Saturday, June 30, 2012

Long May She Wave!

It is Saturday, the weekend before the 4th of July. My goal this weekend is very simple--other than watching the Saturday Night NASCAR race. I intend to get a flag displayed on my house.

This may involve ladders and electric tools, but I am pretty confident--

I loaned all the bunting to the Democrats, and don't remember if they returned it, but this July 4th there will be a flag flown at my house, for certain.

All for the Union!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Union Mandarin Orange Cake!

Sorry this is late today--I spent the better part of the day looking for Orange Curd--oh well. I got Lemon--we shall see . . .

The cake I remember is so much like the one from yesterday, but different in a few ways as well. 

First, it is a layer cake. I used to do some pastry work for a caterer, so here is the scoop on pan sizes: an 8" circular pan will give you a thicker layer than a 9" pan. This will result in a higher cake, or--if you are a very fancy baker--an 8" layer will slice into 2 parts much more easily, and will be best for a 4-layer cake.

Second: there is coconut involved. 

The recipe for the cake is as follows: 
1 package orange cake mix
1 11 ounce can of undrained mandarin oranges
1/2 C. salad oil
4 eggs
1 T orange extract

Beat ingredients on medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour into 2 parchment-lined 8" round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness--the toothpick should come put of the cake cleanly. Cake layers should cool before being iced.

Icing--yes, folks--I use canned icing. Any type of cream cheese frosting will do, however--I just like the easy of prepared icing.

The recipe for the icing is as follows:
2 cans cream cheese frosting--fluffy, if possible
1 can mandarin oranges--buy expensive, name brand ones for this part--drain them well, patting them with paper towels if necessary.
large flaked or shaved coconut--usually in the organic foods area
1 T orange extract

Separate the mandarin slices into 2 batches--put the most perfect slices aside, as these will top the cake.
Beat the remaining batch of mandarin slices into one of the cans of frosting, add the orange extract. This is your filling.

Put down the bottom layer. Use half the filling on it, then put the top layer on. At this point ice the sides of the cake with the cream cheese icing. On the edges of the top layer, create a ridge of regular icing, then sparingly ice the middle of the cake. On top of the thin layer of regular cream cheese icing, put the rest of the filling inside the ridge of icing. Immediately put the coconut on the regular icing--sides and just around the top. Then use the last half of the mandarin segments to create a design in the center of the cake.

DISCLAIMER!!! These are NOT Civil War recipes! . . . yeah, someone asked. Go figure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Confederate Mandarin Orange Cake

I am a Yankee to the core, but there are some things about the South that just can't be beat--& I do NOT mean General Lee!

I know this blog seems scattered at times, but take my word on it--we got fireworks, music, flag decorations and a great cake recipe that is as deeply southern as---well--maybe hush puppies.

This used to be on the table every July 4th, and I am thinking it may make a return visit this year.

It goes by several names, including Pig-Picking Cake, but I think my mom used to call it a Sunflower cake. There are a ton of different versions of this cake--I will give another one tomorrow--but here is the basic:


1 pkg. yellow or orange cake mix
1 can undrained mandarin oranges (11 oz.)
1/2 c. salad oil
4 eggs
Beat ingredients on medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour into greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
1 sm. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 sm. pkg. instant vanilla pudding
Whipped topping as needed
Combine undrained crushed pineapple and pudding. Mix well, fold in whipping cream. Spread on cooled cake. You may decorate with mandarin oranges.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Future of America!! Solved!

One of the things about history is that it changes--the clothing, the art, the music--never the same from one decade to another.

There is no doubt that our beloved country is in pretty dire straights, whether you are looking from the left, the right, or straight down the middle of the road.

Patriotism ran high from the mid-nineteenth century on, so I decided to look at what was going on then that is not going on now. 

The answer is BRASS BAND PATRIOTIC MUSIC! Yep, if we just had a lot more of that and a lot less of some other kinds of musical styling, I think we could all have clearer heads. I know we could have truer hearts!

For the next few days, I will be featuring information about brass bands, since I know all of you are getting out the flags and the bunting for the 4th of July.

All for the Union!

Monday, June 25, 2012

All For the Union!

Here is a seriously good reason for fireworks:

I got 100% (that is an A+!) in my first Master's Class at APU!!!

(Curtsies shyly)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Niagara Falls in Fireworks

One of my favorite set pieces--and there are many--is the waterfall, above. 

I had read several newspaper accounts of this "event" in the Thirties, during the Depression. I saw the waterfall piece in my imagination as the essence of the small town 4th of July display--complete with a brass band, pretty women in soft dresses, iced tea from a jug, and fried chicken. 

The lance work for the piece isn't complicated--just a series of fountains or sparklers hung upside down--but the height of the waterfall of fiery sparks, and the length of it--well, my imagination ran wild.

Sure enough, at Fort Huachuca, they had one. Many things in life are, ultimately, disappointing. This was NOT!! 

It began in the center of the end zone of the high school football field, creating a single, narrow fall of fire, then, slowly and gracefully, other falls started along the line. The finale was when the entire line was ablaze, pouring sparks over the imaginary parapets of the Niagara River. 

It seemed to go on forever!  AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

I love fireworks.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Even More Fireworks! Set Pieces: Part 1

The above piece--the American Eagle!--is called a set piece in the fireworks world. It is a static display, in that it is anchored to the ground at all times.

This type of firework display was most popular during the 1800s and on into the 30s. It was creative and contained--perfect for a small town 4th of July celebration. They are hard to find now, although most large fireworks companies offer them as part of some packages.

I had read about static displays in many novels and newspaper accounts of events, but had never seen any myself until I was at Fort Huachuca, in Arizona, for a couple of years. Their celebration of the 4th is wonderful--high school football field, the Army firing cannon for the 12812 Overture--they have it all! Plus, set pieces!!

A set piece is wired to a green wood or wet bamboo frame. Various salts and minerals are added to the black powder charges to change the colors of each shell, to color the image. All are fired at once, so that the image bursts into focus. 

It is just amazing to see an eagle flap its wings in fireworks! 

More tomorrow!

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Here!

Well finally! I laughed, I cried, and I was stunned to see all of Hollywood's expertise on display in battle scenes. I thought it was going to be more like Dark Shadows, but not so much!

You owe it to Tim Burton to go see this! I proclaim it :


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Catherine Wheel

Many of us remember life before the safety of the world depended on NOT selling fireworks locally--it was a ritual for my family--The Buying Of the Fireworks! 

One of my favorites was the Catherine Wheel--a type of firework consisting of powder-filled tubes or angled rockets mounted on cardboard (which usually caught fire at the end!) When ignited, the pressure from each individual rocket spun the wheel, producing a rotating shower of sparks and flame.

Catherine Wheels are named for St. Catherine. According to her legend, she was to have been martyred on the wheel (common at that time) but as soon as she touched the instrument of her demise, it fell to pieces.

My father or grandfather would dutifully nail the cardboard to a tree, light it, and walk backward to where we were seated. It didn't work all the time--sometimes it took a nudge to start--but the effect was a wonder to my eyes.

Catherine Wheels are a "set piece" in the fireworks world--they do not explode in the sky. In the 1860s, set pieces were much more common than today. I have done some research on set pieces, as I find them fascinating.

If possible, you really ought to buy one of these marvels this year. If you can remember to look at it through your child's eyes, prepare to be amazed!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Little Politicking

I went to see the Vice President today. Was I surprised to find out it was "Fighting Joe" Biden and not Hannibal Hamlin!?!

It was a very early breakfast deal, and my gentleman friend said I should get up at 4 AM, so I did. I got home about 3, and slept until 8, so there ya go--so much for "getting an early start!"

As a "Demmycrat," I am often at odds with the fact that Abe Lincoln was a Republican. In talking to folks today, I realized that, just as today's GOP bears little resemblance to the 1860s. 

Thank goodness the same is true for the Dems. I haven't heard the term Dixiecrat in ages!

Is anyone "for the Union" any more?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Time To Start Thinking about July 4

The fireworks to the left are from Gettysburg, and they happen to be Christmas fireworks, but I am sure you get the idea. Fireworks are great no matter the occasion. 

I love the 4th of July, personally. It was my maternal grandmother's birthday, so we always did it up big when I was a kid. I especially like fireworks.

I am working on a longer piece for about fireworks, but I thought I would write about it here as well. 

My focus will be Grand Illuminations--when the entire town, or the public part of it, anyway, was lit up for something special. One of my favorite books, Reveille In Washington, tells about many Grand Illuminations in the capital during the war years. 

I find this fascinating, and it is even more so when you know a little bit about such ephemeral things.

So--for the next few days we will look at set pieces, static displays, Catherine Wheels lance settings and Grand Illuminations.   It will be GRAND!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Wide-Awake Vocalist--LOL!!

Really--you gotta love this!!
Hi Rally! Ho Rally!
w: J.B. Marsh t: Stephen Foster - From The Wide-Awake Vocalist or Rail Splitters’ Song Book: Words and Music for the
Republican Campaign of 1860. Tune Nelly Bly by Stephen Foster

Hi, rally! Ho, rally!
Round the polls with me.
For Lincoln true, and Hamlin, too
Champions of the Free!

Hail with joy the farmer's boy
Shout! oh, shout with glee!
For Lincoln true, and Hamlin, too
Champions of the Free!
East and West, do your best
Now, with heart and voice,
For Lincoln true, and Hamlin, too,
Are the people's choice.

Hi, rally! Ho, rally!
Round the polls with me.
For Lincoln true, and Hamlin, too
Champions of the Free!

Humbly born, night and morn
Inured to care and toil
From early youth he was in truth
A tiller of the soil
With zealous skill and powerful will
(Deny the fact who can)
He worked his way and stands today
A noble, self-made man.

Hi, rally! Ho, rally!
Round the polls with me.
For Lincoln true, and Hamlin, too
Champions of the Free!

Man and boy shout with joy
Let your voices sound;
For Lincoln's name and Lincoln's fame
Will Freedom's foes confound!
He'll use up Steve, too, we believe
He whipped in other spats
For he's the boy to split the rails
And maul the Democrats.

Hi, rally! Ho, rally!
Round the polls with me.
For Lincoln true, and Hamlin, too
Champions of the Free!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

40th Anniversary of the Watergate Break-in

I have been waiting for this---

Forty years ago tonight, Nixon's burglars hit the Watergate Hotel. The rest, as they say, is history . . .!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dirty Tricks Without Tricky Dicky!

The man above is one of my favorites--Ward Hill Lamon. He pulled a few "dirty tricks" at the 1860 Republican Convention, which would probably get him in trouble now.
  • He pulled a string/scam that prevented the ballots for the nomination not to be delivered until the the second day of the Convention, which meant that Seward's men couldn't get a vote going on the evening of the first day. This literally saved the vote for Lincoln on the third ballot.
  • He packed the Wigwam with paid supporters to yell "at the top of their lungs" every time the name Lincoln was even whispered. He got phony passes printed up, got his thousands to the Wigwam an hour before Seward's imported New York supporters, which meant that the building was at capacity before the Convention opened the second day.
  • Judge Davis remarked about these, and some other, things when questioned as to what "Honest Abe" would think: Lincoln ain't here!
Ya gotta love these guys! . . . and tomorrow is the anniversary of Watergate!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Men In the Middle Part 2

Lyman Trumbull, the man to the left, was an integral member of the Lincoln election effort. He was also pretty impressive in his own right.

After living south for some time in his youth, where he learned to abhor slavery, he came to Illinois as a young lawyer. He met all the usual suspects--Lincoln, Lamon, Davis, Judd, et al--and his specialty on the legal circuit was civil rights cases. 

He worked his way up the political ladder until he became senator for Illinois as a Republican. He worked beside Davis and Judd to get Lincoln nominated, throwing his considerable political muscle into the mix.

He returned to Washington, serving as senator during the War, and was instrumental in helping to craft and pass every piece of legislation that helped the newly-freed slaves, including the Thirteenth Amendment.

Alas, he had the nerve to vote against impeaching Johnson. This ended his political career, and the Republican Party considered him untouchable. He returned to Illinois, went back to practicing law, and fought the good fight until his death, in 1898.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Men In the Middle--Norman B. Judd

Norman Judd, pictured right, was the Republican State Chairman by 1858, and he was terrifically enthusiastic about Abraham Lincoln's chances then, against Douglas for Senator, and in 1860.

He quickly became one of AL's top advisors.
Here is an interesting quote from him, concerning the perhaps illegal voting of Irish-Americans in the '58 race:

I now have a high degree of confidence that we shall succeed, if we are not over-run with fraudulent votes to a greater extent than usual. On alighting from the cars and walking three squares at Naples on Monday, I met about fifteen Celtic gentlemen, with black carpet-sacks in their hands.

I learned that they had crossed over from the Rail-road in Brown county, but where they were going no one could tell. They dropped in about the doggeries, and were still hanging about when I left. At Brown County yesterday I was told that about four hundred of the same sort were to be brought into Schuyler, before the election, to work on some new Railroad; but on reaching here I find Bagby thinks that is not so.

What I most dread is that they will introduce into the doubtful districts numbers of men who are legal voters in all respects except residence and who will swear to residence and thus put it beyond our power to exclude them. They can & I fear will swear falsely on that point, because they know it is next to impossible to convict them of Perjury upon it.

Now the greater remaining part of the campaign, is finding a way to head this thing off. Can it be done at all?


Ah, the past!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lincoln & Cats

Brief interruption here, folks--I am furiously looking in my literal mountain of reference and source material for something I have misplaced.

Here is an obviously faux pic of AL with a cat.

Lincoln was most definitely a cat man. One of the White House cats was a little girl named Tabby. She showed up for a State Dinner one evening, twining herself around "Papa's" ankles. Lincoln bent down frequently to feed her a small  nom from his golden fork. 

Mrs. Lincoln scolded her husband for using a gold fork to feed a kitty. 

Our President responded, "If it was good enough for Buchanan, it's good enough for Tabby."

I say, "Huzzah!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Early Images Of Lincoln

Since we are discussing Lincoln & the Convention of 1860, I thought I'd better show what he looked like: no beard!

The tale is true that he grew "whiskers" at the request of a  young girl in New York, who wrote him a letter. When the famous Inaugural Express went through New York State in February of 1861, Lincoln made certain that one of his stops was in her small town. He stood at the end of the train to meet her.

She had brought a bouquet for him, but was so excited and unnerved by the whole experience that she forgot to give him the flowers.

Awwwww . . .

Monday, June 11, 2012

Judge David Davis--Lincoln's Campaign Manager

The happy-looking gentleman to the left is David Davis,  born to a wealthy family in Cecil County, Maryland, on March 9, 1815. 

Upon his graduation from Yale in 1835, Davis moved to Bloomington, Illinois, to practice law. He also served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives in 1845 and a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in McLean County, 1847.
In 1844, Davis won election as a Whig to the Illinois legislature, and four years later was elected Judge of Illinois' Eighth Judicial Circuit, the circuit in which Abraham Lincoln and Ward Hill Lamon practiced law.

The three became close friends, and Davis worked diligently (and then some!) as Lincoln's campaign manager at the 1860 Republican nominating convention in Chicago. 

In 1862, President Lincoln appointed Davis to the United States Supreme Court, where he served until 1877. 

He resigned from the court after being elected to the United States Senate by the Illinois legislature. He retired from the Senate in 1883 and spent the remainder of his life at Clover Lawn. He died on June 26, 1886.

Davis had the distinction of being the largest landowner in Illinois. Although he was not as wealthy as the state's wealthiest businessman, Cyrus McCormick, Davis owned more land than any other man in Illinois. At his death, his estate was valued at between four to five million dollars-a huge fortune in his day. He is interred at Evergreen Cemetery and his home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Not only did he weigh over 300 pounds, he had an equally large appetite for politics.

More to come

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chicago's Politically Incorrect Wigwam

The above drawing is of the infamous Chicago Wigwam--a temporary building built of canvas and wood for the 1860 Republican Convention.

This structure was the deal breaker for getting the convo to Chicago in the first place. Each city--New York, Philadelphia, some smaller towns--put forth their bid for the spectacle, but Lyman Trumball and Gustav Koerner won out.

Seems Chicago was the right place at the right time, and the Illinois team promised huge discounts on train travel (hmmmm--did someone know a tall, gangly railroad lawyer?) as well as a building to be designed and built--at city expense!!--to provide a place for the Republican delegates. 

I present . . . THE WIGWAM!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Illinois Gets the Convention!

The gentleman to the right is Gustave Koerner. He was the man largely responsible for getting Chicago picked as the place for the May, 1860 Republican Convention. He was also of German ancestry, and helped build German support for Lincoln.

Koerner was once a Democrat, but left that party in disgust when they became affiliated with such movements as the Know Nothings, the race-baiting party of the time. 

He was Lieutenant-Governor of Illinois, and next in line to become Governor if Joel Matteson, then chief executive of Illinois, won his Senate race.

In the 1840s, he had been a judge, and had met Abraham Lincoln during that time. He and another judge-turned-politico, Lyman Trumbull, pulled every available string (and some that were not so readily available!) in New York, where a group of Republican Party leaders met to choose the sight of the 1860 Convention.

It was much like Goldilocks & the 3 Bears--one city was too small, another was too expensive, but Chicago was "just right." Plus Chicago promised to build a special hall in which the electors could meet.

Why does it matter where the convention was held? There were many steps forward in getting Abraham Lincoln elected President. Moving the Republican Convention out of Seward territory was a particularly large step.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Making of the President, 1960

To the right is Theodore H. White. He is a Pulitzer prize-winning historian, and he wrote a book called The Making of the President, 1960.

I am reading this book to get a better understanding of campaigns, conventions, and elections in general. It is one of many I have read lately.

I found many sentences in Mr. White's book that were pure poetry in both their ideas and the way he put the words together. Because I am assuming those of you reading have some interest in history, I decided to share this: 

History is always best written generations after the event, when cloud, fact and memory have all fused into what can be accepted as truth, whether it be so or not.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another Elmer Ellsworth!

This dapper looking gentleman is Elmer Ellsworth McKeever, of Barnesville, Ohio.
He was born in January, 1859, so who knows when he was named. I don't know if anyone knew who Elmer Ellsworth was in January of 1859.  
He married Miss Bertha Bentley in 1889, and died ten years later of pneumonia.
He left a son and a daughter, in addition to his widow.
He was well thought of, according to his obituary--but what could one expect from a man named Elmer Ellsworth?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Remember This!

Camp near White Oak Church, Va.
May 9, 1863
It is difficult to realize in the time of an action, the extreme peril one’s life is in. Death there seems of less consequence than anywhere else, one gets so used to it. Let a railroad accident happen, or a factory tumble to the ground, mangling a great many, and terrifying numbers more, and the whole country shudders, but the same number may be killed and maimed in a brisk skirmish, and the affair is very ‘brilliant.’ Such is the acknowledged difference, and it well that it should be so. But when the excitement is over and we go back to camp and see so many comrades whose society was our pleasure, missing, we feel very keenly the loss we have sustained.
—from a letter by Pvt. Wilbur Fisk, 2nd VT Infantry, to The (Montpelier, VT) Green Mountain Freeman following the Battle of Second Fredericksburg
Thanks to

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mea Culpa, & I promise . . .

I know--no excuses, right? OK then.

Here's the plan for summer. As a teacher, I get "summer." I have left several loose ends here at the blog, so I will finish them up: 

            • Arthur Devereux
            • Ned House 
            • Brass Bands 
            • Wide-Awakes 
            • Lincoln's 1860 Campaign & Election   
            • the Zouave Quickstep 
            • Historical Fireworks and Illuminations
That is a lot on my proverbial plate, but these are all things I am passionately interested in, so I am going to assume that you are as well--LOL!!

If you are not interested now, just think how well-informed you will be by September!

The handsome, steely-eyed man inside the circle is, of course, Francis Brownell. If I don't get myself together, I am sure his ghost will haunt me, still avenging Ellsworth!

To summer campaigning--HUZZAH!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Blue and the Gray-time for another poem

The Blue And The Gray
Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907)

By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the one, the Blue,
            Under the other, the Gray

These in the robings of glory,
    Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
    In the dusk of eternity meet:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day
        Under the laurel, the Blue,
            Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe;
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day;
        Under the roses, the Blue,
            Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,
    The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Broidered with gold, the Blue,
            Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
    On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment -day,
        Wet with the rain, the Blue
            Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
    The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
    No braver battle was won:
        Under the sod adn the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the blossoms, the Blue,
            Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,
    Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
    When they laurel the graves of our dead!
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day,
        Love and tears for the Blue,
            Tears and love for the Gray.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Civil War Brass Bands

One thing I especially love about reenacting is the music. To the left is a brass band that performed at Harper's Ferry, and they are one of many.

I listen to both the Americus and the Federal Brass Band in my car, and there is something rather grand about pulling into a middle school parking lot with cornets blaring.

It is my opinion that, were there more brass band music, people would feel more patriotic and do things like vote and read history. Just my opinion.

I am working on a much more detailed post about band music in the War for, so I will be sharing bits & pieces here as well.

End-of-school craziness/depression has officially come to an end, and back to posting as usual.