The Long Strange Trip of a Blockade Runner

This is the interesting story of a blockade runner with a full c.v. From its christening in Glasgow to its suspicious scuttling outside Oregon, the ship has an interesting history. Some of the war’s inanimate objects have some interesting stories to tell.

Ten days into its new career as a Navy ship, the Gertrude captured the blockade runner Warrior after a nine-hour chase. Then it sank the Ellen the following January, followed the next year by the Eco. The Gertrude’s brush with stardom came when it almost caught the legendary Confederate runner Denbigh, which only managed to get away by pitching $10,000 worth of cotton overboard to lighten the cargo load.

After the war, though, the Gertrude’s glory days were over. Technology had raced ahead in the few years since it was built. What had been the fastest thing in the Gulf of Mexico back in 1863 was now just another aging, slowish, tiny, obsolete freighter.

Now re-named the Gussie Telfair, the old warhorse soldiered on for twenty mundane years making the Portland-Victoria run before finally being sold to Frank Bernard and put to work out of Coos Bay.

And that, of course, led to what was very likely an undignified little bit of dirty work in the line of insurance fraud, and the end of a once-proud warrior that had done a yeoman’s job on both sides in the war of the century.

via – News and information for McMinnville and Yamhill Valley, Oregon – wine country newspaper.

The Nooses

A Florida columnist has been writing articles drawn from an ancestor’s Civil War diaries.  The pieces are too overdramatic for my tastes – shuddering to learn his horse had taken part in Sherman’s March, for instance – but if the details below are to be believed, Charlie Tinker was charged with the disposal of some very unusual items.

“At 12 p.m.,” Charlie recorded, “all was ready and at a special signal from the officer in command, the props were removed and the drops fell, launching all four into eternity with hardly a struggle. The closing scene was horrible, but it was an end of justice fully warranted. I was anxious to see this execution and am satisfied. I never want to witness another.”

It was perhaps Charlie’s obvious seriousness and complete devotion to Lincoln that brought to the 28-year-old an unexpected assignment. For reasons he doesn’t detail, and quite probably didn’t know, Charlie was given the nooses that strangled the co-conspirators and asked to dispose of them.

Imagine that? Perhaps no one in history has ever asked: What happened to the death-rending nooses? Yet, now we know. Charlie Tinker, in his matter-of-fact manner took them home, chopped them into tiny pieces and burned them for kindling in his fireplace.

via Dixie Divas: Charlie Tinker witnessed the execution of Lincolns assassins.

Edmund McIlhenny

I wrote a while back about Milton Bradley, and here’s another neat Civil War connection to modern day mundanity: If Edmund McIlhenny hadn’t been bankrupted by the war, there would be no Tabasco sauce.

The South’s economic collapse after its defeat ruined McIlhenny, who now lived with his in-laws in their plantation home on Avery Island, Louisiana. It was there that McIlhenny tended the family garden, where, according to tradition, he grew a variety of fruits and vegetables, including tabasco peppers.

Between 1866 and 1868, McIlhenny — probably inspired by an earlier sauce introduced by New Orleans-area entrepreneur Maunsel White[citation needed] — experimented with making a sauce from the peppers in the Avery family garden. In 1868 he grew his first commercial pepper crop, and the next year sold the first bottles of his new product, which he called Tabasco brand pepper sauce.

Edmund McIlhenny – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Podcast #11 – “Make Me a Map of the Valley”

A series of technical difficulties could not prevent me from posting this just under the wire on March 26th!

On March 26, 1862, Stonewall Jackson assigned Jedediah Hotchkiss to produce a map of the Shenandoah Valley.  To commemorate this, I’ve created a short biography of Hotchkiss and a look at the importance of cartography during the Civil War.

The podcast can be found here.

Lincoln’s Fiercest Rival & Closest Ally

After a short biography of Lincoln, how about a long biography of Seward?  Worry not – the page to which I’ve linked below is just a 5 minute NPR interview with the biographer, who gives some nice bullet-point answers to the host’s general questions.

Not only does he sort of come to respect Lincoln as a leader, but the two of them become close friends, much to the chagrin of some of Seward’s Cabinet colleagues. The Cabinet would be gathered for a meeting and who would show up but the president and Secretary Seward would walk through the door together sharing a joke, and the others would know that whatever they were about to discuss had more or less had been decided a few minutes earlier by Lincoln and Seward.

via How Lincoln’s Fiercest Rival Became His Close Ally : NPR.

Podcast #6 – Rise With the Occasion

Whew. That was a struggle. First in that condensing info to create a Lincoln podcast is more difficult than researching a long podcast. Second in that my computer decided to erase said podcast instead of converting it to MP3.  There’s nothing better, when you’re already overdue on the project and up past your bedtime, than to have to start over!  That said, it’s Lincoln’s birthday, and there’s a man who both started over many times and didn’t complain about it.  I’ll be doing many more Lincoln-themed podcasts, so with this instalment I tried to examine his early life and how he developed his political and moral philosophies.

To listen to this week’s podcast, visit the February page and click the link to download.

How did you celebrate Abe’s 204th?

Happy Birthday, Abe

OK, OK, his birthday’s actually tomorrow. But if I can stretch a birthday celebration into a birthweek celebration, surely Lincoln deserves it too. I mean, check this out:

The mighty American star system has elevated and demoted thousands of people over the 236 years since the propagandistic arts were first torqued up in the Declaration of Independence. But the supreme champion of the American personality cult has been Abraham Lincoln. Given the hyperbole which frequently attaches to much-admired Americans, there is a temptation to assume that Lincoln could not possibly deserve the stratospheric elevation he has received. But he does.

Ignore the byline on this piece – Conrad Black is the anti-Lincoln, in so many ways – but read it if you don’t have time for Team of Rivals.  (That said, you should really make time for Team of Rivals.)

via How Lincoln Emerged in the Stratosphere of Greatness – The New York Sun.