Deltona Authors Book Fair

I hope you are able to attend. I will be sharing a table with my good friend Bob Grenier. We will both have multiple history books available for sale and we would love to meet and talk with you. This event will be taking place on Saturday, October 28 from 1p-4p at the Deltona Library; 2150 Eustace Avenue in Deltona.

To learn more, visit the Facebook page for this event.

https://www.facebook.com/2017-Deltona-Authors-Book-Fair-Oct-28-2017-254626504946083/

Click the link below to view a copy of the event poster.

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Charles Tingley Wins Major Award for Work on Alexander H. Darnes

 

Charles Tingley
Charles Tingley

At the recent annual meeting of the Florida Historical Society, Charles Tingley, Senior Research Librarian for the St. Augustine Historical Society was presented the Arthur W. Thompson Award for the best article in any issue of the 2016 Florida Historical Quarterly. 

The article titled, “Another Invisible Man: Alexander H. Darnes, M.D.,” concerns a long forgotten man who was born and raised in St. Augustine enslaved by the Smith family. He spent his teenage years as the valet to Edmund Kirby Smith, a U. S. Army officer who became a Confederate general.

After the Civil War, he received his college education at Lincoln University in Chester, Pennsylvania and graduated with a medical degree from Howard University in 1880. He immediately set up a medical practice in Jacksonville, Florida. He was the first African-American with a modern medical practice in Florida.  Darnes was the physician to James Weldon Johnson, the author of Lift Every Voice and Sing and was fondly remembered in his autobiography.

He served with courage during two of the greatest health emergencies in Jacksonville

Darnes
Alexander H. Darnes

history: the small pox epidemic of 1884 and the yellow fever epidemic of 1888. At the time of his death in 1894, Darnes was the Deputy Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons of Florida.

Mr. Tingley began researching Alexander Darnes prior to the St. Augustine Historical Society erecting a statue to A. H. Darnes and E. Kirby Smith at their childhood home in 2003. This building is now the Research Library for the Historical Society

Book Review–Finding the Fountain of Youth

Kilby, Rick. Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de Leon and Florida’s Magical Waters. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 2013. Bibliography, color & b/w photos. ISBN 9780813044873, $14.95.

I imagine in some ways we are all searching for the Fountain of Youth. We may want to have the wisdom of being a few years older but for most of us we want to hang on to our youth as long as possible.

In his beautifully illustrated book, author Rick Kilby  lets us in on the myths and legends surrounding Juan Ponce de Leon, the Fountain of Youth, and how this dream has been, and continues to be, used in marketing.

Mr. Kilby points out a common narrative in regards to many of the springs in the state. First is that these sites are sacred to Native Americans who lived near them for years before colonial settlers take up residence near them, drawn by the cool and pure water. As tourism becomes more important to Florida, entrepreneurs such as steamboat owners, begin using the “fountain of youth” myth to draw visitors to the healing waters. With family travel becoming more common these springs were often turned into tourist attractions with highlights such as waterskiing elephants (De Leon Springs), glass bottom boats (Silver Springs), mermaids (Weekie Watchie), and more. In the days of segregation African-Americans could visit locations such as Paradise Park, which was “For colored people only” according to period advertisements.

The myth of Juan Ponce de Leon searching for the “fountain of youth” is laid out and addressed thoroughly by Mr. Kilby. Let’s also be honest; how was Ponce supposed to find the real “Fountain” when it seems to have been located in so many places. Florida cities as diverse and far away from each other such as St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Sarasota County, De Leon Springs, and Venice, have use the “fountain of youth” motif in advertising and promotion. But let us not forget that drinking a glass of Florida orange juice may also be the key to staying young.

While this book is fun, enjoyable, and upbeat, there is also a sadness to be recognized when one realizes much of what Mr. Kilby puts forth is no longer available. The interstate system, along with the ease of flying, have put many of these locations out-of-the-way and no longer relevant to today’s visitor to the state. The quaintness of these attractions make them seem outdated and boring when compared to billion dollar theme parks with every bell and whistle imaginable. A cell phone in hand is oftentimes more interesting to not just the young but their parents as well. In addition, the reality is that today’s world is doing considerable damage to springs and our underground water reservoirs. Fertilizers, pesticides, and septic field runoff, have changed many springs from clear and beautiful to overgrown with algae and murky to the eye. Fish, which were often abundant, can be difficult to find in some locations.

All is not a lost cause however. Many of the springs are now part of state parks so they have a measure of protection. Many of them are regularly open and can be used for recreational purposes and these are often full of visitors to whom the water seems clear because they do not know better. It will take a large turnabout however to fully save and replenish these natural beauties. We need to look at and address population growth. Further, the use of native plants should be encouraged rather than trying to all have lawns that look like manicured golf courses. Fertilizers and pest control are large problems for our spring systems.  Nature is resilient and these wonders can return to their former state if we allow them to.

While not a large book this is a book that packs a wallop. It is full of dozens of vintage images including brochures, photos, post cards, and more. There is a retro, or maybe kitsch, vibe here that is quite appealing. The writing is easy to follow and presents a lot of interesting information. Those interested in natural Florida, those interested in the history of tourism in our state, and those with a nostalgic bent, would be wise to pick up a copy of this book and enjoy a couple of hours of reading! You won’t regret it.

Rick Kilby is the President of Kilby Creative, a graphic design and advertising firm.

You may keep up with Rick by reading his Old Florida blog.

Other reviews of University Press of Florida books may be found here.

Library Additions July 2017 (2)

I recently received a complimentary review copy of the self-published memoir Hilltop Doc: A Marine Corpsman Fighting Through the Mud and Blood of the Korean War written by Leonard Adreon.

As a Marine corpsman, Leonard Adreon saw some of the worst of the Korean War’s carnage and the best of its humanity. His gripping description brings to life the war between the Chinese army and the U.S. Marines as they battled to take the high ground. You will feel the anguish, the frustration and the terror endured by Marines on the hillsides of Korea, and how U.S. troops fought with valor and esprit de corps under adverse conditions and against massive Chinese forces. As a corpsman, Adreon tells the story from the unique perspective of a young man from St. Louis, with no medical background, thrown into the role of saving lives amid the war’s violence. He leavens the grim, emotional, and sometimes ironic battlefield scenes with his background story – of how his own mistakes and the military’s bumbling landed him at Korea’s 38th Parallel.

Learn more by visiting Mr. Adreon’s website by clicking HERE.

With my current writing being about Korean War vets this one will no doubt rise to near the top of my to be read pile considering the early reviews have been positive.

Library Additions–July 2017 (1)

Hurley, Richard. California and the Civil War (Civil War Series). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2017. 176 pages, index, annotated bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781625858245, $21.99.

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for sending along a complimentary review copy. From their website:

In the long and bitter prelude to war, southern transplants dominated California government, keeping the state aligned with Dixie. However, a murderous duel in 1859 killed “Free Soil” U.S. Senator David C. Broderick, and public opinion began to change. As war broke out back east, a golden-tongued preacher named Reverend Thomas Starr King crisscrossed the state endeavoring to save the Golden State for the Union. Seventeen thousand California volunteers thwarted secessionist schemes and waged brutal campaigns against native tribesmen resisting white encroachment as far away as Idaho and New Mexico. And a determined battalion of California cavalry journeyed to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to battle John Singleton Mosby, the South’s deadliest partisan ranger. Author Richard Hurley delves into homefront activities during the nation’s bloodiest war and chronicles the adventures of the brave men who fought far from home.

Library Additions–June 2017 (1)

Dekle, George R. Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 231 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 978089335978, $34.50.

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a complimentary review copy. From their website:

According to conventional wisdom, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his law career collecting debt and representing railroads, and this focus made him inept at defending clients in homicide cases. In this unprecedented study of Lincoln’s criminal cases, George Dekle disproves these popular notions, showing that Lincoln was first and foremost a trial lawyer. Through careful examination of Lincoln’s homicide cases and evaluation of his legal skills, Dekle demonstrates that criminal law was an important part of Lincoln’s practice, and that he was quite capable of defending people accused of murder, trying approximately one such case per year.

