Friday, August 31, 2012

Jefferson Davis - What You May Not Know

Jefferson Davis was a well-known figure long before he became President of the Confederate States of America. He was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served as a member of Congress from Mississippi, first in the House and later in the Senate. He was a war hero in the Mexican War and was wounded in the Battle of Buena Vista.

I have read very little on the subject of the Mexican War, but one of the books sounds intriguing: The Battle of Buena Vista; With the Army of Occupation for One Month by James Henry Carleton.

Davis was appointed Secretary of War by President Franklin Pierce and is considered by some historians as the best to hold that office. After serving he returned to the Senate but resigned his seat after Miss. seceded from the Union.  He was in his rose garden when he received the telegram that he had been elected Provisional President of the Confederate States of America Provisional Government.

Another biography on the life of this famous man that you may wish to read is: "Jefferson Davis, American" by William J. Cooper.

Civil War Battles Fought in Alabama

There were seven Battles fought in Alabama, very few compared with other Southern States. Virgina, as we know had the most fought, with 122. We were most fortunate to be as far away from most major Campaigns as we were. Tennessee fought 38 and Georgia 27.  Another thing, all of ours were in 1863 and following, none during the first two years of the war.
The seven, in alphabetical order, were: Athens, in North Alabama, in 1864. Union victory;
Day's Gap, at Sand Mountain in Cullman County, 1863, Union victory;
Decatur, part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, 1864, John Bell Hood. Union victory; 
Fort Blakely in Baldwin County, Mobile Campaign, 1865, Union victory;
Mobile Bay, 1864, fall of Fort Morgan, Union victory;
Selma, Wilson's Raid, 1865, not even Forrest could prevent this from being a Union victory. Selma burned;
Spanish Fort, 1865, part of the Mobile Campaign, also a Union victory. UGH. Not looking too good for the home team here. In fact, it looks like a runaway for the bad guys.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Varina Davis The Perfect Wife for Jefferson

There is a book about Jonathan Edwards titled "Marriage to a Difficult Man:". This might well be said of Jefferson Davis, but as one author put it, Jefferson was married to the "noble and gifted woman who clung to him, not only as a faithful wife, but as his 'guide, philosopher and friend' through all the vicissitudes of his checkered career-who shared and sympathized in all his ambition and triumphs-who, in his hour of calamity...stood heroically by him."
I am glad to see Varina receiving the credit due her. An article in the History of the Confederate Memorial Associations of the South pointed out how she clamored for justice and fiercely defied and resisted the torrent of unmerited denunciation and abuse who was poured upon his defenseless head.
 The article goes on to say: "true in death as she had been in life, she devoted long and laborious years of her desolate widowhood to the writing of that memoir of her husband which stands as an exhaustive and triumphant vindication of his memory, and will survive as one of the most valuable contributions which has yet been made to the history of a momentous era".

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jefferson Davis and His Brother Joe Were Kindred Spirits

I have been reading an article about Joe Davis and Jefferson. Joe was twenty years older and was himself, a very remarkable man. Some have even said that he was (gasp) superior to Jefferson in his own intellectual powers.

Lets just say they were two congenial spirits, thrown together in rustic seclusion, and that they enjoyed the benefits which the plantation life of that day afforded, in eager and systematic intellect, culture and training. They read everything and they discussed everything.

One writer said: "Their constant exchange of ideas and expressions on every variety of subjects enlarged and precised their knowledge, and the frequent clashes of their minds in debate fixed the clearness and certainty of their convictions".

From this background, Jefferson Davis emerged, a trained intellectual athlete, with the muscles of his mind perfectly developed and thoroughly fit for service to his country. He gave his best both to the United States and to the Confederate States of America. Joe helped make him the man he became.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What's in the Relic Room at the First White House of the Confederacy?

We have written about the Relic Room at the First White House in Montgomery before, but I want to tell you more about it. In it we have eleven cases, ranging from those containing clothes and personal belongings of Jefferson, Varina, and daughter Margaret Davis, to a case containing Billy Davis Hayes' Yacht clock and a historic portable desk which belonged to President Davis.
We recently filled case # 11. In it are two albums of Carte de Visite photographs, including most of the important Confederate Generals, as well as Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens and other notable men. Also in this case is a framed check on the Union and Planters Bank in Memphis, signed by Jefferson Davis, Aug 28, 1872, and a Southern Cross of Honor.
Boys, young and old, will enjoy seeing an iron Bayonet from the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia as well as a small pistol. There is also a personal Calling card of Jefferson Davis's in post war days, and a stock certificate made out to Winnie Davis - 13 shares of the Davis Land Company.
I hope we have whetted your appetite for your next visit to the First White House. Please plan to spend some time in the Relic Room. I think you will be glad you did.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Things You Need to Know About The First White House of the Confederacy

Did you know the First White House was moved in 1921? It was taken apart in 3 sections and brought to present location by wagon.
Did you know that admission is free and the tours are self-guided?
Did you know we are open on Saturdays?
Did you know everything in the House (with a couple of minor exceptions) either belonged to the Davis family, is original to the House or is of the 1860 period?
Did you know a generous family named Westcott gave us the furniture for one of the rooms upstairs?
Did you know we have a gift shop?
Did you know we are handicap accessible for the downstairs?
Did you know Mrs. Davis gave us the furniture for President Davis's bedroom after he died?
Did you know we have many letters from Varina and the President and also daughter Margaret?
Did you know our first Regent, Mrs. Phelan Beale had a son who was married to Jackie Kennedy's aunt of "Gray Gardens" fame?
Did you know we want you to sign up to be a regular reader of this blog?
Did you also know we want you to visit the First White House whenever you are in Montgomery?
If you said yes to all of these questions, did you know we also  want you to look at our facebook page and our website???!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Union General John Pope Suffered Defeat At Second Manassas

I was talking with a friend recently about how close the South came to winning the war in so many instances. One of those important sucesses came at Second Manassas on August 29-30, 1862 (150 years ago next week).
The Confederate General was none other than Robert E. Lee, and it was a battle culminating an offensive campaign waged by the Army of Northern Virginia against the Union General Pope's Army of Virginia. It was a battle of much larger scale and numbers than First Manassas, but fought on the same ground.
It was also Longstreet and Jackson who were formidable in their effort to devastate Gen. Fitz John Porter's V Corps. The Union left flank was crushed. According to Wikipedia, "only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope's retreat was nonetheless precipitous". Wish I had been there to see it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What Happened on August 22, 1862?

I think you will find this article from the Internet very interesting as to what happened on August 22, 1862 (150 years ago today)
Friday Aug. 22 1862

Three days ago Horace Greely, writing in his New York Tribune, had published his classic “Prayer of Twenty Million”, imploring Abraham Lincoln to make the abolition of slavery the main aim of the current war. Today Lincoln responded with a statement so clear even a newspaperman should have understood it: “I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution.. ...If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”
Guess the victors write the history books. How many people know Lincoln said this?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Confederate Flags Conserved at Alabama Archives

There is an article in the summer 2012 edition of the ADAH news abut restoring the Confederate battle flags. Because for years the Civil War battle flags were improperly stored or displayed, Bob Bradley, Chief Curator of Archives knew something must be done to save them.
 Bob says: "Together, these agents of deterioration had done more damage to the flags than four years of war". The flag conservation project was begun in 1989 with a twofold aim. One to properly store and document the flags, and secondly to conserve them.

Amazingly, now, more than 20 years later, each of the 90 flags in housed in a climate-controlled room where they are stored in special cabinets. In addition, all of the flags have been documented. If you are interested, you can view the provenance of each of them on the Archives' web site. Eighteen have been conserved and two more are currently undergoing conservation.

As with our Gunboat Quilt, technological advances in textile conservation have increased greatly in recent years. So has the price tag; some of the flags cost more than $25,000. to restore. For more information, go to and read all about it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nathan Bedford Forrest Compared To Nazi General Von Manstein

 Josh Moon has written an article in the August 19 edition of the Montgomery Advertiser "Forrest's legacy tarnished beyond repair". In it he compares Forrest to WWII German Erich Von Manstein, one of Hitler's finest and savviest generals.

Moon says: "The two had something rather important in common. They fought for the wrong side. Not the losing side, the wrong side....We don't erect monuments of people who do the wrong thing...A memorial implies honor. And Forrest and the rest of the South had very little..."  That really makes my blood boil, does it yours?

Naturally, Moon beats the slavery drum throughout the article. Of course slavery was wrong. No thinking person could say or think or feel any other way. But it doesn't mean that the only reason the South went to war was because of slavery., nor does it mean the North and Lincoln went to war for the noble idea to free the slaves.  Remember Lincoln did not issue the emancipation proclamation until he saw the north was in grave danger of losing. And he is on the record as saying he didn't care whether the slaves were free or not, before the war.

People like Moon cannot be reasoned with so don't bother with the letters to the editor. Just remember he is there to sell newspapers. He should stick to the /Sports column in my opinion.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

War Between the States Anniversary Celebrations Being Held

In today's Montgomery Advertiser there is an article from AP writer Emily Wagster Pettus, titled "For Mississippi, Civil War's anniversary brings angst".

In the first place it was not the Civil War. There was nothing civil about it. It is rightly called WBTS or The War for Northern Aggression as I have said before. The article also mentions the fact that the Miss State flag bears the  Confederate Battle emblem. Well so what! Its their right after all, isn't it?

It goes on to say that a marker commemorating the 11th Miss Infantry is being dedicated this weekend in Sharpsburg, Md. where 119 members were killed in what the Yankees called the battle of  "Antietam". Interesting to us is that one of the speakers is Bertram Hayes-Davis.

The article goes on to say that the state is taking a "decidedly low-key and scholarly approach to commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War".Couldn't the same could be said for Alabama and the rest of the Southern states?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts In the Civil War

I have mentioned several times that our Gunboat Quilt was selected to be in the aforementioned exhibit at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA from June 30-Nov 25, 2012.

In the process, we have had our quilt conserved and it now is greatly enhanced. The curators at the Museum have been wonderful to work with and the exhibit sounds fabulous.According to their information, "each object represents a deeply moving and insightful personal story, from the noose reportedly used to hang abolitionist John Brown to the quilt stitched by an Illinois mother using the uniforms of her two sons, one fighting in Confederate gray and the other in Union blue".

An accompanying book has been written and it is first-class. It mentions that the women used their "needles as daggers" with the "same commitmentand fury as did their men on the battlefields". The women of Alabama had the quilts raffled off to raise money to buy a gunboat. The cost of the gunboat was $ 80,000.

Mary Chesnut, so proud of the $2000.00 she and her friends raised for the cause found out that the boats were unwieldy and unmaneuverable. She confided sadly to her diary "oh, that we had give our thousand dollars to the hospital and not to the gunboat"!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bertram Hayes Davis Introduced as New Director of Beauvoir

           Exiciting news from Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis's retirement home on Miss. Gulf Coast. See below!!! As you know Bert Hayes-Davis is a great friend of the First White House. We are so thrilled that he will be much closer to Montgomery and is going to be the Execuitve Director of Beauvoir. more on this tomorrow... See Below:  

Greetings from Beauvoir

Please scroll down to see all of our updates!
Beauvoir gets new Executive Director!
At the July 11, 2012 press conference at Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, Rick Forte, Chairman of the Combined Boards of Beauvoir, introduces the new Executive Director of Beauvoir, Bert Hayes-Davis and his wife, Carol. Bert Hayes-Davis is the great, great grandson of President Jefferson Davis.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Salute Fired Over Grave of Varina Davis

I have been blogging about Varina Davis, Jefferson Davis's second wife and mother of their six children, when today I read an article that was in the Richmond newspaper about her funeral, from Oct 19, 1906.

I knew she was buried with honors. The article reads: "as the casket was lowered into the grave the Richmond  Howisters fired a salutes. Near the grave of her husband, Mrs. Davis's body lies in a quiet, secluded part of the cemetery, nearly hidden by the great trees. To the right and to the left, lie long lines of those who fell in the Confederate armies."

The article names the members of the Davis family who came with the body from New York, including Mr and Mrs. J. Addison Hayes, the latter being the only remaining daughter of Mrs. Davis, and their son, Jefferson H. Davis, whose name was changed to that of his grandfather by act of the Legislature. Other family members listed were "Miss Hayes and Dr. and Mrs. Webb".

Services were held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 3:00, conducted by Rev. Robert Forsyth. An escort from the New York camp of Confederate Veterans was there as well as the President of the New York chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

As I have mentioned before, I have visited the grave site and it is a very peaceful place. Rest well, President and Mrs. Davis, and "well done".  You both deserve to "rest from your labors".

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Varina and Jefferson Davis's Marriage

I found it quite interesting that on their honeymoon, the newlyweds visited the grave of his first wife! I wonder how Varina felt about that? They also went to see his aged mother, Jane Davis.

When they returned home, they took up residence at Brierfield, his 100 acre plantation that had been given him by his brother, Joseph. It wasn't long before one of Jefferson's sister's and her children moved in with them. No wonder Varina was so happy to move to Washington, when he was elected to the US House of Representatives!

Varina, from all reports, loved Washington, and thrived there. Jefferson took a leave though, to serve in the Mexican-American War, where he was wounded and came home a hero. They soon went back to Washington, when he was appointed to fill a Senate seat and this was an especially happy time, because after seven childless years, a son was born in 1852. More of their life together tomorrow...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Varina and Jefferson Davis, The Courtship

When Varina met Jefferson, he was a 35 year old widower and she was 17. She had accepted an invitation to spend the Christmas season at Hurricane, Joseph Davis's plantation near Vicksburg. During her stay, she met her host's younger brother Jefferson, who had a reputation as a recluse since the death of his first wife, Sarah Knox "Knoxie" Taylor.

 In addition to the age problem (18 years), he was a Democrat, and she was a Whig. In spite of these differences, Varina was almost instantly attracted to this older man, writing her mother: "I do not know whether this Mr. Jefferson Davis is young or old. He looks both at times, but I believe he is old, for from what I hear he is only two years younger than you are". (the rumor was correct).

In her memoirs, Varina said her mother's greatest concerns were Davis's excessive devotion to his living relatives, especially his brother Joseph, who had largely raised him after their father's death and upon whom he was financially dependent; and to Jefferson's near worship of the memory of his deceased first wife (concerns that in private correspondence, Varina would later concede were entirely correct).

Nevertheless, the Howells ultimately consented to the courtship, and the couple did marry! More about that tomorrow....