J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Richmond”

The Battle of Antietam

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On this date in 1862, the single bloodiest day in American history took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle claimed over 22,000 casualties. Although the battle was later declared as a draw, President Abraham Lincoln used it as an opportunity to launch his Emancipation Proclamation, which would go into effect on New Years Day, 1863. However, his freeing slaves only applied to Southern states that had seceded from the Union, and didn’t apply to slave holding states in the North.

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/battle-of-antietam

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, describing the battle from the perspective of solders who fought for the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

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At 3:00 a.m., the men were awakened to the sound of McClellan’s army attacking the Georgians, who had come to their relief the previous night. For an hour and a half, the battle raged, until General Hood was called upon for assistance. He brought his two brigades to the front, one of which included the 4thAlabama. As they were ordered to line up,

Orange Hugh approached his messmates in a panic.

“Have y’all seen Bo?” he asked. “I woke up, and he was gone.”

“Nope. Ain’t seen him,” replied Blue Hugh with a smirk. “He might be buzzard food by now.”

“Don’t pay him no mind,” said Hiram. “Bo will show up. He’s likely jist hidin’ somewhere.”

“I surely hope so,” replied Orange Hugh. “We’re both anxious to git back to Richmond so we can visit Miss Betsy!”

Blue Hugh chuckled. “Don’t be such a skylark. We ain’t headed back there. I heard tell General Lee wants us to march up to Harrisburg.”

“Is that a fact?” inquired Bud.

“It’s what I heard.”

The men were instructed to advance toward their enemy. They audaciously marched across an open field in front of the church, in perfect alignment, while a hailstorm of Minié balls rained down on them. Because it was still too dark to see, the men could hardly determine who was shot, except for random screams that came across the field both near and far, and they were unable to distinguish between blue and gray uniforms. Solid shot cracked into skulls and bones, which sounded like breaking eggshells.

They stumbled along, making their way to a grove of trees. Hiram heard Lieutenant Stewart and his comrade, Lieutenant King, yelling at someone. He could make out that it was Dozier, who had fallen down and was refusing to get back up. The officers grew frustrated, so they kicked the young private before they continued on and left him behind.

Springing to his feet, Dozier sprinted back toward the church.

The Confederates advanced into the trees, skirmishing with their enemies as they drove them out. Captain Scruggs, who fell wounded, was quickly replaced by Captain Robbins. Realizing they were at an advantage, the Rebels shot down scores of Yankees while concealing themselves in the cover of trees, fighting savagely despite their extreme hunger and fatigue. Other regiments of their brigade, the Texans, South Carolinians, and Georgians, were out in the open on their left, and suffered because of it. As dawn began to lighten the sky, Hiram noticed a Union general riding around the field on a large white horse.

“Who do you reckon that is?” he asked, to no one in particular.

Smoke billowed across the field, but the white horse still remained visible.

“That there’s Fightin’ Joe Hooker,” Lieutenant King informed him.

“He’s makin’ himself an easy target, ain’t he?” The lieutenant laughed at the Union general’s absurdity.

Yankee artillery fired into General Hood’s right flank and rear, causing the Rebels to fall back. The ground was scattered with bodies, most of which were clad in blue. Many Confederate soldiers had exhausted their ammunition when Lieutenant Stewart informed them they had been fighting for nearly three hours straight. Fearing the enemy would chase after them, they quickly re-formed, but discovered their haste was unnecessary, as the Yankees failed to respond. The Alabamians took much-needed time to replenish their ammunition and catch their breath.

General Hood directed his men back to the church to retire.

Suddenly, a shell flew by, blowing off the top of Lieutenant King’s head. The body dropped limply into a pool of blood and brain matter. Bud and Hiram looked at each other, dazed, their faces blackened by gunpowder. They turned and walked away, putting the horrific sight behind them, both knowing there was nothing they could do for the man.

Finally, Hiram said, “I won’t ever git used to seein’ that.”

“I already am,” Bud remarked indifferently. “I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but after a while, those boys jist look like dead animal carcasses to me.”

Hiram glared at him for a moment, shocked by his callousness.

“Life is uncertain, but death…is certain,” Bud added under his breath.

While they walked across the field, which was strewn with bodies, they tried not to look into the pinched faces, whose eyes stared vacantly up at the sunny morning sky. Young men not more than eighteen, their cheeks once rosy with the blossom of vigor and manhood, lay cold and still, bathing in their own hearts’ blood. Some didn’t even look human, while others were missing heads, arms, legs, or torsos. Several members of the regiment scurried around the battlefield, placing the wounded on stretchers. The victims cried out in anguish, their blood leaking from their broken bodies like fractured wine bottles as they were carried away. Bud heard a persistent whimpering sound, so he followed it, and walked around an enormous oak tree, its trunk riddled with bullet holes.

“Hiram! Y’all had best git over here!”

