During the Civil War, the clashing armies used many new technologies to try to gain an advantage.
One military innovation was the balloon. Although the first balloon ascent had taken place in France in 1783 and the French army had already used them in battle as early as 1794, military aviation was still in its infancy and the United States and Confederacy became the second and third countries to use it.
Balloons were handy for spying on enemy movements. Observers would send back information either with signal flags or via a telegraph wire leading to the ground. The more industrial North had an edge in ballooning, but the South used them effectively too. Despite their best efforts, neither side was able to shoot these daring aviators out of the sky.
Now these early experiments are being re-enacted in Virginia. On Saturday, May 26, there will be a Civil War Balloon Observation Exhibit at the Yorktown Battlefield. There will be presentations on how balloons were used by both sides. It’s part of a weekend of lectures and re-enactments.
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, at the Gloucester Main Street Center, there will be a Civil War re-enactment featuring a 45-foot diameter replica of the Union’s balloon Intrepid. Re-enactors will portray Union and Confederate balloonists. Those who prefer more recent military history can meet special guest Richard C. Kirkland, who flew 103 combat missions in World War II and whose 69 helicopter rescues in Korea inspired the movie and TV series “M*A*S*H.”
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
A London Tube station that hasn’t been used for more than half a century may become the city’s newest attraction, the BBC reports.
Brompton Road station on the Piccadilly Line closed in 1934 because it was underused. During World War II, it served as the headquarters of the Royal Artillery’s anti-aircraft operations. The station has changed little since then, with much of the wartime equipment and signage still there. There’s even a vintage map of London still hanging on the wall.
Now The Old London Underground Company is going through the process of renting the site, which is still owned by the Ministry of Defense. It plans to preserve part of it for its historical importance while adding a restaurant to the roof and climbing walls to the drop shafts.
So-called “ghost stations” are objects of fascination for some Londoners. There are more than 20 of them and you can occasionally catch a glimpse of one if you look at the right moment on the right line. One good online guide is the appropriately named London’s Abandoned Tube Stations website. Their Brompton Road section has some cool photos and there’s also a spooky virtual tour courtesy Zodiac Blue here.
While the deal hasn’t been finalized, the company has announced its intention to develop more ghost stations.
[Photo courtesy Nick Cooper]
As we reported a year ago, a new Civil War museum has been under construction at Appomattox, Virginia. It is a branch of Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and will commemorate the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the aftermath of the Civil War.
Now the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox is almost complete and will open March 31. Among the displays are General Lee’s uniform and gold ceremonial sword — the very same he wore and carried on April 9, 1865 when he met General Ulysses S. Grant to surrender.
More than 450 items will be on display in an exhibition space spanning 11,700 square feet. It’s located near Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, which includes the McLean House where Grant and Lee met.
The Museum of the Confederacy is planning more regional museums in order to make their large collection more accessible. Satellite museums are planned for Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
The Battle of Glorieta Pass, the most important battle of the Civil War in the Southwest, will be reenacted this weekend in New Mexico.
This important battle took place on March 26 and 28, 1862, but the reenactment will take place on the weekend of March 24 and 25. A Confederate army under General Henry Hopkins Sibley had marched out of Texas to take what was then the New Mexico Territory. After defeating a Union force at the Battle of Valverde, Sibley marched north in the hopes of taking the rich gold fields of Colorado and ultimately opening a path to the Pacific.
A Union force under Col. John Slough met the rebels at Glorieta Pass. Slough and most of his men were Colorado volunteers who had marched 400 mountainous miles in only 13 days to stop the Confederates. The battle was a hard two-day fight. So hard, in fact, that both sides rested for a day in between.
The Union side won when a Colorado unit climbed a mountain to get behind the Confederates and destroyed their supplies. Left with virtually no food or water, Sibley had to abandon the invasion and his army struggled through the desert back to Texas. The defeat was so complete that the battle is often called “the Gettysburg of the West.”
The action will take place at the old battlefield, now the Pecos National Historical Park. You can see a schedule of events here. Highlights include a Spanish-language drill of the New Mexico Volunteers, black powder demonstrations and artillery. Park volunteers and reenactors will be on hand to give battlefield tours and lecture on various topics such as the Civil War in the Southwest and period medicine. There will even be drill instruction for kids.
Image painted by artist Roy Anderson — courtesy of Pecos National Historical Park.
As the nation continues to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, an increasing number of reenactments, special exhibitions, lectures, and living history demonstrations are taking place. There are so many that it’s hard to know what’s going on when! Two websites will keep you informed of upcoming events.
Civil War Traveler bills itself as “your headquarters for 150th anniversary information” and it sure delivers. Broken down by state, it gives travel information and maps to all of the major, and many minor, historic landmarks. The events section gives a rundown of what’s coming up. Civil War Traveler also acts as a clearinghouse for state and local tourism agencies. If you fill out their online form telling which regions you’re interested in, you’ll get information from several sources in your mailbox.
Civil War News covers some of the same ground as Civil War Traveler, with a searchable calendar covering events. This site goes beyond travel to cover issues such as battlefield preservation and goings-on in the reenactment community. Some news stories are free, and the full bimonthly issues are available by subscription.
The Sesquicentennial has led to a wealth of blogs of the “this day in history” style. The best I’ve seen is the Civil War Daily Gazette, which is one of the only blogs I read on a daily basis. It’s addictive. See you in the comments section!
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.