Monday, October 23, 2017

Ulysses S. Grant finds a home in Mississippi, new book offers annotated edition of president's memoirs

Former Union General and President Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, leaving behind memoirs, letters and other papers. In 1962, during the Civil War centennial, the Ulysses S. Grant Association was formed to collect those papers and publish them.

But they needed a home. What would be the perfect place to house this collection? Why Mississippi, of course!

The papers found a home at Mississippi State University because of the school’s Giles Distinguished Professor of History, Dr. John F. Marszalek, who replaced Dr. John Y. Simon as Executive Director and Managing Editor of the Grant Papers project. The papers were transferred south in 2008.

I found out about this unusual site for Grant’s collection when attending the Mississippi Book Festival this summer in Jackson and paused at the university table. Mississippi State having a presidential collection isn’t uncommon, but it is for a state that doesn’t relate to said president — or has a former violent disagreement with, for that matter. For instance, the University of Tennessee houses the Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson presidential papers, two men who hailed from Tennessee, and Texas A&M is home to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, a man born in Massachusetts but who lived in Texas.

Today (Oct. 23, 2017), Marszalek, David Nolen and Louie Gallo will launch their book, “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant,” at Square Books in Oxford, Miss. An informal reception begins at 5 p.m., followed by the author's presentation at 5:30 p.m., with book signing both before and after the reading/talk. 

Their book is the first complete annotated edition of Grant’s memoirs and it represents Grant’s thoughts on his life and times through the end of the Civil War—including the antebellum era and the Mexican War—and his perspective on battlefield decision making, according to the publisher’s statement. His two-volume memoirs, sold door-to-door by former Union soldiers in the 19th century, have never gone out of print and were lauded by Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, Matthew Arnold, Henry James and presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

As for the library, visitors may access the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library Collections or the Congressional & Political Research Center Collections of the MSU Libraries Special Collections department from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or by calling (662) 325-7679. All 32 volumes of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant are available in most major libraries and are now available online and searchable via the library’s Grant website.

Some of the items featured in the Presidential Library exhibit include:
  • A letter First Lady Julia Dent Grant wrote about the White House wedding of daughter Nellie.
  • Grant White House china reproductions.
  • Prints and portraits including ones of Mrs. Grant's father, Frederick Dent; President Grant's mother and father.
  • A reproduction of General-President Grant's death mask.
  • A rare, grand "salesman's sample" book of photographs from Grant's 1885 funeral featuring the work of some of the era's finest photographers, Matthew Brady, L.C. Handy, and Frederick F. Gutekunst.
  • A desk originally in the U.S. Supreme Court used by two justices on the bench during Grant's presidency.
  • A love seat and chair featuring designs commemorating Grant's military role in Mississippi created by Annie Coggan-Crawford, a former MSU professor in the College of Architecture, Art and Design.
Chere Coen is a travel and food writer who loves weird Southern stories, including a former Union general finding a home in the Deep South.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The buried leg of John Bell Hood

Gen. John Bell Hood
Alongside the road in the woods of northwest Georgia lies a grave containing only a leg.
It’s a limb left behind by Confederate General John Bell Hood, a Kentucky resident known as a brave but sometimes reckless soldier. He served with Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet in the Civil War, but his left arm was badly wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. He moved south with his troops and was injured again at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, this time with a leg wound that needed to be amputated.

The wound was so severe that after the amputation four inches below the hip the surgeon placed his leg in the ambulance so that leg and man would be buried together in the likely event they did not survive.

john hood's legBut Hood did survive and returned to active duty, fighting in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864 and other skirmishes until he was defeated at the Battle of Nashville. Legless and with a useless arm, the general spent the rest of his life working as a cotton broker in Louisiana until he, along with his wife and oldest child, died of yellow fever in New Orleans.

His leg, however, was buried on Sept. 20, 1863, near the Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel in what is known as Tunnel Hill, Georgia, just outside the city of Dalton.

georgia train tunnelIf you visit the leg of the Gallant Hood, be sure and walk through the old train tunnel, completed in 1850 and the site of the Great Locomotive Chase. In 1862, several Union Civil War spies stole a locomotive known as the General and headed toward Chattanooga with the aim of damaging the railroad and telegraph lines, therefore cutting off Confederate lines with Atlanta. The Confederates, however, chased them with everything they could get their hands on and stopped the spies before their destination. You can watch the 1956 movie starring Fess Parker to get a more dramatic idea of what went down in Georgia.

The train tunnel, by the way, is rumored to be haunted. Maybe it’s the ghost of John Bell Hood’s leg.

Chere Coen is a travel and food writer who loves weird Southern stories, not to mention a ghost or two.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Catch the buzz: Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium celebrates Chocolate Covered Insect Day

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium Director
of Animals and Visitor Programs Jayme Necaise.
Once again, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium has grossed us out. But there’s chocolate involved!

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the New Orleans attraction celebrates Chocolate Covered Insect Day, where “executive bug chefs” let guests dip edible critters in a fountain overflowing with melted chocolate and enjoy campfire fudge, tarsal toffee or chocolate “chirp” cookies.

“We’re happy we can offer this unique opportunity to guests,” said Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium Director of Animals and Visitor Programs Jayme Necaise in a press release. “People may not realize this, but the FDA allows 60 or more microscopic insect fragments for each 100 grams of chocolate – so it’s not a huge leap to just go ahead and add the whole bug! Besides, bugs are good for you – they are surprisingly nutritious and a major food source for many people across the globe.”


The tastings are included with Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium admission (while supplies last). 

Necaise added, "If guests are lucky, there may even be some leftovers yummies on Sunday.”

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves a fun Southern story, even bugs.