Friday, May 11, 2012

Civil War Days has moved!

Civil War Days has moved and had a name change! is now located at and has been renamed The Civil War Saga. Make sure to update your bookmarks and come check out the new site!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Paul Revere's Grandsons Fought In the Civil War

Portrait of Paul Revere, circa 1768
Paul Revere had a large family with a total of 51 grandchildren, three of whom, Paul Joseph Revere, Joseph Warren Revere and Edward Hutchinson Revere, served in the Union army during the Civil War.

Paul Joseph Revere served as a colonel in the 20th Massachusetts Regiment along with Edward Hutchinson Revere who was an assistant army surgeon. Joseph Warren Revere served as a Brigadier General in the New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.

Both Paul and Edward were captured by Confederate troops during the Battle at Ball's Bluff in Virginia in October of 1861. According to the book “Massachusetts in the War” Paul spent time in the infamous Libby prison in Richmond before being exchanged for several Confederate pirates:

In the Battle of Ball's Bluff, October 21 1861, he was wounded in the leg and made prisoner, being confined first at Libby prison and afterward being one of seven Federal officers made hostages for the lives of Confederate privateersmen held by the United States government on the charge of piracy. For three months he was with his fellow hostages confined in a wretched cell of Henrico county jail. He was paroled on 22 of February, 1862, and being exchanged May 2 rejoined his regiment before Yorktown.”

According to the book “Harvard Memorial Biographies” Edward was held at a Confederate prison in Leesburg and then in Richmond. The prison is not named but the author states it was a former tobacco warehouse. Libby prison was, in fact, a former tobacco warehouse but so was another Richmond Confederate prison, Castle Thunder. These warehouses were located along Tobacco Row near the James River.

After his brother Paul was taken as a hostage from the prison and moved to Henrico, Edward wrote a letter home informing his family of the news. The context of the letter further suggests Edward was at Libby prison with Paul but, again, the prison is not named:

“Paul and the other officers left us last Thursday for the jail, to await the trial of the privateersmen. There were seven in all from here, the rest of the fourteen being either in South Carolina or New Orleans. They are confined in one small cell, with two small windows. I hear from them everyday, but am not allowed to see them. You can imagine our anxiety to hear what action the government will take when they hear of their imprisonment, for there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that whatever is done to the privateersmen will be meted out to our unfortunate comrades.”

Edward was paroled on February 22, the same day as Paul, and went home to await his official exchange, which occurred in April.

After their release, Paul and Edward served in the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862. During the battle, Edward was shot and killed while caring for a wounded soldier and Paul was wounded again. Fortunately, Paul made another full recovery and went back to war.

Paul's luck ran out in July of 1863 when he led his troops in the famous Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and was wounded on the second day of the battle. Paul passed away just two days later. After his death, he was posthumously promoted to Brigadier General.

Joseph was the only grandson to survive the Civil War, but he had his fair share of bad fortune as well. At the Battle of Chancellorsville in the spring of 1863, Joseph withdrew his troops from battle without orders to do so, resulting in a court martial. Sentenced to be dismissed from the army, President Abraham Lincoln allowed him to resign instead.
Paul Joseph Revere

Joseph Warren Revere

"Harvard Memorial Biographies”; Edited by Thomas Wentworth Higginson; 1867

Appleton's Cyclop√¶dia of American biography, Volume 5” edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske; 1915

Massachusetts in the War, 1861-1865”; James Lorenzo Bowen; 1888

The Cyclopedia of American Biography V6”; John Howard Brown; 1903

Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield”; Thomas H. O'Connor; 1997

Best Little Stories from the Civil War”; C. Brian Kelly; 1994

CNN: Seven Civil War Stories Your Teacher Never Told You:

The Life of Colonel Paul Revere, Volume 1”; Elbridge Henry Goss; 1906

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Was Related to Paul Revere

Abraham Lincoln in 1862
Although born and raised at different times and in different places, Abraham Lincoln was related to Paul Revere through three marriages in his family.

Abraham Lincoln's father, Thomas Lincoln, had two cousins in Boston during the late 1700s named Amos and Jedediah Lincoln. Like himself, both cousins were carpenters, although they were much more successful at their trade.

