J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Mississippi”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In honor of the special holiday, I’d like to share this article. Erin go bragh!

soldier

IRISH REGIMENTS OF THE WAR

Memphis, Tennessee was home to the 2nd largest Irish population in the South, and on the outbreak of War, many rushed to the state colors. Colonel Knox Walker was in command of 2nd TN Infantry Regt, a.k.a. “Irish Regiment”. Early uniforms made by the ladies of the city consisted of a dark, 8 button frock coat, trousers and kepi. The men would carry flintlock or conversion muskets. On completion of basic training the 2nd was sent to Columbus, Kentucky, where they would assist in the construction of water batteries before seeing their first  action at Belmont, Missouri on November 7, 1861.

Irish

1862 would see the Tennessee Irish back in their adopted state and at Shiloh. The regiment took extremely heavy casualties, so much so that it would necessitate consolidation with the 21st TN (also Memphis origin with a large Irish contingent). The new unit would be designated as the 5th Confederate Infantry Regiment and it would go on to establish a reputation as one of the western army’s most reliable regiments and become a favorite of Major-General Patrick Cleburne. The autumn of 1862 would see the 5th acting as escort for General Bragg’s Pioneer Corps during the Kentucky campaign. They were released from this duty and participated at the Battle of Perryville, where they traded shots with the 10th Ohio, a Federal Irish unit. The action between these Irishmen was severe with the Federals having the upper hand. Despite running low on ammunition (the 5th was twice resupplied) the Confederate Irish continually refused to yield and were, eventually, joined by the 37th Tennessee and then by Gen. Cleburne leading his brigade onto the field securing the victory.

By the end of 1862 the regiment had, again, returned to Tennessee and Murfreesboro before going into winter quarters at Tullahoma and then Wartrace. Chickamauga in September 1863 would, once again, see the regiment’s high rate of attrition continue with Captains James Beard & George Moore among the fallen. Even though not part of his brigade, Gen. D.H. Hill was high in his praise for the Memphis Irish. Onto Missionary Ridge and again against overwhelming odds the regiment held until, finding themselves isolated, the 5th finally gave way. Gen. Cleburne used them at Ringgold Gap and his strategic placement of the regiment helped save the Southern army.

The following year would see the regiment involved in virtually all the engagements of the Army of Tennessee from Resaca in May through to Nashville in December even though it was now numbered less than 170 muskets. At Atlanta, these would be reduced further when a large number of them were taken prisoner after a ferocious struggle. Indeed, the remnants of the regiment became disjointed in heavy woodland near Peach-tree Creek. As Lt. Beard and Corporal Coleman emerged onto the road from the woods just as Gen. James B. McPherson and his staff were approaching. Corporal Coleman quickly fired off a round at the Federals, hitting and instantly killing Gen. McPherson. The Confederates were soon taken prisoner and, eventually arrived in Utica, allegedly as the General’s body got there. Corporal Coleman’s comrades later spoke of the young man’s distress and regret at his impulsiveness.

November 30, 1864 would see the 5th Confederate Regiment at Franklin where it formed part of Granbury’s brigade. Gen. Cleburne, however, sought them out and placing himself at their head, he would lead their charge to the Federal breastworks around the small Middle-Tennessee town. Like the general, many would fall. indeed Pvt. Richard “Dick” Cahill’s body was found inside the works with at least 4 bayonet wounds through his head the following morning. Later on, December 1 1864, just 21 men from the 5th would answer the roll. Within 2 weeks, overwhelming Federal numbers would force an overall Southern retreat from before Nashville; it would not be easy for many of the soldiers were barefoot, clad in rags and faced with constant harassment from pursuing Federal cavalry. They would finally reach Corinth, Mississippi before being sent to North Carolina.

 

Fredericksburg

Here just before the Battle of Bentonville, the remaining members of the 5th would again be joined with other units to form Co. I, Consolidated Tennessee Infantry. When Gen. Johnston surrendered his army on April 26, 1865, just 10 soldiers of the 5th Confederate Infantry Regiment laid down their muskets.

