Where Did the Ex-Confederate Leaders Go After the Confederacy Was Defeated by the Union?

Conrad Wise Chapman, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Conrad Wise Chapman, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Jay Bazzinotti:

Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, spent two years shackled to a wall in a Virginia prison. He had many unlikely sympathetic supporters including the Pope, who advocated for mercy, and even some former enemies and abolitionists. After he was released he went to Canada and Cuba and England and eventually managed a successful insurance company, hiring only former Confederate officers. He remained an unrepentant racist and Confederate supporter until the end of his life.

Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, was arrested and held in prison at George’s Island in Boston until October, 1865. He was released from indemnity by Andrew Johnson, a pro-slavery, anti-Black President. He was elected to the Senate, which refused to allow him to sit; was elected to Congress; and became the governor of Georgia. Stephens was a rabid anti-Black racist who wrote the “Cornerstone Speech” stating the the Civil War was all about slavery and that Blacks would never be the equals of Whites.

Robert E. Lee, former General, was not arrested but joined the pro-Confederate Democrats and worked to prevent Blacks from getting the right to vote. He lost all his property and money and the right to vote. He was seen as an iconic, sacrificial Christ-like figure in the South and often had to speak against resuming the war by any means possible as many of his supporters wanted. He was used as a vehicle of reconciliation. Later, he was the very successful head of Washington College, which he built up greatly.

James Longstreet, former General and one of the best strategists of the war, became a largely mediocre businessman with little success. He was friends with Grant, who helped him and supported the Union/Republican cause, which made him a pariah in the South [as he was] seen as a traitor. In 1874 a major election battle broke out between about 10,000 white supremacists and former Confederate soldiers and about 3500 Federals, including Black troops. It was called “The Battle of Liberty Place” and was a resounding “Confederate” victory. Federal troops had to be sent in to restore order. Longstreet was shot and captured by the White faction and treated poorly until his release. He became a turkey farmer and called his farm “Gettysburg.” It was destroyed, along with his uniforms and writings and memorabilia, in a fire. He died after years of poor health, hated by the South but outliving almost all of his detractors, in 1904.

J.E.B. Stuart, cavalry general, was mortally wounded near the end of the war in the Battle of the Yellow Tavern, shot in the back.

George Pickett, a general associated with Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, fled the country for fear of prosecution for war crimes. He went to Canada for two years until he was pardoned. He was in ill health for the remainder of his life and died in 1875, about 10 years after the war. He was always bitter about what happened at Gettysburg and never stopped blaming Lee for the destruction of his men. Over 40,000 people showed up for his funeral but his body was buried in a secret location and the massive monument built over an empty grave.

John Bell Hood was a brilliant and reckless general who arrived late to the battle of Gettysburg and was immediately wounded by an artillery shell. He was relieved by an incompetent who frittered away the South’s last best chance to win the battle or at least fight to a draw. After the war he was immediately exonerated of any crime and for a while was a successful businessman. However, about 12 years later, an economic crisis caused his business to succumb and six days later he caught yellow fever and died.

Joe Johnston was a senior, controversial general who was critical of the Confederate leadership and saw people against him everywhere. After surrendering to Sherman, the two became friends. Johnston became a marginally successful businessman with many interests in railroads and insurance. He served one term as a Democratic congressman. He caught a cold at the funeral of William Sherman and died soon after.

P.G. T. Beauregard, a capable general who often stopped Grant, became a marginally successful businessman after the war. He was frequently critical of Jefferson Davis and believed the war could have been won. Although he was virulently anti-Black, he worked hard to establish Black civil rights, telling southern leaders that they had to find a way to make it work for the good of the country

Simon Buckner, the third-ranking general in the Confederacy, was a shrewd businessman who ran a newspaper after the war. He was able to amass a large fortune and recover all of his lost property in Kentucky and reestablish himself as a leader in the community. He went into politics. He died in 1914, one of the last surviving generals of the Civil War.

Robert Ewell, wounded and captured near the war’s end, spent a year at the Fort Warren POW camp on George’s Island with 17 other generals. He became a proponent of the Union and spent the rest of his life as a modest farmer, dying quietly in 1891.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave trader, fell on hard times after the war. He ran many businesses—was corrupt and ruined them—and was not well-liked. He started, or helped to start, the KKK, and was virulently anti-Black. He made a surprising turnaround and became an advocate of civil rights and Black education, earning the enmity of the KKK and other anti-Black causes. He died of diabetes in 1877.

There are dozens of Confederate generals, some we know and most we never think of. After the war many were aided by friends and found jobs in the burgeoning railroad or insurance industries.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Why Does Santa Claus Give Coal to Bad Kids?

iStock/bonchan
iStock/bonchan

The tradition of giving misbehaving children lumps of fossil fuel predates the Santa we know, and is also associated with St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Italy’s La Befana. Though there doesn't seem to be one specific legend or history about any of these figures that gives a concrete reason for doling out coal specifically, the common thread between all of them seems to be convenience.