Hiram and Blue Hugh walked over to see what Bud was gawking at. They went around the tree, and saw Orange Hugh with his little dog, Bo, sitting on his lap. The young man seemed to be asleep sitting up, his body leaning back against the trunk. Bo whined pathetically, and licked Orange Hugh’s face like he was trying to wake him.

“Dear Lord,” said Hiram under his breath.

“It’s a damned shame,” remarked Bud, slowly shaking his head.

Blue Hugh stared down at his comrade for a moment. “Reckon he’s seen his last fight,” he blurted. “Good-bye, Hugh.” He turned and walked away.

Hiram frowned, appalled by the man’s insensitivity.

Returning to the church, the Alabamians settled in, and sustained on what meager rations they had left: half an ounce each of beef and green corn. Noticing Bo wander into their bivouac, Bud took the little dog into his arms. One of the men said that after the 4th had started across the field that morning, he saw Bo climb out of a hole from under the church.

As artillery blasted away in the distance, Bud and Hiram reflected on the day’s events, sadly conveying their regret for losing such a fine young friend and soldier as Orange Hugh.

Intentionally changing the subject, Hiram remarked, “Strange how all the wildlife knows when there’s a battle brewin’. They all high tail it out of there. Even the bugs vanish.”

“I’ve noticed that myself,” said Bud. “I’m right glad for it, too. I hate seein’ innocent critters suffer, like those poor warhorses with their legs blown off.”

Hiram grunted. “It bothers you to see dead horses, but not dead soldiers?”

“Of course it bothers me. I’ve jist built up a tolerance for it, is all. Except when it comes to someone I know. That’s different.”

With a sigh, Hiram said, “They all remind me too much of David. I don’t reckon I’ll ever build up a tolerance for that.”

“It makes you not want to git too close to any of them,” said Bud.

Hiram grew solemnly quiet, considering his own mortality.

An hour passed. McLaws’ Division arrived from Harpers Ferry, moved to the front, and immediately became engaged, while the 4th Alabama was held in reserve. The fighting was intense, until darkness finally interrupted it, with neither side emerging triumphant. Soon the Alabamians fell asleep from utter exhaustion, but were roused in the middle of the night, and marched across the Potomac to the Virginia side.

https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Glittering-Lie-Novel-Renagade/dp/1544842481/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1537244747&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beautiful+glittering+lie

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Disrespect for History Continues

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The desecration of Southern history and heritage is still, sadly, alive and well. Apparently, too many people have chosen to forget where they came from, and have instead decided to sway to the influence of political correctness. I find it so sad that these things keep happening.

STATUE IN CROSSHAIRS
Roughly a year after a Confederate monument was removed from Forrest Park, the placement of another statue in a St. Louis park has been called into question.
A commission is being formed to consider whether a statue of Christopher Columbus belongs in Tower Grove Park, where it has stood for more than 130 years.
Annie Rice, the 8th Ward alderman who represents several neighborhoods surrounding the park, told the Post-Dispatch she hoped the formation of the commission would lead to “fruitful conversations” between park officials and local activists who are saying that, “Christopher Columbus, a monstrous human that much of this country continues to celebrate and glorify, has an approximately 9-foot statue dedicated to him in Tower Grove Park. We think it’s long past time that this statue was dealt with permanently.”
As predicted, the PC crazies haven’t stopped with Confederate history. They are attacking every aspect of American history. And in other news…
GEORGIA STATUE TOPPLED
 
The people of Sylvania feel like they lost a piece of history. Inspired by the toppling of Silent Sam, an unknown person(s) have toppled a statue of a Confederate soldier in the Screven County Memorial Cemetery.

Everyday, people in Sylvania are driving to the cemetery to see what’s left of it.

The statue had already been moved from the City Park to the cemetery. “That statue was to memorialize the soldier,” explained retired veteran, Colonel David Titus. “More 340,000 soldiers lost their lives in the south, in the civil war conflict,” said Titus.

The destruction of the memorial has also gained attention from the Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans.

They’re offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.

The Sylvania Police Department asks for the public’s help to find the suspect. If you have any information, call (912) 564-2046.

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I also learned that the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, which decided to change its name to the American Civil War Museum a few years ago in order to kiss some complainers’ asses, is slated to close at the end of this month. The artifacts will be split up and sent to various other museums in the state, and of course, politically correct explanations will be attached to the items that are chosen to be displayed. This will also happen to the Confederate White House, where President Jefferson Davis resided. It’s heartbreaking to think what might happen to these items, and how some will be displayed under false pretenses of preserving slavery, etc. The women who founded the museum and found all those amazing items must be turning in their graves.
(Articles courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, September 7, 2018 ed.)

Vandalism Backfires

I love this article! I am so sick and tired of hearing about historically ignorant people destroying monuments. This time, the joke’s on you!

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LEE STATUE DEFACED
The statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee on Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue has been vandalized.