5th Confederate Flag Sources:”Military Annals of Tennessee”; C.W. Frazer “Irish-American Units of The Civil War”; T. Rodgers “The Confederate Army 1861 TN & NC: R. Field

Irish in Blue & Gray, # 44; Spring 2019

(Courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452 Sons of Confederate Veterans, President Davis Chapter Military Order of the Stars and Bars, vol. 44, issue #2, Feb. 2020 ed.)

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you a very happy New Year! This year is especially special, because it is a new decade, and it is, once again the Roaring 20’s! I hope that this decade graces you with love, joy, prosperity and peace. I also hope this year provides you with many opportunities, blessings, and reasons to achieve your goals.

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During the past decade, I faced many blessings, some challenges, and a few heartaches. My husband was transferred several times, so we moved from Horn Lake, Mississippi to Loveland, Colorado to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and finally landed in Colorado Springs, Colorado three years ago. We bought a little fixer-upper bungalow with a gorgeous view of the Rockies and Pikes Peak. I lost my father in 2012, but we were blessed with two grandsons, the youngest of which is only four weeks old. And we met many new friends.

The past year was somewhat challenging for me. My previous publisher decided to drop my Civil War Renegade Series, so I spent months finding a new publisher. I have succeeded and look forward to re-publishing A Beautiful Glittering Lie, A Beckoning Hellfire and A Rebel Among Us with Westwood Books Publishing. It should prove to be a very exciting and lucrative partnership.

In the meantime, my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray, has been holding its own. I’m thinking of making it into an audio book. What do you think?

Horses in Gray Cover

One of my favorite authors, Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs), sent me an email with this inspiring list, so I’m passing it on to you. Thanks Claire!

 

2020 vision pic

Seven Simple Steps to Find Your 2020 Vision

SELF. You can’t have self-awareness, self-confidence, or any of those other good self words until you decide to like yourSELF, and who you really are.

SOUL SEARCHING. Sometimes it’s just getting quiet enough to figure out what you really want; often it’s digging up that buried dream you had before life got in the way.

SERENDIPITY. When you stay open to surprises, they often turn out to be even better than the things you planned. Throw your routine out the window and let spontaneity change your life.

SYNCHRONICITY. It’s like that saying about luck being the place where preparation meets opportunity. Open your eyes and ears—then catch the next wave that’s meant for you!

STRENGTH. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!).

SISTERHOOD. Connect, network, smile. Build a structure of support, step by step. Do something nice for someone—remember, karma is a boomerang!

SATISFACTION. Of course you can get some (no matter what the Rolling Stones said). Call it satisfaction, fulfillment, gratification, but there’s nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and achieving it. So make yours a good one!

BONUS STEP: SIMPLIFY! In the years since writing this list, I’ve discovered how truly fabulous it is to simplify. I’ve moved and downsized twice in the last decade, cleared away so much physical and mental clutter, and learned to say yes only to the things I really want to do. I’m finding the balance between writing and walking the beach every day.

BONUS 2020 VISION TIP: Pick one of the words above (or another!) and make it your theme for 2020. Print out the word in big letters and tape it to the refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. Write it in tiny letters on a small river rock or on the inside of a seashell and carry it in your pocket or purse. Scrawl it across the top of your daily journal entry or write it on each day of your calendar. Choosing a single word is such a great way to set your intention and keep your focus on it for the whole year.

 

What the Dead Can Teach Us

Elmwood 2

This may sound a bit morbid, but I love exploring old cemeteries. In my opinion, the older, the better. One of my favorites is Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. A person can learn a lot about that city’s history, just from walking around. There is a section for Confederate soldiers, including some officers, another area filled with small pox victims from the epidemic in 1873, and a slave section, where most slaves didn’t even receive the honor of a headstone. The ornate, Victorian headstones and monuments are beautiful and sad. One that stands out to me is an empty swing, which is near the grave of a child.

Swing

Author Shelby Foote, who wrote volumes on the Civil War and was featured in Ken Burns’ documentary, is buried there. He was so enthralled with Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Forrest family that he requested to be buried near them. He got his wish.

http://www.elmwoodcemetery.org

New-Orleans-St-Louis-cemetery-no-1-tombs

Another fascinating place to visit the dead is in New Orleans. The graves in the cemeteries are all above ground because the sea level is so high. Many graves were washed into the sea before people placed the deceased in mausoleums.

Marie

One fascinating character buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans is none other than the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau. The crypt where she is buried is usually covered with trinkets, charms and Mardi Gras beads. This cemetery is believed to be the most haunted cemetery in the country.

celtic-crosses-in-an-old-irish-cemetery-mark-e-tisdale

Some of the oldest cemeteries are, of course, in Europe. I have seen several Irish graveyards, and I think they are profoundly beautiful. Filled with Celtic crosses, these old cemeteries are certainly filled with ghosts, too. I’d love to be able to hear some of their stories.

Irish Cemetery

Here in Colorado, there are many old cemeteries as well. Some consist of the graves of miners, who came here looking for fortune, but instead, found sickness and poverty. The Gold Camp Victorian Society dresses in period clothing and provides tours of the Mount Pisgan Cemetery near Cripple Creek. An interesting stop on the tour is the headstone of Fred E. Krueger. No, not the horror character, but a mere 15-year-old boy who died of mysterious causes in 1897.

Fred

https://gazette.com/premium/the-mysterious-headstone-of-fred-e-krueger-found-west-of/article_d76db5d6-ee9f-11e9-a5a1-572389059672.html

Many take it upon themselves to provide the upkeep of these national treasures. My husband’s SCV camp cleans up a small cemetery in Horn Lake, Mississippi every year. I think it’s crucial that we respect and revere these honored dead. They are an important part of this country’s history, and of our own history as well.

Some Statues Are Still Sacred

Bless Mississippi for standing true to her flag and protecting her Confederate statues. I only wish other Southern states would hold as true to their honorable history as the Magnolia State. The destruction/desecration of Confederate monuments is alarming. How weird would it be if, sometime in the future, only statues of Union soldiers existed? What about the other half of the story?

ms-monument_1

MISSISSIPPI STATE MONUMENT TO BE REDEDICATED FOLLOWING SUCCESSFUL RESTORATION

Monument was originally dedicated in 1909 

Date: October 16, 2019 Contact: Scott Babinowich, NPS, (601) 642-6881 Contact: Bess Averett, Director of Friends of Vicksburg NMP(601) 831-6896 

On November 11, 2019 at 2:30 p.m., Vicksburg National Military Park, the State of Mississippi, and the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign will re- dedicate the Mississippi State Monument within Vicksburg National Military Park. 

Earlier this year, the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center completed an extensive restoration and repair project that included masonry repairs, testing of the monument’s lightning suppression system, and a thorough cleaning. Funds for the $75,000 project were donated by the State of Mississippi and championed by the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign. 

A brief ceremony will take place at the Mississippi State Monument, along Confederate Avenue within Vicksburg National Military Park, and feature several speakers who were involved in the project. More details will be announced closer to the event. 

The Mississippi State Monument was dedicated on November 12, 1909 and honors the sacrifice of Mississippi’s 32 infantry units, 17 artillery units, and 37 cavalry units which served in the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign of the Civil War. The monument was designed by R.H. Hunt of Chattanooga, TN and constructed at a of cost $32,000. 

The event is free and open to the public. 

(Article courtesy of The Jeff Davis Legion, Official Publication of the Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, October 2019 ed.)

 

The Facts Are Alarming

I just read an article written by a former Southern governor, stating that all Confederate monuments were erected to celebrate white supremacy. This is so offensive and off base that I wanted to post the following list in order to show how wrong this attitude is. The fact is, most Southern soldiers fought to protect their homes and ward off the advancing enemy. Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject. Thanks again so much for reading my blog!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

TOWNS BURNED BY THE CONFEDERATE ARMY

1. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, July 30, 1864

Chambersburg

TOWNS BURNED BY THE UNION ARMY

(from the Official Records):

1. Osceola, Missouri, burned to the ground, September 24, 1861

(The town of 3,000 people was plundered and burned to the ground, 200 slaves were freed and nine local citizens were executed.) *

2. * Platte City, Mo – December 16, 1861 – (“ColonelW. James Morgan marches from St. Joseph to Platte City. Once there, Morgan burns the city and takes three prisoners — all furloughed or discharged Confederate soldiers. Morgan leads the prisoners to Bee Creek, where one is shot and a second is bayonetted, while thethird is released. ”)

3. Dayton, Missouri, burned, January 1 to 3, 1862

4. Frenchburg, Virginia (later West Virginia), burned, January 5, 1862

5. Columbus, Missouri, burned, reported on January 13, 1862

6. Bentonville, Arkansas, partly burned, February 23, 1862

(a Federal search party set fire to the town after finding a dead Union soldier, burning most of it to the ground)*

7. Winton, North Carolina, burned, February 20, 1862

8. Bluffton, South Carolina, burned, reported June 6, 1863

(Union troops, about 1,000 strong, crossed Calibogue Sound and eased up the May River in the pre-dawn fog,

surprising ineffective pickets and having their way in an unoccupied village. Rebel troops put up a bit of a fight, but gunboats blasted away as two-thirds of the town was burned in less than four hours. After the Yankees looted furniture and left, about two-thirds of the town’s 60 homes were destroyed.”)*

9. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, burned, August 5 & 21, 1862

10. Donaldsonville, Louisiana, partly burned, August 10, 1862

11. Athens, Alabama, partly burned, August 30, 1862

12. Prentiss, Mississippi, burned, September 14, 1862

13. Randolph, Tennessee, burned, September 26, 1862

14. Elm Grove and Hopefield, Arkansas, burned, October 18, 1862

15. Bledsoe’s Landing, Arkansas, burned, October 21, 1862

16. Hamblin’s, Arkansas, burned, October 21, 1862

17. Napoleon, Arkansas, partly burned, January 17, 1863

18. Mound City, Arkansas, partly burned, January 13, 1863

19. Clifton, Tennessee, burned, February 20, 1863 20. Hopefield, Arkansas, burned, February 21, 1863

(“Captain Lemon allowed residents one hour to removepersonal items, and the men then burned every house inthe village.”)*

21. Celina, Tennessee, burned, April 19, 1863

22. Hernando, Mississippi, partly burned, April 21, 1863

23. Greenville, Mississippi, burned, May 6, 1863

24. Jackson, Mississippi, mostly burned, May 15, 1863

25. Austin, Mississippi, burned, May 23, 1863

(“On May 24, a detachment of Union marines landednear Austin. They quickly marched to the town, ordered all of the town people out and burned down the

26. Darien, Georgia, burned, June 11, 1863

27. Eunice, Arkansas, burned, June 14, 1863

28. Gaines Landing, Arkansas, burned, June 15, 1863

29. Richmond, Louisiana, burned, June 15, 1863

30. Sibley, Missouri, burned June 28, 1863

31. Donaldsonville, Louisiana, destroyed and burned, June 28, 1863

 

32. Columbus, Tennessee, burned, reported February 10, 1864

33. Meridian, Mississippi, destroyed, February 3 to March 6, 1864

34. Campti, Louisiuana, burned, April 16, 1864

35. Washington, North Carolina, sacked and burned, April 20, 1864

36. Grand Ecore, Louisiana, burned, April 21, 1864

37. Cloutierville, Louisiana, burned, April 25, 1864

38. Bolivar, Mississippi, burned, May 5, 1864

39. Alexandria, Louisiana, burned, May 13, 1864

40. Hallowell’s Landing, Alabama, burned, reported May 14, 1864

41. Newtown, Virginia, ordered to be burned, ordered May 30, 1864

42. Ripley, Mississippi, burned, July 8, 1864

43. Harrisburg, Mississippi, burned, July 14, 1864

Oxford

44. Oxford, Mississippi, burned, August 22, 1864

45. Rome, Georgia, partly burned, November 11, 1864

(“Union soldiers were told to burn buildings theConfederacy could use in its war effort: railroad depots, storehouses, mills, foundries, factories and bridges. Despite orders to respect private property, some soldiers had their own idea. They ran through the city bearing firebrands, setting fire to what George M.Battey Jr. called harmless places.”)*

atlanta

46. Atlanta, Georgia, burned, November 15, 1864

47. Camden Point, Missouri, burned, July 14, 1864

48. Kendal’s Grist-Mill, Arkansas, burned, September 3, 1864

49. Shenandoah Valley, devastated, reported October 1, 1864 by Sheridan

(Washington College was sacked and burned during this campaign)*

50. Griswoldville, Georgia, burned, November 21, 1864

51. Guntersville, Alabama, burned January 15, 1865

52. Somerville, Alabama, burned, January 17, 1865

53. McPhersonville, South Carolina, burned, January 30, 1865

54. Lawtonville, South Carolina, burned, February 7, 1865

55. Barnwell, South Carolina, burned, reported February 9, 1865

56. Orangeburg, South Carolina, burned, February 12, 1865

57. Columbia, South Carolina, burned, reported February 17, 1865

58. Winnsborough, South Carolina, pillaged and partly burned, February 21, 1865

59. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, burned, April 4, 1865

Thanks to Jim Huffman with The Gainesville Volunteers, Picayune for the above places, dates and actions.

(*) information taken from: https://seekingliberty.org/2018/10/01/ the-benchmark-set-by- union-army-1861-1865/

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1452, President Jefferson Davis Chapter Military Order of the Stars and Bars newsletter, vol. 43, issue 9, September 2019)

 

Another Over-Reaction

I have to champion Mississippi Governor Bryant for standing up to the politically correct. He never waivers in honoring the state’s Confederate veterans. With Memorial Day just behind us, it is imperative that we honor and cherish these ancestors. What everyone seems to forget is that it was a different time back then, with a different political climate and different viewpoints. Maybe we don’t agree with them now, but they were completely acceptable and widespread back then. The Confederate flag, to many, was a sign of independence from an oppressive national government, not a symbol of racism. It’s sad how things like the CSA flag have become misconstrued and misunderstood over the years. I hope Mississippi doesn’t cave like so many other southern states have in regard to their flag. But the pressure’s on, as this article demonstrates.

18891902-mmmain

MISSISSIPPI FLAG ORDERED OUT OF PARK NEAR STATUE OF LIBERTY

By MIKE CATALINI
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered that the Mississippi flag, which carries a Confederate emblem, be replaced by the American flag at a state park that overlooks the Statue of Liberty.

Murphy ordered the removal of Mississippi’s flag from a display of each state’s flag at Liberty State Park, a preserve of more than 1,200 acres in Jersey City that overlooks Ellis Island and Lady Liberty.

 

On Friday, April 26, 2019, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the Mississippi flag removed from a display of each state’s flag at Liberty State Park and replaced by the American flag because it has a Confederate emblem on it. Liberty State Park is on the Hudson River and overlooks the Statue of Liberty.

Murphy is a first-term Democrat and a self-styled progressive who regularly cited the Emma Lazarus poem at the statue’s base that invites immigrants to America.

New Jersey, he said, is rooted in diversity, and the flag doesn’t fit.

“The Confederate symbol displayed on the Mississippi state flag is reprehensible and does not reflect our values of inclusivity and equality,” he said in a statement.

The Mississippi flag includes the Confederate battle emblem in the upper left corner. The emblem has a red field topped by a blue X, dotted with 13 white stars. It has appeared on Mississippi’s flag since 1894.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, said in a statement: “I’m disappointed in Gov. Murphy’s actions. As I have repeatedly said, the voters of Mississippi should decide what the state flag is or is not.”

Confederate symbols have been widely debated across the South, particularly since June 2015, when a white supremacist killed nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as in 2017, when violence erupted as white nationalists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Murphy said he made the decision after Democratic State Sen. Sandra Cunningham raised the issue with him.

 

Cunningham said in a statement that the flag symbolized “an era of hate, violence, and division.”

Mississippians who voted in a 2001 statewide election chose to keep the flag.

But several Mississippi cities and counties and all eight of the state’s public universities have stopped flying it in recent years amid criticism that the battle emblem is a racist reminder of slavery and segregation. Supporters of the flag say it represents history.

Catalini reported from Trenton, New Jersey. Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report.

https://apnews.com/d122588876db42cd944a 570028073914

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #1452, Hernando, MS, Volume 42, Issue 5, May 2019 ed.)

The UDC and America’s First Memorial Day

Caddo

MAY 23, 2019 — 

What many consider the first Memorial Day occurred April 25, 1866 in Columbus, Mississippi. The town’s Ladies Memorial Association, decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in Friendship Cemetery.  In a nation trying to find a way to move on after a war that split the country, states, communities and even families, this gesture by these nobel women was welcomed as a way to lay the past to rest while honoring those who had fought on either side. Less than 30 years later this ladies group became the 34th chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The UDC will forever honor all of our country’s heroes with undying devotion and that our Confederate Dead have earned their rightful place to be included as America’s Veterans.

We should embrace our heritage as Americans. North and South, Black and White, Rich and Poor, our American heritage is the one thing we have in common and it is what defines us.  The monuments we have built to chronicle this heritage must be preserved so that those that come after us will see where we have been and where we must, as a unified people, go.  Protecting all monuments to American Veterans will defend our heritage.  Our monuments are reminders of our path forward.

(Courtesy of Caddo Confederate, Shreveport, LA, United States)

https://www.change.org/p/caddo-parish-commission-we-will-not-give-up/u/24604567?cs_tk=AgrqFs2n3M5yBfdF61wAAXicyyvNyQEABF8BvJaM27qx88Mn9RHwiosM050%3D&utm_campaign=06f32116a7834a1ca3b1d52342c2cd41&utm_medium=email&utm_source=petition_update&utm_term=cs

More on Old Douglas

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 13)

Today is the final day of Confederate Heritage/History Month, as well as Women’s History Month. Likewise, this post is the last one in my series about Confederate Women. The last installation of this series is about the most famous Confederate woman of all, President Jefferson Davis’ wife.

Varina Davis

Varina Howell Davis 

     The namesake of my UDC chapter is one of the most famous women of the Confederacy. Yet, she didn’t wish to be. 

     Varina Banks Howell was born on May 7, 1826 at her family’s plantation, the Briars, near Natchez, Mississippi. She was one of eight surviving children. Her parents were a unique pair, in that her father was a Yankee from New Jersey, and her mother, a Southern Belle, was the daughter of a wealthy planter. Because of that, the First Lady of the Confederacy was an irony, referring to herself as a “half-breed.” Varina’s father managed to provide for his family, but prosperity was intermittent, as he squandered his wife’s inheritance and made poor investment decisions. 

     Varina was not considered attractive by nineteenth century standards: she was tall, thin, and had an olive complexion. She was very well educated, however, and learned to play the piano beautifully. She was able to attend Madame Greenland’s School in Philadelphia, but the money soon ran out, so she returned home to complete her education with a private tutor. She established the reputation of being highly intelligent but outspoken, which was frowned upon in Victorian society.  

     Seven years later, when Varina was seventeen, she was invited to spend the Christmas season with an old family friend, “Uncle Joe” Davis, at his plantation, the Hurricane. While there, she met his much younger brother, Jefferson. It was the first time she had met any of Joseph’s extended family, and although Jefferson was immediately smitten with her, Varina was reluctant. She wrote to her mother: 

He impresses me as a remarkable kind of man, but of uncertain temper, and has a way of taking for granted that everybody agrees with him when he expresses an opinion, which offends me; yet he is most agreeable and has a peculiarly sweet voice and a winning manner of asserting himself. The fact is, he is the kind of person I should expect to rescue one from a mad dog at any risk, but to insist upon a stoical indifference to the fright afterward. 

     After Varina returned home, Jefferson asked her parents’ permission to court her, but Varina’s mother objected. She was concerned that Jefferson was far too old for her daughter (eighteen years her senior), that he was still in love with his deceased wife, Sarah Knox Taylor (daughter of President Zachary Taylor), that he was too devoted to his relatives (his older brother, Joseph, raised him after their father died and financially supported him), and that his political views were different (he was a member of the new Democratic Party, but Varina’s family were Whigs). She eventually gave in, and the two were engaged. An enormous wedding was scheduled to take place at the Hurricane, but just before the event happened, the wedding was cancelled. Varina fell ill, and out of concern, Jefferson frequented her home. The two managed to reconcile, and were wed on February 26, 1845 at the Briars with only a small group of the bride’s family in attendance. Their honeymoon was spent visiting Jefferson’s aged mother and the grave of his deceased wife. 

     The newlyweds set up housekeeping in a two-room cottage on the Brierfield plantation, which was adjacent to the Hurricane. Trouble soon appeared in the form of Jefferson’s widowed sister and her seven children, who moved in without Varina’s approval or consent. Her own family’s financial reliance on them was also an embarrassment to her. Addition problems arose when Jefferson left to campaign for Congress and serve in the Mexican War, leaving Varina to deal with domineering Joseph herself.  

Jefferson was elected to the Senate, so he and Varina moved to Washington, where she thrived. She adored the city and was intrigued by politics. As her husband rose in his political career, she rose in Washington elite society, becoming one of the city’s youngest and most popular hostesses. But when the Civil War broke out, Jefferson resigned his Senate seat, and the two returned to the South. It wasn’t long before Jefferson learned that he had been selected as the new president of the Confederacy. This dismayed Varina deeply, for she knew that her husband didn’t want the job, and that the South would most likely lose the war. However, she dutifully supported him. 

     During the first two years as First Lady, she held extravagant parties. Her friend, Mary Boykin Chesnut, enjoyed and admired her, but others weren’t so supportive. Varina received criticism for being over-extravagant, for not being extravagant enough, for playing favorites, for meddling in politics where she didn’t belong, and for influencing her husband’s decisions. Despite the reticule, she supported the troops by knitting clothing for them, donating rugs for blankets, making shoes from scraps, and visiting wounded Yankee and Confederate soldiers in the hospitals, but she resisted her husband’s insistence to become a volunteer nurse.  

     Jefferson and Varina lost one of their children in the spring of 1864 when he fell from a second-story window of the White House of the Confederacy. A few weeks later, Varina gave birth to a daughter, and nicknamed her Winnie, who later became known as the “Daughter of the Confederacy.” Varina also rescued a young slave boy named Jim Limber, and took him in as her own. In early 1865, Jefferson ordered her to flee Richmond with their children. She financed the trip by selling everything they owned, which came to $8,000 in gold. The family was reunited in Georgia, but Jefferson was soon captured and sent to Fort Monroe prison, where he remained for two years. In the meantime, Varina was prohibited from leaving Georgia. Jim Limber was taken from her, never to be heard of again. After a freed slave threatened one of her children with a gun, Varina sent them to Canada with her mother, and petitioned relentlessly for Jefferson’s release. Finally, he was freed, but he was sickly and frail. 

     The family traveled to Canada and Europe for several years. Jefferson was never convicted of war crimes, but was never able to make a go of any financial endeavors, either. High strung Varina suffered from a nervous breakdown in 1876. While she recovered in Europe and their children studied abroad, Jefferson returned home. He established an insurance company in Memphis, but the business went belly up. He sought the companionship of the wife of a fellow inmate, but the press leaked the news, and Varina, of course, was enraged. Somehow, the two managed to reconcile again, probably because they lost two of their sons (bringing the total to four lost sons). 

     An old friend, Sarah Dorsey, invited Jefferson to live with her at her beachfront home, Beauvoir, in Biloxi. He accepted, thinking that the sea air would do his ailments good, and Varina later joined him. Before Mrs. Dorsey died, she bequeathed Beauvoir to them. Jefferson proceeded to write his memoirs. He died in 1889 while visiting a friend in New Orleans. Varina sold his memoirs the following year, but the book was a failure. She remained at Beauvoir for another year before she sold it to the state of Mississippi for $10,000 to be used as a Confederate veterans’ home, stipulating that it be preserved as “a perpetual memorial sacred to the memory of Jefferson Davis” and the Confederate cause. 

     Once again, Varina received criticism when she moved to New York City to accept a job as a journalist for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Herald, and took her daughter, Winnie, with her. She befriended Julia Dent Grant, the widow of President and Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Southerners were shocked and offended by her moving to New York and becoming friends with the wife of a dreaded enemy. Not only that, Varina attended a reception and socialized with Booker T. Washington, treating him, to the Southerner’s dismay, like he was an equal. She declined offers to return to the South, and even turned down a residence offered to her in Richmond. On many occasions, she attended both Union and Confederate veterans’ reunions. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

     Varina’s heart was broken when Winnie passed away in 1898. Following a bout with double pneumonia, she too died on October 16, 1906 in her apartment overlooking Central Park. She was eighty years old, and was survived by only one of her six children (a daughter), and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Following a funeral procession through the streets of New York City, her body was returned to Richmond and laid to rest beside Jefferson and Winnie in Hollywood Cemetery. 

     One of Varina’s last remaining prized possessions, her diamond and emerald wedding ring, was housed in the museum at Beauvoir, but when Hurricane Katrina hit, the ring was lost. Amazingly, it was discovered on the grounds a few months later, and returned to its rightful place at Beauvoir. 

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 9)

Mary Chesnut 

Mary C 

Of all the written works created during the Civil War, Mary Chesnut’s diary is one of the most well known. Because of her ability to frankly describe the events that transpired, her diary is considered by historians to be the most important work by a Confederate author, and a true work of art. 

Born to Congressman Stephen Decatur Miller and May Boykin on March 31, 1823 at Mount Pleasant plantation near Stateburg, South Carolina, Mary Miller was the eldest of four children. In 1829, her father became governor of South Carolina, and in 1831, he served as a U.S. senator. Mary was educated at home and in Camden schools before she was sent to a French boarding school in Charleston at age 12. She spent her school break at her father’s cotton plantations in Mississippi, but when he died in 1838, she returned to Camden. She met James Chesnut Jr., eight years her senior, in 1836, when he was at the boarding school visiting his niece, and although he began to court her, Mary’s parents opposed it. However, on April 23, 1840, when Mary was 17, the two were married.  

For the next twenty years, Mary spent her time between Camden and Mulberry, her husband’s family plantation. James was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1858, so Mary accompanied him to Washington, where she nurtured friendships with many upper-class citizens, including Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis, John Bell Hood, and Wade Hampton III. When talk of war escalated in 1860, James was the first to resign his senate seat on November 10, The Chesnuts returned to South Carolina, where he participated in drafting an ordinance of secession, and served on the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America. From February 1861 through July 1865, Mary recorded her experiences. She was in Charleston when Ft. Sumter was fired upon on Friday, April 12, 1861, and watched the skirmish from a rooftop. In her diary, she described the city’s residents, along with what is now known as The Battery, sitting on balconies and drinking salutes to the advent of hostilities. 

James subsequently served as an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. During the war, Mary accompanied him to Montgomery, Columbia, and Richmond, where she entertained the Confederate elite.  

After the war, the Chesnut’s returned to Camden, struggling unsuccessfully to get out of debt. James had inherited two plantations when his father died in 1866: Mulberry and Sandy Field. They were heavily damaged by Federal troops, and slaves who had become freedmen still depended on him. James and Mary’s mother died within a week of each other in January 1885. According to his father’s will, the land was to be passed down to a male heir, and because he and Mary never had children, she lost her claim.  

Mary’s writing revealed her strong opinions concerning slavery and women’s rights, as well as criticism for conservative decisions made by Southern leaders, her husband included. She expressed her repulsion for lapses in morality caused by the male-dominated society of the South, using her father-in-law’s liaison with a slave as an example. 

In the 1870’s, she edited her diaries in an attempt to publish them, but failed. She tried her hand at fiction, writing three novels, but was also unsuccessful at having them published, so in the 1880’s, she revised her diaries into a book entitled Mary Chesnut’s Civil War. Only a small excerpt was published in the Charleston Weekly News and Courier as “The Arrest of a Spy.” Her final years were spent supplementing her $100-a-year income by selling eggs and butter. She died of a heart attack on November 22, 1886.  Historians believe she wasn’t finished with her work. In 1905, and again in 1949, her diaries were published in truncated and heavily edited versions as A Diary from Dixie. In 1981, C. Vann Woodward published a version that included her complete work, and won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1982. 

 

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