Thursday, September 30, 2010

Its Free!

I read in the Montgomery Advertiser recently that "1500+ museums offer free admission as part of Smithsonian magazine's sixth annual Museum Day."

That reminded me to remind all readers that the First White House is free to the public at all times! We do accept donations and we make a little money from our gift shop sales and from generous sponsors.

Our wonderful receptionists, Evelyn and Lynn and our fine maintenance man Robert are paid by the State of Alabama. The upkeep of the building and the grounds are also taken care of by the State. We are very blessed.

We just ordered a 19th century pair of brass andirons for the First Parlor on eBay. They were put in place yesterday after a fine polish job by Robert. They are such a nice addition.

Now we are working on conserving a chandelier in the Second Parlor that has been broken since the 1976 Restoration, and held together with fishing line. Does this remind anyone of their own homes? I wonder.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Praise For William C. Davis' Book

"A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy" by William C. Davis stands as the definitive treatment of the formation of the Southern Confederacy, which took place right here in Montgomery, Alabama during the momentous first five months of 1861.

With the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States upon us, it is a "must read" for all interested in Confederate History. It can be ordered here by clicking on this link.

 With appreciation and much thanks to Judge Mark Anderson, who arranged this visit, we are honored to announce that William C. "Jack" Davis and his wife will attend our Spring Wine and Cheese Gala Fundraiser on May 5th, 2011. There he will meet people, autograph books and speak briefly. Please mark your calendars and don't miss this important event!

He will also speak at Archi-Treats at noon that day at the Archives and join the Montgomery Confederate Roundtable group the evening of May 4th.

 Jack, we are all looking forward to meeting you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recommended Reading

A good friend, Richard,  who is a real history buff and a "man for all seasons" has just told me to read a book called "Attack or Die" by Grady McWhinney. He also recommends "Outliers"  by Malcolm Gladwell. He says that both books speak to the influence of Celtic culture on the American South.

McWhinney, who taught at the Univ. of Alabama and LSU calls the War the Last Great Celtic Rebellion and likens Pickett's Charge to the charge by the clans a century earlier at Culloden.

And speaking of Pickett's Charge, Richard  quotes Faulkner who has said "for every southern boy (and girl I might add) it will always be 3:00 pm  on July 3, 1863 just before Pickett's charge, and the Past is not over, in fact the past is not past".

Personally, in my mind sometimes I am still "living at Tara" and going to a barbecue at "Twelve Oaks" - what about you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Preservation Organizations

The great-grandmother of all nonprofit preservationist organizations is the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union. The MVLA created the concept in historical preservation that would last for generations. Mount Vernon was Washington's home, not a museum of American history, not a monument to a revolution, not a showplace to be exploited for profit, but a shrine to the Father of our Country.

The concept of preserving homes to honor great Americans became the pattern for other nineteenth-century organizations: most notably, The Ladies Hermitage Association, chartered February 19,1889 to preserve Andrew Jackson's home in Tennessee; The Confederate Memorial Literary Society, chartered May 31, 1890 to preserve the second White House in Richmond, and the White House Association of Alabama, founded in 1900 in Montgomery to preserve the First White House

It was then that twenty-seven ladies gathered at the home of Mrs. Clifford Lanier to elect officers. It was the following summer, 1901 when the members decorated the house with bunting and invited the legislators in order to get the funding they needed.

Help came at last in the form of a sympathetic governor, Thomas E. Kilby who signed a bill passed by the Alabama legislature on September 26, 1919 to provide a $ 25,000 appropriation to move and restore the house. The corner lot next door to the Archives, across from the South side of the Capitol was purchased.

The house was divided into three sections and dismantled, moved to its new location and carefully reassembled.

From all newspaper accounts the dedication of the First White House of the Confederacy on Jefferson Davis's birthday on June 3, 1921 was one of the most relished and enjoyed events in Alabama history.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I am going to take a little break from blogging but will blog again on Tuesday. Please don't forget about us!!!

Come to visit the First White House; if you can't make it in person, visit the website at - from there you can go to our Face book Page. Visit there and write something.

Reread our blogs and comment if you wish. We always enjoy these. We hope many more will sign up as "friends". Help us spread the news about the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery Alabama.

