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.

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.”

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.