Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Exciting Days Ahead For Sesquicentennial Observations

In just over a month we will have an exciting Sesquicentennial Event occur in Montgomery, so please mark your calendars to welcome noted author and lecturer, William C. Davis on Thursday, May 5th.

Mr. Davis will speak at Archi-Treats at 12:00 noon on May 5th at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, 624 Washington Avenue, Montgomery. This event is free and the public is invited. You can bring a brown bag lunch if you want to and "hang out" from 12:00 - 1:00.

That evening, May 5, the White House Association of Alabama will host a Sesquicentennial Fundraiser Reception from 5:30 - 7:30 pm to benefit the Relics in the First White House of the Confederacy, with Mr. Davis as special guest. This will be at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension, 315 Clanton Avenue, Montgomery. We hope you can be with us! Don't need a special invitation, just come and bring a check!

Mr. Davis is the author or editor of more than fifty books in the fields of Civil War and Southern history. He was the on-camera senior consultant for 52 episodes of the Arts & Entertainment Network/History Channel series "Civil War Journal" as well as a number of other productions on commercial and Public Television as well as for the BBC. Since 2000 he has been Professor of History and Director of Programs of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.
More about William C. Davis... wiki publications at bio

If you are the kind of devotee of Southern history who enjoys reading ahead of an event, we encourage you to check out the following titles:

"A Government of Our Own": The Making of the Confederacy
Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour
Civil War Cookbook
A Way Through the Wilderness: The Natchez Trace and the Civilization of the Old Southern Frontier
Look Away! History of the Confederate States of America
An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government

Some of Mr. Davis's books will be for sale at the Reception. Please try and join us!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Two books that deal with Civil War Issues

My friend Dr. Jack Kushner, who grew up in Montgomery and graduated with me from Lanier High School has written two books that deal with Civil War issues. I have mentioned one of them on my blog before, "When Universities Are Destroyed; How Tulane University and the University of Alabama Rebuilt After Disaster". It is the story about the rebuilding of Tulane after Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding of the University of Alabama after it was burned by the Yankees. It also tells of the difficult challange of rebuilding during reconstruction.

The second book has just been published and is called "Courageous Judicial Decisions in Alabama". In it, issues are discussed from the venue of a court room as we see what decisions were made which eventually changed history in Alabama.

You are invited to look at Jack's website where you can read more about his books. From there you can visit his blog which is very interesting as well.

I urge all who are interested in the Confederacy, to visit his website and his blog, and to order both of these books.

Doctors, Disease and Amputations In the Civil War

Twice as many men died of disease than of gunshot wounds in the Civil War. Doctors did not understand infection and there was a dreadful lack of hygiene in camp, which led to a breeding ground for dysentery, measles, small pox, pneumonia and malaria.

Of course soldiers faced great peril in battle. As we all know, The War was a very bloody affair. In my March 16 blog I talked about the damage inflicted by the modern weapons used. The book Gettysburg, A Novel of the Civil War, by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen, tells graphically about the carnage inflicted by both sides.
Those who were shot in the torso would die, but for those who were shot in an extremity, the option was amputation. Civil War Surgeons quickly became proficient at this work and in many cases an amputation could be performed in ten minutes. Surgeons, along with their assistants, would work round the clock, ending up with stacks of amputated limbs up to five feet high. I read that at Gettysburg, they were tossed out the window and the stack was as high as the window sill.

Amazingly, it has been estimated that as many as 75% of the amputees did recover. Many Civil War Surgeons learned the art of amputation from the book "The Practice of Surgery" by Samuel Cooper. Practice might be the optimum word here as there were plenty of wounded to "practice" on!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Firing The First Shot of the War of the Confederacy

Colonel John Luther Branch, my great-grandfather, was a native of Abbeville, SC. He commanded a company of SC military Citadel cadets that fired the first shot of the War of Secession on the SS "Star of the West".

Here is what was written in the History of the South Carolina Military Academy  by John Peyre Thomas:

 "On the night of December 31, Lt. Col. Jno. L. Branch of the first Regiment of Rifles, South Carolina Militia, received orders to take three of his companies to Morris Island. On the afternoon of January 1, 1861, he reached that point.  Being the Senior Officer, he assumed command of all the forces on the Island, and remained in command until the arrival, a few weeks subsequent, of Col. J.J. Pettigrew.Col. Branch found Major P.F. Stevens and his command engaged in constructing what was, after the 9th of January, called the Star of the West Battery, as it was from that point, and with the 24-pounders manned by the cadets, that the United States ship 'Star of the West' was driven off while attempting to relieve Fort Sumter.

Thus it stands - for all that it implies - that the Citadel Cadets, under the command of Col. Branch, as commanding officer of the post and of Maj. Stevens, as immediately in charge of the guns, fired the first shot of the War of Secession. Col. Branch and Maj. Stevens, thus connected with the first hostile incident of a great war, were both graduates of the South Carolina Military Academy. And it was the Governor of South Carolina who had ordered them to the front, at the culmination of the crisis which had been brought upon the state".

After the War, Colonel Branch moved to Union Springs where he died and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. On his tombstone is the inscription: "The first shot of the Civil War was fired on the U. S. Ship 'Star of the West' by order of Col. Branch in command of the Confederate Forces on Morris Island, Charleston Harbor January 9, 1861."

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Bronze Tablet Marked The Spot Where The Jeff Davis Home Stood

 The February 2011 issue of the  Montgomery County Historical Society monthly magazine includes a story called  "The Davis Family in Montgomery". This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the Montgomery Advertiser Feb 12, 1933 by Peter Brannon, the third director of the Department of Archives and History.

Dr. Brannon says that the Sophie Bibb Chapter U.D.C. had announced plans to place a bronze tablet on the Lee Street side of Goodyear Tire Company building which would mark the site of the home in which the Davis's lived while in Montgomery in 1861.

That was a very fitting thing to do, and it was done, but uh oh, fast forward to 2011. The Goodyear Tire store is long gone, and a skate board park is on the site where the "Jeff Davis" Home stood. Where is the bronze tablet? I don't know, but when I find out I will report back! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Heros of the Confederacy

Jefferson Davis was a hero, but maybe more so after the War, than during it, as is so often the case. In his later years, crowds thronged to see and hear him, and as you know, his funeral was reported to be the largest the south had ever known.

Robert E. Lee is the consummate hero. It was fortunate for the Confederacy that when Virginia seceded, Lee came with Her. He was a man of honor with great faith in God. Lee passed through the War without a wound, yet his health was shattered and he suffered many personal tragedies.

During the War his daughter-in-law, his two grandchildren and one daughter all died. His son Rooney was wounded and captured. His wife's home at Arlington was confiscated and the grounds were made a Union cemetery. His son Rooney's home was burned to the ground. But Lee was left with his honor.

Stonewall Jackson suffered personal tragedy as well, and then of course lost his life during the War, as did Albert Sidney Johnston, and scores of other able and capable men. They were all called on to pay a great price, and some the ultimate price. We are proud of them and honor them today in our hearts.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bloody Crimes - Davis and Lincoln

Have I told you about the fascinating book a friend sent us called Bloody CrimesThe Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse, by James Swanson? I have not actually been able to read it because I cannot pry it away from my husband but I can hardly wait!.

Here is Doris Goodwin's comment about the book: "Swanson's brilliant decision to weave together the final days of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis provides fresh and compelling insights on both familiar figures".

Author, Edward Steers Jr., says, "he makes the parallel journeys of Lincoln and Davis come magically alive. I wish I had written this book".

Swanson had already written Manhunt: The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, the story about John Wilkes Booth's incredible escape from the scene of the crime at Ford's Theatre and his run to death and infamy . Bloody Crimes begins with Jefferson Davis's flight from Richmond and the thrilling chase in which Union cavalry hunted the confederate President. Two weeks later Lincoln was assassinated, and the nation believed that Davis was involved.

Swanson masterfully weaves together, and I quote, " the stories of two fallen leaders as they made their last expeditions through the bloody landscape of a wounded nation". Wow, this is powerful stuff indeed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Confederate Battle Cry

Whenever stories about battles of the War Between the States were told, I always heard about the Rebel Yell, and I wondered what it sounded like. My Dad, in telling tales about the battles told me that his grandpa, a Confederate veteran, said that it would bring chills up and down your spine.

At the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond there is a CD for sale with what has been determined to be an accurate rendering of the sound. To me, when I listened to it, it sounded more like a yip than a yell. I believe it to be accurate however, because on wikipedia,the sound of the Rebel Yell  is described as a cross between "an Indian whoop and a wolf-howl".

Of course, almost all of these Confederate boys had been hunting foxes and coyotes all their lives, and they also  knew about Indians. Could have been a mixture of these different sounds. We do know for certain that the Confederates yelled as they charged, to intimidate the enemy and bolster their own courage.

Confederate soldiers, YOU ROCK!!! Just wish there had been more of you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Civil War Weapons and the Rebel Yell

A question on Jeopardy last evening made me look up the Gatling gun on Wikipedia. This got me interested in the weapons used during the "Uncivil" War. According to the web, prior to the war, most infantry tactics were based on the use of the smoothbore musket.

Because this gun had limited range and accuracy, what I read said that firing lines further away than 100 yards didn't do much damage on each other, so the troops would mass together and make a run for it when attacking. If there were enough of them and they ran fast enough, the defensive line could not react quickly enough to hurt them.

The Civil War musket however, was rifled, which made an enormous difference. It was still a muzzle-loader, but had much more accuracy and a far longer range than the old smoothbore and it completely changed the conditions under which soldiers fought. The massed charge of Napoleonic tradition was now hopelessly out of date.

The hideous casualty list of Civil War battles was directly related to the fact that soldiers were fighting with rifles but were using tactics suited to smoothbores. It took the generals a long time to learn that a new approach was needed. Leadership, leadership, leadership, or the lack of it..."for want of a nail, the kingdom was lost".

I recommend a great book, Attack and Die, by McWhiney and Jamieson, that goes into "Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage" in great detail if you want to order it.

Nonetheless the rebel yell had to have figured into the equation. I will look it up next and report back!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Who Really Designed The First Confederate Flag?

An article in the March 2011 Alabama Living, Dixie Electric Cooperative Magazine, written by John Brightman Brock, tells about making the First Confederate Flag. With the Provisional Congress already formed, a Committee on Flag and Seal was appointed, and citizens were allowed to send in their favorite design. Bob Bradley, Chief archivist at ADAH said "it was kind of like a contest". The number of designs was 141.

That was a bit overwhelming for the Committee and they chose only four to submit to the Confederate Congress.
The approved design was taken to George Cowles' store at 49 Market street in Montgomery and made in two hours. Cowles was a Unionist so this was a very ironic situation.

A play has been made from all this, called "The Flag Maker of Market Street" and is showing at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery at the present time. A companion play, Blood Divided is also playing, both being commissioned because of the Sesquicentennial.

It was thought that the First Confederate flag was designed by local artist Nicola Marschall of Marion Alabama, but Bradley says not. Marschall did make the Marion Light Infantry Flag, used by the 4th Alabama, hoisted on the battlefield in Manassas, Va. That flag has been conserved and is at the ADAH and is now on display.

The First Confederate flag, as has been pointed out in previous blogs was first raised at the Alabama State Capitol on March 4, 1861 by Letitia Tyler, granddaughter of Pres. John Tyler. That was the same day that Lincoln was inaugurated.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mourning During the War Between the States

A book in our Gift Shop is called Women in Mourning,  put out by the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. It tells about how nineteenth century mourners would go to great lengths to demonstrate their love and affection for the deceased.

Widows were expected to observe a minimum of two and a half years in mourning. First came the heavy- mourning with the face covered entirely by a black, crepe veil whenever leaving the home. Full-mourning followed, still requiring black, but with the allowance of white lace collars and cuffs and lighter veils.

Finally, half-mourning completed the process and required print and solid-colored dresses of gray or lavender. The act of altering one's personal appearance had long been part of the ritual of mourning; it set the bereaved apart from general society and, in particular signified his or her changed status.

Men, as might be expected only had to mourn three months. Few southern families escaped the horrendous losses of the War. As a result the vast majority of Southern women went into mourning at some point during the awful struggle.

Because of the traumatic combat experiences, Southern soldiers turned to religion and its lessons that death brought eternal peace. In many ways, the soldiers were finding ways to prepare to die, and steeling their families for perhaps the inevitable. 

One of the hardest things was to reclaim a body after it had been buried. Some rested in mass graves, some in unmarked ones. With peace came the ability to do better. Women took the lead in caring for the soldiers' graves and cemeteries.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Relic Room In The First White House of the Confederacy

The rooms in the First White House are roped off, except for the Relic Room where you can walk in and see a variety of items in museum cases. We have copies of original letters and copies of photographs, the originals of which are stored for purposes of conservation.

Most of the personal items of President and Mrs. Davis and their family were donated by Mrs. Davis and her daughter Margaret to the First White House collection. In case # 1 are a group of three letters from Margaret to the first Regent of the White House. Also a handsome sterling silver and paste diamond lorgnette on a long chain, and a beautifully made little mother-of-pearl box with slanted top to hold an ink bottle. Both of these items belonged to Mrs. Davis.

There is also a letter to Mrs. Beale, our Regent, singed by "Varina Jefferson Davis" from Mrs. Davis's summer residence in Montpelier, Vermont, dated 31 July, 1899.

In case # 2 are articles of clothing worn by Mrs. Davis and her daughter Margaret. These articles of clothing were among the Davis family treasures sold in Colorado Springs Colorado, by the estate of William Hayes, a grandson of President Davis.
I'll tell you about cases # 3 and 4 tomorrow!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An Opinion About The Real Lincoln

On of my email friends suggested that I google "DiLorenzo and Lincoln." which I have done, and want to share something of it with you. In yesterday's blog, you may remember, I mentioned  DiLorenzo's book, The Real Lincoln.

 Here is what Walter Williams, Professor of economics at George Mason University, said in his forward to DiLorenzo's  book: "The War between the States settled by force whether states could secede. Once it was established that states cannot secede, the federal government, abetted by a Supreme Court unwilling to hold it to its constitutional restraints, was able to run amok over states' rights, so much so that the protection of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments mean little or nothing today..."

Williams continues: "The Real Lincoln contains irrefutable evidence that a more appropriate title for Abraham Lincoln is not the Great Emancipator, but the Great Centralizer."

Williams points what DiLorenzo documents - the obvious - the War between the States was not fought to end slavery. Why fight a costly war to end it, when it ended peacefully in dozens of countries around the world? It was only in countries such as Venezuela and Colombia that there was conflict, because slave emancipation was simply a ruse for revolutionaries. Hmmmm....I wonder?

Click on Amazon and buy this book. Read it and send me your comments!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

John Wilkes Booth

A friend from across the seas mentioned reading "The Real Lincoln" which I also have but have not read because I know it will make me mad! (I am going to start it tonight though). The book prompted my friend to google John Wilkes Booth, which I did also.

I think we all know that Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington on April 14, 1865. He was a Confederate sympathizer who hated Lincoln and was outraged by the South's defeat in the War. He strongly opposed the abolition of slavery and Lincoln's proposal to extend voting rights to recently emancipated slaves.

Booth, and a group of co-conspirators planned to kill Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward in a bid to help the Confederacy's cause. Booth was the only one successful in carrying out the plot. (Seward was wounded but recovered.)  Lincoln died the next morning after a single gunshot wound to the back of the head. This most certainly altered the course of American history after the War, but we can only guess in what ways.

Of course we all know Booth escaped, but was caught 12 days later where he was shot by Union soldiers. Eight other were tried and convicted, and four were hanged. Rumors persist that Booth escaped his pursuers and died many years later under a pseudonym.

Friday, March 4, 2011

150 Years Ago Today The First Confederate Flag Is Raised

On March 4, 186, the first Confederate flag was raised over the Alabama State capitol at 3:30 PM by Letitia Tyler, granddaughter of former U.S. President John Tyler. 

The flag, which flew on a flagpole by the capitol clock, was not the Confederate Battle Flag, but the "First National Pattern," also known as the Stars and Bars.  Mrs. Jefferson Davis arrived by steamboat that afternoon, but unfortunately was too late for the raising of the Colors.

. She went first by the First White House, as she had not seen it of course, and on to the Exchange Hotel where Jefferson Davis was staying.

There is a book you can order, The Flags of the Confederacy, An Illustrated History, by Devereaux Cannon, Jr., that should provide very interesting reading, especially if you like flags as much as I do, since I sold flags for 37 years!

Also, by the way, on March 4, 1861 Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States of America. Both events took place 150 years ago today. Amazing, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Young Slave Women Whipped? Sorry But I Do Not Think So

I saw the play at Alabama Shakesphere Festival this weekend called "Flagmaker of Market Street." The acting was superb, but it was the same old saw...the dirty, rotton Southerners versus the noble minded Unionists.

I won't write the Montgomery Advertiser or anything, but suffice it to say, it was not surprising. If they (whoever they are) had been sympathic to the Confederate cause, I would have been not only surprised, but speechless. (surely not)

 As we exited the theatre, one of our very trusted historian friends said "they would never have whipped a young slave woman like that" (the way they portrayed it in the play) and I have to agree. It just would not have made any sense. that was just one of the anomoles in the play (poetic license).

Are we always going to have to "live down" Harriet Beacher Stowe and Julia Ward Howe? PLEASSE. Give me a break!!!

Southern Women

There is a book in our Archives at the First White House of the Confederacy titled A Woman's War. It is subtitled Southern Women, Civil War, and the Confederate Legacy, published by the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, and the University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

I quote from the very first paragraph: "The outbreak of Civil War and invasion by Union armies meant that the lives of Southern women, black and white, rich and poor, would never be the same again. A war that freed the slave, reduced the wealthy's living standards, impoverished the yeomanry, and separated thousands of families for four long years required women of all classes and races to reassess their place within the social order,."

Sounds intriguing doesn't it? And it indeed is a very fine book and I don't know for sure, but  might possibly still be obtained from the Museum of the Confederacy Gift Shop in Richmond.

At any rate I have written briefly in a past blog about Kate Cumming, a Confederate nurse who left a detailed diary of her years during the War. Also, about our Gunboat Quilt which hangs in the FWH and was made by an Alabama woman (it is written up in this book). Women across the South made these to auction off, in order to make money to buy Confederate Gunboat as you know if you read our blog.

We still hearken back to Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, my very favorite villain/heroine. Can you think of a better one? Well, maybe Varina Howell Davis or Mrs. Robert E. Lee, of your or my ancestors?