Saturday, August 31, 2013

September 18 Marks 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga

The Civil War Trust is an organization which exists to raise funds to save Civil War battlefields. In their August newsletter on line, I read some interesting facts about the Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 18-20, 1863, 150 years ago next month.
 The major players in this battle were General Braxton Bragg of the Confederacy, against Union Major General  William Rosecrans.
The tide of the battle turned on an amazing blunder on the part of the Union command.  Rosecrans, believing a gap existed in his line, ordered Brig. Gen. Thomas Wood's division to fill the gap. Wood knew the order was a mistake, as there was actually no gap in the Federal line, but moving his division would instead create one. Unfortunately, Gen. Wood had been berated twice already for not following orders, so he did as he was told, even though he knew it was going to be a devastating move on the part of the Union force.

 And indeed, this did open up a hole for the Confederates, and Gen. Longstreet's men bulled their way through the gap that Wood had inadvertently created. The article says: "...Union resistance at the southern end of the battlefield evaporated as Federal troops, including Rosecrans himself, were pushed off the field".

Thanks to this error on the part of Rosecrans, Bragg's victorious Confederates now occupied the heights surrounding Chattanooga, blocking Federal supply lines. But Bragg committed a huge error too, I think, because he failed to pursue Rosecrans. Thus,
 fighting would resume less than two months later in the battle for Chattanooga, and  it would not be a pretty outcome for the Confederates. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Could Any Good Thing Come Out of the Practice of Slavery?

When I typed in  " Antebellum Slavery" an article came up titled "Conditions of Antebellum Slavery" by PBS, that is the Public Broadcasting System, with the heading Resource Bank. There was no author listed, but the topic was people and events, 1830-1860. Now, to my question: Could any good thing come out of slavery?

On the surface an unequivocal no, the horror of it being self evident. The PBS article certainly listed the obvious, all that was wrong about slavery,  but the last paragraph in the article caught my attention, and I quote:

"Many slaves turned to religion for inspiration and solace". It went on to say that some practiced African religions, but others practiced Christianity, even though they rejected the type of Christianity their masters practiced, because it justified slavery.

The article went on to say: "...they (the slaves) spoke of the New Testament promises of the day of reckoning and of justice and a better life after death, as well as the Old Testament story of Moses leading his people out of slavery in Egypt."

I recall many black spirituals (songs) which I learned as a child,  that brought those themes out so well, don't you?

 And  many of us in our day, turn to religion for what we need, just as did the  black slaves on the plantations. The article ends "The religion of enslaved African Americans helped them resist the degradation of bondage." We are all under the bondage of sin and that is why we need a Savior to redeem us. Certainly there is a case to make that the slaves of 1860 set an example for us today.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Its Not The Heat, Its The Humidity

On hot summer days we often say   "its not the heat, its the humidity", but at least we can escape to the comfort of our air conditioned homes, cars and offices. I remember as a child, growing up in Montgomery, Alabama in pre-air condition days. It  was very hot during the day, but we were used to it, so thought little about it. At night, in our house at least, the breeze from  an attic fan kept the bedrooms cool. As the name implies, this was a large fan, located in the attic, and turned on by an electric switch, mostly at night. Its job was to keep us relatively cool while we slept.
The heat and humidity of the South in the mid- nineteenth century created health problems for all who lived there, but was far worse for the plantation slaves than for the whites, for obvious reasons: unsanitary conditions, inadequate nutrition and hard labor, all of which made the slaves subject to illness and disease  more than the whites. Making matters worse, the slaves often had to work even though sick.

 It is common knowledge that  the Confederate Uniforms were made of wool. I cannot imagine how unbearable it must have been to wear a wool jacket and trousers during hot summer months   when the temperatures soared and there was often a scarcity of water, Gettysburg being a case in point.

We have had a pleasant summer this year, but we certainly count our good fortune that we  no longer have to face our summers in the deep south without the convenience of air conditioning. Do some of you out there remember as I do, the growing up years without it?



Friday, August 23, 2013

Vestiges of Belle--dom

The antebellum period, Latin for "before the war", in America is sometimes thought of as the time after the American Revolution and before the Civil War. Others have marked it as between the war of 1812 and the 1861 period, according to Wikipedia. 
 Plantation life for so long now has been characterized by Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone with the Wind, and I bet even if you didn't read the book, you have probably seen the movie.
  Scarlett O'Hara was and always will be the quintessential Southern Belle. If you have seen the movie, how could  you ever forget the barbecue at Twin Oaks, or the poignant scene after Scarlett returns and vows she will "never be hungry again"?
What is your favorite scene from Gone With The Wind? Please take the time to comment, and which is your favorite character and why -  Rhett, Ashley, Melanie, Scarlett, Mammy or Prissy?
I thought once about having an antebellum gown made, but decided it would be way too uncomfortable, plus, how could you ever get close enough to the dining room table to eat? So I will remain a "closet" Southern Belle and save the "drapes" for another occasion!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The United Daughters of the Confederacy Display in The First White House

Did you know the United Daughters of the Confederacy have a Display Case in the Relic Room at the First White House of the Confederacy? It is full of interesting memorabilia with a variety of items.
 As one might expect, there is a fine collection of Confederate veterans' medals and ribbons. There is also a framed Confederate States of America Loan certificate with payment coupons dated 1861; and a United Daughters of the Confederacy gavel, made of oak and inlaid with bullets found at the battlefield of Chickamauga.

