Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A "New" Bookstore for History Enthusiasts

Last fall the Old Book Company of McLean closed its doors. As an avid bibliophile, I was saddened to see this top-notch, independent used book store go out of business. I spent many Saturday afternoons browsing through the Civil War collection there. And owner Phil Hanson even helped me to assess the edition and value of a soldier's memoir I had purchased on-line. Lucky for us, Phil has taken his talents and gone to work with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm's Book Shop in McLean, Virginia.

A few weekends ago I dropped by the store, which is hidden at the end of Colonial Farm Road beyond the entrance to the historic site. (I was tempted to keep the location a secret all to myself, but I promised that I would spread the word!) Phil helped to renovate and re-organize the shop, and he even moved some of his inventory there. Endless shelves of U.S. history books line the walls. Offerings include numerous antebellum, Civil War, and 19th century Indian War volumes. The day I visited, I bought a 1947 first edition of Roy Meredith's The Face of Robert E. Lee. Book lovers will also find written works on any other topic imaginable.

Behind the front desk sit collectible and antique editions.
Looking at the Civil War section. I have a feeling I will be spending some time here.

The shop promises to become a bit of a destination if all goes well. Guests will find plenty of room to walk around and browse, or just sit and peruse a book from the shelves. Coffee is available for those who prefer to sip on a cup of Joe while looking. Phil also tells me that special events are planned for the future, and I'll be sure to make the details available on the blog's Facebook page. In a day when book stores are disappearing as fast as people are converting to e-readers, it is comforting to find such a special place for people who still appreciate their books the old fashioned way. The next time you are in the McLean area, I'd urge you to pay the shop a visit. You won't be disappointed.

Details 

Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Address: 6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA (really at the end of Colonial Farm Road near CIA HQ)

The store accepts books in exchange for tax deductions. No store credits.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Friends' Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen Extends a Helping Hand

As I discussed extensively in a series of posts last year, the Union Army established contraband camps across Northern Virginia in late May and early June 1863. Although the military had primary responsibility for running the camps in Virginia and elsewhere, private charitable organizations also took action to assist the former slaves who were quartered there. As one historian has written, "[t]he philanthropic shock troops came south and performed their humanitarian services to relieve the nation and themselves of a pressing moral burden." (Magdol 92.) One particular group of Friends (or Quakers) focused its efforts on the camps in Northern Virginia throughout 1864.

On January 6 of that year, a large number of Friends assembled at the Race Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The group, "[i]mpressed with the immediate need of attention to the welfare of the colored people in our country liberated from bondage," founded the "Friends' Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen." (First Annual Rpt. 3.) The assembly adopted a constitution and chose an Executive Board and Finance Committee. On the same day, the Executive Board established a committee for the "judicious distribution of supplies." (First Annual Rpt. 3.) The board also introduced a "proposition. . . to send teachers among the freed people, which was considered and referred to the Association, recommending the appointment of an Educational Committee to unite with one from the Board." (First Annual Rpt. 3-4.) The Educational Committee was finally appointed in March and continued to operate until the association decided to entrust sole responsibility for education to the Executive Board's own committee.

The Race Street Meeting House (1856) in Philadelphia (courtesy of Society of Friends (Quakers) Meeting Houses and Schools).

The Friends' Association aimed to garner the support and cooperation of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends.* The new group distributed an address that was read at monthly meetings and other gatherings of the Yearly Meeting. As the First Annual Report of the Friends' Association reported:
The response to this appeal gave encouragement to believe that the continued aid of Friends would be freely given in the work before us, and, therefore, with renewed earnestness, we made preparations to hear the cries of the needy, and, according to our means and ability, to endeavor to relieve their sufferings. (First Annual Rpt. 3.)
In February 1864, the Executive Board, "[w]ith the view of ascertaining the appropriate field for operation. . . requested the Corresponding Secretary to communicate with agents and other persons in portions of the Southern States where the freed people had collected, enquiring concerning their condition." (First Annual Rpt. 4.) A couple months later, two members visited contraband facilities in Gen. Benjamin Butler's Department of Virginia and North Carolina. In the end, the Friends' Association opted "to concentrate [its] labors in the neighborhood of Washington." (First Annual Rpt. 4.) The proximity of Washington to Philadelphia may have in part influenced the association's decision. (Friends' Intelligencer 8.)

