This wonderful photograph of Harriet Tubman, re-discovered last year, is now conserved and in the public domain!Read More
Washington, DC, September 24, 2016--opening of African American History Museum and Library of Congress Book Festival. September 24, 1866--visits to Andrew Johnson and a cure for a "secret disease"Read More
A replica of one of the Marquis de Lafayette's ships is in Alexandria for three days as part of a tour of the Eastern Seaboard from Yorktown to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Suddenly, everyone is very conscious of saying its name in the French style (lair-me-own) rather than the English (like the character in Harry Potter). Lafayette sailed on the original ship in 1780, one of many times he came across the Atlantic, this time with word that France would support the Americans with men and ships. At the ceremony I attended yesterday, much was made of the historic and current French-U.S. alliance, with lots of Vive la France! cries from the speakers and audience. The real treat was to board the ship. (It had that wonderful smell of creosote or tar or something that I remember from working at Mystic Seaport many years ago.)
Lafayette died in 1834, still a beloved figure in the U.S.
Shortly after Julia Wilbur arrived in Washington in October 1862, she took her first walk around LaFayette Sq. [sic], across from the White House, a fashionable address for Washington movers and shakers.
In Alexandria, on January 7, 1863, when her sister Frances and sister-in-law Charlotte were visiting--
... Met Col. Tait who told us of a Museum over the Market. We went there. A police man opened the sanctorum for us. There is the bier on which Washington was carried to the grave, & Lafayette’s saddle, & Revolutionary Flags & many curious and interesting relics. They are covered with dust, & the labels are torn off some of them. I must go there again.
Everyone would have known about the Marquis de Lafayette, dust notwithstanding.
And here is the beautiful ship from a press package--which I could not begin to capture with my iphone camera.
On Monday, April 13, Pamela Cressey, who teaches Historical Archaeology at George Washington University, asked me to join her class as she took them on an abbreviated tour to show them the places they have studied in class. We met on a beautiful spring afternoon at the King Street Metro Station and headed southeast to Duke Street. First stops" Bruin's--one of the "inspirations" for Uncle Tom's Cabin--and Franklin & Armfield slave pens. Both establishments were flourishing mid-19th century businesses that dealt in the purchase and sale of humans. Alongside Franklin & Armfield (sold and called Price Birch and Co. by 1861), the Union built a hospital for African American soldiers and civilians, called L'Ouverture Hospital, in 1864 and operated for the next several years before it was torn down.
Julia Wilbur often visited these sites.
Our last stop was Alexandria National Cemetery, the military cemetery built in 1863. In a future blog post, I will talk more about the cemetery, including an ultimately successful petition by L'Ouverture patients in late 1864 to demand that black soldiers be buried there.
Pam (Alexandria's now-retired City Archaeologist) had assigned her students a project to research some of the USCT through hospital and pension records. Then they fanned out in the cemetery to search for the gravestone of "their" soldiers.