Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grant and Cranberries

Cranberries have become a staple of our Thanksgiving feast. I was surprised to learn that this treat had some Civil War connections. It seems that the first mention of cranberry sauce was during the 1864 siege of Petersburg, VA. Grant ordered cranberry sauce to be served to his troops. The use of cranberries probably was due to health benefits, rather than as a compliment to turkey and dressing. Cranberries were widely used by sailors and soldiers as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy.

For my tastes, there is nothing like cold turkey sandwiches with a thin slice of dressing and a layer to cranberry sauce.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sarah Josepha Hale

Many Civil War students know that President Lincoln issued a proclamation in October 1863 calling for a day of "thanksgiving and prayer" to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Congress later moved the holiday to the fourth Thursday in November.
However, what is not remembered is the campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale was born in New Hampshire in 1788. She was widowed at an early age and became a writer to support her five children. She wrote the famous nursery rhyme that begins "Mary had a little lamb.."

She loved Thanksgiving, which was already a New England tradition. In her 1827 novel, Northwood, she described a Thanksgiving dinner:

"The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odor of its savory stuffing, and finely covered with the frost of the basting. At the foot of the board a surloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and a joint of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and a pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table .... There was a huge plumb pudding, custards, and pies of every name and description ever known in Yankee land; yet the pumpkin pie occupied the most distinguished niche."

When Hale became editor of a popular women's magazine called Godey's Lady's Book, she used it to press for an official national Thanksgiving. She wrote editorials from 1847 until 1863, and sent letters to the President asking for his support. In 1863, she finally got her wish as President Lincoln made the holiday a national day of observance.

I hope that you will take time this Thanksgiving to share her story with your family and say a prayer of thanks for our wonderful country and those who protect our freedom.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sargeant Museum - Louisa County Historical Society

Every once in a while in our travels we come across a gem like the Sargeant Museum. We discovered the museum in Louisa, VA as part of our search for the Battle of Trevilian Station site.

The museum is located in a two-story house that formerly served as the residence for the J. Frank Sargeant and W. A. Claude Pettit, Jr. families. The home was turned over to the Louisa County Historical Society to create a county museum. They have certainly succeeded in their efforts. The museum deals with six basic themes including the Civil War. The historical society has done a splendid job and Civil War enthusiasts should include a stop in Louisa.

The museum is also the visitor center for the Battle of Trevilian Station. The battle, which is sometimes called Custer's First Last Stand, took place on July 11-12, 1864. It is considered the largest all cavalry battle of the war. It matched General Philip Sheridan's Union forces (8,000 men) against General Wade Hampton's Confederates (5,000 men). The Battle of Trevilian Station Foundation developed a driving tour of the battle with excellent roadside signs.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Graffiti House

The Graffiti House was built in 1858, as a general store and residence for the local postmaster, John Stone. The house was occupied by both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
The soldiers used charcoal from the central fireplace to decorate the plaster walls with their signatures, drawings, and commentaries.
The house served many functions: field hospital, general's headquarters, Provost Marshall office, and barracks.
The graffiti was covered after the war and lay hidden for 130 years. The graffiti were discovered when the house was being renovated in 1993. The Brandy Station Foundation purchased the property in 2002.

The house also serves as a visitor center for the Battle of Brandy Station.

Please see Graffiti House for more information.