Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Civil War Unknowns Monument at Arlington National Cemetery

The first memorial constructed at Arlington national Cemetery was the Civil War Unknowns Monument which was meant as a tribute to Union soldiers.  Bodies of 2,111 dead soldiers were collected within a thirty five mile radius.  Most were full or partial remains discovered unburied and unidentifiable. An inscription on the west face of the memorial describes the number of dead in the vault below, “Beneath this stone repose the bones of two thousand one hundred and eleven unknown soldiers gathered after the war from the fields of Bull Run, and the route to the Rappahannock.  Their remains could not be identified, but their names and deaths are recorded in the archives of their country; and its grateful citizens honor them as of their noble army of martyrs. May they rest in peace! September. A. D. 1866.” This site was once a grove of trees near one of the estate’s flower gardens.

Originally, a Rodman gun was placed at each corner, and a pyramid of shot adorned the center of the lid.  By 1893, the memorial had been redesigned.  The plain walls had been embellished, and although the inscription had been retained, the lid was replaced by one modeled after the Ark of the Covenant.

Several hundred Confederate dead were buried at Arlington by the end of the war in April 1865. Some were prisoners of war who died in custody.  Some were executed spies.  Some, because of the inability to identify remains, were probably buried in the monument to the Union dead. 

General George S. Patton once said, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” Here are four stories about the history of the world IF wars we know about happened differently or IF wars that never happened actually took place.

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Confederates in Brazil

Dom Pedro II Emperor of Brazil

The under-populated Brazilian Empire saw an opportunity in the collapse of the Confederacy to develop its vast wilderness interior.  Emperor Dom Pedro II, encouraging the southern colonization societies that sprang up throughout the South after the war, offered to pay one third of the ships passage of all emigrants from any southern port to Rio de Janeiro.  The Brazilian government also agreed to sell land at modest prices in any locality desired by the colonists.

To some southerners the Brazilian offer seemed heaven sent.  It was a land where they could live with dignity.  The climate was mild and good for cotton.  Land and labor were cheap, and Brazil protected the institution of slavery (which was not abolished until 1888).  The people were easy going and receptive to strangers.  In a short time some of the emigrants had already become wealthy.  The Rev. Joshua Dunn, for example, had acquired one and a half million square acres of coastal land for rice and sugar cultivation and was instrumental in establishing three new navigation companies by 1867.

The man fated to make the most lasting contribution among the Confederates in Brazil was the indefatigable Colonel William Hutchinson Norris.  Norris, the image of a Biblical patriarch, with his great beard and flowering mane, set out for Brazil in 1866, at the age of 65.  A native Georgian, and former Alabama State Senator, Norris was not easily intimidated by either man or nature.  Settling in Sao Paulo state, Norris burned back the jungle, built his shelters, and set about introducing modern agricultural techniques to Brazil.  He soon turned a profit growing both cotton and watermelons.  Other Confederates emigrants, many of whom had tried earlier to establish themselves in other parts of Brazil and failed, soon learned of Norris’ good luck and moved to this region to join him.  The harder Norris worked the luckier he became.

Nine years after the arrival of William Norris a railroad was extended from the city of Sao Paulo to the area where the Confederates were living.  The place became officially known as Vila Americana.  Later it was incorporated as the city of Americana.  Today, Americana, a prosperous little city of eighty thousand, has only three hundred Confederate descendants who still have ties with the city.  Four times a year they celebrate a Protestant religious service, enjoy a picnic of southern fried chicken, pecan pie and cornbread.

General George S. Patton once said, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” Here are four stories about the history of the world IF wars we know about happened differently or IF wars that never happened actually took place.

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Confederates in Mexico

Matthew Fontaine Maury

In the summer of 1865 some southerners facing economic ruin, military occupation and possible imprisonment, decided to emigrate.  Commodore Matthew Maury, one of America’s greatest experts on oceanography before the war led hundreds of ex-Confederates into Mexico to put their services and experience at the disposal of the Emperor Maximilian.

Maximilian had come to the throne in 1863, under the guarantee of the Emperor Napoleon III of France, that the French army would remain in Mexico until an independent Mexican army could be trained and equipped. 

Maximilian was anxious to welcome honest and hard-working colonists from the devastated southern states, and offered the colonists fertile land, particularly suited to the cultivation of tobacco, at the nominal rate of one dollar an acre.  The Imperial Mexican government pledged itself to provide free transportation for those unable to pay their own fares and to exempt all immigrants from taxation for a period of ten years.  The new colony was called the “Carlota Colony”, in honor of the Empress.

Maury was appointed the first Imperial Immigration Commissioner, but his dreams of a new life in Mexico were no to be.  Soon the United States was trying to oust Maximilian.  The United States began providing massive amounts of arms to rebels hostile to Maximilian, while simultaneously threatening the French.  The French army withdrew.  The Imperial Mexican army was unable to fill the vacuum in the face of massive American pressure.  The Empire collapsed and the Emperor was executed on June 19, 1867.  Maury and his Confederate followers found themselves once again dispossessed.

The last death agonies of the Confederacy captured in pictures.

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

George C. Round and Manassas: Doing Small Things With Great Love

George C. Round

“We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”  Do small things matter?  The life and career of George C. Round suggests a model for ordinary people in turbulent and contentious times.

During the Civil War, Union army Lieutenant George C. Round passed most of his service on southern soil. He became attached to the southern people. After the war, Round moved to Virginia to help build up the territory that he, as a soldier, helped in destroying.

In 1869, Round moved to Manassas, Virginia, the site of the first major battle of the Civil War, where he opened a law office. The area around Manassas was a scene of utter devastation.  The skeletons of ruined buildings and abandoned entrenchments crumbled in the weather.  Many families had moved away.  There was hardly a house, barn, or church that had not been used as a hospital.  Federal troops seemed to delight in using churches as stables and would often burn them when they left.  The population of surrounding Prince William County dropped by almost half and would not reach its prewar level again for nearly sixty years.

It was George Carr Round (1839-1918), a Union Army Signal Corps veteran and lawyer from New York, perhaps more than any other single person, who helped create the town of Manassas. He had shade trees planted all over the rapidly growing town. The courthouse was relocated to Manassas in 1894, largely through his efforts, and built on land given by him for the purpose.  This brought jobs and prosperity. He made it possible for Manassas to have the first public school in Virginia, which was established in 1869. It was through his solicitation that philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated the funds necessary for the creation of the town and school library in 1900.  He ensured that the town had one of the first public high schools in 1907.

Round was the driving force in making possible the golden anniversary of the first battle of Manassas, “The Peace Jubilee”, which was celebrated on July 21, 1911, “when a northern President, William Howard Taft, and a southern Governor, William H. Mann, of Virginia, shook hands during the exercises and, like the 1,000 veterans of blue and gray present, symbolized the cementing of the two sections.”  This was the first time in history when survivors of a great battle met fifty years after and exchanged friendly greetings at the place of actual combat.

Round was an early an ardent supporter of creating a national park at the site of the Manassas battlefield.  Round died before the establishment of the Manassas Battlefield National Park.

By his death in 1918, Round had become one of the town's most beloved citizens. The thriving modern community of Manassas is a living legacy to this tireless and compassionate man.

Judge Arthur Sinclair remarked at the  dedication of the Manassas Museum, 24 May, 1976, “Foremost to me, Manassas was its people….It must have been the only town in the country where the streets bore, as they still do, the names of gallant men who once opposed one another on the field of battle.  And it was done deliberately, and it was done, I’ve been told, by George C. Round, to signify that peace and unity prevailed where enmity once existed, thus proving that men can be bigger than causes.”

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

The last death agonies of the Confederacy captured in pictures.

Lord Fairfax and The Strange Odyssey of the Lost American Peers

Thomas 6th Lord Fairfax

Thomas Fairfax was created Lord Fairfax of Cameron in the Peerage of Scotland on 4 May 1627.  Another Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax succeeded to the title in 1709, at which time he came into the family estates in Virginia, some 5 million acres.  The 6th Lord Fairfax moved to Virginia to oversee the source of his wealth.  Fairfax was the only British peer to take up permanent residence in North America.

In 1748 Lord Fairfax employed the sixteen year old George Washington, a distant relative, to survey his lands in western Virginia.  During the American Revolution, Lord Fairfax remained loyal to the crown, but did not leave America.  His lands were confiscated, and the eighty eight year old peer died less than two months after Washington’s victory at Yorktown in 1781.

Lord Fairfax's title descended to his only surviving brother, Robert, who received cash compensation from the British Parliament for the loss of property during the Revolution.  The settlement was a small fraction of the value of the confiscated land.

