Friday, July 10, 2015

"Stay Calm and Carry Museum On" - The National Churchill Museum (Fulton, MO)

I love museums of all kinds and the summer months make for a great time to see them.  Last week I had the great pleasure and privilege of taking a short road trip with our son, Robert, to the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, on the campus of Westminster College.  It was a great, fun, and interesting visit.

Westminster is the home of this museum owing to its place in history as the site of Winston Churchill's famous "Sinews of Peace" speech address - also known as the "Iron Curtain" speech, on March 5, 1946.  Originally established in the late 1960s as the National Churchill Memorial and Library, it went through an extensive renovation in 2006 and has since been designated by Congress as America's national Churchill museum.

The actual focus and home of the museum is the Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury - a 17th century London church transported brick and pillar to Fulton, MO - but that will be the subject of my next blog post as it deserves its own - the Museum proper resides in the lower level of the church, but also includes statues of Churchill on the church grounds as well as "Breakthrough" - a sculpture built from sections of the Berlin Wall.

The Museum tour is self-guided, but a kind volunteer gave us a short orientation to the layout.  The tour is primarily chronological - beginning with The Early Years (1874-1914), First World War & aftermath (1914-1929),World War II (1929-1945), The Sinews of Peace (1946), Churchill and the Cold War (1946 and Beyond), and Churchill's Private Life.  Not knowing many details about Churchill apart from his appearance in my general reading about WWI and WWII, the entire tour was a good experience to learn more about the man.

"The day came when my father himself paid a formal visit of inspection.  All the troops were arranged in the correct formation of attack. He spent twenty minutes studying the scene..." - Winston Churchill 

"The Early Years" an exhibit includes a cabinet of some of the young Churchill's toy soldiers.  He had more than 1500 of them.  The section of the museum also describes his rough early years of schooling, his graduation from Sandhurst Military Academy, his intrepid adventures in the Boer War, and his entrance into politics.

"The First World War" describes his position of First Lord of the Admiralty, his influence in the development of battleships and tanks (financed through the Navy!), the disaster at Galipoli, and his field service in WWI.

His important part in the history of WWII - for which he is probably best known in the American imagination - justly represents a good part of the museum.

Not surprisingly, the very best part of the Museum - and the section with the most artifacts - covers Churchill's visit (with President Harry Truman) to Fulton and Westminster College for his famous speech.

Finally, the Museum has displays focusing on Churchill's private life, including several original paintings done by Churchill, and his place in popular culture.

The Museum also includes some wonderful outdoor sculptures.

The Museum is comfortable with professional exhibits; perhaps a little light on Churchill artifacts (apart from the excellent Iron Curtain speech collection), though that's understandable given the more important collections overseas such as the Churchill War Rooms at the Imperial War Museum. I highly recommend a visit.

Friday, June 19, 2015

150 Years Ago Today - "Freedom Day" - Juneteenth in Galveston, TX - 1865

"Juneteenth" monument on the grounds of Ashton Villa in Galveston, TX - p[hoto by James M. Schmidt

Note: An abbreviated form of this post about Juneteenth appeared on this blog on 18 June 2012 (here) - I've updated it as an expanded post with an excerpt from my book, Galveston and the Civil War (2012) and have included links to some exception material from Andy Hall's "Dead Confederates" blog.

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free." -General Gordon Granger’s General Order No. 3, Galveston, TX, June 19, 1865

In commemoration of "Juneteenth," I am pleased to provide an excerpt from my book, Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom (History Press, 2012)

"Freedom Day"
by James M. Schmidt

The war may have been over, but there was now a peace to keep. Major General Gordon Granger—newly appointed as commander of the Department of Texas—arrived in Galveston on the morning of June 19, 1865, and that very day, he issued several orders from his headquarters in the city: one asserted his authority over the state, another declared that all acts of the state’s governor and legislature since secession were null and void and yet another made the state’s cotton public property and the quartermaster the sole agent for its purchase and sale. The most important order, however, was his “General Orders No. 3”:

 Gen. Gordon Granger - Library of Congress
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere. (1)

Note - See Andy Hall's "Dead Confederates" blog for a post (here) that includes an image of a rare handbill with General Order #3

Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 (after the Battle of Antietam), and the final proclamation on January 1, 1863 (the same day as the Battle of Galveston), they actually had a minimal immediate impact on the lives of most of the millions of the nation’s enslaved African Americans, especially the slaves in Texas. The proclamations did have a significant effect on the prosecution of the Civil War, on the political landscape and in the international community, but it was only with battlefield victories— many of them hard-fought and won by ex-slaves in uniform—that the proclamations could be enforced. Granger’s order, then, was very important in that it legally abolished slavery in Texas forever.

Ashton Villa - Photo by James M. Schmidt
Local tradition has it that General Granger read his order and the Emancipation Proclamation from the balcony of the home of James M. Brown (also known as “Ashton Villa,” and, ironically, constructed, in part, with slave labor) in Galveston. Other historians have suggested the order may have been issued from Granger’s headquarters on the Strand or from the United States Customhouse. Where or whether the order was read aloud, it was posted throughout Galveston and printed in newspapers in the city and throughout the state. In postwar interviews, slaves throughout Texas remembered masters calling them together to read Granger’s order and learning they were now free. (2)

Owing to distance, poor communication and the reluctance of masters, it took time—weeks or months sometimes—for the news to reach slaves on plantations in the inland frontier; even then, the reaction to the news varied from slave to slave or family to family as they contemplated how to embrace their freedom. Some ran away immediately; others stayed and
continued their work but for wages. In Galveston, lawyer William Pitt Ballinger awoke to find that three of his slaves had “up and left [at] night upon hearing the news of their emancipation.” Ballinger wrote that he was “saddened by their running” but told his family the three “were free to do as they pleased—the law was with them.” As further witness to the mixed reaction to emancipation, two of the ex-slaves headed for New Orleans while another soon returned to the Ballinger household. (3)

Galveston’s ex-slaves rejoiced on hearing the news. Confederate major H.A. Wallace recalled that when he reached the island, he found some ex-slaves at the wharf throwing their hats in the air. When Wallace inquired why they were celebrating, the men declared, “We’s free now.” Wallace asked, “What makes you free?” and they answered, “Yankees come down on ships on the outside to free us.” The day has been remembered ever since as “Juneteenth” (a portmanteau of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” also called “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day”). Beginning in 1866, African Americans in Galveston and throughout the state began annual celebrations of Juneteenth with church services, parades, readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and more. (4)

Still, it would take time for that freedom and equality to be fully realized. Even Granger’s order was “stated in a patronizing tone,” as one historian declared, requiring the freedmen to find work and forbidding idleness. Fewer than 2,000 Union soldiers patrolled the whole of Texas, hindering the safe passage or harbor of ex-slaves in the midst of returning Confederate veterans or masters reluctant to yield their human “property.” Even in the presence of the Union occupation, the Galveston Weekly News defiantly declared that “the attempt to set the negro free…and make him, politically, the equal of the white man, will be most disastrous to the whole country and absolutely ruinous to the South.” (5)

As one historian noted, slavery may have been over in Texas, but “[its] bitter legacy had only begun to unfold.” (6)


(1) The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vol. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901., ser. 1, vol. 48, part 2, 929.
(2) Andrew Hall,
“Juneteenth, History and Tradition,” Dead Confederates Blog.
(3) Moretta, John A. William Pitt Ballinger: Texas Lawyer, Southern Statesman, 1825–1888. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2000, 174.
(4) McComb, David G. Galveston: A History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986, 84.
(5) Cotham, Edward T. Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998, 185; Galveston Weekly News, June 28, 1865.
223. Campbell, Randolph B.
An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989, 251.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

150 Years Ago Today - Gen. W. T. Sherman's 1865 Commencement Address at Notre Dame

Cross -posted from my "Notre Dame in the Civil War" blog.

I am pleased to provide an excerpt from my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the commencement address delivered by Union general William T. Sherman at the University of Notre Dame, on June 7, 1865.

Life is only another kind of battle and it requires as good a generalship to conduct it to a successful end as it did to conquer a city, or to march through Georgia.

–William T. Sherman, Notre Dame commencement address, June 7, 1865
The Sherman family—fresh from grand reviews and a series of congratulatory banquets—stopped at Notre Dame on Wednesday, June 7, 1865. The university took advantage of the presence of their distinguished guest and invited him to speak at that day’s commencement exercises. When Sherman entered the refectory, the students gave him an ovation. Timothy Howard, the wounded veteran of Shiloh—and now a Notre Dame professor—addressed the general on behalf of the faculty. The professor first congratulated Sherman on his military exploits and success and then on the general’s special connection to the university:

We are glad that you have kindly visited us on your way; we knew you would not forget us. From the field of strife and the march, your heart must have often turned to the quiet shades where dwelt the treasures of your soul. And when the war was over, we knew that General Sherman would come to see the places made sacred to him by the consecrating footsteps of his family, and rest with us and let Notre Dame be a gentle spot in the midst of toils in the present and honors in the future. (1)

Tommy Corcoran, a senior from Cincinnati, also congratulated the general and spoke with pride of how the university had a part in the Union victory, stating that “[p]riests, sisters, professors and students have gone out from their quiet places, and have become part in your grand armies; and a feeling of glory goes up in our souls as we remember that we, too, have a share in your renown.” (2)

The general’s nephew, Tom Ewing, then spoke on behalf of the junior department. He first poked fun at the seniors, saying that most of them were going to be doctors so that they could “kill other people without endangering their own lives,” while the rest would become lawyers so that they “may be smart enough to find excuses for avoiding all coming drafts.” His fellow juniors, though, he proudly declared, “have unanimously and solemnly resolved…to be soldiers…[and] Major Generals, also.” He then alluded touchingly to the general’s favorite son, stating, “You have come here, we know, to visit the halls where Willy studied, the groves where he played, and the boys who were his friends—a title we are proud to claim.” (3)

The general was deeply moved and assured the audience that the boys at Notre Dame were dear to him. Sherman declared that, under the circumstances, he would rather “fight a respectable battle in behalf of the nation’s rights, than make a speech now,” adding, “[b]ut it is clear that you expect me to say something and I don’t want to disappoint you.” He then delivered some unprepared remarks (his trademark), commenting on his own youth and the need for self-reliance and referring often to the great national struggle:

Let me not forget that I was once a young man like those who have appeared before the audience on this day and occasion. You should be grateful that you are under such good instruction and guidance. You now have a pilot on board to guide you, but the time will come, and soon, when you will have to go forth into the great, dark seas alone, under your own guidance…

You must see to it that the ship is strong, the pilot true and the compass unerring…No one can tell when the ship might be wanted, when it will be required to go into action and even to do fighting for America. God knows there has been enough of fighting for a long spell, but it is the highest wisdom and the best policy…to be ready for that encounter at any moment…

But I ask you to remember that, although I have no more than ordinary abilities such as any of you possess, I had not forgotten to take care of the ship and that I trusted in the pilot—in myself. I relied upon my own courage and foresight and in my devotion to the good old cause, to the Union, to truth, to liberty and, above all, to the God of battles…

So I call upon the young men here to be ready to at all times to perform bravely the battle of life…A young man should always stand in his armor, with his sword in hand and his buckler on.

The general concluded by promising the young men assembled that he would “always regard you and your pursuits with interest,” with confidence that “each of you will try to make your careers honorable as well as successful,” and then he then bade them farewell. (4)


(1) Chicago Evening Journal, June 16, 1865.
(2) Ibid
(3) Ibid.
(4) “General Sherman at Notre Dame” in Wilson D. Miscamble, ed., Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 46–47.

Note: Sherman's speech is the first of many in the wonderful book cited above: Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses by Fr. William D. Miscamble (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003). It includes more than two dozen addresses from 1865 through 2001.

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Avenger of Lincoln" - A Patent Medicine Connection

This post originally appeared in 2012 as the last in a 5-part series on the W. W. Gavitt Medical Co. of Topeka, Kansas.  It is re-posted on the 150th anniversary of the death of John Wilkes Booth, who was shot by cavalryman Boston Corbett - a review of a very recent book on Corbett is also added.

Boston Corbett Who Killed the Assassin of Lincoln
Selling Patent Medicine

- (Fort Wayne, IN, Sentinel - August 31, 1901)

In this post on Topeka's W. W. Gavitt Medical Company, I relate an interesting story that connects the Gavitt company to the Civil War, specifically the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.

Recall from Part I that the Gavitt company relied on "jobbers" - that is, agents, to sell their medicines door-to-door - and gave particular attention to enlisting the support of Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R., the leading Union Civil War veterans' organization) leaders and ministers.

Imagine then how pleased Gavitt must have been, then, to learn that Boston Corbett - the man who shot Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, when Booth was finally cornered in a burning barn - was one of his salesman!

