Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Your Tropical Storm Cindy Picture of the Day

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 21, 2017

Forty-eight hours ago the salt water lagoon that dude’s surfing in was a parking lot.

When you live on a barrier island, “sea level” is not an abstract concept. Y’all be safe out there.


Juneteenth, History and Tradition

Posted in African Americans, Genealogy, Memory by Andy Hall on June 19, 2017

[This post originally appeared here on June 19, 2010.]

“Emancipation” by Thomas Nast. Ohio State University.

Juneteenth has come again, and (quite rightly) the Galveston County Daily News, the paper that first published General Granger’s order that forms the basis for the holiday, has again called for the day to be recognized as a national holiday:

Those who are lobbying for a national holiday are not asking for a paid day off. They are asking for a commemorative day, like Flag Day on June 14 or Patriot Day on Sept. 11. All that would take is a presidential proclamation. Both the U.S. House and Senate have endorsed the idea.

Why is a national celebration for an event that occurred in Galveston and originally affected only those in a single state such a good idea?

Because Juneteenth has become a symbol of the end of slavery. No matter how much we may regret the tragedy of slavery and wish it weren’t a part of this nation’s story, it is. Denying the truth about the past is always unwise.

For those who don’t know, Juneteenth started in Galveston. On Jan. 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. But the order was meaningless until it could be enforced. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — after the Confederacy had been defeated and Union troops landed in Galveston — that the slaves in Texas were told they were free.

People all across the country get this story. That’s why Juneteenth celebrations have been growing all across the country. The celebration started in Galveston. But its significance has come to be understood far, far beyond the island, and far beyond Texas.

This is exactly right. Juneteenth is not just of relevance to African Americans or Texans, but for all who ascribe to the values of liberty and civic participation in this country. A victory for civil rights for any group is a victory for us all, and there is none bigger in this nation’s history than that transformation represented by Juneteenth.

But as widespread as Juneteenth celebrations have become — I was pleased and surprised, some years ago, to see Juneteenth celebration flyers pasted up in Minnesota — there’s an awful lot of confusion and misinformation about the specific events here, in Galveston, in June 1865 that gave birth to the holiday. The best published account of the period appears in Edward T. Cotham’s Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston, from which much of what follows is abstracted.

The United States Customs House, Galveston.

On June 5, Captain B. F. Sands entered Galveston harbor with the Union naval vessels Cornubia and Preston. Sands went ashore with a detachment and raised the United States flag over the federal customs house for about half an hour. Sands made a few comments to the largely silent crowd, saying that he saw this event as the closing chapter of the rebellion, and assuring the local citizens that he had only worn a sidearm that day as a gesture of respect for the mayor of the city.

Site of General Granger’s headquarters, southwest corner of 22nd Street and Strand.

A large number of Federal troops came ashore over the next two weeks, including detachments of the 76th Illinois Infantry. Union General Gordon Granger, newly-appointed as military governor for Texas, arrived on June 18, and established his headquarters in Osterman Building (now gone) on the southwest corner of 22nd and Strand. The provost marshal, which acted largely as a military police force, set up in the Customs House. The next day, June 19, a Monday, Granger issued five general orders, establishing his authority over the rest of Texas and laying out the initial priorities of his administration. General Orders Nos. 1 and 2 asserted Granger’s authority over all Federal forces in Texas, and named the key department heads in his administration of the state for various responsibilities. General Order No. 4 voided all actions of the Texas government during the rebellion, and asserted Federal control over all public assets within the state. General Order No. 5 established the Army’s Quartermaster Department as sole authorized buyer for cotton, until such time as Treasury agents could arrive and take over those responsibilities.

It is General Order No. 3, however, that is remembered today. It was short and direct:

Headquarters, District of Texas
Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865

General Orders, No. 3

The people are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there ro elsewhere.

By order of
Major-General Granger
F. W. Emery, Maj. & A. . G.

