Thursday, August 30, 2012

Campton, KY Living Color

When I drive to eastern Kentucky to work on a Teaching American History grant every few months, I drive through Wolfe County and the tiny town of Campton, Kentucky. Recently, I was surprised to find a number of photographs on the Library of Congress website that depicted a number of scenes in Campton in 1940. 

I suppose I was not so much surprised to find pictures from this area from 1940, but I was astounded to find a number of them in color. Seeing the past in color adds so much to my perception of what things were like in history. Too often, from looking at so many black-and-white photographs, I catch myself thinking in my mind's-eye that the world was black-and-white way back when. I'm glad that images such as these have survived to remind me that life was lived in color.

A street scene on court day. I love the Ale-81 sign in the center background. If you are from, or have lived in Kentucky, you probably are familiar with the soft drink.

Farmers trading horses and mules near the Wolfe County Courthouse.

These men remind me of my grandfather, especially the third man from the right. Grandpa wore overalls everywhere except to church.

Street scene in the center of town on court day.

This photograph is identified as being on "Jockey Street" near the Wolfe County courthouse. I assume that Jockey St. is a pun for the horse and mule trading that went on here rather than the actual name since it is in parentheses.

Images courtesy of Library of Congress

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pension Records are a Great Source of Information, Part II

In those pension records that I had ordered from the National Archives so long ago were also ones from another Union ancestor, Robert F. Boles of Overton County, Tennessee. Boles is my great great great uncle. He was the son of John and Matilda Beaty Boles. His father John was a Tennessee state legislator in the 1850s, and his mother Matilda was the sister of well known Union scout/guerrilla Tinker Dave Beaty. His younger brother George Washington Boles was one of Beaty's men.

In Robert's pension file is a report from the War Department, Adjutant General's Office in Washington D.C. and dated Sept. 23, 1883. In it there is information that is likely contained in Robert's service records, which I do not have at present. It states that he was enrolled as a private in Company D of the 2nd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry on Sept. 1, 1861 at Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky. Since Tennessee had seceded, Unionists from the Volunteer State usually had to make it to Kentucky to enlist, even though at this time Kentucky still was officially neutral. However, a later records in the file says he enlisted on Nov. 1, 1861. A unit history I found and that has information taken from soldiers' service records corroborates the Sept. 1 date of enlistment and says he was "mustered at Camp Wildcat, 24 Oct. 1861."

This paper continues with some other interesting information. It says he was "wounded in action March 14, [18]62 and left in Tenn. (The Co. was in a skirmish March 14, 62 at Big Creek Gap, Tenn)." It also stated "Left near Cumberland Gap Tenn sick Sept 17, 62" and that "The Co. left Lexington March 25 63, and spent 9 days and nights in advancing and retreating before a rebel force not more than half our number and finally halted at Stanford, Ky." Surprisingly, it reports "Deserted at Somerset, Ky About June 30, 63 exact date not known" but follows up a line later "The charge of desertion is removed and he is honorably discharged for disability to date June 30, 63."

On a 1912 form Robert stated he was born on Independence Day, 1829 in Overton County, Tennessee and that he was discharged at Louisville on June 13, 1863. On an 1890 form he stated that he was discharged June 13, 1863 at Jamestown - not sure if he meant Tennessee or Kentucky.  The reason given that he was "unable to earn a support by manual labor by reason of....Deafness of right ear; gun shot wound of left thigh and hip and also gun shot wound of the left ankle." Apparently Robert was already a pensioner when this form was filed "on account of gun shot wound of right knee." Sounds like Robert was a bullet magnet.

On a form stamped 1889 it gave a description of Robert. Age 53, height 5'5", complexion "fare," hair "light," eyes "blue," and that at Cumberland Gap in July or August 1862 he "contracted deafness of right ear."  It also says that "at Big Creek Gap, state of Tenn about 14 Mar. 1862 received Gun shot wound of left thigh and hip and also a gun shot wound in left ankle. He gets a pension of $8 per mo. by No. 114033 for Gun shot wound of right knee. He also asks an increase on said disability." And, in addition it indicates that he was treated in "Rebel Line as a Prisner." In a long line of disclosure he said "I am the above Claimant. I was in the U.S. army. I Enlisted n the 1st day of November 1861 and I was a [?] soldier up to the date I was shot in the hip and knee in the left leg and right [?] at the Battle of Big Creek Gap in Tenn. I was a member of Company D 2nd Tenn Reg. Vol." The rest is difficult to read but I can make out "they were Georgians."

There are a number of other affidavits and forms that are difficult to read due to bad spelling and handwriting. One of the last form though was from November 12, 1902 and the information was provided by Robert's son S.G. Boles who was 26 at the time. It stated that the pensioner, Robert had been married 3 times, all said wives were dead.  Robert was married to Oena [sp] Worley who died in 1873, Patsey Reagan, who died in 1886, and Suzie Owens, who died in 1909. Apparently Robert and his last wife Suzie were divorced.

There is some conflicting information in the files, especially with dates, but apparently that did not keep Robert from collecting his pension and may have resulted from information that amended to the form later by the record keepers.

These records provide a deeper look into the life and service of these soldiers than their basic soldier records provide. Thank goodness they have been preserved and are accessible so we can learn about our ancestors experiences from them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Was Lincoln just Joking?.....Not sure.

Elizabethtown, Kentucky resident Samuel Haycraft wrote to Abraham Lincoln several times in the spring, summer, and fall of 1860 gathering some information and eventually suggesting that Lincoln might enjoy coming back to visit his boyhood home area. Lincoln apparently responded each time, affirming when information was correct and correcting when Haycraft was in  error, particularly in regard to his genealogy.

On June 4, Lincoln wrote back in repsonse to Haycraft's May 31 letter. In it Lincoln wrote, "You suggest that a visit to the place of my nativity might be pleasant to me. Indeed it would. But would it be safe? Would not the people Lynch me?"

On August 19, Haycraft wrote back to Lincoln, explaining that he had no knowledge of the statement made by a reporter in a recent edition of the New York Herald suggesting that Lincoln had been asked to come to Kentucky but had refused on account that he suspected a trap to do him violence. Haycraft said he had not invited Lincoln only suggested he might find it pleasant. He explained that he took Lincoln's lynching statement in jest and as a "little playfulness."  He said that he was going to write back and return the joke by saying that indeed Lincoln would be assaulted, although not with violence, but rather with potential office seekers if and when Lincoln became president - as Lincoln had received the Republican Party nomination in mid-May 1860. Haycraft went on to say that he didn't think Lincoln would make the trip to Kentucky, but if the politician did, Haycraft would like to visit with him.

Lincoln wrote to George Fogg on Aug. 16, 1860, three days before Haycraft wrote and explained that a New York Herald correspondent must have picked up the story from Lincoln himself as the presidential nominee had mentioned his response to Haycraft in conversations, but always in jest, or "playfully," as he put it. In this letter Lincoln asks Fogg to try to get the Herald correspondent to correct the story and even gave written copy to Fogg for the potential correction. The copy read "We have such assurance as satisfies us that our correspondent writing from Springfield, Ills, under date Aug. 8---was mistaken in representing Mr. Lincoln as expressing a suspicion of a design to inveigle him into Kentucky for the purpose of doing him violence. Mr. Lincoln neither entertains, nor  has intended to express any such suspicion." Lincoln asked Fogg that "In no event, let my name be used publicly."

Was Lincoln sincere in making the lynch statement as a joke? Possibly. But, for it to be a joke, surely there must there be some truth, or at least understanding, that Kentuckians did not appreciate Lincoln's politics so much that they might do violence to him if he entered their state? Was Lincoln only trying to do some nineteenth century political backpeddling as our current political leaders are so apt to do today when they gaff? It seems like it to me, but then again maybe I just don't get nineteenth century humor.

Image courtesy Library of Congress.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Just Finished Reading

Lately I have been studying quite a bit about slave insurrections, both those that were only conspiracies and those that were realized. Many of these incidences are very well known such as Nat Turner's actual rebellion, and Gabriel's and Denmark Vesey's planned insurrections. Others have not been as well remembered, such as the 1811 Louisiana incident and the Patrick Doyle led rebellion in Kentucky in 1848. And, while the potential for insurrections never seemed far from the surface, relatively few actually happened from 1619 to 1865. Far more common were everyday means that slaves used to cope with being bound to the institution. Some slaves displayed a level of control over their lives by sabotaging work by feinting sickness, breaking tools, or misusing farm animals. Some slaves were less subtle and gave vent to their frustrations through verbal or physical gestures of insolence.

William E. Wiethoff explores this idea of slave impudence in his book The Insolent Slave. The author sorts the idea of slave insolence into four categories: the legislative perspective, the business perspective, the social perspective, and the moral perspective. In each of these classes Wiethoff provides a case study to provide illustration.

For the legislative perspective, as one might imagine, the author looks at "statutory regulations" against slave insolence. As Wiethoff states "Not only did statutory definitions of who might be punished for insolence vary widely, measures also varied for immunizing whites against civil suits after they had assaulted or killed insolent slaves." As a case study, William Byrd II (1674-1744), who was both large slave owner and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, showed that he believed in an ordered and consistent society and laws were necessary to maintain that ideal. However, Byrd's own indiscretions with his female workers and abuses on slaves for petty infractions made that ideal order difficult to sustain.

The business perspective, too, required vigilance against slave insolence. In order to run a profitable business, especially a plantation or other slave-labor enterprise, order had to be maintained and production focused. But, problems often occurred when drivers and overseers were employed, as slaves' insolence toward these figures were deemed as significant as if directed toward the master, but the slaves did not always see it that way. The case study employed for the business perspective was a look at the string of overseers that handled the plantations of absentee owner and politician James K. Polk.

The social perspective and moral perspective are covered last. Social norms were difficult for slaves to manage. Many simply practiced a silent smiling countenance when in the company of whites and then cursed them when out of ear-shot. The case study Weithoff employs for the social perspective is Fanny Kemble, the famous English actress who married Piece Butler and lived on his Georgia plantation four months. Kemble often empathized with Butler's slaves, hearing their complaints, something most native whites were certainly not used to. The moral perspective was important with slaveholders in that it provided a Biblical justification for keeping slave insolence at a minimum. Judge Henry Lumpkin of Georgia is that perspective's case study. Lumpkin exemplified the patriarch ideal. He believed in a "divinely ordained relationship" between masters and slaves, in which slaves were commanded by providence to obey their earthly masters. He, like many masters, believed that "Slave insolence was a moral problem not because masters should be loved but because they must be revered."

Wiethoff's The Insolent Slave has many positives. The array of primary sources he incorporates for the book is clearly impressive. However, in several places he used Mattie Griffith Browne's Autobiography of a Female Slave, published in 1857, to provide support. This would be appropriate if Browne had actually been a slave and her book had not been a fictional account. Apparently Wiethoff took Browne's book at face value because, in the index it lists Browne's name and in parentheses is "former slave." Notwithstanding this error, I still enjoyed The Insolent Slave and found it quite informative. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.25. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Explore Kentucky...It's on your Smart Phone...It's Online

On August 16, the Kentucky Historical Society launched a new educational technology that is accessible through a smart phone via a free application or online via a website. This exciting learning tool is currently posting information on Civil War sites within the Bluegrass State. New sites are being added all the time. In the near future sites around the commonwealth associated with the War of 1812 will also be added.

Check it out for yourself -

Here is what a recent news story by Cheryl Truman in the Lexington Herald Leader said about ExploreKYHistory:

Next time you're idly playing with your smartphone, you have something more enlightening to do than fret about your angry birds.
The Kentucky Historical Society is launching a free app Thursday that will show you historical points of interests and bits of information on the Civil War. The War of 1812 is next up to be added to the app, and after that the possibilities are as endless as history.
I test-drove the site last week. Picking a pin in the north of downtown Lexington, I found a historical marker for Dr. Robert Peter, whose daughter, Frances, "was a unique chronicler of Civil War Lexington (and) describes life on the Kentucky home front ... (and) records military news with a compelling perspective."
A bit to the southwest, clicking a pin leads you to Perryville's Henry P. Bottom, a farmer and justice of the peace "whose home was caught in the crossfire of Kentucky's largest battle."
"After the fight, Bottom's house became a field hospital. According to one eyewitness, a pile of amputated arms and legs, 'some with shoes on, others with socks,' stood 'four or five feet high' in one corner of the yard."
A click on a Frankfort pin yields a recounting of the installation of Richards Hawes as Kentucky's second Confederate governor at the Old State Capitol in Frankfort in 1862.
By this point I was hooked and started clicking pins all over the state. This is so much better than Angry Birds or Talking Tom Cat.
If you don't have a smartphone, you can get much the same experience at
"We think this is going to be a great way to do a walking tour of Louisville, a walking tour of Lexington," said Sally Warfield, digital media specialist at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort. "It's using a very simple platform that's very intuitive. You touch a pin, and up comes the story. You start seeing that all these things tie together."
Some other Kentucky apps include Travel KY from Kentucky Monthly magazine and Lexwalk from the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. Both are free.
From the Travel KY app I found an Abraham Lincoln-related walking tour of Lexington starting at the Lexington Public Library and Phoenix Park.
Tours are available for other areas of the state, including Eastern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky and south-central Kentucky.
LexWalk's tour starts at Triangle Park and includes stops at the Mary Todd Lincoln House and Christ Church Cathedral. It also includes audio and video.
"There are so many stories that have appeal to the commonwealth," said Warfield of the Kentucky History Museum.
And the future is limited only by the scope of Kentucky history.
Said Warfield: "We already have our Civil Rights oral history program that is online and live, and we can easily do that.".

Read more here:


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just Finished Reading

What's better than reading history about your local community? Well, the only thing I can of is reading history about your local community that has largely been forgotten because it has been removed. That is the story that author Douglas A. Boyd tells well in Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community.

If you visit Frankfort today there in not much of anything left of Crawfish Bottom, aka Crawdad Bottom, aka Craw, aka The Craw, aka The Bottom; Frankfort's most notorious neighborhood from after the Civil War until it was wiped away by urban renewal in the late 1960s. Where there used to be streets, houses, bars, businesses, civic clubs, brothels, and community, there is now a concrete high-rise tower, a concrete plaza and parking garage, a hotel, a civic center name for the man who spearheaded the renewal, and a federal building. Now long gone is the crime and poor housing, and flooding, but along with all of those undesirable things also went many of the relationships and the sense of community that bonded this close knit neighborhood together.

Craw started in the years after the Civil War when Kentucky African Americans newly freed from slavery began to flock to urban centers in search of economic opportunity, solidarity, and group protection. But, not only former slaves lived in Craw, poor whites that couldn't afford better locations in town also called the flood prone area home. Added to this integrated mix were the families of those incarcerated in the Kentucky state penitentiary, which was only a few blocks away. Many men when released stayed in Frankfort and made Craw their home too.

To frame his book Boyd used a plethora of oral history accounts that were conducted by Jim Wallace in the 1990s for a graduate history project. To supplement these oral histories Boyd also used numerous newspaper accounts, police records, and photographic evidence, but it is the oral histories that stand out.

It was interesting to read different people give diverse stories and differing accounts of their experience in Craw. When asked for what they remembered as the boundaries of the neighborhood some agreed with each other, but others didn't. When asked about violence in Craw, some interviewees said they didn't remember it being a dangerous places, but others declared that it often was. What the people seemed to remember the most though were, in fact, the people and places that made it a unique community. They remembered Underwood-Mayo school, the neighborhood segregated school and the care and attention the teachers provided. They remembered the Tiger Inn Cafe and the good times shared there with the owner. They remembered the white Ida Howard, who ran a brothel, but was a cherished member of the neighborhood because of her kindness. They remembered African American James 'Squeezer" Brown, a WWI veteran, and how he played the guitar and banjo and gave away any extra money he had to neighborhood kids in the form of candy and treats. And, they remembered the temperamental John Fallis, "The King of Craw," who had a shootout with the city police in 1921. Sadly, many of the relationships formed in Craw went away when the buildings were leveled.

This book was a real page turner for me. I only wish Crawfish Bottom would have explored more the years of the Civil Rights Movement - the years when urban renewal was changing an already mixed neighborhood. I would have liked to have read more about the politics involved in erasing this community and replacing it with a modern concrete monstrosity.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in local history, oral history and community stories. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Crawfish Bottom a 4.75.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just Finished Reading

I've gotten a little behind on my posting of books recently read. I suppose that I should either slow down my reading of pick up my posting. I had ordered this book used on where the seller listed it as "like new." However, when it arrived with a torn dust jacket and cracked binding I sent it right back and demanded a refund. Then, last week while browsing at my local library I spotted it in the stacks and checked it out.

American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen, a recent graduate from Harvard University, tell the story of a slave insurrection that happened in Louisiana in January 1811. The slaves involved, many of which had been originally imported directly from Africa or the Caribbean islands, worked mainly in the sugar cane industry that was just emerging in Louisiana. And, although sugar planting was somewhat an infant industry, it had already gained a bad reputation for using up slaves. The estimated figure of those involved in this rebellion were between 200 and 500. To me, that range is quite large, but as Rasmussen freely admits, primary sources on this incident are few and far between, as those that investigated the insurrection deliberately attempted to cover up the incident.

The slaves, certainly inspired by the recent Haitian Revolution, were organized by a mulatto driver on a sugar plantation named Charles Deslondes. Through "grapevine" networks and allowed travel to nearby plantations, Deslondes was able to muster a large number of other slaves and yet keep the plan secret. The slaves' strategy was to make the march to New Orleans, about 40 miles distant, in force and capture the Crescent City or die in the attempt.

Deslondes and his chief lieutenants were highly organized, surprisingly well armed, and understood their goals. However, they botched their first attack. Deslondes's master, Manuel Andrey was awakened on the morning of January 8 when the attack came to his room. Andrey was able to escape although he received a number of cuts from the slaves' knives as he sped through them and out of the house and into the swamps. His son Gilbert was not so fortunate. The younger Andrey was hacked to pieces. Manuel Andrey eventually made his way across the Mississippi River to a neighbor's plantation and reported the attack, sounding the alarm.

The white deaths from this insurrection appear to be much less than the 50-60 killed in Nat Turner's 1831 Virginia rebellion. The Louisiana slaves appeared to be more focused on getting to New Orleans than murdering whites; although a number of plantation houses and building were burned along the way. But, the slaves did not make it to the city. A combined force of banded planters that Andrey had brought from the other side of the river and U.S. military forces rallied rather quickly in spite of that era's limited communication ability. In the short battle that occurred the outnumbered but better armed planters and troops quickly defeated the slave rebels killing many of the bondmen in the process and capturing even more. Some slaves fled into the swamps and were later killed or captured. The leader, Delondes, briefly escaped, but dogs were set on him and he was quickly caught and dragged to the scene of the battle where he was tortured, shot, and then burned.

A number of the captured, especially leaders such as Kook and Quamana, (Deslondes lieutenants) were tried, convicted, executed, and had their severed heads places on poles for the slaves to see the power of their masters and for whites to recognize their mastery over their believed inferior slaves.

American Uprising brings to light a little known story and another example of American slaves' unwillingness to held from freedom. It shows the importance of the Haitian Revolution as source of inspiration to slaves on the mainland and was a precursor to those slaves from Louisiana that fought for their freedom in the Civil War 50 years later. The Pelican State would end up providing more black Union soldier to the army than other state. I also appreciated that Rasmussen at the end of the book showed recent relevance to the event by linking the militant North Carolinian Robert Williams, Civil Rights era promoter of armed self-defense, to the long tradition of African Americans and their quest for freedom and equality.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give American Uprising a 4.25.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just Finished Reading

When I began my fascination with the Civil War many, many years ago, one of the personalities that I couldn't get enough of was Stonewall Jackson. The stories that I read about his eccentric peculiarities led to an air of enigma that drove my curiosity to find out everything I could about the Confederate legend.

Year later, when I applied for a summer fellowship at the Stonewall Jackson House, I did so partly for pragmatic reasons - it paid - but I also did so because my fascination with "Old Jack" continued, and still continues, to intrigue me.

Wallace Hettle's Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory did much to explain how we have come to know what we know about what was arguably the Confederacy's biggest hero at the time of his death. Hettle contends that early biographers of Jackson took much from their own personal stories and added many of their own personal values to tell Stonewall's tale. Subsequent authors, on into the present, have added further layers to the enigmatic man, many not based in any historic primary sources, but yet have continued to complicate a full understanding of the man.

Hettle focuses his study on a handful of both fiction and non-fiction authors that have wrote about Jackson since his death in 1863. Robert Lewis Dabney, a Presbyterian minister and one-time member of Jackson's war-time staff, was one of the earliest biographers. Hettle states that Dabney's book, The Life and Campaigns of Gen. T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson, published in 1866, was "an admixture of modernity and and proslavery moralism [and] would not only secure its influence on subsequent historiography, it would underscore the complex and ambiguous nature of southern conservatism in an age of social transformation."

Pre-war author and member of J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry, John Esten Cook, provided a romantic depiction of Jackson in his books on the man. "The writer's focus on a great general fit neatly with his romantic appreciation of the enduring ideas of individual genius and democratic ideals." Cook's works influenced many of the biographers that followed to show that Jackson was a man that all American's - both North and South - could find admirable in the post-war U.S."

Other authors such as Jackson's own wife, Mary Anna Morrison Jackson, also get a look. Mary Anna provided a domestic look at Jackson in her book, Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson, published in 1892. Ms. Jackson sought to limit depictions of her husband as a religious fanatic and promoted the idea that he was a loving and devoted family man. Hettle writes "By domesticating Jackson, she helped produce a usable past not only for white southerners in the Jim Crow era but for many Americans today."

Various soldier memoirs, southern novelist and suffrage advocate Mary Johnston, twentieth century literary critic Allen Tate, and even Jeff Shaara's novel Gods and Generals and the movie it produced, are covered by Hettle. In his conclusion, Hettle warns us that a "True understanding of Jackson cannot come through the kind of great-man history that mars too many accounts of famous warriors," rather, "To understand the Civil War, or any conflict, historians must paint on a big canvas that includes not just soldiers and civilians but also the vagaries of history and memory."

I enjoyed reading Inventing Stonewall Jackson and the perspective that Hettle provides. However, I was disappointed to see that the Stonewall Jackson House and its director Ms. Michael Lynn were not mentioned in his acknowledgements. I assume since they were not mentioned that Hettle did not visit this wonderful treasure, which not only has material culture relating to Jackson and would certainly inform on how he has been remembered in history, but also has a wealth of scholarship produced over the years by graduate fellows that have now become well recognized academic historians and pubic history advocates. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Inventing Stonewall Jackson a 4.5.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pension Records are a Great Source of Information, Part I

Recently while looking for some old photographs I ran across some pension records that I had ordered about 12 years ago from the National Archives and forgot that I had kept. These records were on two of my Union soldier ancestors.

One of these of men, John T. Vincent (Co. D, 12th Kentucky Infantry), my great, great, great grandfather, has had me stumped.  For some time as I have not been able to locate his actual service records on microfilmed records of the regiment. But, his pension was confirmed by Congress on September 6, 1888, which is included in these records and states, "An act granting a pension to John T. Vincent. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Interior be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to place on the pension-roll, subject to the provisions and limitations of the pension laws, the name of John T. Vincent, of Clinton County, Kentucky, late a private in Company D, Twelfth Regiment of Kentucky Volunteer Infantry."

Other information such as his date of birth and death are of course easy to find via other methods such as his grave stone and from a state death certificate (of which was included as provided by Vincent's widow in these records). Vincent was born on May 18, 1838 and died July 17, 1923 of "chronic interstitial nephritis." The included death certificate also included the names of his father and his mother's maiden name (James A. Vincent and Sarah Chancey), and although his father's place of birth was left blank, his mother was born in Virginia.

Vincent was married four times and that information is also included in the pension records. He first married Nancy Jane Reid on January 6, 1858, and she died on February 12, 1866. Next was Malinda Sidwell who he married on November 8, 1866, and she died April 12, 1901. He next married Ida Murrey who died August 2, 1916, and he finally married Mary Ballenger on  December 19, 1916, and who survived his death.

Enumerated on a 1915 form are John T. Vincent's children:
Martha Ellen, born May 27, 1860 (Living)
James Marion, born June 6, 1862 (Living)
Emery Cole, born May 10, 1864 (Dead)
Perry Jane, born February 12, 1866 (Living)
Arminda Bell, born April 17, 1869 (Living)
Albert Harlan, born May 1, 1871 (Living)
Sarah Francis, born April 29, 1874 (Living)
John Grady, born August 25, 1876 (Dead)
William Thomas, born October 23, 1867 (Dead)

One from list some Civil War information that I have been seeking. The "Declaration for Widow's Pension" filled out on January 18, 1924, says that Vincent enlisted at Albany, Kentucky on October 15, 1861 as a private. Interestingly there is nothing in the file that provides testimony from any comrades to prove his service. I can only speculate that there was proper documentation in the War Department of Vincent's service to verify his claim to a pension. I now need to go the the National Archives the next time I am in Washington D.C. and see if his service records are indeed there and were somehow just left off of the microfilmed version in error.

Image of Union veterans is courtesy of Library of Congress

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cool Civil War Era Photograph

Married couple or sweethearts? Or, possibly brother and sister? They do look a lot alike, don't you think? There doesn't appear to be a ring on either the man or woman's left hand.

Image courtesy Library of Congress

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Just Finished Reading

The Haitian Revolution's influence on the American Civil War is finally getting the scholarly attention it deserves. Along with Edward Bartlett Rugemer's The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War, Matthew J. Clavin's Toussaint Louverture and the American Civil War: The Promise and Peril of a Second Haitian Revolution, adds a better understanding of how northerners and southerners associated the late-eighteenth century Caribbean quest for freedom with the mid-nineteenth century one in the United States.

The first "black republic" in the Western Hemisphere was the result of a slave uprising that started in 1791 and finally ended in 1804. The results were dramatic and long-lasting. Clavin contends that the France's losing battle to regain Haiti actually prompted Napoleon to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States, thus spreading slavery westward, which eventually brought on the war. But, similarly, and just as importantly, individuals in the North and South used competing perspectives of what happened in Saint Domingue (later Haiti) to promote their side of the debate and tear down their opponent's argument.

While northern abolitionists - before and during the Civil War - used the Haitian Revolution and its leader, Toussaint Louverture, as the promise of what would happen if the South did not end their slaveholding ways, southerners warned that the fate of the island's slaveholders would be their own if they loosed their form of social control on the bondsmen. Louverture to abolitionists was thus presented as a martyred saint that had organized and successfully led the island's slave forces against not only the French, but also English and Spanish armed forces sent to battle them. On the other hand, the former slave commander was to southern proslavery proponents a blood thristy brutal leader of murderers of women and children. Louverture would not live to see his island nation's dream completed. He was captured by the French and sent to Europe where he died in prison.

Clavin's research finds evidence upon evidence from personal letters, newspapers, public and political and religious speeches - from both African American freemen and slaves and white abolitionists and proslavery men - that these contending interpretations were used by both sides to help bring on the conflict and continue it once it started. Clavin puts it succinctly in the last sentience of the book, "While disagreeing on the legacy of the Haitian Revolution and the various lessons it taught, all agreed that in the case of the sectional war over slavery, the past was prologue."

In the text Clavin correctly brings out that John Brown was a student of Louverture methods of combat, and as the author states, "fueled Brown's faith in revolutionary black violence." This certainly fits with what I have always read about Brown's influences. But, Clavin makes a mistake in stating that "He [Brown] throughout his life followed the abolitionist papers that kept alive the memory of Louverture - in his childhood, his father subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator." Clavin is right on the first point that Brown kept up with the abolitionist papers, but incorrect on the last part because the Liberator was not published until 1831 - Brown was born in 1800, so in 1831, he would have been well into manhood and far from childhood.

The origins of America's greatest tragedy include events outside of  our own borders. Reading books such as Toussaint Louverture and the American Civil War are important to give us a fuller understanding on these external contributing factors. I highly recommend it. On a scale from 1 to 5, I give it a 4.75.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Just Finished Reading

Several months back I read Professor Anne E. Marshall's excellent article, "The 1906 Uncle Tom's Cabin Law and the Politics of Race and Memory in Early-Twentieth-Century Kentucky" in an edition of the Journal of the Civil War Era, so I had an idea that the impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe's book went well past the 1850s, the Civil War and Reconstruction. But, I guess I didn't realize how popular this book, and later theatrical presentations, were and continued to be for such a long time. It spurred a merchandising spree and even came to the big screen in the silent film era.

David S. Reynolds', Mightier Than The Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America, revealed to me some of Stowe's biography; something I knew little about. Her Calvinist upbringing certainly influenced her writing, but not so much as to ruin a good story of self-sacrifice, love for others, or the effect one can have on others that they meet in life. Stowe, too, was influenced by spiritualism. Both she, and her husband Calvin, believed in communicating with the dead - an emerging and popular practice in the era - and according to Stowe, guided or inspired her in writing the epic novel.

Reynolds highlights how well Stowe covered her bases in her writing. She seemingly included something for everyone in Uncle Tom's Cabin and thought out her characters well to combat a great deal of the criticism that the book did eventually receive. Much of the book was set in Kentucky - mythicly thought to be then and many years thereafter to be a region of the mildest form of slavery - with kind masters like the Shelbys. But, it too included the terribly sadistic, Simon Legree, a northerner moved South turned slave owner. It covered, somewhat covertly, the sexual exploitation that many female slaves experienced at the hands of their masters through the character of Cassie. And, it showed through characters like Eliza and George Harris that slaves would take desperate measures in the fight for their freedom.

Despite all of Stowe's proactive plot line and character development efforts, the novel was, not surprisingly, maligned by the slave states during the antebellum era, the Civil War, Reconstruction and well into the Jim Crow years. Reynolds contends that the backlash from Uncle Tom's Cabin's continuing popularity produced such works as Thomas Dixon's The Clansman, which in turn inspired D.W. Griffith's epic silent film Birth of a Nation. In the antebellum years it brought forth a whole string of proslavery counter novels such as Aunt Phillis's Cabin, The Lofty and the Lowly, and Uncle Robin in His Cabin in Virginia and Tom in His One in Boston.

Stowe borrowed from many books, current events and first-hand experiences to create her story and characters. Period slave narratives from men such as Josiah Henson, Lewis Clarke and others helped shape Uncle Tom. And, Stowe apparently received some of her information on the institution when she visited Washington,  Kentucky (Mason County) in the 1830s while she was a resident of nearby Cincinnati.

Reynolds interestingly, but briefly, discusses the history of the derogatory label, "Uncle Tom." According to his research the term was first used by Frederick Douglass in 1865 in reference to what African American soldiers were proving they were not. Reynolds explains that the term was used by Douglass and other later black leaders to "goad fellow blacks toward pride and self assertion..."

Mightier Than The Sword is a well written book. I think anyone that wants a better understanding of this extremely influential novel and its author will enjoy and benefit from reading it.  On scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.5. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This Man was a Slave!

When I first saw the image of the man at left I was astounded that he could have been a slave. But, such was the fate of Lewis Clarke who was born in Madison County, Kentucky around 1815. His father was a Scotsman, and his mother was a slave, the daughter of a mixed race slave mother and white owner father.

Clarke's white father died when he was about ten years old and his mother had hoped that upon his death she and her children would be made free. It was not to be. The death left them in the hands of this grandfather/owner heirs who treated him atrociously. When about sixteen or seventeen, Clark was sold to a man who also treated him badly. Then he was moved to this man's son's farm where he hired out his time. When Clarke heard that he was to be sold to Louisiana, he ran away to Lexington and then to Mayslick in northern Kentucky. He crossed the Ohio River and made his way to Cincinnati. He eventually landed in Cleveland and finally got a boat ride across Lake Erie to Canada.

In 1845 his narrative was published which is fascinating reading. It can be found online at:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Just Finished Reading

At the recent Society of Civil War Historians meeting in Lexington I came real close to buying a couple of books on the destructive nature of the Civil War. These two books, Ruin Nation: Destruction and the Civil War, and War Upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the American Civil War both look like great reads, and hopefully I will get them in the near future. So, it was with those books in mind, that when I saw The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction by Mark E. Neely, Jr. at my local library, I decided to pick it up. But, as I quickly found, this was not a book so much about the physical damage caused to structures, landscapes and bodies of America and Americans by the war, but rather a new look at how the conflict has long been interpreted.

Through various comparisons, Neely contends that the Civil War, as contrasted with other conflicts of the same era, was actually not the brutal war that has been presented to us in histories.

Neely's first looks at American soldiers' experiences in the Mexican War as compared to those of Civil War soldiers. The atrocities that volunteer troops perpetrated and that were recorded by their officers on their Mexican enemies and civilians was much more severe than any Civil War invasion by either side. Neely contends that the reason for this was the racial sentiments that the soldiers brought with them. Because the the people were thought to be inferior and religiously different it was easier to treat them more harshly in the earlier war than against than it was against homogeneous protestant former countrymen in the Civil War.

One region that in some respects deserves its terrible reputation in the Civil War was Missouri. Guerrilla operations in that state were probably the most atrocious of the war, but as Neely shows, a conventional war occurred when regular military troops conducted operations in the state. Neely examines General Sterling Price's fall 1864 raid and demonstrates that although after experiencing two years of terrible guerrilla warfare, that did not influence Federal reprisals when faced with regular Confederate forces.

Neely looks closely at the other conflicts and instances during the era in the remaining four chapters. He examines the civil war that happened in Mexico at the same time that the America experienced its own internal conflict. He found that war, which was led one one side by French installed Emperor Maximilian, was even more severe in the level of atrocities than the American conflict the Mexico some twenty years earlier.

Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign, usually referred to as one of the Civil War's most destructive events, gets a reexamination by Neely, who finds that the destruction of the valley's resources was secondary to Sheridan's main mission of destroying Gen. Jubal Early's army.

The 1864 Sand Creek massacre of American Indians in Colorado by Union troops also gets a chapter. Nelly explains that like the Mexican War atrocities, the perceived racial inferiority of the Native enemies led to unrestrained violence against even women and children.

The conditions at Andersonville prison, once reported to the Union authorities, could have led to a violent reprisal against Confederate prisoners, but as Neely contends, "When all was said and done, the president and the society he directed to victory in the Civil War came down on the side not of retaliating for atrocities but of avoiding atrocity. They came down on the side of not making terrible but making it no worse than necessary."

Neely ends The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction with a conclusion that does not call for a return to sentimentalism in examining the war, but rather explains that it is necessary to acknowledge race as a real influence and reason for atrocities in warfare then as now. In the Civil War, "Honor and Christian charity had their place, all right, but it was a place reserved in that era mostly for white and 'civilized' belligerence."

I appreciated Neely's perspective and this book made me think differently about how the Civil War has been interpreted. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.25.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

More Bitter Fruit of General Orders No. 59

On the way to visit family in Madison, Indiana yesterday, I stopped at a cemetery in Eminence, (Henry County) Kentucky to search for a monument placed for three Confederate soldiers that were executed in neighboring Pleasureville on November 3, 1864, by order of General Stephen G. Burbridge in retaliation for the killing of two African Americans by guerrillas in nearby Port Royal. I was unsuccessful in finding the monument on Friday evening, but persistence paid off, and I located it today on way back to Frankfort.

As General Orders 59 stated, four Confederate soldiers were to be executed in cases of deaths caused by guerrillas. According to the stone in the cemetery, the three soldiers buried in Eminence were William Tiche, William Datbor and R.W. Yates. Other accounts though show that two of the soldiers' names were misspelled and that it was actually William Tithe and William Darbrow along with R.W. Yates and William Long. Apparently Long was taken to his hometown of Maysville, Kentucky to be buried instead of with the other three.

The inscription on the bottom of the monument is worn and difficult to read in parts, but it says, "The three C.S.A. soldiers who were shot Nov. 3, 1864 in Pleasureville by order of Gen. Burbridge in pretense of retaliation of two Negros [sic] that were killed near Port Royal."

It continues, "Sleep on ye braves for you have got our sympathy to our last breath. We would not have thee change thy lot with him who has caused thy death."