Thursday, August 29, 2013

Writing Contest for Young Historians

The Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table is holding a writing contest for young historians.  The TVCWRT is based in Huntsville, Alabama, but entry is open to kids in the Tennessee Valley which encompasses most of North Alabama and Southern Tennessee.  (see rules below.)

There are three age categories from first to twelfth grade.  If you know a budding historian who is interested in American Civil War history, please pass this on to them. 

This contest is being held as part of the TVCWRT's Sesquicentennial celebration and a prelude to our November Civil War Symposium.    
Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table 2013 Writing Contest
Contest Rules
Topic:  Why Is Learning about the American Civil War Important to America and Americans?
Qualified Entries:  To be qualified for the Contest, an entry must answer the question in 200 words or less:  Why is learning about the American Civil War important to America and Americans? (hereinafter referred to as “the Contest”).
Eligibility:  The Contest is open to all (and only) students in grades 1-12 enrolled as of the time of the Contest in public, private and parochial elementary, middle, and high schools, and respective home-schooled youth, in the 2013-2014 school year in the Tennessee Valley area.  No purchase necessary. 
Entry Categories:  There are three entry categories:  elementary school students (grades 1-6), middle school students (grades 7-9), and high school students (grades 10-12).
Entry Period:  The Contest begins at 12:00 a.m. Central Time on August 15, 2013, and entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on September 30, 2013.
How to Enter:  Submit your entry via email to 
Your entry may be included in the body of your email or as an attached MicroSoft Word (and only M/S Word) document. 
If you prefer, your parent or guardian may email your entry for you. 
Include the following information in your email:          
Full name and telephone number of student.
Name of school and grade level (e.g., third grade, ninth grade, etc.)
Questions may be submitted via email to the same address, or you may call 256-541-2483 (if no answer, please leave a message).
Only one (1) entry per person.  Any attempts to submit more than one (1) entry by using multiple/different email addresses, identities, registrations and logins, or any other methods, may result in disqualification of that student’s entries. 
Entries exceeding maximum word limit will not be judged.
There is no fee to submit an entry. 
By submitting an entry to the Contest, each entrant agrees to comply with and be bound by these Official Rules, and acknowledges that the decisions of the TVCWRT shall be final and binding in all matters relating to the Contest.
There will be a limit of fifty (50) entries per student category, on a first-come basis.  Entries received in excess of that limitation in each student category will be retained by the TVCWRT, but not judged.
Winner Selections: 
Judging will commence at the time the Contest begins and continue until all entries submitted prior to the Contest end time have been reviewed.
All valid entries will be screened by one or more persons appointed by the TVCWRT Board of Directors in its sole discretion.  The screening panel will submit its findings and recommendations to the Board.  The Board will select the winner in each of the three student categories, subject to the following limitation
 There must be a minimum of three entries in a student category (elementary, middle, and high school) for judging and determination of a winner in that category.  Any category in which a minimum of three entries is not received will not be judged and no winner will be determined.  In this case, the TVCWRT will recognize each entrant in that category at the awards announcement on November 2.
The Board of Directors will select one Contest Winner in each of the three student categories, based on the following criteria, weighted equally: (a) originality, (b) creativity, (c) quality of expression, and (d) usefulness in understanding why the study of the ACW is important to America and Americans today.
The Contest Winner in each category will be notified via email no later than Saturday, October 26, 2013. [This is one week before the symposium.]
PRIZE:  The Contest Winner in each category will –
Be introduced and allowed to publicly read his/her winning entry at the TVCWRT Civil War Symposium currently scheduled to be held November 2, 2013, at the main library facility of the Huntsville/Madison County Public Library in Huntsville, Alabama.  If for some reason the Symposium is not held on that date or at that location, the TVCWRT will notify each Contest Winner of alternate arrangements,
Receive a TVCWRT Symposium tee shirt.
Receive a complimentary family membership to the TVCWRT for one year (2014).
GRANT OF RIGHTS:    All entries become the property of TVCWRT.
By submitting an entry, the entrant grants to the TVCWRT (a) the right to edit the entry for grammar and spelling; and (b) a non-exclusive, assignable, perpetual, license to produce, publish, distribute, transmit, exhibit, exploit, and license the entry and any portions thereof in any format (collectively "distribute" or "distribution," as applicable) by any and all means, uses and media, whether audio, print, audiovisual or otherwise, now or hereafter known, in all languages.
Entrant further agrees that TVCWRT shall have the first right to distribute the entry unless TVCWRT waives that right, in writing; provided that, TVCWRT’s first right to distribute shall automatically expire on September 30, 2014.
Entrant retains the copyright and all other rights in the work.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sensible Rebel Advice

