Saturday, December 16, 2006

Simon Fleishman: testimonial on behalf of Dr. J. A. Jones - More treasures from the GA Weekly Telegraph

We remember Simon Fleishman as the only one of the five adult Fleishman men living in the Jackson-Gadsden area during the 1850s and 1860s to remain in the South through the entire Reconstuction era. Simon, like Benjamin, also had a distinguished war record. Simon turns up in the Georgia Weekly Telegraph under unexpected cirucumstances. In Feb., 1873, the Telegraph reported in a puff piece - virtually an advertisement - about the "unparalleled success" of Dr. J. A. Jones in treating the "most inveterate and dangerous diseases." Among other patients, the Telegraph cited Dr. Jones' successful correction of the vision problem of "Mr. Simon Fleishman, of the mercantile house of S. Cohen, Esq., in Americus." The Telegraph also included the following statement from Simon:
"For twenty-five years my eyes have been deformed and very crooked. I came to Dr. Jones yesterday, who by a delicate, but very skillful, operation, has made my eyes straight and perfect. I feel very grateful to him and recommend him as a skillful and reliable surgeon.
I am a clerk with S. Cohen, merchant in Americus, Ga.

I was present at this operation, and testify to the truth of the above statement.
Clothing merchant in Brown's Hotel Block, Macon, Ga."
[Ga. Weekly Telegraph, Feb. 18, 1873]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

William Saunders, Hamilton and the 1868 election

Articles I recently discovered in the Georgia (Macon) Weekly Telegraph warrant revisiting Florida's Fall 1868 Congressional campaign.
Soon after Charles Hamilton was elected in May 1868 to represent Florida for the remaining months of the 40th Congress upon Florida's readmission that summer, he had to campaign again to be renominated to stand as the Republican candidate in that Fall's election if he were to join the 41st Congress in 1869. Governor Reed had postponed the Congressional election in his state until December 29th and actually canceled Florida's participation in the national November election having designated electors to support U.S. Grant, the Republican nominee for President. Florida's Republican Party met in early November and Hamilton was renominated. He was opposed, however, by William Saunders, a leader of the "radical," "mule team" faction at the state constitutional convention that past winter, who declared his candidacy for Congress as an independent. In its report on Florida politics dated Nov. 15, 1868, the Weekly Telegraph prints the following:
"Saunders, independent colored candidate for Congress, in quite a lengthy circular to voters of the State, denounces the nomination of Hamilton by Representatives as a fraud upon colored voters, and says Hamilton's supporters boasted of having cheated colored Republicans out of their last chance.
Saunders in a circular dated Headquarters Union League of Florida, addressed to members of the League, says the Republican Nominating Convention have put up a man whose name alone insures defeat, and calls on colored Republicans to send a live black man to the next Congress. Saunders signs himself Grand President Union League of Florida."
Two days later, the Telegraph's correspondent reported that "A circular of the 'Unterrified Tiger Committee,' published to-day endorses and recommends Col. Wm. U. Saunders as the people's candidate for the 41st Congress - as a representative man of his race and of the people of the South. Saunders takes the stamp at once." [GA Weekly Telegraph, Nov. 20, 1868].
The Democratic press adopted Saunders' critique of Hamilton and in a transparent attempt at encouraging a split of Republican voters to the benefit of the Democratic candidate for Congress, the Tallahassee Weekly Floridian newspaper repeatedly compared Hamilton unfavorably to Saunders and claimed that the Republican Party had given up hope of Hamilton's prevailing in the election.
The reality of Hamilton's level of black support was quite different, however, than that declared by Saunders and his cynical supporters in the press. In an article dated Nov. 19th, the Telegraph's Tallahassee correspondent reported that the "official paper" (presumably the Republican Tallahassee Sentinel), carried a "proclamation" signed by "Robert Cox, Chairman" and "A.C. Lightboom, Secretary, both of who are colored," purportedly representing the voters of Leon county after meeting to consider the choices for congressional candidate. According to the Telegraph, they proclaimed that "finding Saunders' course will ruin the State, and more especially the Republican party, and will bind us hand and foot, that Democracy may triumph, and having seen the condition of the colored men of Georgia, who have been prostrated from the condition of manhood which the Constitution gives them, by having Democracy as rulers, say they know the split in the Republican ranks, particularly in the colored element of the population of that State, brought them to their present condition; that the Constitution of this State opens the doors to every former rebel, however vicious, allowing him to vote; that they cannot afford to have a split in their midst, without swamping. They appeal to every colored man in the State to stand firm in support of C.M. Hamilton, the regular nominee, who is a good Republican, and asks Saunders to stay still awhile, when he shall be taken care of, and notify him that if he enters the field justice, noted as a great tiger hunter, will shoot him politically dead." [GA Weekly Telegraph, Nov. 27, 1868].
Hamilton, campaigning with "untiring energy" prevailed with 9,749 votes, three thousand more than his Democratic opponent, and well ahead of Saunders' total of 877 votes. Little did the 28 years old Charles Hamilton know that this electoral triumph would be the pinnacle of his political career.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Engraving of Hamilton

Through Googlebooks, I just found a fairly substantial contemporary biography of Hamilton in "The Fortieth Congress of the United States: Historical and Biographical," by William Horatio Barnes, (1870). While there is nothing new of significance in this portrait, it does include an engraving obviously derived from the one of the Brady studio "official" photographs. It is likely that Barnes solicited the biographical questionnaire notes found in the Florida archives. Barnes does include a few interesting sentences that certainly warrant quoting in this blog. After Hamilton joined the Veteran Reserves Corps, Barnes writes that "Lieutenant Hamilton's tall and soldierly appearance and superior qualifications attracted the notice of his superior officers, and he was given an appointment on the staff of General Martindale, Military Governor of the District of Columbia (Barnes, 244). Discussing Hamilton's responsibilities as Bureau officer, Barnes writes that "No officer of the bureau in the State of Florida identified himself more thoroughly with these great ends of official duty than Colonel Hamilton. His reputation for efficiency and just administration was so wide-spread that the poor and oppressed, ignorant that State lines could interpose an obstacle in their way, came hundreds of miles, out of the lower borders of Alabama, to lay their grievances before his tribunal." Following his "unanimous" nomination for Congress at the Republican State Convention on Feb. 25, 1868: "In the canvass that followed the zeal and eloquence with which he addressed the people was inspired by the desire as much for the adoption of the State constitution as the palladium of freedom and equal rights, as for his own election." Barnes includes a lengthy quote from the "Florida Union": "Col Hamilton received the nomination of the party and secured its vote at the election in May, on the double ground of fitness for the position, and of his services in behalf of his party; his consistent course as a radical Republican, in all matters involving political questions, and his unwearied and successful exertions in behalf of Union men and freedmen while an officer of the bureau at Marianna. During his few weeks in Congress last spring, he took a prominent and active part for so young a member, and comes back to his constituents with a good record and without reproach."
UPDATE: reproductions of the Hamilton engraving [Digital ID: 1250164] are available for purchase from the New York Public Library through the "Digital Gallery" section of its website.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ethelred Philips refers to Hamilton

Dr. Ethelred Philips (1801-1869) of Marianna wrote a series of letters during the 1860s to his cousin James J. Philips of North Carolina that have been preserved. Much of the content of the letters is devoted to business issues and Philips' theological musings. Philips, a staunch unionist, also describes the rise of pre-war "secesh" fervor and the confused, depressed state of Marianna after the war. Unfortunately, Philips engages in very little discussion of local politics and personalities. The letters add no new information about the figures who played significant roles in reconstruction era in Jackson County. The only direct allusion to Hamilton is as follows:

"We are cursed with one of those pests that remind us daily of our degradation “the bureau man.” He put up the negroes to celebrate the 4th inst. as the anniversary of their freedom with a grand dinner on the edge of town & to form a procession with the U.S. flag and Lincoln songs – a separate dinner for their former masters & friends whom they have invited & whom they are to serve most respectfully. We are a little uneasy about it for there will be probably a thousand or more present." (E. Philips to J. Philips, July 2, 1866).

This letter, of course, confirms Hamilton's reports of the tension building in Marianna prior to the first July 4th parade organized by the freedmen with Hamilton's approval.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

William Mallory Levy, Part IV: Character, Controversy and Assessment

Levy may or may not have had Jewish ancestry, but he certainly did not identify in anyway as a Jew. He and his two brothers of whom we have information affiliated with Protestant churches. In a book about Williamsburg during the war, a letter writer mentioned Col. Levy coming "to the Church the day before he left the neighborhood" (Carol Dubbs, "Defend this Old Town: Williamsburg During the Civil War, p. 39). His funeral service was held at Natchitoches' Episcopal Church and he was buried in the "American Cemetery" at a time when Natchitoches had a Jewish community and Jewish cemetery. No contemporary documents, from Virginia or Louisiana that I have found, even those extremely critical of Levy, make any allusion to his supposed Jewish origins. Nor are the researchers I have contacted who are familiar with the history of the Jewish communities of Louisiana and Virginia's Tidewater able to cite any connection between Levy and those communities.

