Secrets of Spanish Florida on PBS

Premiering on PBS tonight:

The documentary “Secrets of Spanish Florida” was funded in part by the St. Augustine Historical Society. They also contributed to the research for the project. Be sure to catch the premiere Tuesday, December 26th, 2017 at 9:00 p.m. on PBS. For more information, click here.

 

 

 

 

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Book Review–Recalling Deeds Immortal: Florida Monuments to the Civil War

Lees, William B. and Frederick P. Gaske. Recalling Deeds Immortal: Florida Monuments to the Civil War. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 2014. 370 pages, 305 pages text. Index, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9780813049960, $44.95.

With the recent controversies over monuments and memorials, and not just those with some attachment to the Civil War as a whole or the Confederacy specifically, it can be easy to lose sight where monuments are, who or what the were erected to or for, who erected them, or in some unfortunate cases, what they even looked like. Authors William B. Lees and Frederick P. Gaske have done a fine job in rounding up and researching Civil War monuments located in the Sunshine State.

Lees and Gaske are well qualified to write such a book. Lees serves as Director of Florida Public Archaeology Network at the University of West Florida and Gaske has served as the state of Florida’s Historic Preservation Officer in addition to having coauthored the Florida Civil War Heritage Trail Guide, a free publication produced by the state.

The authors argue that to truly understand these monuments we must place them in the context of the time they were erected. Different monuments mean different things. It is also important that we understand that sacrifice meant different things to Union and Confederate soldiers.

The book is broken down chronologically which while it has its benefits, particularly in backing the author’s argument of understanding monuments and their place in time, also can become difficult for the reader if they are only looking to know about particular monuments. For those readers a straight alphabetical system would be a better choice. Readers searching for information on a favorite monument have to refer to the index to find where to turn.

The book is broken into five chapters: Reconstruction and Beyond, Remembering Confederate Sacrifice and Valor After Reconstruction, Remembering the Union Soldier and Sailor, Remembering Hallowed Ground, and Monuments Erected After the Civil War Centennial. The authors take each monument and work to tell its story through the use of contemporary sources, whether they be newspapers, archives, government records, and more. A look at the notes and bibliography of this book will show the research efforts that were expended.

While the Reconstruction period saw only a small handful of monuments erected, the ending of federal occupation was a boom period for remembering and honoring the dead. With the creation of the Daughters of the Confederacy and their later incarnation as United Daughters of the Confederacy at least 34 monuments were erected in the state. The subject matter and location of monuments varied from outright Lost Cause to monuments such as that in a Deland cemetery which contained a list of Confederate soldiers buried there. While the majority of these monuments are still in place some, such as the Daytona Beach monument, have been damaged or altered, and some, such as Orlando, have been removed since publication of this book.

What is fascinating is the continued creation and placing of memorials and monuments. In the post 1968 period Lees and Gaske account for 33 new monuments with more being erected today. This growth is provided by organizations such as Sons of Confederate Veterans who have this as one of their stated goals. The trend on these new monuments is toward smaller and less elaborate design which is probably due to design trends but more likely cost and budget concerns. While these new monuments are often meant to commemorate hallowed ground or to honor specific soldiers the fact that the Confederate flag has been used by many other groups, often with negative consequences, the claim of “heritage not hate” is a message that is often considered to be false.

This is a valuable book and should be on the shelves of those interested in Civil War history, Florida history, and even Civil Rights history. The story is an important one and one that will not be going away. It is our responsibility to understand those of the past did not live by our standards of today. To argue that the war was not based upon the issue of slavery would fly in the face of the Articles of Secession; to erase reminders of the war will not erase the war and to me is not the correct way to deal with the issue. We should not be standing in judgement of those who came before us for erecting these memorials and monuments, but rather, we should convey that history and work to tell a new full sided and complete story. To those putting up new monuments, you have a responsibility to be honest and not hide what we now understand to be true.

To see other posts dealing with the University Press of Florida click here.

Book Review: Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection

Smithsonian Books. Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection.  Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books. 2013. ISBN 9781588343895, color and b/w photos, index, 368 pages, $40.

If you are searching for an impressive looking and hefty coffee table book that you can leave out for guests to browse and perhaps use as a conversation starter this would be an excellent choice. If you are looking for something with more depth you should look elsewhere.

Published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the war, the book unimaginatively uses 150 objects from the Smithsonian collections to illustrate the Civil War. While it is very nice to see these items, especially for those of us who do not have the ability to easily visit the various Smithsonian museums, it just seems as if this is a large grouping thrown together in order to publish an expensive book. While loosely chronological, the book is not put into real chapters. Rather, each of the 150 objects forms its own short chapter so to speak. Another difficulty of this book for me is trying to figure out which museum holds which object. These individual artifacts are not labeled, instead the reader must turn to the back of the book and by using page numbers, rather than artifact/chapter number, find the listing, then translate that by using the key provided. Be sure to have your magnifying sheet handy, the type is quite small. No bibliography or notes are included so verifying statements and conclusions is difficult.

This brings me to another point this book drives home to me, which is the donating of historical objects. Please, please, please, do yourselves and others a favor and consider your local historical museums. The Smithsonian, and similar institutions, are cram packed with objects that will NEVER see the light of day. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark. These monstrous archives can not be cared for properly and with the exception of genuinely unique items pieces will eventually be accessioned, boxed, and forgotten about or disposed of in some manner. At smaller museums, these pieces will more likely than not be treasured and put on display. People will actually be able to enjoy the artifacts you have donated and isn’t that the purpose. For many small museums donations are their only source of new materials. Their budgets do not allow for purchases so your item could become a show piece.

Back to the book, as mentioned, it is truly a beautiful book. The photography is top-notch and the book is solid. It really is more a coffee table piece rather than anything you will learn from or actually sit down and read cover to cover. The chapters are brief so you can easily pick this up, put it down, and start on it again whenever and not have forgotten anything. Don’t expect to learn much, but rather, just marvel in the images.

Journal of Southern History Vol. LXXXIII, No. 4

The mail today included the November 2017 issue of the Journal of Southern History.  Below are the main journal articles.

Elusive Justice in Baltimore: The Conviction of a White Policeman for Killing a Black Man in 1875 written by Gordon H. Shufelt.

Defending Black Suffrage: Poll Taxes, Preachers, and Anti-Prohibition in Texas, 1887-1916 written by Brendan J. Payne.

Oil on the Farm: The East Texas Oil Boom and the Origins of an Energy Economy written by Wallace Scot McFarlane.

When Kia Came to Georgia: Southern Transplants and the Growth of America’s “Other” Automakers written by Timothy J. Minchin.

The issue also contains almost seventy book reviews.

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.

AuthorsFairflier (1)

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.