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I recently attended the lecture at the Jemison Mansion discussing the Druid City (Tuscaloosa), where a class of students showed the audience a 12 minute music video that they put together.  The music video was about the growth of the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and also whether or not the students in the class grew up in a city or in the country.  Not surprisingly, most of the students in the class grew up in the city.  Following the lecture, there was a powerpoint presentation about how Tuscaloosa became the city it is today, and the excavation of historic sites.  The city of Tuscaloosa was the location of the state capital in Alabama from 1826 to 1846.  The state capital moved away to Montgomery following the 20 year stint in Tuscaloosa, and then the capital building was destroyed.  Many, many years later, the remnants of the capital building were found at Capital Park in Tuscaloosa.  The presentation was discussing the excavation of this historical building, and the speaker was actually one of the people who helped excavate the historic site. The only remaining part of the capital building was ruins of the first floor.  From a picture taken overhead, you could see four distinct separate offices from the old building.  There were several historic artifacts that were found during the uncovering of the ruins in Capital Park, and the artifacts were carefully uncovered. By discovering old monuments such as the former capital building in Tuscaloosa, historians can learn a lot about the past, and excavating these historic sites is a very important part of this learning process.


This article is an interesting tale about a recent medal of honor awarded to the descendants of Union First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing. Cushing was apparently twelfth ranked in his class at the U.S Military academy and was first lieutenant at the Battle of Gettysburg against the confederate command of Robert E. Lee when he made his last attempt to defeat the union troops in Pickett’s charge. Cushing is believed to have withstood being shot in the shoulder, groin, and intestines and when ordered to fall back by his commanding general he stayed on the front line holding his intestines in his hand giving commands to the union troops. This eventually allowed the union troops to penetrate confederate lines, defeat the charge, and help to win the war.


This article recounts the events leading up to President Abraham Lincoln’s re-election, feelings surrounding the election, and candidates that ran against him. Lincoln was very unlikely to be re-elected because he very passively tried to get the South to return as a part of the United States whereas a lot of political leaders wanted more aggressive measures taken specifically by means of invasion and forced reconstruction. Many of Lincoln’s own republican party didn’t even agree with how he commanded the country so Lincoln tried to fix his appeal by running as a National Unity party rather than Republican. For the Democrats McClellan ran with good chance of winning since he had such a grudge against Lincoln. And a new party known as the Radical Democrats formed by the doing of Frederick Douglas with nominee Fremont known for freeing slaves in Missouri before the Emancipation Proclamation. Fremont dropped out and with two union successful battles before the election Lincoln won all but three states.


This article gives the two perspectives of Lincoln and Douglas on the Kansas-Nebraska act, given in Peoria Illinois 1854. Essentially when settling was enabled in Kansas and Nebraska settlers were looking for a distinction as to if the states were free or slave. Douglas with prior knowledge of popular sovereignty in New Mexico and Utah suggested the same thing in Kansas and Nebraska. Lincoln, a lawyer at the time, was highly opposed to popular sovereignty making  the strongest argument against popular sovereignty by referring to the Missouri Compromise and the fact that the climates in both states could support slavery unfortunately. This kick started Lincoln’s career as an abolitionist since he so strongly referred to how slavery should be put to rest “as our fathers intended.”


This article gives insight to the main generals in the civil war and how the union troops captured Atlanta rallying Northern support and getting Lincoln re-elected in office. Ulysses S. Grant the union general held the highest rank since George Washington and came up with a strategy to attack the confederates on multiple fronts but suffered tremendous losses around the southern capital of Richmond, Va. Thus the union passed the position onto general Sherman who took 100,000 soldiers from Tenessee to Atlanta. Confederate general Hood tried to stop Sherman in three separate battles but lost three times the number in each battle and continued retreating. After being defeated in Atlanta the South lost control of the center of most of their manufacturing and the victory was reported to Lincoln by telegram.


This article gives in detail the capturing and burning of Washington D.C. by the British and eventual treaty signed at the end of the war of 1812 where both Britain and the US agreed there was no need for a buffer state between the US and British Canada. The British when fighting broke out stationed general Cockburn in the Chesapeake bay where he for a long time fought small fights on the eastern coast against the US, but when Napoleon denounced his thrown in France the English shifted all their focus to the US moving a large quantity of troops to Cockburn’s station. With an intercepted anonymous letter, and a plea from the mayor of D.C. to protect the capital President Madison ordered a small army along with 10,000 Militia men to guard the capital. Unfortunately the Secretary of War did not take action on this until it was too late. Cockburn’s two divisions of troops had successfully taken D.C. stealing Madison’s personal items from the white house and burning the whole city with furniture and gun powder. Shortly after the British lost two major battles in Baltimore and Lake Champlain leading both sides to seek out a treaty.


This article gives a recount of President almost getting shot in the Battle of Fort Stevens in 1864.  In the civil war Ulysses S. grant devoted a majority of 23,000 troops to trying to take over the Southern capital of Richmond, VA. When Robert E. Lee noticed how hard the union troops were pursuing the fall of Richmond he knew he needed to do something drastic thus he put Lieutenant Early in charge of a group of Confederate soldiers sent up through Maryland to attempt to take the Union capital. One afternoon Lincoln was supposed to evacuate at the end of the potomac river where the battle was occurring. Since D.C. was heavily fortified and it was so hot out Early did not send out an assault on the capital, but one of the confederate sharpshooters nearly hit Lincoln from 800 feet away when he was seen on the parapets of Fort Stevens. After this occurrence Lincoln returned to D.C. confident that it would hold up against any attack the confederates could bring, especially with more union troops rushing to the battle grounds. The confederates fought all day the next day and retreated at nightfall.


Recently thanks to professor Danielle Allen a certain phrase in the declaration of independence is under question. In most copies of the declaration of independence we see that the second sentence stands as “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Yet in recent studies done by Allen she notes that the those who transcribed the declaration from one copy to another added the period after the word Happiness accidentally separating it from the third sentence regarding protection under the government. She feels as though this is a crucial misunderstanding of the text because the context that government exists as an aid to the citizens of their rights. Many of the copies of the declaration are taken off of a stone copy made in 1823, but seeing as there were 70 copies made from the time the declaration came out and when the stone was produced Allen believes that the stone also has the mistranslation. Evidence came about during the study that there is an ink mark after the word happiness, which is also in question to have been a comma rather than a period.


In the winter of 1757 one of the descendants of John Winthrop left Connecticut (new England) on a ship called “Africa” set sail for Africa. This descendant was named Dudley Saltonstall and was one of the wealthiest Northern colonists that the article places on par with John Rockefeller. He reportedly kept ship logs on the Africa of all of the slaves he was bringing back to new england as well as keeping logs of other goods and deaths aboard the ships. He reportedly brought back 6,000 slaves just to the state of Connecticut. This proves that the North had many more ties to slavery than it would like to admit to. At one point the article also points out that the North had over 40,000 slaves all working low pay factory/labor jobs at one period in time.


After winning the Revolutionary War George Washington returned to his Virginia plantation in 1783 retiring from chief of the American army. He wanted to be done with politics, but realized how weak the articles of Confederation were and attended a constitutional convention in philadelphia in 1787. Here the constitution was drawn up, Washington quickly got it ratified in Virginia and nine other states also ratified it. Washington was then requested to be president of the united states, which he did not want to be, yet he was nominated unanimously by the 10/13 states that were able to vote. He was the only President to get all votes by the electoral college. Washington was incredibly nervous upon accepting office but the nation celebrated extensively.


In 1863 the prisoner exchange system between the union and confederates ceased to exist due to the lack of agreement on the worth of prisoners. Thus there were 15,000 union troops captive in 1863 in Richmond, Va. The small quarters and large population was stressing the size of the camp and with the growing discomfort of having so many union troops contained within the confederate capital the confederates started to construct camp Sumter in Andersonville with the use of black slaves. In February 1864 100 union troops escaped the Richmond camp thus the confederates started transporting union troops to the unfinished 16.5 acre camp Sumter. There was a fresh water supply, and enough food to ration, but living conditions were poor because the shelters composed of stitched sheets and twigs rather than wooden compounds. Trains kept bringing union troops by the thousands bringing about a 10 acre expansion. This was no solution however when the population reached 33,000 union troops. Each troop had about 6 feet to the next troop, meals became scarce, and the once fresh water became drinking and sewage. Many troops died of disease or random shootings by the confederate guards. Deaths on both sides reached 50,000.