Descriptions of Levy's presence and appearance are glowing. In an otherwise excoriating article, the Times's correspondent wrote that Levy was of “handsome presence, excellent manners, soft and pleasing speech, good education, much law learning, excellent practice, considerable wealth, seemingly popular, a Congressman of unusual distinction for a single term…” (NYT, July 9, 1877). The female letter writer who encountered Levy during his visit to the church at Williamsburg during the war wrote that Levy "made himself very charming- repeating poetry to me- which I really enjoyed" (Dubbs, p. 39)
The Cincinnati Enquirer presented a truly bizarre, over-the-top protrayal. The "attention" of the Enquirer correspondent visiting New Orleans "was arrested by the arrival of a person who seemed to be no less distinguished for his extradordinary physical appearance than his exquisite toilet. He was a six foot individual, with a magnificnet head and handsome face set upon a pair of giant shoulders, a finely-molded body, and the leg of an Apollo Belvedere. He was neatly arrayed in a fashionably-cut black, with white vest and black silk tile [sic.]. A handsomer man I'm sure I never saw." The infatuated correspondent continued, stating that when Levy removed his hat "he exposed a cranium which for ponderousness rivals, if it does not excel, that of Daniel Webster, mounting up in rugged ledges, as it were, until it formed such an intellectual dome as bespoke the mental giant. He chin was exceedingly massive, his just a little sensuous, and a pair of effulgent gold spectacles added brillancy to two already bright eyes, bulging in a manner quite fanciful, but denoting great power of speech. He was just such a man as would be taken for a chief among ten thousand." The breathless correspondent learned that Levy was "the wheelhorse of Democracy in this latitude." He was a lawyer and had "amassed a fortune." "His pretensions have always been of an aristocratic character. In his poorest days he managed to live in a fine mansion, drove blooded horses and kept an establishment worthy of one who enjoyed a stated income. His eloquence was of the most brilliant and persuasive character, carrying judges by storm, and swaying multitudes by its invisible power." Levy had previously disdained "the politician's flesh-pots..contended [sic.] himself to pursue his profession quietly, drive a fast horse, spend whole days playing dominoes with his Creole burghers, or suffling a poker deck with a crowd who enjoyed his inimitable wit much, but his money more. 'He always lost at poker,' said my companion, but he can put more fun in an anecdote or more hell in a political speech than any orator I ever heard.'
The correspondent was introduced to Levy at New Orleans' prestigious Boston Club [Gen. Richard Taylor and Judah Benjamin had both been members] that evening. He observed that "Colonel Bill was at once the center of an admiring group. And he should have been, such a splendid voice, rich, mellifluous, strong and resonant I never heard before. I had just a mere taint of Lord Dundrearyism [A Dundrearyism is an aphorism, proverb, colloquial phrase or riddle humorously combined with another in such a way to render it nonsensical. For example: "birds of a feather gather no moss." The word comes Lord Dundreary, a character in the stage play Our American Cousin who is prone to making such mistakes - Wikipedia] about it, which is doubtless the result of an overweening vanity which always characterizes people when they are smart and good-looking, too. His wit is keen and brilliant, and his anecdotal humor fully up to Lincoln. I learned that Colonel Bill was indeed an intellectual prodigy, who had been buried for twenty years in the swampy recesses of Louisiana, 150 miles from railway or telegraph, and whose light a mere chance had now drawn from a dark bushel." (Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, letter dated June 7, 1875).

In July 1877, the New York Times printed an extremely critical assessment of Levy in the context of a discussion of Pierson's murder in December 1876. The Times correspondent stated that after Pierson challenged Cosgrove on the street, he was killed not by Cosgrove but was "butchered" by "the crowd." The Times related that Pierson had been shot at previously. According to the Times, Pierson had testified before the "Congressional Committee" in January 1875 that he had been warned in confidence that assassins had been hired "by a man in high position to assassinate me.. I state here publicly that William M. Levy was that man who offered money to persons to take my life." Levy is described as Pierson's law partner and brother-in-law. According to the Times, the "cause of animosity against [Pierson] was his republicanism intensified in Levy's case by pecuniary matters." According to the Times "Pierson often stated after this, that if he ever was killed it would be by the connivance of Levy, who was then member of Congress. At that time [Levy] appeared in full harmony with the Natchitoches White League." The Times correspondent wrote that Levy had been considered for a cabinet position by Hayes and that "beneath his fine exterior he had a merciless soul...Two men were shot during the war by his orders at the head of Rapides Bayou without trial or plea. If he had no hand in the actual killing of Pierson, he certainly had no hand in bringing his murderers to justice." But, the Times stated, Levy had fallen out of favor locally. He had lost the Democratic Party's renomination to Congress to J.H. Clam, "an unreconstructed rebel." The Times wrote that "Levy had become too much contaminated with the Republican flesh-pots. He ruin was decreed and persecution was commenced. An opportunity to embarass him finanacially was unexpectedly used, and he suffered." His debtors "repudiated their debts and ostracized him. The doors of life-long friends and even relatives were closed against him." Cosgrove's Vindicator denounced him. "He lost all he had and to day [July 1877] has hardly enough for bread. None of his old clients will employ him. He is a broken man and his fine presence is no longer a disguise for the emotions beneath it. His miserable condition is said to be apparent to even a casual observer." The Times correspondent concluded that "if the bright and forgiving spirit of Pierson looks down on the scene where it was once so active, it must be with a pitying glance on the utter prostration of the once proud and vindictive William M. Levy" (NYT, July 9, 1877).

A lot of the Times' account is hard to believe. Although, as evidenced by his role in the Hayes-Tilden affair, Levy appeared to be a pragmatic, as opposed to an unreconstructable, Democrat, he certainly had not abandoned the Democratic Party for the Republican side so as to justify the censure described. Less than three years after the article was written, Levy was named to Louisiana's Supreme Court by Democratic Governor Wiltz. There is no evidence that Levy ever expressed any sympathy for Louisiana's Republicans or the assertion of the rights of the state's black citizens at the heart of Reconstruction. Consequently, it is hard to believe he would have even been abused in the manner of a scalawag. Nor does he appear to have been impoverished: an 1880 letter from his wife talks extensively about their farm. Any ostracism by the white community was certainly not devastating as the Levy family did not feel compelled to flee Natchitoches and returned Levy's body there for burial.

Levy's accomplishments are as follows: he was a successful and respected attorney, had a respectable war record in two wars, entered the public service several times in his career culminating in the distinguished offices of congressman and the Louisiana Supreme Court. Newspaper descriptions depict a charismatic and attractive presence. There are, however, more questionable apects of his career. Certainly his personal appeal had its limits as evidenced by his failure to be reelected colonel by his Louisiana troops in 1862 and his failure to be renominated as the Democratic candidate for Congress from his district in 1876.
Though he was an unapologetic Confederate, Levy's faithfulness to the cause of the South really can't be taken out of context and held against him since he did not have a reputation as a firebrand urging seccession. Nor did he leave behind a record of racist rhetoric. In fact, his political pragmatism in service of the South, may have alienated him from some of the more hardcore, "unreconstructed" former rebels. Suggestions of his involvement with the local White League and his being mixed up in his law partner and brother-in-law's persecution and murder are troubling. His "great" accomplishment, the only time he attracted national attention, was his role in the supposed conspiracy behind the compromise settling the Tilden-Hayes dispute, delivering the presidency to the Republicans and the South back to Democratic Party white rule. The immediate effect of this deal was ending Reconstruction in Louisiana. The long-term impact was the institutionalization of Jim Crow for almost 90 years.

In short, Levy was one of numerous, now forgotten, public figures whose portraits haunt civic buildings throughout the nation. Like many, he was quite distinguished in his community in his own time, but did not possess achievements warranting historical recollection after his demise. For Levy, however, there is one significant and unsettling caveat to this verdict of oblivion and that is his shadowy and unascertainably leading role in one of the most infamous and damaging events of American history.

Levy is included in a few recent books that list Jewish Congressman or soldiers. To get to the bottom of whether Levy actually indentified himself as Jewish, or he was only awarded this religious/ethnic status posthumously by 20th century scholars, I tracked down the sources:

1. Kurt F. Stone's Jews of Capitol Hill lists Levy and cites the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia and Marcus’s American Jewish Biography for his sources.

2. In his Jewish Confederates, Robert Rosen doesn’t cite any American-Jewish history material. He includes Levy in his book based only on Jewish name recognition and for Levy’s bio uses his military records, the Civil War OR, and Levy's commander, Zachary Taylor. Rosen does use the Levy family papers from the Williams Research Center in New Orleans, but I’ve also checked those out and the family letters (to wife and daughter Catharine) contain zero references to anything Jewish. So at least Rosen gets credit for using some primary sources. Rosen also cites Krick’s Lee’s Colonels, and I know Bruce Allardice did research for Krick, so if there is a Jewish reference there, it comes from Bruce who told me essentially that he relied on the Levy's Jewish name only. If we're going to call Levy Jewish for miltary history purposes, I don’t know why Rosen overlooks brother Charles Levy whose record in the Confederate Navy was probably more impressive than WML’s record in the army.

3. Jacob Rader Marcus - a giant of Jewish American history:

A. In his Early American Jewry,  Marcus does not mention WM Levy , his brothers, or his father John B. Levy.

B. In The Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography there is a concise Levy blurb with the only citation being the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. Marcus does not list the father, or brothers.

4. The source that is the urtext of the WM Levy as Jew information:  the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia has a couple of paragraphs about W. M. Levy lifted directly from the Biographical Dictionary of the American Congress.

But, the congressional bios are available no-line and contain no references to Levy being Jewish. Here is Levy’s . This is the UJE’s only source and the UJE does not mention the father or any brothers.

4. Also, Louis Ginsburg's Chapters on the Jews of Virginia: Ginsburg lists John B. Levy among “possible Jewish names” in a Portsmouth, VA Masonic lodge. He also mentions “John Levy in Warwick County” as a “Jewish sounding name” in the 1790 Census. Finally, he writes that “William M. Levy is shown as an attorney” in Portsmouth.

So, in conclusion, some UJE editor was cherry picking Jewish names from the lists of congressmen in the Congressional Biographies, which contains no mention of Levy's Judaism. This is the source for Marcus and all his followers of the tradition that WM Levy is a prominent Jewish American. Ginsburg, at least, admitted he was just listing Jewish sounding names.

What’s next? It’s conclusive that no one has found any evidence that Levy was Jewish by ancestry, let alone considered himself Jewish. I’ve found evidence to show he considered himself a Christian (an anecdote of his appearing in church in Virginia during the War, church affiliation for himself and brothers, his burial etc. ). To take this further, the next step is to start investigating his father, John Benjamin Levy, more thoroughly (is the Benjamin middle name a give-away, trumping “john”?). I’ll start seeing what’s available for the late 18th century Virginia Jewish community.

Friday, October 20, 2006

William Mallory Levy Biography: Part III- Post-War

After the war, Levy resumed his career as a lawyer in Natchitoches. During the reorganization of the Democratic Party during the Reconstruction period, Levy remained politically active as evidenced by his attendance at the Democratic Party's 1872 convention in Baltimore as a Louisiana delegate. In April 1873, Levy announed the formation of a law partnership with E.L. Pierson, brother of the wife of Levy's brother, called "Levy & Pierson" (replacing "Pierson & Levy").
E. L. Pierson was a member of the state legislature and was murdered in December 1875 by J.H. Cosgrove, editor of Natchitoches' Vindicator newspaper. ("The difficulty orginated (sic) in a newspaper controversy, in which the epithets of coward, &c, were exchanged. Pierson was a Kelloggite ["radical republican" - DRW], Cosgrove a Democrat." Ouachita Telegraph, Dec. 31, 1875 at
Levy was elected to the 44th Congress (March 1875 to March 1877) as a Democrat. Though he was not renominated for Congress in 1876, Levy spent his "lame duck" months actively involved in the Tilden-Hayes controversy. In the disputed presidential election of 1876, Louisiana was one of five states whose electoral votes were in contention (Florida was another of these states and William Purman played a major part in that controversy). The Louisiana gubernatorial election of November 1876 was similarly contested. Both the Republican and Democratic candidates declared victory. Louisiana’s Republican-controlled board of elections confirmed the Republican candidate as the winner. Levy denounced the actions of the Louisiana board of election before the House on Feb. 20, 1877. The New York Times contended that Levy played a leading part in the compromise that ended Democratic filibustering aimed at preventing the House’s certification of the presidential election in Hayes’ favor. The Times also insisted that Levy was a leader in devising the deal that accepted the Louisana board of election's determination in favor of Hayes’ winning that state's electoral votes in exchange for the recognition of the Democratic candidate as Louisiana's governor. Though historians dispute the existence of a “deal” to settle the election, the Times insisted that Levy’s speech on the floor of the House on March 1, 1877 was proof of such an arrangement. Levy was quoted as speaking in opposition to the Democratic filibuster that "I feel that sound policy and the paramount consideration of the salvation of the State and people of Louisiana require that their Representatives in this House should abstain from a futile attempt to nullify that decision, and thereby postpone the redemption which is essential to their very existence and from which alone they can expect peace and prosperity” (NYT, March 31, 1877). Louisiana's electoral votes were delivered to Hayes and the Democrats took control of Louisiana, effectively ending Reconstruction in that state.

In 1878, Levy formed a law partnership with Daniel C. Scarborough which contined until Levy's appointment in April 1880 by Governer Wiltz as an associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Levy died in August 14, 1882 at Saratoga Springs, NY at the age of 54. Levy's burial service was held at the Protestant Episcopal Church in Natchitoches on Dec. 11, 1882. Biographical sources indicate that Levy was buried at the American Cemetery in Natchitoches, but extensive indexes of graves at that place do not list his name. His widow, Catherine, died in New Orleans in 1900.

Charles H. Levy was most likely William's younger brother. Born on August 18, 1837, Charles Levy's biography lists him as a Virginia native and the youngest of seven children of John B. Levy, also a Virginian by birth who served in the War of 1812. The father John moved to Natchitoches in 1870, but moved the following year to Longview, Texas where he died in 1877 at the age of 89 (another source says he died on Dec. 29, 1880). Father John's wife, Emeline Butt (unclear if she was the mother of William), also a Virginia native, died in Texas in 1875 at the age of 72. Charles was educated in Portsmouth and entered the U.S. Navy's engineering corps. He resigned from the U.S. Navy in June 1861 and joined the Confederate Navy, being promoted to chief engineer in 1864. At the close of the war, Charles settled in Natchitoches. Like his brother, Charles became in involved in the Democratic Party and was elected justice of the peace in 1879. Charles and his wife, Emily Pierson, were members of the Episcopal Church and had six children, including one son named William M. Another brother, Richard Butt Levy Sr., was a trustee of the Presbytarian Church in Longview Texas and served as Texas Secretary of State for a number of years. Richard died in 1918.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

William Mallory Levy Biography: Part II - Civil War

Robert Rosen covers Levy's military record extensively in his Jewish Confederates. Rosen, however, provides no evidence that Levy was actually Jewish. In April 1861, Levy was named captain of the LeCompte Guards from Natchitoches which became Co. A of the 2nd Louisiana Infantry (Louisiana Zouaves). The fact that Levy had military experience from his Mexican War experience certainly made him an obvious choice as an officer. Levy's unit was immediately sent to Virginia. As soon as his men arrived East, Levy sent a letter back to Natchitoches beseeching his fellow townsmen to provide funds for warm clothing for his men. Levy took the opportunity to visit his college town of Williamsburg. In July he was promoted to colonel. One of his soldiers wrote back to home to his parents that he thought the unit's new colonel, "Leavey," to be "the best colonel we have had" (W.W. Posey to Dear parents, July 30, 1861). Levy reported on his participation in the Battle of Lee's Mill in April 1862 in a letter to his wife, writing that "the cause is a righteous one and God is on our side and will watch over us." (Levy to My dearest wife, April 23, 1862). Major General Magruder cited Levy for "judgement, courage, and high soldierly qualities of conduct and arrangements, which I desire specially to commend" (Rosen, p. 105). Levy was not reelected to lead his unit and sought a field command elsewhere. Failing in this effort, he obtained an appointment as a major in the adjutant general's department which was confirmed by the Confederate Congress in July 1862. He became a member of Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor's staff in Louisiana and his closest aide (Rosen, p. 106). Levy had served in the division of Taylor's father, Zachary, in the Mexican War. Richard Taylor described Levy as "an officer of capacity and experience." One of Levy's roles was to represent Taylor's army in negotiating prisoner exchanges with the Union army leadership. During the summer of 1863, Levy was discussed as a candidate for the Confederate Congress from Lousiana's 5th Congressional district, but did not receive the nomination. Following Taylor to his next command, Levy was promoted to lieutenant colonel in Oct. 1864 and named Taylor's inspector general. He accompanied Taylor when he negotiated the surrender of the last Confederate troops operating east of the Mississippi in early May 1865.
[Flag image: regimental flag of 2d Louisiana from]

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

William Mallory Levy (1827-1882): The Biography- Part I

My research into the life of William Mallory Levy has reached a dead end. Despite inquiries in Virginia and Louisiana, I cannot confirm whether or not Levy was Jewish. Nevertheless, here is a brief biography of controversial nineteenth century figure.

Levy was born in Isle of Wight, Virginia on October 30, 1827. In 1844 he graduated from William & Mary College where he studied law. In May 1846, Levy joined the Portsmouth Company of Volunteers, known as Co. F of the First Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, and served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Mexican War. A letter written by Levy in Mexico in July 1847 sent home to Portsmouth was sold at auction in 2003. Levy wrote "What a changeful life this is! I am on the battlefield of Buena Vista, you at home in the midst of friends. I supposed the damned war will not last always. I wish to God we could have a good fight and be done with it, for I pledge you my word I am getting devilish tired of Mexico." Soon after his unit's return from Mexico in August 1848, Levy announced that he had assumed the "editorial management" of Portsmouth's Chronicle and Old Dominion newspaper. At the same time, Levy publicly declared his change from the Whig to the Democratic Party. Explaining his switch, Levy stated that in "his connection with the army, in capacity of an officer..., he was convinced by a conviction of duty to his country, and the honest belief of the practical adaptation of measures entertained and avowed by the Democratic party to the good of the country, and to the proper and just administration of the government.." In January 1849, only four months after becoming editor, Levy resigned from management of the Chronicle and Old Dominion. For a time, until June 1849, he served as the second clerk for the Navy Storekeeper at Portsmouth. Around 1850, he married Catherine and they had a daughter Katie. About the same time, Levy was admitted to the Virginia bar and opened a law office in Portsmouth. Levy became active in local politics, serving on a Committee of Vigilance and as clerk of Portsmouth upon its incorporation as a town early in 1852.

In 1852, the family moved to Natchitoches, Louisiana where Levy worked as a lawyer and editor of the Natchitoches Chronicle. In 1859, he was elected to the Louisiana state legislature. The following year, Levy opened the firm of Levy & Dranguet with Natchitoches attorney Charles F. Dranguet. Perhaps indicating Levy's status in Lousiana's Democratic Party, Levy was named a presidential elector for Breckenridge's pro-slavery, National (southern) Democrat ticket in 1860. Prior to the outbreak of the war, Levy became friendly with William Tecumsah Sherman who was serving as superintendant of the Military Acadmey of Louisiana located in an adjacent parish.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ferdinand Fleishman: Tragedy in Civil War Era Cincinnati

A previous post aluded to the tragic end of Ferdinand Fleishman. Ferdinand left Quincy, FL during the war. The Israelite told his story in its July 22, 1864 issue:
"CINCINNATI - Some five or six weeks ago, Fred. A. Fleischman, a German, of the Israelitish faith, twenty-eight years of age, arrived in this city as a refugee from Florida. He took the oath of allegience at Key West, January 28, 1864. He has been boarding at the Sylvester House, but Friday evening went to the residence of Mr. Oehlman on East Fifth street, and retired to his room at an early hour. In the morning his door was found locked, and no answer was made to knocking on the door, or repeated calls. Finally the door was forced upon, and Fleischman found lying on the floor, with a pillow under his head, his right arm bent over the shoulder, almost in contact with the temple, and beneath it a pistol, which had fallen from his hand after the discharge. The pistol is a small, singled-barreled breach-loader, partially covered with blood, and had been discharged, portions of the catridge still remaining in the barrell. He had placed himself in an easy position, and must have died instantly. As additional evidence that he had commited suicide designedly, he left on a sheet of fools-cap a note to Mr. Oehlman, as follows: "Mr. Oehlman - My clothes are at Mr. Moore's. You will find $31 in my pants pocket. Let my wife know. Ferdinand." Fleischman was suffering from a depression of spirit, induced partly by the expected arrival of his wife and four children, from Quincey, Florida, where he resided and owned considerable property, and partly by his cold reception on his arrival in New York, by those whose duty and pleasure it should have been to give him succor and extend to him the warm hand of friendship in this his hour of adversity. We most heartily sympathize with the bereaved family, and hope that the God of Israel will give them consolation."
Ferdinand had been mentioned in "The Israelite" a few years earlier. H. Loewenthal sent the paper a report, published on Dec. 21, 1860, of his visit to Florida where had had been called as a mohel. Loewenthal performed the brit mila for Ferdinand Fleishman's son in Quincy and reported that "I must confess that I never met with a more liberal set of men and women than I found in those I there become acquainted with. I am only sorry my time was too brief and my heart too wounded on account of my too recent affliction - you know I lost my wife lately."
Ferdinand was born about 1835 in Bavaria and was listed as a merchant in the 1860 census. He also worked for a while at the Aspalaga post office in 1859. Ferdinand and Fannie Davis, born in the late 1830s in Baden, Germany, were married in Gadsden County on Nov. 7, 1859. Fannie was listed in the 1860 census as having a fancy goods store. Ferdinand and Fannie had four children, Albert and Mary, both born about 1860, and Joseph and Bertha, both born about two years later. The child brought into the convenant by Loewenthal was certainly Albert. The 1860 census lists Fanny and Ferdinand with a two year old child, Samuel. Unlike Fannie's four children with Ferdinand, the 1870 census lists Samuel's last name as Davis. It is unclear whether Samuel is a child of Fannie's from a previous marriage or the child of a relative. The 1860 Gadsden census listed a S.M. Davis, born about 1838, clerk from Hessia Germany and the 1850 Gadsden census listed a Lewis Davis, a peddler born about 1820 in Germany. The connection between these people is unclear.
As reported in a previous post, Ferdinand seems to have found a substitute to serve in Florida's 6th Infantry Regiment, probably in mid-1862 when Simon and Benjamin enlisted and set off for the North in late 1863.
A few years after Ferdinand's suicide, Fannie married Morris Warendolff, a native of Prussia. Fannie and Morris were living in Gadsden County as of the 1870 census. This census lists two young children: Alexander (age 3) and Bernhard (age 1), both born in New Jersey. It is unclear whether these were Fannie's own offspring or Morris's from a previous marriage. The Israelite article describing Ferdinand's suicide reports the impending arrival of Fannie and her four children, suggesting that she may have gone North after all in 1864 and that the fifth child, Samuel, was not hers. Perhaps she met Morris in the North and married in New Jersey and had two children there. It is impossible to determine.
By 1880, Fannie was living in Brooklyn, with Samuel (now named Warndolff), her four children named Fleishman, the two Warndolff boys born in New Jersey, and three more Warendolff children who are defintiely Fannie's: Victor (born Florida 1871), Herman (born New York 1874) and Edward (born New York 1876). Morris is not listed with the family - presumably he was dead. It seems that Fannie later married a individual named Manheimer.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION POSTED AUG. 31, 2009: Like Ferdinand, Samuel Fleishman had also lived in Quincy before moving to Marianna. In the Tallahasee Floridian & Journal dated Jan. 26 1856, the following announcement is found:
PHILIP M. FLEISHMAN and FERDINAND A. FLEISHMAN, under the firm of P. & F. Fleishman, having purchased the entire stock of S. M. Fleishman, will continue the business at the old stand, and respectfully solicit a continuance of the patronage of their friends and the public in general.
The subscriber having sold his entire stock to P. & F. Fleishman, would respectfully solicit in their behalf, a continuance of that favor so liberally bestowed on him.
Quincy, Fla. Jan 1, 1856

Friday, August 18, 2006

Charles Memorial Hamilton: The Military Record

I glossed over Hamilton's military service in the FHQ paper. Here is a more complete account.

May: joins Co. A, 5 Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry as a private at Jersey Shore, PA
June: Skirmish at New Creek, WV

June - July: Peninsula campaign: Battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Charles City Cross Roads or White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill
July: promoted to corporal
Sept: Battles of South Mountain and Antietam
Nov.: CMH courtmartialed, charged with "absence without authority from company while on picket duty." CMH was arrested by a Union army patrol outside of the picket lines near Rappahannock Station on Nov. 12, 1862. The Cavalry officer who had arrested CMH testified that he found CMH and another man outside of less than a mile beyond the picket lines at a house near the river with another man "carrying off some fresh pork." Col. Fisher of CMH's regiment testified that he knew "of no young man possessed of a better character." CMH's officers stated for the defense that they had given CMH permission to visit a nearby house to buy bread. CMH was found not guilty of the charges against him.
Dec. 13, 1862: Battle of Fredericksburg: wounded (fracture of tibia caused by gunshot), left on field for 5 days, captured and taken to Richmond
Dec. 1862 - Jan 1863: Imprisoned ("enjoyed the storied feliciities") at Richmond's Libbey Prison

Jan.: imprisoned in Richmond and exchanged
Jan - April: U.S. Hospital, Annapolis MD (receives 20 days leave of absence to PA home where fell ill with "typhus fever")
March: Promoted to Sargeant
May - Aug.: U.S. Hospital in Philadelphia (typhus fever and treatment of leg wounded)
Sept.: Ordered Invalid Corps to report as guard to the Provost Marshall's office, Philadelphia
Oct.: Discharged by order to the War Dept. to accept a commission as 2nd Lieut in Invalid Corps (Co. B, 9 Veteran Reserve Corp) on account of disability: fracture of tibia
Nov.; VRC unit stationed in Washington: CMH "detailed to commant the Guard, and take charge of the Aqueduct Bridge"

Jan.: Takes charge of Washington's Chain Bridge
Feb. - Apri: detalied as Judge Advocate of a General Court Martial
April 1864 - Dec.: detailed on General Martindale's staff as assistant Pass Officer, also Transportation Officer
Dec.: Assigned as Post Adjutant as Forrest Hall Prison in Georgetown

1865 and later
Jan.: Transferred to to Central Guard House prison
March: CMH reassigned to his regiment
April: Granted leave to accompany his father to recover the body of his brother John killed at Peterburg; detailed back to the Central Guard House prison, returned to his regiment and then assigned to command the Guard at Secy Seward's residence
June: assigned to transport Burnett of the Confederate Congress to the care of Maj Gen'l Palmer in Kentucky
July - Oct.: detalailed as Judge Advocate General Court Martial
Oct: ordered to report with detachment of 33 soldiers to the Freedmen's Bureau sub asst commission at St. Mary's Co., MD
Nov.: returned to his regiment and elects to remain in U.S. service
June 1867: promoted by brevet to 1st. Lieut and Captain to date from March 13, 1865 for "faithful and meritorious services during the war"
Jan. 1868: Honorably discharged from military service

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Fighting Fleishmans of Gadsden County, FL: Forgotten Jewish Confederates

The Simon Wolf index is a list of Jewish Civil War veterans originally compiled in the 19th century. The index does not include any of the Florida Fleishmans. Benjamin and Simon Fleishman served in the 6th Regiment of the Florida Infantry. Simon, born Feb. 21, 1840, was listed in the 1860 census as living with Samuel Fleishman's brother Philip. Like Philip and Benjamin, Simon was a native of Bavaria - possibly he was another brother, but more likely a cousin since he was as much as 18 years younger than Samuel. Benjamin was listed in the census as boarding with the family of Ferdinand and Fannie Fleishman and their child Samuel. Born about 1832, Benjamin was also, like Ferdinand (born about 1835), a Bavarian. As discussed in the Fleishman paper in the SHJ Journal, Philip found a substitute to serve in the Confederate army in his place. Ferdinand is listed under the 6th Regiment, but apparently never served and left for the North where, as recounted in The Israelite, he committed suicide under miserable, lonely circumstances in July 1864.

Service records of Simon and Benjamin Fleishman:
SIMON FLEISHMAN: enlisted in Quincy on March 12, 1862 as a private in Co. B of the 6th Infantry FL. He was captured at Missionary Ridge (TN) on Nov. 25, 1863 and confined in the Union p.o.w. camp at Rock Island, IL on Dec. 1, 1863. Simon was released upon swearing an oath of allegience on June 22, 1865. He is described as 5'7.5", with "fresh skin, dark hair, hazel eyes." Simon was the only of the Jackson-Gadsden Fleishmans to remain in Florida long after the War. He was an "active businessman in Quincy in the post-war period" and a building on the west corner of the south side of Quincy's town square was known as the "old Simon Fleishman building." In 1907, Simon applied for and received a Confederate army service pension from the state of Florida. It is not clear that he ever married.
[UPDATE AUG. 23, 2010:  Fate of Simon Fleishman solved - Born in 1840, Simon "Fleischman" was buried in Chicago in 1908 - See: ]

BENJAMIN FLEISHMAN: enlisted at Chattahoochee on June 14, 1862 as a private in Co. B of the 6th Infantry, FL. He was wounded at Chicamauga, GA on Sept. 20, 1863 and captured at Nashville, TN on Dec. 16, 1864. Benjamin was confined at Camp Chase, OH on Dec. 20, 1864 and was released after swearing the oath of allegience on May 11, 1865. Benjamin had some business interests in Jackson County after the war and briefly served as county treasurer. He died in the mid-1870s.

Record of the Florida 6th Florida Volunteer Infantry;
"The Regiment was formally organized on April 14, 1862 with the election of officers...After several months of training at Chattahoochee, the regiment was ordered to report to Knoxville, Tennessee....The 6th and 7th Regiments reinforced General [Edmund Kirby] Smith's army before the great Confederate invasion of Kentucky during the late summer of 1862. Moving fast out of Knoxville, through the Cumberland Gap, General Smith captured Frankfort and Lexington and threatened Cincinnati before his offensive ran out of steam. Many of the men in the 6th Florida weakened by the vigorous marching, poor food, and foul water, were laid low by disease... During the invasion of Kentucky the 6th Florida did not participate in any major engagements. For the next year the regiment was mainly used on guard and garrison duty in East Tennessee. The Unionist living in the mountains were a constant threat to the railroad that ran from Chattanooga, through Knoxville, to Virginia. The duty of guarding the railroad was dull but necessary. The Union offensive in Tennessee during the summer of 1863 changed this monotonous existence of the 6th Florida. The Confederates were forced to evacuate Knoxville, their small force there falling back to join General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee, which had been forced out of Chattanooga. This combined force retreated a few miles south to make a stand near Chickamauga Creek. At Chickamauga the 6th Florida had its baptism of fire. After Chickamauga all of the Florida regiments in the Army of Tennessee were formed into one brigade... This new brigade was stationed near the center of the Confederate line at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, and did not retire from the ridge until ordered to do so. After spending the winter at Dalton, Georgia, the 6th Florida was nearly constantly engaged in battle during the Atlanta campaign, suffering heavy casualties.... A much reduced regiment emerged from the Atlanta Campaign to take part in Hood's disasterous Tennessee invasion in late 1864. At the Battle of Nashville, the Florida Brigade, as well as the rest of the Confederate army, was virtually destroyed. The survivors retreated back to Mississippi. Here what was left of the 6th Florida was consolidated with the survivors from the other Florida regiments in the Army of Tennessee to form one regiment. This 1st (Consolidated) Florida Regiment was sent east to join Joe Johnston's army in North Carolina. Here they were finally surrendered to General Sherman's army at Greensboro, N. C. on April 26, 1865, three years after their violent adventure." [Posted by MelindaWebb Russ at;read=184]

Simon and Benjamin have both been added to the Jewish Civil War service database at
[Flag image from ]

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Samuel Fleishman in New York

While Samuel spent at least a few years during the war in New York CIty, he also maintained a residence there after he returned to Marianna. Samuel appears in the 1868-1869 New York City Directory with a residence at 202 E. 27th street and a place of employment at 39 Third Ave. The Third Avenue address, of course, was the site Altman dry goods store after Morris and Benjamin moved uptown from the Bowery a few years after the death of their father, Phllip. Samuel is also listed in the 1869-1870 directory with a residence now at 252 E. 10th Street. The 10th street address was also the home of Samuel's widowed mother-in-law Celia Altman. By this time, the Altman store had expanded to include 43 Third Ave. The following year, Sophia and her children had moved to 318 E. 49th Street which they shared with Celia. Phlip Fleishman was living nearby at 318 E. 49th Street.

Monday, August 14, 2006

For our Jackson County, FL readers - Fleishman's Campbellton property

The Florida state archives contain several deeds transferring a property in Campbellton involving the Fleishman family. On Feb. 2, 1860, Samuel Fleishman purchased from B.A. Hinson for $1,250 a two acre property containing a "store-house and dwelling." The property "lying at the commencement of the Geneva and Orange hill roads" ran 140 yards South and 70 yards West. On Feb. 8, 1862, Samuel deeded this property to his wife Sophia for the sum of $2,500. Sophia transferred to this property to Samuel's brother Phillip Fleishman of Gadsden County on Nov. 29, 1864 for $2,500. Presumably Samuel transferred this property to Sophia when he contemplated leaving the South. The reason for Sophia's transfer to Philip so subject to similar speculation. Perhaps she contemplated leaving the South late in the War? If any readers are familiar with Campbellton, is this property identifiable?

Saturday, July 22, 2006


1868 (January through June)
Hamilton left Jackson County in January 1868 and was succeeded by Purman. Purman had become deeply involved in Florida politics, spent much time out of the area, and left the Bureau in the summer after being elected to the state senate. At the beginning of the year, Purman observed that “a stronger spirit of hostility exists against the colored people to-day than ever before” and attributed that hostility to the freedmen’s “immovable position on Republican principles.” 1868 finds the first mention of the KKK. Purman’s replacement, John Dickinson, didn’t dwell on violent incidents in his reports. The following year, of course, assassination and mayhem would overwhelm the county and Dickinson would provide the most detailed eyewtiness report.

In the vicinity of Greenwood, Mr. Grey refused to deliver up a colored child, on the order of the Bureau “to its rightful guardians, and expelling with the flourish of firearms the holder of the order from the premises. Enraged at this treatment of his authorized demand, the freedman collected a band of half-a-dozen armed followers, and proceeding to the house of Mr. Grey obtained possession of the child without the exercise of any violence but of course by the force of the menace.” (WJP to AHJ, 1/4/68)

Purman writes that the KKK has sent him“several very unfriendly notices” and that from assassination “no one is protected save by an overruling Providence.” (WJP to AHJ 4/30/68)


U.S. 7th Inf. troops leave Marianna (Marianna Courier in Weekly Floridian 5/19/68)

May 22nd, “Mr E. W. Mooring, a limb of the “chivalry”, and a man of hot and rebellious character, was met on the public sidewalk by a colored woman who accidentally in passing brushed his knee with her hoopskirt, whereupon this valorous male struck her two severe blows in her face, and raved about like a madman. A high excitement was instantly produced in the colored community, and after much difficulty in finding a Justice of the Peace, which petty functionary was at last found in the outskirts of the county, Mr. Mooring was arrested for assault and battery. After a shameful and malicious judicial farce for two days before a nincompoop of a country squire, he was adjudged not guilty, and was accordingly not committed for trial before Court.”

May 23rd,: REDDICK BLUNT freedman, was killed near Marianna. Blunt “was under arrest for hog-stealing, and while in the custody of Constable Street and two colored assistants, for conveyance to the country jail, it is said he attempted to escape, and ran about half-a-mile from the road, through a heavy thicket in the woods, where he was overtaken and killed by a two charges from a shot-gun, in the right breast. A peculiar feature in this case is, that Constable Street made no pursuit at all, but remained in the road, while the colored assistants alone gave chase, and one only a short distance, while the third who was alone and shot the prisoner in the front part of the body, was a brother of the woman from whom the hog was stolen …this murder was unnecessary and unjustifiable.”

“Murder, homicide and assassination have long been so common in the experience of this section of the country, that their terrible occurrence scarely rises to the importance of a subject for sober conversation, and instead of producing horror and indignation in the moral faculties of the community, it excites only reckless comments and a fashionable spirit of bravado.” (WJP to AHJ, 5/30/68)

June 4th: “Lot Wood, a vagabond whiteman, assaulted with a knife and ripped out the entrails of JAMES DONALD, an old freedman. There was no open provocation for this murderous deed, and the old man died in a week afterwards. Wood has escaped, and is skulking in the piney woods on the borders of the State.”

In Washington County: “Upon the vague and even unreasonable suspicion that James Bellamy, a freedboy, stole $75, he was carried out on the bay where he was tied to an anchor and plunged into the water for the purpose of extorting a confession of guilt from him, and in spite of all his frightful and prayerful asservations he was taken at 12 o’clock at night into the woods and hung to a tree, though all the while asserting his innocence, until at last half dead with fright and suffering, he was released to find his way back in the darkness as well as he could.”

“On the plantation of John Pitts, near Marianna, three colored women were wounded with fine bird shot, for the offense of merely drawing water from the well after being ordered to desist, while this same well always supplied the premises and quarters with water, and is the only one in the vicinity. One woman was quite severely wounded. All this was done for the unjust purpose of driving the hands off the plantation, in which attempt the Bureau several times restrained the employer.” (WJP to AHJ, 6/30/68)

Thursday, July 20, 2006


The murder rate remained low in 1867 though incidents of violence and intimidation increased. The Hamilton and Purman complained repeatedly that the planters missed no opportunity to swindle their freedmen laborers by discharging them for petty offenses prior to the distribution of the crop share and by encouraging them to run up their store credit accounts at the plantation and with merchants who colluded with the planters. The Agents believed that, as Reconstruction policy progressed, the whites were becoming more “desperate and reckless.” They particularly complained of the influence of Georgia politician Benjamin H. Hill on Jackson County’s whites.

GILBERT WALKER (freedman) was murdered near Marianna on Feb. 2, 1867 by Hugh Parker (white). “Gilbert, engaged in hauling lumber, met a Mr. Bell driving an empty one oxcart in the public road, both gave way, but the road being narrow, and Gilbert heavily loaded, sufficient space to pass could not be given, and both stoped. Gilbert got down and held aside some bushes to permit Bell to pass – which he did. At this juncture Parker came up, on foot, and demanded of Gilbert why he did not turn out of the road. Gilbert replied that he did as far as he could. Parker retorted “If you ever do that again I’ll kill you”- and cursing him, added “I might as well do it now”- and put a revolver to his breast and shot him – Gilbert expired in fifteen minutes. Efforts were, at the time, and have since been made to arrest the murderer, but he still at large.” (CMH to ECW 2/28/67)

Hamilton and Purman visited Campbellton for the purpose of supervising labor contracts. “In the morning a few of the best citizens were present, but towards noon all of this ilk quietly disappeared off the ___, and a crowd of roughs had full sway. Whiskey was guzzled down in abundance to get up steam to assault the “Yankees”, and a mob of a dozen drunken, cowardly wretches, with revolvers buckled round them came into our room, criticizing and insulting us in the most provoking manner. Our only protection was in our revolvers laying on the table before us. They retired, came again, repeating this manoeuvre several times, when we were entreated by our colored friends to leave the town as quickly as possible, which in our unprotected condition we thought expedient to do, and did, in an open manner, with our revolvers in our hands, surrounded by a small-band of noble freedmen.” (WJP to ECW, 2/28/67) .

Brutal murder, by beating, of freedman EPHRAIM BUCK. The freedpeople were afraid to give information “for fear of bringing down the vengeance of the murderers, & their friends upon themselves. It seems that Ephraim had been accused of stealing, and that afterwards he was seen upon Selmans (?) premises, and that Selman & McLernand – two men of notoriety – caught, abused and beat him that he died.” (CMH to AH Jackson, 3/31/67)

“George W. Melvin (white) was tried before the Circuit Court of this District held at this place during the month, charged with the murder of ELAIS HAMMOND (white) and convicted of manslaughter. Archy Hunter(?) (cold.) for rape upon the person of _____ Smith (cold) & acquitted; and Louis White (cold) for rape upon Sarah Bryant (white) & acquitted. Louis and Henderson White brothers, were charged with the commission in conjunction, of this fell deed, in Sept. last. Henderson, a boy of 15 years, was tried before the same tribunal last Fall (case then reported) was convicted, and executed by hanging, on 2 March last. He had a fair trial.”

On May 6th, “Joe and Frank Register, and Tip Skippee (white) outrageously maltreated a colored man (Chas. Russ) living near Vernon, Washington Co. It is said that this freedman who sustains a good character, I am told, - entered the room of a white woman where he was working, who reported the fact to the above mentioned boys, whereupon they took him (Charles) down into the swamp, hard by, and gave him two hundred lashes, and left him quite dead, in the swamp. Judge Bush acted promptly in the matter having the culprits arrested and bound over for their appearance at the next term of the court in that Co.”

On May 25th, Joe Moreton (white) of Campbellton assaulted, knife in hand, Franklin Hovey (cold.) with intent to kill, cutting him in several places slightly.” Moreton was arrested but immediately released upon bail.

Assailant approaches Hamilton with a knife in Washington County. Flower desecration incident at the Marianna cemetery. See Weinfeld FHQ article on Charles Hamilton for details (CMH to General, 5/31/67)

Appearance of B.H. Hill. White friends of the Bureau Agents insulted daily on the streets of Marianna. Another apparent attempt on Hamilton’s life in Campbellton.

A Mr. Teat, living on the Apalachicola river, in Calhoun Co., reported for driving three laborers from his premises and turning their families out of doors, and threatening to shoot them if they ever put foot upon his place again. The laborers were working for a third of the crop, and claimed that it was Teat’s object to deprive them of their share.
Teat’s neighbor, Mr. B. Baker, reported for having beaten a black girl with a club.
(CMH to AJH, 7/31/67)

Hamilton is instructed to investigate the location of the murder of DAN WEBSTER, a black boy, along the Chattahoochee River. (AHJ to CMH 8/7/67)

On 9/27 evening “Archibald Hunter, a freedman of bad character, committed a violent rape upon a white woman, Miss Sophronia Bell, while she was proceeding to her home. It seems to be a most aggravated case, and the felon so far has eluded all pursuit.” (WJP to AHJ 9/30/67)

Harassment of Republican southern whites continues. Blacks receive disproportionate fines for minor offenses (“the white man is fined five and the black man fifty dollars for the same offense”). Vandalism of Hamilton and Fleishman property. (CMH to AJH 10/31/67)

Small group of soldiers dispatched by Hamilton to help freedmen collect their crop shares is driven off from several farms at gun point.

Two murders occurred during the month – all white. Silas Gladden shot one FULLERTON near Greenwood. Collet shot & killed DICKSON & Dickson’s brother avenged his death by killing COLLET. Both Gladden and Dickson escaped.

Whites are well-armed: “every man and boy in the county I am told carries his revolver and knife, and the civil authorities (there are none but the sheriff & his deputy – and the Judge of the Co. Criminal Court, & several justices – all the rest have resigned, or refuse to act) do not discharge their duties, either from fear, or from sympathy with the rebels.”

William Coker “a hot-headed youth of this place committed an assault & battery with intent to kill upon Robert Dickson, freedman, without the shadow of provocation. I directed the Deputy Sheriff R.N. Pitman to arrest him, but he has failed to do it. This man Coker, with a crowd of others of the same stripe have been raising little disturbances for some time past. This is the crowd I have every reason to believe that shaved my horses, and disfigured Mr. Fleishman’s buggies.” (CMH to AJH 12/31/67)

On Dec. 6, at Greenwood, NORMAN HALL stabbed JOHN COULLIETTE “with a knife, and a small .. the latter, seeing the use of the weapon.. his father, inflicted a like wound on Hall. Both the wounded men died.” GA Weekly Telegraph, 12/13/67 citing Marianna Courier.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Hamilton and Purman report only two murders, but white perpetrated violence is on the rise and increasingly organized. The local judiciary is firmly established as an agent of white domination and black subjugation.

Immediately upon Charles Hamilton’s arrival in Marianna, he observed the harassment of the white school teacher at the Freedman’s Bureau school in Marianna.

George Brammer (white), “the teacher here [Marianna] is frequently annoyed” and was “harassed by 4 young men threatening to arrest him.”

John Bate (white) of Jackson Co. “struck a freedwoman laborer in the face with a stick and ordered the freedwoman’s mother, Lucinda Poges [?] to correct her daughter for her insolence.” Lucinda protested. When Lucinda attempted to prevent Bate’s wife from throwing her possessions out of the house, “Bate’s son struck her on the arm, Bate struck her on the head and the dog bit her, hurting her severely.” Bate turned the family, husband, wife and child out of his plantation (CMH to TWO 2/28/66). Bate and his son were tried for assault and battery before the county criminal court. The son was acquitted and, Bate was fined five cents and costs. A month later Lucinda had still not recovered from her injuries. (CMH to JL McHenry, March 31, 66)

Attacks on the Freedmen’s School in Marianna continued, but this time the freedmen began to show evidence that they were organizing themselves and standing up to the intimidation:
“The night school has been frequently disturbed. Report of mob calling out Brammer from the school house, menacing him with four revolvers and expressions of shooting him if he not promise to quite the place and close the school. The Freedman came promptly to his aid and the mob dispersed.”

“About the 18 or 19 of April: This same mob threatened to destroy the school that night, and the freedmen hearing this, assembled for self-defense. Not less than forty
colored men armed to protect themselves; but the preparations becoming known to the respectable rowdies, they only maneuvered about in small squads, and were wise enough to avoid a collision.” (CMH to JLMcHenry, 4/30/66)

Hamilton and Purman receive reports of “abuse, imposition, and assault and battery, on freedmen.” Certain whites are “too ready to inflict the most shameful treatment on the least whim or custom, or provocation whatever.” A particular source of tension is the continuing practice of white employers punishing freedman children, “which punishment, it is reasonable to believe is often cruel and unnecessary.”

Violent opposition in Greenwood and Campbellton to establishment of Freedman’s schools is so intense “that no teacher is willing to brave their fury in opening a school.” (WJP to CMH 5/31/66)

Whites object to reports of upcoming celebration by freedmen to commemorate July 4th.
“Curses were showered upon the Bureau and freed-men, - swearing that they would shoot the men who carried the pictures and the flag, and, vi et armis, oppose the celebration.”
(CMH to JLM 6/30/66) [Celebration passed off peacefully].

Harassment of Freedmen by local law enforcement and supported by the judiciary is by now in full effect:
“Civil authorities are too prone to arrest the freed people for trivial offenses and petty ‘crimes.’ They do not certainly enjoy the privileges or liberties extended to the white citizens. They have no conscience against arresting and fining the freed-people to the full extent of the law for petty offenses against the State or individuals, and looking over them if committed by “my people.” I do not say that in doing this the Authorities transgress the law, or overstept it, - but I do say that partiality is shown. The freedpeople are sometimes fined excessively, from which the county treasury is replenished – and yet they to not get the benefit of the funds – especially the poor funds.” (CMH to JLM 7/31/66)

Practice of requiring pre-payment of all court fees “is an effectual, impediment in the way of prosecutions for assault and battery on freedpeople, while cases of this character are becoming more numerous and aggravated.” “A disposition prevails among these petty magistrates and the people of their respective communities, to colleague and prevent as far as possible all prosecutions against white persons . . . and to watch every freedman with a lynx-eyed scrutiny, and on the slightest pretext arraign him before the authorities, and visit him with the extremest penalty of the law.”

An assault and battery was committed on Mary Jane Baker (freedwoman) by William. Parker (white). Justice Hughes refused to issue a warrant until the fee of six dollars should be prepaid. In about ten days, having raised the money, Baker applied again, when, on pre-payment, the warrant was issued. Parker was arrested, tried and fined $5.00.

The wife of Robert Cody (freedman) was beaten and assaulted and he was driven violently from the plantation of his employer, Cullin Curl without justifiable cause. When Cody sought redress, Judge Milton of the Criminal Court held the Freedmen’s Bureau approved contract invalid and Cody “became involved in twenty five dollars cost.” (WJP to CMH 9/29/66)

From the Columbus Daily Enquirer: "A difficulty occurred betwenn Wash. Melvin and ELIAS HAMMOND, about twelve miles west of Marianna, Fla., in which several shots were exchanged. Hammond was wounded in the thigh, of which he died a few days after. Melvin had two of his fingers shot off and his arm badly injured. Have no heard the cause of the quarrel." [9/18/66]

Many cases of mal-treatment & shameful abuses…Assault & Battery – almost always without provocation – is frequent.”

TWO FREEDMEN are reported to have been way-laid and killed in this county, within the month. One was shot walking in the public road – the other while hunting in the woods, near Campbellton. No arrests made. (CMH to EC Woodruff, 12/31/66)

Dr. Ethelred Philips of Marianna reported that one of the men murdered had been ambushed by planters who suspected him of stealing corn. (E. Philips to J. Philips, 12/19/66)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


During the War years and the first year of Reconstruction, racial killings were rare events in Jackson County, Florida. Charles Hamilton was asked to compile a list of murders occuring since the war began:

4/13/1861: JOE, a “slave” murdered. John D. Padget (white) of Jackson Co. was tried in October 1866 for the murder and acquitted.

2/13/1863: RUBEN, a “slave” was murdered in Calhoun Co. Fla. on the 13th of Feb. 1863, by Luke Lot (white). Lot was tried in the Circuit Court of the West Dist. of Fla., Judge Bush presiding, on the 2nd May 1866, verdict “not guilty” [NOTE: Luke Lot became a legendary figure of white resistance in the Florida, Georgia, Alabama border country during Reconstruction. Dale Cox suggests that Lot may have been instrumental in organizing the white community during the “Jackson County War”].

Spring 1863: (1) A negro was killed (shot), and (2) body of one drowned found in the Chipola River near the Natural Bridge, Jackson Co. “Their names, or the circumstances could not be ascertained. They were said to be ‘runaways.’”

12/13/65: WYLIE “freedman, was whipped to death …in Marianna, by Ashley B. Hamilton” (white) of Jackson Co. Hamiton was arrested and sent to Tallahassee under guard but escaped “at the Arsenal” (Chattachoochee?). Hamilton was tried in the Circuit Court at Marianna on October 18, 1863 (same trial as Padget) “and the jury returned a verdict of ‘not guilty.’”

“As far as I can ascertain no murders have been committed by Freedmen since the commencement of the War, in this District, all of which is respectfully submitted.”
(CMH to J Lyman, 10/24/66)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Updates to come

I haven't forgotten this blog. Instead, I've been consumed by other matters such as editing my transcriptions of Charles Hamilton's Freedmen's Bureau reports. I'm not sure what to do with these documents. The file is too large to conveniently place on the blog. If anyone readers are interested in more information about the reports of the Freedmen's Bureau officers of Jackson County, Florida from 1866 to 1868 (Hamilton, Purman and Dickinson), feel free to contact me.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Finally: the Charles Hamilton article is in print

"'More Courage Than Discretion': Charles M. Hamilton in Reconstruction Era Florida" appears in the Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, Number 4, Spring 2006. Copies are available from the Florida Historical Society at

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Abraham Coles Osborn, D.D., L.L.D.: The Biography

The Eagle offers the following description: "He is about 35 years of age [May 1871], five feet ten inches in height, rather light build, has a fair complexion, brown hair, and dark blue eyes, a sandy moustache, and a large mouth. Otherwise his appearance is not striking. He dresses in plain black, and wears a black necktie. He speaks so distinctly that every word and even syllable can be heard in any part of the church, but nevertheless his voice is not pleasant, and he pronounces some words in such a peculiar way that he would sooner be taken for an Englishman or Irishman than a native of New Jersey, which he is said to be." [Brooklyn Eagle, May 15, 1871].
Abraham Coles Osborn was born in Scotch Plains, NJ (near Plainfield) on Feb. 20, 1831. Brother Thomas Ward was born two years later. In the early 1840s, the Osborn family moved to Wilna, NY, between the Adirondacks and Lake Ontario. He studied at Madison Univ. (the predecessor of Colgate Univ.), a Baptist institution, and prepared for the ministry at Hamilton Theological Seminary (later Colgate Rochester Divinity School). Osborn's first pastorate was in Louisville, KY where he was ordained "a minister of the gospel" in 1858. In June 1861 (after Fort Sumter), Osborn left for Germany where he studied for seven months. He returned to Louisville and married Miss. Sarah E. Matthews of Louisville in December 1861. A year later the Osborns moved to St. Louis where A.C. accepted the pastorate of the Fourth Baptist Church. In 1867, Osborn received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Shurtleff College (a Baptist seminary that became part of Southern Illinois University in the 1950s). Osborn's wife died in August 1868 and he spent most of 1869 touring Europe, at least partially, in the company of Senator T.W. In December, 1869 he accepted the pastorate at the Brooklyn Tabernacle church. In 1872, he married Miss. Emma Hatfield of New York (whom he had met in Paris) and, the following year, left Brooklyn for the Second Baptist Church on West 25th St. in Manhattan. In 1877, Osborn moved once again, now to North Adams MA until he accepted a pastorage in New Albion in Western, NY. In 1895, Osborn became President of Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. (a black college for the training of "teachers and preachers") where he remained until 1911. He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Colgate in 1905 where he served as a trustee for many years. He returned to North Adams, MA where he died in 1916 at the age of 84 and was buried between Emma and T.W. Osborn was survived by three sons, Robert H., Ralph and Harold. [Obituary of A.C. Osborn from North Adams newspaper by Rev. J. Wilcox; Bio. sketch by Elizabeth Osborn Slater Hubbard]. These sources are courtesy of Mr. James Peck of Corona CA, a descendant of Spencer C. Osborn, older brother of A.C. and T.W. Mr. Peck has commented that "It seems [Osborn] spent more time in the secular world than the religious. He was a Chaplain to the wealthy and was married twice, both women from wealthy families."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Freedmen's Tribute to William Purman

William Purman, Hamilton's boyhood neighbor and friend, resigned his War Department post in Washington and came to Marianna, Fl. in early 1866. In mid-April, after Hamilton's request, Purman was appointed the Freedmen's Bureau's civilian agent for Jackson County (Hamilton was the military officer responsible for Jackson, Washington, Calhoun and Holmes Counties). Purman was appointed "Special Agent" at Marianna at the salary of $100/month beginning in June. Technically, Purman was Hamilton's subordinate, but after a short time it became apparent that they served as equals. Hamilton's attention and time were disseminated across his geographically large jurisdiction where much of the freedmen's population was widely dispersed. Dissatisfied by civilian agents previously appointed by Osborn, Hamilton was compelled to spend time away from Jackson County riding around the other counties under his responsibility. This burden became heavier in February 1867 when the Bureau terminated the positons of civilian agents in Hamilton's territory. In mid-February, Purman was instructed to report to the Bureau's Florida headquarters for further orders and in March he was appointed Bureau Agent at Volusia City. In April, the Bureau directed Purman to investigate Ralph Ely's ill-fated freedmen's colony in New Smyrna, FL. Shortly after Purman's reassignment, Hamilton wrote to his Bureau superiors requesting the return of Purman ("an Agent of very considerable efficiency- with a heart devoted to the Freedmen’s cause") to Jackson County [Hamilton to A.H. Jackson, March 21, 1867].
Hamilton's letter was soon followed by a remarkable document delivered to Colonel John Sprague, the superior Bureau officer for Florida:
Your petitioners would lay their humble request before you in this form and ask you to restore to us our good Freedmen Bureau Agent, W.J. Purman, if it is possible to do so. As you are now Head we ___ to you in confidence asking this, though we know you are doing everything for the best.
He worked day & night for our good. Starting up our education. Starting up our societies. Making speeches. Settling our Difficulties, and explaining our difficulties and settling them up for us. explaining to all through the country how to work, how to make money & how to live in peace and harmony. We feel that he has done all of us more good than any man we ever saw. The people all want him back. And therefore Colonel if you can possibly do it, We will pray and thank you for it, with our blessings on the whole Freedmens Bureau. We remain your humble petitioners."
This letter, dated March 25, 1867 was signed by 70 freedmen led by Rev. Emanuel Fortune. Well-known signers include Calvin Rogers (later constable and murdered in early 1870), Benjamin Livingston (later state legislator, county commissioner and Marianna postmaster and councilman and the last black office holder in Jackson County prior to Jim Crow's entrenchment), Jesse Robinson (later state legislator and justice of the peace), Rev. Fuller White (later county commissioner and Marianna councilman), and Isham White (county commissioner) [For biographical information, Canter Brown, Jr., Florida's Black Public Officials, 1867-1924].
Purman was dispatched in May by the Bureau on an inspection tour of West Florida and returned to Jackson County by the end of June 1867.

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Generalissimo of the Ku Klux": Jimmy Coker's War Record

Col. James P. Coker was the organizer of the Jackson County white community's resistance to Republican administration and Reconstruction policy. While he was not directly implicated in the violence of the "Jackson County War," Hamilton and Purman considered him the ringleader and even, in William Purman's words, Generalissimo of the Ku Klux in Jackson County. He tormented and threatened Hamilton and Dickinson and organized the meeting that announced the expulsion of Fleishman. Coker was arrested in December 1871 for violating the Enforcement Act, tried at the United States Court at Jacksonville and the government dropped the prosecution about a year later [Peek, "Curbing Voter Intimidation in Florida, 1871" FHQ, vol. 43, April 1865]. United States v. James Coker, December 11, 1871, Box 082429. (The Enforcement Act was "aimed at outlawing any denial of the right to vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Intimidation to deprive the right to vote, conspiracy, and going abroad in disguise to prevent the free exercise of anyone's civil rights were also forbidden" - Peek, ibid).
Suprisingly, however, Coker did not have a distinguished war record. Coker died in Marianna on August 20, 1890 and his second wife, Ella, filed an application for a widow's pension from the state of Florida stating that Coker had served in Captiain John M. F. Irwin's Florida Calvary from Oct. 3 until mustered out on Oct. 11, 1862 and that he then served as "Quarter-Master and Home Guard from 1862 to 1865." The initial application was put on hold because Mrs. Coker did not furnish any evidence of Coker's "war service other than a statement from the Adjutant General that he mustered into service October 3rd, 1862, and mustered out October 11th, 1862." This did not constitute proof of war service as required by Florida's pension law. The Comptroller's office requested that Mrs. Coker provide affidavits from Coker's comrades in arms as to Coker's service.
Mrs. Coker submitted another application in 1927 stating that Coker was mustered out in1862 "to confiscate provisions and clothing and send to the front for the use and benefit of Confederate soldiers." Incredibly, Mrs. Coker presented, as her sole supporting evidence of Coker's service, the affidavit of Emanuel Spires, age 79, who had been a slave "owned by Mr. Thomas and General W. D. Barnes." Spires recalled Coker as "Confederate Government Agent to collect Food and ship to the front for the Confederate soldiers, and was known as a Contra-band Agent, for the Confederate Government." Spires seemed to remember Coker as having confiscated some wagons of food from his master's plantation and having been told by Coker that the wagons were being sent to the front. It is stunning that Jimmy Coker's widow resorted to the statement of an elderly former slave for the sole source of supporting documentation for her application for a military pension.
In 1927, the Florida Legislature apparently approved an act directing the state Pension Board to grant Mrs. Coker a pension.
[Source: Florida Confederate Pension Application Files:].

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More creative writing from the Floridian: Osborn's fictional rejoinder

The previous post contained an "interview" of Charles Hamilton by the Tallahassee Floridian's correspondent "Enfant Perdu." Several weeks later, Perdu reappeared (was this a monthly political humor column?) with the inevitable Osborn "rejoinder":

Interesting letter received by our Correspondent Enfant Perdu, from Hon T. W. Osborn, U. S. Senator from Florida.[Private and confidential.]U. S. SENATE CHAMBER
WASHINGTON, D. C., MAY 25, '71
DEAR ENFANT - I notice by a late copy of the Floridian, that you have interviewed Hon. C. M. Hamilton, and obtained his version in regard to the Great Southern Railroad affair, and as it contains what would seem to be an aspersion upon my political sagacity, I desire to inform you exactly where I stand, both in regard to the Southern Railroad, and the U.S Marshalship for Florida. As this letter is strictly confidential, I shall of course make it as plain and frank as possible.
Florida is my adopted state, and I have a great affection for her, which unfortunately her people do not seem to reciprocate. During my past political career I have tried to the best of my poor abilities to advance the interests of the State, (incidentally enriching myself at the same time) and I feel that I deserve some credit for my labors in this direction, for I am sensitive if I am fat.The charge is made that in connection with the railroad scheme, I sought to enrich myself and brother at the expense of the tax payers of the State; but certainly no good christian will object to that, for the book they should square themselves by says, "If any provide not for his own, especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse an infidel."[1] I am free to say that both myself and friends are impecunious cusses, and if our debts were paid, would scarcely have enough money left to buy a waterfall for a mosquito; and we never intended to put the road through ourselves. What we did intend, was to get all the land grants possible and then sell our franchise to some foreign corporation, which at the completion of the work would have been virtually owners of Florida, and the citizens might growl, but they would be too poor to bite.
The object of my brother, Rev. A. C. Osborn, in becoming so deeply involved in the project was a purely christian and benevolent one. He believed the people of Florida to be deep in the "gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity,"[2] and desired to employ in the salvation of their souls the humanizing influences of a great railroad; thinking that every screech of the whistle and every puff of the engine, would admonish them of the necessity of preparing for the hereafter. His object was a noble one, and whoever casts a slur upon it deserves the horrible fate of Prometheus, who you will remember was chained to a rock for eating a vulture, that bird being considered sacred among the heathen. As for myself I am truly sorry that I ever had anything to do with it, for even the boot-blacks at the capitol, with an indifference to senatorial dignity approaching nearly to the sublime, have dubbed me "Railroad Tommy," and as I before remarked, I am sensitive if I am fat. [3]
However, I shall redeem myself I think for at the next session I intend to offer a bill, resolving that as Florida is too poor, the U. S. Government will father two magnificent projects that I now have in hand. One is to dredge out Lake Lafayette in Leon county, and make it navigable for light draft steamers, not drawing more than three feet of water, and mainly to be used for picnics, funerals, &c. The dredging is to be done by one of Hoe's largest cylinder presses (with double barreled escapement,) and to be under the supervision of E. M. Cheney, the eminent Jacksonville "gasometer," (vide New Era) who will bring to his new field of labor the greatest qualifications for the work, and no doubt give satisfaction to all parties.[4]
Project number two is one of incalculable value in a more sanitary point of view. It is nothing more nor less than to transport the famous Wakulla Springs to Jacksonville, to be used as a sanitarium by all having an "itch for office," as well as by members of the Y. M. C. A. [5] The transportation is to be accomplished by a new species of sub soiling, which I have just patented to be superintended by myself, and as it is to remain secret until fully performed, I shall only employ negroes in the work as they are best qualified to keep dark concerning it. These are the things that will make me famous, and the name of Osborn shall yet live in story "one of the few, the immortal names that were not born to die." [6]
Now in regard to the marshalship. When I saw Hamilton's name sent in to the Senate for that position, I actually trembled with dismay for you will doubtless remember that I once held the position of Register in Bankruptcy, and there might be some little technical informalities in my accounts, which only a friend should examine, so I determined that a friend of mine should be apppointed Marshal. I immediately notified Alberger to prepare and file some affidavits against Hamilton, while I hurried off to see Grant. On being admitted to the presidential palace, I explained to Ulysses my errand, and told him that if he would withdraw Hamilton's name and have Conant appointed, I would vote for the removal of Sumner, and in favor of San Domingo. He agreed to do so, and I left his presence with a happy heart. The best of the joke is, that when Hamilton called on Grant to ask an explanation he was grossly snubbed, and even refused a copy of the charges on file against him. [7]
I find that I have written a much longer letter than I intended and will now close, by carefully admonishing you to keep this letter strictly private in all respects.
Truly yours, OSBORN
ENFANT PERDU, Esq., Tallahassee, Fla.

Dear Floridian - In giving the above letter to the public, I feel that I am but fulfilling a simple duty, and that duty I shall carry out unto the bitter end, even though that end be BLOOD; and I hereby give warning that I can snuff a barn door at fifteen paces, and knock pennies off a cat's tail as fast that feline animile can histe them on. There is a subtle vein of rascality running through the honorable Senator's letter, which will no doubt strike his friends very unpleasantly, and they may blame me for having violated the confidence reposed in me; but I feel that I have a duty to perform, and like the Greek Philosopher, old Sarcophagus, I shall not allow mere personal friendship to stand in the way. I have no ill will against Mr. Osborn, but when any man, high or low, seeks to injure the State which I have taken under my protection, I shall in the sublime language of the Teutonic poet, "cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war."[8]
[Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, May 30, 1871]

1. 1 Timothy 5:8
2. Acts 8:23. Remarkably, this Floridian satire mockingly uses the religious justification earnestly invoked by Rev. A. C. Osborn to rationalize to his congregants his serving as president of the Great Southern Railroad.
3. Uncertain reference: perhaps popular minstrel show joke?
4. Lake Lafayette was a large shallow lake in Leon County (Tallahassee area). Hoe was a manufacturer of printing presses ("cylinder press"), often quite large machines. The use of printing machines for "dredging" is absurd. E. M. Cheney was a Republican political operative active during Florida reconstruction. "Gassy" was a frequent taunt invoked by the Floridian against its Republican targets. New Era was a Gainesville newspaper.
5. Wakulla Springs are a large natural spring and popular recreation area not far from Tallahassee. Obviously, the proposed "move" to Jacksonville is absurd. The joke about the YMCA is obscure.
6. From "Marco Bozzaris" by Fitz-Greene Halleck.
7. Hamilton's nomination for marshal was stalled by the Senate Republicans and ultimately withdrawn by Grant in favor of Osborn "Ring" loyalist, Simon Conant. Also in March 1871, Charles Sumner lost his position as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations stemming, at least partially, from Sumner's opposition to Grant's plan to annex Santo Domingo. Such an alleged deal (Osborn opposing Sumner in return for Grant withdrawing Hamilton's nomination) - admittedly not alluded to anywhere else - could explain how Osborn, who had not been close to the Grant administration, could, together with New York Senator Roscoe Conkling, engineer Hamilton's humiliation with respect to the marshalship he desperately sought.
8. "Julius Caeser," (Act III, Scene 1), Shakespeare.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More Press Reaction to the Great Southern Railroad Scandal: Humor from the Weekly Floridian

Florida's most prominent newspaper, the Tallahassee Weekly Floridian was a staunch Democratic party organ that continuously launched vicious attacks on Florida's Republicans during Reconstruction. Long-time editor Charles E. Dyke's Floridian took special delight in the exposure of the GSRR which entangled many leading Republicans. Charles Hamilton, a frequent subject of the paper's taunts since he came to public attention in early 1868, unexpectedly found himself portrayed as a sympathetic figure for his role in bringing the GSRR scandal to light. Nevertheless, the Floridian couldn't resist mocking Hamilton and published a comic "interview" from correspondent "Enfant Perdu" that I have transcribed and annotated below. A similar comic interview with Osborn followed shortly thereafter. Photo: Charles E. Dyke, long-time publisher and editor of the Floridian (Fl. St. Archives)]:

Washington, D.C. April 17, 1871
Editors Floridian: I arrived in this city just when the so-called expose of the Great Southern Railroad Company, by Hon. C. M. Hamilton, M. C. from Florida, appeared in the columns of that spicy paper the Capital; and I resolved to seek an interview with Hamiton, and find out the exact status of affairs, in order if possible to set him right before his former constituents, and the people at large. When a man has once served a term in Congress; and then been repudiated by his constituents, it is ever afterwards hard work to find out his permanent abiding place. There is a great fascination to some about the scene of their former greatness, and they continue to hang around the city for years afterwards. Some sink lower and lower, until they become newspaper men, or engage in some other disreputable business, so you will please imagine that I had considerable trouble to find out where "Handsome Charlie"[1] obtained his daily "hash." At last I was directed to old mother Shipley's on "F" street, below the avenue, and so wended my way thither. Arriving at the house, I knocked at the door, and it was opened by a "ward of the nation," whose mouth looked like a buckwheat cake run over by a cart wheel. Being told that Col. Hamilton was in, I sent up my card, and in a few minutes a rather tall, handsome man, with blonde moustache and beard, came to the door, introduced himself to me as Chas. M. Hamilton, and invited me up stairs to his private den.[2] Arriving there, "Enfant," said he, "how does the old thing work?"
"Very dry," said I, and with that we did mutually "smile," and deposited about two inches of "bug juice" under our respective vests, lit our segars and prepared for sociable talk.
"Now Charlie," said I, "look here: how in the devil came you to make such an egregious blunder as to come out in the papers with those affidavits, letters &c.? You have ruined yourself irretrievably with your party, and placed yourself in a very unpleasant situation. Why, o why, did you do thusly?"
"Lend me your ears," said he, "and I will a plain unvarnished tale unfold."[3]
"Hold," said I, "your ears are large enough for all practical purposes; why do you want mine?"
"I was only quoting from the immortal old Billy," said he; "I meant I wanted you to listen to my plaintive story. They roused the lion in my breast by laughing at my plan in regard to the Great Southern Railroad, and adopting one of their own. If my idea had been carried out, we would each in ten years been worth $1,000,000.[4] I wanted the road to be called 'The Great Southern Zig Zag,' to start right from the steps of the Capitol at Tallahassee, and run so as to pass by every town in the State, with an underground branch through Marianna. in that way we could have busted every other company in the State, and done away with every other railroad in the State; thus obtaining all the travel and patronage. Osborn says his road would have had a terminus within miles of Cuba; mine would have terminated in Cuba, as we intended to sink a tunnel from Cape Sable, Fla. to Havana, and we could then have supplied the entire Gulf coast with insurrection if necessary.[5] Wasn't it a sublime idea?" said he, warming up with his subject; "could any other mind but mine have conceived such a stupendous enterprise?"
"No," said I, "not outside of a Lunatic Asylum."
He looked at me kind of doubtfully as I said this, but being a Euchre player, concluded to let it pass. "But, Charlie," said I, "how came you to destroy the plausibility of your expose by saying you had refused a bribe of $20,000? You didn't expect any one to believe that, did you?"
"Well, no," said he hesitatingly, "but d---n it, it wasn't in cash -- it was a check; and i knew d---n well it would never be paid.[6] So I made a virtue of necessity and refused it. Now if it had been cash, I would have voted all right for the scheme," (here he took a big drink).
"How do you account," said I, "for Alberger's letter saying he never made any approach to you in regard to the bill?"
"Oh h-ll," said he, "Tom Osborn knew his man when he obtained that letter. Alberger can manufacture letters and affidavits with a facility that has only been learned by long practice" - (a thin drink) - "Alberger is a d---d scoundrel, sir, a d---d scoundrel. Even State Treasurer Conover will swear to that. As for Tom Osborn, he's a mere puppet, and A. C. Osborn pulls the strings. By the way, lets take another drink and then I'll tell you a good joke on Osborn. It happened at Butler's last reception here. Osborn had been plaguing Logan, and in retaliation, Logan told the following story [7]: He said he dreamed he died and tried to get into Heaven, but St. Peter was on guard at the gate and refused to let him pass, saying no soldiers were admitted. Just then Osborn came along and tripped right in. 'I thought you didn't admit soldiers,' said I. 'Oh pshaw,' said Peter, 'Osborn's no soldier - he's no soldier.' Pretty good joke on Tom, wasn't it?"[8]
"Yes," said I, "a good joke; but Charlie, Osborn is a fine man, and holds four aces every time," (a big drink,) Hamilton deeply affected - in fact his emotions had got down into his legs and he could barely walk.
"I know," said he, "I am a disgraced and ruined man, but just think of the provocation I had. I am a poor unfortunate orphan, and was chizzled out of a nomination for Congress by the 'par nobile fratrum,' T. W. and A. C. Osborn, a combination of war and Gospel and a d--d nigger chosen in my place.[9] I can never go back to Florida, but I want you to tell the carpet baggers that if I have done anything I am sorry for, I'm glad of it, and if I have in my political career offended any of them, I am willing to accept their apologies. My revenge on Osborn shall be terrible. I intend to go into the Senate Chamber, turn Osborn across my knee and publicly spank him."
"No!" said I, "Charlie, you must not do that, for a greater than thou has said
"Let all the ends thou aim'st at
Be thy Country's, God's and Truth's" [10]
[Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, April 25, 1871]

1. The Floridian had referred to Hamilton as "Handsome Charlie" since the 1868 Congressional campaign. See "Perdu's" physical description of Hamilton.
2. Unclear as to the implication from the location of Hamilton's residence. Hamilton was married at the time and it is difficult to believe he lived quite so dissolutely as suggested by the WF.
3. The quote may be a mocking reference to Hamilton's readiness to quote Shakespeare. For example, as reported in another post, A. C. Osborn said that Hamilton had sent him letter in April 1871 prefaced with a quote from Othello.
4. In this satire, at least, the WF accepts the Osborns' allegations that Hamilton's motivation all along was his desire to seize control of the railroad. In other more serious reports, however, the WF doesn't pay any attention to this charge.
5. The "underground branch" alludes to the well-known fact that Hamilton could not return to Marianna and expect to leave alive. He barely escaped during his last visit to Jackson County in August 1870. Hamilton and Purman, and other Florida Republicans, championed Cuban independence and urged Congress to support Cuban rebels.
6. Hamilton had been hysterically attacked in the Democratic press for using mild profanity and slang in a speech he made at Jacksonville early in his political career.
7. Osborn supported Massachusetts' Benjamin Butler in his proposed candidacy against U. S. Grant for the Republican nomination in 1868 earning Grant's antipathy. Senator John A. Logan of Illinois was a leading radical Republican. Interesting that the WF claims that Rev. A. C. Osborn, not Senator T. W. Osborn was the main force behind the GSRR.
8. The joke is obscure. Osborn served throughout the war as an artillery officer, rising to the rank of colonel.
9. Noble pair of brothers (latin). To the contrary, Hamilton's public statements about Josiah Walls were uniformly gracious.
General points: no other references can be found to Hamilton's being a drinker or gambler.
10. Shakespeare, "Henry VIII" Act 3, Scene ii.