Monday, July 30, 2012

The U.S. Navy "Comes Home" to Toledo, Ohio August 20 - 27 to Commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and The Star Spangled Banner

American flag lowered for evening colors during a reception aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate USS DeWert at Quebec. The DeWert, USS Hurricane, and the Canadian Halifax-class frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec are visiting cities in America and Canada to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812
Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

Toledo Navy Week, Aug. 20-27, is one of 15 selected cities where America’s Navy will “come home” in 2012, giving area residents an opportunity to meet Sailors and learn about the Navy’s capabilities and relevance to national security.

Toledo Navy Week will commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and The Star Spangled Banner with U.S. Navy ship visits, and special events recognizing America’s Navy for keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.

The U.S. Navy conducts Navy Weeks across the country to show Americans the return they receive for their substantial investment in America’s Navy. During a Navy Week, the Navy conducts a variety of outreach events (approx. 75+) in a metropolitan area, sharing the Navy story with as many people as possible.

The Navy plans to include the following elements in Toledo Navy Week 2012:
- Visiting U.S. Navy Ships
- Navy Band musical performances
- Admirals and other senior Navy leaders, who will engage with local corporate, civic, government and education leaders
- Navy simulator and other interactive displays
- Visits to area schools
- Community service projects and events with local sports franchises
- Visits with local veterans

Army of the Ohio Completes Preservation Fundraising For the 23rd Ohio Battle Flag: Announces Adoption of the 25th Ohio Battle Flag

23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Battle Flag
with Members of the Army of the Ohio
Courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mann

Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mann, Ohio National Guard Historian, recently sent me this news release. Thanks to the Army of the Ohio, the necessary funds to allow for the conservation of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) battle flag from the American Civil War. In addition, the group has announced it will continue its preservation efforts by adopting the 25th OVI battle flag.

The group adopted the 23d OVI flag in January 2011 and has since raised $14,755 of the estimated $29,000 needed for the conservation of the nearly 150 year old silk regimental flag. The remaining funding came from a grant from the Army Historical Foundation, an anonymous donation to the Ohio Historical Society and from the general flag fund of the society, who operates the Save the Flags Campaign.

“One of the goals of the Army of the Ohio is to honor the memory of Ohio’s Civil War Soldiers,” says Col. Bob Minton, commander of the Army of the Ohio and Fostoria, Ohio resident. “The simple way to accomplish this is through accurate portrayals of them at reenactments, but to be able to preserve this distinctive symbol of the war is essential to telling the Soldiers story to future generations.”

The 23rd Ohio was organized at Camp Chase, Ohio on June 11, 1861 and served in the eastern theater, fighting at South Mountain, Antietam and Winchester. The members of this regiment gained distinction in military and civilian life. The first commander, William Rosecrans, became a noted general. The 23rd Ohio is also the only unit in the history of the Army to contain two future presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes and William S. McKinley.

The 25th Ohio was also organized at Camp Chase, Ohio on June 28, 1861 and served in the eastern theater. At the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 the regiment sustained a loss of 179 of the 220 officers and men it went into battle with. The 25th remained in service until April 1866 and had eighteen color bears killed or wounded, including eight at Gettysburg.

Minton said the groups fundraising efforts took them to numerous events across Ohio and New York selling T-shirts, mugs and selling raffle tickets for Civil War artwork. Additionally, members conducted preservation marches and sought donations from individuals and groups. The group will continue to sell these items to raise the estimated $29,000 required for the 25th OVI flag.

The 23rd Ohio flag will be taken to a conservator later this summer where it will be stabilized in order for the flag to be displayed. The Ohio Historical Society's flag collection is one of the largest in the country. It includes the Ohio Adjutant General’s collection of 553 flags, three quarters of which are from the Civil War. Since the inception of the Save the Flags campaign, 21 of the flags in the collection have been treated and housed in frames for display purposes.

The Army of the Ohio was organized in 1999 to combine the strength of American Civil War reenacting units from Ohio and surrounding states. Currently infantry, artillery and cavalry units from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania comprise the group.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Now on the Wreckage Site of WWII Pilot Lt. Col. Jack Zimmerman's Plane

Lt. Col Jack Zimmerman

More than three years ago, I wrote about Fremont, Ohio native, Lt. Col. Jack Zimmerman, legendary pilot, who was instrumental in developing America's commercial aviation.  Senior pilot at TWA, Zimmerman flew the first of TWA’s fleet of DC-3s into New York City’s LaGuardia Field. A year later, Jack Zimmerman flew the last leg of the West-East inaugural record flight of TWA’s first Boeing 307. He later set a coast-to-coast speed record for transport planes.

Joining the Army Air Corps in 1942, Zimmerman served as control officer of the North Atlantic Division of the Ferry Command. The command was responsible for transporting men, supplies, and equipment to England to support the war effort. In November 1942, after inspecting an air base, Zimmerman's seaplane foundered on take off. Fishermen from Quebec’s Longue-Pointe village rescued four of the nine men, but Jack Zimmerman was not among them.

Two months after writing the article, Parks Canada called to inform me that its team of underwater archaeologists had located Lt. Col. Zimmerman's plane. Parks Canada and Longue-Pointe villagers coordinated with the United States to protect the discovery.

Underwater Archaeologist at the wreckage site of Lt. Col. Jack Zimmerman's plane
Courtesy of Parks Canada

Parks Canada underwater archaeology technician Chriss Ludin visited the Hayes Center to examine some of Zimmerman's records that are part of the institution's collections.

Parks Canada Underwater Archaeology Technician
Chriss Ludin

The investigation was turned over to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command which conducts global search, recovery, and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts in order to support the Department of Defense’s personnel accounting efforts. The organization is deploying more than 85 investigation and recovery teams on 30 missions to 11 countries this year.

Parks Canada has informed me that a 50-man recovery team with 18 underwater divers, JPAC specialists, and the crew of the U.S. Grapple have now arrived at the discovery site of Lt. Col. Zimmerman's plane.
The team plans to spend a month diving on the plane wreckage in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to potentially recover bodies and any personal items, like watches or military tags, that might have belonged to those aboard the plane.

U.S.S. Grapple

Following the Orphan Train Riders

Orphan Train
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Searching for one’s family history can be rewarding but also frustrating. Perhaps few have as great a challenge as descendants of Orphan Train Riders. Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,000 poor and orphaned were “placed out” in rural communities in 47 states and Canada.

How did it all begin? Mass immigration to the United States during the 19th century left America’s eastern port cities overflowing with the destitute. The abundance of cheap labor led to poor paying jobs. Often entire families, including children as young six, worked 12 hours a day to afford food and a room shared with as many as ten others. Illness, accidents, lost wages, unwanted pregnancies, or death quickly sent families into poverty. In 1850, the city of New York estimated that 30,000 “vagrant children” roamed the streets. Another 3,000 lived by stealing.

At the same time, a labor shortage existed throughout the Midwest and on the Plains. Reformers and missionaries believed that traditional rural values held the promise of American life. If children could grow up on farms and in small communities, they would become productive, responsible, Christian citizens.

Leading the way was Charles Loring Brace, one of the founders of the New York Children’s Aid Society. The New York Foundling Hospital was also committed to helping the urban poor as were smaller charitable institutions. But the New York Children's Aid Society was deeply committed to resettling the destitute. The society placed out more than half of all of the poor between 1854 and 1910. Many more were relocated in the final two decades of the program.

Now, as then, the perception remains that the destitute were shipped to rural areas in what we today call the “West.” But, according to researchers at the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, Kansas, the New York Children’s Aid Society resettled 1/3 within its own state. Ninety percent of the remaining poor found homes in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, and Iowa. Nearly 8,000 were resettled in Ohio.  Some 12,500 were placed in Michigan.

Agents traveled by rail with as few as five and as many as 50 children. Although most were not orphans, the trains soon became known as “orphan trains.” They stopped at rural communities, where locals gathered at depots, churches, courthouses, or schools. There they inspected the lot of waifs and made selections.

Children’s experiences were as varied as their personalities and the families who chose them. Some were separated from siblings, never knowing their heritage or their parents’ names. Some endured constant hard labor and beatings, living in surroundings worse than those they had left in New York or Boston. Others were well cared for, educated and cherished for the remainder of their lives by the families who gave them a home.

Today, it is estimated that there are 2 million descendants. Many want to know more about their grandparents and great grandparents experiences even if their stories were grim and their lives were painful. A good place to learn more is through the National Orphans Train Complex website. Contact information, reunion dates, research materials, and much more is available. PBS' American Experience website features an excellent bibliography and Teacher's Guide.

A version of this article appeared in Lifestyles 2000.

The Napiers: A Seafaring Family

Some called Captain Benjamin Napier a rogue, who sailed amidst Lake Erie’s islands and waged a furious but futile war with the Kelleys for ownership of Cunningham’s Island (Kelleys Island). Others described him as a good-natured giant of a man with a heart to match. Whatever he was, no one could deny that Benjamin Napier was a superb sailor, who raised a family of larger-than-life seafaring sons on Lake Erie.

Among them was Nelson Napier, who left Ohio to settle near St. Joseph, Michigan, in the heart of the “Great Fruit Belt.” He soon captained a Great Lakes steamer and developed his own orchards. Later, Napier convinced his employer, the Goodrich Shipping Line, to establish a regular route from St. Joseph to Chicago, where the fruit trade was booming. A gentle giant like his father, Napier was loved and revered as one of the finest sailors on Lake Michigan. First on the “Comet,” then the Corona,” and finally on the refurbished side-wheeler “Alpena,” Captain Napier plied the waters of Lake Michigan. Three nights each week, he carried a cargo of fruit and passengers across the lake.

On an Indian summer afternoon in October 1880, Napier sailed out of Grand Haven with his usual cargo of fruit, a 25-man crew, and twice that many passengers. Halfway through his run, he encountered a squall. A veteran sailor, Napier had weathered many of them. But suddenly the 65-degree temperature plummeted to below freezing. The night skies filled with snow and sleet. Hurricane force winds battered the “Alpena.” .

Napier’s terrified passengers were thrown about violently in their cabins that were rapidly filling with freezing water. Knowing he could not make safe harbor, Captain Napier turned about, trying to keep the “Alpena” afloat. The crew of the “Hattie Wells,” running parallel to the “Alpena,” looked on helplessly. Captain Dearkoff later said, “Me and my crew stood on deck and watched him try to turn his ship around in that storm. She was halfway around and that wind just took right hold of her and turned her over. …We watched her disappear under the waves.” Some speculated that the recently repaired rudder chain had broken again. Others felt as Captain Napier had once expressed; side-wheelers were not suited for open lakes, where large waves rocked the vessel, often leaving one wheel out of the water.

The storm raged for three days. When it was all over, two bodies, apples, a piano, and bits of the “Alpena” were strewn across a 70-mile stretch of beach north of Holland, Michigan. Although Napier’s ship was never found, a piece of cabin molding washed ashore. Stuffed between the cracks was a note that read, “This is terrible. The steamer is breaking up fast. I am aboard from Grand Haven to Chicago.” A year later, a bottle floated onto the beach at Point Betsie. Inside was a note bearing the last words from passenger George Moore.

He described the terror on board the “Alpena” that night: “She has broke her port wheel; is at mercy of seas; is half full of water; God help us. Capt. Napier washed overboard. The finder of this note will please communicate with my wife and let her know of my death.” But it would not be the last of the “Alpena.” In 1909, twenty-nine years after the storm, the “Alpena’s” name board floated ashore!