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.