 You can see a typewritten letter from Governor Bibb Graves accepting the Sophie Bibb chapter's offer to place a statue of Jefferson Davis in the Rotunda of the Alabama State Capitol. I don't know if that ever happened, but there is one on the Capitol grounds. A poignant  letter from a wounded Confederate soldier is in the grouping, but the date and writer are unknown.

Something else of great interest is an exceptionally rare drawing done by a wounded soldier in the hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, lettered: Camp before Vicksburg  March 6th, 1863  Colonel G. Taggert's Quart's.
There is a silk Confederate flag, noted as "carried during the War Between the States". It was probably carried by a Montgomery company, at least on parade, as it shows no evidence of battle wounds. These flags are highly valued.
This case adds a great deal to the Relic Room and we are so happy that the Sophie Bibb Chapter wanted to do this. Sadly, this Chapter disbanded a few years ago, but the Cradle of the Confederacy Chapter now owns the Collection in case # 9.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Historic Scenes in Early 1861 in Montgomery

Hanging in our upstairs hallway in the First White House of the Confederacy is a group of four framed wood engravings of historic scenes of Montgomery, Alabama, at the time of the formation of the Confederate States of America. These four wood engravings are from periodicals of the period. They are:
A view of Market Street, Montgomery, Alabama, with the True Blues marching toward the Capitol. (This was the Montgomery militia)
A view of the Exchange Hotel, Montgomery, with Jefferson Davis addressing the public from the balcony.
A view of the Senate Chamber with Mr. Cobb presiding. This view shows the famed Senate Chairs, one of which is in the First White House Collection.
A view of the Alabama State Capitol on the day of Secession.
Going up the steps there is a lithograph of the Inauguration of President Davis in Montgomery, 1861, published in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1887, by Horn. This lithograph was issued a generation after the fall of the Confederacy, but was copied from wood engravings of the actual scene which ha been published contemporaneously.
All of these were a gift from Arthur Cook.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wonderful New Addition to our First White House Library

A gentleman has presented us with a book titled The Jewish Confederates by Robert N. Rosen, and I am eager to read it.
 The book "jacket" explains that until this book, the number of Jewish Confederates that participated in the War Between the States  has largely been unknown.  I quote from the jacket: "Rosen reveals the remarkable breadth of Southern Jewry's participation in the war and the strength of Jewish commitment to the Confederate cause."
 We read on: "Rosen finds that although many members of the established, prominent Jewish communities of Charleston, Richmond, and Savannah volunteered for battle, the majority of Jewish Confederates were recent immigrants from the German states, Central Europe, Poland, Hungary, and Russia... few owned slaves and many had left Europe to escape warfare."

And in summary: "Demonstrating that Jews participated in every imaginable aspect of battle - and home front- life, Rosen relates the experiences of officers and enlisted men, businessmen and shopkeepers, politicians and peddlers, nurses and seamstresses, rabbis and doctors."
This sounds like a fascinating study. It is published by the University of South Carolina Press. Rosen, the author, was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is now a practicing attorney.

Thank you, kind and thoughtful donor! Unfortunately I do not have your address so I cannot write you personally.

Friday, August 9, 2013

"The Plantation World of Jefferson Davis"

Hello all you Jefferson Davis devotees out there, wouldn't you like to take a tour of "The Plantation World of Jefferson Davis"?  I know I would, and here is our chance.

The Thirty-Sixth Annual Antiques Forum of Natchez, MS is sponsoring a three day symposium November 7-9th in Natchez.  Thursday, November 7 is a day-long excursion visiting historic properties in Woodville, MS (the early home of Jefferson Davis) and related sites in Natchez.
The Tour ends with cocktails at The Briars, which is the Classical Greek Revival Home in which Jefferson and Varina Davis were married, also in Natchez.  The Briars is now a Bed & Breakfast.
On Friday, November 8, the morning includes the following speakers and subjects: Daniel Brooks, Director, Retired, of Arlington House in Birmingham, Alabama, "Memories from the Home Front"; Jefferson Mansell, Historian, Natchez National Historical Park "Now Occupied for Public Use: Yankees in the Great Houses of Natchez 1863-1865"; Elizabeth M. Boggess, Ph.D., Archeologist and Social Historian, Natchez "The Clifton Story: An American Art Collection under Occupation".The afternoon consists of Touring five houses located within the boundaries of Union Fort McPherson.
Saturday, November 9 consists of several additional speakers including Dean Knight from the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, and Bertram Hayes-Davis from Beauvoir.
Where does the First White House of the Confederacy come in? Not to worry, it will be  adequately covered by Daniel Brooks, in his remarks as the first speaker on Friday.! He has been to the First White House, taken pictures and garnered history about the things in the House that were either brought by Mrs. Davis or were in the House when the Davises lived in the House.
For more information go to

Monday, August 5, 2013

Conserving Our Gasoliers in the First W hite House

I mentioned awhile back that the First White House of the Confederacy was the most fortunate recipient of a beautiful gasolier, the mate to the one that hangs in the Second Parlor. And for any who don't know, these magnificent hanging light fixtures are called gasoliers because gas was used to light them.

Our plans are to have both conserved, and the new one will have to be cut down to match the first one. The two probably hung in one of the grand old homes of Montgomery, which has long sine been torn down. I am glad the gasoliers have survived.

I will keep you posted. This is going to be a major undertaking and will take some fundraising efforts.  In the end though, we will have matching gasoliers in the First and Second Parlors for generations of people to enjoy for years to come, and it will be well worth the effort.

Exciting News About Blogging

Exciting news to share - I am working on combining some of my blogs into a "Blog Book" that we will have available to sell either on line or at our Gift shop at the First White House.

A friend of mine, an author and College Professor is helping me and she has spent a lot of hours refining what I have written.

I hope that the final results will prove of interest to readers. W will definitely keep you posted!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Immortal 600

Karen Stokes
Best Price $11.68
or Buy New $17.21

 A friend shared a story about the 600 Confederate  Prisoners of War that the Union army in South Carolina used as shields against Confederate troops. 
"The Immortal  600"was a special group of Confederate prisoner incarcerated at Fort Pulaski, South Carolina during the fall and winter of 1864-65. They had been brought from Fort Delaware to Federally occupied Morris Island, S.C. to  be used as human shields. They remained in an open 1.5 acre pen under the shelling of friendly Confederate artillery fire for 45 days.
 Then they were removed to Fort Pulaski and for 42 days were kept on starvation rations. Three had died at Morris Island, 13 died at Ft. Pulaski and 5 later died at Hilton Head Island, S. C.  The remaining prisoners were returned for Fort Delaware.
I suspect this was done in retaliation for the conditions of the Union prisoners held at Andersonville, Georgia and Salisbury, North Carolina.  By that time in the War, General U.S. Grant had declared there would no longer be "prisoner exchanges".

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things"

In my last blog I mentioned some furnishings Mrs. Davis brought with her when she and their three children joined President Davis in Montgomery for their stay in the First White House, until the Confederate Government moved to Richmond.
There are also pieces in the House, supplied by Col. Edmund Harrison when the house was rented for the use of the Davis Family in 1861.
 In the President's Study are a Rocking Chair, a Center Table and a Sofa that were  in the House in 1861, and were subsequently sold to the Abraham family and then to Mrs. Mary Dow. Mrs. Dowe had known President Davis in her youth. She became the grandmother of John Dowe who donated them  back to us in 1998.
 Two more pieces, a historic mahogany Rocking Chair with a graceful, scrolled profile, and a Small Mahogany Sofa or "love seat", are in the Westcott Bedroom upstairs. (first room on the left after you climb the stairs). By family tradition,  these were purchased by the Rev. T. J. Miles at a post-war sale of the contents of the First White House. It was donated by a descendant, Mrs. Jean W. Smart of Dothan, Alabama in 1990-91.
Another Rocking Chair is in Mrs. Davis's New York Bedroom, and was also among the furnishings of the First White House that was presumed to have been there at the time of the Davis family residency in 1861. It was purchased by Jacob Weil in a post-bellum sale, and was presented to the  First White House by John Flexner of Nashville, a grandson of Mr. Weil.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mrs. Davis Did Not Arrive Empty-Handed...

Now that the quilt controversy has been "put to bed" (no pun intended) I want to share some of the  things that Mrs. Davis brought with her to Montgomery from Brierfield, their plantation home near Vicksburg, Mississippi, when their family lived in the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery.
In the First Parlor (first room on left as you enter) are four Brass Rococo Cornices that Mrs. Davis reportedly brought  from Brierfield, as well as a three piece gilt-brass girandole set that sits on the mantle.
In the Second Parlor is another set of Window Cornices and a Mahogany table that was among their possessions at Brierfield. 
The third room on the left is the beautiful and stately Dining Room, in which we find  six pieces of Havilland China which belonged to Mrs. Davis.
Across the back hall is President Davis's Study, which contains a pair of Irish drawn lace curtains Varina brought to Montgomery. They are preserved in in a tall library bookcase.
There are other pieces with Davis connections that I will discuss tomorrow as well as things original to the House that would have been there when the Davises lived in the House, during that short spring of 1861 before moving to Richmond.