Interesting Tidbits That May Be True About The War Between The States

I don't know if this is true or not but it has been said that General Robert E. Lee traveled with a pet hen and it laid one egg under his cot every morning.

Another tidbit - So many men as we know died during the War on both sides: one example I have heard was
that approximately 2000 men served in the 26th NC Regiment during the course of the War. With Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse there were 131 men left.

Another thing I read (I won't call these facts because I have not checked to see if they are true) is that at one time or another the Northern armies numbered 2,100,00 soldiers. The Southern armies were considerably smaller. But the total dead on both sides was about 500,000.

It is said that the chance of surviving a wound in the Civil War was 7 to 1. In the Korean War, 50 to 1.

About 15% of the wounded died in the Civil War and about 8 % in WWI; about 4% in WWII and about 2% in the Korean War. Again I don't know that this is a fact but it is an interesting statistic if it is true.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A New Museum of the Confederacy

In less than two years, people driving along the State Route 24 will see flags erected in front of an 11,700 square foot building that will symbolize the reunification of the nation.

 Today, Sept 23 at 3 pm a groundbreaking for the Museum of the Confederacy, Appomattox Branch,  will take place. This will lead the way to the construction of a museum that will house Civil War artifacts.

Defining the end moments of the War Between the States, the museum will have items such as General Robert E. Lee's uniform and the pen he used during surrender negotiations with Gen. Ulysses Grant.

Waite Rawls, the Director of the Museum in Richmond said that the Appomattox branch of the museum will focus on the end of the War and the reunification of the nation. I can hardly wait to see it, can you?

Where Did Jefferson Davis Attend Church?

  Have you wondered where Jefferson Davis and his family attended church when they  lived in the First White House? The answer is St. John's Episcopal Church,  a Gothic Revival Church located at the corner of Perry and Jefferson Streets, just a few blocks from the White House.

St. Johns was involved in several historic events around the time of the War Between the States. It hosted the Secession Convention of Southern Churches in 1861 which had helped fuel the South's secession movement. As we noted above, President Davis attended it when Montgomery was the Capitol of the Confederate States of America. Sadly,  the church was forced to close its doors in 1865 under Union orders. It would reopen for services in 1866.

The old building from the 1830's was torn down in 1869 and its bricks were used to construct an addition to the main structure. The building was expanded again in 1906, at which time the church hosted many Army recruits from the nearby "Camp Sheridan" tent city during World War I. An outbreak of the Spanish Flu forced the church to close its doors temporarily at that time.

The church was renovated in the 1950's and again in 2006. The Jefferson Davis pew remains.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And You Think You Have Problems...!!!

Mrs. Napier, the immediate Past Regent of the White House Association has said many times to people "if you think you have problems just look at the life of Jefferson Davis". And it is true that when we think about Jefferson Davis' life we can't help but reflect that he went through much sorrow and sadness.

First of all, his father died at an early age and he was "mentored" by his elder brother Joseph, who was quite a taskmaker. Second of course was his tremendous loss of the love of his youth, his first wife, Sarah Knox Taylor, who died only three months after they were married. Then came eight years of seclusion as he mourned her loss.

Marriage to Varina, I am guessing, was probably not a "bed of roses" for either of them, as they were both very strong willed. He sustained a severe wound at the battle of Buena Vista  and it took many months for him to recuperate. Then later came the extremely difficult war years, ending in crushing defeat and imprisonment. The two years of incarceration at Fortress Monroe  had to be  a time of tremednous suffering and enormous hardship.

 And perhaps saddest of all is when we look at the lives of  his children: the loss of Samuel, at age two, Joe at age five, and William at age eleven must have been devestating. Actually he outlived four of his six. Jeff, Jr. died in 1878 at age 21. (Davis lived until 1898). Winnie, the youngest child,  outlived him but died tragically young as well (age 34) and never married.

Margaret, the oldest, was the only of his offspring who lived to marry and have children of her own. Her great- grandson, Bertram Hayes-Davis is a great friend of the First White House and visits often. We are very indebted to him for all he has done for us!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Children in the First White House of the Confederacy

Jefferson Davis was 53 years old when he was chosen  President of the Confederacy and moved into the First White House. Varina was 35. At that time they had three living children. Margaret, the oldest, was six. Jeff Jr. was four and Joe was two. Tragically, Joe died from a fall from the balcony in the Second White House in Richmond.

Varina made little Confederate Uniforms for the boys and they dressed up and played "soldier".

Another son William was born in December of 1861 in Richmond. Winnie, who was always called the "daughter of the Confederacy" was also born in Richmond in 1864. Jefferson and Varina had another son, Samuel, born earlier, in 1852 but  sadly Samuel died of an unknown fever when he was two years old.

Varina always said she wanted lots of children playing in the yard (in Montgomery). She has her wish because the land on which the First White House stood (before it was moved in 1921) is now a Skate Board Park!!! Mrs. Davis would be very pleased!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Little Known Facts about The War, The Davis Family & The First White House

Did you know the First White House was built by William Sayre, an ancestor of Zelda Sayre who married F. Scott Fitzgerald? Zelda and Scottie's daughter Scottie gave a number of important pieces to the FWH.

Did you know that all items displayed in President Davis' bedroom were given to the White House Association by Mrs. Davis? She drew a diagram telling the ladies exactly how she wanted the items displayed.

Did you know that Varina was the granddaughter of a New Jersey Governor and a cousin of Aaron Burr? This might be a "duh" moment, connections with Yankees, oh dear.

Did you know that the plan to save the First White House was begun by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1897? It was only after they let the project go that the White House Association was formed in 1900 for the purpose of saving the House.

Did you know that Mrs. Jefferson Davis was and remains Queen Regent in perpetuity? Her long time friend Mrs. Jesse Drew Beale was the first Regent of the White House Association.

More "little known facts" another time. Do you know any? Please comment!  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Gunboat Quilt" Going Traveling

The title "Gunboat Quilt Going Traveling" sounds like a song  but our Gunboat Quilt, one of the showpieces in our collection is absolutely going traveling! We are very excited about it so let me tell you who, what, when, where, why and HOW.

Who? The American Textile History Museum, Lowell, Massachusetts

What? A traveling exhibition

When? 2012-2014

Where?  Four venues: ATHM in Lowell Mass (April-August 2012)
Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, Mass (October-April 2013)
Winterthur Museum in Wilmington Delaware  (June-October 2013)
Atlanta History Center (Spring-Summer 2014)  

Why? To celebrate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States - I quote them by saying:"Our goal is to encourage visitors to view the war not in isolation or through stereotypes and simplifications, not simply as a litany of battles and generals, but within the context of American History."

How?  Very carefully, we are going to wrap and mail our wonderful Quilt to these venues so that the story of the War Between the States and the story of the First White House of the Confederacy can be told and retold!




Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Gunboat Quilt

Hanging on the wall in the upstairs hall is our extremely fine Gunboat Quilt made by Martha Jane Hatter of Greensboro, Alabama, prior to 1862. "Gunboat Quilts" were made by Alabama women as a fund-raising campaign for the purchase of a gunboat for the defense of Mobile Harbor.

When someone purchased the Quilt they were in turn supposed to offer it again for auction. It was sold twice in Tuscaloosa, once in Summerfield and once in Selma. The Quilt was finally purchased and kept by the Rev. Joseph Johnson Hutchinson, a Methodist minister of Summerfield, Alabama. It was donated to the FWH by Mrs. Mary Hutchinson Jones, Rev. Hutchinson's granddaughter, in 1928 and is one of our showcase pieces.

Here is a portion of the description of it from a 1988 issue of Alabama Heritage:"... with an embroidered basket in the center, appliqued spun silk flowers, and three dimensional strawberries. This quilt also contains nine birds and four butterflies, stuffed and appliqued on or around the basket. Framing the edges of the quilt are twenty-one floral bouquets, stuffed and embroidered in an alternating triangular pattern..."

We invite you to come and visit and view the Quilt, but hurry as it is going traveling in the spring... more about that in our next blog.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Did You Know About Confederate Memorial Day?

Did you know according to an article in The April 1992 edition of the Alabama Confederate Magazine,  that Confederate Memorial Day was the inspiration for the current National Memorial Day?

The article says that In March of 1868, Mrs. Logan, wife of US Congressman John A. Logan of Illinois and a former Union General, while on a visit to Petersburg Virginia, was deeply touched by the observation of Confederate Memorial Day.

Mrs. Logan prevailed upon her husband to develop a similar observation for the Union dead. May 30 was thus designated as a day for the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans to remember the Union dead. The idea was well accepted and in 1871 Logan, now a US Senator introduced a bill to make it a national holiday called Memorial Day.

After World War I, the holiday was expanded to recognize the dead of all American wars. In 1971 the date of the holiday was changed to the last Monday in May.

 We go to the cemeteries on Confederate Memorial Day, as people in our state and throughout the south have done for well over one hundred spring-times. We come to remember and to praise and to strew flowers above the dust of heroes.

Here in Alabama Confederate Memorial Day is celebrated the fourth Monday in April. It is a State Holiday and guess what??? - The First White House of the Confederacy is closed on State Holidays!!! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Touring the First White House (Don't forget the Gift Shop!)

When guests enter the First White House of the Confederacy they are greeted warmly by our Receptionists. They are asked to sign the guest book so that we can tally the number and origin of each guest. You see, we are asked to report to the Tourism and Travel Department on a monthly basis!

Next, everyone is given a self-guided instruction sheet. Plaques are on the walls designating each room  and a detailed description of the most important and interesting artifacts in each room is noted on the self-guides.

Visitors are encouraged to visit our Gift Shop before leaving, where they may purchase post cards, booklets, flags, books, toy, T shirts and many other souvenirs. As we do not charge admission, the proceeds from the sale of items, plus donations, fund our Collection. We are always trying to conserve and update the treasures in our fine House Museum.

The White House Association of Alabama is the oldest historical preservation organization in Alabama and is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated solely to the preservation of a House Museum!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Comments About the First White House

Here are a few comments that have been made recently by visitors and staff at the First White House of the Confederacy.
"Children love the First White House"

Groups of school children tour; later as adults they come through and say "I was here before. I remember coming with my class."

"People from all over the globe visit the FWH. They are extremely interested in Southern History and are eager to learn what happened in Montgomery in the spring of 1861."

"In the first seven months of this year we have had 11,054 visitors. 3522 of these were from outside Alabama and 334 from foreign countries. The First White House is a gem- please come and visit us."

And as our former Regent Mrs. John Napier would quote her mother who would say "a house is never finished!" And another gem "Its not the outlay, but the upkeep".

The First White House of the Confederacy belongs to the people of the State of Alabama. The White House Association tries hard to make sure that the "people" are not disappointed with what we do in taking care of this historic house.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Great Seal of the Confederacy

A copy of the Great Seal of the Confederacy hangs in the entrance hall of the First White House of the Confederacy. It is very impressive because in the center is - guess who? George Washington. Is it not symbolic that the Confederate States of America used George Washington as a symbol of the new Country. Do you wonder why?

A simple answer - The Confederates believed that it was they who were perpetuating the ideals of their revolutionary forebears, so in creating their new nation the Confederates essentially duplicated the institutions of the old Union. It was no surprise then that the seal prominently features George Washington on horseback.

He is surrounded with a wreath, which is made of some of the main agricultural products of the Confederate States: wheat, corn, tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar cane. The margin of the seal features the words "The Confederate States of America: 22 February 1862" and the national motto, Deo Vindice ("Under God, Our Vindicator" or "With God as (our) Champion").

The date on the seal February 22, 1862 takes on great symbolism, for Washington was born on February 22, 1732  and Jefferson Davis was inaugurated President for the second time in Richmond on February 22 1862      I quote my friend Bill Stone who said" Washington is and will always remain the Father of the Confederacy and the Father of our Nation.

Prints of the Great Seal may be ordered from our Gift Shop at the FWH.  The cost is $ 15.00 plus tax and shipping. To view it go to our home page at - it is right up at the top!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Fascinating Glimpse Into Montgomery's Past

Mary Ann Neeley, Montgomery's foremost historian, has come out with a fascinating new book, The Works of Matthew Blue, Montgomery's First Historian. Blue published "A Brief History of Montgomery" in the 1878 City Directory of Montgomery. Mrs. Neeley's book  presents a comprehensive look at much of his writings. including his narrative and a series of events arranged by months

In the narrative Blue tells of the Ordinance of Secession being adopted and proclaimed to the world. He says "This was hailed with unwonted acclamations by all the citizens and sojourners. Business was suspended, the bells of the city rang for hours, cannon fired, and harangues to the people at the Capitol."

Much information follows which our gentle readers may find for themselves if they will order the book. Blue says "Montgomery will always enjoy the distinction of having been the first Capitol of the Southern Confederacy... No city in the entire Southern Confederacy was more prompt, none more liberal in the contribution of brave, gallant, devoted men and none more untiring in its effort to uphold the honor and secure the independence of the South...Many slept that last sleep upon the bloody field where they fought their last battle."

Blue goes on to say poignantly, "These, in a nobler cause, could send back the immortal language of the Spartan band at Thermopylae, 'Stranger, go to Lacedaemon and tell that we died in obedience to her laws'. On mountain tops, on hill sides, in valleys, on rivers, and in the Confederate cemeteries of the South and even in Northern soil, their sacred dust will repose until the trump of Resurrection is sounded...Certainly, indeed, when the South makes up her jewels, Montgomery will shine in that resplendent crown of glory".                                                 


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Books

We have a number of very important books in our library at the First White House of the Confederacy. Most have been donated by interested supporters. A number of them actually belonged to Jefferson Davis and those he had signed.  Several were written by Varina and of course we have the Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government which President Davis wrote after the War.

In addition we have a treasure trove of nineteenth century antiques. Sometimes we have a piece and we don't know too much about it  but we have our wonderful appraiser, Eddie Pattillo who can always tell us the value. Also we must have a written provenance on anything before we accept it, although that was not true in the beginning.

One of our rare items is our Gunboat Quilt. Ours was made by Panthea Coleman Bullock of Green County, Alabama. A Mrs. Hatter of Greensboro offered it for raffle. It was raffled many times to raise money for a gunboat, thus making it famous as the "Gunboat Quilt". It was presented to the White House Association by Mrs. Mary Hutchison Jones in 1928.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Stories We Pass On From Generation to Generation

All of us in "my" generation who grew up in the south remember hearing stories from our parents that were told to them by their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents about THE WAR. My own Dad's grandfather who fought, told about how the soldiers would charge up the hill, only to be mowed down by the dozens. Yet, on and on they went as they had no choice but to follow orders. The dead were later stacked up like cord wood. I cannot imagine the carnage that was wrecked on both sides after these vicious battles, fought often using old military tactics but modern-day weapons.

He told me about the mini balls (he called them dum-dum bullets) which inflicted so much damage that the only choice was to amputate a limb. I read how the surgeons at Gettysburg threw the arms and legs out the window after the surgeries, until the body pieces reached the window sills. Sounds gruesome, doesn't it? But after all, wasn't it Robert E. Lee who said, "its good war is so terrible, else we would grow too fond of it"?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Liberty Cap Motif

The Liberty Cap motif used in the cast iron ventilations at the "Jeff Davis Home"  is unique to the First White House and has been adopted as the special emblem of the building and of the White House Association.

The Liberty Cap is taken from the Phrygian cap - a conical cap or bonnet with the peak turned over in front,  associated in antiquity with the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia (now Turkey).
In Antiquity the Phrygian cap had two connotations: for the Greeks as showing a distinctive Eastern influence of non-Greeks, and among the Romans as a badge of Liberty.

In Revolutionary France the cap or bonnet rouge was first seen publicly in May 1790. To this day the national emblem of France is shown wearing a Phrygian cap. And starting in 1793 in America coinage frequently showed liberty wearing the cap. Washington Irving propounded the surprise of Rip Van Winkle by noting among the unexpected details of the re-awakened Rip's newly post-revolutionary village a "tall naked pole, with something on it that looked like a red night cap..."

Check out our FWH website  and you will see a picture of the Liberty Cap on the home page, left hand side, part way down!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Past....Can It Be Felt?"

Glenn W. LaFantasie, the Richard Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History at Western Kentucky University is the author of a book called Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground. He said this about the battlefield at  Gettysburg, "The past is not always tangible or even knowable. But sometimes it can be seen and every now and then it can be felt."

LaFantasie and his daughter traced on foot the route Colonel William C. Oates and the 15th Alabama took in launching their doomed attack on the afternoon of July 2, 1863 against Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine on Little Round Top.
When he and his daughter finally arrived at the top of Little Round Top, Sarah said "Can you feel that?" She could not describe the feeling she had, but it was something intangible, like a fog or shadow, and it made her feel sad. Perhaps she had encountered the lingering spirits of William Oates and his brother John, (who died there), Joshua Chamberlain, and all the brave men of Maine and Alabama who fought like demons for possession of that little hill.

