Museum of Wonders, Columbus, Georgia

The full Museum of Wonder, created by Alabama artist and collector Butch Anthony, is located in rural Seale, Alabama, but he erected this little curio display on Broadway in downtown Columbus, Georgia near the intersection of 11th Street and Broadway. Pretty cool!

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Civil War Ballads: Hood’s Old Brigade

Hood’s Old Brigade“, or “On the March”, was written by Mollie E. Moore (1844–1909), a Southern poet who’s family was originally from Alabama. She moved to Texas in 1855, then to New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband after the war. Folksinger Bobby Horton put this poem to music for his album Homespun Songs of the C​.​S​.​A​.​, Volume 5 (1996). Horton’s accent and rapid cadence made it difficult to transcribe, but I was able to reconcile some of the more indiscernible lyrics with the original poem.

Twas midnight when we built our fires
We marched at half past three
We know not when our march shall end
Nor care–we follow Lee.
The starlight gleams on many a crest
And many a well-trod blade
This handful marching on our left
This lin’ is our brigade.

Our lin’ is short because its veins
So lavishly have bled
The missing search the countless planes
For battles it has led
There are those Georgians on the right
Their ranks are thinin’ too
How in one company they say
They now can count but two

There’s not much talkin’ down the lines
Nor shoutin’ down the gloam [twilight]
For when the night is ’round us
Then we’re thinkin’ most of home

I saw a young soldier startled
When we passed an open glade
Where the low starlight, leaf, and bough
A fairy picture made
Nor has he uttered a word since then
My heart can whisper why
‘Twas like the spot in Texas
Where he bade his love goodbye

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Civil War Ballads: Hold At All Costs

“Hold At All Costs” is part two in a three-part, 32-minute epic appearing on heavy metal band Iced Earth’s album The Glorious Burden (2004). The three-song serial commemorates the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1861. Former Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens provided vocals on the album. The songs appear to be based on either the novel The Killer Angels (1987) by Michael Shaara or the movie Gettysburg (1993), which was also based on the novel.

[Armistead:]
“Just a mile or so away
Lies my dearest friend in this world.
He wears the Blue and I the Gray
And God it hurts me so
The last time we were together
I grabbed his hand and I pledged
If I ever draw my sword on you
May the good lord strike me dead.”

The Union flank’s in trouble
To the Round Top on the double
A bad decision, insubordination
Exposed our line in a dangerous way

The burden lies upon us
Surrender is not an option
We are the flank and if we break
The Union crumbles, We could lose the war!

Down below the carnage
The rebels charging onward
Push the slaughter toward the Peach Orchard.
Through the Wheatfield and Devil’s Den

The valor of the Texans
And Alabama’s best men
They’re unrelenting and devastating
The last full measure of devotion’s clear.

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Richards DAR House Museum

Built in 1860 in ornate Italianate style for steamboat captain Charles G. Richards and his wife, Caroline Elizabeth Steele, the Richards DAR House is located in the De Tonti Square Historic District at 256 N. Joachim Street in Mobile, Alabama. Over the years, this picturesque brick home has gained a reputation for being haunted. With its historic roots, this comes as no surprise. Even the sidewalk in front of the home is historic–it was made from discarded ballast stones brought over from Europe on wooden cargo ships. The ships would fill their hulls with the stones on their way to Mobile Bay, then discard them on shore when they picked up their cargo for the return voyage.

The Richards DAR House is a beautiful antebellum home, complete with a marble and granite veranda surrounded by a cast iron railing featuring ornate figures representing the four seasons. The Ideal Cement Company purchased the house in 1946, ending nearly a century of ownership by the Richards family. ICC converted the home into an office, but took pains to preserve the original architecture and woodwork as much as possible. The City of Mobile took ownership in 1973.

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Church Street Graveyard’s Boyington Oak

Local residents believe one of Alabama’s oldest cemeteries is haunted by the ghost of a hanged man, whose grave is marked by an oak tree.

  • Church Street Graveyard in Mobile, Alabama, was established in 1819.
  • Charles R.S. Boyington was accused, convicted, and hanged for a friend’s murder, and buried at the cemetery.
  • According to legend, an oak tree grew up over his grave and passersby have reporting hearing sobs and professions of innocence.

Behind a stone wall dating to the 1830s, vines crawl up wrought and cast iron fences, and antebellum granite headstones and crypts stand silently in the shade of southern live oak trees. Wind whistles through this quiet graveyard nestled in historic downtown Mobile, Alabama. Church Street Graveyard, as it is known, is a small 4-acre cemetery that rests behind the Mobile Public Library, with an entrance off Bayou and Church streets. It was established in 1819 and closed in 1898, although a few burials have taken place since then. Many of the earliest people interred there were victims of a yellow fever epidemic that killed hundreds.

The stories at this graveyard primarily center on a southern live oak growing just outside the stone wall off Bayou Street. Southern live oak trees, with thick trunks, gnarled branches, and often decorated with Spanish moss, can live up to 500 years. The Boyington Oak, as this particular tree is known, is relatively young. According to legend, it sprouted in 1835, a year after the gruesome murder that would give it its name.

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Bragg-Mitchell Mansion’s Stately Lady and Phantom Feline

Something from the past still lingers at this southern Alabama antebellum mansion.

  • Built in 1855, the mansion survived destruction during the Civil War.
  • A.S. Mitchell and his family maintained the grounds during the twentieth century.
  • Some visitors claim to have seen a phantom cat and the ghost of a lady looking for her lover.

A stately, Greek-revival style Southern mansion with tall, Doric columns sits off Springhill Avenue in Mobile, Alabama. Built in 1855 by Judge and Congressman John Bragg, brother of Confederate General Braxton Bragg, the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion is a simple, yet elegant example of antebellum architecture. Today it is a museum that carefully preserves its antebellum splendor for weddings and events, but visitors say something intangible has also remained. Some have reported chance encounters with the willowy fur of a phantom feline–as well as a forlorn and mysterious lady of the manor.

John Bragg purchased this 3 acre plot of land, then on the hinterland of Mobile, in May 1855 for $7,500. The mansion he built was 13,000 square foot and served as a seasonal home for his wife, Mary Francis Hall, who hosted parties and entertained guests from Mobile’s high society. They spent the remainder of the year at their plantation in Lowndes County, Alabama. Mary was 21 years younger than her husband, and the couple had six children. She was 42 years old when she died in 1869, just four years after the end of the Civil War.

During the war, Judge Bragg had all the oak trees on the property cut down so that the Confederate defenders of Mobile could more effectively fire on advancing Union troops. On Mary’s insistence, they moved all their most valuable possessions out of the mansion to their plantation. Ironically, Union soldiers burned the plantation and all their possessions, but left Mobile largely unscathed. Their oak trees were replanted in 1865 using acorns Judge Bragg had saved. Today these trees beautifully decorate the front lawn.

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Feasting at God’s Table

Father Divine, Conspicuous Consumption & Racial Harmony

Father_Divine_02
George Baker, Jr., “Father Divine”

In American culture, health and prosperity has long been wedded to the consumption of food. At the dawn of the twentieth century, it was the ability to eat what one wanted and when that defined an American family’s assent into the growing middle class. It was no accident that there appeared in America during the 1920s a man who offered salvation through the act of eating. Father Divine, professing himself to be God incarnate, urged his followers to transcend race and poverty through the power of positive thinking. His message crossed racial lines because he appealed to shared traditions in American culture, traditions like conspicuous consumption, Charismatic Christianity, and the Protestant work ethic.

Father Divine’s movement was at its height during the Great Depression. At a time when scarcity affected millions, this eccentric preacher offered men and women a taste of the American dream―for the price of personal sacrifice and loyalty. He provided Americans across the country, both black and white, rich and poor, the perfect confluence of food, religion, and spectacle to distract them from the harsh realities of everyday life. He offered hope that racial unity and personal perfection could be achieved through the union of religion and the dinner table.

The Importance of Food in America

Americans have always given special significance to food and drink. When the first European colonists arrived in North America they encountered a land teeming with wildlife. At Plymouth Colony in 1621, a storm left the beach covered with piles of lobsters two feet high. “They were so plentiful and so easily gathered that they were considered fit only for the poor,” Waverley Root and Richard de Rochemont explained in Eating in America. The storm left pools of crabs all along the shores of Virginia. Commenting on the abundance of fish at Jamestown, Captain John Smith wrote, “we tooke more in owne hour than we could eate in a day.” The colonists wondered at the size of the salmon, strawberries, and lobsters in the New World, and the Pilgrims, finding the luxury of clams and mussels tempered by their abundance, fed them to hogs.[1]

With origins in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the act of breaking bread with friends and neighbors had long been ingrained in religious ritual. Therefore, it was a feast the Pilgrims shared with the Wampanoags after their first arduous winter in New England, which eventually inspired the creation of a national holiday, Thanksgiving, centered around the consumption of large quantities of food. John Smith celebrated his first Christmas in the New World around the dinner table with the Powhatans and noted, “we were never more merry nor fed on more plenty of good oysters, fish, flesh, wild fowle and good bread, nor ever had better fires in England.”[2]

A hundred years later, the American colonists placed food and drink high on their list of grievances with the motherland. The Tea Act of 1773 precipitated the infamous Boston Tea Party, in which fifty angry colonists disguised as Native Americans dumped 90,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. Under the stifling economics of mercantilism, tea had become a symbol of British rule. The British used excessive taxes as a weapon against colonial merchant-agitators like John Hancock, who customs officials accused of smuggling Madeira; a type of fortified wine.

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