Saturday, December 31, 2011

So, Have a Happy New Year With Jeff Davis Punch

I have printed this before with the permission given by Jefferson Davis's great-great grandson, Bertram Hayes-Davis.It is supposed to have been invented by Winnie for her father's birthday in later years.
3/4 cup lemon juice
1-3/4 lbs sugar dissolved in water
6 bottles (4/5) claret
1 bottle light rum
1 bottle - dry sherry
1/2 bottle - brandy
3 bottles (1 qt) ginger ale
3 bottles (1 qt) soda
Float with sliced cucumber & oranges & ice. Dilute to taste 0 serves 100 approx. punch cups.
Note: looks like  a pretty potent potable to me! Be careful. I take no responsibility!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stewardship Report on The First White House Collection

Yesterday I outlined some of the events that the Association put on to mark our the beginning of the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States in 2011. Today I want to talk about some of the work that has been done in the House, some by the State of Alabama and some by the Association.

The State has been most attentive in every area that they have been asked to help with. There is a constant need for walls and ceilings to be "repaired" as paint and plaster continue to rain down upon us. They have manfully taken up the task of seeing that this is done. Likewise the heating and air condition problems. We are grateful!

The Association has  had the gasoliers conserved and moved to places of prominence. We have sold the reproductions so that just about all items in the house are of the 1860 period or earlier. The furniture has also been conserved and polished so that everything sparkles. We have moved furniture here and there in an effort to make the rooms more pleasing to the eye and to have the finest pieces show up to their advantage.

We have had the historic, original iron fence repaired. We have also had a lovely iron bench made, thanks to the generosity of the Merry Weeders Garden Club. We are looking forward to 2012 and new challenges and goals set and hopefully accomplished!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recapping 2011 Year For The "Jeff Davis" House in Montgomery

In preparing for the end of the year I thought it would be fun to recap 2011 Sesquicentennial events in which the First White House of the Confederacy participated:

 January 19 – celebrated our annual Robert E. Lee birthday party with Bill Rambo, speaker.

February 16 – co-sponsored event with the Dept. of Archives & History, commemorating the evening Jefferson Davis came to Montgomery and Yancey made his famous “man & the hour have met” speech. Dr. Ralph Draughon of Auburn presented the speech by Yancey.

March 8 – our FWH annual spring luncheon, with guest speaker Judge Mark Anderson

May 6 – our Sesquicentennial fundraiser with William C. Davis, speaker

June 3 – celebrated Jefferson Davis’s birthday with Senator Dick Brewbaker, speaker
October 27 – we had our annual fall meeting

On January 19, 2012 at 11:00 am. we will again meet to celebrate Robert E. Lee's Birthday with Bob Bradley, Chief Curator for the Alabama Archives and History Dept. as our speaker. We look forward to this event.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Varina Writes About Their Last Christmas In Richmond

This article by Varina Davis on their last Christmas at the  White House  was reprinted in the Washington Times today. I have quoted parts of it before, and we have it in its entirety in our files.It was first published in the New York World in 1896 and has been republished many times since.

She says: “Rice, flour, molasses and tiny pieces of meat, most of them sent to the President's wife anonymously to be distributed to the poor, had all been weighed and issued, and the playtime of the family began, but like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided, as well as one pretty prize for the most orderly girl among the orphans."

“The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years.”
Varina and Jefferson Davis, 1845
Toys for the Orphans
“The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy-hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children's treasures for a contribution to the orphans' tree. My little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure: eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children's toys that gather in a nursery closet."

“Some small feathered chickens and parrots which nodded their heads in obedience to a weight beneath them were furnished with new tail feathers, lambs minus much of their wool were supplied with a cotton wool substitute, rag dolls were plumped out and recovered with clean cloth, and the young ladies painted their fat faces in bright colors and furnished them with beads for eyes.”

Doll House Production
“But the tug of war was how to get something with which to decorate the orphans' tree. Our manservant, Robert Brown, was much interested and offered to make the prize toy. He contemplated a ‘sure enough house, with four rooms.’ His part in the domestic service was delegated to another and he gave himself over in silence and solitude to the labors of the architect."

“My sister painted mantel shelves, door panels, pictures and frames for the walls, and finished with black grates in which there blazed a roaring fire, which was pronounced marvelously realistic. We all made furniture of twigs and pasteboard, and my mother made pillows, mattresses, sheets and pillow cases for the two little bedrooms."

“Christmas Eve a number of young people were invited to come and string apples and popcorn for the trees; a neighbor very deft in domestic arts had tiny candle moulds [sic] made and furnished all the candles for the tree. However, the puzzle and triumph of all was the construction of a large number of cornucopias. At last someone suggested a conical block of wood, about which the drawing paper could be wound and pasted. In a little book shop, a number of small, highly colored pictures cut out and ready to apply were unearthed, and our old confectioner friend, Mr. Piazzi, consented, with a broad smile, to give ‘all the love verses the young people wanted to roll with the candy.’"

Merriment on Christmas Eve to Work
“About twenty young men and girls gathered around small tables in one of the drawing rooms of the mansion and the cornucopias were begun. The men wrapped the squares of candy, first reading the ‘sentiments’ printed upon them, such as ‘Roses are red, violets blue, sugar's sweet and so are you, ‘If you love me as I love you, no knife can cut our love in two.’ The fresh young faces, wreathed in smiles, nodded attention to the reading, while with their small deft hands they ginned the cornucopias and pasted on the pictures."

“Where were the silk tops to come from? Trunks of old things were turned out and snippings of silk and even woolen of bright colors were found to close the tops, and some of the young people twisted sewing silk into cords with which to draw the bags up. The beauty of those home-made things astonished us all, for they looked quite ‘custom-made,’ but when the ‘sure enough house’ was revealed to our longing gaze the young people clapped their approbation, while Robert, whose sense of dignity did not permit him to smile, stood the impersonation of successful artist and bowed his thanks for our approval."
Confederate White House, 1864
“Then the coveted eggnog was passed around in tiny glass cups and pronounced good. Crisp home-made ginger snaps and snowy lady cake completed the refreshments of Christmas Eve. The children allowed to sit up and be noisy in their way as an indulgence took a sip of eggnog out of my cup, and the eldest boy confided to his father: 'Now I just know this is Christmas.' In most of the houses in Richmond these same scenes were enacted, certainly in every one of the homes of the managers of the Episcopalian Orphanage. A bowl of eggnog was sent to the servants, and a part of everything they coveted of the dainties.”

Makeshift Toys for the Children and Adult Gifts
“At last quiet settled on the household and the older members of the family began to stuff stockings with molasses candy, red apples, an orange, small whips plaited by the family with high-colored crackers, worsted reins knitted at home, paper dolls, teetotums [sic] made of large horn bottoms and a match which could spin indefinitely, balls of worsted rags wound hard and covered with old kid gloves, a pair of pretty woolen gloves for each, either cut of cloth and embroidered on the back or knitted by some deft hand out of home-spun wool."

“For the President there were a pair of chamois-skin riding gauntlets exquisitely embroidered on the back with his monogram in red and white silk, made, as the giver wrote, under the guns of Fortress Monroe late at night for fear of discovery. There was a hemstitched linen handkerchief, with a little sketch in indelible ink in one corner; the children had written him little letters, their grandmother having held their hands, the burthen [sic] of which compositions was how they loved their dear father.
"For one of the inmates of the home, who was greatly loved but whose irritable temper was his prominent failing, there was a pretty cravat, the ends of which were embroidered, as was the fashion of the day. The pattern chosen was simple and on it was pinned a card with the word ‘amiable’ to complete the sentence. One of the [missing] received a present of an illuminated copy of Solomon's proverbs found in the same old store from which the pictures came. He studied it for some time and announced: ‘I have changed my opinion of Solomon, he uttered such unnecessary platitudes -- now why should he have said 'The foolishness of a fool is his folly?’"