"Our pasts," LaFantasie said, "are locked up inside us. Sometimes when we least expect it, they come spilling forth and intersect with other parts of our lives. On a misty spring day, across the lush fields and hills of Gettysburg, my daughter and I felt far-reaching echoes of our history"

If you have ever visited Gettysburg, you will understand a bit of what all this means. It is a feeling and yet it is more than a feeling. It is a part of our lives gone pehaps horribly wrong and we wish we could right it. Instead we go to a battlefield, any battlefield and we FEEL IT because it is hallowed ground..

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mrs. Davis' Bedroom in the First White House

Recently  I wrote about President Davis' bedroom. Adjacent to it, the second room on the right off the  entrance hall was Mrs. Davis' bedroom. In it you will see furniture that is of the period and very similar to that used by Mrs. Davis at Brierfield Plantation in Miss. One piece, a fine pine wardrobe was used by the Davises at Beauvoir.

The mahogany tester bed came from The Tavern at Worthington Mass. General Lafayette slept in it the night of June 13, 1825 when he was on his way to make a speech at the dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Other items of interest are a mahogany desk with secret compartments, a wig dresser and bedside steps with compartments for chamber pot and medicine.The focal point of the room is a  magnificent portrait of Varina Howell at age 17 before she married Jefferson Davis.

Varina was a well-educated, forceful woman who had a mind of her own and often spoke it. She was every bit a match for and equal of her famous husband. A book by Variana: Jefferson Davis, Ex-President of the Confederate States of America Part Two: A Memoir by his wife, is available from Amazon.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Study The Past Because...

"The roads you travel so briskly lead out of dim antiquity, and you study the past chiefly because of its bearing on the living present and its promise for the future." These are the words of General James Harbord and for years were printed on the back cover of each Newcomen Society address. I don't know if they still are printed on each address today, but certainly they are apropos for our House Museum and I would think for all who strive to preserve the past in order to educate the present and prepare for the future.

Here is another quote, this one taken from the 1984 Newcomen address by Crawford Lincoln who spoke on "Preserving a Priceless Heritage at Old Sturbridge Village". He says "History is never a dull subject at Old Sturbridge Village, but rather a vital experience wherein visitors of today can better understand the contemporary scene and its concerns which often repeat and parallel those of generations past."

Two of my childhood friends toured the First White House with me last week and they both said they remembered coming through the House when they were in "brownie" scouts. We hope at the FWH we can make history a vital experience for all our visitors of today, whatever age and stage. We strive for this. What a fine opportunity we have.

Let us hear from you. We appreciate your comments.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Historic Home Was City's First Major Preservation Project

On Monday the state workers and others will have a holiday including those who work at the First White House of the Confederacy because we take the same holidays as the State.

On Tuesday however when we reopen, the public is invited as always to enjoy a self-guided tour of the FWH. Few people know until they visit that the FWH now located at 644 Washington Avenue was one of Montgomery's first great preservation projects. William Sayre, ancestor of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, had the house built in the 1830's at the corner of Bibb and Lee streets.

Davis and his family lived in the house from February to May 1861. At the time the house was well located but what was considered a good location in the 1860's did not seem so by the early 1900's. Not only had the house fallen into disrepair but so had most of the houses surrounding it. Adjourning properties were being torn down and some feared the same fate awaited the historic house in which the Davis's had lived.

With the help of Governor Kilby the Legislature approved  $25,000 to help the White House Association to have the FWH taken apart, moved and reassembled at its current location. Thus began one of the first of the city's preservation projects, and aren't we glad! What a tragedy it would have been if this wonderful House Museum had not survived, as so many fine homes and businesses did not. Thanks to Landmarks Inc. and Jimmy Loeb and Mary Ann Neeley, many have been, especially in the late 20th century. Sad to say, my Grandparents' home on Court Street was a victim of the "Interstate".

Confederate Park, Marbury ALabama

A few miles up the road from the First White House, off I-65 North is  beautiful Confederate Memorial Park at Marbury, Alabama. It is the site of Alabama's only Old Soldiers' Home for Confederate Veterans. In operation from 1902 to 1939 the home cared for elderly veterans and wives and widows of veterans.

At one time the 102 acre site included 22 buildings and served between 650 and 800 residents. The last veteran died at the home in 1934 and the facility closed in 1939 when the five remaining widows were moved to Montgomery.

There is a fine museum there that tells the story of Alabama's Confederate soldier during the war and afterwards, including the veterans who came to live in the Old Soldiers' Home. The museum houses civil war uniforms, weapons and equipment. The curator, Commander Bill Rambo is a giant of a man, elegant and articulate. He has labored diligently to make the Park and the Museum a top quality tourist site.There are walking and driving tours, nature trails and two cemeteries on site, as well as picnic tables for your enjoyment. If you haven't visited, make that a top priority and you will be glad you did!

Friday, September 3, 2010

More About Battle of New Market

Thanks for the comments on yesterday's blog. It was good to learn that the Rat Class for 2014 at VMI will visit the battlefield at New Market State Historical Park  this weekend for the annual orientation to the 1864 battle in which the cadets at VMI so prominently figured.

I understand that the freshmen ratsl march the 80 miles from Lexington.just as did those brave young men of long ago who fought for what they believed in. The First Classmen carry VMI shields that are later presented to each Rat on the battlefield. They will stand at attention in the Bushong House paddock and take their Oath of Cadetship.

Then they will move on to the 1818 Bushong house to  receive a lecture on the impact of the war on civilians like Jacob and Sarah Bushong who survived the battle by seeking shelter in their cellar.

At the split rail fence overlooking the "Field of Lost Shoes" members of the VMI Civil War Round Table will explain the moment when the cadets were called into the front of the Confederate battle line and charged the Federal position.

There will be a picnic with families attending and afterwards the first public parade of the new VMI class will take place in Downtown New Market during the afternoon. At least all permitting.

A comment was made that an excellent book on the subject is Valley Thunder, The Battle of New Market and the Opening of the Shenandoah Campaign May 1864 by Charlie Knight. Jack Davis wrote the foreword.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Battle of New Market

  I was with our webmaster Doug Simms today who has done a great job with the First White House website and he mentioned that he went to VMI (Virginia Military Institute) and his brother went to Virginia Tech. VA Tech is where William C. Davis is a professor. He ("Jack" Davis)  is going to be with us to celebrate our 2011 Gala and celebrate the Sesquicentennial of the War  Between the States.

Doug reminded me of the huge sacrifice the cadets at VMI made for the War effort. Receiving word that the Union Army had entered the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate General John Breckinridge pulled together all available forces to counter the thrust including the students at VMI.

The cadets marched 81 miles in 4 days to meet with General Breckinridge's forces. The cadets were to be a reserve but Breckinridge pressed them into battle, saying "Gentlemen, I trust I will not need your services today but if I do, I know you will do your duty."

The cadets met  the Union forces and turned them back. Because it had rained for days and it was so muddy the field would later be dubbed the "Field of Lost Shoes" because of the many pieces of footwear that were pulled off the cadet's feet by the suction of the mud as the Corps surged forward.
Ten of these brave young cadets were either killed outright or died later of wounds. Forty-eight of the cadets additionally were wounded.

William C. Davis (Jack) has written a "must read" book called The Battle of New Market

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Which Flag Do We Fly At The First White House?

The "Stars and Bars", the popular name of the first Confederate flag was raised over the Capitol Building at Montgomery on the morning of March 4, 1861. It was prepared under the direction of Honorable Alexander D. Clitheral, and tradition says that a group of women of the city gathered at the Court Street Methodist Church on the afternoon before and from silk furnished by several of them made this flag from the model furnished by the Flag Committee of the Confederate Congress.

Miss Letitia C. Tyler, granddaughter of John Tyler, one time President of the United States was visiting a family a few miles east of Montgomery and was chosen to raise the flag. She pulled it into place amid the thunder of cannon and the shouts of the vast multitude assembled to view this impressive occasion.

Please visit our website at to read about the "Four Flags of the Confederacy".Which one we fly at the First White House? The "Stars and Bars" of course! And you may be interested to know that descendants of Letitia Tyler are on our White House Association Board today!