It might be cliched to say but these last couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Two speaking engagements, one book festival, work, research, all the rest of life, and gearing up for our Reconstruction Era theme of the month for March and an upcoming short sale over St. Patrick’s Day.
If I was hosting a REAL tea this afternoon, fresh fruit would be the treat and probably Chamomile Tea to drink. I’ve had a little cold this week, so luckily it’s just a tea on the blog this week. No germ sharing here…
But it’s always a good day to talk history and we have some fun questions this week. We’ll start with a “what if” topic…
Lyle P: What if “Stonewall” Jackson had been at Gettysburg?
Thanks for sending this question for conversation. General Thomas J. Jackson at Gettysburg? Hmm… Well, in case other readers aren’t familiar, Jackson was a Confederate general in the American Civil War; he was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and died on May 10, 1863, less than two months before the Battle of Gettysburg. General Richard Ewell commanded most of his troops at Gettysburg.
I wonder if the armies would have been at Gettysburg at all, if Jackson had been on that campaign. Just how far North would Jackson have gone? Would Jackson have crossed the Susquehanna River? (You can read what really happened at the river here.) So, depending on many, many circumstances, there might not have been a battle at Gettysburg at all with Jackson commanding the Second Corps.
Supposing the campaign did play out the way it did in reality and the Confederate armies converged on Gettysburg with divisions of the Second Corps coming down on the town and Union lines from the north, I don’t think Jackson would have stopped on the evening of July 1, 1863. Staff officers who had fought with Jackson and then served under Ewell expressed their beliefs that Jackson would have pressed an attack on the evening of July 1st either on Cemetery Hill or maybe occupied Culp’s Hill. If that had happened, it would have drastically changed the battleground for the battle; likely the Union army would have retreated to Pipe Creek and formed a strong defensive position which was Union General Meade’s original plan. And Lee would have still been on the offensive…
I’m not convinced Jackson would have wanted to attack the naturally strong Union positions at Gettysburg, especially by Days Two and Three when the artillery and infantry was deployed on the defensive. Perhaps, he might have persuaded Lee to have Longstreet demonstrate to hold the Union army in place while Jackson marched to the rear or tried to get between the army and Washington.
Another consideration – Jackson may not have performed well in the north at all. Though there are many factors in his lackluster performance during the 1862 Seven Days Battles, the argument can be made that he was in unfamiliar territory. Many of Jackson’s great successes occurred when he knew the terrain or had a trusted local to help him know the lay of the battleground.
These are just a few of many ideas of what could’ve happened if Jackson had been at Gettysburg. Ultimately, historical fact remains. Jackson was dead, Ewell tried to make the best decisions with the limited information available, and Lee missed Jackson’s leadership and followership.
Your thoughts? I’ll look forward to reading them in the comments.
Attendee at Riverside Dickens Festival: What happened in 1893?
This was a delightfully surprising question asked by a young lady at Riverside Dickens Festival last weekend. I’m not sure why she picked the specific year 1893, but we talked generally about the late Victorian Era and changes in America at that time.
I thought it would be interesting to follow-up with some additional research and here’s a short list of interesting things that happened in 1893:
- World’s Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago
- The Panic of 1893, with a crash on Wall Street
- New Zealand gave women the right to vote and was the first country to take this step
- The Kingdom of Hawaii became a republic when Queen Liliuokalani was deposed by an American coup
- In India, Gandhi committed his first act of civil disobedience
- France and Russia signed a military accord (steps toward the alliances that cause disaster in World War I)
- Thomas Edison completed the world’s first movie
- In medical history, the first successful open-heart surgery was performed
- Henry Ford completed his first useful gasoline fueled engine
- Grover Cleveland was inaugurated president for his second, un-consecutive term
- Katharine Lee Bates wrote the classic poem “America, The Beautiful”
- Beatrix Potter wrote the first version of Peter Rabbit
What else should we add to the 1893 list of historic happenings?
Yes! I enjoy baking and “new” historical recipes are a fun challenge.
I’m trying to think of actual historical cookie recipes (or translations) that I’ve made. (My standard “go-to” molasses-spice cookie that travels well to re-enactments and events isn’t a particularly old recipe…)
Shrewsbury Cakes, which date back to the Colonial Era. They’re kind of a like a shortbread or basic sugar biscuit, but there was some special spice in them. It might have been cardamom – I honestly can’t remember it’s been so long ago. But we made them for Colonial Era studies and for a Jane Austen tea, I think.
Lee’s Molasses Cookies, from a recipe claiming to be translated from the Robert E. Lee family collection. This cookie had really strong molasses flavor, and I remember the cookie dough wasn’t easy to work with. (This cookie is rolled and cut.) The recipe particularly said the cookies are best several days to a week after baking, and that’s true! My brothers thought the cookies were too crunchy and called them “hardtack cookies,” but I thought the cookies were pretty good and definitely had a 19th Century flavor. (If you try enough historical recipes, you’ll find there are “historic flavors.”)
And that’s all for this weekend… Thanks for coming for tea! Be sure to come again on March 17 and don’t forget to add your comments (and new questions) below.
Hey, it’s Women’s History Month – that might make some interesting questions?