Via Michael Lynch, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea is coming soon to the big screen:
In the Heart of the Sea tells the story of the whale ship Essex, one of the most harrowing tales of survival at sea every recorded.
At least for me. I’ve mentioned before how a relative of mine in the Fourth Texas Infantry, Lawrence Daffan, witnessed the wounding of General Hood at Chickamauga, and was sure that Hood had been hit by fire from other Confederate troops. Daffan wrote:
In the charge Sunday morning we captured a battery, driving the enemy back, and here general Hood was wounded. I am satisfied that General Hood was wounded by his own men, Confederates off to our left. I think they were Florida troops. They mistook us on account of our neat, new standard uniform. They took us for Federals, as Bragg’s army had never seen a well-uniformed Confederate regiment. The couriers were sent to these troops telling them to cease firing, and to explain the situation. Were we in this battle, supporting the Western army, under Bragg.
Emphasis added. I’d never understood why the “new, standard uniforms” of the Texas Brigade would have caused such confusion, even for the ill-equipped Confederate troops in the Western Theater. Now, I find this in a discussion of the issue of new uniforms to Longstreet’s corps shortly before the battle:
Longstreet’s troops had recently been newly uniformed, consisting of a dark-blue round jacket, closely fitting, with light-blue trousers, which made a line of Confederates resemble that of the enemy, the only difference being the “cut” of the garments—the Federals wearing a loose blouse instead of a tight-fitting jacket. The uniforms of the Eastern troops made quite a contrast with the tattered and torn homemade jeans of their Western brethren.
The Texas Brigade was fired on by other Confederates because they were wearing blue uniforms. Simple as that.
I’ve come across this term occasionally, and wondered about its origin. It turns up, among other places, in the song “The Fall of Charleston,” in the lines,
With Sherman, Grant and Porter too, to lead our men to glory,
We’ll squash poor Jeff’s confederacy, and then get “Hunkydory!”
Sounds like it means happily drunk.
Well, I finally found a near-contemporary source. New York Commercial Advertiser, August 5, 1870, p. 2:
The boys who use the slang expression “hunky-dory” suppose they are describing something super-excellent. Not so. The word is Scotch, and is a synonym for the Latin non compos. He is “unco dour in the uptak,” is the full expression, and means half-witted.
So it means stupid drunk. Close enough, y’all.
_______________Image from “The Five Stages of Being Drunk in the 1860s.”
I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the Friends of the Library at the University of Texas at Arlington, who hosted me on Friday evening to talk about blockade runners and sign some books, and the Houston History Association, that asked me to speak about Charles Morgan at their annual research conference on Saturday. It made for a convoluted schedule and a lot of road time, but it was Hell’s own fun, and I appreciate the opportunity.
A special thanks goes to the 70 or so people from the Friends of the Library and the Fort Worth Civil War Round Table who braved some atrocious weather on Friday evening in Arlington — I’m glad y’all came out!
_____________Image: Dr. Debbie Harwell, Managing Editor of Houston History Magazine, discusses the upcoming issue of that publication, celebrating the centennial of the official opening of the Houston Ship Channel.
Arguably the most widely-known event in Danville, Virginia’s history was the September 1903 wreck of a southbound Southern Railway Fast Mail. Accidents of that sort were sadly common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but the Danville wreck was immortalized in the song, “Wreck of the Old 97,” that became a big hit for Vernon Dalhart in 1924. His version was, reportedly, the first country song to sell over a million copies. It’s been covered by many artists since, including Woodie Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Pink Anderson, Boxcar Willie, Hank Snow, Bobby Osborne (featured briefly here) and others. Here’s a Dutch group, Def Americans, doing a worthy effort in tribute to Johnny Cash’s recording.
Y’all have a great weekend. I’m off to Arlington to talk about blockade runners.
A chandelier seized from Ron Wilson’s home and sold at auction to repay his victims. Via FoxCarolina.