A common misconception among most Americans is that the American Civil War ended on April 9th 1865 with the surrender of the Gen Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.  That is simply not the case.  Lee only surrendered the army that he directly commanded.  Two other major Confederate armies were still operating, The Army of Tennessee , commanded by Gen Joseph E. Johnston, surrender on April 26, 1865.  The Army of the Trans-Mississippi, commanded by Gen E. Kirby-Smith, gave up six weeks after Appomattox Courthouse on May 26, 1865.  Besides these three major armies, smaller scattered commands surrendered at various times between late April and June of 1865. 

The last significant force of Confederate troops surrendered to Federal troops at Jacksonport, Arkansas on June 8th, 1865.  This force was styled "The Army of Northern Arkansas."  It was an "army" in name only.  These men had not functioned as a fighting force for months, and many came out of hiding just to be paroled and seek some protection under the law for the bushwhacking and banditry they had committed against the citizens of the state of Arkansas. 

Their commander, Gen Jeff Thompson had little regard for the majority of these men.  His farewell address must be one of the most scathing "good bye's" ever delivered by a commanding officer.  This is an account of the surrender and Thompson's address that was published in a St. Louis newspaper.

CS Gen Jeff Thompson
 SENSIBLE REBEL ADVICE.; Address of the Rebel Gen. Jeff. Thompson to his Men at the time they were Paroled.

From the St. Louis Republican, June 16.

A gentleman who left Jacksonport, Ark., on the 8th inst., arrived in this city yesterday, and furnished us with some of the particulars of the paroling of JEFF. THOMPSON'S army.

Col. DAVIS paroled at Wittsburgh and at Jacksonport, over seven thousand officers and enlisted men, the officers numbering about six hundred. There still remained, at Helena and Mound City, (opposite Memphis,) a few hundred more, who were to be paroled by Col. DAVIS on his return. That would swell the total number to near eight thousand.

Colonel REEVES, who is understood to be the rebel officer who shot Major WILLIAMS and five of his soldiers, last fall, in Missouri, and for which act Major WOLF was condemned to be shot, and held so long in Gratlot Prison, has been trying hard to have his parole accepted. He kept himself out in the county some miles, but had sent a number of persons to Colonel DAVIS, and had written two letters pleading his case. Colonel DAVIS' reply to him was that his request could not be granted, as he did not consider him entitled to such leniency.

JEFF. THOMPSON's address to his army, at Jacksonport, was in the following words:

FELLOW-CITIZENS, who have been my fellow-soldiers: It is proper that we should embrace this opportunity to have one more family talk before we are scattered to our several homes, most probably not to meet again on earth, and most certainly not to meet as we have heretofore met; and possibly you may not be allowed to meet again in such numbers as would make you dangerous; therefore, I have called you together that I may advise you as to your status and proper course to pursue for the future. It is useless now to criminate or recriminate, but the fact is evident that as an independent nation we are badly whipped, and the fault and blame rests upon ourselves; for had we been more obedient and industrious, we would have succeeded. Officers and soldiers have put their private judgment against the laws of the land and the orders of their superior officers, and have deserted their flag or neglected to return to their post when furloughed; and many farmers have neglected or refused to raise grain, because their patriotism did not equal their love for money; and between these two classes our armies have been reduced and the country impoverished, until the brave, faithful officers and soldiers, who have remained at their posts, have been overpowered by superior numbers, and forced to surrender. The noble armies of Gen. LEE, Gen. JOE JOHNSTON and Gen. DICK TAYLOR, comprising all the Confederate States troops east of the Mississippi River, were surrendered before I accepted the terms offered me for you, and I but complied with the military necessity when I agreed to surrender. You have now assembled to be paroled, and in conformity with my agreement and order, and I hope you are complying with the spirit of my order, and are acting in good faith, for unless you are doing so the object we are so desirous to attain will be missed, and instead of peace and quiet we will still have petty feuds, murders, house-burnings and troubles that will be worse than open war. Let each man determine, when he leaves this place, that he will go to his home, there to remain, and work night and day to repair the damage that has been done by the war, and never go off his farm except to go to the mill; and, if there are private quarrels between himself and neighbors, he had better pack up and hunt another neighborhood; and if not willing to submit to the laws of the United States he had better leave the country. You must remember that you now have no rights, and can only claim such as may be given to you by the conquerors, and the less you say about politics, until you have become naturalized, the better for you. The Yankees have won the negro, and we must let them dispose of him as they please. When your opinion or advice is asked you can quietly give it, but do not volunteer either. We have fought four long and bloody years for our rights and have lost, and now we cannot get them by simply talking what we have failed to win with our arms; and the matter was talked over forty years before the fighting began. All who cannot or will not be submissive should leave the United States as soon as possible, and I presume that many young men will go. I am sure there will be no hindrance, for the government should be glad to set rid of all who are not disposed to be peaceable. To the Missourians who are present, I would speak plainly, and advice them not to think of returning to Missouri unless they have a clean record. There are many who have been fair, honest and chivalrous soldiers, who can have no charges against them, except the one of being true to the South; there are many others who have forgotten the laws of God, the laws of man, and the laws of war, and they, of course, cannot expect to live in Missouri in peace. Then there are others who, though they have been honest soldiers, had determined in their hearts to have private revenge at the end of the war, had we succeeded, and some who have said that the Union men must leave if they won. Each of you know to which of these classes you belong, and you must "do as you would be done by," and act accordingly.

Monument to Confederate Troops at Jacksonport State Park, Arkansas


Thompson moved to New Orleans after the Civil War.  He was a civil engineer in civilian life and designed a program for draining and improving the Louisiana swamps.   The work eventually destroyed his health.  He returned to his home town of St. Joseph, Missouri in 1876.  He succumbed there to tuberculosis and is buried in Mount Mora Cemetery in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Ingredients To Make An American

Last October I had the privilege of visiting a very special outdoor museum.  Many outdoor museums attempt to capture a single snapshot in time and place.  Williamsburg is the most famous example.  The collection of 80 buildings there (most of them original) take you back to Tidewater Virginia on the eve of the American Revolution.

 The Frontier Culture Museum, near Staunton Virginia, makes a bold leap in how it tells it's story.  The theme is actually a Shenandoah Valley Farm c.1850 and how it was influenced by immigrants from various cultures who settled in the valley.  That could be done by pointing out various aspects of the home and outbuildings at the 1850s farm as to how each was influenced by the descendants of the English, Irish, German and African peoples who made up the population then.  But the folks at the Frontier Culture Museum when a step further.  They bought farms from each of those distant places, from the time of the immigrations, to Virginia.  The visitor can discover firsthand how each of those cultures blended to create the peoples of the American frontier.  

The museum is staffed with very knowledgeable and engaging interpreters.  One can tell they take pride in what they are doing and will spend as much time talking and answering questions as you you will let them!  We were there on a weekday there were no crowds.  We were able to take our time, see everything and talk to all of the historical interpreters.  Most are also involved with the day to day activities associated with their time and place.  Many of farms also have heritage breed livestock that add to the realistic setting.   

From the Frontier Culture Museum website:

"The Frontier Culture Museum tells the story of the thousands of people who migrated to colonial America, and of the life they created here for themselves and their descendants. These first pioneers came to America during the 1600s and 1700s from communities in the hinterlands of England, Germany, Ireland, and West Africa. Many were farmers and rural craftsmen set in motion by changing conditions in their homelands, and drawn to the American colonies by opportunities for a better life. Others came as unwilling captives to work on farms and plantations. Regardless of how they arrived, all became Americans, and all contributed to the success of the colonies, and of the United States.

To tell the story of these early immigrants and their American descendants, the Museum has moved or reproduced examples of traditional rural buildings from England, Germany, Ireland, West Africa, and America. The Museum engages the public at these exhibits with a combination of interpretive signage and living history demonstrations. The outdoor exhibits are located in two separate areas: the Old World and America. The Old World exhibits show rural life and culture in four homelands of early migrants to the American colonies. The American exhibits show the life these colonists and their descendants created in the colonial back-country, how this life changed over more than a century, and how life in the United States today is shaped by its frontier past."


Should you be traveling up I-81 into northern Virginia, please consider a stop at Staunton at this museum.  You will not regret it and will come away with a much better appreciation of what it took to create our American culture.
The English House was built in 1692 in Worchestershire, in west-central England.
It was saved from destruction and moved in pieces to the FCM where it was lovingly restored. 
All photos by the Mark Hubbs.

Working kitchen gardens behind the English House.

Costumed historical interpreter give cooking demonstrations in the English kitchen.



The English House and gardens from across the mill pond.

A young volunteer interpreter uses the sunlight to better see her task of
grating sugar from a sugar loaf.
This smithy's forge was brought from Ulster, Northern Ireland.  It dates to the 1740s.

The blacksmith keeps the forge going and produces iron products while he visits with guests.

 The Scotch-Irish is a term we use now to describe Protestant people from Ulster in Northern Ireland.  They were descended from people from Scotland who were settled in Northern Ireland by the English Crown.  Hundreds of thousands of Scotch-Irish immigrated to America in the 17th and 18th Centuries.  This farm dates from at least the early 18th Century and was brought over from Ulster.

Chicken coop and pig sty from the Ulster Farm.

Many Ulster farmers supplemented their income by growing, processing and weaving linen cloth. 
Here an interpreter works a linen loom. 
In the late 17th and through the 18th Century approximately `120,000 German speaking immigrants came to America from the Palatinate, Baden, and W├╝rttemberg regions on the middle and upper Rhine. 
The farm dates to the late 17th Century and came from the Palatinate region. 

One of the barns at the German Farm.
 Hans is a real German Speaking immigrant.  He came to the United States from Austria.  He was one of the most engaging and knowledgeable interpreter we met during our visit.  We sat in his parlor and talked with him for a long time.

Not all immigrants came willingly.  This is a recreation of a West African Village.  Although this architecture was not adopted into American dwellings other aspects of African culture integrated gradually into American frontier culture.  Agriculture techniques, food stuffs, plants and music all found their way into the lives of all Americans.


The entire African village is enclosed by an adobe style wall.  The intricately carved wooden gate was reproduced in Africa.

The next series of exhibit show how all of these cultures blended to make the American homes of the valley.  The first settlers arrived in the 1740s and carved out small farms in a howling wilderness.  They, no matter where they came from started in simple log cabins built from the wood that was cleared to farm. 

It was cold that day.  Notice the breath of this young lady in the 1740s Farm. 
She took a break from cutting fire wood to talk .

The Frontier Culture Museum has an impressive youth volunteer interpreter program.  They must put in a minimum number of training hours to be certified to work with the public.  These two young ladies were doing 1820s household chores when we visited.  They knew their stuff and were not afraid to engage visitor in conversation.  Neither was old enough to drive, but could stand toe-to-toe with any costumed interpreter I've ever encountered!
Fast forward four generations to the 1820s Farm.  The cabin has given way to a multi-room house.  It is still log, but the timbers are hewn square.  This house started as a "Double-Pen" log home.  The pen was later enclosed to make one large dwelling.  Elements of the German, English and Irish homes can be seen in the construction and how it is furnished

Another view of the 1820s Farm.

 The exhibits culminate with the 1850s Farm.  On the eve of the Civil War the homes were quite cozy.  Both log and frame construction can be seen.  This house has an iron cookstove, a very modern convenience for its time!

This is George.  He does an excellent interpretation of an 1850s tom cat.  He is oblivious to the visitors.
 You can learn more about the Frontier Culture Museum at their website:
The museum also maintains an excellent Facebook Page where they post upcoming events and videos of the their interpreters involved in various skills and tasks: