Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Treatment for Veterans

Alcoholism and drug addiction were all-too-common maladies among Confederate veterans. (Some attribute that to untreated PTSD.) When Dr. J. A. D. Hite opened his sanitarium in Nashville in 1916, he aimed much of his advertising at veterans and their families.

"Morphine, Other Drug, Whiskey and Tobacco Addictions, Permanently Cured," Hite promised.

Dr. Hite's sanitarium operated in a home atmosphere; the patients were treated like guests at a bed and breakfast inn. While taking the cure his patients ate three meals a days, exercised, and were allowed to commune with other patients. "Our patients are not incapacitated in the least," his ad says. The sanitarium, a large residence north of downtown Nashville, adjoined the doctor's own home and office.

The guest building is gone, but Dr. Hite's old home office is now a modest residence at 949 Russell Street in Nashville. A photo from Confederate Veteran magazine, November 1916, is an almost perfect match for the Google Maps "Streetview" of that address.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Radio Days

Veteran journalist Chuck Mraz hosts a news and arts program on WMKY (90.3 FM), the public radio station serving much of Eastern Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. He was kind enough to interview me and discuss My Old Confederate Home on his program earlier this week.

You can listen to the interview here, dated August 3, 2011. Or, download it as an mp3 file.

Chuck is a well-informed interviewer, and he's always prepared. It was a special treat to speak with him and his audience.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

$100,000 Wedding Present

I wrote last week of the marriage of two inmates of the Oklahoma Confederate Home in 1912. Immediately after the wedding, the newlyweds received a special gift.

A newspaperman from the Kansas City Post, in Ardmore to cover the wedding, presented the couple with a gift of $100,000 in cash. Asked about his generosity, the newspaperman laughed it off, saying he had plenty of that kind of money.

The story explains:

"Inasmuch as the bridegroom was an old Confederate soldier and the bride the widow of an old Confederate, the $100,000 given them was in Confederate currency."

The newspaper story concluded by saying that ceremony was a festive one and  that "all went merry up to and including the charivari the night of the wedding."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Best Book of High Merit"

The Military Order of the Stars and Bars will announce this weekend that My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans has been awarded the 2010 Douglas Southall Freeman History Award as "the best published book of high merit in the field of Southern history, beginning with colonial period to the present day." The award will be presented at the MOSB's annual convention on July 15, and it comes with a welcome cash prize.

I am thrilled and deeply, deeply greatful.

I'm especially honored that this award is named for Pulitzer Prize-winning author and biographer Douglas S. Freeman. On a shelf next to my writing desk is the four-volume, gold-stamped, blue buckram 1935 Pulitzer Prize edition of Freeman's R. E. Lee: A Biography, one of the most precious sets in my personal library.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Love at First Sight

John L. Galt, superintendent of the Confederate Home of Oklahoma, had a romance problem on his hands in November 1912.

The Oklahoma soldiers home admitted Confederate veterans and widows of Confederate veterans. Sixty-eight-year-old veteran William H. Stoneburner of Muscogee County had fallen in love with sixty-six-year-old Annie Bolling of Capitol Hill (Oklahoma County). Both claimed they were desperately in love with one another, and they were asking the superintendent’s permission to wed.

Galt was in a quandary. The home had male quarters and female quarters, but no accommodations for married couples. Also, there was the fear that connubial relations between inmates might lead to “improper familiarity” between the men and women residents who weren’t married.

What was the superintendent to do? A typical bureaucrat, he bumped the problem upstairs to his boss, Home President D. M. Hailey.

Hailey’s response was dated the next day, and he was a bit more sanguine about the affair:

“I appreciate fully that ‘love at first sight’ is a heartrending malady, and many foolish young folks laboring under the apprehension that it is the real thing awake the cold gray dawn of the morning after and find that it was a mirage. In a case of this kind we must allow some latitude for youth and inexperience, and while love must have its fling, I am fully cognizant of the fact that these young folks are full of ginger and the vigor of youth and that their minds are fully made up.

“Have they been properly advised by their ‘elders’? Have they been made to realize that the ‘new’ may someday wear off? Have they been told by the proper persons that affairs of this kind often result in the propagation of children which have to be raised, schooled and otherwise cared for?

“If I can have your word that you will whisper good counsel in their ears, I will very cheerfully join you in bestowing my blessing on their gay young heads and wishing them many happy returns of their joyous wedding day.

“I believe it would be a splendid idea not to delay the day as the suspense must be something awful to their aching young hearts. I also hereby appoint and constitute you my lawful and personal representative and authorize you to kiss the bride.”

(Mrs. Bolling and Mr. Stoneburner were married a week later at a ceremony on the front porch of the Oklahoma Confederate Home.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

They Should Be Proud

This visit prompted my recent rant about funding for the Dallas Public Library:

During my trip to Kentucky to promote My Old Confederate Home earlier this month, I spoke to about 60 people at the Cold Spring Branch of the Campbell County Public Library. (Campbell County is located in northern Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.) The evening crowd was enthusiastic, warm, and interested.

I arrived at the branch early—about 4 p.m—to check out the meeting room, and I had a chance to look around the library.

Naturally, I looked for notices about my appearance that night, and I found two posters and four stand-up displays telling patrons that the author of My Old Confederate Home would be speaking. There were other posters and standees showing the full line-up for their every-week-during-the-summer lecture series for adults (of which I was a part). More displays and signage described the library’s kids’ reading program, and a “toy-trolley”, stacked with prizes the kids would earn when they read their quota, was parked in the children’s reading area.

I couldn’t get into the meeting room right away because of the library’s weekly book club. Through the glass door I could see twenty women gathered around a table talking about books and reading.

The library bulletin board had notices for a half-dozen community events—photography workshops, chess club, home safety lectures, etc.—all happening at that branch. (Explore their website for a taste of the activities and resources at all branches.)

The place was packed with patrons of all ages, some coming to library directly from work; there were lines at the check-out counter.

Remember, this was just one of three branches of a library system in a non-metro county of northern Kentucky. The branch was obviously a center of community activity, and residents were taking advantage of it.

Some of the credit for this activity has to go to Janet Arno, Adult Services Librarian, who organizes and hosts many of the activities. But the county officials who’ve chosen to fund their public library in a way that seems to benefit the entire community should be saluted.

I’ve attended enough city and county budget meetings to know that library services rank pretty low on the attention scale of most elected officials. (“Potholes” rank near the top.) At times when tax money is tight and demand is great, it’s easy to scrimp on funds for a static book warehouse. But the elected officials (and the taxpayers) of Campbell County KY have chosen to make their public libraries a dynamic center for education and activity.

They should be proud of themselves.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Firmly Declined

Usually, ex-Confederates were pleased to receive any donation that would help fund their state soldiers homes. Some, however, drew the line when the money was coming from their old foes.

At a meeting of the veterans of the Army of Tennessee (U.C.V.) held in New Orleans in September 1902, they took up the matter of contributions offered toward the building of a Confederate soldiers home in Alabama. General Torrance, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, had officially requested that G.A.R. posts contribute what they could toward the planned home.

Thanks, but no thanks, the ex-Confederates said.

According to newspaper accounts, they passed a resolution making "it emphatic that the Army of Tennessee was very grateful for the proffered assistance, just in the same way that a man is grateful to a neighbor who offers financial assistance when the angel of death visits the home, but which must be politely and firmly declined nevertheless."

See New York Times, September 11, 1902