Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dec. 9: Br'er Rabbit and Joel Chandler Harris

He was one of America’s earliest folklore authors, using the dialect and stories from the land he grew up on. His stories – while not widely circulated today – have characters who are still know and loved by Americans of all ages.

Joel Chandler Harris was born on December 9, 1848, at Eatonton – a small town that is the county seat of Putnam County, and is located near the middle of Georgia. His father was an itinerant Irish laborer who disappeared just before Harris was born. His mother – Mary Harris – was unwed, and could barely make a living as a seamstress to support herself and her son.

While his early education was spotty, Harris was an avid reader of American, English, and world literary works. Reportedly his favorite author and book while growing up was Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield.

Harris had to end his formal education at the age of thirteen so he could go to work in order to help the family finances. He was hired in March 1862 as an apprentice and typesetter, spending four years working for a weekly newspaper, The Countryman. The Countryman was published by Joseph Addison Turner at Turner’s Turnwold Plantation during the Civil War, and would issue its last publication in May 1866. The plantation was about nine miles north of Eatonton.

Harris would live on the Turnwold Plantation during this time, and several of the slaves who worked there would eventually became models for Uncle Remus, Aunt Tempy, and other characters of his Uncle Remus series of stories that he would start to write twenty years after he left the plantation. This work for Turner during his formative years influenced Harris by directing him to a long and successful career in the newspaper world.

Harris would work for a variety of newspapers – including the Macon Telegraph, the New Orleans Crescent Monthly, the Monroe Advertiser, and the Savannah Morning News – where he was an assistant editor when he married Esther LaRose in 1873. The Harris’s would have nine children, although three would die due to childhood illnesses.

In 1876 he took a position as assistant editor with the Atlanta Constitution, which would be his employer for the next quarter century. Harris had moved to Atlanta because of an epidemic of yellow fever in Savannah and was able to land the job with the Constitution. It was his time with the Atlanta Constitution that Harris introduced his Uncle Remus stories. In 1881 he would buy a Queen Anne Victorian style home in Atlanta – the Wren’s Nest – where he would live until his death in 1908. His great-great-great grandson works in the house today as it’s executive director.

The idea for the Uncle Remus stories have their roots in Harris’ formative years while he was growing up in the Antebellum South. Slavery was the norm in the South during this period of American history, and even after the Civil War the role of superiority for Southern whites and subservience for Southern African-Americans was the norm rather than the exception in the rural regions of the South.

Harris spent quite a bit of his time with the African-American slaves living and working the land of Turnwold Plantation and it is thought that Uncle Remus is patterned after one slave – Uncle Bob Capers – who told fantastic stories to entertain and delight his audience after a hard days work in the fields. Harris would preserve the stories – most of whom had their roots in Africa – as well as the dialect, thus becoming one of the first folklore authors in American history. The Uncle Remus stories were full of the wit and wisdom of the era that Harris had heard many years before. Harris stated that he began writing the stories of Uncle Remus to “preserve in permanent shape those curious mementoes of a period that will no doubt be sadly misrepresented by historians of the future." Some examples of wisdom from the Uncle Remus stories would include:

“Lazy fokes’s stummucks don’t git tired.”
From Plantation Proverbs
“Jay-bird don’t rob his own nes’.”
From Plantation Proverbs
“Licker talks mighty loud w’en it gits loose from de jug.”
From Plantation Proverbs
“Hungry rooster don’t cackle w’en he fine a wum.”
From Plantation Proverbs.
“Youk’n hide de fier, but w’at you gwine do wid de smoke?”
From Plantation Proverbs
In the books, Uncle Remus is a kindly old slave who is telling the stories to the children sitting around him. The story characters are animals, with the main character being Br’er (Brother) Rabbit, a likeable – though troublesome – trickster. Other major characters include Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. The first Uncle Remus story, The Story of Mr. Rabbit and Mrs Fox as Told by Uncle Remus, was published in the Atlanta Constitution on July 20, 1879. Eventually the Uncle Remus stories would be compiled into three Uncle Remus books - Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings (1880); Nights with Uncle Remus (1883); and Told by Uncle Remus: New Stories of the Old Plantation (1905). The books achieved immense popularity in the United States and abroad.

In 1946 Disney created an animated production called Song of the South based on Uncle Remus. Disney was quoted as saying "The first books I ever read were the Uncle Remus stories. Ever since then, these stories have been my special favorites. I've just been waiting until I could develop the proper medium to bring them to the screen."

Within a decade of its release the civil rights movement of the 1950s – 1960s matured, and the portrayal of the heavy dialect used in the movie that was so evident in the South during the 19th century was viewed as a racist stance that was portraying subservience of the African Americans of the 20th century.

While Harris is best known for his Uncle Remus stories, he did publish other works. He published six children’s books, short stories, and novels – most of which were based on plantation life or life in antebellum Georgia.

Harris died of acute nephritis and cirrhosis of the liver on July 3, 1908, in the Westview Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia.


Documenting the American South
Find A Grave
National Park Service
New Georgia Encyclopedia
The Wren’s Nest
University of North Carolina
University of Virginia


Portrait of Joel Chandler Harris, Wikipedia
Portrait of Joel Chandler Harris in 1873, Wikipedia
The Wren’s Nest, Inside Access
Uncle Remus from cover of 1881 Harris book, Wikipedia
Joel Chandler Harris standing, Find A Grave
Gravesite of Joel Chandler Harris, Find A Grave

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 4: Lillian Russell, Master of the Comic Opera

She was known as one of the most beautiful of American women, had a tremendous personality that ruled the stage she played on, and was a flamboyant master of the popular comic opera stage plays that played in theaters throughout the nation. She dominated the American theater in the late 19th century.

Helen Louise Leonard was the fifth daughter of newspaper publisher Charles E. Leonard and his wife Cynthia Rowland Leonard. Both parents would exert an extensive influence on their daughter – her father through his background in reading and understanding of news and events, and her mother through her feminist views. Helen was born on December 4, 1861, in Clinton, Iowa, but would move to and grow up in Chicago, Illinois, where the family moved in 1864.

She would be remembered to history not as Helen Louise Leonard, but as Lillian Russell.

Lillian would receive her education from the age of seven to fifteen the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and the Park Institute, both in Chicago. It was during these years that she learned to play the tambourine and to dance, showing a natural talent in the school plays that foretold of her stage career. While in school she studied music under Miss. Scheremburg and was an active participant in the school choir. Her first stage appearance was in December 1877, when she was a participant in an amateur production of Time Tries All at Chickering Hall in Chicago.

In 1879, Mrs. Leonard left her husband and moved to New York with the children.

In New York Lillian studied singing under a German émigré, composer, and orchestra conductor – Leopold Damrosch. Her dreams were to have an operatic career. In 1879 she joined the chorus of a Brooklyn theatrical company that was presenting the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, HMS Pinafore. Two weeks after joining the troupe, she married the orchestra leader, Harry Braham. She had a baby boy by Braham, but he died in a tragic accident while still an infant.