Dekle begins by presenting the viewpoints of not only those who see Lincoln as a perfect lawyer whose only flaw was his inability to represent the wrong side of a case but also those who believe Lincoln was a less-than-honest legal hack. The author invites readers to compare these wildly different stereotypes with the flesh-and-blood Lincoln revealed in each case described in the book, including an axe murder suit in which Lincoln assisted the prosecution, a poisoning case he refused to prosecute for $200 but defended for $75, and a case he won by proving that a supposed murder victim was actually still alive.

For each case Dekle covers, he first tells the stories of the feuds, arguments, and insults that led to murder and other criminal activity, giving a gripping view of the seamy side of life in nineteenth-century Illinois. Then he traces the course of the pretrial litigation, describes the trials and the various tactics employed in the prosecution and defense, and critiques the performance of both Lincoln and his adversaries.

Dekle concludes that Lincoln was a competent, diligent criminal trial lawyer who knew the law, could argue it effectively to both judge and jury, and would use all lawful means to defend clients whether he believed them to be innocent or guilty. His trial record shows Lincoln to have been a formidable defense lawyer who won many seemingly hopeless cases through his skill as a courtroom tactician, cross-examiner, and orator. Criminal defendants who could retain Lincoln as a defense attorney were well represented, and criminal defense attorneys who sought him as co-counsel were well served. Providing insight into both Lincoln’s legal career and the culture in which he practiced law, Prairie Defender resolves a major misconception concerning one of our most important historical figures.

Blue & Gray Magazine to Cease Publication

Today marks a sad day as the excellent Civil War magazine Blue & Gray announced they will cease publication. You may read their post outlining the reasons by clicking here. It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect.

Please remember we have to support the independent publishers that remain, whether it be books or magazines, or they too may go the way of North & South several years ago and now Blue & Gray. Remember we almost lost Civil War News recently as well.

Book Review–Hidden History of Civil War Savannah

Jordan, Michael L. Hidden History of Civil War Savannah (Civil War Series). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2017. 159 pages, index, selected bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781626196438, $21.99.

Attracting nearly 14 million visitors a year who make an economic impact of over 2.5 BILLION dollars, Savannah is a tourist mecca whether it be for partying such as St. Patrick’s Day, the food and drink selections, or for business. There is no doubt many of these visitors will be taken by the beauty and the history this city has to offer. Of those interested in history a high percentage will certainly be interested in the Civil War if for no reason other than the  famous words sent by William T. Sherman to President Lincoln; “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” A book such as this will be a good introduction to the city for those interested in the “late unpleasantness” or maybe a souvenir for the armchair historian.

Nine different aspects of Civil War history in Savannah are covered in the book. The first chapter jumps right into the fray by discussing Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens “Corner-stone Speech” from March 21, 1861, given in Savannah. It was in this speech that Stephens uttered the words; “…that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery–subordination to the superior race–is his natural and normal condition.” Those looking for the cause of the war should probably look no further.

Further chapters cover the story of local hero Francis Bartow and his untimely death during the Battle of First Bull Run. An interesting story here concerns the placing of what might be called the first battlefield monument in his honor, though it was later destroyed by relic hunters and Union soldiers.  Future Army of Northern Virginia leader Robert E. Lee made stopped in the city before the war and then returned after the war in the spring of 1870. The story of the ill-fated ironclad CSS Atlanta is told here for those with an interest in naval concerns. The hard to maneuver, deep drafted ship never did put up a good fight as its multiple design flaws led to it running aground during its first battle.

As the war continued the number of prisoners of war increased and as the war came further south, in March 1864 Savannah became home to more than 600 Union officers who had been captured and imprisoned. Before being transferred to Charleston these men remarked on the decent food provided, the shade of the live oak trees, and humane treatment by guards. In October more than 7,000 prisoners being evacuated from Andersonville called Savannah home for a very short time. Despite conditions being better than they were accustomed to, more than 100 of the ill prisoners died while in the city.

The final chapters tell the story of the Confederate Army escape from the city in anticipation of the arrival of Sherman and his men. A seemingly out-of-order chapter on the Savannah fire of January 1865 that while not set by Union troops occurred while they inhabited the city tells an interesting story considering the legends of Sherman burning his way through the state. The story of the citizens of Savannah wanting to rejoin the Union, particularly once the city was occupied by Union forces is given a chapter. The book closes with the mandatory chapter on Confederate memory in the city. Efforts by the local Ladies Memorial Association and their contribution to the Laurel Grove North (read that as white) cemetery are covered well. The history, and controversy, over the large Confederate monument in Forsyth park is well told.

Overall I found this to be a good introduction to the city and it’s part in the war. This is certainly not a full in-depth treatment and much more could be said. For most however this is a book that will fill their needs. It covers some basics, includes plenty of notes for those wanting to find further sources, and is easy to read.

For those wondering, this is not a tour guide. If that is what you are looking for you should also consider picking up a copy of Civil War Walking Tour of Savannah. This book contains two walking and two driving tours that will lead you to many well-known, and some lesser known locations. These two books, taken as a pair, will be more than enough for the majority of visitors.

LSU Press Fall 2017 Catalog Available

LSU Press has their fall 2017 catalog available online. Click here and take your pick of catalogs to download. There are some great titles coming out soon. Examples include:

On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864 the final work by the masterful Gordon Rhea in his Overland Campaign series. A must have for those interested in the war in the east.

Also for those interested in the Army of Northern Virginia, don’t miss Hood’s Texas Brigade: The Soldiers and Families of the Confederacy’s Most Celebrated Unit (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) by Susannah Ural.

The highly respected Earl Hess returns with Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation Logistical superiority helped the North win the war according to Hess. Read the book and see if you agree.

There are several other Civil War titles. There are also local history titles, cookbooks, fiction, poetry, and more. Well worth taking a few minutes to review.

Press Release: Baylor University Digitizes the Guthrie Civil War Letters Collection

Love and War: Digitized Letters Preserve the Tale of a Texas Girl, Her Confederate Sweetheart and their Secret Engagement

‘This is the raw stuff of history,’ curator says of writings in The Texas Collection at Baylor University

WACO, Texas (Feb. 10, 2017) — Feb. 14 was coming up quickly, and the two young lovers’ emotions were heating up the hundreds of miles between them.

The 16-year-old girl wrote to her adored fiancé that “my heart is ever with you, my prayers daily offered up for you.”

The young Confederate soldier rhapsodized about his “darling angel” and his desire to “plant a lover’s kiss on thy ruby lips and with words of burning love rekindle the fire of devotion . . . ”

They were secretly engaged, and they sent their love, not with a tap of a finger on a cellphone, but by pressing quill pen to paper in letters that today — more than 150 years after the Civil War that kept them apart — are creased, torn and  rusty in places.

They wrote at least 32 letters to one another between 1861 and 1864, often waiting a month or two to receive them because of slow and unreliable wartime mail. While some bear February 1863 dates, not one mentions Valentine’s Day — unusual compared with modern times, says Eric Ames, digital collections curator for Baylor University Libraries.

Feb. 14 as a romantic holiday was still relatively new in the United States. Or “it may just be that then, it wasn’t a matter of, ‘This is a special day to tell you how much I love you,’” Ames said. “If you were thinking, ‘I could die any day,’ then you took any day, every chance you got, to say, ‘I love you.’”

Ames scanned, transcribed and uploaded the letters of Virginia Eliza “Jennie” Adkins — the daughter of a Marshall, Texas, judge — and Maj. John Nathan Coleman, commissary officer of the Third Texas Cavalry, which saw action at such key battles as the one at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Atlanta campaign. The digitized letters are housed in The Texas Collection at Baylor.

(Read this story on our website at Civil War letters.)

While Coleman was responsible for procurement of food and other supplies, he saw “a fair amount of combat,” Ames said. But he spared his wife-to-be the violent details — “TMI,” by today’s social media standards — in his letters.

“Even in the darkest days of our confederacy I tried to cheer you up,” he wrote.

Just as social media today carries the risk of misinterpretation, so did the couple’s written correspondence. As they waited for the next letter, both had ample time to read between the lines for implications, both good and bad.

Coleman, who was 26 when the war began, was “a pretty typical jealous boyfriend” — troubled to learn about the concerts and balls that Adkins occasionally attended with some officers stationed in Marshall, Ames said.

Adkins assured him, “You cannot conceive how much you are loved, and how often you are thought of.”

Sometimes the soldier’s life was monotonous, sometimes filled with dread and sorrow — and nearly always uncomfortable, despite the socks and comforter that Adkins sent him.

“I . . . can sleep in a mud hole as comfortable as a feather bed,” he wrote. Occasionally, there was respite — such as meeting kind people in Tennessee and enjoying maple syrup and molasses there.

“It is a new thing to us to see the trees dripping” sap, Coleman wrote.

On a somber note, Adkins wrote that one Christmas, while attending parties, “I often thought I could hear you calling me by my name . . . I left one night from a party before I had been there an hour. All at once a feeling came over me I could not account for . . . Don’t think I was the least superstitious, but after referring to your letters, I find that about that time you were in a battle . . . ”

As the war continued, paper became scarce and expensive. At times, the youthful pair’s intense back-and-forthing was “a little schizophrenic, and he (Coleman) gets melodramatic as he realizes there is no way the South will win,” Ames said. “He just wants to get back.”

Sometimes, a jest was mistaken for a jab, and apologies ensued. And then there is the puzzle of Coleman’s hair.

“My health is better than in two years . . . even my baldness is passing away and a beautiful black hair is once more covering my head,” Coleman wrote. “My whiskers have also returned much blacker and have grown four inches long.”

Responded Adkins: “I am very happy to know you are enjoying good health, and that your hair is growing out thick and black. After all I will not have a gray baldheaded husband. But I don’t like very long whiskers.”

Ames said the discussion “struck me as joking. But that’s always the challenge with these kinds of letters. They never had any reason to think anyone else would ever read these letters.”

How did the two meet? What sparked the flame? And most of all, why did they keep their engagement secret?

Some letters imply that Adkins’ father would have disapproved, perhaps questioning Coleman’s social standing or financial status. But “that’s just a guess,” Ames said.

Coleman, a merchant who owned a business before the war, had “a spotless military record” by war’s end, Ames said.

“There’s more to this story,” he said. “There are some letters we know are missing that were mentioned in others.

“I wish we had a little more to fill the gaps. But the letters do paint a pretty clear story of how they felt about each other and the deprivations of war. This is the raw stuff of history.”

Ames’ research revealed that Coleman survived — as did the couple’s love. They were married in August 1865, when Coleman returned to Marshall after receiving a parole from the Union Army, and they had six children. Coleman lost both legs in an industrial accident, and, in 1880, died at age 45. His wife never remarried, receiving a Confederate widower’s pension from the state of Texas for the final 18 years of her life. She died in 1932 at age 87.

*The letters were loaned to Baylor by the late Dr. Douglas Guthrie, a Mexia podiatrist and Civil War buff. He learned from a patient — Jennie Adkins’ great-granddaughter — that she and some relatives had dozens of letters written by a Confederate officer and his fiancée, and she offered to give her share to him. Guthrie attended a lecture by John Wilson, director of The Texas Collection, and after speaking with Wilson, agreed to loan the letters to Baylor. The digitized letters are in an online database in The Texas Collection in Carroll Library, 1429 S. Fifth St. on the Waco campus and may be viewed by appointment by calling (254) 710-1268.