Monday, April 30, 2012

More Investigative Fun with Photo Manipulation

If you have looked through any number of Civil War books that have lots of photographs, you have probably come across the above image. It is of three Confederate soldiers that were captured at Gettysburg and was taken by Matthew Brady or one of his associates some time after that battle.  

Almost every printed view of this image allows little chance to see intricate details. But, by downloading the TIFF file at the Library of Congress website and then increasing its size, details explode.   

For example, in the top image, it is almost impossible to see the eyes of soldier on the left. Although, when the image is enlarged, his eyes are clearly seen, which adds so much expression to the image.

The details that are attainable in these images can be useful to historians, museum curators and living historians to see up-close what equipment Civil War soldiers carried and used on campaign. The shoes of the soldier on the left are not so easy to see in the first shown image, but, blown up, it's clearly seen they are standard period soldier brogans.  The soldier in the middle had different shoes; they are low-cut tops.  

Want to know what a soldier's dipper or tin cup actually looked like? Well, you easily can by enlarging the TIFF file.

Likewise, in the top view, it is not clear if the canteen of the soldier in middle is a smooth-side, drum or "bulls-eye" vessel, but enlarged, it is easy to see it is a bulls-eye.

If you would like to try photo manipulation on this image you can do so very conveniently by visiting the Encyclopedia of Virginia website which has an interactive that allows this:

Bonus points to someone who can tell me what is going on with the little finger of the soldier in the center.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

When Difficult Tourists Strike

This past week I attended a facilitation skills class that the state government offers for its employees that work with groups of people. It was a real good session and I came away with some great ideas and "tools" on how to improve my meetings and training sessions.

In one section of the day-long course we covered different types of participant personalities. Most of these dealt with how best to handle difficult individuals that one might face when working with groups in meeting or conference rooms. But, I couldn't help but remember that I have met a number of these types on historic tours. Fortunately, I have not encountered many of these in my present position, but I had a number of them when my main role was giving tours. And, of course, if you have taken many history-themed tours, you too have probably encountered some of these people.

"Arguer" was the first. In my past job giving public tours I remember running into this type of tourist several times. Almost everything the guide says is contradicted by this type of person. For some reason they feel the need to rebut the information the guide presents. Similarly, is the "know it all." These people want the guide and everyone else on the tour to realize they they know as much or more than the guide on just about any subject. And, too often, these people are combined into the equally aggravating "rambler" or "monopolizer." They know everything and they make sure that everyone knows it by monopolizing the tour time rather than letting the guide do his or her job. Unbelievably they seemingly know everything from how many pounds of cotton were produced in Mississippi in 1852 to the color of General Grant's great-grand niece's hair.

Then there is the "comedian." These are the adult class clowns of the world. Everything is a joke to them. Nothing is considered grave, sacred, hallowed or off limits to their puns. Sometimes I think the comedian acts this way because they don't want to be on the tour and they probably often feel like another bad tourist type; the "prisoner." More often though, prisoners are the family members of die-hard history enthusiasts. They stand off to the side, wander off, sigh a lot, text or talk on their cell phones and act generally miserable.

Equally frustrating to those already mentioned is the "latecomer." These are those people that get in on a tour about 10 or 15 minutes after it has started and after the guide has provided important context and set the stage for the tour. Too often they then proceed to ask lots of questions that were covered during the part of the tour they missed. Then there is the "introvert." These are especially exasperating to guides in very small groups of of say 1 or 2. When the guide tries to ask questions in attempt to make them think critically or engage in a conversation all they muster is a mumbled word or two.

Certainly not all tours have these type of people.  Most tours I have been on have been beneficial and educational experiences, and hopefully those I have given have been informative as well. But, when you run into a difficult personality either giving tour or as a tour group member just comes with the territory, and deal with them as tactfully and professionally as possible. Who knows, they just might leave having learned something new or look at an issue a different way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Just Finished Reading

In American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, Yale Professor David W. Blight explores four authors who wrote during the centennial commemoration of the Civil War.  Of course, the 100th anniversary also coincided with some of the most significant years of the Civil Rights Movement.  Between 1960 and 1965 an enormous amount of protest and change manifested in numerous events, such as: the Greensboro, NC sit-ins; the Old Miss riots sparked by James Meredith's admission; the Freedom Rides; the Albany, GA movement; King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail;" Medgar Evers assassination; the March on Washington and "I Have a Dream" speech; the 16th St. Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham; Freedom Summer; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Malcolm X's assassination; the Selma to Montgomery March; and the Watts Riots.

However, much of the centennial commemoration activities avoided the dramatic contemporary changes, and few examined their roots in the 1860-1865 years. Rather, the centennial events viewed the Civil War with reconciliationist goggles while feeling threatened by Cold War enemies.

The four authors Professor Blight examines all had their own particular take on the Civil War and what came from the years of our nation's internal conflict 100 years before. The first author, Robert Penn Warren, proved to be an especially interesting read.  Naturally, I had heard of Warren, being that he was a Kentuckian, but shamefully I have not read his works.  I hope to change that real soon.  Robert Penn Warren was a writing prodigy from near Guthrie, Kentucky, who grew up hearing stories from a grandfather that rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest. His upbringing influenced his thinking and writing in his early years as he wrote in support of segregation, but later recanted those sentiments. Warren's work that get the most attention from Blight is The Legacy of the Civil War, published in 1961. Blight explains Legacy "is an essay  essentially about the power of myth at the heart of  national historical memory."  I really need to read this one.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s with a history enthusiast father, I had my fair-share access to Blight's next subject: Bruce Catton. On our home bookshelves was the wonderful Army of the Potomac triology, and of course Catton's classics, The Coming Fury, Terrible Swift Sword and Never Call Retreat. But, above all these, in my youthful opinion, was the American Heritage Picture History of The Civil War, gloriously illustrated with pictures and drawings and colorfully written by Catton and published in 1960. Catton started his career as a journalist and later edited the American Heritage magazine. But it was his role as popular historian that turned him into certainly the most read Civil War writer of the 1950s and 1960s. His works have influenced several generations of Civil War fans, and no matter how many academics picked at his interpretation and labeled his work predictable and formulaic, those that liked to read about the war liked to read Catton.

