There’s a new Grant biography for us all to enjoy. American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant is here reviewed very favourably by the Chicago Tribune. Given the fuss and fury of this year’s election campaign, it might be nice to spend 850 pages immersed in the company of a genuinely nice man. (Though the chapters dealing with corrupt and predatory businessmen might be a jarring reminder of our current situation.)
No presidential biography can avoid serving as a comment on its own time. In this regard, White’s book is an invaluable gift. The Grant he finds is, in every regard, the antithesis of what has come to be viewed as the modern politician — humble, modest, self-made; known as “the quiet man,” he spoke little, but thoughtfully and judiciously (he also wrote his own memoirs, of which Gore Vidal stated, “the author is a man of first-rate intelligence. … His book is a classic.”) He was fair, altruistic, loyal (sometimes to a fault and at his own expense), honest, decent, and deeply honorable. He was magnanimous in victory, concerned for the welfare of his country and his fellow citizens, open-minded, curious about the world and others. He fought against the nascent Ku Klux Klan, and for fair dealing with Native Americans, causing Frederick Douglass to conclude, “To him more than any other man the Negro owes his enfranchisement and the Indian a humane policy. … He was accessible to all men. … The black soldier was welcome in his tent, and the freedman in his house.”
Nat Turner’s skull has been found, and with it comes a series of articles about the history of human body part smuggling and preservation. It’s all a bit gruesome, but particularly when you consider this fact:
Amrita Myers, Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, said the story of Turner’s skull is peculiar because there isn’t historical precedent of African-American body parts being passed down during slavery.
“Black men and women being used in that fashion was a very common phenomenon after the (Civil) War during the rise of lynching, but I’ve been a slavery scholar for the better part of two decades, and I’ve never heard of black men and women body parts under slavery being used for sale or for relics,” Myers said.
Back from another hiatus with an event suggestion. This exhibit combines my twin passions: Civil War history and being in Paris. Turns out, the very modern and engaging ethnology museum is moving away from the phallus-heavy exhibits it usually presents, and hosting a cultural appreciation of African-American culture in the post war era. The show covers 100+ years of black American art, music, and literature. I spent part of the past two years in Paris, and this exhibit is making me wish I could go back!
Not my usual kind of post, but it made me laugh so why not? Someone posted a photo of the would-be Seward assassin on Reddit, and it was suggested the photo could pass for a perfume ad. Lewis Powell missed his calling as completely as he missed Seward’s jugular.
The Civil War Trust adds even more value to their brand with this “4 Minutes” series. They’ve packed a lot of really interesting information into this little video. Well worth 240 seconds of your time!
Some Civil War currency news, albeit of the modern kind! I love the proposed changes to the $10, at least in the description – will reserve judgment on the artwork until that’s available. I also love the delicious irony of replacing one mentally ill historical figure who forced people into slavery, with another mentally ill historical figure who dragged people out of it.
And lost in Hurricane Harriet’s hubbub is news that the $5 bill’s Lincoln Memorial image will be updated to include Marion Anderson and Martin Luther King. If you’ve visited the Memorial lately, you’ll know the emotions the little museum evokes: Images showing the site’s importance as a populist gathering place are very moving, and it’s wonderful that these grand moments are getting an extra moment in history.
Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the 20, while other prominent women appear on the backs of 5s and 10s.
A short video discussing the “suspicious” deaths of 3 of the 4 1840s Presidents. The Civil War link may seem tenuous until you consider that, if you looked beyond just Presidents, Willie Lincoln was likely felled by the same illness. We often think of Washington as stagnant, politically, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was stagnant, literally!
Something odd went on with three of the four United States presidents elected during the 1840s.
The fascinating tale of one poor sap who got caught up in the maelstrom of the Civil War. I’d never heard of Charles Heidsieck before today, but I see there’s both a book and a movie about him. That’s fitting, as my first thought on reading the article was, “man, this is a tale worthy of a movie!”
But seeing the European market saturated by the older Champagne houses, he set his sights on a new sales territory: the U.S. As the first Champagne man to actively promote his bubbles in America in 1852, Charles Heidsieck quickly became a phenomenon, going by “Champagne Charlie.” Huge galas were held in his honor with Champagne flowing freely not only in aristocratic New England, but also in the food-and-wine-loving city of New Orleans.
By the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, he had sold more than 300,000 bottles of Champagne in the U.S. However, the war proved challenging for the collection of debts, and upon his 1861 return to New York, he was told by his sales agent he couldn’t collect debts from the South because of a wartime Act of Congress. In a desperate situation, Charles took a circuitous route around the active war areas through Kansas and down to New Orleans to collect the debt himself.
We are also the home of the Civil War Round Table of Toronto, whose meetings are cordial occasions of presentations and discussions on all aspects of the war. Membership is open to all Civil War buffs. Your interest, not your knowledge, is the key criterion for membership.
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The Belle of the North and the Boy Governor
On November 12, 1863, the Washington socialite Kate Chase married millionaire politician William Sprague. Their fairytale courtship had an unhappy ending.