Seal matrix of medieval priory found 160 miles away

On August 22nd, 2011, metal detectorists Tony and Veronica Burke found a bronze seal matrix while exploring a field in Cobham, Surrey. As history lovers and members of the Surrey Archaeology Society, they recognized that the pointed oval with the indented image of Mary with the Christ child on her knee was a seal matrix, a form pressed against wax to make an impression of a seal on official documents. They also recognized that this one was unusually large at three inches long, 1.7 inches wide, weighing three ounces.

In keeping with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the Burkes brought the artifact to David Williams, the Finds Liaison Officer for Surrey County Council, who identified it as the seal matrix of the Augustinian Priory at Stone in Staffordshire, a full 160 miles from the find spot. It’s the iconography and inscription that identifies it as the seal of Stone Priory. Mary wears a crown and is seated on a throne holding a flower in her right hand. Jesus holds a book in his left hand and points upwards with his right, two fingers raised in benediction. The inscription around the edge, “S’ecc Sce Marie et Sci W(v)lfadi Martiris de Stanis,” translates to “The Seal of the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Wulfade, Martyr of Stone.”

Sulphur cast in British Museum (l), Stone Priory seal matrix (r)David Williams researched it further, comparing it to a sulphur cast made in the 19th century of a medieval Stone Priory wax seal now at the British Library. They are identical. That means this isn’t just a seal of Stone Priory; it is the seal of Stone Priory in use between ca. 1200 and 1300 A.D. and probably for longer on both sides.

The first priory at Stone was founded around 670 A.D. by King Wulfhere, the first Christian king of Mercia, and dedicated to Saint Wulfad, a local saint we know nothing about. Legend has it Wulfad was the son of King Wulfhere who was killed, along with his brother Ruffinus, by his own father out of fury over their conversion to Christianity by St. Chad. After killing them, their father was so remorseful that he converted to Christianity and allowed his wife Ermenild to build a priory over their graves. This tale is very likely apocryphal. According to the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book 3, Chapter XXIV, Wulfhere was already Christian when he became king in 658 A.D., and Chad was the second bishop assigned to Mercia during Wulfhere’s reign.

King Wulfhere sculpture on the west front of Lichfield CathedralThe Benedictine monks of Petersborough Abbey, 118 miles southeast of Stone, also made the same claim: that their monastery was built by Wulfhere to expiate his sin of having murdered his sons after their conversion by St. Chad, that it was located on the very scene of the crime, and that St. Chad concealed Prince Wulfad’s heart inside a cloister well at the abbey. Meanwhile, Bede (Book 4, Chapter VI) and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle both say that Petersborough was built by the Saxon nobleman and monk Saxulf. So yeah, the Wulfad story is less than reliable.

What we do know for a fact is that the monastery was destroyed by the Danish invaders in the 9th century. It was rebuilt in 1135 as an Augustinian priory dedicated to St. Mary and St. Wulfad. Over the next centuries it prospered thanks to the support of local lords and the Crown, acquiring property all over Stone, including a number of churches, sheep pastures, fish ponds, farms, a mill, hunting and timber rights to various Stafford lands and a royal charter granting them weekly market and yearly fair rights. By the 13th century Stone Priory was the largest and wealthiest monastery in the county. The seal matrix dates to this time, the 13th or 14th century.

Remains of Stone Priory todayThe monastery began to decline in the 15th century. The dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII sealed its fate. Many of its treasures were transferred to Austin Priory in Stafford in 1536 in the vain hope that Austin would survive the dissolution, and in 1537 the priory was shut down. The church remained in use as a parish church until it collapsed in 1750. A new church was built on the site using the old stone. All that’s left of the medieval priory is on the grounds of the rectory attached to the 18th century church.