Next, Blight looked at Edmund Wilson. I have not read Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature in the of the American Civil War (published 1962), but like Warren's works, I hope to get to it soon. In Patriotic Gore, Wilson examined many of those less recognized writers from the Civil War era.  He sought out people like John W. DeForest, Alexander H. Stephens, Albion Tourgee, Mary Chestnut, Kate Stone and Sarah Morgan. However, Wilson did not include much anything from African American writers other than Charlotte Forten. Apparently, for what ever reason, he was just not interested in that perspective, which is sad, because it would have been fascinating to see what American's most preeminent literary critic would have thought about Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Elizabeth Keckley or any number of slave narrative writers.

Lastly, but not leastly, James Baldwin, African American writer and troubled soul that he was gets a look.  Among Baldwin's many books and essays, The Fire Next Time (published in 1963) receives the most attention from Blight.  While I have always personally preferred Richard Wright's works to Baldwins, The Fire Next Time is a powerful book that attacks America's racist past on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

I did find a small error in the text.  Blight says on page 248 that Malcolm X was assassinated at the Apollo Theater, when in fact, it was at the Audubon Ballroom, although both are in Harlem.

American Oracle is well worth the time to read. It provided me with a number of valuable insights on some of the writers that I did not know much about but that I certainly want to explore. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.5.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Not Your Typical "Dear Mr. President" Letter

In the Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress is a document probably unlike any other.  It is, first of all, a runaway slave advertisement from Jackson, Tennessee and dated January 18, 1861. It is about a runaway named Jacob who left his master J.B. Long on December 27, 1860. But, amended to it is a handwritten portion that is apparently a personal note to president elect Lincoln.  Lincoln had been elected in November 1860 and was set to be inaugurated in March 1861.

The handwritten part reads: "You damned old negro thief  if you dont find the above described slave, you shall never be inaugurated President of the United States -- You old cuss --When you find him you must send him right home"

Regardless of whether Long wrote the amended note or not, the person who did write it felt that Lincoln was responsible for the loss of the slave and that his election threatened the institution.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Just Finished Reading

Just about every facet of Northern and Southern society has been explored by scholars on some level, but until recently, studies on Civil War women have largely focused on the females of the South. Daughters of the Union, by Nina Silber, fills a wide gap and tells the story of Northern women's contributions to the war effort.

Silber's research found primary source accounts of women from Iowa to Massachusetts that tell their change in society due to the war's influence. Although they were largely outside of the path of war (unlike their Southern sisters), and were often relegated to the domestic sphere of life before the Civil War, many Northern women became wage earners, family providers, and political participants (on a non-voting basis of course).

Northern women created soldier relief societies in their towns, cities and counties where they fashioned socks, underwear and other garments for their brothers, husbands and sons at the front. Yankee women entered the workforce as hospital workers, cartridge makers, office clerks and even some factory production work.  Jobs that were once only available to men now sought out women to fill their war production labor needs.

Like labor, but on the political front, the Republican Party sought out and encouraged women to attend their rallies to fill the void left by the men who were at war and to boost support for continuing the war to its conclusion. Some Northern women, such as young Anna Dickinson (sometimes called the Union's Joan of Arc), were actually on lecture circuits. Other women held postmistress positions. Silber contends that this exposure to civic engagement and political participation during the Civil War bore fruit in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century women's movements for equal social and political rights.

To a large extent, what made Daughters of the Union such a pleasure to read, were the extensive primary sources that allowed the Northern women of era to speak for themselves and provided a fresh perspective on the war effort. One quote that really struck me was from a female nurse writing about her female friend that had traveled to the South with the army, but who died from a disease while caring for the soldiers of her country. "Who can say her life was not given to her country as truly as that of any one of the band of heroes who have fallen in battle?"  Indeed, was her sacrifice to the Union any less?

Women of the period were held to moral standards much higher than men. They were viewed as the moral compass at which men should try to follow. Although most Northern women stayed at home, their influence via correspondence was important and encouraging. One couple that were newlyweds and that Silber used as an example was James and Elizabeth Bowler of Nininger, Minnesota. James and "Lizzie," as she was called, had their ups and downs during the war as one might expect, being separated by so many miles, and with James in constant danger. In one instance, when Lizzie told James to behave himself in the army, he wrote back, recognizing her matronly influence, "You desire me to be a good little boy, I'll try mother." Never nagging, but gently suggesting, Lizzie let James know that she and their little one were waiting patiently and faithfully at home, which was, I am sure, a strong incentive to do right.

Daughters of the Union: Northern Woman Fight the Civil War was a delightful read that was well researched and skillfully written. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.75.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Investigative Fun with Photo Manipulation

There are hundreds of photographs from the Civil War era on the Library of Congress website.  Most of these images come in different size formats that allow the researcher to increase the size of the selected photograph without losing resolution. These photographs were originally taken on large-format glass plate negatives, which makes this possible. The format that allows the greatest increase with magnificent clarity are called TIFF files. TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format.

By downloading the TIFF file to one's desktop and then opening it with say Windows Office Picture Manager (if you have a PC) the researcher can manipulate the size of the photograph to see much greater detail.  Then, if one wants to focus in on something in particular, it is possible to crop that part of the picture and save it.  It's a great deal of fun, and I'll warn you, it's something you can spend hours doing; it's kind of addictive.

The image above was taken in 1862 in Culpeper, Virginia by photographer Timothy O'Sullivan or one of his assistants.  It shows a Union solider  leaning on a fence while another soldier sits by a few steaming pots.  Another individual, probably another soldier, is partially hidden by the vertical fence post on the right of the image.

An African American man is seated in the center of the image.  It is difficult to see with just the standard image, but if one enlarges it (as below), it is easy to see that he is missing part of a leg and is leaning on a homemade crutch.  Naturally questions arise. Is this man a slave?  Is he a free man?  How old is he?  How was he injured? Is he looking for some work he can do? Is he talking to the standing soldier?  If so, what are they talking about?

