Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Book - Confederate Daughters

Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War
By Victoria E. Ott
Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 2008
ISBN 9780809328284

I have just received from the publisher a review copy of what promises to be a fascinating study of young women who lived in the Confederate states and came of age during the Civil War. The author, Victoria Ott, is an assistant professor of history at Birmingham Southern College.

Ms. Ott has examined the lives of 85 young women born between 1843 and 1849 through written records such as diaries and letters. She poses the following questions in her introduction:
  • What did they stand to gain by the Confederacy's success and what did they stand to lose in defeat?
  • How did young women conceptualize their role in the Confederacy as their parents assumed the adult responsibilities in creating the national structure and identity?
  • In what ways did they define their roles according to the rhetorical image of Confederate women and to the reality of wartime circumstances?
  • Did their support for the war, like so many of the older generation of women begin to wane as the conflict took its toll on the communities?
  • Finally, I turn to the issue of war and memory in asking how this generation participated in the creation of Lost Cause mythology.
  • What do their reminiscences of the Confederate experience reveal to us about their worldview in the New South era?

Twenty eight of the young women in Ms. Ott's study were from Virginia, and I will be very interested in how their experiences compare with Betty Herndon Maury's. Betty, of course, falls outside of the age range Ms. Ott has chosen to study, having been born in 1835. Betty was married and the mother of a young daughter when the war began, so her viewpoint is different from that of the younger girls. However, there was another Fredericksburg diarist who does fit into the age range identified by Ms. Ott: Lizzie Alsop, who was born in 1846.

As a side note, a character in Virginia, a novel by Ellen Glasgow, gives a portrait of a woman who came of age during the war, Miss Priscilla Batte, who never married and whose pre-war dreams of her life to come never came to fruition.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve 1862

The following is from Historic Fredericksburg: The Story of an Old Town by John T. Goolrick, published in 1922, describing events of Christmas Eve 1862, after the horrific Battle of Fredericksburg of December 11-13, 1862.

"We spoke of Christmas Eve [1862], when in the long lines of the two camps great fires beamed, voices rose in songs and hymns, and bands played. Late in the evening when dusk had settled, a band near Brompton broke out defiantly into 'Dixie,' and from the Washington Farm a big band roared out 'The Battle Hymn [of the Republic]'. There was a pause and then, almost simultaneously, they began 'Home, Sweet Home,' and catching the time played it through together. When it was done, up from the camps of these boys who were to kill and be killed, who were to die in misery on many a sodden field, rose a wild cheer."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lincoln in Fredericksburg - May 23, 1862

Abraham Lincoln visited Fredericksburg, Virginia on May 23, 1862. The following account was published in the "Christian Banner" newspaper on May 27, 1862 and is taken from page 344 of the memoirs of James Hunnicutt, publisher of said newspaper, a northern sympathizer later run out of town.

"President Lincoln and Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, visited Fredericksburg on last Friday, the 23d instant (May). They rode in a carriage drawn by four fine iron-gray horses. They crossed the Rappahannock River on the canal-boat bridge, and passed up Princess Anne Street to the Farmer's Bank, the head-quarters of General Patrick, where the carriage stopped about five minutes, and then moved off, as we were informed, to visit some camp of soldiers out of the town. A large escort accompanied the distinguished visitors. There were no demonstrations of joy, however, from any of the citizens. If they were met by the Honorable Mayor and Common Council, we have not learned the fact."

Betty Herndon Maury wrote: "Abraham Lincoln was in town on Friday [May 23, 1862]. Our Mayor did not call on him, and I did not hear a cheer as he passed along the streets. The streets are full of wagons and soldiers. "

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13, 1862

Today, December 13, 2008, marks the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. See the National Park Service Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania web page for a listing of events to commemorate this anniversary.

Betty Herndon Maury was not in Fredericksburg during this battle, but she had first hand accounts from those who did remain here, and she recounted what she had learned in her entry of December 28, 1862.

Monday, December 8, 2008

1884 - Will tries for Washington District Attorney

In a continuing quest for information about the post-war lives of Betty and William Maury, I have learned that in 1884 Will was on what we would now call the short list of potential nominees for the position of District Attorney for Washington, D.C. In a New York Times for January 17, 1884 Will is labeled a "Bourbon Democrat", a term defined in a Wikipedia article as having been "used in the United States from 1876 to 1904 to refer to a conservative or classical liberal member of the Democratic Party, especially one who supported President Grover Cleveland in 1884-1896. . . Bourbon Democrats represented business interests, supported banking and railroad goals, . . . opposed imperialism and U.S. overseas expansion. . . "

The New York Times article goes on to say that Maury’s nomination was opposed by the senators from Virginia, William Mahone and Harrison H. Riddleberger, who considered Maury to be of "aristocratic birth and surroundings". Mahone and Riddleberger supported the then current District Attorney, George B. Corkhill.

The Washington Post for January 22, 1884 reported that the name of Augustus S. Worthington had been sent by President Chester Arthur to the Senate for confirmation to be the successor to George Corkhill as District Attorney.