J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “slaves”

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 4)

Juliet Opie Hopkins

“Florence Nightingale of the South”

Juliet Opie Hopkins

Juliet Opie Hopkins was a pioneer in the advancement of women at a time when most were overlooked for supervisory positions. Her extraordinary abilities awarded her the position of leadership and power that didn’t exist anywhere else.

She was born on May 7, 1818 at her family’s Woodburn Plantation in Jefferson County, Virginia. Her father owned around 2,000 slaves, which established him in elite society. During her childhood, Juliet was home-schooled, and was sent to Miss Ritchie’s private school in Richmond when she reached adolescence. When she was sixteen, however, her mother died, so she left school to return home, where she helped manage Woodburn.

In 1837, Juliet married Commodore Alexander Gordon of the United States Navy. However, Gordon died in 1849, leaving her a young widow. She remarried in 1854, to a widower who was twenty-four years her senior. Arthur Hopkins was a lawyer and prominent businessman who had served as a United States senator and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. They adopted a niece, and considered the girl to be their daughter.

When the War Between the States broke out, Juliet sold her estates in New York, Virginia, and Alabama. She donated the money to the Confederacy for the establishment of hospitals. The Confederate military system dictated that each state was responsible for the care of its own patients.

In June 1861, she moved to Richmond and began organizing money and supplies that were sent from Alabama. In August, she set up a hospital for Alabama’s soldiers, and by November, had established a larger second hospital as well. During the November session, the Alabama legislature assumed responsibility for supporting the hospitals and appointed Juliet as chief matron. In the spring of 1862, she established a third hospital, and received the help of 92 women’s auxiliary groups in Alabama who made clothing and collected supplies.

During the Battle of Seven Pines on June 1, 1862, she was shot twice in the leg while attempting to rescue wounded men from the battlefield. Her injuries required surgery and left her with a permanent limp.

Although her husband was technically named State Hospital Agent, she was the one in charge. Regardless of her tremendous responsibilities, Juliet found time to personally care for soldiers by writing letters, making furlough requests, providing books, and keeping a thorough list of the deceased. She even collected hair samples from the dead to send to their families, which was common practice at the time.

A nurse in the Third Alabama Hospital, Fannie Beers, wrote about her:

“I have never seen a woman better fitted for such work. Energetic, tireless, systematic, loving profoundly the cause and its defenders, she neglected no detail of business or other thing that should afford aid or comfort to the sick and wounded. She kept up a voluminous correspondence, made in person every purchase for her charges, received and accounted for hundreds of boxes sent from Alabama containing clothing and delicacies for the sick and visited the wards of the hospitals every day. If she found any duty neglected by nurse or surgeon or hospital steward, her personal reprimand was certain and very severe. She could not nurse the sick or wounded personally, for her whole time was necessarily devoted to executive duties, but her smile was the sweetest, I believe, that ever lit up a human face, and standing by the bedside of some poor Alabamian, away from home and wretched as well as sick, she must have seemed to him like an angel visitant.”

In March 1863, the Confederate Medical Department assumed control over all hospitals. Many patients were sent to larger facilities, which prompted the closure of 35 units, including two of Juliet’s hospitals. The third hospital was closed in October, so she moved back to Alabama. Finding supplies scarce, she had the carpets in her Mobile home cut up and used for blankets. She continued her work in Tuskagee and Montgomery hospitals. When the state was invaded in April 1865, she and her husband fled to Georgia.

After the war ended, they returned to Mobile, and her humanitarian efforts became more well-known, making her a living legend.

Judge Hopkins died later that year, so Juliet left Alabama to live on property she still owned in New York City. Because she and her husband had lost most of their wealth, she lived the rest of her life in relative poverty. She died on March 9, 1890 while visiting her daughter in Washington D.C. Scores of veterans attended her funeral, including Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and Joseph E. Johnston, as well as Union General John Schofield. Members of the Alabama congressional delegation served as pallbearers. She was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in the same gravesite as her son-in-law, Union General Romeyn Beck Ayers.

In 1987, a marker was finally placed on her grave.

It is estimated that Juliet donated between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Southern cause. She was so revered by her peers that her picture was printed on Alabama Confederate paper currency 25-cent and 50-cent bills. She is a member of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.

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The Great General Lee

 

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One of my favorite people who lived during the Civil War is Confederate General Robert E. Lee. If Lee were alive, he would be celebrating his 209th birthday today. He came from a distinguished Virginia family, and his father, Harry “Lighthorse” Lee, fought in the Revolutionary War. Lee graduated at the head of his class at West Point, and served gallantly in the Mexican War. His integrity was unsurpassed, because he resigned his commission with the U.S. military to defend his home state of Virginia once the Civil War broke out. With reluctance, he did his duty, and performed it well up until the end of the war.

General Lee was deeply religious. He was a gentleman and a nobleman. He freed his slaves before the war started, unlike Union General Ulysses S. Grant, who freed his slaves after the war ended. Lee served as president of Washington and Lee University, but the war took its toll, like it did on so many soldiers. He only survived five years after the war ended.

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Lee was revered  by his countrymen, both North and South alike, as one of the finest generals America has ever produced. Dwight D. Eisenhower, America’s 34th president, said of him:

“General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause….he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle.

Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.

From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul.”

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When Franklin D. Roosevelt, America’s 32nd president, spoke at the unveiling of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Statue in Dallas, Texas, on June 12, 1936, he said: “I am happy to take part in this unveiling of the statue of Lee. All over the United States we recognize him as a great general. But also, all over the United States, I believe we recognize him as something much more than that. We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our Greatest American gentlemen.”

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General Lee has always been highly regarded… that is, until recently. Now, certain interest groups have been striving to disparage his name. It is shameful that they want to remove the Confederate battle flag that he fought under from his gravesite, or do away with his statues. It is also shameful that they are defacing monuments with graffiti. Just because political attitudes have changed, which they are always bound to do, is no excuse for erasing the past and defaming such an important historical figure.

“Everyone should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in the hope that it may find a place in history and descend to posterity. History is not the relation of campaigns and battles and generals or other individuals, but that which shows the principles for which the South contended and which justified her struggle for those principles.”                                                                   – General Robert E. Lee

General Lee appears in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453239012&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

Post-Civil War Files Will Enhance Family Searches

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Recently, FamilySearch, a large genealogy organization, announced that it is in collaboration with several other organizations to digitally release records they collected through the Freedmen’s Bureau. They plan to have the records searchable by 2016. This is a fascinating and important step, allowing millions of Americans to discover their true ancestry. It will also give people the opportunity to connect with relatives they never knew existed.

The Freedmen’s Bureau obtained information about an estimated 4 million newly freed slaves, including their previous owners, marriage and family history, military service, banking practices, and hospital and property records. These records serve as a treasure trove for African Americans who have been unable to learn more about their ancestry for years. They will also allow all Americans to learn how the United States transformed once Reconstruction began.

“The records serve as a bridge to slavery and freedom,” said Hollis Gentry, of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will showcase the records when it opens next year. “You can look at some of the original documents that were created at the time when these people were living… We get a sense of their voice. We get a sense of their desires, their goals, their dreams, their hopes.”

150th Anniversary of Lee’s Surrender

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Today marks the 150th anniversary of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, and the closing moments of the Civil War. After realizing that his exhausted and weakened army was surrounded, Lee exchanged a series of notes with Union General Ulysses S. Grant. They finally agreed to meet on April 9, 1865 at Wilmer McLean’s home in the village of Appomattox Court House. Their meeting lasted approximately two and a half hours, after which Lee surrendered his troops to Union forces.

This was indeed a sad day for the South, because it meant the end of states’ rights, as well as a more unified central government. It was sad for the country as a whole, because over 620,000 men lost their lives. Freed slaves thought it was the happiest day until they discovered later on that the Federal government had no intention of helping them prosper as a society. Because of this lack of support, many freedmen suffered from lack of food, medicine, etc., and had no other recourse but to return to their now impoverished former owners and beg for jobs. Thus, sharecropping began.

Appomattox Courthouse is now an historic national treasure. Wilmer McLean’s house has been restored, as have several other outbuildings at the tavern, located at a crossroads intersection. The road where Confederate soldiers lined up to surrender their arms still exists.

All of the buildings were in severe decay when restoration began. Mr. McLean lived at the home for five years after the war until his debt forced him to move back to Northern Virginia, where his wife owned a home. From that time until the 1970’s, the house and surrounding buildings stood vacant. Restoration is still in process.

The Saddest Day

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Today marks the 148th anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history, when the Confederacy was forced to surrender. It was sad for the South, because it meant the end of states’ rights and a more unified central government. It was sad for the country as a whole, because over 620,000 men lost their lives. Freed slaves thought it to be the happiest day until they discovered later on that the Federal government had no intention of helping them prosper as a society. Because of this lack of support, many freedmen suffered from lack of food, medicine, etc., and had no other recourse but to return to their now impoverished former owners and beg for jobs. Thus, sharecropping began.

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Appomattox Courthouse. where General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, is now an historic national treasure. Wilmer McLean’s house has been restored, as have several other outbuildings at the tavern, located at a crossroads intersection. The road where Confederate soldiers lined up to surrender their arms still exists.

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The buildings were in severe decay when restoration began. Mr. McLean lived at the home for five years after the war until his debt forced him to move back to Northern Virginia, where his wife owned a home. From that time until the 1970’s, the house and surrounding buildings stood vacant. Restoration is still in process.

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