Steve, co-researcher for the 18th Mass. and driving force behind The Civil War Research Guide
advised that Stackpole Books is going to take advantage of technology by offering the book in electronic form. Ebooks are one technology I admittedly haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to, even though they’ve been around for nine years. When it comes to electronic gadgets I’ve got the entire scene virtually covered, with the exception of video games. Forget “Grand Theft Auto IV,” which has sold 8.5 million copies, “Guitar Hero III,” which has racked up $690,000,000 in sales, or the 2007 and 2008 versions of Madden football, which together have combined for over 14 million cash cow transactions; hand over the dice (shake ‘em once, shake ‘em twice), and give me the deeds to Boardwalk and Park Place anytime.
What to make of the Ebook. In five years of daily riding on the DC Metro rail system, the only Ebook I’ve ever seen was in an advertisement on a platform. The DC metropolitan population is both well heeled and well educated. However, paying attention to commuters will show the number one activity while riding the rails to and from work is sitting or standing in silence, followed by text messaging on cell phones, listening to MP3 players, reading a free abridged edition of a newspaper, reading supermarket bestsellers, talking to someone on the phone, talking to a fellow passenger, and last, but least, reading a serious book.
Personal observation aside, an estimated one million Ebook readers have been sold, led by Amazon and Sony products. Each buyer will, in turn, reportedly shell out an additional $120 to $150 on reading material. Whereas there were problems associated with the earlier readers, current models are reported to be extraordinarily lightweight, have clear and crisp “print,” while screens project a paperback sized image. Best of all, the average sized book can be downloaded onto the reader in a minute or less.
I wonder, though, if there’s a lot of hype behind those sales numbers. The sad fact is that Americans don’t read. It’s been documented that two per cent of the population purchases eighty per cent of the books. You can do your own personal survey by asking anyone how many books they’ve finished since leaving school, high school or college. The numbers will probably be abysmal. Think about this, too. A book attains best seller status in the U.S. when it reaches 30,000 copies sold, while Holland , with only a little over sixteen million residents, requires 100,000 in sales.
Amazon offers over 230,000 Ebook titles and the number is growing fast, with an average cost of $10 per download. Most of the books I looked at fell into the $18 to $20 category. Google, on the other hand, has scanned more than 1.5 million public domain books, all of which can be downloaded onto a computer or cell phone for free. I’m not sure I’d advocate reading a book on a 1 ¼ x 1 ½ inch screen, but stayed tuned because when the G4 network becomes reality in the next few years we’ll all have the opportunity to watch hi-def television on our cell phones.
So, what’s out there if you’re interested in buying an Ereader and want to purchase books on the Civil War? Amazon offers “543” titles, while eBook advertizes 211 books from the Civil War era. Among the first twelve titles listed by Amazon are “This Republic of Suffering,” James McPherson’s “Tried by War,” “Battle Cry of Freedom”, James Swanson’s “Manhunt”, “Lincoln on Leadership” by Donald Phillips, Anthony Pitch’s “They Have Killed Papa Dead”, and four different versions of “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriett Jacobs. Take note of this last fact, because it, and other repeat titles, reduces the actual pool of titles offered.
I’m not going to rain on the Ereader’s parade. Instant gratification, like technology, is sometimes a wondrous thing. I can even see myself buying one in the future. But, somehow, just somehow, in a world fraught with uncertainties, pitfalls, and the constant push and pull of life’s other obligations and distractions, there’s something reassuring about flipping pages by hand. But I guess that’s the same thing audiophiles said when talking about vinyl.
This story was first reported in the December 1910 issue of “World’s Work."
William Newby of White County, Illinois, a Private in Co. D of the 40th Illinois Infantry was killed at Shiloh on April 6, 1862 and buried on the battlefield by his comrades. His widow removed to Texas after the war with her children, however they scattered to the winds after reaching adulthood.
In 1891 a stranger walked into the Texas town and announced to all that he was William Newby. Rather than being dead and buried, William Newby claimed that he had been wounded in the head, an injury that had caused both “insanity” and amnesia. After years spent in aimless wandering a miracle had suddenly occurred and he was once again in full possession of all his mental faculties.
The still grieving widow, who had been receiving a pension for close to thirty years, was summoned and, “after a little talk, declared that this was her missing husband.” The “restored” Newby immediately filed application for a pension. If granted he stood to collect serious money in retroactive benefits. World's Work claimed the arrears would have been in the neighborhood of $15,000, however, that was an exaggeration on their part. Even at the highest rates allowable under the pension laws back payments probably would have been in the neighborhood of $2800, an amount nobody sneezed at back then.
The Pension Bureau raised a suspicious eyebrow and decided to investigate. They immediately found a couple of things wrong, like different eye colors and the fact the resurrected Newby’s pension affidavit established him as twenty years younger than the supposedly deceased Newby.
The reunited husband and wife pushed the claim and the Pension Bureau pushed their investigation. They were able to identify the claimant as one “Rickety Dan” Benton, who had lived in White County as a child and later spent time in jail.
Dealing with an alleged case of fraud, the Pension Bureau threw the entire weight of its bureaucratic might against Benton and took him to court. “Rickety Dan” and his attorney didn’t go down without a fight though. The defense team called 140 witnesses, including the former widow and her son, all of whom swore up and down, so help them God, that Benton wasn’t Benton, that he really was the long lost and suffering William Newby.
The prosecution, in turn, paraded 60 people to the stand. In the end Benton’s own body betrayed him and swayed the jury to render a guilty verdict. The damning evidence? The fact that he lacked scars and other identifying marks that the real Newby’s daughter and brother declared the deceased had incurred in his lifetime.
And that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.
In my first post
, I suggested reading the comments of the story about the closing of CSA galleries. It was a rather normal back and forth argument between two groups, arguing over the “Lost Cause”/ “Heritage not Hate” vs. the evil Carpet Bagging Northerners.
That was until I read this one comment that really hit home on what the true heritage of the Confederacy really is.
It's no surprise that many of you don't understand that many black people hate and discontent with the flag has nothing to do with Slavery.
The hurt, hate and discontent these days comes from the KKK using the flag when they torture my great grandmother, great grand father, my grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, aunts, uncle, cousin and I during the 1900's.
Those pains are still around and people like me who were raised on James Island, and did not have equal rights when it came to the law carries the scares. That is why the flag offends me.
I was not around for slavery and none of my family members I know or meet was either.
Do you know how it feels to 8 years old, black and having a good friend that is white he comes an play with you when his mother visit, and then to find out that his big brother and father think of you as the N word and actually call you it in your face. That's the kind of pain that sticks with you for life.
Let it go, thats easy for someone who don't have to go through it to say. It still goes on, but behind your back.
Posted by Tom at 06:48 AM. Filed under: News
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: This was not what I originally planned on writing but instead will make a part II later this week. With everything going on, I doubt part II will be the end.
It is hard to imagine a place like CSA Galleries could exist in any other place than Charleston.
The name in itself tells you exactly where it stands as far as the Civil War goes but unlike many places in Charleston that caters to the Heritage not Hate crowd, you don’t find this store as a stall in the flea market or a dive somewhere in a rundown strip mall.
Instead you have a rather high class store dedicated to the world of the Confederacy. I have visited the store in 4 of its 5 different locations and while disagreeing with their mission, always found that the store was unlike any other I had ever been in. At its core, it has always had amazing artwork, artistic framing that would combine replicas and artifacts with the artwork being framed, replicas of all sorts, artifacts and eclectic gifts.
At one point the store had a coffee and ice cream shop attached to it – never got how that happened but I’m not a businessman myself. Since you never knew what they were going to have, it was always neat to go in.
When I first started researching the 18th Massachusetts, the store was one of my first stops. At the time it had a large selection of books – most pointed towards the South but I had hope. As the years went by, just like in the national chains, the books started to take up less space. Even so it was still nice to go visit at least once a year.
While I believe that most that support the Lost Cause are not in it for hateful reasons, there is still a big group that is. The store became a magnet for supplies of the Lost Cause and if there was any reason that I would look harshly at it – that would be it. The owners though never showed that hateful feelings though. As a matter of fact, one left his practice as an attorney to put his time and energy into the store (as well as being a powerful State Senator). They were also driving forces into finding and fixing the CSS Hunley.
If you take a look at this story by Charleston’s Post and Courier
, you can see a little bit more into it and how the economy has forced the owner’s hands into closing. I also found the conflicting comments rather interesting in it’s own right and would suggest that you take the time to read those too.
Today though, I do hope to go to the 5th location and take a look at the Union art piece that is mentioned in the article. If the price is right, I just might be the one to finally buy it.
Posted by Tom at 06:48 AM. Filed under: Random Thoughts
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For your review, a host of typical pension claims culled from National Archives records:
Application for Invalid Pension filed by George B. Hayden; dated South Scituate, MA, Dec. 13, 1865
That while in the service aforesaid, and in the line of his duty, he was disabled as follows, to wit: he was shot through the ankle joint of the right foot by a Minnie ball at the battle of Pine Woods, up Red River, May 1, 1864, the ball striking in front of the inner ankle & coming out in front of the outer ankle joint. Since his discharge he has resided in South Scituate, Mass. and that his occupation has been shoe making & farming.
Claim for Invalid Pension filed by Melvin G. Leach; dated Chillicothe, Missouri, May 15, 1869
That while in the service aforesaid, and in the line of his duty, he received the following wound, on the 3d day of June 1864, in action called Bethesda Church near Petersburg, Va. he was shot through the kidneys under the spine. The rifle ball entering the left hip pierced through and rested against the right hip from which it was taken by a surgeon.
Declaration for an Army Invalid Pension filed by Ebenezer C. Vickery; dated June 29, 1871
That while in the service, aforesaid, and in the line of his duty, he while in the line of his duty in service and present with his Company at Camp Sharpsburg, Md. on or about the 21st day of Sept. 1862, he contracted fever and ague, which was brought on by exposure, climate, &c. He was immediately excused from duty and remained in his quarters under Asst. Surgeon Merriam’s care for about three weeks and was then sent to a hospital in a dwelling house at Keedersville, Md. where he remained about 10 days and was then sent to U.S. Genl Hospt. Corner 16th and Filbert St., Phila, Penn. where he remained until discharged. On his arrival at the last named Hospt. he was immediately taken with typhoid fever and remained unconscious for fourteen days. After getting over the typhoid fever, Dr. Mitchell who had charge of him while he remained in said Hospt. examined his lungs every day for about a fortnight and although he did not tell him that he had a lung trouble, he felt satisfied that the Doctor found it so as he was subject to severe pains in his left chest and side and the Doctor often called his students attention to his chest and had the student sound him. That when he left the service he was suffering from general prostration and was greatly broken down in health and ever since this disability has increased upon him until the Doctors’ tell him that he is in consumption. His occupation was that of a shoe maker but since his discharge he has been obliged to give it up and seek light work in the open air. That he delayed applying for a pension until this time as he had hopes that he would recover his health.
Declaration for Original Invalid Pension filed by Willard Plumley; dated June 3, 1882
That while a member of the organization aforesaid, in the service and in the line of his duty at Cold Harbor, in the State of Virginia, on or about the 13th day of June 1864, he was captured by the enemy. He was taken to Andersonville prison in the State of Georgia where he was taken sick about August 1864 with scurvy and fever. That he was paroled Dec. 13th 1864 at Florence, S.C. and taken from there to Annapolis, Md. and taken at once to hospital.
That he was treated in hospitals as follows: Navy Yard Hospital, Annapolis, Md. about two weeks until his wife came after him and he was given a furlough. After furlough he expired was in hospital at Boston.
That since leaving the service this applicant has resided in the towns of Orange & Greenfield in the State of Mass., and his occupation has been that of a Mechanic.
Declaration for Original Invalid Pension filed by Matthew Gaffney; dated Jan. 20, 1883
That while a member of the organization aforesaid, in the service and in the line of his duty at Rappahannock Station, in the State of Virginia on or about the Seventh day of November 1863, he received a severe wound in his left leg by the bursting of a shell.
That he was treated in hospitals as follows: in a hospital at Washington, DC for about six months; afterwards in a hospital at Long Island, NY for about five weeks; afterwards at Knight Hospital, New Haven, Conn. for nearly eight mos.
…He served on board the gunboat Norwich. He was discharged from 219 Co. 2 Batt. V.R.C. in which he had served for about eight months.
That since leaving the service this applicant has resided in the City of Gloucester in the State of Mass., and his occupation ahs been that of a caulker.
General Affidavit of Edward Coyle; dated July 11, 1893
I received wound of forward at a skirmish in the battle of Fredericksburg June 13th 1862 & cant furnish witnesses as it was only a slight wound and I did not make any report of it. The disabilities that plagues me and disable me from manual labor is rheumatism, heart disease, skin disease & spinal disability. They are of a permanent character and are not due to vicious habits and disables me two thirds of the time. I can furnish all the evidence necessary as my troubles not be the results of vicious habits. I have all ready furnished Dr. Golden affidavit who is my attending physician.
Taking up an entire city block on F Street NW, between 4th and 5th, is a Washington building that’s considered one of the 500 greatest pieces of architecture in the world, a structure once declared obsolete and destined for the wrecking ball in 1950’s. Efforts to save the Pension Building by the American Institute of Architects were successful and Montgomery Meigs’ visionary tribute to Union veterans is still with us today, though it now houses the National Building Museum.
Completed in 1887, the building measures 400 feet by 200 feet, with exterior load bearing brick walls rising 75 feet. That’s a whole lot of brick and a whole lot of weight to support, which accounts for walls almost two and a half feet thick. Inside, massive columns with a faux marblized finish, each measuring eight feet in circumferance, rise more than four stories to support the roof.
Running as a border on all four sides of the exterior is a terra-cotta frieze designed by Caspar Buburl, which features panels depicting six branches of the Union Army, including the infantry, artillery, cavalry, and medical and quartermaster departments, as well as the Navy. If you’ve been to Gettysburg you may have seen other examples of Buburl’s work, including the New York State monument in the National Cemetery, as well as monuments for the 4th, 5th, and 10th New York cavalries, and the 41st, 52nd, 54th, and 126th New York Infantry regiments. Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery’s statue of A.P. Hill and Mobile, Alabama’s tribute to Raphael Semmes were both sculpted by Buburl. Additional works can be found in Buffalo, NY, Nashua, NH, Hartford, CT, and Alexandria, VA.
Inside the building clerks processed pension applications that grew experientially as veterans aged and eligibility laws were liberalized by Congress, dealing with 22,000 applications in 1878, 47,000 in 1880, and over a 138,000 in 1890. By 1893, when any veteran over the age of 62 automatically qualified, there were over 966,000 pensioners on the rolls, including widows and dependent children under the age of 16, with an annual government expenditure amounting to 41.5 per cent of all Federal spending. In that same year, one critic of the system railed against the number of young women entering into marriages with the aging veterans, pointing an accusing finger toward “designing girls [who have] yoked themselves to decrepitude to secure public support for the rest of their lives.”
Survival rather than riches were probably the key words here, because in 1910 eighteen per cent of the U.S. population 65 years or older were receiving benefits, with the average veteran receiving $172 per year, while widows drew $144. Benefits were typically scaled to the degree of disability. Through 1890 they ranged anywhere from two to eight dollars a month. Officers and their widows drew considerably more, but like any insurance policy in effect today, the loss of both hands in combat was monetarily less significant than a veteran deprived of sight.
Two Pension Claims attorneys, of whom there were many, George E. Lemon and Nathan W. Fitzgerald, both of Washington, made veritable fortunes representing claimants. Lemon and his staff represented more than 30,000 veterans and widows, while Fitzgerald, who was banned from all dealings with the Pension Bureau in 1883, due to allegations of improprieties in handling benefits, acknowledged having 25,000 clients.
In 1930 the Pension Bureau ceased to exist as a government entity and its responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Pension Bureau office was then occupied by the Government Accounting Office until 1950 before being vacated, although it housed the DC Superior Court for six years, from 1972 to 1978, when that Court building underwent renovations.
Posted by Donald at 04:00 AM. Filed under: Preservation
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There have been thousands upon of thousands of books written about the Civil War over the past 148 years and admittedly I’ve only read what would amount to a small fraction of them. One could conceivably start reading when they were eight years old, continue for the next seven decades, and in all probablity not even come close to finishing. As an example of the pure volume that’s seemingly endless and insurmountable, I stopped counting when I reached 80 books that have been published on the battle of Gettysburg and 25 that have focused on the Lincoln assassination since the year 2000. Every author has always had their own take, whether it be on the War in general, specific campaigns or battles, strategies, military leaders, political leaders, politics, economics, or the home front, whether it’s the result of the pouring over maps, reading official records, perusing the common soldier’s personal letters or diaries, or from walking the ground close to a century and a half later.
I’m not out to develop a master list of essential Civil War reading material. In fairness to all the books that have been written I couldn’t even begin to judge and make recommendations. Shelby Foote’s three volume series on the war is by nearly everyone’s measure the classic overview. I’ve read Foote, love Foote, but have no idea how he stands in comparison to, say, Alan Nevin’s 4 volume "The War for the Union," not having read the latter. I can make a comparison between two Pulitzer Prize winners, James McPherson’s 1988 "Battle Cry of Freedom" and James Ford Rhodes 1919’s "A History of the Civil War 1861-1865" though and give you my personal opinion that I liked Rhodes’ one volume treatment better. Why? Because I think Rhodes is a better writer. And for me it always comes down to the writing.
Which brings us to Margaret Leech’s Reveille in Washington
, which in 1942 garnered the first of her two Pulitzers in History and distinguished her as the only person, thus far, to have claimed that honor. Quite simply put, this is one of the best books on the Civil War that I’ve ever read. Period. Once again, as I’ve noted previously, ad nauseum for some, “Reveille” represents yet another example of a superior piece of historical writing by a Non-Historian.
Leech was a fiction writer of some note and former member of the Algonquin Round Table when assigned the task of writing about the Civil War by her editor at Harper and Brothers. She began researching and simultaneously writing a year before another Margaret took the nation by storm with her fictionalized account of life as lived at Tara and completed the book a year before Douglas Southall Freeman’s "Lee’s Lieutenants" hit the book stores. All three came at time when the handful of remaining veterans of the war were beginning their slow march toward a final bivouac and the tide of public interest in the war itself had seemingly ebbed.
Leech’s book is akin to peeping inside a window; only the neighbor’s window in this case is the Nation’s capitol during the War years. Detailing a sleepy backwater mud hole that was a far cry Pierre L’Enfants’ vision of grandeur, Washington was in an unfinished state when State militias responded to Lincoln’s initial call for 75,000 defenders. Troops found the Capitol dome lying on the ground and the monument to the first President, rising only halfway to its full height, surrounded by slaughterhouses. The smells were offensive, the canals, which ran alongside the present day Mall, fouled with offal, while muggers ruled the darkened streets at night. In the midst of a carnival atmosphere created by office seekers, rowdies, camp followers, prostitutes, spies, court fights over runaway slaves, and fears of Rebel hordes swooping in from Virginia, raw, undisciplined troops such as the New York City Fire Zouaves, who were bivouacked in the Capitol building, “hung like monkeys from the edge of the dome.” In a New York Times interview conducted shortly after release of the book, Leech stated that some readers, after reading pre-publication excerpts in Atlantic Monthly, wanted her “to cut out much of the material in the early chapters. But I wanted to show development…Because it is the early stuff that is so quickly realized as applying now.”
The primary source of material came from local newspapers, in particular the Washington Star and The Daily Chronicle, both of which Leech remarked were “particularly lively” and the New York Herald. The Star and Chronicle would “write of prostitutes so intimately, give the pet names of the girls and sort of laughingly chide them for getting into trouble with the police.” Her spare time, when not at the Library of Congress or desk in her office, was spent pouring through biographies of politicians and military leaders. A spare bathtub took the place of a filing cabinet and became filled with literally thousands of notes.
Leech originally envisioned the book would focus on the day-to-day lives of ordinary Washingtonians, and therefore intended to omit references to Lincoln and his cabinet. But the President represented so much of the story he couldn’t be ignored, not if she was including players such as Winfield Scott, George McClellan, Charles Sumner, Clara Barton, Walt Whitman, Rose Greenhow, “the beautiful Rebel of Sixteen Street,” the Hutchinson family, Willard’s Hotel, Ford’s and Grover’s theaters, and the Old Capitol prison, early on bursting at the seams with those suspected of treasonous disloyalty.
Battles are seen from afar, just as any person residing in Washington would have then experienced them, until the horrors, evidenced by the broken wounded and diseased, were delivered on the city’s doorsteps after each bloody melee. “A stranger wandering about the city might find his way by using the low, pale masses of the hospitals as landmarks.”
City life went on in a bi-polar ebb and flow of emotion, business declining early on when the war effort went badly, booming after a glorious Fourth of July, when Lee was repulsed and Vicksburg fell. Theaters, bars, restaurants, clothiers, schemers, government contractors, and hotels all smelled the money to be made, lots and of it was to be made, particularly from soldiers who always seemed to jam the streets. While the Capitol reeked of wounds and festered with feuds over the conduct of the war, thousands cheered trotting races at the new National Race-Course, betting heavily on a “slashing black gelding” named General Butler.
Each Union victory was celebrated with impromptu and organized street parades, while grand illuminations of government buildings bathed the city in what amounted to sunlight. Each Confederate victory was celebrated on the lips of a very vocal minority, whose ranks were swelled by government clerks and women of wealth who had long inhabited the city’s fashionable neighborhoods. Later the humblest of homes in the poorest of neighborhoods were wrapped in symbols of mourning after Booth completed his role as the principal actor in a plot only Shakespeare could have brought to the stage. Five weeks after the assassination, Washington gathered itself together, threw off its black arm ribbons and watched for two days as Grant’s and Sherman’s conquering heroes paraded up the grandest and proudest of its avenues., thrilling at bands, “the racket of hoofs and the clash of sabers,” and George Armstrong Custer who “galloped madly past the reviewing stand, brandishing his saber in salute.”
Then the curtain came down on what was originally to have been a one-act play. The drummers no longer beat the long roll, the saloons emptied, and vacancies could be had at hotels. The Federal City and nation as a whole had been permanently transformed forever, transfiguring a peacetime persona, industrial might, and centralized government that would have had Thomas Jefferson spinning in his grave.
In that golden light of afternoon, a fanciful man might have seen other ghosts on Pennsylvania Avenue. There, in some grand review of memory, passed a parade of holiday soldiers, profiteers, foreign adventurers, bounty jumpers, prisoners in butternut, spies, detectives and harlots. Mr. Buchanan took his constitutional with his head drawn stiffly to one side. General Scott lumbered by, supported by two young aides. Anxious McDowell trudged obscurely on his errands. McClellan posted through the dust, with his staff hard-pressed to follow him. Blenker flaunted his red-lined cape, and Stone went looking for justice. John Pope posed in his saddle, the military idol of an hour. Among the madams in their carriages and the painted girls on horseback, went haughty Mrs. Greenhow, and gay Belle Boyd, and Mrs. Lincoln, with madness in her eyes. Living and dead, the wind of time had blown them all from Washington. In the streets were only tired people, wandering home through dust and manure and trampled garlands.
Note: if you're interested in purchasing "Reveille in Washington," stay clear of Barnes & Noble and Amazon, which are both charging $35.95 for a paperback reprint. Hardcopy first editions can be had at abebooks.com for as low as $1.00.
After a twelve year hiatus I figured it was time to once again take the “John Wilkes Booth Escape Tour” sponsored by the Surratt Society. The tour is a twelve hour journey through Washington, southern Maryland, and across the Potomac into Virginia, which traces Booth’s flight from Ford’s Theater to Garrett’s Farm. The Society was offering three separate spring tours, two in April and a third in May. I mailed in my registration form and check a week after tickets went on sale. A few days ago I received the bad news that all three dates were booked solid. The consolation was that my name would go on a waiting list in the event there were cancellations. I’m also on a waiting list for one of two tours scheduled for the fall.
Okay. Next stop the competition. The Smithsonian had their own Escape tour dates set for May 15th and June 7th. I figured with the price, twice that of the Surratt Society, I could probably squeeze into a seat on their bus. Fat chance. Sold out, as is every Ed Bearss led Civil War related tour between February 28th’s “Civil War at Kelly’s Ford and Bristoe Station” and August 2nd’s “Mr. Lincoln’s Civil and Political Washington.”
Not to worry though, I have tickets safely under lock and key for an Anthony “They Shot Papa Dead” Pitch led tour of Lincoln assassination Washington hot spots in April.
I admit to having gotten caught up in the story of the Washington Arsenal explosion. I really can’t explain why. Maybe it’s the dead and the cemetery factor. Maybe I’m just plain morbid. Maybe it was just a compelling story. But it led to a phone call to Mt. Olivet Cemetery, asking if they had records of grave locations. I was assured they did, I just needed to provide the name and year of burial through an email request.
Mt. Olivet is a large cemetery, with over 1500 graves listed on the Find A Grave Web site. And that’s only a partial listing. I’ve been there and it was hard enough locating Mary Surratt’s grave. Trying to find the graves of Kate Horan, Johannah Connor, Bridget Dunn, and Catherine Hull, all victims of the Arsenal fire, probably would have taken countless hours of searching as it would have entailed looking at every headstone. Provided they even had markers.
I sent my email and got a reply. The cemetery would be very happy to conduct research to the tune of fifty bucks an hour. I don’t know if they walk the cemetery, open a book, or stare at a computer screen.
After the sticker shock wore off I asked myself, if the story was really that compelling to me. I had my answer when I tucked a check into an envelope.
For three years Washington had been a depot for wounded soldiers arriving by train, wagon, ambulance, and boat. Whereas crowds had gathered earlier in the war upon the arrival of casualties from battlefields, the city had become progressively inured to the masses of torn and mutilated bodies brought for medical attention. The once eager helping hands of civilians no longer assisted in the unloading of those battered by shell, shot, and minie balls. Instead, the wounded and dying were processed in seeming isolation, while hospitals, once occupying virtually every church and public building, had been relocated to the outskirts of the city. Amputees, with their empty sleeves or trouser legs, wandering through the city no longer drew notice. These unfortunates were as common to the downtown streets as newsboys hawking the latest edition of a paper. Too, after three years there was a feeling of security. After numerous alarms in years past the city was under no immediate threat. Grant was in motion with his massive army slugging his way closer to Richmond. Jubal Early and his marauding butternuts were still a month away from their approach down the Seventh Street road, while theaters, restaurants, shops, hotels, pickpockets, muggers, and whores were all doing a landmark business.
The explosion at the Washington Arsenal had done more than shake the main laboratory building. The city had quite literally been stunned. In a place overrun by government clerks and regiments drawn from the local populace consigned to nearby guard and picket duty, the fire had claimed nineteen women who lived with their working class families in working class neighborhoods on the Island, on Capitol Hill, in the Northern Liberties. Whole families had been touched by the flames even if those flames hadn’t licked at their skin. Neighbors and friends had been touched by the flames even if those flames hadn’t melted the metal hoops of their dresses. For those who had escaped and were wrapped in the arms of loved ones, guilt singed their hearts for the sin of having survived.
Edward Stanton, cold, calculating, intolerant, and feared, directed that “the funeral and all the expenses incident to the internment of the sufferers by the recent catastrophe at the Arsenal will be paid by the [War] Department. You will not spare any means to express the respect and sympathy of the Government for the deceased and their surviving friends.”
A committee of workers from the Arsenal chose neatly stained poplar wood for the construction of the coffins, which were “lined with muslim and trimmed with white satin and ginap.” All metal, including the handles screws, and tacks were silver-mounted, while the coffin-plates were silver plated. An appropriate site at the Congressional Burying Ground was arranged and James King, John Stahl, and G. Collison were in charge of procuring hearses, appointing pall-bearers, and conducting the funeral procession.
The funeral was scheduled on the Arsenal grounds for three o’clock in the afternoon on June 19th, two days after the fire. A crowd had begun forming by noon and by two o’clock more than a thousand people were concentrated outside the gates. By 2:30, when the gates finally swung open, the number had tripled and the stampede through the comparatively narrow opening resulted in injuries to more than a few. Several divisions of the Sons of Temperance and a band affiliated with Finley Hospital also made their appearance on the grounds.
Rising fifteen to twenty feet above the ground, a canopied platform draped with the American flag and symbols of mourning supported fifteen coffins. Eight bore a label with the word “unknown,” while seven, lined side by side bore the names of Annie Bache, Julia McCuin, Mrs. Collins, Elizabeth Branagan, Lizzie Brahler, Eliza Lacey, and Maggie Yonson. Each was adorned with bouquets and wreaths made from white lilies and roses, a tribute from their female co-workers.
A contingent of Veteran Reserves struggled to hold back the crowd, which tried to press closer to the platform, even as relatives of the deceased were brought onto the platform. Sobs wracked the stage as family members looked for their loved ones. Emily Bache’s family clutched at her coffin, demanding it be opened, while the sister of Melissa Adams, one of the unknown, conducted a futile search and collapsed in a dead faint.
The crowd finally lapsed into a respectful silence when Father Bokel of St. Dominic’s began reciting the Catholic burial service, sprinkling holy water on the caskets. Though earnest and feeling in his remarks, he imparted this lesson to those who looked on: “Those before them, though dead, speak to us in words of warning, that we too must die, and we know not the hour or circumstances in which the Almighty may summon us to appear before him.”
The Reverend S.V. Leech, a Methodist Episcopal minister who followed tried to console family members. “It would have been consoling, indeed, if the father and the mother could have stood by the side of the daughter and bade her adieu; but we have this consolation, that those who believed in Christ were not harmed by death, and scarcely felt the touch of fire before they were hastened to a blissful immortality…”
The police opened a passage through the crowd and the coffins were borne in line to waiting hearses and ambulances. The procession moved out through the north gate at 4 o’clock, led by the Finley Hospital band and followed in order by the Sons of Temperance, various ladies auxilleries of which Susie Harris, Bettie Branagan, and Eliza Lacey had been members, officiating clergymen, the hearses and ambulances, President Lincoln and Edward Stanton riding in a carriage as chief mourners, officers of the Washington Arsenal, relatives and friends of the deceased, and employees from the different Arsenal workshops. Forming behind were 150 hacks, other vehicles, a large procession of horses, and finally pedestrians, the whole of which stretched for miles and took about thirty-five minutes to pass one point. Moving up 4 ½ Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, the procession met a similar party assembled for Catherine McElfresh at F Street and the two combined in their slow march toward Congressional Cemetery.
As the funeral procession made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue the crowd grew and suddenly hundreds jumped from the sidewalks to the front of the line, calculating that the move would give them a vantage point at the cemetery. Unbeknownst to them the cemetery had been jammed with spectators for more than three hours.
Two large pits, each measuring six feet long, fifteen feet wide and five and a half feet deep, yawned open in the earth. Eight of the coffins were laid in one, six in the other; Catherine McElfresh’s coffin having been placed in a grave near her father and Annie Bache’s in a vault. Police had to restore order to a pushing, shoving, and clothes tearing mob before families members could be led to the gravesite, where the Reverend Leach officiated. With the repetition of the words “Farewell Sisters, Farewell,” and a final benediction, the crowd finally dispersed.
Three miles away four other funerals were taking place, those of Kate Horan, Johannah Connor, Bridget Dunn, and Catherine Hull, whose own service had taken place at the home of an uncle John King, who resided at the corner of K and Fifth Street Northeast. All were led in smaller separate processions, the largest of which encompassed twenty carriages, to Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery, the eventual resting place for Mary Surratt and Henry Wirz, former commandant of prisoners at Andersonville.
One year later a memorial would rise above Congressional Cemetery in remembrance of a city's lost daughters.
Note: the following post is based on a series of stories that ran in The Washington Star from June 17th to June 20th, 1864.
Sometime between eight and nine a.m.. on June 17, 1864, Thomas Brown, a pyrotechnist at the Washington Arsenal, laid out three copper trays filled with star shaped fireworks in the sun to dry. The fireworks were from a recipe of Brown’s own composition and considered by him less combustible than others which had been manufactured. It was routine for fireworks to be dried in the sun, even in August when the broiling Washington heat reached its apex, and as Brown would later state, there was little concern they would ignite.
Inside the Arsenal 108 young women were at work in four rooms of the one story main laboratory making both cartridges for small arms and fireworks. They all worked silently, as talking or laughter could result in dismissal. 29 of the women housed together were engaged in “choking” cartridges, a process by which they attached the ball by a machine, which, in turn, fastened the cartridge to the ball. The work conducted in the other three rooms included making boxes and cylinders, or cases.
No one was absolutely certain as to what happened, however a juror’s inquest fingered Thomas Brown’s negligence as the contributing cause to an explosion that ripped through the cartridge choking room at ten minutes to twelve. It was believed that the star fireworks, which had been drying approximately thirty feet from the main laboratory, had ignited and a burning fuse had flown through an open window causing the cartridges to explode, setting off a raging inferno. Witness accounts said the explosion sounded muffled and there was little initial damage to the brick structure, although the roof of the building reportedly lifted a foot into the air.
Panic immediately set in as some women were instantly engulfed in flames. Many made for windows and doors and more were set on fire when their own clothing came in contact with those already consumed. A Mrs. Scott stated at the time of the initial explosion she was buried under a dozen bodies, but managed to extricate herself and escape from the building with a severe burn to one leg. Others who leapt from windows in total flames were not as fortunate. In many cases hoop skirts acted as a chimney and rapidly funneled the flames upward toward the head. One woman who dove through a window was immediately grabbed by an onlooker who ran with her to the river, where both plunged into the water. Three others had their clothing ripped off by quick thinking bystanders, an action that ultimately saved their lives.
The response to the emergency was swift as eight fire companies raced to the scene and battled the fire with their hoses. Of importance was containing the blaze to prevent its spread to the barge magazine, where several tons of powder was stored. Even with their efforts a secondary explosion rocked the cartridge choking room sending debris into the air.
News of the explosion and fire spread as rapidly as the flames. A telegram had been sent to Edward Stanton at the War Department advising of the catastrophe, pleading for doctors to be sent to aid the injured. Stanton and General Henry W. Halleck rushed to the scene as did countless relatives frantically searching for family members, the crowd growing so large that a contingent of the Veteran Reserve Corps had to be called in to help control the growing number of seekers and onlookers. Thirteen of the workers, most badly burnt, had made their way to a tug docked nearby, and were ferried to the Sixth street wharf where they were then taken to friends and family. They were among the fortunate, as were Sallie McElfresh, Catherine Goldsmith, and Ada Webster, all severely burnt about the hands, arms, and face, and Julia Mahoney, badly injured while jumping from a window. Kate Plummer was hurt when a piece of iron plunged into her neck when she jumped through a window, while a Miss Kidwell, who was later found to have scraps of lead melted into her body whispered to friends “When I saw the blaze, I threw my hands over my face, and saved my eyes.”
When the fire was finally brought under control, the grim task of searching the shell of the remaining structure began in earnest. In total, 17 bodies were discovered. Those who walked through the ruin eyed a grisly scene beyond imagination. “In nearly every case only the trunk of the body remained, the arms and legs being missing or detached.”
Johanna Connor and Margaret Horan were identified by relatives who recognized small portions of their clothing that had not been consumed by flames. The list of the dead continued with Maggie Yonson and Ellen Roche, neither of whose bodies were recognizable, Elizabeth Branegan, who resided on E street south, between 4 ½ and 6th, Julia McCuin a resident of 4 ½ Street, Bridget Dunn of Capitol Hill, and Lizzie Brohler and Eliza Lacy, neighbors of Elizabeth Branegan. Rebecca Hull and Sallie McElfresh were among those taken to hospitals for treatment, but failed to pull through. One of the more tragic stories was that of Melissa Adams, the third child in a motherless family to die in an accident, one brother having accidentally shot himself during a hunting trip, while another had been killed when run over by a carriage.
The Washington Arsenal explosion occurred on the same day a lesser fire broke out at the Watervilett Arsenal near Albany, NY, one that the New York Times declared was “comparatively trifling” in terms of property loss. Both paled in comparison, however, to a fire which had claimed 78 worker lives at the Allegheny, Pennsylvania Arsenal on September 17, 1862. That tragic event had been reduced in its importance and neglected by newspapers, which instead chose to focus on the battle of Antietam.
In Washington the search for answers was quick in coming. A Coroner’s Inquest began the following day , the jury listening to testimony from Thomas Brown, Major James Benton, commandant of the Arsenal, Henry Soufferie, an Arsenal employee, Andrew Cox, an assistant to Brown, Edward Stebbins, the paymaster, Clinton Thomas, who worked in the gun carriage shop, and Charles S. Curtain, the brother-in-law of victim Johanna Connor. Conspicuous by their absence as witnesses were female employees at the Arsenal.
All fault and blame rested on Brown according to the jury. Brown, who had worked at the Arsenal for over twenty years, and by all accounts a competent and diligent employee,“was guilty of the most culpable carelessness and negligence in placing highly combustible substances so near a building filled with humans.”
Tomorrow: the funerals
Yesterday I listed some items found on eBay after typing in “Abraham Lincoln.” Always striving to be fair and desrious of adhering to the equal time rule, I’m listing items found when searching under “Jefferson Davis.” You may notice that, unlike Lincoln offerings, there are no finger puppet refrigerator magnets, or button art charm bracelets. In fact most of the 149 items are of a fairly serious bent. But then no one ever accused Jefferson Davis of being a fun type of guy or of even possessing a sense of humor.
"Speeches of the Honorable Jefferson Davis"
"The Papers of Jefferson Davis"
"Jefferson Davis, Confederate President"
"Iron Will of Jefferson Davis"
"Jefferson Davis – His Rise and Fall"
And to help everyone to find their way in the dark when it appears that cause may be lost, a "Jefferson Davis Glow’n switch plate."
Last, but cetainly not least, my personal favorite:
Posted by Donald at 04:00 AM. Filed under: Preservation
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Curious as to what was being offered for sale, I did a search on eBay by typing “Abraham Lincoln.” Herein are just some of the 1,770 items up for grabs.
2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Proof Silver Dollar
Abraham Lincoln Authentic Assassination Hair with a signed Certificate of Authenticity. “Most spectacular President Item ever offered.”
Happy Birthday Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln T Shirt
An April 15, 1865 edition of the Philadelphia Press newspaper.
Abraham Lincoln Civil War Funeral Music book from 1865
Cast Aluminum Abraham Lincoln Face Plaque
1954 Royal Typewriter Ad Abraham Lincoln Photo
Abraham Lincoln Bi-Centennial Button Art Charm Bracelet
Abraham Lincoln finger puppet fridge magnet doll
Posted by Donald at 04:00 AM. Filed under: Preservation
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Even for those who have never been to Washington to see the Lincoln Memorial it’s a familiar sight. Simply look on the back of a penny or pull out a five dollar bill and viola, the Doric Temple with thirty seven foot high columns is recreated in all its intended splendor. We take it for granted that The Memorial, which was dedicated on May 30, 1922, rightfully anchors one end of The Mall, while the Capitol building sits in all its majesty at the opposite end.
But for a failed fund raising effort in the 1880’s, Lincoln would have been immortalized in a much different way and in a completely different location. Two locations were initially considered, Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill, where the Emancipation Statue (the subject of a February 12th post) is situated, and Judiciary Square, an area so named because it’s the site of most of the Federal and District Court Houses in the City and bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, H Street, and 6th Streets Northwest. Put another way, if located in Lincoln Park, the Lincoln Memorial would have been about a mile east of the Capitol building, while the Judiciary Square location would have placed it about a mile northeast of the Capitol.
The original sculptures were to have been cast by Miles Clark, whose foundry was best known for the Goddess of Liberty, which crowns the Capitol dome. Clark’s vision was a four-tiered memorial. The base was to consist of six massive equestrian statues, sixteen to eighteenth feet in height, featuring the likenesses of Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Phillip H. Sheridan, Oliver O. Howard, James S. Wadsworth, and George H. Thomas. Added to these were to be a sculpture of Frederick Douglas, Lady Liberty caring for disabled soldiers, and a volunteer soldier or Naval officer. Interspersed among the figures were to be bas-reliefs depicting the firing on Fort Sumter, and the House of Representatives and Senate adopting the Thirteenth to Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution.
The second tier was envisioned to have sculptures of Lincoln’s cabinet placed in front, all of whom were to be standing with the exception of a seated Edward Bates. They were to be joined by Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania. These were to be framed on one side by Dr. Henry W. Bellows, founder of the United States Christian Commission, George H. Stuart, a driving force behind the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Bishop Matthew Simpson, and the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. On the opposite side was to be a depiction of Grant and Lee, with their staff members, meeting at Appomattox Court House to sign the articles of surrender.
The third tier was to have included depictions of Liberty, Justice, and Time.
Crowning the monument was to have been a 12-foot tall statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln in the act of signing the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Memorial as we know it today began with the Senate Park Commission’s 1902 recommendation for creation of a fitting monument to the Nation’s Sixteenth President and culminated in Congress passing legislation on February 9, 1911 to site the monument where it now stands. It’s interesting to note, too, that among the many proposed memorials that were ultimately rejected was the building of a national road from Gettysburg to Washington.
Note: this post was based on a story that appeared in the Washington Post on October 27, 1880.
Posted by Donald at 09:30 AM. Filed under: Preservation
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This article was featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on February 14, 1909.
Atlanta’s Significant Tribute to Lincoln
In the many hundreds of celebrations the country over incident to the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, there are none which can compare in uniqueness or significance to that which, at Trinity church, in Atlanta, tonight will bring together in common cause to honor the memory of the great American, the veterans of the blue and gray.
Unquestionably in many of these gatherings there have assembled men and women of the south with those of the north and east and west; but here in a southern city which the fortunes of war reduced to ashes will the survivors upon both sides of that conflict, who knew all of its bitterness and miseries, come together to honor the memory of him who was commander-in-chief of the invading army.
Side by side the members of the Atlanta camps, United Confederate Veterans, will join with those of the Grand Army of the Republic, O.M. Mitchel Post No. 1, in tribute to Lincoln, the man, the American. General Clement A. Evans, commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans will offer the opening prayer, followed by the reading of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” by General J.W. Scully, United States army, retired. Other veterans of north and south will alternate upon the program, and Rev. J.W. Lee will deliver the memorial address.
There could be no higher, more glorious evidence of a triumphantly restored nationalism.
Perhaps in no other nation of the world, within less than half a century after the extreme bitterness of the civil conflict had been implanted in every breast, would such a gathering as this, in tribute to the leader of the conquering armies, be possible.
Animosities and prejudices must have disappeared when the defeated voluntarily unite in praise of him who, more than any other, had to do with the victory achieved.
Even the esteem and admiration in which men of the south, back to those who fought its battles, have always held the war president, could not have sufficed to make such celebration possible, had it not been for the victory of fraternal spirit over the deep-rooted enmities of civil strife.
In this the south’s victory is greatest, for it had not only to erase the enmities of war, but to crush and blot out the rankling bitterness of defeat.
How well and nobly it has done this could not be better evidenced than in the mutual tribute which confederate survivors, together with those who stood in opposing ranks, will pay tonight to the most generous of enemies and the most abiding of friends.
Abraham Lincoln belongs to the whole United States.
His work was not sectional, but national, and that is the view which now, less than half a century following his tragic death, is almost full grown.
The celebration at Trinity church is timely in its conception and in its expression of the spirit of today – a spirit in which hand and heart unite in significance of the supremacy of the brotherhood of man.
Posted by Donald at 04:00 AM. Filed under: News
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As surprising as the lack of censorship with regard to letters mailed from the “Seat of War” was the accessibility of Abraham Lincoln to the general public. Herein are excerpts from letters written by soldiers of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry relating their up close and personal experiences with the 16th President.
Aug. 31, 1861
Marched to the City with the Brigade and passed in review before President Lincoln at the White House; he gave us the compliment of being the best regiment he had seen yet.
Corp. Amasa Guild, Co. F
November 20, 1861
…marched to Bailey’s cross roads, a distance of about four miles where there were concentrated between seventy and eighty thousand troops; there were all kinds of arms, troops of heavy and light infantry, artillery, cavalry, &c. After all was ready and stationed, they were inspected, having on knapsacks and equipments, by Gen. McClellan and Staff, and President Lincoln and Cabinet. After which all passed in review.
Corp. Harrison O. Thomas, Co. D
I remember Mr. Lincoln, and the appearance he made riding, almost as it had all happened yesterday instead of 36 years ago. It was the first time I saw him, and I looked for all my eyes were worth. I saw the president many times after that day, but never when he was interested me as then. He was called a homely man, and he was. His devoted admirer could hardly call him otherwise. With his long, angular form, seemingly largely made up of arms and legs, clad in an ill-fitting suit of black that appeared to touch his person only here and there, and on his head a tall silk hat, well titled back as he bounded up and down in the saddle – he was certainly a unique figure.
Pvt. Thomas H. Mann, Co. I
I see President Lincoln every week as I am to Washington every other day for transportation and medicines.
Pvt. Otis S. Guild, Co. F
July 8, 1862
Yesterday President Lincoln arrived here and reviewed the whole Army. Each Division was drawn up in masses and as he rode by each Regt saluted him with cheers and the artilery salute was fired from each Army Corp. He passed our Division at 9 in the evening the 4th of July. All the bands played the National airs and every body seemed to be in good spirits.
Capt. Joseph W. Collingwood, Co. H
October 3, 1862
The regiment was called to line this morning about 9 o’clock, and marched a short distance to where the Army Corps was formed according to order, &c., and after waiting until about noon in hot sun were called to attention and reviewed by President Lincoln, Gen. McClellan and staff. I had a better view than ever before both of Father Abe and Gen. McClellan. Cheers were offered, salutes by Artillery, Bands, and Drum Crops, &c. Returned to camp about one p.m.
Corp. Harrison O. Thomas, Co. D
On April 14, 1876 a crowd of 25,000 came to witness the dedication of a statue in a park in the Capitol Hill section of Washington. Its unveiling was the culmination of a successful effort by freed slaves and Black Civil War veterans to raise funds for the first public memorial to the Nation’s martyred sixteenth President. That effort had begun humbly enough with a five dollar donation from Charlotte Scott, a Virginia native, and subsequent donations would eventually exceed $50,000.
In this bronze sculpture created by Thomas Ball, Abraham Lincoln holds the Emancipation Proclamation in his right hand and bids the likeness of Archer Alexander, the last slave apprehended under the Fugitive Slave Act, to rise, free and equal.
The keynote speaker on that day was Frederick Douglass. His voice rang out, loud and clear, with respect for a man swaddled in diety’s long flowing garments and bathed in a halo’s light, yet ringing with sorrow, ringing with practicality and realism, while his eyes looked into the present and distant future, both sunlight washed and stark, both hopeful and frightening, reflective of the moment and the purpose of this memorial to perpetuate the spirit of a man in the hearts and minds of all who had known and would know, forever throughout the ages.
(Note: Douglass’s words will appear after the pictures)
"He knew the American people better than they knew themselves, and his truth was based upon this knowledge."
Fellow citizens, in what we have said and done today, and in what we may say and do hereafter, we disclaim everything like arrogance and assumption. We claim for ourselves no superior devotion to the character, history, and memory of the illustrious name whose monument we have here dedicated today. We fully comprehend the relation of Abraham Lincoln both to ourselves and to the white people of the United States. Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places, and it is never more proper and beautiful in any case than when speaking of a great public man whose example is likely to be commended for honor and imitation long after his departure to the solemn shades, the silent continents of eternity. It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.
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Posted by Donald at 04:00 AM. Filed under: Preservation
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Schedule a Smithsonian sponsored lecture on Abraham Lincoln in the Washington, DC area and people will jam an auditorium at the Freer Gallery of Art to hear it, regardless if that speaking engagement occurs on a week night and temperatures are hovering in the high teens. The draw for a crowd of over 300 was the opportunity to hear Harold Holzer, Co-Chair of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, discuss his latest book, “Lincoln – President Elect.”
Having authored more than 40 books and scholarly articles on Lincoln, Holzer stands as a leading authority on the 16th President, an interest that first surfaced when he was assigned to write a paper in elementary school. But for a simple twist a fate, Holzer might well have become as enthralled with Genghis Kahn, the name drawn from a hat by the classmate immediately preceding him in line.
As related in a February 6th posting, Holzer began by running through a number of parallels between Lincoln and Barak Obama. Obama, for example, placed his left hand on the same Bible as Lincoln while taking the oath of office and the two ate the same inaugural breakfast served on the very same china. Holzer rhetorically asked if Obama was overdoing the comparison, answering with another question, “Who can object to a man who looks to Lincoln for guidance?”
There were six oblique references to Lincoln in Obama’s inaugural address. Obama used the phrase “our better history,” while Lincoln is well known for using the phrase “our better angels.” Whereas Obama made reference to those who labored in “sweatshops,” Lincoln despaired for “those beaten by the lash.” Both men traveled to Washington by train. Obama’s was a purely symbolic journey, which began in Philadelphia, while Lincoln’s journey to the nation’s capitol effectively ended in that city when rumors of an assassination plot forced a change in his travel plans. But before that journey ended in secrecy more than 250,000 Americans glimpsed the man who would be martyred at the start of his second term of office.
Whereas Obama really did engage in debate against his rivals, Lincoln was purposely silent for an eleven-month period dating from his Cooper Union speech in New York City until his November 1860 election. Holzer drew his loudest laugh when he pointed out that Lincoln used the Illinois governor’s office as his workplace following his election, as that chief executive was incapacitated at the time.
While most are familiar with the fact that Lincoln carried the national election with only 39 per cent of the popular vote, most surprising is the fact that he won his adopted hometown of Springfield by a mere 69 votes, while losing Sangamon County to Stephen Douglas.
Equally unfamiliar is the fact that William Johnson, a free black and employed as Lincoln’s body servant, accompanied the traveling party to Washington. Holzer pointed out that Johnson’s name doesn’t appear on any lists of those who made the trip by train to Washington and that Lincoln arranged his employment as a White House fireman after Johnson was denied other job opportunities in Washington. Johnson also accompanied Lincoln to Gettysburg in November 1863, nursed the President through a bout of small pox, and when Johnson died of that disease, Lincoln ensured his burial at Arlington National Cemetery, paying for a headstone that bore the simple epithet: “William Johnson, Citizen.”
Tradition carried a mandate that a President did not engage in public speaking and did not appear before Congress. State of the Union addresses were read to the combined legislative branches by a clerk. Whereas James Buchanan deemed the South had no right to secede, yet conceded the Federal Government had no right to prevent it, Lincoln, according to Holder, did an enormous amount to maintain the Union. His goal was to prevent Congress from passing legislation. He strongly opposed the Crittendon committee’s efforts at compromise, refusing to allow extension of slavery beyond the established boundaries, while at the same time voicing opposition to laws aimed at interfering with slavery where it already exited. He, in effect, adopted a policy of “masterful inactivity.”
Paying due respect to Doris Kearns Goodwin, Holzer said it was imperative to implode the myth that Lincoln pulled the names of his cabinet members out of the air on the night of his election. The reality is that the men who filled those posts were well considered over a period of weeks. Secretary of State, for example, was usually given to the most venerable politician in the party, i.e. Seward. Salmon Chase’s selection as Secretary of the Treasury was a concession to Ohio, Bates as Attorney General a nod to Missouri, Wells’ appointment as Navy Secretary satisfied New England, while Simon Cameron’s selection as Secretary of War appeased Pennsylvania.
Referencing Seward, Holzer maintained that the final third of Lincoln’s first inaugural address should be credited to the Secretary of State. Lincoln, in Holzer’s opinion shaped those words into poetry. He couldn’t imagine, however, that Hilary Clinton was ever presented the same opportunity to frame Obama’s first speech to the nation.
The saga of the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry, mustered into service three weeks before their first combat at Shepherdstown, concludes with this excerpt from their 1892 history “Charge!!,”detailing their trails and tribulations on September 20, 1862. Part One, in case you missed it, ran on January 28th, Part Two was posted February 4th and Part Three was dated February 9th.
[Shepherdstown] was a sad and purposeless affair, with a most disastrous and fatal termination. Yet it secured for the regiment a reputation among its new associates for staying qualities which, maintaining it thoroughly as it did, down to the very end, bore more excellent fruits.
…The next day, Sunday [September 21st], the sun shone brightly and the soft air of the early autumn caused a lassitude peculiar to the latitude and location.
It was too soon for reminiscence, but thought and talk ran free and full of the stirring moment s of yesterday. There was a better comprehension of the individual heroism with which all had so nobly borne for the first time such a desperate shock of battle. There was a fuller realization of the loss of those who, in the service of their country, the fates had summoned thus early to sacrifice their patriotic lives.
A picket-detail was posted upon the river-bank, in full view of the bluff on the opposite shore and the battle-ground. Occasional shots required tact and activity to find cover from exposure, or called for careful marksmanship to silence the more experienced adversary. The silent forms of the dead, killed in the fight, were in plain view. It was a sorrowful sight. The ground being within the enemy’s line, there was no opportunity to effect decent burial or to admininister comfort or and consolation to a possibly ebbing life.
An incident of the day, unusual in the story of wars, is worth of exhaustive mention.
The sensibilities of Lieutenant Lemuel L. Crocker had been aroused by the necessary abandonment of the dead and wounded, left uncared for and unattended in the precipitate withdrawal. He entreated Colonel [James] Barnes so earnestly for permission to go and care for the forsaken ones, that the colonel, fully comprehending the impropriety of the request, at last reluctantly consented to present it to General Fitz-John Porter, the corps commander. It met with a flat, emphatic refusal. There was no communication with the enemy, and it was not proposed to open any. War was war, and this was neither the time nor the occasion for sentiment or sympathy. But Crocker was not to be deterred in his errand of mercy, and, in positive disregard of instructions, proceeded with deliberately, full accoutred with sword, belt and pistol, to cross the river at the breast of the dam. It was a novel spectacle for an officer, armed with all he was entitled to carry, to thus commence a lonesome advance against a whole army corps. Bound upon an unauthorized mission of peace and humanity, a little experience might have taught him his reception would have been more cordial if he had left his weapons at home. Still, it was Crocker’s heart at work, and its honest, manly beats bade him face the danger.
He found the bodies of Saunders, Rickets and Moss, and Private Mishaw badly wounded, but still alive. He was bearing them, one by one, upon his shoulders to the river-bank, when he was suddenly interrupted by an orderly from General Porter, who informed him that he was instructed to direct him to return at once or he would order a battery to shell him out. His reply was: “Shell and be damned!” He didn’t propose to return until the full purpose of his undertaking had been accomplished.
The orderly thus abruptly disposed of, he continued his operations, when he was again interrupted by an authority which, if it failed to command respect, could enforce obedience. He had carried all the bodies to the bank, and was returning for the wounded Mishaw, when a Confederate general – whom Crocker always thought was Lee, but in this he was evidently mistaken – accompanied by a numerous staff, came upon the ground. An aide-de-camp rode up, inquiring with some asperity – explaining that no flag of truce was in operation – as to who and what he was, his purpose in being there, and by whose authority.
Crocker’s work, which he had conducted wholly himself, had put him in a sorry plight…He had carried the bodies over his left shoulder and was absolutely covered with blood and dirt, almost unrecognizable as a soldier, and his voice and form alone indicated his manhood. His reply was prompt and ingenuous: he had been refused permission to cross by his corps commander, to whom he had made his purpose known; the dead and wounded of the regiment that fought on that ground yesterday were of the blood of Philadelphia’s best citizens, and, regardless of the laws of war and the commands of his superiors, he was of opinion that humanity and decency demanded that they be properly cared for, which, no one else attempting, he had determined to risk the consequences and discharge the duty himself. The simplicity and earnestness of this reply prompted the further interrogation as to how long he had been in the service. “Twenty days,” responded Crocker. The gentle “I thought so” from the lips of the veteran general showed that the ingenuousness and sincerity had wholly captured him. He bade him continue his labors until they were fully completed, pointed out a boat on the shore that he could utilize to ferry his precious freight across the stream, and surrounded the field with a cordon of cavalry patrols to protect him from further molestation of interruption.
Lemuel L. Crocker
The saga of the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry, mustered into service three weeks before their first combat at Shepherdstown, continues with another excerpt from their 1892 history “Charge!!,”detailing their trails and tribulations on September 20, 1862. Part One, in case you missed it, ran on January 28th, while Part Two was posted February 4th.
First Lieutenant William M. McKeen was about this time in the action also most seriously wounded. A shot passed through his body involving a vital organ. His life was for a long time despaired of. He recovered subsequently, however, to again take a prominent place in the business community.
The enemy also suffered. The 14th South Carolina (A.P. Hill’s Division) lost 55 killed and wounded in front of the 118th regiment.
The order to retire, which, with the thickening disasters, had been long hoped for, came at last. The welcome direction, communicated through the loud voice of Adjutant James P. Perot, was repeated hurriedly all along the line. The scene that follows almost beggars description. The brave men who had contended so manfully against these frightful odds broke in wild confusion for the river. Perot, unable from an injury early in life to keep pace with the rapidly retiring soldiers, remained almost alone upon the bluff. True to the instincts of a genuine courage, he stood erect facing the foe, with his pistol resting on his left forearm, emptying it rapidly of all the loads he had left, when he was severely wounded and ultimately fell into the hands of the enemy. Lieutenant Charles H. Hand, who afterwards succeeded him as adjutant, and a number of men were captured with him.
The greater part of the regiment made furiously for the ravine, down which they dashed precipitately. Since the march up, a tree, in a way never accounted for, had fallen across the path. This materially obstructed the retreat. Over and under it the now thoroughly demoralized crowd jostled and pushed each other, whilst, meanwhile the enemy, having reached the edge of the bluff, poured upon them a fatal and disastrous plunging fire. The slaughter was fearful; men were shot as they climbed over the tree, and their bodies suspended from the branches were afterwards plainly visible from the other side of the river.
Others, who avoided the route by the ravine, driven headlong over the bluff, were seriously injured or killed outright. Among these was Captain Courtney O’Callaghan, who, badly disabled, was never again fitted for active field-service.
An old abandoned mill stood upon the ford road, at the base of the cliff. It completely commanded the ford and the dam-breast. When the last of the fugitives had disappeared from the bluff, the enemy crowded the doors, windows and roof and poured their relentless, persecuting fire upon those who had taken to the water. Numbers, observing the telling effect of the fire upon those who had essayed to the venture of crossing, huddled together and crowded each other in the arches at the base of the bluff; whilst others, hoping to escape the fatal effect of the avenging bullets, took to deeper water and crossed where the stream was deep enough to cover the entire body and leave the head alone exposed.
…In the midst of the rout and confusion the colors had been borne to the water’s edge near the dam-breast. At the sight of the terrible fatality attending those preceding him the bearer hesitated to cross. Time was invaluable; the least delay would place the standard in hopeless jeopardy. Major Herring was opportunely at hand. He seized the staff and placing it in the custody of Private William Hummell, of D, directed him to enter the stream. Covering the soldier’s body with his own, with the color unfurled and waving with daring taunt, as if defying the enemy to attempt its capture, he successfully made the Maryland shore. A conspicuous mark, it drew towards it a fire resentfully wicked, but both the major and Hummell escaped unscathed.
At this moment a battery from the Maryland side opened heavily. The practice was shameful. The fuses, too short, sent the terrible missiles into the disorganized mass fleeing in disorder before the serious punishment of the enemy’s musketry. It was a painful ordeal, to be met in their effort to escape the impending peril by another equally terrible. Shell after shell, as if directly aimed, went thundering into the arches, bursting and tearing to pieces ten or twelve of those who had crossed there for cover. A cry and wail of horror went up, plainly heard above the din and roar of battle. Waving handkerchiefs fixed to ramrods, they endeavored by their signals to warn the gunners to desist, but to no avail; the fatal work continued. Hope for better treatment, numbers turned with their white insignia of truce towards the enemy and, again ascending to the hill-top surrendered. The artillerists continued to pound away with an ardor indicative of satisfaction, until…two officers of the Signal Corps, fortunately detected, with the aid of their long range telescopes, the damage inflicted, when lengthened fuses and better practice brought their aim more directly towards the accomplishment of its intended purpose.
The dam-breast was still crowded, and here and there across it were the dead, wounded and dying. As the last of the survivors were nearing the Maryland shore, Berdan’s Sharpshooters appeared. Deploying hurriedly in the bed of the canal, shouting loudly to those still exposed to seek what cover they could, they opened vigorously with their usual unerring and effective aim and soon almost entirely cleared the other bank. Those who had not yet fully accomplished the entire journey across were thus enabled to complete it in comparative safety. As an officer among the last to cross picked his way over the loose and broken boards, the overcoat that had been fastened around his shoulders by a faithful member of his company was firmly grasped by a poor, wounded fellow, who in piteous tones called out: “Help me, captain; for God’s sake don’t leave me here.” Without stopping, he unfastened the coat and left it in the soldier’s death-grip, saying he couldn’t help him then, but would send after him as soon as he could; but before the captain reached the other side the man’s life had fled.
…One of the saddest incidents of this disastrous day happened after the action was really over. Lieutenant J. Rudhall White had passed through the desperate dangers of the contest and had safely landed upon the Maryland shore. As he reached the top of the river-bank he stopped and said: “Thank God! I am over at last.” His halt attracted attention and a musketball, doubtless aimed from the other side by an experience marksman, ploughed though his bowels. The wound was almost instantly fatal; he died as he was being borne away.
To be continued with the aftermath at Shepherdstown…
Today’s post features an article that appeared in the Washington Post on February 8, 1909.
“Dixie” Was Adopted
Famous Song Originally Written for Minstrel Show
First Sung in New York
Friend of the Author, Daniel Emmett, Says Words and Music Were Composed in 1859 -
Air Was One of Many Considered by the People of New Orleans for a Popular War Chorus.
Editor Post: I read with much interest the article in your Sunday edition touching the use of “Dixie’s Land,” the production said to have been forbidden recently in Chicago as inappropriate to be used at the Lincoln memorial. It is a matter of congratulation that Joseph Nimmo, jr. has given a correct statement of President Lincoln’s attitude toward the song – one of approval. That was, in the nature of things, perfectly natural. Mr. Lincoln’s heart, always full of sadness, and burdened with a sense of deep responsibility, needed the relief which such a frolicsome song as “Dixie” would afford.
While I would have it sung everywhere, and on all patriotic occasions, I would not have people misunderstand by who and under what circumstances the matter was written. Ten years ago, while the author, Daniel D. Emmett, was still living, I received from him a portrait and an account of the origin of the song and the words. Concerning the controversy I wish to make a few observations, all of which are taken from records that cannot be disputed.
1. Daniel D. Emmett, author of both the words and music of “Dixie,” was born at Mount Vernon, Ohio, October 22, 1815, the son of Abraham and Sarah (Zerick) Emmett. His father was a native of Staunton, Va. and his mother of Frederick, Md. Both parents and Daniel are buried at Mount Vernon, Ohio.
2. “Dixie” both words and music, was written April 5, 1859 by Emmett, in the city of New York, two years prior to the war of 1861-65, for the Bryant minstrels. On Saturday evening, Jerry Bryant, the senior member of the troupe, requested Emmett to present at the rehearsal Monday a “hooray” for the public. Mr. Emmett responded that the time was short in which to compose such a production; but, being urged, he set earnestly at work and presented, at the designated time, both the words and music as they are now sung.
3. It may be interesting to learn how “Dixie” became the popular was song of the South. It occurred in this manner: At the opening of what is called the civil war a great entertainment was being given at New Orleans. All parts were supplied, except the popular war songs for the chorus. Many marches and songs were tested, but failed to render satisfaction. Finally, “Dixie” was tried and proved a great success. The people took to it kindly, and it ran through the halls and along the streets. Once let loose, it spread like wildfire.
Nor were its conquests confined to civil life. It reached the army and was adopted in camp as the song which best expressed Southern sentiment and feeling. It conquered and remained a victor, being put by the side of “Bonnie Blue Flag,” “My Maryland,” &c.
4. On the night preceding the assassination of President Lincoln, viz. April 13, 1865, a brass band serenaded him at the White House. After a number of patriotic pieces were rendered, Mr. Lincoln, evidently under the impression that “Dixie” was a Southern composition, called for it remarking at the time, “We have captured the tune and now have a perfect right to it.” In addition to Joseph Nimmo, jr. others heard it, among the number being the late Dr. Franklin T. Howe and Comrades S.C. Mills and John Bresnahan.
5. One of the members of the original minstrel troupe, Neal Bryant, who some years ago was a clerk in the geodetic coast survey in this city, informed me that so strong was the conviction that “Dixie” was a Southern song that in New York the week following the assassination all theater engagements by the Bryant minstrels were cancelled. The mob feeling engendered was so strong that it could not be booked. Sentiment has changed.
Let Dixie be sung by every one that appreciates stirring music.
J. Frise Richard
Washington, Feb. 7.
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The saga of the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry, mustered into service three weeks before their first combat at Shepherdstown on September 20, 1862, continues with another excerpt from their1892 history “Charge!!” Part One, in case you missed it, ran on January 28th.
…”Before one-half the regiment had gotten into line, with the river in our rear, the enemy began to fire upon us, advancing by battalions in all directions.” From the beginning the fire of the enemy was tremendous;…The slaughter was appalling; men dropped by the dozens.
Until the allignement was fully perfected from the colors to the left, as the men came into their places under fire some confusion followed, but when the line was completely established the behavior was gallant, orders were obeyed with alacrity, and the soldiers stood up handsomely against a dozen their number.
About this time it became lamentably apparent that the muskets were in no fit condition for battle. The Enfield rifle, with which the regiment was originally armed, was at its best a most defective weapon, and of a decidedly unreliable pattern. Some of the weapons were too weak to explode the cap. This defect was at first unnoticed in the excitement; cartridge after cartridge was rammed into the barrel under the belief that each had been discharged, until they nearly filled the piece to the muzzle. A few charged cartridge with the bullet down and exploded cap after cap in a vain attempt to fire. Others, after a few shots, with pieces foul and ramrods jammed, instead of seizing the abandoned ones, crowded about the field-officers anxiously inquiring what they should do, while many, calm and free from excitement, were coolly seated upon the ground picking the nipple to clear the bent.
…In Colonel [Charles M.] Prevost’s official report he states: “We returned their fire as fast as possible, but soon found that our Enfield rifles were so defective that quite one-fourth of them would not explode the caps. Notwithstanding this discouraging circumstance men and officers behaved with great bravery.”
Such was the regiment put upon this hill-top to do battle against the veterans of A.P. Hill and Stonewall Jackson. With but twenty days of experience in the field; with no opportunity for drill or instruction, it bravely withstood their onslaught, and with lines intact, except where a murderous slaughter had thinned them, valiantly battled for over half an hour against those overwhelming and tremendous odds. Nor did it yield until the punishment it inflicted was largely commensurate with what, great as it was, it had itself received.
“Nine or ten Confederate brigades took part in this affair, and the Confederates seem to believe that it ended with ‘an appalling scene of destruction of human life.’ Jackson, whose words these are, must have been imposed upon by A.P. Hill, who had charge of the operation, and whose report contains these assertions: “Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac as was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale. By their own account they lost 3,000 men killed and drowned from one brigade alone.”
…The enemy had now succeeded in pressing as close to the front as fifty yards, and the hot fire at such close range was increasing the casualties with frightful fatality. At the same moment he succeeded in developing a regiment across the ravine, completely covering the entire right. The two right companies, under the immediate supervision of the colonel, promptly changed direction by the right flank and gallantly checked the manoeuvere. This movement, mistaken by the hard-pressed center for a withdrawal, induced it to break temporarily, and with the colors in the advance move in some disorder to the rear. Colonel Prevost caught the disorder in time to promptly check it. Heroically seizing the standard from the hands of the color-sergeant and waving it defiantly, he brought the centre back again to the conflict and completely restored the alignement. He was still waving the flag in defiance at the enemy when a musket-ball shattered his shoulder-blade and he was borne to the rear by Corporal Francis Daley, of Company E. The severity of his wound forced him to withdrawn entirely from the action.
The command now devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Gwyn, to whom the colonel, as he passed him in retiring, formally turned it over. As he withdrew the enemy’s lines developed in increased strength. His red cross battle-flags were waving in every direction to the front, and the air was resonant with his peculiar, piercing, penetrating yells. In restoring the line it had been advanced somewhat, and the engagement was thus brought to still closer quarters. The horrors of the battle were intensified. The dead and wounded rapidly increased in numbers; the scene was an awful one. Shouts, cheers and orders were drowned out in the roar of musketry and the defiant yells of the foe, who, confident in their overwhelming strength, were sure those who still survived would surrender.
After Colonel Prevost had passed through the ravine, he met Colonel [James] Barnes on the road by the river. To prevent mistakes Colonel Barnes was following up the orderly whom he had directed to carry the orders to “retire.” It was a fatal interval between the attempt to prevent mistakes and what had been a most grievous one.
“Where is your regiment?” Colonel Barnes earnestly inquired.
“Fighting disparately on the top of the hill sir, where you placed it,” was the colonel’s response.
“Why I sent you orders to retire in good order.”
“I never received them, sir,” he replied, “and I am sorry I am too seriously wounded to take them off, for they are suffering dreadfully.”
“I will do so myself,” replied Colonel Barnes, and hurried away to execute his purpose.
John Siner of Company C, stated after the fight that while he was retiring through the ravine, wounded in the arm, he met a mounted staff-officer, who, inquiring the whereabouts of his colonel, was told by him he was on the bluff fighting with his regiment. “Go tell him,” said he, “to retreat in good order, by order of Colonel Barnes.” The kind-hearted fellow, considerate for the welfare of his companions, assumed to do the duty which the staff-officer so improperly delegated to him, and returned to the field to execute his mission. He delivered his message to the first officer he met, but by the time he had communicated it, the regiment had already broken, and was making the best of its way back to the river. For his pains, Siner was again wounded in the leg, but ultimately managed to escape capture.
Just as Colonel Gwyn assumed the direction of the fight, a rout was imminent. To steady the line and strengthen its weakening confidence, he gave the orders to fix bayonets. To those who heard it, it had something of the desired effect, but in the increasing confusion and unsteadiness it was heard by but few. Where it was heard, it was promptly obeyed.
The officers were untiring and persistent in their efforts to hold their men together. At this critical moment, Captain Courtland Saunders, and Lieutenant J. Mora Moss were instantly killed, the former with a musket-ball through the head, and the latter with one through the heart.
Here, too, Captain Ricketts fell while in the act of discharging his pistol. Staggering, he was saved from falling by Private William L. Gabe, who started to assist him to the rear.
“Leave me, Gabe,” said the captain, “and save yourself.”
But the brave, generous Gabe would not desist and again both were shot down together, Gabe wounded, and this time the captain killed. As he fell to the ground he cried, in agony: “My God! I am shot by my own men.”
“Not so,” said Gabe, “but by the ‘rebs,’ who are right on top of us.”
And then the enemy’s line swept over them, and the captain lived just long enough to know that he was mistaken.
To be continued…