Santa and La Befana both get into people’s homes via the fireplace chimney and leave gifts in stockings hung from the mantel. Sinterklaas’s controversial assistant, Black Pete, also comes down the chimney and places gifts in shoes left out near the fireplace. St. Nick used to come in the window, and then switched to the chimney when they became common in Europe. Like Sinterklaas, his presents are traditionally slipped into shoes sitting by the fire.

So, let’s step into the speculation zone: All of these characters are tied to the fireplace. When filling the stockings or the shoes, the holiday gift givers sometimes run into a kid who doesn’t deserve a present. So to send a message and encourage better behavior next year, they leave something less desirable than the usual toys, money, or candy—and the fireplace would seem to make an easy and obvious source of non-presents. All the individual would need to do is reach down into the fireplace and grab a lump of coal. (While many people think of fireplaces burning wood logs, coal-fired ones were very common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is when the American Santa mythos was being established.)

That said, with the exception of Santa, none of these characters limits himself to coal when it comes to bad kids. They’ve also been said to leave bundles of twigs, bags of salt, garlic, and onions, which suggests that they’re less reluctant than Santa to haul their bad kid gifts around all night in addition to the good presents.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

What is Wassailing, Anyway?

iStock
iStock

It’s easy to think that wassailing is some cozy wintertime tradition that’s fun for the whole family. After all, there’s a jaunty, wholesome Christmas carol about it! But the truth is, if you ever see a minor out wassailing, you may want to call his or her parents.

The word wassail has many meanings. For centuries, it was a way to toast someone’s good health. Before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, English soldiers reportedly sang:

Rejoice and wassail!

(Pass the bottle) and drink health.

Drink backwards and drink to me

Drink half and drink empty.

But, in England, wassail also denoted the alcoholic beverage you imbibed during that toast—an elixir of steamy mulled mead or cider. Sometimes, wassail was a whipped dark beer flavored with roasted crab apples.

Wassail was usually slurped from a communal bowl before, during, and after big events and holidays. It was supposedly on the menu during Lammas Day, a pagan autumnal harvest holiday that involves transforming cornhusks into dolls. It was also imbibed on Twelfth Night, a January holiday that involves lighting a fire in an orchard, dancing, and singing incantations to apple trees in hopes of encouraging a bountiful harvest.

By the Middle Ages, the practice of sharing a giant bowl of wassail—that is, the practice of wassailing—evolved from a holiday celebration to a form of boozy begging. “At Christmastide, the poor expected privileges denied them at other times, including the right to enter the homes of the wealthy, who feasted them from the best of their provisions,” Robert Doares, an instructor at Colonial Williamsburg, explained. The poor would either ask to sip from their rich neighbor’s wassailing bowl or would bring their own bowl, asking for it to be filled. According to Doares, “At these gatherings, the bands of roving wassailers often performed songs for the master while drinking his beer, toasting him, his family, his livestock, wishing continued health and wealth.” The original lyrics of Here We Come a-Wassailing are quite upfront about what’s going on:

We are not daily beggars

That beg from door to door

But we are neighbours’ children

Whom you have seen before.

Not all rich folk were happy to see wassailers at their doorstep. One 17th century polymath, John Selden, complained about “Wenches … by their Wassels at New-years-tide ... present you with a Cup, and you must drink of the slabby stuff; but the meaning is, you must give them Moneys.”

Misers like Selden may have had a point: Since alcohol was involved, wassailers often got too rowdy. “Drunken bands of men and boys would take to the streets at night, noise-making, shooting rifles, making ‘rough music,’ and even destroying property as they went among the wealthy urban homes,” wrote Hannah Harvester, formerly the staff folklorist at Traditional Arts in Upstate New York. In fact, boisterous wassailers are one reason why Oliver Cromwell and Long Parliament passed an ordinance in 1647 that essentially banned Christmas.

By the 19th century, wassailing would mellow. Beginning in the 1830s, music publishers started releasing the first commercial Christmas carols, uncorking classics such as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and The First Noel. Among them were dozens of wassailing songs, including the circa 1850 Here We Come a-Wassailing and dozens of others that are now, sadly, forgotten. As the custom of caroling became the dominant door-to-door pastime, alcohol-fueled begging dwindled. By the turn of the 20th century, carolers were more likely to sing about libations than actually drink them.

But if you’re interested in engaging in some good, old-fashioned wassailing, the original lyrics to Here We Come a-Wassailing are a helpful guide. For starters, ask for beer.

Our wassail cup is made

Of the rosemary tree,

And so is your beer

Of the best barley.

Don’t be shy! Keep asking for that beer.

Call up the butler of this house,

Put on his golden ring.

Let him bring us up a glass of beer,

And better we shall sing.

Remind your audience that, hey, this is the season of giving. Fork it over.

We have got a little purse

Of stretching leather skin;

We want a little of your money

To line it well within.

Screw it. You’ve sung this far. Go for it all, go for the gold, go for ... their cheese.

Bring us out a table

And spread it with a cloth;

Bring us out a mouldy cheese,

And some of your Christmas loaf.

Thirsty for your own wassail? Stock up on sherry and wine and try this traditional recipe from The Williamsburg Cookbook.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER