Friday, November 29, 2013

Blog Book Coming Soon

Hello Dear Readers,
I mentioned this in my  August 5, 2013 blog, but I want you to know that with the help of my good friend and author of the Miss Budge books, Daphne Simpkins, we are nearly ready to publish our Blog Book.
It is shaping up to be a book about  some of my blogs that have been written since I began in August of 2010.
The blogs will be in three sections: one about Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Family; second about the War and all things Confederate: and third about The First White House, the celebrations there and the struggle for its survival.
I will keep you posted on when it will be available. In the meantime don't forget to check the First White House website at and our Facebook page and please keep reading our blog and tell others about it. We appreciate your interest and encouragement.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Things You May Not Know About the Alabama State Capitol Grounds

Alabama became a State in 1819 and the first permanent capitol was at Cahawba (near Selma) but as the area was prone to flooding the capitol was moved to Tuscaloosa in 1826. Montgomery became the capital in 1846 and the present Capitol building was completed in 1851 after the first building  burned two years earlier.
As Alvin Benn, writer for the Montgomery Advertiser said in an article titled "Capitol grounds a dazzling outdoor museum" June 9, 2013, "Alabama's Capitol is a marvelous museum inside and out".
Benn mentioned the brass star at the top of the front steps where Jefferson Davis took the oath as the Provisional President of the Confederacy, as well as the orange roses planted in the rose garden in honor of Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King.
Several statues are on the Capitol grounds including one to  James Marion Sims and one honoring John Allen Wyeth. "Who are they" one might ask?  Wyeth founded a medical school in New York and Sims was known as the Father of Modern Gynecology. There is also a very impressive statue of President Jefferson Davis.
The most impressive structure on the Capitol grounds is the Confederate Monument which took 12 years to build and was completed in 1898. Jefferson Davis came to dedicate  the cornerstone in 1886 three years before he died.

There is also a Liberty Bell replica which was put there in 1976 in honor of the bicentennial of our nation, and an Avenue of Flags which includes the flags of all 50 states as well as a stone or rock from each state. The flags are on the South side, facing the First White House of the Confederacy, so if you are visiting the Alabama State Capitol, be sure and stop in at the First White House! You will be warmly greeted.

As a personal aside,the Robert Henry Tile Company installed the beautiful marble steps in front of the Capitol. My father, Robert F. Henry, Sr., owned the business at the time, and Henry Tile Company is now owned and run by my brother, Robert Henry, Jr. and his two sons and daughter, my nephews and niece.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Numbers of Vistors to The First White House and The Blog

Have you wondered how many visitors we have at the First White House of the Confederacy annually? Over 25,000 from almost every state in the Union and from many foreign countries.
 Through the end of October this year we have actually had 13,259  plus from Alabama, 10,196 from other States, and 1568 from outside the U.S.
Most of these tourists spend at least two nights in our Capitol City of Montgomery, and eat at downtown restaurants, bringing cash flow into the community. They shop at gift shops too, including ours. Our visitors buy such things as T shirts, books, children's toys, and  almost anything with "First White House"  on it.

Here is an update on our blog: since August of 2010 we have had 63,464 people visit our blog, with 2127 last month. The largest number of readers has been from the U.S. but we have had large numbers of blog readers from Austria, Russia, France, Germany, UK, Sweden, Poland, China and Turkey.

The three most read blogs have been "Who Really Designed the First Confederate Flag?" "Jefferson Davis Descendants" and "Miss Budge-Another Real Southern Lady".

I want to invite all of you who have already visited the First White House to come again and see the new items that have been added. Someone is always there  ready to welcome you back!!! Ditto with the Blog!!!


Exciting News About the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond

The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond has notified its members that the Museum is joining forces with the American Civil War Center at the Historic Tredegar Iron Works site to make Richmond the "foremost Civil War destination in the United States."
The $30 million project will result in the construction of a brand new museum building at the Tredegar Iron Works site.
The largest priority of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond has always been the protection of its incredible collection, which includes artifacts belonging to Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee and many others. The new museum will provide better storage for the collection, improved displays and a larger and better venue for hosting educational programs.
 The Second White House in Richmond, located next door to the Museum of the Confederacy, will be celebrating its 200th birthday in 2018. It will continue to operate as normal, as will the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox.
We are so happy for the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center. Congratulations to you and especially to Waite Rawls III, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Museum.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Looking At The First White House With New Eyes

Whenever  I have the privilege of showing guests around the First White House I tend to see our wonderful House Museum, in which Jefferson Davis and his family lived anew through the eyes of our visitors.
Today it was a gentleman who specializes in furniture restoration and custom woodwork.  This Huntsville visitor was interested in a number of our pieces, in particular the bookcases made by Doran that are in the President's Study which he studied at length.  
This guest was also interested in a number of other pieces of furniture, notably an armoire, also called a wardrobe, in President Davis's bedroom that the President had used at Beauvoir and which probably had been made in either New York City or Philadelphia and shipped to the southern market.
Another piece the gentleman particularly liked was a magnificent walnut Gothic Revival Bookcase, circa 1845, probably made in the Brooklyn, NY workshop of Thomas Brooks and is in our Second Parlor. Gothic Revival furniture is exceedingly rare and sought for on the antique market.
An English Teapoy, William IV, circa 1835 also caught the eye of our visitor today. Teapoys were one of the loveliest forms of early-nineteenth-century English furniture, taking the place of tabletop tea caddies. It was a delightful afternoon for us to share our treasures with this accomplished young man and his father who was visiting him from Virginia.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Silver Dipper Joins Water Cooler at First White House

Back in the 1930's a large Silver Water Cooler was presented to the Collection of the First White House of the Confederacy by Miss Otis Cox of Connecticut. Miss Cox was the daughter of Jesse J. Cox, a popular captain of a steamboat on the Alabama River in antebellum times, to whom the water color had belonged. 
According to family tradition given by Miss Cox, the water cooler was in the Cox plantation residence when the Federal troops known as Wilson's Raiders came past, on their way from Selma to Montgomery in the last days of the war in 1865. The water cooler was supposedly taken with other family silver and buried for safekeeping. The cooler is a highly unusual and imposing piece, and has graced the dining room of the First White house in Montgomery for some eighty years.
Now, in 2013, a great-grandson of Captain Cox who resides in New Jersey, has generously donated a fine American coin silver Water Dipper, which was originally used with the water cooler. The Cox Dipper was surely chosen to match the decorative elements of the water cooler. It is engraved with grapes and grape leafage, whereas that on the cooler is the same but executed in Repoussee work in high relief. They belong together, as Forrest Gump would say, "like peas and carrots". We are so excited to have the Dipper as a wonderful addition to our Relics.
The Dipper appears to date from the 1850s, as does the cooler. The Dipper also has the name Jesse J Cox written on it. Captain Cox is  thought to have died in 1869. His son,  Jesse James Cox, Jr.,  died in Baton Rouge in 1879 from yellow fever.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Acquisitions at First White House

Two historic Bisque Figures were recently donated to the First White House of the Confederacy by a lovely Birmingham lady who is descended from Sophie Gilmer Bibb. The figures belonged to Mrs. Bibb, who was a significant leader of the Confederate Ladies of Montgomery during the Civil War.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a guest in the Bibb home on Molton Street in downtown Montgomery often, the last time being in 1886 when he was in Montgomery for the dedication of the Confederate Memorial Monument on the capitol grounds.
The figures are of a boy with a dog, 13" tall and a girl with a kitten, 14" tall. The "children" are of German origin and date about 1850-60 and would have been in place in the Bibb parlor during the War.
We plan to exhibit them in the Nursery upstairs, where they will enthrall not only little ones, but adults as well. What a wonderful addition to our Collection they are. Thanks so much to our generous donor, who gave these in memory of Sophie Bibb, her great-great-great grandmother, as well as in memory of other family members.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Civil War Timeline, Novesmber 1863

It is hard to believe 1863 almost over. The Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States will continue though, until May, 1865. I thought it might be interesting to look back at the chronology for early November of 1863 and I was surprised to see what took place.
On November 2, 1863 President Lincoln was invited to make a few remarks at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. I suppose we all learned that brief speech  in school, better known as the "Gettysburg Address".
On November 4, Confederate General Braxton Bragg ordered James Longstreet to Knoxville, Tenn. General Longstreet was the last of the generals that complained to Jefferson Davis about General Bragg. Bragg seemed universally disliked!
November 6 was the Battle of Droop Mountain, West VA., where US General William Averill defeated Confederate General John Echols, and on November 7 two battles were fought in Virginia, the Battle of Rappahannock Station and the Battle of Kelly's Ford. These two battles were the result of Federal General George Meade advancing on the Army of Northern Virginia.
Fort Sumter, South Carolina was once again attached by heavy shelling on November 7, and this would last until November 10. The siege of Charleston, SC began on November 8 when Confederate General Braxton Bragg appointed Major General John Breckinridge to command Harvey Hill's corps.
On November 11, 1863 Union General Benjamin Butler returned to active duty, commanding the US Army forces of Virginia and North Carolina. All this was a pretty active start to the month of November, 1863, 150 years ago this month!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Civil War Exhibit in Atlanta

I am just back from Atlanta, GA where I had the pleasure of visiting an excellent Civil War Exhibit at the Atlanta History Center in the Buckhead area near the famed Swan House. The exhibit, titled Turning Point: The American Civil War,  located in the 9200 square foot DuBose Gallery is one of the nations largest and most complete Civil War exhibitions.
To my amazement the collection includes over 1500 Union and Confederate artifacts, including cannons, uniforms, flags and many weapons, all in top notch condition. 
Highlights include the Confederate flag that flew over Atlanta at the time of the surrender; a Union supply wagon used by Sherman's army, and a sword belonging to Confederate General Patrick Cleburne.

Cleburne was an Irish American soldier who served in the Confederate army and rose to the rank of Major General. Killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864 he was last seen advancing on foot toward the enemy with his sword raised after his horse had been shot out from under him.

When his body was found his boots, sword watch and anything else of value had been taken. I wonder how the museum got his sword? I suppose it was donated by the descendants of whoever might have confiscated it from the battlefield.

The final section of the museum exhibition explores how the Civil War continues its impact on us today. I highly recommend a visit to this museum, and don't forget the Cyclorama, depicting the Battle of Atlanta is also a must-see in this charming capitol city. 


Monday, November 4, 2013

New Acquisitions at the First White House

All faithful blog readers know that the First White House recently acquired a beautiful silver bowl at auction that was given to Varina Davis in 1887 by the citizens of Macon, Georgia.
We have also recently been given a wonderful pair of German hand painted bisque statues given by a generous lady who lives in Birmingham but grew up in Montgomery, and who donated these in memory of her grandmother, and her great-great grandmother and her great-great-great grandmother Sophie Gilmer Bibb. Sophie Bibb lived during the War Between the States and was responsible for so much of what was done by the ladies of Alabama after the war to keep the memory of our brave soldiers alive.
The statues are 14" high and one is of a little boy holding a puppy; the other is a little girl holding a kitten. They are so beguiling and will be placed in the nursery where they will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. We are so indebted!
The second acquisition  is a lovely sterling silver dipper, that is a companion to our silver water cooler that is in the dining room in the First White House. Both the water cooler and the dipper belonged to Captain Jesse J. Cox, popular steamboat captain on the Alabama river, before and during the War.
This generous donation has been made by the great grandson of Jesse Cox, whose grandfather was Arthur Cox, Jesse Cox's son. Arthur Cox was born in 1860 and left the South in the later part of the nineteenth century.
It is reported that the water cooler and dipper were buried right before the Union soldiers came through and burned Captain Cox's home to the ground. We are so pleased to have this lovely piece.
We are so pleased to have these wonderful new additions at the First White House of the Confederacy. Come and see them!!!