After Amos Lincoln participated in the Boston Tea Party when he was 20 years old and served as a Lieutenant Colonel during the Revolutionary War, he married Paul Revere's eldest daughter Deborah in 1781. They had nine children together before she passed away in January of 1797. After Deborah's death, Paul Revere took in their youngest child, Frederick Walker Lincoln, and raised him himself. Later that year, in May, Amos Lincoln married Deborah's younger sister, Elizabeth, and had five more children. The first of those children, Mary Lincoln, was born in December of 1797, just seven months after the couple's wedding, which suggests the baby was conceived before they were married.
Portrait of Paul Revere in 1813

Jedediah Lincoln was also a Revolutionary War soldier. After Jedediah's first wife, Betsey Edwards, died in 1796, he married Paul Revere's daughter, Mary, and they had seven children together. The family lived near Paul Revere in Boston's North End Square.

Both Amos and Jedediah Lincoln are buried at Copp's Hill Burying Ground in the North End of Boston.

Since Abraham Lincoln and Paul Revere's lives overlapped by nine years, Lincoln was nine years old when Revere died in 1818, it is very possible that Lincoln knew of his family connection to the famous Paul Revere.


"Paul Revere and the World He Lived In”; Esther Hoskins Forbes; 1942

The Paul Revere House: Paul Revere's Ancestry:

"Paul Revere's Ride”; David Hackett Fischer

Ben L. Edwards: The Colonial Edwards Family:

Boston Tea Party Historical Society: Amos Lincoln: 12 Things You May Not Know About Paul Revere:

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Glowing Wounds of the Battle of Shiloh

After the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862 in Tennessee, over 16,000 wounded soldiers lay in the rain and cold mud for over two days as overwhelmed doctors and nurses struggled to locate and treat the soldiers. Some of these wounded soldiers later reported that as they lay on the ground awaiting help, their wounds started to glow in the dark.

Chromolithograph of the Battle of Shiloh, circa 1888
At the time, the reason for the glow was a mystery but doctor's did note that the wounds that glowed healed faster than those that didn't. The mystery remained unsolved until 2001, when two teenagers finally uncovered the source of the glow.

After the two teens, Billy Martin and John Curtis from Maryland, conducted a variety of scientific experiments, they discovered that the wounded soldiers became hypothermic as they lay in the mud. This lower body temperature allowed for the growth of a bioluminescent bacterium called Photorhabadus luminescens, which inhibits pathogens, to develop in the wound. This bacterium not only caused the wounds to glow but also prevented them from became gangrenous, which saved the lives and limbs of many soldiers.

Although it was common for wounded soldiers to lay on the battlefield for days after the battle's end, glowing wounds were not a widespread phenomenon of the Civil War. The glowing wounds of the Battle of Shiloh are mostly due to the wet, cold and muddy conditions of that April battle as well as the fact that this glowing bacterium is known to attach itself to a certain type of flatworm, called planaria, which is commonly found in the Shiloh area. Since worms only come to the surface when it is wet, there was an abundance of the worms moving throughout the mud during and after the rainy battle.

The discovery won Martin and Curtis the top prize at the Siemens International Science Fair Competition. Curtis later went on to pursue a career in science and Martin pursued a degree in American history, specializing in the American Civil War.


Los Angeles Times; Glowing Wounds and the Civil War; Rosie Mestel; July 2 2001

"Helping Boys Succeed in School: a Practical Guide for Parents and Teachers”; Terry W. Neu, Rich Weinfeld;

Science Netlinks: Glowing Wounds:

Smithsonian Magazine; Civil War: 8 Strange and Obscure Facts You Didn't Know; November 15 2010:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Conjoined Twin Eng Bunker Drafted During the Civil War

Chang and Eng Bunker
Chang and Eng Bunker
In 1865, conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker were living in North Carolina when Eng was suddenly drafted to fight in the Civil War.

The Thailand natives were living in Traphill, North Carolina as naturalized citizens when the Union army raided the area and drafted some of the locals to join their army, despite the fact that many of them, including the Bunker brothers, were Confederate supporters.

Union General George Stoneman put the names of all men over 18 years of age into a lottery wheel and selected names at random. Eng's name was drawn but Chang's wasn't. Since the conjoined twins could not be separated by surgery because their livers were fused, there wasn't much that Stoneman could do. Neither brother ended up fighting in the war although both of their eldest sons, Christopher Wren Bunker and Stephen Bunker, joined and fought for the Confederacy. Both Christopher and Stephen survived the war but Christopher was captured and spent nearly a year as a prisoner of war at Camp Chase in Ohio in August of 1864.


"Touring the Carolinas' Civil War Sites"; Clint Johnson; 2011

Smithsonian Magazine; The Civil War: 8 Strange and Obscure Facts You Didn't Know; November 15, 2011:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stonewall Jackson's Account of John Brown's Execution

Hanging of John Brown
Stonewall Jackson was a professor at the Virginia Military Institute in December of 1859 when he was ordered, along with his cadets, to provide security at John Brown's execution in Charlestown, Virginia. John Brown had recently been condemned to death after his failed raid in October on Harper's Ferry in Virginia. After rumors began to swirl that some of Brown's supporters were planning to rescue Brown at the execution, Virginia Governor, Henry A. Wise, ordered 1,500 soldiers to Charlestown to make sure the execution took place.

Also present at the execution was actor and future presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Booth was in Virginia rehearsing for a play when he spontaneously volunteered to serve as backup in the local volunteer militia the Richmond Grays, who were also on hand to thwart any rescue attempts from Brown's supporters.

Stonewall Jackson, who was then known as Professor Thomas J. Jackson as he didn't earn his famous nickname until the first Battle of Bull Run in 1863, wrote a letter to his wife Mary Anna Jackson on the day of the execution, detailing the event. In the letter, Jackson said Brown behaved with “unflinching firmness” and hoped that Brown would be forgiven for his actions and allowed to enter heaven:

Stonewall Jackson
December 2. John Brown was hung today at about 11 1/2 A.M. He behaved with unflinching firmness. The arrangements were well made under the direction of Col. Smith. Brown's wife visited him last evening. The body is to be delivered to her. The gibbet was south east of the town in a large field. Brown rode on the head of his coffin, from his prison to the place of execution. The coffin was of black walnut, enclosed in a poplar box of the same shape as the coffin.

He was dressed in carpet slippers of predominating red, white socks, blacks pants, black frock coat, black vest & black slouch hat. Nothing around his neck beside his shirt collar. The open wagon in which he rode was strongly guarded on all sides. Capt. Williams, formerly one of the assistants of the Institute, marched immediately in front of the wagon. The jailer and high sheriff and several others rode in the wagon with the prisoner.

Brown had his arms tied behind him, & ascended the scaffold with apparent cheerfulness. After reaching the top of the platform, he shook hands with several who were standing around him. The sheriff placed the rope around his neck, then threw a white cap over his head & asked him if he wished a signal when all should be ready---to which he replied that it made no difference, provided he was not kept waiting too long.

In this condition he stood on the trap door, which was supported on one side by hinges, and on the other (south side) by a rope, for about 10 minutes, when Col. S. told the Sheriff "all is ready," which apparently was not comprehended by the Sheriff, and the Col. had to repeat the order, when the rope was cut by a single blow, and Brown fell through about 25 inches, so as to bring his knees on a level with the position occupied by his feet before the rope was cut. With the fall his arms below the elbow flew up, hands clenched, & his arms gradually fell by spasmodic motions---there was very little motion of his person for several minutes, after which the wind blew his lifeless body to & fro.

His face, upon the scaffold, was turned a little east of south, and in front of him were the cadets commanded by Major Gilham. My command was still in front of the cadets, all facing south. One howitzer I assigned to Mr. Truheart on the left of the cadets, and with the other I remained on the right. Other troops occupied different positions around the scaffold, and altogether it was an imposing but very solemn scene.

I was much impressed with the thought that before me stood a man, in the full vigor of health, who must in a few minutes be in eternity. I sent up a petition that he might be saved. Awful was the thought that he might in a few minutes receive the sentence "Depart ye wicked into everlasting fire." I hope that he was prepared to die, but I am very doubtful--he wouldn't have a minister with him.

His body was taken back to the jail, and at 6 p.m. was sent to his wife at Harper's Ferry. When it reached Harper's Ferry the coffin was opened and his wife saw the body---the coffin was again opened at the depot, before leaving for Baltimore, lest there should be an imposition. We leave for home via Richmond tomorrow.”


Virginia Military Institute: Cadets at the Execution of John Brown Documents, November 1859 – January 1860

Virginia Military Institute: The Execution of John Brown Stonewall Jackson Eyewitness Account

PBS: The Hanging

"Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson”; Mary Anna Jackson; 1895

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stonewall Jackson's Strange Habit

Painting of Stonewall Jackson's famous gesture
General Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson is a Confederate icon and considered by many to be one of the best Confederate commanders of the Civil War. According to various sources, Stonewall Jackson had a number of strange habits, one of them being that he often walked around with his hand in the air to balance the blood in his body.

