money to remove the spray paint, and it won’t be removed until the weather improves. Personally, I think that waterboarding followed by a trip to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay would be an appropriate punishment for the perpetrators of this vandalism.

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9 Jan 2009, by

No Sale!!!!

From today’s on-line version of the Gettysburg Times comes great news:

Country Club: NO SALE!

No bids; Bank retains club
Published: Friday, January 9, 2009 12:14 PM EST
Times Staff Writer

Fifty people packed a meeting room in the Adams County Courthouse on Friday morning, but no one bid on the 60-year-old Gettysburg Country Club, which was up for sheriff’s sale.

The upset bid for the club was announced at $2.79 million.

The lack of bids means the club, 730 Chambersburg Road, goes to Susquehanna Banks, which foreclosed on the property earlier this year.

On Friday, the bank agreed to pay $37, 109.76, which covered the costs of the sheriff sale and municipal liens of $11,687 owed to the Cumberland Township Municipal Authority and $17,506 owed to the Gettysburg Municipal Authority.

Eugene Pepinsky, an outside attorney for the bank, said his client would now likely attempt to sell the 120-acre property on its own.

In legal parlance, this means that the bank bid in the property based on its mortgage. Hopefully, the bank will be willing to deal with an appropriate preservation group to make sure that this battlefield land doesn’t end up as a cheesy shopping center or more little cheesebox houses.

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Many thanks to regular reader Todd Berkoff for sending this article from today’s edition of the Washington Post:

Planning Agency Approves Homeland Security Complex
Preservationists Fear Effect on St. Elizabeths Campus
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 2009; B01

After years of battling historic preservationists, the federal government won approval yesterday to build a massive headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security on a 176-acre hilltop site east of the Anacostia River.

The $3.4 billion headquarters would be one of the largest construction projects in the Washington area since the Pentagon was built in the 1940s. Advocates say it would generate economic activity in one of the city’s poorer corners and provide a secure workplace for 14,000 Homeland Security employees scattered across the Washington area.

“This is an important step forward for Anacostia and for Washington,” said John V. Cogbill III, chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission, which voted 9 to 1 to approve the master plan for the headquarters, to be built on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital.

Historical preservationists have said the project would ruin a national landmark site with panoramic views of the District, where the first federal psychiatric institution was established in Southeast Washington in 1852. Some questioned whether a high-security facility tucked behind two layers of fencing would produce much of a payoff for the neighborhood.

“The DHS employees might as well be working on the moon for all their presence will benefit the city,” testified David Garrison, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, who said that the personnel would largely commute from the suburbs.

The dissenting vote on the master plan came from a National Park Service representative, who warned that the development could endanger the site’s historic landmark status.

If Congress provides funding, construction will begin next year and continue through 2016, according to the plan. Building the complex and renovating existing historical structures would create at least 26,000 jobs, officials said.

“The timing is optimal,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who has championed the project. “Development has dried up in the city, and this is direct government-funded work.”

Under the plan, most of the facility would be built on the vacant western campus of St. Elizabeths, property owned by the federal General Services Administration. One large building would be constructed on land leased from the District on the eastern campus, where the D.C. government is hoping to lure offices, restaurants and shops.

Residents of nearby neighborhoods have expressed mixed feelings about the complex. James Bunn, executive director of the Ward 8 Business Council, predicted that Homeland Security’s migration would serve as a long-needed catalyst for new retail and housing in the Congress Heights community.

“Those 14,000 employees will need a place to live,” he said. “And they’ll need somewhere to eat. I can already see a coffee shop or a sit-down restaurant. It’s a win-win situation for the ward.”

But Linda Jackson, executive director of the East of the River Community Development Corp., questioned whether Homeland Security employees would leave their self-contained campus along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and frequent nearby businesses.

“More study should be done on what exactly the community benefits will be,” she said. “And there’s the traffic. There will be an overwhelming influx of people using roads and the Metro.”

The plan envisions widening part of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and developing an access road on the southwestern part of the campus. Shuttle buses would run from the Metro.

St. Elizabeths Hospital was built when Dorothea Dix, the social reformer, persuaded Congress to provide $100,000 for a model psychiatric hospital in 1852. The campus is thought to exemplify the ideas of a 19th-century movement that sought to improve care for the mentally ill through therapeutic design and environment.

District officials and the National Capital Planning Commission had balked at earlier plans to set up a giant agency headquarters on the western campus of St. Elizabeths, fearing that development would overwhelm the site.

To assuage their concerns, officials moved some of the proposed headquarters facilities onto the east campus, reduced the amount of parking and shifted new buildings away from the historic core.

Under the new plan, about 11,000 employees would work in 3.8 million square feet of space on the west campus, and the remaining 3,000 would be on the east campus, where the District still runs a mental health facility. The sites would have parking for about 5,000 cars.

Fifty-two of the 62 historic structures on the grounds would be renovated and used by the agency, including the Center Building, a red-brick structure in the Gothic-revival style that was designed by Thomas U. Walter, the architect responsible for the U.S. Capitol dome.

The first building to be constructed would be the Coast Guard headquarters. In addition to offices, the site would have a barbershop, cafeteria, child-care center and gym.

Authorities have been trying for years to find an institution to take over the long-neglected St. Elizabeths. But the cost of rescuing the run-down 19th-century buildings and overhauling the infrastructure was prohibitive.

Homeland Security officials said the site is ideal for their agency. The western campus is the largest piece of unused federal land in Washington, and the new buildings would sit far enough back from the street to avoid being shattered by a car bomb.

Staff writer Paul Schwartzman contributed to this story.

The following comes from the District of Columbia’s website, and describes the important role played by St. Elizabeth’s Hospital during the Civil War:

St. Elizabeths Hospital’s Expanded Role During the Civil War

St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC, originally known as the Government Hospital for the Insane, was established through the Civil and Diplomatic Appropriation Act of 1852. Dorothea Dix, its founder and the leading mental health reformer of the 19th century, wrote the law that articulated the hospital’s mission “to provide the most humane care and enlightened curative treatment of the insane of the Army, Navy and the District of Columbia.”

SEH was built as a 250-bed hospital. Thomas U. Walters, architect of the Capitol Building, drafted the plans for Center Building. Upon Dix’s recommendation, Charles H. Nichols, MD, was appointed the first Superintendent of the hospital by President Millard Fillmore in 1852 and served until 1877. He was responsible for the construction and operation of the hospital. Center Building was built in three phases: west wing, east wing, and the center administrative section last.

The facility was soon split into three distinct hospitals shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War. On October 10, 1861, Congress authorized temporary use of the unfinished east wing as a 250-bed general hospital for sick and wounded soldiers of the Union Army. West Lodge, for “colored insane males,” was converted into a 60-bed general and quarantine hospital for sailors of the Potomac and Chesapeake Fleets, and the patients from West Lodge were relocated to another building.

In 1863, an artificial limb manufacturing shop (patented by B.W. Jewett) opened to fit amputees with prostheses. Soldiers stayed until their wounds healed and they learned to use their artificial limbs. During this period, a portion of the hospital’s farm was converted to a Cavalry Depot and encampment for a Marine Company.

During the Civil War, wounded soldiers were reluctant to write home that they were being treated at the “Government Hospital for the Insane.” They began referring to the asylum as the St. Elizabeths, the colonial name of the tract of land. Congress officially changed the hospital’s name in 1916.

President Abraham Lincoln frequently visited soldiers at the hospitals. Overcrowding was inevitable during the war. Tents were erected behind Center Building to house convalescing soldiers.

Dr. Nichols, a volunteer surgeon for the St. Elizabeths Army General Hospital, often rode out to major battlefields around the DC area to treat casualties. He was introduced as one of General McDowell’s staff at the First Battle of Bull Run. Approximately one-fourth of St. Elizabeths’ male employees divided their time between the battlefields and hospital and patients stepped in to help provide hospital services.

I just hate to see this happen. Surely, there’s another piece of ground where the Homeland Security buildings could be constructed?

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A significant piece of the first day’s battlefield at Gettysburg lies just to the west of Willoughby Run. John Buford’s dismounted cavalrymen fought their way back to McPherson’s Ridge from Herr’s Ridge across this ground. The parcel includes the spot where Confederate Brig. Gen. James J. Archer was captured on July 1, 1863. The Iron Brigade slugged it out with Pettigrew’s North Carolinians there in some of the bloodiest, closest fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg.

That land has, for the past sixty years or so, been the property of the Gettysburg Country Club. The Gettysburg Country Club owns 120 acres, including a nine-hole golf course, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, and tennis courts.

The Country Club defaulted on its mortgage, and the lender initiated foreclosure proceedings. The property–a very significant portion of the battlefield–goes to sheriff’s sale tomorrow. If I had $2.9 million to just throw away, I would purchase the property just to preserve it. Sadly, I have nothing remotely close to that kind of money, so that’s not an option. So, the question is, what will happen to it?

According to today’s edition of The Hanover Sun newspaper, even though the land is within the park’s boundaries, the Park Service will not be bidding on the property tomorrow:

Battlefield not a buyer for country club

Evening Sun Reporter
Posted: 01/08/2009 11:00:47 AM EST

For sale: A historic war zone, where some of the Battle of Gettysburg’s “bloodiest” fighting took place.

The 120-acre property comes complete with a nine-hole golf course, new clubhouse and a legacy rivaled only by the battlefield’s more famous areas.

At least one party is interested in the Gettysburg Country Club, which after falling into financial distress last year will be auctioned off at 10 a.m. Friday at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

But Gettysburg National Military Park won’t be placing any bids on the property.

Though it is within the park’s Congressionally designated 6,000-acre boundary, Gettysburg Country Club is privately owned – which means the park has virtually no say over what the current or new owner does with the land.

Park officials had been in discussions with owners of the Gettysburg Country Club, 730 Chambersburg Road, about purchasing a conservation easement on the property that would protect it from future development, park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said.

But those conversations went nowhere, and the park abandoned its efforts to secure an easement through the property’s current owners.

Assuming that a third party purchases the Gettysburg Country Club Friday, Lawhon said the park would revisit the possibility of an easement.

“We would be interested in talking to new owners about it as well,” she said.

Because of its significance to the battle, the club’s 120 acres are named a “high priority” list of potential land acquisitions compiled by the Park Service in 1993.

“Quite a bit happened out there,” said Scott Hartwig, supervisory historian at Gettysburg National Military Park.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Union Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry moved across the area that is now the Gettysburg Country Club and dismounted on Herr’s Ridge. Confederate infantry under Gen. Henry Heth drove Buford’s cavalry off Herr’s Ridge and back across the golf course property to McPherson’s Ridge.

Later in the day, in pursuit of Buford’s retreating cavalry, 1,100 Confederate infantrymen under Gen. James Archer were advancing across golf course property when they were attacked by the famed Iron Brigade.

“They were surprised because they didn’t anticipate to run into any Union infantry,” Hartwig said.

It was there that Archer became the first Confederate general captured by Union forces since Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

“Archer is probably captured near where some of the buildings associated with some of the country club are today,” Hartwig said.

By the late morning or early afternoon, the Iron Brigade fell back to a defensive position in Herbst Woods on the west bank of Willoughby Run, along McPherson’s Ridge. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country club property, Confederate forces of Gen. Heth’s division were forming a strong battle line in preparation for an afternoon attack.

What happened next bears similarities to the infamous Pickett’s Charge attack that essentially annihilated Confederate forces in Gettysburg.

“In a sense, this is the same thing on a much smaller scale,” Hartwig said.

With some 3,000 men, Confederate Gen. James Pettigrew’s North Carolina brigade advanced across the country club property and attacked the Iron Brigade. The North Carolinians came under heavy fire before they reached Willoughby Run, suffering heavy casualties on present country club property. They fought their way across the creek to ground that is now part of the national park and eventually drove the Iron Brigade back.

“That fighting there is man for man, probably the bloodiest fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg,” Hartwig said.

When the fighting was over, the Iron Brigade had lost 1,200 of 1,800 men. Pettigrew’s brigade lost close to 1,100.

Tomorrow’s auction is open to the public.

Susquehanna Banks, which foreclosed on the property, is asking for a minimum of $2.9 million.

Contact Erin James at


What: Sheriff’s sale of the Gettysburg Country Club, 730 Chambersburg Road

Where: Adams County Sheriff’s Office on the first level of the Adams County Courthouse

When: 10 a.m. Friday

So, the fate of this absolutely critical piece of battlefield land remains completely up in the air. Whether the new purchaser will maintain the fundamental integrity of the ground as the country club has, or whether the new owner will try to develop the land remains an open question. We can only hope that someone responsible ends up as the owner of this property and that the new owner does the right thing and grants the preservation easement mentioned in the article.