How a seal matrix from this storied priory found its way to Surrey, we don’t know, but one plausible scenario proferred by Cobham historian Dr. David Taylor is that after the dissolution, the seal was taken to Newark Priory in the village of Pyrford, Surrey. Newark Priory is just six miles from Cobham and it too was Augustinian. It could well have taken in a brother refugee from Stone carrying the seal matrix, a highly portable and highly significant identifier of the lost priory. He might have thought Newark was large enough that it would not be targeted according to the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries Act of 1536 which had brought down Stone. Unfortunately Newark Priory would not long outlive Stone Priory; it was dissolved the next year in 1538.

Newark Priory todayAfter dissolution, Newark Priory was purchased by Sir Anthony Browne, who also owned Cobham Mill. One of Browne’s servants, George Bigley, acquired the Manor of Cobham from Henry VIII. Either one of them could have gotten their hands on the seal as a trinket or a devotional object, and they or later generations could have lost it in a field. This is all purely speculative, of course, and odds are slim we’ll ever find documentation to prove it, but it’s certainly a viable possibility.

Whatever the vicissitudes that carried the seal matrix so far from home, there’s a good chance it’ll find its way back now. Since the bronze seal is not official treasure (only silver and gold or massive quantities of artifacts of advanced age qualify), it was returned to the finders. They could have sold it at auction or to anyone offering them gobs of cash, as long as they shared half the proceeds with the landowner, Dominic Combe. An independent appraiser valued it at £10,000, which is probably conservative.

Thankfully they actually care about the history of the piece, so they made a deal with Stone Historical and Civic Society to sell it to them for £8,000. While Stone raises the money to buy the seal matrix and for a secure display case to keep it in, the finders have given the piece to the Society on long-term loan. In December of 2011, it went on display at St. Michael’s Church in Stone where hundreds of visitors came to see it.

Anybody who’d like to donate to the cause should mail a check payable to “The Seal Appeal” to Steve Booth, Treasurer, 18 Larchfileds, Redwood, Stone, ST15 0DD.

Is Sir James Tillie’s body buried in his mausoleum?

No, this is not a “who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” trick question. Sir James Tillie left such unusual instructions on the disposition of his mortal remains that after his death his servants were forced to improvise. No documentation of what they did has survived, so the location of Sir James’ body has been a mystery since the early 18th century.

Sir James Tillie, 1687James Tillie was born on November 16th, 1645. His early years are also shrouded in mystery, both because there isn’t much to be found in the historical record and because what there is to be found relies heavily on his own claims, and he was a notorious liar. He came from humble circumstances, we know that much. According to this print he commissioned of himself the year he was knighted, he was born at Winfield, presumably a town in England, and educated at the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in London, at that time a law school and still today one of the four professional associations that is entitled to make their members official barristers.

Who knows if he really attended the Middle Temple (probably not), but we do know that by the 1680s, he had managed to garner an excellent position as land agent to Sir John Coryton, a baronet and member of parliament who owned the large estate of Newton Ferrers in the Tamar Valley of Cornwall. He made a lucrative business of it by God knows what shady means, and in 1687 Tillie bought himself a knighthood from King James II. Apparently he misrepresented himself so massively that King James later launched an investigation into Tillie’s knighthood and coat of arms on suspicion that he had secured the “favour of knighthood” under false pretenses. Luckily for Sir James, King James’ days on the throne were numbered. He fled and was replaced by William of Orange and Mary Stuart (King James’ daughter) in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Two years later, someone else’s misfortune turned out to be another great stroke of luck for Sir James Tillie. His patron, Sir Coryton, died in 1690 at the early age of 42. His death was agonizing, sudden and highly suspicious. There were rumors that he had been poisoned, possibly by Sir James, possibly by Sir James and Sir John’s 37-year-old wife Elizabeth Chiverton, the wealthy daughter of a former Mayor of London. Even before Sir John’s death, the buzz in the valley was that Sir James and Elizabeth were altogether too chummy. Tillie married the widowed Elizabeth shortly thereafter, which didn’t exactly allay suspicions, especially since Sir John had died without a surviving male heir, leaving his estate to his wife.

Sir James was now considerably wealthier than he had been and with an estate courtesy of his wife that encompassed a good part of the Tamar Valley. Next on the arriviste checklist was building himself a stately home. He divided the Newton Ferrers estate and took a chunk of it for his new digs. Construction on Pentillie was completed in 1698.

Mausoleum of Sir James TillieHe had only 15 years to enjoy it. Sir James Tillie died childless but with a quiverfull of ego on November 17th, 1713. Convinced that this whole death thing wouldn’t last for him, he ordered that a three-story mausoleum be built on the highest hill of his estate, Mount Ararat. With beautiful views of his mansion and the bend in the River Tamar, his mausoleum was not to be his burial site, but rather a picturesque place for his body to wait for his resurrection. He expected this to happen within two years, so he instructed that his body be dressed in his finest silks and brocades, his head adorned with his zazziest peruke and finest hat, and that he be placed in a throne-like chair with his hands on his knees. He was to be secured to this chair with iron bands and the chair placed facing the window. Next to him would be an oak chest of his favorite books, port and pipe.

His servants fulfilled his wishes. Sir James sat clamped to his chair, rotting away, for the next two years. The mausoleum roof rotted with him. When the expected time of resurrection had come and gone, his staff finally decided that the decayed corpse of Sir James Tillie really should be buried instead of being left exposed to the elements. Where they buried him we don’t know. They could have buried him in the mausoleum itself, or in the cemetery of the parish church of St. Mellion where the Corytons were buried. There is no marker to be found nor surviving documentation. A limestone statue of Sir James Tillie sitting in his chair was erected in the same place where the original had sat.

Tillie left Pentillie to his nephew, James Woolley. Woolley, who changed his name to Tillie for the inheritance, left it to his son James who in turn left it to his daughter Mary Jemima Tillie who, in an appropriate historical twist, married Peter Coryton, heir to Newton Ferrers. They reunited the estate Sir James had divided after possibly killing a Coryton to get it, and thereafter Pentillie became the seat of the Coryton family.

The family did very well, increasing their holdings to more than 20,000 acres, and in 1809 decided it was time to make Pentillie a proper castle to reflect their prosperity. They hired landscape designer Humphry Repton, known as the intellectual heir to Capability Brown, to design a new look for the grounds and home. Architect William Wilkins, famed for his neo-classical Palladian style buildings at first and then for his neo-Gothic creations, implemented Repton’s plans in 1810, adding three wings to the house and transforming it into a full-on Gothic castle.

It seems that around this time they also altered the mausoleum, adding a plinth around the base of it and putting another story on top. That would explain why Sir James’ statue is now on the ground floor when early accounts described his body as sitting on the first floor.

In 1968, the mausoleum was listed as a Grade II* building, i.e., a particularly important building of more than special interest. Despite its importance and special interest, the mausoleum was not maintained well. It was already crumbling just a few years after it was built, and its decay was not halted by any of the alterations that may have been made in the 1810 expansion.

Pentillie itself, its Gothic additions demolished between 1966 and 1968 right before it too was listed and a new home built around the core, was in dire condition. Its reclusive owner from 1980 to 2007 shut herself in and went full Miss Havisham, only allowing a handful of servants access to the home or grounds. Neither the heirs, who lived on a nearby farm, nor construction workers were allowed to step foot on the property. It wasn’t until her death in September of 2007 that the current owners, Ted and Sarah Coryton, fell in love with the place and decided to open it up to events and B&B guests to fund the vast repairs it needed.

Last year, the Corytons, English Heritage, Natural England and local conservation officers came together to discuss repairs on the mausoleum. Overgrown with brambles and greenery, the structure was in imminent danger. They worked out a funding arrangement with Natural England and the Country Houses Foundation and a restoration team has now begun exploratory work. The first order of business: see if Sir James is in there somewhere.

To see if there’s a ground floor the plinth was built up around, the restoration team dug a hole in the internal floor of the mausoleum. Underneath they found a brick vaulted roof indicating there is a room under there. Is this where the staff put Sir James’ body to rest? Ted Coryton thinks so, and that his wife/possible poisoning accomplice Elizabeth could be under there too. Restoration is slated to begin in earnest this winter, so we should find out soon if the bones of Sir James Tillie were buried in what is now the mausoleum basement.

Pentillie today

Sisters of fastest steam locomotive return to England

No. 4468 Mallard at the National Railway Museum in YorkThe London and North Eastern Railway No. 4468 Mallard, an A4 Class Pacific steam locomotive, broke the world land speed record for steam locomotives on July 3rd, 1938, reaching 125.88 miles per hour between Little Bytham and Essendine in Lincolnshire, east England. This was a great point of national pride for Britain since the previous record of 124.5 miles per hour had been set by a German DRG Class locomotive on the Berlin–Hamburg line in 1936. With tensions between Britain and Nazi Germany escalating in the lead-up to war, Mallard, built at London and North Eastern Railway’s Doncaster Works in March of 1938, was chosen to defeat the Germans on the railway battlefield. Mallard’s record still holds today.

Mallard at Kings Cross in 1962, right before its retirementThe Class A4 series locomotives were designed by Sir Nigel Gresley in 1935 with the specific aim of creating a steam locomotive that could pull passenger cars at high speed. They were streamlined on the outside, making them look extremely cool as well as improving their aerodynamics and moving the smoke upwards so it would no longer obscure the engineer’s view. They were also streamlined on the inside, making their steam circuits far more efficient than their predecessor models and reducing their fuel intake. Mallard had an additional improvement, a double chimney and double blastpipe which boosted the engine’s exhaust flow when it was running at high speeds. After Mallard’s great success, the remaining A4 trains built also had the double chimney and double blastpipe, and the older ones were retrofitted with them in the 1950s.

A4 Mallard engine and tender by Sunset ModelThe A4 Class’s record-breaking cachet and handsome streamlined design made them popular with train enthusiasts, who nicknamed them “streaks” for their high speed and their distinctive curved-nose look. The A4s starred in several movies, appeared in books and were favorite subjects for model trains. The 35 A4 locomotives built remained in use on the East Coast Main Line route in England until the early 1960s. They lasted a little longer in Scotland, until 1966. After that, they were all retired, replaced by faster but nowhere near as sexy Deltic Class 55 diesel engines.

No. 60009 Union of South AfricaAfter their withdrawal from service, most of the A4s were sold or scrapped. For a few years they were cannibalized for parts for the engines that were still running, then were left derelict in depots. Out of the 35 that were built, only six were preserved and still exist today. Four of them — Bittern, Union of South Africa, Sir Nigel Gresley, and of course Mallard — are in the UK, all based in museums but three of them approved for mainline use. Mallard was restored to operational fitness and did some runs from 1986 to 1988, but she’s been on static display ever since at the National Railway Museum in York.

Dominion of Canada lifted onto MV Beaverbrook at Royal Victoria Dock, Liverpool, April 10, 1967The two remaining A4s were sent to the colonies, as it were. Dominion of Canada was donated to the Canadian Railroad Historical Association and was shipped to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1966. It is on static display at Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, in Saint-Constant, a suburb of Montreal. Dwight D. Eisenhower (originally named Golden Shuttle but rechristened in honor of the General in 1946) was shipped to New York in 1964 and became part of the collection of the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The four remaining in the UK came back together in 2008 in honor of the 70th anniversary of Mallard’s record, but nobody even considered the prospect of a full reunion of the six. When the last two were sent abroad, it was a huge endeavor and they were expected to remain there until the end of days. The National Railway Museum wanted to do something extra special for the 75th anniversary in 2013, so in 2011 they negotiated a two-year loan of the North American engines.

Once the deal was struck, there was the small matter of figuring out how to move two 100-ton locomotives and their coal cars thousands of miles from their display tracks to Halifax, then across the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool and thence to the National Railway Museum. It took a team of heavy haulage specialists and Canadian National employees 10 hours just to move Dwight D. Eisenhower from its display berth to active tracks 80 feet away. Then they had to put together a custom loading ramp, weld wheel chocks onto a transporter wagon and load the locomotive so it could be brought 1800 miles to Halifax via rail. A month later, Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived in Halifax (watch video of the excruciatingly slow unloading process here). The same transporter wagon and loading ramp were then sent to Montreal to pick up Dominion of Canada and carry her the 775 miles to Halifax so both trains could be shipped to Liverpool at the same time on an Atlantic Container Line oversize cargo vessel.

Dwight D. Eisenhower unloaded at LiverpoolAs of the first week in October, both Dominion of Canada and Dwight D. Eisenhower are home again. You can see Dominion of Canada unloaded from the container ship at the Liverpool dock in this video. From Liverpool they were trucked to the National Railway Museum in Shildon where they are being examined by conservators. They’ll be receiving a cosmetic restoration so that they will be as glossy and pretty as their sisters for the 2013 celebration.

Dwight D. Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada at the NRM in ShildonThey can both be viewed at the Shildon sidings until October 22nd. Admission is free. Union of South Africa will be joining them the weekend of October 19-21, and that weekend there will be a special event held where enthusiasts will be able to photograph the three A4s together. That will not be free. Tickets for the photography event are £60 per person and must be pre-booked.

Dwight D. Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada at ShildonAfter this, Dwight D. Eisenhower will be trucked to the museum in York where it will be repainted in its current British Railway green livery in the museum workshop. The public will be able to view the repainting in the York workshop. Dominion of Canada will remain in the Shildon workshop where it will be converted to its 1937 form (single chimney with Canadian bell and chime whistle) and painted the gloriously rich Garter Blue color of the London and North Eastern Railway livery, the same color as Mallard which is herself getting a new coat of paint to look her best.

The plans for the 75th anniversary events are still being made. Right now, the six A4s are scheduled to be on display together in July 2013 at York, then again at Shildon in early 2014. Keep an eye on the National Railway Museum website for more information. The museum also has an outstanding blog that any train lover and even general vintage travel enthusiasts will enjoy. It’s an impressively varied read; I highly recommend it.

Below is a very cool video of Mallard doing her thing on the mainline in 1988. She really gets going around the 4:15 mark and you can hear her adorable soprano toot-toot! Stick around to the 5:00 mark to see the prodigious quantities of steam Mallard can produce. It’s clear why the issue of steam staying low and causing poor visibility for the driver was so significant. Imagine trying to drive through that cloud.


The day a shot to the chest failed to stop TR’s speech

Theodore Roosevelt riding a bull mooseTomorrow, October 14th, 2012, will be the hundredth anniversary of the day Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest and then proceeded to deliver a 90 minute speech to an aghast crowd as blood seeped through his shirt and his breath shortened. Only when he was finished delivering his prepared remarks did he allow his aides to rush him to the hospital.

TR was on the campaign trail in Milwaukee, running for president as a candidate for the Progressive Party. He had already served two terms as President, the first from 1901 to 1905 when he finished William McKinley’s term due to McKinley’s assassination six months after he took office. The second, 1905 to 1909, was his only elected term. He deliberately chose not to run for a third consecutive term in the 1908 election, supporting William Howard Taft over his own Vice President Charles Fairbanks.

Taft as TR's sheep; political cartoon by William H. Walker, 1908Taft won the election, but TR would soon fall out with the successor he had picked. Although Taft prosecuted more trusts than Roosevelt had, as a lawyer and judge he believed any such actions to be the role of the judiciary. Roosevelt was disappointed with what he saw as Taft’s do-nothing administration, and Taft’s conservative rhetoric had little in common with Teddy’s heated defense of the consumer and government by, for and of the people. On a somewhat two-faced note, he also resented the Taft government’s 1911 attempt to break up U.S. Steel, whose purchase of its main competitor Roosevelt had personally approved in 1907.

