Tuesday, January 27, 2015


On Sunday, my mom and I visited Maymont for the first time.  Maymont is a splendid Gilded Age mansion in Richmond.  The estate was the residence of industrialist James Dooley and his wife Sallie May Dooley.  The couple had no children and upon Sallie's death in 1925, Sallie donated the 100 acre estate and mansion to the city of Richmond.  Maymont has been open to the public since 1926.  On the day I visited the house was running a special tour called "Grandeur and Gossip in the Gilded Age" which played off of the popularity of the TV series "Downtown Abbey."  The tour focused on the similarities and differences of Maymont and its fictional counterpart.

 Maymont viewed from the modern walkway leading up to the mansion.  While in 1893, visitors would have disembarked from carriages under the covered entrance, today visitors first enter the house through the basement service entrance where tickets are purchased.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

With tickets in hand, Mom and I left the basement and followed the walkway under the covered entrance to Maymont's formal entrance.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Our lovely tour guide Evelyn welcomed us into Maymont.  In the foyer the portrait of James and Sallie Dooley grace the walls of their home.  The Dooleys first viewed the land that would become their home while the couple were out riding.  Sallie Dooley became enchanted with the view and asked her husband to buy the land and to build her a home there.  James Dooley purchased the land in 1889, the next year construction began on the mansion and Maymont was completed in 1893.  James Dooley named the mansion Maymont in honor of his wife Sallie May.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

James Dooley's library.  Born in Richmond on January 17, 1841 to Irish immigrants, James Dooley fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy.  After the war James Dooley became a lawyer, but would make his fortune as an industrialist.  Serving on several boards Dooley helped rebuild the war torn South.  James Dooley was a man of his times and was conservative in his politics and was aghast at the idea that women should be granted the right to vote--a sentiment that would divide his family.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's formal parlor.  Born in Lunenburg County, Virginia on July 23, 1846, Sallie May was the eighth of nine children born to an old and established Virginia family.  When she was seven years old her mother died, Sallie was then raised by her older, married sisters.  In 1869, Sallie May married James Dooley, at the time the marriage was scandalous as the bride had been raised an Episcopalian and the groom was Roman Catholic.  Writing to a family member after the ceremony, Sallie asked that the it be kept a secret that she had been married by a Catholic priest.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The formal dining room.  The Dooley's were know for their fine entertainments and this room saw many elegant dinners.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's card room on the second floor.  Maymont was at the center of Richmond high society and many parties and gatherings took place here.  Sallie Dooley was for her fine Southern hospitality.  Fond of playing cards, Sallie Dooley would invite her lady friends to an afternoon of cards in her card room where they would play the fashionable and popular game of Bridge.Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

 The staircase lead up to the third floor where the guest rooms and some servant quarters where located.  Even though the Dooleys where childless, the couple did come from large families and their nieces and nephews where frequent guests at Maymont.  During this tour we did not visit the third floor.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's study.  On the second floor, Sallie Dooley had two private rooms to dress and relax.  In this room, Sallie would answer her correspondence and entertain close friends.  Her husband also had two rooms where he could also dress and relax.  The dress is a reproduction of 1890s fashion.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's dressing room.  The room also featured a bed that Sallie could relax on before her next event.  In James Dooley's dressing room there is also a bed.  The rooms proved difficult to photograph as I was not allowed to use my camera's flash.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

James and Sallie Dooley's bathroom.  When Maymont was constructed it included ever modern convenience, gas and electricity and an elevator that connected the basement kitchen to the butler's pantry on the first floor.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The master bedroom.  Sallie Dooley loved swans and decorated her bedroom in a swan motif.  At this time swan beds where at the height of fashion.  Photographs taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's personalized Louis Vuitton trunk.  The Dooleys spent six months at Maymont every year, then spent the remaining time traveling and at their summer home Swannanoa.  About 40% of the items on display belonged to the Dooleys.  To learn about Swannonoa visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swannanoa_%28mansion%29.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Following the guided tour, Mom and I went back to the basement where there is an excellent display on the servants who served the Dooleys and kept Maymont running.  The photographs above are the restored female servant quarters.  Unlike on the TV series "Downton Abbey," few servants lived full time at Maymont.  Most lived off the estate with their family in Richmond traveling daily to Maymont.  Unlike the servants on "Downton Abbey," the servants at Maymont where not close to the Dooley's in the way that Carson and Mrs. Hughes are.James and Sallie Dooley where born into a slave owning society and their parents owned slaves.  Reconstruction and the laws of the Jim Crow South prevented any close intimacies between the Dooleys and their help.  Photographs taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Reproduction of the servants uniforms.  While on duty female servants had to wear their uniform, they even had to wear their uniform even when they left Maymont if they were in the company of Sallie Dooley--a practice that the ladies found degrading.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

James Dooley's wine cellar.  Even during Prohibition, which came early to Virginia in 1916, James Dooley kept his wine cellar stocked at Maymont and Swannanoa.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Maymont's kitchen.  The servant display is fascinating and is supplemented with fascinating markers detailing the life of servants in Gilded Age Richmond.  Photographs taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Maymont is a fascinating location and I highly recommend visiting.  I will be returning, as the estate features different tours and events throughout the year.  For more information please visit: http://maymont.org/.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Radio Show

Today I had the pleasure of talking with Royce Holleman Talknow Radio on Supernatural Live Network.  You can click on the link below to listen to today's show on Youtube!


Lee Hill and Howison Hill

This afternoon I embarked on another battlefield excursion.  The rain had cleared and I had finished my radio show interview.  Since it was late in the afternoon by the time I left home with my parents and two poodles, we decided to just go to the Fredericksburg battlefield.  Instead of taking the dogs for a walk on the Sunken Road, we decided to be adventurous and visit Lee Hill--which we had not had a chance to visit yet.

Before the Battle of Fredericksburg, Lee Hill was known as Telegraph Hill.  The battle forever altered the city of Fredericksburg, and this hill was renamed Lee Hill because it was from this vantage point Gen. Robert E. Lee witnessed the battle with Gen. James Longstreet on December 13, 1862.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The hill is naturally commanding and made a perfect spot to observe the battle and place heavy artillery.  The hill is step, but the National Park Service has laid a nice, easy path to take you to the summit.  Be prepared for a twenty minute hike.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton

A view while walking up Lee Hill.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The summit at last!  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Beside using the spot for observation, Confederate forces also placed heavy artillery on the hill.  From this spot the Confederates heavily shelled Union forces as they crossed the Rappahannock River on pontoon boats.  Once the Union forces crossed and entered Fredericksburg, the Confederate artillery continued its barrage.  Union forces answered back and shelled the Confederates from their position on Stafford Heights.  Leaving the citizens of Fredericksburg stuck in the middle.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The city of Fredericksburg as viewed from Lee Hill.  Confederate pioneer's cleared the land of trees before the battle to give Confederate artillery a clear line of view.  On December 13, 1862, Gen. Lee had a panoramic view of the city and terrain.  From this vantage point Lee easily viewed Chatham Manor on Stafford Heights.  In the 150 years since the battle, the trees have grown back.  The church stepple in the middle of the photograph was there in 1862 and was used by Union forces to direct their artillery fire into Fredericksburg.  Photograph by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Two 30 pound Parrott guns were used on December 13, 1862.  Both guns had been made in Richmond at the Tredegar Iron Works.  The one positioned on Lee Hill blew up after its 39th firing showering Gen. Lee and Gen. Longstreet in gun fragments.  The event is dramatized in the 2003 movie Gods and Generals, though the scene was fictionalized as it showed the gun crew dying in the explosion--in actuality the gun crew escaped the explosion unharmed.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The explosion of the Parrott gun was not the only incident on the hill to put Lee's life in danger.  During the shelling, a Union shell buried itself into Confederate earthworks near this location where Lee was standing.  Fortunately for Lee the shell did not explode.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Confederate earthworks that protected Gen. Lee from Union shells.  Earthworks were designed to protect a standing soldier, erosion has diminished there original size.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Monument commemorating Gen. Lee's position.  It was from this position that Lee declared "It is well that war is so terrible--we should grow to fond of it."  Lee made this statement to Gen. Longstreet after watching a Confederate countercharge down the Deep Run valley on his right.     Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Lee Hill interpretation shelter.  The Battle of Fredericksburg would not be the only conflict to envelope Lee Hill.  On May 3, 1863, war returned during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg which was part of the Chancellorsville Campaign.  While the first battle in December 1862 had been an unmitigated disaster for the Union army, the second battle was a Union victory with Lee Hill falling into Union hands.  The disaster at the Battle of Chancellorsville, fought during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, nuterlized the Army of the Potomac's achievements on May 3.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Getting back in the car, we followed the road and stopped at the next marker for Howison Hill.  Like Lee Hill, Howison Hill was used by Confederate artillery.  The delay of the arrival of Union pontoon boats allowed Confederate forces to hunker in.  During the Union delay, the Confederates placed heavy artillery on Howison Hill including the second 30 pound Parrott gun used during the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

NPS interpretative marker shows the location of Union and Confederate artillery.  The photograph was taken in 1930s before the view was blocked by trees.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The view from Howison Hill today.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Cannon marks the spot where Confederate guns fired on December 13, 1862.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The view from Howison Hill, during the battle the trees had been cleared by Confederate pioneers--a contingent of soldiers tasked with clearing anything that blocked the vantage point of the guns.  Pioneers would also build and repair roads, dismantle enemy fortifications, among other tasks.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Earthworks surrounding the cannons.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Confederate earthworks, this part of the battlefield has some excellent examples of original Confederate earthworks.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

By this time, the sun was starting to set.  Fortunately we had all just got loaded into the car before it started to rain again.  These two locations are only just a shadow of the treasures to be found on the battlefield and I am already looking forward to my return trip.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

On the Way to Walmart

Today my mom and I went to the Richmond Antiques Extravaganza at the Richmond Raceway Complex.  We had a good time, and I found a few treasures including a Civil War CDV of a woman from Philadelphia, five vintage postcards of the Jennie Wade House, and four stereo cards from the 1860s (which are really hard to find).  The best part of the event was that my total purchases were only $20.00!  Heading back home to Ruther Glen, VA, Mom wanted to go to Walmart.  Since we were in an unfamiliar part of town, we hooked up the GPS system and headed off.  Turing down the Mechanicsville Turnpike, I noticed the familiar colors of a National Park sign--we were going past Chickahominy Bluff a Richmond National Battlefield Park.  I was very excited as I had never visited this particular sight.  This is part of the reason why I love living in Virginia--even going to Walmart you can come across a historic sight or monument.  Quickly u-turning, Mom and I delayed our visit to Walmart and spent some time at Chickahominy Bluff.

While there was no fighting at Chickahominy Bluff, the sight did witness the beginning of the Seven Days' Battles of June 1862.  As the NPS handout reads: "A part of the outer Confederate line defending Richmond, this bluff offered a view of Mechanicsville and the Chickahominy River Valley.  Within sight of the earthworks here, Gen. Robert E. Lee witnessed the start of the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek on June 26."

June 26, 1862 was an important day for Gen. Robert E. Lee as he had just received command of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862, following Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's wounding at the Battle of Seven Pines.  The Seven Days' Battles would be Gen. Lee's first campaign at the head of Confederate forces.  It was a dangerous period to be switching commands, Union Gen. George B. McClellan was moving his Army of the Potomac up the Virginia Peninsula and during the Seven Days' campaign seriously threatened the Confederate Campaign in Richmond.  The Civil War could have easily ended on a battlefield on the outskirts of Richmond.

  Reading the orientation marker.  Photograph taken by Lynn Hamilton.

 Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton

Besides being the sight where Gen. Lee observed the start of the Seven Days' Battle, Chickahominy Bluff stands out for its excellent collection of Confederate earthworks.  Only a few sites in the Richmond era has the original Confederate earthworks dug to protect the city from the Union onslaught.

Confederate earthworks.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton

The Confederate earthworks are carefully protected by a fence and a sign warns against climbing on the earthworks.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The earthworks are very deep, looking at them I realized that the Civil War would introduce trench warfare, which would be horrifically used during World War I.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

 The Confederate earthworks were designed to shield Confederate troops during an attack.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

From this approximate location, Gen. Robert E. Lee witnessed the beginning of the Battle of Beaver Dam on June 26, 1862.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis had ridden out from Richmond to Mechanicsville and joined Lee at Chickahominy Bluff.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

While today, the area around Chickahominy Bluff is overgrown with trees, up on the viewing platform you can get a sense of what Lee was able to see as the area still provides an excellent vantage point.  The painting on the interpretation marker shows what the area would have looked like on June 26, 1862.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Marker detailing the extent of Confederate earthworks around Richmond in the summer of 1862.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

 Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The Seven Days' Battles of June 1862 would be the making of Robert E. Lee and the Army of the Virginia.  With the aid of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Lee defeated McClellan sending the Army of the Potomac fleeing back to Washington, D.C. and the hope for a short conflict were permanently dashed.

After spending a pleasant half hour at Chickahominy Bluff we then preceded on to our original destination, Walmart.