Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jefferson Davis' Early Years

A small book, Victory In Defeat, by Tucker Hill is available throught The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. The subtitle is Jefferson Davis and The Lost Cause. In it is a brief paragraph quoting Davis, about his early years.

Davis says: "I was born June 3, 1808 in Christian county, Ky., in that part of it which, by a subsequent division is now Todd county...My father, Sam Davis, was a native of Georgia, and served in the war of the revolution, first in the 'mounted gunman,' and afterward as captain of infantry at the siege of Savannah.

 During my infancy my father removed to Wilkinson county, Miss. After passing throught he county academy I netered Transvlvania college, Kentucky, and was advanced as far as the senior class when, at the age of 16, I was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point. 

I graduated in 1828, and then, in accordance with the custom of cadets, entred active service...After a successful campaign against the Indians, I resigned from the army, in 1835, being anxious to fulfill a long-existing engagement with a daughter (Sarah Knox) of Col. Zachary Taylor, whom I married...

Then I bedame a cotton planter (at Brierfield) in Warren county, Miss. it was my misfortune, early in my married life, to lose my wife, and for many years therafter I lived in great seclusion on the plantation in the swamps of the Mississippi."

In February, 1845, as we all know,  Davis married Varina Howell, the eighteen year-old daughter of an aristocratic Mississippi family.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ten Bloodiest Civil War Battles

Are you interested in knowing which of the battles during the War Between the States resulted in the most casualties? Some may surprise you. They are as follows:
1. Gettysburg (PA) victors, Union
2. Chickamauga (GA) victors, Confederates
3. Spotsylvania (VA) victors - inconclusive
4. Wilderness (VA) victors, Confederates
5. Chancellorsville (VA) victors, Confederates
6. Shiloh (TN) victors, Union
7. Stones River (TN) victors, Union
8. Antietam (MD) victors - inconclusive, but strategic advantage to North
9. Second Battle Bull Run (VA) victors, Confederates
10. Fort Donelson (TN) victors, Union

Each battle on this list resulted in more than 19,000 casualties, including those killed or wounded. I believe if we (the Confederacy)  had only had more men and more guns and more everything, we would have won. All we had was "cotton and courage". We should have "counted the cost" ahead of time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The 5 Bloodiest Battles In History

Every victory comes at a price. I was interested in seeing how the War Between the States battles shaped up against other famous battles. And guess what? Gettysburg is the 5th bloodiest battles in history, with 46,000 casualties, 23,000 on each side, but as you know, considered by all a Union victory.. Would you like to know what the first four are? Want to take a guess? Well, here goes.

4th - The Battle of Cannae, 216 BC - Carthage vs Rome. Casualties: Carthaginians 10,000; Romans 50,000. Total casualties - 60,000.. Winner - the Carthaginians. (wow, they cleaned their plow).

3rd - First Day of the Somme, 1916 - Britain vs Germany. Causalities: British 60,000; German 8,000. Total: 68,000. Result: Indecisive (ugly)

2nd - Battle of Leipzig, 1813 - France vs Austria, Prussia and Russia. Casualties: French 30,000; Allies 54,000. Total: 84,000. Result: Coalition victory (most decisive defeat suffered by Napoleon).

Number One - Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943 - Nazi Germany vs Soviet Union. Casualties: Germany 841,000; Soviets 1,130,000. Total 1,971,000. Result: Soviet Victory.

That's alot of dead people, readers. War is not for sissies.

The Relic Room at the First White House of the Confederacy

The bright yellow paint of the woodwork and the black of the baseboards and mantel have been restored as they appeared when the house was built in 1835. This room contains many of the belongings of President Davis and his family which were given us by Mrs. Davis or her eldest daughter, Margaret. 

Between the front windows hangs a colored photograph of President Davis painted in 1874 by Daniel Huntingdon which hangs in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, along with those of other U.S. Secretaries of War. It was presented by Professor Hudson Strode, who wrote the definitive biography of Jefferson Davis.

There is also a portrait of General Robert E. Lee, donated by the Lee family. Flanking the mantel are the three National Flags of the Confederacy: The Stars and Bars, the Stainless Banner and the Last National Flag which Lee surrendered at Appomattox. The Battle flag is also represented here. It was the first of many military banners.

You can see a picture of the Relic Room, along with the rest of the rooms  if you go to our website:  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Confederate Landmarks in Montgomery, Alabama

 One of the best known Confederate landmarks in Montgomery is the Alabama State Capitol,where delegates from seceding southern states convened to organize the Confederate States of America, and where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as Provisional President of the CSA.

Another of course is the First White House of the Confederacy,  his home while he was in Montgomery; also the Winter Building on Dexter Avenue, where the telegram was sent authorizing Confederate Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard to fire on Fort Sumter.

Montgomery also boasts a Confederate Military Prison (2 Tallapoosa St), in which was housed 700 Union soldiers, most captured at Shiloh. Nearly 198 died in captivity and the survivors were moved to Tuscaloosa in Dec. 1862. It was a pretty rank place from what I have read.

The Montgomery Theatre (62 Monroe St) was opened in Oct 1860. John Wiles Booth performed there and Bryant Minstrels introduced "Dixie" there.

 The Lomax House, the Murphy House and the Rice-Semple-Haardt House have all survived, not only the war but also the razing of so many fine, old homes. Fortunately, the Teague House at 468 South Perry Street also survived. From its front portico was read the order of General James Wilson, USA, placing the Capital of the Confederacy under martial law on April 12, 1865.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A House Is Never Finished, Especially When its the First White House of the Confederacy

The First White House in Montgomery, where Jefferson Davis and his family lived is 180 years old. That's right, it was built between 1832 - 1835 by William Sayre, ancestor of Zelda Sayre, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald (by the way, "Gatsby" is coming to a motion picture near you very soon!)

The First White House has undergone four major restorations: the first in 1921 when the House was moved from the corner of Lee & Bibb Streets (where it faced east) to the corner of Washington and Union Streets (where it faces north, watching for the Yankees).

The second was in 1976 when steel beams were placed under the first and second floors, a heat pump installed, house painted inside and outside and other major improvements made.

The third was in 1994 when the hazardous lead-paint was removed, and the probable 1861 colors were uncovered by paint archaeologist, Frank Welsh. After the outside work was done, the House had to be thoroughly cleaned, inside and outside to make sure all lead paint dust had been removed.

The fourth was in 2007-2008 when the air condition and heating systems, which had not worked for four years, were removed and a new system  installed, which entailed tearing out walls, duct work, etc.

 Each of these restorations was major, with the House having to be closed for many months and the Collection moved out and stored. And guess what???? In spite of all that has been done, paint and plaster continue to fall off the ceiling and off the walls. We are indeed a "House that is Never Finished"!!! Or we might say "We are a work in progress"!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mathew Brady's Illustrated History of The Civil War

A friend recently sent me a copy of the photo of the "home of Jefferson Davis at Montgomery, Ala" that is in Mathew Brady's Illustrated History book. My curiosity led me to order the book. The photos are very interesting, but it is most unfortunate that the book is written from the Northern viewpoint.

 Most of the photographs are of Union soldiers (unless they are dead - those are the ones of the Southerners). Someone told me that Lincoln did not want photos of dead Yankees  published, in order to keep up morale in the North.

 There are some paintings in the book by H. A. Ogden, of   battle scenes  in color and they are extraordinary,(copyright, 1912 by the War Memorial Association). The numerous photographs of war scenes in the book depict the horrors of the War...and now some women want permission to go into combat! Hello - they should look at this book and think twice.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Update on FCWH Blog

I want to thank all of you for reading our blog. Our stats tell us we had 39 "page views" yesterday and 1,007 last month, and over 12,000 all time. Readers last month were from U.S, Russia, Brazil, Netherlands, Ukraine, Columbia, Germany, France, UK and Nigeria.

Currently, these are the ten most popular posts, in case you want to read them:

1. Descendants of Jefferson Davis (Jan 9, 2011)
2. The Celebration at the First White House (Jun 6, 2012)
3. Robert E. Lee's Ceremonial Sword On Display in New Museum (Mar 25, 2012)
4. Margaret Howell Davis Hayes, Daughter of Jefferson Davis (Sept 13, 2011)
5. The Gunboat Quilt (Sept 18, 2010)
6. Who Really Designed the Confederate Flag? (Mar 4, 2011)
7. Important Events in Jefferson Davis' Life (Nov 16, 2010)
8. Mrs. Davis's New York Bedroom Furniture (May 31, 2011)
9. Varina Davis and Mary Todd Lincoln (Mar 9, 2012)
10. For Every Southern Boy...and Girl, Not Limited  To Age 14 Either (Feb 17, 2012)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Confederate and Northern War Dead

 What War would you guess more U.S. military died than any other? If you said The War Between the States, you would be correct.

Here are the statistics: 1,330,057 died in 10 Major Wars through the Gulf War. Subtracting the 650,00 est.(49%), who died in the WBTS, that leaves 680,057 in all other wars.

It is shocking when you think about it. The next highest number of casualties was WWII with 407,00 dead, but the population of our country at that time was 133 million. Total population during the "Civil War" - 31.5 million.

Elements of Tragedy in the lives of Jefferson Davis & Judah Benjamin

 Judah P. Benjamin served as Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State in the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865. Historians have called him the "brains of the Confederacy". He was obviously Jefferson Davis's loyal confident, and Varina Davis testified in a letter that he spent ten to twelve hours a day in the office with her husband. Yet Davis hardly mentions him in his memoirs.

One of the many fascinating things about this book was the comparison of the personal lives of these two men. The author, Eli Evans says that both men were in love with "ghosts" - Davis with the memory of his first wife who died after three months of marriage, and Benjamin, with his "smoldering Creole temptress" he first encountered over English lessons in New Orleans.

Davis found another who cared for him deeply, while Benjamin endured an unhappy marriage, held together only by his wealth and his willingness to live apart from his wife and daughter.

This is a very interesting book which I wholeheartedly recommend. It gives a great deal of insight into the personalities of Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and Varina Davis.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Celebration at the First White House

As you know if you are a faithful blog reader, that Monday we celebrated the 204th anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis, the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

It was a busy and happy time, with the House bustling with people and much excitement in the air! We were all eager to hear what our accomplished speaker, Murfee Gewin had to tell us, and we were not disappointed!

Murfee brought a fresh and warm approach to the life of Jefferson Davis. It was obvious that he had given a great deal of thought to the subject matter. He reminded us that Davis' father was a Revolutionary War Veteran, and that the Revolution was still very much in the hearts and minds of the men who established the CSA. That is why George Washington is in the middle of the Great Seal of the Confederacy.

  Davis had conflicting views on secession and tried to keep the union together, but when he was not successful, this American patriot supported his beloved Mississippi and the South wholeheartedly.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jefferson Davis' 204 Birthday Today!

Today is the 204th commemoration of Jefferson Davis' birth. He was born June 3, 1808 in Fairview, Ky, and moved at an early age to Mississippi with his family. He died in New Orleans on December 6, 1889 at the age of 81.

He was temporarily buried in Metarie cemetery, but 18 months later his body was moved to Richmond where he was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, considered to be the "National Cemetery of the Confederacy".

We will celebrate his birthday tomorrow at the First White House of the Confederacy, as we do every year, with a speech by Murfee Gewin, and birthday cake, at 11:00. If you are anywhere nearby and can attend, we will be honored to have you.

This event is one of the two things we do every year. The other is to celebrate the birthday of Robert E. Lee on January 19th.