A Black Confederate’s Career Tragically Cut Short

[Hat Tip to one of Civil War Memory’s readers]

The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans (p.13). The source is an 1864 Georgia court case, "Bryan v. Walton," 33 Ga. 11, 24, and the following musings of Chief Justice Lumpkin, of the Georgia Supreme Court, were part of one of the judge’s opinions:

A mistress and her maid recently received Episcopal confirmation together, kneeling side by side at the same altar, boarding at the same hotel, where the latter was received and treated as a white woman by the inn-keeper and his female guests, when the latter turned out to be a mulatto, and was promptly hurled from her position of social equality. A man, at the beginning of this war, dropped into a village of one of our counties in Middle Georgia, and becoming rather famous for his pugilism, he was chosen an officer in one of the volunteer companies enlisting for the military service. His status was never questioned, until, accosted rather familiarly by his fellow-servant, who had known him long and intimately, an investigation was had, and Sambo was returned to his owner. Which of us has not narrowly escaped petting one of the pretty little mulattos belonging to our neighbors as one of the family?


Make Sure You Thank Lincoln For Your 15 Minutes of Fame

It’s bad enough that the Washington Post decided to run a full-page article on John Sotos’s theory that Lincoln suffered from a rare genetic disorder called MEN2B, but now the science journal Nature has decided to get in on the fun.  This is an excellent example of why scientists don’t always make  good historians.

In response to a question about how he arrived at his diagnosis Sotos had this to say after discounting Loeys-Dietzs syndrome:

So, I just worked on that sort of accumulation of facts for the book, and then one night a light bulb sort of went on. I was reading a different article entirely and it made me think of medullary thyroid carcinoma which is associated with marfanoid habidis [overgrowth of bones resulting in long limbs] in a syndrome known as MEN2B. And I thought, well, maybe I’ll just check out MEN2B in Lincoln and see if that’s a match.

And what is the evidence for MEN2B and the cancer which accompanies it?:

Visitors to the White House frequently spoke of how thin he looked. Then in his last three months his health turned for the worse. He was almost continuously ill in one way or another and my suspicion — and I won’t go so far as to say my diagnosis — but it is suspicious that he had three symptoms of pheochromocytoma during this time: headache, orthostatic syncope [he would faint when standing up] and cold, clammy hands and feet, which he complained to a friend about. In fact, this friend saw Lincoln put his feet so close to the fire that they steamed.

You can read more about Sotos’s speculations in his self-published book titled The Physical Lincoln.  Turns out that shorter pieces were rejected in peer-reviewed journals for one reason or another.  I wonder why?


Wrapping up My Lincoln Course

My Lincoln course is in its final weeks and I couldn’t be more disappointed as it’s has been a wonderful experience.  Judging by the tone and quality of discussions the students continue to enjoy the subject and are finding interesting ways to share their knowledge.  We continue to read secondary sources and yesterday we discussed Lincoln’s Reconstruction plan and Louisiana specifically as a case study.  The lesson was centered on Lincoln’s short exchange with three representatives from Louisiana’s planter class who asked for the state to be allowed entry back into the Union with all the rights that the state enjoyed before secession.  Hopefully we will have a few days to discuss various aspects of Lincoln’s legacy and memory before the end of the semester.  On the flip side my class is in the process of developing a Facebook page around a new Lincoln cereal for the bicentennial.  They must come up with a cereal name, design the box, and design the cereal itself.  All of it must have a rationale based on the history.  The box will come with educational materials that must also be designed by the students.

For their final project we will take a class trip to the American Civil War Center at Tredegar.  Students will be asked to evaluate how the main exhibition interprets Lincoln within the broader narrative of the war.  The notes they take will serve as the foundation for a final essay in lieu of a final exam.  The goal of the essay will be to compare the museum exhibit with the various secondary sources that we’ve read over the course of the semester.  It is important to place students in an active role when thinking about the past.  In this case they need to learn to appreciate, to whatever extent possible, that public exhibits involve decisions and interpretation.  My other goal is to give students an opportunity to synthesize much of what they’ve read this semester and to remind them that interpretation is always open-ended. 

As I was thinking about this assignment I thought that it would be nice if my students could develop their own museum exhibit on Lincoln.  The idea would be for students to utilize a program that would allow them to construct a 3-D space with artifacts and descriptions within an overarching interpretation.  I’m sure the technology is available.  This would be an excellent way for museums to further their educational outreach with area schools. 


Excellent Video Series on Slavery

[Hat Tip to Alex Krolikowski, writing from Poland]

Below are links to a video series on slavery.   Each segment is fairly short which makes them ideal for classroom use.  I haven’t previewed every individual video, but I did see interviews with Peter Wood, James Horton and Sallie Haden.

Slave Catchers/Resistors

Slave Catchers/Resistors 1 – Deal with the Devil

Slave Catchers/Resistors 2 – Stono Rebellion

Slave Catchers/Resistors 3 – Poor Whites

Slave Catchers/Resistors 4 – Am. Revolutionary War

Slave Catchers/Resistors 5 – David Walker

Slave Catchers/Resistors 6 – Nat Turner

Slave Catchers/Resistors 7 – White Terrorism

Slave Catchers/Resistors 8 – The Free North

Slave Catchers/Resistors 9 – Civil War

Slave Catchers/Resistors 10 – Reconstruction and Jim Crow


Perhaps Lincoln Was Just Thin-Boned and Awkward Looking

The Washington Post actually gave this story an entire page.  Amazon should offer a package deal that includes the books by Sotos and C.A. Tripp.