Sunday, December 30, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - July 4, 1861

Fourth of July [1861]

Not a gun have I heard this morning. I hope our old national holidays will not be dropped by the Southern Confederacy.

Will returned from Richmond yesterday. Whether he got the appointment as Prize Agent, or whether he would accept it if it was offered to him, or what he did in Richmond I have not the most remote idea. I asked him to tell me where he went and what he did. He answered – "oh! I went every where" – and then told me that he had tomatoes for dinner and that Jourdan had a puppy for Nannie Belle. The rest he thought above my comprehension and reserved for some more fortunate male.

Every body gives me credit for more sense than my husband does.

Papa has gone to Norfolk, do not know what for. Cousin Jack has gone on secret service. Dick is here – is ordered to the mouth of the James river with Capt Hollins.
Tom has been sent for from Manassas to see Georgy. They fear that her mind is becoming affected. She rarely speaks and sits all day with a vacant gaze on her face.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - July 3, 1861

Wednesday 3 [July 1861]

Will went to Richmond this morning. Papa wrote word last night that he was suggesting him for Prize Commissioner since legal proceedings have to be gone through with when ever a prize is brought in I believe. Do not know whether Will would like to have the place.

There are not more than thirty soldiers at the Hospital. The rest have been taken to private houses.

Got a long and affectionate letter from Mother yesterday.

Met several of my suits of clothes on the street, felt like speaking to them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - July 1, 1861

Monday July 1st 1861

Well! Our secret expedition has returned.

Yesterday afternoon we heard a steam whistle and knew that no boat was expected here for a week. In a few minutes all Fredericksburg was at the wharf. It was the St. Nicholas, a prize! A Yankee steamer that runs between Baltimore & Washington.

Almost two weeks ago Capt Holland and Col Thomas (a man that dresses like a Japanese) went over to Maryland and arranged with friends there to take the St. Nicholas by strategy. Col Thomas went to Baltimore and with six or eight friends got on board the steamer as passengers. When they reached Point Lookout Capt Hollins with a few friends came on board as passengers also and when the boat was fairly out in the stream they walked up to the Captain, told him that he was their prisoner and that the boat was in the hands of Confederate officers. He made some show of resistance at first, but soon saw that it was of no use and surrendered. The boat was then run into Coan creek, on the Virginia shore opposite to Point Lookout, where Capt Lewis's party, including the four hundred Tennesseeans were awaiting them. They had left the Virginia near the mouth of the Rappannhack [Rappahannock] and marched across the country to Coan Creek the night before.

The plan was for the whole party to embark and under the Federal Flag go up the Potomac, take the Pawnee and Freeborn at Aquia Creek (they would never have suspected that she was in the hands of Confederate officers until they were boarded) and then come round to the mouth of the Rappannack take the blockading force there and come off with flying colors. But the Secretary of War would not allow the Tennesseeans to embark. Said they might do any fighting that was necessary on shore but not on board ship. The rest of the party -- about a hundred officers and sailors together -- would have attempted it but they had only a few hours of coal on board and the Pawnee and Freeborn had left the Creek. As it was all embarked, except Capt Hill and a few others. Capt L thought it was wrong to risk the lives of so many officers unnecessarily and went out into the bay to see what they could find. The first vessel they met was a brig laden with coffee. It made no resistance. Some of the men were dreadfully frightened and begged on their knees for their lives. The Captain and crew were ordered on board the Steamer; and two officers and five men were detailed to man the brig. They then met a schooner filled with ice and another with coal, both of which were taken in the same way.

Mr. Thorburn and Dick were detailed for the coal schooner. Two of the Captains had their wives with them. One of them begged most piteously that her husbands life might be spared. There were thirty nine prisoners in all. Cousin Jack took down the larger part of them this morning. Dick went down in the eleven o clock train with the remainder. I saw them as they came by. They thought they were to be hung. The Mayor went down last night to relieve their minds and say that no harm would be done them.

The passengers that were on the St. Nicholas were put off at Coan Creek. Clarence Helen of Washington – Alice's old beau – was among the number. He was returning from a fishing excursion. expressed much surprise at seeing Dick. The two Captains wives were at work yesterday cutting up their flags and making them into Confederate flags. The bunting at the South has given out. Col Thomas went on board the St. Nicholas dressed as a woman. The party on board did not know each other very well. Each one suspected the other and all suspected the woman. It was Capt Lewis's scheme. Papa only helped to carry it out. Capt L was to have commanded the expedition. The President never fully approved of it. It has been 'hanging' in Richmond for more than a month.

Cousin Jack and Dick are both army officers. I suppose Papa got them ordered in this expedition.

There was no blockading vessel at the mouth of the Rappannock when the prizes came in. Suppose she had gone for provisions.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - July 2, 1861

Tuesday July 2nd [1861]

Mr. Hill came to take Molly on a boating excursion yesterday evening. It commenced to rain very hard soon after they started so it had to be given up.

The clothes for Mr. Hills party are finished and packed in a clothes basket ready to be sent up to Citizens Hall. They look very neat and substantial and comfortable.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 30, 1861

Sunday June 30 [1861]

Heard Dr. Sparrow preach a sermon on Grace "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee."

Will would not go to church which always annoys me so much.

Mr. Corbin has just sent up a party of Marylanders in his wagon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 29, 1861

Saturday June 29th [1861]

Lieut Worden of the Yankee Navy is in jail in Mobile. He has applied to Papa to get him removed to Virginia and put upon parole. Papa asked General Lee about it, and said it would be particularly gratifying to him if it could be done, without detriment to the public weal. General Lee has no authority over him but thinks he ought to stay where he is. I reckon he is right. These Yankees are slippery people.

The people in town are taking the sick soldiers to their houses to nurse. Dr. Mason is very much opposed to it, but Dr. McClanahan lets some of them go. Some of the poor fellows beg most piteously to be taken away. Say they will die if they stay there. Uncle Brodie has one at his house. Mrs. Ashby (dressmaker) has four. The ladies have made her matron at the Hospital. We wanted to take one here, but cousin John thought the room over the kitchen was too hot for a sick man.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 28, 1861

Friday June 28th 1861

The secret party under Capt Lewis started down the Rappa[ha]nnock last night with five hundred of the Tennessee regiment who came from the Creek to join them. We heard to day that the boat is aground on the bar and they will not be able to get off before one o clock to day when the tide rises. I hope their scheme will not be defeated by the delay.

Mr. Hill and party have rented Citizen's Hall and are recruiting here. A party of twenty five live there, sleep on the benches and cook for themselves. I saw two huge iron pots one the pavement yesterday evening.

They want to raise an artillery company. Say they have the horses and guns ready for them in Richmond whenever they can raise the men. The two Hill's are very enthusiastic about it. Wanted me to come in and see their men eat supper. They pay all, or nearly all, the expenses I think.

Dick brought Sue Crutchfield down to tea last night.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 27, 1861

Thursday 27th [June 1861]

Great suffering and neglect at the hospital. Some of the soldiers are being removed to private houses. Some of the ladies here devote almost their whole time to the sick. Uncle Brodie is attending some of those who are at private houses.

I never saw anything like the spirit here. The women give up the greater part of their time either to nursing the sick or sewing for the soldiers. It is the same case through out the South.

Some of Papa’s secret schemes are to be carried out now I am sure. Dick, Bob Minor, cousin Jack and a number of sailors are here to report to Captain Lewis. Nobody knows where they are going, or what they are to do but I have a strong suspicion.

This is the time that Mr. Hill’s clothes were to be done and he has not brought me a single button or come to see anything about them. These suits are presents to the gentlemen that are with him.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 26, 1861

Wednesday June 26th [1861]

Have been hard at work this week on the shirts for Mr. Hill. Six pairs of pantaloons, six jackets and eight shirts and havelocks all to be done in three days. I was in despair at first but the ladies are so kind and ready to help, every one that I asked took a part and the work now is comparatively easy. It will all be done by tomorrow.

There are upwards of one hundred and fifty soldiers in the hospital here.

The sick suffer a great deal for want of proper medical attendance and good nursing. Many of the soldiers are laid on the floor when brought there and are not touched or their cases looked into for twenty four hours. One or two died when no one was near them. They were found cold and stiff several hours afterwards. The other night at ten oclock when one of the ladies left there was not a soul in the house besides the sick men. Every one in town has been interested in them. Papa went last Sunday to see General Holmes about it. The General came over yesterday so I hope we will soon have an efficient Doctor and honest competent nurses.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 22, 1861

Saturday 22 [June 1861]

Mr. Hill has not made his appearance yet with the shirts.

No tidings of Fanny. I think she is too smart to be caught.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 21, 1861

Friday June 21st [1861]

Was interrupted yesterday to go down and see a soldier. It turned out to be my friend Nick Hill, one of our old law students. He came South to join the army more than a month ago and was sent back to Maryland on recruiting service. He came back yesterday morning and swam his horse across the Potomac. He brought a good many Marylanders with him and more will follow today. They went to Mr. Corbin’s and he sent them up in a wagon. This is their place of rendevouz.

Mr. Hill asked me to make some shirts for them. He is to bring me the materials to day from Richmond.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 20, 1861

Thursday 20th [June 1861]

The Convention in Richmond were surprised and delighted to see how much good the Governor’s Council had done, thought the State could not do without it. But the Council thought they were unnecessary now that everything has been handed over to the Confederate States. So it has been abolished.

Papa is going up Saturday to see cousin Frank Minor. What a warm and true friend he is. He is very anxious that Papa shall be sent as Minister to England thinks it would be an appointment that would please the people and that he would have more influence abroad than any other man. Cousin Frank need not take to himself the credit of having first thought of it. I have been wishing for it for more than a month. It is the only office in the gift of the Government that I covet for Papa. They surely would not send him into active service. He is too valuable and great a man for that.

Dick is chafing very much at being kept so long in Lexington. He wants to be in active service somewhere. Says he thirsts for Yankee blood and cannot bear to be up there behind the mountains when so many others are in the field.

I have found an old black satin cloak that I have been looking for to make a puffing round the bottom of my three year old brown silk to make it long enough. It is the only thick dress I have with me. All my handsomest clothes were left in the trunk in Alexandria.

It is strange how one can become accustomed to almost any mode of life. Here we are now almost as happy as in our last days and we cannot look into the future of this world at all. Cannot form an idea as to where or in what condition we might be one month hence.

Will has gone to the Creek this morning. Hope he will have as pleasant a day. Six or eight gentlemen went.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 19, 1861

Wednesday 19th [June 1861]

General Holmes was wrong. Harpers Ferry has been evacuated. Our troops are somewhere between there and Winchester.

Papa returned to Richmond Monday morning. He has a scheme to blow up the enemy vessels in the different rivers by submarine works of some kind. I do not know whether he will be able to carry it out. It is a great secret now.

Troops from Lynchburg and Richmond are being sent to Manassas every day. We look for the great battle there. God help us and give us the victory.

The fight at little Bethel church was more destructive to the enemy than was at first suspected. From the Northern papers we learn that at the roll call at Fortress Monroe there were upwards of a thousand missing. A few were on furlough.

Will received a very cordial letter from Judge Badger a few days ago welcoming him to the South and inviting him to his house in Raleigh. Will would like very much to go and only hesitates because of the expense but I suspect the temptation will prove too strong for him. He is invited to go with a party of gentlemen to see the batteries at Aquia Creek tomorrow, and to dine at Mr. William Little’s in Stafford. I am glad he is making some acquaintances here though time hangs much less heavy on his hands than I thought it would. He is more and more relieved each day that we have left Washington.

I have been busy for the last two days making a shirt for one of the soldiers.

Sue Crutchfield was to see us yesterday evening. She is not so pretty with her bonnet off.

Molly has a very devoted beau who comes very often and stays very late. But Johnny Scott will never do. he has a grandfather, two uncles and an aunt that are crazy!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 16, 1861

Sunday 16th [June 1861]

Papa came up from Richmond yesterday evening. He brings us the good news of the secession of Missouri – or rather that her Governor has ordered out fifty thousand troops to repel the invaders which is a virtual secession. The Arkansas regiments are sent to assist them.

The bridges at Harpers Ferry have been burnt by our troops. All the valuable machinery has been removed from there and Pa thinks they mean to evacuate the place and take a stand nearer Winchester, where they cannot so easily be surrounded and cut off.

General Holmes was here just now. He thinks that because the bridges have been burned it by no means follows that they intend to evacuate Harpers Ferry.

Mr. Corbin came up this morning. He has been with his company to Mathias point. Says there is no battery there.

There is great jealousy between the Virginian and Confederate forces. Papa thinks that the Confederate officers and politicians want to usurp too much power and are unjust towards many of the Virginia soldiers. I hope Tom will be able to keep his place.

Sixty of the Federal troops landed on our side of the Potomac the other night and broke up all the boats and skiffs on this side of the river. That is the only way the Marylanders can come over to join us. Ten or fifteen come every day. It is owing to the Richmond Dispatch and the Examiner that these things are known at the North. They publish a great many things in their papers that ought not to be known North of the Potomac and injure the cause a great deal. The other day the Dispatch told of a woman who had brought fifty thousand caps under her hoops to the soldiers at Harpers Ferry. Of course she can never do it again now.

Papa’s post as one of the Governor’s council is to be abolished tomorrow. We do not know what will become of him then.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 14, 1861

Friday 14th [June 1861]

The fight was not at Newport News, but between Hampton and York. Our troops were in an entrenched camp and numbered twelve hundred. The enemy were thirty five hundred strong. The battle lasted from half past nine until one. The enemy were completely routed and driven back to Hampton, several of our cavalry companies pursuing them close to the town. Their men did not stand fir[e] at all. The celebrated New York fire zouves were the first to run. They acknowledge two hundred and fifty killed. it is thought there are many more. We had one man killed and not more than twenty wounded. Col Magruder commanded our forces and conducted the battle with the greatest bravery and ability. Mama says it shows how a man may change.

She used to know John Magruder when she was young. that he was the butt of all the girls. He was so stupid and conceited.

Several hours after the battle our forces retired to York. There are many thousand of the Federal troops at Fortress Munroe that might at any time be sent out and cut them off completely where they were.

Went to church yesterday and heard a sermon on patriotism. I fall far short of the mark of a true patriot. I am so selfish and narrow minded. Nanny puts me to the blush continually, she is so patriotic and unselfish.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 12, 1861

Wednesday June 12th 1861

Will came yesterday quite unexpectedly. I was so glad to see him. Do not mean to let him go away again without me. Our family is small enough for us to move with ease and this is no time for unnecessary separations.

We hear that cousin Dabney (with a number of other army officers out west) have resigned and are on their way home.

There are rumours of a fight that lasted five hours at Newport News.

General Holmes, who has command of the forces here and at Aquia Creek, has evicted a battery at Mathias point. It was done at night by one thousand negroes. The enemy would have prevented it if attempted in the day time.

Papa said he was coming up this evening to spend tomorrow with us. It is a day of humiliation fasting and prayer throughout the South.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 10, 1861

Monday June 10th [1861]

Mama returned from Farley Vale on Saturday and Papa came up from Richmond. He is rather blue. does not know how Jeff Davis and his ‘clique’ will work. He has made it understood that now Virginia is given up to him and is one of the Confederate States that all the commissions and appointments given by her are null and void and that if any retain their places it is a gift from him.

Got a letter from Dick. Says there was great excitement among the people at Lexington a few days ago. They heard that the Ohio troops had taken possession of the White Sulphur Springs and were on their way to Lexington. The people telegraphed to Lynchburg and Staunton for aid. They were wild with fear. Dick offered to ride out on the road by which they were expected, but he was ordered to stay to protect the barracks. One man offered to stay on the powder magazine, and when the enemy had filled the town to blow up self, magazine, enemy and all. Such is the spirit of our western men.

These panics are raised continually throughout the State. The enemy are narrowing in upon us on every side except the South. On the east, north and west they get nearer and nearer every day.

Governor Wise is forming a legion for the protection of Western Virginia. It is likely to be very popular. Charley Blackford is Captain in it.

Nanny and Mr. Corbin came up on Sunday. The latter was dressed in a full suit of uniform Nanny had made for him. He had Papa’s old Navy buttons on his blue flannel shirt. N says the U.S. stands for United South. Mr. C wears a sword taken from a French officer at Waterloo. Papa returned to Richmond this morning.

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 7, 1861

Friday 7th [June 1861]

Started a constable on Fanny’s track this morning. He thinks she must be in town.

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 6, 1861

Thursday June 6th [1861]

Another rainy day and I have too bad a cold to go to the society.

Ellen Mercer came to see me this evening and Mrs. Hart and Sue Crutchfield. The latter is very pretty – is engaged to my brother Dick.

Johnny came this evening from the university. He expects to enter the military school there in a week or ten days.

Got a letter from Will. Says he cannot get back to Washington. Is going to Caroline to see Uncle Jourdan Woolfork for a few days.

Cousin Sally said family are boarding here at Uncle Brodie’s. Cousin Charles talks of going into the powder business in Richmond.

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 5, 1861

Wednesday 5th [June 1861]

Fanny (our cook) was not to be found this morning. She has gone off with all her possessions. It seems that she and Nanny had some difficulty about ten days ago, and Papa told her if she did not apologize to N he shold send her to Farley Vale to Mr. Corbin.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 4, 1861

Tuesday June 4th 1861

Mama and the children went down to Farley Vale this morning in Captain Lewis’ vessel. He is a Navy officer who has come South and has charge of the Rapponnack [Rappahannock].

I went up to the sewing society with aunt Mary and Molly. The ladies are busy making tents for the soldiers and sheets and pillow cases for the hospital.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cousin John Minor's house


This is "Cousin John Minor's" house on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg where Betty Herndon Maury was living when she began her diary on June 3, 1861.

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - June 3, 1861

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury

Fredericksburg VA
At Cousin John Minor’s

June 3d 1861

A diary, faithfully kept in such eventful times as these, must be interesting to our children even though it be indifferently written.

I commenced one about three weeks ago at our home in Washington, but in the hurry and confusion of getting off it was forgotten.

I shall commence where I left off there hoping to get that one of these days. Though God knows when or where we shall ever see our possessions there again. Will left his business, furniture and every thing to come here and be with his people on the right side.

Last Thursday and Friday we got letters from Papa, by private hand (there are no mails now between the North and the South) commanding us to come out of Washington at once. On Friday Will went down to Alexandria to see if he could get wagons or conveyance of any kind, to carry us to Manassas junction.

While he was gone it occured to me that I had better go to the War Department and try to get a pass for us to leave the next day. So I got a hack and drove to the Department, intending to get Major John Lee to go with me to see General Mansfield and ask for the pass. Major Lee was out after waiting half an hour for him I went over to General Mansfield’s office. He refused to give us a pass – refused even to give one to Nannie Belle and myself without Will. Said no one was allowed to cross the lines now. My heart died within me, and my eyes filled with tears. I began to despair. Just then Major Lee came in. He heard I had been waiting for him and had followed me over. He took me back to the department and said that he would go and ask the Secretary of War (Mr. Cameron). So we went up to Mr. Cameron’s office, but he was at home – sick. Then we applied to General Scott. He gave one for Nannie Belle and myself, but refused to allow Will to go. But when Major Lee learned that we were going in a hack across the country and through the “rebel camp” alone, he said it would never do for us to go with Mr. Maury.

Upon second application General Scott gave a pass to Will – first inquiring whether he was any relation to Capt Maury of the Observatory now in Richmond. The Clerk who carried a note making the second application, did not know and said he was not. The old General little knew that I was his daughter.

Will was delighted when he saw the pass. Said that he could never have gotten it. I felt like all the strong minded women I knew.

Mr. Hasbrouck of Newburg, N.Y. came to see us that night. He came down hoping to get to Richmond to see Papa but was told that there was danger of his being arrested. So he gave it up. He could have come with perfect safety. Papa could get him back. He speaks with the greatest regret and grief of Pa’s resignation talked as if he was dead. I told him that I was proud of my father before, but I was a hundred times prouder of him now. That if he had considered his own personal welfare he would have remained with the North. Their people have always honoured and appreciated him far more than those at the South. . . but he could not take sides against his own people – against his native State and against the right.

Mr. H wanted Will and myself to come up to Newburgh and stay until the troubles are over.
Saturday morning we left Washington. We gave up our house and stowed our furniture at cousin Charles’ – left a great many things undone, but I reckon Mother will attend to them. There was a good deal of furniture in the house still to be moved.

We missed the boat and came all the way to Alexandria in a hack. Will paid $25 for a carriage to take us to Manassas junction. it could only take two small trunks, so I had to leave mine with the greater part of my clothes.

We were stopped by a sentinel every fifteen minutes of our ride for eight miles out of Alexandria. Nannie Belle was so delighted at the prospect of seeing her Grandma and aunt Lucy that she would sing “Dixie” all the way. I was afraid it would make the soldiers suspect us. So in order to stop her I had to give her a sugar cracker whenever we came to a sentinel. She soon understood it and would call out “Mama here is another soldier, give me a sugar tacker.

We were told that we would find a company of Federal cavalry close to the rebel lines! So when it was nearly dark, and we were near Fairfax courthouse we were stopped by two dragoons. I was struck by their gentlemanly appearance, they looked very different from the pickets we had passed. Will handed them General Huntzleman’s pass that he had got in Alexandria. They said that was signed by none of their officers and would not do. W then gave them Gen’ Scott’s pass. They laughed and said they belonged to the Southern troops. I exclaimed Thank God we are among our own people at last. They told us we might go on to Fairfax but must get a pass there. We stayed all night there. The night before (Friday) a company of eighty horse had ridden into the village and attacked our troops, fifty in number. They were repulsed with the loss of three killed and three prisoners. Our Captain (Marr) was killed and three prisoners taken. There were expected again that night. We laid down in our clothes, but were undisturbed .

Rose at four o clock and started at five for Manassas. We stopped at the Court house & jail to get our pass. There among a crowd of soldiers and horses I discovered our brother Tom. He had arrived in the night with his company from Manassas.

Were only stopped three or four times between Fairfax and the junction.
About three miles below Manassas a South Carolina regiment is stationed. They are fortifying themselves and throwing up breast works.

We reached Manassas too late for the eight o clock train and had to stay there till Monday morning. There are no accommodations for us. The tavern was filled with soldiers. I spent the day in the carriage under the trees with men, horses and tents all around us.

We had service during the day. The first time Nannie Belle had ever been to church. It was in imposing and affecting sight to see so many soldiers worshiping God under the broad canopy of Heaven.

I was the only woman present. Saw a great many acquaintances and friends there. We got a room at night, but did not take off our clothes, the place was too public.

Our troops are fewer and mor indifferently armed than I expected to see. But with such indomitable spirits and such mothers and wives they can never be beaten. I saw some plain country people there telling their sons and husbands good bye. I did not hear the first word of repining or grief. Only encouragement to do their best and be of good service. One woman after taking leave of her husband said to two youths when telling them good bye “Don’t mind my tears boys. They do no mean any thing.” After they left their mother shamed her and said “how could you let them see you crying? it will unman them.” These were plain people who talked about “Farfax” and said ‘farwell.’

Will went to Richmond. I arrived here Monday evening in time for tea. Mama did not expect us, so there was no one at the cars to meet me.

There have been two engagements at Aquia Creek Friday and Saturday. The vessels were repulsed and the last time the Pawnee must have been very much injured. Only a chicken and a horse were killed on our side.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Slave No More - by David Blight

A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom
by David Blight
Harcourt, Inc. 2007
ISBN 978-0-15-101232-9

For anyone interested in the history of Fredericksburg, Virginia, this book is a must read. Two slave narratives are presented here, life stories of men who escaped slavery to freedom. One of the two, John M. Washington, was born and raised in Fredericksburg. On April 18, 1862, he crossed his beloved Rappahannock River to join up with the Union Army at Falmouth. Mr. Washington's view of the events in Fredericksburg in 1862 is from an entirely different perspective from other memoirs I have read and provides a balance sorely needed in the literature chronicling this tumultuous time in the history of this wonderful town.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Civil War Diary of Betty Herndon Maury

The House on Caroline Street will begin publishing in serial form here the Civil War Diary of Betty Herndon Maury in the very near future.

Elizabeth Herndon Maury was the daughter of Matthew Fontaine Maury, also known as Pathfinder of the Seas. She and her husband were living in Washington, D.C. before the outbreak of the war. She left Washington for Fredericksburg, Virginia, where she began her diary on June 3, 1861. The diary chronicles her life from then until February 18, 1863, when she breaks off in Richmond, about to be evicted from the house she has been renting there, eight months pregnant, fearful for the future.

This transcription of Betty Herndon Maury's diary was made from a microfilm copy of the handwritten diary and seeks to preserve Betty's spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Betty's sister, Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin, later published a biography of their father: A Life of Matthew Fontaine Maury, which can be found at:

http://books.google.com/books?id=-xEDAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=matthew+fontaine+maury&as_brr=1

Commemoration of the 145th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg

On the weekend of December 8-9, 2007, the National Park Service will be commemorating the 145th anniversary of the first battle of Fredericksburg (11-13 December 1862). For the schedule of events, see:

http://www.nps.gov/frsp/annfred.htm

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rodman the Keeper

When transcribing the previous post concerning the National Cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia, my attention was drawn to the mention of a "keeper" at the cemetery in 1885. That brought to mind a wonderful story by Constance Fenimore Woolson (niece of James Fenimore Cooper) called "Rodman the Keeper". The text of Rodman can be found at:

http://www.lehigh.edu/~dek7/SSAWW/writWoolsonRodman.htm

Rodman is a former Union soldier assigned to be keeper at a national cemetery for the burial of Union soldiers at an unidentified location in the South. The story concerns Rodman's interactions with the local population in the bitter aftermath of the Civil War and is a very moving story of the passions on both sides.

I highly recommend this story for those who are interested in the literature of the American Civil War.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 12 - National Cemetery]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 12
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(continued from Part 11)

On Marye's Heights, within a stone's throw of the Washington and Richmond Railway, there is now a national cemetery. It was laid out in 1865, and completed in 1868, and in it are buried the remains of the soldiers and officers killed in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, and North Anna; that is to say, all the bodies the military authorities could recover. The total number of internments is 15, 257; known, 2487; unknown, 12,770.

The sides of the hill have been sloped in terraces, which are planted with small trees. A handsome brick wall incloses the cemetery, through which run tracks for vehicles and walks for pedestrians, and an avenue crossing the plain to the town is soon to be built. In the beginning there was established in the inclosure a conservatory in which flowers were grown for decking the graves on the anniversary of each of the battles, but it was afterward abolished as involving an unnecessary expense. Immediately in the centre, on the summit of the hill, four large old fashioned smooth-bore cannons, surrounded by several small pyramids of balls, are erected, with their butt ends resting on granite foundations, a ball in each muzzle. One of these guns bears a brass shield, with the appropriate dedication. In the midst rises the lofty flagstaff, upon which a small flag is always kept hoisted, except on national festivals, when a large banner is floated in the breeze. In a neat cottage at the entrance, contiguous to a part of the stone wall that served as a breastwork at the foot of the hill during the battle, dwells with his family the guardian, who keeps the ledger of this little city of the dead, and gives to the passing stranger all requisite information concerning them. In the number of its interments this cemetery rates third, those of Vicksburg and Nashville leading it. Only seventy-six of the national cemeteries are in charge of regularly appointed keepers, and the total number of dead buried in all is 308,331.

Of the houses that stood between the town and Marye's Heights on the day of the battle only three remain, but the intervening plain is now much more thickly built over than it was then. Of the shot and shell, grape and musket-balls, which were strewn on the field, there have been gathered many wagon loads, and the small boy still to-day finds a ready source of pocket-money in the lead to be picked up on the broad expanse, now green with varying crops and meadows smiling in the daisies. Indeed, excepting the cemetery itself, it is hard to find a trace of the battle's havoc, such is the remedial power of time; earth-works were long since leveled, and new houses in the town itself replace those that were burned or battered during the bombardment. A single cannon-ball is allowed to remain imbedded in the rear wall of a drug shop on the main street as a curiosity, or rather a freak in the dynamics of war. On the neighboring field of Chancellorsville only one house now stands, and no one would ever imagine from the unscarred locality that the deadly encounter of two great armies took place there twenty years ago.

THE END of In An Old Virginia Town

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 11 - Gold Mining; Gun Factory]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 11
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(continued from Part 10)

During the first half of this century several wild schemes for making rapid fortunes, after the "South-sea Bubble" style, were set afloat in Fredericksburg, quite turning the heads of all save the steadiest old citizens. Upon the discovery of gold in Spotsylvania County a craze arose for mining proportionately equal to the California fever of '48-'49. Greedy, inexperienced speculators sold all their possessions to secure mining capital. On being informed of their proceedings, a noted old Scotch merchant, who had amassed a million penny by penny, replied: "For every sax shillings they get out of it they'll put in saven and sax-pence." And his judgment proved to be correct: The mines ruined all who invested in them, and for a long time were neglected, though of late years they have been properly worked, and have yielded moderate gains. Another craze sprang up afterward for the production of silk. This "multicaulis" or mulberry mania still furnishes a world of humor to the "elders," while narrating their vivid reminiscences of its various phases. Cocooneries were started at every supposed available point, and a rage prevailed to plant mulberry slips in garden and farm. As high a price as twenty-five cents was paid for a single bud. After a while the bubble burst, and the speculators were again caught without any margin. A lady investor, who had rented the garden of the old Scotch merchant mentioned, was short on the rent, and threw herself on his mercy. "Yes," solemnly said the old man, "I'll release you from the rent, but on one condition only, and that is that you grub up every multicaulis plant on my ground before night!"

The sites of an iron furnace and of a gun factory that supplied arms during the Revolution are points of attraction in the neighborhood of Fredericksburg. They were of such importance that General Washington detailed soldiers to guard them from British raiding parties. Nothing save a few crumbled walls overrun with briars and honeysuckles, a few foundation stones, is left to show where these establishments existed. Prior to the Revolution the iron works of the vicinity were the most extensive in the colony of Virginia. They were inaugurated by the colonial Governor Spotswood, who found his profit in supplying the King's American subjects with home-made agricultural implements, and ovens, skillets, pans, and pots for the kitchen, at reduced rates. While attending to his iron interests Spotswood erected a magnificent mansion in the county of Spotsylvania (named in his honor). Still inhabited by one of his descendants, it is in excellent preservation, though over a hundred years old, and compares favorably with modern residences around it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 10 - Hugh Mercer]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 10
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(Continued from Part 9)

The fame of General Hugh Mercer, the hero of the battle at Princeton, of whom Washington spoke in such high praise, is one of the rich heirlooms of Fredericksburg. The house of his son, "Colonel Mercer," is pointed out as one of the sights. The colonel was educated at government expense, on account of his father's gallant service, and on leaving West Point rose to be a colonel in the army. After his retirement he was during thirty years president of a bank, though its operation, it is said, was a sealed book to him, owing to the unfinancial turn given his mind by a long military career. He was a mere figure-head president, according to our modern parlance. His lack of "practicability" was as notorious as that of Chief Justice Marshall, who, riding in his gig one day near Fredericksburg, called to a darky to cut down a sapling which had arrested the wheel of the vehicle, and was greatly surprised when the darky, by simply backing the gig a couple of feet, enabled him to proceed on his way.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 9 - First Church in Fredericksburg]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 9
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(Continued from Part 8)

The first church in the town was erected in 1732, and Rev. Patrick Henry, uncle of the great orator, was the first preacher to fill its pulpit, from which the doctrines of the Church of England only were allowed to issue. The church was the only one, indeed, in the whole of St. George's parish," which at that time included half a dozen of the present counties. The great orator, when a boy, was a frequent hearer of his uncle's eloquent sermons, and it is said that they first inspired him with the fancy of becoming a public speaker. The parish still exists, but of the original rough church not a trace remains. Of the dozen churches at present existing in the town two belong to the Episcopalian creed – one being "High" and the other "Low" Church. In the olden times many of the Fredericksburg divines were noted for quaint ways and sayings, in and out of the pulpit. Soon after the inauguration of General Andrew Jackson as President, an old Methodist parson named Kobler, a stanch Whig, while offering up prayers in his church, took occasion to exhibit his uncompromising notion of honest, plain dealing. After praying for the new President's health, happiness, and the success of his administration, he added, solemnly, the words, "though Thou, O Lord, knowest that we did not want him!" Another of these outspoken clergymen, a man of great stature, strength, and of highly strung passions, was accustomed to rule his vestry with a rod of iron. Wishing to have something done which only the vestry could do, he found that a majority of them were unwilling to vote as he wished. A quarrel ensued; high words were speedily followed by blows, and in this pugilistic encounter the clergyman, thanks to his gigantic strength and skill as a bruiser, got the better of the recusant vestrymen, mauled them unmercifully, and drove them from his presence. The affair having naturally created great excitement, he rose to explain on the following Sunday, and, desiring to justify his conduct by Holy Writ, preached a virulent sermon from the test: "And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair."

(to be continued)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 8 - Kenmore, Masonic Lodge, Hiram Powers]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 8
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(Continued from Part 7)

There are in Fredericksburg and the neighboring counties many families who trace up their blood relationship to the house of Washington. In Westmoreland and Lancaster counties the Ball side of the house is still strongly represented. A grandnephew of the General, bearing his name, resides in Stafford, and though sixty years old, gains a humble livelihood by selling fire wood. Naturally, a relationship to the Father of his Country is proudly claimed by all who can put in a genuine patent; but there are no longer in the vicinity, as of yore, old negro women boasting of having nursed the great man in his infancy, and not a single chair in which he sat is now heard of. "Have you a chair in which the General at any time sat?" was gently queried of one of the burghers. "No," was the reply; "but we have a chair in which he would have sat had he visited at our house." According to a turf authority of high rank, the lineage of many of the horses around Fredericksburg is traced up to Washington's fine stock bred at Mount Vernon. The General truly was a great lover of horses, and raced as well as bread them.

"Kenmore" is the name of the old mansion in which Washington's sister Betty dwelt, not far from his mother's house. Betty was very anxious to be the mistress of a fine house, and so, to satisfy her, her husband had Kenmore constructed. Their son was for a long time mayor of the town. The mansion is large and well preserved outside, though the interior decorations decayed at an early date. The original frescoing of walls and ceilings, which so pleased Madam Betty's ├Žsthetic taste, was the work of an English soldier captured during the Revolution and sent for safe-keeping to Fredericksburg. The tradition in the family was that immediately after finishing his work he accidentally fell from the scaffold and was killed. The old building has recently been purchased by a gentleman from Baltimore, and he has undertaken to restore its former splendor.

"Lodge No. 4" of the Masonic fraternity of Fredericksburg is quite famous from having at various times embraced in its membership many eminent men. It was the fourth lodge established in colonial Virginia, and was organized in 1735. Among its early members was Washington, who received the first degree November 4, 1752, the second degree March 3, 1753, and the third degree August 4, 1753. The Bible used in these ceremonies still in good preservation, is the richest treasure of the lodge; it was printed at Cambridge, by John Field, in 1668. The Bible is always borne "in state" during the grand performances of the Masons. By order of the lodge, and subscriptions raised by its exertions to the amount of $5000, a very beautiful and faithful statue of Washington in white marble was wrought by the sculptor Hiram Powers, and was safely transported from Florence; ere it could be erected the war came on, when it was sent to Richmond for safe-keeping, but was destroyed there in a conflagration.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 7 - Mary Washington grave and monument]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 7

Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(Continued from Part 6)

The exact spot of her [Mary Washington's] grave, on a rocky crag, was selected by her, as she declared, "because it never could be cultivated." There in 1832 was laid the corner-stone of the monument since erected over her grave, under the eye of President Andrew Jackson, with an imposing military and civic display. It was during his trip from Washington to Fredericksburg to attend this ceremony that the nose of "Old Hickory" was pulled for the first and last time in his life. According to the account of an eye-witness, as the steamboat conveying the Presidential party down the Potomac touched at Alexandria, a dismissed office holder deliberately went up to the President and tweaked his venerable nose. The by-standers immediately seized the intruder and had begun to pummel him, when the General, lifting his redoubtable cane, cried out: "Let him alone; I'm able to defend myself against the scoundrel!" Thereupon the "scoundrel" was hustled off the boat, and the Presidential dignity was saved.

The erection of a monument to "Mary the Mother of Washington" was proposed and undertaken by the citizens of Fredericksburg; but for some reason the job was delayed, until Silas E. Burrass, a New York merchant who was at the time courting a member of the Washington family, asked as a favor to be allowed to defray the entire expense. His offer was accepted by the building committee, and he at once furnished them with the means to proceed in the undertaking. The work was nearly completed, thanks to his liberality, the drafts made on him having been regularly paid, when his failure in business put a sudden stop to the erection, and the monument was left in the unfinished condition in which it stands to-day. At this juncture of affairs, moreover, his offer of marriage was declined by the lady. Fortunately the monument only lacked its shaft. There is no doubt that this small lacking was an advantage, from an ├Žsthetic point of view, seeing that the monument was a little gem precisely as left by the workers, and could only have been disfigured by a disproportioned shaft. It would, in fact, have been difficult to hit upon a more suitable design for a monument to the memory of Washington's mother than the one actually carried out; it's elegant simplicity and graceful proportions are entirely in accord with the canons of good taste.

The monument stands on the crag mentioned in the midst of the wide plain between two long parallel ranges of hills, one on the Stafford side, and the other on the Spotsylvania side, or at the beginning of the superb valley extending many miles down the Rappahannock River. The site could not have been more aptly selected, the view from the crag being very fine: from out of the middle of the plain, covered with rich greensward and dotted with sheep, the monument is visible as a central point of attraction within a wide area of hill and dale. Its cost was $10,000. It consists of solid, uncarved marble blocks inclosing a "filler" of cemented granite stones, the whole forming a square measuring twelve feet at the base and ten feet at the top. The blocks are so placed as to inclose broad tablets for inscriptions – though there is not a single word on them – and above these tablets small fluted columns, two on each side, extend to the top frieze. Only four of the columns remain, the other four having been broken and removed. The entire height is twenty-five feet; the quadrangular shaft which was to have "crowned the edifice," and which now lies in rough about ten feet away on the ground, is twenty feet long and four feet square at the base. Both the shaft and the blocks used in the structure were brought from Carrara.

An appropriation was recently made by Congress for the completion of the monument. Certainly no better design could be suggested than the one adopted in 1832 by the citizens of Fredericksburg – always omitting the shaft, as they in effect omitted it. The design might be carried out on a more extensive and costly scale without any very objectionable loss: but the substitution of any loud, gorgeous "pile" for the present modest memento would be a mistaken kindness both from a patriotic and an artistic stand-point. After all, the best monument to Washington, let us hope, is the veneration of each succeeding generation of Americans. There is a small private grave yard, walled in and planted with a few willow-trees, within three feet of the monument, adding to rather than detracting from its appearance. The promenade across the grassy plain to the monument is a favorite one with the young ladies and gentlemen of the town.

(to be continued)

Monday, October 22, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 6: Mary Washington House]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 6

Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(Continued from Part 5)

The house in which Mrs. Washington lived in the town is situated on Charles Street, and is preserved almost as it was in her day. It contains only two rooms and a dark hall on the ground-floor, and one small attic room, reached by a winding staircase from the hall. The walls, thinly plastered on the inside, appear stained and dingy from age; the worn plank floors, the wide wooden mantel and fire-place, and the narrow windows carry one back at sight to the olden time. The foundation, partly of brick and partly of large stones, is remarkably solid for such a slight superstructure, clad in narrow strips of weather-boarding, lately repainted; the roof, thatched with round-pointed shingles, and over which rises a tall brick chimney, is steep on the street side, and sloping to the rear in the form of a shed over the exit into the large garden, which contains a diminutive "kitchen." The garden formerly embraced the adjoining five blocks, now built over. The modern coat of paint given the old house at first leads one to doubt its antiquity, but a closer inspection, within and without, soon attests its great age. The genuine structure has been joined to a two-story building with ample porch, from which the entry is now made to the corridor of the Washington mansion.

The house as it looked in 1783, according to a picture on an old map hanging in one of the hotels, tallies with its present appearance. It is occupied by a small family, the members of which are occasionally called upon to show its points to patriotic strangers. The present tenant's wife, when exhibiting it to us, pointed to the corner near the window in the front room and remarked, "It was right there in that corner that George used sometimes to sit on a bench and straighten out his mother's accounts." That Mrs. Washington was a diligent worker is attested by both oral and written memoirs. She attended in person to her garden and dairy, milking and churning with her own hands; but the statement that she sold milk, butter, and eggs is erroneous, both because there was no market for them in the neighborhood and because she was under no need of making money, being always kept well supplied by her son George, never more dutiful than in his conduct toward her. Before, during, and after the Revolutionary war it was his frequent practice to visit her in this famous little house. During his visits, when a young man, dancing parties were often given by his mother, and at these all the belles of the town were invited to assist. The floors, not then worn, were smoothly waxed, and the front room was large enough to hold several dancing couples at once, as they went through the stately minuet or the more lively "Virginia reel," to the music of a single negro fiddler. At one time these parties a young belle was honored with the General's hand for a dance. As he led her out on the floor he remarked, "I didn't know I had such a pretty black-eyed cousin!" This young partner when an old lady would fondly boast of this triumph, and putting her hands to her eyes, smilingly say, "And they are bright yet!" The old lady was evidently pleased to picture herself as on the day when Washington danced with her.

On one occasion during the Revolution Washington called, and, finding his mother working in the garden, went out to greet her. Looking up and discovering him coming toward her, she laughingly exclaimed, "Well, George, haven't they caught you?" His reply was to hand her a bag of silver, a commodity scarce in that era of Continental paper, and then to escort her back into the house for a chat. An old citizen of Fredericksburg who witnessed this interview, and frequently heard her give expression to her sentiments during the war, used to say of her: "She was a high old piece! George got a great deal of his character and majesty from her. She was looked upon as leaning to the Tory side in politics." Doubtless in the beginning it was as grievous in her eyes to see her favorite son in the American army as it would have been to have seen him in King George's navy, from entering which he had only been dissuaded by his high appreciation of her devoted love.

Mrs. Washington lived very happily in this little house, and within its walls her last moments were passed. Twenty years ago a military company paraded in the streets on every 22d of February, invariably commencing the day's festivities by marching to the front of the house and firing a salute. The ceremony is now omitted, of course, as there is no parade of the soldiery on that day. The death of Mrs. Washington, which occurred several years before that of her illustrious son, was the occasion of an immense turn out of the citizens in the neighboring counties and villages. The funeral was a very plain one, entirely adapted to the expressed wishes of the deceased lady, though the procession to the grave she herself had chosen – about half a mile distant on the plain – was unavoidably large, owning to the great respect and love which all classes entertained for her.

(To be continued.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 5]

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 5]

Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(continued from Part 4)

The farm consisted of only 1200 acres, though his father's estate in the two counties of Stafford and Westmoreland amounted to 25,000 acres. The house in which Washington lived with his parents disappeared a half-century ago, but a frame dwelling now stands on its site and erected on the same stone foundation, its only visible relic. When this old foundation was being excavated by the present occupant of the locality a number of wine bottles and clay pipes were the sole tokens of grandeur discovered among the debris. The modern house, about three hundred yards below the railway bridge, is on the top of a hill, and is one hundred yards from the river. It is a very modest one-story building, surrounded by a few shade trees, and is kept in neat order by a small farmer, very proud of the high honors attaching to the spot, as it seemed to a party of three of us who trespassed on his premises to satisfy our curiosity. On entering his little "parlor," the eye was at once attracted over the mantel-piece to the engraving representing "The Courtship of Mrs. Martha Custis by General Washington," and as we gazed on the prim uniformed young man in top-boots seated beside the window and her two lolling children, the picture appealed to the fancy with unwonted liveliness. This was the only Washingtonian memento visible. The field surrounding the house, which is rarely visited nowadays either by strangers or natives, was pleasant to behold under its high state of cultivation.

Descending from the brow of the hill in a straight line (amidst regrets that the art of photography did not exist in 1742), we reached the ferry, which was located at precisely the same point in that year. It was here that, according to the traditional belief of the towns-people, the ten-year-old hero threw a stone across the river, though the exploit is by a few double-dyed skeptics in the town as strenuously pooh-poohed as the little hatchet affair. Biographer Weems says: "Colonel Lewis Willis, his playmate and kinsman, has been heard to say that he has often seen him throw a stone across the Rappahannock at the lower ferry of Fredericksburg. It would be no easy matter to find a man nowadays who could do it. Indeed, his father before him was a man of extraordinary strength." The distance across the river by the ferry-boat is now one hundred and fifty yards, but it was greater then, according to old citizens, who recollect when the stream was much wider and deeper. At the close of the last century large barks and schooners heavily laden were able to ascend a mile above, as far as Falmouth, where they received return cargoes of wheat and tobacco. Falmouth, now a decayed hamlet, was then such a thriving town that its prominent merchants furnished exchange on England to Baltimore. At the time of Washington's exploit the distance across must have been nearly two hundred yards, and hence his throw was a greater triumph of muscular strength and dexterity than such a performance would be today. A merchant standing in his warehouse on the Fredericksburg side assured the writer that, instead of a stone, the Father of his Country threw a silver dollar across the river – verily "the dollar of the daddies" – "and," added this gentleman, "they afterward found the dollar." This is an entirely new version, and our only wonder is that we do not meet it on the pages of Parson Weems. Judging from the amount of stone-throwing indulged in by the small boys at the expense of the solitary ferryman as he poles his bark to and fro, one fancies that they, at least, are fully persuaded the great man in his boyhood threw a stone across the Rappahannock.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 4]

Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(continued from Part 3)

Washington's paternal grandfather settled in Virginia in 1657, and his maternal grandfather emigrated in the same year to the same neighborhood. Augustin, the father of George, first married Miss Jane Butler, who died after giving birth to two sons, Lawrence and Augustin. "Fully determined still," says Weems, "that 'it is not good for man to be alone,' he renewed for the second time the chaste delights of matrimonial life. His consort was Miss Mary Ball, a young lady of fortune, and descended from one of the best families in Virginia. From his intermarriage with this charming girl, it would appear that our hero's father must have possessed either a very pleasing person or highly polished manners, or perhaps both; for, from what I can learn, he was at that time at least forty years old, while she, on the other hand, was universally toasted as the belle of the Northern Neck, and in the full bloom and freshness of love-inspiring sixteen. Those overdelicate folk who are ready to faint at the thought of a second marriage might do well to remember that the greatest man who ever lived was the son of this second marriage."

Writing only ten years after Washington's death, or in 1809, Parson Weems thus refers to the famous homestead opposite Fredericksburg: "Little George had scarcely attained his fifth year when his father left Pope's Creek, Westmoreland, and came up to a plantation which he had in Stafford, opposite to Fredericksburg. The house in which he lived is still to be seen. It lifts its low and modest front of faded red over the turbid waters of the Rappahannock, whither to this day numbers of people repair, and, with emotions unutterable, looking at the weather-beaten mansion, exclaim: 'Here's the house where the great Washington was born.' But it is all a mistake. The first place of education in which George was ever sent was a little 'old-field school' kept by one of his father's tenants on the Stafford farm, an old man named Hobby, who acted in the double character of sexton and school-master. Hobby lived to see his pupil in all his glory. In his cups – for though a sexton he would sometimes drink, particularly on the General's birthdays – he used to boast that 'twas he who between his knees had laid the foundation of George Washington's greatness."

It was on the Stafford farm that Weems locates the scene of the accident to that cherry-tree, cited "as a case in point" – i.e., George's love of truth – "too valuable to be lost, too true to be doubted, and communicated to me by the same excellent lady to whom I was indebted for the last. 'When George,' said she, 'was about six years old he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet,'" etc. It was on this farm, also, that the father of Washington died, when he was sent down to his native place on Pope's Creek, Westmoreland, to school, and his mother moved into the house she occupied in Fredericksburg until her death. At the age of fifteen George left school, "of Latin understanding as little as Balaam's ass," quoth Parson Weems, to become a surveyor on Lord Fairfax's estate.

(to be continued)

Friday, September 28, 2007

In an Old Virginia Town [Part 3 - Mason Weems]

Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(continued from Part 2)

The account of the early life of Washington written by Mason L. Weems was in a great measure a fanciful performance; his budget of anecdotes with a moral tendency was palmed off on the world simply because he was the first to take the field with a life of the great man.

Though most of Weems's anecdotes must be taken as fabrications - the medium of a species of moralizing chaff addressed to the young - it is undeniable that his work was instrumental in preserving certain items in regard to his "divinity" that otherwise would never have been published. Zealous to serve his own advancement through an enthusiastic adoration of the hero, it became for him an easy task to portray the latter as a demigod. The following bit of grandiloquence might serve as a model for many a rural paper even of this advanced age: "We do not look for a whale in a mill-pond, but in the main ocean. On the same rule must we not look for Washington in America, that greatest continent, which, rising from beneath the frozen pole, stretches far and wide to the south, running almost the whole length of this vast terrene, and sustaining on her ample sides the roaring shock of half the watery globe? And equal to its size is the furniture of this vast continent, where the Almighty has reared His cloud-capped mountains, and spread His sea-like lakes, and poured His mighty rivers, and hurled down His thundering cataracts, in a style of the sublime so far superior to anything of the kind in the other continent that we may fairly conclude that great men and great deeds are designed for America."

The Life of Washington was Weems's main work, based on the fact of his having been "Rector of Mount Vernon Parish." It was written in 1809, and was during many years afterward peddled by him in person throughout Virginia, meeting, however, with a very scanty sale. He was the first book canvasser that ever traversed the State. In his way he was quite a character, according to the picture drawn by a gentleman now living in Fredericksburg, who in his youth knew him. "I have often seen him," said this gentleman, "endeavoring to sell his books about town and on court greens. He was a Prince William [County] man, and a minister of the Episcopal Church, though all his children became Methodists. It was his custom to travel about in a small vehicle selling, in addition to his Life of Washington, his Life of Marion, and two pamphlets entitled The Drunkard's Looking-Glass and The Swearer's Prayer. Now and then he would scatter short moral pieces in doggerel, and printed on slips of paper. He was extremely fond of playing the violin, and used it also as a means to draw attention to his wares. Being a parson, and hence indisposed to exhibiting himself as a fiddler in public, he was accustomed to conceal himself, while handling the instrument, in a species of booth made by means of blankets stretched on poles. On one occasion, while thus engaged, the wind blew down the side of his booth against which his back was turned, exposing him to the full view of a gaping crowd. Unconscious of the accident, he kept fiddling away, till the crowd, no longer able to restrain its tittering, burst forth in a roar of laughter which instantly forced him to see himself as others had been seeing him. His annoyance was tremendous, and he forthwith decamped from the ground, amidst a hurricane of derisive remarks showered upon him by the rough multitude."

(to be continued)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In an Old Virginia Town [Part 2]

Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1885, pages 601-612.Author: Frederick Daniel

(continued from Part 1)

Yet at the date of this declaration the town's council had not been organized. The first court was incorporated only one year before the close of the Revolutionary war, and some of the first acts of this court furnish a commentary on the epoch. Five persons were authorized to keep taverns - the name "hotel" being then unknown in Virginia - and a regular tariff of prices was fixed, "the same not to be exceeded by the tavern-keepers" under severe penalties. It is noteworthy that the limits were not given for a wine-glassful or even for a tumblerful of fermented beverages, but for a gallon. The prices established were: "West India rum, $3.34; apple brandy, $1.67; whiskey, $1; strong beer, 67 cents; rum toddy, $1.67; brandy toddy, $1.25; rum punch, $2.50; brandy punch, $2; rum grog, $1; brandy grog, 84 cents; Madeira wine, per bottle, $1.25; port wine, per bottle, 67 cents. This port could hardly have been the genuine article of Oporto, but must have been some domestic precursor of the present port-wine of California. Having thus limited the prices on drinking, the authorities next proceeded to take upon their shoulders to limit the prices for eating, and they fixed the cost of a single "diet" at 25 cents - certainly quite a moderate figure, according to our modern standards. These dietary laws remained in force till the end of the century, and some of the taverns for which they were drawn up lapped over far into the present century, and the keepers told many an anecdote in regard to the distinguished personages who had lodged in them during the Revolution. In addition to regulating the diet of their guests, the court undertook to appraise property held in legal subjection for debt. The inventory and appraisement of the personalty of a citizen who died during the Revolution stand as follows on the court record: one silver watch, $26.67; one cow and yearling, $16.67; one suit broadcloth clothes, $13.34; one other suit broadcloth, $6.67; three blue coats, $10; seven pair of white breeches, $11.67; five white vests, $11.67; one shirt, 67 cents; six pair of stockings, $1.67; two pair of shoes, $3; three hats, $3; one stock buckle, 50 cents; three brushes, 50 cents.

By the modern visitor the principal attraction of the place is found in the cherished relics relating to the residence of the youthful Washington and of his mother. They consist of the house within the corporate limits in which both dwelt and in which she died; the tomb over her grave; the site opposite the town, across the river, upon which stood the house in which he first lived after his removal from Westmoreland, and the grounds adjoining, which were the theatre of his renowned boyish exploits. Thirty years ago the town contained dozens of "old citizens" who personally had known Washington and his mother, many of them as kin; they have all passed away, but their recollections and impressions, received at first hand, were of course stamped on the minds of their children who are still living. The information so handed down by persons of noted veracity and accuracy is none the less authentic because it has never sought the publicity given by type.

(to be continued)

Monday, September 24, 2007

In an Old Virginia Town [Part 1]

Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

Fredericksburg, now of historic fame from the battle fought in its midst December 13, 1862, was named by solemn act of Council, in 1727, after Frederick, son of George I. English royal names and personages were held in high repute in the colony of Virginia, and it is scarcely surprising that so many counties and streets in the present State bear the names and titles of the three Georges and other princes, one of said counties passing under the compound appellation of "King and Queen."

We are told - be this myth or not - that Captain John Smith, the ubiquitous hero of the Pocahontas legend, ascended the Rappahannock River in a small boat as far as the falls, opposite the site upon which to-day stands the town of Fredericksburg, discovering there merely a wigwam village of the Indian tribe known as the "Rappahannocs." About a century later the site was surveyed and settled by a few hardy adventurers who were not afraid to have for neighbors the Rappahannocs, "most formidable savages," according to Smith. The new town decreed by law in 1727 was, following the usual incipiency of colonial towns, a straggling collection of houses built entirely of wood, even to the chimneys, a custom which was afterward condemned by law as threatening the life of the settlement. From the date of that prohibition sprung brick chimneys, and the easy, modest existence continued through a century and a half, down to our own day.

Rich in landmarks and traditions connected with the colonial and Revolutionary era of Virginia, Fredericksburg was a distinguished contributor to the founding of the republic. It proudly lays claim to the honor of having been the scene of Washington's early life, the home of his mother until her death, and finally the place of her burial. To the charm and prestige arising from its early history may be largely attributed to the moderate amount of prosperity which kept the town alive in spite of manifold disadvantages. Its more brilliant phase ended with the stirring times of Washington's career; during this century its name has occasionally sounded at the front, though for the most part its life has been passed in retirement. Dickens, in his American Notes, dubbed it a "finished town," but it is notorious that the novelist was in the habit of writing from a Pickwickian stand-point. At no time "finished," the old town is today very much improved, and looks forward to a bright future, especially in manufactures, despite its abandonment by many of the young men, who went South and West "to grow up," in consequence of the immediate losses inflicted by war.

The stand which the little town took at an early date in behalf of independence is the chief glory of its citizens to-day. Its leading men were the very first in Virginia to adopt the principle that the colonies ought not only to be exempt from mother-country taxation, but ought to be free and independent states. At a time when many of the ablest Virginia statesmen, such as Richard Bland, Robert Carter Nicholas, Edmond Pendleton, George Mason, Thomas Ludwell Lee, Carter Braxton, and Benjamin Harrison, were shrinking back from the thought of attempting to achieve independence, the sturdy burghers were far in advance in accurately forecasting the future. The evidence on this point is conclusive. When, in April, 1775, one day after the battle of Lexington, the news of Lord Dunmore's removal of twenty barrels of gunpowder from the public magazine in Williamsburg reached Fredericksburg, measures were speedily devised for collecting and arming the people, and six hundred men, well armed and disciplined, assembled at once. Delegates were dispatched to ascertain precisely the condition of affairs at Williamsburg, and a public meeting, held on April 29, 1775, adopted a series of resolutions which were in form and substance tantamount to a declaration of American independence. Though deprecating civil war, yet, considering the liberties of America to be in danger, the delegates to the meeting pledged themselves to re-assemble at a moment's warning, and by force of arms to defend the rights of "this or any sister colony," and concluded with the sentence, "God save the liberties of America!" These resolutions were passed twenty-one days before the celebrated Mecklenburg declaration in North Carolina, and one year and sixty-five days before the Declaration of Independence of the American Congress.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

January 1863 - Reading in Richmond

In January 1863, according to Reminiscences in Peace and War, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables had been reprinted by a Charleston firm "on the best paper they could get" which was apparently not very good. Mrs. Pryor's friend Agnes in Richmond relates that everyone is reading it, even soldiers. "You'll go wild over over that book -- I did -- and everybody does." (page 226)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fleeing Fredericksburg

The following quote from Mrs. Roger Pryor's book, Reminiscences of Peace and War, probably refers to the first Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862:

Not long after the battle of Fredericksburg a participator described the panic, the horror, the fleeing of the women and children from their homes.

"And then," he said, "there arose from that homeless, stricken crowd of women a cry of mortal agony, My things. Oh, my things."

This is a wonderful book. I have had some trouble accustoming myself to reading a book in this way, sitting at my desktop, "turning" the pages by hitting the page down button. I have been reading e-books on my PDA for years with no trouble, but for some reason this seemed different, perhaps because the books available for download at Google books are not quite as portable as txt or html e-books, i.e., they cannot be read on my PDA. I have made the adjustment to desk-top computer reading, though, because I am so very interested in this book. To see the Civil War through the eyes of a woman is a new perspective to me. I have read parts of Civil War diaries of other women, but Mrs. Pryor's resonates with me in a way none of the others have.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Two Richmond Hotels

Mrs. Pryor mentions two hotels she stayed at in Richmond during Civil War days, neither of which still exists. One was the Exchange Hotel (see photo at
http://www.vahistorical.org/lva/exchange.htm and the other was the Spotswood Hotel - http://richmondthenandnow.com/Newspaper-Articles/Spotswood-Fire.html

Mrs. Pryor's descriptions of the effects of the battles around Richmond during the first year of the war are moving. The reader meets women following their husbands as they move from battle to battle, the agony of suspense waiting for news of the fate of their beloved. She relates stories of how soldiers amused themselves, stories they told, stories told by slaves who had accompanied soldiers to the battlefields.

Surprisingly, at least surprising to me, Mrs. Pryor wrote kindly and sympathetically of General McClellan.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Literary Discussion in 1858

Continuing reading in Reminiscences of Peace and War, I came upon the following description of a discussion at a party in Washington in 1858. "We talked of art and artists, galleries in Europe, shops in Paris, - anything except what we were all thinking about. . . . But some interesting books were just out in England, and everybody was discussing them. Thackeray had recently given "The Virginians" to the world. Tennyson was turning all the girls' heads with "Elaine." A new star was rising - George Eliot. Dickens, we were, at the moment, cordially hating because of his "American Notes." Bulwer was well to the fore. . . . "




Reminiscences of Peace and War

I have begun reading what promises to be a wonderful book titled Reminiscences of Peace and War by Mrs. Roger Pryor, available for pdf download at:

http://books.google.com/books?id=W4EhAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA3&dq=reminiscences+of+peace+and+war

The beginning of the book gives a woman's eye view of Washington DC starting with the inauguration of Franklin Pierce as president in 1853. It is a delightful book, and I am looking forward to reading it for the social history of these tumultuous years in American history.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Haunting of Mannsfield

Mannsfield is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Confederate soldiers who have been seen beneath the trees on the estate. For more information, see The Ghosts of Fredericksburg at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library:

http://www.historypoint.org/columns2.asp?column_id=455&column_type=tour

Monday, August 20, 2007

More on Mannsfield

I have found more information on Mannsfield. The Library of Congress has documents, photos, and drawings done of Mannsfield as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey. The URL to the Mannsfield page is quite long, too long to be inserted here. It can be accessed by going to http://www.loc.gov/, typing Mannsfield into the search box, and then clicking on the HABS link. I have not yet read the report or looked at all the photos and drawings, but it looks to be the most comprehensive information I have seen on this home. It was probably built sometime between 1770 and 1776 by Mann Page the fourth.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ennis House


This is the Innis house (sometimes spelled Ennis), located on the Fredericksburg Civil War Battlefield on Marye's Heights. It will be open during the commemoration of the 145th anniversary of the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg on 8-9 December 2007. The house suffered heavy artillery damage during the battle. The exterior clapboards were replaced, but peering in through the windows, damage to interior walls is visible.
The house is near a monument to Confederate Sergeant Richard Kirkland, known as the Angel of Marye's Heights. He carried canteens of water to wounded and dying Union soldiers on the battlefield. Kirkland was only 19 years old when he performed this act of mercy. He survived Fredericksburg but was killed at Chicamauga, Georgia in September 1863.

Mannsfield

In reading about the Civil War battles at Fredericksburg, I have come across reference to a house known as Mannsfield. Note the spelling, two n's. The Virginia Historical Society has a photo and short descriptive paragraph at: http://www.vahistorical.org/lva/mannsfield.htm

I'm wondering if any portion of the house is still standing. I have seen it's location on maps related to the December 1862 Battle of Fredricksburg, but I have no idea if there is still anything there.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Artillery Demonstration



On Sunday, August 12, 2007, I attended a demonstration of the firing of a Napoleon 12-pounder cannon, one of the types of cannon used by both armies in the Civil War. It was a wonderfully informative demonstration, with all of the crew members contributing to the explanation and demonstration.

The uniforms worn by the crew in the photo to the left are of the Washington Artillery Battalion of Louisiana.

There is going to be a re-enactment of the Battle of Fredericksburg of December 1862 on December 8-9, 2007 to commemorate the 145th anniversary of the battle. For more information, visit the National Park Service page at: http://www.nps.gov/frsp/special.htm

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Merrimac Gun


Braving very hot weather, I went for a walk in Fredericksburg on Saturday, camera in hand. I discovered that the Fredericksburg Area Museum has a gun from the ironclad Merrimac, renamed the CSS Virginia by the Confederates. This particular gun was damaged in battle on March 8th, 1862 at Newport News, Virginia, according to the sign affixed to the gun's support.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Stafford County

I just read an article about a drive around Stafford County written by freelance writer Shannon Howell and published in the Free Lance-Star as Meandering Stafford. It is an example for those of us who enjoy exploring local sites and history, and it makes me want to go out with my camera for a similar jaunt. For those not from this area, southern Stafford County adjoins Fredericksburg.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Illnesses at the Circuit Court Building


Employees in the Fredericksburg Circuit Court building are complaining of illnesses which they feel are being caused by the building. Follow the link to an article in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star describing the complaints and efforts to locate the cause.
This photo of the Circuit Court building is a composite of two photos combined to show the building and tower. I think it is a beautiful building with an important architectural history, and I do hope a way is found to make it a healthy place to work again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Circuit Court in Fredericksburg



This is the front of the Circuit Court in Fredericksburg. The architect was James Renwick. The building was completed in 1852.

For more information about the architectural history of this building see "Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont", a publication of the Society of Architectural Historians in its Buildings of the United States series.

George Cary Eggleston

In the hunt for novels set in Virginia, I have come across an author named George Cary Eggleston. Although born in Indiana, several of his novels are set in Virginia. The following titles are all available at Microsoft Live Search at

http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=&scope=books

Dorothy South
Evelyn Byrd
Two Gentlemen from Virginia

Monday, June 25, 2007

Skyline of Fredericksburg


Another photo from my walk through Fredericksburg. Pictured here are two spires famous in the Fredericksburg skyline. On the left is St. George's Episcopal Church; on the right is the Circuit Court building. I overheard a tour guide (in one of the horse-drawn carriage tours) telling his passengers that the architect of the courthouse is James Renwick, perhaps better known as the architect of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.

Catching a nap


In front of the Visitor's Center on Caroline Street tours in horse-drawn carriages are offered. Catching a nap between tours are two of the horses.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Walk in Fredericksburg

Beautiful weather here in Fredericksburg, almost unheard of for a late-June day in Virginia. The temperature was in the low 80s, tolerable humidity, sunny. So out with my camera I went for a walk in Fredericksburg.

I began with the objective of photographing a couple more houses in which Betty Herndon Maury lived, locations provided to me by John Hennessy of the National Park Service: 700 Princess Anne Street, above, now occupied by a law firm)(above);

and a building known as The Chimneys, now occupied by a bakery.



Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Historic Fredericksburg - by John T. Goolrick

Following is the preface to John T. Goolrick's HISTORIC FREDERICKSBURG, The Story of an Old Town, available at Google books at:

http://books.google.com/books?id=4UkOAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA13&dq=goolrick

This is a lovely book about my favorite town. The beginning of the preface captures the essence of Fredericksburg as it is even today, 86 years after it was written.

HISTORIC FREDERICKSBURG
The Story of an Old Town

By John T. Goolrick

Whittet & Shepperson
Richmond VA, 1922

FREDERICKSBURG
A Preface

Fredericksburg sprawls at the foot of the hills where the scented summer winds sweep over it out of the valley of brawling waters above. The grass grows lush in the meadows and tangles in the hills that almost surround it. In spring the flowers streak the lowlands, climb on the slopes, and along the ridges; and Autumn makes fair colors in the trees, shading them in blood crimson, weathered bronze, and the yellow of sunsets.

Over its shadowed streets hangs the haze of history. It is not rich nor proud, because it has not sought; it is quiet and content, because it has sacrificed. It gave its energy to the Revolution. It gave its heart to the Confederacy; and, once when it was thundered at by guns, and red flames twisted in its crumbling homes, it gave its soul and all it possessed to the South. It never abated its loyalty nor cried out its sorrows.

In Fredericksburg, and on the battlefields near it, almost thirty thousand men lay on the last couch in the shadowy forests and – we think – heard Her voice calling and comforting them. To the wounded, the Old Town gave its best, not visioning the color of the uniforms, nursing them back to life: And, broken and twisted and in poverty, it began to rebuild itself and gather up the shattered ideals of its dead past.

Out of its heart has grown simple kindness; out of its soul simple faith.

As I look out over the streets, *I knew them well when Lee and Jackson and Stuart, Lincoln and Grant and Hancock knew them too), they shimmer in the Autumn sun. Over them, as has ever seemed to me, hangs an old and haunting beauty. There may not be as great men here as long ago, but here are their descendants and the descendants of others like them. And he who comes among them will find loyal hearts and warm hand-clasps.

Ah, I know the old town. My bare feet ran along its unpaved walks and passed the cabins many a time in slavery days. I knew it in the Civil War and reconstruction days, and on and on till now: And it has not failed its duty.

Fredericksburg's history brims with achievement and adventure. It has not been tried in this volume to tell all of these. I have tried to tell a simple story, with the flame of achievement burning on the shrines and the echoes of old days sweeping through it, like low winds in the pine woods; to make men and women more vivid than dates and numbers. I have tried to be accurate and complete and to vision the past, but above all, I have loved the things of which I have written.

There is no possibility of expressing the gratitude the author feels for the aid given him by others, but he must say, briefly, that without the assistance of Miss Dora Jett, Mrs. Franklin Stearns, Mrs. John T. Goolrick, and Dr. J. N. Barney, Mr. Chester B. Goolrick and Mr. John T. Goolrick, Jr., the book could not have been made as readable as we hope the public will find it. We owe just as deep thanks to Miss Sally Gravatt of the Wallace Library.

Jno. T. Goolrick.
Fredericksburt, Va.
October 25, 1921

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Washington National Cathedral




On Sunday I went to the Washington National Cathedral, camera in hand. The Bishop's Garden was beautiful, as I expected it to be this time of year.



Pansys were peeking up from flowerbeds filled with other taller flowers.













A peony fully opened.







What an enriching visit it was. I walked around inside the cathedral, as well. It seems barren inside by comparison with European cathedrals I have visited.







Sunday, April 8, 2007

Morrisville VA

On Route 17 going north from I-95, there are several signs giving the mileage to Morrisville, Virginia. I finally decided to see what was at Morrisville that warranted such notice by the Virginia Department of Transportation. I drove there only to discover that Morrisville is little more than the proverbial wide spot in the road. Have I missed something? I even turned off onto Morrisville Road, thinking it would lead to something more than what I saw on Route 17, but it turned out to be a loop leading back to Route 17.

I googled the city and state names but learned little. There was apparently a skirmish near Morrisville during the Civil War, but given the location, that is hardly surprising.

I shall continue to seek an answer to the question of why there are so many mileage signs for Morrisville. There must be a reason.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Before I quit reading

Before I quit reading The Voice of the People, I came across mention of one of the former servants (read slave) "carding wool which she had taken from a quilt of faded patchwork." How very thrifty!

Too much vernacular

I have given up on Ellen Glasgow's The Voice of the People. Too much of the dialogue is in vernacular, and I frankly cannot understand some of what is being said. Even that which I can understand makes for difficult reading, and while I think it is a fine and promising story, I just can't slog through all that vernacular dialogue. It is very disappointing, for I feel it would be a wonderful novel except for that.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ellen Glasgow - The Voice of the People

I have begun reading Ellen Glasgow's novel about reconstruction called The Voice of the People. Set in fictional Kingsborough, Virginia (based on Williamsburg), it begins with the story of a boy of about 11 named Nicholas Burr who is determined not to follow in the footsteps of his peanut farmer father. Nicholas catches the eye of Judge Bassett, who offers Nicholas the opportunity to study with his son's tutor.

Nicholas is a remarkable boy, going to extraordinary lengths to achieve his goal. He borrows a book from Judge Bassett, committing to memory passages from the book which are incomprehensible to him, believing that one day he will know what those long words mean and will be able to understand the passages he is memorizing. It is not difficult to understand the judge's interest in this boy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

War-Days in Richmond

For those who are interested in what life was like for residents of cities caught in Civil War battles, Constance Cary Harrison's article titled "War-Days in Richmond" makes for fascinating reading. The article was published in Appleton's magazine, July 7, 1872 and can be read online at the University of Michigan's Making of America website. Here is a link to the article:

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moajrnl;cc=moajrnl;q1=war-days%20in%20richmond;rgn=full%20text;view=image;seq=0015;idno=acw8433.1-08.171;node=acw8433.1-08.171%3A7

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Confederate Cemetery

Fredericksburg's Confederate Cemetery is located away from the Battlefield, not far from Kenmore, the home of George Washington's sister, Betty Lewis. It is a beautiful and peaceful place. Although it is called the Confederate Cemetery, there are more civilian graves than military. About one quarter of the area hosts the small rectangular tombstones, the engravings on most of which are almost worn away. A few of the gravesites have modern bronze markers in addition to the stone rectangular ones, presumably put there by descendants. Walking down the rows, reading those markers with names and dates, is a sad reminder of lives cut short.