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.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Alabama Civil War Trails

There are so many places to visit if you take an Alabama Civil War Trail Tour. Alphabetically first there is the Admiral Raphael Semmes House in Mobile. He was a Captain in the Confederate Navy and had command of the C.S.S. Alabama. The Alabama cruised for nearly 75,000 miles and captured 65 union vessels. The great ship was sunk off the coast of Cherbourg, France on June 2, 1864. The Semmes House is open by appointment only.

Next  on the list is the Alabama Department of Archives and History which is located in Montgomery, next to the First White House. It is a repository for exhaustive research and reference materials on the Civil War and has an outstanding collection of Confederate flags.

Across the street from the Archives and the FWH is the Alabama State Capitol where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as Provisional President of the Confederate States of America on Feb. 18, 1861. There is a star on the Capitol steps that marks the inauguration spot. I have stood there - have you?

Next is the Arlington Antebellum Home, where Union troops planned their 1865 attack on Tuscaloosa. This site is in Elyton (Birmingham). And the last of the A's is Athens, the city of, which was burned and looted by Union  troops in May 1862.

Next time we will start with the B's and continue on. I had no idea there were so many Civil War sites in Alabama, did you?[

Sunday, October 10, 2010

H.L.Hunley - A Real Mystery Story

Don't you love unsolved mysteries?  I mentioned in my last blog about the mystery as to whether LaFayette really slept in the bed later acquired by a Mr. Arthur Cook and donated to the First White House.

The Hunley submarine provides a mystery for sure. The Hunley was built in Mobile Alabama and then shipped to Charleston, SC. It was the Confederacy's secret weapon, and the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.

The Confederacy lost 21 crewmen in three sinkings of the Hunley in her short career. It was lost under the sea for 130 years. In 2000 the wreck was successfully recovered. Inside were the remains of her doomed third crew.

On April 17, 2004 the DNA-identified remains of the eight Hunley crew were interred in Charleston magnolia Cemetery with full military honors. But the mystery remains - what sank the Hunley?

We would love to hear your comments about this or any of our blogs. Maybe you have been to the museum in Charleston to see it. Thousands of reenactors and others were on hand for the burial of the crew members.

If you don't want to comment there are boxes you can check  that say  funny, interesting or surprising. Feel free to check a box any time for any of our blogs.

LaFayette Slept Here...Well, At Least In This Bed!

Yesterday we spoke about the Crazy Quilt that is on "The LaFayette Bed" in Mrs. Davis's bedroom at the First White House.

Today as promised I want to tell you about the bed. It is reported that it was slept in by Gen. LaFayette at a place called the Tavern in Worthington, Mass., on 13th June, 1825. Gen. LaFayette, then on his triumphant return tour of the United States was en route from Albany New York to Boston, Mass. where he was to dedicate the Bunker Hill Monument.

The bed was purchased by Mr. Arthur Cook of Montgomery who gave it to the First White House, and it was accompanied by affidavits attesting as to its historic authenticity. Our appraiser however believes that it is later than LaFayette's visit in 1825. It may have come from the bedroom which LaFayette occupied, but this being the bed in which he slept is doubtful. Another unsolved mystery!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What Is A Crazy Quilt?

 On Mrs. Davis's mahogany tester bed  in the First White House of the Confederacy is a Crazy Quilt, prompting the question: "what is a Crazy Quilt?" Well, gentle readers, let me tell you...

The Crazy Quilt was a late 19th century type quilt originating with the Centennial in Philadelphia in 1876, so it actually has no Civil War/Confederate Association. That being true, your next question should be " why is it in the First White House of the Confederacy"?

 The answer to this one is because it is a type with which Mrs. Davis would have been familiar in her later years. Crazy Quilts, such as this, were made of scraps of  fine silks and velvets, (in this case from neckties), and put together with nearly every stitch known to the skilled needlewoman.

Such quilts became textbook examples of the craft. They continued to be popular well into the twentieth century. The quilt in question is used as a coverlet on the "Lafayette" bed, which I will write about in my next blog.

The Quilt was donated by Mrs. Lela Legare, a descendant of the Glover family of Rosemount Plantation in Greene County, Alabama. Crazy Quilts are highly collectible on the modern antiques market. We have at least two others in the White House. Come and see if you can find them!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

It Was Just Like One of Varina's "Levees"

 In our blog of 10/4/10 that we told you that we would be entertaining the delegates of the Alabama Preservation Conference on the evening of October 7, from 5:15 - 6:15.