What’s less clear is how this order was disseminated. It’s likely that printed copies were put up in public places. It was published on June 21 in the Galveston Daily News, but otherwise it is not known if it was ever given a formal, public and ceremonial reading. Although the symbolic significance of General Order No. 3 cannot be overstated, its main legal purpose was to reaffirm what was well-established and widely known throughout the South, that with the occupation of Federal forces came the emancipation of all slaves within the region now coming under Union control.

The James Moreau Brown residence, now known as Ashton Villa, at 24th & Broadway in Galveston. This site is well-established in local tradition as the site of the original Juneteenth proclamation, although direct evidence is lacking.

Local tradition has long held that General Granger took over James Moreau Brown’s home on Broadway, Ashton Villa, as a residence for himself and his staff. To my knowledge, there is no direct evidence for this. Along with this comes the tradition that the Ashton Villa was also the site where the Emancipation Proclamation was formally read out to the citizenry of Galveston. This belief has prevailed for many years, and is annually reinforced with events commemorating Juneteenth both at the site, and also citing the site. In years past, community groups have even staged “reenactments” of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation from the second-floor balcony, something which must surely strain the limits of reasonable historical conjecture. As far as I know, the property’s operators, the Galveston Historical Foundation, have never taken an official stand on the interpretation that Juneteenth had its actual origins on the site. Although I myself have serious doubts about Ashton Villa having having any direct role in the original Juneteenth, I also appreciate that, as with the band playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as Titanic sank beneath the waves, arguing against this particular cherished belief is undoubtedly a losing battle.

Assuming that either the Emancipation Proclamation (or alternately, Granger’s brief General Order No. 3) was formally, ceremonially read out to the populace, where did it happen? Charles Waldo Hayes, writing several years after the war, says General Order No. 3 was “issued from [Granger’s] headquarters,” but that sounds like a figurative description rather than a literal one. My bet would not be Ashton Villa, but one of two other sites downtown already mentioned: the Osterman Building, where Granger’s headquarters was located and where the official business of the Federal occupation was done initially, or at the United States Customs House, which was the symbol of Federal property both in Galveston and the state as a whole, and (more important still) was the headquarters of Granger’s provost marshal, Lieutenant Colonel Rankin G. Laughlin of the 94th Illinois Infantry. It’s easy to imagine Lt. Col. Laughlin dragging a crate out onto the sidewalk in front of the Customs House and barking out a brief, and somewhat perfunctory, read-through of all five of the general’s orders in quick succession. No flags, no bands, and probably not much of a crowd to witness the event. My personal suspicion is that, were we to travel back to June 1865 and witness the origin of this most remarkable and uniquely-American holiday, we’d find ourselves very disappointed in how the actual events played out at the time.

Maybe the Ashton Villa tradition is preferable, after all.

Hari Jones Drops the Hammer on National Observance of Juneteenth

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on June 18, 2017

[This post originally appeared in 2011.]


Hari Jones, Curator of the African American Civil War Museum, drops the hammer on the movement to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and the organization behind it, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJoF). He argues that the narrative used to justify the propose holiday does little to credit African Americans with taking up their own struggle, and instead presents them as passive players in emancipation, waiting on the beneficence of the Union army to do it for them. Further, he presses, the standard Juneteenth narrative carries forward a long-standing, intentional effort to suppress the story of how African Americans, in ways large and small, worked to emancipate themselves, particularly by taking up arms for the Union. He wraps up a stem-winder:

Certainly, informed and knowledgeable people should not celebrate the suppression of their own history. Juneteenth day is a de facto celebration of such suppression. Americans, especially Americans of African descent, should not celebrate when the enslaved were freed by someone else, because that’s not the accurate story. They should celebrate when the enslaved freed themselves, by saving the Union. Such freedmen were heroes, not spectators, and their story is currently being suppressed by the advocates of the Juneteenth national holiday. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves; it made it legal for this disenfranchised, enslaved population to free themselves, while maintaining the supremacy of the Constitution, and preserving the Union. They became the heroes of the Republic. It is as Lincoln said: without the military help of the black freedman, the war against the South could not have been won.

That’s worth celebrating. That’s worth telling. The story of how Americans of African descent helped save the Union, and freed themselves. Let’s celebrate the truth, a glorious history, a story of a glorious march to Liberty.

One gets the idea that Jones’ beef with the NJoF and its director, Dr. Ronald Myers, is about something more personal than mere historical narrative.

Jones makes a powerful argument, with solid points. But I think he misses something crucial, which is that in Texas, where Juneteenth originated, it’s been a regular celebration since 1866. It is not a modern holiday, established retroactively to commemorate an event in the long past; the celebration of Juneteenth is as old as emancipation itself. It was created and carried on by the freedmen and -women themselves:

Some of the early emancipation festivities were relegated by city authorities to a town’s outskirts; in time, however, black groups collected funds to purchase tracts of land for their celebrations, including Juneteenth. A common name for these sites was Emancipation Park. In Houston, for instance, a deed for a ten-acre site was signed in 1872, and in Austin the Travis County Emancipation Celebration Association acquired land for its Emancipation Park in the early 1900s; the Juneteenth event was later moved to Rosewood Park. In Limestone County the Nineteenth of June Association acquired thirty acres, which has since been reduced to twenty acres by the rising of Lake Mexia.

Particular celebrations of Juneteenth have had unique beginnings or aspects. In the state capital Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1867 under the direction of the Freedmen’s Bureau and became part of the calendar of public events by 1872. Juneteenth in Limestone County has gathered “thousands” to be with families and friends. At one time 30,000 blacks gathered at Booker T. Washington Park, known more popularly as Comanche Crossing, for the event. One of the most important parts of the Limestone celebration is the recollection of family history, both under slavery and since. Another of the state’s memorable celebrations of Juneteenth occurred in Brenham, where large, racially mixed crowds witness the annual promenade through town. In Beeville, black, white, and brown residents have also joined together to commemorate the day with barbecue, picnics, and other festivities.

It’s one thing to argue with another historian or community leader about the the historical narrative represented by a pubic celebration (think Columbus Day), but it’s entirely another to — in effect — dismiss the understanding of the day as originally celebrated by the people who actually lived those events, and experienced them at first hand.

What do you think?

h/t Kevin. Image: Juneteenth celebration in Austin, June 19, 1900. PICA 05476, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Heritage Folks Get Trolled in Houston

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 11, 2017

What goes good with riding the Hermann Park train with the grandkids on a Saturday afternoon? Shotguns and Confederate flags, apparently. (I’m not sure what “hanky code” the guy on the right is flashing, so maybe one of my readers will enlighten me on that.) Photo by Evan Mintz, Houston Chronicle.

You may have heard that there was supposed to be a big “Texas Antifa” rally at the Sam Houston monument in Hermann Park on Saturday, to call for the removal of Big Sam. Naturally, it provoked an immediate and angry plan for a counter-protest by various right-wing activists, including white nationalists, fascists, militia types, and a few assorted Confederate Flaggers. And, it turns out, the Texas Antifa rally was a hoax from the beginning:

“Texas Antifa” is an alt-right troll group that stole the name of a self-described anti-fascist group, Houston Antifa — a local chapter of a national grassroots movement — in order to… well, we’re not sure, exactly, but we think it has something to do with pissing off as many people as possible.

Unfortunately, KPRC and the Chronicle failed to dig a little deeper. If they had, they might have found the real Houston Antifa page, which has warned people to “unlike and unfollow this fake ass Texas Antifa page. Do NOT attend the June 10th Rally! This account was started a month ago and is in NO way, shape, or form affiliated with any actual Antifa Organization.”

A representative of Houston Antifa echoed the statement to the Houston Press via Facebook Thursday morning, saying, “We encourage folks NOT to attend this event whatsoever, on the Right or the Left.”

I do love me a good prank. And if it gets not-too-bright, easily-riled people to drop a little cash locally and spend all afternoon standing out in the hot Texas sun counter-protesting something that doesn’t exist, so much the better. Hope everybody kept hydrated, that’s really important.

In case anyone’s keeping score, there’s approximately zero local interest in removing the Sam Houston monument. It’s not a thing.

Still, lots a folks showed up to counter-protest the non-existent Texas Antifa protesters, including white nationalists supporting (according to their website) a new era of “American Fascism:”

As well as someone flagging for Kekistan, whatever the hell that is.

The two images above are by Yuri Peña, via the Houston Press.

And then there’s this lovely bit of foolishness, from one of the leading peripatetic beards of the Confederate heritage movement:

Arlene Barnum saw on Facebook there was group threatening to take down the Sam Houston monument.

She came to protest, fearing that removing the monument eventually would lead to changing the names of schools and streets.

“When I heard about this monument threatened to be taken down, I knew it wasn’t about the monument,” Barnum said. “They were probably going to go after the streets and the schools.”

The streets and schools were already changed, the latter more than a year ago. But bless her heart, Ms. Barnum wouldn’t know that, being from out of state and not particularly knowledgeable about the things she’s protesting in any case.

What a clown show.


Update, June 11: Apparently there was a GoFundMe page that collected a few thousand dollars to support the struggle against the Texas Antifa protest that wasn’t actually a real thing. And now people want their money back.




“Set the Watch!”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 10, 2017

On Saturday I had the unexpected and welcome opportunity to attend the commissioning ceremony for USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), the newest littoral combat ship in the U.S. Navy. Although I’ve been reading and occasionally writing about maritime subjects for a long time, this was the first opportunity I’ve had to attend a launching or commissioning in person.

The ceremony went pretty much as scheduled (as I understand these events have a very standard pattern to them), and everyone said the right things. Importantly, everyone kept their remarks brief. As the ship’s CO, Commander Keith Woodley, said in his remarks, “you have to stop talking before they stop listening.” (It was hot, y’all.)

Naming a ship after Gabby Giffords is naturally controversial in the fever swamps of the Internet. However, partisan politics did not intrude today, as they should not. I had not paid much attention to this event before hand, and did not know who the guests would be if, indeed, they were announced ahead of time. But those present included former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Vice President Joe and Doctor Jill Biden, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There were lots of other officials present, with polite applause for everyone involved, but those folks along with Giffords’ husband, Captain Mark Kelly, and local developer (and native Galvestonian) Tilman Fertitta were the ones who got the cheers and few standing ovations today. It was interesting, to say the least.

Thanks to my friends from the Hawkins Squadron, Chester Barnes and Paula Morris, for making this possible for me today. I’m sorry my pictures don’t do the event justice, but it was a great experience that just a few hours ago I did not know was even in the offing. More pictures after the jump:


For the Ferroequinologists

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 4, 2017

Directors of the Union Pacific Railroad celebrate reaching the 100th Meridian, October 1866. According to a Union Pacific website, this milestone guaranteed the railroad the irrevocable right to continue westward, as stipulated in the Pacific Railway Act of 1862. You can just make out the letters I and D on the side of the tender, so I believe the locomotive is “Idaho,” built in April 1866 at Schenectady. Library of Congress image.

Get out your red/cyan 3D glasses, y’all.


Frederick Douglass on Decoration Day, 1871

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 29, 2017

On Decoration Day, 1871, Frederick Douglass gave the following address at the monument to the Unknown Dead of the Civil War at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a short speech, but one of the best of its type I’ve ever encountered. I’ve posted it before, but it think it’s something worth re-reading and contemplating every Memorial Day.

The Unknown Loyal Dead
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1871

Friends and Fellow Citizens:

Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.

Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable.

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph.

When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.

We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.

I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to hat terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.

If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones — I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?

The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier.

But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.


Image: Graves of nine unknown Federal soldiers in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. Photo by Flickr user NatalieMaynor, used under Creative Commons license. Text of Douglass speech from Philip S. Foner and Yuval Taylor, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings.

Memorial Day in Memphis, 1875

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 27, 2017


From the Memphis Daily Appeal, May 25, 1875:

Three generations of soldiers were of the long array — the men who fought with Jackson at New Orleans, those who braved the Indians in the Everglades, the later generation who followed Scott and [Jefferson] Davis and [Gideon Johnston] Pillow [a local hero] in Mexico, and the still later who had served with Grant or Lee, with Stonewall Jackson or Sherman, with Forrest or Sheridan, with Joe Johnston or Thomas. . . . These were the links that bound jubilee army to the past, blending with the younger soldiers whose battles were on a grander scale, but whose contests were no fiercer, illustrated for the multitude almost the whole history of the Republic. . . . In these gentlemen [Pillow and Davis] we had united the two later and grandest epochs in our history — the one by which we won an empire, and the other by which we sustained the shock of civil war and survived to enjoy and perpetuate a still more perfect Union. Forrest, the “terrible fighter” and always victorious cavalry raider, marched in the same column with the Federals who had fought him, and shared a seat on the same platform with our best representatives of the Union armies. . . .
Mr. Davis, our foremost statesman, did not speak, but he was upon the platform, and by his presence gave indorsement [sic.] to the re-cementing of the bonds of brotherhood. Tribute was paid to the dead, a loving tribute in words and flower, but the Union was over it all — was uppermost in all minds — and the day was thus made sacred to the highest purpose, and the dead were made to serve the noblest use in a text and day on which to preach peace and love, and date the final close of the war and all its bitter dissensions and contentions. Looking back through the night into the day, and recalling the men who were principal actors in the play, the tone and temper of the audience and the drift of what was said and sung can reach but the conclusion impressed upon us when yet the parade was in the thought of its projectors, that it was to be as healing upon the waters, it was to be a proper supplement of our steady march toward complete restoration, the finale of all our efforts to be reconciled to to our brothers of the both, and to do our part toward the consummation of that perfect peace for which all men have longed since that day at Appomattox, when Lee sheathed his sword and bade his troops “good-bye.” It was a great popular upheaval. It was the bursting of a great pent-up feeling of joy and happiness upon the condition of the country, the overflowing of gratitude for the blessings we enjoy of civil and religious liberty, and the determination to to give unmistakable assurances of loyalty and fealty to the Union. . . .
The Union was apparent in and over all. The battle-flags of both armies were placed side-by-side or in peaceful embrace, by request, too, of General Forrest, and the same hands draped the graves of the boys in blue and gray alike. The memory we revive of the day is this, and this its lesson. May it endure forever to animate us on each recurring anniversary, strengthening present resolution and and confirming us in our determination to labor hereafter in and for the Union, to make it more glorious and free, the first among the nations of the earth.

[This post originally appeared on Memorial Day weekend, 2012.]


Friday Night Concert (Encore) — “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 19, 2017

“Lay ’round the shack, ’til her husband comes back. . . .”

With the Yes Ma’am String Band in (where else?) New Orleans.

I think those are sparks coming off that steel guitar at the end.



Seeking Image of U.S.S. John P. Jackson

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 17, 2017

A friend and colleague doing in-depth historical/technical research on converted ferries is seeking the owner of this image of U.S.S. John P. Jackson (sometimes given as J. P. Jackson), that sold in an online auction in 2011. Unfortunately neither the seller nor the appraiser retained records that identify the buyer. He’s trying to obtain a high-resolution copy of the image. If you know who might have it, please let me know, or have that person let me know. Assistance would be tremendously appreciated.