General Lee’s Unsolved Problem

A southern writer analyzes the handicaps unwittingly laid on the general by President Davis

Long after the Civil War was over, with contemplative years for perspective, Jefferson Davis wrote that Robert E. Lee always commanded subject to his orders. The former Confederate president made quite a point of this overlordship, and held to the concept of Davis, the leader, manipulating armies and generals and the destinies of a people. Of course, Davis was right. As he made of the Confederate experiment a one-man show, technically he was Lee’s boss.Read more »

The Selling Of Libby Prison

This isn’t the first time a Virginia governor has found himself embroiled in controversy about the commercialization of a Civil War site

WHEN THE CIVIL War ended, a second fierce and divisive conflict began, fought on the same battlefields but over a different issue: not political secession but the commercial development of the battlefields themselves. The Civil War took four years to come to a conclusion that was nothing if not decisive; its successor has raged for more than a century, and the controversy that erupted earlier this year over the proposed Disney’s America theme park in Virginia suggests that its Appomattox is nowhere in sight.Read more »

“I’ll Trade You Two John Arkinses For An O. H. Rothaker”

The mysterious apotheosis of the newspaper editor

It’s a bad sign when a company decides that to sell its products it needs to bundle them together with miscellaneous, unrelated goods. It suggests that relations have grown strained between product and customer, that either the product is obsolete or the competition is fierce. But in the short run a bribe can work wonders. I know many holders of American Express cards, for example, who agree to use them instead of their much cheaper Visa cards only because American Express tosses frequent flier miles into the bargain.Read more »

“gems Of Symmetry And Convenience”

So Richmond proudly described its electric trolleys, the first truly successful system in the world

For the citizens of Richmond, Virginia, in 1888 the city’s new trolley system was a source of inordinate pride. “All are modelled on the Broadway style and are gems of symmetry and convenience,” proudly wrote a reporter for the Richmond Dispatch of the little four-wheeled electric cars that were clanging cheerfully through downtown streets on their route between Church Hill and New Reservoir Park. “Brilliantly lighted” by incandescent lamps, heated by Dr.Read more »

“New York Is Worth Twenty Richmonds”

One day in late October of 1864, as the Civil War was moving into its final stages, eight young men in civilian clothes arrived in New York City from Toronto by train. Though they spoke with southern accents, they were quickly caught up in the swirl of the city’s life, for there were thousands of Southerners in New York—businessmen and planters who had come north to protect their interests; families fleeing from ruin; and ex-Confederate soldiers, prisoners of war on parole, looking for a way to return home.Read more »