Monday, October 10, 2011
Another major development in recent weeks has been the final tweaking of my upcoming book, Life After J.E.B. Stuart: The Memoirs of His Granddaughter, Marrow Stuart Smith. The cover design for the book was just finalized the other day and I have posted a picture of it here. I am very excited about this work, which tells the story of the Stuart family in the post-Civil War era through the lens of one of its most interesting members, artist and educator Mary Marrow Stuart Smith (1889 - 1985). Marrow was Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's eldest surviving grandchild as well as the oldest child of J.E.B. Stuart II and his wife, Josephine Phillips Stuart. It is a very neat family history as well as a fascinating life story and I believe that those with an interest in the Stuart family, Southern History, Virginia History, and/or the Civil War will really enjoy reading it. The book will be released early this December - more details to come! If you are interested, the book is currently available for pre-order through such online book vendors as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. When you get on their websites, just search for "Life After J.E.B. Stuart."
As time permits during this busy semester, I will plan on posting a bit more frequently about my current research projects, ranging from the American Revolution through the Civil War. As always, thanks for your interest and support!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Examinding the role of William and Mary's people during the Civil War is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have spent several years researching the topic and wrote my master's thesis about it when I was a graduate student at the University of Richmond. What fascinates me most is that despite William and Mary's rich Civil War history, the topic is very little known, even to William and Mary alumni. My sense is that there are possibly two reasons for this. First, the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1920s immersed the community (including the College) deeply in its colonial history. In the opinion of many, that leaves little room to interpret other periods of the community's history, including the Civil War era.
Second, since the Civil War was such a dark time in the College's history (considering all of its physical, emotional, and financial destruction), perhaps people purposely wanted to forget about it. People tend to prefer remembering the "good times," which could also explain the focus on Williamsburg's colonial history (when the College and town were both in their prime).
Whatever the reason, the time has come to better remember and commemorate William and Mary's Civil War history. As the South's oldest college, William and Mary produced several people who played instrumental roles in shaping the course of the Civil War. I hope that my upcoming article can help facilitate interest in the topic. Within the next few months, I also hope to make a big announcement about an ongoing project related to this topic, so stay tuned!
Monday, June 27, 2011
My interest in General Heath stems from a family connection I have with him - he and I are distant cousins (third cousins, nine times removed to be exact). As such, I enjoy learning about his Revolutionary War career and his specific contributions to American Independence. Fortunately, an article I wrote on General Heath will appear in the upcoming September/October issue of Patriots of the American Revolution Magazine. I have published a piece with them before (on Maj. Gen. Edward Hand) and really like the magazine's format and commitment to chronicling Revolutionary War history. The article on General Heath will appear in the "My Patriot Ancestor" section of the magazine.
While General Heath is not a well-known Continental Army commander, his battlefield leadership during the Battles of Lexington and Concord, his work lobbying state governments for troops and supplies, and his diplomatic leadership working with the French during the war's later stages certainly played important roles in securing a successful outcome for the Patriot cause. I look forward to seeing the article in print and thank the staff at Patriots of the American Revolution for running it!
Friday, April 15, 2011
I have spent years researching this era of William and Mary's history and find it to be quite fascinating. Unbeknownst to many, several historically prominent individuals who had a significant impact on the war (Winfield Scott, John Tyler, John C. Crittenden, James Murray Mason, etc.) were all William and Mary alumni. Along with alumni, William and Mary students and faculty served in several different military or political capacities during the war, mostly for the Confederacy.
I wrote my master's thesis about the Civil War service of the College's students, faculty, and alumni when I was a graduate student at the University of Richmond and have written and published at different times on the topic. In the coming months, I will also hope to provide updates about future plans to publish material in this area. In the meantime, thanks to The Flat Hat and to Jill Found for putting together such a great article!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Anyways, I was excited to get validation for what I already knew, but was even more excited to learn some new things about my family history. One major surprise centers on my seventh great-granduncle, Jonathan Curtis (1708-?) of Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was a twin brother of my seventh great-grandfather, John Curtis. In 1740, Jonathan likely enlisted in the 43rd Regiment of Foot to fight in what was later called the War of Jenkin's Ear, which lasted from 1739 to 1748 - though the major operations largely ended by 1742. The war pitted the British against the Spanish in the Caribbean and was essentially caused by trade disputes and accusations of piracy. New England men like Jonathan Curtis were recruited to serve in the 43rd Regiment based on appeals to their patriotism and promises of extracting great wealth from the Spanish. A drawing of a soldier from the 43rd Regiment of Foot is shown here. Jonathan (who was unmarried) was known to have drawn up his will around 1740 before leaving with the rest of the regiment for the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, according to this genealogy book, Jonathan was never heard from again. He was later declared legally dead on November 25, 1747. I can only imagine how traumatic the experience must have been for his family. After doing some research, my (educated) guess is that Jonathan went with his regiment to modern-day Columbia where a large battle was fought against the Spanish, known as the Battle of Cartagena de Indias between March and May 1741. The battle ended in absolute disaster for the British, and many of their soldiers (including several from the 43rd Regiment of Foot) also died from disease. Therefore, I suspect that Jonathan was either killed in battle or died from yellow fever while he was in Columbia.
Like I wrote earlier, I knew nothing of this before reading it in the genealogy book. I feel fortunate to know at least this much about Jonathan, but wish I knew even more. Anyway, I felt that it was fitting to honor him here with this posting. I look forward to learning more about this conflict, as well as the 43rd Regiment of Foot in the near future!
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Last Great-Grandson of Ulysses S. Grant Dies
By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
The Associated Press
The last surviving great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant has died in a southwest Missouri home brimming with artifacts from the nation's 18th president and commander of the Union forces in the Civil War.
Ulysses S. Grant V spent part of his youth in the home of his grandfather, Jesse Grant, who was the late president's youngest son. Jesse Grant's wife, Elizabeth, is credited with helping to save the artifacts.
As an adult, Grant V became a custodian to the items — including his famous relative's letters, his will, his China and even the flag said to have flown over the Appomattox Court House when Robert E. Lee surrendered. Some of the items have been sold in recent years.
"It was everywhere growing up," said Grant V's grandson, Ulysses S. Grant VI. "It was an everyday part of our life."
Grant VI said his grandfather died Wednesday at age 90 at his home near the Springfield-area town of Battlefield, which received its name for its proximity to a Civil War clash. He had suffered a stroke previously.
Grant VI said Grant V was "proud of his heritage" and "the smartest man I ever met." He said they had a special relationship because he was born on his grandfather's 50th birthday.
Grant V called him Sam — a nickname the late president's West Point classmates gave him because his initials, "U.S.," reminded them of "Uncle Sam." In reality, the general was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but the congressman who submitted his name to West Point mixed it up. Grant adopted the new name.
His great-grandson, Grant V, followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps, serving in World War II and Korea. He later owned an avocado-growing operation in California and designed buildings before moving to Missouri to be closer to family.
Keya Morgan, who collects Grant memorabilia and is writing a book and making a film about the general, struck up a friendship with Grant V. Morgan called his death "the end of an era."
"He was a historian," said Morgan, who also is serving as a spokesman for the family. "He kept his family's history intact."
Thursday, March 3, 2011
With an interest in World War II, I have long been fascinated by the story of the Amber Room. I posted a news story on it back in October, and it is still the MOST widely read post in the history of this blog.
Below is a second news article by the United Kingdom's Daily Mail on the Amber Room from January 2010 - absolutely fascinating stuff. In it, a historian claimed that he found the Amber Room somewhere in Kaliningrad, Russia, which used to be German East Prussia. I will see if I find an update on this article as well as more current news articles on the Amber Room. Stay tuned!
'Priceless' Amber Room of the Tsars, looted and hidden by the Nazis, is 'found' by Russian treasure hunter
By Allan HallThe Amber Room of the Tsars - one of the greatest missing treasures of WW2 that was looted by the Nazis during their invasion of the Soviet Union - may have been found.A Russian treasure hunter is currently excavating in the enclave of Kaliningrad where he has discovered a World War II era bunker that the local German high command used in the battle for the city in 1945.If Sergei Trifonov is correct then he has solved one of the greatest riddles left over from the war - and will make himself into a multi-millionaire. He anticipates that he will break into the bunker by the end of the month to find the treasure.
Crafted entirely out of amber, gold and precious stones, the room made of numerous panels was a masterpiece of baroque art and widely regarded as the world's most important art treasure. When its 565 candles were lit the Amber Room was said to 'glow a fiery gold'. It is estimated to be worth around £150million, but many consider it priceless. It was presented to Peter the Great in 1716 by the King of Prussia. Later, Catherine the Great commissioned a new generation of craftsmen to embellish the room and moved it from the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to her new summer abode in Tsarskoye Selo, outside the city.
The room was seized by the marauding Germans during their onslaught on Russia in 1941. Prussian count Sommes Laubach, the Germans' 'art protection officer' and holder of a degree in art history, supervised the room's transport to Koenigsberg Castle in what was then East Prussia.
In January 1945, after air raids and a savage ground assault on the city, the room was lost. Ever since the Amber Room has become the new El Dorado, a quest that enthralled the wealthy and the poor alike. The Maigret author Georges Simenon founded the Amber Room Club to track it down once and for all. Everyone had a different theory of what might have befallen the work. The German official in charge of the amber shipment said the crates were in a castle that burned down in an air raid.
Others think the room sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea in a torpedoed steamer used by the Nazis, or that it was hacked up by Red Army troops and sent home like sticks of rock as souvenirs of their conquest. Historian Trifonov, however, believes he has solved the riddle and that the treasure lies in the bunker 40 feet down in the soil of Koenigsberg. 'Believe me or not, it's there, 12 metres down in the sub-soil,' he said, pointing to the entrance of a bunker that sheltered the Nazi high command in the last hours of the Battle of Koenigsberg.
'This place was built in February 1945 with two aims: accommodating the headquarters of General Otto Lasch and storing the treasures of Konigsberg, a city under siege.'Königsberg, in what was then German East Prussia, is now Kaliningrad, the capital of Russia's westernmost region of the same name.
To test his theory, Trifonov has begun to probe the soil under the bunker using a ground-penetrating radar and has started to pump out water. He has already unearthed a brick-lined room. The bunker is 1,000 yards from the site of the castle that demolished in 1967. He says he has 'information' from archives that this is the repository of the fabled room, but he isn't saying where his sources are. The governor of Kaliningrad appears convinced and has provided financing for the dig. But many remain sceptical.
'He's a good storyteller but he can't prove anything,' said Vladimir Kulakov, an expert at Russia's Institute of Archaeology, who has also dug in the soil under the bunker in the search for the Amber Room. Anatoly Valuyev, deputy director of Kaliningrad's History and Art Museum, which takes in the bunker, was more hopeful. 'It's good that people think that the treasure is there. They have energy and the museum gains from this,' he said. 'We still hope that the Amber Room is somewhere in Kaliningrad,' he said. 'There are plenty of underground sites left to explore. If they don't find it here, they'll look elsewhere.'