Lucretia Mott, c. 1860-80 (courtesy of Wikipedia). The noted abolitionist and women's rights activist served on the board of the Friends' Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen along with her husband, James.

By April 1864, the Friends' Association had begun to distribute supplies to the camps in Northern Virginia. The First Annual Report noted that on April 25, Camp Rucker near Falls Church received:
. . . 7 Colton's maps, 1 Smith's large U. S. Map, 2 school atlases, 1 writing chart, 2 doz. Wilson's First Reader, 2 doz. Wilson's Second Reader, 3 doz. Wilson's Speller, 4 doz. Wilson's Charts, 1—8, 1 doz. Wilson's Charts, 15—16, 1 pt. liquid slating, 4 doz. slates, 200 pencils, 8 brushes, soap, candles, school bell, 1 doz. lamps, 12 doz. thimbles. 40 spools of cotton, 6 papers needles, 6 pieces tape, 4 boxes buttons, 1 package dried fruits; and 134 garments sent from Women's Association. (First Annual Rpt. 21.)
Teachers dispatched by the Friends also began to arrive at camps in the region. Sarah Anne Cadwallader was placed at Camp Rucker that spring. As the First Annual Report informed members of the association, "[g]ood results are apparent from her labors." (First Annual Rpt. 4.)

Today's post begins a periodic series on the Friends' activities at the contraband camps in Alexandria (Arlington) and Fairfax Counties. The association's efforts are an integral part of the story behind the camps. They shed light not only on how charitable organizations supplemented government policies to provide for the economic well-being of emancipated slaves, but they also help us to understand conditions in the camps and the experiences of the contrabands living there. I look forward to retracing the steps of the Friends in Northern Virginia throughout 1864 and beyond.

Note

*For those unfamiliar with the Friends' religious organization, as I was, information on yearly meetings can be found here. A history of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is available here.

Sources

Assn. of Friends (ed.), Friends' Intelligencer: A Religious and Family Journal, Vol. XXI (1865); Board of Managers, Friends' Assn. for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen, First Annual Report of the Board of Managers of the Friends' Assn. for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen (1865); Edward Magdol, A Right to the Land: Essays on the Freedmen's Community (1977).

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Surprise Visit to Battery Parrott

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a reception at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador to the United States. Located along Foxhall Rd., N.W. in Washington, this ornate home sits atop the heights dominating the Potomac River near Chain Bridge. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that that the property was the site of Battery Parrott, part of the defenses of Washington during the Civil War. In fact, the Belgian Embassy website even discusses the history associated with the location.

The Union Army erected Battery Parrott in 1862 on land belonging to local widow Ellen King. The battery was named after Robert P. Parrott, a former captain of ordinance and inventor of the Parrott gun.  Battery Parrott was equipped with two 100-pounder Parrott rifles. Gen. John G. Barnard, Chief Engineer for the Department of Washington, later called Battery Parrott one of the "most perfect and complete" batteries in the defenses of the nation's capital. (Barnard 72-73.) Along with Batteries Cameron and Kemble, Battery Parrott swept the Virginia side of the Potomac from Chain Bridge and Forts Marcy and Ethan Allen to Fort DeKalb (Fort Strong).