Looks like Ron Wilson, the former SCV Commander-in-Chief who went to federal prison in 2012 for masterminding a decade-long, $57M ponzi scheme — one that ran concurrently with his tenure as C-in-C — wasn’t done cheating his victims:
Ron Wilson pleaded guilty Monday [October 6, 2014] to a conspiracy charge for hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars with his wife and brother after his $57.4 million Ponzi scheme collapsed in 2012. Wilson admitted giving an envelope with $7,000 in it, as well as ammunition canisters with $164,300 and $172,859 to his brother and his estranged wife for holding in case he were ever released. The first canister was recovered by Secret Service agents in 2012, the second canister was recovered in March this year. . . . An August indictment charges Tim Wilson, Ron’s brother, and Cassie Wilson, Ron’s estranged wife, with being involved in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and conceal assets. Cassie Wilson and Tim Wilson have each requested a delay in their court appearances and are scheduled to appear in court in December. “As a general matter, when a co-conspirator pleads guilty, it does not usually bode well for the others,” Watkins said.
The money Wilson, his wife, and brother are accused of hiding from investigators would have gone to make partial restitution for his victims. Efforts to recover Wilson’s ill-gotten gain continue. When Ron Wilson was sentenced in 2012, Tim presented himself as a victim, saying,
“I too was a victim of this scam,” the younger Wilson said, through tears. “He never intended to steal that money.”
If the feds’ allegations in this new indictment are correct, those people oughter go away for a long, long time.
You can read the backstory here. Wilson, along with close allies like the odious Kirk Lyons, was a primary mover in the upheaval in the SCV fifteen years or so ago, that resulted in a wide-scale purge of insufficiently un-reconstructed individuals and camps, in favor of a more confrontational, activist group — what Lyons called “a modern, 21st century Christian war machine capable of uniting the Confederate community and leading it to ultimate victory.” Whatever the SCV is today, good, bad, or indifferent, it has Wilson’s nasty, avaricious fingerprints all over it, and will for years to come.
Anyway, enough about that crook. Here are some more items that may be of interest:
- Over at SHPG, Tom Perry is very upset that the Danville Museum is seeking to remove a Confederate flag from its grounds. Also, he wants to know where Danville is.
- The Veterans Administration is looking into the claim that a headstone at Woodlawn National Cemetery, near Elmira, carries the wrong name. Good.
- Reportedly no one got seriously injured in this mess. Someone’s been living right.
- A couple of students hung a Confederate flag at Bryn Mawr; Steve Conn chalks it up to ignorance of history.
- After fourteen years of conservation work, specialists at the Warren Lasch Center in Charleston are finally exposing the actual hull plating of the submersible Hunley.
- The Seven Days: The Emergence of Robert E. Lee and the Dawn of a Legend by Clifford Dowdey, with an introduction by Jeff Wirt, is $1.99 for Kindle (thanks, Chellers!).
John Booker Kennedy was one of the original six Confederate veterans who organized the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee. In fact, according to one history of the group, it was Kennedy who suggested they call themselves after the Greek word kuklos, that another member suggested be written as “Ku Klux.” Kennedy’s own obituary in the May 1913 issue of the Confederate Veteran magazine explicitly acknowledges his role in the founding of the group. Confederate Heritage™ folks will trip all over each other in the rush to absolve Nathan Bedford Forrest of the common (and strictly incorrect) accusation that he was a founder of the Klan, but John Booker Kennedy really was.
I do wish these folks would quit pretending that they’re put off by the Ku Klux Klan, and have no truck with it. Confederate Veteran magazine, then (as now) the official publication of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, certainly wasn’t squeamish about embracing the group. Robert Mestas, the proprietor of Defending the Heritage, surely knows about Kennedy’s history, since it appears that he lifted both the image and caption from the Tennessee State Archives. Here’s the full caption:
Confederate Veteran John B. Kennedy
Kennedy served the Confederacy as a private with Company A of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He was wounded at Chickamauga and at Jonesboro, Georgia. Kennedy was one of the six original organizers of the Ku Klux Klan on December 24, 1865, in the Pulaski law office of Major Thomas M. Jones, and he would be the last of the six founders to die.
