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Ballistic impressions

A Civil War-era .58 caliber star base 3-ringer Minie ball…now on my desk. Squee!

This is your typical Federal 3-ringer in “dropped” condition, with the star inside the base detailing its origin from the Washington Arsenal.

California-based Ballistic Impressions handcrafts everything from paperweights to earrings and cufflinks, all with bullets as the medium.

Jason Bell is the man behind the scenes at BI and over the past couple years he has crafted more than 800 creations, taking pride in the fact that he donates 20 percent of all profits to non-profit 501(c)(3) Mil/LE organizations.

I recently covered his work over at which evolved into commissioning the above piece.

Captain Camden, reporting for duty, 100 years ago this week

Portrait of Captain Edwin Camden – Volusia County, Florida. 1917. Black & white photo print. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.<;

Here we see a relatively fit Captain Edwin Camden, formerly of the Army of the Confederate States, then aged 75, of Volusia County, Florida, in April 1917. According to the state archives on 6 April 1917 “He put on his Civil War veteran’s uniform and tried to register for the draft on the first day of World War I.”

It should be noted that his grandson reportedly had volunteered for service as well and was accepted.

Note the uniform is complete with the hat device of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) a veterans organization formed in 1888.

Camden, born in Virginia in 1840, raised a company that later became Coy E, 25th Virginia (Heck’s) Infantry Regiment and, captured after being wounded during the Wilderness, became a member of a group known as the “Immortal Six Hundred” because they refused to take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. under duress.

From the Confederate Veteran, the monthly magazine which became the official UCV organ, volume XXXI, January 1923, now in the Duke Library Archives:


When the war came on in 1861, the Camden family, of Braxton County, Va. (now West Virginia), was largely divided on the subjects involved in that fratricidal strife. John S. Camden, Sr., was long a prominent figure in the central western Virginia region, a member of the Virginia Assembly, and colonel of the 133rd Regiment Virginia Militia. Of his five sons, three were enrolled for the South. — Edwin D. Camden, William I., and L. D., the latter two being lieutenants of the 17th Virginia. Of the other two, Dr. Thomas B. Camden was imprisoned in Camp Chase, but was released upon a petition signed by all sides, and subsequently served as post surgeon of the Federal army at Weston ; Johnson N. Camden remained loyal to the Union, and in latter years became a vice president of the Standard Oil Company, United States Senator, and railroad builder. Richard P. Camden, an uncle of Edwin Camden, espoused the cause of the Union and was a member of the West Virginia legislature in 1866 as a loyal man. Another uncle, Lennox Camden, was arrested as a Southern sympathizer and confined in Fort Delaware in 1863. Having married into a powerful Western Virginia family, his release was secured, but not before his physical powers had wasted away, and he died in New York City. Judge Gideon D. Camden, another uncle, was a member of the Confederate Congress, and his son was a major in the Confederate army.

In July, 1861, Edwin Duncan Camden recruited a company of one hundred and twenty men and marched to Beverly, where he was to effect a junction with a command of the Confederate army under Colonel Pegram. In the meantime General Rosecrans had advanced by Clarksburg and Philippi, defeating Pegram in the battle of Rich Mountain on July 11. The men under Camden arrived during the closing hours of this affray, participated in the action, during which General Garnett was killed, and r treated with the Confederates into the Valley of Virginia The men in his charge were mustered in as Company E, 25th Virginia Infantry, and he was commisioned first lieutenant.

After participating in activities in the Valley campaigns in the latter part of 1861, the 25th Regiment became a part of the 4th Brigade, 31st Division, under Col. J. A. Walker, and as such a part of the corps under command of the distinguished chieftain, Thomas J. Jackson. As the celebrated “Stonewall Brigade,” it was ever afterwards the most noted organization in the Confederate service, engaged in deeds and exploits that attracted the attention of the entire world. Among the commanders were Gen. J. M. Jones and Bradley T. Johnson, and several others no less well known.

Company E, as part of the 4th Brigade, engaged in the battle at Fort Republic on June 9, 1862, lost four officers and twenty-five men, and Lieutenant Camden was wounded. Recovering, he rejoined the company and was commissioned captain, a rank held during his period of service.

In April, 1863, the 25th and 31st Virginia were transferred temporarily by General Lee to the command of Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden, to participate in the invasion of Western Virginia. During this month and May following, the celebrated “Imboden Raid” took place, in which Jones and Imboden advanced as far into the present State of West Virginia as Glenville, in Gilmer County, and Burning Strings, in Wirt County. At the latter place vast stores of oil were destroyed, which, as fate would have it, belonged largely to Johnson N. Camden, a brother of Captain Camden. The expedition was not successful in the desired purpose of securing recruits for the Southern cause, but did secure large numbers of cattle and supplies for the Southern army. At Buckhannon, Camden’s company and others lost some men by desertion, because Captain Camden lodged a complaint against a certain element stealing horses from the citizens without authority, need, or pay. This act, however, created a most favorable impression with the better element on both sides.

Returning to Virginia and the old organization, the march was taken up to the memorable field of Gettysburg. Here the company, on July 1, 1S63, engaged in the storming of Culp’s Hill, and late that evening moved into the ” Valley of Death. ”

During Pickett’s charge the division held a position under the murderous fire from Little Round Top. John C. Higginbotham, colonel commanding, on the 21st, in his report to Acting Adjutant Moore, of General Jones’s Brigade, speaking of the actions on the 3rd, says: “It is with pleasure that I can testify to the gallantry and skill of Captain (E. D.) Camden and Company E. I never saw men act better. Seventy men were lost in action.

In May, 1864, began the series of battles of the Wilderness, which led up to the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. The 25th Virginia moved into the ” Bloody Angle” on May 10, and in the next three days followed such scenes of carnage as never before existed in the war. Whole companies were wiped out. Lee and Grant pitted their armies together in the great struggle for what was believed to be the key to Richmond. At the close of the affray, Captain Camden, with a shattered leg and jaw, was left on the battle field, for it was not believed that surgical skill then available could save his life. The Confederate forces were forced to leave large numbers of their wounded in the hands of the Federals, and, after many hours, Captain Camden was removed to a Federal hospital, later sent to Fort Delaware as a prisoner, and, in the face of what was deemed mortal injuries, eventually recovered.

In July, 1864, it was reported in the North, but later found to have been a mistake, that Maj- Gen. Sam Jones had confined Federal prisoners in Charleston, S. C, under fire from the Federal batteries on Morris Island. On August 25, 1864, the Federal commander, General Schoeph, at Fort Delaware, sent six hundred commissioned Confederate officers to Morris Island, with the view in mind, it appears, of an exchange, but this was not done. For a time they were under fire of their own guns, and, though none were killed, they underwent terrible suffering; a number died, and their other experiences are recounted in book and poem as the “Immortal Six Hundred” of the War between the States. Among those from the interior of present West Virginia were: Lieut. T. Tussie, 25th Virginia, Weston, W. Va.; Capt. E. D. Camden, 25th Virginia, Sutton, W. Va.; Capt. T. J. Berry, Bulltown, W. Va., and some fifteen others from other sections of the State.

From Fort Delaware they were transported in August, huddled together on a small steamship called the Crescent, guarded by one hundred Ohio militiamen. Arriving at Morris Island, and failing in exchange, at times shells from batteries on the Island, Wagner’s, and Forts Moultrie and Sumter were passing over them. Forty-five days later they were sent to Fort Pulaski; later to Hilton Head, and then back to Fort Delaware.

From this point those who would take the oath of allegiance to the United States were sent to New York and released. Others who refused were sent to Richmond in exchange for a like number of Federal prisoners. The term of imprisonment was marked by many happenings, one of which had both a tragic and amusing aspect. At Hilton Head an effort was made to escape. By raising a bunk in a section occupied by Captain Camden, a hole was made in the floor and, after a long period of hard work, a hole was made down and under the wall. All arrangements were made for a trip to liberty, but the men inside the walls did not reckon with a moat filled with water surrounding the building. On the way through the basement a barrel of brown sugar was found, and while to us this does not mean much, to a soldier at that time it was the highest of dainties. Tightening belts, shirts and pockets were filled; arriving outside in the darkness, they fell into the water. Wading, scrambling, or swimming across as the need arose, sugar and water enshrouded them in a sticky syrup. The alarm was given and, with such an unusual impediment, all were caught and returned to prison.

Upon his release from service, Captain Camden returned to the little town of Weston, W. Va., along with others of the brave men in gray. Among the local Federals were men with little respect for those who espoused the Southern cause, and it was demanded that the Confederates divest themselves of the faded and worn uniforms. This they refused to do, and a near riot took place, in which Maj. H. H. Withers, of the 10th Virginia Infantry, mounted a horse block and announced that he would shoot the first man that touched a Confederate soldier, an act that endeared him to both sides.

Captain Camden died on May 13, 1922. He was the son of John S. and Nancy Newlon Camden, and was born in Sutton, Braxton County, Va. (now West Virginia), March 30, 1840. When the town of Sutton was burned by the Confederates under John S. Sprigg, on December 29, 1861, the Camden Hotel and store were burned, and his father and mother were forced to retire to Weston with the Federals, both dying within a few months from exposure on the trip. One of Captain Camden’s great-grandfathers was Maj. Frederick Sprigg, of the Upper Battalion, Montgomery County, Maryland Continentals; while another was a member of the “Flying Squadron” in the Revolution. Kinsmen fought in the war with Spain, and a grandson was in the late World War. As a member of the “Immortal Six Hundred,” Captain Camden was one of the honored guests at Confederate reunions, and was probably the last survivor of this famous group. In late years he was appointed as colonel on the staff of J. Thompson Brown, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia Department U. C. V.

He is buried in Summit Cemetery, Braxton County, West Virginia, alongside his wife. On his tombstone, he is recorded as being a Lt. Colonel, possibly a brevet award.

Fort Walton Beach’s carronade

The FWB carronade buried by the Walton Guards as it appears today (Photo: Chris Eger)

The interesting story of how the ‘Fort’ came to Fort Walton Beach Florida in the American Civil War.

Florida is unique in the south and is often referred to as the most northern of southern states. It is also said that the further north you go in Florida, the further south you get. This is perhaps the truest in the far western Florida panhandle. A little known Confederate force, comprised of local volunteers, fought a few minor battles near what is now Destin/Fort Walton Beach.

Florida in the Civil War

Florida succeeded from the United States on 10 January 1861 and within a month joined the Confederacy. Florida was very sparsely populated in 1861 and its population was thought to be just 140,000 of whom more than 60,000 were slaves. From this population base, the state mustered 16,000 local men to serve in 11 infantry regiments and 2 of cavalry from the Sunshine State. All told, Florida units made up just fewer than 2 percent of the Confederate Army.

One of these units, who later became Company D of the 1st Florida Infantry Regiment, was the Walton Guard. They were organized and mustered into Confederate service for 12 months at Chattahoochee Florida on 5 April 1861.

The Walton Guard and the Indian Mound

Formed from volunteers of Walton and Santa Rosa Counties near Euchee Anna Florida in March 1861, the Walton Guard was a scratch force. Armed with few regular weapons and no artillery they formed a defensive line near what is today downtown Fort Walton Beach.

The Fort Walton Mound, a thousand-year-old Indian burial site, was chosen as the fortification for the unit. The mound was a truncated pyramid made of sand, dirt, and shells 223 feet long, 17 feet high and 178 feet wide. The local Native Americans had used the site as the center of their village up until the 16th century when they became extinct. It was here that the Walton Guard chose to watch over the narrows of Santa Rosa Sound and Choctawhatchee Bay.

The Walton Guards stood their ground for a year, watching over nearby Union-held Fort Pickens and getting into a few light rifle skirmishes with Union gunboats in the area. Finally, regulars from Fort Pickens decided to scatter the Confederate force and in March 1862, a unit of the 1st US Artillery moved from the fort to within cannon range of Camp Walton. On the early morning of April Fool’s Day 1862, Union forces bombarded the Walton Guards on their Indian Mount and oyster shell fortification. Withdrawing from the battlefield Confederate forces fell back down the peninsula and only returned to their post once the Union artillery returned to Fort Pickens.

The Lost Cannon of the Walton Guard

Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, upon finding out of the skirmish, sent small naval cannon to Camp Walton to give the local Confederates some more firepower. The 18-pounder carronade sent over from Pensacola of the type of short naval cannons used on early frigates before the Civil War. They were smoothbore pieces that could be fired comparatively rapidly for ordnance of that era.

The weapons’ primary handicap was that it had a short-range (1-2 miles) and a low elevation. This meant that a Union ship would have to anchor nearly right in front of it to be in danger from it. With the inability to properly defend the mound and their enlistments coming up the Walton Guards evacuated the site in the summer of 1862. They spiked and buried their cannon in the mound so that it could not be used if captured and withdrew to the north.

The carronade as it appears today on a timber display

The Walton Guards joined the rest of the 1st Florida Infantry under Colonel James Patton Anderson. They fought with Stovall’s Brigade, Breckinridge’s Division, D. H. Hill’s Corps, Army of Tennessee at the battles of Chickamauga and Murfreesboro. The remnants of the Walton Guard surrendered and were paroled in North Carolina May 1865.

Their cannon was recovered during archeological excavations of the Indian Mound and today is mounted next to the mound on US 98 in Fort Walton Beach.

It has been a standard site in the area for generations.

Main Street. Fort Walton Beach.1968. Photo courtesy of The Nwfdn Librarian cannon

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of The Met

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art very graciously just released 375,000 works into the public domain as Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal copyright, the broadest possible. While about 200,000 are online, and as a whole, they represent just a fifth of the Met’s huge collection, there are some interesting pieces in the trove with a military background. These include over 70 plates from Goya’s haunting ‘The Disasters of War’ (Los Desastres de la Guerra) and dozens more from Stefano della Bella’s ‘Peace and War’ (Divers desseins tant pour la paix que pour la guerre).

Here are some pieces I found remarkable.

Deck of a Warship Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (Danish, Blåkrog 1783–1853 Copenhagen) 1833

The “Kearsarge” at Boulogne Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris) 1864

A Bit of War History: The Recruit Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York) 1866

A Bit of War History The Veteran Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York) 1866

The full collection is here.


Not your average catch of the day


The archaeology department at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland has been working since 2011 to save a crate of 20 Pattern 1853 Enfield rifled muskets that were delivered to Canada via fishing trawler after an extended period on the bottom of the Atlantic.

The rifles, still in the crate they have been in since around the 1850s-60s, are housed in a large container filled with a chemical solution that includes a bulking agent and corrosion inhibitor designed to stabilize the relics.

“This soaking process will take many years and is done to prevent the wood from collapsing, cracking, or warping once dry and also to prevent any remaining iron from staining the wood surface,” Memorial’s Archaeological Conservator, Donna Teasdale, told me.

And they are now starting to find inspector’s marks on very well preserved brass and walnut.


More in my column at

VMI’s Cadet Battery is back and better than ever

(Photo: VMI)

(Photo: VMI)

The custom-designed four-gun battery was cast at the Cyrus Alger Foundry in Boston and arrived at VMI on June 6, 1848.  A statue of Stonewall Jackson, who taught cadets artillery tactics on the guns for a decade at the school, watches over.

The guns were mounted on wooden carriages that had last been replaced generations ago. Now, equipped with brand new aluminum carriages after a seven-month refurbishment, the cannon will endure for centuries.

Named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John by William Pendleton, an Episcopal minister-turned Civil War artillery officer who commanded the unit who used them to good effect during that conflict, the guns were custom-designed at the Cyrus Alger Foundry in Boston to be small enough so that they could be moved around by the cadets without the use of horses.

For at least a decade before the Civil War, the battery and the cadets who manned it was under the tutelage of one Maj. Thomas Jackson, the professor of philosophy and artillery tactics who later went on to become one of the leading generals of the Confederacy.

“When it comes to 19th-century artillery pieces, these guns are some of the most important and historical in the entire nation,” said Col. Keith Gibson, executive director of the VMI Museum System in a statement last summer when the guns were shipped off.  “We can point to these guns and know that Stonewall Jackson used the guns himself and trained cadets on the guns for an entire decade … when he was [VMI] professor of artillery tactics.”

Petersburg could triple in size

During the opening attacks on Petersburg in June, 1864, Union forces captured a portion of the Confederate line east of Petersburg. Confederate Battery V was the first gun battery to be captured. The remains of the battery are located behind the current Petersburg National Battlefield Eastern Front Visitor Center. (Photo LOC)

During the opening attacks on Petersburg in June, 1864, Union forces captured a portion of the Confederate line east of Petersburg. Confederate Battery V was the first gun battery to be captured. The remains of the battery are located behind the current Petersburg National Battlefield Eastern Front Visitor Center. (Photo LOC)

The Siege at Petersburg was just a dumpster fire of a military campaign in the Civil War that saw Grant nail the feet of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to the floor outside of Richmond and keep him there for almost 10 months. The bloodletting included such horror as the Battle of the Crater and the assault on Fort Stedman ultimately broke Lee’s back. Within weeks of the end of the campaign came Appomattox. Within weeks of Appomattox came the end of the war in the rest of the Confederacy.

Now, it looks like the 2,700 acres of the National Park Service’s Petersburg National Battlefield could be set to balloon if the money is right.

From the AP: 

Legislation signed days ago by President Barack Obama authorizes, but does not pay for, the addition of more than 7,000 acres to the existing 2,700 acres of rolling hills, earthworks and siege lines already under protection at Petersburg.

Expansion has been a longtime priority of park advocates and comes amid a push to bolster and protect battlefields around the country this decade as the nation marked the 150th anniversary of the war. Supporters say the larger boundary would not only protect historic sites from commercial development but also give park visitors a more comprehensive understanding of the Petersburg campaign, which left tens of thousands of men dead.

“We’re finally moving forward. … We’re looking at the park and looking at the story in a whole new way,” said Lewis Rogers, the park’s superintendent, who joked that the weeks of waiting for the president’s signature had left him in misery.

More here


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