The British and americans fought the French and Indians in the seven years war leading up to 1763. Upon winning against the French the British monarchy had obtained all of the land once in use by the French and Indians. Outraged by the British thinking they had the right to the new land Chief Pontiac organized the Pontiac’s rebellion in which 12 British forts were attacked and 8 of which were captured. Similarly brothers known as the Paxton boys attacked Indians that did not even cause any issues. To stop all of the unnecessary deaths King George issued the Proclamation of 1763 in which settlers were forbidden to cross the Appalachian mountains, but could now settle Quebec and Florida. This however did not stop the settlement west of the Appalachian mountains in the United States. Even George Washington himself tried to illegally buy land from Native Americans in 1767 before the Proclamation was repealed and another treaty was made with the Native Americans moving them further west.


Christopher Oakley, a professor and amateur historian at the university of North Carolina at Asheville recently discovered a sighting of Abraham Lincoln in one of his photos. Along with one of his classes at the university he was attempting to re-create the Gettysburg address so he had been doing research and touring battle grounds. One night he located John Seward the peculiar looking secretary of state at the time and knowing Lincoln usually sat near Seward he saw another face and blew up the frame to identify it as Abraham Lincoln. He sent the photo to the Library of Congress for a high resolution scan and when it returned it was confirmed to be Lincoln. The only issue was that in 2007 in the same photo another person, John Richter, identified Lincoln atop a horse. Both spottings have followers, but Oakley is more likely to be correct since he was looking for and doing a project on Lincoln.


Frederick Bailey was an enslaved African that attempted to escape the clutches of slavery twice and succeeded once. He had obtained sailor’s clothing and borrowed the Sailor’s pass of a free black friend of his. Frederick used this disguise because of his knowledge of waterfront and that many free black men worked in harbors as sailors. To avoid anyone checking the sailor pass he had obtained he jumped onto a moving train at the last second and entered the colored persons car. The description on the pass did not match Frederick’s appearance, but the conductor did not notice the description and instead focused on the official eagle allowing him to ride the train. He rode through Maryland and Delaware to arrive in New York. He was hidden away by David Ruggles until his free wife had arrived in New York. Together they moved to Bedford, Massachusetts where Frederick changed his last name to Douglas and bought his freedom with the aid of his activist supporters.


John Pardo, a Spanish explorer, reached the eastern coast of America in 1566 and landed in present day North Carolina. Under the direction of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés Pardo’s mission was to build a string of colonies from the Appalachian mountains down to the silver mines the Spanish possessed in Mexico. Pardo started the construction of Fort San Juan and small houses which he called the city of Cuenco. Cuenco was 300 miles inland of coastal North Carolina. Unfortunately he was not the first to settle the area, the native Mississippian tribe long preceded his arrival and responded by burning down the city and killing all but one of its inhabitants. The Spanish sold the area to the French and English where later mining efforts brought about a gold rush.


Mary Virginia Wade was born in 1843 in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. When the Battle of Gettysburg broke out in 1863 Wade, her family, and the child they took care of named Isaac Brinkerhoff moved in with her older sister Georgia McClellan. They believed they'd be safer, but the union troops retreated into the hills south of Gettysburg putting the McClellan household right in the center of the battle. Bullets flew through the windows and an artillery shell even crashed through the roof but never exploded. The next day Georgia’s husband went out for firewood. Shots crashed through the house one landing in the bed post next to Georgia McClellan, the next when straight through the back of Wade as she was kneading dough for biscuits. Hearing Georgia scream the union troops safely escorted the family to the cellar safely. Wade was wrapped in a blanket and was later re-located to a church to be buried. She was the only civilian casualty in the Battle of Gettysburg.


