Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Spotlight: In Death Lamented


"In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry" by Sarah Nehama is a lavishly illustrated collection of some of the finest examples of mourning jewelry gathered in one exhibition. The volume was the companion to an exhibit of mourning jewelry held at the Massachusetts Historical Society in 2012. The book and exhibit traces the history of mourning jewelry from 17th Century Memento Mori's and Poesy Rings to the sentimental hair jewelry that characterized the Victorian era. The highlight of the book is the information provided about the pieces and the people that they are commemorating. Because most of the items featured in the book come from the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society the reader gets more information about the people than is usually offered in other books devoted to the collecting of mourning jewelry. The rest of the pieces featured in the exhibition come from Sarah Nehama a jewelry designer who became an avid collector of mourning jewelry after stumbling across a mourning brooch in an antique shop. The photographs are stunning, giving the reader an up close view of these beautiful pieces. What is striking to the reader, is that the majority of the pieces were commissioned to commemorate the death's of children and the young. A harsh reminder of the hazards of life for early Americans. This book belongs in the collection of anyone fascinated by mourning traditions and how they evolved from the stark and grim Memento Mori's to the sentimental Victorian era.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Spotlight: Confederate and Union Solider of the American Civil War


An excellent introduction to the Confederate solider during the American Civil War. Geared for young readers, though even adults can find the book informative. Focusing on the life of the average solider the books glossy picture format provides large, detailed photographs of the weapons and equipment Confederate soldiers brought with them into battle and camp. The book opens with a brief introduction describing the causes of the war from the southern perspective, what I really liked was that the author's Denis Hambucken and Matthew Payson explained to the reader that this was the South's point of view. The book then moves on to exploring the uniforms of the common solider with photographs of Civil War re enactors modeling how the uniforms were worn. The author's detail the changing fashions of the Confederate solider due to the shortages the Confederacy faced during the war. After covering the clothing worn by the soldiers, the author's then move on to camp life and the weapons the soldiers carried into battle, and the foods eaten while in camp and on the march. The book concludes with a discussion of the some of the personal items soldiers carried with them. Throughout the book there are brief essay's illustrating how to load a musket, the history of battle flags, women and the war, and how to play a popular card game flesh out the narrative. The book is illustrated with color photographs featuring excellent reproduction and original items. I highly recommend this book to young readers and adults alike who want to learn more about the daily life of the common Confederate solider. Denis Hambucken and Matthew Payson continue their study of the common Civil War solider in the companion volume "Union Solider of the Civil War: A Visual Reference."


"Union Solider of the American Civil War" by Denis Hambucken and Chris Benedetto explores the day-to-day life of the common Union solider. This volume follows the same mold as the companion "Confederate Soldier of the American Civil War," yet the information in this book is not repetitive--an issue which I initially feared might be the case. The book starts with a brief introduction detailing the life and times of the Union solider, missing from this volume is a description of the Union views for the war, something that was in the Confederate book. From here the book then describes the uniform and equipment the Union solider was given upon entering the army. The text is complemented with beautiful color photographs of period and accurately reproduced items. Union and Confederate soldiers were given basically the same supplies in most cases, and reading the two volumes highlights the similarities between northerners and southerners that is rarely so apparent in the study of other conflicts. The text is completed with a series of essay's 1860s photography, medical care, and battle flags flesh out the narrative and add to the pleasure of reading the book. The first person quotes from Union Civil War soldiers adds to the narrative Intended for young readers, the book can still be enjoyed by adults--even I found new information. Highly recommended for new and experienced Civil War enthusiasts.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway

Want a chance to win a copy of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House?  Follow the link and enter Goodreads First Read book giveaway.  Giveaway ends on August 14, 2014.  Good luck!

I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears by Michelle L. Hamilton

Monday, July 7, 2014

4th of July at Port Royal, VA

My first 4th of July in Virginia found me attending the 15th annual Independence Day in Historic Fort Royal festival.  Port Royal is a charming town on located on the banks of the Rappahannock River and dates back to 1744.  Several famous individuals have based through Port Royal, including George Washington who stayed three times at the Fox Tavern and John Wilkes Booth who was turned away from the Peyton House while he was on the run following his assassination of President Lincoln.  Booth continued on his journey and was welcomed to stay at the Garret Farm (the Garret's did not know who their guest really was) three miles outside of town.  It was at the Garret Farm on April 26, 1865, that Booth was killed and his co-conspirator David Harold was arrested.  The town is charming with several historic buildings, many dating to before the Revolutionary War.  Though I was distressed to see that most of the buildings are in a shabby condition--particularly the Peyton/Brockenbrough House.

I attended the event as part of my new Civil War reenacting group the Civil War Civilians of Spotyslvania

If you are interested in Port Royal, VA and its historic structures please visit:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ebook Now Available!

"I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House is NOW available as an ebook in Kindle from Savas Beatie LLC

Jeanie Wade 151

Today is the 151st anniversary of the death of Jennie Wade who was accidentally killed by a Confederate sharp shooter on the last day of the battle of Gettysburg. Read my award winning article on Jennie Wade here:

Ellwood Manor

You will likely be hearing a lot about Ellwood Manor, located in the Wilderness Battlefield, on this blog as I am pleased to announce that I have been accepted by the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield (who manages the house for the NPS), as am historic house guide.  I am still in the training phase and it will be a few more weeks before I will be leading tours, but I am very excited and decided to post a few pictures to give you an incentive to come and visit the house!

Built in the 1790s, Ellwood Manor was owned by only two families before it became a museum.

During the Civil War, Ellwood was the home of the Lacy family, J.Horace Lacy's brother, Beverly Tucker, was General Jackson's chaplain.

Betty Churchill Jones was an heiress, when she married J. Horace she brought all the money into the marriage and Ellwood.  The Lacys also purchased Chatham, which is on Stafford Heights overlooking Fredericksburg, which was built by her family, Ellwood and Chatham where not the only property the couple owned, they also had a plantation in Louisiana. The Lacy family lived at Ellwood during the summer and moved to Chatham for the winter.

During the Battle of the Wilderness, Ellwood served as General G. K. Warren's headquarters. The flag is a reproduction of his 5th Corps, the original is now in West Point, New York.

General Warren set up his headquarters in the parlor of Ellwood, it was in this room that the general was overheard lowering the casualties figures for the first day of battle.

Image depicting Generals Grant and Meade confronting General Warren at Ellwood.

 Reproduction trucks in the main hallway. The names are actually members of General Warren's staff.

Period reproduction wallpaper. It is unclear what the Lacy's had in their hallway, but wealthy families of the era would have had wallpaper.

No visit to Ellwood is complete without visiting Stonewall Jackson's arm.  Following the amputation of Stonewall Jackson's left arm, Reverend Lacy took the arm to his brother's plantation and had it buried in the family plot.

Marker placed in 1903 to commemorate the burial on Jackson's arm. It is not the actual place where the arm is, as several attempts have been made to find the arm at the marker location.

The arm is in the cemetery. When Lacy buried the arm it was buried with three Confederate officers. The officers were latter sent to their homes, but the arm remained. Following Jackson's death, Mary Anna Jackson was asked if she wanted the arm to be returned. She declined because the arm had received a Christian burial.

The arm is resting with about 15 members of the Lacy family.

So there you have it, a very interesting site who saw a lot of remarkable people and events.  I am looking forward to being able to give tours soon.