When the image is enlarged more visible details come out.

Unless one looks closely in the original photograph, the three African American women in the background behind the seated soldier might be missed entirely. One woman is sitting facing the other two that are standing and apparently looking into the camera. Two of them have head wraps and at the least the two standing are wearing aprons.  Possibly they were doing laundry as it appears there is full clothesline behind them. Are these women slaves? Are they "contraband?" If they are doing laundry, are they working for the army? Or, are they possibly cooking whatever it is that is steaming in the pots?  Is there even food in the pots, or is the water steaming hot for doing laundry?

Extreme closeup detail can even be achieved as can be seen in the above cropped image. This closeup is of the tin cup between the center sitting soldier's feet.  As you can see, a shadow in the original photograph makes it almost impossible to see, but enlarged even the shape of the handle is easily visible. Obviously, being able to see such detail as this has the ability to give researchers a much better idea of the material culture of the Civil War era.

Additionally, this could be a great exercise for students.  They could be assigned an image from the Library of Congress website to download and manipulate and then report on what details they found and what research they used to answer some of their questions the image's details brought up.

Get started now by going to:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Palmer's General Order No. 10

By early 1865 emancipation was progressing well in the in the border states. Maryland emancipated their slaves in November 1864 and Missouri did the same in January 1865. Kentucky and Delaware held out. Both continued to delay until the passage of the 13th amendment in December forced the eventuality upon them.  However, on March 3, 1865, a segment of the slave population did receive their freedom by law from the Federal Government.

An incident at Camp Nelson, Kentucky in the late fall of 1864 helped prompt the passage of the law.  In November 1864 the commander of the camp, Speed S. Fry ordered the families of black soldiers at Camp Nelson to leave the garrison. Without time to dress properly or make arrangements the wives and children were expelled into the bitterly cold weather and scores suffered. On March 12, 1865, commander of Kentucky, General John M. Palmer, issued General Orders, No. 10.

"The General commanding announces to the colored men of Kentucky that by an act of Congress passed on the 3rd day of March, 1865, the wives and children of all colored men who have heretofore enlisted, or may hereafter enlist, in the military service of the Government are made free.

This act of justice to the soldiers claims from them the renewed efforts, by courage, fortitude, and discipline, to win a good name, to be shared by a free wife and free children. To colored men not in the army it offers an opportunity to coin freedom for themselves and posterity.

The rights secured to colored soldiers under this law will, if necessary, be enforced by the military authorities of this Department, and it is expected that the loyal men and  women of Kentucky will encourage colored men to enlist in the army; and, after they have done so, recognize them as upholders of their Government and defenders of their homes, and exercise toward the helpless women and children made free by law that benevolence and charity which had always characterized the people of the State."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Coward and a Scoundrel

Back in the day if you had a beef with someone and they didn't have the guts to fight a duel with you, they could expect to be called out in public. In the Old South a man's honor could be as fragile as egg shells. And, if he felt slighted in some way, no matter how insignificant, the offender would receive some measure of retribution.

The insulting names cast about were colorful and meant to damage an enemy's reputation. This man chose "coward" and "scoundrel," but other monikers and adjectives included: liar, poltroon, blackleg, blackguard, puppy (apparently a little nicer way to say S.O.B.), miscreant, insidious, fool, and one duelist even called his opponent an "ugly, gawky, Yankee looking fellow;" a serious insult to any self-respecting Southerner.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just Finished Reading

The practice of slavery created many complications. Not the least of these were the children produced by relationships between slave owners and their female property. Certainly many of these associations were forced, as they were the creation of an unequal power relationship, but possibly others evolved into a more common law-type bond. Whatever the union between slave and owner, it is obvious that a number of these slaveholders felt an obligation to their mixed-race offspring, and sometimes toward the mothers, in that they sometimes left wills freeing and providing them with property or monetary gifts.

Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South, by Dr. Bernie D. Jones, a law professor at Suffolk University who earned her PhD in history at the University of Virginia, explores a number of the court cases in which the wills of slaveowners who made provisions for their mixed-race children were contested, most often by the white members of the owners' families.

Jones explains that interracial relationships were tolerated in the Old South so long as they remained secret and hidden. When owners took measures to provide for their illegitimate children and their slave mothers is often when things got problematical. Judges often had to decide whether to respect the desires of the deceased owner or face a potentially hostile community who did not want free blacks in their neighborhoods. The author contends that judges that decided these cases normally described the men in these illicit relationships as three types; as "righteous fathers" who were attempting to right a wrong, "vulnerable old men" who had been duped or seduced by their slave women in order to receive favorable treatment, or "degraded creatures" who deserved no respect for destroying community norms.

I naturally found chapter three: "Justice and Mercy in the Kentucky Court of Appeals," especially interesting. The author found that in this upper-South border state judges were more willing to rule in favor of conveying the will as the owner had stipulated. Justice George Robertson, who was a focus of my post on March 4 about fugitive slaves, comes in for a thorough examination. It is interesting to see that Robertson was consistent in following the law, whether it was upholding a slaveowners last will and testament to provide for his mixed-race children or returning a fugitive slave. Seemingly, to him, the law was above both community pressure and humanitarian sentiment. Also intriguing was her finding that after 1850 Kentucky instituted more stringent manumission laws, which made it more difficult to free one's slaves via a will. Jones found that judicial leniency was not the case in the deeper South states. In examining South Carolina and Mississippi mixed-race inheritance cases, judges more often overruled the wills in the face of community demands to limit the free black population. The thinking in these states was that free blacks would become a criminal element, a burden on society and demoralize those blacks still held as slaves.

As a lead-in to her chapter on South Carolina, the author used a primary source quote from the citizens of Barnwell District who petitioned the state legislature and that I found fascinating. It was written in 1860 and stated, "We the undersigned citizens of the State of South Carolina, humbly petition your honourable body's [sic] to take into consideration the fact that white men in this community are frequently found living in open connection with negro and mulatto women, in a manner disreputable to the neighborhood in which they reside, setting a pernicious example to our youth, and assailing the institutions of slavery through the process of tolerated amalgamation. We therefore suggest to your Honorable bodies that you make it by enactment at this Session of the Legislature an indictable offense for any white man, resident in this State, to live in open connection with a negro or mulatto woman, as his wife, whether married or unmarried." It was these citizens' intention to defend racial slavery by limiting the opportunity of mixed-race children that could potentially become free people of color and property owners, and thus attain some measure of economic equality (or possibly superiority) to neighboring whites.

I think anyone interested in the master-slave dynamic in the antebellum South would find this book a very interesting read. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Fathers of Conscience a 4.25.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Some Personalities from the Compromise of 1850

After reading America's Great Debate, I thought it might be beneficial to share images of some of the major players in the Compromise of 1850. While I have never been one to "judge a book by its cover," it is interesting to know what these famous politicians looked like. Enjoy.

President Zachary Taylor, Louisiana, Whig

Vice President then President Millard Fillmore, New York, Whig

Senator Henry Clay, Kentucky, Whig

Senator John C. Calhoun, South Carolina, Democrat

Senator Daniel Webster, Massachusetts, Whig

Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois, Democrat

Senator Jefferson Davis, Mississippi, Democrat

Senator Henry S. Foote, Mississippi, Democrat

Senator Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri, Democrat

Senator Robert M.T. Hunter, Virginia, Democrat

Senator Howell Cobb, Georgia, Democrat

Senator James M. Mason, Virginia, Democrat

Senator Samuel Houston, Texas, Democrat

Senator John P. Hale, New Hampshire, Free Soil

Senator George Badger, North Carolina, Whig

Images Courtesy Library of Congress

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Just Finished Reading

I was so happy to receive an email from Simon and Schuster about a month ago asking me to review an advanced copy of America's Great Debate by Fergus M. Bordewich (due to be released on April 17) on my blog. Are you kidding me? A free history book? Count me in anytime!

I was familiar with Bordewich from previously reading his Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Bordewich is not an academic historian, rather, his background is in journalism, which comes through loud and clear in his writing style. This writing style makes for easy reading and helps the reader with visual settings as the author paints virtual word pictures. For example, on pages 102-103, in describing Washington D.C. in 1850, Bordewich writes, "Washington was the nation's only truly national city, where sleek Yankee businessmen, slave-driving southerners, swaggering bravos from New York's immigrant ghettos, sombrero-wearing Texans, sober Quakers, delegations of feathered Indians, backwoodsmen from the far reaches of Tennessee and Missouri, impassioned abolitionists, African Americas both enslaved and free, and assorted sharpers, and hustlers of every conceivable kind mingled in its lobbies and smoky back rooms."

America's Great Debate tells the story of the Compromise of 1850; the deal that was struck between the North and South in the halls of Congress in order to prevent a serious threat of secession. After the war with Mexico and with gold being found in California, our nation expanded rapidly in territory. The conflict here was, were the territories to be slave or free? Would a balance of power be kept to insure majority rule and minority rights?

The author brings to life the legends of the epic deal. Clay, Calhoun, Webster, and Stephen A. Douglas become to the reader the larger than life figures they were at the time. Their strengths (logic, open mindedness, love of union and liberty), and also their weaknesses (tuberculosis, old age, alcoholism, hubris) are examined fully. During the drama, heated debates that produced fist fights and drawn pistols also brought reasoned discussion. Bordewich tells the lively story well.

Of all the characters that received attention, Calhoun comes in the least. And while I can certainly understand why, as he was sick and did die during the debate (March 31, 1850) his role and who he was and what he stood for still had a huge impact on the compromise. I was somewhat disappointed to find the author did not include an important part of Calhoun's (March 4) speech, which was read by Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia due to Calhoun's advanced illness. In part of the speech Calhoun explained why slavery was so vital to the South. It was not only its economic importance in terms of what monetary value slaves were and produced, it was also social chaos to the South to free them: "On the contrary, the Southern section regards the relation [master and slave] as one that cannot be destroyed without subjecting the two races to the greatest calamity, and the section to poverty, desolation and wretchedness; and accordingly they [Southerners] feel bound by every consideration of interest and safety to defend it." Those are some pretty strong words and images; "poverty, desolation and wretchedness..."

As history is often written to inform us about the past and help us make decisions in the present and about the future, I think our present legislators would do well to read America's Great Debate. It seems that the statesmanship so prevalent then, even by those men of otherwise dubious characteristics, is lacking from the halls of Congress today. Our current lawmakers could learn a great deal from the examples of Clay and Douglas. To put aside party in favor of the nation's greatest good is something that is currently needed.

I appreciated the author's extended discussion of the Fugitive Slave Act, which was a vital part of the Compromise, as it was the one strong part of the deal that the South received. It is my opinion that the Fugitive Slave Act, and the North's refusal to honor and uphold it, was what provided the South with Constitutional grounds for secession in 1860-61. At least that is my reading of many of the states' declarations for secession.

I only found a few minor errors in the text. On page 41, James Murray Mason, author of the Fugitive Slave Act, is referred to as James W. Mason and is listed as the same in the index. On page 92 Cassius Marcellus Clay is referred to as Henry Clay's nephew. I have always read and understood that C.M. Clay was Henry Clay's second cousin. And, on page 172, C.M. Clay is called Henry Clay's abolitionist nephew. While I would certainly call C.M. Clay an emancipationist, in that he favored a gradual and compensated freedom for slaves, which would in turn benefit poor whites in Kentucky, I would not call him an abolitionist (one who favors immediate and uncompensated emancipation.) Finally, on page 93 it says that C.M. Clay was a slave owner. He did indeed own slaves, but by the time being discussed by the author (1849-1850), he had freed them.

I found America's Great Debate a wonderful read. The importance of this event to our nation's history cannot be denied and the way it is told here should make the Compromise of 1850 more approachable to a wider audience. Good history is a good story about the past supported by solid evidence and sound interpretation, which is what I believe the author has produced here.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give America's Great Debate a 4.5.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kentucky's Dueling Proclamations

With Kentucky being a border state, it's not all that surprising that each of the belligerents wanted to stake a claim to the Commonwealth. After all, the Bluegrass state was chocked full of important resources; men, crops of all kinds, cattle, hogs, mules and fast horses could help either side win the war. In addition, the state's strategic position was going to be the line of defense or jumping off point for invasion, depending on which side could claim it and the citizens' allegiance.

In the early fall of 1861, after Kentucky abandoned neutrality and declared for the Union, the hero of Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson, was placed in charge of the state and promptly issued a proclamation. It was printed in various periodicals including the famous Harper's Weekly.

It read, "Kentuckians! - Called by the Legislature of this, my native State, I hereby assume command of this department. I come to enforce, not to make laws, and, God willing, to protect your property and your lives. The enemies of the country have dared to invade our soil. Kentucky is in danger. She has vainly striven to keep peace with her neighbors. Our State is now invaded by those who professed to be her friends, but who now seek to conquer her. No true son of Kentucky can longer hesitate as to his duty to his State and country. The invaders must, and, God willing, will be expelled. The leader of the hostile forces who now approaches is, I regret to say a Kentuckian, [Simon Boliver Buckner] making war on Kentucky and Kentuckians. Let all past differences of opinion be overlooked. Every one who now rallies to the support of our Union and our State is a friend. Rally, then, my countrymen, around the flag our fathers loved, and which has shielded us so long! I call you to arms for self-defense, and for the protection of all that is dear to freemen! Let us trust in God, and do our duty as did our fathers.
Robert Anderson,
Brigadier-General United States Army."

Simon Buckner too had a proclamation for the citizens of the Commonwealth, but as one might imagine, with a different perspective. It was printed in the same issue and in the same column of Harper's Weekly as Anderson's proclamation.

"To the People of Kentucky.
The Legislature of Kentucky have been faithless to the will of the people. They have endeavored to make your gallant State a fortress, in which, under the guise of neutraility, the armed forces of the United States might secretly prepare to subjugate alike the people of Kentucky and the Southern States. It was not until after three months of covert and open violation of your neutrality with large encampments of Federal troops [Camp Dick Robinson] on your territory, and a recent official declaration of the President of the United States not to regard your neutral position, coupled with a well-prepared scheme to seize an additional point in your territory, which was of such vital importance to the safety and defense of Tennessee, that the troops of the Southern Confederacy, on the invitation of the people of Kentucky, occupied a defensive post in your State. In doing so the commander announced his purpose to evacuate your territory simultaneously with a similar movement on the part of the Federal forces, whenever the Legislature of Kentucky shall undertake to enforce against both belligerents the strict neutrality which they have so often declared. I return among you, citizens of Kentucky, at the head of a force, the advance of which is composed entirely of Kentuckians. We do not come to molest any citizens whatever may be his political opinion. Unlike the agents of the Northern despotism, who seek to reduce us to the condition of dependent vassals [slaves], we believe that the recognition of the civil rights of citizens is the foundation of constitutional liberty; and that the claim of the President of the United States to declare martial law, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and to convert every barrack and prison in the land into a Bastille is nothing but the claim which other tyrants have assumed to subjugate a free people. The Confederate States occupy Bowling Green as a defensive position. I renew the pledges of commanders of other columns of Confederate troops to retire from the territory of Kentucky on the same conditions which will govern their movements. I further give you my own assurance that the force under my command will be used as an aid to the government of Kentucky in carrying out the strict neutrality desired by its people, whenever they undertake to enforce it against the two belligerents alike.
S.B. Buckner, Brigadier-General, C.S.A.
Bowling Green, Sept. 18, 1861"

Images courtesy Library of Congress

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Camp Dick Robinson in Harper's Weekly

From the November 1, 1862 edition of Harper's Weekly


WE publish on this page a view of CAMP DICK ROBINSON, Garrard County, Kentucky, a very famous place, which has just been vacated by the rebel army under Bragg and reoccupied by Union troops. Our picture is from a sketch by Mr. W. T. R. Brown, of Cincinnati.

Camp Dick Robinson is situated about midway between Cincinnati and Cumberland Gap, 126 miles from the former place, 27 miles from Lexington, and 8 miles east of Danville, the residence of the Rev. R. J. Breckinridge. It is on the farm of the famous Captain Dick Robinson, an uncompromising Union man, and a very popular citizen of Kentucky. The camp is well known as having been the first rallying-place for the Kentucky Unionists and the refugees from Tennessee. Hither were sent the arms furnished by Government to the Union Home Guards of Kentucky, which have formed the nucleus of the Union army in that State; its importance as a military depot during the first year of the war was second to that of no other spot in the State. The late Major-General Nelson was one of its early commanders; he may he said, in fact, to have founded it. He always loved the place, and after he was shot he expressed a wish to be buried on the spot which had been the scene of his patriotic endeavors to preserve his State in the Union. The rebels, in their recent invasion of Kentucky, took possession of Camp Dick Robinson, and rechristened it Camp Breckinridge. They found but little there, however, to reward them for the capture. Quite recently they evacuated the place with precipitation, and the loyal residents believe that no flag but the old Stars and Stripes will ever again float over Camp Dick Robinson.

Our picture is taken from the southwest. Captain Robinson's house is seen just over the tents, a little to the left of the centre of the picture. The road in front of the house, passing to the right of the picture, is the turnpike to Cumberland Gap, along which Bragg's army lately skedaddled and Buell followed in pursuit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hood Offered Kentucky His Service First

John Bell Hood is often noted in history as a Texan, largely because he gallantly led the famous Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. But, in fact, Hood was a Kentuckian. Born in Bath County and raised in Montgomery County, Hood first offered his military services to his native state.

Hood somehow graduated in 1853 after a less than distinguished career of study at West Point. Hood's academic struggles were witnessed by his class ranking; he finished 44th in a class of 55.

After West Point Hood went in the regular army. He served in California on garrison duty and in Texas fighting Indians. In one engagement Hood, who would prove to be a magnet for projectiles during the Civil War, was shot through the left hand by an arrow.

When the Southern states started to secede Hood was still in Texas, but instead of offering his talents to his current state he wrote to Kentucky's governor Beriah Magoffin and offered to serve his native state first.

On January 15, 1861, Hood wrote from Camp Wood, Texas, apparently thinking Kentucky would be going out of the Union too. "I see that dissolution [of the Union] is now regarded as a fixed fact. And that Kentucky will have an important part to perform in the great moment. I hereby have the honor to offer my sword & services to my native state. And shall hold myself in readiness to obey any call the Governor of said state may chose to make upon me. I was reared in Montgomery County Ky. where my family now live, and was educated at West Point."

Just a little more than a week later Hood wrote again to Governor Magoffin, again sure that Kentucky would either join the Confederacy or maintain a position of neutrality. "In offering my services to the State of Kentucky, I fear I was not explicit enough. And have the honor to explain my position more fully. I am still an officer of the Army, and so long as my State remains in the union, I feel it my duty to continue as such. But when Kentucky leaves the union to form some other association of States, or if to remain alone, it is my desire to serve her in either case, as I do not wish to be an officer of a government to which my native State must be of necessity be regarded as a foreign power. So when Kentucky leaves the union, I shall, with the greatest pleasure obey any call from the governor of said State."

Like many other Southerners though, Hood got caught up in secession fever after Fort Sumter and President Lincoln's subsequent call for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. Hood did not wait for Kentucky's decision, which would not come until September 1861, instead he resigned his position in the U.S. army and traveled to Montgomery, Alabama and offered his services to the Confederacy.

During the Civil War he received both his fair share of promotions and severe wounds. Hood eventually became a lieutenant general and lost the use of his left arm from a grievous Gettysburg wound and lost his right leg to amputation at Chickamauga. However, his commitment to his cause and country proved stronger than his injuries. He could not be kept from command. Hood went on to lead reckless offensives in the Atlanta campaign and finally wrecked his army at the battles of Franklin and Nashville in a failed attempt to recapture Tennessee. After the war Hood became involved in business in New Orleans and died from yellow fever in 1879, leaving ten orphaned children.

Monday, April 9, 2012

John A. Logan and the Fugitive Slave Law

In the decade of the post-Compromise of 1850 years many Northern conservatives, especially Democrats, but some Whigs too, were quite willing to support enforcement of the newly strengthened Fugitive Slave Law to insure the Constitution was upheld and the South was treated fairly.

In the decade of the post-Compromise of 1850 years many Northern conservatives, especially Democrats, but some Whigs too, were quite willing to support enforcement of the newly strengthened Fugitive Slave Law to insure the Constitution was upheld and the South was treated fairly.

One legislator that commented strongly on the Fugitive Slave Law was John A. Logan. Logan was elected to represent his native southern Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1858 after having served in the state legislature. As a freshman in Congress he used a speaking opportunity to voice his support for the return of runaway slaves, and thus, the Constitution.

"Every fugitive slave that has been arrested in Illinois, or in any of the Western states, and I call Illinois a Western state, for I am ashamed longer to call it a Northern state, has been made by Democrats. In Illinois the Democrats have all that work to do. You call it the dirty work of the Democratic Party to catch slaves for the Southern people. We are willing to perform that dirty work. I do not consider it disgraceful to perform work, dirty, or not dirty, which is in accordance with the laws of the land, and the Constitution of the country." For this speech Logan was given the nickname "Dirty Work" Logan.

When the Civil War broke out Logan resigned his seat in Congress and became the colonel of the the 31st Illinois. He went on to become a major general and served with distinction in the Western theater.
One legislator that commented strongly on the Fugitive Slave Law was John A. Logan. Logan was elected to represent his native southern Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1858 after having served in the state legislature. As a freshman in Congress he used a speaking opportunity to voice his support for the return of runaway slaves, and thus, the Constitution.

"Every fugitive slave that has been arrested in Illinois, or in any of the Western states, and I call Illinois a Western state, for I am ashamed longer to call it a Northern state, has been made by Democrats. In Illinois the Democrats have all that work to do. You call it the dirty work of the Democratic Party to catch slaves for the Southern people. We are willing to perform that dirty work. I do not consider it disgraceful to perform work, dirty, or not dirty, which is in accordance with the laws of the land, and the Constitution of the country." For this speech Logan was given the nickname "Dirty Work" Loga
When the Civil War broke out Logan resigned his seat in Congress and became the colonel of the the 31st Illinois. He went on to become a general and served with distinction in the Western theater.

In the postwar years Logan continued his political career, but as a Republican. He served again in the House, in the Senate and then ran as the vice presidential candidate with James G. Blaine against Democrat candidate Grover Cleveland in 1884. Blaine and Logan lost in a close election, probably due in part to Logan's past being dug up by publications such as the pro-Cleveland Puck, and images like the one above.

The image shows "John A. Logan in 1859" allowing slaves to be captured by slave catchers and their hounds while William Seward, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Sumner look on aghast. In Logan's hand is a paper that reads "No Interference With Slave Hunters." At the bottom left Seward stands on a piece of paper that reads, "Resolution Supported by John A. Logan, in the Illinois State Legislature, 'If a Negro or Mulatto, bond or free, shall hereafter come into this State and remain ten days, with evident intention of residing in the same, every such Negro or Mulatto shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and for the first offense shall be fined the the sum of fifty dollars. If such Negro or Mulatto shall be found guilty, and the fine assessed be not paid forthwith to the Justice of the Peace, the said Justice shall, at public auction procede to sell said Negro and Mulatto. **'"

Then, like now, the media could possess long memories.

Images courtesy of Library of Congress.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Just Finished Reading

Politics, no matter how frustrating or confusing are central to our nation's story. It was just as true 150 years ago as it is today.

The secession of the first few Southern states was largely a reaction to the election of Republican president Abraham Lincoln, who was chosen largely on that party's platform of the non-extension of slavery into the Western territories; something that the Deep South states would not consider. One can appreciate the Southerners concern. Had they not spent as much in treasure, toil and bloodshed in obtaining the territories as the North? Why were they to be excluded for what was just as rightly theirs?

As for Lincoln and the Republicans, who saw slavery as inconsistent with the ideals of the Founding Generation as contained in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the containment of slavery was the best means for eventually seeing it end. If it expanded, it continued to survive and thrive. The United States could not be a model of democracy to the world while slavery was part of its experience.

In Lincoln and the Decision for War, author Russell McClintock, PhD and high school teacher, examines the politics both in the open and behind the scenes in the months from Lincoln's election in November 1860 to Fort Sumter's capture in April 1861. McClintock shows that although Lincoln had advice coming from seemingly every direction and that even internal factions of Republicans and Democrats differed on how to settle the secession issue, the decision ultimately rested with the president. And, only after attempting to consider numerous peaceable alternatives, did he opt for war. A war that actually made the Southerners appear to the be the aggressors and thus united a diverse and previously fractured Northern populace to support that war.

Although the author does include some common citizens' thoughts throughout the book he largely uses those political giants of the era to get at the drama. Probably my favorite chapter was the last, "Everybody is Now for the Union," in which McClintock includes more of those common people's comments to show the swell of support for Union war mobilization after Major Robert Anderson's forces were forced to surrender Fort Sumter.

While I did find this book highly informative, I must admit I was hoping for a more exciting account of these significant and controversial events. On a scale of 1 to 5 I give Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession a 3.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rep. Wickliffe's Rant on Negro Enlistment

Congressman Charles A. Wickliffe from Bardstown, Kentucky delivered a ranting speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 29, 1863, that must have been something to witness.

Wickliffe was certainly an experienced politician. He had previously served in congress in the 1820s and 1830s, and had been governor of Kentucky. Additionally, he had served as U.S. Postmaster General in the Tyler administration. Wickliffe too was a slaveholder, so his remarks and opinions expressed that day on floor of the House should probably not be so surprising.

He opened his speech with a rambling rhetorical questioning of what had happened to the regiment of slaves raised by General David Hunter in South Carolina, and using its dissolution as just one reason why black enlistments should not be pursued. When other representatives attempted to ask for time to provide an explanation of the Hunter situation, Wickliffe would not yield.

Wickliffe explained that it was a disgrace to resort to African Americans to help beat the secessionists. He asked if the Republicans were willing to "proclaim to the world that our States, with all their resources of population and physical power, with such resources of means for carrying on the war, with a million soldiers now in the field, still find it necessary at this time to blacken our record for the first time by adopting in the Army of the United State the African slave, and making him the equal and associate by legislation, of the gallant [white] soldier who may have distinguished himself in many hard-fought battle..." That was the issue that was truly the matter here...the potential for blacks to claim some measure of equality due to their service in the army.

After getting off subject and being reeled in by the Speaker of the House, Wickliffe again got to his point. "Who believes that these negro regiments will aid us in restoring the Union and suppressing the disunion party or power in the South? Nobody well informed, and who is not blinded by passion and the spirit of revenge. I denounce it as utterly futile that we will have any efficient aid upon the battle-field by these poor, deluded, uniformed creatures. They will not stand the firing of a gun. They will fall upon the ground or run away..."

Rep. Wickliffe again got off topic by claiming that black soldiers were going to be used to remove whites from Florida so it could be settled by blacks, but finally brought it back home to his constituents in Kentucky. "I fear Kentucky is to suffer by the organization of this negro force. An abolitionist is to placed in command of that State. I understand that he has already been sent there - sent there against the pledge of a year ago, that he should not be. These negro regiments, I fear, will be instruments in his hands and the hands of bad men under him to annoy and disturb the peace of the State. They will thieve and devastate the country while doing nominal military good." He again asks if the Union is not able to defeat the South without black help. "Can it be possible that the Government of the United prepared to enter upon its record this day, and let it go to Europe, let it go South, that you admit that with our white population, with our army of a million men in the field, you cannot conquer this rebellion in the to go to the plantations or peaceable and quiet people, who, perhaps, were against the rebellion, stir up these negroes to rebellion, rob these quiet, peaceable, happy homes, and put the torch of conflagration to every particle of property they have? That is the object they [the Radical Republicans] want of these soldiers, as I believe."

The issue of equality again came to the surface as Wickliffe asked how these black soldiers were to be exchanged if captured. On an equal basis with white soldiers? That is, he explains, if Confederates will take black prisoners at all. "Indeed, since the [Emancipation] proclamation, they have shot every negro they have found connected with the Union army. And if they should catch white men who are mean enough to command these negroes, the Lord knows what will be their fate." He goes on to again state black inferiority as soldiers. "I appeal to every man who is familiar with the negroes of the South to support my assertion that you cannot make a negro stand the fire of a gun. They will fight you with stick and knives, but the moment they hear the report of a gun or pistol they skulk away. They cannot stand that." Wickliffe attempted a bit of humor in saying that, "One gentleman on the other side [Republicans]...was in favor of putting the negroes in the front ranks, that they might be shot down first. I wish he may have the command of them."

Wickliffe closed that he sincerely believed that the true reason for proposing and carrying out black enlistments was devious political measure, it was to "stir up an insurrection of the slaves among those unfortunate, deleted States, and the destruction of women and children and property, and everything which and be destroyed."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

John G. Fee Asked for Reason and Protection

Kentuckian John G. Fee does not get near the historical attention he deserves. He was one of the few abolitionists working for the end of slavery inside the borders of a slave state. Certainly, Fee suffered for his beliefs, and yet he persevered.

I located this broadside while searching on the Library of Congress American Memory for some primary sources on Fee that showed his constitutional rights were restricted.

In this document Fee explained some of the persecution to which he was subjected. "I have recently, by a portion of your citizens, on the Sabbath day, in the midst of a discourse, by superior force, been torn from the house of worship. By this lawless conduct, my clothes were torn and my person abused. I was then - under threats and weapons, part of the time still drawn - driven, like a manacled slave, some eight or nine miles into an adjoining county." Why was he abused so? Because he had the backbone to claim that slavery would end if people followed Christ's example, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you do ye even so unto them."

Fee claimed that if things did not change and this vigilante terrorism did not end, it would only hurt the prosperity of the state. "Property will sink in value because of like insecurity. One of the pubic journals of Louisville announces the fact that millions of dollars have recently been lost to that city because of recent mobs there [Bloody Monday, two years earlier]. Business men will not come, no the capitalist stay, where there is such insecurity and turmoil. Land will depreciate in value, because few will want to occupy it. All kinds of business must stagnate, as in Western Missouri during the reign of Border-Ruffianism [Bleeding Kansas]. Population will soon become sparse. Schools and churches will die out for want of patronage. Ignorance, vice, and barbarism follow as necessary results."

What then did Fee want? "But I may ask of you equal protection by law in the expression of my sentiments. This is my natural and constitutional right. If I have in any wise violated law, I refuse not to come before legal or constitutional tribunals. But so far as I know, my enemies do not pretend that I have violated law. They openly say I have not. I have maintained that Slavery is a violation of the law of God - the law of love; that this, like all other sins, should be repented of immediately, and that without expatriation or forcible colonization - because the latter would be a violation of Christ's 'golden rule,' and is, as I believe, inexpedient. This expression of opinion is my constitutional right and religious duty."

Fee deftly attempted to play the native card to convince his enemies of his sincerity. "I am an native-born citizen. You have often said if Northern men would let you alone you would soon put away Slavery. I now come to you as a native-born, law abiding citizen, entreating you now to begin the work. You mob me, and treat me as bad as you do Northern men. Can you thus convince the world that you are sincere in your professions of willingness to put away Slavery?"

Fee touched on other subjects that related to slavery. He claimed he was not a "hireling," but that he was working on his own conviction. He claimed that he did not promote amalgamation [race mixing], but rather, that the institution of slavery encouraged amalgamation between slaveowners and their chattel.

Fee ended his pleas with some probing and empathetic questions. "Must I suffer longer? Must my wife and friends be roused at the hour of midnight to go and search for my body, perhaps mangled and torn by a drunken and infuriated mob? Must virtue-loving women and venerable fathers be further disturbed in religious devotions, cursed and abused, with weapons of death over them? Finally, Fee closed, "Will not the lovers of virtue and domestic security speak out, act timely, and in the spirit of love restore order and peace, and wipe out what otherwise will be eternal disgrace? I want not revenge, but protection."

John G. Fee, Berrea [sic], Madison Co., Ky., July 30, 1857.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Visit to Steamboat Arabia Museum

I first became aware of the steamboat Arabia when I saw a Discovery Channel-type documentary about 12 years ago. I told myself that if I ever got to Kansas City, Missouri I would go take a look. I had that opportunity two years ago when I drove out to Topeka, Kansas for the National Underground Railroad Conference to present a paper, but I guess I was too worn out from the drive to motivate myself to stop.

Fortunately, I received another chance to visit this amazing place when I attended the National Council for History Education conference last weekend. My plane arrived around noon on Thursday and I finally got to the hotel at about 1:00 p.m. I took a taxi and was at the museum in about ten or fifteen minutes.

The museum advertises itself as "200 tons of treasure" but I think even that description sells the place short. The short version of the history is the Arabia sank in 1856 after hitting a snag in the Missouri River. Its holdings sat at the bottom of the river that had changed course for 130 years. It was finally discovered and unearthed in 1988 under 45 feet of dirt and about a half mile from the current bank of the river. The aerial picture above shows the bend in the river and the location of the buried boat.

Another birds-eye view shows the size of the boat outlined in white. One can appreciate its size when compared to the semi tractor and flatbed trailer at the top-left of the picture. The location of the boat was in a cornfield as the river changed course over the years. The excavation crew had to work quickly as the farm was leased for spring planting the year it was unearthed.

Most of the items recovered were in excellent condition due to their lack of exposure to oxygen, but the museum staff has meticulously worked to preserve the plethora of everyday items such as curry combs for horses, frying pans and tinware.

An enormous amount of dishware was salvaged, much of it undamaged and packed in barrels with straw. Both common dishware such as Queensware and ironstone, as well as more fancy Wedgwood china from Staffordshire, England was brought up from the boat's holdings.

Sewing notions such as thimbles, pins, needles, buttons, and hooks were found in abundance.

Bottled and pickled foods such olives and pickles apparently survived the 130 years underground. One excavation worker admitted to trying the pickles and finding them still tasty.

Fancy dishware in multiple shapes and sizes. Platters, dishes, cups, saucers, pitchers, pots and bowls, all beautifully preserved.

1856 clothes pins and a sad iron.

Clay pipe bowls in the center and pipe stems to the left.

A diversity of tools: axes, picks, hatchets, jack planes, awls, augers and chisels among others.

Dishes and dishes of glass buttons of different colors and print designs.

Locks, handles, hangers and nails of all kinds.

It is amazing that the tinware that was discovered corroded so little. There were coffee pots, scoops, buckets, tin cups, colanders, and candle holders among other things.

Even more tools: sharpening stones, circular saws, handsaws, bow saws and ax handles.

The shoes and boots were some of the coolest items in the museum in my opinion. There were dozens and dozens of pairs for men, women and children. Some were fancy, while others were more plain everyday work boots and shoes.

Goodyear's patent rubber shoe covers.

Hardware of all kinds: locks and door knobs among other items.

Brass powder flasks, scissors, toothbrushes, eye glasses and miscellaneous other items.

Castor set for table condiment bottles.

Most steamboats that sank in river travel did so because their boilers were over worked and exploded, but the Arabia sank because of a snag, so the boilers from it were recovered too. Their size shows the power needed to move a steamboat loaded with 200 tons of goods up the swift flowing Missouri River.

Boilers and paddle flywheel.

The Arabia's anchor. It was over 6 feet tall.

The Arabia was side-wheel steamboat and its size was simply amazing.

The stern of the Arabia shows its detailed construction and size.

I will be the first to admit that the pictures that I have shared here do not come close to doing the museum justice. It is something that should really be experienced in person.

For more information on the musuem check out their website at: