Only 6% funded with 11 days to go. Not looking good. So I'm hoping for a miracle here.
Pretty please pledge and repost this so that others can do the same.
Only 6% funded with 11 days to go. Not looking good. So I'm hoping for a miracle here.
Pretty please pledge and repost this so that others can do the same.
I had been anticipating Brian Bergin's book for months, and I wasn't disappointed. It's proof that good things come in small packages, in this case 126 pages. It is richly detailed, telling the story of another little-known but tragic incident during the Civil War.
Many girls and women, trying to get by without a male breadwinner at home, signed on to "choke" cartridges at the Washington Arsenal. The wages weren't great and the work was dangerous, but they were one of the few occupations open to women at the time. Most of the women who worked there lived in the vicinity of the Arsenal, in a neighborhood known as the Island, and many were of Irish stock.
On June 18, 1864, as he had done for months, Superintendent Thomas Brown laid out fireworks (or "stars") on dry on pans in the sun just 35 feet away from the laboratory where these women worked. But just before noon, these fireworks exploded and set the lab afire. When the fire was put out, seventeen women - many burned beyond recognition and some literally in pieces - were found dead (four more would die of their injuries).
A coroner's inquest was immediately held, and Brown was found responsible for negligence. Plans for a citywide funeral for the victims were begun.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered that no expense be spared for the funeral. He and President Lincoln were themselves in attendance at the services at the Arsenal grounds. A long procession went to Congressional Cemetery, where most of the victims were buried in a mass grave. The President and Secretary of War did not turn out for other explosion-related rituals during the war, nor did the government give money toward them. This is presumably because the Washington explosion was local (although today, it would be easier for them to travel to such events, as the President often does). Funds were appropriated by Congress for orphans of explosion victims and those who survived their injuries, but not to the deceased's families, probably because the women and girls killed were not usually the family breadwinners. But it is still more than anyone from the Allegheny Arsenal explosion, for one, received from Congress.
One year after the explosion, a monument with a statue of Grief atop it was erected, done by Lot Flannery, where it still stands today.
Brian passed away in 2009, but fortunately his daughter Erin Bergin Voorheis has edited this work and had it published for all to read. I wish I could have met Brian, but Erin has been wonderful and I hope to get together with her in the near future and express my appreciation in person (and to pick her brain about the whole publishing process).
In an effort to try and get my book written and published, I've started a Kickstarter page. Every bit helps! So spread the word. Thank you!
Switching to another arsenal for a minute...you can now preorder the late Brian Bergin's book "The Washington Arsenal Explosion," which comes out next month. I can't wait for it. I wish I could have met Brian, but I'm glad that I have been in touch with his daughter Erin.
Below is a news report done by our local KDKA, featuring the author of "Consecrated Dust," Mary Frailey Calland, about tomorrow's events at Arsenal Park.
And above is the link to a radio interview with author/historian James Wudarczyk and head of the Lawrenceville Historical Society Tom Powers.
The first one is from the local Tribune-Review, the second one is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with a short video. I'm so glad the 150th of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion is getting so much press.
There's lots going on in Pittsburgh this weekend with the 150th anniversary of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion. On Saturday, at Heinz History Center, there will be a "trial" to try and determine the cause of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion. Jim Wudarczyk - Lawrenceville author and historian - and famous forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht will lead it and visitors can serve on the "jury."
And from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette comes an article about Sunday's events at Arsenal Park: music, a dramatic reading by Pittsburgh's CLO, living history with weapons demonstrations, a lecture with Power Point, and guided tours of Allegheny Cemetery. Can't wait!
"Bomb Girls" is a TV miniseries set in Canada during World War II, but it draws many parallels between women's experiences during that war and those of women working in arsenals during the Civil War. You can watch full episodes on the site or, for those with Reelz Channel, you can catch it starting Tuesday at 9.
This article, published last Friday in the local Tribune-Review, talks about the neglect that the former powder magazine of the old Allegheny Arsenal suffers. It also mentions the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the explosion coming up in almost 2 weeks.
I know, I don't post on here nearly as much as my Facebook page. But the Fbook page is so much easier (so if you don't already follow me there, I highly suggest it).
In other news, after three years of fast food hell and looking for a job in my field to go with my masters degree, I have a job for next semester as an adjunct professor, teaching two US history courses. So I'm excited about that.
Also, I'm thinking of starting a Kickstarter page to help fund my research and getting my book published. Any contributions will get a shoutout in the acknowledgements.
Article from yesterday's local paper (the Tribune-Review) about next month's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion. There will be talks, music, living history, and more.
But there's a bit of confusion: the Facebook page for the event says it is September 15 while the article says it's the 16th. So hopefully I find out for sure soon.
This conference was awesome. Tiring, but awesome. I nailed my speech. I was overwhelmed with how supportive and welcoming everyone was.
Yesterday, we had a field trip to the former Allegheny Arsenal site (where I acted as a sorta tour guide), Allegheny Cemetery with James Wudarczyk, and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. Then we had several fabulous lectures (including one by a high school student...she rocked it) and then a banquet of Pittsburghese cuisine. For those of you non-local, that includes pierogies, kilbassa and sauerkraut, halupki, rigatoni, fried chicken. Then we had a sing along of period music (16 years of living history helps with knowing so much of the words) and a fishbowl auction and door prizes - I won a couple books. Score. And today, we finished with a few more lectures. It was such an honor to present before so many knowledgeable people, as well as my loved ones (my mom, sister, and boyfriend, in this case).
For some reason, my "smart" phone likes to get pics out of order, so bear with me:
The people I'm with are my mom (in the blue dress), my sister (of In the Swan's Shadow blog, in brown) and my boyfriend Mark. There's a few photos of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion monument at the Cemetery, and of Soldiers and Sailors. I included the Peanuts/cartoons display because I'm a huge Peanuts/Snoopy collector.
Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to the Johnstown Flood Memorial Park, which is about an hour from me. They had a big display on Victorian mourning rituals, which is a close second to my interest in women in Civil War arsenals. So I happily geeked out. Of course, many people lost their personal effects in the flood, as did businesses. So those with means to do so wore public mourning for loved ones. My guess is that mourning items were sent for from out of town.
From top to bottom: a hairwork pendant with locks of hair supposedly from Flood victims.
A mourning fan.
1880's mourning dress. Note the black velvet collar and cuffs.
Many households draped everything in crepe. It was believed that if one caught their reflection in a mirror while in mourning, they would be the next to die.
I freaking adore this picture of a widow. From roughly the 1860s. Relatively few widows were photographed in mourning, let alone with a veil over their faces.
Another nice mourning photo, probably late 1860's.
From A People's Contest at Penn State comes a very analytical essay about various groups (women, children, African Americans) on the Northern homefront, which has been getting considerably more attention of late. Working women are cited - in this case, seamstresses sewing for the army striking for better pay. I've come across one instance so far of that in the arsenals: in the fall of 1864, women struck at the Confederate States Laboratory in Richmond. They were fired and then replaced. This is a must-read, full of heavy-hitting authors in the field.
Author Catherine Clinton has written a great essay about how the study of women in the Civil War has gone from almost nonexistent to booming in just the last fifty or so years. I hope to eventually be one of those who contributes to that field.
From the Virginia Historical Society is an Alexander Gardner photograph of the Confederate States Laboratory on Brown's Island shortly after the fall of Richmond. Detailed description on the page.
Gotta love staying up late...my mother informed me that one of last night's "Mysteries at the Museum" on the Travel Channel talked about the Allegheny Arsenal explosion. This talks about bullets found in the carnage of the Arsenal, now at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. The video features History Center CEO Andy Masich.
Here, you can read the entire sermon given by the Reverend Richard Lea of the local Presbyterian church after the Allegheny Arsenal explosion. It extolls the positives that came from the tragedy, such as how quickly help arrived and how it brought the Lawrenceville community together.
This article about the Allegheny Arsenal explosion from the Tribune-Review is a few years old, but still good and relevent. It features Allan Becer, who has done so much to help me in my research by sharing his own.
This is a great article by Chuck Stephens from about a couple weeks ago (how did I miss it?)about the history of the Allegheny Arsenal. Check it.
This is a petition from the National Archives from women and children working at the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia. They are begging Secretary of War Stanton not to eliminate their jobs, as there was talk of doing. In the abscense of men, these women were dependent on these wages.
The Pennsylvania Civil War 150 traveling exhibit is back, and has expanded. Besides the letters from Fayette County soliders (the county south of me) are figures of Pennsylvanians who served in various capacities. Included is one of Kate McBride, the 15 year old daughter of the Allegheny Arsenal main lab superintendant Alexander McBride . Kate was one of the 78 victims of the explosion there in 1862. Looks like I will have to make another trip to it...
May I just say how much I love this site? It has tons of historical markers from all over, including former arsenals. The Fayetteville Arsenal was destroyed when Sherman came through in March 1865. There were women who worked there, both there and from their homes, making cartridges. It is today on Route 401 and the home of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex. I have talked to some of the people there and they are wonderful. I can't wait to visit one day.
Earlier, I posted a great video from Caroline Janney of Purdue about women's involvement in the Civil War. She also has written a book called "Burying the Dead but not the Past: Ladies' Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause."
Many people think that Southern women's involvement in memorializing both the dead and the cult of the Lost Cause (read: "we may have lost, but we did it nobly, dang it") did not begin in earnest until the 1890s when the United Daughters of the Confederacy was established. Janney shows that this actually began during the war itself when nursing and sewing circles and the like evolved just after the war into Ladies' Memorial Associations. The LMAs were primarily the domain of middle and upper-class ladies who had such time and resources, as well as lingering anti-Yankee feelings. There were LMAs all over the old Confederacy (which often helped each other financially), but Janney focuses on those in Virginia - particularly in Richmond, Lynchburg, Winchester, Petersburg, and Fredericksburg. It goes on even after the establishment of the UDC, which supplanted the LMAs, up until about the First World War.
Ladies' Memorial Associations sprang from a great need in the postwar days: to reinter Confederate soldiers with proper burials as well as to commerorate them, along with the Lost Cause. Part of this was out of anger toward Union men who disinterred the bodies of their own men from Southern ground for reburial, which sparked feeling that Confederate graves were being desecrated. Large cemeteries for the purpose of reburial were established, such as Hollywood and Oakwood in Richmond.
The postwar years were still part of the Victorian era, in which women were "supposed" to be apolitical, and not involve themselves with politics as men did. However, in the LMA's work in memorializing fallen Southern soldiers, it kept the idea of the Lost Cause alive because ladies often did work with living former Confederates. Because LMAs were run by women (and not men, as most of their Northern equivilents were), it looked like they were simply remembering their loved ones rather than keeping the ideology of the former Confederacy going for future generations.
"Burying the Dead" is a great resource for those students and scholars of Southern women's involvement in the postwar era. As with many scholarly works, it may be a bit dry for the average reader outside the field. However, for those so inclined, it is a great addition to your Civil War/Reconstruction book collection.
Authors of historical fiction have the dual task of creating an interesting story and getting historical details correct. This Mary Frailey Calland does ably in her historical novel "Consecrated Dust: A Novel of the Civil War North." The story starts in the winter of 1860 and climaxes on September 17, 1862, the day of both the battle of Antietam and the Allegheny Arsenal explosion.
The four young people of this story are from the Pittsburgh/Lawrenceville area, and find themselves contributing to the Union war effort in their own way. All are caught up in the events of that September day - with tragic results.
Clara Ambrose is a liberal, outspoken daughter of a doctor (who goes to the front as a surgeon) and a social-climbing mother who fears for her daughter's marriagability. Her family, including her sister Helen, baby nephew, and ailing grandmother, struggle in the absense of Dr. Ambrose. Clara yearns for a way to help the war effort beyond sewing in parlors, but her mother will have nothing that could hurt Clara's reputation.
Garrett Cameron is an idealistic orphaned law student who joins the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves/38th Pennsylvania Volunteers and soon discovers the horrors of war. Before leaving for the war, he falls in love with Clara and she with him, despite her mother's efforts to steer her toward a more "suitable" mate.
That prospective mate is Edgar Gliddon, the arrogant president of a Pittsburgh iron works who sees the war as an opportunity to get richer. He does business with many, including the local Allegheny Arsenal. The more he pursues Clara, the more she pushes him away, despite his kindnesses toward her family in Dr. Ambrose's absense.
Annie Burke is from a large family of Irish Catholic immigrants with four brothers who join the fight. She is also Clara's best friend, despite the prejudices of many around them (this being a time of strong anti-Irish feeling). Annie begins work as a cartridge maker at the Allegheny Arsenal to help support her family.
Calland does a wonderful job of creating a story with these four characters intertwining as friends, lovers, and rivals. Her book is rich in detail of Civil War Pittsburgh and Lawrenceville (those being separate places at the time), as well as in battle with the 9th Reserves and at work at the Allegheny Arsenal. I'm not normally sappy, but I found myself cheering for the romance between Clara and Garrett.
All told, this is an excellent read for anyone who wants to learn more about what life was like in wartime Pittsburgh and be entertained at the same time. I can't wait to meet Ms. Calland on the 28th this month and have her sign my copy.
I am so going to this. The 6th Annual Civil War Weekend is Saturday, April 28 at the Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie from 10 am-5 pm. It includes a period tea, fashion show, a film, books and such for sale, and best of all: a lecture and book signing by the author of "Consecrated Dust" a novel about the Allegheny Arsenal explosion, Mary Frailey Calland. (I'm still waiting on my copy from Amazon).
From the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is an undated newspaper article, most likely from 1913, about the dedication of the memorial at the former powder magazine at the Allegheny Arsenal. Included is a list of the 78 victims.
The C-SPAN American History TV library has lots of great Civil War lectures with which you can easily lose track of time. This one is a lecture by Professor Caroline Janney of Purdue with an overview of women's involvement in the Civil War. It mentions the dangerous work of women in the arsenals, with specific mention of the Washington Arsenal explosion. So when you have 55 minutes to spare, check it out!
The latest issue of Civil War Monitor has an article about the children who worked (and often died) in Confederate laboratories. I will post the article itself once it becomes available online, but if you can't wait (and I might not be able to), it is available on newsstands and some bookstores.
Find a Grave is itself a good time-killing website, but here is the page for the Arsenal Monument at Allegheny Cemetery. If you like, you can leave "flowers" there in honor of those who died.
Here's a well-done page about the Allegheny Arsenal explosion and the 40th Street Bridge-connected tunnels beneath it. The purpose of the tunnels is yet unclear (possible storage?) And access to them is restricted but there may be some activity there.
Here are the details about this year's Society for Women and the Civil War's conference, held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, July 27-29. I am the keynote speaker for Friday night. It looks like it will be a great time.
I'm stealing another of my sister's posts, not just because period fashion plates are fun to look at, but her rant about living historians dressing according to one's place in society (their impression, that is), also it brought a few things to mind for me.
One, there are reports of women wearing hoopskirts while working in the arsenals. First off, most of these ladies were the working poor and might not have even owned hoops, let alone worn them to work, wearing them out. Secondly, women and girls were supposedly hired for their smaller frames and could thus be packed in like sardines. I know from personal experience that hoops take up a lot of space.
Two, there is a theory (about which I will post momentarily) that static electricity from ladies' dress material created enough charge to spark the Allegheny Arsenal explosion.
Some food for thought...
Industry and Commerce: Richmond Civil War Tour from CivilWarTraveler.com
Civil War Traveler has put together a Civil War walking tour of Richmond that you can listen to right from your phone. One of the stops is near Brown's Island, today a spot for concerts and festivals. Since only two wartime buildings still stand in Richmond, tourists need to use their imagination a bit.
An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia - Reconstructing Richmond - Virginia Historical Society - Virginia Historical Society
The Virginia Historical Society with a local radio station has recorded segments about life in wartime Richmond, including one about the Brown's Island explosion. Listening to them all paints a broad picture of Civil War Richmond.
Today was spent at both the main and Lawrenceville branches of the Carnegie Public Library, where I found a goldmine of sources (mostly newspaper articles of various dates). I feel very confident about conference now.
I popped over to visit Arsenal Park while I was there and took a few more pictures:
This is the homepage for the Lawrenceville (PA) Historical Society. Check out the Ask a Historian and Article sections; they have a wealth of information about the Allegheny Arsenal. And for Stephen Foster fans (his daddy founded Lawrenceville) they host the annual Doo-dah Days.
The Travel Channel show "Off Limits" did an episode about the Allegheny Arsenal, in which the host also explores its subterranean tunnels, reputed to be a stockpile of weapons for the Union.
Here is a cover of Harper's Weekly in July 1861 with what is the best known image of women working in arsenals - here, cartridge fillers at the Watertown Arsenal in Massachussetts.
In her wonderful book "Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Homefront", Judith Giesberg analyzes this image. In it, there is nothing at all unseemly about working women. These women appear to be nicely dressed and under close male supervision. However, the male supervisors at this same arsenal would, in 1864, be accused of sexual harassment and favoritism by some of its female employees.
Here is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article from a few years ago about the shock and disbelief that local citizens felt about the Allegheny Arsenal explosion.
As a grad student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania a couple years ago, I interned at the Special Collections and Archives. Now they are beginning to digitize Civil War collections related to Indiana County (PA): letters, photographs, et cetera. I wish I could have been a part of this project, but I will be following it with pride.
This is a Vimeo video about last year's exhibit at the Mid-Atlantic branch of the National Archives about the Allegheny Arsenal.
This short tome is chock full of information and anecdotes, reflecting what an important place the Allegheny Arsenal once held in the Lawrenceville community. Author James Wudarczyk is one of several local authorities on the subject, who are working hard to ensure that the Arsenal, and those who lost their lives in the 1862 explosion there, are never forgotten.
The Arsenal was established in 1814 because the Pittsburgh area needed a new base of military supplies. Its location at the head of the Ohio River facilitated the shipping of supplies further west. Some important dignantaries visited the Arsenal, including several presidents, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Charles Dickens. Receptions were held here which were large community events.
When the Civil War came, of course, its place became that much more important for the Union war effort. Civilian workers took advantage of the opportunity to work here as cartridge makers, mainly to support their families, but also out of patriotic feeling for some.
And then there was that fateful day of September 17, 1862, where a series of explosions (the cause is still uncertain, all these years later) claimed the lives of 78 workers, mostly women and girls.
Wudarczyk follows the events of that day as well as those in the days that followed. He, citing Allan Becer's findings, shows that there were discrepencies between the testimony at the coroner's inquest and the military inquiry - even from some of the same witnesses. Colonel John Symington (commandant) and Alexander McBride (superintendant of the main lab where the explosions occurred) hypothesized that leaky barrels from the Dupont company leaked powder onto the roadways and something (like a horseshoe or wagon wheel) set it off. Where at the coroner's inquest, the cause was found to be negligence by the higher-ups, the military inquiry said no cause could be determined: perhaps because of the wealth and influence of the Dupont empire, no further investigation took place.
After the war, the Arsenal served as mostly a supply depot. However, it did play a small role during the 1877 railroad strikes, when a unit of local militia was denied sanctuary there. It also generated some supplies during the Spanish-American War.
Come the turn of the century, though, the usefulness of the Arsenal was being questioned. Many in the community, including relatives of the explosion victims, wanted it to remain. Soon, the land began to be sold off in pieces for such uses as the Marine Hospital. After World War I, supplies there were sold to the general public. And in 1926, what remained of the Arsenal was sold to Howard Heinz, through an agent. Arsenal Middle School and Arsenal Park were soon established here, among other facilities. Soon, even the iconic gatehouse was demolished, despite local protests, though some of the stones from it now fence the park.
It is through such works as Wudarczyk's that will hopefully ensure that the Allegheny Arsenal will never be forgotten, given the importance it once held and the lives lost there.