J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Robert E. Lee”

Traveller: The Most Famous Confederate Equine

Probably the most famous horse of the Civil War, at least on the Southern side, was General Robert E. Lee’s favorite mount, Traveller. The following excerpt is from my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray: Famous Confederate Warhorses. It describes Traveller’s history up until General Lee acquired him.

Horses in Gray Cover

Behold that horse! A dappled gray!

I saw him in the month of May,

When wild flowers bloomed about his feet,

And sunshine was his mantle meet.1

Of all the horses to serve in the War Between the States, the most famous is Traveller. The magnificent steed and his owner, General Robert E. Lee, have become synonymous in history. Although Traveller was not the only horse Lee owned, he was certainly the general’s favorite. The two were constant companions.2

Born of humble beginnings, Traveller was conceived in Mason County, Kentucky in 1856. His lineage stretched back to the great foundation sires that had made English horseflesh notable: the Godolphin Barb, the Darley Arabian, and the Byerly Turk.3 Traveller’s direct line traced back from English-bred Diomed, to Sir Archy, and to the great racehorse Grey Eagle, who was Traveller’s sire. 

A full-blooded thoroughbred, Gray Eagle stood sixteen hands high, was gray in color, and had a high-stepping gait. He was a champion racehorse, setting a record for two-mile heats in 1838. In 1839, he ran in a $20,000 stakes race at Oakland Race Course in Louisville. That race, a direct predecessor to the Kentucky Derby, drew 10,000 spectators and at least as many wagers. Grey Eagle, who was defeated by Wagner, broke his coffin joint during the race, which was irreparable. 

The race was described by William T. Porter in the Turf Register:

By the most extraordinary exertions, Wagner got up neck and neck with “the gallant grey” as they swung round the turn into the quarter stretch. The feelings of the assembled thousands were wrought up by a pitch absolutely painful – silence, the most profound, reigned over that vast assembly, as these noble animals sped on as if life and death called forth their utmost energies.

Both jockeys had their whip hands at work, and at every stroke, each spur, with a desperate stab, was buried to the rowel-head. Grey Eagle, for the first hundred yards, was clearly gaining; but in another instant Wagner was even with him. Both were out and doing their best. It was anybody’s race yet! Now Wagner, now Grey Eagle, has the advantage. It will be a dead heat? “See! Grey Eagle’s got him!” “No, Wagner’s ahead!” A moment ensues – the people shout – hearts throb – ladies faint – a thrill of emotion, and the race is over! Wagner wins by a neck, in 7.44, the best race ever ran south of the Potomac 4

Grey Eagle was put to stud and sired many racehorses, as well as saddle horses. He was bred with native stock horses that were thought to have been natural-gaited mares descended from the Narragansett Pacer. 

Besides Grey Eagle, Lexington, (who was the leading sire from 1861 to 1874) and the aforementioned Wagner contributed to the Saddlebred breed. Grey Eagle’s blood was also a factor in trotting pedigrees.5

In 1856, Andrew Johnston, the former sheriff of Greenbrier County, Virginia, purchased a half-bred grade mare named Flora, who was already in foal by Grey Eagle. The stallion was standing at stud on the farm of J.B. Pyntz near Maysville, in what is now West Virginia. Grey Eagle made two breeding seasons at the Pyntz farm before being sold and sent to Morrow County, Ohio. He died on July 4, 1863, at the age of 28. 

Johnston shipped Flora to his farm near Blue Sulphur Springs via steamboat. She gave birth in the spring of 1857. Her foal was named Jeff Davis. He was named after Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, who had fought in the Mexican War and served under President Franklin Pierce as Secretary of War. Unbeknownst to Johnston, the foal’s name was a prediction of what the future held.

Andrew Johnston’s son, Jim, as well as a local slave boy, Frank Winfield Page, handled and trained the young colt. When Jeff Davis turned two, he was shown at the 1859 Greenbrier County Fair in Lewisburg and won first place. The following year, he won another blue ribbon.

Jeff Davis was a silvery-gray gelding with black points and a flowing mane and tail. He stood sixteen hands high and weighed 1,100 pounds. Robert E. Lee later described the horse as having “fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest and short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail.”6 The colt possessed such Saddlebred qualities as a good trot and extra gaits.

When the war broke out, Jim enlisted in Wise’s Legion, the 3rd Virginia, commanded by Virginia’s former governor, Henry Wise. Wise’s Legion, along with a brigade under John B. Floyd, former Secretary of War under President James Buchanan, was ordered to expel Federal troops from western Virginia. That fall, Major Thomas Broun, who was also enlisted with Wise’s Legion, authorized his brother, Captain Joseph Broun, the regiment’s quartermaster, to scour the countryside in search of horses to be used by the military. He came upon Jeff Davis. Thomas later renamed the colt Greenbrier. He wrote:

I authorized my brother to purchase a good serviceable horse of the best Greenbrier stock for our use during the war. After much inquiry and search, he came across the horse above mentioned, and I purchased him for $175 (gold value) in the fall of 1861 from Captain James W. Johnston, son of Mr. Johnston. When Wise’s Legion was encamped about Meadow Bluff and Big Sewell mountains, I rode this horse, which was then greatly admired in camp for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage, and muscular strength… he needed neither whip nor spur and would walk his five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of Western Virginia with his rider sitting firmly in the saddle and holding him in check by a tight rein, such vim and eagerness did he manifest to go right ahead so soon as he was mounted.