According to the book “Thomas Francis Meagher and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War,” Stonewall Jackson believed one side of his body was heavier than the other. To balance the weight of his body, he would often walk around or ride his horse with his hand in the air so the blood would flow from one side of his body to the other. He believed this tactic “lightened” his arm and improved his balance.

Modern physicians suggest Jackson's feeling of unbalance may have been the result of a diaphragmatic hernia, which also gave him stomach problems and caused him discomfort while sitting.

Incidentally, Stonewall Jackson received a bullet or shrapnel wound in his hand as a result of holding it up in the air during the first battle of Bull Run. The wound was not deadly but a surgeon recommended amputating one of his damaged fingers. Fortunately, the wound healed without any need for amputation.

Stonewall Jackson later had his left arm amputated after he was shot multiple times by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863. His arm was buried near Chancellorsville with a marker that read "Arm of Stonewall Jackson." Jackson survived the wounds and the amputation but died from pneumonia a week later. His body was buried in a plot at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Va before being reburied under a monument in the cemetery.
Marker for Stonewall Jackson's arm
Stonewall Jackson's first grave in Lexington

"How the North Won: a Military History of the Civil War”; Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones; 1983

"Thomas Francis Meagher and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War”; Daniel M. Callaghan; 2006 

National Parks Traveler: Where Is Stonewall Jackson's Arm Buried?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Abraham Lincoln's Disastrous Dinner Party with Prince Napoleon

Prince Napoleon in 1860
After an awkward first meeting at the White House on August 3, 1861, Abraham Lincoln invited Prince Napoleon to a dinner party at the White House later that evening.

Napoleon accepted and Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, threw herself into party preparations. As a fan of French fashion, Mary Todd was ecstatic about the opportunity to impress the French nobleman and spared no expense on the event. She personally selected the menu, flowers and even the vegetables from the White House garden.

Yet, despite her best efforts, she also stumbled in her attempt to gain the favor of the prince. The night started off badly when the Marine band played the French national anthem “La Marseillaise ” upon Napoleon's arrival. As this song was written after the French Revolution for the newly formed French Republic, which the prince's uncle, Napoleon I, then overthrew during his coup de'tat in 1804, and the song was banned by the prince's cousin Napoleon III for a period of time during his own rule, it was more than inappropriate. During the dinner, renowned Union General, Winfield Scott, continued to alienate the prince when he bragged that his own military career could be compared to that of Napoleon I.

Abraham Lincoln 1861
Despite the gaffes, the prince did not let on that anything displeased him and politely ate his dinner and talked with the other guests before he gave his farewells at the end of the evening.

It wasn't until 50 years later when a French magazine published excerpts from Prince Napoleon's diary that his true feelings were revealed. Describing his hostess for the evening, Napoleon wrote:

Mrs. Lincoln was dressed in the French mode without any taste; she has the manner of a petit bourgeois and wears tin jewelry.” He also described the meal that evening as “a bad dinner in the French style.”

Napoleon was not kind to Abraham Lincoln either, describing him as:

“badly put together, in a black suit,” with “the appearance of a bootmaker. What a difference between this sad representative of the great republic and her founding fathers!” yet also stated he was “a good man, but one without greatness nor very much knowledge.”

Mary Todd Lincoln
Napoleon's Lieutenant Colonel, Camille Ferri Pisani, had much kinder words for the Confederates, whom he met after leaving Washington the next day and heading south to inspect their army. After a meeting with Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, Pisani praised Beauregard in a letter to a friend:

“He is very brave. Everything in him points to a remarkable military aptitude, if not to superior intelligence.”

Obviously enamored with the Confederates, he also praised the Confederate cavalrymen:

“Their beautiful male Virginian faces, their magnificent mounts and the boldness of their riding technique make it impossible not to admire these ragged riders.”

Yet, despite Napoleon's uncomfortable experiences at the White house, the French diplomat's bias for the Confederates and France's business connections to the southern cotton industry, which France relied on heavily for a steady supply of cotton, France never sided with either the Union or the Confederates and officially remained neutral throughout the entire war.


American Heritage; The Tour of Prince Napoleon; 1957; Volume 8; Issue 5

New York Times; a Peevish Prince, a Hairy-Handed President, a Disastrous Dinner Party; Adam Goodheart; August 2011

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When Abraham Lincoln met Prince Napoleon

Portrait of Prince Napoleon, circa 1860
In July of 1861, Prince Napoleon, nephew of the infamous Napoleon I, embarked on a two-month private tour of the United States during which he met Abraham Lincoln and also attended a disastrous dinner party at the White House on August 3rd.

