The Richmond History Podcast

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Introducing the History Replays Today Podcast

History Replays Today is very excited to announce the History Replays Today Podcast!  It is 1/2 to 1 hour interviews with historians, author, and Richmond residents that have experienced or been involved in interesting moments in Richmond History. The interviews will be posted on the 1st &15th of every month.  I have already posted a snippet with an interview with Harry Kollatz and will post the full interview on July 1.

I have been having some technical difficulties posting the media files to Blogger so I have started  I will continue posting here on as well, but in the future may switch to the .org address.  I will let you know about that as it happens.

Please subscribe to the podcast to get all the information and updates on guests and upcoming episodes.    While you can subscribe through iTunes or any other podcast platform, it is not in the iTunes listings yet.  To subscribe History Replays Today Podcast, go to this page click on the little orange symbol on the right side that looks like this:

Let me know if there are any problems as I am figuring this out as I go.  If you want to suggest a guest or have any comments or questions, comment below or on Facebook or Twitter @historyreplays

Friday, April 26, 2013

History of the USA in the Number of Living Presidents

After seeing the 5 living Presidents at The George W Bush Presidential Library, I got to thinking, is 4 a lot?  It is a lot to be in the same place at the same time, but it’s only the upper average to be alive at one time.  Seems about 2-4 is pretty standard.

Of course George Washington was the only one alive until John Adams, but 3 years into Adams term he became the only one when the original George W died in 1799.

After George's death there wasn't another Presidential death until July 4, 1826, but it was a doozy, when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day.  But on July 3, 1826 Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were all alive during the first year and a half John Quincy Adams' term making 5 living Presidents. 

While Jackson was in the White House the number was at 4 until Madison and Monroe died in 1836 and 1831 respectively leaving only 2.

Andrew Jackson, 1845
For about a month in 1841 there were 4 again, but William Henry Harrison became the first president to died in office shortly after his inauguration, but his Vice President John Tyler finished his term becoming the first President to never be elected president making it 3 elected Presidents and 4 total.

James K. Polk was President while 5 presidents were alive from his inauguration on April 4, 1845 until Andrew Jackson died on June, 8 1845.   When Zachary Taylor took office in 1849 it was back to 4 until Polk died 4 years and a week after his protégé, Jackson, leaving only 3 living presidents.

During the Civil War the living President total hit its height of 6 until 1862, when both John Tyler and Martin Van Buren died.  Tyler, the only southerner of the 6, sided with the Confederacy, even serving in the Confederate Legislature.

After 1862 the number of living Presidents fluctuated between 3 and 4 (except during Grover Cleveland’s term when Chester Arthur was the only other and Franklin Roosevelt's term when Herbert Hoover was the only other) until the 1990's when Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H W Bush, lived in to the Clinton Administration making 6 again.  Nixon died in 1994, but when George W Bush was inaugurated the number went back to 6.  When Ford and Reagan both died during W Bush's term we were back to 4.  As Barack Obama took office the number is back to 5 and hopefully holds there and goes up.  

While I can't find anything saying that 5 Presidents have been in the same room together, I doubted it.  The majority of the time we had that many alive was in the 19th century when travel for men of that age would have been prohibitive.

If anyone knows of a equal size or larger gathering, comment and let me know.  Just because I couldn't find it doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poet in the Military

Poe in uniform
On a recent visit to The Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA, one of the most historic of sites for the US army, the mannequins that look like they haven’t been repositioned in decades were themselves interesting history. The stories of the residents of the fort like pre Civil War Robert E. Lee, post Civil War, imprisoned Jeff Davis, the large number of slaves swarming the fort to cross Union lines in search of freedom, and the building itself are compelling enough to quickly forget about the dated displays.

On May 26, 1827, more then 30 years before shots were fired at Fort Sumter, a man calling himself Edgar A. Perry enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to the First Artillery at Fort Independence in the Boston Harbor, then transferred to Fort Moultrie on Charleston, SC's Sullivan Island, before setting sail for Fort Monroe on Dec 11, 1828.1  Perry is better know today, and then, as Edgar Allen Poe.  Perry... or Poe also lied about his age.  The 18 year old Poe said he was 21.

Poe was a good soldier.  While at Fort Moultrie he was promoted to an officer doubling his pay to $10.00 per month, and within 19 months of enlisting he attained the highest rank for a non-commissioned officer, Regimental Sergeant-Major.1  While at Fort Monroe, he was praised by his superiors for his exemplary service, yet he was only there from Dec 15, 1828-April 14, 1829.  He enlisted for a 5 year term1 but was officially discharged on April 15, 1829 after less then 2 years.  He had written several letters to his adopted father in Richmond, VA, John Allen, asking for help getting out of the military as early as Dec of 1828.  Allen wouldn't comply until Poe asked for help getting an appointment as a Cadet at West Point.1  When he was finally discharged from the army, it was under an agreement that he would pay Sargent Samuel Graves to finish his enlistment but Graves never received the payment.  Between his time in the First Artillery and his appointment to West Point he went to Baltimore to visit some family where he met his cousin and future wife Virginia Clemm1 and in Dec 1829 published the book "Al Aaraaf Tamerlane and Minor Poems".
Edgar Allen Poe

Poe stayed at West Point for less then a year of 4 years for which he signed up.1  Unable to get permission to resign, he got himself kicked out.1  On Jan 5, 1831 he was removed from West Point after being found guilty of Court Marshall for "gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders".  He must have been pretty well liked at West Point because before he left he hit up his fellow Cadets for either $.75 or $1.25 each (conflicting sources,) for subscriptions for to book of poems.  He raised enough money to convince a New York publisher to print Poems by Edgar Allen Poe, Second Edition.  The book was dedicated to "The US Corps of Cadets".

Poe returned to Fort Monroe to read his now famous poems to the soldiers in 1849.  Among others he read Ulalume and a new poem Anna Bell Lee.  Poe died Oct 7, 1849, less then a month after that reading at Fort Monroe.  Anna Bell Lee would be published posthumously.1

All information is from The Casemate Museum exhibits unless specified.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Little Sorrel's Travels

Stonewall Jackson on Monument Ave, photo by Jeff Majer

Monument Ave’s Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson monument was unveiled on Oct 11, 1919 with a huge to do including a parade with The National Guard, cadets from John Marshall High School, cadets from VMI, and new fangled motor vehicles carrying Governor Westmoreland and members of Jacksons family.1  After the main speaker, Colonel Robert E Lee, the grandson of THE Robert E Lee finished, Anna Jackson Preston, Jackson’s granddaughter and William Siever, the son of the sculptor, pulled two cords to reveal the new statue…and…uh…um…nothing happened.  The cords were tangled so workman scaled the statue to remove the covering while the anxious crowds waited below.1

Little Sorrel

That wasn’t the only surprise.  Onlookers were shocked to see Jackson sitting on a tall, scrawny horse that most said wouldn't have survived the war.1  Jackson's horse, Little Sorrel or Old Sorrel, was well know, and pretty important to his fame.  The horse was described by a staff officer as "Stocky, well made, round barreled, close coupled, good shouldered, excellent legs and feet, not fourteen hands high, (less then 56 inches). The horse was known as a natural pacer but was lacking in style.  Sorrel had vast endurance and would eat what ever was offered him, whether hay or corncobs."2  Jackson was given other horses including a "magnificent stallion", but he let his black servant Jim ride him.2

Thomas became a legend and earned his famous nickname "Stonewall" at the Battle of Manassas.  It was said he sat on his horse like a stonewall with bullets zinging just past him.  The key is he was on his horse, which also stood there in the same situation with no allegiance to either side or notion of honor.  As a horse, he should have turned tail and ran but he stood there like the base of a stonewall.  Little Sorrel was with Jackson through out the war only missing two of Jackson’s significant Civil War events.  During the Sharpsburg campaign, Little Sorrel had been stolen, but returned a few days later.2 Little Sorrel did finally run off and got captured by a Union soldier when Jackson was mortally shot by his own men and fell from the saddle after the Battle of Chancellorsville so the horse missed Jackson's funeral.  A few weeks later the Confederates recaptured him.2

After Jackson's death, Little Sorrel went to live with Jackson's wife on her father's land in Lincoln County, NC2 and became a celebrity and symbol of southern pride3 yet he was pulling a buggy and was a saddle horse.2   Jackson's wife hit some financial troubles, so in 1883, while in his 30’s (pretty old for a horse) Little Sorrel was sent to VMI where Jackson had served as Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy & Instructor of Artillery for about a decade before the Civil War.4  The VMI cadets looked after him.3   After the aging horse was controversially sent to New Orleans for the Worlds Fair, Mrs. Jackson suggested he be transferred to the RE Lee Camp Number 1, also known as The Home for Confederate Veterans in Richmond in 1885.2

The Virginia Historical Society, The United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the VMFA now stand where The Home for Confederate Veteran’s once stood.  It was 36 acres and was confined by Boulevard, Grove, Shepard, and Kensington from 1885 (two years after LS went to VMI) until 19415 where he was a hit attraction.  Southern women would cut bits of his mane to make bracelets and rings.3

Little Sorrel

By this point he was too old and crippled to stand on his own so veterans made a makeshift sling to hoist to him to his feet to greet visitors.3   In 1886, only a year after moving to RVA the sling slipped, dropping Little Sorrel, breaking his back.3  But this injury, which ended Little Sorrel’s life, did not end his work living in Confederate memory.  CSA vets had him stuffed so he could continue standing at attention at the Confederate Veterans Home, a few blocks from where the statue stands on Monument.  He stayed there until the 1940’s.3  The sculptor could have used the actual horse as his model or at least the part of Little Sorrel anyone would see.  His hide was standing at attention.  You would be hard pressed to find a better model.  The horse the sculpture did use was moving and alive and named Superior, an area race horse loaned to the sculptor.1  

If you want to see Little Sorrel today, he still stand in the basement of The VMI Museum, along with Jackson's raincoat showing the bullet hole he received the last time he saw Little Sorrel.6  It was moved there when the Confederate Veterans Home closed.

That’s not the only postmortem travels for Little Sorrel. The taxidermist who mounted him, took the bones as partial payment.6  He sent Little Sorrel back into Yankee hands at The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg irritating many southerners.6  The bones stayed there until July 20, 1997, 136 years after the Battle of Manassas.2  They were then cremated and buried at the base of the life sized statue of Jackson on the parade grounds at VMI.6