Friday, January 27, 2023

Col. John S. Mosby on "Knight Errantry"


The grave of Col. John S Mosby grave at the Warrenton Cemetery in Warrenton, Virginia.  As a child, Mosby was small, sickly and was often the target of bullying. He would respond by fighting back. During the course of the Civil War Mosby was wounded seven times. For someone who had been a sickly youth, he proved quite resilient, dying at the age of 82 on May 30, 1916.

Sixty-six of Mosby’s Rangers are buried in the same cemetery. After the war, the thirty-one-year-old Mosby went on to become a distinguished railway lawyer.  He also served as U.S. consul to Hong Kong and in several other Federal government posts. 

Although Mosby’s war time exploits have been romanticized, he himself once said that there was, “no man in the Confederate Army who had less of the spirit of knight-errantry in him or took a more practical view of war than I did.”

Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia

The Great Northern Rebellion of 1860 (alternate history)

The Great Northern Rebellion of 1860 (alternate history)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Treasure Caves in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona


In 1934, Charley Williams stumbled out of the Superstition Mountains with handfuls of gold nuggets and a spectacular story.  Williams claimed the nuggets came from a huge pile of nuggets he found just inside a cave’s entrance.   Of course, he couldn’t remember where the cave was located because in his excitement, he had hit his head and become totally disoriented.  He must have been very, very disoriented since the gold was later proven to be dental gold.

Another story tells of gold bars in a cave near the Massacre Grounds (where the Peraltas were massacred by the Apache). Prospector James Baxter claimed he was guided to the cave by a blue light coming from the cave.  This cave is supposedly within a two-mile radius of the First Water Trailhead.

A treasure hunter named John Hallenberg talked about a cave filled with gold bars located on Bluff Springs Mountain.  Hallenberg supposedly found a cave where he discovered all kinds of old writing.  These marks did not resemble Native American petroglyphs but were something entirely different.  Hallenberg thought the writing was Hebrew, but probably could have been anything.  In any event, this adventure somehow convinced Hallenberg that there was indeed a cave in the Superstitions filled with gold bars.  He even had a map showing the direction to this “Cave of Gold.”

In the early 1980s, another tale of a cave filled with gold emerged.  Supposedly, a man named Harry France (or LaFrance) discovered a cave filled with gold bars near Black Top Mesa (or it might have been Weaver’s Needle).  This was probably Jesuit treasure (unless it wasn’t).  With clues like this, it should be easy to find.

Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Dining With George Washington


Each morning Martha Washington met with the cooks to plan the menu for dinner, the main meal of the day served between 2:00 and 4:00.  Mount Vernon dinners required two cooks aided by several assistants who performed tedious tasks like peeling vegetables and plucking turkeys.  Martha Washington briefly hired German cooks but most of Mount Vernon’s cooks were slaves.  A great bell was rung fifteen minutes before dinner at Mount Vernon.  Guests changed into dressier clothes for dinner.  George and Martha Washington welcomed thousands of guests to Mount Vernon in the more than forty years they lived there.  A slave butler and waiters, in livery, were responsible for bringing food to the table quickly and efficiently.  Dinner consisted of two courses. 

The first course featured meat and vegetable dishes.  Ham was almost always featured.  A ham was boiled daily and Martha took great pride in her hams.  Martha sent hams as gifts.  In 1796 George Washington informed the Marquis de Lafayette that Mrs. Washington, “…had packed and sent…a barrel of Virginia hams.”  He reminded his friend, “…you know the Virginia ladies value themselves on the goodness of their bacon.”  In addition to ham, foods likely to be found on Martha Washington’s table included carrot puffs, chicken fricassee, pickled red cabbage, fish, and onion soup. Even though these foods appear familiar, the seasonings were very different from those used in modern cooking. Colonial cooks liked nutmeg and especially enjoyed a sweet taste. Salt and pepper were not heavily used. Some foods would make the modern diner blanche, rabbits and poultry, for example, were not only prepared with their heads and feet still attached, they were served at dinner that way as well.

The second course featured sweet dishes and frequently featured fruit, including exotic fruits such as pineapples.  Locally grown fruits including apricots, strawberries, gooseberries and cherries might be made into jams or preserved whole.  Ice Cream was a favorite dessert at Mount Vernon.  Slaves cut chunks of ice from the Potomac River during the winter, which were covered with straw in the Mount Vernon ice house for future use during the summer months.  A recipe of the time, used by Martha Washington, advised on the making of ice cream: “Take two pewter-basins, one larger than the other; the inward one must have a close cover, into which you are to put your cream, and mix it with raspberries, or whatever you like best, to give it a flavour and a colour. Sweeten it to your palate; then cover it close, and set it into the larger basin. Fill it with ice, and a handful of salt: let it stand in this ice three quarters of an hour, then uncover it, and stir the cream well together; cover it close again, and let it stand half an hour longer, after that turn it into your plate.” The Washingtons flavored ice cream with berries, as chocolate and vanilla were not added to ice cream in the eighteenth century.

In contrast to their homegrown fruits, grains, vegetables, meats and dairy products, the Washingtons imported most of their beverages, spices, and condiments.  In a typical year Martha Washington ordered 126 gallons of wine, twenty five pounds of tea and fifty pounds of almonds.  The Washingtons typically offered several hot beverages to their guests including coffee from the Middle East, tea from Asia, and chocolate from South America.  All had been introduced to England and the American colonies late in the seventeenth century and quickly became popular, despite their expense. Tea was brought to Europe in 1610 by the Dutch and arrived in England in 1644.  Tea merchants claimed that the drink was a cure for migraine, drowsiness, apoplexy, lethargy, paralysis, vertigo, epilepsy, colic, gallstones and consumption. Most tea came from China until the 19th century.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Martha Washington and Fun


Martha Washington

Martha Washington, like other members of her set, spent considerable time directing a large staff of slaves and servants and ensuring the happiness of her husband and children.  Nonetheless, there was time for fun.

People of means were expected to be able to play an instrument or sing.  Ladies did not generally play wind instruments, their garments being too restrictive.  They could sing or play keyboards.  Dancing was an established social grace.  Balls began with court dances like the minuet.  These dances were performed in strict order of precedence, the ranking couple in the room dancing first, and then down the social ladder.  These were solo performances, watched carefully by the other guests.  Pronounced stumbles and fumbles could cause a dancer to be banished for the social season.  After the formalities the floor was opened for general and less formal dancing.

Martha Washington: The First Lady of Fashion (Virginia Time Travel) - YouTube

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Colonel John S. Mosby and the Silver Screen

Col. John S. Mosby

The Gray Ghost was a syndicated television show that aired thirty nine episodes from October 10, 1957 to July 3, 1958.  Tod Andrews (1914-1972) portrayed Colonel John Singleton Mosby.  Virgil Carrington Jones, an expert on Mosby, was historical consultant for some episodes.

Virgil Carrington Jones (1906-1999) worked as a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Washington Evening Star, and the Wall Street Journal.  He was the author of Ranger Mosby.