Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 1 (Ctd.) and Day 2 of the Battle of Hampton Roads Weekend

NEWS FROM THE FRONT! (Continued Day 1)

March 5, 2011

1:00 pm: Attended the second lecture of the day focusing on the efforts of the Blockade during the Civil War. The 1:00 lecture centered on the role of the "Grey Ghost," CSS Alabama, and its operations throughout its storied history. Dr. William S. Dudley, former director of the Naval Historical Center (now the Naval History and Heritage Command), was the speaker for the event. After discussing the elements that surround the theories of Union and Confederate strategy and sea power at the start of the war, Dr. Dudley recounted the legendary story of the Alabama and her crew which captured over two dozen ships during her service.

James D. Bulloch (left)
 He recalled the interesting "cloak and dagger" story of James D. Bulloch, chief foreign agent of the Confederacy, and the attempts by a Union network of spies to find info pertaining to any and all ships made in Liverpool for the purpose of commerce raiding. Charles Francis Adams readily employed spies to shipyards in Liverpool to question (or pose as) workers of the elusive ship "No. 290," originally destined for merchant trading. Adams being the diplomat and student of law knew such design and construction would result in the breaking of the British Foreign Enlistment Act, which they later paid to the tune of $15.5 million dollars in the years after the war.

2:10 pm: HRNM Shout out! Somebody in the audience asked "Will they ever bring up the artifacts from the CSS Florida." Well, sir, you can always come down and see them for yourself at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum on display!
The Makeup of the Union Blockade: Strategy and Implementation
2:30 pm: The final presentation of the day was by Dr. Robert Browning, chief historian of the United States Coast Guard. His presentation, titled "'None can be more vigilant than we are': the Union Blockade During the Civil War," went through what he called the "nuts and bolts" of the blockade, breaking it down from the ships and organization to the tactics used by the U.S. Navy to enforce it. It is interesting to note how he described the makeup of blockade runners themselves; very informative. He also identified Wilmington as the most important blockade running port. It was not the most powerful, but important port, for it "became synonymous with Confederate blockade running during the war."
Dr. Browning's presentation was insightful and well received by the audience. Interestingly enough, I found out from Dr. Browning that there was a blockade runner actually named LET HER RIP. Incredible! Here it is reproduced here, renamed the USS Wando:

In my opinion, it will always be Let Her Rip.

6 March 2011 (Day 2): Mariners' Museum, Newport News, VA

11:20 am: I arrived back at the Mariners' Museum. Things are pretty quiet right now, but I can see a small group of people once again waiting to get in. There is a slow and steady drizzle of rain outside, keeping a majority of the living history reenactors at bay for the days events.

12:00 pm: Guests are beginning to roll in. I only have about 20 of the Civil War Special Edition Daybooks left, which means we unloaded over 250 of them this weekend! A lot of people are showing up right from the start. In the immortal words of Milli Vanilli, "blame it on the rain."

1:00 pm: One of the highlights of the entire weekend was seeing Jeff Johnston speak about some interesting developments from the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. They have all really come a long way since it was discovered back in 1974.

Examples from the LSU Faces Lab

A majority of the presentation focused on the two Monitor sailors (named Monitor #1 and Monitor #2) recovered in 2002 inside the turret. The process of narrowing down the 4 officers and 12 enlisted men who were lost during the 31 December 1862 is quite the daunting task. From their research, Jeff detailed how they have narrowed it down to just a few names, a remarkable feat. This will be further aided by forensic technology, and generous pro bono work from the LSU Faces Laboratory. They will spearhead efforts to recreate the faces of the two sailors with cutting edge technology. Geaux Tigers!
The ultimate goal of the project with LSU would be to put a face, and ultimately a name, to the two sailors. The proposed date for the burial will be on the 150th anniversary of their death at Arlington National Cemetery. It is of note that this project is also in coordination with the Naval History and Heritage Command.

It is a sobering thought to realize the potential of finding faces and names to these unidentified skeletal remains. Unknown for nearly 150 years, both sailors have the potential to finally seek peace. Jeff commented how we never want to put another "unknown soldier" into the ground. The lecture was definitely the highlight of the events this weekend.

All in all, it was a fantastic time. I look forward to continue to work with Anna and the gang at the Mariners' Museum in the future!

- Matthew T. Eng

1 comment:

  1. You Rock, Matt! Thanks for all your help this weekend - and we're looking forward to working with you, HRNM and NHHC!!!!!