Red paint was splattered on the statue’s base. The letters BLM, an apparent reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, was also sprayed on the base.

Virginia Capitol Police, which is responsible for policing the monuments, told news outlets the vandalism occurred late Friday or early Saturday between patrols.

Within just a few hours of discovering the desecration Saturday morning, cleaning crews arrived on the scene and began working to remove the red paint. By 1:00 pm, clean up was proceeding and our folks on the scene reported that the paint was coming off nicely. Capitol police reported to us that they had collected evidence and an investigation was underway.

This type of violent criminal activity by monument haters only proves to accentuate the real difference between us and them and helps bring more and more citizens to our side. Our folks, who remained on the scene, working with Capitol Police and the cleaning crew throughout the day, reported that most citizens who came by expressed disgust and anger at the vandalism.

By 3:30 pm, less than 10 hours after the vandalism was discovered, crews were putting the finishing touches on the clean up and the result was amazing.

The columns are now bright and shining like new! Almost makes us want to send a note of appreciation to the vandals. Because of them, the monument got a fresh cleaning and looks better than ever!

And on a similar note…
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RICHMOND RALLIES PLANNED
Virginia Task Force, Dixie Defenders, and CSA II have two events planned along Monument Avenue in Richmond.

The first event is on August 19 from 12-4 p.m. at the Jefferson Davis Monument, following the Monument Avenue Commission’s recommendation that the monument be removed.

The second event is planned for September 15.

Monument supporters are encouraged folks to bring flags but flags on poles and signs on sticks are not allowed.

 

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, August 10, 2018 ed.)

The Hunt for Confederate Gold

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Myths surround what happened to the Confederate gold. After President Jefferson Davis fled Richmond at the end of the Civil War, the gold from the Confederate capital’s treasury disappeared. Some say it was buried somewhere in Georgia, where Davis was captured. Others say it was distributed throughout various southern states and is still being guarded by descendants today. And a third theory is that Michigan cavalry, who captured Davis, took the gold and hid it in a boxcar sunk at the bottom of Lake Erie. All of these hypotheses are interesting, to say the least.

Now the History Channel has been attracted to the century-old mystery. Here is an article about the History Channel’s coverage regarding the missing Confederate gold.

History Channel exploring Confederate Gold in Michigan

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A theory involving Confederate Gold and Muskegon’s most well-known philanthropist might be featured on The History Channel.

A television crew visited the Hackley Administration Building on Oct. 27, under the guise of interest in its bell tower’s architecture.

“We had The History Channel here,” said John Snyder, Muskegon Public Schools facilities and transportation supervisor, at a committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 14. “It had to do with Charles Hackley and the Masons and Confederate Gold.”

The visit wasn’t what he was expecting, but was “interesting,” he said. Snyder was told the show would air during April.

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“I thought it was about the historical architecture and the clock tower,” Snyder said in a follow-up email. “They tied it into Confederate gold, the Masonic Temple masons (and) how Hackley was getting richer while other lumbermen were losing money. A lot tied in with a previous MLive article about Hackley Park looking like a Confederate flag/bible.”

The theory is that Charles Hackley paid tribute to the Confederacy with park’s layout.

Prometheus Studios of Los Angeles emailed MLive on Dec. 6 to ask permission to use content from a series of stories on the theory that were published in March.

Programs produced by Prometheus Studios include “Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color” and “America’s Book of Secrets,” according to its website. It’s clients include The History Channel and H2.

Associate Producer Rick George did not immediately return a call for comment.

Dykstra – one of two researchers behind the Muskegon-Confederate Gold theory – couldn’t say much.

“That grew some very long legs – very long legs,” he said of MLive’s coverage of his theory. “It got the interest in moving things along. … There’s an exciting project going on.”

Dykstra and research partner Brad Richards theorize that Hackley was part of a plot to hide and transport the Confederate Treasury – $10 million-worth of gold and silver – from Irwinville, Ga., to Muskegon, Mich., after the Union Army’s Michigan 4th Cavalry captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1865.

They further theorize that Hackley used his share of the take to donate numerous buildings and endowments to the Muskegon community, including Hackley Park, Hackley Administration Building, Hackley Public Library, Hackley Art Gallery and Hackley Hospital.

“It’s farfetched,” said Annoesjka Soler, executive director of the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon in a previous interview after hearing Dykstra and Richards present their theory.

“We don’t feel there are a lot of facts in there cited from primary literature,” she said. “They’re going to have fun with it … I’m sure it will bring up a lot of interest. It’s very speculative, a lot of conjecture tying a lot of loose pieces together.”

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Many historians have called the theory into question, especially because they say it was disproven that Davis had the treasury with him when he was captured.

(Courtesy Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Dec. 29, 2017 ed.)

Debate Continues Over Mississippi State Flag

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Misconceptions about all things Confederate are still flaring up. Last week, protesters showed up on Monument Avenue in Richmond. What they didn’t realize is that the avenue has been placed on the National Historic Register, so if they get their way and have the monuments moved/removed, their taxes will increase dramatically. And, of course, the Mississippi state flag is still under attack. Here is an interesting take on it.