The remaining earthworks of Battery Parrott are plainly visible in the backyard of the Belgian Ambassador's Residence. The massive Parrott guns were mounted en barbette behind the parapet.
Battery Parrott was garrisoned at various times by companies from the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, the 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery, and the 9th New York Heavy Artillery. Company K of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery served the longest at the battery, from August 1862 until being sent to the front during the Overland Campaign in May 1864. Writing to Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck about the state of Washington's defenses in spring 1864, Gen. A.P. Howe, Inspector of Artillery, observed:
Battery Parrott, Capt. Frederic E. Shaw commanding.–Garrison, one company First Maine Heavy Artillery–1 commissioned officer, 1 ordnance-sergeant, 46 men. Armament, two 100-pounder Parrots. Magazines, one; dry and in good order. Ammunition, full supply and serviceable. Implements, complete and serviceable. Drill in artillery, fair. Drill in infantry, fair. Garrison is sufficient. (in NPS at Vol. I, Appendix E.)
As with nearly all of the forts and batteries around the nations capital, Battery Parrott saw no action during the Civil War.
Photo of a 100-pounder Parrott, this one taken at Ft. Totten outside Washington (courtesy Library of Congress)

At the end of hostilities in 1865, the Union military offered King wood and other materials from the battery as compensation for the occupation of her land. The widow refused at first, but relented in October 1865, accepted the in-kind compensation, and signed a release discharging any future claims against the U.S. Government. King nevertheless filed a claim for rent and the taking of timber in May 1874. Despite the earlier release, King prevailed and was awarded compensation by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1875 and 1876.

Detail from 1865 War Department map of the defenses of Washington showing the position of Battery Parrott (center), as well as other features, including Batteries Cameron and Kemble, Chain Bridge, Ft. Marcy, Ft. Ethan Allen, and Ft. Strong (courtesy of the Library of Congress).


The position of Battery Parrott (blue pin) indicated on a modern map of Washington, DC and Virginia. (See here for a larger map.)

Sipping on a Belgian beer and looking out at the earthworks behind the ambassador's house, I couldn't help but chuckle. Things are sometimes ironic like that in Washington. One hundred and fifty years ago, boys from Maine tramped across this very land, while 100-pounder guns stood guard against the possibility of Rebel incursions, however remote. Now internationally-minded professionals were mingling and eating hors d'oeuvres, most oblivious to the importance of the site during our nation's most trying ordeal.

Sources

John G. Barnard, A Report on the Defenses of Washington (1871); Benjamin Franklin Cooling III & Walton H. Owen II, Mr. Lincoln's Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington (2010 ed.); Historic Preservation Review Board, Government of the District of Columbia, Application for Historic Landmark or Historic District Designation for the Scheele-Brown Farmhouse (2013); National Park Service, A Historic Resources Study: The Civil War Defenses of Washington, Parts I & II (2004); Official Records, Series 1, Vol. XXV, Pt. 2, at 187 (1889).

Friday, March 28, 2014

Odds and Ends, March 2014

I just returned from a two-day work trip to Brasilia, Brazil. As much as I'd like to find a Civil War connection to the Brazilian capital, the city didn't even exist until 1960! However, for those interested in the Civil War's connection to other parts of Brazil, the CSS Alabama raided Federal ships off the country's coast in 1863. (Capt. Rapahel Semmes writes of the Alabama's Brazilian adventures in his memoirs.) Oh, and let's not forget the unreconstructed Confederates who emigrated to Brazil after the Civil War.


In other news, I wanted to let readers know about my upcoming talk to the McLean Historical Society at 7:30 p.m on Tuesday, April 8. This presentation was originally slated for the start of March, but was postponed due to a personal conflict. I will be talking about my research on the contraband camps of Northern Virginia, with a particular focus on the government farms in Langley and Lewinsville. The lecture is being held in the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave. in McLean. Hope to see you there!

The 14th Annual Fairfax Civil War Day will be held at Historic Blenheim on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will feature tours, exhibits, period music, and various living history demonstrations. I haven't yet participated in this annual tradition, but plan to go this year with my boys. For more information, including a schedule of events, see the City of Fairfax website here.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Divining Motivation: William Baumgarten's Decision to Enlist, March 1864

Last week I wrote about a recent discovery that I am related to William Baumgarten of the 102nd Pennsylvania. The universe of what I know about William is rather limited. Sure, I was able to pull together a general biography and the details of his service record. But can I ever really know him?

The date of William's enlistment -- March 31, 1864 -- immediately grabbed my attention. Men who joined the Union ranks so late in the game earned a bad reputation among the old veterans of the Army of the Potomac. Many of these newcomers enlisted to collect large bounties being offered at the federal, state, and local level. Add to this mix draftees or the substitutes hired by them, and the soldiers arriving at the front in early 1864 looked somewhat different from the men who had rushed to the colors in the early days of the war.

On February 1, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 500,000 men. Those who had enlisted under the previous October's call for 300,000 volunteers, as well as draftees raised in 1863, were credited against this number. In Pittsburgh, William's hometown, the draft was set for March 1. The rush to find recruits was on. Local authorities often sought to avoid a backlash against the draft by filling the ranks with as many recruits as possible prior to the drawing of names. Pittsburgh was no different. Individuals could earn between fifteen to twenty-five dollars for getting someone to enlist. In certain wards of Pittsburgh and Allegheny City, block committees knocked on doors in search of willing recruits. By the end of February, the activity had reached a fever pitch. The date of the next draft slipped to April 1.

Notice about federal bounties published in the Pittsburgh Daily Gazette & Advertiser a few days before William enlisted (courtesy of Penn State University's Pennsylvania Era Civil War Newspaper Collection).

On March 1, Lincoln called for an additional 200,000 men. The draft was ordered to take place as soon as possible after April 15 in order to fill any deficiencies. By the end of March, local bounties climbed from $250 to $265, in addition to the federal bounty of $300.

Troops from the 102nd Pennsylvania arrived in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, March 29. As the Pittsbugh Daily Gazette & Advertiser reported a couple of days later, the presence of the regiment "has given an impetus to recruiting." (Mar. 31, 1864.) The paper observed:
Several wards of this city are endeavoring to fill their quotas from this regiment, and the private bounties now range from $260 to $300. New recruits have been receiving $280 since Tuesday. (Mar. 31, 1864.)*
On March 31, William joined the rush and enlisted in Company K of the 102nd Pennsylvania.

The draft was finally set for June 2 in Allegheny City and June 13 for Pittsburgh. The recruiting drive was by and large a success -- at the time of the draft, a deficiency of only 479 existed out of the two cities' entire quota of 2,373. (Amer. Hist. Soc. 233.)

The historical record raises obvious questions about William's motivations for volunteering. This young son of German immigrants entered the ranks during the height of recruiting frenzy in Pittsburgh. It is easy to conclude that the large bounties then being offered had a lot to do with his decision to enlist, particularly in light of all the anecdotal accounts of 1864 recruits. But should we be so quick to jump to conclusions about William or others who volunteered, without knowing more? Perhaps feelings of patriotism or a sense of duty nagged at William, and the money may or may not have made the final difference in his decision to join the Union Army. William may have wanted to enlist when he turned eighteen the previous year, but only with the passage of time or monetary inducements, or both, did his parents drop their objections. Regardless of his reasons for enlisting, William remained with Company K and fought in some of the most brutal battles of the Eastern Theater. Wounded three times in the Valley, he was finally sent to recover in a military hospital behind the lines. Even if we never discover William's reasons for going to fight, we do know that he, like countless others, volunteered to put his life at risk in service to our country at its most critical hour.

Note

*The use of the term "private bounties" seems to indicate that private donors also furnished bounties, in addition to federal and local bounties previously discussed.

Sources

American Historical Society, Inc., History of Pittsburgh and Environs, Part II (1922); Bruce Catton, A Stillness at Appomattox (1953); A. Lincoln, Executive Order, Feb. 1, 1864; A. Lincoln, Executive Order, March 14, 1864; James B. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1998); PBS, "Kids in the Civil War," American Experience: Ulysses S. Grant; Pittsburgh Daily Gazette & Advertiser, Mar. 29, 30, 31, 1864; U.S. Provost Marshal General's Bureau, Second Report of the Provost Marshall General to the Secretary of War on the Operations of the Selective Service System to December 20, 1918 (1919); U.S. War Dept., Annual Report of the Secretary of War (1865); Erasmus Wilson & Weston Arthur Goodspeed, Standard History of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (1898);