The official transformation of Helen Leonard into Lillian Russell would take place on November 22, 1880, when she made her first appearance on Broadway at Tony Pastor’s Theater. She was billed as Lillian Russell, the English Ballad Singer, and would tour with Pastor’s company through the summer of 1881. Pastor paid her $40 a week and gave her the stage name Lillian Russell.

In June 1883, Lillian left her husband and went to England with composer Edward Solomon. Solomon, an English émigré who was the musical director of Pastor’s theater, would write Lillian into several of his compositions, including Billee Taylor, Polly, and Pocahontas. Lillian sailed with Solomon for England and a series of theatrical engagements. There two major personal events occurred: she became pregnant, giving birth to Lillian Dorothy on May 10, 1884; and the scandal of Lillian leaving her husband behind and living with Solomon “as his wife” reached the press – and turned theater managers against her. In 1885 they returned to the United States – and were informally boycotted by theater managers. Work finally appeared, and Lillian’s ability in comedic operettas and her singing voice carried the day. She began a comeback.

She worked hard to pacify the press and to keep scandals out of the press. When her husband won his divorce case, the newspapers were not informed for a week and a half – and by then Lillian had formally married Solomon. Soon, however, more scandal erupted. Lily Gray, a London actress, claimed that Solomon had married her in 1873 – and never divorced. Eventually, Lillian divorced Solomon. By the time she was twenty-five, Lillian had had two husbands, two children, and had performed on hundreds of stages in the United States and England.

By 1891 Lillian had overcome the earlier public disapproval of her life, and had made a comeback in the theater. She organized the Lillian Russell Opera Company, opening at the Garden Theater in New York. In 1894 she married a third time, to John Haly Augustin Chatterton – a tenor in her opera company. The separated in six months, and were divorced in 1898.

Lillian’s talent, singing voice, and stage success continued – and her popularity continue to rise as well. It was her voice that was first heard during the first long-distance telephone call on Alexander Graham Bell’s invention when she sang from New York, and was heard in Washington, D.C. and in Boston. The song was The Sabre Song.

In June 1912, Lillian – now fifty years old – married for the fourth and final time. Her husband was the publisher of the Pittsburgh Leader, Alexander P. Moore. That same year she made her last appearance on Broadway in a play titled Hokey Pokey. In 1915 she would appear in a motion picture with Lionel Barrymore which was titled Wildfire, and she would occasionally sing in vaudeville until 1919 when ill health made it necessary for her to stop.

Lillian would remain active – and in the public eye. She wrote newspaper columns, gave lectures, supported women’s suffrage, helped recruit for the Marines in World War I, and in 1921 was sent by President Warren G. Harding on a fact-finding tour of Europe to help formulate a new immigration policy in the United States. She came out in favor of restricting immigration and isolationism. Shortly after she submitted her report, she injured herself in a fall, and died ten days later – June 6, 1922 - of complications associated with the fall. She was interred in the Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Perhaps Lillian’s own words provide the best memorial of her life and tell why she strove to be successful in the theater:
“I only want to play the roles allotted to me in comic opera better than anyone else who ever sang them, or better than anyone who was in the line with me.”
New York Times Obituary
University of Rochester


Russell advertisement (color), Library of Congress, ncdeaa D0005-14
Russell in Costume, 1882, University of Rochester
Playbill, Library of Congress,
Russell in Costume, Library of Congress, ncdeaa D0040
Russell and husband, Alexander Moore, Library of Congress, ichicdn n074416
Russell at her desk, 1922, Library of Congress, ichicdn n074414


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dec. 1: Oliver Wolcott: Soldier Statesman

His fore bearers had been leaders in their colony, and his children would continue that heritage. He was a man who provided political and military leadership during a time of international warfare and civil war. He risked his property and livelihood in politically backing American Independence while he risked his life in leading men in battle for that independence.

Oliver Wolcott was born on December 1, 1726, as the youngest son (and of fifteen children) of Roger and Sarah Wolcott. Wolcott’s father was a leading political figure in the colony of Connecticut, holding the post of governor from 1751 - 1754. The Wolcott family had been involved in the politics of New England since their arrival in 1630.

Young Wolcott attended Yale College, graduating at the top of his class at the age of twenty-one in 1747. He was appointed a captain in the Connecticut militia during King George’s War, and recruited a company to serve in the British expedition against the French in New France – an expedition that, as it turned out, was unsuccessful. His company then guarded against incursions into the northern parts of the British colonies.

After King George’s War ended in 1748, Wolcott returned home – to first study medicine with Dr. Alexander Wolcott - his brother. However, he never had the opportunity to practice medicine. He turned to the study of law when he was appointed the sheriff of newly created Litchfield county in 1751. Wolcott held the position of county sheriff for twenty years while simultaneously being a member of the lower house of the Connecticut colonial legislature in 1764, 1767-68, and 1770. He was a member of the upper house of the colonial and, later, state legislature from 1771 – 1786. He also held the job of both probate judge (1772 - 1781) and county judge (1774 - 1778).

In January 1759 Wolcott married Laura Collins, whose ancestors were among the first settlers of New England and Connecticut. The National Cyclopedia of American Biography stated that...
"She was a woman of almost masculine strength of mind, energetic and thrifty; and while Governor Wolcott was away from home, attended to the management of their farm, educated their younger children, and made it possible for her husband to devote his energies to his country."
Their marriage would last until her death in 1794, which was followed by his three years later. They had five children – three boys and two girls – though one of the boys died in infancy.

Wolcott found that having Laura as his wife freed him for his public interests. Yet he was compassionate enough to express concern for her. He would write to her from Philadelphia in 1776:
"MY DEAR--I feel much concerned for the Burden which necessarily devolves upon you. I hope you will make it as light as possible.... You may easily believe that the situation of publick Affairs is such that the critical Moment is near which will perhaps decide the Fate of the Country; and that the business of Congress is very interesting. Yet if any excuse can reasonably be allowed for my returning, I shall think myself justified in doing so. The circumstances of my affairs demand it."
Wolcott remained involved in the state militia, rising to the rank of colonel by 1774. It was, in part, because of this that the Connecticut legislature named him as a commissary for Connecticut troops and in 1775 the Continental Congress designated him as a commissioner of Indian affairs for the northern department. He worked with the Iroquois in New York to try and gain their neutrality in the escalating conflict with England. He also dealt with arbitrating land disputes between Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York and Vermont.

In 1775 Wolcott was sent as a representative of Connecticut to the Continental Congress. Wolcott, a strong supporter for independence, would be absent at both the voting for independence and the formal signing of the Declaration in August. However, he added his signature sometime after his return to Congress in October 1776.

Wolcott devoted part of each year to militia duty, being promoted to Brigadier General in the New York campaigns of 1776-1777, which culminated with the surrender of British general John Burgoyne at Saratoga to Continental general Horatio Gates. In 1779 Major General Wolcott defended the Connecticut seacoast against raids led by the Royal Governor of New York, William Tryon.

After the war was over, Wolcott remained active on the national and state level. He helped to negotiate the Second Treaty of Fort Stanwix, New York, in 1784. In that treaty the Iroquois ceded to the new United States some of the New York and Pennsylvania lands. He also negotiated a treaty where the Wyandottes gave up their lands in Ohio. On the state level Wolcott was elected annually as Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut from 1787 to 1796. In 1796 he was elected to the office of Governor. He would die prior to completing his term as governor.

He died on December 1, 1797 - his 71st birthday - and was buried in East Cemetery, Litchfield.


Colonial Hall
Connecticut Magazine
Connecticut Society SAR
Find A Grave
National Park Service


Portrait: Wikipedia
Portrait of Laura Collins Wolcott, by Ralph Earl
Gravesite, Find A Grave, by Eric Landers

Thursday, November 26, 2009

November 26: Mary Edwards Walker and the Medal of Honor

She was a controversial figure her entire adult life – often living up to her nickname of ‘Contrary Mary’. She was the second licensed woman doctor in the United States, graduating four and one half years after Elizabeth Blackwell achieved her degree.

Mary Edwards Walker was born on November 26, 1832, in Oswego, New York. Her parents were Alvah Walker and his wife Vesta, who owned a farm in the community. She was the youngest of the five Walker daughters, and had one younger brother. The Walker children - Mary, Aurora, Luna, Vesta, Cynthia and one son, Alvah Jr. – grew up in a household which held lively discussions on the issues of the day.

Because farming was labor-intensive, Walker worked in the fields, plowing, planting, and harvesting – along with the myriad of other farm duties that fell on the shoulders of a small farming family. All of the Walker girls wore men’s clothing – pants and shirt – while working in the fields of the thirty-three acre farm because their father felt that the traditional women’s dress was too restrictive and confining for work. Their father was a carpenter as well as a farmer, and was involved in many of the reform movements that sprung up in the nation during the 1830s. He also became a self-taught country doctor in a frontier region that had few doctors. He was an abolitionist as that movement was established – his farm was a ‘station’ on the underground railroad - as well as a supporter of education and equality for his daughters. He wanted all of his children to have a profession to support themselves with.

Walker attended the local elementary school that her father built and where her mother was the teacher. She also attended Falley Seminary in Fulton, New York – where she received additional instruction in grammar, mathematics, philosophy, and hygiene. After graduation in 1852 she entered the work force as a teacher in the village of Minetto, New York.

However, Walker had developed a desire for an unusual career for a mid-19th century American woman. After watching and assisting her father as he ‘doctored’ injured farmers and farm hands, she decided that she wanted to become a trained doctor.

In December 1853, Walker enrolled in the Syracuse Medical College – an institution that was the first medical college in the U.S. to equally accept men and women as students. She spent three thirteen-week semesters involved in medical training, paying $55 for each semester. She graduated – the only woman in her class and the second licensed woman doctor in the United States - in June 1853.

She married a fellow medical student, Albert Miller in 1856. Miller was a free thinker in the mode of Walker’s father. They married in Oswego with Walker wearing trousers, a frock coat, and cutting any reference from the ceremony of the bride’s obligations to obey her spouse. She rejected the idea that a woman was mandated to have a man’s protection. As she later said: “You are not our protectors. If you were, who would there be to protect us from?” She begrudgingly changed her name – to Dr. Mary Miller-Walker. As she commented:
“A woman’s name is as dear to her as a man’s is to him, and custom ought, and will prevail, where each will keep their own names when they marry, and allow the children at a certain age to decide which name they will prefer.”
They set up a joint practice in Rome, New York, but the practice was not overly successful. Women physicians were not generally trusted or respected in the mid-nineteenth century. By March 1861, Walker found out that her husband was an adulterer, and had separated from him. The final divorce would be granted five years later.

When the American Civil War broke out, Walker went to Washington, D.C. to join the army as a surgeon and medical officer for the Union forces. Her request was denied, so she volunteered her services, being accepted as an acting assistant surgeon at the hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office. The hospital was nicknamed the Indiana Hospital because of the number of patients there who were from Indiana. At one point, her superior, Dr. J.N. Green, recommended that she receive a commission in the Army as a doctor, but it was never granted.

Her duties were varied: serving in the operating room, accompanying badly wounded soldiers home, and, when she saw the need, organizing the Women’s Relief Association which provided temporary lodging for the mothers, wives, and children of soldiers who were in Washington.

By 1862 she had gained a second medical degree (from Hygeia Therapeutic College in New York), and November found her with the Union Army of the Potomac, serving as a civilian surgeon at the battle of Fredericksburg.

By September 1863 she had been appointed as the assistant surgeon in the 52nd Ohio Infantry, Army of the Cumberland, by General George Thomas – an appointment which was protested by the other (male) doctors in the army. She designed and wore a modified officers uniform, and always carried two pistols. Besides serving the Union forces, Walker also often went into Confederate territory to help civilians – leading some to think that she was also acting as a spy.

On one of her excursions into Confederate territory Walker was captured by the Confederates and imprisoned at Castle Thunder, near Richmond, Virginia. While there she was able talk the Confederates into providing more wheat and cabbage into the rations for the prisoners. Taken prisoner in April 1864, she was exchanged in August 1864, returning to the 52nd Ohio as a surgeon.

On October 5, 1864, Walker was commissioned as an acting assistant surgeon, becoming the first female commissioned surgeon in the Army. She would be discharged on June 15, 1865.

Walker became the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor when, upon the recommendation of both Generals William Sherman and George Thomas, President Andrew Johnson signed the bill authorizing the medal. The citation read in part:
“Whereas it appears from official reports that Dr. Mary E. Walker, a graduate of medicine, "has rendered valuable service to the Government, and her efforts have been earnest and untiring in a variety of ways," and that she was assigned to duty and served as an assistant surgeon in charge of female prisoners at Louisville, Ky., upon the recommendation of Major-Generals Sherman and Thomas, and faithfully served as contract surgeon in the service of the United States, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in a Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon; and Whereas by reason of her not being a commissioned officer in the military service, a brevet or honorary rank cannot, under existing laws, be conferred upon her; and
Whereas in the opinion of the President an honorable recognition of her services and sufferings should be made:
It is ordered, That a testimonial thereof shall be hereby made and given to the said Dr. Mary E. Walker, and that the usual medal of honor for meritorious services be given her.”
Even the giving of the medal would be a controversy in Walker’s life. In 1917 Congress revised the standards for receiving the medal to be based on “actual combat with an enemy”, taking away the medals from 911 individuals. Walker refused to give back her medal, wearing it until she died two years later. After a long battle by her great-grandniece Ann Walker, President Jimmy Carter restored the medal in 1977.

Walker continued her medical practice after the war. She also travelled as a lecturer and wrote several books dealing with women’s rights and women’s dress. Concerning women’s suffrage, she stated: “You imprison women for crimes you have forbidden women to legislate upon.”

After her father died in 1880 Walker moved back to her girlhood home, the farm in Oswego. She lived there until she died in 1919 at the age of 86, and was buried in trousers and a topcoat in the Rural Cemetery, Oswego County, New York.

Walker, Dale L., Mary Edwards Walker: Above and Beyond
Doherty, Karen, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients


About North Georgia
Above and Beyond
American Association of University Women
American Civil War
Find A Grave
Medal of Honor Citations
National Library of Medicine
Oswego Library
Women in History


Walker Portrait of Mary Walker: Wikipedia
Walker Bloomer Dress of 1860s: National Library of Medicine
Walker Portrait of Mary Walker sitting: Library of Congress
Walker Picture of Mary Walker standing: National Library of Medicine
Gravesite of Mary Edwards Walker: Find A Grave

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nov. 23: Edward Rutledge, Youngest Man to Sign the Declaration of Independence

He was the youngest man to sign the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776, and would wind up in a British prison as a result. A political conservative, he was able to postpone the first vote on independence before reversing himself and joining a month later in voting for independence.

Edward Rutledge was born on November 23, 1749, to Dr. John Rutledge, an Irish immigrant and physician, and Sarah Hext Rutledge, who was “lady of respectable family, and large fortune.” The Rutledge family lived near Charleston, South Carolina, and Edward was the fifth son, and the youngest of seven children. He would never know his father, who died on December 25, 1750.

Not much is known about Rutledge’s youth. With his father deceased, when young Rutledge was old enough for an education, he was placed under the care of David Smith who instructed him in language, reading, and mathematics. Rutledge soon desired to enter the same profession as his older brother, John – that of lawyer.

Like many of the wealthy in South Carolina – including fellow Declaration of Independence signers Middleton, Lynch, and Heyward – Rutledge was sent to England in 1769 as a young man to study law. He would study law at Temple, be admitted to the English bar, and returned to Charleston in 1773 where he set up a legal practice.

With the ever-increasing agitation over British taxation and reduction of colonial rights, Charleston in 1773 was becoming concerned about losing its inherent English liberties and right of self-government. It was during this time – Rutledge’s first year after returning to Charleston from England - that Rutledge won acclaim and became a popular local hero by winning the release of a newspaper publisher named Thomas Powell. Powell had been imprisoned by the Crown for printing an article critical of the upper house of the South Carolina colonial legislature – a house that was dominated during this tumultuous time by Loyalists to the Crown.

In 1774 the Whigs of South Carolina named Rutledge as one of their five delegates to the First Continental Congress. Rutledge (who was only 25 at the time) would serve his first congressional term along side of his older brother, John, and his father-in-law, Henry Middleton. Rutledge did not make a significant impression when he first arrived at the Congress. Rutledge was was nearly bald despite his age and "inclining toward corpulency" as he entered public life. As John Adams (who wasn’t overly fond of South Carolinians in the first place) wrote:

"Young Ned Rutledge is a perfect Bob-o-Lincoln—a swallow, a sparrow, a peacock; excessively vain, excessively weak, and excessively variable and unsteady; jejeune, inane, and puerile."
However, as he served his associates took more and more notice of his abilities, clear thinking, and logical judgment. By June 1776 Rutledge had become one of the more influential members of the Congress. Rutledge was in favor of colonial rights, but at first was not in favor of independence, and many think that he was responsible for delaying the vote on Richard Henry Lee’s proposal for independence on June 7, 1776. However, when he realized that the resolution for independence would carry and that unaminity was needed if independence was to succeed, he led the South Carolina delegation in voting for independence, becoming the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In September Rutledge would accompany John Adams and Benjamin Franklin on a peace mission to Staten Island, where they were to negotiate with the British Admiral, Lord Richard Howe. Lord Richard Howe, and is brother General William Howe, were trying to resolve the differences between the colonies and the Mother country. However, the peace mission failed, and two months later – in November 1776 – Rutledge would leave Congress to return to Charleston and his law practice.

In 1778 Rutledge would accept a seat in the State legislature. The next year he was reelected to the Continental Congress, but his military duties prevented his attending. In February 1779, as a captain of artillery in the South Carolina militia, he took part in the defeat of the British at Port Royal Island (South Carolina). The following year found him in Charleston, a city besieged by the British. The siege lasted from April 1 to May 12, 1780, and resulted in the capture of over 5,000 colonial troops – and three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence: Arthur Middleton, Thomas Heyward, Jr., and Edward Rutledge.

Rutledge was imprisoned by the British at St. Augustine, Florida. He was exchanged in July, 1781, when he returned to Charleston. Returning to his law practice, he was reelected to the State legislature from 1782 to 1798. Being conservative in nature he joined the Federalist Party.

His private life flourished, and he became wealthy through his law practice and investments. In 1792 his wife of 18 years – Henrietta - died, and he remarried. He had married Henrietta Middleton (sister to fellow Declaration of Independence signer Arthur Middleton) on March 1, 1774, and the couple had three children. His second wife was Mary Shubrick Eveleigh, who was the widow of Nicholas Eveleigh, comptroller of the treasury of the United States during Washington's administration.

In 1798 Rutledge was chosen a governor of South Carolina. However, due to poor health, he died before the end of his term. Rutledge died on January 23, 1800. He was buried in St. Philip’s Church Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina.

There are no biographies of Edward Rutledge available at our local library.


Colonial Hall
Find A Grave
Focus on the Founding Fathers
Forgotten Founders
John and Edward Rutledge
National Park Service


Portrait of Edward Rutledge

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 10: Jay Cooke, Financier of the Civil War

His early work career involved one failure after another, yet he persevered and became known as the financier of the American Civil War – and later the collapse of his company would cause the Panic of 1873.

Jay Cooke was born on August 10, 1821, in the then-frontier town of Sandusky, located in North-Central Ohio on the coast of Lake Erie. Eleutheros Cooke, his father, was a pioneer Ohio lawyer as well as a representing Ohio in Congress from 1831-1833 as a member of the Whig Party. He also was one of the early railroad investors, and was a real estate speculator. The new child was named after John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

It seemed as though Cooke was predestined for the world of business and finance. His early school experience was at the local schools in Sandusky, and at the age of fourteen he became a clerk in a local store. A year later he moved to take a position in a wholesale business in St. Louis, Missouri. The following year he lost his job due to the Panic of 1837 and would return to Ohio – settling in

At the age of fourteen, Cooke became a clerk in a local store. When he was fifteen, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and took a position in a wholesale business. He lost his job the following year due to the Panic of 1837 when he was sixteen, and returned to Ohio, where he settled in Bloomingville, just outside of Sandusky.

Cooke decided that his future lay in the East, and he moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1838. He began working with a packet company, becoming involved with shipping and receiving goods on steamboats. The company failed with the year, and Cook became a bookkeeper in a local hotel. In 1839, the E.W. Clark & Company – which was a brokerage and banking company (and one of the largest private banking firms in the nation) – hired Cooke. He found his niche, quickly advancing through the ranks of the company and becoming a partner by 1842. The company was a successful one, providing financing for the newest boom in transportation – the railroads – as well as arranging to loan the federal government money to finance the Mexican War. By the time Cooke was thirty he was also a partner in Calrk & Company’s New York and St. Louis branches.

The Panic of 1857 would cause Clark & Company to suffer, but Cook – through a finely developed business acumen and wise management of his investments - emerged from that Panic a wealthy man. He retired from the firm in 1858, and would spend his time reorganizing abandoned railways and canals in Pennsylvania, putting them back in operation.

The Civil War was beginning to brew when the private banking house of Jay Cooke & Company opened in Philadelphia on January 1, 1861. It quickly established itself as an economic force to be reckoned with when it quickly floated a war loan of three million dollars for the state of Pennsylvania. The nations leaders, facing what they knew would become a costly civil war, quickly approached Cooke. Union Secretary of State Salmon P. Chase met with Cook in the early months of the war to discuss loans. Cooke quickly arranged loans from the leading bankers in the Northern states, and his own firm was extremely successful in distributing Union Treasury notes. Cooke was rewarded for his efforts by being engaged as a special agent for the sale of $500,000,000 of “five-twenty” government bonds that were authorized for sale in February 1862.

Cooke was so successful at arranging the sale of these bonds – which had not done well before Cooke came on the scene – that he actually sold eleven million dollars more than he was authorized. The Congress quickly sanctioned the sales. Thanks to Cooke’s efforts on this and other loan drives, Union soldiers were supplied and paid regularly.

As the Civil War moved toward its conclusion, Cooke became interested in the development of the American Northwest. In 1870 Cooke & Company financed the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway, hoping to create a transportation route that would bring the raw materials and produce from the West to Duluth, Minnesota – then shipped through the Great Lakes to markets in Europe. Unfortunately, the project was not as successful as Cooke had hoped. Competition with the Union Pacific drove shipping rates down so far that the railroads lost money. Since many investors – including Cooke - speculated on railroad stocks, the market lost faith in railroads. When Cook & Company closed its doors on September 18, 1873, it started the Panic of 1873.

The man who had financed the Union in the Civil War soon found his company foundering. The company did collapse, but thanks to investments in a silver mine in Utah, Cooke was able to pay off all of his creditors and regain his wealth by 1880.
Cooke died at the age of 83 on February 8, 1905, and is buried in the St. Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Cooke was noted for his piety and as an Episcopalian regularly gave a tenth of his income for religious and charitable purposes. He overcame difficulties throughout his life, including bankruptcy, in order to become one of the noted financiers of the day.


Our local library has no biography on Jay Cooke


1911 Encyclopedia
Biography from Answers
Find A Grave
Ohio History Central
Ohio State University


01. Portrait, Tax History Museum
02. Portrait as a young man, Ohio State University, Cooke Collection
03. Portrait of Jay Cooke, Ohio State University, Cooke Collection
04. Cooke tomb, Find A Grave by Thomas Fisher

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 3: Ernie Pyle, The Consummate War Correspondent

"ALGERIA, JANUARY, 1943: Men who bring our convoys from America, some of whom have just recently arrived, tell me the people at home don't have a correct impression of things over here."
Ernie Pyle looked at his job as a war correspondent during World War II as one in which he told the unflinching truth, not based on political agendas or political correctness, and

As a result, Pyle was one of the most respected journalists of his era, beloved by the men – the common soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines – that he worked with because he wrote their stories, their lives, their truth, and he shared their dangers.

He had that rarity among men – the ability to look at where he was emotionally and professionally, and where he needed to be. He wrote September 11, 1943 in an article titled “Fed Up and Bogged Down”:
“Perhaps you who read this column wonder why I came home just at this special time, when events are boiling over in Italy.

Well, I might as well tell you truthfully. I knew, of course, that the Italian invasion was coming up, but I chose to skip it. I made that decision because I realized, in the middle of Sicily, that I had been too close to the war for too long.

I was fed up, and bogged down. Of course you say other people are too, and they keep going on. But if your job is to write about the war, you’re very apt to begin writing unconscious distortions and unwarranted pessimisms when you get too tired.”
Ernie Pyle – always called Ernest by he parents – was born on August 3, 1900, on a tenant farm near Dana, Indiana. He was the only child of William and Maria Taylor Pyle. A shy youth, he worked his way through school more or less as a loner, sitting alone during recess in elementary school, and seeking the quiet and solitude of long walks in high school and during his college years.

He was not an exceptional student, nor a motivated one. He got by grade-wise, with no real ambitions. He took journalism at Indiana State University not because he had a real, sincere desire to become a journalist, but because it was an easy grade.

Pyle would quit Indiana University the semester prior to graduation in order to accept a job at the LaPorte, Indiana newspaper. He worked there three months, then moved to Washington, D.C. to accept the job of reporter, then managing editor, of the Washington Daily News. He survived, desk-bound, for three years. He married Geraldine Siebolds in 1925, then quit his job in 1926 so he could see America with his new wife and Ford roadster.

After travelling more than 9,000 miles, Pyle went to work at the Evening Herald in New York for a year, and then returned to the Daily News. In 1928 Pyle became the nation’s first aviation columnist at a time when aviation was beginning to boom. It was during his stint as an aviation columnist that Pyle honed his story-telling ability that would provide the format for his columns during World War II.

In 1932 Pyle became the managing editor of the Daily News, but would leave the paper in 1935, hired away by the opportunity to write a national travel column for the Scripps-Howard syndicate. It was the era of the Great Depression in America, and Pyle travelled America to write nationally syndicated columns about the places he visited and the people he met. The column was very popular, and would continue until 1942.

Pyle began to achieve national fame during a trip to war-ravaged London in 1940 – a trip exercising his writing ability and setting the course for the rest of his life. His stories of the bombing of London gave Americans a glimpse of the war that they had not recognized before. Using word pictures, Pyle painted a portrait that struck at the heart of America while reporting on one of the biggest Nazi raids on London of the war:
"It was a night when London was ringed with fire…"
Returning to London as a war correspondent during the summer of 1942, Pyle would start the process that made him man loved by those who came in contact with him. He seldom took notes – with the exception of names and addresses – instead preferring to take the images he saw and the stories that came with those images, store them in his mind, then leave the front lines to write his story. He was treated as an autonomous reporter by his bosses, who allowed him the latitude that he needed to get the story.

Pyle had the gift of using his feelings and emotions to accurately, humanely, and compassionately interpret the scene for the soldiers. He wrote about the common solder, never portraying war as glamorous – but portraying it truthfully, digging beneath the surface of the men he met to find out why they did what they did, and risked what they risked, day-after-day.

And he was able to share those findings with the American public, and the public took pride in the men that he wrote about. Pyle wrote about privates, ambulance drivers, front line infantry, Captains and Generals – but not about the politics of war. He won a Pulitzer Prize with his column on the honor that the men serving under Captain Waskow paid to him when his lifeless body was brought down from a mountain in Italy – a column showing the death that occurred in war, but also the comradeship that often goes beyond the understanding of those who have not experienced it.

Pyle served in North Africa, the invasion of Sicily and later Anzio, and in Normandy. He returned back to the United States briefly in late 1944, tired and dispirited. He had written in one column:
“When you get to Anzio you waste no time getting off the boat, for you have been feeling pretty much like a clay pigeon in a shooting gallery. But after a few hours in Anzio you wish you were back on the boat, for you could hardly describe being ashore as any haven of peacefulness.”
He didn’t want to go back to the world of combat, but he felt he had to – to do otherwise would, in his mind, be unpatriotic to the country he loved. After a brief respite he went to the Pacific to write the story of the invasion of Okinawa.