Calling for Change: Gulfport to fly multiple Mississippi flags at city hall

By Renee Johnson, Digital Content Director

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) –

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes says it’s inevitable that Mississippi will change its state flag to a less divisive symbol, and he has a suggestion: Mississippi’s first official flag, adopted in 1861 – the Magnolia Flag. 

Mayor Hewes announced Sunday that the Magnolia Flag will now fly at Gulfport City Hall, just under the current state flag, “on the chance our citizens can rally around a symbol that has a connection to the past, but represents renewal and promise for the future.”

“This is not about erasing the past,” Mayor Hewes wrote. “It’s about being honest about the present, and working toward a productive future. The reality is that Mississippi’s flag will be changed. The question is when, and into what? What better time to make a statement, than during our Bicentennial observance, as we embark upon the third century of the Magnolia State’s existence?”

The mayor believes one of the main reasons the 2001 state referendum to change the Mississippi flag didn’t pass is that “the alternative symbol never managed to capture the imagination, because it provided no relevant connection for our citizens.”

He believes if the Magnolia Flag had been offered as a historical alternative, the referendum might have delivered a different outcome.

“People don’t typically embrace change for the sake of change. There has to be a compelling reason, desired result, or emotional connection to it. That is one of the main reasons the referendum for a new flag in 2001 did not pass,” Hewes wrote. 

You can read the mayor’s full opinion piece below, and on the City of Gulfport-Mayor’s Office Facebook page where residents are already starting to share their

opinions. 

We are better together.

The holiday season is a time for reflection, as well as a period of preparation for a new year. As we count the many blessings we have, we cannot ignore the generational challenges our state faces, as well as the opportunities to take corrective measures, both great and small.

Just as words have weight, symbols have substance. In a reasonable society, one would expect to encounter a measure of respect and tolerance for differing views, statements and images. This approach does not require a changing of principles or minds, but an understanding that every difference of opinion is not a declaration of war.

The conflict over our state flag continues to stir emotions, and invites debate on the need for change – or not. Like it, or not, what the confederate battle flag might have meant generations ago, has evolved to a point in today’s world where it is largely viewed as a symbol of ignorance, hatred, and bigotry. It is used on both sides of the political spectrum to incite violence.

We are better together.

Opponents of the present flag cite offense at the confederate battle flag emblem (which did not originate in Mississippi), which has largely come to represent a hateful vestige of a distant past and a modern-day extremism. Proponents of keeping the flag provide historical nexus and reference a public referendum from 2001 where an overwhelming sentiment showed most Mississippians had no desire for change. While that should not be ignored, the context of the vote at that time must be considered.

People don’t typically embrace change for the sake of change. There has to be a compelling reason, desired result, or emotional connection to it. That is one of the main reasons the referendum for a new flag in 2001 did not pass. The alternative symbol never managed to capture the imagination, because it provided no relevant connection for our citizens. Had Mississippi’s first official flag, adopted in 1861 – the Magnolia Flag – been offered as a viable, historical alternative, the 2001 referendum might have delivered a different outcome.

Southerners of all races and creeds feel strongly about their heritage, but when an image is used to distort that history, perpetuate cultures of hatred, impede progress, and stigmatize our great State to the point that businesses, developers, and visitors take pause, it is time for us to find a resolution.

This debate is not to inhibit anybody’s right to free speech. However, it is important to recognize that our state flag has been unfairly used to chain us to a legacy we would be better off leaving behind. No revisionist history, but an acknowledgment that today’s Mississippi is much different from generations past. It is one of promise, knowing there will always be work to do, but in a State that places value in the individual, the dignity of work, and the importance of character.

We are better together.

We are past the point in our history where we should be allowing others to tell our story. Yet, with perception driving reality we find ourselves, time and again, like crabs in a boiling pot, where each pulls the others down to die collectively, rather than build upon our assets and educate the world as to the wonderful place and people known as Mississippi. Not that we’re perfect, but that the imagery from long ago need no longer serve to wrongly define the exceptional relationships that have been forged across racial lines over decades.

The hallmarks of decency, civility, and mutual respect hang in the balance in an America where too many are looking for reasons for outrage, rather than seeking common interests and solutions. It seems that, lately, the only thing that brings out the best in us is disaster or catastrophe. Mississippi should stand as an example on how to respond where there is need, and lead where there is opportunity.

A flag change will not totally unify us, but it will help to eliminate a hindrance to our progress as a State. There will always be those who would divide us because of our differences, but instead we should be celebrating our diversity and relishing the common ground that makes up our rich and unique cultural gumbo.