Except that he wasn't. Which makes it a story as interesting (if not more so) than if he was!

First, some details about Corbett, whose life after that event was tragic:

After being discharged from the army in August 1865, Corbett went returned to his pre-war occupation of being a hatter, moving from Boston to Connecticut to New Jersey. For reasons unknown (although some speculate it may have been due to mercury poisoning, a chemical which was used in hat-making at the time), he began to display erratic behaviour, such as threatening fellow veterans at a reunion in Ohio in 1875. In 1878, Corbett moved to Concordia, Kansas, and - owing to his fame as Booth's killer - was appointed assistant doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives in Topeka. He again displayed erratic and threatening behaviour, brandishing a revolver when the house was in session. He was arrested and sent to the Topeka Asylum for the Insane. On May 26, 1888, he escaped from the asylum. He stayed briefly with a friend in Kansas, telling him that he intended to go to Mexico; one theory holds that Corbett settled in Hinckley, Minnesota, and is presumed to have died in the "Great Hinckley Fire" of September 1, 1894.

However, in the late summer of 1901, newspaper articles around the country carried reports that Boston Corbett was not dead at all, but rather a "jobber" for W. W. Gavvitt Medical Co., selling his medicines door-to-door in Texas an Oklahoma (avoiding Kansas as he was an escapee from the asylum).

Typical were these headlines in newspapers from Indian, Iowa, and Kansas:

The Avenger of Lincoln a Traveling Salesman
for a Firm in Topeka Kansas


Works for Topeka Firm
He Was Recently Reported Dead
But Had Only Escaped From an Insane Asylum
Was a Religious Fanatic

According to the newspaper reports:

"He worked for the Gavitts a long time before they associated him with the man who shot Booth. Finally they suspected his identity and he acknowledged that hewas Boston Corbett in a letter written to the firm some months ago. W. W. Gavitt says he is an excellent salesman and that he has always made money for himself and the firm."

There is a an excellent summary of what happened next in a discussion group thread at the website,

"The record is not clear whether Gavitt fed information about Boston Corbett to the salesman, or whether Gavitt drew the information from him. James O. Hall always maintained that Gavitt provided the facts and the drummer soaked them up. By the turn of the 20th Century the newspapers picked up the tale and it was soon stated that the real Boston Corbett was still alive. They also mentioned that he would be entitled to receive a pile of pension money.

Eventually, John Corbett was put in touch with Judge George A. Huron, the Topeka-based guardian of Boston Corbett’s estate. Huron had been trying to find out what happened to Boston Corbett after his 1888 escape and disappearance. Huron and John Corbett wrote for quite a while and Corbett finally admitted that he was the object of his search. Huron promised to help Corbett get the back pension. He tried to get Corbett to come to Topeka, but Corbett stated that he was worried that he would be returned to the asylum. Corbett stated that he would come to Gavitt’s home office, but kept finding excuses for not coming to Topeka.

Huron soon became suspicious of the indentification, however. The real Boston Corbett was literate and wrote in a fine hand; the drummer could barely string together a full sentence and his spelling was very poor. Corbett was vague on some of the details of his life in Kansas, and glossed over the story of his past. Huron pressed the case, getting Corbett to sign an official affidavit as part of the pension application. In the dead of a harsh winter, Huron and a lawman travelled to Texas to confront Corbett. What they found was a large, tall, broad shouldered man. He was much different from the slight former cavalryman. He was also several years younger than Boston Corbett would have been.

John Corbett was arrested for attempted pension fraud, tried and sentenced to the new U.S. Prison in Atlanta. He served several years and dropped from sight after he was released from jail."

[Note: The story was also the subject of a short article in a 1991 issue of Civil War Time Illustrated]

So, the Gavitt salesman was not Boston Corbett after all, but it's still an interesting story and an example of how patent medicine firms would use any kindof publicity to increase their sales!

Corbett is the subject of a recent (April 2015) and very good biography, which covers the Gavitt and pension fraud angle very well - the book is: The Madman and the Assassin: The Strange Life of Boston Corbett, the Man Who Killed John Wilkes Booth and my review is below:

4/5 stars

"Boston Corbett is a character, and no mistake." - Cleveland Leader, Sept 6, 1865

Thank you to the kind folks at Chicago Review Press for the review copy.

"The Madman and the Assassin" is an interesting book about an important player in the saga of the Lincoln Assassination: cavalryman Boston Corbett, who shot and mortally Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, who was cornered in a burning Virginia barn.

Honestly, I was prepared to give the book only 3 stars based on the first 2/3 of the book - as with many other 19th century Americans, details on Corbett's early life are understandably hard to come by, but the author does well in sketching his pre-war background and his chapter on Corbett's experience at Andersonville is very strong; Civil War enthusiasts may grow impatient (as I did) with the middle 1/3 of the book, if they are at all familiar with the tale of Booth's plot, the assassination, and/or the manhunt for Booth; that said, the middle third - with nary a mention of Corbett for 60 pages - is written in tight and lively prose, and will appeal to those who aren't as familiar with the story. His forays into tangential subjects - hat making, the Great Awakening, are interesting and short enough that they do not interrupt the flow of the book.

The last 1/3 really makes the book and easily earns it 4 stars overall - a very strong and sympathetic (but not hagiographic) look at a haunted man, and really tragic in the description of his ailments (most brought on from his imprisonment at Andersonville), his own paranoia, his unemployment, and bullying in the press. Among the more interesting aspects were the lengths he had to go to secure a well-deserved pension, even w/ the aid of some powerful political allies - pity the poor veteran who did not have them and had to deal with the bureaucracy of the Pension Bureau. The tale of Corbett's disappearance and supposed re-appearance is the stuff of (incredible) fiction, but is well-documented and well written and must-reading. The descriptions of his periodic reunions with former comrades are also interesting.

Martelle makes great use of Corbett's pension records, period newspapers, and especially the Corbett-Huron Collection at the Kansas State Historical Society to bring the story to life, and his endnotes provide additional illumination (particularly the disappointment in not being able to access long-sealed medical records).

A highly recommended look at the tragic postwar life of a Civil War veteran.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

150th Anniversary - Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train

Note: A version of this post originally appeared in June 2011 as one of a multi-part series on my visit to the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, TX - it has been updated with a few additional photographs, some new links, and a book review.

"With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin,
and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night,
with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn;"

- Walt Whitman, "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd"

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the "Lincoln Funeral Train" - a journey from Washington, DC, to Springfield, IL, that stretched from April 21, 1865 to May 3, 1865.

