The Civil War Connections Blog

Squeaky clean? Not so much…

Well, I’m back and I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at writing a blog.  It is an interesting activity and allows me to be both creative and I hope a bit educational.  Some readers will be so young that my story will be history; others will begin to smile as they remember, along with me, things long forgotten.  I do hope each one finds it rewarding to read these musings (is this a good description of a blog?) and want to return as new ones come along.

Today, I want to pick up, sort of, with the laundry issue.  In my research for another project here at The Mariners’ Museum, I discovered a societal norm to which I had not given much thought.  If you remember, my previous blog discussed the emergence of a new apparatus for handing laundry.  However, this was in conjunction with mid 18th century America (and Europe as well) and it was the cusp of the great industrial revolution, with the steam engine and railroads now in full throttle.  It turns out, though, that along with innovations in machines, other rather more radical innovations were bubbling up in society.  One in particular was the issue of health and what humans needed to do to improve their health.  While the most obvious area to consider is probably medical science, people actually rarely thought in that way.  Rather, cleanliness became the focus.

And to aid in the achievement of a healthier life, the creative entrepreneur appeared ready to help.   His bag of new soap powders with chemical additives to aid in the washing became the proverbial “dime a dozen.”  Bleaching which had been mostly done by the sun, was now helped along with chemicals as well.  And Monday continued to be “wash day.”  For some reason, I find it an notion of one day per week for laundry when people had a limited wardrobe as compared to 24/7 laundry days when people have a limitless wardrobe.

At the same time, however, personal hygiene doesn’t seem to change much at this time.  Even when I was a kid, lots and lots of people, especially those in rural areas, continued to bathe once a week.  So, some things move at the speed of lightening, while other things move at the speed of a snail.  Maybe I’m just naïve, but for some reason, I have a feeling that the salesmanship of the soap manufacturer proved superior but his ability to convince people to bathe more often missed his mark by a mile.

A new blogger, bubbles, and laundry, oh my!

I’d like to introduce a new blogger into our ranks today. She goes by the pen name of ‘My Musings’ and I have asked her to delve deeply into the popular press of the 1860s to find things of interest – things that might make you stop and think – wow, they did that/had that/thought that then? I am posting her intro blog here – but following blog entries will be under her name. Enjoy!


So, here I am creating a blog for The Mariners’ Museum, a really new event in my life, almost as new as using the computer.  But then I have to confess up front that I am not a juvenile, but almost an octogenarian.  So, I ask those reading this to please give me some slack.

Today, I want to write about “change” and by that I mean just about anything which saw radical change (or improvement, depending on your preference) occur  during the 1860’s that we today have inherited.  Most of the differences I think will reflect upon improved standards of living as those are the ones which are still with us today.  Those which passed the scene in the same time period quite obviously had flaws making them more or less unacceptable.  Perhaps it’s the fact that my life began exactly half the number of years since the Civil War attack on Fort Sumter. It has given me pause to encounter this fact.  I am after all, of the 21st century, and have eagerly embraced this era.  Just remember, almost 400 women fought in the Civil War, all masquerading as men, while today, many thousands of women serve in the military, at all sorts of jobs, some even “in harms’ way.” 

But I digress from my thesis.  Two simple examples come to mind.  One is a substance to create air bubbles in cake batter and a second is doing laundry.  In the first, after several attempts at creating the right balance of chemicals, the correct one was found, and today, we use essentially the same formula and it works fine.  Of course, prior generations of women used egg whites mostly well beaten by hand with a spoon.  Then a commercially produced leavening product was manufactured which is on grocer’s shelves everywhere. 

Patent for Hiram Littlejohn's Umbrella-style clothes drier

Patent for Hiram Littlejohn’s Umbrella-style clothes drier – January 7, 1862

For the second product, I am speaking of an improvement on the line* strung between two trees on which freshly washed garments and linens were hooked with handmade wooden pins and hung in the sun to dry.  While a few are still occasionally seen in back yards most have given way to electric dryers.  This apparatus looks rather like an inverted umbrella, sans cloth, and a central pole pushed firmly into the ground allowing it to stand upright; it also could rotate allowing the person doing the work to stand in one place rather than move around the device.  And the many lines strung between the ribs allowed a great deal of laundry to hang in one rather confined place, especially if it was in a metropolitan area, where rear yards were often small.  Without doubt, every Monday, which was designated wash day, would have to be dry and sunny; today we never give the weather a thought; for that matter we never even think of the time of day as we live in a 24/7 world.  Even as recently as before WWII, laundry was a fair weather activity.  Boy did 1950 see change and today it is our inheritance.  Lucky us, don’t you think?

*Drier article and picture:  Umbrella style, by Hiram Littlejohn, patent Jan 7, 1862



” A startling knell from Hatteras’ shore….”

Having spent a glorious few hours now researching the public response to the sinking of the Monitor, I chanced upon this little gem. Enjoy!

From the Boston Daily Advertiser, Saturday, February 14, 1863 – Issue 53, page 2, column F

[For the Boston Daily Advertiser.]
The Monitor.

Hail and farewell,
O, Monitor!
A startling knell
From Hatteras’ shore
Proclaims that thy brief course is o’er.
Hail and farewell!

The ocean wide
Now covers thee
Who didst decide
Our destiny.
A nation aye shall think on thee
With love and pride.

Our noble bark!
While battle raged,
And fortune dark
Defeat presaged,
Thy form the wily foe engaged
In his strange ark!

Hotly his shell
Assailed thy tower,
With fires of Hell,
A fearful shower, -
But, yielding to thy wondrous power,
Backwards he fell!

Alas for thee!
Thy crew so brave
Now silent lie
Beneath the wave,
Thy foundering form their living grave,
Sad destiny!

Hail and Farewell!
O, Monitor!
A startling knell
From Hatteras’ shore
Proclaims that thy brief course is o’er,
Farewell! Farewell!


“Once mistress of the seas…”

In the same book we mentioned here, an anonymous poet penned this little ditty about the USS Cumberland as well. Enjoy!

THE CUMBERLAND – anonymous

Magnificent thy fate!
Once mistress of the seas;
No braver vessel ever flung
A pennon to the breeze;
No bark e’er died a death so grand;
Such heroes never vessel manned;
Your parting broadside broke the wave
That surged above your patriot grave;
Your flag, the gamest of the game,
Sank proudly with you – not in shame
But in its ancient glory;
The memory of its parting gleam
Will never fade while poets dream;
The echo of your dying gun
Will last till man his race has run,
Then live in angel story.

“Shall we give them a broadside, my boys, as she goes?”

Inspired by the reports of the bravery of the USS Cumberland‘s crew against the might of the CSS Virginia on March 8, 1862 – and by the words supposedly uttered by Lt. George Upham Morris even as his ship was sinking beneath the waves, poet Elizabeth T. Porter Beach wrote the following lines sometime in 1862. The poem was eventually printed in the book with the impossibly long title of Pen-pictures of the war: Lyrics, incidents, and sketches of the rebellion; comprising a choice selection of pieces by our best poets, also, current and well authenticated anecdotes and incidents of the war. Together with a full account of many of the great battles, also, a complete historical record of all events, both civil and military, from the commencement of the rebellion which was published in 1864. It became an (aptly named) broadside ballad in 1862 – and we know, we know…..we’ve printed this before. But here it is again, in its poetic form.

The Last Broadside – Elizabeth T. Porter Beach

Shall we give them a broadside, my boys, as she goes?
Shall we send yet another to tell,
In iron-tongued words, to Columbia’s foes
How bravely her sons say ‘Farewell’?

“Aye! what though we sink ‘neath the turbulent wave,
‘Tis with DUTY and RIGHT at the helm!
And over the form should the fierce waters rave
No tide can the spirit o’erwhelm!

For swift o’er the billows of Charon’s dark stream
We’ll pass to the immortal shore,
Where the ‘waters of life’ in brilliancy beam,
And the pure float in peace evermore!

“Shall we give them a broadside once more my brave men?”
“Aye, aye!” rose the full, earnest cry.
“A broadside! A broadside we’ll give them again!
Then, for God and the Right nobly die!”

“Haste, haste!” For amid all that battering din
Comes a gurgling sound fraught with fear
As swift flowing waters pour rushingly in
Up! up! ’till her portholes they near.

No blenching. No faltering! Still fearless all seem.
Each man firm to duty doth bide.
A flash! and a “Broadside!” A shout! A careen!
And the Cumberland sinks ‘neath the tide!

The “Star Spangled Banner” still floating above
As a beacon upon the dark wave!
Our Ensign of Glory, proud streaming in love,
O’er the tomb of the Loyal and Brave!

Bold hearts! Mighty spirits! “Tried gold” of our land!
A halo of glory your meed!
All honored, the noble-souled Cumberland band!
So true in Columbia’s need!

‘The spectral blue lights rose in vain…’

The January 24, 1863 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper carries the story of the Monitor‘s sinking on the front page. But buried within the issue was also the following poem. What I find interesting is that part two deals with the search that ensued after the sinking. There is no author listed – likely a staff writer who specialized in such quick turnaround on current events. But no matter. So, in honor of the events of 151 years ago, I bring it to you now.

The Monitor: December 31, 1862


In gallant trim, with fame elate,
the foremost of our Ironsides,
the Monitor, with noble freight
forth on the Atlantic billow rides.

Monroe’s grim fort, from iron mouth,
thunders “God Speed” and “Victory!”
With answering cheer, towards the South
on steams the hero of the sea.

Old Ocean smiled, the wind was light,
the sailors wore a joyous air,
so passed the day, and so the night,
and all around was calm and fair.

But with the morning clouds arose,
which deepened, till, when evening came,
fierce on her fell those giant blows,
sending dull tremors thro’ her frame.

But as a rider strides his horse,
which rages neath his weight, so kept
our gallant boat her onward course,
and thro’ the tempest swept.

But art is weak when Nature rears
in wrath sublime her giant form,
and clothed in lurid night, rides forth
upon the volleying storm.

Down thro’ the gaping seams the wave
poured its insidious tide, as erst
o’er Arqua’s walls the invaders crept,
ere fell swoop the stormers burst.

Firm at their post, the gallant crew
struggled with night, and storm, and sea,
’twas all in vain— the tempest grew,
and battled for its victory.

The spectral blue lights rose in vain,
from the Rhode Island–soaring high–
in one brief gleam they pierce the rain,
then perish in the sky.

O’er deck and tower the maddened waves
like living creatures rush and leap
as ‘tho Old Ocean had unchained
the demons of the deep.

‘Twas the threshold of the morn–
Midnight, without a star looked on;
and as the stormy day was born,
the Monitor was gone!

For with one shuddering lurch, as tho
it knew its doom, above the wave
it rose an instant, then below
plunged deep into its grave.

Brave hearts were quenched forever then,
they died as honor loves to die,
in striking chains from fellow men–
for Truth and Liberty!

And honor to the glorious band,
who, scorning the wild tempests breath,
grappled their sinking comrades hand,
and dragged them back from death!

Worden and Bankhead—gallant twain,
for one brief minute ye may weep
your ocean home beneath the main,
then to fresh triumphs on the deep!

‘Twas the last morn of ’62,
and by the long gray strips of sand
of Hatteras the seagulls flew,
at instincts blind command.

And all that day around the spot
where sank the noble Monitor,
The staunch Rhode Island cruised–
forgot were storm and oceans roar.

But fathoms deep below the wave,
our grand heroic brothers rest,
the corals guard their sacred grave;
and sea flowers deck each breast.

Where o’er their billowy pall each night
the sighing winds roll and surge,
the choral voices, vast and dim–
Old Oceans solemn dirge.

Christmas in wartime

Harpers Weekly, 12-26-1863 - Courtesy of HarpWeek

Harpers Weekly, 12-26-1863 – Courtesy of HarpWeek

In the December 26, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, the following wish appeared.


Ought it not to be a merry Christmas? Even
with all the sorrow that hangs, and will forever
hang, over so many households; even while the
war still rages; even while there are serious ques-
tions yet to be settled—ought it not to be, and is it
not, a merry Christmas?

How well Mr. Nast has seized the spirit of the
great festival in the elaborate and beautiful pic-
ture which we publish this week! The central
scene is the home of the soldier and his Christmas
welcome from wife and darlings, for just that is the
central scene of our American holidays this year.
It is the soldier who has saved us our homes and
filled our holidays with joy. It is the soldier who
is lifting the dark winter-cloud beyond which
smiles the bright spring of national regeneration.
It is the soldier who is securing the peace that will
make the life of the children sleeping together in
the crib, and over whom the dear old bear, Santa
Claus, is bending, a long and happy holiday.

Next year let us hope that the delicate, and
thoughtful, and forcible pencil of our friend Nast
may draw a picture of the National reunion, of the
return of the prodigal who has been living on husks
and with harlots, the rebel soldier returning to his
country and his fellow-citizens, the soldier who did
not know that in fighting the brave man whom we
see in the picture of to-day, he was fighting his true
friend, as well as honor and liberty. Peace on
earth is the Christmas benediction. Blessed then
the brave men upon the Rio Grande, in Louisiana,
along the Mississippi, in the mountains of Chatta-
nooga, in the Valley at Knoxville, upon the Poto-
mac, and the Rappahannock, and the James River;
among the North Carolina barrens and the South
Carolina Islands, with the great army of sailors
upon the rivers and the sea—to all, whether on sea
or land, heroes of the good cause, honor and bless-
ing; for their stout hands and hearts, with the sup-
porting sympathy and faith of the whole people,
are the peacemakers of the nation.

From all of us at the USS Monitor Center, may your holidays be peaceful – and may you have fair winds and following seas in 2014.

Monitor Crewman Lives the Dream!

On March 9, 1916, page 4 of the Bisbee Daily Review of Bisbee Arizona carried the following article. The Mariners’ Museum’s Library and Archives has a photocopy of a letter from John Driscoll which mentions this event, but I had not been able to spend time finding more information about it. Thank you interwebs and! Other articles carried in the Washington Post go on to explain that it was Franklin D. Roosevelt – then Assistant Secretary of the Navy – who granted Driscoll the request.

John Driscoll - one of the last survivors of the Monitor's crew - made headlines when he was a guest of honor at the Panama Canal

John Driscoll – one of the last survivors of the Monitor’s crew – made headlines when he was a guest of honor at the Panama Canal. This image is courtesy of

It is altogether fitting and proper….

150 years ago today, the following words were spoken. And though Lincoln demurred to the contrary, the world certainly has noted these 270 words  - and these are words that are among the most beautiful in the English language. They were echoed on an August day 50 years ago and they continue to remind us of the great sacrifices made in the past so that we might have a bright future.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


To boldly go……

Well! This week began with an impressive new vessel being launched by the US Navy.  The USS Zumwalt, named for Admiral (and the Navy’s 19th, and youngest CNO) Elmo Russell Zumwalt, Jr. (who passed away in 2000) is an impressive – and strange looking beastie. My first thought was……ironclad! Or rather, a modern take on an old look. But the similarities are more than superficial. The Museum’s friend Norman Polmar confirmed my thoughts – he said this of the new vessel: The Zumwalt introduces new hull form and machinery concepts that could be the harbinger of the next generation of surface warships. In some respects the advancements are comparable to the Monitor of Civil War fame that revolutionized naval ship design.

To make matters more interesting – her first commanding officer is Captain James Kirk. And yes, she carries lasers. Not sure about the phasers, though.

See for yourself.  Here she is:

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000)

USS Zumwalt (US Navy photo)