Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 12, 2011 ... 150th Anniversary of The War Between the States

Ft. Sumter - Charleston harbor

Letter from Brig. Gen. P.G. T. Beauregard (Charleston) to Maj. Robert Anderson (Ft. Sumter) - APRIL 11, 1861.

I am so ordered by my govt. - the Confederate States of America - to demand the immediate evacuation of Ft. Sumter. I await your reply.

P.G.T. Beauregard

Anderson’s reply

I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obligations to MY govt., prevent my compliance of your request. I shall await your first shot, and if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days.

Robert Anderson

3:30 a.m. APRIL 12, 1861, Col. James Chesnut delivers this message to Major Anderson

By authority of Brig. Gen. Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that we will open fire our Batteries on Ft. Sumter in one hour of this time.

Ft. Johnson

4:30 am.

1st SHOT: fired from Ft. Johnson by Lt. James S. Farley – a signal shot.

2nd SHOT: from Ft. Johnson by Lt. W.H. Gibbes.

Edmund Ruffin

3rd SHOT: from Cummings Point fired by Virginian Edmund Ruffin.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


A fire at the LaLaurie mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, leads to the discovery of a torture chamber where slaves are routinely brutalized by Delphine LaLaurie. Rescuers found a 70-year-old black woman trapped in the kitchen during the fire because she was chained up while LaLaurie was busy saving her furniture. The woman later revealed that she had set the fire in an attempt to escape LaLaurie's torture. She led authorities up to the attic, where seven slaves were tied with spiked iron collars.

After Delphine LaLaurie married her third husband, Louis LaLaurie, and moved into his estate on Royal Street, she immediately took control of the large number of slaves used as servants. LaLaurie was a well-known sadist, but the mistreatment of slaves by the wealthy and socially connected was not a matter for the police at the time.

However, in 1833, Delphine chased a small slave girl with a whip until the girl fell off the roof of the house and died. LaLaurie tried to cover up the incident, but police found the body hidden in a well. Authorities decided to fine LaLaurie and force the sale of the other slaves on the estate.

LaLaurie foiled this plan by secretly arranging for her relatives and friends to buy the slaves. She then sneaked them back into the mansion, where she continued to torture them until the night of the fire in April 1834.

Apparently her Southern neighbors had some standards when it came to the treatment of slaves, because a mob gathered in protest after learning about LaLaurie's torture chamber. She and her husband fled by boat, leaving the butler (who had also participated in the torture) to face the wrath of the crowd.

Although charges were never filed against LaLaurie, her reputation in upper-class society was destroyed. It is believed that she died in Paris in December 1842.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Today in History: 1895: Oscar Wilde Arrested.

Writer Oscar Wilde is arrested after losing a libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry.

Wilde had been engaged in an affair with the marquess's son since 1891, but when the outraged marquess denounced him as a homosexual, Wilde sued the man for libel. However, he lost his case when evidence strongly supported the marquess's observations. Homosexuality (often called buggery) was classified as a crime in England at the time, and Wilde was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to two years of hard labor.

Wilde was a well-known author by this time, having produced several brilliant and popular plays, including The Importance of Being Ernest (1895). Born and educated in Ireland, he came to England to attend Oxford, where he graduated with honors in 1878. A popular society figure known for his wit and flamboyant style, he published his own book of poems in 1881. He spent a year lecturing on poetry in the U.S., where his dapper wardrobe and excessive devotion to art drew ridicule from some quarters.

His reception in Charleston, SC was decidedly cool. His penchant for ridiculing pomposity and upper class society met with negative reaction among the Charleston aristocracy. He described his interaction with an old Southern woman as ... "While strolling the Battery I remarked on how lovely the moon looked over the water, my elderly companion turned to me and said, "Sir, you should have seen it before the war."

After returning to Britain, Wilde married and had two children, for whom he wrote delightful fairy tales, which were published in 1888. Meanwhile, he wrote reviews and edited Women's World. In 1890, his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published serially, appearing in book form the following year. He wrote his first play, The Duchess of Padua, in 1891 and wrote five more before his arrest. Wilde was released from prison in 1897 and fled to Paris, where his many loyal friends visited him. He started writing again, producing The Ballad of Reading Gaol, based on his experiences in prison. He died of acute meningitis in 1900.

In 1903, a group of Charleston madams published the 8-page pamphlet titled THE BLUE BOOK, which contained advertisements for local brothels. One local Charleston wit could not resist poking fun of Wilde's former legal predicament - notably his arrest on buggery charges - by writing this ditty:

The boy stood on the burning deck with his back up against the mast.

"I will not stir one step," he said, "Until Oscar Wilde has passed."

Monday, April 4, 2011


UNDUE INFLUENCE / Steve Martini ** VERY predictable legal thriller. Had it figured out by page 130 and thought: "surely, it can't be that simple." But ... it was. Also, Martini has a choppy prose style which makes his dialogue a chore to get through. Needs to simple it up.

THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE WORLD / Mark Booth *** Exhaustively researched book about world history as told from the viewpoint of the Freemasons.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP / John Irving **** A 12th time re-read. Still great!

THE HUNGER GAMES / Suzanne Collins *** I would have rated this 5 stars except for that fact it is written in present tense, which does nothing to improve the book, and distracts from the narrative. But, it is an excellent YA novel about a futuristic America.

THE REVERSAL / Michael Connelly **** Connelly is the best current crime writer - period. This is an ingenious legal thriller that is really about character reversals.

MINDING FRANKIE / Maeve Binchy **** This is vintage Binchy; full of flawed, flaky characters rallying around one another for support - mainly to support a single father who is suddenly thrust into the care of a infant daughter he did not know he had fathered.

KEEP THE CHANGE / Steve Dublanicia ** Very weak social history of gratuities. Avoid.

THE ALIENIST / Caleb Carr **** Excellent historical thriller.