On the lighter side

Hey everybody, you may or not know that President Ulysses S. Grant created the first national park when designated Yellowstone as such in 1872.  Who was aware, however, that at least some of the great sequoias were named after our Civil War generals?

General Grant tree (photo by Tsui)

General Grant tree, 1910

General Grant tree, 1936 (photo by George A. Grant)

Grant in winter (photo by Christoph Rückert)

The Sherman tree is taller (photo by Robert J. Boser)

(photo by Daniel Mayer)

(photo by Chris M)

Enjoy your weekend.

The evolving Lee legacy

(Smithsonian National Postal Museum)

James C. Cobb has a thoughtful piece on the evolving legacy of Robert E. Lee.  The how and why of how Lee came to represent the ideals of the Lost Cause is a fascinating story we are still trying to untangle.  Say what you will about the Southern Historical Society and its disciples, but they managed to control the narrative for nearly a century.

The return of the 69th

One hundred and fifty years ago today the 69th New York returned to New York City after the disaster at Bull Run.  On November 11th of this year the regiment returns to New York again in the form of the Louis Lang painting Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, N.Y.S.M. from the Seat of War.  The painting was lost just after the Second World War and had deteriorated significantly before being rediscovered in a New Jersey warehouse a few years ago.  The artist had given the painting to the New-York Historical Society in 1886 and the institution recently commissioned the Williamstown Art Conservation Center to restore the work to its proper condition.  Art Conservator, the center’s periodical, has more on the restoration.  The New-York Historical Society is one of the hidden gems of New York City cultural life.  I am so looking forward to seeing it re-open later this year and to see, also, the return of this long lost art treasure.

Baptized by Fire

(Kurz & Allison; Library of Congress)

I am writing this from Washington, DC.  Today marks the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, which took place only about thirty miles down the road.  It was not until I began visiting DC regularly a few years ago that I realized just how close to the capital the Civil War occurred.  Fifty years ago today New York State made some history of its own when it donated one hundred and twenty six acres of Virginia countryside to the federal government.

The monument to the Fourteenth Brooklyn was rededicated on July 21, 1961.  Thankfully it today lies within park boundaries.  (photo by William Fleitz, NPS)

In 1905 and 1906 the New State legislature authorized the purchase of six acres of land for the construction of monuments for the 14th Brooklyn (later renamed the 84th New York), the 5th New York (Duryee’s Zouaves), and the 10th New York (National Zouaves).  Each regiment was granted $1,500, which was the standard rate for such projects at the time.  (The monuments for the latter two regiments were in recognition of those units’ actions during Second Bull Run.)  The three monuments were dedicated together on October 20, 1906, with scores of veterans taking the train from New York City and elsewhere in a pounding rain.

Fast forward to the early 1950s, when New York State officials prepared to give the six acres to the Manassas National Battlefield Park.  The deal became complicated, however, when the legislative Committee to Study Historical Sites realized that encroaching development threatened to cut the three monuments off from the rest of the battlefield.  Chairman L. Judson Morhouse advised the state to buy an additional one hundred and twenty acres to ensure that the Empire State’s units would fall within the parkland.  The state agreed and purchased the acreage in 1952.  Later in the decade the New York State Civil War Centennial Commission, Bruce Catton Chairman, proposed to transfer the land to the Park Service during the 100th anniversary of First Manassas in 1961.  Not surprisingly, the NPS was amenable to this and so fifty years today Brigadier General Charles G. Stevenson, Adjutant General of New York, handed over the deed to Manassas superintendent Francis F. Wilshin.

German-born Corporal Ferdinand Zellinsky of the 14th now rests in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.