In 1607 John Smith along with 107 colonists arrived on  a peninsula in the James River where the Jamestown settlement was set up. Colonists were dying quickly due to inexperience farming in the area and disease so John Smith reached out to the Powhatan Natives to help them grow produce and provide them with food. In 1609 John Smith accidentally was burned with gun powder and returned to England to receive medical care, he never came back and left the town under the governor George Percy. That same winter the colonists suffered a large drought and had such little food that Percy recorded his citizens eating horses. Eventually the food became so scarce that they moved onto dogs, cats, and excavating the dead people killed off by disease or the harsh winter cold. There was no physical evidence of this until 2013 when Douglas Owsley found the bones of a little girl during an excavation with knife marks in the bone. It was then concluded that the colonists of Jamestown did resort to cannibalism for a food supply in the winter of 1609-1610.


During the Revolutionary war from 1779 to 1780 George Washington and the Continental army were stationed in Morristown, New Jersey for the hardest winter ever recorded in American history to that date. From November to April the encampment was hit by 28 different snow storms covering the camp in 6 feet of snow. Washington recognized that his mean were freezing, huddling for warmth and had little shelter from the weather. In order to boost their morale he gave them the day off on St. Patrick’s Day. A majority of the immigrants fighting in the war were Irish and back home in Ireland the Irish also strived to gain independence from Britain thus the army received a day off on March 16, 1760. This was most likely the most well behaved St. Patrick’s Day which did also involve the drinking of some rum purchased by the general. Yet this was the first time in America the holiday had been celebrated and lifted the spirits of troops that endured an incredibly harsh winter.

What I pull from this lecture that lines up with class concepts is segregation of a minority of people. Whether it be segregation via gender roll (women in the early colonial era), or the maltreatment of an entire ethnic population (slavery of black and disrespect of Native Americans), discrimination towards peoples is a very constant subject in the study of early American history.

One of Dr. Kim Nielsen’s examples was Helen Keller, the famous physically handicapped woman who was labeled, by whom I remember to be anti-feminists, one of the “top 10 most dangerous women.” From Dr. Nielsen’s perspective, Keller did far more than stand up for women’s rights; she took a defensive stance in the name of all people who could qualify as “disabled.” This included anyone who could be segregated for any reason at all in a society, such as individuals who represented certain races, genders, and religions. It did not merely include people who were incapacitated due to some malicious physical feature.

It’s hard to believe that people would segregate someone for simply possessing a physical disability. Americans have even disrespected people who don’t look “like a normal person,” taking Charles Steinmetz as an example. He was, according to Dr. Nielsen, an internationally recognized “brain.” He is the man who created the alternating current model of the electrical circuit, which is the system we install in our homes to this very day. When he moved to the United States, people made fun of his appearance, labeling him as a “Jewish, poor-physique hunchback” when he clearly should have been given nothing less than the highest praise as a scientist.

I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in Dr. Nielsen’s presentation. I felt that, instead of learning about a history of disability in the United States, I was being persuaded to accept an opinion on our country’s saddening history of disability segregation. There are plenty of people who don’t feel segregated by society today due to their physical features. I’m diabetic and I have never felt, in any way, segregated due to my disability. Sure, people may have been jerks about this sort of deal in the past, but I highly doubt anyone still pursues this ideology today.

The world premiere of the music video “Druid City” occurred at the historical Jemison Mansion on December 3, 2014. Following the premiere of the music video, which featured the city of Tuscaloosa and its many historical sites, guest speaker Dr. Robert Mellown talked about the historical significance of many of the buildings in Tuscaloosa.

Although no huge battle was fought in Tuscaloosa, the Civil War certainly had a presence in the community. This was in large part because Tuscaloosa was home to a Confederate Prisoner of War camp. Union soldiers that were held here during the war faced numerous problems including lack of food and disease, which made this a very deadly place for those who inhabited it. Additionally, Tuscaloosa was home to a Confederate arsenal that stored ammunition and supplies.

When word got out that Union soldiers were headed to Tuscaloosa, Confederate troops burned down the arsenal to prevent the Union form taking their materials. In addition, Union troops burned down many other buildings in Tuscaloosa, including a large part of the University of Alabama. Even though Tuscaloosa had several buildings that were related to the Civil War, very few are still around today because of the large amount of burning that occurred.

Furthermore, a burning that occurred after the Civil War was the previous state capitol building that was in Tuscaloosa. Although the area where it stood remained empty for decades, it was recently rebuilt as a sort of monument made out of its old ruins. There was much thought and decision-making put into making this monument much like many other monuments put up as discussed in Horowitz’s Confederates in the Attic.

Overall, the lecture was very informative about the city of Tuscaloosa during the Civil War and how the city decided to remember the previous state capitol building by making a monument out of it.

The music video/documentary pertained to another history class that discussed rural versus urban ideals and habits. Each student in the class explained where they were from and if this place was rural or urban, and then to say what was “non-country” or “non-city” about themselves. It also followed the class along as they saw different historical sites in different rural and urban areas. This can relate to our own history class in that we discussed how society changed as settlers moved from urban to rural areas, or vice versa. The latter part of the lecture was about interpreting historical sites. A keynote speaker gave a presentation about different historical sites around Tuscaloosa. He and his archeological team used foundations of old buildings to compare them to buildings today. He also spoke of what these buildings and the rooms they contained were used for. Some of these buildings were significant to our own Civil War Discussion. One such building was once used as a holding for Union soldiers that had become prisoners of war. His lecture can also relate to our own Civil War Monument project. My group and I used inspiration of past southern plantations to create our own present day southern plantation. We based our structure on those of past structures and created a blueprint to display what each room would be used for. The project required to interpret these sites and analyze how different groups would react to this monument as well as what it would signify.

During the music video presented by the undergraduate class “The Nineteenth Century City”, many different historical buildings located in Tuscaloosa. Unfortunately, during the 1800s, while the Civil War was still under way, the Union army set fire to and burned several of these timeless buildings. One building lost in the fire was the rotunda for the University of Alabama. Only one photograph of the rotunda found in an old book give us an idea of what the building looked like. It was located where Gorgas Library currently is, and drew inspiration from two notable sources. Both the Parthenon inspired it and the rotunda found in the University of Virginia. Through modern technology, we have been able to take the existing photograph and create a 3-D model of the rotunda. Another building that Dr. Mellown discussed was the former state capitol building that was located in Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa was actually the capital of Alabama for twenty years in the 1820-40s, with the capitol building lost to the fire. Several artifacts were recovered from ten feet under the buildings ground, and efforts were made to use the recovered building fragments to create a monument in Capitol Park. Several fragments and sections of columns were found in the backyards of Tuscaloosa resident’s homes. Tuscaloosa lost the title of state capitol due to the lack of roads in Alabama and the only way to navigate to Tuscaloosa on a commercial level was by using the Warrior River, which was only possible six months out of the year.

This portrait of Sarah Erving Waldo done during the period of British colonization. The artist's intention was to use naturalism and realism as an inspiration to portray and represent gentility and luxury, which is seen on Sarah's dress as well as the style of her hair and her pale skin. The style and color(it is apparent that it is white) of her gown suggests her family comes from a wealthy lifestyle and high class of social structure. Social structure is also seen through the objects in the picture such as satin and lace along with pearls. It is also appropriate to make this assumption because she is sitting at a tea table, a luxurious way of living in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In class, we have discussed this specific time period which included British colonization and many laws which were failed to be carried out such as the Stamp Act and the other many attepts made by Parliament.

This painting was done by a Pueblo artist in which includes landscape and little naturalism. This can correlate to our class discussion over the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 in which the Pueblo Indians began an uprising against the Spanish who were taking control and beginning colonization in their province. This was one of the most successful rebellions in North American history and it took several years for Spain to reconquer the area that the rebellion took place in. In the painting the Indians seem to be celebrating in front of a cemetery or church of some sort. This might be a possible indication that it was a tradition to come together and dance and also sing which was certainly apart of their culture.

Professor Kim Nielsen’s lecture on the history of disabilities was very eye-opening. Some of the themes that emerged throughout the lecture have also been present in class. The most apparent was how definitions and statuses can change over time. Another noticeable topic was racism and how it was related to disabilities. Through history an argument about disabilities was also tailored to back up sexism. The role of the impaired and the definition of disability had great impact on history.
The common belief about disabilities today is that they are a medical problem that can be fixed or compensated for. This definition, however, has not always been the dominant view. The public opinion about disability during the industrialization of the eighteenth century was that the disabled lived in poverty and were uneducated, according to Nielsen. This definition, and the reality of it at the time, limited handicapped people’s access to power and jobs. Nielsen explained that these limits resulted in a social structure with impaired individuals near the bottom.
Society did not offer any help to those who were disabled. One example of this is the slave ship Le Rodeur. This ship sailed in the early nineteenth century and carried a disease that caused blindness. Nielsen stated that almost forty slaves and a dozen sailors went blind or experienced reduced eyesight. Rather than attempting to aid the inflicted, the slaves were thrown overboard and the sailors were offered no help. These acts not only showed society’s unwillingness to help the handicapped, but also the deep rooted racism that has been so prevalent throughout class. Nielsen mentioned southern physician Samuel Cartwright, and explained that he believed that African Americans were natural slaves and those who did not accept it were disabled. The doctor believed that any slave that did not work hard or attempted to escape was mentally impaired.

Nielsen said that, like slavery, submission of women’s rights and education was backed by theoretical disabilities. A man named Edward Clarke actually believed that women who wanted better education were disabled. He called their minds “feeble” and held the notion that a college education would injure them. This restriction placed on women is something that occurs often throughout history and has appeared in class many times.
Handicaps even affected who was admitted into the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nielson said that even Charles Steinmetz who was a well-renowned mathematician was initially rejected entry because of his hunchback. By the definition at the time, he was a disabled man. America was attempting to keep out those who were weak and dependent, which was correlated with disabilities at the time. The ideal citizen was strong, independent and capable, and the country was trying to keep those who could not fit that profile from entering. Nielson also argued that the government did not comply with the disabled during wartime. Some handicapped people needed to drive their cars to work, but would require more gas than their rations would give them in order to drive every day. They needed the gas to get to work and keep their jobs. People that reached out to the government for more rations were told that they needed to sacrifice. The government would not spare any more rations in gas, even though some of its citizens needed them to stay employed.

During the presentation Nielson’s central argument was that disabilities have had an impact on history more than we know. It was argued many times that women and African Americans were disabled. These arguments were used to justify things like sexism, racism, and slavery. What determined that someone was disabled has changed greatly over time. Today we also give the disabled more compensation due to their limits. Overall the lecture was intriguing; I had never learned about the history and influence of disabilities before.

Response to a lecture by Dr. Kim Nielsen

In the days of the slave trade in the United States, a slave was most useful if he or she was in pristine condition.  The slave was borderline useless with a disability such as blindness.  A slave ship in 1819 named La Rodeur carried hundreds of slaves to the United States. While on their journey across the Atlantic Ocean, 39 slaves lost their eyesight.  These slaves were rendered useless as a slave trader was quoted, “even those blind of one eye would sell for a mere trifle.” Since it was assumed that these slaves could not perform manual labor, they were thrown overboard. The slave holding ships were followed by sharks, so these slaves were all but dead the moment they reached the water.

Samuel A. Cartwright was an American doctor in the nineteenth century.  He was the inventor of the disease named Drapetomania, which was said to be a disease that caused the enslaved to attempt an escape. The African American body was considered to be inferior to that of a white American. Another disease that was said to be synonymous with an African American was Hebetude which cause laziness and the damaging of property.

Living with a disability would be very difficult in this day and age; however, hundreds of years ago it would have been even more difficult.  Prior to the industrialization of the United States, women with disabilities could work from their home; however during industrialization, as factories began to open, those with disabilities had a much more difficult time getting around, and it was difficult to even get to the factory.