Saturday, December 13, 2014

Endangered Civil War Battlefields And Other Wars To Be Saved

Congress enacted landmark Legislation this week to preserve America's endangered battlefields, expanding the existing program to provide grants for the acquisition of land at Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. The legislation reauthorizes the Civil War Battlefield Preservation program, a matching grants program that encourages private sector investment in historic battlefield protection to now include these additional battlefields.

Since the program was first funded by Congress in 1999, it has been used to preserve more that 23,000 acres of battlefield land in 17 states. Some of the most famous have been saved, including Antietam, MD., Chancellorsville and Manassas, VA; Chattanooga and Franklin TN; Gettysburg PA; Perryville KY and Vicksburg MS.

The Civil War Trust is the premier nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America's hallowed battlegrounds. To date the Trust has preserved more than 40,000 acres of battlefield lands in 20 states. Learn more at

Friday, December 12, 2014

John Basil Turchin, Infamous Union Officer During WBTS

A friend shared information about John Turchin after my recent (11/10/14) blog about Union General William T. Sherman. I had never heard of Turchin, but apparently he was the "author" of the "Sherman Plan". Here is what he told me.

Turchin  was born Ivan Vasilovitch Turchininoff in Russia. He and his wife, also Russian, migrated to America and Americanized their names. He had served in the military in Russia and when the War Between the States began, he was commissioned Colonel of the 19th Illinois.

Turchin was placed in command of a brigade by Federal General Don Carlos Buell, and with these men Turchin captured Huntsville and Athens, Alabama. Holding to the Imperial Russian theory that "to the victor belong the spoils", he and his troops became especially notorious for their disregard of the persons and property of enemy civilians.

The story goes that while capturing Athens one of Turchin's regiments was shot up by local guerrillas, and Turchin determined to punish the town. Everything possible was stolen or destroyed and the women were brutally treated. For this and also for allowing his wife to accompany him (a big no-no) General Buell relieved him of command, court-marshaled him and recommended dismissal .

Before that could happen, his wife rushed to Washington and persuaded President Lincoln not only to pardon him, but to promote him to brigadier-general. Turchin's legacy to the nation is significant because his theories on war helped develop a mentality among Union officers and officials in Washington that targeting certain civilians was a necessary wartime measure. Turchin's punitive approach is seen, as I mentioned, in Sherman's "March to the Sea".

It was perhaps ironic that Turchin, in later years, suffered severe dementia, and died penniless in an  insane asylum in Anna, Illinois at the age of 79. He is buried next to his wife. You may want to read more about this Machiavellian man who had such influence on the outcome of the War and the way the post-War South was treated.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Recap 1864 Events of War Between the States

As this year draws to a close I want to remind us of some of the events of 1864. One of the biggest might have been March 9th when Lincoln appointed Union General Ulysses S. Grant to command all the armies of the United States, and appointed General William T.Sherman to succeed Grant as commander in the west.

A massive campaign in Virginia began in May when Grant began advancing toward Richmond against Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Granit had an army of 120,000 and Lee's forces were down to 64,000.

In the west, Sherman began advancing toward Atlanta with 100,000 men to fight Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee with 60,000.

In June the battle at Cold Harbor in Virginia resulted in 7,000 Union casualties. Also in June the Union forces missed a chance to capture Petersburg, but began a nine month siege of that city.

In July Sherman battled the Confederates, now under General John B. Hood, who replaced Johnston. Atlanta was captured in September.

In October a Union victory by Cavalry General Philip H. Sheridan was won over Jubal Early and his Southern troops in the Shenandoah Valley. Oh, if only we still had the great and good Stonewall Jackson.

In November Sherman began his March to the Sea which we  discussed in our November 10 blog, and in December, Hood's Confederate Army of the Tennessee, now down to 23,000 was crushed at Nashville by Union General George H. Thomas and his 55,000 troops. I talked about the Battle of Franklin in my December 8 blog, and how that contributed greatly to the disaster at Nashville.

By December 21, 1864 Sherman had reached Savannah, telegraphing President Lincoln, offering him Savannah as a Christmas present. After four years of fighting, 1865 and the eventual downfall of the Confederacy loom ahead.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Zouaves in the War Between the States

The Zouave regiments of both North and South during the War Between the States are depicted in many paintings and pictures. The name and  uniforms were  North African-inspired. There were about 70 volunteer Zouave regiments in the Union army and about 25 in the Confederate army during the war.

I read this in the American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, Volume I: "One company of exotic Zouaves, patterned after the famous French fighting forces, thrilled the public with elaborate drills, but when these warriors went into battle they learned the hard way that their bizarre uniforms were not suited to combat".

The Zouave uniforms were sometimes quite elaborate. Some wore a fez with colored tassel, and turban, short fitting jacket, wide baggy red pantaloons and white leggings. The jackets were cooler than the usual wool ones worn by most of the armies.

Winslow Homer did an 1864 oil painting of two 5th New York Zouaves titled The Brierwood Pipe,  and of course Mathew Brady took photos of them!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Battle of Franklin, Tenn, 150 years ago November 30

I haven't seen anything in the Montgomery Advertiser about it, but the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Franklin, TN was held November 30, 2014. Did any of our readers go?

It reads as if the battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was doomed from the start. Confederate Lt. General John B. Hood, after failing to destroy the Federals near Spring Hill on the 29th,  led a frontal assault against the Federals the next day, but was driven back with heavy losses. There were over 6000 Confederate casualties, including six Generals dead, and four others wounded. To put it bluntly, the attack was a total disaster.

Why was Hood the one in charge? Had it just come down to that? I wonder? The upshot was this: The Army of Tennessee was all but destroyed after Franklin, but rather than retreat, Hood felt he had no choice except to advance against  the Union Army at Nashville. That also ended very badly as one might guess; the Army of Tennessee never fought again, and Hood's career was ruined.

My heart goes out to the brave men that fought so valiantly with so little to show for it. I really want to read more about this particular battle and about Hood, so I can understand what happened and why.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Things to Ponder about Sherman and His March

In the Fall, 2014 issue of Hallowed Ground, the Civil War Trust magazine is an article titled Scorched Earth, Sherman's March to the Sea, by John F. Marszalek. I think we could safely say Sherman and Grant were the two men most hated by the South during and after "the War", but here is something to think about.

Marszalek says " Major General William Tecumseh Sherman carved a swath of destruction through Georgia, then offered generous surrender terms." Did he? I didn't know that. The author goes on, "His vision of hard war brought the Confederacy to its knees, but forestalled thousands of battlefield and civilian deaths." Again, I did not know that.

Marszalek makes the case that Sherman was not a brute but "that he wanted to wage a war that did not result in countless deaths. He saw destruction of property as less onerous than casualties." Less than 3000 casualties resulted from the six weeks march through Georgia. The author concludes" Yet the March is remembered to this day as barbarism unleashed. there was glory to die in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, but only humiliation to have one's barn burned..."

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Daughter of the Confederacy, Winnie Davis

Jefferson and Varina Davis's sixth child and second daughter was born in June of 1864. She was known most her life as the "Daughter of the Confederacy". The first published biography of her is titled :Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause" written by Heath Hardage Lee.

Heath Lee comes from a museum education, historic preservation and writing background. She is currently working as the Coordinator of the History Series for Salisbury House and Gardens, a 1920s house museum in Des Moines, Iowa. Her hometown is Richmond, Virginia. This is her first book, well documented and researched.

Montgomery author, now deceased, Judith Oliver wrote a novel about Winnie, "Devotion" which has sold well at our First White House of the Confederacy gift shop. Winnie never married and became an icon of the "Lost Cause" often accompanying her famous father in his later years when he spoke to Confederate Veterans and other Southern groups.

I am anxious to read this highly praised biography by Ms. Lee. The forward is written by J.E.B. Stuart IV. Winnie was born a month after the death of the beloved Confederate hero, General J.E.B. Stuart. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

2015 Fundraiser for First White House of Confederacy

 In 2015 Civil War buffs will celebrate the last year of the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States which was fought from 1861-1865. The First White House of the Confederacy commemorated 2011 with our first fundraiser and it is fitting that 2015 will commemorate the end of the War with our now bi-annual fundraiser scheduled for May 7th, 2015.

Our speaker in May will be Waite Rawls, President and CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. This should be very timely as the Museum of the Confederacy currently has plans to combine forces with the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar in Richmond, the site of the historic Tredegar Iron Works.

This should be a boon for both institutions. Katherine Calos of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote on November 13, 2013 quoting Edward L. Ayers, President of the University of Richmond. Ayers said: 'I think it is going to be a great thing for the city...a great thing for people who care about the Civil War and its going to be a great thing for people who care about the mission of both institutions..' 

 Calos wrote that Ayers continued: "You have the best collection of Confederate materials in the world and now you'll have it in a place where they can actually be displayed and esteemed probably more than ever".

The article in the Times-Dispatch goes on to say that more than 20 million dollars had been committed to the 30 million dollar project, so it is a plan well underway. Money talks loudly!

What will happen to the White House of the Confederacy (located next door to Museum)? According to the article it will continue to tell the story of Jefferson Davis and his family during the War, but I wonder how many people will come to visit once the Museum moves. I suppose only time and circumstances will tell.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

First White House Quilt Visits Quilts in Birmingham

September 10, 2014,  I was privileged to visit the Birmingham Museum of Art with Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff, Montgomery author and quilt expert, and Ryan Blocker, Textile Curator at the Alabama Department of Archives. We were guests of Graham Boettcher, Ph.D., the William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and two of his colleagues.
We took our baby quilt and they brought out their two quilts, one a gunboat quilt and one a baby quilt.. Our gunboat quilt is in a traveling exhibit as longtime readers of this blog know, but it was good to see three of the four quilts together and notice their similarities.

It was also fascinating to think that after so many years, the three quilts were reunited for a brief time. I wrote an article for the Alabama Heritage Magazine,  Summer  2014 issue, on the conservation of our two quilts. It is titled "The Tale of Two Quilts: A Sesquicentennial Project".

I hope you will all make plans to visit the First White House of the Confederacy and see our  baby quilt as well as all the other treasures we have in our wonderful House Museum!



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jefferson Davis Book

I received notice that the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia is inviting nominations for an annual competition to honor historical research and writing on life in the Confederate States during the Civil War.

If anyone is interested one can go to the website Should be of interest to some of you "wanna be" writers.

The Movie, 'Gone With the Wind" Turns 75 Years Old

I saw in the Montgomery Advertiser today, September 21, 2014 that the movie version of "Gone With the Wind" is celebrating its 75th Anniversary December 15th in Atlanta, Georgia. Bryan Alexander writes "For its 75th anniversary, the film will see screenings in more than 650 theatres nationwide on Sept. 28 and Oct 1..."

I have a DVD copy, do you? I will watch it to celebrate, but just for fun, I may head for the movie theatre nearby. There is nothing like the big screen.  As soon as I saw the caption in the paper today I automatically began humming the theme song. Bet you can't watch it without shedding a tear or two.

Of course the movie is based on the novel by the same name by Margaret Mitchell. I have blogged about GWTW many times as it is one of my favorites. The Advertiser article said it is the box office gold standard by which all other movies have not been able to top. It won 10 academy awards.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Happenings at the First White House of Confederacy

The First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, the home of Jefferson Davis and his family in the spring of 1861, was built in 1832, making it 182 years old. Like any "old lady" she is very high maintenance.

Fortunately for all, the State of Alabama was given the building by the White House Association of Alabama, formed in 1900 to "save" the House, which had become greatly endangered as commercial property had encroached upon it in its location near the river in downtown Montgomery.

In 1921 the Association had raised the necessary funds along with a grant by a "benevolent" Governor and the House was purchased, moved, restored and reopened on Jefferson Davis's birthday, June 3, 1921 and given to the people of Alabama. Acts of the Alabama State Legislature ensured that the building would be properly maintained, and that the Association would continue to take care of the Relics in the House.

So an update: In 2009 the House was painted on the outside. At that time the yard was landscaped and a sprinkler system for the new grass installed. In 2013 the House was pressure washed, in order to enhance the Paint job. This Spring, the flat roof on the back of the House was re-roofed, and at present, the inside ceiling in the President's Study is being repaired. Doing this has meant moving all furniture, mirror, chandelier and everything out of the room, into other rooms and the back Hall.

When this work is completed it is hoped that the ceilings upstairs in several of the rooms will be re-plastered as this is badly needed. Again, our thanks  to Mr. Wayne Hoyt, Director of Capitol Services, and to Mr. Sean Cassidy, Director of the Division of Services for the State for their untiring and generous assistance. We are deeply indebted to them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Confederate Gold - What Became of it?

I am sure there are mysteries surrounding every War, but the disappearance of the Confederate Treasury is a most interesting conundrum. Maybe some of you blog readers have your own theories about what happened to it, and I would love your comments. Lets go for the gold!

It seems the bulk of the Confederate funds traveled with Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the last days of the War when he left Richmond for Georgia. One account I read said almost all the assets were dispersed to pay soldiers returning home. Whether that is true or not, we know Davis was captured in Irvinville, Georgia, so where was the rest of the money?