When General Lee took command of Wise’s Legion and Floyd’s brigade that were encamped at and near Big Sewell mountains in the fall of 1861, he first saw this horse and took a great fancy to it. He called it his colt, and said that he would use it before the war was over. Whenever the general saw my brother on this horse, he had something pleasant to say to him about my colt as he designated this horse.7 

In 1926, The Charlottesville Daily Progress recorded Mrs. Louisa Cary Feamster’s eyewitness account of Lee‘s first encounter with Jeff Davis. She said that General Lee and his staff stopped at the Johnston farm to rest on their way to Sewell Mountain. The weather was warm, there had been a light afternoon rain, and soon the general dozed off. After he awakened and was conversing with the Johnston’s, including Captain James “Dick” Johnston, who was home visiting, General Lee saw the gray gelding grazing in a clover field near the house. He immediately offered to buy “the Kentucky thoroughbred,”8 as Mrs. Feamster called him. Captain Johnston, who was in the infantry and not in need of a mount, told the General that he had tentatively sold the horse to Joseph Broun.9 

Generals Wise and Floyd refused to cooperate during the campaign, and the military effort to keep the western counties of Virginia in the Confederacy failed. Lee was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, and given command of the coastal defenses. The third regiment of Wise’s Legion, now the 60th Virginia, was also transferred to South Carolina. Thomas Broun had become ill, so Greenbrier went to South Carolina with his brother, Joseph. When the 60th Virginia arrived at Pocotalipo, Lee saw Greenbrier again. Captain Broun offered to give the horse to him.

Lee declined, saying, “If you will willingly sell me the horse, I will gladly use it for a week or so to learn its qualities.”10 

https://www.amazon.com/Horses-Gray-Famous-Confederate-Warhorses/dp/145562327X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=horses+in+gray&qid=1564463368&s=gateway&sr=8-1

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Long Forgotten History (And Why We Can’t Repeat It)

I found this article fascinating and wanted to share it. When I read it, I learned a lot about our American history and what happened in the South after the Civil War ended. I find it especially interesting because my next novel delves into the issues of Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, and Western expansion. I only hope I can find a publisher who doesn’t shy away from it, even though, now apparently, the Confederacy has become controversial and taboo. Hopefully, I can find a publisher who can take the heat! If you know of one, please refer me to them.

220px-'The_Fiery_Cross_of_old_Scotland's_hills!'

        by Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham

Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Viet Nam War who graduated from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and is qualified through the rank of major general. He is the author of more than 40 books, several of which were History or Military History Book Club Selections.
I am always annoyed when a conservative political leader attacks Southern heritage. I don’t know why because with the present-day crop of cowardly politicians, it is becoming routine, but I am. Unwittingly or not, these modern day Scalawags adopt the “politically correct” line, even though they know (or should know) that political correctness is nothing more than a euphemism for cultural Marxism.
Recently, the courageous governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, swam against the politically correct stream, obeyed state law, and issued a proclamation calling for a day of observance in honor of Nathan Bedford Forrest as well as commemorating Confederate Decoration Day and Robert E. Lee Day. Governor Lee also stated that he would not be a party to “whitewashing history” by ripping down the bust of Forrest in the Tennessee State Capitol.
For his refusal to join this intellectual lynch mob, Governor Lee was immediately attacked by the usual anti-Southern bigots and Socialist/Democrat/Leftist house organs, such as the Washington Compost and the New York Slimes.[1] This was predictable. What was unusual and absurd about this particular assault on the memory of a brave man is a tweet by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who mounted his rhetorical Mount Siani and declared: “This is wrong!”
But was it, Senator? And what do you know about it, anyway?
First of all, I suppose I should confess that I like Ted Cruz politically, generally speaking. We have not yet met but do have some mutual acquaintances, including Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. Phil is my preacher at the University Church of Christ in Monroe, Louisiana, and he spoke for Mr. Cruz in Iowa. During the 2016 primaries, I was torn between voting for Cruz, Mike Huckabee, or Donald Trump. I was sorry when he and Donald Trump tore into each other, and I think the future president was wrong to attack Cruz’s father. I am also sorry that the senator from Texas cannot see that, in attacking the memory of Bedford Forrest, Senator Cruz is unwittingly making himself a “useful idiot” (to borrow a phrase from Lenin) for the Left, which has gone completely over the edge and is working night and day to turn this country into Venezuela.
But back to my original question: what do you know about it anyway, Senator Cruz?
It is also appalling to me when a conservative such as Glenn Beck or Ted Cruz-who would never allow the politically correct to deceive them on contemporary issues-routinely allow themselves to be hoodwinked on historical topics. Nathan Bedford Forrest is a prime example.
Forrest joined the Klan in 1866. If the Klan were the same organization then as it is today, Mr. Cruz would be correct in condemning it. But was it? To determine if Cruz’s denunciation of Forrest is valid, we must ask ourselves some questions. First, was the Klan of that day the same as the Klan of today? Second, what were the circumstances that induced Forrest to join that organization? Thirdly, when it became something he did not intend, what did he do?
What Mr. Cruz and his ilk too often fail to take into account is that organizations change over time. The year 1865 was pivotal in American history. It was the year the Civil War ended, the Confederacy died, the Ku Klux Klan was born, and the Democratic Party transitioned from the party of slavery to the party of white supremacy. Later, it became the party of separate but equal (with white people being more equal) and the party of segregation after that. Today, it is transforming itself again-into God knows what. It is not the same as it was in 1865.
Neither is the Klan. It was born in the law offices of Judge Thomas Jones in Pulaski, Tennessee. Half its original members were attorneys. Its initial standards were high. One had to be in the Confederate Army at the time of the surrender or in a Union prisoner-of-war camp to be eligible for membership. Its original mission statement called for it to be “an instrument of Chivalry, Humanity, Mercy and patriotism” which was to “relieve and assist the injured, oppressed, suffering, and unfortunate, especially widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers.” (This the government in Washington would not do. They did, however, have a 47% tax on cotton, which they used to subsidize Northern railroads and other large corporations. On the other hand, they did provide pensions to Northern widows and orphans at the expense of Southern widows and orphans.) One had to apply for membership. As far as we can tell (written records are absent), its eighth member was John C. Brown, former Confederate brigadier general and, within eight years, governor of Tennessee. Also a lawyer.
The Klan started out as a social club, but that soon changed. It grew like wildfire and morphed into something else altogether.
The loss of the war and the death of the Confederacy were not isolated events. They also signaled the breakdown of the Southern economy and the collapse of law and order in many localities. Gangs of criminals and individual thugs had a field day throughout the South. Union deserters, Southern outlaws, recently freed slaves who did not know how to handle their freedom, and professional criminals ran amuck. Arson, robbery, rape, and murder were the order of the day. At the same time, Carpetbaggers and collaborators pillaged the public treasuries, increased taxes 300% to 400%, ran up huge public debts, pocketed the proceeds, stole land and farms, and enriched themselves at the expense of a helpless and impoverished people.
African Americans suffered most of all. Much of the South’s land was ruined during the conflict, and 1867 was a year of famine. The new Northern rulers had no interest in the Southern people, black or white. Tens of thousands of Negroes literally starved to death.[2] No effort was made on the part of the new rulers to even keep records of how many died. They were too busy stealing.
Public health was almost completely ignored. Smallpox epidemics periodically raged throughout the South in the 1862 through 1868 period. The weakened and malnourished black folks were especially susceptible, often dying at rates of three or four times higher than Southern whites, who were themselves not well nourished. Black children were particularly hard hit. In one six-month period in 1865, 30,000 African Americans died in North Carolina and South Carolina alone. The epidemic lasted six years.[3]
Not content with theft and neglect, a significant minority of Northern politicians openly advocated a second Civil War. They included Thaddeus Stevens, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives; General Benjamin F. “Spoons” Butler; Governor Richard Yates of Illinois; carpetbagger Governor Andrew J. Hamilton of Texas; and Senator Jim Lane of Kansas, among others. U.S. Congressman William Anderson Pile advocated “death to all supporters of the South, past or present.”[4] General William T. Sherman wanted Southerners demoted to “demizens”: people who were given certain rights (such as the right to pay taxes) but not others (such as the right to vote).
Of particular interest to Forrest was carpetbagger Governor William G. “Parson” Brownlow of Tennessee. A former Methodist preacher, slave owner, and newspaper editor, he believed slavery was “ordained by God.” He nevertheless supported the Union and a second Civil War. “I am one of those who believed that the war ended too soon,” he declared, and “the loyal masses” should not “leave one Rebel fence rail, outhouse, one dwelling, in the seceded states. As for the Rebel population, let them be exterminated.”
This kind of wild talk sounds incredible today, but people like Nathan Bedford Forrest had no choice but to take it seriously-especially in Tennessee.
The Southerners after the war were in the same position as the French Resistance was in World War II. The government were it was functioning at all was often in the hands of criminals, and they felt compelled to take the law into their own hands. There is a point between civilization and anarchy in which vigilantism is an acceptable, temporary measure, until law and order can be restored. Into that breach stepped Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was receiving a hundred letters a day from his former soldiers, relating eye-witness accounts of outrage and lawlessness. He was first told about the Klan by George Washington Gordon, a former Confederate general and war hero. Forrest applied for membership through John W. Morton, his former chief of artillery who celebrated his 21st birthday commanding a battalion of horse artillery in the Battle of Chickamauga.[5] In the spring of 1866, the leaders of the KKK met in the Maxwell House in Nashville, Tennessee, and created the position of “Grand Wizard,” a tribute to Forrest’s wartime nickname, “Wizard of the Saddle,” and gave it to the general.
The Klan had already transformed into a hybrid neighborhood protection/vigilante organization which met violence with violence and terror with terror. It was definitely a mixed bag. Under Forrest, it became, as he said, “a protective political military organization,” i.e., a paramilitary force, a counterbalance to Brownlow’s Loyal Legion. Governor Brownlow sought to pass a law making it legal for anyone to shoot a former Confederate on sight. If that law passed, Forrest declared, there would be a second war, although he did not want it, but he would look upon the activation of Brownlow’s militia as a declaration of war. He also declared that he could raise 40,000 Klansmen in Tennessee and 550,000 throughout the South in five days. No one wanted to fight a half a million man cavalry army under Nathan Bedford Forrest, especially Brownlow and his cronies. The militia was not activated. A second war was avoided.
In February 1869, Brownlow resigned as governor. His successor sought to work with the Democrats, was conciliatory to his former enemies, and restored voting rights to Southern veterans and Confederate sympathizers. Forrest, meanwhile, became concerned that white trash elements were taking over large parts of the organization and were using it for their own nefarious and hateful purposes. As a result, Nathan Bedford Forrest issued General Order Number One, disbanding the Ku Klux Klan. “There was no further need for it,” Forrest commented later, “. . . the country was safe.”
Certain branches of the KKK lived on after Forrest disbanded it, under such names as the Constitutional Union Guards, the Pale Faces, the White Brotherhood, the White League, and the Knights of the White Camelia, and a few Ku Klux dens lingered on until 1877 and even after, but the original Ku Klux Klan effectively ceased to exist and faded into history. As Captain John Calhoun Lester, one of the original founders, wrote later: “There never was, before or since, a period of our history when such an order could have lived. May there never be again!”[6] Let us pray that the captain was right.
In 1915, Hollywood produced an infamous film, “Birth of a Nation.” Its contents were so incendiary that it led to several race riots, propelled the NAACP into national prominence, and led to the birth of a second Ku Klux Klan.[7] This racist organization became the paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party and was (and is) largely a terrorist organization. Had it not pirated the name of the original KKK, we might look upon the original Klan much differently than we do. But it did. To associate Nathan Bedford Forrest’s name with the depredations of this second incarnation of the Klan of the 20th and 21st centuries is wrong, but many people do, even though it was created almost four decades after his death, and he clearly had nothing to do with it.
General Forrest’s racial views continued to evolve over time. He addressed an early civil rights organization, was denounced by a Freedman’s Bureau officer as being “too liberal” to the African Americans he employed, provoked the outrage of several editors by kissing a young black lady on the cheek after she presented him with a bouquet of flowers, was denounced by the (Confederate) Cavalry Survivors Association for his positive attitude toward African Americans, hired them in responsible positions in his railroad (i.e., as foremen, conductors, architects, and engineers), and was one of two former Confederate generals I know of who advocated allowing African-Americans to vote.[8] I bet you didn’t know that, Senator Cruz. When Forrest died in 1877, twenty thousand people lined the street for two miles with their hats off, respectfully mourning him as his hearse slowly passed by. These included more than 3,000 black mourners. One source placed this number at 6,000.
I would go on with your history lesson, Mr. Cruz, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I would, however, suggest that you refrain from attacking heroes from other states until you learn more about Southern history. Texas, after all, had more than its share of slaveholding heroes. William B. Travis and Jim Bowie (my personal favorite), the commanders of the Alamo, leap to mind. Already, there are those agents of political correctness who would hand the Alamo over to the United Nations as a World Heritage Site, so they can “contextualize” it. Eventually-should they succeed-they will want to tear it down, on the grounds that it represents white supremacy, oppression of a minority group, or some other pretext. And don’t think for one moment they wouldn’t try it. The Left wants no heroes to exist except its own.
________________________________________
[1] Also known as the Washington Post and the New York Times.
[2] Exact numbers do not exist. The Carpetbaggers and Union Army were so indifferent to the fate of the black people they did not bother to keep records. Estimates as to the exact number who died vary between 80,000 and 1,000,000. Most of them were African American. See Jim Downs, Sick From Freedom: African-American Death and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction. Oxford: 2012, p. 8ff.
[3] Donald W. Livingston, “Confederate Emancipation Without War,” in Frank B. Powell, ed., To Live and Die in Dixie (Columbia, Tennessee: 2004), p. 462.
[4] Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Blue (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 1964), p. 372. Piles was a former Union general.
[5] Morton was later secretary of agriculture and secretary of state of Tennessee.
[6] John Calhoun Lester and Rev. D. L. Wilson, The Ku Klux Klan: Its Origin, Growth and Disbandment (New York: 1905), p. 132.
[7] See Linda Gordon, The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition (New York: 2017) and William Rawlings, The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s (Macon, Georgia: 2017).
[8] The other one was P. G. T. Beauregard.
(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, July 19, 2019 ed.)

More Monument News

Monument

The assault on Confederate monuments, as well as anything related to the Confederacy, continues to rampage and rape the South. Ridiculous as it is, some folks still consider these century-old relics to now be racist. FYI, inanimate objects cannot be racist, but some folks consider them to represent racism, although this wasn’t an issue when the monuments were erected or while they existed for over 100 years. After too many years of destruction, finally, common sense is seeping back into our country’s consciousness.

TEXAS APPEALS COURT INTERVENES FOR MONUMENTS

In June, the city got clearance from a Dallas County district judge who denied a request for a temporary injunction. The monument was covered in black plastic.

Monday, the city of Dallas was ordered by the State appellat court not to remove the monument to the Confederacy downtown. The court also ordered the city not to sell the Robert E. Lee statue unless the sale had been completed. That statue was sold at auction for more than $1.4 million and is already in the hands of its new owner.

The lawsuit was filed by a Dallas man who insists removing the monuments is unconstitutional.

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, July 5, 2019 ed.)

Was It Really All About Slavery?

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In last Sunday’s Colorado Springs Gazette, reporter David Ramsey wrote a story about Confederates who are buried in Colorado. He then went on to say that all of them undeniably fought to preserve slavery. He stressed this opinion throughout his story, and even contradicted people he interviewed with his strong opinions.

I’m not denying that slavery played a part in leading up to the Civil War, but Ramsey fails to mention all the other reasons why the war came about. He sites Confederate VP Alexander H. Stephens’ racist statements, but fails to take into account that racism was commonplace back then. President Lincoln was a huge racist, as a matter of fact, and wanted to ship all the blacks back to Africa or somewhere else out of the country. Ramsey claims that Robert E. Lee had slaves (which he set free before the war), but fails to mention how Grant kept his slaves until after the war, not to mention how seriously racist Sherman was, not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, and didn’t hesitate to kill as many as possible.

Here is a link to the story. Please let me know what your thoughts are. I’d love to see your comments!

https://gazette.com/news/david-ramsey-confederate-flags-fly-over-colorado-rebel-graves/article_7b2ca66a-8ef5-11e9-838e-1b97c92b8c31.html?fbclid=IwAR1ZMoV35Un9hAkw_gGwAXumVJ8LkCHP8kUqqzK1qd96n89GCYhTgqCG4Jw

More on Old Douglas

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 10)

Mary Surratt

The only woman convicted and hung for the role she played during the War Between the States. 

mary-surratt

Mary Elizabeth Surratt became a widow at age 42, during the summer of 1862. Her husband left behind 287 acres in what is now Prince George’s County, Maryland. He had constructed a two-story house on the land that became known as Surrattsville. The house was converted into a tavern that served as a way station for the clandestine Confederate network. Mr. Surratt also left his wife a boarding house on H Street in Washington D.C. In October 1864, Mary and her three children permanently moved to that location and rented out the tavern to a man named John Lloyd.  

Over the course of the next few months, 541 H Street would become the focal point in what is considered to be one of the most influential crimes in American history. John Wilkes Booth, who frequented the Surratt home, hatched his original kidnapping conspiracy there. Other players who were involved included Mary’s son John, George Atzeroldt, who was supposed to assassinate Vice President Johnson, and Lewis Powell (aka Lewis Paine), who was responsible for the vicious attack on Secretary of State William Seward the night of April 14, 1865, (the same night that President Lincoln was assassinated). David Herold, who was a friend of John Surratt and John Wilkes Booth, rode with Booth following the assassination. He was later captured at Garrett’s Farm, where Booth was shot to death by Sergeant Boston Corbett, who was part of the 16th New York Cavalry that cornered the two men inside a barn. Also participating in the conspiracy were Samuel Arnold, who was an original plotter in the kidnapping scheme, Michael O’Laughlen, who was had been sent to kill Secretary of War Edwin Stanton but failed, and Dr. Samuel Mudd, who treated Booth’s injuries after he escaped from Washington.  

Booth intended to kidnap President Lincoln in order to force the Union to surrender captured Confederates. His plans were solidified by March 1865, but were postponed for various reasons, and proved futile once General Lee surrendered on April 9. Mary Surratt traveled to her tavern on April 13, where she allegedly told her renter, John Lloyd, “to have the shooting irons ready; there will be some parties call for them.”  

Following the assassination, a woman whose niece worked for Mary contacted police, saying that suspicious men had been seen at Mary’s boarding house. Subsequently, everyone in the house, including Mary, was arrested. Before leaving, Mary was caught in a lie, denying that she knew Lewis Powell, who just happened to show up with a shovel, claiming that she required his services for digging a ditch.  

At the trial, several eyewitnesses testified to her involvement in the assassination scheme, including George Atzeroldt. Some claimed that they had seen Mary conversing with Booth, who gave her a wrapped package containing field glasses that she was to leave with her tenant, John Lloyd. Although her son escaped conviction because he was in New York at the time, Mary was not so lucky. Tried before a military commission, the conspirators were found guilty. Mary was one of four sentenced to death by hanging. No one believed she would actually be put to death because of her gender, but regardless of her lawyers’ issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, the federal judge’s order to have her delivered to his courtroom on the morning of her execution (which was ignored), and pleas from her daughter, Anna, President Johnson refused to commute Mary’s sentence. Two days before her execution, the judge advocate general delivered a plea for her clemency to President Johnson, who later claimed that he received no such request until after the hanging. 

Mary Surratt died in Washington’s Arsenal prison yard on July 7, 1865 with Lewis Powell, David Harold, and George Atzeroldt. As army personnel crowded into the yard to watch, the first woman to be executed by the U.S. government fell through the gallows’ trap doors alongside her co-conspirators. Whether she was actually guilty of the crimes she was accused of committing, or whether her sentence was unjustified and unfair, remains a topic of debate.  

A film directed by Robert Redford, entitled “The Conspirator,” tells the story of Mary Surratt, and is set for release in March 2011. If you have the opportunity, visit Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. In the basement is housed a unique museum containing descriptions and artifacts surrounding this inauspicious act. 

 

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 8)

Mary Anna Custis Lee – Wife of Robert E. Lee

Mary_Custis_Lee
     Born on October 1, 1808, Mary Anna Randolph Custis was the only surviving child of Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, who was George Washington’s step-grandson. Mary Anna was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. She enjoyed all the benefits of growing up in a wealthy family, and spent most of her time at Arlington, which her father built in honor of George Washington.
     Mary had many suitors, and received a marriage proposal from Sam Houston. The man who stole her heart, however, was her second cousin, Robert Edward Lee, whom she had known since childhood. They were married at Arlington on June 30. 1831. Robert had already become an established military man, so he brought Mary with him to West Point. It wasn’t long before she gave birth to a boy, and over the course of several years, bore two more sons and four daughters. She was fluent in four languages, and was an avid painter, author, and horticulturalist, propagating eleven rose varieties in her garden at Arlington. Mary was also deeply religious, and as her rheumatoid arthritis progressed, she accepted it as the will of God. She inherited Arlington after her father passed away in 1857, and two years later, published his memoirs, which she titled “Recollections.” She included an editor’s note stressing the urgency of reconciliation between northern and southern states, as the approaching Civil War seemed imminent.
     Following Virginia’s secession, Mary’s sons enlisted, and Robert resigned from his position with the U.S. military to serve under the newly-formed Confederate States of America. He traveled to Richmond, but Mary remained at Arlington until May, when she received word that Union soldiers were crossing the Potomac from Washington to seize her estate. Reluctantly, she departed, believing that the move was only temporary. How strange she must have felt knowing that she, the descendant of George Washington, was now the enemy. She traveled to different family-owned plantations until the encroaching Yankees forced her to retreat to Richmond. Once there, she set up housekeeping at several locations, all the while diligently knitting socks and mittens for her husband and his soldiers, despite her crippling arthritis.
     In 1863, following the Battle of Brandy Station, Mary witnessed the arrest of her wounded son, Rooney, who had been transported to a local plantation home to recuperate under Mary’s care. She found it necessary to travel to hot springs because of her condition, where she learned of the battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Once she returned to Richmond in the fall, she busied herself with knitting, even though inflated costs made it difficult for her to obtain yarn, and she was saddened by the loss of a daughter due to typhoid fever. Rooney’s two children and his frail wife also succumbed to disease.
     During the war, she rarely saw her husband or sons. While her daughters attended services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on April 2, 1865, they observed as President Davis was called away, and learned afterward that General Lee’s forces had fallen back: Richmond was being evacuated. Mary, however stubborn, refused to leave, and watched from her window as residents scrambled to get out before the Yankees invaded. Following a still quiet, bummers entered the city, looting, cursing, and setting fires. Still, Mary resiliently held tight. Union forces soon appeared, restoring order, and a sentry was placed at her door for protection. Out of the goodness of her heart, she sent down a breakfast tray every morning to the weary soldier who stood outside her door. It wasn’t long before she learned that her husband had surrendered his army. Robert, along with their sons, returned home soon afterward.
     Once the war ended, Robert received many job offers, finally accepting the position as president of Washington College in Lexington. By December, Mary joined him. They spent many happy years together until the summer of 1870, when Robert caught a cold that aggravated the angina he’d developed seven years earlier. He died on October 12, and was buried in a crypt beneath the campus chapel. Mary did not attend the funeral.
     Bedridden for a month, her health finally improved. She was allowed to remain at what was renamed Washington and Lee College, since her son, Custis, had been elected to succeed his father. In 1872, she filed a petition with the Judiciary Committee of Congress to receive payment for Arlington, but her request was denied. Meanwhile, her arthritis had grown so bad that she could no longer sew, so she painted and sold tinted photographs of herself, Robert, and George and Martha Washington, donating the proceeds to charity. The following year, she toured Virginia, where her travels brought her back to her beloved Arlington. Appalled by the desecration, she remained in the carriage as old servants ran out to greet her. Grand trees that had once stood on the property had been reduced to stumps, and headstones cluttered the lawn. She returned to Alexandria, and continued her charity work. In October, her daughter, Agnes, died, which broke Mary’s heart. The loss was too much for her: on November 5, 1873, she, too, passed away. Per her request, she was entombed in the basement of the college chapel next to her husband.

     (In 1874, Custis took up his mother’s crusade to obtain Arlington and won. Because the house was surrounded by a cemetery, he immediately sold it to the U.S. Government. Ownership was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933. Eventually, all of the Lee children’s remains were moved to the Lee Chapel.)

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 5)

Laura Ratcliffe

Laura_Ratcliffe_Portrait

If it wasn’t for Laura Ratcliffe, Colonel John Mosby, the infamous “Grey Ghost,” might have been captured by the Yankees. Not only did she aid Mosby in his mission to serve the Confederacy as a Partisan Ranger, but she also provided valuable information to Confederate cavalry commander Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart. 

Laura Ratcliffe was born on May 28, 1836 in Fairfax City, Virginia. Her parents were Francis Fitzhugh and Ann McCarty (Lee) Ratcliffe. Laura was a distant cousin to General Robert E. Lee on her mother’s side. When her father died, she moved with her mother and two sisters to Frying Pan (now Herndon) in Fairfax County, just south of Washington D.C. Once the Civil War broke out, the area bore witness to numerous raids and encampments from both sides. 

Laura and one of her sisters volunteered to serve as nurses. During the winter of 1861, while they were assisting wounded soldiers, Laura met General J.E.B. (James Ewell Brown) Stuart, and the two became friends.  He wrote several personal letters and four poems to her, imploring her to continue with her espionage. In return, she provided him and fellow cavalryman Colonel John Singleton Mosby with valuable information concerning Union troop activity in the county. 

A year later, Stuart led his cavalry on several raids in the area, and he visited Laura at her home many times. While at the Ratcliffe home, Mosby asked if he could remain there and continue operations instead of going into winter quarters. Stuart consented, and departed the area. Mosby and nine other soldiers from the 1st Virginia Cavalry continued to use the Ratcliffe home as their headquarters. Oftentimes, Mosby met Laura at a large rock near the top of Squirrel Hill to exchange information. Following one particularly lucrative raid, he requested that Laura keep the Federal greenbacks he had confiscated for safekeeping, so she stashed them beneath the rock. 

In February 1863, Mosby captured several Federal soldiers, and returned their plunder to local citizens. Laura discovered that the Yankees had set a trap for Mosby, so she warned him of the intended ambush. Because of her valuable information, Mosby avoided arrest and captured a sutler’s wagon.   

Captain Willard Glazer with the 2nd New York Cavalry complained that Laura “is a very active and cunning rebel, who is known to our men, and is at least suspected of assisting Mosby not a little in his movements … by the means of Miss Ratcliffe and her rebellious sisterhood, Mosby is generally informed.”  

In March, Mosby managed to capture Union Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton by surprising him in his sleep. Arriving in the general’s room, Mosby asked him, “Do you know Mosby?” 

“Yes,” replied the general. “Have you captured the devil?” 

“No,” Mosby responded. “The devil has caught you.” 

Mosby captured the general, two of his captains, and 58 horses without firing a single shot. When President Abraham Lincoln heard of the event, he reportedly said that generals are replaceable, but he deeply regretted the loss of so many good horses. 

Although it was obvious to the Federals that Laura’s house was being used for Confederate headquarters, she was never arrested or tried for any crime. After the war ended, she lived with her mother in an old farmhouse named “Merrybrook.” In 1890, Laura, who was now 54 years old and destitute, married a neighbor, Union veteran Milton Hanna. She became wealthy because of it, but her husband died in an accident seven years later. 

Laura was a very private person, and never sought or received recognition for her courageous contributions to the Confederacy. Instead, she directed her attentions to the poor and unfortunate. In 1914, she fell and presumably broke her hip, but because she refused to receive medical treatment from a male doctor, the diagnosis was never verified. However, the accident left her an invalid for the rest of her life. Before her death at age 87 on August 8, 1923, she requested that “a neat grey granite stone” be placed at her gravesite with the names of Ratcliffe, Coleman, and Hanna carved into them. In 2007, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Laura Ratcliffe Branch, erected such a marker.  

Merrybrook is now under direct threat. The current owners are striving to have the home preserved, but development is encroaching. The rock where Laura and Colonel Mosby exchanged information still exists, and a monument on the country highway nearby has been erected with an inscription that reads: 

This large boulder, located just south of here, served as an important landmark during the Civil War, when Col. John S. Mosby’s Partisan Rangers (43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) assembled there to raid Union outposts, communications, and supply lines. Laura Ratcliffe, a young woman who lived nearby and spied for Mosby, concealed money and messages for him under the rock. Mosby credited her with saving him from certain capture by Federal cavalry on one occasion. She also was a friend of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. 

Among the items discovered in her effects after her death was a gold-embossed brown leather album, which contained several poems, as well as the signatures of General J.E.B. Stuart, Colonel Mosby, and Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee, son of Robert E. Lee. A gold watch chain belonging to Stuart was also found with her possessions. 

For more information, and to learn how you can help with preservation, please visit:  

www.lauraratcliffe.org. 

 

 

 

In Honor of a Great American General

robert e. lee

As I mentioned last week, one of my favorite people from the Civil War is General Robert E. Lee. Here is an article about his experience at Fredericksburg, as well as an interesting trivia list about his life. Today marks his birthday. He was born on January 19, 1807.

THE NORTHERN LIGHTS – FREDERICKSBURG

DECEMBER 14, 1862

“General Robert E. Lee had a reason for hope at the end of 1862. The Battle of Fredericksburg had given the Confederacy a greatly needed victory. On December 13th, General Ambrose Burnside had thrown repeated attacks against Lee’s impenetrable line on Mayre’s Heights. In ponderous, deliberate waves, the Union troops had charged across a plain and into Southern shot and shell. Casualties were so heavy that the dead lay in heaps in front of the stone wall at the base of the heights. Burnside’s troops had limited success against Stonewall Jackson’s Corps, but were quickly repulsed. Clear days and freezing nights followed, and the field echoed with the pitiful cries of the wounded stranded between the lines. By nightfall on December 14, General Burnside had decided to withdraw his army from the plain and back to Fredericksburg. It was an evening few on either side would soon forget. As Lee’s soldiers worked on improving their defenses, Union troops slowly carried the wounded and dying from the field. At nightfall, the toil of both armies was suddenly illuminated by a celestial phenomenon – the Northern Lights – which cast the Virginia countryside in an unearthly glow. Few men from the deep South had ever seen the Northern Lights, and most stared in wonderment. Was this fantastic display a sign of Confederate triumph?

General Lee and his staff rode along Telegraph Road past Howison’s Mill, where his reserves had gathered before going to Marye’s Heights. The frigid water of Hazel Run cooled the riders while Lee, deep in thought, focused on tomorrow. The night’s chill and splendid display did not distract Lee form his preparation for another day of battle.”

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(Plan for Victory, painting by John Paul Strain)

“In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength. Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, when summoned away, to leave without regret.” – General Robert E. Lee

AURORA BOREALIS

On the night of December 14, the Aurora Borealis made an appearance unusual for that latitude, presumably caused by a large solar flare. One witness described that “the wonderful spectacle of the Aurora Borealis was seen in the Gulf States. The whole sky was a ruddy glow as if from an enormous conflagration, but marked by the darting rays peculiar to the Northern lights.” The event was noted in the diaries and letters of many soldiers at Fredericksburg, such as John W. Thompson, Jr., who wrote “Louisiana sent those famous cosmopolitan Zouaves called the Louisiana Tigers, and there were Florida troops who, undismayed in fire, stampeded the night after Fredericksburg, when the Aurora Borealis snapped and crackled over that field of the frozen dead hard by the Rappahannock …”

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  • Robert E. Lee was 5′ 11″ tall and wore a size 4-1/2 boot, equivalent to a modern 6-1/2 boot.
  • Two relatives of Lee were naval officers on opposing sides in the Civil War: Richard Lucian Page (Confederate States Navy and later a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army) and Samuel Phillips Lee (U.S. Navy Captain).
  • Confederate Brig. Gen. Edwin Gray Lee, a son-in-law of William N. Pendleton, was Robert E. Lee’s second cousin. Another relation was Confederate Brig. Gen. William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, an indirect relation of Mrs. Lee who was descended from George Washington’s father Augustine Washington and his first wife, Jane Butler.
  • After the war Lee had financial difficulties. A Virginia insurance company offered Lee $10,000 to use his name, but he declined the offer, relying wholly on his university salary.Freeman 1934, Vol. IV, p. 244.
  • Traveller, Lee’s favorite horse, accompanied Lee to Washington College after the war. He lost many hairs from his tail to admirers who wanted a souvenir of the famous horse and his general. In 1870, when Lee died, Traveller was led behind the General’s hearse. Not long after Lee’s death, Traveller stepped on a rusty nail and developed tetanus. There was no cure, and he was put down. He was buried next to the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University. In 1907, his remains were disinterred and displayed at the Chapel, before being reburied beside the Lee Chapel in 1971.
  • Lee always said that his true calling should have been in education. Not only did he help bring about reconciliation through his work at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) but he also promoted new subjects, such as Engineering and even the first Reserve Officers Training Corps (or ROTC). Up until then they were only held at the military service academies. Many students enrolled from both the North as well as the South. The German minister to Washington even enrolled his two sons there.
  • The Lee family line continues today with the Lees in Virginia and the Longs in Tennessee. The Lee family inter-married with the Longs often enough that he named his other beloved horse “Lucy Long” after a young lady he almost married.
  • Although they never became friends, Lee never forgot Grant’s magnanimity and generosity at Appomattox, and would not tolerate an unkind word to be said about Grant in his presence. When a Washington College faculty member dared to do just that when Grant ran for president, Lee’s face flushed. “Sir,” he said, “If you should ever propose to say something disparaging about General Grant again, either you or I will resign from this facility.”
  • The General Lee, the souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger used in the television program in 1979 The Dukes of Hazzard and the 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie adaptation was named after Robert E. Lee.
  • In the movie Gods and Generals, Lee was played by actor Robert Duvall, who is related to Lee. After the Civil War, as Lee’s legacy grew, many people of Southern origin dug to find possible connection to Robert E. Lee, and such a connection was analogous to the frequent northern claim of being descended from Mayflower Pilgrims.
  • Lee is a character in the Harry Turtledove alternate history novel The Guns of the South.
  • Despite his presidential pardon by Gerald Ford and his continuing to being held in high regard by many Americans, Lee’s portrayal on a mural on Richmond’s Flood Wall on the James River was considered offensive by some, and was removed in the 1990s.
  • A famous Mississippi River steamboat was named for Lee after the Civil War.

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey camp 1452 Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 43, issue no. 1, January 2019)

 

 

 

Stories of Christmases Past

Here are some stories about what the South experienced during the War Between the States. By 1862, inflation in the South was rampant, as the following article describes.

CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS IN MISSISSIPPI

Confederate President Jefferson Davis celebrated Christmas in his home in Mississippi.

“After an absence of nearly two years,” he said, “I again find myself among those who…have ever been the trusted object of my affection.”

But Confederate Christmas celebrations in the area were cut short by reports of Union troop movements on the Mississippi threatening Vicksburg.

In the fall of 1862, Confederate refugees from the fighting in the areas surrounding the capital began to flood into the city. They included those who fled farms and towns now in Union-held territory, wives of Confederate soldiers looking for employment, and the destitute.

This influx of refugees drove rent prices much higher than they’d been previously, and wartime inflation sent prices on everyday goods skyrocketing. In the city, ten pounds of bacon, which cost $1.25 in 1860, now cost $10. Four pounds of coffee jumped from $0.50 to $20.

Richmond diarist and author Sallie Brock Putnam wrote about the sadness of Christmas for families who had lost soldiers in the war:

The Christmas dinner passed off gloomily. The vacant chairs were multiplied in Southern homes, and even the children who had curiously questioned the cause of the absence of the young soldier brother from the festive board, had heard too much, had seen too much, and knew too well why sad-colored garments were worn by the mother, and why the fold of rusty crape placed around the worn hat of the father, and why the joyous mirth of the sister was restrained, and her beautiful figure draped in mourning. Congratulations were forced, and tears had taken the place of smiles on countenances where cheerfulness was wont to reign.

Christmas of 1862 saw an important cultural development with the emergence of the modern image of Santa Claus. Famed illustrator FOC Darley published an edition of Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) featuring drawings of Santa as a plump man with a pipe, furry coat and pointed hat.

Santa

Thomas Nast, who in the late 19th century produced what came to be regarded as the definitive representations of St. Nick, published his first Santa drawing in Harper’s Weekly, January 3, 1863. “Santa Claus in Camp“ showed a star-spangled Santa in his reindeer-drawn sleigh handing out presents to jubilant soldiers.

Santa in camp

General Robert E. Lee in Gordonsville reported 40,000 soldiers watched a baseball game at Hilton Head, S.C., between the 165th New York Zouave regiment and a picked team from other units. One of the players was Abraham Gilbert Mills, later president of the National League.

Across the South there were movements of troops. Confederate General John Hunt Morgan engaged in his famous Christmas Raid in Kentucky; on that single day, Morgan’s men destroyed everything they possibly could of the improvements that the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had made along 35 miles of track from Bacon Creek to Lebanon Junction.

Robert E. Lee wrote his wife, “What a cruel thing is war. To separate & destroy families & friends & mar the purest joy and happiness God has granted us in this world…. I pray that on this day when ‘peace & good will’ are preached to all mankind that better thoughts will fill the hearts of our enemies & turn them to peace.”

Meanwhile, along the Rappahannock River, the two armies faced each other, probing their opponent’s lines looking for weak spots and capturing prisoners and supplies. Soldiers in both armies did what soldiers normally do during the winter. They rested and refitted. They entertained themselves with games and tournaments. They exchanged supplies with their fellow Americans across the river.

 

(Written by Peter Doré – English Friends of the South)

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

Time was short as final preparations were underway for General Thomas J. Jackson’s famous Stonewall Brigade. Jackson had received orders from General Robert E. Lee to move his corps east from the Shenandoah towards the Rappahannock River. The Federal army under the command of General Burnside was gathering in great numbers across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in an attempt to sweep around Lee’s eastern flank and attack Richmond.

Jackson’s corps numbered over 38,000 soldiers, the largest command he had ever had. Among these troops were his old reliable, tried and true, Stonewall Brigade, also referred to informally as “Virginia’s First Brigade”. Organized and trained personally by Jackson at Harper’s Ferry in April 1861, the brigade would distinguish itself at the Battle of Manassas, and become one of the most famous combat units in the war.

Snow lay on the ground in Winchester at the Frederick County Courthouse as new volunteers were organized and drilled for their march to meet the enemy. A young soldier was given a Christmas gift made by his sweetheart. Like so many couples, they did not know what the future held.

A Winchester resident watching the men pass through the town remarked how poor looking the soldiers were. “They were very destitute, many without shoes, and all without overcoats or gloves, although the weather was freezing. Their poor hands looked so red and cold holding their muskets in the biting wind….They did not, however look dejected, but went their way right joyfully.”

 

THE CHRISTMAS CAROL

The years of 1861 and 1862 had been momentous for Thomas J. Jackson. He had gone from being an unknown VMI professor with a Major’s commission, to the rank of Lieutenant General commanding the II Corps in General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. In battle after battle Jackson’s army had defeated those who opposed them. “Stonewall” was now one of the most famous and feared generals of the war.

Snow blanketed the countryside on November 22 as Confederate divisions gathered in Winchester. General Lee’s communiqués to Jackson made it clear that it was time to consolidate the army, preparing for the Union Army’s next move. Jackson’s Corps numbered 33,000 troops, the largest he had ever commanded. The task of organizing and preparing the new II Corps was daunting, but the General was up to the challenge and kept on the move.

On an early November morning at the Opequon Presbyterian church, members of the choir practiced a favorite Christmas carol for the passing Stonewall Jackson and his men. With the fate of his army and possibly the South to be decided in the coming days, the beautiful melody of a Christmas carol in the distance uplifted General Jackson and his men as they prepared to leave for Fredericksburg.

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“The Christmas Carol”
Opequon Presbyterian Church, Kernstown, Virginia – Winter of 1862
Artwork by John Paul Strain

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“The Christmas Gift”

Men of the Stonewall Brigade, Frederick County Courthouse – Winchester, Virginia Winter of 1862

Artwork by John Paul Strain

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans camp 1452, vol. 42, issue no. 12, Dec. 2018 ed.)

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