Thursday, March 28, 2013

Varina 18 Years Younger Than Jefferson Davis

Did you know that Varina Howell Davis was 18 years younger than her illustrious husband, Jefferson? When they met, he was 35 and she was 17. She wrote her mother, " I don't know about this Mr. Davis, if he is young or old..." In fact, he was only two years younger than her own mother!
 Despite their age difference, they seemed to have made a good match. She was well educated for a woman of that day and was an independent thinker and I imagine, strong-willed. He was the same.
 They both endured a great deal of sorrow in their lives; Jefferson lost his first wife after only 3 months of marriage. Their oldest son died at age two; actually all four sons predeceased both of them. Winnie, the youngest, never married, and she too died before Varina.
They also experienced, along with everyone else in the South, the loss of home and possessions, and their way of life, but even more so, since, because he was the President of the Confederacy, when the surrender came, he was incarcerated and treated harshly, losing his citizenship, and after prison, trying to find work.
After Jefferson died, she and Winnie moved to New York in order to find a job, and she offended many of the "Lost Cause" by making friends there of many northern people, including Julia Grant, the widow of U.S. Grant, one of the most hated men of the South.
In spite of all that, when she died, she was interred with full military honors performed by Confederate Veterans at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, adjacent to the tomb of her famous husband, daughter Winnie and her sons.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Southern Women After The War Between The States

Think of the years of devastation caused by war that took their toll on every facet of life in the Southern states. Thousands, black and white, were in danger of starving to death in the months following the end of the war.
Almost one-half of all Southern white men of military age saw service during the war. An article by Retta D. Tindal,  titled Reconstruction, 1865-1877, in the December 2012 UDC magazine reports that one-half of those were killed or maimed. South Carolina alone lost more than 18 percent of its soldiers in battle.
The article says, "This loss of manpower was the greatest cause of suffering, and nowhere was that misery reflected more  than in the faces of the white women of the South". They now faced foreclosure of their homes for non-payment of taxes. Their Confederate monies were worthless; no banks to loan money; no seeds to plant crops, and no way to buy seeds... their faces reflected their bitterness.
The article goes on to point out that some of these women never recovered from the loss of their pre-war lifestyle. Remember Scarlett O'Hara after the War! Her struggle, though fictional, was based on real life events. Ms. Tindal says "They clung to their pride and dignity, for it was all that remained in their devastated wasteland."
More on Reconstruction tomorrow. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jefferson Davis Sofa In the First White House

Furnishings in the First White House of the Confederacy are of three types: they either belonged to the Davis family, were original to the House, or are of the 1850-1860 period.
In the center of the front hall is the Davis-Clitherall mahogany sofa, circa 1840. It belonged to President and Mrs. Davis and is said to have been in his office at the Capitol building in Montgomery. He probably purchased it locally, second-hand, (we call that :"previously loved") after arriving in Montgomery, as the Davises were not known to have moved furniture from their Mississippi home.
When President Davis moved with his government to Richmond, he gave this sofa to his private secretary, Alexander Clitherall, which strongly suggest that the sofa was his personal property. Since its return to the First White House by Mr. Clitherall's descendants, it has been placed in the hall directly beneath the portrait of Jefferson Davis. It is upholstered in a dark claret red velour fabric.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Handguns During the War Between the States

With all the media attention on banning handguns these days, I was interested in a recent article that said at the beginning of the War every well-armed Union soldier had a handgun on his person. However as the war progressed, most found sidearms to be of little use and to add unwanted weight. As a result, a great many sidearms were given away, sold, sent home or tossed aside.

Southern cavalrymen preferred them during the close quarters of a full cavalry attack because they were lightweight and extremely accurate at short range. But as with many other things, the South could not make or acquire enough of them to meet the demand. The solution was to take from the Infantry and give to the Calvary! (too bad they couldn't get the ones the Union guys discarded).

The handguns used to arm Confederate soldiers came from a multitude of sources, including Southern manufacturers, seized arsenals, fallen soldiers on the battlefield, foreign manufacturers, and private donations from Confederate citizens.

Over the course of the war, thousands of guns were purchased from the London Armoury Company, and were smuggled past the Northern blockades. A good sidearm set back the average soldier about $ 20.00 at the beginning of the war.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Did You Know This About Nicola Marschall?

I came across some interesting facts about Nicola Marschall, artist of the deep South and designer of the Confederate uniform and possibly the First Confederate flag. These were compiled by the Alabama Dept of Archives and History.
1. He was born into a wealthy family in Prussia in 1829
2. Moved to US in 1849
3. Became a member of the faculty at Marion Female seminary in Marion, Alabama
4. While teaching there he gave art lessons
5. He usually signed and dated his portraits with a steel pen at the bottom right-hand corner when the paint was still wet.
6. he served briefly as a draftsman under Lt. Col. Samuel Locket in the Confederate Army
7. He was one of only a few artists to have General Nathan Bedford Forrest sit for his portrait.
8. Following the Civil War, he moved to Louisville, Ky so he could find commissions to paint portraits.
9. In 1876 he won a medal from the International Exhibition in Philadelphia for his portrait work.
10. We have two of his paintings hanging in the Second Parlor at the First White House, one a self-portrait and the other of his wife.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Government Goodies, - to Civil War Beneficieries

We call it the "gift that keeps on giving" - benefits! Veterans are filing for disabilities at historic rates, with about 45 percent of those from Iraq and Afghanistan. But, aren't we a little surprised to see that there are survivors of World War I, the Spanish-American War and the Civil War still receiving payments?

There are at least 10 living recipients of benefits tied to the 1898 Spanish[-American War at a cost of about $ 50,000 per year. The Civil War payments are going to two children of veterans - one in North Carolina and one in Tennessee - each for $ 876 per year.

Their names have not been disclosed but their ages suggest the one in Tennessee was born around 1920 and the one from NC around 1930. A veteran who was young during the War Between the States would have been roughly 70 or 80 when those two were born.

And that's not unheard of. At age 86, Juanita Tudor Lowrey is the daughter of a Cavil War vet. Her father fought in the Union army and after his first wife died, Tudor was 73 when he married Lowrey's mother in 1920. Lowrey was born in 1926.She suspects the marriage might have been one of convenience )"a nurse and a purse"?).  He died when she was around two and Lowrey received pension benefits until she was 18.

Lowrey says, "we are few and far between" now! Well, I have mentioned before that Uncle Hartwell was a "real son" of a veteran.  He (Uncle Hartwell) went to be with the Lord March 18, 1992. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jefferson Davis And His Enemies

 The South was overwhelmed by the might of the North after four long, bloody years, and at the close of the war, Jefferson Davis was indicted for treason. A gentleman named Dr. Hart wrote that Chief Justice Chase, who presided at the trial, "had no heart in the prosecution". The charge was dropped. Justice Chase knew that the South in seceding had done no more than the New England states had over and over threatened to do.
A despicable attempt was made to involve Mr. Davis in the assassination of Mr. Lincoln. Likewise his enemies tried to tarnish his name with insinuations that he was responsible for the suffering of Northern soldiers in Southern prisons. Both these efforts were abandoned as they were not factual in the least.
His attitude toward slavery was denounced, but examine the facts. First, Lincoln, in his inaugural address said that he had no intention of interfering with slavery in states where it existed; next, when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, it made no pretense of freeing slaves anywhere but in the Confederate states; and third, that New England had been the chief offender in the trade in slaves.
Davis was charged with involving the nation in war by the order to fire on Fort Sumter. But informed people know of the earnest effort of Confederate Commissioners to avert hostilities, and of the astounding duplicity and treachery of Mr. Lincoln's Secretary of State, an occasion of embarrassment to the biographers of Lincoln.
Enshrined in the heart of the South is the memory of Jefferson Davis. Henry Grady introduced him three years before he died with the words: "Let us declare that this outcast from the privileges of this great government is the uncrowned King of our people, and that no Southern man, high or humble, asks a greater glory than to bear with him, heart to heart, the blame and the burden of the cause for which he stands unpardoned."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Slavery During the Civil War

Slavery is sometimes called "an inevitable evolvement". I remember studying in school about the  "Trade Triangle" during colonial America. New Englanders would take rum to the West Coast of Africa where they would sell it and pick up slaves. They took the slaves on the "middle passage" to the West Indies, where they would trade them for molasses. Then the molasses were taken to New England and the process began all over again.

Needless to say, slavery existed as a legal right in the colonies before the American Revolution. but it gradually declined in the North. Unfortunately, because of the large land holdings in the South, slavery  continued there until the war and some states, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland and Delaware still had slaves even then. Slavery wasn't totally abolished until 1868.

According to an 1860 census, only 31% of families owned slaves and 75%of those owned less than 10 and often worked beside them in the fields. The Confederate Constitution, according to an article I read, banned the overseas slave trade, and permitted Confederate states to abolish slavery within their borders if they wanted to do so.

The CSA's highest ranking generals, Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston were not slave holders and did not believe in slavery. By 1864 the Confederate States began to abandon slavery and there are some indications that even without a war, the "peculiar institution" as it was often called, would have ended on its own as it did in most other countries.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Last Casualty of The War Between the States

 Cathy Wright, Curator at the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox is the  editor of  Lee's Last Casualty: The Story of Sgt. Robert Parker, 2nd Virginia Cavalry. The book is composed of the letters that this young Confederate cavalryman wrote to his wife Rebecca back home in Bedford County, Virginia.
Parker describes his life as a soldier and tell how local communities worked together to provide whatever the military needed, but more importantly, his faith was evidenced in these letters. Parker felt the war was a supreme test in which God would look deep into the souls of Northerners and Southerners and that they needed to give themselves to country and to God in order to succeed on the battlefield.
He was torn between his sense of duty to his family and farm and his loyalty to the Confederacy.
His steadfastness was due in great part to his family, who instilled in him the will to continue fighting. Sadly, although he had survived many campaigns from 1862 onward, he was struck down during the last charge at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, and is thought to have been the last man killed in action in the Army of Northern Virginia.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Conscription During The Civil War

I did not know until I read  recently that the Confederacy was the first to initiate conscription. Jefferson Davis proposed the first Conscription Act on March 28, 1862 and it was passed into law the next month, according to wikipedia, a year before the federal government did the same.

The compulsory draft was view as a violation of the people's rights, which is the very reason they went to war in the first place. What an irony! Under the Conscription Act, all white men between 18 and 35 were liable for a three year term of service. The Act also extended the terms of service for one year soldiers to three.

In September, 1862, the age limit was raised to 45, but men who worked as druggists, civil officials, railroad or river workers, telegraph operators, or teachers were exempt. Actually my Grandmother's father, Absalom Leonidas Davis, was a teacher in North Alabama, and I read in Grandma's book that he was exempt and did not have to fight.

In the Confederacy something called the "Twenty Negro Law" permitted one owner or overseer of any plantation to exempt themselves from military service (wikipedia again). This proved extremely unpopular with many Confederate soldiers and contribute to the oft-spoken adage of "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight".

Although both sides resorted to the Draft, the system did not work effectively in either. The problem of desertion was aggravated by the inequitable inclinations of conscription officers and local judges.
Sometimes these officials even (gasp) accepted bribes. Attempts to effectively deal with the issue were frustrated by conflict between state and local governments on the one hand and the national government of the Confederacy on the other.

About conscription, the famous Daniel Webster in 1814 said this: "Is this, sir, consistent with the character of a free government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No sir, it is not...Where is it written in the Constitution ...that you may take children from their parents and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or wickedness of government may engage it?"

Friday, March 8, 2013

Did You Know Nicola Marschall Served in Confederate Army?

I wrote two blogs this week about Nicola Marschall, thought by many to have designed the First Confederate Flag and the Uniform. Did you know, although he was exempt from the military in his native Prussia due to deafness, he joined the Confederate army shortly after the war started?

He served most of the war, although the records are fragmentary, as are those of so many Confederate soldiers. Mr. Stark Young in his book Southern Treasury of Life and Literature gives us the best overall picture: "When war was declared Mr. Marschall enlisted as a private of volunteers, going with his command from Marion to garrison Forts Morgan and Gaines, at the mouth of Mobile Bay. There he served for a time, then returned to Marion on a furlough. while at home, on the advice of a friend, an officer, he employed a substitute for a year and three months.

Then came the call for more volunteers, and again Mr. Marschall enlisted, this time in the Second Alabama Regiment of Engineers. he served with Colonel Lockett, a son of Mrs. Napoleon Lockett, under General Polk, just preceding the fall of Vicksburg.

Mr. Marschall served then in the Confederate army until the curtain was finally drawn at Appomattox." All of this is from a paper written by Owsley C. Costlow, titled The Life of Nicola Marschall.

In his introduction Costlow says " This then is the story of the man who came from Prussia to give his adopted land a flag and uniform also helped us in our struggle."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Story of the Disabled Confederate Veteran and Your Taxes at Work

Graydon Rust has written a fascinating story in the AUM Historical Review (Winter 2013) about Alabama's Confederate pension system. It seems one third of the 95,000 men that Alabama sent to the war effort (I mean The War for Southern Independence) came back disabled, many having lost either a limb or their sight.

They could expect no help from the federal government since they were on the losing side, so the Confederate states had to create their own welfare legislation with treasuries depleted and life in shambles. Relief was slow in coming, but ultimately, according to Mr. Rust, "Alabama's Confederate Pension system played a significant role in the history of the state - encompassing a large part of the state treasury, influencing the cultural cohesion of its citizens, and even setting a precedent for future welfare programs".

Are you surprised to know that the tax to assist Confederate veterans and their widows continues today?  It raises $400,000, which goes to the Confederate Memorial Park near Montgomery in Marbury, Alabama. Its director, Bill Rambo says "if it wasn't for the way we are funded, the story would not be told. The kids in school are only getting one side of the story - the winner's side".

Rust says: "Whether this statement is true or not, the story of the Confederate veterans and that of the welfare programs that supported them after the war live on through the park and the taxes that support them."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Confederate Flag and the Uniform

If you read my last blog you know that Nichola Marschall is credited by most people with designing the Stars and Bars and the Confederate Uniform.
In his own words, he told of how Mrs. Napoleon Lockett of Marion, Alabama asked him to make the design for the flag. He said that he took pencil and paper and made three different designs. The first was of two red stripes and one white with a blue field bearing seven white stars - indicating the number of States that had then seceded - in the upper left hand corner. The other two were similar.
She thanked him and then asked for a design for a uniform. He remembered back in Prussia, his native land, seeing fine-looking Austrian sharpshooters in gray uniforms and how impressed he had been with them. Based on this he made several rough sketches indicating the gray color, and also different colors on the collars to denote the branch of service.
He said: "It did not occur to me that I had done anything worthy of note. I simply made the sketches at the request of Mrs. Lockett. I knew no more about them from then, until I found that the uniform and one of the flags had been adopted by the Confederacy".
Marschall died at the age of 88 in Louisville, Kentucky. A tribute was written about him which appears in his daughter's scrapbook. It read: "The last time this writer saw the delightful man he had grown old and feeble and was going slowly down the street in the sunshine, going home, and not so long after that he did go home, regretted, honored and beloved by all who had the privilege of knowing him".

Friday, March 1, 2013

Learning More About The First Confederate Flag

As you know if you read our blogs regularly or have visited the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama, we fly the First Confederate Flag, aka the "Stars and Bars" on the grounds of our building.

This flag is thought to have been designed by Nichola Marschall, a portrait painter and artist who was born in Germany, but emigrated to America and spent a great deal of time in Marion, Alabama.

His patron was Mrs. Napoleon Lockett, ancestor of several of our White House Association members. She supposedly asked him to draw several sketch for the flag and one of these was accepted by the Confederate Government.

The Stars and Bars was  first raised in front of the Alabama State Capitol, which at that time was the seat of the CSA on March 4, 1861 by President John Tyler's granddaughter, Miss Letitia Tyler. Descendants of her are also in the White House Association today.
Here is the design showing seven stars, representing the original seven states that seceded. Marschall also designed the Confederate Uniform, basing it on the Prussian Uniforms he remembered from his years of living in Germany.