As France was still undecided about which side it would support, if any at all, in the Civil War, it was crucial for Lincoln to charm Napoleon and persuade him to support the Union.

Napoleon's first impression of Lincoln got off to a bad start when Napoleon arrived on the doorstep of the White House with his acquaintances and found no one to greet him or even open the door. After a passing clerk happened to notice the prince standing on the steps, he let him in but left him waiting unattended in the drawing room. Finally, after 15 minutes, Secretary of State William H. Seward came in to greet the prince.

In a letter written a few days after, Lieutenant Colonel Camille Ferri Pisani, who accompanied Napoleon to the White House that day, noted that although he thought the White House “is a rather nice palace, located in the most secluded section of Washington and surrounded by a beautiful garden” he was unimpressed with the furnishings inside:

“The drawing room we entered was magnificent; the furniture, though extremely rich, was in rather poor taste. We had been waiting for fifteen minutes, and I expected a sudden departure on account of the growing impatience of the Prince, when we saw a small man with a straw hat and a grey overcoat enter the room. He did not wear a tie, or rather his tie was so narrow that it does not deserve to be mentioned. With a lively step, he approached Baron Mercier, who shook his hand and then introduced Mr. Seward, Minister of State of the Republic of the United States.”

A few minutes later, Lincoln finally entered the room and greeted his guests. Pisani described Lincoln as a “giant” but said his attitude and manners were that of a shy, modest man while his facial expression expressed “benevolence and frankness.”

The meeting did not go well, as the prince was still irritated about being made to wait and Lincoln was reserved and shy around his new guests, as Pisani states in his letter:

“Our meeting was not so gay. The President shook our hands, after shaking the Prince’s. I feared, for a moment, that the interview would end with this silent demonstration. Mr. Lincoln gained a few more minutes by asking the Prince to sit down and by sitting himself, the whole affair being done amidst a great movement of chairs. But, once these new positions were acquired, the two parties sat opposite each other silently, without troubling to go any further. The Prince, impatient because he had to wait, took a cruel pleasure in remaining silent.”

Abraham Lincoln in 1861
To make matters worse, Lincoln asked Napoleon about the health of his father, Prince Lucien, not realizing that he was actually the son of Jerome Napoleon, not Lucien. The conversation then turned awkwardly to the weather while Napoleon remained distant and cold towards Lincoln.

Hoping to wrap the awkward meeting up, Lincoln thanked the prince for visiting him and invited him to a dinner party at the White House that evening. After another long exchange of handshakes, Napoleon and his party set off to see the rest of the city, relieved that the meeting was over, as Pisani wrote in his letter:

“Everyone retired, glad to have completed the official presentation, for these customs are generally boring, and their annoyance is only compensated by the hope for the more intimate and interesting relationships of which they are the necessary prelude.”


American Heritage; The Tour of Prince Napoleon; 1957; Volume 8; Issue 5

New York Times; a Peevish Prince, a Hairy-Handed President, a Disastrous Dinner Party; Adam Goodheart; August 2011

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Harriet Tubman Didn't Like Abraham Lincoln

Harriet Tubman in 1870
During an interview with a writer named Rose Belle Holt in 1886, Harriet Tubman stated that she did not like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and only learned to appreciate him after her friend Sojourner Truth told her Lincoln was not the enemy but a friend to African-Americans.

The statement came after Holt asked Tubman if she ever visited Lincoln at the White House: “No, I'm sorry now, but I didn't like Lincoln in them days. I used to go see Missus Lincoln, but I never wanted to see him. You see we colored people didn't understand then [that] he was our friend. All we knew was that the first colored troops sent south from Massachusetts only got seven dollars a month, while the white regiment got fifteen. We didn't like that. But now I know all about it and I is sorry I didn't go see Master Lincoln.”

Tubman said she eventually changed her mind after Sojourner Truth told her Lincoln was “our friend” and had gone to the White House in October of 1864 to thank Lincoln for signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Sojourner Truth told her that Lincoln appreciated the visit but felt he only did what any president would have done in his shoes.

For the rest of her life, Tubman regretted not meeting Lincoln and thanking him for ending slavery. One of her close friends, Helen Tatlock, said during an interview with Earl Conrad in the 1939: “I remember very clearly Harriet saying, and repeating, very often, that she did now know Lincoln. It was a deep sorrow and regret of her later years. She never recovered from that in any way.”

"Visits with Lincoln: Abolitionists Meet the President at the White House”; Barbara White; 2011

 "Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories”; Jean McMahon Humez; 2003

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Harriet Tubman Assaulted by a Racist Train Conductor

Harriet Tubman during the Civil War
When Harriet Tubman was working as a nurse during the Civil War, she was assaulted one day in October of 1865 by a train conductor on the Camden & South Amboy railroad while on her way back from the military hospital at Fort Monroe in Virginia.

As she was instructed to do by the military, Tubman had used her nurse's pass to purchase a half-fare ticket from Philadelphia to her home in Auburn, New York. Having missed her original train, she boarded a late-night emigrant train bound for Auburn.

After handing the conductor her ticket, he responded with “We don't carry ni**ers half fare.” Tubman explained that she worked for the government and was entitled to the same half-fare tickets the soldiers received. Refusing to listen, the conductor grabbed her by the arm and called three male passengers to assist him in removing her from the car.

While the passengers shouted “Pitch the ni**er out,” the men opened up the door and threw her violently into the baggage car, injuring her shoulder and arm and several of her ribs in the process.

Harriet Tubman in 1870
According to a letter written by her friend, Martha Coffin Wright, Tubman shouted at the conductor "I'll thank you to call me a 'black' or Negro, you copperheaded scoundrel. I am just as proud of being a black woman as you are of being white.”

Upon arriving in Auburn, a young man stopped Tubman while she was leaving the train, handed her his card and offered to be her witness if she decided to sue the conductor.

Tubman sought out a doctor, who placed her arm in a sling and set her shoulder. Her injuries took months to heal and she spent most of the winter recovering.

Tubman's friends were outraged by her treatment and explored the possibility of suing the conductor. When her friends realized that the young man who offered to serve as a witness did not have any contact information on his card, they placed advertisements in local newspapers but never heard from him.

With no white witness to support her, Tubman knew that as a black woman she would have no case against a white man and reluctantly decided to let the matter go.


"Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History”; Milton C. Sernett; 2007 

"Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories”; Jean McMahon Humez; 2003

"Harriet Tubman: A Biography"; James A. McGowan, William Kashatus; 2011

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Smallpox

When Abraham Lincoln delivered the historic Gettysburg Address in November of 1863, little did the public know he was ill with a deadly form of smallpox. 
Abe Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address
His symptoms first began during his train ride to Gettysburg on November 18, when Lincoln reportedly told his private secretary, John Hay, that he felt dizzy and weak.

Looking pale and still feeling sick, Lincoln pressed on and successfully delivered his famous speech without a hitch. On the train ride home, his symptoms worsened and he began to complain of a severe headache.

Back at the White House, Lincoln soon developed back pains, high fever and a widespread rash that eventually morphed into itchy lesions. According to the autobiography of surgeon J.M.T. Finney, after losing a large amount of weight and feeling unwell for weeks, a doctor finally diagnosed his illness as a mild form of smallpox that later came to be known as Variola minor.

Only known photo of Abe Lincoln at Gettysburg
Yet, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Medical Biography suggests that Lincoln could not have had Variola minor, and instead had the life-threatening form of smallpox known as Variola major. According to the study, Variola minor didn't even appear in the U.S. until the end of the 19th century and was unknown in the U.S. at the time of Lincoln's diagnosis. The study suggests that Lincoln’s doctor may have tried to downplay the serious of his illness to prevent panic among the public.

It is unknown how Lincoln may have contracted smallpox, but it was a widespread and highly contagious disease at the time. Despite the fact that smallpox vaccines were commonly used to prevent contracting the disease, there is no evidence that Lincoln was ever vaccinated against it.

After feeling ill for three weeks, Lincoln eventually made a full recovery and resumed his presidential duties.


"A Surgeon's Life: The Autobiography of J. M. T. Finney"; J. M. T. Finney

MSNBC: Did Abe Lincoln Have Smallpox?:

Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Illness:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Romantic Rivals: John Wilkes Booth and Robert Todd Lincoln

Robert Todd Lincoln
A series of events have linked John Wilkes Booth's family with Abraham Lincoln's family over the years. Not only did John's brother, Edwin Booth, save the life of Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, shortly before John assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865, but Robert and John also competed for the affection of a senator's daughter named Lucy Hale.

In 1862, around the same time Lucy Hale, daughter of U.S. Senator John Parker Hale of New Hampshire, met Robert Todd Lincoln, then a college student in Boston, she also met John Wilkes Booth, then a famous theater actor who was performing at the Boston museum.

Although Hale and Lincoln's relationship never became romantic, Lincoln reportedly had feelings for her. Coincidentally, so did Booth.

John Wilkes Booth
Shortly after their first meeting, Booth sent Hale a letter on Valentine's Day telling her “You resemble in a most remarkable degree a lady, very dear to me, now dead and your close resemblance to her surprised me the first time I saw you.” Their relationship progressed quietly, although a few select members of the Booth family knew about it, and they were secretly engaged a few years later.

Although Booth was an outspoken supporter of the Confederacy, Hale knew nothing of his plans to harm the president and the assassination came as a major shock.When Booth was killed in a stand off two weeks after the assassination, police discovered several photos of young women in Booth's pocket, including a photo of Lucy Hale.

In 1878, a Chicago newspaper discovered that Booth and Lincoln were once romantic rivals for Lucy Hale's affection and published an article suggesting this rivalry was “a new motive for Booth's action in regard to President Lincoln.” The paper later printed a denial of the story by Robert Todd Lincoln and an explanation that although he was friends with Lucy, their friendship never progressed further than that.

Lucy Hale eventually married U.S. Senator William E. Chandler and Robert Todd Lincoln married Mary Eunice Harlan.
Photo of Lucy Hale that was found on Booth's body

American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies; Michael W. Kauffman; 2005

American Heritage; They All Loved Lucy; Richard Morcom; October 1970

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Civil War Submarine H.L. Hunley Unveiled

Recovery of the H.L. Hunley in 2000
The Confederate Civil War submarine, the H.L. Hunley was completely unveiled for the first time earlier this month after a decade of repairs and restoration work on the vessel.

First raised from the ocean floor near Charleston, South Carolina in 2000, the 42 foot long submarine has been partially obscured from the public eye while undergoing its 22-million-dollar restoration at Charleston conservation laboratory at the Charleston Navy Yard.

Launched in 1863 off the coast of Charleston, the Hunley sank enemy ships during the Civil War by ramming spikes tethered to explosive charges into ship's hulls.

Designed by Horace Hunley and built in Mobile, Alabama, the Hunley is made from cast iron and wrought iron and maneuvered through the water with hand-crank propellers.

Although highly effective at destroying enemy ships, the Hunley sank at least three times during its military career, killing a total of 13 crew members, including its inventor Horace Hunley.

Drawing of the H.L. Hunley
It first sank in August of 1863 during a training exercise, killing five members of the crew. It sank a second time a few months later in October, this time killing all eight members of the crew, including Horace Hunley himself, who was steering the submarine.

After each sinking, the Confederates hauled the submarine back up to the surface, removed the bodies and planned the Hunley's next attack.

According to a recent article by Reuters, historical documents describe workers cutting bodies into pieces to remove them from the sunken submarine.

The Hunley sank for the last time shortly after it destroyed the Union ship, the Housatonic, with a 135 pound torpedo in February of 1864. It is not known exactly what caused the submarine to sink, although one theory suggests that it was rammed by the Union ship USS Canadaigua, which was on its way to rescue the Housatonic's crew. Another theory suggests the submarine did not get far enough away from the Housatonic before the charge detonated and may have sustained damage in the blast. Yet another theory suggests the crew ran out of oxygen and suffocated after attaching the explosives.

Painting of the H.L. Hunley by Chapman, circa 1863
After sinking, the Hunley remained lost until 1970. When it was finally raised in 2000, scientists had to remove 10 tons of sediment as well as skulls, bones and other human remains from the vessel.

Although innovative, the Hunley was not the world's first submarine. That title is held by the Turtle, which was a wooden-hulled submarine used in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War. Nonetheless, the Hunley was the first submarine designed for the open ocean and built specifically for warfare.

Restoration work will continue on the submarine as scientists attempt to remove corrosion from the submarine's hull and preserve its outer skin. Although it is currently on display in a tank of fresh water to prevent rust, it will eventually be displayed in open air.


Friends of the Hunley

Reuters; Complete Civil War Submarine Unveiled for First Time; January 12 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Edwin Booth Saved Robert Todd Lincoln's Life

Robert Todd Lincoln
In a strange twist of fate, Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth, once saved the life of Abraham Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln.