I don’t know why I should expect better from Robert. After all, he has a habit of making up fake quotes from Confederate veterans, right?
A reconsideration of events in Galveston during the late summer and fall of 1864 suggests a likely linkage between the first steam blockade runners arriving at Galveston after the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 and the outbreak of a yellow fever epidemic the following month. During the first three years of the war, steam blockade runners arrived at Galveston only on rare occasions; the Texas coastal city was too far removed from the main theaters of war to be of much use. After the Union admiral Farragut closed the entrance to Mobile Bay, however, Galveston was left as the only seaport on any significance left in Confederate hands on the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, beginning in late August there was a sudden upsurge in blockade-running activity at Galveston that continued through the end of the war ten months later.
Although yellow fever can now be prevented by an effective vaccine, in the 19th century it was a recurring and serious problem in the southern United States and the Caribbean. Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease varying widely in severity, exhibiting everything from flu-like symptoms to severe hepatitis and hemorrhagic fever. A large proportion of those infected died. At the time of the American Civil War, the variability of the symptoms made the disease difficult to distinguish from other illnesses, and even today a positive diagnosis is only possible through laboratory testing.
The threat of yellow fever was taken very seriously in Galveston, and on August 3 the Confederate commander in Texas, General Magruder, ordered a strict 30-day quarantine for all vessels arriving from Mexico, the Caribbean and other areas where the fever was endemic. It seems likely that Magruder’s order met with sharp opposition from merchants and others that had an interest in blockade running, because the following day he revised his order to require quarantine only for ships arriving from ports known to be infected with fever, and then only for eight days’ isolation. These watered-down precautions would prove to be woefully inadequate.
The first steam blockade runners arriving at Galveston after the fall of Mobile was the Susanna, arriving about August 24, and the Denbigh, which arrived on August 25. No other steam blockade runner is known to have arrived at Galveston for two weeks following Denbigh‘s arrival. In the days following Susanna‘s and Denbigh‘s arrival, several cases believed to be yellow fever appeared among civilians and soldiers stationed in the town. On September 14, the first deaths positively attributed to the disease occurred. That same day the military command sent out a call for nurses to care for those afflicted, and two days later the city was quarantined (unsuccessfully) to prevent the spread of the disease inland.
Over the next two months, at 259 deaths in Galveston were attributed to the disease. This figure represented nearly ten percent of the town’s military and civilian population at the time. The majority of the dead were civilians, and over a quarter were children ten years and under. The heaviest toll occurred in September, but deaths were recorded as November 20. A heavy frost on the evening of November 22 “dissipated the fever” and the quarantine was lifted soon thereafter.
There was debate at the time about the origin of this particular outbreak of fever. The etiology of the disease, and the role mosquitoes played in transmitting it, would remain unconfirmed for two generations. Some in Galveston argued adamantly that the disease must have come by way of a blockade-running schooner that had sailed from Vera Cruz, Mexico, while others insisted that it sprang from “local causes in the city.”
I believe that case for the schooner from Vera Cruz being the source of the yellow fever outbreak to be somewhat unlikely. The length of the voyage from Vera Cruz, typically a week or longer, would probably be enough time for symptoms to begin appearing among the crew and to draw the attention of authorities inspecting the vessel upon arrival. A steamer from Havana, on the other hand, would normally be able to make the run into Galveston in three or four days, making it much easier for infected seamen to pass undetected. It is also possible that the disease arrived at Galveston not in an infected sailor (who was subsequently bitten by a local mosquito), but in an insect brought along from the vessel’s point of origin. In that scenario, too, a steamer making a quick passage seems a more likely means of transmission than a relatively slow sailing vessel.
The normal course of the disease suggests its first victims in Galveston were infected very shortly after the arrival of the Susanna and Denbigh in late August. There were two interments of victims on September 14 – they same day they died – and three more the following day. The disease has a normal incubation period of three to six days, during which time there are no outward symptoms of the illness. After this incubation period, most victims enter what is now termed the “acute phase” of the disease, during which they experience fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually subside after three or four days and the patients recover. In some cases, however, within 24 hours the disease enters its “toxic phase,” and the patient experiences develops jaundice (from which appearance yellow fever gets its name) and complains of abdominal pain with vomiting. Patients bleed from the mouth, nose, eyes and stomach. Kidney function drops off and sometimes fails altogether, resulting in a rapid rise in the levels of toxins in the body. About half the patients who enter the toxic phase of the disease die within 10 to 14 days, while the rest usually recover gradually.
If one takes this as the course of the disease in those patients who died on September 14 and 15, and the disease had its normal incubation period of three to six days, they most likely were infected during the last week of August, immediately after the arrival of the two steamers from Havana. Did Denbigh or Susanna bring the dreaded “yellow jack” to Galveston? I think it’s very likely that one of them did.
As Kevin notes over at Civil War Memory, the Democratic nominee for governor in South Carolina has formally come out in favor of removing the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the State House in Columbia. Kevin argues that while Vincent Sheheen may not win — he currently trails in the polls — what matters is that it’s right out front as part of his platform. “That a candidate for one of the two major parties (and for whatever reason) is campaigning on this issue,” he write, “suggests that we have reached a threshold among South Carolina voters when it comes to this divisive subject.”
True enough. What interests me is seeing how this plays out politically — not for Sheheen, but for incumbent Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Vincent Sheheen isn’t going to lose votes over his stance on this issue, and he might pick up some. It’s a whole different proposition for Haley, though. Her campaign staff responded quickly to Sheheen’s announcement, arguing that he had never taken a stance against the CBF before, during more than a decade in state politics. Fair enough, but beyond the back-and-forth of winning the 24-hour news cycle, this presents a bigger problem for Haley campaign. Part of Haley’s success has been that she herself stands out against the backdrop of top-tier Republican elected officials, especially in the South (right). Though her policies are reliably conservative, at least superficially she presents a different sort of image — female, youthful, the daughter of immigrants, and so on. The GOP has been working very hard lately to show that they’re not all old white guys, even if they can’t find any actual Republicans to appear in ads touting the party’s diversity.
So far, so good. But by making removal of the CBF an explicit, up-front part of the campaign, Sheheen is making sure that Haley will almost certainly have to make her own position clearly known. And there’s her predicament.
She can (1) come down strong in favor of keeping the flag where it is, and open herself up to criticism that she’s no different than any other unreconstructed Confederate apologist. She can (2) agree with the removal of the flag, and incur the wrath of the actual unreconstructed Confederate apologists, who are as thick on the ground as sand fleas in the Palmetto State. Or she can (3) try hard not to say anything at all, and incur the wrath of pretty much everybody. She doesn’t have any good choices here.
I kinda feel sorry for Nikki Haley, who has to feel like this is deja vu all over again. When she ran for governor first time around, she did an interview with a group called the Palmetto Patriots and found herself getting
harangued educated on Confederate Heritage™ issues like “Lonnie [Randolph] and his loonies” of the South Carolina NAACP, how the war was caused by Yankee tariffs, and why the Emancipation Proclamation really was a fraud. Seriously:
PP#2: Actually, I just want to throw in something here. That probably is why the country is in the terrible condition it’s in today. The Constitution ceased to be enforced, and President Lincoln decided to invade the South. And until that time, secession was taught everywhere including Annapolis and West Point as being legal. Had the North not been using very high tariffs to raise money for themselves, at the expense of the agricultural economy of the South, there would have been no war. The war was not fought to end slavery. Lincoln said if I had to free one slave to keep the Union together I would fight; if I kept all the slaves in slavery I would fight; if I freed half the slaves and kept the others in slavery I would fight, only to preserve the Union. He admitted the war was not against slavery. Of course there would have been no slavery by the time you reached approximately 1890 and there were other agricultural developments that made slavery very, very unprofitable. It was simply a matter of the Union at that time, Mr. Lincoln’s minority government, trying to do away with the actual meaning of the Constitution that started the war. Haley: Well I think that for me, you know what I continue to remember is that you know we also know that our creator endowed the rights of everyone having you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And so, when I look at it that way I look at that’s still what needs to be what guides everybody, so that we make sure that we keep those three things in check. PP#3: If I may inject something here. Are you familiar with the Emancipation Proclamation? Haley: Yes. (inaudible). PP#3: OK. And are you aware of the fact that that’s supposed to be such a great document that it freed the slaves? Close scrutiny of that document shows it only freed the slaves in the states that seceded from the Union. Haley: Mmm-hmm.
Poor deluded woman, she thought was was running for governor of a state in the twenty-first century.
It’s worth noting that the Palmetto Patriots didn’t ask Haley’s (white, male) competitors for the GOP nomination questions about the Confederacy because “all of them are Southerners whose families go back to beyond the war between the states, back to antebellum times, and they would have a deeper appreciation of Southern thinking and mentality.” Because Robert Barnwell Rhett isn’t available to run for governor, maybe.
Naturally, there were political threats, too:
PP#3: And I’d like to ask you this also. Our groups have been misled before. Back in the Gov. Beasley days, he fibbed to us. And quite frankly, while we may not be in the position to elect someone, we do have the power to oust someone. Mr. Beasley learned that the hard way. We endorsed Jim Hodges, and he told us at the very beginning; he says, “I don’t care for the flag on the dome, and if the bill comes to my desk I will sign it, however I will not pursue it.” Right across the table like we’re sitting across from you, that’s what he told us. It was like probably 30 days after he got in office, he changed his mind. Of course Mr. Hodges became a one-term governor also. And we also remember your friend, Mr. Rick Quinn. He also give us the same line and he went against us, and he was ousted. So what I think I’m asking you: If this comes up, and it will come up again we can assure you. All of us have probably been here maybe longer than you are old. What kind of pressure would you succumb to if these powers that be start putting pressure on you? Would you change your mind of what you just stated a few moments ago. Haley: On the Confederate flag? PP#3: Yes. Haley: No, I would not. PP#3: Because this was not a compromise that everyone talks about. Our side lost, and we made no reservations about it. We got a little flag on the State House grounds. That was not a compromise. The other side got a big gaudy monument on the State House grounds. They got the flags out of both chambers of the House. I can’t remember what else there is, anyway. We lost. Haley: No, and I’ve been in public for years, that this is something, I mean whether it’s been in debates or anything else, I’ve been very public that this compromise was made, it was settled, and it has been put away. And that I don’t have any intentions of bringing it back up or making it an issue during my campaign.
“We do have the power to oust someone. Mr. Beasley learned that the hard way.” Nice political career you got there, lady. It’d be a shame if something was to happen to it.
As far as I know, Governor Haley has managed to avoid controversy regarding the CBF on the State House grounds during her first term. But I don’t see how she avoids the issue now. The media thrives on conflict, and it thrives on disputes over the Confederate flag, especially. (The stories almost write themselves; reporters only need to update the names and places from the one they wrote six months or a year ago.) This story isn’t likely to go away on its own. Not responding doesn’t seem to be a practical option; Governor Haley is going to have to make some hard choices about who she’s willing to infuriate.
__________Many thanks to Michael Rodgers whose now-defunct blog, Take Down the Flag, provided the transcript of the Haley interview. (For the record, Michael had some very supportive words for Haley at the time.)
Next Friday evening, October 10, I’ll be speaking on blockade running on the Texas Coast at the University of Texas at Arlington. The talk, sponsored by the Friends of the UTA Library will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Sixth Floor parlor, will be followed by a reception and book-signing. The event is free and open to the public, but folks are asked to RSVP to 817-272-1413 or LibraryFriends@uta.edu. Hope to see some of my North Texas Friends there!