Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

U.S. Army Declines Request for DNA Test on Manassas Remains

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 4, 2018


Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment carry the remains of two unknown Civil War soldiers to their grave at Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 6. Associated Press/Cliff Owen

Earlier this year, it was announced that two complete sets of remains had been recovered from what was believed to have been a U.S. field hospital used during the Battle of Second Manassas. Paul Davis knew that a relative of his, a color sergeant in the Second Wisconsin Infantry Regiment of the Iron Brigade, had died under similar circumstances, and petitioned the Army to have a DNA profile run on the remains in hopes of identifying them. Several other families did, as well. The Army refused, saying in carefully-worded, anodyne phrasing that it wasn’t worth the expense:

The Army made the decision that the costs associated with obtaining, storing, and testing of the DNA from these two Unknown U.S. Soldiers was not justified due to the significant passage of time as the possibility of identifying comparator DNA is extremely unlikely.

Even if the prospect of finding a match between this solider and someone living in 2018 is slim, this response from the Army strikes me as a terribly tone-deaf, especially for a nation that makes much of the principle of “no man left behind.” Yes, the costs associated with DNA testing can be substantial, but they pale in comparison to the multi-billion-dollar boondoggles the U.S. government (including the Pentagon) pour money into every day. Remember that the United States has an entire laboratory established to do exactly this kind of work; they’re professionals at doing it. It’s also worth noting that the Navy, not very long ago, went to great lengths, including DNA testing and facial reconstruction, to identify the remains of the two sailors recovered from the turret of USS Monitor.

With these unidentified remains now interred at Arlington, it seems unlikely that Paul Davis and the other families will ever have a chance to find out if, in fact, the remains recovered at Manassas are related to them. That’s a shame, but perhaps they’ll get enough criticism about this case they they will respond differently when the next case comes along.

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H/t Robert Moore and Phil Gast.

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French Win Claim to 1565 Florida Wreck

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 25, 2018

Good news today on the historic shipwreck front — the U.S. District Court in Orlando ruled in favor of France in the case of a shipwreck found by a private salvage company, Global Marine Exploration Inc., finding that it was, as France claimed, the 1565 flagship of Jean Ribault, who was heading a resupply mission to Fort Caroline. The salvors claimed that this wasn’t the wreck of Ribault’s ship, and therefore the French had no claim to it, despite the fact that that the wreck carried guns cast with the royal fleur-de-lis (above) and what appears to be a granite column intended to mark the French claim to Florida. I’m not sure anyone was convinced by that argument, but that was Global Marine’s story and they were sticking to it, apparently with a straight face.

This ruling appears to be solid both in law and in effect. U.S. law holds that any national (usually naval) vessel remains property of that nation in perpetuity, through successive government and regimes down through the years. This was the basis for the United States successfully claiming ownership of the Confederate raider Alabama, sunk off Cherbourg in 1864, as well as the French government’s claim of ownership of La Belle (1687), found in 1995 in Matagorda Bay, Texas. (Full disclosure: I am a Marine Archaeological Steward with the Texas Historical Commission, and prior to that was part of the La Belle Project public outreach team in 1995-97. It was the THC that tried to claim La Belle for the State of Texas, and we lost that case.) More recently, the remains of U-576 were located off North Carolina, and the German government immediately asserted its prerogative to restrict disturbance of the site.

It’s also a good decision as a practical matter, because this ruling will prevent the site from being disturbed by salvors who, driven by the need to recoup their costs, will inevitably focus on recovery and conservation of showy or valuable artifacts, while likely doing little or no in-depth site analysis or preservation of other, less-commercially-viable artifacts. In all likelihood, the French will work out an arrangement for a more thorough study and potential excavation of the site, and make some arrangement (as with both the Alabama and La Belle artifacts) for long-term public exhibitions in both countries. It’s a win all around, except maybe for Global Marine’s investors. I can live with that.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to conventional salvage work at all. The salvage laws we have now have developed over centuries, and they serve a real and valuable purpose. They establish a framework for securing abandoned maritime property and often expedite removal of hazardous wrecks in a public waterway. But they weren’t developed to deal with shipwrecks like Ribault’s, that are of immense value historically and culturally, and in fact work against the serious preservation and study of such sites. I’m glad that we have tools that can protect at least some of these wrecks, for the wider education and enjoyment of the general public.

It’s a good day.

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Friday Night Concert, Superseding Criminal Information Edition

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 14, 2018

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Great Locomotive Chase Depot for Sale

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 29, 2018

The 1852 Western & Atlantic Depot in Dalton, Georgia is looking for a buyer. Priced to move at $500K, OBO.

I got a birthday comin’ up, just sayin’.

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That Other Thing Julian Carr Mentioned. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 28, 2018

As you all know by know, last week a crowd pulled down the “Silent Sam” statue at the University of North Carolina. I don’t have much to say about that, that I didn’t say last year after a mob toppled the Confederate monument in Durham. Pretty much the same dynamics were at play in both cases.

In the Silent Sam case, much attention has been focused on that monument’s dedication address by Julian Carr (right), at that time the Commander of the North Carolina Division of the United Confederate Veterans. Carr was, for all intents and purposes, the official representative for all surviving Confederate veterans in that state. In his address, he boasted about the time he “horse-whipped a negro [sic.]  wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady,” that he remembered as a “pleasing duty.”

Awful as that is, it’s the paragraph that immediately precedes that quote that stands out as speaking more directly to how Carr saw the monument, and what it represented:

The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.

When Carr talks about former Confederate soldiers “during the four years immediately succeeding the war,” whose “courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South,” “when ‘the bottom rail was on top’ all over the Southern states,” he’s saluting the Klu Klux Klan and other night riders who used fear, intimidation, and violence to keep Freedmen in check. It’s easy for a modern audience to skim right past his vague, innocuous phrasing, but North Carolinians in 1913, white and black alike, understood exactly what he was referring to.

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Oh, Mississippi. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 18, 2018


The current Mississippi State Flag (left) and one historical variant of the Magnolia Flag (right).

Recently I got into a Facebook discussion about the state flag of Mississippi, and suggested that a better choice would be the Magnolia Flag, which is both a much older symbol of that state, deeply intertwined with its history, and also more distinctly Mississippian than the Confederate knock-off the state uses now. Naturally I was told almost immediately to “keep your mouth shut” because I’m not actually from Mississippi. Such is the nature of social media, I suppose.

But I was amused by another commenter in that thread, who (twice) posted this meme, presumably to show support among African Americans in Mississippi for retaining the current flag:

If you guessed that the man in the picture wasn’t really carrying petitions to preserve the current Mississippi flag, you’d be right — but only half right, because it’s far more ludicrous than that. He’s actually Carlos E. Moore, a Mississippi attorney who also serves as a municipal judge in Clarksdale. He made news last year when he had the state flag removed from his courtroom. The photo itself is from a local news story in 2008 that has nothing whatever to do with the dispute over the flag.

Suffice to say, I don’t think Judge Moore is going to be collecting petitions to retain the current Mississippi State Flag anytime soon.

I don’t have high expectations for the Confederate Heritage™ folks generally, but sometimes the rank dishonesty really is breathtaking, even for someone as jaded about it as I am. As I’ve said before, if you have to brazenly lie like that to preserve your “heritage,” maybe it’s not worth saving.

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Legislative Journal_ThumbnailUpdate, August 20: Several folks in that discussion have averred that the current Mississippi State Flag was originally adopted by a public referendum — “The 1894 flag was voted by the PEOPLE. By the VOTERS.”

That’s not true, either. 

The design was adopted by the Mississippi Legislature based on S.B. 134, the passed the Senate on February 6, 1894 (pp. 350-53, PDF). It was approved by the House of Representatives the next day.

The True Southron™ struggle against objective, observable reality continues.

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Houston Would-Be Monument Bomber Gets Six Years

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 17, 2018

The man who attempted to blow up the Dick Dowling monument in Houston last year pleaded guilty back in March, and today was sentenced to six years in prison.

Schneck pleaded guilty in March before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. to a willful attempt to maliciously damage or destroy property in violation of federal law. At the time, a federal prosecutor dismissed a sentence enhancement related to the harm an explosion could have caused, which could have allowed for a longer prison sentence.

Schneck had a history of concocting homemade explosives. At sentencing, judge asked him why he did it this time.

“The intent was to damage the statue significantly,” he said.

Schneck pleaded guilty in March before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. to a willful attempt to maliciously damage or destroy property in violation of federal law. At the time, a federal prosecutor dismissed a sentence enhancement related to the harm an explosion could have caused, which could have allowed for a longer prison sentence.

Schneck had a history of concocting homemade explosives. At sentencing, judge asked him why he did it this time.

“The intent was to damage the statue significantly,” he said.

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Image: Houston Firefighters arrive a the scene of a “law enforcement operation” led by the FBI on the 2000 block of Albans Road Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, in Houston. Godofredo A. Vasquez / Houston Chronicle

Guerrilla Memorial

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 22, 2018

Recently a local FB user posted this image of a tiny (about eight inches square) marker set into the top of the Galveston Seawall. It’s totally unofficial. A quick check of online genealogy resources and newspapers tells us that Eudoxio “Eddie” Rodriguez was born in Mier, Tamaulipas, Mexico in November 1881, emigrated to the United States in 1899 or 1900, and soon thereafter was working as a laborer on building the Galveston Seawall, around 1902-03. In 1910 he was still in Galveston, working as a day laborer. He was apparently active in community affairs, as in 1926 (still living in Galveston), he was elected to the post of Treasurer of the a local Woodmen of the World lodge. By 1940 he was head of a large family, owned his own home at 3814 Sealy, and was working as a bottler at the Galveston-Houston Brewery. It was a solid job, that he reported in the 1940 Census had paid over $1,800 the previous year – not a small thing, coming out of the Great Depression. (His eldest son, 26-year-old Philip, lived with the family and made almost as much as a tank cleaner at the brewery.) The average income reported in the census in 1940 (the first to record that information) was $1,368, which places the Rodriguez pretty squarely in the lower middle class. In 1942, at the age of 60, Eudoxio registered for the “old man’s draft” for military service. Eudoxio Rodriguez died in Houston in 1959. A funeral mass was held Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston, and he was interred at Old Catholic Cemetery, just off Broadway in Galveston.

Eudoxio Rodriguez is not a famous person, nor did he lead the sort of life that attracts a lot of headlines or notoriety. But one of his many grandchildren thought he should be remembered, and that’s pretty awesome.

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Marker photo by Barry Landry.

 

Talkin’ Steamboats, Thursday in Houston

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 8, 2018

This coming Thursday, July 12, I’ll be speaking on the history of steamboating on Buffalo Bayou, and the competition between Galveston and Houston for commercial dominance in 19th century Texas. My hosts will be the Harris County Chapter of the Texas German Society, that will meet at 6:45 p.m. Thursday at the Trini Mendenhall Sosa Community, 1414 Wirt Road.

Hope to see y’all there!

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Image: Buffalo Bayou Sidewheeler DIANA at Galveston, via Richard Eisenhour.

Paroled at Vicksburg

Posted in Genealogy, Memory by Andy Hall on July 4, 2018

From 2010:
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Sunday marked the 147th anniversary of the end of the siege of Vicksburg. One of the Confederate soldiers taken prisoner that day was 26-year-old William C. Denman (1836-1906), a private in Company B, 30th Alabama Infantry. William Denman grew up with four younger siblings in Calhoun County, Alabama, where his widower father, Blake Denman, was a well-to-do farmer. The elder Denman was a slaveholder. William enlisted in the 30th Alabama on March 5, 1862. The regiment served in the western theater and, as part of S. D. Lee’s Brigade, saw action in several skirmishes. It suffered heavy casualties at Champion’s Hill (May 16, 1863), where it suffered 229 killed, wounded and missing — roughly half its numbers. Retreating in the face of Union General Grant’s army, Confederate forces including the 30th Alabama withdrew into Vicksburg, where they were quickly trapped between the Federal army to the east and the Federal Navy on the Mississippi. As part of S. D. Lee’s brigade, the 30th Alabama was assigned the defense of the Railroad Redoubt, one of the strong points in the Vicksburg defenses. The fort was overrun in a bloody assault on May 22, but eventually recaptured after Confederate troops regrouped and counterattacked.

After a hard siege lasting several weeks, the Confederate general commanding at Vicksburg, John C. Pembeton, surrendered his force to Grant on July 4. Private Denman, along with about 18,000 other Confederate soldiers, was paroled a few days later.Grant described this process in his memoir:

Pemberton and his army were kept in Vicksburg until the whole could be paroled. The paroles were in duplicate, by organization (one copy for each, Federals and Confederates), and signed by the commanding officers of the companies or regiments. Duplicates were also made for each soldier and signed by each individually, one to be retained by the soldier signing and one to be retained by us. Several hundred refused to sign their paroles, preferring to be sent to the North as prisoners to being sent back to fight again. Others again kept out of the way, hoping to escape either alternative. . . .

As soon as our troops took possession of the city guards were established along the whole line of parapet, from the river above to the river below. The prisoners were allowed to occupy their old camps behind the intrenchments. No restraint was put upon them, except by their own commanders. They were rationed about as our own men, and from our supplies. The men of the two armies fraternized as if they had been fighting for the same cause. When they passed out of the works they had so long and so gallantly defended, between lines of their late antagonists, not a cheer went up, not a remark was made that would give pain. Really, I believe there was a feeling of sadness just then in the breasts of most of the Union soldiers at seeing the dejection of their late antagonists.

The 30th Alabama, like several other surrendered units from Vicksburg, was reorganized a short while later, and it appears that Denman continued with this reconstituted regiment. (The reorganization of these units using men who had been paroled became a subject of dispute between Union and Confederate forces, which the following year caused the Union to suspend almost all parole for captured Confederate soldiers.) In January 1864, Denman transferred to a cavalry regiment, in which he remained to the end of the war.

After the war Denman married Sarah Crankfield (1847-1932), of South Carolina. They lived in Alabama and Louisiana before settling in Marion County, Florida in 1875. There they farmed and, in their later years, operated a boarding house. They had ten children together, but only two survived to adulthood. In 1900 Denman applied for a pension based on injuries received in the war, claiming he was “incapacitated for manual labor” as a result of eating pea bread, an ersatz bread made of ground stock peas and cornmeal, during the siege of Vicksburg. It resulted, Denman claimed, in chronic gastritis and bilious dyspepsia. He died in 1906.

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