In late 1864 or early 1865, Lincoln was waiting to buy a train ticket in Jersey City, New Jersey when he was accidentally pushed off the railway platform into the path of an oncoming train. He later described the incident in a letter to the editor of The Century Magazine:

The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.
Edwin Booth

Edwin, a famous theater actor at the time, had no idea the man he saved was the president's son. A few months after the incident occurred, Robert Todd, who was serving in the Union army at the time, told his fellow officer Colonel Adam Badeau about how Booth had saved his life. Badeau happened to be friends with Booth and wrote him a letter praising his heroic behavior and thanking him for rescuing the president's son.

A few months later, when Edwin's brother assassinated Robert's father, Abraham Lincoln, Edwin took comfort in the fact that, despite what his brother did, he himself had saved the president's only living son.


Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever”; Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard

The Aftermath: The Booth Family & Lincoln's Assassination

John Wilkes Booth
In the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, police officials swarmed the immediate family of John Wilkes Booth. Although he had no children or wife of his own, Booth was from a large family of famous theater actors in Maryland. After the murder, the War Department believed the assassination was a part of a national conspiracy and they were determined to uncover everyone involved.

According to the book “Manhunt: the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer,” Booth's sister Asia had a manifesto written by John Wilkes Booth describing his early plan to kidnap the president. Asia claimed she never read the manifesto, which was written on a letter and enclosed in an envelope, until after the assassination. When her husband, John Sleeper Clarke, tried to protect himself from being implicated in the crime by showing the manifesto to a U.S. Marshall and allowing it to be published in the newspaper, it caught the attention of the police. Asia later described how detectives ransacked her home: “This unfortunate publication, so useless now when the scheme had failed - and it led to no fresh discoveries - brought a host of miseries, for it not only served food to newsmonger and enemies, but it directed a free band of male and female detectives to our house...My house, which was an extensive (mysteriously built, it was now called) old mansion, was searched; then, without warning, surprised by a full body of police, surrounded, and searched again. We were under hourly surveillance from outside...our letters were few, but they were opened, and no trouble taken to conceal that they had been read first.”

Detectives confiscated any personal belongings connected to John Wilkes, including photographs and family albums, Asia explained: “Everything that bore his name was given up, even the little picture of himself, hung over my babies' beds in the nursery. He had placed it there himself saying, “Remember me, babies, in your prayers.”

Edwin Booth
Police arrested Asia and her husband, believing that the possession of the manifesto implicated them in the crime. When police then discovered numerous letters between John Wilkes and his eldest brother Junius Booth Jr., he was also arrested. Clarke and Junius Booth Jr. were imprisoned for months, along with John Wilkes friend John T. Ford and his agent Matthew Canning, in Washington's Old Capital Prison. The other family members, including his brother Edwin Booth and Asia, who was pregnant at the time, were placed under house arrest, where they received piles of hate mail and death threats, according to the book “My Thoughts Be Bloody.”

Edwin responded to the hate mail by placing an ad that summer in newspapers throughout New York, Philadelphia and Boston that read: “It has pleased God to lay at the door of my afflicted family the lifeblood of our great, good, and martyred President. Prostrated to the very earth by this dreadful event, I am yet but too sensible that other mourners fill the land. To them, to you, one and all, go forth our deep, unutterable sympathy; our abhorrence and detestation for this most foul and atrocious of crimes. For my mother and sisters, for my remaining brothers and my own poor self, there is nothing to be said except that we are thus placed without any power of our own. For our present position we are not responsible. For the future – alas, I shall struggle on in my retirement bearing a heavy heart, an oppressed memory; and a wounded name.

Asia Booth Clarke
After Clarke was released from prison, he was embarrassed by his connection the Booth family and demanded a divorce, but Asia refused. In an attempt to redeem the family name and rebuke the many rumors and lies surrounding them, Asia wrote many biographies about her family, including her brother John Wilkes. Asia and her husband later moved to England, never to return to the United States.

Even after the house arrest order was lifted, most of the family were ashamed and remained in seclusion. Edwin eventually returned to the stage and resumed his acting career, receiving rave reviews for his performances, although he never mentioned Abraham Lincoln's name again and avoided Washington D.C. for the rest of his life.


Good Brother, Bad Brother: the Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth”; James Giblin

Right Or Wrong, God Judge Me: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth”; John Wilkes Booth

My Thoughts Be Bloody: the Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes”;Nora Titone, Doris Kearns Goodwin

“Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer”; James L. Swanson; 2007