Theodore Roosevelt thus decided to run again for President in 1912. Things got raw on that campaign trail. Roosevelt called Taft a shill for the bosses and politically corrupt; Taft called him the greatest menace to American instutions. Roosevelt called Taft a “puzzlewit” and Taft called him a “prize honeyfugler,” which I think we can all agree is objectively awesome. Roosevelt won nine out of twelve Republican primaries that spring, but most of the states didn’t hold primaries. Their delegates were assigned at state conventions and caucuses via deals in smoke-filled rooms.

Republican National Convention, June 1912At the Republican National Convention in Chicago in June, the Republican National Committee, controlled by the conservative wing of the party which supported Taft, assigned all disputed delegates to their man. It was mayhem on the convention floor. After all Roosevelt’s attempts to secure more delegates failed, he walked out of the Chicago Coliseum and told his pledged delegates not to vote. In August, he founded the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, and ran for President against Taft, Democratic Party candidate Woodrow Wilson and Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs.

With a four-way race and all these political tectonic plates clashing against each other, the presidential campaign of 1912 was a tense one, to say the least. Enter John Flammang Schrank, a Bavarian immigrant who had moved to the United States when he was 9 years old. His parents died soon thereafter, and he was raised by his aunt and uncle who ran a saloon in New York City’s Lower East Side.

John Schrank under arrest after assassination attemptIn 1904 when Schrank was 28, his 19-year-old girlfriend Emily Ziegler was on her way to a church picnic on Long Island when the steamboat she was on, the General Slocum, caught fire. John was supposed to accompany her that day, but he couldn’t find anyone to cover his shift at the tavern. Emily and 1,020 other people died by fire or drowned in the East River. There were only 321 survivors. Schrank was reported in the local newspapers as having shown up at the morgue “wild-eyed” where he identified her burned body. The General Slocum disaster was New York’s worst tragedy in terms of lives lost until September 11, 2001.

Schrank’s uncle and aunt died in 1910 and 1911, leaving him their property. He was devastated, seeing them more as adoptive parents than as relatives. He sold his inheritance and holed up in sleazy motels, drinking, writing poetry, reading the Bible and several newspapers daily. Although he had admired Roosevelt, even going so far as to have his picture on the wall along with those of Lincoln, Grant and Garfield (the first and third of whom were assassinated, just for the record), when TR sought a third term and even went so far as to create a new party to secure his nomination, Schrank saw Roosevelt’s ambition as a slap in the face to the Founding Fathers (Washington had refused a third term and all presidents after him had also served no more than two terms, although Grant tried and failed to get a nomination for his third). To Schrank, Roosevelt’s campaign spelled certain disaster for the country: if he won, they’d have a Caesar in power; if he lost, he’d call foul like he had at the Republican Convention and plunge the country into another Civil War.

Then there was the dream. In writings the police found in Schrank’s possession, he described a dream he had had:

In a dream I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin, pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in whom I recognized Theo. Roosevelt. The dead president said “This is my murderer, avenge my death.”

In an alternate version also found among his writings, it was more of a vision:

Schrank's writing regarding his motiveWhile writing a poem someone tapped me on the shoulder and said Let not a murderer take the presidential chair, avenge my death. I could clearly see Mr. McKinley’s features.

Before the Allmighty God, I swear that the above written is nothing but the truth.

So long as Japan could rise to be one of the greatest powers of the world despite her surviving a tradition more than 2000 years old, as General Nogi so nobly demonstrated. It is the death of the U.S.A. to uphold the third term tradition. Let every third termer be regarded as a traitor to the American cause. Let it be the right and duty of every citizen to forcibly remove a third termer.

That note is dated September 14, 1912, the same date on which President McKinley had died 13 years earlier after being shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz (assuming it wasn’t TR in disguise as a monk all along, of course). General Nogi was a hero of the Russo-Japanese War who offered to kill himself when he felt he had lost too many in the process of capturing Port Arthur (1904-1905). Emperor Meiji declined, but on the day of the emperor’s funeral, September 13th, 1912, Nogi committed ritual suicide so as not to outlive his master.

He seems to be saying that Japan became a world power despite its 2000-year tradition of feudal submission even unto death, but that an equal dedication to American tradition even unto death is what will keep the Republic alive in the face of third-termer would-be kings.

Schrank's revolverBy September 14th, Schrank had been following Roosevelt around the country on campaign stops for four days. He kept at it for another month, waiting for the perfect opening to take a shot. That opening happened in Milwaukee on October 14th. Roosevelt, on the way to give a speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium, took a moment to wave to the crowd from his car when Schrank raised his Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver and fired a single shot. Roosevelt bounced back up, at first unaware that he had been hit. His secretary Albert Martin jumped on the shooter, and he and the police kept him safe from the furious crowd demanding Schrank be lynched on the spot.

Roosevelt asked that Schrank be brought before him so he could ask why he had shot him. Schrank did not reply, although he would tell the police everything after his arrest. With an expression of pity for the poor deranged man, Roosevelt and his team got back in the car and headed to the auditorium. On the way, one of his companions noticed there was a hole in TR’s overcoat. Teddy touched it and saw that he was bleeding, that he had in fact been shot. His escorts of course wanted to change direction and drive straight to the hospital; however, Teddy Roosevelt coughed a couple of times and when he saw no blood, figured the bullet hadn’t made it to his lungs, so he insisted on being driven to his speaking engagement as planned.

This is how he opened the speech:

Speech with bullet hole, now bound and on display at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace museumFriends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet — there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.

TR's eyeglass case with bullet holeHe opened his overcoat to show the crowd the bloody bullet hole. His 50-page speech had two bullet holes in it (it was folded in half in his pocket) and his eyeglasses case had a hole in it too. These obstacles had slowed down the bullet enough to keep it in the fleshy part of his chest, although it was on an upward trajectory towards his heart.

Roosevelt's chest X-ray, bullet in the bottom leftAn hour and a half later, his speech finally done, he was taken to Johnston Emergency Hospital where six surgeons operated but could not find the bullet. X-rays showed that the bullet was 3.5 inches under the surface of the right side of his chest, touching his fourth rib. Only a thin layer of tissue separated the bullet from the pleural cavity. He recovered for a week at a Chicago hospital. Seeing that he was improving, doctors decided it was better to leave the bullet where it was than to attempt to remove it surgically with all the attendant risks.

Theodore Roosevelt campaigning, October 4, 1912Roosevelt got much sympathy from the people and from the other candidates, who suspended their stump speeches because Roosevelt was unable to deliver his. He was not, however, carried to the presidency on a wave of pity. He beat Taft in popular and electoral votes, but both of them were defeated handily by Woodrow Wilson. President Taft, in one of his last presidential acts, pardoned Captain Van Schaick, the captain of the General Slocum who had been convicted of criminal negligence in the disaster and sentenced to ten years in Sing Sing.

Schrank pled guilty to attempted murder, was found to be insane and was confined for the rest of his life to Central State Mental Hopsital in Waupun, Wisconsin. He died of bronchial pneumonia in 1943 at the age of 67. Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep of coronary thrombosis in 1919. He was 61 years old.

Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace at 28 East 20th Street in New York City is now a National Park. They had an exhibit on the 1912 campaign earlier this summer which has now moved to the Oyster Bay Historical Society where it will be on view until November 11th. To get a virtual dose of TR, see the Library of Congress’ collection of Teddy Roosevelt captured on film and audio recordings of some of his speeches.

Time Team helps unearth Civil War prison stockade

Inside Camp Lawton, by Robert Knox Sneden, private 40th New York Volunteers, November 1864Two years ago, Dr. Sue Moore and graduate student Kevin Chapman of Georgia Southern University found the stockade wall of Camp Lawton, a short-lived Confederate prisoner of war camp established in Millen, Georgia to house overflow Union prisoners from nearby Andersonville Prison, the notoriously overcrowded hellhole in which 12,913 out of the total 45,000 Union prisoners received would die from starvation, disease or violence. Camp Lawton was the largest Civil War prison camp in terms of area (42 acres), but it only held 10,000 prisoners for six weeks. It was evacuated overnight in great haste in November of 1864 when General Sherman’s troops approached during the March to the Sea.

Sherman burned the stockade, and a pine forest grew where the camp had once stood. The area was known to historians, but nobody thought there was anything to find since the stockade was ashes and the camp had been in use for such a brief time. Desultory attempts by archaeologists to locate remains had been unsuccessful; treasure hunters had no interest in exploring a remote location with so little expectation of lucrative discovery.

The area became the Magnolia Springs State Park in 1939, and an adjacent chunk of land was made part of the Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery under the aegis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. State and federal protection continued to keep the site in basically untouched condition. There were some archaeological surveys over the years, but shovel tests never turned up any artifacts. A ground-penetrating radar survey of the site by Georgia Department of Transportation archaeologists in 2005 revealed two linear anomalies that seemed to match the documentary evidence of the orientation and placement of the Camp Lawton stockade. Historic Preservation Division archaeologists returned the next year to excavate the anomalies. They found a dark stain in one of their excavation holes which they determined to be a burned log, a likely remnant of the stockade burned by Sherman.

Camp Lawton artifacts on display at Magnolia Springs State Park, August 2010In 2009, experts from the LAMAR Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to archaeological research in the southern US, went back to the locations examined in 2005 and 2006 to perform another, more detailed ground-penetrating radar survey. This study was the initial investigation phase of a long-term project by Georgia Southern University to locate and excavate whatever might be left of Camp Lawton and its residents. The LAMAR Institute followed up with a metal detector survey of the site, which turned up a remarkable quantity of artifacts left behind by Union soldiers.

This was a highly significant step, both because it gave Georgia Southern’s excavation team a map grid of the site with known locations of artifacts and because it upended archaeological conventions that see the metal detector as an unreliable tool for amateurs. Camp Lawton is a Confederate prisoner of war camp in pristine archaeological condition replete with period artifacts, one of the most important Civil War sites we have. It is the metal detectors that identified it as such. Previous shovel testing had revealed a grand total of two artifacts.

So in 2010, Georgia Southern University, using the LAMAR data and extensive research into Civil War documents, primarily eye-witness accounts from surviving prisoners like prolific mapmaker, artist and Union private Robert Knox Sneden, began to excavate the site and hit paydirt. They unearthed hundreds of artifacts and put Camp Lawton on the map, both literally and figuratively in terms of its historical significance.

Stockade wall dig, October 5th, picture by Dan ElliottLast week, Camp Lawton was host to a much bigger crowd of researchers with many fabulous high-tech toys. Georgia Southern University archaeologists were there, of course, as was LAMAR Institute archaeo-geophysicist Dan Elliott who has uploaded several videos of the excavation to his YouTube channel, and most splashily, PBS’ Time Team America. In classic Time Team fashion, they hit the site with all they had for just a week. There were four teams wielding ground-penetrating radar, another team deploying a fluxgate gradiometer (a tool that measures the gradient of the magnetic field to find small objects close to the surface), another team using electromagnetic conductivity meters to locate buried archaeological features, and metal detectorists, all dedicated to mapping the underground landscape as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. Once that was done, heavy machinery and dozens of archaeologists with trowels and sifting screens stepped in.

Their goal was to locate and unearth the former walls of the prison camp. They were successful. On Thursday, October 4th and Friday, October 5th, the team excavated three of the prison stockade walls. Several living areas of prisoners and guards were also excavated. The details of the discoveries are being hushed up for now so that we can be surprised when the Time Team America episode airs. That means we have to wait until summer of 2013, annoyingly enough, to see just what it is this impressive cadre of archaeologists unearthed.

At least we can catch a glimpse of the stockade trenches in Dan Elliott’s videos. This video shows the south stockade wall and it’s my favorite because of the last line:


:giggle: Isn’t that great? You know they had a total blast.