Brazil’s long, strange love affair with the Confederacy

I knew of the Confederados existence, but I hadn’t had the time to read much into the history of those Confederates who moved (with their slaves) to Brazil after the war. I’m horrified to find out their descendants celebrate the fact. What a strange, lingering aftereffect of the Civil War! This article was quite the eye opener.

As early as the 1860s, Brazil was actively recruiting Southern American plantation owners, part of an immigration policy aimed at attracting Europeans, European-American and other “white” migrants. According to historians Cyrus and James Dawsey, who were born and raised near Confederado communities in São Paulo, Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II also promised cheap land to any American farmer who would come with a plow – a technology Brazil lacked.

Either way, thousands of white southerners made Brazil their new home after the Civil War. In São Paulo state, they established a somewhat closed and culturally homogeneous community that maintained its southern traditions for generations.

Source: Brazil’s long, strange love affair with the Confederacy ignites racial tension

“Camp Followers”

The “camp followers” are an aspect of the war that don’t get a lot of press. Along with women offering different kinds of comfort (ahem), there were wives and – in this case – sometimes children accompanying their loved ones behind the armies. This is a pretty astonishing story!

“She got a notice from the commander of her husband’s troop. They were in Cape Girardeau, and he had fallen ill,” Ellis said. “They wanted her to come down there and nurse him back to health.”

It was unusual, Ellis said, but in those days there was no easy way of transporting soldiers who were sick or injured back home to their families. Sholley left her 3-year-old daughter with her mother, but put her 3-year-old son on the back of a horse with her and rode to Cape Girardeau to nurse her husband back to health.

“She did such a good job that the captain of the outfit asked her if she’d stay on and be a nurse for them,” Ellis said. “This was in the day when you didn’t have to have training to be a nurse, you just did the best you could. And so she did.”

Source: Adair Co. woman served alongside husband in Civil War – News – Devils Lake Journal – Devils Lake, ND – Devils Lake, ND

Veteran Reserve Corps

At our Civil War Round Table last night, we had an excellent presentation about medicine, and the question arose of what happened to troops who were wounded, and what happened to them.  In the North, the “Invalid Corps” gave duties to the lightly injured, and did so with dash – they had their own special uniforms to distinguish them from the regular ranks.

The corps was organized under authority of General Order No. 105, U.S. War Department, dated April 28, 1863. A similar corps had existed in Revolutionary times. The Invalid Corps of the Civil War period was created to make suitable use in a military or semi-military capacity of soldiers who had been rendered unfit for active field service on account of wounds or disease contracted in line of duty, but who were still fit for garrison or other light duty, and were, in the opinion of their commanding officers, meritorious and deserving.


via Veteran Reserve Corps – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Remembering the Columbia Burning

February 17th marks the 150th anniversary of the burning of Columbia, South Carolina, and the town is memorializing the event with a series of lectures. If you live in or can get to Columbia in the next month, there are some interesting topics being covered.  Click the link below for the full list of speakers.

More than 450 buildings in Columbia were destroyed and many residents were left homeless and destitute in February 1865 after Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops marched with vengeance into the city.

The fire that nearly wiped out the city is the focus of two months of lectures, exhibits and tours designed to help current residents determine look back on the nation’s most devastating conflict and gauge its impact even today.

via Diverse experts, events to mark Columbia’s most devastating period | Living | The State.

James Henry Hammond

Here’s another entry in this unintentionally unpleasant theme week.  Jamed Henry Hammond, a real peach of a man, was the originator of two phrases that distilled the fire-eaters’ essence: “King Cotton” and “Mudsill Theory“.  The rest of his biography reads as you’d expect of one who saw the average human being as someone on whom to wipe his feet.

James Henry Hammond – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Hay and Nico in the Library

One last post devoted to my favorite secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, and then I’ll move onto other topics!

The secretaries spent years compiling an official history of the Lincoln administration:

Abraham Lincoln: A History – volume I
Abraham Lincoln: A History – volume II

In addition, John Hay’s diaries provided more details of life in the Executive Mansion – he and Nicolay complained about Mary’s conspiracies and Tad’s bad behaviour, while discussing Lincoln’s ever-changing moods.

The Life and Letters of John Hay – volume I
The Life and Letters of John Hay – volume II

After the war, both became diplomats, and Hay would eventually rise to Lincoln moulded these men, and stayed with them in experience and memory their entire lives.  Just a few weeks before he died in 1905, Hay wrote,

I dreamed last night that I was in Washington and that I went to the White House to report to the President who turned out to be Mr. Lincoln. He was very kind and considerate, and sympathetic about my illness. He said there was little work of importance on hand. He gave me two unimportant letters to answer. I was pleased that this slight order was within my power to obey. I was not in the least surprised at Lincoln’s presence in the White House. But the whole impression of the dream was one of overpowering melancholy.

I’ve added all of these to the Library.

Lincoln’s Men

Speaking of Hay and Nicolay, I finished an excellent book about the secretaries a few months ago: Lincoln’s Men: The President and His Private Secretaries. It’s a delightful look at the boys who ran the White House and kept Lincoln company in the best and worst moments of his Presidency.  It’s thanks to their labor of love history (and Hay’s private diaries) that we have the backstage glimpses of life in the Executive Mansion. Hay and Nicolay’s best-friendship lasted nearly half a century, and they were linked in their love for Lincoln.



Lincoln’s Men: The President and His Private Secretaries: Daniel Mark Epstein: Books.

Hay and Nico, Together at Last

I’m working on a special project for 2014, and went looking for a photo of John Hay and John Nicolay – Lincoln’s secretaries.  There’s one famous photo of them with Lincoln between them, but shockingly, given their half-century friendship, there are none of the BFFs together.  However, one eagle-eyed websurfer has found them together, amongst the crowd in the Second Inaugural photo. They both look solemn and stressed. Thinking, no doubt, of all the paperwork awaiting them back at the office.



Lincoln’s Second Inauguration Photo…Again.

How the “Lincoln” Movie Reconstructed Thaddeus Stevens

I wasn’t much of a fan of Lincoln, but thoroughly enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones in it. His portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens stole the (dull) show, but this article suggests Stevens’ influence in the Amendment talks was nowhere near as great as the film would have us believe.

For the sake of simplicity, the film also makes Thaddeus Stevens the central radical figure organizing the amendment’s passage, even more so than the measure’s sponsor, Ashley.  This is not how many historians characterize Stevens’s role.  He was an important figure, but probably not the central one in securing passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.  Stevens had only four index entries in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (2005), a nearly 800-page book from which the screenplay was adapted.  Stevens plays a somewhat larger role in Michael Vorenberg’s more compact Final Freedom (2001) with seven index entries but even there he is clearly superseded by other figures such as Ashley and Senator Lyman Trumbull (R, IL), who is not even mentioned in the film.  The latest and most comprehensive study of wartime abolition policies –James Oakes’s Freedom National (2012)– contains a mere six index entries for Stevens.

By contrast, Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) has about 45 speaking parts in the Spielberg film, apparently second only to Abraham Lincoln(Scene 17).  He looms large as a counter-weight to the president  –Lincoln’s near opposite in both style and policy.  Their confrontation in the White House kitchen is one of the movie’s most pivotal scenes and also arguably one of its most historically implausible.  Besides the unlikely setting, scriptwriter Tony Kushner seems to be investing many older –and quite hostile– ideas about Stevens into this conversation which contrasts Lincoln’s calculated, pragmatic approach to Stevens’s rigid, ideological worldview.  He actually has Stevens / Jones saying at one point, in defense of his sweeping plans for revolutionizing the South,  ”Ah, shit on the people and what they want and what they are ready for!  I don’t give a goddamn about the people and what they want!  This is the face of someone who has fought long and hard for the good of the people without caring much for any of ‘em.”

via Blog Divided » Post Topic » How the “Lincoln” Movie Reconstructed Thaddeus Stevens.

The Humiston History

Whose Father Was He? (Part Four) - NYTimes.comOn October 19th, I mentioned the anniversary of Whose Father Was He?, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s story about Amos Humiston, whose body was found on the Gettysburg body clutching a photo of his children.  Today is the anniversary of Mrs. Humiston’s response to the Inquirer, and for those interested in reading more about the tragedy of Amos Humiston and his children, I present the five-part history written by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris for the New York Times:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five