The Brantley County Historical and Preservation Society in Nahunta, Georgia has published an interesting article "Whatever Happened to Confederate Gold?". In this article the case is made that Sylvester Mumford of Waynesville, Georgia was the recipient of much of the gold after Davis's capture. The article mentions a book by Martha Mizell Puckett entitled "White Sands" in which she tells the following tale about Davis's last cabinet meeting in the home of Robert Tooms in Washington, Georgia. "All the Gold of the Confederacy was divided among the members of the meeting, and each one would fend for himself and would use the money as he felt it should be used". Mumford was at that meeting.

After the War Mumford built an industrial home for orphans and also gave a great deal of help to the Presbyterian home for orphans at Clinton, SC.. We know for sure a lot of money passed through his hands. His daughter too, later invested and reaped well, and it is reported in the article that her personal lawyer was asked by her about what she should do with the "remainder of the Confederate Gold".

Again, tell me what you think? My good friend and historian Richard has already told me he thought the money went with Judah Benjamin. There is a good case for that for sure!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

American Civil War Spawns National Cemeteries and Parks

In my last blog I mentioned Stephen Goldfarb's interesting article "The Scourge of War" in the Spring issue of American Heritages Magazine. Goldfarb discusses two book, one of which I mentioned previously. Today I want to mention the second, "War Upon the Land" by Lisa M. Brady.

According to Goldfarb, Brady seems to think one reason for the defeat of the South was as follows:  "It required not just the defeat of the armies and the subjugation of the civilian population, but also the conquest of the Southern countryside." A case in point:  Northern armies modified the landscape in the Mississippi Valley by cutting a canal to bypass a fortified stronghold.

This was so successful, they tried it again around Vicksburg, but the waters of the Mississippi made it impossible to construct a workable canal there, and the Federals had to resort to the traditional way of taking the city by siege.

. During the campaign against Vicksburg however, Grant revived the "chevauchee", the process of living on the resources of the land rather than supplies provided by the troops. This was applied successfully there and later in the Shenandoah Valley under Federal General Sheridan and most successfully in Georgia and South Carolina under Northern General William T. Sherman.

Brady, according to Goldfarb, makes the case for the War causing two important results: the establishment of National Cemeteries  for the fallen Union soldiers, and in the 1880s the establishment of National Parks. Goldfarb says, "The idea that the government was responsible for not only the burial of the dead, but also for preserving at least some of the fields of battle, was a new idea at the time, and one that has endured up to the present".

Friday, July 11, 2014

Destruction During the War Between the States

In the Spring 2014 issue of American Heritage magazine is an article by Stephen Goldfarb, "The Scourge of War" in which he cites two new books, one called "Ruin Nation - Destruction and the American Civil War" by Megan Kate Nelson.

The second is "War Upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscape during the American Civil War" by Lisa M. Brady. Both books were published in 2012 by the University Press of Georgia.

Goldfarb, in his review, says that Nelson in her book discuses four kinds of "ruination": the impact of war on cities, houses, forests and soldiers. She discusses three cities that were razed during the Civil War. We know there were others including Atlanta and Selma, but she writes about Hampton, Virginia, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Columbia, South Carolina, citing an interesting fact about each.

Hampton was burned by Confederates to prevent the occupation of Federal Troops. Nelson says 500 buildings were destroyed including the oldest church in the United States at the time. Chambersburg was the only northern city burned by Confederate troops. This she said, was in retaliation for the "depredations committed by Sheridan's troops in the Shenandoah Valley".

Columbia presents a conundrum - both sides blame the other for its burning, even long after Columbia had been rebuilt. Nelson also writes about the denuding of trees, partially due to firepower, but also because of the use of wood by the "hundreds of thousands of soldiers who spent years living in the southern countryside."

And as Nelson pointed out, the trees grew back within a generation, but the human wounds (and loss of life) did not heal so easily. Nearly 45,000 soldiers were left with amputated arms and legs. Such a sad commentary on a war that, had cooler heads prevailed,  should never have been fought.

I will write about Lisa Brady's book tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Upcoming Tour of Jefferson Davis Sites

Bertram Hayes-Davis, a good friend of the First White House of the Confederacy, who is the great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis, and his lovely wife Carol, are leading an exclusive tour of Jefferson Davis sites along the Mississippi River aboard the American Queen Steamboat, December 12-20, 2014.

The trip begins in New Orleans with a tour of Davis sites in the Crescent City before boarding. The Boat will stop first at St. Francisville, La. with a visit to Rosemont Plantation, Jefferson Davis's boyhood home, and Locust Grove cemetery, the grave of his first wife.

Next will be Natchez, which will offer a visit to the Briars, where Jefferson and Varina married
After Natchez, will be Vicksburg, and this includes an opportunity to participate in both Davis and Ulysses S. Grant events. There will be a seminar in the Old Courthouse Museum and a reception at Anchuca, one of the most significant antebellum homes in the South.

Baton Rouge will feature a talk by Jefferson Davis biographer, William Cooper and a presentation from the Papers of Jefferson Davis, LSU Press with a reception at the Capitol State Museum

Other venues will be Plantation Road and Oak Alley, Louisiana's magnificent plantation homes. Won't that be a fun way to experience Christmas?

There is a limited availability of only 50 cabins, making this an intimate and historic experience, so if you want to go, sign up now. The trip will support the efforts of the Beauvoir Foundation. For more information contact or email

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jefferson Davis in Montreal

We recently had guests visiting the First White House of the Confederacy from Montreal, Canada who were surprised to find out that Jefferson Davis had spent time in Canada after the War. When they returned home they sent an interesting email as follows:

"...You (our Docent, Henry Howard),  told about Davis's stay in Montreal and about his commemorative plaque at Philips Square. Since we live in the Montreal area, we promised you a picture of it" (which they sent)

They went on to say, "The text on the plaque is in French and translates as follows: 'In memory of Jefferson Davis President of the Confederate States who stayed in 1867 in the home of John Levell then situated at the present location. Plaque erected in 1957 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy Society.' "
Phillips Square is a well-known landmark in downtown Montreal. Don't you wish you knew more about Davis's stay in Canada? One thing we do know is that he sold or swapped his fine pocket watch for a pair of boots while there.

Our friends, the Berrys,  own the watch and were generous to lend it to the First White House for several years. Does anyone else out there know about the Canada years? We would like to hear more.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

"Mr. Davis's Richmond" A Recent Gift to the First White House,

 Conway B. Moncure, good friend and Docent at the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia has recently sent a book to the First White House of the Confederacy called  Mr. Davis's Richmond, by Stanley Kimmel , published by Branhall House, 1958.

 The foreword tells us, " This is the story of the Confederate Capital during the War Between the States, as reported by its local press from day to day."

It explains further "The book does not attempt to detail history but completes the coverage of events in the capitals of the North and South from 1861 to 1865."

In addition to being a fascinating account of the War, there are many photos, of buildings in Richmond, of battles, as well as portraits of people, some famous, some not. There are some cartoons too, many of which appeared in Harper's Weekly.