Whether the issue is settled by another public referendum, or by our elected representatives in Jackson, Gulfport will abide by that decision and fly the flag of our great State, as we do today. In the meantime, we will also fly the Magnolia Flag at City Hall on the chance our citizens can rally around a symbol that has a connection to the past, but represents renewal and promise for the future.

This is not about erasing the past. It’s about being honest about the present, and working toward a productive future. The reality is that Mississippi’s flag will be changed. The question is when, and into what? What better time to make a statement, than during our Bicentennial observance, as we embark upon the third century of the Magnolia State’s existence?

When it comes down to it, it’s not so much about what is

on the flag. It’s about what brings us together, or divides us – and how we move forward, together.

– Billy Hewes

http://www.newslocker.com/en-us/region/memphis/calling-for-change-gulfport-to-fly-multiple-mississippi-flags-at-city-hall/view/

(Courtesy the Jeff Davis Legion, Official Publication of the Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, December 2017 edition)

The Battle of Gaines Mill

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On this date in 1862, the Battle of Gaines Mill took place in Hanover County, Virginia. The battle was also known as the First Battle of Cold Harbor and the Battle of Chickahominy River. It was the third battle in the Seven Days Battles, and the first major victory for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. His pre-war reputation was stellar, but after losing the Battle of Cheat Mountain in 1861, some were unsure whether he could take the place of Joseph E. Johnston, who had been the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia until he was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines on June 1, 1862.

During the Battle of Gaines Mill, the Confederates unusually outnumbered the Federals. Lee led an attack with over 32,000 soldiers at 7 p.m., and this charge is considered to be the biggest assault by the Confederates during the entire war. Union Brig. Gen. Phillip St. George Cooke counter attacked, but the result did little to affect the outcome. Once it was over, the Battle of Gaines Mill was the second bloodiest day of battle in American history.

General Cooke was the father-in-law of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, who led the Confederate cavalry. When Stuart learned that Cooke had decided to stay true to the Union, he said, “He will regret it only once, and that will be continually.”

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Both Confederate and Union troops flew hot air balloons over the battle. This was significant, because it was the first time observation balloons from both sides flew at the same time. The balloons were used for reconnaissance and spotting artillery. Union balloons stationed at the Gaines’ Farm were able to observe what was going on in downtown Richmond, which was only about seven miles away. The largest balloons, such as the Intrepid (pictured below) could carry five people in its basket and held 32,000 cubic feet of lifting gas.

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Read more about the battle in my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Glittering-Lie-Novel-Civil/dp/1469771748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466993220&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Beautiful+Glittering+Lie

J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry

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Tomorrow marks a significant event in American history. On June 8, 1863, a Grand Review was held by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry at Brandy Station, Virginia. The event was reportedly a magnificent display of military tactics and cavalry maneuvers. Unfortunately, the dust the horses stirred up caught the attention of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg, whose cavalry was nearby. Early the following morning, on June 9, 1863, Stuart’s cavalry was taken by surprise when Gregg’s troopers attacked, and a fierce battle ensued, raging all day. The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil.

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The outcome was that, even though the Yankees now displayed their ability to compete with Confederate cavalry, Stuart managed to ward them off and keep General Robert E. Lee’s infantry screened as they made their way north. You can read more about this in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319?ie=UTF8&keywords=a%20beckoning%20hellfire&qid=1465328752&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Stuart is one of my favorite Civil War personalities. Not surprisingly, his name is under the current politically correct attack to change all things Confederate and eradicate Southern history.

A school bearing General Stuart’s name is under scrutiny and the PC are trying to force its removal. This goes against what the polls and petitions show: that the vast majority do not favor this institutional vandalism. However, it doesn’t seem to matter or make any difference what the people want.

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The Stuart-Mosby Historical Society, on the other hand, has scored a major victory with the restoration of the statue of General Stuart on Monument Avenue in Richmond. Thanks to this project, as well as a maintenance program which will be launched soon, the statue will be a gleaming tribute to General Stuart for years to come.

http://www.stuart-mosby.com/

Christmas in the Confederate White House

How the Davis Family Spent the Christmas of 1864

By Varina Howell Davis

The wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote this article describing how the Davis family spent the Christmas of 1864 in the Confederate White House. It was published in The New York World, December 13, 1896 and has since been reprinted often. This excerpt was obtained via the website “The American Civil War, 1861-1865.”

Residence of Jefferson Davis
Residence of Jefferson Davis (Library of Congress)

…Rice, flour, molasses and tiny pieces of meat, most of them sent to the President’s wife anonymously to be distributed to the poor, had all be weighed and issued, and the playtime of the family began, but like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided, as well as one pretty prize for the most orderly girl among the orphans. The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years. The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy-hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children’s treasures for a contribution to the orphans’ tree, my little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure: eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children’s toys that gather in a nursery closet.

Makeshift Toys for the Orphans

Some small feathered chickens and parrots which nodded their heads in obedience to a weight beneath them were furnished with new tail feathers, lambs minus much of their wool were supplied with a cotton wool substitute, rag dolls were plumped out and recovered with clean cloth, and the young ladies painted their fat faces in bright colors and furnished them with beads for eyes.

But the tug of war was how to get something with which to decorate the orphans’ tree. Our man servant, Robert Brown, was much interested and offered to make the prize toy. He contemplated a “sure enough house, with four rooms.” His part in the domestic service was delegated to another and he gave himself over in silence and solitude to the labors of the architect.

My sister painted mantel shelves, door panels, pictures and frames for the walls, and finished with black grates in which there blazed a roaring fire, which was pronounced marvelously realistic. We all made furniture of twigs and pasteboard, and my mother made pillows, mattresses, sheets and pillow cases for the two little bedrooms.

Christmas Eve a number of young people were invited to come and string apples and popcorn for the trees; a neighbor very deft in domestic arts had tiny candle moulds made and furnished all the candles for the tree. However the puzzle and triumph of all was the construction of a large number of cornucopias. At last someone suggested a conical block of wood, about which the drawing paper could be wound and pasted. In a little book shop a number of small, highly colored pictures cut out and ready to apply were unearthed, and our old confectioner friend, Mr. Piazzi, consented, with a broad smile, to give “all the love verses the young people wanted to roll with the candy.”

A Christmas Eve Party

About twenty young men and girls gathered around small tables in one of the drawing rooms of the mansion and the cornucopias were begun. The men wrapped the squares of candy, first reading the “sentiments” printed upon them, such as “Roses are red, violets blue, sugar’s sweet and so are you,” “If you love me as I love you no knife can cut our love in two.” The fresh young faces, wreathed in smiles, nodded attention to the reading, while with their small deft hands they gined [?] the cornucopias and pasted on the pictures. Where were the silk tops to come from? Trunks of old things were turned out and snippings of silk and even woolen of bright colors were found to close the tops, and some of the young people twisted sewing silk into cords with which to draw the bags up. The beauty of those home-made things astonished us all, for they looked quite “custom-made,” but when the “sure enough house” was revealed to our longing gaze the young people clapped their approbation, while Robert, whose sense of dignity did not permit him to smile, stood the impersonation of successful artist and bowed his thanks for our approval. Then the coveted eggnog was passed around in tiny glass cups and pronounced good. Crisp home-made ginger snaps and snowy lady cake completed the refreshments of Christmas Eve. The children allowed to sit up and be noisy in their way as an indulgence took a sip of eggnog out of my cup, and the eldest boy confided to his father: “Now I just know this is Christmas.” In most of the houses in Richmond these same scenes were enacted, certainly in every one of the homes of the managers of the Episcopalian Orphanage. A bowl of eggnog was sent to the servants, and a part of everything they coveted of the dainties.

At last quiet settled on the household and the older members of the family began to stuff stockings with molasses candy, red apples, an orange, small whips plaited by the family with high-colored crackers, worsted reins knitted at home, paper dolls, teetotums made of large horn bottoms and a match which could spin indefinitely, balls of worsted rags wound hard and covered with old kid gloves, a pair of pretty woolen gloves for each, either cut of cloth and embroidered on the back or knitted by some deft hand out of home-spun wool. For the President there were a pair of chamois-skin riding gauntlets exquisitely embroidered on the back with his monogram in red and white silk, made, as the giver wrote, under the guns of Fortress Monroe late at night for fear of discovery. There was a hemstitched linen handkerchief, with a little sketch in indelible ink in one corner; the children had written him little letters, their grandmother having held their hands, the burthen of which compositions was how they loved their dear father. For one of the inmates of the home, who was greatly loved but whose irritable temper was his prominent failing, there was a pretty cravat, the ends of which were embroidered, as was the fashion of the day. The pattern chosen was simple and on it was pinned a card with the word “amiable” to complete the sentence. One of the [missing] received a present of an illuminated copy of Solomon’s proverbs found in the same old store from which the pictures came. He studied it for some time and announced: “I have changed my opinion of Solomon, he uttered such unnecessary platitudes — now why should he have said ‘The foolishness of a fool is his folly’?”

On Christmas morning the children awoke early and came in to see their toys. They were followed by the negro women, who one after another “caught” us by wishing us a merry Christmas before we could say it to them, which gave them a right to a gift. Of course, there was a present for every one, small though it might be, and one who had been born and brought up at our plantation was vocal in her admiration of a gay handkerchief. As she left the room she ejaculated: “Lord knows mistress knows our insides; she jest got the very thing I wanted.”