He landed on Okinawa with the Marines and Army units, landing on a portion of the beach where there was practically no Japanese resistance. A few days later he went to a small island near Okinawa called Ie Shima. It had been captured by the Americans, but there were still pockets of resistance on the island.

On April 18, 1945, Pyle was riding in a jeep with the commander of the 77th Infantry Division when the vehicle came under fire by a Japanese machine gun. Everyone hit the dirt by the side of the road, and when Pyle raised his head to check on the others he was hit in the head by a bulled, dying instantly.

He was buried at first on Ie Shima, and then reinterred in 1949 at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu.

America had lost a unique man. Pyle’s columns, compiled into books such as Here Is Your War and Brave Men, bring the story of the 'Greatest Generation' to those today who know virtually nothing of the men who fought - and died - in World War II - if they will read it. It is my privilege to have early editions of both of these books as a treasured possession.
Click here to read a collection of stories by Ernie Pyle from Indiana University, and click here to view YouTube Tribute to Ernie Pyle.

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24: Alexander Jackson Davis, The Artist Architect

“I have designed the most buildings of any living American architect.”
Alexander Jackson Davis was born in New York City on July 24, 1803, to Cornelius and Julia Jackson Davis. His father was not wealthy, but did support his family though his work as a bookseller and as a publisher of religious tracts. His father was frequently away from home, travelling through the northeastern states to sell his tracts and to arrange the sale of books.

While the family home was based in Newark, New Jersey during Davis’s early years, his family would move to upstate New York, where he would attend elementary school in the rapidly growing towns of Auburn and Utica. In 1818, when he was almost fifteen years old, he would move to Alexandria, Virginia, where he was apprenticed to learn the printing trade at his half-brother’s printing office. However, young Davis was bored by the repetitious work involved in the printing process, so he spent much of his time reading romantic novels and acting in the amateur theater productions in the area. Perhaps it was here that he developed the romantic ideal that became the vision of much of his future work.

When his apprenticeship was completed in 1823, the twenty-year-old Davis moved to New York City to seek his fortune and work. He studied there at the American Academy of Fine Arts, the New-York Drawing Association, and the Antique School of the National Academy of Design. During this time he met, worked with, and was befriended by men like John Trumbull, Samuel Morse, and Rembrandt Peale, who were among some of the most important artists of the day. Peale and Trumbull directed Davis’s life passion when they advised Davis to concentrate on architecture and architectural illustrations.

Davis, a talented and skilled artist, focused on learning the skills of an architectural illustrator – and would have many of his works printed by some of the prominent publishers of the era. In 1826 he had another career-advancing focus presented to him. He began working as a draftsman for the architectural firm of Martin E. Thompson, and Ithiel Town. There he met some key figures in his life, such as Josiah R. Brady, a New York architect and an early advocate of a style of architecture titled Greek Revival, and Ithiel Town – an innovative architectural design leader in the Greek Revival style of architecture, whose extensive library on architecture was rivaled by none, and was at the disposal of Davis. The firm provided a well-grounded, friendly atmosphere that provided a huge impetus for the growth of Davis in his chosen profession.

It is hard to deny the effect that Davis’ talent and passion as an architectural illustrator weighed significantly on his career as an architect. His chief interest and strength was in design, and – being a highly talented watercolorist, he did almost all of his own drafting and drawings.

In 1829 Davis joined in partnership with Town, a partnership that would last until 1835, when Davis would form his own architectural firm. The partnership designed many of the ‘Greek Revival’ buildings of the era, including the Executive Department offices and the Patent Building in the nation’s capital – as well as the Custom House in New York City. Davis also designed (or was consulted in the design) of a number of state capitols – such a the Indiana State House in Indianapolis, the Illinois State Capitol, the Ohio Statehouse, and the North Carolina State Capitol. While none of the state capitols were built exactly as Davis planned and advised, his influence can still be seen in their design.

The partnership with Town ended in 1835. Davis had developed his vision of design to a become the cutting edge of architecture design in the country. Under Town’s tutelage, Davis had developed a sound knowledge of the theory and structure behind architectural design. Because he approached architectural design first through a pictorial method rather than structural, he referred to his preferences with the phrase “I am but an architectural composer.” A master of the Greek Revival form of architecture, Davis is perhaps better known for his Gothic Revival, Italianate, and other ‘picturesque’ styles that were used in building residential villas.

Using his strength in design, he began to move the development of residential villas from its cubist appearance into buildings that reflected and resided in their physical surroundings. Davis was a pioneer in the American design of merging buildings to their surroundings. He became the leading architect of country houses in a variety of styles for the wealthy merchants and industrialists, many of whom were in New York. He also was in demand in North Carolina, working for the state government, especially in helping to design buildings for universities. He also did extensive design work for the Virginia Military Institute – which the final construction of was not completed until after his death.

The Civil War brought a halt to non-essential building in America, and Davis fell on economic hard times. To top it off, after the war was over the architectural tastes of the country changed – embracing the High Victorian Gothic and Second Empire styles. Davis refused to work in either style, and was commissioned to design only a few buildings. He continued to design large projects – but they were never built. He retired to New Jersey in the 1870s.

Marriage came late in Davis’ life. On July 14, 1853 he married Margaret Beale, and would have two children – Flora and Joseph.

Davis died on January 14, 1892 at the age of eighty-eight, and would be buried at the Bloomfield Cemetery, Bloomfield, New Jersey.

After his death much of his work was collected and would be shared between four New York institutions, including the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His contributions, which are largely unknown today, shaped American architectural design for a generation.


No biographies of Alexander Jackson Davis are available at our local library.


Find A Grave
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
Newburgh Restoration
Virginia Military Institute


01. Portrait of Davis: Preservation Greensboro
02. The State Capitol at Raleigh, North Carolina: Preservation Greensboro
03. 1845 Sketch of Davis: Newburgh Preservation Association
04. New York Customs House, now Federal Hall: Wikipedia
05. Lyndhurst in New York: Wikipedia
06. Virginia Military Institute: Wikipedia
07. Gravesite, Find A Grave by Nikita Barlow

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 22: Daniel Carroll – Established the District of Columbia

He was a prominent member of one of America’s great colonial families – a family that included his younger brother - the first Catholic bishop in the United States – as well as a cousin who signed the the Declaration of Independence. The family also included a variety of barristers, merchants, planters, and political leaders. The guiding light of his extended family was their ancient family motto: “Strong in Faith and War”.

Daniel Carroll was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, on July 22, 1730 at his family home – Darnall’s Chance. His parents Daniel and Eleanor Darnall Carroll were wealthy planters who owned 27 000 acres of land in the colony of Maryland.

Carroll’s early education would be both at home, and through the Jesuit school at Bohemia Manor, Maryland. As was typical of wealthy planters in colonial America, he went overseas for his advanced education, studying under the Jesuits at the College of St. Omer in Flanders, from 1742 – 1748.

After his education ended, Carroll – again in the tradition of wealthy colonial families – toured Europe. After returning home, he married Eleanor Carroll, first cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton – who in turn was a cousin of Daniel Carroll. From 1750 until 1776, Carroll lived the life of a gentleman planter, remaining out of the public eye.

However, just because he was out of the public eye did not mean that Carroll was immune from the thoughts of rebellion and independence from England that increased in America after 1763. He was a large landholder, and was concerned over economic repercussions, the threat of mob rule, and the type of government that might be installed. However, as the clock ticked inexplicable toward revolution, Carroll found himself siding with the Patriots – albet reluctantly at first.

However, he could not politically act on his thoughts, as the laws of Maryland forbid Catholics from holding political office. After that law was nullified by the Maryland Consitution in 1776, Carroll felt the pull of his family’s heritage and public duty. He was elected to the upper house of the Maryland legislature, serving there from 1777 – 1781, and then in 1781 he was elected to the Continental Congress. As he travelled to Philadelphia to join the Congress he carried with him Maryland’s consent to sign the Articles of Confederation. That same year he would sign that document. Carroll would serve in the Congress from 1781 – 1784.

As he saw the problems arising from the confederation of states formed by the Articles of Confederation, Carroll became convinced that a stronger central government was needed. He spoke out on several weaknesses of the Articles, and would be a member of the Constitutional Convention. At the convention he would join James Madison in stating the need for the central government to regulate interstate and international commerce; as well as the need for the central government to pay members of Congress, not the states. When some members of the Convention suggested that the President should be elected by Congress, Carroll moved that the words “by the legislature” be replaced with “by the people”.

While Carroll arrived late to the Convention due to illness – arriving on July 9, 1787 - he would attend the remaining sessions regularly. He spoke about twenty times during the various debates that took place, and served on the Committee on Postponed matters.

Carroll would be one of two Catholics to sign the Constitution – showing the advances that religious freedom was making in America during this revolutionary era. He would also be one of five men to sign both the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution.

After the Convention ended, Carroll returned to Maryland to actively campaign for ratification of the document. While he was not a delegate to the state convention that accepted the new constitution, Carroll’s voice had been heard.

In 1789 Carroll was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. During his term he voted for locating the national capitol on the banks of the Potomac River, as well as for Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s program for the national government’s assumption of state debts from the Revolution.

In 1791, President Washington named Carroll as one of the three commissioners who were to survey and define the borders of the District of Columbia. Four farms would be deeded to the national government to make up the District of Columbia, and part of Carroll’s farm would become the land that the Capitol was built on. Carroll would also serve on the first Board of Commissioners for the District of Columbia.

Ill health would force Carroll to resign this post in 1795, and the next year he would pass away at his home. He was buried at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, Rock Creek (now Forest Glen), Maryland.


There are no biographies of Daniel Carroll at our local library.


Jamison’s of South Carolina
Catholic Encyclopedia
Laughter Genealogy
National Archives
National Park Service
Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution


01. Portrait of Daniel Carroll. Drawing: Oil (ca. 1758) by John Wollaston, Maryland Historical Society, copyright by John Hopkins University
02. Portrait of Eleanor Carroll and Daniel III, by John Wollaston, Maryland Historical Society, copyright by John Hopkins University
03. A map showing tracts of land deeded for the District of Columbia, United States Capitol Historic Society

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 15: Clement Moore’s “Trifle” That Became A Masterpiece

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

With these words an obscure scholar from penned a work for his children that became a classic piece of literature read to children generation after generation.

Clement Clarke Moore was born on July 15, 1779, the only son of Benjamin and Charity Clarke Moore. The Moore family was a family of wealth and education. His father was a professor, then president, of Columbia College as well as an Episcopal bishop in New York City and the rector of Trinity Church.

Moore was home schooled during his early years, with his father tutoring him and both of his parents encouraging his natural tendency toward languages and music. Later he would attend Columbia College, and would graduate first in his class in 1798. At Columbia he would earn a BA and in 1801 a M.A.

He was thirty-four when he married nineteen-year-old Catharine Elizabeth Taylor in 1813, settling at Chelsea, in a country estate in Manhattan. They would have 9 children. Catharine would pass away in 1830 and leaving Moore with seven children between the ages of three and fifteen. Moore would not remarry, and would be solely responsible for his children’s upbringing and education.

The Moore family owned extensive land in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Moore’s gift of sixty acres of land in 1819 made possible the establishment of the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1819. In 1821 Moore was made a professor at the Seminary, a position he would hold until 1850. While at the Seminary he taught Oriental languages, biblical learning, and the interpretation of scripture. Ten years before his helping to establish the Seminary, he would compile a two-volume Hebrew dictionary in 1809 to assist in the translation and understanding of the Old Testament titled “A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language”. Volume I contained "an explanation of every word which occurs in the Psalms"; while volume 2 was "a lexicon and grammar of the whole language." The Preface offers a mode of study which will enable "any person acquainted with the general principles of language, without the aid of a teacher, to read and understand the Holy Scriptures in the original Hebrew."

Moore is also considered as the savior of Greenwich Village in New York. When the state government was planning to extend a grid of streets into the Village, Moore anonymously authored a sixty-page pamphlet that contained such persuasive arguments against the plan that the street network never entered the Village, preserving its unique culture and atmosphere.

In 1822 Moore penned a story as a Christmas gift for his children. “A Visit From Saint Nicholas”, which later became recognized and popularly known from its first line “Twas The Night Before Christmas”, was intended for his family, and might never had been shared with the world if not for one of Moore’s relatives, a Miss Butler, who copied the poem and who would take the copy to the Troy Sentinel. There it would be published anonymously in the Sentinel on December 23, 1823, with Moore accepting credit of authorship in 1837. He did not want the poem published because he felt, as an academician, that the poem was a mere trifle, and it was beneath his professional dignity to have it published. Yet, the poem when published anonymously a year later, it was an overnight sensation. The Troy Sentinel would hint that Moore was the author in 1829. Moore would reluctantly include his poem in a book of poetry that he wrote in 1844.

An anecdote on the origin of the poem goes as follows:

“On Christmas Eve 1822, Reverend Clement Moore’s wife was roasting turkeys for distribution to the poor of the local parish, a yearly tradition discovered that she was short one turkey, she asked Moore to venture into the snowy streets to obtain another. He called for his sleigh and coachman, and drove “downtown” to Jefferson Market, which is now the Bowery section of New York City, to buy the needed turkey. Moore composed the poem while riding in his sleigh; his ears obviously full of the jingle of sleigh bells. He returned with the turkey and the new Christmas poem. After dinner that evening, Moore read the new verses to his family, to the evident delight of his children.”

As often happens, claims arose that Moore was not the author of the famous poem. In 2000 – nearly 180 years after the fact, Vassar professor Don Foster published a book claiming that “The Night Before Christmas” was actually written by a different New Yorker, Major Henry Livingston Jr. For details you can read the article here and arrive at your own conclusion. Despite the rise of other claimants, scholars in general still attribute the poem to Moore.

Moore would pass away at his summer residence in Newport, Rhode Island, on July 10, 1863 – just five days before his eighty-fourth birthday. He was buried at the Trinity Church Cemetery, Manhattan. Oddly enough, as much as he regarded his poem as a trifle, it is his poem that he is remembered – not for his academic works.


