Friday, December 31, 2010

Wrapping Our Heads Around The Civil War

As the Sesquicentennial approaches it is hard for us to wrap our heads around the enormity of the conflict. More than 620,000 soldiers died - 10% of all fighting age males in the North and 30 percent of all the fighting age white men in the South, more than all the other Wars combined, from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam. Absolutely astonishing as well as tragic, thus we commemorate.

How many Civil War sites have you visited? I have been to some: Manassas, Gettysburg, Antietam, New Market, Atlanta, and Chattanooga.. They are very sad to visit I think, but also fascinating and a way to honor our past and our ancestors.

I have not been to Shiloh, or Chickamauga or Vicksburg, even though they are much closer than the battles on the Eastern front. I want to get around to those in Alabama's neighboring states.

The AAA magazine Jan/Feb 2011 issue has an article "Places of Honor' that talks about the War and the sites that we can visit. We were very fortunate here in Montgomery that our city was not burned to the ground by Wilson and his raiders.The Confederates did set fire to the cotton so that the Yankees could not have it. A minor skirmish took place but the "flag of truce" was waved. The war was over.

Mrs. Davis' Gingersnap Recipe

Bert Davis kindly gave us permission to print Mrs. Davis' gingersnap recipe. It is wonderful and I hope you will try it. You need the following:

2-1/4 Cup Shortening
3 Cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 C molasses
6  C flour
4-1/2 tsp soda
1-1/2 tsp ginger

step 1.  cream shortening and sugar
2.  add eggs and molasses
3. add flour which has been sifted with soda and ginger
4. form in 1/4" balls and roll balls in sugar
5. place 2" apart on greased cookie sheet
6. bake 350 degrees 10-20 minutes
Store into airtight containers - it lasts a long time in refrigerator (makes 16 dz cookies)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Elegant Varina Enters Montgomery Social Life

 Perusing W.C.(Jack) Davis's book "A Government of Our Own" I was interested in the chapter that is titled Farewell Montgomery. As you know the Davis family was only in the First White House for a few short months, but Varina made the most of it.

Jack says that much of the new society in Montgomery looked to the First Family to set the tone for the rest. If left to the President they would look in vain, but Varina thrived on social life. She planned her first reception for April 30th. Despite the oppressive heat, scores of people attended. 

Many already knew the First Lady but some did not. "I haven't made up my mind whether I shall like her or not" Charlotte Wigfall wrote of Varina. But then Charlotte, born to wealth in New England and raised in Charleston, came from two cultures that never really approved of anyone outside their own circles!!!

Most folks really took to Varina. She had her home aglow with wax candles, flowers in bouquets and vases everywhere, and a tasteful display of furniture thanks to the last minute loan of some pieces from Sophia Bibb. Davis goes on to say "Varina herself met guests in a silk brocade gown with wide sleeves and if some thought her faintly haughty, none found her less than cordial"!!!

Hey, our First Lady was a winner - Go Girl!!!

Best Ever New Years Eve Punch

Are you looking for a great New Year's Eve punch? Well, you just may want to try the famous Jefferson Davis punch. I understand that it was invented by Winnie for her father's birthday in his later years.
We received permission to print by Bertram Hayes-Davis, Great-Great-Grandson of Jefferson Davis
I warn you though, it is a very potent potable. Do not drink and drive.
Here goes:
3/4 cup lemon juice
1-3/4 lbs sugar dissolved in water
6 bottles (4/5) of claret
1 bottle of light rum
1 bottle of dry sherry
1/2 bottle of brandy
3 bottles (1 qt) ginger ale
3 bottles of soda
float with sliced cucumber & oranges and ice, dilute to taste
serves approx 100 punch cups

See, I warned you. Be careful, be very careful!!! And... take a cup of kindness dear to Old Ange Syn

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jefferson Davis Favorite Chess Pie

A friend shared that her family used to love Jefferson Davis's favorite chess pie, which is in the family cookbook they called Granny Ward's Chess pie because she is the one who made it the most. But my friend Guin assured us that it was originally a Jefferson Davis fave.

Another friend, Daphne observed that the story is interesting because this is how recipes get passed down in the South. For a while it was a Davis family favorite, and now it belongs to the next generation. That's family life. That's the South. That's how good food becomes itself hospitable. .

Here's the recipe:
Jefferson Davis Chess Pie (aka as Granny Ward's Chess Pie)
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
3 eggs
1 cup cream or Pet milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Mix sugar and flour. Add beaten eggs. Add cream and vanilla and mix well. Pour into uncooked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Eat it while humming "Dixie." Serve with black coffee and a splash of Kentucky bourbon.

I am going to try it for the next occasion, as soon as I am rid of all these Christmas "goodies". Aren't you? Thanks, Daphne and Guin for sharing.

CSA Days of Commemoration

With the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War at hand I thought you might like a list of the birth dates of famous CSA figures (actually it was on the back of the JD punch recipe).

Sept 7 - John Pelham (called The Gallant Pelham)
Sept 10 - (Fighting) Joe Wheeler
Sept 17 - Franklin Buchanan
Sept 27 - Raphael Semmes
Jan 14 - Mathew Fontaine Maury
Jan 19 - Robert E. Lee
Jan 21 - Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson - my personal favorite
Feb 3 - Sidney Lanier (my collateral ancestor by marriage)
March 16 - Nocola Marschall  March 31 - John Herbert Kelly
April 26 - Confederate Memorial Day
June 3 - Jefferson Davis

Now I am sure there are many others that are omitted, but these are who were on "this list". If you have your own personal favorites, please make a comment.

Jefferson Davis and Bonnie Prince Charlie

The following is from my childhood friend Richard. I am reprinting it as he wrote it for your information:
Richard says "The NY TIMES of the period reported that Davis was captured in women ‘clothes but I would give that report no more merit than the report that the Housatonic was sunk by small David boats of the CSA Navy instead of a submarine. There is a fog in war, and of course, both these reports were incorrect. And I still think the NY TIMES does not report correctly on all the facts.
Bonnie Prince Charlie led the clans on their fight against the Brits, the last real scoots rebellion, they got as far down into England as Darby, but then were chased back to Scotland and at Culloden in the north of Scotland were defeated by a bigger and heavy armed force of Brits and Mercenaries.

The rebel yell is a direct descendant of the battle cry of the Celts, even the Romans, as well as Yankees, reported on how scary it was.

But Charlie escaped, was rowed to Skye by Flora McDonald, she then immigrated to the US and became a heroine of our revolution. Charlie was the last of the Stewarts to challenge the throne. They called him Bonnie Prince Charlie. His pictures show kind of an effeminate looking person but the clans loved him. In truth, he did escape in women’s clothes.

Of course, when the Brits won, they cleared the Highlands of the clans “clan removal” and that’s why so many of our ancestors landed in NC which I think reminded them of their highlands, though in fact they look totally different. But my great great grandfather Joshua Ramsay ended up there because of the clan clearance, became a great moonshine maker and his great grandchild fought in the 11th NC for the south."

Thank you Richard for this excellent article. My ancestors on my father's side came from Scotland as well. I have gone with the Henry family (the name then was Hendry) to the Isle of Aaran off the coast of Scotland to see "from whence the rock was hewn". My great grandfather Robert F. Henry left the University of Alabama to fight for the Confederacy. He is the one, I have mentioned before, that received his diploma nunc pro tunc, Latin meaning "now for then". I actually have a copy of it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Civil War Secret Missions Game

 Civil war buffs and historians who prefer to call that time in American history as the Northern Aggression may be familiar with the Civil War Secret Missions game for Xbox that is growing in popularity.

A friend viewed it today on YouTube and was fascinated by the game that lets the player be virtually THERE! She shared it with me.

It seems that people are always interested in what life was like during a time when family members in our sprawling country fought in ways that were primitive and passionate and now seem oddly disjunctive when viewed in a sophisticated virtual world like an Xbox game.

While reenacting aspects of the War Between the States continues to flourish in a variety of venues, there is still at time for reflection on what that division in our country felt like and the imprint it made on history. At The First White House of the Confederacy, we believe in contemplating the influence of history in a city that is also famous for music, government and civil rights, literature and, of course, the War.

The next time you are in Montgomery, AL come to The First White House of the Confederacy, where the artifacts of history are physical, not virtual. Our house is your house, too, and we welcome you to come and touch artifacts that will enhance your understanding of this pivotal time in American history

Check Out The Comment -- Did Davis or Didn't He Wear A Dress?

On December 16,  I wrote about an age old controversy, as to whether Jefferson Davis was wearing Varina's dress when he was captured or not, quoting an article by James Swanson in the American Heritage Magazine.

A most interesting comment came from a reader which I hope you will go back (to Dec 16 blog) and read. Reader says: Davis's wife admitted that he was wearing her dress, his assistant said he was, and the soldiers who actually caught Davis said that he not only was wearing a dress when he was captured but that he went into a nearby tent and took it off and (amazingly) his wife put it on!

Way to go, reader, and thank you for your comments! Reader goes on to say that Variana tried to pass the President off as her Mother; that she wrote in a letter to the Blairs that she called out to the solders to leave Davis alone by saying "Its my mother". Fascinating stuff.

Anyone else have comments about this or any of our blogs? We love to read them. If you don't want to comment you can rate the articles if you care to.

Jefferson Davis on YouTube

Have you ever thought about how it would have been if Jefferson Davis had appared on YouTube? The other day on YouTube they videoed a choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus in a mall food court somewhere. That was amazing.

How much more amazing if they had had the internet in 1861-1865. Think how different everything would have been. The politicos would have probably been able to work out their differences over a beer or something in the President's rose garden at the White House, so there might not have been a war at all. And in the mall (caught on YouTube of course) a rowdy group of Southerners might have been photographed as they sang Dixie and maybe The Bonnie Blue Flag.

Jefferson Davis might even have sold some memoribilia for "The Cause" on ebay. Ah well, unfortunately they did not have these methods of communication that we have today, not even the telephone, just the telegram and the "tell-a-woman". That method never has failed us yet!!!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and that you will have a Happy New Year. Be sure and tell others to read our blog so we can keep you informed about the work at the First White House of the Confederacy here in Montgomery, Alabama! Ah, maybe the First White House will appear on YouTube some time. We can always hope that the singers may want to come here instead of the food court!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Death of Abraham Lincoln

Five days after the surrender, the rejoicing in the north turned to grief. On April 14, as the President and Mrs. Lincoln were viewing a play at Ford's theater in Washington, John Wilkes Booth, a 26 year old actor slipped into their box and shot the President in the head.

Lincoln died the next morning, and with him, some think, his plans for conciliation "to bind the nations wounds" died with him. We will never know for sure, but what we do know is that reconstruction came at a very costly price for the South.

Booth, who escaped, was trapped near Port Royal, Virginia, on April 26th. It is not clear whether he killed himself or was shot by a Union soldier.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

End of "The War"

This information is taken from a talk by our Regent for Life, Mrs. John Napier. I found it very interesting and I hope you do too. And when I say "The War" I trust everyone knows which war I mean!!!

In the first years of the War the Union fared badly but its advantages in manpower and industry gradually prevailed. Robert E. Lee, a Virginian, was the outstanding Confederate general. The North had a series of commanding generals until Ulysses S. Grant was appointed. Following his appointment Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July 1863 gradually turned the tide in favor of the North.

The climax came with Grant's campaign, begun in May 1864 aimed at Richmond. Several fierce battles and a long stalemate left the Confederate Army starving and hopelessly cornered. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865. The appalling four-year struggle was finally over.

Next time I will write about Lincoln's death.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birth of the Confederacy and the Emancipation Proclamatioin

The election of a Republican President, Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 dismayed the South. South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860 (150 years ago today).

Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana all seceded in January, 1861; Texas on February 1, Virginia in April; and Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee in May and June. Kentucky and Missouri, sharply divided, were claimed by both sides. Maryland and Delaware remained in the union.

The convention in Montgomery adopted a provisional Constitution on Feb 8, and chose Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as President and Alexander Stephens as Vice President. The Confederate States of America was thus born before Lincoln took office as President of the United States in March. 

The Confederacy moved its capital to Richmond in June. I read in our files the following: Lincoln resisted pressure by abolitionists; national union was his chief objective and the freeing of slaves was secondary. Moreover, emancipation awaited a Union military success, so as not to seem an act of desperation. Following a Union victory at Antietam, Maryland, Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862, and the final proclamation was made official on January 1, 1863. Although it applied only to the 4 million slaves of areas "in rebellion" the act widened the war into a crusade against slavery.

Tomorrow - The end of the Civil War and the Assassination of President Lincoln.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hey Yall, "This Ain't Fittin' "

I don't know how to spell ain't (my husband told me) because it is not a word I use, but I wanted to get your attention for this important information. It came on the Internet from The South's Defender, a blog site. Now this is not on "Truth or Fiction" so you can draw your own conclusions, but I am betting it is true.

The article is titled: "History Channel Caves to Political Correctness in Georgia". It says that the History Channel has made the controversial decision to force cable television companies to pull ads paid for by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Georgia commemorating the Sesquicentennial (25th anniversary) of the War Between the States.

Do read this article. Find it at  Is the History Chanel guilty of "political correctness"? If so, it "ain't fittin'"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mack Walker, dead at age 24

Mack Walker was born in 1840, and grew up in Marengo County, at Cedar Grove, near Uniontown. Like so many families of the South, when the War came he enlisted as a 1st Lt. with the 36th Infantry Regiment Company D which organized in 1862 near Mobile.

Mack Walker's regiment fought first in Tennessee and then was ordered to the defense of Atlanta. The Battle of Resaca was fought in northeast Georgia against troops under the command of Sherman between May 13 and 15, 1864 and there Walker suffered an injury that required amputation of his leg.

By May 24th he had died and his brother David traveled to Georgia to bring his body home to Alabama. Like many others, the Walker family had lost a very young son, only 24, who was buried in the Rosemont Cemetery at Uniontown.

What is his connection with the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama? Two words, Nicola Marschall, artist and friend of the Confederacy. Marschall came to the West Alabama area and became friends with the Walker family. He spent time at their home in Cedar Grove and painted a life size portrait of the young Lt. Mac Walker. It was probably done posthumously from a photographic carte de viste.

We have two of Nicola Marschall's paintings at the First White House in our Second Parlor. One is a self-portrait and the other is of his wife, Mary Eliza "Mattie" Marschall of Marion, Alabama who had been one of his students at the Marion Female Seminary.

And the painting of  Lt. Mack Walker? It is at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. An exhibit titled Nicola Marschall and the Walker Family at Cedar Grove Plantation was on display at the Montgomery Museum April-June of 2010. We were so happy to have our self-portrait in the exhibit.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Factoids" about Jefferson Davis

I ran across an interesting paragraph about Jefferson Davis in our files this week that I want to share with you. Davis was born in Fairview Ky in 1808, interestingly not far from where Abraham Lincoln was born (Hardin County, Ky in 1809). Jefferson's parents were Jane Cook Davis and Samuel Davis.

He graduated from West Point in 1828 (23rd in the class). He was a 1st Lieut. at Fort Crawford Wisconsin, where he fell in love with Sara Knox Taylor. Sara Knox died in 1835, 3 months after they were married. She is buried at St. Francisville, La where Davis' sister Ann lived.

In 1845 Davis married Varina Banks Howell at The Briars in Natchez, Ms. They had a home, Briarfield, between Natchez and Vicksburg. This home burned in 1931. The Davis' had six children. Samuel, born 1852 - died 1854; Margaret born 1855; Jefferson, died from yellow fever; Billy, died from diphtheria; Joe, from a fall off the balcony at 2nd White House in Richmond; Winnie, died in 1899 in New York City from pneumonia.

Winnie wrote 2 novels "Romance of Summer Seas" and "The Veiled Doctor". Varina was an author as well but I will have to find out the name of her books. I know we have one or two at the First Whites House in our library.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why is the First White House Important to Visit?

The First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery is important for visitors and students to visit because it is a visual reminder and teaching tool of the American Civil War which split our country into two nations for four bloody years and cost 620,000 lives.

The crisis was long in the making. The slave-holding South saw political and economic power increasingly slipping away to the ever-growing industrial North and "free-soil" farmers of the West. The immediate cause was whether slavery could expand westward, although disputes about unfair tariffs and trade practices played a role.

The election in November 1860 of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States sparked the quick secession of seven Deep South States, where he was viewed as a threat to what they called "the peculiar institution". (Later four Upper South States would leave the Union).

Their representatives met in Montgomery Alabama to form the Confederate States of America and on February 4, 1861 elected Mississippi's distinguished U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis as Provisional President.

On February 18 he was inaugurated on The Alabama State Capitol portico. An inset brass star marks the event as does a nearby stature of Davis. He had a long distinguished career as a Soldier, Planter, Congressman, Senator and Secretary of War under Franklin Pearce.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

If Those Walls Could Talk

I am speaking of the Old Exchange Hotel at the corner of Commerce and Montgomery streets in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. Built in approximately 1847 it was the scene of many famous events, but the most famous one was when Jefferson Davis arrived on the evening of February 16, 1861.

From the Commerce Street balcony of the hotel, President Davis was introduced to the people of Montgomery and welcomed by William Yancey, who had been appointed by the mayor and council to deliver the address of formal welcome. This was when Yancey delivered these famous words,  "the man and the hour have met"!

On Feb 18 Mr. Davis was inaugurated as President before a gathering of more than ten thousand people. The procession to the capitol formed at the Exchange Hotel.

The members of the Confederate cabinet were quartered temporarily in the Exchange where they held informal conferences. It was from the President's office  in the hotel on April 11 that the telegraphic orders were given to fire on Fort Sumter. This message was carried to the telegraph office in the Winter building across the street from the hotel.

In 1904 the old hotel building was removed to make room for a new building. In 1906 the New Exchange Hotel was completed but regrettably this hotel was replaced in 1974 by an office building. Don't you wish the original building was still standing and that we could "hear those walls talk"?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guess What is in our "Relic Room"?

Guess what is in case # 3 in our Relic Room at the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama? For one thing: an historic grey uniform made for and presented to President Jefferson Davis by General Jubal Early. It is composed of a coat, vest and trousers and is in very fine condition.

Recently a sale of a Confederate Colonel's frock coat was sold for a record price of $ 101,000. Can you imagine how much more valuable the uniform of the President of the Confederate States is.

We also have a Broad-brimmed grey sun hat known to have been worn by the President during his retirement days at Beauvoir and one of the last pair of shoes worn by the President. In the case with these is a very fine sword which is believed to have been his.

Also in this case is one of President Davis's Smoking Jackets of grey tween, lined in tartan fabric with frog enclosures. This is a handsome and unusual garment and is in excellent condition, along with a paisley dressing gown that was his.

The piece De resistance is an historic United States Army muzzle-loading Mississippi Rifle, Model # 1841, made at the Harper's Ferry Arsenal and carried by Col. Jefferson Davis in the Mexican War.

These are just several of hundreds of items we have in our wonderful House Museum. Please come to visit us. We will not disappoint you!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our Confederate Symbols

 Among our earliest American symbols were the liberty cap, the maypole, the cockade and George Washington on horseback. These same symbols were used by the Confederates. Strange as it may seem, the liberty cap which was imprinted on our first American coin is between the brackets under the eaves of the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery as air vents. (You can see the liberty cap symbol on our website at ) Confederate gentlemen wore cockades on their hats and ladies wore them on their shoulders.

And who is on the Great Confederate Seal? George Washington on horseback! Why horseback? Because it symbolized our Cavalier heritage. Now and then we need to pause and remember that our Confederate ancestors sincerely believed that they were perpetuating the beliefs of their founding fathers and that according to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they had the right to secede. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Did he or didn't he wear a dress?

The story of Jefferson Davis's capture in a dress took on a life of its own as one Northern cartoonist after another used his imagination to depict the event. James Swanson, who has written a new book "Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse", has thoroughly researched the matter. He  has also written an article in the Fall American Heritage Magazine on the subject. Here are his conclusions.

 First the background: Eight days before Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Confederate President Davis fled Richmond with his entourage, meeting up six weeks later in Georgia with his wife, Varina. They made camp on May 9 near Irwinville.

Davis told his aides he would leave camp during the night. He was dressed for the road: a dark, wide-brimmed felt hat; a signature wool frock coat of Confederate gray; gray trousers, high black leather riding boots. His horse was saddled and ready to ride.

The Yankees were closing in. Seconds, not minutes counted. Before he left, Varina asked him to wear an unadorned raglan overcoat, also known as a "waterproof" to provide some sort of disguise. As he strode off she threw over his head a little black shawl which had been around her own shoulders, because he could not find his hat.

After a brief skirmish the Yankees realized they had captured the President. The news of his capture spread quickly, along with the story of his apprehension in women's clothes. The image of him masquerading as a woman titillated northerners but outraged Southerners.

Of course we know the "rest of the story". He served two years before his release on bail and would never be prosecuted. He survived Lincoln by 24 years, wrote his memoirs, and became the South's most beloved living symbol of the War. However, the myth of his capture dressed as a Southern belle continues to this day.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

General Lee and Santa Claus

I read a delightful little children's book: General Lee and Santa Claus about 3 little Southern girls after the War who were upset with Santa Claus because he had not brought them any presents for 4 years. Their mother was bedridden and their father, who had bravely marched off to war had not been seen since. He was a spotter for the Confederate army and his balloon had been shot down. No one could find him and he had been missing for two years.

Since the girls were angry with Santa Claus they decided to write General Lee to see if he could help them. Of course he wrote back immediately and told them that Santa Claus was one of the best friends that little Southern children have. The reason he had not brought toys for four years was because General Lee had asked him to sell the toys and use the money for things the soldiers needed and that is what Santa did.

Suffice it to say, the 3 little girls did receive a wonderful Christmas present that year, but I hope you will want to read the story for yourself, so I can't tell you what it was.

The original version was printed in 1867 because the author Louise Clark wanted to create a story that would attest to the admiration and affection Southerners felt for General Lee, as well as project his new role as the mitigator of Southern defeat. By pairing Lee with Santa Claus, the most unlikely of partners, Mrs. Clark created a delightful holiday story for children.

It will make a lovely Christmas story for your children or grandchildren, as well as for you. I love children's books, don't you?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

U.S.News and World Reports Magazine Suggests....

In the U.S. News and World Report December issue there is an article about the 50 top things to do before you die (or something). Number 33 on their list was "Visit a Civil War Battlefield"!

This goes right along with my last blog about the new Alabama Civil War Trail brochure published by the Ala Dept of Tourism and Travel. The U.S. News article goes on to say "Mark the Sesquicentennial with a walk into the past". It mentions that many events marking the anniversary will take place at the battlefields and that the Civil War Preservation Trust can map out an itinerary across some 600 battlefield sites.

Speaking of battlefield sites, check out the prints by Don Troiani  on the Internet or buy the book Don Troiani's Civil War. He has painted some wonderful battle scenes. There is a second book as well: Don Troiani's American Battles: The Art of the Nation at War, 1754-1865 . I really like his work and I am sure the books are fascinating.

As you know, The War Between the States was the first in history to be photographed on a large scale. Matthew Brady and others followed the Union troops and took pictures of everything from generals to army mules. Thus we have a magnificent record of the war in photographs and in art. (If only it had ended differently!).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First White House on the Cover...

The Alabama Department of Tourism and Travel has just published a beautiful new brochure just in time for the 150th Anniversary Celebration entitled "Alabama Civil War Trail." On October 11 the blog was about the Alabama Civil War Trail using the "old brochure."

This new brochure is beautifully laid out, in color with lots of intriguing pictures, and on one side it list 47 sites to visit. On the reverse side it has a map of the sites as well as information about Alabama battles, a piece on the historic flags of the Confederacy and a list of Alabama's Reenactment events. It is bound to make folks want to take a tour of these numerous sites. I know I want to visit them all!!!

It also gives the history of the formation of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama. Did you know that the telegram giving permission to fire on Fort Sumter was sent from the Winter Building on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery? This order was carried out early the next morning on April 12, 1861.

If you come by the First White House you can pick up one of these brochures, or if you are not going to be in Montgomery and want one, just call me at 334-315-7266 and I will mail one to you. You can also look at, go to "attractions" and see much of it there.

Oh, did I almost fail to mention that the First White House is on the front cover? (or the back cover depending on which way you hold the brochure)  And guess who is on the opposite side in full uniform, brandishing his sword on on his horse???? Commander Bill Rambo, Director of the Confederate Memorial Park and Museum in Marbury Alabama. he looks very "dashing" - almost like Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind (still my all time favorite movie)


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Upcoming Events to Celebrate 150 years

Here is an updated list of  some of the events planned in Montgomery to celebrate the beginning of the 150 year anniversary of the War Between the States if you want to mark your calendars!

January 19, 2011 - 11:00 am First White House of the Confederacy annual Robert E. Lee Birthday celebration (public invited) and FWH “kick-off” of The War Between the States Anniversary. Free.

January 20, 2011 - Noon (Architreats ) - “The Road to War” by Robert Bradley, at the Alabama Dept of Archives and History. Call 334- 242-4364 for more information. Free.

February 4 - March 19, 2011 - “The Flag Maker of Market Street,” one of two plays to celebrate The War at Alabama Shakespeare. Order tickets at 1-800-841-4273.

February 18 - March 20, 2011 - “Blood Divided” the second play to celebrate the War at Alabama Shakespeare Festival . Order tickets at 1-800-841-4273.

February 16, 2011, 5:30 p.m - “The Man and the Hour Have Met” William L. Yancey greets Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, by Dr. Ralph Draughon, Jr.  Lecture and reception co-sponsored by Alabama Department of Archives and the First White House of the Confederacy on the occasion of Yancey’s famous welcome to Jefferson Davis. Call 242-4364 for more Information. Free.

February 19, 2011 - the Sons of Confederate Veterans will hold a parade and re-enactment of the Inauguration of Jefferson Davis on the Capitol Steps. Contact Robert Reames at or Tom Strain at for more information.

March 17, Noon (Architreats) - “The Civil War Pharmacy” by Michael Flannery, at the Alabama Dept of Archives. Call 242-4364 for more information.

May 5, 2011 5:30 -7:30 at the Church of the Ascension, 315 Clanton Avenue, Sesquicentennial Gala Fundraiser, featuring special guest speaker, author & professor William C. Davis (public invited but asked to contribute toward upkeep of Relic Room at the First White House of the Confederacy), sponsored by the White House Association of Alabama. Call 334-315-7266 for more information.

It should be a really fun year. Plan to join us in Montgomery for many of these events!!!

December 15, 2011, Noon (Architreats) - “Southern Music of the Civil War Era” with a performance by the 33rd Alabama Campfire Players, at the Alabama Dept of Archives. Call 242-4364 for more information.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Man Without A Country

 Last week I wrote about Brierfield, the Davis plantation near Natchez, MS. When Jefferson Davis was released from prison in May 1867 he was "a man without a country."  He had no salary or savings and no home, because Brierfield had been seized by Union troops in 1862 and sold in 1866.

Along with thousands of others Jefferson Davis had gambled all and lost all on the Confederacy. He had also lost his citizenship. I was reminded of a book I read in school, The Man Without A Country by Edward Everette Hale about a man named Philip Nolen. You probably remember  it too. Nolen renounces his Country during a trial and is sentenced to spend the rest of his days at sea without so much as a word of news about the United States.

After the War and the imprisonment, Davis was left with a wife and four children to provide for. He lived in Canada and England hoping to find a suitable job and finally in 1869 he agreed to be President of a Memphis TN life insurance company and lived there until the mid-1870s.

His fortunes changed in 1876 when a longtime admirer, Sarah Ellis Dorsey, offered him a cottage on her seaside estate near Biloxi, MS as a place to write his memoirs of the war. There Jefferson Davis was home at last. He loved Beauvoir and the property became his when Dorsey bequeathed it to him in her will.

During the 1880s he penned his two-volume memoir of the war and he and Varina regained ownership of Brierfield after a long legal battle. Davis undertook extensive traveling, speaking mainly at Confederate veterans' events. When did he receive his citizenship again? October 17, 1978, posthumously, given by Jimmy Carter. There is another book Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back by Robert Penn Warren which you also might like to read. Carry on! Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis

I picked up a book in our library at the First White House of the Confederacy, Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis by Frank Edgar Everett, Jr. I am so glad it is still available on Amazon as it is a fascinating account.

I quote from the preface "Of the hundreds of plantation dwellings built in the South during the decades before the Civil War, none has had richer associations with men and history than Brierfield...Involved as it was with the aspirations and daily lives of its owners, the house was in a very special sense the tangible record of their personal victories and defeats".

War, flood and fire have destroyed most of the physical evidences of Briefield, but its significance in Southern history continues to be felt, just as does our Museum House. We are so fortunate that the First White House has survived through all these many years. All that remains of Brierfield are some of the house pillars, and the chimney and fireplace.

This enchanting book contains photographs of the Davis plantation home as well as those of his brother, Joseph's nearby home, Hurricane. It also tells about Jefferson and Sara Knox Taylor and their marriage, and then about his life with Varina.

 Did you know his very last trip was to Brierfield and his last penned words were written there? On Nov 13, 1889  he had made a final pilgrimage from Beauvoir to Brierfield. As he was about to leave the house for the last time, Alice Desmaris, his plantation owner's daughter timidly presented her album for his autograph and a sentiment. Davis thoughtfully wrote: "May all your paths be peaceful and pleasant, charged with the best fruit, the doing good to others".

The author says, "Was this a message to one little girl, or was it a prayer for all the people he had known and served and led?"  On December 6, 1889, Jefferson Davis, master of Brierfield, died in New Orleans.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Burying The Dead But Not The Past"

The title may have caught your attention! I hope so. It is the title of a book by Caroline E. Janney, Burying The Dead But Not The Past, subtitled Ladies Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause. I picked my autographed copy up at the Confederate Museum in Richmond.

We all know the mettle of Southern women was tempered and tested during the hardships of The War. These stalwart women banded together into groups for more effective service. In Montgomery there was the Laides' Aid Societyand the Ladies Hebrew Sewing and Benevolent Society, as well as various Hospital societies.

 The Historic and Monumental Association of Alabama was founded November 23, 1865 by a group of prominent Alabama men. The main purpose was to erect a monument on the Capitol grounds; however the more immediate problem became the condition of the cemeteries where shallow graves were being washed away by rains.

The ladies of Montgomery soon began to devise ways to raise money to have the remains of Alabama soldiers properly buried. The Ladies Society for the Burial of Deceased Alabama Soldiers came into being. This soon became the Ladies Memorial Association.

This group helped raise the money to complete the Confederate Monument which I wrote about in my blog of 11/15 and 11/21. They arranged headstones for 800 soldiers, and a monument and a chapel were built in Oakwood cemetery. The Chapel/Pavilion is still used today for the Confederate Memorial Day ceremonies each April 26, which have continued unbroken from 1866 until today. The Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery is alive and well under the leadership of their energetic President, Leslie Kirk. Google them at Ladies Memorial Association in Montgomery AL.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A View of the Rear Hall in the First White House of the Confederacy

Originally a back porch when the house was built between 1832 and 1835 by William Sayre, this area was enclosed when the rear serving pantries were added in 1857. When the Davises lived here, it was used as a reception hall and waiting area when the President received callers in his study.

Today the serving pantry area is office space and  our gift shop. The rear hall contains some most impressive furniture, a magnificent mahogany classical sideboard being the focal point. It is attributed to either Charles -Honore Lannuier or Duncan Phyfe, New York City, 1815-20. The one documented sideboard by Lannuier is a very closely-related example to this one and is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The great cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe also made several mahogany sideboard very similar to ours as well.

This one use to be in the dining room but was recently moved to the hall so that our visitors could get a better view of it. The sideboard rests on four winged paw feet at front, below four composite columns. The feet have beautifully-carved eagles heads with well-detailed wings, similar to the feathered carving on the finest sofas of the period.

More important pieces to discuss tomorrow. Come to see us or visit our website for more info on the furnishings in the First White House, Montgomery Alabama!!! Remember the 150 anniversary of "Tha Wah" is right around the corner.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More On The Confederate Monument In Montgomery

On 11/15/2010  we read abut the unveiling of the Confederate Monument on the North side of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. (I guess it was put on the north side so they could watch for the Yankees!)

There was a nice comment made about it on the blog site so if you missed it, be sure and go back and read

In the description of the monument, mention was made of the four military figures.You will want to hear  about the descriptions under each of the statures, I am sure, as they are very inspiring and beautiful.

Under the Cavalryman on the west face is the inscription: The knightliest of the Kinghtly Race, who since the days of old, have kept the lamp of chivalry alight in hearts of gold (by Dr. Francis O. Ticknor)

The Infantryman, on the south face: Fame's temple boasts no higher name, no king is grander on his throne, No glory shines with brighter gleam, the name of patriot stands alone (Crawford T. Ruff)

Artilleryman, east face: When this historic shaft shall crumbling lie in ages hence, in woman's heart will be, a folded flag, a thrilling page unrolled, a deathless song of southern chivalry. (Ina Maria Porter Ockenden)

Sailor, north face: The seaman of Confederate fame startled the wondering world: braver fight was never fought and fairer flag was never furled. (Anon)

The bronze base relief is representative of any southern battlefield. The inscription around the base of the shaft reads: Consecrated to the Memory of the Confederate Soldiers and Seamen 1861-1865.

It is very fitting since we are so close Thanksgiving, that we pause to give thanks for these brave men (and women too) who fought bravely, suffered, and gave up so much, for what they believed. Also, since we are on the cusp of celebrating the 150 anniversary of  The Great Struggle, let us never forget them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who Was Charles Minnigerode?

Shortly after President Davis arrived in Richmond he met Charles Minnigerode, rector of Richmond's St Paul's Episcopal Church. Minnigerode wrote about Davis: "our acquaintance thus began, soon grew into friendly intercourse that became closer and closer, till an intimacy sprung up which ripened into companionship in joy and sorrow, and bound us together in the terms of mutual trust and friendship."

At the urging of Varina, Minnigerod discussed church membership with Davis soon after they met. Minnigerode wrote: "he spoke very earnestly and most humbly of needing the cleansing blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit; but in the consciousness of his insufficiency felt some doubt whether he had the right to come...All that was natural and right; but soon it settled this question with a man so resolute in doing what he thought his duty. I baptized him hypothetically, for he was not certain if he had ever been baptized. When the day of confirmation came it was quite in keeping with this resolute character, that when the Bishop called the candidates to the chancel he was the first to rise."

When Davis was in prison at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in solitary confinement Minnigerod was the first civilian permitted to visit hm. And when Davis was released, Minnigerode was at his side. After court, when they met at the Spotswood hotel,  Davis said,"Mr. Minnigerode, you who have been with me in my sufferings and comforted and strengthened me with your prayers, is it not right that we now once more should kneel down together and return thanks?"

This information came from an article "Christmas Trees, the Confederacy, and Colonial Williamsburg. The website is

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Later Years for President Davis

As you know if you have been reading our blog, Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States of America, lived in Montgomery at what we now call "the First White House of the Confederacy" for a brief period of time during the spring of 1861. 

 Yesterday I wrote about his imprisonment at Fortress Monroe. He was released on May 13, 1867 on a $ 100,000 bail bond signed by twenty prominent men (mostly northern) including Horace Greeley, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Augustus Schell, each posting $ 5,000.00, a princely sum for that day.

Upon his release he traveled abroad, to Canada, England, Wales, Scotland and continental Europe. For a time he lived in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1877 he moved to Beauvoir on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where he wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

He died in New Orleans, Louisiana while on a business trip, on December 6, 1889 and was buried temporarily in Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, following the largest funeral procession ever held in the south.

May 31, 1893 marked the date of his final burial in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, a very peaceful place overlooking the James River. Mich of his family and many other famous people are also buried there, including Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, and Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart.

On October 17, 1978 President Carter signed a bill to restore citizenship to Jefferson Davis which passed the US Congress without a dissenting vote.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Jefferson Davis, After Montgomery"

 We know that President and Mrs. Davis spent the remainder of The War Between the States in Richmond. He had been inaugurated Provisional President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, the first capital of the Confederacy. On November 6, 1861 he was elected by the people to a six-year term as President, and on February 22 he was inaugurated first Permanent President of the CSA at Richmond.

After four years of heroic resistance, the South was crushed by the overwhelming might of the North. Davis and his Cabinet had to flee Richmond. On May 10, 1865 he was captured at Irwinville, Georgia by the Fourth Michigan Cavalry. He was accused of planning the assassination of President Lincoln. On May 22 he was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He was shackled in irons and treated harshly.

 Jefferson Davis, by Hudson Strode is an excellent biography on the life of the President. Strode says "He was submitted to gross indignities and temporarily chained. During the two years imprisonment, he bore his sufferings with great dignity and fortitude, hoping for a trial to vindicate the Southern cause. But the Federal Government never brought him to trial for treason, as feared it would be proved by the Constitution that the Southern States had a right to secede."

I will tell you "the rest of the story" tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Davis Familys' Sojurn In Montgomery

Here is the time line on events regarding the Davis's and their time at the First White House of the Confederacy. As you know events unfolded as follows in early 1861:
Jan 11 - Ala adopted Ordinance of Secession
Feb 4 - Confederate States Organized
Feb 8 - Provisional Congress convened at State Capitol in Montgomery to elect a President
Feb 9 - Jefferson Davis elected
Feb 10 - Davis received telegram of his election at Brierfield
Feb 16 - Jefferson Davis arrived
Feb 18 - Jefferson Davis inaugurated Provisional President of the CSA on portico of State Capitol
Feb 21 - Provisional Congress authorized lease of the Executive Mansion
March 2 -Mrs. Davis stopped in New Orleans en route to Montgomery from Brierfield
March 4 - Letitia Tyler raised the First flag of the Confederacy
March 4 - Mrs. Davis arrived, without the children.
March 11 - President and Mrs. Davis held a levee (a reception)
April 1 - Mrs. Davis returned to Brierfield to supplement the White House furnishings
April 10 - Gen. Beauregard given discretionary authority by the CSA War Dept by telegram from Montgomery to "demand evacuation of Fort Sumter or reduce it"
April 14 - Mrs. Davis arrived Montgomery on steamboat with children, "silver, china, lamps, linen and a few favorite books" and went directly to White House
April 24 - Description of the Davis' $ 1300.00 coach ordered in New Orleans reported in newspaper.
May 20 - Provisional Confederate Congress passed proclamation to move Capital to Richmond
May 24 - First bloodshed in War Between the States occurred
May 26 - President Davis left Montgomery for Richmond (reluctantly I am told)
May 29 - President arrived Richmond. Mrs. Davis remained to supervise packing.
After the middle of June she was holding receptions at the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, waiting to move into the old Brockenbrough House which would remain the White House for the duration of the War.

We will not forget that the First White House played an historic role in the formation of the short-lived Southern Confederacy. Its custodians are proud to maintain it as a part of the history of this great country.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Important Events In The Life Of Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis was born June 3, 1808 at Fairview, Kentucky. He moved to Woodville, Mississippi when a small child. He was educated at Jefferson College, Washington MS and at Transylvania College, Lexington KY. In 1824 he was appointed to the US Military Academy at West Point.

He graduated from USMA at the age of twenty and served in the Wisconsin and Arkansas Territories, Black Hawk War. In 1835 he married Sara Knox Taylor but she died three months later. In 1845 he married Varina Howell of Natchez. They settled on their plantation, Brierfield at Davis Bend.

In 1845 he was elected to the US House of Representatives from Miss. In 1846-47 he commanded the First Miss. Regiment at the Battles of Monterey and Buena Vista and was hailed a war hero in the Mexican War.He was elected to the US. Senate from Miss.

In 1853-57 he served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce and in 1857 he was again elected to the US Senate from Miss.  He resigned his seat on January 21, 1861 after Miss. seceded from the Union. That same day, January 21, he was commissioned Major General of Miss troops by Gov. John J. Pettus and on February 9, 1861 he was elected President of the Confederate States of America Provisional Government.

Tomorrow I will tell you about the Davis family's sojourn in Montgomery as reported in the Montgomery Weekly Advertiser of 1861.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unveiling of the Confederate Monument

Yesterday I spoke of how an aged Jefferson Davis came to Montgomery for the last time to lay the cornerstone for the Confederate Monument which was to be built on the north side of the Alabama State Capitol. 30,00 people gathered to honor Jefferson Davis, their wartime commander-in-chief, in a colorful and emotional time of evoking shared history, but it took another 12 years for the untiring women of the Ladies Memorial Association to raise the money to complete the job.

For the unveiling on December 7, 1898, once again thousands of southerners gathered for yet another festive occasion - this time without Jefferson Davis, who died 9 years earlier.The orator of the day was Governor and former Confederate officer, Thomas Goode Jones.(I wrote about him in my blog of November 5th, 2010).

The monument is massive, 82 feet tall, 3 feet in diameter with a base of 34 square feet, which consists of four layers of Alabama limestone with four steps leading to four pedestals. A statue rests upon each pedestal, representing the four branches of service of the Confederate States of America - cavalry, infantry, artillery, navy.

At the top of the monument is a figure of a woman, symbolizing patriotism and southern womanhood. She is holding a broken flag in one hand and a sword in the other, for her sons in defense of their flag.

If you haven't seen it lately, do go by and visit it, and stop by the First White House of the Confederacy on the way. We are right next door, on the South side of the Capitol!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On The Grounds of The Alabama State Capitol

Did you know that on the front lawn of the Alabama State Capitol is a very fine bronze statue of Jefferson Davis? It was presented to the State of Alabama by the United Daughters of the Confederacy on November 19, 1940.We sell a replica of the statue at the First White House Gift shop for $ 25.00. It is very handsome, made by the Department of Tourism and Travel for us and the Governor's Mansion gift shop to sell as well.

On the front portico is a brass star marking the spot where Jefferson Davis took his oath of office to become Provisional President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861.

On April 26, 2004 there was a celebration of the restoration of the Confederate Monument, a magnificent edifice which has stood on the north lawn of the Capitol since its unveiling in 1898. Jefferson Davis came to Montgomery to lay the monument's cornerstone and stimulate contributions for it on April 29, 1886, a quarter of a century after his provisional inauguration there.

 It stands as a tribute to the 122,000 men from Alabama who served the south, out of a population of 500,000 and of whom about 33,000 or 27% died in the war. Next time I will talk about the unveiling.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Miss Budge" - Another Real Southern Lady

Yesterday I wrote about Kate Cumming, a Confederate nurse.

Today I am so pleased to tell you about Miss Budge. Miss Budge is a genteel southern lady and you can read about her in my friend Daphne Simpkin's new book "Miss Budge In Love". You can find her at this link
As one comment reads "this is a hilarious collection of short stories depicting life in the south with church-going southern women."

Now I don't think Miss Budge has told us about her Confederate ancestor who fought in "The War" but I betcha she has one or more. If you want a good read and to make a new friend, order this one! I promise you will be entertained and also, more importantly, challenged to think about things that really matter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kate Cummings, Confederate Nurse

One of the things we like to do at the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery is talk about women and their role in the War Between the States. Women during the War made many contributions to both north and south, but also fought a war of gender and social reform on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

Opportunities during the war became available in a variety of vocations never before offered to women. Nursing, for one, had always been thought to be a man's job, far too stressful for the "delicate nature" of the "weaker sex". Despite this attitude, women entered the war effort in droves as nurses to help care for the unbelievable number of casualties.

Kate Cumming was one of these stalwart women. I recently did a talk about the journal she kept during the War.titled: Kate Cumming, the Journal of a Confederate Nurse. I ordered it on Amazon and found it quite intriguing and enlightening, as she wrote daily about her experiences of nursing the wounded during the heartaches of war.

Her faith in God is paramount  and she sees everything that happens through the prism of her Christian commitment and knowledge of scripture. It is a difficult book to read as it describes the horrendous suffering that the valiant soldiers of the south  experienced.

However, it  also describes the accomplishments and fortitude of the women of  the Confederacy who were willing to give up so much to nurse our wounded during those four years of bloody conflict. They cared passionately about what they were doing for The Cause.

As they say about movies - "read it or miss it"? I say, read it!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Second Parlor Continued...

Yesterday I was describing the furnishings in the Second Parlor at the First White House of the Confederacy. Today I want to mention a couple of other things of interest in this beautiful room.

One is a fine Gros-Point Hearth rug, declared by Samuel Dornsife, an expert in the 19th century decorative arts, as "one of the finest hearth rugs I have seen in America". The rug has large scale flowers and leafage on a black field, the wide border in a shade of muted olive green. The sides have a decorative knotted woolen fringe.

Another item of interest is the antique gilt Pier Mirror with stand, which matches the one in the First Parlor.And the last item I want to mention is a magnificent walnut Gothic Revival Bookcase, circa 1845. You simply have to come and see this piece to appreciate it. It's crowning glory is its galleried cornice of slender Gothic arches rising to a point at the center. Inside are books which belonged to the Davis family.

I hope I have peaked your curiosity and that you will come and visit us soon!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Few Of My "Favorite Things"

 The Second Parlor at the First White House of the Confederacy contains a few of my "favorite things". One is the round gray marble top center table that was used by the Davises at Beauvoir, their retirement home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Upon the table rests the Davis family Bible. "Liberated" during "the Wah" (as one of our favorite readers commented yesterday) by a Union soldier, it was returned to the First White House years later by his brother.

The chair to the right of the center table is the one which Mrs. Davis was finally permitted to send to her husband during the last weeks of his two year imprisonment at Fortress Monroe. Prior to that he had to use a hard, wooden bench.

The portraits in the Second Parlor are of particular interest. The one over the mantel is of Varina Howell Davis. The one on the right wall is of Winnie Davis, youngest child of the President and Mrs. Davis, known as the "Daughter of the Confederacy".

On the near left wall is a self-portrait of Nicola Marschall, designer of the Confederate flag (Stars and Bars) and the Confederate uniform. On the far left wall is one he painted of his wife.

There is much more in this room which I will tell about next time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

When Was The First Shot Fired?

History records that the first shot of the War Between the States was fired on April 12, 1861. Oh really?

On page 107 of The History of the South Carolina Military Academy by John Peyre Thomas we read: "On the night of December 31 (1860), Lt. Col. John. L. Branch, of the first Regiment of Rifles, South Carolina Militia, received orders to take three of his companies to Morris Island. On the afternoon of January 1, 1861, he reached that point. Being the senior officer, he assumed command of all the forces on the Island, and remained in command until the arrival, a few weeks subsequent, of Col. J.J. Pettigrew.

Col. Branch found Major P.F. Stevens and his command engaged in constructing what was, after the 9th of January called the Star of the West Battery; as it was from that point, and with the 24-pounders manned by the cadets, that the United States Ship "Star of the West" was driven off while attempting to relieve Fort Sumter.

Thus it stands - for all that it implies- that the Citadel Cadets, under the command of Col. Branch, as commanding officer of the post, and of Maj. Stevens as immediately in charge of the guns, fired the first shot of the War of Secession.

Col. Branch and Maj. Stevens, thus connected with he first hostile incident of a great war, were both graduates of the South Carolina Military Academy And it was the Governor of South Carolina who had ordered them to the front, at the culmination of the crisis which had been brought upon the state."

Readers, you may be interested to know that Col. John Luther Branch was my Great-Grandfather!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Packages In The Mail

Don't you enjoy receiving a package in the mail when you know it is not something you ordered? This happened to me yesterday when a longtime, very dear friend and Confederate history buff, mailed me a copy of the personal album of J.E.B. Stuart, titled Poems and Prayers of Love and Friendship 1850-1857 

This is a limited copy of the original, put together by Jack Milne of Jacksonville, Florida, and available on Amazon. We all remember General Jeb Stuart, swashbuckling Confederate Calvary Commander. While he cultivated a cavalier image, red-lined gray cape, yellow sash, hat cocked to one side with peacock feather, his serious work made him the trusted eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee's army and inspired Southern morale.

Jack Milne says in his introduction of Stuart's album, "All of us students of  'The War' will derive much pleasure in discovering a little known, yet not surprising aspect of this Southern hero: Stuart, a true warrior poet."

 Dr. Milne goes on to say "The album has been reproduced essentially in its original form, just as it was when JEB and those close to him filled its pages nearly 150 years ago..complete with stains, illegible words and prairie fire scorch marks."

And these thoughtful and poignant words "Please remember the incredible youth and vitality of the writers, those known and unknown, and join me (Jack Milne) in celebrating the heartfelt views on life, on love and on friendship they penned in this little book".

Treat yourself to a heartwarming experience and order J.E.B. Stuart, Poems and Prayers

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thomas Goode Jones - A Southern Hero

Dr. John Eidsmoe of Montgomery has written a fine biography on Thomas G. Jones: Warrior, Statesman, Jurist For The south: The Life, Legacy, And Law Of Thomas Goode Jones. This book is available on Amazon and we recommend it.

Jones grew up in Montgomery, moving here with his family in 1850. He attended Virginia Military Institute, and in 1862 left VMI with the rest of his classmates to serve in the Confederate Army under Stonewall Jackson. He fought in many well-known battles and was wounded four times.

Jones led that last desperate charge at Appomattox and later that day, when he carried the flag of truce for General Lee, he and his fellow officers fully expected to be killed or imprisoned before the day was finished. Instead they were given paroles and allowed to keep their horses provided they consented to return to their home states and be peaceful citizens.

And so with his mount, his parole, a decoration for bravery, and his uniform, twenty year-old Thomas Goode Jones returned to Alabama. Eidsmoe's book tells of his law practice, his work as a legislator and Governor, and his service as a federal judge. A remarkable renaissance man.  We have forgotten so many of our heroes. I am grateful to Professor Eidsmoe for this thoroughly researched and well-documented portrayal of the life of Thomas Goode Jones.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The First Parlor In The First White House

I have described a few of the things in the entrance Hall, President Davis's bedroom, Varina's bedroom and the President's Study. Now I would like to take you to the First Parlor, the first room on the left as you walk into the building.

I remind you that almost all the furnishings in the First White House are either original to the House, belonged to the Davis family, or are "of the 19th century period". The carpet in the First Parlor is a rare and historic Wilton type carpet from the 1850's. To the left of the entrance is an attractive mahogany rococo revival sofa that was traditionally the property of President Davis and was part of the furnishings of the FWH during the Davis occupancy.

In the center on the north wall is a fine pier mirror. It's companion is in the Second Parlor. The tall gilded frame of each monumental pier mirror is onrnamented with rich rococo carved and scrolled leafage.They are thought to have been at Brierfield in Mississippi, or possibly Beauvoir.

A fine rosewood square Grand Piano, circa 1855-75 stands in the corner. Too many other pieces of furniture to describe right now. I will close by telling you of the grand cornices over the windows and the girandoles on the mantel. Both were used by the Davises at Brierfield Plantation, their home near Vicksburg.

You can learn more from our website at and certainly we invite you to visit in person as well.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday I mentioned the last Confederate Widow, Alberta Martin lay in repose at the First White House of the Confederacy. As I said, many people  paid their respects,  including Governor Bob Riley, who stood beside her coffin for several minutes. The newspaper account says he presented a wreath and left, with no public comment.

Cameron Napier, our Regent at the time, said having Martin in the home once occupied by Jefferson Davis was appropriate. "The first lady of the Confederacy lived here, and the last Confederate widow should be in repose here", Mrs. Napier said.

She added "we may have lost the war but the last Confederate widow outlasted the last Union widow!" Lets hear it for our Southern Women. It reminds me of the words of one of our southern favorites "hurrah, hurrah, for Southern Rights hurrah, hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that wears the single star".

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Last Belle of the Confederacy

From our archives at the First White House of the Confederacy I read: "The last Confederate widow died on Memorial Day, 2004, ending an unlikely ascent from Sharecropper's daughter, to the belle of the 21st century Confederate history buffs, who paraded her across the south. She was 97."

Her May-Dec. marriage in the 1920's to War Between the States veteran William Jasper Martin, and her longevity, made her a celebrated final link to the old Confederacy.

She was a 21 year old widow with a son when she married the 91 year old Martin. They were married on Dec. 10th, 1927 and 10 months later they had a son, William. She said her husband never talked much about the war except the "starving time" in Petersburg, Virginia. They dug in the ground for potatoes as that was the only thing they could find to eat.

Four years after they were married he died in 1931 at the age of 95. Two months later Alberta married her late husband's grandson, Charlie Martin. He died in 1983.

She lay in repose at the First White House on June 10th and 11th. The Governor, Re-enactors, White House ladies and the public came to pay their respects. I was there for part of the day.

She was buried in the New Ebenezer Baptist church cemetery six miles west of Elba, with an "1860's-style ceremony".  "Mrs. Martin wanted alot of peppy music at her funeral" her caretaker said. What a woman she must have been!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The President's Study at the First White House

Although the newly-elected President of the Confederate States of America maintained offices at the Government Building at Bibb and Commerce Streets, and negotiated much business at the Exchange Hotel, many decisions of State were made in this room.

The center table, sofa and rocker in the Study are original to the House and were given to us by John Dowe in 1998. (It is amazing how many things "come back" to us after a period of time - and we are grateful).

On a small round table Jefferson Davis wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government during his retirement at Beauvoir.

The chair beside it and the small desk by the chair were used by President Davis in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol. The mahogany plantation desk in the study was used by the President here, at Richmond, and also at Beauvoir.

The dictionary on the desk belonged to the President and Mrs. Davis at Brierfield Plantation. It was taken by a Northern soldier and returned to us in 1977.

The massive pair of bookcases, at least 12' tall, belonged to Thomas Hill Watts, Confederate Attorney General and then Governor of the State of Alabama from 1863 to 1865. The lace curtains that hang in the case on the right are the original ones which Mrs. Davis gave for use in the house.

There are many other things of great interest in this room. Some say that this is their "favorite room" - won't you come and see it soon? We invite you!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mongomery's Time Line In The War

With the Sesquicentennial beginning in 2011 I wanted to quote from a pamphlet by Mary Ann Neeley, which was part of a recent Walking Tour sponsored by Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery.

January 11, 1861    Alabama Secedes from the Union
February 4              Delegates from Southern States meet in Montgomery
February 8              Confederacy organized. Montgomery becomes Provisional Capital. Jefferson Davis elected Provisional President
February 18            Davis inaugurated Provisional President
April 12                  Firing on Fort Sumter
May 21                  Congress meets for last time before moving to Richmond
April 11-12 1865   Cotton burned: City surrenders

Montgomery's position as the First Capital of the Confederacy was unexpected until early in 1861; its new status was a surprise to many and a dismay to others. Most citizens however greeted the news with jubilation. The people of the city rallied and within a short period there were offices, train yards, hotels, restaurants, private residences and a host of other necessary spaces and equipment eagerly offered to the new arrivals by the townsfolk. Four years to date of firing on Fort Sumter, federal troops arrived.

I have mentioned before the excellent book by William C. Davis "A Government of Our Own" The Making of the Confederacy. This is a great time in our history to order and read this book. I challenge each of us to do this in honor of  the sesquicentennial of the War.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don't You Love A Good Story About The War?

We all love a good story don't we? Here is one a friend shared about "the late unpleasantness" and I am very appreciative. I will omit names and places in retelling.

A certain man sat on a bluff overlooking the river, and he would shoot at the sailors on the Union gun boats that came by. The Union wanted to control the river as part of the blockade. This meant all the foodstuff and cattle provided to the CSA had to go inland to be shipped to the Armies. Thus it was important that the  nearby city remain free from yankee control, so commerce could continue. With this in mind, the city fathers worked out a deal. They would leave the gun boats alone if the Union troop did not occupy their town.

This meant however, the Union officers became really upset when the "old man on the bluff" would shoot the yankee sailors, so in retribution they would land and occupy the city for a few weeks, which of course upset the locals.

Finally the city fathers went to the family of the gentleman in question and asked that he refrain from shooting the yankees, as it was disrupting commerce and the shipping of supplies to Confederate Armies. So the old geezer pulled back, went downstream "a ways" past the town and blew up Union gun boats with mines!!!

But fortunately not near the "town" in question. Do you have a similar story from your family lore? If so, we would be pleased if you would publish a comment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Funeral Train and Final Resting Place

On May 27, 1893 with great reverence, the body of the dead President in its copper receptacle was removed from the vault at Metarie Cemetery and placed in a magnificent, heavy brass trimmed oak casket.

The procession formed for the long, slow march to the station. Newspaper accounts say the crowd was so dense along Canal Street that "...there was barely room for the procession to pass through".

After official respects were paid the Davis family by the governor, and other official functions planned for the occasion were over, the signal was given and the funeral train began to move slowly away from the station.

It was a historic moment when the train reached  Montgomery at 6:00 a.m. on May 29th. Six black horses drew the platform bearing the casket up Dexter Avenue toward the Alabama State Capitol Building,and two columns of infantry marched alongside. The casket was placed in the supreme court room in the Capitol. Over the right exit was the word "Monterrey" and over the left, "Buena Vista", names of two famous battles in which Jefferson Davis had so gallantly figured before the days of the "Lost Cause".

All businesses and schools closed and church bells tolled during the procession to and from the Capitol. In final tribute, thousands of Montgomerians plus many ex-soldiers and school children filed by the casket.

At 12:20 p.m., about an hour and 20 minutes late, the funeral train departed for a stop in Atlanta and then on to Richmond. At 3:00 p.m., on May 31, the funeral procession started for Hollywood Cemetery, two miles away. The caisson bearing the casket was drawn by six white horses. Mrs. Davis, Winnie and Margaret were among those who followed in carriages.

Not since the War had so many Confederate soldiers been seen in Richmond. At least 75,000 people lined the streets and were at the cemetery.

The with a 21-gun salute afforded all Presidents, and the sounding of taps, Jefferson Davis, the first and only President of the Confederate States was finally laid to rest.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"A Prince and A Great Man Has Fallen In Israel This Day" (II Samuel 3:38)

Yesterday I wrote about the electrifying news that swept the country "Jefferson Davis died at 12:45 a.m. today." That was December 6, 1889. He was in New Orleans when he died and his body lay in state in over four days at city hall.

On December 11, the last day, it was estimated that nearly 70,000 people had viewed his remains in the plate-glass covered copper casket in which he lay. Despite the fact that the body was to be consigned only temporarily to a tomb in the Crescent City, the funeral was indeed impressive. Pallbearers were governors of nine Southern States. Many former Confederate soldiers, grouped by Companies, marched in the cortege, and several hours were required to move from city hall to Metarie Cemetery.

In the ensuing three and a half years there was much discussion as to where the body of Jefferson Davis should be permanently laid to rest. Eventually complying with the wishes of Mrs. Davis, then living in New York, it was decreed that he should be buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, the city which, as all you dear readers know, was the capital of the Confederacy.

Tomorrow I will write about the long, slow journey of the funeral train. Today it might be fitting to remember what he said when he neared the end. He said to  "tell the world that I only loved America"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Montgomery Alabama, In Mourning, December 6, 1889

Jefferson Davis closed his eyes in death at fifteen minutes before 1:00 am surrounded by friends and relatives. The news of his passing immediately cast a gloom over Montgomery and put the first capital of the Confederacy in deepest mourning.

The men who knew him and were with him in the service of the country from 1861 to 1865 hold that in his death one of the purest and greatest men of the age has passed away.

Here is what we read in the Montgomery newspaper about his death. "The Statehouse is closed and draped in mourning and the flag on the dome is at half-staff. The sable trappings of sorrow are wound about the stately columns where Davis stood when he was inaugurated Provisional President of the Confederacy."

We go on to read further: "Twenty five years (after his inaguaration)  in 1886 he stood there again and addressed the largest crowd assembled here on any occasion since the war. On Capitol hill and near the statehouse stands the Confederate monument whose cornerstone he helped to lay."

  The article goes on: "Many stones were draped in mourning and the city wore a solemn aspect, as if the body of the old chieftain was reposing within our gates."

More tomorrow....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reenactment Of Inaguration Day, February 18, 1961

In my last blog I outlined the activities for the week of Feb 12-18, 1961 to commemorate the 100 year celebration of the War Between the States.

In the blog we had gotten down to Saturday, Feb 18 - Inauguration Day, and what a day it was! It started at 12:00 noon with the reenactment of the Inaugural parade which formed at the Exchange Hotel (the "new" Exchange - according to Montgomery historian, Mary Ann Neeley, the original Exchange had been torn down in 1902 and the new one build in 1903). The parade proceeded up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. This parade consisted of a band, representatives of the Military Units of the day and Jefferson Davis, his wife and his cabinet.

At 1:00 the Reenactment of the Inauguration of Jefferson Davis at the Alabama State Capitol was held, on the exact spot, at the exact day, and on the exact minute it actually happened - 100 years ago.

At 2:00 the Commemoration Parade formed, with beautifully decorated floats, military groups. high school and college bands and dignitaries. The parade formed at the Capitol and proceeded down Dexter Avenue.

At 8:00 PM The Commemoration Ball was held at the Alabama State Coliseum. Everyone was encouraged to appear in antebellum costumes. What an exciting day and night to cap off a week of celebration. Hats off to those who engineered this huge endeavor! What a wonderful tribute to those who labored to form the Confederate States of America - right here in Montgomery Alabama!!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How Did Montgomery Celebrate the Centennial Of The Civil War?

As we approach the 150 anniversary of the Civil War (which was really quite uncivil), I was curious to learn how Montgomerians celebrated the  Centennial of the War, so I looked in our archives at the First White House and there was a book a friend had given me called: Montgomery Centennial Commemoration of the Civil War 1861-1961.

Much to my surprise the scheduled activities for the Montgomery Civil War Centennial Commemoration filled the days of February 12-18, 1961! They began on Sunday, February 12 ,which was called "Religious Rededication Day". Churches were requested to toll their bells and churches were asked to hold commemoration services each  in their own way. At 3:00 pm there was a special Religious Rededication program at the Alabama State Coliseum for all the churches that wanted to,  to participate.

Monday, Feb 13 was "Belle of the Confederacy Day". The "Belle" and her attendants were feted at a luncheon, as guests of the Montgomery Rotary club. That evening the premier presentation of  "The Man and the Hour" pageant spectacular was held at the Coliseum. Over 1000 local persons reenacted the events of the time in Montgomery during the period of Dec. 1860-April 12, 1861. Fireworks followed!

Tuesday was "Confederate Ladies Day" with a tea at the Governor's Mansion. That evening the pageant was again presented, as it was every evening through Friday of that week with fireworks each night after the performance.

Wednesday was "Confederate Children's Day" with a student matinee of the pageant in addition to the evening performance. Thursday was "Confederate Commemoration Day" with a Confederate Ladies cooking school held at a local shopping center. Many antebellum recipes were featured and door prizes awarded.

Friday was "Jefferson Davis Day" with a special noon broadcast by the late-great Paul Harvey, National News Broadcaster with American Broadcasting Company, who broadcasted live from Montgomery to salute the Commemoration. And "get this" - there was a Confederate Colonels Beard Judging Contest held at the shopping center. I do remember many of the Montgomery men growing beards and facial hair for that occasion!  I wonder if any of you do?

At 10:00 that evening after the final presentation of the pageant and fireworks there was the Reenactment of the Arrival of Jefferson Davis. "HELLO!" He and his party arrived by train and were met by military units. There was a torchlight parade from the depot to the Exchange Hotel and there he was greeted by "William Yancey". Paul Harvey acted as narrator of this event.

Saturday, Feb 18 was Inauguration Day. But I am worn out. I promise to tell you all about that in tomorrow's blog. I can hardly wait, can you? Any comments today? I would love to hear from you if this has peaked your curiosity or aroused your interest or taken you down memory lane.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Did Jeferson Davis Commit Treason?

A story line in the  Wednesday, October 18, 1978 Montgomery Advertiser reads "Carter restores rights of citizenship to Davis".  The story goes on to say that President Carter restored citizenship rights posthumously on Tuesday, October 17, to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and declared "post-Civil War reconciliation is finally complete".

  Here is what Holmes Alexander, November 23, 1978 wrote in the Montgomery Independent."Treason against the United States", says the Constitution, Article 3, Section 3 "shall consist only in levying war against them..."

So the treason clause in the constitution, and nowhere else refers to the "more perfect Union" in the plural, as if the compact by the states was nothing more than a loose"organization" like the United Nations, through which member-states come and go at will. This was Davis' reason for believing that secession was no crime, according to Holmes Alexander.

So when President Andrew Johnson, no friend of Davis', offered him a pardon, Davis did something amazing. He proudly declined on the grounds that he had done nothing wrong in being a political leader in the War of Secession.

If that is true, according to Holmes Alexander, Carter in bestowing the Pardon, was not so much forgiving a sinner, but acknowledging another American President - number 40 - who survived shabby treatment as a Union prisoner, but never lost "The Iron Will of Jefferson Davis" (the title of Cass Canfield's biography.)

Maybe we need to learn more about treason. In the immediate postwar years, the New Yorker sent Rebecca West around the world to cover treason trials. She expanded her discoveries into a book "The New Meaning of Treason".She begins by admitting there is a case for the "traitor". She speaks of the relation between a man and his fatherland. Most interesting, don't you think?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Standing Like A "Stone Wall"

An email from a friend today reminded me of our recent trip to the Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas).There I was so moved with emotion when I saw the stature of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson on his horse "Little Sorrel". The statue stands where, during the heat of the battle, Jackson reportedly had stood like a stone wall,  and received the nickname that would follow him the rest of his life.

I walked over to it and put my hand on the horse and said to the General, "why did you have to die when the Confederate army needed you so badly"? I have always admired this man so much, because he seemed to be a Christian who tried to live up  the faith he professed.

Here are a few of his quotes which I took from Wikepeidea:

"Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible."

—Jackson to General Imboden
"To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory, is the secret of successful war."

—Jackson, 1863
"The only true rule for cavalry is to follow the enemy as long as he retreats."

—Jackson to Colonel Munford on June 13, 1862
"War means fighting. The business of the soldier is to fight. Armies are not called out to dig trenches, to live in camps, but to find the enemy and strike him; to invade his country, and do him all possible damage in the shortest possible time. This will involve great destruction of life and property while it lasts; but such a war will of necessity be of brief continuance, and so would be an economy of life and property in the end."

—and Jackson (his last words)
"Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees."

There are a number of good biographies about his life and I think it is a life worth reading about and remembering, such as
Stonewall Jackson by James Robertson or Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War by Henderson.

Do you have a favorite? If so, let us know with a comment and thank you all who have commented on our blogs so much. We appreciate it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is Everyone In The South "Kin" Or Just "Connected"?

On the Greene County Daily World Blog today I was reminded again of the connection between George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Here is how it goes in a nutshell. First of all, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow,  after her husband, Daniel Custis died.

George and Martha raised her two surviving children, John "Jacky" Parke Custis and Martha "Patsy" Parke Custis. she was a beautiful girl, adored by her stepfather. Sadly, Patsy died, unmarried, at age 17.

Jacky, Martha's son became a wealthy man at an early age, thanks to a large inheritance from his biological father. Jacky married, and he and his wife had four children.

According to the  blog, even though Jacky was rather a scoundrel, Washington took him on as his aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War. Jacky died of dysentery at Yorktown. After he died his  widow remarried and took her two oldest children with her.She left the youngest two at Mount Vernon with Martha and George.

They were Eleanor "Nelly" Custis and her brother George "Wash" Washington Parke Custis. Nelly lived to be 73 and had seven children, only 3 of whom lived past the age of two.

 Wash graduated from Princeton and became a very successful businessman. He built a beautiful home on Arlington Heights and had four children, Mary Anne Randolph Custis, his only child to survive infancy married Robert E. Lee. The Lee's former home, Arlington House, which he lost to the Union when he decided to fight for the Confederacy, sits upon a hill overlooking Arlington national Cemetery. I visited it once upon a time back when I was a child.