Monday, November 28, 2011

Jefferson Davis Historic Sites

From our "First White House of the Confederacy" booklet is a list of Jefferson Davis historic sites, compiled by Mrs.Napier. How many of these have you visited? We would enjoy your comments. I have been to several and would very much like to visit the others.

His birthplace at Fairview, Kentucky. House (gone), Obelisk built there as a shrine
His boyhood home, Rosemont Plantation, Woodville, MS
Brierfield Plantation, Warren County, near Vicksburg, MS (house gone)
Married to Varina Howell, at The Briers, Natchez MS
The First White House of the Confederacy, Montgomery AL
The Second White House in Richmond VA (they don't call it "second" but we do!)
Last Capitol of CSA in Danville, VA
Prison, Jefferson Davis Museum, the Casemate, Fortress Monroe, VA
Beauvoir  in Biloxi MS, his final residence
Buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond VA.

Other museums include Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg; Confederate Memorial Hall Civil War Museum in New Orleans, Confederate Museum in Jefferson, LA and Stone Mountain Park, near Atlanta.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chronology of Jefferson Davis's Sojourn in Montgomery

The following was reported in the Montgomery Weekly Advertiser of 1861 and printed in The First White House of the Confederacy booklet written and edited by Cameron Freeman Napier, the fifth Regent of the White House Association. I paraphrase it briefly for your information, especially since we are "winding down" year one of the Sesquicentennial of The War Between The States.
Jan 11, 1861 - Alabama adopted the Ordinance of Secession from the Union
Feb 4 - Confederate States of American organized
Feb 8 - Provisional Constitutional Congress convened at State Capitol in Montgomery
Feb 9 - Jefferson Davis elected President of the CSA
Feb 10 - Jefferson Davis received telegram of his election at Brierfield Plantation, near Vicksburg
Feb 16 - Jefferson Davis arrived Montgomery, midnight train, took suite in Exchange Hotel
Feb 18 - At 1:00 P.M. Jefferson Davis inaugurated Provisional President of CSA
Feb 21 - Provisional Congress authorized lease of the Executive Mansion
March 2 - Mrs. Davis en route to Montgomery
March 4 - Mrs. Davis arrived and went to Executive Mansion to supervise renovations
March 11 - President and Mrs. Davis held a levee at the First White House
March 17 - Provisional Confederate Congress adjourned until second Monday in May
April 1 - Mrs. Davis returned to Brierfield to supplement the White House furnishings
April 10 - Beauregard given discretionary authority to "demand evacuation  Fort Sumter or reduce it".
April 14 - Mrs. Davis returned to Montgomery with the children and certain household items.
April 24 - Description of the Davis' $ 1300 coach, ordered in New Orleans, reported in newspaper.
May 20 - Provisional Confederate Congress passed proclamation to move Capital to Richmond
May 24 - First bloodshed in the War Between the States occurred.
May 26 - President Davis left Montgomery
May 20 - President Davis arrived Richmond. Mrs. Davis remained to supervised packing.
June 15 -  Mrs. Davis reported holding receptions at Spotswood Hotel in Richmond.

 She was waiting to move into the old Brockenbrough House which would remain the permanent and last White House of the Confederacy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Civil War Christmas Ornaments

Last year I bought a Christmas Ornament of  "The Gray Ghost" done by Mort Kunstler, as a fundraiser for Timber Ridge School in Winchester, VA. Mr. Kunstler's work is beautiful and I can't recommend enough that you go to the and buy one of these wonderful Civil War ornaments.

The special ornament for 2011 is "Mrs. Jackson comes to Winchester". This is the 16th year that the School has been producing an ornament and the 15th year the School has been partnering with Mr. Kunstler. Every dollar raised from the sale of the ornaments goes to Timber Ridge School for at-risk boys.

The Gray Ghost (last year's ornament)  was John S. Mosby, a Confederate Cavalryman, 1833-1916. A limited supply of previous years' ornaments are available on the website.Please consider enhancing your own Christmas by helping this school in their endeavors. I assure you that you will enjoy your ornament for years to come. I know I am!

Jefferson Davis And His Place in History

Hudson Strode, who wrote a sympathetic biography on Jefferson Davis, says:" Davis was a Jeffersonian Democrat, dedicated to the principle of States Rights under the Constitution. He had inherited his ideas on politics from his father and George Washington."

As the leading Southerner in Congress in the late 1850's,  he struggled to save the Union and its federal principles as much as he later struggle to save the South. Hudson Strode quoted Horace Greeley, who in 1858 declared, "Mr. Davis is unquestionably the foremost man in the South today".

Though a reluctant  secessionist himself, when the Southern States seceded in 1861, Jefferson Davis was the unanimous choice of the Confederate Convention for President. Professor Strode goes on to say:"Jefferson Davis  was a President without precedent. He formed a brand new nation in the cauldron of a terrible war...It was far easier to be chief executive of a powerful, established country (Lincoln) than to create a nation with few resources but cotton and courage".

After Hudson Strode's understanding biography of Jefferson Davis appeared, Bruce Catton wrote: "Davis finally becomes a possession of the whole country and not just a section." Strode adds, The place of Jefferson Davis in American history as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America is unique."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Winston Groom Writing About Civil War Battles

Winston Groom, famous for writing Forest Gump, was in Montgomery recently speaking at an event. Did you know that he has written a fine book about Confederate General John Bell Hood's audacious attempt to vanquish the Union on the western front during the final months of the War?

The name of the book is Shrouds of Glory with the subtitle "From Atlanta to Nashville, the Last Great Campaign of the Civil War." It is dedicated to his great-grandfather, who like many of ours, fought in the Confederate Army.

