The Civil War Navies

Seven months after the start of the Civil War


both the Union and the Confederacy had active navies. However, the Union had 264 fully functional ships wherein the Confederacy had only 29. The Union had adopted the Winfield Scott -Anaconda plan that would encircle all freshwater and salt water ports of the South which would eventually strangle all commerce in and out of these areas. The Union needed a truly large Naval force to do the job wherein the Confederacy needed ships to both run the blockade, ones that would challenge Union commercial shipping and ones that would serve as a force against the Confederate Navy. At the end of the war the Union had at least 600 ships and the Confederacy had 100.

A major part of the Union plan


was to control all commercial and naval activities on the Mississippi river and its tributaries. To carry out this mission seven ironclad gunboats were built in Northern cities and named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Each of these boats were formidable vessels and had mounted in them 13 big cannons. The ships were designed by Sam Pook and built by river engineer James B. Eads. Initially, the USS Cairo saw limited action in the engagement at Plum Point in May of “62” and the battle of Memphis in June. 

The Sinking Of The USS Cairo

It was about this time that General Grant


had a mission to take Vicksburg the most important Mississippi River port on what remained of Southern control of the river and the Trans- Mississippi area west of the river. 

At a point about 7 miles from town


 Most of his plans miserably failed to take Vicksburg. One of the failed attempts was in Dec., of 1862. A small flotilla was sent down the Yazoo River with the idea of doing a major surprise attack on the northern defenses of Vicksburg. the flotilla came under attack and the Cairo was rocked by two explosions in quick succession which tore gaping holes in her hull. Within 12 min. the ship sank in 36 ft of water. She had been the target of two torpedoes which were controlled electronically representing the first time in history that such a successful attack such as this had been accomplished. 

The USS Cairo laid in a watery grave


until historian Ed Bearss (historian at Vicksburg Nat. Military Park) and two companions Don Jacks and Warren Grabau set out in 1956 to discover the grave site in 1956. They thought that they had success and after three years divers brought up armored port covers to positively confirm the find. The hopes of lifting the intact Cairo from the Yazoo mud were crushed in October 1964 when the three-inch cables being used to lift the Cairo cut deeply into its wooden hull cutting the ship into sections. By the end of December, the battered remains were put on barges and towed to Vicksburg. Eventually the remains ended up at Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the Cairo was carefully restored as much to her original state as possible She is now on display at the Vicksburg National Military Park complete with the big guns.

The Raising Of The USS Cario

When the ship was being recovered


 Mr. Ken “Rocky” Pasvantis was at the site to witness salvage operations. He carefully picked up some of the “debris” that made its way to shore after the ship broke up while being raised. Rocky understood the importance of saving every single piece of this historic ship. The wood bore evidence of having been stressed with an explosion and it also bore evidence of heating and burning. I want to give Special Thanks to Allison & Roman Ingram of Madison MS who are the Daughter & Son – Law of Rocky’s for entrusting this wood to me to make these very special pens. Rocky was one of the early Civil War relic hunter, collectors and below this listing is a special tribute to him.

There were two kinds of wood recovered


for pen making as follows: 1) White Oak from a beam about 6 inches square that probably was a major structural component of the ship, and 2) White pine that was severely burnt. The pine was identified by microscopically examining a cross section of wood. It was probably serving as side walling, shelving or for cabinetry.  

Pens were made from both woods


and evidence of the explosion are evident as per the burnt streak on the white pine pen. Also note that the white pine wood had been discolored having been in the muck of the river for over 100 years.  These are some of the most valuable pens in the entire collection given the rarity of the materials. 

I want to give "Special Thanks" to Richard McCardle of who is not only the man behind this website but who also talked Allison & Roman into entrusting this wood to me for these pens.

Ken "Rocky" Pasvantis - Banker - Historian - Author


In the mid 1960's

Rocky was a young banker in Jackson, Ms. when he meet Ken Parks and immediately struck-up a friendship that lasted for more than a half century. They were some of the first relic hunters to explore the battlefields and camp sites along the Mississippi River.


For Decades These 2 Men

dug many sites and found thousands of artifacts. One of the main Union camps near Vicksburg produced many bottles and they both got the bottle "itch". Over the many years they were friends they probed, dug and excavated many bottles. So many to the point that they co-authored a book "Civil War Bottles", which became the main source of research for future bottle hunters and collectors.


A Relic Hunter To The End

Rocky still hunted up to a few months before he passed away in 2012. Rocky's legeacy lives on as his son in law Roman Ingram got his love of Civil War history and the love of relic hunting from Rocky. This photo shows Rocky and Roman just before he passed. Here he shows the last bullet he found. Rest In Peace Rocky, your love of history lives on.

The USS Constitution


Started Her Life

as a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy as named by President George Washington using the famous document as the guideline name. It is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. She was launched in 1797.  The ship was built in the North End  of Boston, Massachusetts at Edmund Hartt's shipyard using oak timbers from the region. 


Generate excitement

with the newly formed Navy were to provide protection  for American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France.  During the Civil War the USS Constitution served as a training ship for the US Naval Academy.  


This oak pen

was made from a piece of oak that was discarded during a 2 year long restoration of the ship earlier this century. The project was carried out at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, Ma.  The piece was obtained from Mr. Stan Lucien of Maine who was able to obtain the wood from the DoD and kindly traded a piece for other witness tree woods that I have in my collection. 

CSS Nashville 1st CS Navy Warship in International Waters


It turns out

that there were two confederate ships named the CSS Nashville during the Civil War. One was an ironclad and the other was The CSS Nashville (the subject of this piece) which began its life in 1853 as a passenger and a mail carrier. It was not a technological wonder as its other name sake. It, however, made history as the first Confederate warship and the first to fly the Confederate flag in International waters. 


She ran the union blockade

in Oct 1861 and headed to Southhampton England. Her ultimate fate was realized as she was run aground in the Ogeechee river in Georgia in early 1863. Various efforts to recover her were made at different times. It is extremely difficult to find witness wood from ships that were participants in the Civil War. Originally, this ship was built in New York and was designed to serve as a mail ship.


She serviced Charleston S.C

where she was captured at the time of the Ft Sumter episode. Because she  was built in the north, it was common for the  outfitters to use white pine for planking and the masts. Thus this pen was made from planking of the ship. It was extremely difficult to turn as petrification processes had already begun. I had dulled nearly every pen making tool in my collection. The wood was originally obtained from Mr. Cary Delacy of the Historical Shop in New Orleans.  

Civil War Historic Buildings And Other Items

Arlington House Plantation & The National Cemetery


Confederate General Robert E Lee

was a man of great integrity and honor. He served so valiantly in the Mexican War, and as Commandant of West Point that at the outset of the Civil War he was asked by Lincoln’s administration to be the leader of the Union Army. After a short time of personal thought and reflection, he demurred. He could not bear the thought of raising arms to his family or to his native state, Virginia. His home was a plantation within a stone’s throw of Washington, D.C. 


The plantation home

began construction in the early 1800s by George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington. The estate passed to Mary Anna, his daughter, who married – Robert E. Lee.  By mid -1861, Federal troops occupied the plantation and by 1864, Quartermaster General Meigs ordered that that property be made into a National Cemetery following the huge loss of Union troops at the Battle of the Wilderness. Few people realize that this, most famous of all US National cemeteries in this country, was originally General Lee’s plantation.  


Presently, Arlington National Cemetery

is home to an extremely diverse and significant collection of trees and landscapes. The more than 8,600 trees are comprised of 300 varieties and species. Some of the cemetery’s oldest trees pre-date the first burials and are nearly 250 years old. Other memorial trees in Arlington represent specific military groups, such as a red maple in  section 27 that remembers U.S. colored troops and freed slaves during Civil War times. A large limb of this tree fell and a section of it was picked up by Mark Turcotte of Imperial Pen work in Kathleen Georgia. He traded it for some piece of my tropical wood collection in early 2016.  

The Crib Dam At Fredericksburg


During the 1863 Chancellorsville Campaign,

the upper canal and the Union ignorance of the Fredericksburg geography combined to stop an attack by Union General John Gibbon’s  troops during the battle on May 3, 1863.  Although the Union leaders had been warned of a “deep trench or canal [that] ran around the town, between it and the hills, which would prove a serious obstacle to the passage of troops,” that vital piece of information was ignored and Gibbon and his forces were sent in. They crossed the lower canal, but the Confederates forces destroyed the only bridge that spanned the upper canal. The canal was about 30’ wide, about 6’ deep, and in the Confederate field of fire.  


With no way to cross the canal,

Gibbon’s forces were stymied. The dam was also the scene of North-South fraternization and unofficial  truces that occurred on the Rappahannock River in the winter of  1862-63.  In mid-April 1863, several Southern soldiers  “were up to their necks seining for fish” just below the dam. One Union soldier recounted the banter hollered across the dam. During the exchange, the Union soldier said he had come to help take Richmond.  The rebel replied that we would have a tough time doing that, and that “we would have a Hill to climb, a Longstreet to travel and a Stonewall to batter down…”  


This pen is made from

white oak that was recovered from the crib dam by Historic Woods of Fredericksburg, Va. The wood had turned black by virtue of  being exposed to years of being under  water. When it was being turned on the lathe sparks began to fly. Close  examination of the wood revealed that it had begun to petrify. A very close look at the wood shows small crystals of silica.  

Tunnel Hill Georgia And The Great Locomotine Chase


The tunnel on the

Western and Atlantic Railroad at Tunnel  Hill, Georgia along with all of the bridges and rail line from Big  Shanty ( now Kennesaw, Ga) to Chattanooga, Tn. were the targets James Andrews and a group of about 20 Union raiders on April  12, 1862. The raiders literally stole the train pulled by the locomotive the  “General” when it stopped at Big Shanty to take on water and fuel allowing the crew to have breakfast. 


Then Andrews and his men

robbed the entire train and drove it north toward Tennessee. The conductor, William Fuller, tirelessly ran after the General until he secured another locomotive the “Texas”. The race was on! The trains had to pass through the longest train tunnel in the south (1477 ft).  Ultimately, the General ran out of fuel and  the confederate army caught the thieves. Swift justice resulted in Andrews and several of his men being hanged in June, 1862. 


Near to the tunnel

is a huge old chestnut oak that witnessed both trains as they traveled north to fulfill historic destiny. This pen is made from that tree.

Gay Mont Plantation Port Royal Virginia


Port Royal's is located

on the banks of the upper reaches of the Rappahannock River. As such it was a strategic location and supply depot of the Union Army in May of 1864. Likewise, literally anything going on in nearby Fredericksburg spilled over to Port Royal in 1862 and 1863. It was during this time early in the war General Jackson’s Corps stayed in the Port Royal Area. 


Helen Bernard lived at Gay Mont

during the Civil War and writes in her diary that at times shelling in Port Royal was fast and furious.  She also writes that she hosted many Confederate officers such as JEB  Stuart, Rooney Lee and Major Pelham -the boy wonder artillerist. The Plantation carried all of the marks of privilege and high breeding.  Obviously, any visitor would have seen and walked along the paths of Gay Mont. 


The gardens of Gay Mont

were designed and planted by J.H. Bernard. The paths of the gardens were lined with American Boxwood's which is a small important shrub in the area of tide water America. Left untouched for hundreds of years the trees  eventually grew larger and died or were replaced. A beautiful piece of American boxwood from one of these historic trees at Gay Mont was supplied to me by Thomas Jewell through his wife Trevy of Historic woods of America. 

Selma Plantation – Winchester Va. The house that isn’t.


While battles and battle maneuvers

turn out to be some of the most interesting aspects of the Civil War, one must pause and consider what brought on the war in the first place. Volumes have been written on the divisive politics leading up to the war. The main conflict were the issues of the Southern States wishing to preserve a life style, economy, and the perceived rights of their states and this  was at odds with the ideas of the Northern States. One of the main political players in this drama was Mr. James Mason of  Virginia, Then U.S. Senator J.M. Mason is known for his reading of the final speech of then dying J.C Calhoun on March 4, 1850. The speech warned of disunion and dire consequences if the North did not guarantee the South permanent equal representation in Congress. Complaining of personal liberty laws  that "Although the loss of property is felt, the loss of honor is felt still more." 


By 1861 he was expelled

from the U.S. Senate for his support of the Confederacy. He was one of the two Confederate envoys to England in Nov., 1861 on the RMS Trent which was stopped by the USS Jacinto which precipitated the “Trent Affair.” It is to be noted that there were many political players in the controversy both North and South and Mason was only one of them. Mason’s home in Winchester was one of the first buildings to be destroyed by Union troops, undoubtedly because of his authorship  of the fugitive slave act. Ms. Cornelia McDonald’s diary refers  to this incident – “They have begun to tear down Mr. Mason’s house. All day axe and hammer are at work demolishing that pleasant, happy home. I saw the roof taken off today, that roof the shelter of which had never been denied to the homeless.” Thus, only the trees remain as witnesses to the loss of the Mason home.


The old Sycamores line the road from the Mason house

to the streets of Winchester.  One of these trees lost a large limb in 2016 and was sent to me by Mr.  Robert Saunders in early 2017. I met him at Glen Burnie when exiting  that plantation home during a visit there in mid Sept., 2016. He was a security person with an interest in wood working. He sent me several pieces from historic trees in northern Virginia. Undoubtedly, the sycamores witnessed most of the events of the Civil War surrounding Winchester, Va., including the movement of thousands of Union and Confederate troops coming and going as this area was hotly contested. 

The Libby Prison Richmond Va. 1861-1865


The Libby building in Richmond Va.

formally the Libby & Son Ship Chandlers & Grocers, It was the only building in the area to have running water, was considered an ideal site by the Confederate authorities for a prison for Union soldiers. The building was 3 stories at the front, 4 stories in the rear, and measured almost 45,000 square feet. By 1863, the rooms became so crowded that the prisoners had to sleep "spoon-fashion". They were head to foot in alternating rows along the floor. They were packed so tightly that when they slept, it became the responsibility of the highest ranking man in each room to call out "spoon over”! This was done throughout the night to enable everyone to roll over in unison.  


Prisoners complained of short rations

 cold, and lice, yet many were able to buy extra provisions and receive packages from home. The prisoners suffered from the intense cold weather. The windows at the prison were broken out during the summer for relief from the heat. Smallpox and other diseases were increasing dramatically. By 1863, the daily rations were getting smaller and then consisted of a couple of ounces of meat, 1/2 pound of bread, and a small cup of beans or rice. Conditions at Libby were not much different than conditions in tens of other facilities both North and South, basically miserable! 


Eventually, in 1888

the Libby prison was dismantled and shipped to Chicago where it was reconstructed as a museum (tourist site) for the Chicago Colombian Exposition in 1893. Ultimately, it was torn down and sold for parts and artifacts. Mr. Cary Delery of the Historical Shop in New Orleans had a piece of a yellow pine beam from the prison. He made it available to me as trade for making some pens from this wood for sale in his shop. I received it in early 2018.

The Secession Oak in South Carolina


In Bluffton, S.C.

is the most enduring historic symbol of the birth of the Confederacy. It is a magnificent live oak under whose spreading branches on July 31,  1844, a crowd heard U.S. Rep. Robert Barnwell Rhett (fire eater)  proclaim that it was time to consider separation from the Union. 


Rhett read from his notes

"The one great evil from which all other evils have flowed is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The government of the United  States is no longer  the government of a Confederate Republic, but of a consolidated  democracy…..  It is, in fact, such a government as Great Britain attempted to set over our fathers, and which was resisted and defeated by a seven years struggle for independence."   


The 350 -440 yr old tree stands

unmarked today on private property and mostly unnoticed. The site on which it  stands is regarded as the birthplace  for a movement that grew into South Carolina's ultimate secession (Dec  1860) and the bombardment of  Ft Sumter. Emmett McCracken used to own  the land and he was kind enough to arrange to send along a piece of a  dead limb to me. The piece was thin and had to be glued to make it large enough to make into a pen. 

The Rippavilla Plantation Spring Hill Tennessee


Dates back to the early 1800s

The mansion house itself was completed by Nathanial Cheairs in 1855. Its location, just a mile south of Spring Hill and a hundred yards removed from the Colombia Pike, meant it was destined to witness the uncanny events surrounding the skirmishes and battles of Spring Hill, Tn., in late Nov., of 1864. It was here that 30,000 troops of Union General Schofield did a quiet march through the night along the pike, mostly unchallenged by Confederate JB Hood’s army. It was here that Confederate General NB Forest threatened to beat General Hood to within an inch of his life for allowing this massive failure to stop the Union army from marching northward to Nashville. 


By like turn, it was here on the morning of Nov 30, 1864

that General Hood had breakfast with his commanders and heaped abuse on them with language that that may have  scoured the wallpaper of the mansion. It was here, in the dining room, that Hood outlined his plans for what would be the Battle of Franklin late on Nov 30th. The deadliest in the shortest time frame in the entire war.

This mansion had been occupied by Union soldiers in 1862 and after the battle of Spring Hill it also served as a hospital. There are still blood stains on the floor. Some feel that the house is haunted. I have visited many Civil War site mansions and homes but this is one of the finest. The furniture and many artifacts in the mansion are original and the grounds are exceedingly well kept.


Not far away is the Ferguson mansion

that was originally a part of the same plantation and it too played an important role in the war. Union General Stanley used it as his headquarters during the Spring Hill battle but in May of 1863, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn was murdered by Doc Peters for having a relationship with his wife. Near to the Rippavilla mansion are many witness trees including a massive American beech a magnolia, and a sugar maple. A dead limb of the American beech provided enough wood for a pen which is now part of the collection.

Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi


The Old Warren County Court House

built in 1858, stands today as Vicksburg’s most historic structure and has  hosted such guests and speakers  as Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Booker T. Washington, Teddy  Roosevelt, and William McKinley. On the grounds a local planter,  Jefferson Davis, launched his political career. Several years later,  during the War Between the States, Confederate Generals  Stephen D. Lee, John C. Breckinridge, and Earl Van Dorn watched from  the cupola as the Confederate ironclad Arkansas battled its way through  the federal fleet to safety at Vicksburg.


During The War

the building was the target of much union shelling over  the course of a 42 day siege but suffered only one major hit. When that shell hit it seems to have dislodged a board in the cupola.  It was here on July 4, 1863 that the Stars and Bars were lowered and the Stars and Stripes were raised as General  U S Grant reviewed his victorious army. When asked if any witness trees  survived the war Mr Bolm could think of none. Thus, the Warren County Court House wood is the best that can be done for Vicksburg. 


It Was A Bald Cypress

and had a square nail in a square hole at one end of the board. The nail is in the  photograph and the hole that it made is the darkened area in the top of  the pen.  

It is also to be noted that Col W H McCardle who was the AAG to Gen John Pemberton, a newspaper editor and author is honored with the McCardle Room in the Court House Museum. He was also the GGG Grandfather of Richard McCardle of UCVRELICS.COM who convinced me to do this website and has done all the website work and background research for it. Thanks Rich

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia


There are several

Sycamore trees growing along the banks of the Shenandoah River within the confines of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The oldest one lives almost to the point of where the two rivers meet. 


This one is


within a hundred yards of the old fire station where John Brown took his famous stand. This town was also the scene of several major battles during the war including the taking of the union garrison by the Stonewall brigade as a prelude of Lee’s invasion of Maryland.


This Pen

is made from one of those Sycamores that witnessed all of early events as well as the battles that were fought at Harpers Ferry.

The Robert's House Champions Hill


The Battle of Champion Hill

in May of 1863 was just as bloody as the  Battle of Vicksburg which occurred in early July. It turns out that houses near or on battlefields commonly served as headquarters and frequently as hospitals for the Union or Confederate forces. Confederate General Pemberton's field headquarters was established in the Isaac Roberts house on the morning of May 16, 1863. (The site is private property and inaccessible to the  public.) 


Early in the afternoon,

as General Bowen's division swept past  to regain Champion Hill, Pemberton waved his hat to inspire the men. A  group of ladies standing nearby sang "Dixie."  When Bowen's counterattack was driven back, Pemberton sadly issued orders for his army to retire from the field. Late that night, Grant made the Roberts house his headquarters, but as it had been converted into a Confederate field hospital,  the Union commander slept on the porch. A view of the champion hill battlefield as it presently appears.


Wood from the Roberts house

was supplied by Mr. John Spicer. The sycamore wooden piece of the house was  salvaged before the house fell into complete destruction by the elements of nature. One can see the darkened exposed wooden surface on the top end of the pen and the fine characteristic wood grain of sycamore on the barrel piece of the pen.

The Bower House


The ferocious Antietam Battle

left many, many thousands of the heart-sick, hungry and hurting men in both blue and grey to seek throughout the autumn countryside a place to heal. The ones in blue lingered on the Potomac’s Maryland side. The tattered, famished men in grey made their way to vast fields around Bunker Hill, Virginia, where they had a month to  eat, care for wounds, de-louse, write, or just lay down on that  autumn’s glorious garment. Great organized revivals bathed  spirit-wounds. Home and loved ones became a sweet possession. 


The Luckiest were the hundred

 or so on the staff of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, as commander of Cavalry for the Army of Northern Virginia, who found Adam Stephen Dandridge’s home and 318-acre farm, the already legendary  “Bower,” six short miles from Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s and Robert E. Lee’s chosen grounds for respite and reflection. It appears that Lee, Jackson, and James Longstreet also took repast together at the master’s table there. For years after, those men and  women living “The Bower Moment” have written in their books of those  unforgettable “perfect 25 days,” made possible by the obliging farm/household workforce of some sixty people.  


The White Oak


from which this pen was made was supplied by Mr  Neil Super a wood turner in Shepardstown WVa. He indicated that the oak in the front lawn of the photo is long gone but a few other witness oaks  still survive in the area near  the Bower house. The wood is classic and has no insect or fungal induced damage.

Ellwood Manor circa 1790


Was located on the Wilderness Battlefield

in the Virginia counties of Spotsylvania and Orange, is significant to the nation because of the role the house and grounds played during the American Civil War. Much of the Battle of the Wilderness was fought on the plantation itself. Ellwood was built in the 1790s by William Jones and has been a working farm ever since. The house served as a Confederate hospital after the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863) and as Gen. G.K. Warren's headquarters during  the Battle of the Wilderness(1864). Within a year’s span two flags flew over the house 


The Confederate Hospital flag

and the blue swallowtail flag of the U.S.  Army of the Potomac’s Fifth Corps. In 1863, it served as a Confederate recovery hospital for six months following the Battle of  Chancellorsville. The family cemetery became the burial site for  General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s amputated left arm. One year later Union General Gouverneur K. Warren set up his headquarters in the parlor here. 


The venerable Ellwod catalpa

was a giant of a tree both in size and what it witnessed of the last 170 years. It overlooked the wilderness Run valley of Spotsylvannia and Orange counties Va. A specimen piece was obtained from Historic woods of Fredericksburg Va. after the tree died. It is one of the most beautiul pens in the collection based on its graceful lines, deep brown offset coloration and fine figuring.