Many towns along the original route are holding commemorations.

In 2011, I had the great privilege of visiting the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, TX.

The museum has one of only three scale replicas of the Lincoln Funeral Train crafted by Dr. Wayne Wesolowski. You can learn about his funeral train replica project at "Abraham Lincoln Online" here and by reading his booklet, The Lincoln Train is Coming, which describes Lincoln's funeral arrangements and the trip from Washington to Springfield.

Photos of the scale model and period photos are below.

 In addition to Dr. Wesolowski's booklet, I recently added another related book to my collection: Lincoln's Funeral Train: The Epic Journey from Washington to Springfield (2014) by Robert M. Reed.

My review is below:

4 stars

This book is a really nice addition to my collection of Lincoln-related books, esp. those concerning his assassination and its aftermath. Very good production quality - loads of period photographs and engravings and interesting artifacts or ephemera, all very well re-produced on paper - lively, interesting, and well-documented narrative of the train's journey from beginning in Washington, DC, to its end in Springfield, IL. Will be of great interest to history enthusiasts and others in some of the major cities along the route which are well-documented in this book through newspaper or first-hand accounts. Really quite amazing that a nearly 2,000 mile journey with dozens and dozens of stops - major and minor - was able to stay on schedule. A few minor criticisms, but they do not detract from the overall quality of the book: a) could have used a better editor or proofreader's hand - there are some misspellings, grammar issues, etc., throughout; b) some of the photos or documents featured in the book are at best tangential to the funeral train; others have absolutely no place in the book; c) some of the featured items from auction houses such as Skinner include appraised values - found this disconcerting and wondered if the book was written to appeal to collectors of Lincolnia more than the average reader. All said, a really interesting and well-illustrated volume - a good companion for the 150th anniversary of this tragic event.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 21, 1865 - "Mournful Intelligence" - A Notre Dame Student-Soldier Learns About Lincoln's Assassination

Cross-posted from my Notre Dame in the Civil War blog:

I have featured information about Orville T. Chamberlain - a Notre Dame graduate, Union soldier in the 74th Indiana infantry, and Medal of Honor recipient - several times here on the blog (see here, here, and here).

Indeed, my book - Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory - starts with an excerpt from a letter Chamberlain wrote as a student, dated March 4, 1861, in which he describes how the school had the afternoon off in honor of the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln.

It's fitting, then, to share one of his last wartime letters - dated April 21, 1865 - 150 years ago today - and written to his father from his camp about nineteen miles from Raleigh, NC, in which he discusses several pieces of news:

"Quite a brisk skirmish" near Clayton, NC, on April 10, 1865

The announcement of Lee's surrender to Grant - "the camp was full of excitement and joy"

His visit to the state house in Raleigh - "better than the capitol of Indiana or Georgia, but no so good as that of Tennessee."

His interaction with a local Confederate family and their daughter

and - a solemn bookend to his March 4, 1861, letter, this:

Since we came here we received the Gen. Sherman's Order announcing the assassination of President Lincoln.  The mournful intelligence was received by our army with feelings of mingled rage and sorrow.  If the perpetrator of the damnable deed were here, he would be torn into a thousand tatters.  We all wanted to see Abraham Lincoln live to see the fruits of his labors, and we wanted to honor in the future his honesty and his wisdom.

and a quote from Macbeth:

Besides, this Duncan bore his faculties so meek,
He was so clear in his great office, that his virtues
Plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;

and - finally - closing with a note of peace and hope:

" is probable that I will live to get home."

Reference: Letter, Orville Chamberlain to Joseph Chamberlain, August 23,1862, Chamberlain Papers, Box 1, Folder 8, Indiana Historical Society (IHS)

Letter, Orville Chamberlain to father, April 21, 1865, Indiana Historical Society

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Sugar-Coated Pill of Secession (and Other Civil War Patriotic Covers)

In previous posts (here, here, and here) I have written about my interest in Civil War patriotic covers (envelopes), especially those that have a medicine-related theme. 

In this post, a share some additions to my collection since I last wrote about them as well as an article about medicine- and bottle-related covers that I had the privilege of writing for Bottles & Extras, the official magazine of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors (FOHBC).

First, a couple of new covers!  Both have a "pill" theme - a common motif in medicine-related covers (see more on this in the article below).  I really like the "Cure for Rebellion" cover as it's my first (and only, for now) "used" cover (generally more difficult to find and/or more expensive than unused covers).


The "Sugar-Coated Pill" above is also very good and carries several motifs: again, the "pill" (this time in terms of "taking one's medicine" rather than a bullet, with the added emphasis on "sugar-coated" - making something unpleasant more palatable; also - lampooning Jefferson Davis (another common theme described in article below); and, finally, some political commentary on the initial reluctance of Virginia to secede coupled with the reward of securing the designation of Richmond as the capital of the Confederacy (taking it over from Montgomery, Alabama).

Enjoy the article!

“Lincoln’s Renowned Rebel Exterminator”
Civil War Patriotic Covers with Bottle or Medicine Themes
By James M. Schmidt
Bottles & Extras - July/Aug 2014

It’s funny how two or more hobbies can collide to form an entirely new one. Such it was when
no less than five of my special interests – Civil War history, bottles, patent medicines, postal history, and 19th century ephemera – combined in the form of collecting Civil War patriotic covers featuring bottles and/or medicine themes. It’s an especially good time to feature these covers in the pages of this magazine as the country is presently commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war.

Civil War "patriotic covers" - that is, envelopes printed with mono- or multi-color images and/or slogans - have long been treasured and collected by philatelists and people interested in Civil War ephemera or postal history. The covers have also recently attracted interest from scholars who study postal history, 19th century art and popular culture, politics, political sloganeering and propaganda, and other related fields.

Besides their practical use for the mail, the images were intended to personalize, inspire, educate, amuse, anger, and elicit other emotions in wartime. It is estimated that between 10-15,000 different covers were designed and published by more than two hundred different printers, North and South, and sold by mail, in stores, by traveling salesmen, by camp sutlers, and other means.

Typical newspaper advertisement for wartime patriotic envelopes from The Big Blue Union, Marysville, Kansas, Feb. 21, 1863
As with bottles, the cost of acquiring patriotic covers depends very much on rarity and desirability.  William R. Weiss, Jr., expert collector and author of the premier catalog of Civil War patriotic covers, states that prices for unused covers start around $5.00 and range into the hundreds of dollars. “Used” covers (addressed, stamped, and cancelled during the war) can run into the thousands of dollars. Mr. Weiss is confident that few fakes exist, but does acknowledge that some firms do sell reproductions as stationery, for living history displays, etc. (1).

Many of the images on the covers - of politicians, famous generals, and battle scenes - are readily familiar to us even today. However, some of the iconography or symbolism may be lost on a modern audience, yet was readily understood by Americans in the mid-19th century. Like any kind of art (and, indeed, that is what these covers are: many of them simple, but many more elegantly engraved and/or hand-colored), some of the images had a deeper meaning. To aid in interpretation of the covers, I highly recommend Steven Boyd’s Patriotic Envelopes of the Civil War: The Iconography of Union and Confederate Covers (2010). (2)

The surprise – as I started collecting – wasn’t that there was a need to specialize; with thousands of covers, there is a plethora of categories to choose from (Weiss has categories of famous people, scenes, army corps and regiments, caricatures, animals, flags, male and female icons, and much more; each with subdivisions). The surprise is how many examples I have found that fit my rather narrow category; I continue to find new examples in online auctions, published catalogs, archival collections, and other sources.

In this article I share some covers from my own collection (as well as covers in other collections I’d like to add to mine). Why not start with a favorite: “Lincoln as Pharmacist.” Indeed, presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were popular subjects on patriotic covers as they personified their respective nations (on Union covers, Davis is generally lampooned and caricatured; likewise, Lincoln on Confederate covers).

In a nicely-engraved, multi-color cover, a beardless Lincoln appears in a red-and-white lab coat and blue star-filled cap. He is surrounded by “remedies” to Southern secession, with cleverly-named proprietary/patent medicines, including “Lincoln’s Renowned Rebel Exterminator,” “Scott’s Extirpation Powders”, “Butler’s Mineral Pills”, “Schenk’s Volatile Pills” (Scott, Butler, and Schenck were generals in the Union army), “Pure Refined National Elixir of Liberty,” and others. If you look closely, you’ll notice the likenesses of “Jeff Davis” and “(P.G.T.) Beauregard,” hanging by nooses and preserved in jars on a shelf.

Lincoln as Pharmacist - James M. Schmidt Collection
Another popular national image was “Uncle Sam” such as below where he appears in covers featuring another clever “medicine” (“Uncle Sam’s Infallible Remedy for all Rebel-ious Complaints”) or holding a bottle labeled "Davis" as he stands over a snake labeled "Secession."

Uncle Sam's Infallible Remedy - James M. Schmidt Collection

Uncle Sam's Recipe for Treason - James M. Schmidt Collection
The covers below carry a theme of “pills” or “Lincoln’s pills,” a common moniker for bullets, balls, shot, and shell during the Civil War, given their resemblance to the shape of a pill.  An example can be found in a letter from an Ohio soldier (3):

“We crossed the stream and took shelter under the opposite bank just in time, for the rebel line dropped into a ditch about twenty-five feet in front of us. We were not long in giving them some of Lincoln’s pills and they returned Jeff’s best.”

Likewise, lines in a poem written by an Indiana soldier state (4):
At New Hope Church and Dallas Hills
We gave them more of "Lincoln's pills”;
And with an aim that always kills,
To show them we have "powder drills."

A Grave Wish - Library of Congress
Lincoln's Pills - Library of Congress
The Union Pill - James M. Schmidt Collection 
To Cure Rebellion - James M. Schmidt Collection
Given that the abolition of slavery was an important aim of the Civil War, it is not surprising that African-Americans – free and enslaved – appear in patriotic covers. Below is an example of just such a cover, again with a medical theme. The "Black Drop" cover features a caricature of an African-American "bottled up" (enslaved) with the text: "A popular medicine used by the C.S.A. aristocracy, that cannot be obtained in any Northern apothecary shop, being com-pound-ed exclusively on the sacred soil." "Black Drop" is a reference to an actual period medicine composed of opium, vinegar, spices, often with sugar, that went by several proprietary names.

Black Drop - Collection of James M. Schmidt
While the cover features a message sympathetic to abolition, it also uses a cartoonish image of an enslaved African American, an all-too-common practice in the Civil War era, even in the North. Indeed, some covers used even more explicit racial epithets or dehumanizing imagery (a sad practice carried in medicine, bitters, and other bottle-related advertising into the 20th century).  Other patriotic covers featured African-Americans in a realistic and humane manner.

I will close the article with another favorite of mine, which features the “Secession Physic Cure” with engravings of “powder,” “Union Bitters,” and “Dr. Scott’s Pills” and the  verse:

To cure secession and its ills
Take Dr. Scott's Cast Iron Pills
Well mixed with powder of saltpetre
Apply it to each "Fire Eater"
With Union Bitters, mix it clever,
And treason is warned off forever
Secession Physic Cure - Collection of James M. Schmidt

There are other bottle- and medicine-related Civil War patriotic covers, but I hope this sample has given readers a flavor for the art and meaning to be found in these interesting pieces of history.


(1) William R. Weiss, Jr., The Catalog of Union Civil War Patriotic Covers (1995); also see his collecting guide
(2) You can read my interview with Dr. Boyd here
(3) History of Knox County Ohio (1881)
(4) A History of the Thirty-First Regiment of Indiana Volunteer Infantry (1900)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

150 Years Ago Today, Everyday - Interview with Rudi Keller of the Columbia Daily Tribune

As a Civil War enthusiast, one of the great joys I've had in the six-plus months I've lived here in central Missouri is reading the daily "Life During War Time" column in the Columbia Daily Tribune.  It's right there on page 2 everyday: a few hundred words chronicling a variety of topics about the Civil War in the area, by date, in the words of the people who lived it.

The column from Tuesday of this week was a perfect example: a report of a guerrilla raid in the nearby river town of Rocheport; a successful capture of other bushwackers by Union militia in Fayette; a report on the vanguard of Confederate Major General Sterling Price's 1864 Missouri raid; fights over party nominations for the upcoming Congressional elections; and calls for the investigation of possible treason by a Union garrison in Keytesville that quickly surrendered to another band of guerrillas.

Rich material, that! And: every day!

We have Tribune writer Rudi Keller to thank for the daily recap and he was kind enough to answer some questions about his wonderful column!

Jim Schmidt (JS): Please tell us a bit about yourself, including your career as a journalist and your interest in history

Rudi Keller - Columbia Tribune
Rudi Keller (RK): I am a native of Louisville, Ky., who came to Columbia in 1983 to attend the Journalism School, graduating in December 1986. I have worked for UPI, the Tribune, the Albuquerque Journal and the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian. I returned to Columbia to take a job again with the Tribune in August 2010.

I have always been an avid reader of history and biography, preferring that to all other reading. It is a very general interest, from the Angevin Empire period of English history to ancient Greece and Rome to the Napoleonic era, etc.

JS: What was the genesis of "Life During Wartime"? Was the challenge of writing something every day daunting?  How far in advance is each column written?

RK: Life During Wartime began as an idea to recognize the sesquicentennial of the Civil War that I developed in November 2010. I wrote an article at the beginning of that month to note the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election (he got 12 votes in Boone County) and decided we should provide our readers with a highly localized history.

I was not sure whether a day-by-day look back at the war was possible when I had the idea, but a little bit of research showed that there was plenty to write about and it could start before Fort Sumter with articles about the politics of secession in Missouri. It has been a daunting job, consuming almost all my free time to the point that I am jealous of any other thing that takes me away from it when I am not working on current news.

My goal is to write each column 3 to 10 days before it is published, with research into my main sources extended three weeks beyond the date of each column so I don’t miss things appearing in weekly newspapers, especially reprints of articles from papers that have not survived to be part of the State Historical Society collection.

JS: Can you describe the geographical area of MO to which you generally limit yourself, and why this is such fertile ground for exploring daily life in wartime Missouri.

RK: Once I had the idea for a day-by-day format, I had to decide the area I would cover. Boone County alone was too small, so I added the seven surrounding counties – Audrain, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Randolph. By adding Cole, for example, I opened up all the activities of the General Assembly, state government and the State Conventions to the basic elements I would research.

Central Missouri is exceptionally fertile ground. In 1861, the first battle of the war in Missouri occurred at Boonville and in October, Secretary of War Simon Cameron visited Fremont near Tipton in Moniteau County to tell him to get after Gen. Price or lose his command.

With a large slave population, deeply divided populace, men joining both armies and guerrilla raids, plus heavy enforcement of martial law I have not lacked for material. Often, the question is what to exclude to keep the account limited to the space allocated by the Tribune.

JS: You use a wide variety of sources - Official Records, period newspapers, county histories, biographies, and - my favorite - the State Historical Society of MO.  What have been some of your favorite manuscript collections you've come across?

RK: Probably my favorite source is the Provost Marshal Papers available from the Missouri State Archives. Every aspect of life during the war is on display here – politicians seeking to help free friends from prison or banishment, widows complaining that troops were stealing corn and testimony from the prisoners themselves explaining their actions or seeking mercy.

However, I have found so many interesting items in so many places, I could not say what has provided the most.

JS: What historical events or people have made the biggest impression on you so far in writing this column?

RK: This is the toughest question because I have learned so much about so many people, some well known and some obscure. My estimation of Ulysses Grant, for example, has grown because he was so different from so many Union generals – he acted with what he had, didn’t complain about what he did not have and was almost always victorious. Grant was briefly a part of the series in 1861, when he was a colonel with only a suspected reputation as a drunk.

Odon Guitar
Odon Guitar, the Columbia attorney-turned soldier, is someone I knew little about. He was a hard-fighting cavalry leader who tried to make both sides in the civilian population behave, and he was successful as an administrator in that regard. When he was replaced in North Missouri, within a few months the worst and longest guerrilla insurgency of the war began and ended only when Price was defeated at Westport.

There are too many others to go on.

JS: What events and personalities can readers look forward to in the coming months as we approach the end of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War?

RK: The final months of the war will include election of a new Radical governor, emancipation of Missouri slaves and the writing of a new Constitution that includes the “Iron Clad Oath” of loyalty to prevent people from voting, teaching, preaching or working as a professional such as attorney or doctor unless they can prove they were loyal from the beginning of the war.

We will also see the last convulsions of the guerrilla war, with the murder of freed slaves, Union atrocities against civilians, and the return of Confederates following the various surrenders.

JS: Is there a good way for non-subscrbers to read some of the previous columns (they've been collected in books, by year, is that correct?)

RK: The columns for each year will eventually appear in a five-volume series of hardcover books, supplemented by photos and extra materials to explain and provide in-depth study of particular issues. So far, we have Volume I, covering 1861, and Volume II, covering 1862, available at the Tribune offices.

Thank you Mr. Keller!  Keep Up the Great Work and Best Wishes for Continued Success and Inspiration!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

150 Years Ago - Yellow Fever Comes to Galveston

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of a terrible yellow fever epidemic that struck Galveston, TX, during the Civil War.  By the time the epidemic ended with the first frost in November 1864, more than 250 soldiers and civilians had died from the disease, with several times that sick and debilitated. 

I'm so honored that the Galveston County Daily News saw fit to publish a feature article this week that I wrote for them to commemorate the anniversary.  The article was based largely on a chapter in my book, Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom (The History Press, 20102), that is devoted to the epidemic.

I happily provide an extended excerpt of that chapter below, with illustrations and hyperlinks to relevant sources.

Chapter Ten

“We were attacked during the summer of 1864 by a silent and insidious enemy against which our heaviest guns availed nothing.  The yellow fever invaded our camp and soon became epidemic, carrying off numbers who had courted death on numerous battlefields and endured the hardships of many campaigns, only to succumb at last to this dreaded scourge.” - Ralph J. Smith, Private, Second Texas Infantry, CSA

Dudley H. Ward was born in 1845 in Austin, Texas, to one of the state’s most notable citizens.  His father, Thomas William “Peg Leg” Ward, was an Irish immigrant who fought in the Texas Revolution (losing a leg to a cannonball in his first battle in 1835; thus the moniker), served as mayor of Austin, state land commissioner, and as United States consul to Panama.  As a teen, Dudley lived with his mother, Susan Marston Ward, but owing to his parents’ marital problems he returned to Texas with his father in 1860, forever estranged from his mother.

Although Thomas Ward was a Unionist and had cast a vote against secession in February 1861 (as did a majority of Austinites), Dudley succumbed to “war fever” and enlisted in the Second Texas Infantry of the Confederate States Army in late 1862.  The regiment distinguished itself in the defense of Vicksburg, Mississippi, but the young Ward and his comrades became prisoners of war when their commander, Lt. Gen John C. Pemberton, surrendered to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863.  Paroled a few days later, Dudley returned to Texas and stayed a few months with his father in Austin until he was officially exchanged in November.  He then rejoined his regiment (much reduced in numbers) at Galveston in its mission to guard the Texas coast. (1)

A faithful correspondent with his father, Dudley wrote in early September 1864 that he had just returned from a short trip to Houston only to learn from his comrades that he “had just got back in time to leave with the Regiment, which was ordered off on account of the yellow fever.”  Dudley, “thinking there was not as much danger as they apprehended” went to his commanding officer, Col. Ashbel Smith, and secured permission to stay in Galveston.  In the same letter, Dudley explained the reasons for his decision:

I think that one will be just as liable to take the disease at camp which is only five miles off, as in the city.  Besides, all the supplies will have to be brought from this post, and if a person happens to be sick in camp he will be almost sure to die from want of nurses, which I understand are more necessary to the cure of the fever than even medicine…and I think it better that if I am to have a visit from the fever it had better come at once when I am young and able to bear it.  There is no certainty however that the yellow fever is here.  There is a great diversity of opinion in regard to the matter...Which side to believe I do not know but will write to tell you with certainty in a few days as soon as the truth can be known, for I am going to stay and “see the elephant.” (2)


In his letter, Dudley Ward was describing – and sadly underestimating - a deadly yellow fever epidemic that struck Galveston in the summer and autumn of 1864.  The disease would take many more lives than his regiment lost in their defense of Vicksburg or that fell in Magruder’s victory on New Year’s Day 1863.

“No disease brought more fear and more deaths to Galveston’s early residents than yellow fever,” one modern historian has justly declared.  No less than seven major epidemics struck the island city between 1837 and 1860, killing more than two thousand people.  One early island historian, writing of the first epidemic in 1839 which claimed 250 lives, uses the fitting imagery of war to describe the scene:

[The] busy scene of progressive life and animation was suddenly paralyzed and the energies of the people were instantly numbed by a dreadful fear, and friend looked into the face of friend, neighbor into the face of neighbor, with the fearful inquiry of ‘Who next?’  An epidemic had fallen upon them, and was decimating their ranks with a fatality more dreadful and irresistible than war. (3)

Victim of an 1854 yellow fever epidemic buried in Galveston - photo by James M. Schmidt
In 1839, Dr. Ashbel Smith (the very same man who was Dudley Ward’s commander in 1864) was one of the state’s leading physicians and was present in Galveston during that year’s deadly epidemic.  He treated the sick for several weeks, all the while taking copious clinical notes of his patients’ symptoms, postmortem examinations of victims, and his own experiments.  In a treatise on the epidemic, Smith’s descriptions gave grim witness to why the disease engendered such “dreadful fear”: it came not just from the fact that people died; it came from the way they died: a gruesome days-long march to death with fever, nausea, pain, bleeding from the nose and gums, jaundice that gave the disease its name, and – especially - the signature “black vomit.”

Smith’s treatise, Yellow Fever in Galveston, Republic of Texas, 1839: An Account of the Great Epidemic, was praised by scientists then and has even been acknowledged since by modern medical historians for its “essential clinical information.”  Still, the actual cause of the disease remained a mystery to Smith, and would remain so for other physicians and scientists for another half-century.  For, like other physicians of the era who attributed diseases to invisible “miasmas,” the otherwise talented Smith also believed in “unseen deadly poisons on the wings” of breezes that blew over the island. (4)



In fact, scientists discovered that yellow fever is a virus transmitted by the bite of the female Aedes aegypti mosquito.  The disease was brought to the New World in cargoes of slaves from Africa.  Indeed, yellow fever has been called one of the prices this country paid for slavery by abolitionists of the 19th century and historians of the present century.  Once only the scourge of the ships themselves - sometimes decimating whole crews, their human cargo, or both - the virus soon began to devastate town after town on the eastern shore of the Americas.  As a locus of the Gulf Coast slave trade, it is not surprising that Galveston also inherited the disease.

To make matters worse, the citizens of Galveston were also ill-served by their city fathers, local physicians, and the press who seemed to have a congenital aversion to basic sanitation or to recognize and admit the early warning signs of an epidemic.  Basic precautions such as draining stagnant pools of water and enforcing quarantines on incoming ships would have saved lives.  Furthermore, when the “sickly season” arrived in Galveston each summer and rumors of yellow fever began to be whispered in the streets, it had been “the usual custom of the newspapers…to ignore the evil or to imply that the epidemic was one of minor proportions,” as one historian stated, all in order to preserve the island’s all-important trade and commerce. (5)
During the Civil War, the disease-carrying insects – dubbed by one historian as “mosquito soldiers” - served as a sort of “mercenary force, a third army, one that could work for or against either side depending on the circumstances.”  Owing to that “army” and the historical indifference to sanitation and quarantines on the island, yellow fever played a tragic role in the history of the Civil War in Galveston. (6)

[See my interview with Dr. Andrew Bell, author of Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War here]

On May 12, 1864, Confederate surgeon Gustav Holland wrote Brig. Gen. James M. Hawes, in command of the island garrison, of a letter he had been shown “from an old citizen of this place.” Dated April 30, 1864, from Havana, Cuba, the writer stated that “a large number of cases of yellow fever had already occurred there and that they were of such malignant type as to justify the opinion that this would prove a very sickly season.”  The letter would prove prescient, indeed. (7)

The letter from Havana also stated that the writer and others intended “to run a regular line of steamers during the coming summer between Havana and this port.”  Ironically, the Union blockade probably saved lives in Galveston in the first years of the war by preventing some infected ships from reaching the island.  But as the island’s port became one of the few still in Confederate hands, Holland admitted to Hawes  that “the necessities of the country and people are such that we cannot afford to prohibit this intercourse although we may reasonably suspect that it will expose us constantly to the danger of having yellow fever imported among us.” (8)

As a precaution, General Magruder issued an order on August 3, 1864, for a strict quarantine on all ships from the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, or New Orleans, until November 15, 1864.  The next day – perhaps owing to protests from the city’s merchants – Magruder reduced the quarantine to eight days, and only for those ships coming from places known to be infected.  As one historian declared, “these watered-down precautions would prove to be woefully inadequate.”  The same historian – an expert in Galveston maritime history – has suggested that the 1864 epidemic was brought to Galveston on blockade runners from Havana. (9)

Soon, rumors of a yellow fever epidemic began hitting the streets and the usual pattern of denial by the city’s physicians and press prevailed.  Greensville Dowell, M.D., a surgeon attached to a Texas artillery regiment, recalled:

When [yellow fever] originated in Galveston, in 1864, I know it was disputed until there were at least seven deaths from black vomit, and four of our yellow fever doctors signed a statement that there were no cases in the city…I was threatened with a court-martial for declaring it was yellow fever. The positive assertions that it did not exist, kept many persons in the city who would have left, and prevented the post commander, General Hawes, from removing the troops out of the city. (10)


Like a veteran returning to an old battlefield, Col. Ashbel Smith - who had famously documented the 1839 epidemic – found himself in Galveston during other island yellow fever epidemics in 1847, 1853, 1854, and the wartime epidemic of 1864.  He also complained of the delay, writing in a letter that, “The army surgeons have appeared to much disadvantage, doubting and denying the existence of the disease, while persons are dying of black vomit in rapid succession…it was impossible for me to mistake so distinctly characteristic a disease.” (11)

In mid-September, Dudley Ward wrote his father, “The physicians one and all have pronounced the prevailing disease yellow fever; there are upwards of a hundred cases of it and although it is in rather a mild form, of it two to five persons are buried every day."  According to Galveston internment records, the first official death credited to yellow fever (previous deaths were certainly misdiagnosed, perhaps purposely) was that of the Rev. H. Browning, a 40-year old minister from Germany, on September 5, 1864; the first soldier fell to the disease eight days later.  The death toll then accelerated quickly, in a “gradual, persistent and fatal march from house to house,” as one doctor remembered. (12)

The yellow fever hit the soldiers as hard as it did civilians: of the 259 yellow fever deaths recorded from September through November, 117 were soldiers and sailors, 126 were citizens of the city (split evenly between those ten years and younger and those older than ten), and sixteen were African-Americans.  Among the soldiers, Dudley Ward’s regiment – the Second Texas Infantry – suffered the most, losing thirty-one men.  In his memoirs, Ralph J. Smith, a private in the Second Texas with Ward, wrote of the epidemic:

This was a time that tried men's souls beyond the test of battle shouts. No surging crowds of men to urge one on to victory or death yet now what heroic bravery it required to sit alone through the sad and silent watches of the night beside a plague-stricken-comrade's bed and minister to the dying wants of one whose very breath exhaled death into the surrounding atmosphere. (13)


On September 14, Gen. Hawes put out a call for help in the Houston Telegraph, asking citizens “to organize a corps of nurses for Yellow Fever patients” as there was not a sufficient number of “acclimated men” under his command to furnish the necessary nurses and attendants.  Ralph Smith wrote kindly of the soldiers and women who attended to the sick:

But men were found in camp and women too in the city whose thoughts of self were drowned in other's cup of trembling so that not one was left to suffer and die alone. And here during this, epidemic was displayed equally as much heroism if not more than is required to go in to battle both by soldiers and also the good women of the city, true heroines indeed who so kindly cared for and ministered to the sick and dying soldiers. (14)

The epidemic also affected law and order in the city.  If there was a dearth of “acclimated men” to assist in the hospitals, there were fewer still for guards and military police.  Patrols of the city were necessarily neglected and burglaries, murders, and rapes increased.  Undoubtedly some of the crimes were perpetrated by soldiers, further increasing tension between the city and the garrison.
Mercifully, the 1864 epidemic ended when late November brought heavy frosts.

Despite the epidemic raging around him in the late summer of 1864, Dudley Ward declared cheerfully in a letter to his father, “my health continues to be good and I hope will still be so for some time in spite of epidemics...I am doing remarkably well and have not felt the least inconvenience as yet…I have no fears of the disease.”  He concluded by asking his father for some “specie” (“Confederate money is literally worth nothing,” he acknowledged) in the event that “Yellow Jack lays his hands on me” and he should need some medicine. (15)

It was the last letter the young soldier would write to his father: the yellow fever did “lay his hands” on Dudley H. Ward.  He died on September 19, 1864 – only five days after writing the letter - and was buried a day later in the “Soldier’s Rest” section of the Old Potter’s Field in the city cemetery.  The exact location of Ward’s grave - and those of other soldiers - was lost in the 1900 hurricane.  In 2000, a marker was erected to commemorate the final resting place of Ward and more than two hundred other Confederate soldiers who died of disease during the war in Galveston. (16)


(1) The best source for information on Ward and his family is David C. Humphrey’s Peg Leg: The Improbable Life of a Texas Hero, Thomas William Ward, 1807-1872 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2004).
(2) Letter, September 7, 1864, Galveston, TX, Dudley H. Ward to Thomas H. Ward, Dudley Ward Papers, Texas General Land Office (hereafter TGLO),  Austin, TX.
(3) Hardwick, Susan W. Mythic Galveston: Reinventing America’s Third Coast. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, p. 27; Hayes, Charles W. History of the Island and the City of Galveston, 2 vol., Austin, TX: Jenkins Garrett Press, 1974, Vol. 1, 387.
(4) Ashbel Smith, Yellow Fever in Galveston, Republic of Texas, 1839: An Account of the Great Epidemic (reprint of the original, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1951), pp. vi-vii, 18.
(5) Fornell, Earl W. The Galveston Era: The Texas Crescent on the Eve of Secession. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961, p. 66.
(6) Andrew M. Bell, Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010), p. 4.
(7) Letter, May 12, 1864, Galveston, Texas, Dr. Gustave Holland to Brig. James M. Hawes, M331, Compiled Service Records (CSR) of Confederate General and Staff Officers, and Nonregimental Enlisted Men, NARA.
(8) Ibid.

(9) Andrew Hall, “Did Denbigh Bring Yellow Fever to Galveston?” “Dead Confederates” blog,
(10) Greensville S. Dowell, Yellow Fever and Malarial Diseases: Embracing a History of the Epidemics of Yellow Fever in Texas (Philadelphia: Medical Publications, 1876), 26.
(11) Cotham, Edward T. Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998, p. 166.
(12) Letter, September 14, 1864, Galveston, TX, Dudley H. Ward to Thomas H. Ward, Dudley Ward Papers, TGLO; Peggy H. Gregory, comp., Record of Internments of the City of Galveston, 1859-1872 (Houston: privately printed, 1976), 42; Dowell, Yellow Fever, 43.
(13) Ralph J. Smith, Reminisences of Civil War (Waco, TX: W. M. Morrison, 1911), 18.
(14) Galveston Weekly News, September 15, 1864; Smith, Reminisences, 19.
(15) Letter, September 14, 1864, Galveston, TX, Dudley H. Ward to Thomas H. Ward, Dudley Ward Papers, TGLO.
(16) Gregory, Record of Internments, 44.“A Guide to the Dudley Ward Papers, 1863-1864,” Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO),