Saturday, January 12, 2019

New Year - Fading Hopes

Mary Chestnut in the 1860s

January 2, 1861 – Major Anderson Decides to Hold Fort Sumter <1> 

Before the war had officially begun, Mary Chestnut expressed her concerns in her diary entry on February 18, 1861.

I do not allow myself vain regrets or sad foreboding. The Southern Confederacy must be supported now by calm determination and cool brains. We have risked all, and we must play our best, for the stake is life or death. … Lincoln was elected and our fate sealed. <2>

January 1, 1862 – Union Batteries Fire on Confederate Batteries at Pensacola <3>

On New Year’s Day of 1862, Mrs. Chestnut wrote,

A happy new year to the distant brave
Who combat the foeman or battle the wave:
For each in his home, there is a heart that still burns;
God send them say I ̶ many happy returns.
Sentiment better than the versification. <4>

January 1, 1863 – President Lincoln Signs Emancipation Proclamation <5> 

December 31, 1863 – Richmond Examiner reports “Today Closes the Gloomiest Year of Our Struggle” <6>

Mary Chestnut’s next entry was on January 1, 1864.
After the battles around Richmond, hope was strong in me. All that has insensibly drifted away. I now long, pine, pray, and grieve  ̶  and  ̶  well, I have no hope. <7>

December 30, 1864 – Francis Blair Begins Efforts Leading to Hampton Roads Conference <8>

In January 1865, Mary “… broke down ̶ gave way to abject terror.”

The news of Sherman’s advance ̶ and no new of my husband. Today ̶ wrapped up on the sofa too dismal for moaning, even. There was a loud knock. Shawls and all, I rushed to the door. Telegram from my husband. “All well ̶ be at home on Tuesday.” It was dated from Adams Run. I felt as lighthearted as if the war were over. Then I looked at the date [place] ̶ Adams Run. It ends as it began. Bulls Run ̶ from which their first sprightly running astounded the world. Now if we run who are to run? They ran full-handed. We have fought until maimed soldiers and women and children are all that is left to run. <9>

Mrs. Chestnut’s diary entry on April 22, 1865 contains a prophetic line.

Lincoln old Abe Lincoln killed murdered Seward wounded! Why? By whom? It is simply maddening, all this. See, our army are deserting Joe Johnston. That is the people’s vote against a continuance of the war. And the death of Lincoln ̶ I call that a warning to tyrants. He will not be the last president put to death in the capital, though he is the first. <10>
<1> Johns Bowman, The Civil War (East Bridgewater: World Publications Group, Inc., 2006), 22.
<2> C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chestnut’s Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 3.
<3> Bowman, 52.
<4> Woodward, 273.
<5> Bowman, 90.
<6> Bowman, 133.
<7> Woodward, 519.
<8> Bowman, 185.
<9> Woodward, 702-703.
<10> Woodward, 791.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas During the Civil War on the Web

Season's Greetings


Wishing you a wonderful holiday season with some links to Christmas During the Civil War.

Christmas During the Civil War - Battlefield Trust

Civil War Christmas - Civil War Women

Civil War Christmas Traditions - C-Span - Catherine Wright

Christmas During  the Civil War - YouTube - Gods And Generals Christmas 1862 Civil War Billy Yank, Johnny Rebel

Have a great holiday and happy and healthy 2019.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Preparing for Disunion

I am pleased to announce that Preparing for Disunion - West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leaders is now available from McFarland Publishers, Inc. and Amazon.
U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY
Between 1817 and 1864, sixteen officers were assigned as Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.  They played an important role in training the officers who would serve as senior commanders in both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Six former commandants also served as general officers in the Civil War - Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Smith, and Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds for the U.S. Volunteers and Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, Maj. Gen. William H. T. Walker Major, and Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in the Confederate States Army.


U.S. Military Academy Cadets in mid-1800s

Historians criticize the West Point military program as antiquated for its time - a course in Napoleonic strategy and tactics that failed to account for the advent of rifled weapons or the scope and terrain of the Civil War battlefield. Yet these commandants made changes to the program, developed new textbooks, and instructed many cadets who became field generals during the Civil War. 
U.S. Military Buildings in 1855

Preparing for Disunion presents the commandants’ biographies, their significant contributions to the military instruction, and the notable cadets they trained in drill on the West Point plain and in the military academy classroom. 
Cadet Monument at the U.S. Military Academy
Please contact me if you are interested in a presentation on Preparing for Disunion for your organization.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Those Simon-pure Democrats and Republicans

I recently discovered the term simon pure or simon-pure in a magazine. The article explained that the term was used around the Civil War to describe certain political groups. After some quick research I discovered the meaning and etymology of the phrase. 

Definition and Etymology 

Simon-pure has two definitions which appear to be opposite of each other. The first definition says the phrase describes something or someone of “untainted purity or integrity” or “absolutely genuine, pure, or authentic.” The phrase can also be used to describe something or someone who is pretentiously, superficially or hypocritically pure or virtuous. 

This expression comes from the name of a character in a, Susannah Centilivre's play, A Bold Stroke for a Wife. Centlivre's 1717 play has a character named Simon Pure who is the victim of an impersonation but turns up in the end and proves that he is "the real Simon Pure." A Bold Stroke for a Wife was first performed at Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre, on February 3, 1718. The play ran for six nights and was considered a “substantial success.” 

During its long life the play became very popular in the United States. It was produced as early as 1782 in Baltimore. In 1786 a Charleston, South Carolina, journalist commented that "The Bold Stroke for a Wife … is one of the few comedies that has stood the test of time … it is full of business and intrigue and abounds with such a variety as always arrests and keeps up the attention of the audience until it ends." The play continued to be performed for American audiences into the nineteenth century, and it was billed as a "fine old comedy" when it was presented at Wallack's Theatre on Broadway in 1863. The phrase began to be used in America around 1840.

Some Civil War Era Examples

“The Fourth of July dinner at Host Decker's Hotel was the simon-pure thing.” - describes a dinner held on July 4 as reported in the Ulster County, New York Newspaper  

“… his friends were exceedingly nervous, and exhibited symptoms of spasms at any allusion to his not being a Simon Pure Democrat - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), August 27, 1859, 1 

“The members of this of this troope are all from Georgia, where they were slaves till liberated by the glorious emancipation of the colored race. They are the only ‘Simon Pure’ negro minstrels travelling, the rest all requiring the aid of burnt cork to develop the needed snootiness of the Ethiopian.” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), September 20, 1865, 4 

“Inquiries into the antecedents of the Light Brigade making this charge upon John Minor, show that seventeen of them are ‘simon pure’ Unionists, men who were such when property, liberty and life itself were put in Jeopardy by being such.” - The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 21, 1865, 4 

“The Simon-pure Copperheads have chosen the following named persons to represent at the time and place…” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), August 16, 1866, 2 

“The plaintiff claims that he represents the simon-pure and original ‘Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church,’ while the others represent the new society, called the ‘West Side Presbyterian Church.’” Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), October 25, 1859, 1 

“Mr. Eaton is a citizen of Ohio, but a simon pure Border Ruffian in political sentiment.” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), April 29, 1857, 2 

“The Wood faction profess to be the only Simon Pure Democrats; say that the other faction has deserted the principles of the party, &c.” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), December 14, 1863, 1  
“The Simon pure Copperheads had it all their way in the Convention for city officers.” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), April 20, 1863, 1 

“It produced quite a flutter in town, but on the succeeding morning the papers teemed with cards from the Democrats and ex-Confederates, disavowing all connection and fellowship with any party save the simon pure Democratic party.”- Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), March 28, 1868, 2 

“The political canvass in this State is progressing with the chances in favor of the simon-pure Union Republic party against the Democratic Republican Union part.”- The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), October 29, 1865, 9 

“There are two wings of the Democracy, and an inevitable split in the Republican party. The former party is headed by Toombs on the part of the original simon-pure, unforgiving, and unrelenting Ku-Klux rebel Democracy…” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), September 1, 1870, 2 

“…but the b’boys propose to select simon-pure, shoulder-hitting Democrats to Congress from New York, Brooklyn, and the other Democratic districts.” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), September 21, 1866, 2 

“I wish to explain my vote. I vote no because I consider the resolution a real simon-pure Republican resolution, and I will not endorse republican doctrines.” - Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), February 12, 1859, 2