Saturday, December 12, 2009
by Sallie Brock Putnam
University of Nebraska Press, 1996, page 87
"So ready were we to catch at the faintest shadow of hope which promised us independence and peace, that we gave credence to many ridiculous reports, and as deceitful as ridiculous."
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In the War of the Rebellion
Series I - Volume 6
Washington, Government Printing Office, 1897
Preliminary report of Flag-Officer Goldsborough, U.S. Navy, February 14, 1862:
. . . I forward herewith a very remarkable letter from Mr. M[atthew] F[ontaine] Maury, late of our Navy, to Flag-Officer Lynch, which was found among the papers of the latter gentleman when his vessel, the Sea Bird, was captured by our forces. . .
Navy Department, January 19, 1862.
Dear Lynch: In my judgment the greatest loss to us since the war occurred yesterday, when Mr. Tyler died. It is to him that we are mainly indebted for these new sinews to our naval arm. Your own letter was apropos. It helped the cause along. I am very solicitous that the enemy should not be aware as to the extent of our preparations, for there is no necessity of letting contractors or anyone else, except the few persons engaged with this armament as a whole, know the extent of it. More is already publicly known of it than I could wish, and I fear the keeping of it to ourselves is out of the question; still the best secrecy is celerity, and we must drive ahead. Minor has the guns in hand; most of the engines and boilers are provided for, and by the end of this week I hope to be able to say that in ninety days or less all the hulls will be ready for the machinery - I should have said the last hull. These difficulties being overcome, this, the great one, that of providing officers and men for 100 steam launches, commences. Pray take the matter up, think it over, and let me have the benefit of your thoughts. Here is where we are at present: A call has been made upon the Army for a transfer to us of all the sailors in the State, and a law has been passed offering a bounty of $50 to all who will ship for the war; also a law for the appointment of 50 lieutenants and masters during the war. The crew of each boat will be about 40, all told. Thus, both officers and men have to be trained and drilled. Indeed, it may be said that the whole force, nearly, has to be created, for most of the officers have to be made and educated; still, with proper encouragement and facilities, that, you will agree with me, is not an impossibility.
We want 100 lieutenants to command these boats. Where are they to come from? Judging from the way things look at present we shall not, I fear, be able to get more than 20 from those now in the Navy. The new law for 50 will, I suppose, give us, say, 30 who were formerly in the old Navy, and who, resigning before secession commenced, have not been admitted into the C[onfederate] N[avy]. Where are the rest to come from? My own thoughts suggest as a source of supply the educated youth of the land, young men of the best blood, between the ages of 18 and 25, who have pride, ancestral renown, and family reputation to encourage them and to be sustained. The choice lies between this and merchant captains, pilots, and watermen generally.
Then there are wanting 100 second lieutenants, to be rated as such, or as masters or mates. The rating is immaterial; they are to be second in command and are also to aim the guns. Some of these will come from the Navy and some from those who resigned more than a year ago from the old Navy. For the rest, as in the other case, I would draw upon the blood of the land. By "blood" I mean, as you are aware, no particular condition in life, but all, however humble their condition, whose hearts glow with patriotism, and who, in such a cause, have the spirit to dare and do. These are the "bloods" for me.
Some of the boats are already in a state of forwardness. As soon as they are ready, convert them into school and training and practice ships, send these young aspirants of both grades to them for drill and training. As more are launched, send out the cleverest of them to help as drill masters. Receive on board also the engineers and crew. Have a receiving ship near and draw from her every hour or so, from sunrise to sunset, a fresh set to be drilled and put through with all the motions. All of which is to be done under the eyes of regularly qualified officers of the service.
Now, considering our means and resources, that all the vessels are steamers of the same model, and that they are intended for bay and river navigation only, I think that we can manufacture a pretty good set of officers and capital guns' crews.
Nevertheless, my friend, we shall, in this, have among our brother officers, I fear, old notions and professional prejudice to contend with. "What, make a man a lieutenant who has never been at sea, and then give him command of a gunboat!"
It is to you and such men as you are, my friend, who are capable of viewing such things by the lights of an unbiased mind and judgment, that I look for support and encouragement in this scheme. If you can chalk out a better, pray let me have it. But if no better plan suggests itself, pray assist me with your influence in gaining countenance and support for this.
The whole expedition is to be subdivided into divisions of five or ten boats each, under the general charge each of a regular navy officer, so that, as a rule, the boats will always move in squads, and the "bloods" will always have their leaders to follow. It is to be ready for sea in one hundred and twenty days, I hope.
Not only so, I want your assistance in another respect: I wish you would point out to me such young men as, in your judgment, would make good lieutenants and masters after this fashion. I can not promise appointments myself, but I can bring their names at the proper time before those who can bestow such appointments.
I expect my son John, your pet, here in a day or two. I shall propose to him to try for a master's place in one of these boats. He has been giving his attention to drill, naval gunnery, etc. If he fancies the idea, I wish to offer him as a pledge of my faith in our ability to have this expedition trained and drilled all ready to put out next spring, in June, at any rate. John is a well-behaved and modest lad. Can you let him come to you, for the sake of the school, the drill, and experience, till some of the boats are launched? Be candid, my friend, and don't let your desire to serve me embarrass you in any way. If you can give him any rating by which, in case of accident, he would be entitled to be considered as a prisoner of war, so much the better. At any rate, if you can take him as a supernumerary and work him up as a middy, requiring him to do any and every thing, it will be the "very dandy."
This is a long letter. Sleep on it, and let me hear from you at your convenience.
The boat that is at present proposed as the model for all, is 21 feet beam, 112 feet long, and 6 feet draft, with 171 tons and an armament of a 9-inch gun forward and a 32-pounder aft. I am protesting with all my might against such a large boat and such a feeble stern gun.
That was a clean little dash at the enemy off Newport News. How I wish old Neptune or Mars or some of them would present you with chance and opportunity. I could ask the gods for no greater favor to you, my friend.
Yours, M.F. Maury.
Commodore Wm. F. Lynch, Waters of North Carolina.
N.B. - If you can find room for John, say what bedding, etc., in the way of outfit he shall bring. He could be ready to join you about 1st February.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I am captivated by the life of Kate Chase. She rose to great heights of influence in Washington only to fall into disgrace and poverty. I have tried reading two books about her, but both disappointed, both full of speculation about what Kate might have been thinking or how certain events might have affected her. I continue in my search for information about her.
Part of my interest in Kate stems from the fact that she and Betty Herndon Maury were contemporaries. There is no mention of Kate in Betty's diary and, as far as I know at this time, there is no extant letter from Betty commenting on Kate.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Kate fascinates me. She was beautiful and brilliant; her marriage fell apart; she fell from her pedestal and crashed in a big way, ending her life in humiliation and near poverty.
I went looking for more information about her online and found a notice in the NY Times for October 22, 1888 that she was writing her memoirs. None were ever published, as far as I can tell. Another notice in a literary journal the next year said she was writing a biography of her father and was considering writing her memoirs. What happened to these manuscripts, if they did indeed exist? I would love to read them. She has really captivated my imagination.
Here is a picture of Edgewood, where Kate ended her days.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Yesterday I drove to Hanover Courthouse (about 20 miles north of Richmond) to attend a trial reenactment. The courthouse was built between 1737 and 1745 (date uncertain). The trial took place in 1763 and is called The Parsons Cause. It had to do with how clergymen were to be compensated. If you are interested in the details of the trial, here is a link. The reason for doing the reenactment is this was the event that gave Patrick Henry his start as an orator of renown. It was a lot of fun, and it made history come alive for me in a way I have never known before. The clergyman plaintiff was the Reverend James Maury, who was the great grandfather of Betty Herndon Maury, the woman whose diary I transcribed. As chance would have it, I was asked by the "sheriff" to sit in the plaintiff's chair as the Rev. Maury, which I thought was great! Other members of the audience were the jury and other clergymen with an interest in the suit. None of the audience participants had any lines. It was a very good performance, well worth seeing for anyone with an interest in history. There was no admission charge. Hanover Tavern, where Patrick Henry stayed when he had to make court appearances, is right across the street. I toured it. There is also a restaurant and gift shop.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Petersburg, which is south of Richmond, was under siege during the Civil War for 10 months. There is a mass grave for Confederate soldiers in the Blanford Cemetery. The church itself was used, as so many churches were during that time, as a hospital.
The cemetery dates back to 1702. The church was built in about 1735 and was abandoned by the early 1800s. Petersburg's Ladies Memorial Association turned the church into a chapel honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Today Blandford Church is noted for its Tiffany windows, one for each of the 13 Confederate states. There are also Tiffany windows for Maryland and Arkansas, and a fan light over the entrance door. The windows were made between the years 1901 and 1908 at a cost of $350 each. Each window, except the one for Kentucky, pictures an apostle. They are unbelievably beautiful and are a must see for anyone who happens to be in Petersburg.
Photos are not allowed inside the church, so I don't have any photos of the windows to share.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Politics and Gender in a Civil War Marriage
by Peg A. Lamphier
University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln Nebraska, 2003
Kate Chase was the beautiful and brilliant daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury in the Lincoln Administration and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Salmon Chase was a widower three times over. He raised Kate to grow into an accomplished woman who would grace his home in whatever position he rose to, his ultimate unrealized ambition being president of the United States.
I have been eager to learn more about Kate since reading about her in Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, so it was with hopeful expectation that I began reading this book.
Peg Lamphier is adjunct professor of history at Chaffey College, California State Polytechnic, Pomono, and Mt. San Santonio College in California.
The text is heavily footnoted, but there is no separate bibliography, which I find to be a deficiency. While Ms. Lamphier did draw heavily on the Salmon P. Chase papers in various locations and the papers of Kate Chase and William Sprague, she also relies heavily on recent scholarly books to interpret events and attitudes of the 19th century.
I frankly am not interested in Ms. Lamphier's suppositions and conjectures. I think the book would have been better served without them.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
by Jerrilyn Eby
Heritage Books, Westminster MD
copyright 1997, published 2007
The history of Fredericksburg, Virginia is inextricably linked to Stafford County to which Fredericksburg is adjacent, making this book a wonderful source for information on the people who have interacted with the residents of Fredericksburg and the ways in which the places have influenced each other throughout history.
After five chapters of background, the book has sections devoted to defined areas within the county, the buildings, individual homes and families within these areas. As such, this book is a treasure trove of information for those who are doing genealogical research, as well as for those who are interested in the history of the area.
Much to my delight, there are maps at the beginning of each area section identifying the location of the homes described. Illustrations of many of the homes add to the understanding of how the residents of Stafford County lived.
This book is a prime example of preservation through publication, preserving what would otherwise be lost through the destruction of old houses and with the deaths of those whose personal histories are an integral part of the county's history.
The author, Jerrilyn Eby MacGregor, grew up in Stafford County and spent much of her childhood riding horseback visiting ruins of old houses and talking to people who shared with her stories about the houses and people. She has devoted over 20 years to a systematic research and writing of the history of Stafford County. She has published Laying the Hoe: a Century of Iron Manufacturing in Stafford County, Virginia; Men of Mark: Officials of Stafford County, Virginia, 1664-1991" and is currently finishing a book about the Stafford County militia (1781-1856) and a two-volume set on land tracts, mills, and industries in Stafford. Her interest in Stafford County and her diligent research into its history make this book a must have for anyone with an interest in this area, to include the Fredericksburg area.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Volume X – No. 4, April 1903, pages 438-440
THE FOURTH JOHN MINOR
By Charles M. Blackford, Lynchburg, Virginia
Was the eldest son of General John Minor. He was born in 1797, at Hazel Hill, in Fredericksburg, and died in the same town on the 12th of January, 1862. He never married, but may be said to have adopted all children as his own – a sentiment which many a gray-haired man and woman now living will endorse as they recall the hours of pleasure they have spent at his knee as he told them his charming folk-lore stories.
Mr. Minor completed his education at St. John’s College, Maryland, and then, true to the nomadic instinct of the family, went to sea on a seventy-four-gun man of war as secretary to the Commodore. Of this experience in his life Mr. Minor always spoke with horror as of the time he was “hired out.” He went for the travel, but was restive under the discipline, and, after one voyage, resigned. He then studied law, and took great interest in its traditions and its black-letter lore, but, as his means were ample enough to meet all his wants, he gave little attention to its practical and more useful knowledge, and soon abandoned its active practice. He was not idle, however, and took upon himself several functions where to his taste and did not confine him to his office and yet added materially to his income. He early developed his taste for the traditional history of Virginia and for its folk-lore, and long before he died he was deemed the most trustworthy authority on such matters. He had doubtless the largest and most valuable library of Virginia books and manuscripts owned by any one person at that time, and his collection of ancient historic relics and curios connected with the Colonial times and people was vastly entertaining. He contributed much to this historical line in the Literary Messenger, and other like magazines, and was always a most welcome writer in their columns. He died during the year 1862, when his much-loved Fredericksburg was the centre of military operations; but as none of his immediate family resided in the place at the time, his library and collections of various kinds remained after his death in his offices, which were in a large brick house in the yard of his residence.
Both his residence and his offices were much injured by the shells from the Confederate batteries on Willis's and Marye's Hill, and several passed through his books and stores, scattering them in every direction; but as bad as that was, many of his treasures would have been saved but for the fact that his premises were occupied during the battle by the Federal troops, many of whom must have understood the value of his collections, for few of them were left the day after the battle, when the spot was visited from the Confederate lines by four of his Blackford nephews, whose home it once was, and who were called on to mourn the desolation of the place of their nativity. The destruction of this valuable collection was a heavy loss to Mr. Minor's estate, but a much heavier loss to the traditional lore of Virginia.
Mr. Minor was not himself an artist, though he had devoted much time to artistic study, and took much pleasure in the association with artists. He took the artist Leutze by the hand when, as a very young man, he was making a precarious support as a portrait painter in Fredericksburg. Discovering his merit he furnished him the means to complete his artistic education in Rome, after which he rapidly rose to a world-wide reputation, as is attested by his work at the National Capitol, where his pictures "Washington Crossing the Delaware" and "Westward the Star of Empire Takes its Course," attract so much admiration.
Another of Mr. Minor's protégés was Mr. John Elder. Mr. Minor discovered his wonderful talent when he was but a little boy drawing sketches on the wall of his father's shop, and advanced him the means to prosecute his education in this country and in Europe. The result is shown in his picture of "The Battle at the Crater," the likenesses of Generals Lee and Jackson, and other historic works. Nor were artists the only people he aided. Wherever a young man showed capacity and needed aid, Mr. Minor's purse and counsel were at his service, and many successful men can trace their rise to his timely aid. Of his good deeds he never spoke, with perhaps one exception. He was not a member of any church and never attended church services, though an avowed lover of the Episcopal, the church of his forefathers. Despite the fact that he never went to church, he taught at one time a Bible class in the Sunday-school at old St. George's in Fredericksburg. Many years afterwards, when visiting his sister, Mr. Blackford, in Lynchburg, he was visited by the Rev. Alexander Donophan, of the Methodist Church, who told him his first religious impression and those which sent him into the ministry were derived from his teaching in the Bible class in Fredericksburg. This incident gave Mr. Minor great pleasure, and he spoke of it often.
Your readers in lower Virginia will think any sketch of Mr. Minor which did not tell of his wonderful charm for children very incomplete, yet to depict him in his relations to children could only be properly done by the pen of a Scott or a Dickens.
In his wanderings and by his studies into folk-lore, he had gathered a vast repertoire of stories, many of which have since been published in Uncle Remus and other like books. These stories were of "Br. Fox," "Piggy-Wiggy," "Br. Rabbit," "Ticky-Tack," and of other characters which then were unknown except when he told them.
His family connection, being a Minor on one side and a Carter on the other, was immense, and every year he would make a journey through lower Virginia amongst his kin, with whom he was very popular. Wherever he went he was feted and at every house the children were gathered and he had to tell two or three of his stories in his inimitable fashion. He would never tell over three at one time. Children and grown people alike would gather around his chair and though many had heard them before, the interest never flagged until he closed the recital with "Now, wasn't that a pretty story, and wasn't it a pretty man that told it?" to which inquiry there was always a most joyous affirmative choral response. Many an old man and old woman in Virginia can tell of the delights of such occasions and can truthfully say that though they have since heard great operas and seen fine plays, none gave the same thrill of delight as "Uncle John's" tale of "Ticky-Tack, with her bag at her back," or of the thrilling escapes of Piggy Wiggy and Br. Rabbit from the wiles of Br. Fox.
While Mr. Minor was thus a hero amongst children, he held the love and confidence of men in a high degree. In the range of his friendships, and that covered the whole of old Virginia, he was the admitted standard of honor. He recognized the "Code of Honor," so-called, but approved it more as a peace than as a war measure, and it may truly be said he settled more personal controversies than any man of his time. He was a universal referee - all acknowledged that there could be no dishonor in obeying his ruling, and his rulings required each party to do what was right. If the dispute was submitted to him he required each party to obey his mandate - a settlement was thus secured.
A portrait of Mr. Minor seated in his office and surrounded by his old books and curios was painted by Leutze for The Young Men's Club of Fredericksburg, and was much prized by it, but it was lost when the Federal troops occupied the place and has never been heard of since. One portrait of him is still extant. It also was painted by Leutze, and is one of his masterpieces, but it is by no means so interesting as that which also portrayed his usual environment.
No man in Fredericksburg was more honored and beloved than this John Minor, and the death of no man was more mourned, but he died at a time when war clouds so enshrouded the State that private griefs were little noted. At a time when each morning's paper contained its long catalogue of death's doings amongst our noblest and best men, few tears could be shed over any one grave; but despite this fact his native little city, already anticipating its doom, deeply felt the shock of his death and shed many a tear over his grave. He never married, and he was therefore the last of the successive John Minors of his line.
- The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
PBS, February 9, 2009 at 9:00 p.m.
- Looking for Lincoln
PBS, February 11, 2009 at 9:00 p.m.
I have been listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals as an audio book. I own a copy of the book in paperback, but it is so large and heavy that I find it difficult to hold. The audio book version, downloaded from a local library, is a good alternative for me. I have a long commute on weekdays, which makes listening to such a long book feasible. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of the American Civil war.
Friday, January 30, 2009
by Drew Gilpin Faust
Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc.
New York, 2008
The Republic of Suffering was chosen by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2008. Written by Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard, this book examines the ways in which Civil War deaths had an impact on society, both military and civilian.
A most startling statistic is cited in the opening pages of this book:
"The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865 [in the American Civil War], an estimated 620,000 is approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined. . . . A similar rate, about 2 percent, in the United States today would mean six million fatalities." And "Twice as many Civil War soldiers died of disease as of battle wounds."
The problem of how to deal with the dead was of particular importance in Fredericksburg. Betty Herndon Maury writes of a New York soldier being buried by the kitchen door of her cousin John Minor's house; and there are other local legends of soldiers buried in the yards of Fredericksburg homes.
Many of these dead were later reinterred in cemeteries devoted to Civil War soldiers. Confederate and Union soldiers were segregated in death. While the federal government organized national cemeteries for the Union soldiers, Confederate cemeteries were organized by Ladies Memorial Associations, including the one in Fredericksburg which still exists today. These ladies' groups also arranged monuments to the Confederate dead, such as the huge stone pyramid in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery and a similar pyramid near Fredericksburg, placed so as to be visible to train passengers.
To those who have never visited a Civil War cemetery with rows upon rows of graves marked “Unknown”, it might be surprising that the effort to identify and record the names of the battle dead is of relatively recent origin. One can only imagine the agony of not knowing the fate of a husband, son, brother, not knowing where a loved one is buried.
The new art of photography brought forward images of death on the battlefield, projecting the reality of war in a way never before known. Many of these disturbing images are reproduced on the pages of this book, disturbing even to 21st century readers hardened by television images of the death and destruction of war.
This Republic of Suffering is a profoundly moving book, bringing focus to an aspect of The War of Rebellion/The War Between the States that has been neglected or glossed over. It brings to mind the song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" which would have been popular when Dr. Faust was of college age. How fitting that a woman of the generation which came of age during the Vietnam war and the concurrent protests should write such a tribute to the experiences of those who endured the American Civil War.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
edited by William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, Jr.
2007, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington
Of particular interest to me in this book, the second in a series of five volumes, is the Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War, January - July 1862, the diary of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire. Mrs. McGuire was 49 years old at the time she was writing, married, and the step-mother of two daughters. Her experiences will thus match up more closely with those of Betty Herndon Maury than do those of the diaries of the girls studied in Confederate Daughters.
The book contains the following:
- Preface by William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, Jr.
- Land Operations in Virginia in 1862 by John S. Salmon
- Virginia's Industry and the Conduct of War in 1862 by Harold S. Wilson
- Virginia's Civilians at War in 1862 by John G. Selby
- The Trials of Military Occupation by Thomas P. Lowry
- Richmond, the Confederate Hospital City by David J. Coles
- Virginians See Their War by Harold Holzer
- Virginia's Troubled Interior by Brian Steel Wills
- Lee Rebuilds His Army by Dennis E. Frye
- Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War, January - July 1862: Judith Brockenbrough McGuire, Edited by James I. Robertson, Jr.
Virginians See Their War is a fascinating study of the illustrated news coverage of the war, comparing southern periodicals with their northern competitors. Several illustrations show how the shortage of artists in the south resulted in illustrations of notable military and political figures based on old photographs which bore little resemblance to the subject's present day appearance. Robert E. Lee, remembered today for his white hair and beard, is depicted as a dark-haired beardless young man. There were shortages not only of artists, engravers and lithographers but also of paper.
Monday, January 5, 2009
The Appropriation of National Reconciliation by LaSalle Corbell Pickett
by Caroline E. Janney
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 116, No. 4, 2008,
Continuing with the theme of the use of literature in image building, an article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 116, No. 4 for 2008 discusses the images of former slaves in post-war literature in an article about LaSalle Pickett. Mrs. Pickett published a short story, "In De Miz" in 1893, in which the speech of a former slave is written in the vernacular or dialect.
I have encountered other examples of the speech of former slaves being rendered in dialect, most notably, in my experience, in some of the novels of Ellen Glasgow. I find it to be difficult reading, as I must sound out many of the words in order to understand them. Ms. Janney suggests that "Tales written in dialect likewise suggested that African Americans remained at a primitive stage of development. . ." I had not thought of the issue in that light. I had assumed that reproducing the dialect was an effort to preserve speech patterns that might be disappearing.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
By Victoria E. Ott
Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 2008
The role of literature in shaping first the image of the Confederacy and then later preserving that image is discussed in Chapter 5 of Confederate Daughters. Two novels are mentioned: Macaria, or Altars of Sacrifice (1864) by Augusta Jane Evans; and Cameron Hall by Mary Ann Cruse.
Reunification was promoted in some novels of the time by portraying marriages between northern men and southern women. One title with this theme that comes to mind (although not mentioned in Confederate Daughters) is The Carlyles by Constance Cary Harrison.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
By Victoria E. Ott
Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 2008
As I continue to read Confederate Daughters, I was fascinated by the discussion of the ways in which these girls were indoctrinated in the Confederate cause. Parents took an active role in educating their daughters in this regard. Churches defended secession and slavery. News of the war was provided at prayer meetings and other church gatherings. Schools engaged in promoting the causes of the Confederacy through classes using textbooks rewritten to reflect Confederate beliefs, assigned readings, and by equating the Confederate cause to the American revolution. The involvement of churches and schools in promoting a political cause seems unthinkable in today's world.