Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wisconsin Soldiers at Antietam Creek

Kate recently had the opportunity to visit the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison. Not a huge museum, it’s easily viewed in an hour if you’re only mildly interested in military history, but real aficionados will likely spend much more time.

The displays include photos, weapons, and everyday items used by Wisconsin soldiers starting with the Civil War, including a piece of hard tack that escaped being eaten 150 years ago!

Among the tidbits of historical information Kate learned was that the father of General Douglas “I shall return” MacArthur was living in Wisconsin when the Civil War began. Arthur MacArthur, Jr. immediately joined the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. His leadership in battle earned him the nickname of The Boy Colonel.

The museum is well laid out with dramatic life-sized scenes from various conflicts. Particularly interesting is that every single mannequin has a unique face. When asked, the gentleman at the front desk revealed that volunteers were used to create life masks to provide the faces and create these memorable tableaus.

No fee is charged, but donations are accepted. The Veterans Museum is directly across the street from the capitol building and kitty-corner to the Historical Museum, a full day of thrills for the true history buff!

A Letter from a Local Civil War Soldier

The Ditzler brothers came to Chicago in 1844 from the east via the Great Lakes. Jonathon Ditzler settled in Naperville where he married and raised his family. His daughter Hannah was a long-time teacher at the Naperville Academy as well as a librarian. Son Eli became a prosperous merchant in Hinsdale after being lucky enough to return from the Civil War. The following is a letter Eli wrote to his sister Hannah after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg, Penn. July 1

Dear Sister-
Hoping that I may get a chance to mail a letter I will drop you a line--

Westminster, Md. July 3

The above lines I wrote at the place dated, but these miserable Rebels never let us to ourselves. The morning of July 1, our Co. was on picket. All was quiet, so I thought I would write. Had just commenced when the picket on post reported the enemy advancing. We mounted and went out to the line. Waited the approach of the Rebels. When they came nigh enough we fired and fell back a ways. Still they advanced -- came in strong force. Our Cav. Div. was drawn up in line of battle and received them. We held them at bay until one Inf. came up. A general battle ensued and was raging all day long.

The enemy had all Inf., and, of course, we Cav. could do little. some of us dismounted and took it infantry style. I was on foot and kept behind fences and trees and fired.

The battle raged all that day as well as yesterday and today. A most terrible battle. Our horses had nothing to eat in four days, so our Div. came to this place yesterday. Are in camp here- once again in America, as the boys say. How different from Va. The people all are Union. As we came along up from the Potomac, each town we passed through had flags flying and citizens crowding the streets. The ladies waved their hankerchiefs, and the air was rent with cheer after cheer. Made me feel homesick to see how happy free people were.

As we advanced on Gettysburg, the Rebels fell back and, oh, how glad the people were! On street corners fair misses collected and sang "Star Spangled Banner" for us as we passed, and there were roaring cheers.

We went in camp a little beyond town and I then went back in town to buy little articles Ladies on the streets with baskets filled would give us all the pies, cakes, and goodies we wanted. I stopped at a house where seminary girls boarded. They gave me a bouquet and sang songs to the accompaniment of the piano -- all for my benefit, dirty and rough as I was. How sweet it sounded!

The tears of joy and gladness of the people of Gettysburg have suddenly turned into tears of sadness. Our lines had to fall back to this side of town, and the Rebs were on the other, so the city was in between two fires. Some of the houses were burned and demolished. The women in town took the wounded in their houses and took care of them. Children walked the streets with pails of water and gave to the boys. This evening I heard that our men drove the Rebs; took lots of artillery and many prisoners. Our loss in officers is heavy and severe.

I am well and in good spirits. Mother do not trouble yourself. Goodbye,

Love, Eli.'

Where History Is Happening

Links to Some Upcoming Events

The Medical Side of the Civil War

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
1 pm
Author and history professor Glenna Schroeder-Lein gives an overview of the development of mass medical care during the American Civil War. The establishment of hospitals, roles of caregivers, and common diseases will be discussed. Refreshments served immediately following in the Glos Mansion in Elmhurst. Free admission, donations appreciated.

Illinois Answers the Call: Boys in Blue
Through Decemberl 30, 2011
9:00 a.m.. - 5:00 p.m. Daily
The Springfield museum has a new exhibit opening that features pictures, letters, sketches and songs from the Illinois men who fought on the side of the Union against Confederate forces during the war. The display includes pictures of the soldiers, diaries and artifacts. Among the featured items is a commission for Illinois native General Benjamin Grierson that was signed by Abraham Lincoln. But that military commission will only be on display until June 1.

The Fiery Trial Exhibit
12:00 am - 5:00 PM
At the Kenosha Civil War Museuam, the Fiery Trial tells the personal stories of the men and women of the Upper MIddle West - specifically Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan. Through state-of-the-art museum technology, life-size dioramas, and interactive engaging exhibits, visitors travel back in history to the social, political, and economic influences that contributed to the Civil War.From the home front, to the railroad and waterways, to the battlefront and back home again, the Civil War is seen through the eyes of soldiers, nurses, spouses, children, clergymen, slaves, tradesmen, and the others who lived it. Experience the battlefront, the incredible logistics and resources that were required to mount the war effort, and the deep emotions that tore families apart.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The American Civil War - 150 Years

Throughout 2011 museums will be observing the anniversary of the Civil War. For some history buffs, that means re-evaluating the politics that triggered the rupture of our young country. Others intently analyze the battles as if the campaigns were real-life chessboards. Still others like to compare our everyday experiences with those of our ancestors 150 years ago to see how things have changed and what has stayed the same.

It’s not so very far back when you think about it. Maudie Hopkins, the woman widely thought of as the last Civil War Widow died in 2008, just three years ago. Of course she didn’t experience the War herself, but she spent several years with a man who did.

Illinois has particularly deep Civil War connections, even though no battles were ever fought on our state’s soil. We are of course the Land of Lincoln, the President forever remembered for his efforts at holding our nation together. The politics of Stephen Douglas fanned the fires of War and Ulysses S. Grant led the Union army into War.

Several prisoner of war camps existed in Illinois including Camp Douglas in Chicago, named after Stephen Douglas and considered the largest mass grave in the western hemisphere. Nearly 6000 Confederate soldiers were buried there at one time. Since then, the remains were moved to Lincoln Park and then on to Oak Woods and Rosehill Cemetery.

An Illinois native also claims to have fired the first shot at Gettysburg. Marcellus Jones of Glen Ellyn and later of Wheaton borrowed a gun from his buddy Levi Shafer, a Naperville native, and is supposed to have fired on advancing Confederate troops. He missed and a couple of other soldiers may have also fired around the same time, but Jones ensured his place in history. He, Shafer and a third friend, Alex Riddler, had a stone marker cut in Naperville commemorating their contribution. Then they dragged it all the way to Pennsylvania, purchased a bit of land from a local farmer, and erected their monument which still stands today.

Whether your interest is in battlefields, photography, recipes or fashion, you’ll no doubt find a Civil War exhibit this year that interests you. Visit one or two. This is your history, too.

Talk Books and History with Kate this Month

Want to hear a little about local history or learn a little about writing books? You’ll have the opportunity to do both this month!

On Saturday, April 16 Kate will be one of more than 25 authors selling, signing and talking books at the gorgeous new Fountaindale Library in Bolingbrook at their Author Fair. To cap off Library Week, authors will be on hand from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm, with some brief presentations and readings planned. You – or your child – are also welcome to stop and chat about what you’re reading or writing and get tips straight from the horse’s mouth.

On Thursday, April 21 Kate will present “Sailing to Will County” at Cedarlake Village in Plainfield. Few people realize how many of our early prairie pioneers arrived by ship! While this presentation is specifically for residents of Cedarlake Village, guests are also welcome.

Where History Is Happening

Links to Some Upcoming Events

The Civil War and DuPage County: A Local Perspective Saturday, April 16, 2011 12 pm - 4 pm Join us for the exhibit opening which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War by reflecting on the relationship between the soldiers and their families and friends during this time of dramatic change and hardship. Letters, photos and documents from the Museum’s archives are featured as well as many artifacts from the permanent collection.

Plant Medicines Past and Present
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:00 p.m. Kitchen at Farmhouse Museum, Elk Grove Village Join certified herbalist, Jenny Pawlak, for an informative talk about plant medicines that were used in the 1800's and which herbal remedies are still used today. Refreshments such as tea and lavender cookies will be available. Participants will also create a simple lavender sleep pillow. Suitable for ages 15 and older. Regisration required by April 18th due to limited seating. $3 Historical Society Members/$5 non-members

Sheep Shearng at Kline Creek Farm
Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17 10:00 am - 4:00 PM Watch as sheepdogs herd the flock and farmhands shear sheep. Then, learn how washed wool becomes spun yarn. Activities ongoing. All ages. Free. Registration not required.