Category Archives: Civil War

Secondary Character Saturday: Ashley Wilkes

“Most of the miseries of the world were caused by wars.
And, when the wars were over, no one ever knew what they were about.”
–Ashley Wilkes

Leslie Howard as Ashley in the 1939 movie version of Gone With the Wind [Image courtesy MGM]

Leslie Howard as Ashley in the 1939 movie version of Gone With the Wind [Image courtesy MGM]

WHO: Ashley Wilkes

FROM: Gone With the Wind

BY: Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell all set to launch cruiser af...

Margaret Mitchell all set to launch cruiser after long training as Red Cross launchee / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Aumuller. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


PROS: Handsome, honorable, sensitive, brave, intelligent. He’s everything as Southern Gentleman ought to be. He’s an idealist who longs for the bucolic, peaceful life he led before the war. He would have freed the slaves on Twelve Oaks once his father died (and he inherited them) if the War hadn’t done it for him.

CONS: Conflicted, weak and too easily manipulated by the women in his life. His romantic ideas of how the world ought to be are impractical in Reconstructionist Georgia.

Ashley Wilkes is representative of the Southern aristocrat who fights bravely in the war but finds himself confused and directionless in its aftermath. Ashley realizes that his absolutist convictions about honor and courage no longer have meaning in his world, but he is unable to take action. []

Screenshot of the title page from the trailer ...

Screenshot of the title page from the trailer for the film Gone with the Wind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Friday Fiction: Last Dance

Thanks to for this week’s writing prompt of “Dancing”. I came up with (yet another) HAPPY story for you all (not).  So, put your hoop skirts and fingerless gloves on and “enjoy” Last Dance…


Corn Field 2

Our last dance together was in the church hall of St. Peter and St. Paul’s. It was May 21st, 1861, and Jimmy Bedlow had taken Mary Alice McGee for a wife.

Gabriel wore his Army blues. There were a lot of dark blue uniforms in the congregation when Pastor Lumley pronounced Jimmy and Mary Alice man and wife. Most of the boys of certain age in our town had heeded Mr. Lincoln’s call.

Blue became my young man. It turned Gabe’s hazel eyes a shade more azure, and it made his black hair seem all the more adumbral.

Gabe wasn’t the first to volunteer. He didn’t run after the flag when the band wagon came down main street. He didn’t raise his hand when Captain Haterfield made his rousing recruitment speech at the town square. He’d been thoughtful about the decision. He pondered over what it might mean to his parents — to his Ma, especially. And to me.  But in the end he knew what he had to do and he signed on.

Gabe was a brave, smart young man. He would do alright in this war — which by all accounts would be brief — then he would return home a hero. He would retake his place in his daddy’s law firm and we would be married.

Things were planned out neatly — both by our parents and in our hearts.

Our happily ever after was a well scripted certainty in our young minds.

When the boys mustered at the train station for the ride south Gabe stole a few seconds alone with me for a farewell. I gave him a kiss on his cleanly shaved cheek and a promise that I would wait for him, and pray for him… and that yes, I would marry him when he returned.

I pressed the a 1/6 plate Ferrotype I’d had made specially for him into his hand. He opened the leather case and looked at the small tintype photograph inside. His eyes misted up then.  “My dear Evelina” he whispered in a rough voice that seemed too old for him, “I shall treasure this to my last dying breath.”

Then some one blew a whistle and he was called from my side. I watched him for as long as I could, following his form as he melded with the other men in blue coats and black slouch caps. But then he marched onto the train and I lost sight of him.

The town seemed strangely empty after the militia left. The war had left us with school boys and old men.

The red, white and blue bunting that danced so merrily in the breeze that spring day of the mustering hung stagnant and lifeless on the porches and bandstand. The colors seemed bleached in the hot summer sun.

We heard little from our boys at the front. The mail was painfully slow. The news — even the  intelligence brought to us from the St. Cloud Monitor — was stale before it reached us. So it was near a full week before we heard about the Battle of Bull Run.

That bloody battle took many of our brave boys. The list was hung on the court room door.

The patriotic bunting was replaced by black morning cloth.

But my prayers were answered and Gabe’s name did not appear on the list of  men who had been killed or wounded. He was safe and I quietly rejoiced.

As I did the next April when we heard about Shiloh…

And in June when the Monitor listed the casualties from Seven Pines…

But one day in September when we were making apple butter I felt an odd kind of numbness come over me that I could not explain. Perhaps I was over tired — we were all tired from trying to put up as much food as we could for what was to be another long winter — but it was more than that.

Then 5 days letter the church bell rang mid afternoon and called us to the square. A new piece of paper had been nailed to the court house door and we knew there had been another battle.

On September 17th, 1862 thirty-one of our young men had been among the 2,108 killed  and 9,549 wounded Union soldiers near the creek of Antietam, Maryland.

The numbness I felt days before returned. As I climbed the courthouse steps and joined the scrum of women near the list I knew I would find what I dreaded most. And there in the second column, under Minnesota, half way down was  his name “Gabriel Pulson”.

Faces turned to me as they saw the name and associated it with my own.

A buzzing rang through me as the numbness escalated to full-scale panic. I tried to swallow it down and be brave.  I   KNEW   GABE  WOULD   WANT   ME   TO   BE   BRAVE.  But the buzzing, the numbness, overtook me with a powerful wave of grief and like a child I fainted right there on the courthouse porch.

I had a dream while I lie there.

I was not myself… I was a bird… and I flew low over a cornfield that was a cornfield no more. It was in the process of being destroyed by a great angry army of men… and trampled upon …and shot through until bullets and ears of corn littered the ground.

The bullets were buzzing still. And men would dance from side to side. The lucky ones were able to avoid the deadly leaded bees, the unlucky ones felt the sting and soon fell.

One man two-stepped ungracefully in a circle and fell in front of my dream  self… the bird. Despite the stubble of beard and dirty face I recognized this soldier, and I grew angry that his last dance had been in a cornfield and with out me.

Death came soon for my beloved Gabriel, but he had a brief respite to whisper his prayers. And as he had promised he pulled out my tintype and looked upon me one last time. The glass was broken now and the leather scuffed from wear, but it made him smile in his last moment on this mortal plain. And I… the bird… the girl.. realized he didn’t die alone.

corn field 4

James Buchanan

“What is right and what is practicable are two different things.”– James Buchanan

English: I took photo of James Buchanan in Nat...
English: I took photo of James Buchanan in National Portrait Gallery with Canon camera. Public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

James Buchanan was born on this day in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, USA in 1791. Today is the 222nd anniversary of his birth.

James Buchanan Log House

Although he was born in a log cabin Buchanan’s family was well to do. His father was a prosperous businessman. His father, James Buchanan, Sr. was a farmer, businessman and merchant, his mother, Elizabeth Speer, was intelligent and well-respected. James was the second of 11 children, 8 of whom lived to adulthood.

Young James attended school in the Mercersberg area, but his father’s business triumphs and his mother’s interest in education dictated better opportunities for the boy. At age sixteen, he entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, seventy miles from home. [the Miller]

After graduation in 1809 he went to Lancaster, PA, to study Law. He passed the bar in 1812.

Although he was against the War of 1812 (he thought it was unnecessary) He joined the light dragoon unit when the British invaded Maryland and helped defend the city of Baltimore. Although the Battle of Baltimore would later become famous because of Francis Scott Key’s poem The Star Spangled Banner, Buchanan’s unit didn’t see any action.

He returned to Lancaster after the war. At 23 he ran for Pennsylvania House of Representatives and won a seat as a Federalist.

Toward the end of his time in the legislature, Buchanan fell in love with Ann Caroline Coleman. … The young woman’s family opposed the match with Buchanan, however. … Ann Coleman sent him a letter breaking off the engagement. A few days later she died. The Coleman family turned its grief and guilt on the young lawyer and forbade him to attend the funeral. The experience severely shook Buchanan; he vowed he would not marry another, and he never became seriously involved with any other woman for the rest of his life, though he carried on many flirtations. He would be the nation’s first and only bachelor President. [the Miller]

He threw himself into his work and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1820.

He was elected five times to the House of Representatives; then, after an interlude as Minister to Russia, served for a decade in the Senate. He became Polk’s Secretary of State and Pierce’s Minister to Great Britain. [White]

Being out of the country during a contentious primary season helped Buchanan side step the bloody Slavery debate. “The overseas post enabled Buchanan to be unblemished by the political bloodshed that resulted from the disastrous Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.” [the Miller]  He became the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1856. He beat Republican John C. Frémont and took the White House on March 4, 1857 as the 15th president of the United States.

James Buchanan: Fifteenth President of the Uni...
James Buchanan: Fifteenth President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first crisis of his presidency happened when the Supreme Court handed down the Dread Scott Decision…

Asserting that Congress had no constitutional power to deprive persons of their property rights in slaves in the territories. Southerners were delighted, but the decision created a furor in the North. [White]

More slavery woes were in store in the territory of Kansas. The choice in Bleeding Kansas was between two rival state constitutions, the Free-Soil (anti-slavery settlers) took Topeka as their capital, those who were pro-slavery picked Lecompton as the seat of government. The Free-Soil party was in the majority but the Lecomptons managed (through a number of shady means) to get their platform passed.

Buchanan decided to end the troubles in Kansas by urging the admission of the territory as a slave state. Although he directed his Presidential authority to this goal, he further angered the Republicans and alienated members of his own party. Kansas remained a territory. [Ibid]

By the mid-term elections Buchanan’s political star had fallen and the Republican took the House and Senate. He was the lamest of lame ducks and the government was at a stalemate. In the presidential election of 1860 the Democrats split with Buchanan taking the Southern states and Douglas taking the Northern states.

Consequently, when the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be elected even though his name appeared on no southern ballot. Rather than accept a Republican administration, the southern “fire-eaters” advocated secession…President Buchanan, dismayed and hesitant, denied the legal right of states to secede but held that the Federal Government legally could not prevent them. He hoped for compromise, but secessionist leaders did not want compromise. [White]

South Carolina was first to secede (on December 20, 1860.) Six other states joined South Carolina and formed the Confederate States of America. “When Buchanan left office on March 3, 1861, to retire to his estate outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he left the nation on the brink of civil war.” [ ]

James Buchanan
James Buchanan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He lived out the war at his home, Wheatland, in Lancaster, PA.

Rightly or wrongly, considerable blame for the Civil War fell upon him. His portrait had to be removed from the Capitol to keep vandals from damaging it, and posters captioned “Judas” depicted him with his neck in a hangman’s noose. A wave of second-guessing condemned Buchanan’s actions with regard to Fort Sumter. The Republican press attacked him while absolving the Republican Party and Lincoln from all responsibility for the conflict. Although Buchanan vocally supported the Union cause, many branded him an appeaser of the South and a lover of slavery.  [the Miller]

He died of respiratory failure in 1868. He 77.

The Samuel Mudd House

Home of Dr Samuel Mudd

Home of Dr Samuel Mudd (Photo credit: crazysanman.history)

A trip to Southern Maryland brought us to the door step of history today when we stopped by the Samuel Mudd House. You may remember that I profiled Mudd as a Thought of the Day bioBLOG on his birthday back in December (click HERE to read the bio) so when we saw the brown historical marker indicating that Mudd’s house was a few mile off Maryland’s Route 5 we had to make a side trip and explore.

Approaching the Mudd House.

Approaching the Mudd House.

You enter the Dr. Samuel Mudd House at the back of the house, at the gift shop. There a docent will greet you and take you on a tour of the house. Our docent, Russet Hodgkins, took us through the events of early April 16th when…

Docents Russet Hodgkins and Lynn Bounviri pose behind the Mudd House.

Docents Russet Hodgkins and Lynn Bounviri pose behind the Mudd House.

A knock at the door work the 31-year-old doctor and his wife “Frankie”  at 4:00 am.

Two men stood in the doorway, one in need of medical attention for a badly broken leg. It was David Herold and John Wilkes Booth. News of the previous night’s assassination had not reached sleepy Charles Country.  Mudd couldn’t have known that Booth had shot Lincoln. The doctor didn’t even recognize the men, who were traveling under aliases — though there was something familiar about the injured man. He had actually met Booth before (when the actor was looking to buy a horse and property in the area) but that night he was in disguise, and the poor light and a false beard fooled the doctor.

English: Broadside advertising reward for capt...

English: Broadside advertising reward for capture of Lincoln assassination conspirators, illustrated with photographic prints of John H. Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, and David E. Herold. Français : Avis de recherche avec prime de 100.000 $ pour la capture de John Wilkes Booth, le meurtrier du président Abraham Lincoln, et deux de ses complices, David Edgar Herold et John Harrison Surratt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He examined the stranger’s leg on a red couch that still sits in the House’s parlor, and had him taken upstairs where he set the leg.  The next day the two men acted suspiciously, turning their faces to the wall when Mudd’s wife brought them food.  After a few hours rest they left, headed toward Virginia where they were eventually found at the Garrett Farm.

Investigators followed Booth’s trail to Mudd’s house and the doctor was implicated in the Lincoln assignation.Mudd was convicted by a Military Commission and sentenced to life in prison. He was sent to the military prison at the Dry Tortugas, west of Key West, Florida. When a yellow fever outbreak hit the Dry Tortugas and the  prison doctor died of the disease Mudd took over. For his efforts during the epidemic President Andrew Johnson pardoned him.

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the ca...

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenter’s shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He went back to his wife and children and the Maryland farm. Mudd died of pneumonia in 1883.  He was 49 years old.

The house is decorated with furniture from several generations of Mudds, and it is interesting to see how this working farm passed down from generation to generation.

The mistake tombstone

The mistake tombstone

Don’t miss the outbuildings, especially the gravestone building (they made a mistake on his grave marker, and this “mistake” is housed at the museum.) Other outbuildings house period farm equipment, a tobacco barn, a Civil War display and more.

Outbuildings and barns to explore at the Mudd House

Outbuildings and barns to explore at the Mudd House

Dr.  Samuel A. Mudd House is a privately run museum and is open March to November on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11 to 4  and Sundays 12 to 3:30. (Closed on Easter.) The museum is also open the first weekend in December for a Victorian Christmas.

Call 1-301-274-9358 for more information.

John Tyler 3.29.13 Thought of the Day

“Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette – the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace.”–John Tyler


English: A portrait of John Tyler located insi...

English: A portrait of John Tyler located inside the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


John Tyler was born on this day near Charles City County, Virginia, USA in 1790. Today is the 223rd anniversary of his birth.


Born to a wealthy family on his father’s Greenway plantation. His family had been members of Virginia’s elite since the 17th century. His father, John Tyler, Sr. was a judge who was friends with Thomas Jefferson, served in the Virginia House of Delegates, was Speaker for that House, and was the 15th Governor of Virginia (when John junior was 18.) His mother Mary Armistead Tyler died when he was 7.  The younger John Tyler was the sixth of eight children.


Tyler attended William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. He


studied law under private tutors. He began his political career in 1811, when he was elected to the Virginia legislature at age 21. []


He served in the legislature until 1816 when he was elected to the US House of Representatives. He was a strict Constitutionalist and a strong proponent of States Rights. He voted against “nationalist legislation and opposed the Missouri compromise” [] He didn’t run again in 1820, returning to his private law practice instead.  But by 1823 he was back in the Virginia House of Delegates.




English: An engraving (c. 1826, authorship unk...




In 1825 he was appointed as Governor of Virginia (as Governor he gave the eulogy at Thomas Jefferson’s funeral.) He served as Governor for two terms.

He won a slim majority to US Senate in 1827 as a Democrat, but  his support for President Andrew Jackson was rocky at best. By 1835 he was aligned with Henry Clay’s Whig Party.


The Whigs nominated Tyler for Vice President in 1840, hoping for support from southern states’-righters who could not stomach Jacksonian Democracy. The slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” implied flagwaving nationalism plus a dash of southern sectionalism. []


The “Tippecanoe”  in the campaign slogan was William Henry Harrison who fought in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. The Harrison/Tyler ticket won the election with 53% of popular vote and an electoral vote of 234-60. The Whigs also won control of both the House and Senate. Tyler took the oath of the Vice Presidency, presided over the confirmations of Harrison’s cabinet appointments (as President of the Senate) and after a few days went home to Williamsburg. But then Harrison caught pneumonia and died (the first sitting president to do so) and “Tyler Too” became, suddenly, the 10th President of the United States.


The U.S. Constitution was unclear on the matter of presidential succession; however, Tyler moved into the White House and was sworn into office on April 6. At 51 years old, the man dubbed “His Accidency,” was younger than any previous president. (The ambiguity surrounding the order of succession issue was officially clarified with the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1967 and states that if the president dies or resigns, the vice president becomes president.) []


John Tyler, tenth President of the United States

John Tyler, tenth President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“His four year term was a shambles…” [] Unable to follow both his conscience and the Whig’s political agenda he was kicked out of the part. All but one member of his (well, Harrison’s) cabinet resigned. And members of the House tried to have him impeached for misuse of veto power.


His Presidency however produced some historic events: The annexation of Texas, a reorganized Navy, The ending of the Seminole war and the signing of a treaty with China. []


He did not make a bid for a second term in the White House.

He retired to his plantation, Sherwood Forest near Richmond. When the Civil War broke out “Tyler led a compromise movement; failing, he worked to create the Southern Confederacy.” [] He  was elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress in 1862.  “With the war raging, he was giving a speech in front of the Exchange Hotel when he suffered a stroke and was taken to a room where he died at the age of 71.” []


Picture of President John Tyler's grave in the...

Picture of President John Tyler’s grave in the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Frederick Douglas 2.14.13 Thought of the Day

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

A sketch of Douglass, from the 1845 edition of...

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born on this day in Talbot County, Maryland, USA in 1818. Today is the 195th anniversary of his birth.

The exact day and year of his birth is unknown, but he decided on February 14th, 1818.  He never met his father, a white man,  and almost never saw his mother.  He lived with his grandparents in their cabin west of the Tuckahoe Creek. In his first autobiography he wrote:

“I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. … She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.” [Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. Written by himself. (1851)

At seven he was sent to Wye House plantation near Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland. Soon he was sent to Hugh Auld a Baltimore carpenter. Auld’s wife, Sophia,  taught him to read until the master (her husband)  stopped her. Hugh Auld thought teaching slaves lead to rebellious slaves. Frederick practiced reading and writing in secret. When he was in Baltimore he heard about Abolition for the first time, and in 1831 he  read an article “on John Quincy Adams’s antislavery petitions in Congress” [Frederick Douglass Timeline]

At 13 he was sent to the shipping town of St. Michael’s, Maryland to work for Thomas Auld. When Auld discovered that Frederick was teaching other slaves to read he rented him out to a brutal slavebreaker, Edward Covey.”The treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was “broken in body, soul, and spirit.” “ []

In 1838 he was back in Baltimore hired out to work as a caulker in a shipyard. He made his escape to freedom by…

Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass. [Ibid]

Douglass became active in the Abolitionist movement. He became a “licensed preacher for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.” [Frederick Douglass Timeline] In 1841 he spoke at an antislavery meeting in New Bedford about his life in Maryland. The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society hired him as a speaker.

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a y...

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people didn’t believe that a former slave could speak so eloquently and assumed Douglass was a fraud. In response to that criticism he wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In 1845 he toured England and Ireland to raise money to buy his freedom. (Auld  manumitted him for $711.66.) Douglass used the remaining money from the Great Britain tour to buy a printing press and began to publish the North Star, a weekly Abolitionist paper. The paper later became the Frederick Douglass’ Paper and is joined in 1859 by the Douglass’ Monthy.

In 1855 he published his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom. During the American Civil War Douglass was a recruiter for the all African-American 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

After the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (which outlaws slavery) Douglass continued to fight for civil rights and woman’s rights. A fringe political party, The Equal Rights Party nominated Douglass as its vice-presidential Nominee in 1872.

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrativ...

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1881 he published his final autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.

He was appointed to the post of US Marshal of the District of Columbia and the Recorder of Deed of the District of Columbia before becoming Minister Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Haiti in 1889.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frederick Douglass died on February 20th, 1895 of heart failure.

The gravestone of Frederick Douglass located a...

Abraham Lincoln 2.12.13 Thoughts of the Day

President Abraham Lincoln was descended from S...

Abraham Lincoln was born on this day near Hodgenville, Harden Co., Kentucky in 1809. Today is the 204th anniversary of his birth.

I’m going to assume that you are all familiar with the 16th President of United States — the man who grew up in a log cabin, was a simple country lawyer and  went on to become president during this country’s darkest days. [For more information on his life might I suggest the White biography, Lincoln’s write-up on , or the article on ]  Frankly, there is little I can bring to the table that you don’t already know or couldn’t read about on more lofty websites… so instead I thought I’d bring you my favorite Lincoln quotes.

LIncoln logo

  • Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
  • Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.
  • You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
  • In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
  • Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
  • Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
  • Whatever you are, be a good one.
  • Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
  • The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.
  • No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.
  • I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.
  • My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
  • It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
  • If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?
  • I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.
  • The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.
Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (Photo credit: George Eastman House)

Lastly if you haven’t had a chance to see the Steven Spielberg film LINCOLN with Daniel Day-Lewis as the President, I recommend it. Why not Celebrate Lincoln’s birthday watching this tribute to the man’s indomitable spirit?


UPDATE: Daniel Day Lewis won the Oscar last night for his amazing portrayal of Lincoln. Well deserved!

Daniel Day Lewis embodied Lincoln in last year's Oscar nominated the Steven Speilberg movie.

Daniel Day Lewis embodied Lincoln in last year’s Oscar nominated the Steven Speilberg movie.

Daniel Day Lewis won the BEST ACTOR OSCAR for his performance of Lincoln.

Daniel Day Lewis won the BEST ACTOR OSCAR for his performance of Lincoln.

Daniel Day Lewis embodied Lincoln in last year's Oscar nominated the Steven Speilberg movie.

Daniel Day Lewis embodied Lincoln in last year’s Oscar nominated the Steven Speilberg movie.


Samuel Mudd 12.20.12 Thought of the Day

English: Samuel Mudd

English: Samuel Mudd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Samuel Alexander Mudd was born on this day in Charles County, Maryland, USA in 1833. Today is the 179th anniversary of his birth.


Mudd grew up on a tobacco plantation about 30 miles southeast of Washington DC. He was the fourth of ten children . He was home schooled until age 15 when he went to St. John’s boarding school in Frederick, MD. He went to college at Georgetown in Washington, and graduated from  the University of Maryland, Baltimore having studied medicine with an emphasis on dysentery. In 1856 he returned to Charles County and began a family with his long time sweetheart Sarah “Frankie” Dyer. Mudd’s father gave the couple a 218 acre tobacco farm called St. Catherine’s. He supplemented his income as a doctor with the sale of tobacco from the farm. (He grew the tobacco with the help of five slaves.)


Dr. Mudd's House

Dr. Mudd’s House (Photo credit: jimmywayne)

When the Civil War began Maryland was a border state. If Washington, with its large number of Union soldiers had not be located in its southern border along the Potomac River the state may have voted to succeed from the Union. When Maryland abolished slavery in 1864 ( a year after the Emancipation Proclamation) Mudd could no longer effectively run his farm. He began looking for a buyer and was introduced to a young, dashing, actor in the market for some property. That actor’s name was John Wilkes Booth.


Booth and Mudd met in November  at St. Mary’s Catholic Church  to discuss the purchase. Booth stayed overnight at the farm before returning to Washington. Unbeknownst to Mudd, Booth wasn’t interested in real estate at all, but was scouting out an escape path from the Nation’s Capital. The actor was planning on kidnapping President Lincoln to bring him to Richmond (the capital of the Confederacy). He would ransom Lincoln for a large number of Confederate POWS.


Portrait of John Wilkes Booth (1838–1865)

Portrait of John Wilkes Booth (1838–1865) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mudd and Booth met again shortly before Christmas 1964, this time in Washington. They met John Surratt and Louis Weichmann for drinks.


Before Booth could pull off his ill-advised and grandiose plan Lee surrendered at Appomatox, Virginia and the War was over. Booth was furious. He altered his plan and decided to kill the president instead of kidnapping him. Booth shot Lincoln in the head five days after Lee surrendered. The President and Ms. Lincoln were watching a play, Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. After shooting Lincoln at point-blank range he jumped down from the Presidential Box to the stage to escape. He broke his leg in the fall but managed to get out the stage door and onto his horse and escape the city.


English: Interior of Ford's Theatre, Washingto...

English: Interior of Ford’s Theatre, Washington, D.C., where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The presidential box is towards the right. The theatre is still in operation and the stage is set up for a current stage play (i.e., it is not set up as it was when Lincoln was shot). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About four o’clock on the morning following the Lincoln assassination two men on horseback arrived at the Mudd farm near Bryantown.  The men, it turned out, were John Wilkes Booth–in severe pain with a badly fractured leg that he received from his fall to the stage after shooting the President–and David Herold.  Mudd welcomed the men into his house, first placing Booth on his sofa, then later carrying him upstairs to a bed where he dressed the limb. 

After daybreak, Mudd made arrangements with a nearby carpenter to construct a pair of crutches for Booth and tried, unsuccessfully, to secure a carriage for his two visitors.  Booth (after having shaved off his moustache in Mudd’s home) and Herold left later on the fifteenth, after Mudd pointed the route to their next destination, Parson Wilmer’s. []

Military investigators followed Booth’s trail to the Mudd farm and Dr. Mudd admitted to having seen a patient, but claimed…”‘I never saw either of the parties before, nor can I conceive who sent them to my house.” []  When Lt. Lovett, the lead investigator on the Mudd end of the trail returned again to the farm Sarah “brought down from upstairs a boot that had been cut off the visitor’s leg three days earlier.” [Ibid.] Booth’s initials were in the boot’s cuff, but Mudd still denied knowing who it was.


Booth's boot, found at the Mudd's farm .[Image courtesy]

Booth’s boot, found at the Mudd’s farm . [Image courtesy]

During the trail Mudd’s lie about not recognizing Booth, compounded by his not coming forward  about “suspicions … aroused by a broken-legged visitor who, during his brief stay the Mudd farm, shaved off his moustache” [Ibid] stained his character far more deeply than the circumstantial evidence of witnesses who claimed he knew of the conspiracy.


Defense Attorney Thomas Ewing argued to the Commission that it is no crime to fix  a broken leg, even if it were the leg of a presidential assassin and even if the doctor knew it was the leg of a presidential assassin. [Ibid}

Mudd was convicted by a Military Commission and sentenced to life in prison.


English: Broadside advertising reward for capt...

English: Broadside advertising reward for capture of Lincoln assassination conspirators, illustrated with photographic prints of John H. Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, and David E. Herold. Français : Avis de recherche avec prime de 100.000 $ pour la capture de John Wilkes Booth, le meurtrier du président Abraham Lincoln, et deux de ses complices, David Edgar Herold et John Harrison Surratt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He, and the other conspirators who escaped the noose were sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas 70 miles west of Key West,  Florida. He tried to escape once, but was quickly discovered. He and other prisoners were transferred to “the dungeon” a ground-level gunroom. They were let out six days a week to work, but were forced to stay inside the dungeon on Sundays and holidays. He wore leg irons while outside the cell.


Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the ca...

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenter’s shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



In 1867, an outbreak of yellow fever overtook the Dry Tortugas, claiming the lives of fellow conspirator and inmate Michael O’Lauglin, as well as the prison doctor.  Mudd assumed the role as the new prison doctor. [Ibid]

Mudd was pardoned in March of 1869 by President Andrew Johnson. The Doctor returned to his Maryland farm and his wife (they had 4 more children.) He had always been interested in politics and in 1877 he ran (unsuccessfully) for the Maryland House Delegates. In 1880 his farm was destroyed by a fire. and by 1883, at just 49 years old, Mudd was dead of pneumonia.




Lincoln’s death brought on a media circus the likes of which we are only all too familiar with in 2012. But then, when the nation need to be healed from its bloody civil war a swift and definitive trial was essential. Yellow journalism was in full swing. Certainly some of the men (and possible the one woman) on trial were guilty … but what do you think? Did was Dr. Mudd innocent or guilty?


English: John Wilkes Booth's escape route Türk...

Williamsburg (part 4)

Textile 3

[This is part four of my What To Do in Williamsburg Blog for part one go HERE. For part two go HERE. For part three go HERE. ]

Previous tips included:

  1. Planning your trip in the Fall or Winter to avoid the heat and crowds.
  2. Staying in a Colonial House.
  3. Engaging with the locals.
  4. Visit the Wren Building
  5. Take the Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life Tour & the Behind the Scenes Tour
  6. Visit the De Witt Wallace and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museums
  7. Tour the Governor’s Palace
  8. Tour the Thomas Everard House.
  9. Visit Bassett Hall.
  10. Get spooky with it.

Today we’ll  touch on some odds and ends in Williamsburg and travel down the road to the current capital of Virginia, Richmond.

11. Stop in to see the craftsmen making things with wood.  Bill likes woodworking so we spent time at the joiners near the Capitol on Frances Street…

Saw envy at the Joiners.

Saw envy at the Joiners.

Where they do ordinary work, like making sashes for windows and  bellows for the Gunsmith Shop….

Making 1 of three large wooden panels for the bellows.

Making 1 of three large wooden panels for the bellows.

…and fancy work, like this decorative piece.

The craftsmen at the Joiners used a lot of fine carving skills to make this wooden ornamental panel.

The craftsmen at the Joiners used a lot of fine carving skills to make this wooden ornamental panel.

We also went to the Cabinetmaker’s shop, which is on Nicholson Street, closer to the Palace Green.

Bill has a talk with one of the cabinet makers.

Bill has a talk with one of the cabinet makers.

Both shops had beautiful sets of hollows and rounds for making moldings.

Hollow and round plains on the shelf.

Hollow and round plane sets on the shelf.

12.) Get your Ps and Qs in line at the Printers. Bill indulged my love of graphic design with a trip to the Printers. We had a nice long talk with printer and he was kind enough to let me have a go at the press.

First I inked the plate.

First I inked the plate.


Added paper, cranked the carriage into place then PULLED the press down.

Rita putting paper on press

Cranked the carriage back out and lifted the paper tray and…

Gazette rita's pull

Taadaaa… my impression of a colonial paper. (Get it? IMPRESSION? It’s a letter-press. Never mind, it’s a printing joke.)

13.) Stroll along Duke of Gloucester Street. We  especially enjoyed the Blacksmith, the Silversmith and the Milliner.


The Milliner shows off a hat that would have been popular around 1790. I like to think of it as a Mrs. Bennett or Mrs. Dashwood appropriate hat. (Yes that is Jane Austen reference.)

14.) Stand witness for the prosecution at the Courthouse. Learn about the 18th Century justice system first hand with the Order In The Court program (it runs several times a day and is free with your Williamsburg pass).


The Williamsburg Courthouse is one of the original buildings and was still in use when Goodwin and Rockefeller began to rebuild the town.

We saw several civil trials which required audience participation.

A Williamsburg visitor takes on the roll of a townsperson who has failed to come to church -- an offense which was against the law.

A Williamsburg visitor takes on the roll of a towns person who has failed to come to church — an offense which was against the law.

You MIGHT even get a chance to be on the judge’s bench (even if you’re a woman == as long as you go along with premise that you are a man for the purposes of historical accuracy.)

Court House Judge Rita

Yes, that’s judge Rita conferring with the bearded judge to the right on the fate of some poor soul. Don’t worry I was very easy. Every body else was a hangin’ mood, but not me.

15. EAT. There are four Colonial Taverns to choose from in the city, Christiana Campbell’s, Shield’s, King’s Arms, and Chownings. I liked King’s Arms the best because they have an amazing Peanut Soup.  Dinner at any of the Taverns is by candle light and includes period entertainment, but be warned … it will be an expensive meal. You might choose to eat at one of the restaurants at Merchant’s Square  (which is between Colonial Williamsburg and Williams and Mary. The bus that runs in a clockwise circle around the historic district has a stop at Merchants Square so you wont have to get in your car.) We liked the Cheese Shop on the square, and especially the Aroma Coffee Shop on Prince George Street. If you do decide to step into your horseless carriage just go out Richmond Road and you’ll find the usual suspect of chain eateries, an oddly prolific collection of pancake establishments and some rather nice restaurants of the non-chain variety (yes, there are still some of them out there.) We enjoyed sushi at Kyoto and American fare at Food for Thought (the best food I ate all week was the Food for Thought’s quinoa salad.)

carriage riding down the roadTime to travel down the road and into the present, leaving 18th Century Williamsburg for 21st Century Richmond. Well, almost… there’s still a lot of history to explore on this trip.

Richmond is the capital of Virginia and during the American Civil War it was the Capital of the Confederacy. The city is ripe with monuments & museums to the South (and given the whole Slavery thing, that made me a mite itchy. But I do love my history, so…) While in the city you can visit the Museum and White House of the Confederacy, the Virginia Historical Society,  Hollywood Cemetery or take a stroll down Monument Avenue.

We went to Tredegar Iron Works on the James River. You get two museums in one location here. One is run by the National Park Service and the other is part of the American Civil War Center. We went into the (free) Park Service museum and enjoyed the displays and movie on the third floor. The Map Room is a great way to orient yourself on Richmond’s role in the war.

Photograph of the Tredegar Iron Works, shortly...

Photograph of the Tredegar Iron Works, shortly after the Evacuation Fire of 1865; despite the original caption of the image, the works themselves survived largely unscathed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The outdoor exhibits had seen better days, but this museum is a gem in the rough. I hope they get some funding and can restore all the exhibits to top-notch condition.

Next stop: Shopping. Carytown  is Richmond’s “Mile of Style” and we enjoyed a mild weather stroll down the main drag of boutiques and unique shops. This quaint shopping district won Southern Living Magazine’s “Best Neighborhood to Shop In” nod by the magazine’s readers.

Flower Power Case at Anthill Antiques, Carytow...

Flower Power Case at Anthill Antiques, Carytown, Richmond, VA (Photo credit:

We ate at the Can Can Brasserie a beautifully restored building that made you feel like you’d stepped off the streets of Paris. I kept expecting to see Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec stroll by the table. The atmosphere was delightful, so was the food (I got half a Roast Chicken Salad and a half order of their Roasted Apple & Rutabaga Soup. ) And don’t forget to order a Eloise (their special version of a Shirley Temple.)

But our big find in Richmond, besides the wonderful company, was the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts… which I will talk about tomorrow.

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