Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crescent City Confederates (pt. 4)

The Big Easy has recovered considerably since Hurricane Katrina hit. Bourbon Street was a ghost town five years ago, but is now alive and well. Sailboats float lazily on Lake Pontchartrain, and the street cars run along St. Charles Avenue as though no hurricane ever stalled their routes. In the Garden District, the grand antebellum houses stand as testimony to the survival of the amazing city that is one of the oldest in the country.

Southern Louisiana boasts many antebellum houses that survived the Civil War and Katrina. Outside the city exists many plantation houses, including The Destrehan, Evergreen, and Houmas House plantations, as well as the Laura, Oak Valley, and St. Joseph Plantations. Within the city of New Orleans itself, the Garden District boasts amazing old houses, most of which are so enormous that they have been converted into apartments. (One of these houses was previously mentioned; the home where Confederate President Jefferson Davis died.) Gazing upon these grand old homes, it made me wonder what it must have been like back in the day: to live in one of them among a neighborhood where each majestic home was a one-family dwelling. Fortunately, these houses have been restored to their original grandeur, and have been well maintained. Most of them are priced in the millions, regardless of the drop in property values.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crescent City Confederates (pt. 3)

One of the most phenomenal places in the Big Easy is Confederate Memorial Hall. Located in the Warehouse District, across the street from the enormous WWII museum, Memorial Hall is the oldest operating museum in the state of Louisiana. It was built as a repository for Civil War artifacts, reports, records, and memorabilia. On January 8, 1891, the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), the building was presented to the Louisiana Historical Association.

At the front of the building sits an eight-inch Columbiad cannon. In 1899, survivors of the 5th Company Washington Artillery, Slocomb's Battery, placed the monument at its present location to commemorate thirteen members of their company who were killed or wounded around the gun during the siege of Mobile, Alabama.

Many of the artifacts within were donated by Louisiana residents and by Varina Howell Davis, President Jefferson Davis' wife. In 1893, the museum saw its biggest turnout, with 60,000 paying their respects to to the remains of Jefferson Davis, who died in New Orleans, and was buried there until 1893, when Mrs. Davis moved his remains to the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. One of the most fascinating artifacts in the museum is a lock of Robert E. Lee's hair, which is encased in small a glass container, and exhibited in a display case alongside his personal items.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crescent City Confederates (pt. 2)

Nearly everyone has heard of the famous cemeteries that exist in New Orleans. These graveyards are unique and unusual in that all the graves are above ground. In other words, the deceased are all entombed. This is because the Big Easy is below sea level, and the graves would inevitably be washed away at some point. Various tombs are so old that they are decaying, while others are so elaborate that they resemble miniature churches complete with stained glass windows.

One of the most famous cemeteries in New Orleans is St. Louis Cemetery #1, which is located in the French Quarter. The infamous Voodoo practitioner, Marie Laveau, is buried there. Another famous cemetery, the Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District, is where the author Ann Rice based her vampire novels. But I discovered another interesting cemetery that isn't visited by tourists: the Metairie Cemetery.

In this cemetery is a fascinating mausoleum which holds the remains of forty-eight Civil War veterans. Dedicated to the Army of Tennessee, the Confederates are watched over by a statue of a soldier on his steed, and another standing guard with his musket in hand.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Crescent City Confederates

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit New Orleans, where I discovered many historic sites, not to mention fascinating characters. Because there is so much to convey to my readers, I have decided to write a series of blogs about my site-seeing experiences. This first installment highlights two wonderful antebellum houses: the Beauregard-Keys house and Judge Charles Fenner's home.

The Beauregard-Keys house, located at 1113 Chartres Street in the French Quarter, has been listed on the registrar of National Historic Places. It was the former home of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard following the Civil War. Later, it was occupied by the famous author Frances Parkinson Keyes. The house is reputably haunted by Civil War soldiers still reenacting battles within the house itself. In 1909, the house bore witness to a mass murder associated with Mafia members, and in 1925, was converted into a macaroni factory. However, concern over the house's historical significance caused groups to rally for its inclusion into the National Register of Historic Sites.

The home located at 1134 First Street in the Garden District was once owned by Judge Charles Fenner, who was a friend of the only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. After President Davis was released from prison following the Civil War, he spent his last years traveling to Canada and Europe, lived in Memphis for awhile, and then resided in Biloxi at Beauvoir to write his memoirs. On December 6, 1889, while visiting Judge Fenner, he died.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Anniversary

Tomorrow marks the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, infamously known as the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. The battle took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek. Southerners refer to the battle by the town,whereas Northerners refer to it by the creek. The battle claimed 23,000 casualties. General McClellan confronted General Lee after the Confederates gained control of Harper's Ferry, Virginia two days prior (the anniversary of this event happened yesterday).