There are no Clement Moore biographies at our local library.


Jewish Virtual Library
New York Institute for Special Education
The Night Before Christmas
Urban Legends


01. Handwritten copy of Twas the Night
02. Portrait of a young Moore
03. Portrait, Wikipedia

04. Cover by Mary Clement Ogden, Moore’s daughter
05. Gravestone, Find-a-Grave by Erik Lander


Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13: The Wizard of the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest

"War means fighting and fighting means killing." -Nathan Bedford Forrest

He was the eldest of eleven children born to Chapel Hill, Tennessee, who – upon the death of his father – became the head of the family when he was sixteen years old. He would become a businessman, a planter, and a feared Confederate Civil War general.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was born in a rough-hewn frontier cabin on July 13, 1821 to William and Mariam Beck Forrest. When Forrest was thirteen, his parents moved the family to the edge of the settled frontier in northern Mississippi. His father established a farm there, clearing the forests and plowing the virgin land. Then, three years later in 1837, died – leaving sixteen year old Nathan as the head of the family, consisting of his widowed mother, seven brothers and three sisters. Mariam would eventually remarry around 1840 to Joseph Luxton.

Forrest and his older brothers continued to clear the land and plant crops. Gradually they raised corn, wheat, and cotton – and began to raise cattle. The farm became successful, and profitable. Because of the frontier conditions while growing up, and then his role as head of the family, Forrest found that he was limited to about six months of formal education.

When he was twenty, Forest went into business with his uncle, Jonathan Forrest, in Hernando, Mississippi. Forrest’s natural fighting instincts and ability came to the forefront when his uncle was about to be attacked in 1845 during an argument with the four Matlock brothers. Forrest interceded before the attack began, but one of the brothers drew a pistol and shot Forrest’s uncle, mortally wounding him. The other brothers turned their pistols toward Forrest, wounded him, and he returned fire with a double-barreled pistol, killing two of them, then wounded two others with a bowie knife thrown to him by a bystander.

That same year Forrest married Mary Montgomery – a sophisticated and intelligent woman who became his most ardent supporter and a buffer between her husband and the social set that made up Southern plantation society.

Forrest proved to be an astute businessman, settling in Memphis and increasing his wealth and property through investments, speculation, and managing his varied business interests. By the time the Civil War broke out his activities in buying/selling of slaves, speculation in land, horse trading, and more had provided him with two plantations, a hundred slaves to work them, standing as one of the richest men in the South, and the potential of living life as a country gentleman.

When the Civil War broke out and Tennessee seceded from the Union, Forrest – even though he was exempt from military service because of his standing as a planter - enlisted as a private in Company E, Tennessee Mounted Rifles, led by Captain Josiah White. His natural leadership, imposing physical appearance, and natural grasp of cavalry tactics soon led Governor Isham G. Harris to authorize Forrest to raise a regiment of mounted troops – even though Forrest had no formal military training. He would write in 1865: “I ain’t no graduate of West Point & never rubbed my backside up against any college.”

By December 1861, Forrest had recruited and equipped his new command, largely at his own expense. His unit differed from many other Southern cavalry outfits at the start of the war in that each member was outfitted with two Colt repeating revolvers, greatly enhancing their firepower and reducing the need to reload in combat.

Forrest initiated many other changes as well. He became one of the first to truly grasp the concept of mobile warfare. He would his cavalry into dismounted infantry – embodying the strategic concept, so aptly expressed by Forrest, of “getting there first with the most”. He also didn’t hesitate to brazenly bluff his opponents, sometimes capturing a Union position where the Union forces actually outnumbered his own. Finally, close, hand-to-hand fighting became a hallmark of Forrest’s cavalry, as did strategic raids far behind enemy lines.

Forrest’s audacity was shown early in the war when Union General U.S. Grant surrounded Fort Donelson in western Tennessee. The commander of the fort wanted to surrender, but gave his men the option of trying to escape. Forrest was the highest-ranking officer to lead troops out of the trap – both his cavalry and infantry – saving these men to continue the battle for the Confederacy.

Forrest was wounded on April 8, 1862, as his troops formed a rear guard covering the Confederate retreat after the battle of Shiloh. He recovered, and was wounded again June 14, 1863 – this time by a disgruntled subordinate, Andrew W. Gould, whom Forrest mortally wounded with his penknife.

By July 1862 Forrest had been promoted to Brigadier General. He had success as an independent commander, but did not fare as well when under the command of others. He would suffer a major defeat at Dover, Tennessee while under the orders of CSA General Joseph Wheeler. Appointed to his own command, he continued raids and actions against the Union, until placed under the command of Braxton Bragg for the battle of Chickamauga. Again not getting along under the command of a superior, Forrest requested and was granted a command in western Tennessee. There he bedeviled Union forces to the point where Union Commander William Tecumseh Sherman was said to exclaim in a letter to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton: "I will order them to make up a force and go out and follow Forrest to the death, if it cost 10,000 lives and breaks the Treasury. There never will be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead."

As word of the surrender of General Lee slowly filtered west, the question on the minds of the Union commanders was: What would Forrest do? To the surprise of many, he agreed to the surrender, bid an emotional farewell to his men, and went back to Memphis. His war, which he had fought in so valiantly, and led so brilliantly, was over.
Forrest was involved in two great controversies: one during the war, the other after. The first was the Fort Pillow Massacre on April 12, 1864. After a day-long intense battle – in which Forrest had three horses shot out from under him – Confederate forces forced the Union defenders, consisting of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery and the 6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery and the white 13th Tennessee Cavalry, to retreat. The accusations of massacre were trumpeted by the Northern press, while the Confederacy stated that there was continued resistance. The full truth may never be known. Forrest did deny a massacre in public speeches for the rest of his life.

The second was his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK rose after the war in a bid by disenfranchised southerners initially for protection, and ultimately to retain some element of control over their former slaves. Forrest was actually named Grand Wizard at the 1867 KKK convention in Nashville. But Forrest publically separated himself from the organization. Forrest publically stated several times a desire for equality and harmony between black and white Americans.

After leaving the army Forrest attempted to recoup his pre-war fortune. He became president of a railroad (which ultimately failed), and would live with his wife in a log cabin. His health began to deteriorate and he would pass away when he was fifty-six years old, on October 29, 1877. For a special A Tribute To Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest posted on YouTube, click here.


Our local library has the following resources on Nathan Bedford Forrest

-Bradley, Michael R., Nathan Bedford Forrest's Escort and Staff
-Davison, Eddy W., Nathan Bedford Forrest : In Search of the Enigma
-Henry, Robert Selph, "First with the most" Forrest
-Hurst, Jack, Men of Fire : Grant, Forrest, and the Campaign that Decided the Civil WarWyeth,
-John A. (John Allan), That devil Forrest: life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest


Google Books: Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest
New York Times Obituary
Tennessee Encyclopedia


F 01. Forrest Civil War portrait, Wikipedia
F 02. Forrest’s Signature, Google Books
F 03. Gravesite, Find A Grave photo by Selk