That was last night of course and I am happy to report  it seemed to be a tremendous success! We had 51 people sign the guest book, but more than that came by. These ladies and gentlemen were from all over the State and they were interested in and knew about decorative arts, antique furniture and history and were at the beginning of a full weekend of seminars and events. 

A dozen of our White House Association members were on hand to  "man"  their room (all members are  assigned rooms). As the guests came by, our ladies skillfully told  about some of the most important things in her room. 

One of our group stood on the front porch and warmly greeted every visitor, offered refreshments aand invited them in. Two of our member-husbands cordially served the refreshments.

I want to thank each and every member who was able to come, and especially our Association member Gale Main who arranged for the FWH to be on the Convention schedule. It was a tremendous PR event for us! And we appreciate each delegate that took the time to attend.

You would be very proud of the First White House and how beautiful and impressive it appeared. It reminded us of  what we have read about  Varina Davis having "levees" (teas) in the House.  She would doubtless have been very proud of the House and of the White House ladies last night!!! And of course very impressed with the guests. as well.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Becoming Alabama"

I thought you would be interested in learning more about "Becoming Alabama".

Becoming Alabama is a statewide partnership for the planning and promotion of commemorative activities to observe the anniversaries of three major periods in Alabama history: the bicentennial of the Creek War and War of 1812, which was pivotal in the formation of the state; the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, which began with decisions made in Montgomery by the fledgling Confederate government; and the ongoing fiftieth anniversaries of major events in the civil rights movement, which had its greatest struggles and achievements in the churches, streets, and parks of Alabama.

The concept for Becoming Alabama began with a pragmatic assessment of the financial and logistical challenges posed by this rapid succession of anniversaries over the next several years. Given the budgetary restraints faced by nearly every historical and cultural organization in today’s economic climate, it made sense to seek efficiency in planning public programs, designing publicity, and developing educational resources.

The effort offered more than mere efficiency, however. When considered from a broader perspective, the three periods under consideration offered a unified theme for understanding the political, social, and economic forces that shaped—and continue to shape—Alabama.

I have attended meeting in Montgomery, Birmingham and Mobile. Each time I have put forth the plans and ideas that have come from the First White House of the Confederacy, so that other groups and agencies across the state could hopefully learn more about who we are and what we do.

I have also enjoyed learning more about what these other agencies and groups do and I have met many interesting people and am glad I had this opportunity to do so. Eva Newman, our FWH Staff Supervisor went with me to Mobile and she too enjoyed the interaction.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"What the Wind Blew In"

I came across a March 1, 2009 book review from the New York Times that was in our files on our quintessential Hollywood movie favorite Gone With The Wind. The article was by Armond White who says that the movie deserves to be rescued from critical disdain and given its correct place among American pop masterpieces such as "The Godfather", "On the Waterfront" and E.T."

White quotes Molly Haskell who written a book called "Frankly, My Dear 'Gone With the Wind' Revisited". I quote White who says about Haskell's book: "In Haskell's thoughtful revisionism, Scarlett comes to embody personal and national contradictions...focusing on Scarlett's turbulent, childlike ways, Haskell illustrates the traits of beauty, self-regard and the uninhibited will to act that have made GWTW one of the least dated classic Hollywood movies."

And again quoting Haskell, "These attributes will always be disputed, but Haskell's critical sensitivity rescues Scarlett's Americanism and femininity, indicating how her image redounds upon our eternal political struggles and deepest fantasies. Haskell clarifies the long shadow that Scarlett O'Hara casts over the American movie imagination".

Wouldn't it be fun to order both of these books and read them side by side? It has been a long time since I read GWTW although I watch the movie from time to time. How long since you read it?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jefferson Davis's pocket watch

We thought you might be interested in hearing about an item that we had on display as a loan from kind friends for almost two years. It is the Jefferson Davis pocket watch. The watch was used as barter when the ex-president was paroled from Fortress Monroe, Virginia in 1867.

Here is how it happened: After being released, Davis traveled  to a small township, Lennoxville, which is outside Quebec, Canada. It was there that he traded the watch to a boot maker by the name of Robert Balfour in exchange for a pair of custom-made boots.

The watch was passed down through the Balfour family until their were no more heirs. The watch was then given by the last surviving family member to his next-door neighbors, the Courchenes.The watch later came on the market and our friends purchased it.  

Jefferson Davis probably bought the watch sometime immediately before or during his Presidency of the Confederacy, but we really have no way to know. We do thank our benefactors so much for the loan of the watch. It was of great interest to our visitors. Please stay in touch and keep us posted on it's whereabouts!

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Important Event This Week at the First White House

We are very excited to have the opportunity to welcome the Alabama Preservation Conference Thursday evening, October 7th from 5:15 - 7:00 at the First White House.This conference is sponsored by the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation, Alabama Historical Commission, Black Heritage Council of Alabama and the Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery. We are honored that they are including the First White House of the Confederacy in their very busy agenda. Some of our White House Association members will be in the rooms to welcome these important visitors and we will serve refreshments on the front porch.

One of our FWH Board members, Gale Main, is a member of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation and is helping with the Conference. Peggy Hair is Conference Chair and Tina Jones is President of the Board for the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation. Thank you ladies for a big job well done! And thank you for thinking of the First White House!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hello, You Want To Visit?

If you have children or grandchildren, please encourage them to read our blog every day for interesting and informative history about Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy, The War and the First White House. If you are interested in any or all of these subjects, we hope you will become a regular reader and share the news with others so that our readership will continue to increase.

If you plan a trip to Montgomery or live here, we would love for you to visit individually,or as a group. If 10 or more, we ask that you schedule in advance a  tour of the First White House.Our phone # for reservations is 334-242-1861. You might think of doing this for your book or study club, patriotic group, school, church or other affinity group. And please remember it is free! You can stay as long as you like and our hours are 8:00 - 4:30 daily, Monday-Friday, except for State Holidays when we are closed.

 Recently we have had tours not only from public and private schools but also home school students. There are many eating places nearby too (see our website at for these, and for other sites to visit.)

We had over 50 visitors today (one or two at a time) and they were absolutely "enchanted". We had a biker come in and he said he had visited many places like the First White House but had not enjoyed any of them as much as he did his visit to the FWH. That was very gratifying. We can thank former Regent, Cameron Napier for most of what has gone on "behind the scenes" as she for over 29 years assembled our artifacts and collection.

We can also thank our Receptionists Lynn Burk and Evelyn England who greet everyone so warmly and makes all our visitors feel special and "at home". This is what we are all about at the FWH!!! Please come and visit. And do share our website, our blog and our facebook whenever you can.

Friday, October 1, 2010

February 16, 2011 Marks An Event

On Wednesday, February 16, 2011 the White House Association will partner with the Archives and History Department to  celebrate a very special evening at the Archives. Dr. Ralph Draughon of Auburn, Alabama, a noted historian, will speak at 6:00 pm in the auditorium about the meeting of William C. Yancey and Jefferson Davis in Montgomery February 16, 1861. The crowd will gather in the Rotunda for refreshments at 5:30.
Here is what William C. Davis, In "A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy" tells us about that fateful evening. He tells us that Davis arrived in Montgomery exhausted. He had made speeches all along the way It was 10:00 pm when the train rolled into the station. Even before Davis stepped down, the crowd awaiting him shouted, cannon boomed and the church bells pealed again and again. He spoke briefly to the crowd and then Davis and Yancey stepped into a four-horse coach and rode toward Court Square.

In a few minutes he arrived at  the Exchange Hotel with Yancey and the rest of the delegation. At a quarter to eleven Davis stepped out onto the second floor portico between the massive columns overlooking Commerce Street. "Now we are brethren" he told them, "men of one flesh, of one bone, of one interest, of one purpose".  He hoped they would live in peace but if war should come to test their resolve, they would show themselves worthy inheritors of the heritage of 1776.

Davis went inside to unpack and prepare for bed. The crowd called for Yancey, the hometown favorite. Yancey came out and congratulated them on finding the right man, a patriot, statesman and soldier. This was their defining moment as Confederates, he told them. "The man and the hour have met". The crowd was electrified.

Won't you make plans to join us for the sesquicentennial celebration of this fateful night in Montgomery history? We will gather for punch and cheese straws at 5:30 and Dr. Draughon will speak at 6:00. Mark your calendars for a not-to-miss time of remembrance.