Among several remarkable landmarks that still exist at this battlefield site are the "Sunken Road," "Dunker Church," and "Burnside Bridge," where the fighting was so heavy that dying soldiers on the bridge bloodied the creek beneath until the water ran red. The battle was ultimately declared a draw, but President Lincoln saw it as an opportunity to publicly announce his Emancipation Proclamation, which became law the following January in 1863. Regardless, the battle also led to McClellan's dismissal as Major General of the Army of the Potomac.

The National Park Service has announced several free admission dates, which include the Antietam National Military Park. Upcoming dates are next Saturday, September 25, and November 11, which is Veterans' Day. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. Antietam is a national treasure, and once you see it, you will forever be impressed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mississippi First Brigade Reunites at Annual Meeting

Last Saturday night, the local Sons of Confederates Samuel Hughey camp met with other camps from North Mississippi in the fourth annual First Brigade meeting. The event was held in Hernando at an old plantation house. The home, originally built in colonial style in the 1840's, was cut in half to convert it into a Victorian-style home prior to the Civil War.

The meeting was held in the yard of the old house, and the weather cooperated nicely. We enjoyed great food, friends, and fellowship before hearing speakers discuss upcoming plans for the Civil War's 150th anniversary, as well as erecting a Mississippi monument at Shiloh National Military Park. Judge McClure entertained us with a talk about the horses of Nathan Bedford Forrest before the meeting concluded.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Confederates Receive Honor in England with Grave Markers

Although places in America are protesting the public display of Confederate markers, flags, etc., the exact opposite seems to be happening in Great Britain. According to a recent issue of the Confederate Veteran magazine, a senior Sons of Confederate Veterans member visited Britain only to discover that the country had honored fallen soldiers by placing Confederate flags on their graves. There are several thousand Confederate veterans buried in Britain, as well as in nearly every other country throughout the world.

During the War Between the States, there was a profound connection between England and the South of which we will probably never know the exact proportion. It is estimated that 200,000 British-born soldiers fought on both sides, and that 141,000 of the South's citizens were born in the British Isles.

There are over 1,000 Confederate reenactors and two SCV camps existing in Britain at present. It seems British officials are far more supportive about Confederate events and activities, and recently flew a Confederate flag over a government building: the first time since 1865. This is in sharp contrast to what the U.S. is experiencing. In Richmond last year, an article ran that blatantly proclaimed Southern ancestors who fought for the Confederacy to be "terrorists." Unfortunately, nary an SCV member complained, but members in England did voice their protest. In Great Britain, it is considered a privilege to honor those brave ancestors who fought for Southern independence.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Confederate Marker Under Fire

A small monument erected in honor of 51 Confederate soldiers who died at the Battle of Fredericksburg is under scrutiny. Last month, a judge rejected the city's motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the Sons of Confederate Veterans after it was decided last year by the City Council that the monument must be moved.

The SCV Matthew Fontaine Maury Camp #1722 contends that the city has no jurisdiction over the monument, and thus has no right to force its removal. The monument, constructed of granite and marble, and erected in early 2009, sits on the corner of two intersecting streets. A much larger memorial is also located there, which honors all veterans from WWI to the present. Therein lies the controversy. The SCV says they obtained permission from the city zoning administrator, and that other Civil War monuments have been erected on city land, including one for the 7th Michigan Infantry and another for the Union's Irish Brigade.

However, city officials claim that staff weren't authorized to grant permission. According to the SCV's attorney, Patrick McSweeney, the council cannot change the rules after the fact. The judge requested that both sides settle out of court, but the legal dispute could grow. Ironically, the City Council approved the burial of Confederate troops from seven states in 1861.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Subject Near and Dear to My Heart

Last Tuesday, a hearing was conducted in regard to establishing a casino in Gettysburg. It amazes me that this toxic topic keeps surfacing, and that some die-hards just won't take no for an answer. Is there no shame? I mean, really?

Gettysburg, in my opinion, is hallowed ground, and the thought of building a casino so close to the entrance of the park makes my skin crawl. It is sacrilege, nothing less. Many people made appearances via video at the hearing, including Ken Burns, Matthew Broderick, Jeff Shaara, President Eisenhower's granddaughter, and other famous, as well as not-so-famous, personalities.

Quoting the Civil War Preservation Trust's Facebook page: "The developer of a proposed casino Tuesday called this historic community the 'last untapped gaming marketplace' in Pennsylvania and contended that his casino would rejuvenate the area's recession-ravaged economy while respecting its rich history and tradition." Um, excuse me, but I live close to Tunica, Mississippi, which is one of the largest gaming areas in the country. Needless to say, casinos have not helped the economy here. The economy sucks all over! So by stating that it will help Gettysburg's economy is nothing less than blarney. As far as tainting the town, that's a given. If allowed, casinos will only mar Gettysburg's charming character.

Please do what you can to disallow this from happening. Visit and to voice your opinion.