Robert died in 1793.  An American cousin, Bryan Fairfax claimed and was granted the title.  Bryan Fairfax became the first American-born holder of a British peerage, although he did not actually use the title, choosing to become an Episcopal priest.

In 1802 Thomas Fairfax inherited the title 9th Lord Fairfax of Cameron after his father’s death.  He lived the life of a country squire overseeing his 40,000 acres. His grandson Charles succeeded to the title.  Charles’ brother, John, succeeded his childless brother, becoming the 11th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. 

By the late 19th century the family had largely forgotten about the title.  This all soon changed.  In 1900, Albert Kirby Fairfax succeeded his father.  In 1901, he was summoned to attend the funeral of Victoria, the Queen-Empress of the British Empire.  The Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords confirmed Albert Fairfax as the rightful 12th Lord Fairfax of Cameron.  The newly recognized Lord Fairfax became a naturalized British subject on 17 November, 1908.  The family resettled in Britain after an interlude of some 150 years.

Nicholas John Albert Fairfax, is now the 14th Lord Fairfax of Cameron.

These are the often overlooked stories of early America. Stories such as the roots of racism in America, famous murders that rocked the colonies, the scandalous doings of some of the most famous of the Founding Fathers, the first Emancipation Proclamation that got revoked, and stories of several notorious generals who have been swept under history’s rug.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Politicians Who Shot it Out

Andrew Jackson

Today’s partisan bickering seems mild compared to the political roiling of the early Republic, where policy differences could end up with bullets being exchanged in the early morning hours.

 John Randolph was a Virginia Congressman who was one of the primary spokesmen of a faction of the Democratic-Republican Party founded by Thomas Jefferson.  Randolph’s faction wanted to ensure social stability with minimal government interference, and decried “creeping nationalism”.  He once said, "I am an aristocrat. I love liberty, I hate equality."  In 1825 he entered the Senate.  In 1826 Randolph made a fiery speech in the Senate denouncing the foreign policy of President John Quincy Adams.  Specifically he was against the President sending a delegation to the Panamanian Congress of Latin American Republics.  Randolph railed against the President and the Secretary of State, Henry Clay, intimating that Clay was a scoundrel.  The Secretary of State took offense at this insinuation and challenged Senator Randolph to a duel.

Both Clay and Randolph had been involved in previous duels.  Clay fought a duel while a member of the Kentucky state legislature.  Randolph fought a duel while a student at the College of William and Mary and again in 1815 while in the House of Representatives.  By 1826 dueling was illegal in Virginia where the duel was to be fought, but a little matter of the law was not about to deter lawmakers Clay and Randolph from fighting.

Dueling politicians were not rare in the young republic.  Andrew Jackson fought over one hundred duels before becoming President.  In those days, if you called the President a liar you were likely to have to back up your words with a sword or a dueling pistol.  Dueling in America flowed down from the ancient practice of trial by combat developed in the Middle Ages.  A test of arms between two opponents was deemed the surest way of knowing which party God favored in a dispute. 

These are the often overlooked stories of early America. Stories such as the roots of racism in America, famous murders that rocked the colonies, the scandalous doings of some of the most famous of the Founding Fathers, the first Emancipation Proclamation that got revoked, and stories of several notorious generals who have been swept under history’s rug.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Civil War Odyssey of George Washington's Silver


     George Washington Parke Custis, and his sister “Nelly” were raised at Mount Vernon by George and Martha Washington.  When Martha Washington died in 1802 her will bequeathed, "all the silver plate of every kind of which I shall die possessed, together with the two large plated cooler the four small plated coolers with the bottle castors," to her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis.

Custis died in 1857 and the silver passed to his daughter Mary, the wife of Robert E. Lee.  Mary and Robert E. Lee lived in Arlington House until 1861 when Virginia seceded from the Union and Lee went south to join the Confederate army. The Washington silver was packed into trunks and sent to Richmond.  Lee then sent the trunks on to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia for safekeeping.

Here the silver remained safe until June 1864, when Union General David Hunter raided the Valley of Virginia and advanced on Lexington.  The Washington silver was saved from destruction by the actions of the VMI Superintendent, Francis Smith and ordnance sergeant, John Hampsey. As Federal troops advanced on Lexington, Smith ordered Hampsey to bury the two large trunks that held the Washington silver.  As the buildings on the VMI campus burned, the Washington silver lay safely beneath the ground.

After the war, Robert E. Lee became the president of Washington College in Lexington (later Washington and Lee University).  In the fall of 1865, as the Lees settled into their new home, they called upon their "trusty friend," John Hampsey, to help unearth the two large chests of buried treasure.
Hampsey escorted Robert E. Lee, Jr., to the burial site, and the General's son later reminisced: "I was sent out with him to dig it up and bring it in. We found it safe and sound, but black with mould and damp….”

The Washington silver remained in the Lees' home at Washington College until Mary's death in 1873, after which the silver was bequeathed to all branches of the family.  Some of the descendants have donated pieces to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the custodians of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.

The Civil War Wedding, an entertaining look at the customs and superstitions of weddings during the Civil War era.

Neither Martha Washington nor the women of the South’s leading families were marble statues, they had the same strengths and weaknesses, passions and problems, joys and sorrows, as the women of any age.  So just how did they live?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Vice in Colonial Philadelphia

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

When we think of the America of colonial times and the days of the early Republic, we seldom think of the word vice.  And yet behind the fa├žade of graceful mansions and quaint cobblestone streets, vice lurked.  As early l720, when Benjamin Franklin first came to Philadelphia, the atmosphere of that city was already both permissive and hazardous. Franklin later wrote “that hard-to-be-governed passion of youth had hurried me frequently into intrigues.”  One of these intrigues resulted in an illegitimate son, whom Franklin subsequently raised.  Not all illegitimate children were so lucky. Out-of-wedlock births had become, as one contemporary put it, “extremely common in Philadelphia.” Unwed pregnancies often left poor women on the street fending for themselves.  Some turned to prostitution.  Readily available in taverns and brothels or outside in thoroughfares and byways, these “ladies of pleasure” were so numerous, observed a visitor to the city, “that they flooded the streets at night.”

The price of sexual freedom was often very high.  Venereal disease was rampant.  In Philadelphia, for example, a significant number of those admitted to the almshouse (9% of the men and 16 % of the women) were described in the register as “venereal,” “highly venereal,” or “eaten up with the venereal disease.” Infected men and women arrived at the almshouse gate because they were too sick to support themselves.

A quick historical look at murder most foul in the Virginia of colonial times and the early Republic. Behind the facade of graceful mansions and quaint cobblestone streets evil lurks.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Libby prison in 1865

Libby Prison

Libby prison, a Confederate prison in Richmond during the Civil war, was considered second only to Andersonville Prison in Georgia as hell on earth.  The prison was for Union officers.  Prisoners suffered from disease, malnutrition and a high mortality rate. By 1863, one thousand prisoners were crowded into the prison which had been a warehouse before the war.

According to the Daily Richmond Enquirer of February 2, 1864, “Libby takes in the captured Federals by scores, but lets none out; they are huddled up and jammed into every nook and corner; at the bathing troughs, around the cooking stoves, everywhere there is a wrangling, jostling crowd; at night the floor of every room they occupy in the building is covered, every square inch of it….”

Private Jackson O. Broshears, Co. D, Indiana Mounted Infantry is seen in the next picture. Age 20 years; height 6 feet 1 inch; weight when captured, 185 lbs.  Broshears was in Confederate hands three and one-quarter months, two months of which were passed on Richmond’s Belle Isle in the James River.  Food was scarce for Confederate soldiers and even scarcer for POWs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Who is the Least Qualified and Most Divisive President in U.S. History?

Candidate Lincoln

Some regard the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the least qualified and most divisive president in United States history, but oddly enough the honor actually goes to the man considered by most historians as the greatest U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was a dark horse candidate to become the nominee of the Republican Party in 1860.  Although one of the highest paid lawyers in America, with a gift for connecting with the common man in his speeches, Lincoln had little formal education or political experience, having been largely self-educated and having served only two years in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Lincoln defeated an impressive line-up of opponents for the nomination which included four Senators and a Governor.  Lincoln won on the third ballot.  His principal opponent William H. Seward was aghast, but fell in behind the party’s nominee.

Lincoln won the presidency by convincingly winning the Electoral College vote.  However, Lincoln won less than forty percent (39.8%) of the popular vote, with the balance being spread amongst three other candidates.  In the original #NotMyPresident movement, seven southern states seceded from the United States between Election Day and Lincoln’s inauguration.  Shortly after his inauguration four more states seceded and the nation was plunged into four years of bloody civil war.  That was "resistance" with a capital R.

Although now universally beloved and acclaimed, throughout the Civil War Lincoln was derided as unqualified for office by prominent Northerners.  George Templeton Strong, a prominent New York lawyer wrote that Lincoln was “a barbarian, Scythian, yahoo, or gorilla.”  The abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher blasted Lincoln’s lack of refinement.  Some Northern newspapers called for Lincoln’s immediate assassination.  General George B. McCllellan called Lincoln “an idiot,” and “the original gorilla.”  Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the famous abolitionist, called Lincoln “Dishonest Abe” and bemoaned the “incapacity and rottenness” of his administration.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton vowed that if Lincoln “is reelected (1864) I shall immediately leave the country for the Fijee Islands.” Lincoln was re-elected.  Stanton did not move to the Fiji Islands (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

Although we now regard Lincoln as the original “Great Communicator”, during his own lifetime editorial writers sometimes described Lincoln’s speeches as, “… involved, coarse, colloquial, devoid of ease and grace, and bristling with obscurities and outrages against the simplest rules of syntax.”

A Pennsylvania newspaper had this to say about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and they shall be no more repeated or thought of.” A correspondent for the Times (London) wrote, “Anything more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to produce.”

This is what media savants had to say about Lincoln’s words now carved in marble at the Lincoln Memorial ("With malice toward none, with charity for all …"), contained in the second inaugural address, “a little speech of ‘glittering generalities’ used only to fill in the program.”(The New York Herald), and “We did not conceive it possible that even Mr. Lincoln could produce a paper so slip-shod, so loose-jointed, so puerile, not alone in literary construction, but in its ideas, its sentiments, its grasp.” (The Chicago Tribune).

Democracy is rowdy and has not become less so with the passage of time.

The main reasons given for the South’s decision to secede from the Union, thus provoking the American Civil War, are often given as slavery and state’s rights. Both answers are correct in so far as they go. But underlying both are economic self-interest. 

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Civil War Wedding

Esther Alden expressed the attitude of many young women in the South as the war progressed, “One looks at a man so differently when you think he may be killed tomorrow. Men whom up to this time I had thought dull and commonplace . . . seemed charming.” The famous diarist, Mary Chestnut of South Carolina, was appalled when she saw women of her own class flirting openly with strangers in public.  The diaries of hundreds of women of the time attest to the “marrying craze” sweeping the South.  “Every girl in Richmond is engaged or about to be”, wrote Phoebe Pember Yates in February 1864.  Fear of spinsterhood and natural desire heightened by the immediacy of war led to many unconventional matches, many reflecting the truth of a phrase common to the time, “The blockade don’t keep out babies.”  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Kings of Haiti

From 1791-1859, the island of Haiti made three separate attempts at establishing monarchical government.

Slaves rose against their French masters on the colony of St. Dominique in 1791.  After a pro-longed period of struggle, the French abandoned the colony.  On January 1, 1804, the ancient Carib name of Haiti was restored to the colony and French rule renounced forever.  Haiti became the first nation in Latin America and the second in the New World to win its independence.  The decision to make Haiti an empire came in July after Napoleon Bonaparte was offered the Imperial crown of France.  A proposal that General Jean Jacques Dessalines should be nominated as Emperor of the Haitians circulated among the leading generals.  Thus, on October 8, a Breton missionary anointed Jean Jacques Dessalines as “The Avenger and Deliverer of his fellow citizens”, Emperor of Haiti.  Dessalines’ reign lasted two years and ended in his murder.

The establishment of two separate republics, in the north and south, followed the collapse of the empire.  By 1811 the northern republic had turned into the Kingdom of Haiti, ruled over by King Henri I.  (“Henri, by the Grace of God and the Constitutional law of the state, King of Haiti, Ruler of the islands of La Tortue and Gonave, and other adjacent, Destroyer of Tyranny, Regenerator and Benefactor of the Haitian nation, Creator of its moral, political and military institutions, First crowned monarch of the New World, Defender of the Faith, Founder of the Royal and Military Order of St. Henry.”)

Many of the institutions of the new kingdom were copied from the monarchies of Europe.  The court ceremonial was designed to exalt the person of majesty in the style of Louis XIV.  Of the numerous royal castles and palaces, the palace of Sans Souci, at Millot, near the foot of the Pic de la Ferrier, was the favorite residence of Henri I.  It was at the palace of Sans Souci, named in honor of Frederick the Great’s palace, that Haitian opulence reached its apex.  San Souci, the Versailles of Haiti, with its delicately carved cornices, dancing fountains, marble floors, arcades, terraces, sumptuous furnishings and perfectly drilled troops, was the king’s crowning glory.

The ruins of Sans Souci

The ruins of San Souci

Henri I struggled for a decade to modernize the country, while simultaneously fending off the encroachments of his neighbor to the south.  In 1820 the king suffered a stroke and was soon battling his own ambitious generals.  As a rebel army and thousands of scavengers descended on the Palace of San Souci, the king killed himself.  The kingdom collapsed and was incorporated into the Republic of Haiti.

Haiti’s last experience with monarchy came in the person of General Faustin Soulouque.  After seizing power in a bloody coup, Soulouque invaded the neighboring Dominican Republic in 1849, where his army was totally routed.  To distract attention from this military fiasco, Soulouque decided to create the second Haitian Empire.  On August 26, 1849 Soulouque proclaimed himself Faustin I, Emperor of Haiti.  The second empire lasted ten years before Faustin I was overthrown and forced into exile.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

United States Colored Troops (USCT)

Arlington National Cemetery was segregated until 1948.  Veterans of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) were buried in Section 27.  The 175 regiments of the USCT made up some ten percent of the Union Army.  The unit seen here was stationed near Arlington. Frederick Douglass, the most prominent African-American intellectual of the Civil War era, wrote, “[He] who would be free must himself strike the blow.” The United States Colored Troops (USCT) was the answer to that call.  Some 40,000 gave their lives for the cause.  Douglass wrote, “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.”After the Civil War, soldiers in the USCT fought in the Indian Wars in the American West. 

The Civil War Wedding, an entertaining look at the customs and superstitions of weddings during the Civil War era.

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Is the Arc of History Nonsense?

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is a rhetorical conceit, or what historians call a “meta-narrative”, that dates from the mid-nineteenth century.  What is a meta-narrative you ask?  It is a made up proposition adopted by a group of people by which they make sense of events.  Meta-narratives are to history what cosmologies (theories on the nature of the universe) are to religion.  In order to accept this meta-narrative you must: (1) accept that there is a moral universe as opposed to an impersonal universe, (2) accept that there is one universal standard by which to determine “justice”, and (3) accept that history progresses toward some purpose.   If you do not accept these underlying propositions, the meta-narrative is meaningless.

Other historical meta-narratives have included, The Mandate of Heaven (i.e. kings have a divine right to govern), The March of Progress (i.e. all technology is good), The Triumph of Civilization (i.e. Western civilization), Manifest Destiny (i.e. American expansion across the North American continent), and Marxist “class struggle” which must ultimately end in the establishment of worldwide communism because of the “forces of history.”

The British historian Alan Munslow sums the issue up as, “The past is not discovered or found. It is created and represented by the historian.”

The history represented by historians is a reflection of power relationships within a society, and different historical perspectives represent the vying for power of different groups within that society.

General George S. Patton once said, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” Here are four stories about the history of the world IF wars we know about happened differently or IF wars that never happened actually took place.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Fake News in the American Civil War

Confederate President
Jefferson Davis (1861)

Apparently the news media has been in the habit of producing “fake news” for a very long time.

In late 1861, the New York Herald reported: “Our latest telegraphic advices from Louisville, Washington and Fortress Monroe assure us positively of the death of Jefferson Davis….Considering that his health has been in a very shattered condition for several years, and considering his extraordinary labors, anxieties, and exhausting excitements of the last five months, we think it remarkable that he was not carried off three or four months ago.”

This was a case of wishful thinking.  Davis was alive and active.  Indeed, he lived another twenty eight years, dying at the age of 81.

Southern editors lambasted the article as “Yankee delusion and unreliability,” denouncing the Herald as a “mendacious journal…(with) a record for lying second to none.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jefferson Davis Funeral (1889)

In 1860, disgruntled secessionists in the deep North rebel against the central government and plunge America into Civil War. Will the Kingdom survive? The land will run red with blood before peace comes again.

A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.