Of course as always when reading an account of the War, things went much better for Jefferson Davis and the Confederates in the first two years of the war, and from bad to worse for the remainder. Some of the saddest pictures were those of Richmond after fire had torn through the city, during the fall of the Capital to the Federals.

 The story ends as follows: "In Richmond, as the flames cast their last weird shadows into the sky, the people began to speculate about their future. They gazed in silent bewilderment at the skeleton outlines of buildings, and the ashes of their city-the once-proud City of the Seven Hills. The sight, to them, symbolized a past that never would return. The South had fought for a way of life unknown in the North. The great majority of her people wanted to keep that way of life. Now they knew that the ghost of what had been would follow them throughout their lives, perhaps remain for other generations to face and try to fathom. Now they knew there was nothing more for them but an empty tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and..."

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Winter Building in downtown Montgomery

A  June 22, 2014 article in the Montgomery Advertiser caught my attention. It was titled "Future should be bright for Winter Building," by Karen Pell and Carole King. I think all serious Civil War buffs know that the telegram that started the War was sent from the telegraph office located in the Winter Building in downtown Montgomery. It is located directly across from where the Exchange Hotel stood,  by the artesian well, now know as Court Square, in the center of downtown Montgomery.

The article was part III in a series about the Winter building. In it Karen and Carole described some the events and changes that 170 year old building had witnessed. Not only did Jefferson Davis and the Montgomery True Blues (the Home Militia) pass by it on their way to the Capitol for the Inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America, but other soldiers in other wars also made their way by the Winter Building.

The old building also witnessed the first city-wide electric trolley system in America. And the old building witnessed drastic social change, as Rosa Parks waited  for her bus across the street at Court Square. The famous Montgomery bus boycott followed in December, 1955, when, as Karen described it, "empty buses rattled by the Winter Building."

Later, March 25, 1965 the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Voting Rights March up Dexter Avenue to the Capitol. Karen said, "The Winter Building stood as witness; it still stands to remind us all about change".

It looks like as downtown Montgomery is changed, the Winter building will also get a new life as it is slated to become "Hotel Dexter." That should bode good things for the future of the old building. On a personal note, I passed by there many times with the Lanier High School marching band, as I was a majorette and we always marched up Dexter Avenue before our homecoming games and other times as well. GO POETS!!! (Yes, we were the Sidney Lanier High School Poets.)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Questions and Answers About Jefferson Davis

In the Rice University Papers of Jefferson Davis are some Frequently Asked Questions about Jefferson Davis. One of the first questions asked  was a simple one: When was he born? It is actually unclear as to whether it was 1807 or 1808. Davis said he was not competent to witness as to which. He first supposed it was 1807 but was corrected and told it was 1808, so he decided to "go with that".

The next question was about his middle name. Sometimes an F was included and other times not. Hudson Strode claimed he was given the middle name "Finis" because it seemed unlikely his mother would be having any more children.

The third question was about the case of the United States v. Jefferson Davis, which seemed to be a very complex matter with enough changes of the political wind to fill a book. Major players were Chief Justice Samuel Chase, President Andrew Johnson, Horace Greeley and the Justice Department . Suffice it to say, the charges dragged on for years but the bottom line is the case never went to trial and the indictments were dismissed.

Davis's citizenship was not restored until President Jimmy Carter did so.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Article in Montgomery Advertiser About Quilt Exhibit

In yesterday's (June 28, 2014) Montgomery Advertiser an Associated Press article by Katherine Roth was in the "My Life" section, titled "Textiles convey complexity of the Civil War".

The article described what I blogged about on June 17 - the exhibit at the New York Historical Society on textiles, "Homefront and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War", organized by the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts.

If you would like to read the article, click on this link: 

The article mentions our Gunboat Quilt, although it does not credit the First White House of the Confederacy. It is really nice to know our Gunboat Quilt is being seen by hundreds of people across America. It was first exhibited in the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts (June 30, 2012 – Nov. 25, 2012). Currently it is showing at the New York Historical Society (April 4 – Aug 31, 2014.) Then it goes to the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont (Sept 20, 2014 – Jan 1, 2015), and lastly will show at the Great Plains Art Museum on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Feb 1, 2015 – June 1, 2015).  Another big plus is that our quilt was conserved while it was there waiting to be shown!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our Confederate Gunboat Quilt in New York

As many know our Gunboat Quilt has been in a traveling exhibit since 2011 called "Homefront and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War", organized by the American  Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. The exhibit is on view in the New York Historical Society in New York City through August 24th.

There is an Associated Press article about the exhibit June 17 in the Washington Post. In addition to quilts, the exhibit includes clothing, uniforms and other Civil War-era textiles, but the article points out that "the quilts are what steals the show".  

I am so proud of our wonderful quilt and so happy that it is being shared with scores of people throughout the Eastern seaboard. It has a story to tell, that of the brave women of the Confederacy who did their part to aid in the cause in which they believed.

Here is the link if you would like to read the article and see our quilt! Click below.

Washington Post

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Tragic Death of Joseph Davis, Five Year Old Son of President

Our friend and tour guide from the Second White House in Richmond, Conway Moncure was in Montgomery recently, and we discussed the tragic loss of Jefferson Davis's son, Joseph, who died from a fall outside the Presidential Mansion in Richmond in 1864.

As a follow-up to our conversation Conway sent me an April 30th, 2014 article from the Richmond newspaper titled "The Civil War 150th", from the pages of the Daily Dispatch on today's date in 1864.

  The article was titled " Fatal Accident - A son of President Davis killed by a fall" and reads: "about five o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, April 30, Joseph E. Davis, who had been playing about the yard earlier was missed, and in a short time he was found lying in an insensible condition on the brick area below the east portico of the residence, with his left thigh broken and a severe contusion on his forehead."

 The article goes on "The exact cause of the unfortunate accident is not known, but as there was a step-ladder leading from the area in the yard to the porch above, a distance of from fifteen to twenty feet, it is conjectured that he was standing near its top, and losing his balance, fell over into the yard below." Funeral Services were held on May 1 from St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

The Rice University Papers of Jefferson Davis report that Joe was an exceptionally bright child, who was named after Jefferson Davis's brother Joseph, even though Varina protested, as she "deeply resented Joseph Davis". Rumors persisted that the child was pushed by his older brother Jeff Jr., but there is no evidence to support this story. Little Joe was buried in Hollywood Cemetery "where the rest of his family would eventually be interred."

This was just another terrible tragedy in the life of Jefferson Davis, whose four sons preceded him in death as well as his first wife after only three months of marriage.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jefferson Davis's Birthday at First White House Confederacy

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 marked Jefferson Davis's 206th birthday at the First White House of the Confederacy.  A good crowd attended the 11:00 am speech and celebration honoring the first and only President of the Confederate States of America. As most readers know, the First White House in Montgomery was the executive residence of President Davis and family while the capital of the Confederacy was in Montgomery, Alabama.

David Tyrone Crowley of Prattville, Alabama was the speaker for the commemoration. Mr. Crowley is a retired Professor of Language from Prattville, Alabama. who spent the last twenty years with the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, where he served as instructor and course director at the Foreign Officers School. His wife Carol was in the audience.

Mr.. Crowley spoke first to the children present, telling them the story of Jim Limber, an African American child who was being abused by his caretaker.  Mrs. Davis, upon seeing this, took him home with her to live with them as one of their "adopted" sons.

This brief talk was followed by heartfelt remarks about the President. Crowley said that Jefferson Davis could have had his civil rights restored but he refused to repent, because he thought the South was in the right. Davis said if he had it all to do over, he would have done the same thing again, saying,  "he would never call the Civil War a 'lost cause' ".

Dressed in period dress, Crowley read from comments Davis made to a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature in Jackson, Miss. on March 10, 1884. Davis died in 1889. It was a most fitting way to commemorate the  anniversary of the birth of this great Confederate leader who was born in 1808.

 Mr. Crowley had the honor of portraying Jefferson Davis at the reenactment of Davis's Inauguration  in Montgomery on February 19, 2011, after having done a dress rehearsal at the First White House the day before.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day, 2014

As we pause to give thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of this great nation, I want to pay tribute to our military and to their families. How blessed this country is, that we have been spared much of what the rest of the world has undergone, because of the wisdom of our founding fathers and by the grace of Almighty God.

Even though the War Between the States was such a divisive and traumatic event, which caused over 620,000 American lives, the eventual outcome was that both north and south were able to come back together as one nation once again, and be stronger because of our trials. This has not happened in many countries around the world, where often there is still  bitter enmity between people groups, tribes, or nations.

A "Service of Remembrance for our nation's fallen in all Wars" was held at Trinity Presbyterian Church last evening. It was meaningful and reverential; wreaths were laid and patriotic music was sung and performed; a sermon was delivered by Chaplain Paul B. Joyner titled "A Sacrifice for Freedom" based on John 8:31-36.

The Service ended with the anthem "Mansions of the Lord" by Nick Glennie-Smith/Randall Wallace. It was beautifully sung by the Trinity Men's Quartet, and the words are worth repeating on a day such as today:

 "To fallen soldiers let us sing, Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,
 Our broken brothers let us bring To the Mansions of the Lord.

No more bleeding, no more fight, No prayers pleading through the night,
Just divine embrace, eternal light In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where no mothers cry and no children weep, We will stand and guard though the angels sleep,
All through the ages safely keep The Mansions of the Lord."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The "Big Bang" in the Civil War

I eagerly await the monthly United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine as it is always edifying about the War Between the States, of which, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I am a dedicated aficionado. I don't know a lot but I learn, as you do, by reading!

The March 2014 edition of said magazine has an article by Suanne Townsend titled "The Crater and Major General William Mahone". It is about an incident during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia,  The siege began in June of 1864, ended in July, and led to what is know as the Battle of the Crater.

A Union Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, had the idea to build a tunnel beneath the Confederate trenches at Petersburg. This he filled with gunpowder, and set on fire. The tunnel exploded, just as expected and it was "the most awesome spectacle of the War". The explosion left 300 Confederates dead or maimed and created a huge hole.

The Confederates panicked but regrouped with the arrival of Major General William Mahone, who ordered them to circle the top of the crater and shoot the Union soldiers who were trapped below. Ms. Townsend said "Grant described the attack as a 'stupendous failure.' Major General Burnside was relieved of his command".

General Mahone was promoted to Major General by Robert E. Lee, and Ms. Townsend writes: "he (Mahone) was placed in command of a Division, which led until the surrender at Appomattox.

I have been to Petersburg and think I re member seeing a plaque marking the spot. Would like to go back and relive the experience now that I have read the story.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The House in which Jeff Davis Lived

There is always something going on at the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery. Currently, in addition to something like six tours of school children daily, we are very excited that the flat roof on the back of the First White House has been taken off and a new one in the process of being installed. This roof is directly over the President's Study, so the furniture has been moved to the back of the room as a precaution, plus the chandelier and big mirror taken down temporarily, just in case plaster begins to fall during the work.

As soon as the outside roof project is complete and passes inspection, they will begin repairing the inside ceiling in the Study. This has been on the drawing board for some time and will be a big improvement as well. We are extremely grateful to Mr. Wayne Hoyt, Mr. Ken Bishop and Mr. Sean Cassidy, with the State of Alabama, for bringing this about.

After all, as my predecessor, Mrs. Cameron Freeman Napier use to say, "an old house is never finished". This grand old house is about 182 years old, but in great condition and has never looked better, again, thanks to the State of Alabama. How fortunate we are to have them taking care of it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Jefferson Davis Birthday Celebration Coming Up

 June 3rd  will be the 206th birthday commemoration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis' birth, and we will celebrate it as usual at the First White House with a brief speech by Tyrone Crowley of Prattville, Alabama at 11:00. Birthday cake will be served as usual following the event.

Mr. Crowley is a member of the Prattville Dragoons Camp, Sons of the Confederate Veterans. I know we will be in for a treat as he played the part of Jefferson Davis in the re-enactment of the Inauguration of Davis, on February 19, 2009 commemorating the February 18, 1861 swearing in of the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

The public is invited and we hope many of you will attend. For more information call the First White House at 334-242-1861.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Civil War to Civil Rights, Boost to Montgomery

 Montgomery, Alabama has been named the Best Historic City in the United States according to an online poll by travel website 10Best sponsored by USA Today, and reported Thursday, May 1, 2014, in the Montgomery Advertiser.

The Advertiser reported "The city beat out 19 other cities, including heavy historical hitters Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans after 28 days of voting". I think all knowledgeable history buffs will agree, as the article points out that Montgomery was in on the beginning of two of the most important events in American history, the Civil War (better known by us as the War Between the States, or simply "the Wah", and the Civil Rights movement, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

 City historian Mary Ann Neeley was quoted as saying "The order to fire the shot that started the Civil War was sent from Montgomery, and nearly 100 years later Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat (on the bus), triggering the world-changing Montgomery Bus Boycott".

Meg Lewis, Director of tourism and special projects for the Chamber of Commerce said the conflict the city has seen is one of the reasons people are drawn to it. "People want to see where this city is now and what can be learned from the lessons we have learned...when they visit...they understand it is possible to move forward in a positive way."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 2014

Today the Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery, Alabama held its annual commemoration of Confederate Memorial Day in Oakwood Cemetery. The Association was formed in 1866 and has held an observance every year since, each April 26th during which the Confederate dead are remembered by flags, speeches and the laying of the wreath. It is complete with color guard, bag pipes, gun salute and Taps played.

Confederate Memorial Day is celebrated as a State holiday in many Southern States, including Alabama. State  offices will be closed on Monday, April 28th this year since the 26th is a  Saturday. The First White House of the Confederacy will remain open as it will be a day when many visitors will come.

Columbus, Georgia claims that the first Memorial Day was begun there, but it is funny that I was in Columbus, Mississippi this week and they too claim to be the first! Which really was? I have no idea.

The Rev. Donald West spoke to the John B. Gordon Chapter 383, United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter recently, and is quoted as saying: "Something about this observance resonates deeply within us, and speaks to our better natures about duty, responsibility, accountability, reverence, devotion and challenges us to be better than we are. We understand there are still some basic standards and beliefs that strengthen us as a people".


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Georgia Women Suffering During the Confederacy

In the February 2014 issue of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine is an article by Carolyn Golden Wilson titled Georgia's Confederate Women.
I had not really thought too much about the suffering experienced by the women of the Confederacy, whose husbands had left to fight, but this article tells about how so many, especially in Atlanta, had to flee their homes and even live in the woods to escape Sherman's men.

Ms. Wilson writes: "for weeks after an invasion, Georgia women described their physical and mental exhaustion, anxiety, sleep disturbances and nightmares, depression and rage against the Yankee invaders. They also had to deal with the emotional turmoil of the children". She points out that these women also had a great fear of unwanted pregnancies as death in childbirth was so prevalent, and there were no doctors nearby.

The author underscoring their suffering but also their will to survive, tells of one woman, Rebecca Latimer Felton, who lost all five of her sons during the war. Mrs. Felton became a refugee, losing her large plantation, but years later, in 1922 she would become the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Ms. Golden ends the article saying "The heroism of Georgia's Confederate Women has rarely been equaled by the women of any country. Numerous memorials have been built to Georgia's Confederate women, and no women in history deserved them more."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Confederate Soldiers Buried In Montgomery Oakwood Cemetery

Oakwood is a very large and historic cemetery in Montgomery which began by donations of land from Andrew Dexter and General John Scott, founders of the city of Montgomery. The early part of the graveyard was known as Scott's Free Burying ground. It now has an older part, which is all filled up, and a newer part including a Roman Catholic part.

Among the Confederate soldiers buried there are Brig. Generals James Holt Clanton, Samuel Dale, Brickett Davenport Fry, James Thadeus Holtzclaw and Tennent Lomax. I could and probably will write about each of them and their exploits.

William Calvin Oates Confederate Colonel of the 15th Alabama Infantry and later Governor of Alabama is buried in Oakwood.
Oates' regiment led one of the charges at Little Round Top  during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. His brother Lt. John  Oates was killed during the firing. I have seen the spot where  John Oates was thought to have died.

Another famous Alabamian William Lowndes Yancey is buried in "old Oakwood". He was considered one of the "firebrands", the men who wanted secession and convinced other Southerners to secede. He was a delegate to the Alabama Secession Convention in 1861 and served as a Senator from Alabama in the Confederate Congress from 1862 to 1863.

Varina Howell Davis's father, William Burr Howell is buried in Oakwood. I have seen his grave.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Correspondence of Two Confederate Soldiers, the Searcy Brothers

  In the Winter 1994 Alabama Heritage Magazine, my attention was caught by an article titled "When Shall Our Cup Be Full - The Correspondence of Confederate Soldiers James T. and Reuben M. Searcy"  by Maxwell Elebash.

The story of the Searcy brothers, like many other young men during the War Between the States, is revealed in their wartime correspondence with each other and to family members in their hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Author Elebash, the great-great nephew of these men, was the great-grandson of their younger brother George Alexander Searcy.  Elebash writes: "more than 150 letters from James and 33 from Reuben survive. From this correspondence, a moving tale unfolds, one similar to countless others in the South, but unique in that the Searcy brothers were literate individuals as well as astute observers of the people and events around them."

Shortly before the December 28, 1862 battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee,  James Searcy wrote: "We are on the eve of a big battle...Orders have already come - I go into battle with a full hope and trust and confidence in God - both as regards my own welfare - and that of my country. I feel more for Reuben than for myself - God go with us."

James survived the battle but his younger brother Reuben was mortally wounded. On January 7, Reuben died. His brother James was with him when he passed from this world to the next. James wrote "He (Reuben) died for his country. He died not fearing - but welcoming death, as a Christian, and was attended in his sufferings a great deal better than most soldiers are, receiving a decent burial."

After the war, James became a doctor and in 1867 succeeded his father as president of the Alabama Insane Hospital. He named his eldest son Reuben.


Friday, March 28, 2014

150 Anniversary of Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay

The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay, and the Siege of Fort Morgan will be commemorated on August 1-3rd, 2014. This should be an spectacular three-day event. Re-enactors from all parts of the United States will participate.

The Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864, pitted the Federal Fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut (of "Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead" fame) against a lesser known  Confederate  Admiral Franklin Buchanan, and his much smaller fleet of ships.

The USS Tecumseh, an ironclad, sank during the battle. The ship still rests upside down northwest of Fort Morgan. I remember exploring the Fort as a child. I had no idea at that time of its strategic significance during the War. 

The Confederate fleet was quickly dismantled except for the CSS Tennessee, which bravely engaged the entire Union fleet alone. She was eventually incapacitated and her captain had no choice but to surrender. With no Navy left, the three forts surrendered within days and complete control of the lower Mobile Bay went to the Union forces.

This Union victory, along with the downfall of Atlanta, gave a huge boost for Abraham Lincoln's re-election.

We hope you will make your plans to attend this extraordinary commemoration event.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Army of Tenessee in Civil War Battles,1864 - 150 years ago

During the winter of 1864 the Confederate Army of Tennessee had a bull's-eye on its back when Union Major General William T. Sherman was given orders to destroy it, and to capture Atlanta as his secondary objective.

Confederate General Joseph Johnston took up several defensive positions against Sherman near Atlanta. This invoked the impatience of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who replaced Johnston, whom Davis had never liked, with John B. Hood.

Hood launched several attacks on Sherman but each failed. The Confederates were forced to abandon Atlanta and Hood and his troops retreated to Alabama.

Sherman decided to give up his pursuit of Hood and instead launched his March to the Sea. Hood headed north into Tennessee. Hood tried to trap part of the Union army under John M. Schofield near Columbia, Tennessee but failed; he then tried to beat the Union Army to Nashville, but Schofield, detecting Hood's march, ordered a retreat back to Nashville before Hood could get there. Hood caught up with Schofield at Franklin and ordered an immediate frontal assault.  Ignoring the advice of his subordinates to avoid a head-on attack, the results were disastrous. Hood  lost a quarter of his strength, including six generals killed or mortally wounded, another six wounded, and one captured at the Battle of Franklin.

Hood foolishly continued toward Nashville but again he was forced to retreat. Finally Hood was forced to abandon his efforts to capture Nashville and  retreated to Corinth, and then further to Tupelo. All this happened in 1864, 150 years ago this year. Things seemed to be rapidly unraveling for the Confederates. I think I say that every time I write about a battle in the 1863-64 time frame.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

News About National Geographic geotourism mapguide

Yesterday I attended a meeting about the new National Geographic Gulf Coast States new Geotourism Map Guide. 341 Alabama places are listed on this new interactive website at

Lee Sentell, State Tourism Director said "Partnering with National Geographic gives us a new way to bring attention to many of our unique destinations."

Right now, the First White House of the Confederacy is signed up under the category of "Battlefields, Civil Rights, Historic Home and Gardens. Well, we are an "historic home" but perhaps the Museum  category will fit us better. We need to work on that!

I do think us being on this site has good possibilities for the future. An interesting factoid was presented at the meeting - The more pictures and videos one has on their website, the better. Obviously, people would rather look than read. Like it or not, its the way of the world today. Do check out the website shown above.

Monday, March 24, 2014

April 12, 1865 Civil War Event in Montgomery

On April 11, 1865  Federal troops known as "Wilson's Raiders" came to Montgomery. The city fathers, having no way to defend the city, agreed surrender.

The next day, April 12, the order of Union General James H. Wilson, placing Montgomery under martial law, was read from the front portico of what is now known as the Teague House. Federal troops made their headquarters there as well.

The Teague House, built in 1848, is now the home of the Alabama Historical Commission. I hope there will be a commemoration of the sesquicentennial of this historic event on April 12, 2015.

I might add that Wilson was much less hospitable in Tuscaloosa where he burned most of the buildings at the University of Alabama, and in Selma, where he won the Battle of Selma, and in the process, many houses and buildings in that town burned also.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Annual Civil War Lectures to be Held at Univ AL

On April 5th, 2014 the 18th annual John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders Lecture Series will be held at the University of Alabama, with several speakers giving lectures on the War, Confederate soldiers and the Confederacy. It promises to be a stimulating and informative event.

John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders, for whom the Series is named, left the University of Alabama campus in 1861 to join the Confederate Guards. The Guards became part of the 11th Regiment Alabama Volunteer Infantry at Lynchburg, VA, and remained as part of the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the War.

On August 21, 1864, Sanders, in command of Wilcox's Old Brigade, died at age 24, fighting to save the Weldon Railroad near Petersburg, Va. Calhoun was known as one of the Confederacy's three famous "Boy Generals".

I feel an affinity to Calhoun, as my own paternal Great-Grandfather, Robert F. Henry, was a cadet at the University of Alabama when the war began, and he too left to fight. He was awarded his diploma after the war, nunc pro tunc. (Latin meaning now for then). My father was named for him, and the name has now passed down to my great nephew (Henry the Fourth)!!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Long-Case Clock, Circa 1840 in First White House of Confederacy

A mahogany Long-Case Clock, Circa 1840, is in our Collection in the First White House. It stands proudly toward the back of the front hall on the right as you go toward the back hall.  It was made by John Hagey, 1799-1885, a third generation American clockmaker from Germantown, Pennsylvania.

The face of the clock is richly painted on a white background, with stylized shells at the corners. It has 8-day brass works, with phases of the moon. It is representative of the French Restoration style of cabinetmaking which was in favor around 1840.

It is 93: tall and 20-1/2" wide at the upper case. It gives us a very comforting presence with its grand height. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interesting Artifacts in First Confederate White House

Yesterday I mentioned our moving items out of the President's Study in the First White House. In so doing, I was struck by the many small artifacts we have in this room.

One unusual "dust able" is a Victorian arrangement of three large stuffed birds under glass, arranged in a naturalistic wooded setting. The arrangement is covered by an oblong glass dome on a black lacquer base. These must have been very popular back in the day!

Next on a mahogany pedestal is a brass candelabrum with five branches, which holds six candles and has many spear-type prisms.  Nearby, on the mantle are a pair of porcelain bases, one painted with a windmill scene and one a farm scene. Cast iron andirons and an iron, steel and brass fender adorn the fireplace.

On Jefferson Davis's desk is an 1848 Webster's Dictionary owned by President Davis. Also on the desk is a bust of the President by Alexander Galt. It is one of the best-known images of Jefferson Davis, done twenty seven years after his death.

A handsome 19-th century French lift-top Tantalus is on the center table. It's cabinet is finished in black lacquer and it holds four fine glass decanters and thirteen small gilt-decorated wine glasses, (except one is broken). Little cabinets like this were used for liquor storage and could be locked and kept out of reach. The name "Tantalus" refers to their "tantalizing" potential consumers because of their inaccessibility!

The glasses were washed by White House ladies today, and the cabinet dusted and polished. It looks way better now!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First White House of Confederacy Moving Day Approaches

Any day now we will be moving things in the President's Study because they are going to re-roof the flat roof above it. With all the banging around, we need to make sure our large ormolu gasolier is protected and the over mantle gilt mirror, as well as the large pieces of furniture, just in case some plaster from the ceiling might fall.

The "library committee" is meeting at the "Jefferson Davis House," as it is sometimes called,  tomorrow to pack up the books and other items which must be protected. It is an exciting time for us, although I hate for things to be in disarray, but we have no choice about that. We really need that roof fixed, as you can imagine if you have a home that is suspect to water leaks (eek). I would almost rather see a mouse than a water spot on the ceiling.

We will keep you posted on our progress. It is turning out to be an interesting project with lots of small challenges.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wood Engravings at the First Whiet House

In our upstairs hall are 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 came from periodicals of the period. The size is approximately 9: x 10-1/2".

 The scenes are: First, a view of Market Street (now Dexter Avenue) with the True Blues marching. The True Blues were the Montgomery Home Guard.

The second is a view of the Exchange Hotel in Montgomery with Jefferson Davis addressing the public from the balcony, presumably on the evening of February 16 when he arrived in Montgomery.

The third is 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, in the President's Study.

The fourth is a view of the Alabama State Capitol on the day of Secession. One can almost hear the clamor and excitement when viewing the scene.

There is also a lithograph of the Inauguration of President Davis in Montgomery, February 18, 1861, published in Baltimore 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 had been published contemporaneously.  The size of it is 21: x 28".

Won't you come and visit us at the First White House? We have lots more to share with you.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Carpet in the First White House of Confederacy

In our center and back hall is a fine modern Axminster woolen carpet, an expert reproduction of a nineteenth-century original in two shades of blue, deep mustard gold, and whites. These colors were chosen because they reminded us of the Confederate Uniforms grey and gold.

Our appraiser, Edward Pattillo said this: "axminster carpets were revolutionized in 1839 with the development of a special weaving process that could simulate the quality of hand-knotted carpets."

He says further "The quality of Axminster carpets has always been excellent, and they had a world-wide popularity in the Victorian era. This reproduction carpet is the correct and authentic treatment for the hallway of the First White House.

We invite you to visit. This pleasing carpet is the very first thing that catches your eye upon entry into the House.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Confederate Lore

A well-known and respected retired Judge and historian friend of mine and of the First White House of the Confederacy, made a talk recently. At my request he sent a copy of his speech. In it he mentioned a man of whom I had known nothing, Martin Phillips Parks. Parks was a senior at West Point when Robert E. Lee was a plebe.

The Judge writes: "Parks became a minister in 1828 and was Chaplain at West Point when Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was a cadet. Later, after the Mexican War Jackson was assigned to a position in New York City. Martin Parks became rector in the little St. Paul's Chapel , located near the Battery where Jackson was stationed. It is said that it was in that chapel that Stonewall Jackson received his first communion - from Martin Parks."

And now for the "rest of the story." The Judge writes, "St. Paul's Chapel, completed in 1766 is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. ...its rear is on Church street, directly across from the World Trade Center."

He goes on to say "This little church is the one that survived the collapse of the Twin Towers". Wow! What a story.  I have visited that little chapel as have many of you, with a big lump in my throat. Thank you Judge, for this information. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First White House Important Pieces

 I have blogged about several of the important pieces in the First White House of the Confederacy, but do not think I have mentioned the exceptionally rare Mahogany Box type sofa we have in our back hall.

 Our appraiser Edward Pattillo says this about the sofa: "This is without doubt the finest and largest sofa of this type to be recorded. It is richly veneered in the late-classical style of about 1835-45. The deep seat is upholstered in tufted claret velvet, and there are deep arms which terminate at front in massive hexagonal columns. The frame of the sofa is of ogee form, veneered with fine flame pattern veneers, ornamented with applied mahogany roundels."

Mr. Pattillo says even though the history of our sofa is unrecorded, there has been a persistent legend that it was part of the original furnishings of the 1846 Capitol of Alabama and was removed to the White House in the 20th century. If so, Mr. Pattillo says it may have been ordered for that building or it could have been made in the 1830's for the Capitol in Tuscaloosa and brought to Montgomery in 1846 when the Capitol was moved here.

 In The Magazine Antiques, May 2007 is a picture of a sofa that looks very much like ours. The sofa in the magazine was by Edwards and Baldwin and was part of a shipment made to the Louisiana plantation of Lewis Stirling. Edward and Baldwin were well known cabinetmakers in New York City from 1833 to 1857.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quilt Experts Visit Montgomery

 The Southeast Region Quilt Study Group visited Montgomery recently. As this group discovered, Montgomery offers decades of history, from Civil War to Civil Rights, to Hank Williams.

 Several of the group stopped by the First White House of the Confederacy to see our textiles. Our famous Gunboat quilt, recently conserved, is currently touring the country with a show from the prestigious American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. titled "Homefront and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War". At the moment our quilt is being shown at the New York Historical Society. It will be returned to the First White House in July of 2015. 

The Quilt Study Group was able to see our Baby Quilt, made by the same person as the Gunboat Quilt and also recently conserved. The difference in this quilt before restoration and after is absolutely amazing as it had been badly stained from extensive water damage. Much of the damage has been miraculously corrected.

It was almost dusk and the quilt is upstairs in the hall where there is very little light, but we procured flashlights for the ladies to use. Another quilt that caught their eye was a handsome 19th century American quilt in the Star of Texas pattern.  The Quilt aficionados were also quite taken with a rare antique American linen coverlet of deep blue and natural coloring, woven in geometric patterns. This piece is thought to have been hand-woven from flax on a plantation in North Carolina about 1815.

We enjoyed having these knowledgeable guests and hope they will return to visit us again when the Gunboat Quilt comes home or even before!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

he Death of Survivor of "Gone With the Wind"

  • 2014 has already seen the death of several notable people, including Shirley Temple, and actress Alicia Rhett, who had been one of the oldest surviving cast members of the classic film "Gone With The Wind". I have said many times how much I enjoy watching this iconic movie over and over, as well as reading and rereading the book. 
  • Miss Rhett played the role of India Wilkes, sister of plantation owner Ashley Wilkes, who was the foil of Scarlett O'Hara, played by Vivian Leigh.
      Miss Rhett did not pursue Hollywood and went back to South
      Carolina to live. In Charleston she led a quiet life. She never
      married. She was 98 years old when she  died.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Alabama Voices" Opening at Archives Next Door


The Alabama Department of Archives and History, next door neighbor to the First White House of the Confederacy will host a free grand opening for its new centerpiece exhibit, "Alabama Voices" this Saturday, February 15, 2014.
The Archives calls this a "Smithsonian-quality exhibition, which includes more than 800 artifacts, hundreds of images and more, which spotlights Alabama history from as early as the 1700s to the modern era of the 21st century."

I was privileged to view the new exhibit last week. It is truly stunning, and includes many audiovisual programs on the history of our great State, including the Civil War, industrialization, the rise of the cotton economy, the Civil Rights movement, World War I and II and much more.

The grand opening begins at 9:00 with music, food, art and the official ribbon cutting with Governor Robert Bentley. Congratulations to the Archives for this outstanding new addition to the Archives and History Museum.

Current Happenings at the Frist White House

 Lots of things have been happening at the First White House of the Confederacy. First, we had our evening with David Bridges, an ordained minister, author and Professor  talked about and then signed and sold his new book, "Broken Circle", As we had mentioned in previous blogs, the book was written  about his great-great uncle, Doctor James Breathed. At one battle, Dr. Major Breathed, who chose the cause of the Confederacy over medicine,   had four horses shot out from under him as he strove to save the cannon from the enemy.

Next came our annual Robert E. Lee birthday celebration with speaker Judge Mark Anderson. The Judge practiced law in Montgomery and was president of the Montgomery County Bar Association when he was appointed a Circuit Judge and served for eight years.  Mark has had a lifetime interest in history, particularly all things Confederate.

 Judge Anderson talked about the family of Robert E. Lee, and how he had to become the man of the house at an early age when his father deserted his family. It was a stirring message and I will share more about it in later blogs.

What else has been going on with us? The First White House has recently had a booklet reprinted to sell in our Gift Shop, titled "The Early Life of Jefferson Davis" by Walter L. Fleming.  Be sure and stop by and pick up a copy next time you are down our way. We are very excited about it. Stay warm and near the fire. Spring will be along soon!