Civil War Nevada: Commemorating The Fight For The Far West

Civil War Nevada
When we think of the Civil War, Nevada isn’t the first state that generally comes to mind, yet the conflict between North and South had as much of an impact there as it did in Pennsylvania or Virginia.

At the start of the war Nevada was a territory and its sentiments mostly for the Union. Its main contribution to the war effort was the plentiful supply of silver from its mines, but some 1,200 of its men volunteered for the Union. In May, 1863, they formed the 1st Battalion Nevada Volunteer Cavalry. The next summer, the 1st Battalion Nevada Volunteer Infantry was formed.

There were no battles between blue and gray in the territory. Instead the men guarded outposts and stagecoach routes, fought Native American tribes, and freed up other troops to fight the war to the east. Some men decided they wanted to see more of the action and headed east to join the Union or Confederate army.

President Lincoln, eager to get more votes in the difficult 1864 election, granted Nevada statehood that year even though it was well below the population requirements. As he predicted, Nevada voted for Lincoln.

The 150th Anniversary of the formation of the 1st Battalion, Nevada Volunteer Cavalry, will be commemorated in Virginia City, Nevada, May 25-27. A reenactor camp and battle will be staged, along with other living history demonstrations and a special temporary museum exhibit dedicated to the history of Civil War Nevada.

For more information see the Civil War Nevada Sesquicentennial Page.

[Photo courtesy Suzette Eder]

Route 66 Polaroid Project Aims To Capture The Mother Road The Old-Fashioned Way

Route 66, PolaroidThere have been a lot of cool Kickstarter Projects in recent months, but this one will warm the heart of anyone who likes a good old-fashioned road trip. The Route 66 Polaroid Project is just what it says on the tin: a plan to drive the length of the famous highway taking Polaroid snapshots all the way.

Eric and Sarah are getting married in June and they’re heading down The Mother Road for their honeymoon. They’re going to be bringing along several Polaroid cameras to document their journey.

As they explain on their Kickstarter page, “Over the past year, we’ve set aside our digital cameras in favor of vintage Polaroid cameras. These gadgets hearken back to a simpler time when you’d cock the camera, take the shot, yank the picture out of the camera, wait a couple of minutes, peel it, let it dry and then *presto* you’d have your photo! OK, maybe it wasn’t simpler, but there was a certain almost instant gratification to it.”

It turns out Fuji still makes film for the ColorPack Polaroid cameras, and Eric and Sarah want to share their photos with you. If you back them for $10, you get a unique Polaroid shot sent directly to you from a town along the road with a description of the place written on the back. Higher-level sponsors get more photos.

Eric also runs the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, an addictive site giving a day-by-day account of the war 150 years later. Route 66 passes by several Civil War battlefields and you can bet he’ll be taking snapshots of them.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Love In The Civil War At The New York State Museum

Civil WarThe Civil War is the subject of numerous exhibitions and special events these days as the country commemorates the war’s sesquicentennial. Most study the battles and politics, but one at the New York State Museum in Albany is focusing on how the war affected the relationship between two lovers.

“I Shall Think of You Often: The Civil War Story of Doctor and Mary Tarbell” opens today as part of “An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War,” a 7,000-square-foot exhibition that examines New York’s role in the war.

Doctor and Mary Tarbell were childhood sweethearts who got separated when Doctor Tarbell went off to war with the Union army. They kept up a regular correspondence until the doctor was captured and sent to a Confederate prison.

Mary heard nothing from him and didn’t even know he was alive until he was released in February 1865. The doctor wasted no time getting leave to go home and marry his true love.

The exhibition tells of their enduring relationship with letters, diaries, photographs and Mary’s wedding dress, giving a personal and emotional side to a period of history so often concerned with death and violence.

Both exhibitions run through September 22.

[Photo courtesy Tompkins County History Center]

New Clues To The Sinking Of A Confederate Submarine

Confederate SubmarineThe Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley may have been sunk by its own torpedo, researchers say.

The cause of the Hunley’s sinking has been a mystery since it sank the USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864, and then the Hunley itself mysteriously sank shortly thereafter. This submarine, which had a hand-cranked propeller and a torpedo set at the end of a 16-foot pole, was a desperate attempt by the Confederacy to destroy the Union blockade on Southern harbors that was strangling the economy.

A press release by the Friends of the Hunley, the organization that raised and is conserving the Civil War sub, says that archaeologists have discovered part of the torpedo still attached to the end of the pole. The jagged metal shows that the torpedo exploded its charge of 135 pounds of gunpowder as planned.

Historians used to think the plan was to ram the torpedo into the ship’s side, and then pull away, detaching the torpedo from the pole and then pulling a rope trigger that would explode the torpedo from a safe distance.

Now we can see this didn’t happen. The question remains whether the release mechanism was faulty or if the plan was much cruder – simply ramming the torpedo into the side of the ship and hoping for the best.

It remains unclear if this explosion is what actually sank the Hunley. The submarine’s hull is encased in hardened rock, sand, and silt that the archaeologists are still removing. Only when their job is done will they get a clear idea of how the brave crew of the Hunley met their end.

You can visit the lab where this historic sub is being studied; the Warren Lasch Conservation Center is located in North Charleston, SC. You can also see a different Confederate submarine at the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge.

[Top photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Bottom photo showing the sub being raised courtesy Barbara Voulgaris, Naval Historical Center]

Confederate Submarine

Civil War New York Subject Of New Exhibition

Civil War
During the Civil War, New York was the wealthiest and most populous state on either side of the conflict. A new exhibition at the New York State Museum in Albany examines the important role New York played in preserving the Union.

“An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War” features more than two hundred artifacts, documents and images centering around the themes of Antebellum New York, the Civil War, and Reconstruction and Legacy. Artifacts on display include a Lincoln life mask from 1860, the earliest photograph of Frederick Douglass, and the only known portrait of Dred Scott. There’s also a slave collar from c.1806 to point out the often-overlooked fact that slavery was once common in this northern state.

The exhibition examines various aspects of the war and home front and has a section dedicated to the Elmira Prison Camp, dubbed “Hellmira” by the Confederate soldiers interned there. Nearly 25 percent of them died from malnutrition, exposure and disease.

In a press release, the museum stated that the exhibition’s title was inspired by an 1858 quote from then U.S. Senator William H. Seward, who disagreed with those who believed that the prospect of war between the North and South was the work of “fanatical agitators.” He understood that the roots of conflict went far deeper, writing, “It is an irrepressible conflict, between opposing and enduring forces.”

“An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War” starts today and runs until September 22, 2013.

[Photo of noncommissioned officers' mess of Co. D, 93d New York Infantry courtesy Library of Congress]