While Winston was in town promoting his newest book, Kearney's March, he told us he is in the process of doing one about the battle of Shiloh. He has also written a book about Vicksburg. It is so great to know that we have fine writers such as him, interested in writing about the War all these many years later.

Guests At The First Whie House of the Confederacy

We enjoy all our visitors and are so thankful (on this Thanksgiving Day) for each and every one of them. Some are local, others from throughout Alabama and many others from other States and even from outside the United States.

I want especially to thank "Jim and Joy" for their recent visit from Pensacola and their taking the time to send in a comment. It was great to meet you both. Please come back soon!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Looking Back To The Civil War on Thanksgiving Day 2011

Can we be thankful for that hateful and cruel war as we look back 150 years? Romans 8:28 says that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose".

What good could possibly come out of the death of 620,000 brave men, plus the destruction of a Country?Was the war right? Was secession justifiable? What about the slavery issue? So many questions bubble up when we try to look back to that time in history, forgetting that our vantage point is so different for theirs.

Yes, good came out of it: for one thing we are now and for always "one nation" again. That was proved by the triumph of the federal government. The slavery issue was settled too, although if the South had just waited, perhaps this could have been worked out without all the bloodshed, as was true in most of the rest of the world.

Unseen benefits: many came to Christ during the war. We will not know until we get to Heaven, how many conversions came as a result of the fear of imminent death, and of losing all one held onto so dearly.

Our Providential God does work in mysterious ways, but He works! I am thankful for the brave men and women on both sides who set a godly example for us, so long ago. We have much to live up to!

Devoted Christian Warrior Stonewall Jackson

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was well known as a devout Christian warrior. William L. Maughan writes "Christians still study his life of devotion to God in Christ".

Maughan writes that in every circumstance of life he saw the hand of God, and every victory that he won he ascribed to the Providence of God. Every morning and evening he held a brief prayer service in his tent.

Kate Cumming in her diary mentions comments upon Jackson's untimely death that it seemed reserved for his own men, much as Jephthah (in the Book of Judges) sacrificed his daughter.

Here is his advice to us: "The most important thing in the world is to know the will of God, and then to do it!" 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grey Gardens Connection with The First White House of the Confederacy

Remember the book, movie and play on Broadway called Grey Gardens? Today I spent a while looking through our files about the connection between our first Regent, Mrs. Jesse Drew Beale and the two women of Grey Gardens "fame".

Our First White House archives tell how Mrs. Beale's son Phelan, a prominent New York attorney and sportsman, married Edith Ewing Bouvier, an aunt of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.The Beales acquired a house in East Hampton, NY, and among their children were a son, Phelan Jr., a son Bouvier Beale, and a daughter, Edith  Bouvier Beale, "little Edie". The Beales were divorced in 1931 and for over 50 years the mother and daughter lived in the house, called Grey Gardens because of the  color of the dunes, the cement garden walls and the sea mist!

By 1971-72 their eccentric lifestyle had led to unsanitary conditions in the house, which became infected with cats and racoons, fleas, no running water and garbage everywhere. Facing eviction, the mother and daughter were "rescued" by Jackie and her sister Lee, who together provided the money to keep the ladies from becoming homeless and the house from being torn down.

Big Edie died in 1977 and Little Edie sold it in 1979 with the understanding that it not be razed. It has now been restored by the new owners. Little Edie died in 2002. A far cry from Montgomery, Alabama, and the First White House, but what an interesting connection!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Restorations at the First White House of the Confederacy

A carpenter friend told me today that he had not come to my house because he had been at someone's home working since August. He said "the house is really old, built in the 20's". I thought "little do you know. What about the First White House, built in the 30's" (the 1830's that is!!!).

And that made me think about the restorations (face-lifts as it were) that the Home in which Jefferson Davis lived for a time, has undergone, the first that I know of, coming before the Davises ever came to Montgomery. That was in 1855 when Colonel Winter renovated the two-story Federal frame house to the then fashionable  Italianate style. He added the front portico and closed in the rear porch.

The second restoration came in 1921 when the house was skillfully dismantled by thirds, moved, reassembled, restored and presented to the people of the State of Alabama.

Fifty years later it was in need of major repair again. The second floor had been restricted to no more than eight visitors. The work began as a Bicentennial project in April of 1976. On December 10 of that same year  the first White House of the Confederacy reopened with elegant fanfare!!!

The next work was begun in 1996 with both federal and state money. This included lead paint removal. The end result was the 1996-97 Restoration! And yet again, in 2007 we had another major overhaul, this time with the heating and air conditioning units. Are you getting tired yet? I think I am!!! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trip to Beauvoir and Confederate Memorial Hall

Last week we motored down to the "Big Easy" where the living is good, despite all that Katrina tried to do to make it otherwise. On the way we visited Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis's retirement home on the Miss Gulf Coast at Biloxi. It is just a short detour off the road to New Orleans and so worth the trip.

It is absolutely beautiful and now shows no damage from either Katrina or the many other hurricanes it has endured in its long life. The guide who took us through did a delightful job. They are rebuilding the Presidential Library and it will be ready soon. We met Richard Forte, Interim Director which was an added plus.

While in New Orleans we visited the Confederate Memorial Hall Civil War Museum, which is right across the street from the World War II Museum (location, location, location!)

Memorial Hall is the oldest operating museum in Louisiana. Thomas Sully designed it and it is a wonderful structure. It houses one of the largest collection of Civil War artifacts, and they are so nicely displayed. There are a number of things that belonged to Jefferson Davis, and that was especially fun to see. We enjoyed meeting Director Patricia.

Did I mention we went down to the French Quarter? Of course, no visit to New Orleans is complete without that!!!