Mrs. Davis’s Strange Presents

Mrs. Varina Davis
Mrs. Varina Howell Davis (Library of Congress)

For me there were six cakes of delicious soap, made from the grease of ham boiled for a family at Farmville, a skein of exquisitely fine gray linen thread spun at home, a pincushion of some plain brown cotton material made by some poor woman and stuffed with wool from her pet sheep, and a little baby hat plaited by the orphans and presented by the industrious little pair who sewed the straw together. They pushed each other silently to speak, and at last mutely offered the hat, and considered the kiss they gave the sleeping little one ample reward for the industry and far above the fruit with which they were laden. Another present was a fine, delicate little baby frock without an inch of lace or embroidery upon it, but the delicate fabric was set with fairy stitches by the dear invalid neighbor who made it, and it was very precious in my eyes. There were also a few of Swinburne’s best songs bound in wall-paper and a chamois needlebook left for me by young Mr. P., now succeeded to his title in England. In it was a Brobdingnagian thimble “for my own finger, you know,” said the handsome, cheerful young fellow. After breakfast, at which all the family, great and small, were present, came the walk to St. Paul’s Church. We did not use our carriage on Christmas or, if possible to avoid it, on Sunday. The saintly Dr. Minnegerode preached a sermon on Christian love, the introit was sung by a beautiful young society woman and the angels might have joyfully listened. Our chef did wonders with the turkey and roast beef, and drove the children quite out of their propriety by a spun sugar hen, life-size, on a nest full of blanc mange eggs. The mince pie and plum pudding made them feel, as one of the gentlemen laughingly remarked, “like their jackets were buttoned,” a strong description of repletion which I have never forgotten. They waited with great impatience and evident dyspeptic symptoms for the crowning amusement of the day, “the children’s tree.” My eldest boy, a chubby little fellow of seven, came to me several times to whisper: “Do you think I ought to give the orphans my I.D. studs?” When told no, he beamed with the delight of an approving conscience. All throughout the afternoon first one little head and then another popped in at the door to ask: “Isn’t it 8 o’clock yet?,” burning with impatience to see the “children’s tree.”

David Helped Santa Claus

When at last we reached the basement of St. Paul’s Church the tree burst upon their view like the realization of Aladdin’s subterranean orchard, and they were awed by its grandeur.

The orphans sat mute with astonishment until the opening hymn and prayer and the last amen had been said, and then they at a signal warily and slowly gathered around the tree to receive from a lovely young girl their allotted present. The different gradations from joy to ecstasy which illuminated their faces was “worth two years of peaceful life” to see. The President became so enthusiastic that he undertook to help in the distribution, but worked such wild confusion giving everything asked for into their outstretched hands, that we called a halt, so he contented himself with unwinding one or two tots from a network of strung popcorn in which they had become entangled and taking off all apples he could when unobserved, and presenting them to the smaller children. When at last the house was given to the “honor girl” she moved her lips without emitting a sound, but held it close to her breast and went off in a corner to look and be glad without witnesses.

“When the lights were fled, the garlands dead, and all but we departed” we also went home to find that Gen. Lee had called in our absence, and many other people. Gen. Lee had left word that he had received a barrel of sweet potatoes for us, which had been sent to him by mistake. He did not discover the mistake until he had taken his share (a dishful) and given the rest to the soldiers! We wished it had been much more for them and him.

Officers in a Starvation Dance

The night closed with a “starvation” party, where there were no refreshments, at a neighboring house. The rooms lighted as well as practicable, some one willing to play dance music on the piano and plenty of young men and girls comprised the entertainment. Sam Weller’s soiry [sic, soiree refers to a party or reception held in the evening], consisting of boiled mutton and capers, would have been a royal feast in the Confederacy. The officers, who rode into town with their long cavalry boots pulled well up over their knees, but splashed up their waists, put up their horses and rushed to the places where their dress uniform suits had been left for safekeeping. They very soon emerged, however, in full toggery and entered into the pleasures of their dance with the bright-eyed girls, who many of them were fragile as fairies, but worked like peasants for their home and country. These young people are gray-haired now, but the lessons of self-denial, industry and frugality in which they became past mistresses then, have made of them the most dignified, self-reliant and tender women I have ever known — all honor to them.

So, in the interchange of the courtesies and charities of life, to which we could not add its comforts and pleasures, passed the last Christmas in the Confederate mansion.

(Special Thanks to Civil War Trust for this article.)

Operation Phase Out Has Begun

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In various places down South, the Confederate battle flag and other reminders of the Lost Cause are gradually being eradicated, and being replaced with more politically correct symbols. In Richmond, the “Cathedral of the Confederacy” has removed needlepoint kneelers and its coat of arms. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis frequently attended services, has decided to shed some images that reflect its historic ties to the Confederacy. The church “voted overwhelmingly to embark on a new journey of racial reconciliation,” church leaders said in a statement. Two plaques honoring Lee and Davis will also be removed.

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In Wichita, Kansas, the Confederate Battle Flag will no longer fly in Veterans Memorial Park. The Board of Park commissioners voted to put up the Kansas state flag in its place. According to a press release, the group behind the push believes the flag was dishonored by the City of Wichita when it was temporarily removed in July amid nationwide controversy surrounding the meaning behind the flag. Several veterans spoke in defense of keeping the Confederate Flag at the park. Among them, one man clarified that the Confederate flag is a battle flag and is a teaching tool of history and a reminder of war’s bloodshed.

“That battle flag means more than just a historical reference. It means divisiveness, it means hatred, it means a whole lot of things that people here in Kansas for whatever reason, don’t seem to understand,” said Larry Burks, a Wichita veteran.

In the criticism of hoisting the state flag at the memorial, some veterans said the Kansas flag is not a “national flag” and does not carry the same representation as the Confederate Battle Flag. Those in support of keeping the Confederate flag down said flying the Kansas flag instead shows that the Sunflower State is an open and welcoming place.

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In Tallahassee, Florida, without a formal vote, the Florida Senate agreed to strip the Confederate battle flag from its official seal, removing one of the few remaining vestiges of the infamous icon in state government. Senators agreed without objection to adopt a new rule removing the controversial emblem from the chamber’s insignia. Approving the change without objection avoided the need for even a voice vote on the emotional issue. Under the rule, the seal would still include other non-American flags that flew over Florida, including the 1513 Spanish flag, the 1564 French flag and the 1763 flag of Great Britain. The United States flag would also remain, while the Florida state flag would replace the Confederate banner on the marker.

“I’m glad that we are taking it down and recognizing the Confederate flag for what it is,” Sen. Oscar Braynon, a black Democrat from Miami Gardens, said after the session. “What it is, is a symbol of a time when this country went to war to keep my ancestors in slavery.”

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said he wasn’t aware that the chamber was going to take up the issue during the special redistricting session. Bradley also raised questions about whether the Senate should look at other options for the seal, including an overhaul of the symbol that goes beyond simply replacing one flag. “If you look at all the flags on the seal, I think you would find that there were things that occurred in the name of some of those flags that history has now looked upon as being abhorrent and terrible,” he said.

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And in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the Sons of Confederate Veterans were excluded from the Christmas Parade held on December 5. This was perpetrated with a time frame that kept them from legally doing anything about it this year. The Town of Many, Louisiana, did not participate in the Natchitoches Christmas Parade in support of the SCV and invited the SCV to be in their Christmas parade on December 12.

The Mayor of Natchitoches, Lee Posey, refused to allow the SCV to march in the Christmas Parade as it has done for decades unless the SCV agreed to march without the Flags of the Confederacy. The committee organizing the parade agreed to support the Mayor in this act of politically correct exclusion. Members of the Historic District Business Association and the business owners of Front Street were not contacted when the mayor made his decision. They are outraged over the city’s position and supported the SCV being in the Christmas Parade.

 

 

Heritage Violation at CSA Memorial Chapel

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The Confederate Memorial Chapel near VMFA was built in 1887 by Confederate veterans.

The annual InLight Richmond will transform the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts next weekend. But perhaps the most electrifying reveal will be the wholesale transformation of the Confederate Memorial Chapel.

The light and sound installation, happening Nov. 13 and 14, promises to put a twist on one of Richmond’s most divisive public-relations problems.

The artists behind the exhibit, John Dombroski and Ander Mikalson, say they were inspired to probe the chapel’s socio-political significance.

The contentious building, which has a side adjacent to Grove Avenue, has been a magnet for people devoted to waving the Confederate flag — which no longer is allowed to fly at the chapel. In June, the museum took control of the chapel’s lease from the Lee-Jackson Camp No. 1, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

It will become a focal point of InLight, with the artists planning to turn the memorial into a trippy funhouse full of disorienting light, sound and shadow.

“By illuminating and amplifying the building and visitors’ presence within it,” Dombroski tells Style, “we will create a heightened sensory experience that invites investigation and introspection.”

The artists plan to install several cinema-grade lights on tall stands to illuminate the exterior of the chapel. The interior will be illuminated solely by the light cast through the stained-glass windows. An array of shadows will form on the ceiling, walls and floor.

There’s a sound component, too. The movements of visitors will be captured by a network of microphones installed on the floorboards, pews, doorways and walls — sounds the artists will amplify and reverberate throughout the space using delays and panning.

Dombroski says the sound of a visitor’s step will be emitted seconds later by a speaker behind the pulpit. Visitors’ shadows will dance around the pews.

“All art work has the potential to be political, even if it’s Disney-like,” says InLight juror Alex Baker, director of Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia.

“It’s more than just spectacle, it’s something to engage with,” says Emily Smith, executive director of 1708 Gallery, which organizes the event.

Some readers leaving comments weren’t about to embrace the idea. “How sad. This is a chapel and not a theater,” one wrote. “Where is the reverence that is befitting the place where Confederate veterans worshiped?”

Another commenter, saying they were no fan of the Confederate flag, wrote: “I assume that next on the agenda is doing something similar to a Muslim house of worship?”
(Courtesy of Southern Heritage News and Views, Nov. 9, 2015 edition)

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