The Dawn of Christmas
On Christmas morning the children awoke early and came in to see their toys. They were followed by the negro women, who one after another ‘caught’ us by wishing us a merry Christmas before we could say it to them, which gave them a right to a gift. Of course, there was a present for every one, small though it might be, and one who had been born and brought up at our plantation was vocal in her admiration of a gay handkerchief. As she left the room she ejaculated: ‘Lord knows mistress knows our insides; she jest got the very thing I wanted.’"

Mrs. Davis's Strange Presents
“For me there were six cakes of delicious soap, made from the grease of ham boiled for a family at Farmville, a skein of exquisitely fine gray linen thread spun at home, a pincushion of some plain brown cotton material made by some poor woman and stuffed with wool from her pet sheep, and a little baby hat plaited by the orphans and presented by the industrious little pair who sewed the straw together. They pushed each other silently to speak, and at last mutely offered the hat, and considered the kiss they gave the sleeping little one ample reward for the industry and far above the fruit with which they were laden."

“Another present was a fine, delicate little baby frock without an inch of lace or embroidery upon it, but the delicate fabric was set with fairy stitches by the dear invalid neighbor who made it, and it was very precious in my eyes. There were also a few of Swinburne's best songs bound in wall-paper and a chamois needle book left for me by young Mr. P., now succeeded to his title in England. In it was a Brobdingnagian thimble ‘for my own finger, you know,’ said the handsome, cheerful young fellow. After breakfast, at which all the family, great and small, were present, came the walk to St. Paul's Church. We did not use our carriage on Christmas or, if possible to avoid it, on Sunday. The saintly Dr. Minnegerode preached a sermon on Christian love, the introit was sung by a beautiful young society woman and the angels might have joyfully listened."

"Our chef did wonders with the turkey and roast beef, and drove the children quite out of their propriety by a spun sugar hen, life-size, on a nest full of blanc mange eggs. The mince pie and plum pudding made them feel, as one of the gentlemen laughingly remarked, 'like their jackets were buttoned,' a strong description of repletion which I have never forgotten. They waited with great impatience and evident dyspeptic symptoms for the crowning amusement of the day, 'the children's tree.' My eldest boy, a chubby little fellow of seven, came to me several times to whisper: 'Do you think I ought to give the orphans my I.D. studs?' When told no, he beamed with the delight of an approving conscience. All throughout the afternoon first one little head and then another popped in at the door to ask: 'Isn't it 8 o'clock yet?,' burning with impatience to see the 'children's tree.''

A Tree for the Children
"When at last we reached the basement of St. Paul's Church, the tree burst upon their view like the realization of Aladdin's subterranean orchard, and they were awed by its grandeur. The orphans sat mute with astonishment until the opening hymn and prayer and the last amen had been said, and then they at a signal warily and slowly gathered around the tree to receive from a lovely young girl their allotted present. The different gradations from joy to ecstasy which illuminated their faces was ‘worth two years of peaceful life’ to see."

"The President became so enthusiastic that he undertook to help in the distribution, but worked such wild confusion giving everything asked for into their outstretched hands, that we called a halt, so he contented himself with unwinding one or two tots from a network of strung popcorn in which they had become entangled and taking off all apples he could when unobserved, and presenting them to the smaller children. When at last the house was given to the ‘honor girl’ she moved her lips without emitting a sound, but held it close to her breast and went off in a corner to look and be glad without witnesses."

‘When the lights were fled, the garlands dead, and all but we departed’ we also went home to find that Gen. Lee had called in our absence, and many other people. Gen. Lee had left word that he had received a barrel of sweet potatoes for us, which had been sent to him by mistake. He did not discover the mistake until he had taken his share (a dishful) and given the rest to the soldiers! We wished it had been much more for them and him.”

“Starvation Dance Party”
“The night closed with a ‘starvation’ party,' where there were no refreshments, at a neighboring house. The rooms lighted as well as practicable, some one willing to play dance music on the piano and plenty of young men and girls comprised the entertainment. Sam Weller's soiry [sic - soiree refers to a party or reception held in the evening], consisting of boiled mutton and capers, would have been a royal feast in the Confederacy."

“The officers, who rode into town with their long cavalry boots pulled well up over their knees, but splashed up their waists, put up their horses and rushed to the places where their dress uniform suits had been left for safekeeping. They very soon emerged, however, in full toggery and entered into the pleasures of their dance with the bright-eyed girls, who many of them were fragile as fairies, but worked like peasants for their home and country."

“These young people are gray-haired now, but the lessons of self-denial, industry and frugality in which they became past mistresses then, have made of them the most dignified, self-reliant and tender women I have ever known -- all honor to them. So, in the interchange of the courtesies and charities of life, to which we could not add its comforts and pleasures, passed the last Christmas in the Confederate mansion.”

Soon the Davises would be forced to leave their home, as Richmond fell to the Federals and our brave soldiers could hold out no longer.

First White House Blog Update

When the end of the year rolls around I like to check the status of our blog.We have had 7,489 hits all time, and 540 last month. Here is a list of the most popular ones:

1. Descendants of Jefferson Davis  - (Jan 9, 29011) - 389 page views
2. The Man and The Hour have Met -  (Feb 10, 2011) - 139 views
3. Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis - (Nov 27, 2010) - 83 views
4. Little Known Facts about The War, The Davis Family, etc - (Sept 20, 2010) - 73 views
5. Doctors, Disease & Amputations in The War - (Mar 28, 2011) -  73 views
6. An Opinion About The Real Lincoln - (Mar 6, 2011) - 66 views
7. Reenactment of Inauguration Day, Feb 18, 1861 - (Oct 18, 2010) - 63
8. Young Slave Woman Whipped? Sorry, I don't think so - (March 2, 2011) - 52
9. Important Events in the Life of Jefferson Davis - (Nov 16, 2010) - 51
10. Jefferson Davis's Sword, Rifle & Walking Stock - (June 2, 2011) - 47

Thanks faithful readers. I appreciate you! We  write this to attract attention to the First White House in hopes that we will have many more visitors in the coming year! Please help us spread the word!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Plaque Honoring Jefferson Davis At St. John's Episcopal Church

I read an article on the Internet by Winston Skinner of the Times Herald in Newnan, GA., titled "St. John's Episcopal Church has plaque recalling Jefferson Davis". The plaque, of course, is because the Davis family worshiped there during the time Montgomery was the capital of the Confederate States of America and the church is commemorating the memory of this great man.

The home rented for the Davis family was only a few blocks away from St. John's. Skinner points out that the Davis family were Baptists, the Howells - Mrs. Davis's family - Episcopalians. Jefferson Davis was not a member of any church until they moved to Richmond and he was confirmed in St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Mattie Pegues Wood wrote in "The Life of St John's Parish" that the President "bowed his head a little lower" when prayers were offered for him in his official role at St. John's. Throughout its history, St. John's has offered a place of solace and peace, and I am sure that was of great benefit to President Davis.

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Appreciation Of More Comments And...A Poem About Old Houses

Thanks for the comments on the Saturday, December 17 blog. How much we appreciate those kind words of anonymous,  as well as the interesting follow-up on slavery by Richard, and  how it has affected the whole country, even down into the modern era.

Hope all our readers will read  all comments made by our thoughtful readers! And please feel free, everyone to comment. It helps us all.

I have a delightful Christmas present for you today - a poem titled Old Houses by Walter Blackstock, which is in one of the files carefully preserved by Mrs. Napier, our Honorary Regent for Life. I don't think you can read this one without thinking of our wonderful First White House of the Confederacy!

I love old houses, set among old trees,
And filled with creaking time and age-spun dust;
I hove the quiet, spacious rooms that hold
A silent history within their must,
Old furnishings are best - tall stately clocks
That tick white-whispered time, and seats of red
Deep plush and draperies of faded gold
And sunlight spilling on a rosewood bed.

New homes, rain-bright, seem ever to withhold
The magic of romance, the shell of song
Of older places; living is untried
Where shadows keep no secrets, good or wrong.

I love the dawn, the daffodil - new sun
Of day, the first warm throb of April green'
But something in my blood and tissue finds
Delight in greybeard houses, old and lean.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another Comment - This Time About Stonewall Jackson and Gettysburg

We invite comments from all our readers and we hope you will go back to our Dec 4 blog "Stonewall Jackson and His Christian Principles" and read Richard's excellent comments.

It makes me so sad to think of what might have happened, had Stonewall lived (Richard says Gettysburg might have been avoided altogether),  but being a "Presbyterian" helps me to remember that God is in control of all events, and that for reasons yet unknown to us finite human creatures He did not want this Country to split into two, i.e. it was not His Will that the South win the war, as hard as that is sometimes to believe.

Of course slavery was wrong, and its abolition was a good result of a horrible bloody war,  but the north was culpable too. Our culture was locked into a system that we cannot begin to understand from today's perspective. Slavery would have and should have ended without bloodshed as had happened in almost all the other nations of the world. Greed entered in - duh, doesn't it always? When we say "its not about the money" it usually always is!

Bottom line: we weren't there and we cannot with hindsight fix anything that has already taken place. We can learn from it though, can't we? Who was it that said "if we don't study history, we are bound to repeat it"?

Richard's Comments On Dec 5 blog about Christmas During Civil War

Thanks Richard, for your comments on Christmas during the War, (blog of Dec 5th), and how the soldiers must have felt. I am sure as you suggest that they mus have wondered if they would ever spend another Christmas at home with their loved ones, especially as the war dragged on year after bloody year.

Here is a brief review of what was going on in December 1864 according to General John Napier and Cameron Freeman Napier: John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee had just been shattered at the Battle of Franklin on November 30th and at Nashville on Dec 15-16th - 12,000 casualties in two weeks. One Tennessee veteran said "Ain't we in a helluva fix, a one-eyed President, a one-legged general and a one-horse Confederacy".

Sherman had marched to the sea and wired President Lincoln he was giving him Savannah as a Christmas gift.  Just miles from Richmond the Petersburg Campaign continued after the Battle of the Crater June 23-24, 1864.  Montgomery had been threatened by Rousseau's Raiders which had wrecked the railroad in Columbus, so trenches 4 ft deep and 6 ft wide were dug around the city.

But typically Montgomery, there was a benefit at Ladies Hospital, the day after Christmas and there was a production of Richelieu, at the Montgomery Theatre, the last wartime production. As General Napier said, "The Confederacy was dying".

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Traditions in the Old South

One of the many causes of the War was the difference in the kinds of people who settled in the northeast as opposed to those who settled in Virgina and the Carolinas and later went west and south.

The Puritans of New England regarded Christmas as tainted with Catholicism and the Massachusetts Bay Colony banned Christmas in 1659. Meanwhile our ancestors down in Virgina were observing Advent for four weeks before Christmas, and making preparations for family and friends and house parties that lasted for days.

Polishing silver and brass, lighting the Advent wreaths and celebrating Christmas gloriously with music and drinking and dancing and revelry during the Twelve Days of Christmas, Dec 25-Jan 6 is how these stalwart Southerners handled it. And in their migrations south and west they took their cavalier heritage and Christmas traditions with them.

In fact, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama in the 1830's became the first states in the nation to declare Christmas a legal holiday. It was not until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Looking for Missing Plaques

The White House Association is looking for a missing small brass plaque that was on the Old Goodyear building downtown where the Skate Board Park is today that says it is the site of the First White House of the Confederacy when Jefferson Davis lived there. It was removed when the building was torn down and no one can find it. We would love to have it. It was originally put there by the Sophie Bibb Chapter of the UDC I believe.
Also there was another plaque that was in the Old Supreme Court room in the Alabama State Capitol that says: "This plaque marked the Old Supreme Court Room (1885-1940) in which the body of President Jefferson Davis lay in state, Monday, May 29, 1893 en route from New Orleans, Louisiana to Richmond, Virginia for permanent interment. Erected by the White House Association 1970".
This plaque was taken down when the Capitol underwent restoration and no one can locate it.
If anyone knows where we could find either of these are we would love to have them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

More About Christmas During the Civil War

I read in the Civil War Women Blog that the most beloved symbol of the American family Christmas is the Christmas tree, and that it came into its own before and during the Civil War. The decorations, as you can imagine, were homemade: strings of sugared fruit, ribbon, popcorn, pine cones, colored paper, silver foil and spun-glass ornaments.

Greenery, same as today, was used to decorate mantels, windows and tables. We still do this at the First White House of the Confederacy, using magnolia, cedar, pine and holly. Cedar wreaths decorate our staircase this year.

 The pre-war Southern Christmas menu usually consisted of baked ham, turkey, oysters and winter vegetables from the root cellar: squash, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots and apples. Preserves, pickles and relishes, breads, pies and pudding were also used. My grandmother always served ambrosia (she called it the "nectar of the gods").

Of course this bounty was no longer available during and after the war. Laughter turned to tears and festivities to gloom. The holiday most associated with family and home was a contradiction with men away fighting, some never to return. A way of life was "gone with the wind" forever, never to return.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stonewall Jackson and his Christian Principles

I wasn't able to find much written about religion during the War, except from the Northern point of view, and so I turned to one of my favorite characters, Stonewall Jackson. I found an interesting article about him on line, written by Stephen W. Sears, March 16, 1997, titled "Onward Christian Soldier".

The article is about what was then a new book on Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robertson, Professor at VPI. In discussing Jackson's religious faith, Robertson quotes one of Jackson's aides, James Power Smith: ''The religion of Stonewall Jackson will be the chief and most effective way into the secret spring of the character and career of this strong man.''

 Robertson tells us:"Jackson was fanatical in his Presbyterian faith, and it energized his military thought and character. Theology was the only subject he genuinely enjoyed discussing. His dispatches invariably credited an ever-kind Providence. Assigning his fate to God's hands, he acted utterly fearlessly on the battlefield -- and expected the same of everyone else in Confederate gray. Jackson's God smiled South, blessing him with the strength of Joshua to smite the Amalekites without mercy."

 Sears tells us: "Previous biographers have ignored or soft-pedaled this mercilessness in war, but Mr. Robertson underlines it as a source of Jackson's fierce battlefield leadership.

This fanatical religiosity had drawbacks. It warped Jackson's judgment of men, leading to poor appointments; it was said he preferred good Presbyterians to good soldiers. It branded him holier-than-thou, with an intolerance for others' frailties, and this spilled over onto the battlefield to generate truly senseless confrontations with his lieutenants."

 One such, with General Hill, led Hill to rage at ''that crazy old Presbyterian fool'' and seek to escape from Jackson's command. Another lieutenant, reading in a Jackson dispatch that ''God blessed our arms with victory,'' remarked irreverently, ''I suppose it is true, but we would have had no victory if we hadn't fought like the devil!''

For Civil War buffs, Mr. Robertson provides plenty of debating points about Jackson's two most-discussed campaigns -- in the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862 and, immediately afterward, in the Seven Days battle before Richmond. Here was Stonewall Jackson at his best, then at his worst. His.partnership with Lee reached its apogee at Chancellorsville - and then ended with shocking suddenness. Lee said it best: "I do not know how to replace him".

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Music During The Civil War

Although Christmas did not become an official holiday until five years after the Civil War ended, Wikipedia tells us that Carols, hymns and seasonal songs were sung during the Christmas season, 1861-1865.

 If you enjoy Christmas music as much I do, you may be interested in the fact that some of the carols  popular during the War are still sung today. Among these are "Deck the Halls", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", and Mendelssohn's "Hark the Herald Angels sing" (1840),

American musical contributions to the season include "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" (1850), "Jingle Bells" (1857), "We Three Kings of Orient Are" (1857) and "up on the Housetop" (1860).

 Longfellow wrote his pacifist poem, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Bells" on Christmas Day 1864 after he herd his son had suffered severe wounds during the Mine Run Campaign. The poem was set to music by John Baptiste Calkin after 1872 and is in the established library of Christmas carols. Wikipedia says that Longfellow's carol does not include two stanzas from the original poem that focused on the war.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mrs. Jefferson Davis Writes About Christmas

/The following is from a newspaper clipping included among the Jefferson Davis papers at Rice University.It is by Varina Davis and appeared in the New York World on Sunday, December 13, 1896. She writes about Christmas in the South during the War.

She says: "For as Christmas season was ushered in under the darkest clouds, everyone felt the cataclysm which impended but the rosy, expectant faces of our little children were a constant reminder that self-sacrifice must be the personal offering of each member of the family. How to satisfy the children when nothing better could be done than the little makeshift attainable in the Confederacy was the problem of the older members of each household".

She goes on to talk about the missing ingredients for the "mince pie" which was a must for Christmas. In fact,  the children considered that at least a slice of that much-coveted dainty was their right, and the price of indigestion paid for it was a debt of honor!!!

She says that the many excited housekeepers in Richmond had preserved all the fruits attainable, (including apples from the plenteous apple trees, and these were substituted for the time-honored raisins and currants. The brandy and cider were forthcoming. Hooray, Christmas would be a success!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jefferson Davis Historic Sites

From our "First White House of the Confederacy" booklet is a list of Jefferson Davis historic sites, compiled by Mrs.Napier. How many of these have you visited? We would enjoy your comments. I have been to several and would very much like to visit the others.

His birthplace at Fairview, Kentucky. House (gone), Obelisk built there as a shrine
His boyhood home, Rosemont Plantation, Woodville, MS
Brierfield Plantation, Warren County, near Vicksburg, MS (house gone)
Married to Varina Howell, at The Briers, Natchez MS
The First White House of the Confederacy, Montgomery AL
The Second White House in Richmond VA (they don't call it "second" but we do!)
Last Capitol of CSA in Danville, VA
Prison, Jefferson Davis Museum, the Casemate, Fortress Monroe, VA
Beauvoir  in Biloxi MS, his final residence
Buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond VA.

Other museums include Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg; Confederate Memorial Hall Civil War Museum in New Orleans, Confederate Museum in Jefferson, LA and Stone Mountain Park, near Atlanta.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chronology of Jefferson Davis's Sojourn in Montgomery

The following was reported in the Montgomery Weekly Advertiser of 1861 and printed in The First White House of the Confederacy booklet written and edited by Cameron Freeman Napier, the fifth Regent of the White House Association. I paraphrase it briefly for your information, especially since we are "winding down" year one of the Sesquicentennial of The War Between The States.
Jan 11, 1861 - Alabama adopted the Ordinance of Secession from the Union
Feb 4 - Confederate States of American organized
Feb 8 - Provisional Constitutional Congress convened at State Capitol in Montgomery
Feb 9 - Jefferson Davis elected President of the CSA
Feb 10 - Jefferson Davis received telegram of his election at Brierfield Plantation, near Vicksburg
Feb 16 - Jefferson Davis arrived Montgomery, midnight train, took suite in Exchange Hotel
Feb 18 - At 1:00 P.M. Jefferson Davis inaugurated Provisional President of CSA
Feb 21 - Provisional Congress authorized lease of the Executive Mansion
March 2 - Mrs. Davis en route to Montgomery
March 4 - Mrs. Davis arrived and went to Executive Mansion to supervise renovations
March 11 - President and Mrs. Davis held a levee at the First White House
March 17 - Provisional Confederate Congress adjourned until second Monday in May
April 1 - Mrs. Davis returned to Brierfield to supplement the White House furnishings
April 10 - Beauregard given discretionary authority to "demand evacuation  Fort Sumter or reduce it".
April 14 - Mrs. Davis returned to Montgomery with the children and certain household items.
April 24 - Description of the Davis' $ 1300 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 the War Between the States occurred.
May 26 - President Davis left Montgomery
May 20 - President Davis arrived Richmond. Mrs. Davis remained to supervised packing.
June 15 -  Mrs. Davis reported holding receptions at Spotswood Hotel in Richmond.

 She was waiting to move into the old Brockenbrough House which would remain the permanent and last White House of the Confederacy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Civil War Christmas Ornaments

Last year I bought a Christmas Ornament of  "The Gray Ghost" done by Mort Kunstler, as a fundraiser for Timber Ridge School in Winchester, VA. Mr. Kunstler's work is beautiful and I can't recommend enough that you go to the and buy one of these wonderful Civil War ornaments.

The special ornament for 2011 is "Mrs. Jackson comes to Winchester". This is the 16th year that the School has been producing an ornament and the 15th year the School has been partnering with Mr. Kunstler. Every dollar raised from the sale of the ornaments goes to Timber Ridge School for at-risk boys.

The Gray Ghost (last year's ornament)  was John S. Mosby, a Confederate Cavalryman, 1833-1916. A limited supply of previous years' ornaments are available on the website.Please consider enhancing your own Christmas by helping this school in their endeavors. I assure you that you will enjoy your ornament for years to come. I know I am!

Jefferson Davis And His Place in History

Hudson Strode, who wrote a sympathetic biography on Jefferson Davis, says:" Davis was a Jeffersonian Democrat, dedicated to the principle of States Rights under the Constitution. He had inherited his ideas on politics from his father and George Washington."

As the leading Southerner in Congress in the late 1850's,  he struggled to save the Union and its federal principles as much as he later struggle to save the South. Hudson Strode quoted Horace Greeley, who in 1858 declared, "Mr. Davis is unquestionably the foremost man in the South today".

Though a reluctant  secessionist himself, when the Southern States seceded in 1861, Jefferson Davis was the unanimous choice of the Confederate Convention for President. Professor Strode goes on to say:"Jefferson Davis  was a President without precedent. He formed a brand new nation in the cauldron of a terrible war...It was far easier to be chief executive of a powerful, established country (Lincoln) than to create a nation with few resources but cotton and courage".

After Hudson Strode's understanding biography of Jefferson Davis appeared, Bruce Catton wrote: "Davis finally becomes a possession of the whole country and not just a section." Strode adds, The place of Jefferson Davis in American history as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America is unique."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Winston Groom Writing About Civil War Battles

Winston Groom, famous for writing Forest Gump, was in Montgomery recently speaking at an event. Did you know that he has written a fine book about Confederate General John Bell Hood's audacious attempt to vanquish the Union on the western front during the final months of the War?

The name of the book is Shrouds of Glory with the subtitle "From Atlanta to Nashville, the Last Great Campaign of the Civil War." It is dedicated to his great-grandfather, who like many of ours, fought in the Confederate Army.

While Winston was in town promoting his newest book, Kearney's March, he told us he is in the process of doing one about the battle of Shiloh. He has also written a book about Vicksburg. It is so great to know that we have fine writers such as him, interested in writing about the War all these many years later.

Guests At The First Whie House of the Confederacy

We enjoy all our visitors and are so thankful (on this Thanksgiving Day) for each and every one of them. Some are local, others from throughout Alabama and many others from other States and even from outside the United States.

I want especially to thank "Jim and Joy" for their recent visit from Pensacola and their taking the time to send in a comment. It was great to meet you both. Please come back soon!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Looking Back To The Civil War on Thanksgiving Day 2011

Can we be thankful for that hateful and cruel war as we look back 150 years? Romans 8:28 says that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose".

What good could possibly come out of the death of 620,000 brave men, plus the destruction of a Country?Was the war right? Was secession justifiable? What about the slavery issue? So many questions bubble up when we try to look back to that time in history, forgetting that our vantage point is so different for theirs.

Yes, good came out of it: for one thing we are now and for always "one nation" again. That was proved by the triumph of the federal government. The slavery issue was settled too, although if the South had just waited, perhaps this could have been worked out without all the bloodshed, as was true in most of the rest of the world.

Unseen benefits: many came to Christ during the war. We will not know until we get to Heaven, how many conversions came as a result of the fear of imminent death, and of losing all one held onto so dearly.

Our Providential God does work in mysterious ways, but He works! I am thankful for the brave men and women on both sides who set a godly example for us, so long ago. We have much to live up to!

Devoted Christian Warrior Stonewall Jackson

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was well known as a devout Christian warrior. William L. Maughan writes "Christians still study his life of devotion to God in Christ".

Maughan writes that in every circumstance of life he saw the hand of God, and every victory that he won he ascribed to the Providence of God. Every morning and evening he held a brief prayer service in his tent.

Kate Cumming in her diary mentions comments upon Jackson's untimely death that it seemed reserved for his own men, much as Jephthah (in the Book of Judges) sacrificed his daughter.

Here is his advice to us: "The most important thing in the world is to know the will of God, and then to do it!" 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grey Gardens Connection with The First White House of the Confederacy

Remember the book, movie and play on Broadway called Grey Gardens? Today I spent a while looking through our files about the connection between our first Regent, Mrs. Jesse Drew Beale and the two women of Grey Gardens "fame".

Our First White House archives tell how Mrs. Beale's son Phelan, a prominent New York attorney and sportsman, married Edith Ewing Bouvier, an aunt of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.The Beales acquired a house in East Hampton, NY, and among their children were a son, Phelan Jr., a son Bouvier Beale, and a daughter, Edith  Bouvier Beale, "little Edie". The Beales were divorced in 1931 and for over 50 years the mother and daughter lived in the house, called Grey Gardens because of the  color of the dunes, the cement garden walls and the sea mist!

By 1971-72 their eccentric lifestyle had led to unsanitary conditions in the house, which became infected with cats and racoons, fleas, no running water and garbage everywhere. Facing eviction, the mother and daughter were "rescued" by Jackie and her sister Lee, who together provided the money to keep the ladies from becoming homeless and the house from being torn down.

Big Edie died in 1977 and Little Edie sold it in 1979 with the understanding that it not be razed. It has now been restored by the new owners. Little Edie died in 2002. A far cry from Montgomery, Alabama, and the First White House, but what an interesting connection!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Restorations at the First White House of the Confederacy

A carpenter friend told me today that he had not come to my house because he had been at someone's home working since August. He said "the house is really old, built in the 20's". I thought "little do you know. What about the First White House, built in the 30's" (the 1830's that is!!!).

And that made me think about the restorations (face-lifts as it were) that the Home in which Jefferson Davis lived for a time, has undergone, the first that I know of, coming before the Davises ever came to Montgomery. That was in 1855 when Colonel Winter renovated the two-story Federal frame house to the then fashionable  Italianate style. He added the front portico and closed in the rear porch.

The second restoration came in 1921 when the house was skillfully dismantled by thirds, moved, reassembled, restored and presented to the people of the State of Alabama.

Fifty years later it was in need of major repair again. The second floor had been restricted to no more than eight visitors. The work began as a Bicentennial project in April of 1976. On December 10 of that same year  the first White House of the Confederacy reopened with elegant fanfare!!!

The next work was begun in 1996 with both federal and state money. This included lead paint removal. The end result was the 1996-97 Restoration! And yet again, in 2007 we had another major overhaul, this time with the heating and air conditioning units. Are you getting tired yet? I think I am!!! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trip to Beauvoir and Confederate Memorial Hall

Last week we motored down to the "Big Easy" where the living is good, despite all that Katrina tried to do to make it otherwise. On the way we visited Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis's retirement home on the Miss Gulf Coast at Biloxi. It is just a short detour off the road to New Orleans and so worth the trip.

It is absolutely beautiful and now shows no damage from either Katrina or the many other hurricanes it has endured in its long life. The guide who took us through did a delightful job. They are rebuilding the Presidential Library and it will be ready soon. We met Richard Forte, Interim Director which was an added plus.

While in New Orleans we visited the Confederate Memorial Hall Civil War Museum, which is right across the street from the World War II Museum (location, location, location!)

Memorial Hall is the oldest operating museum in Louisiana. Thomas Sully designed it and it is a wonderful structure. It houses one of the largest collection of Civil War artifacts, and they are so nicely displayed. There are a number of things that belonged to Jefferson Davis, and that was especially fun to see. We enjoyed meeting Director Patricia.

Did I mention we went down to the French Quarter? Of course, no visit to New Orleans is complete without that!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What If Jefferson Davis Had Been Assassinated ?

I was just wondering, what if Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of American, had been assassinated? Thanks to the Providence of God, he was not brutally murdered like Lincoln, Garfield, Kennedy and so many other notable men.

But this being said, his character certainly was assassinated, wasn't it? He was arrested, accused of treason, put in prison and treated very harshly. His citizenship, his home (temporarily) and his fortune were all taken away.

He was never brought to trial, because if he had, it would have been proved by the Constitution, that the South had the right to secede. After two years  he was released on a $ 100,000 bail bond, signed by 20 prominent (mostly Northern) men. By then, he was virtually a broken man, but he had borne all his difficulties with dignity as befit the true Southern Gentleman that he was.

I have shared before, that after the war, he was like "the man without a country" on so many levels. It was Jimmy Carter (I shared this before too) who restored his citizenship.

 In a sense (only a sense of course), he seems to me to have been in so many ways "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" as Isaiah describes the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course Davis was only a man, not a Savior, but guess what? Jefferson Davis had a personal relationship with the Man who Is Our Savior, and that is what makes all the difference!!! 

Removing Confederate Flag From Capitol

I had asked in a previous blog about the removal of the Confederate Battle flag from the Capitol Dome. My friend and White House Association member Sue read this and has sent me information from the Montgomery Independent (May 31, 2007), regarding the removal of the Confederate flag. Note: this information is just from part one of a three part report.

Background: George Wallace had been the one who first flew the Battle flag above the State Capitol, and it was flown from 1963 through the early 1990's. (Until 1963 only the state flag had been flown above the Capitol.)

It remained there until Governor Jim Folsom, Jr., made the decision to not put it back up (it had been removed because of a restoration project at the Capitol). It is important to note that there was no significant hue and cry when the flag was removed.

Folsom's decision was made much easier because civic leaders had concluded that the Battle flag was a detriment to the state's economic development efforts! They were entirely right in this conclusion.

The article specifically mentions some titans, Mayor Folmar, Governor Folsom, Richard Amberg, Jr., Wayne Greenhaw and especially General Will Hill Tankersley. These were the men who decided to "lead the charge to change the status quo image of our city and state". Thank you, gentlemen!!!

The four Confederate flags are now where they should be, around the beautiful Confederate Monument on the north side of the Capitol grounds.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jefferson Davis Statue Made By Frederick Hibbard, Master Sculptor

Yesterday I mentioned Jefferson Davis's statute on the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol. It was sculpted by Frederick Hibbard, born in 1881,  who as a child, worked with the clay on the banks of the Mississippi River. There he sculpted some of his favorite animals. The clay ignited his fascination for the art of sculpture, according to Wikepedia, from which I found this information.

One of Hibbard's first major successes came when he was selected by the UDC to erect a monument on the battlefield at Shiloh. He said later:"This monument was erected in memory of the 10,000 Confederate soldiers who fell in the Battle of Shiloh. The subject was a difficult one, for the Battle of Shiloh did not result in a Confederate victory. I went weeks studying Civil War history and biography, deciding at last to use symbolic figures typifying the reasons for the defeat."  This monument was dedicated in 1917.

Soon after this, he did an equestrian statue of U.S.Grant (boo) for Vicksburg. The requirement was that he should be depicted as he was during the Siege of Vicksburg. Hibbard said "I could not fulfill the latter requirement because the General wore a blouse and his pants were over his boots. Had he been made in sculpture during the siege, he would have looked like a rooster with its tail feathers pulled out and spurs cut off."

The Sculptor's impressive career spanned almost a half century from 1904 until 1948. One of his masterpieces is a twelve-foot statue of Jefferson Davis, in Frankfort, Kentucky. In 1940 a second statue of Jefferson Davis was unveiled - ours in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the Civil War. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jefferson Davis Statue On "Goat Hill"

At the UDC convention of 1935 plans were approved to proceed with placing a statue of Jefferson Davis on the State Capitol grounds in Montgomery, the first Capitol of the Confederacy.

 The proposal read as follows: "The projected Jefferson Davis Statue would be of heroic size and would cost not more than $20,000. The delegates suggested to the chapters that funds for procuring the monument be obtained by per capita assessment of 50 cents on the 40,981 members of the national organization. Mrs. John L Woodbury, new president-general was empowered to appoint a committee to seek approval of the Alabama Legislature at its next session for the memorial."

The Sculptor was Frederick C. Hibbard of Chicago and I will talk about him in my next blog. The statue is indeed a thing of beauty and I know all Southerners are grateful for the foresight of these ladies and the monetary sacrifices they made to get this to happen. 50 cents was alot of money back then!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How The Star Came To Mark The Spot Where Jefferson Davis Stoood...

A delightful story has been sent by SueB, one of our Board members who has forgotten more Southern History than anyone else has ever learned. It is about the "Star". First to give credit, it is by Mrs. Charles Duncan of Montgomery and appeared in the August 1955 United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine.

The Federal troops occupying Montgomery after the War were very annoying, especially a particular captain. Making his rounds he knocked on a Mrs. Janney's front door. The housekeeper was out and she answered the door, holding a wet plate and drying cloth in her hands. The captain said "so the dainty southern lady has to get down to menial labors of the servants." She retorted, "when you come to look over our premises, go to the back door with all the other Yankees...if you don't go now, I'll break this plate over your head".

Many years later Mr. & Mrs. Janney were visiting a swanky resort in the north and met "the captain" yet again. They remembered each other. He said..."you couldn't possibly be the little fire eating rebel who wanted to break a plate over my head?" She said, "so you are that horrible Yankee" !!! They both laughed.

He asked what she had done to memorialize the dead, and she said "nothing, but since you are so good on making suggestions, what would you do?" He said, "you haven't marked where your illustrious Jefferson Davis walked or stood? Why don't you mark the spot where he took his oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America with a star?"

And that's "the rest of the story"! By the way, Mrs. Janney was the aunt of Mrs. Duncan, who wrote the article from which I have written this abbreviated tale. Thanks, Sue!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Running From The Battle, Yankees In Hot Pursuit

I came across an account by Pvt John Johnston, 14th Tenn Cavalry, in one of our library books at the First White House of the Confederacy, the "Journal of Confederate History, Volume 1, Summer 1988" that was quite fascinating. I will share a brief portion of it with you today, from his  account of the Battle of Nashville.

He talked about how quickly the time passes while engaged in battle, so that he did not know how long the fight lasted, but suddenly the whole line broke, and went to pieces like a rope of sand. He says: "We now ran back to our horses as fast as we could, every man for himself...most of us made it to our horses in safety..The Yankees were firing at us from behind and all was excitement and confusion. I had great difficulty in mounting my wiry little sorrel as he was very restless and my feet were clogged with mud.

When I had gained my saddle and was about to ride away, John Holden, a boy from Somerville, Tenn. called to me and said his horse was gone. I told him to get behind me and I would take him off..."

 It took several tries before John was able to mount, and by this time all their men had disappeared, but over to the right they saw the enemy. They managed to slip by them and then they saw a loose horse which his friend managed to catch and mount.

John goes on to say:  "all the shouting and clamor had ceased and we rode quietly and undisturbed down this road for a mile or more when much to my surprise...we saw our infantry marching down it (the Franklin Pike) quietly, but apparently disorganized. Just then the clouds broke and the moon shed a brilliant light over the scene. While I sat my horse and saw this long line of infantry passing my heart sank within me, for, for the first time, I FELT MY CAUSE WAS LOST."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jefferson Davis Lies In State In Montgomery

 This week someone sent us and we circulated via email a wonderful photo of  Jefferson Davis's casket being taken from the train station to the Capitol building where he lay in state on the way from New Orleans to Richmond. Then one of our White House Association Board members sent us an account from the L&N Magazine, 1955 as follows:

"As the funeral train arrived in Montgomery and stopped near Molton Street shortly after six a.m., on May 29, a violent rainstorm burst over the city - weather relented and at 8:30 that morning the funeral cortege moved to the capitol building as scheduled. Six black horses drew the platform bearing the casket, and a covering of purple and gold lent a colorful note to the otherwise somber scene. En route up Dexter Avenue, two columns of infantry marched alongside. Somewhere, a cannon fired."

The article then describes the scene inside the Capitol. "The casket was placed in front of the bench in the supreme court room. 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 people of Montgomery, including many ex-solders and school children, filed by the casket."

At 12:20 p.m., about an hour and 20 minutes late, the funeral train departed over the Western Railway of Alabama..."

The photo is now of our website, /Click the heading Jefferson Davis, and then Jefferson Davis's death to see it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Daughter of the Confederacy - Winnie Davis

Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis (1864-1898) was the second daughter and sixth child, of Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis.  The youngest, she was the only one who was allowed to visit her father in Fort Monroe with her mother, during his two years of imprisonment following the War.

In her early years she was home schooled, and then sent to Germany to study at the age of twelve, where she stayed for more than five years. Later she attending boarding school in Paris. Interestingly, in later years, she wrote a biography in which she declared it folly to send children to Europe to be educated.  Wow, I was just thinking how much fun that must have been, oh well.

On a visit in Atlanta in 1886, the Governor  anointed her as"The Daughter of the Confederacy". This title stuck and she became an icon for Confederate Veteran groups. Along with her aging father, she made public appearances and speeches and acted as his representative.

She was engaged once, to a man from NYC. When she announced her engagement to the "Yankee" an outcry in the South dampened the romance and it soon ended. In 1891 she and her widowed mother moved to New York where they worked as correspondents for the New York World paper.

She died at the age of 34 of malaria and was buried with military honors in Richmond, next to her Father's grave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jefferson Davis Returns To Montgomery

On "Times Gone By" a History of Montgomery, Alabama, on face book, there is an interesting article from the 1937  Advertiser: Mark Young Give To Fund For Jefferson Davis Statue"

 I quote from the article: "Mr. Young recalled yesterday that on two of Jefferson Davis's visits to Montgomery he was paraded up Dexter Avenue in a carriage drawn by four beautiful white horses.But when he returned as a corpse they used four black horses to bear the body to the capitol. In that procession Mr. Young marched beside the bier and near the depot he cut some of the fringe from the cover to keep as a sacred possession."

It goes on to say: "Rebuked by a guard or officer, his heart was gladdened a moment later when Miss Winnie Davis, daughter of the beloved president, assured him he had done no wrong, and that her father had loved everybody in Montgomery".

The photograph of the bier being carried up Dexter Avenue (then Market Street) is on our website. To view, just go to and at the home page click on Jefferson Davis tab and then under that, Jefferson Davis's Death. It is a fine tribute to a most worthy gentleman, our beloved President of the Confederate States of America!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Generous Gift To The First White House of the Confederacy

Just read those famous words by Scarlett: "Fiddle-Dee-Dee! War. war. war, this war talk is spoiling all the fun at ever party this spring. I get so bored I could scream". That got me thinking (dangerous).

Then in the mail came "The Statutes At Large of the Confederate States of America", an 1864 manuscript generously donated to the First White House of the Confederacy by our good Southern friend, Richard Bowers in Ponte Vedra  Beach, Florida.

He has given this manuscript in memory of Whittington Lee Bowers, Richard's beloved Grandson, who was the Great-Great Grandson of four Confederate soldiers: Major William H Foute I, Army of Northern Virginia, Captain W. H Foute II, 17th VA. Infantry, Pvt.Joshua Ramsay, 11th North Carolina, and Sgt. Russell J. Bates Phillip Lage, Georgia Calvary. (I may have misspelled some names).

Richard, we appreciate this so much and will place it with reverence and devotion in the Relic Room at the FWH. This is a valuable treasure, that Richard found in a Civil War Shop and purchased for us.

On the front it says: "Passed at the Fourth Session of the First Congress; 1863-4.  Richmond" I may add it is in mint condition. Richard and all, come to visit us and see it proudly displayed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Field Officers Who Served Under Robert E. Lee

From the News From The Cradle, the SCV newsletter put out by Cradle of the Confederacy Camp # 692 edited by George Gale, came an interesting article, Lee's Colonels, by Robert K. Krick.

 He says 422 field officers, under Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia were killed in action during the War Between the States. Another 52 died of accidents or disease, meaning 24% of the men in the field officer category under Lee were lost during the war.

The 1480 or so who survived the war lived longer than might have been assumed. Death dates were found for two-thirds of them. It was not until 1898 that half of them had died. That was the year Jefferson Davis died as well. And interestingly, Hitler was preparing to absorb Poland when Stephen P. Halsey, the "last of the breed", finally died on the eve of an infinitely different war.

 Lee's  officers lived on an average to be about 70 years of age. Many seemed to have met violent deaths.  Some died of gunfights, murders, or duels,  and others of accidents. The  post-war South was obviously a dangerous time in which to live. But at least they had survived the WAR!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Book By Eddie Pattillo

I am very excited to share that Edward Pattillo (a great friend of the First White House of the Confederacy) has a new book coming out very soon. The name of the book is "Carolina Planters On The Alabama Frontier"

 The Alabama Department of Archives and History will have a Book Talk for Eddie at noon on Thursday, December 8th in their auditorium. Eddie will talk about the book and sign autographs. I want everyone to know about it, and I especially hope the ladies of the White House Association of Alabama will come and support Eddie and buy his book.

Please put this date on your calendar and circle it in red. I hope to see all of you there for this book which has been a long time in the making (7-1/2 years). Wow. Congratulations, Eddie!!!

Jefferson Davis's Portable Writing Desk

A good friend has offered the First White House a wonderful portable lap desk that is said to have belonged to the President, and was given by Mrs. Davis to our friend's great-grandmother. This is very exciting because we are now only accepting items that either belonged to the Davis family, or things that are original to the House and this is a rare find indeed.

The outside is leather over wood and needs a bit of conservation, but until that is undertaken we will put it in a locked cabinet in the Relic Room, so that people can see it, but can't "travel" with it! I wish it could talk, because I can just imagine the stories it could tell, can't you?

We are very grateful to our generous friends for donating this fine piece of history to our Museum.

Families Divided By The War

The "Civil War" divided not only the nation but many individual families. It is only too true that the conflict pitted brother against brother. Four of Lincoln's brothers-in-law served in the Confederate army.

Henry Clay, dead by the time of the war, had grandsons who fought on both sides. John Crittenden, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky , who tired to prevent the war in 1860 with a compromise known as the Crittenden Plan, had sons clad in both blue and gray. 

Dr. Thomas R. Turner, in 101 Things You Didn't Know about the Civil War says it was rare for relatives to end up facing each other in battle, though there are numerous stories of wartime encounters. He says that some are "clearly apocryphal". One he does mention was of Major A.M. Lea, part of the Confederate force that captured the USS Harriet Lane in a naval battle off Galveston, Texas. When Lea's party boarded the Union ship, he found his son - a Union lieutenant - dying on its deck.

According to Dr. Turner, the duel between the Confederate ironclad Virginia and the Union ironclad Monitor had a family connection. McKean Buchanan, the brother of Virginia commander Franklin Buchanan, was aboard a Union ship sunk during the battle.

Do you know of any stories like that about the War? If so, we would love your comments below.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Beauvoir and Hurricane Katrina

On August 29 (my birthday), 2005, Beauvoir was nearly destroyed by damage from Hurricane Katrina.
Fortunately the home has been restored, and was reopened on June 3, 2008. The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum and other outbuildings are still being rebuilt. 

Varina Howell Davis's diamond and emerald wedding ring, one of the few valuable possessions she had managed to keep after the war and all the struggles they encountered, had been housed in the Museum at Beauvoir. It was one of the items lost in the hurricane.

Amazingly, it was found on the grounds a few months later! What an incredible occurrence, considering all the damage that was done and all the things people lost.

 I am looking forward to visiting Beauvoir very soon, and will give a full report when I get back

Friday, October 7, 2011

What Became Of Varina After Jefferson's Death?

Jefferson Davis died in 1889. According to Wikepedia, Varina completed an autobiographical writing he had begun and published as Jefferson Davis, A Memoir,  but it did not sell well.  She then accepted an invitation from the Pulitzers to become a full time columnist and she and Winnie moved to New York City in 1891 where they pursued literary careers.

They took rooms at a series of residential hotels. In 1902 she sold Beauvoir to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for $10,000 to be used as a Confederate Veterans' home. (She had turned down larger offers from real estate developers).

She offended many Southerners by her move to NYC and also by the friends she made, particularly the widow of former general and president Ulysses S. Grant. He was anathema to the South (remember the bumper sticker that says "forget, hell"?)

The greatest tragedy of her later years was the death of her beloved daughter Winnie in 1898. Nevertheless, she continue to write for the newspaper and to appear socially until poor health forced her to retire and she was no longer able to go out. She died at age 80 in her room at the Hotel Majestic on October 16, 1906. The Hotel, via daughter Margaret's direction, sent us her furniture and we have it upstairs in our "New York Bedroom". It is quite lovely, and we are blessed to have it and to know that those pieces were her's.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Davis Children

When Jefferson Davis and his family left Montgomery for Richmond, they had already lost one child, Samuel Emory Davis, (born 7-30-1852 and died 6-30-1854 at age two). They moved with their three living children, Margaret, born 2-25-1855,  Jefferson, Jr., born 1-16-1857, and Joseph Evan, born 4-18-1859, to the Second White House.

They were soon joined by William, born 12-16-1861, and Varina Anne (Winnie), born 6-27-1864,  both at the Second White House. Under "The Museum of the Confederacy website" we read: "Visitors to the home were likely to hear ringing laughter and screams of bedlam from the playing children, who were infamous for having unbridled spirits and unbroken wills".

Tragically, Joseph,  died from a fall from the east portico on April 30, 1864. In tbe decades following, three more Davis children died of disease. William died on 10-16-1872 at age 11 of yellow fever. Jeff Jr., died 10-16-1878 at age 21 of yellow fever, and Winnie died on 9-18-1898 at age 34 of pneumonia.

Only one daughter, Margaret, survived her parents and had children of her own. She too, died at an early age however. President Davis died on 12-6-1889 of pneumonia and Varina Howell Davis died on 10-16-1906 at age 80 of unknown causes.

It seems strange that both parents lived to be so much older than Margaret, who died 7-18-1909 at age 54. She only outlived her mother by three years. Looking at their lives it does seem they all had many trials and heartaches. Life was just not easy in those days. Is it today, do you think? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jefferson Davis, The Real Man Without A Country

Jefferson Davis was one of the most admired man of his time before the War Between the States. His background included service in the Army, bravery and acclaim in the Mexican War, terms as a Representative and then a Senator in congress, and a stint as Secretary of War.

He struggled to save the Union, but when Mississippi seceded, he resigned his Senate seat and then accepted the Presidency of the Confederate Government. He helped form a new nation, while at war. He worked day and night to save the Confederacy, just as earlier he has sought to save the Union.

After the collapse of the Confederacy, Davis was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe. He waited for two years to vindicate the Southern cause, but the Federal Government never brought him to trial for treason, because it feared  it would be proved that the South had the right to secede.

After the war, he was truly a man without a country, with no livelihood, no salary and no home, as it had been seized by Union troops in 1862.Along with thousands of others, he had gambled all and lost all. With a wife and young children to provide for, he lived in Canada and England, hoping to find a suitable job. Finally in 1869 he agreed to be president of a Middle Tennessee life insurance company and lived there until the 1870's.

His fortunes changed when a longtime admirer Sarah Ellis Dorsey offered him a cottage on her seaside estate near Biloxi as a place to write his memoirs of the war. There Jefferson Davis was home at last. The property became his when Ms. Dorsey died. In November, 1889 he fell ill at Brierfield and died in New Orleans. Before 200,000 people he was interred in Metairie Cemetery, and in 1893, re-interred in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital identified with his most famous political years.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Our Heroes, Let Us Never Forget

On the bureau in the "Cabinet Bedroom" upstairs in the First White House is a photo of John Pelham, one of our heroes, so much so that he is called the "Gallant Pelham". Honestly I think every man who served was a hero, but some we must never forget.

Pelham fought with such valor and dedication for the Confederacy, finally giving his life for her, so that he has become symbolic of Alabama fighting men in all wars.

He resigned from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1861, just weeks before graduation, in order to return to Alabama and enter the Confederate Army. He was involved in every major military campaign of J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry from First Manassas to Kelly's Ford, more than 60 encounters.

He particularly distinguished himself at Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg. Jackson wrote of him: With a Pelham on each flank, I believe I could whip the world". Lee praised "the gallant Pelham" in his report after Fredericksburg.

At Kelly's Ford on March 17, 1863, Pelham participated in a cavalry charge and was struck in the head by an exploding Union artillery shell. He died the next morning. Such is the way of War. What a loss. All we can say is "oh, if only..." 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Richard Taylor, Brother of Jefferson Davis's First Wife

 When I read about the end of The Wah recently, the name Richard Taylor caught my eye. I knew he was Sarah Knox Taylor Davis's brother and the son of Zachery Taylor. I wanted to know more.

He was evidently a very talented soldier like his father and brother-in law. When war erupted, Taylor was asked by Braxton Bragg to help him organize and train the Confederate forces that were sent to Pensacola. He rose through the ranks quickly, was made a colonel, and served at First Manassas.

By October, 1861 he had been made brigadier general and commanded a Louisiana brigade under Richard Ewell. Some thought it was favoritism, because of Taylor's relationship with Davis. Instead, Davis countered that he was recommended for the promotion by General Jackson himself.

Taylor was promoted to the rank of major general on July 28, 1862, the youngest major general in the Confederacy at the time.He served brilliantly throughout the duration of the war.

In the last days of the war, he was given command of Alabama and Mississippi, and after John Bell Hood's disastrous campaign, Taylor was given command of the Army of Tennessee. He surrendered his department at Citronelle  Alabama, the last major Confederate force remaining east of the Mississippi on May 8, 1865.

Nathan Bedford Forrest said about him: "If we'd had more like him, we would have licked the Yankees long ago"!!! Would that we had.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Montgomery During THE WAH

We are very excited that we are close to printing a booklet by General John H. Napier, III about Montgomery during the Civil War. This article originally appeared in the April 1988 issue of the Alabama Review and will be used by permission.

It takes the reader from the beginning when Jefferson Davis wrote his wife, Varina, that "Montgomery was a 'gay and handsome town' that would not be an unpleasant residence" all the way to the end of the War when Wilson's Raiders swept down from Selma to Montgomery.

On April 11, 1865, General Adams issued orders to burn 88,000 bales of cotton stored in Montgomery to keep it from Yankee hands, although the war was apparently lost. Miraculously the city was not destroyed, thanks to the heroism of the local fire company.

According to General Napier one die-hard secessionist ninety-one year old had sworn that she would rather die than see the Yankees enter Montgomery, and she got her wish, dying on April 11 as the sky glowed red with flames from burning cotton.

I am sure there are many such stories and we are so glad General Napier has written this down for the First White House of the Confederacy to share with others.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Little Known Facts About Jefferson Davis's First Wife

Many people do not know that Varina Howell Davis was Jefferson's second wife but if you are a consistent reader of this blog you know that he was married first to Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of Zachery Taylor.

Unfortunately, Knox died after contracting malaria three months after she and Jefferson were married, while they were visiting Jefferson's sister on her Locust Grove Plantation. Knox is buried in the Locust Grove Historical Cemetery in West Feliciana Parish, La. (see yesterday's blog). The cemetery is tiny with 27 graves.

Dr. Benjamin Davis, brother of Jefferson Davis is buried here. It is a peaceful looking place. You can see pictures of it if you google Sarah Knox Taylor or Locust Grove Plantation. Her original grave was made of brick. Sometime after 1920 her grave was covered with stone and the engraving added.

This came about after an attempt by the United Confederate Veterans to remove her remains to a spot beside her husband in Richmond. I don't think Varina would have liked that too much!

It is said that Jefferson had a miniature portrait of Sarah Knox with him when he was arrested. We have the miniature in our relic room at the First White House. I don't know if the story is true or not, but the person who gave us the miniature, says that it is!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Homes Of Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis is so famous that the places he lived are documented, unlike probably you and me!

His first home was in Fairview Ky but while still a small child he moved with his family to Woodville, Miss. Their plantation home was called Rosemont and can still be visited today (google it).

His first wife Sarah Knox Taylor died while they were visiting his sister at their plantation, Locust Grove in West Feliciana Parish, La. Later, when he and Varina Howell of Natchez (The Briars) married, they  settled on their plantation Brierfield, on Davis Bend near Vicksburg.(no longer there unfortunately).

While serving in Congress they lived in Washington but of course kept their plantation. When the War came, they moved to Montgomery and lived at the First White House during the spring of 1861, and after that, the Second White House in Richmond. Visit both First and Second WH, both wonderful!!!

After the War and his imprisonment, he visited Canada and traveled in Europe as well as Britain. He lived in Memphis for a time, and in 1877 moved to Beauvoir where he wrote his memoirs. He died in New Orleans after a trip to Brierfield. Beauvoir restored after Hurricane Katrina, happily again open to the public. I plan to visit soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who Really Designed The First Confederate Flag?

Short answer to the question - we really don't know! We thought all these years that Nichola Marschall, a renown artist who was originally from Prussia, but who migrated to Marion, Alabama, designed the Confederate Uniform and the Flag.

The claim is made that Mrs. Napoleon Lockett, who lived in Marion came to him and asked if he would design a flag and uniform; the information we have says that he did, and both flag and uniform were accepted.
But Bob Bradley, Curator with the State Dept of Archives,  says "not so"!!! Guess its like Betsy Ross and the First Stars and Stripes, did she or didn't she? If not her, then who?

Our interest in all of this is intensified because we have two marvelous portraits in the Second Parlor of the First White House of the Confederacy, a self-portrait of him and one he did of his wife, Mattie Eliza Marshall Marschall..We also have a portrait of Mrs. Napoleon Lockett, hanging in the dining room at present. Come and see them!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Jefferson Davis Family Bible, Stolen And Returned

When the Davis family left their plantation home, Brierfield, to move first to Montgomery, and then to Richmond during the war, they left behind most of their possessions, including the treasured family Bible. We don't know if Mrs. Davis moved the Bible from the main house before she left, or if one of the servants moved it later for safekeeping, but the Bible waited out the war in a shanty near the big house.

That is where it lay when the Yankees marched into Vicksburg, cocky and sure of victory. According to journalist H.C. Reed of Delaware, Ohio, and Cameron F. Napier, Honorary Regent for Life of the White House Association of Alabama, this is what happened next.

A young Union sergeant named Charles Smith found the brown Bible in its shanty hiding place. He reportedly presented the confiscated Bible to Dr. Plynn a. Willis, his commander in the 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Commander Willis was a surgeon from a prominent Ohio family. Dr. Willis took the Bible home to his family after the war. Sadly, he died of pneumonia in 1876 at the age of 39.

A half century later, his younger brother, Rollin K. Willis, then 83 years of age and the president of the Delaware Board of Education, sent Jefferson and Varina's brown Bible back to their former home in Montgomery. Here it remains, on the center table in the 2nd parlor of the First White House of the Confederacy, under the watchful eye of the ladies of the White House Association and the WH Receptionists. People are astonished when they hear the story of the "lost and then found again" stately family Bible. We are most grateful to the gentleman who returned it to us. What a treasure!