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I forgot one of the new blogs that I had intended to include when I updated the blogroll the other day.

Mike Noirot has launched a really interesting new blog called This Mighty Scourge. It makes for an interesting hodgepodge of information that is worth your time.

Mike also maintains another interesting web site called Battlefield Portraits, which features some really excellent photography of Civil War battlefields. Check it out.

I’ve added the blog to the blogroll.

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Antietam ranger John Hoptak has a fascinating post on his blog today suggesting that after the Battle of Antietam, George B. McClellan sent a note to Robert E. Lee suggesting that they declare an armistice and then march their combined armies into Washington, D. C. I’m not entirely sure that such a letter was ever sent-there is certainly no evidence of such a letter in the Official Records, but it certainly makes for a tantalizing and fascinating prospect. Read the post and see what you think.

I wonder what you Antietam and George B. McClellan students think of this…..

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I’m adding several new blogs to the blog. Okay, two are not so new, but they definitely deserve to be added.

Robert Grandchamp, graduate student and the authority on all things Rhode Island in the Civil War, has started a new blog on the 7th Rhode Island Infantry. It’s been added to the blogroll.

Next is my friend Scott Mingus’ York Cannonball blog, which, to be honest, should have been added long ago. Attribute it to laziness on my part. Scott has some really interesting material on the Civil War in York County, Pennsylvania. Scott was a big help to J.D. and me when we were writing Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. It has also been added to the blogroll.

Touch the Elbow has been resurrected yet again, so I have restored it to the blogroll. Let’s hope it doesn’t fade to black for a third time.

My alma mater, Dickinson College has an excellent project underway called The House Divided Project, which is a digital history archive. Prof. Matt Pinsker, a Lincoln scholar, is in charge of the project, which has its own blog. Matt is a regular poster, and I commend it to you.

I’m always on the lookout for new blogs on the Late Unpleasantness. If you know of any promising new blogs, please let me know.

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Since J. D. let the cat out of the bag by describing our next book on the Gettysburg Discussion Group today, I might as well announce it here.

We’ve decided to push back the Monocacy study a bit in order to complete our trilogy on the Gettysburg Campaign. As one reviewer of One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 properly noted, the Gettysburg Campaign really didn’t end until the armies returned to the Rappahannock River and the positions that they occupied before Lee’s advance in June 1863. We addressed the period from July 14-31, 1863 in a very cursory and very brief overview in the epilogue to One Continuous Fight.

We have decided to go ahead and do a book-length sequel to One Continuous Fight that covers this period in detail for the first time. Actions covered will include David M. Gregg’s cavalry fight at Harpers Ferry on July 15, the cavalry fight at Manassas Gap/Wapping Heights on July 18, 1863, the large-scale infantry engagement at Wapping Heights between three corps of the Army of the Potomac’s foot soldiers and the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, the pursuit through the Loudoun Valley, following the same route as that used by George B. McClellan in November 1862, and coverage of the August 1 cavalry fight at Brandy Station. So far as I can tell, none of these actions have ever enjoyed any sort of a detailed treatment. Hence, it appears that we’re going to be plowing new ground again here.

Our purpose in doing this book is to disprove, for once and for all, the myth that George G. Meade was passive and lacked vigor in his pursuit of Lee. In fact, once Lee’s army got across the Potomac, Meade became hyper-aggressive, so much so that Halleck eventually had to order Meade NOT to attack and to hold his position once the draw-down of force to put down the New York draft riots began. We will show, once and for all, that Meade’s pursuit was aggressive but yet prudent, and that Lee’s masterful handling of the retreat of his army is really the factor that prevented Meade from bringing him to bay in a decisive battle on ground of Meade’s choosing.

The working title is For Want of a Nail: The Retreat and Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 15-August 1, 1863, and this book, like the rest of the trilogy, will be published by Savas Beatie. Phil Laino (who does the excellent maps that appear in Gettysburg Magazine) will be doing our maps this time, and we will again feature a driving tour with GPS coordinates. Once it’s complete, we will then tackle the book on Early’s 1864 raid on Washington, D.C.

We will keep you posted as to progress.

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