Lee’s Headquarters Tent

A career U.S. military officer before the war, Robert E. Lee had spent 30 years enduring the elements. As a Confederate general, Lee was acutely conscious of inconveniencing civilians, or living better than his men. During those rare occasions when Lee’s chief of staff, Walter Taylor, secured accommodations as headquarters, Taylor observed of the general, “It was entirely too pleasant for him as he is never so uncomfortable as when comfortable.

All of the items in this scene, including the camp bed, were Lee’s. Lee used some of them daily, and were fondly remembered by his staff. One of whom recollected: "His dress was always a plain, gray uniform, with Calvary boots reaching nearly to his knees, and a broad-brimmed gray felt hat.” Lee wore the hat in post war years, and when the family’s silver turned black from storage, youngest son of R. E. Lee, Jr., described how “My father opened his camp-chest and we used his forks, spoons, plate, etc…”

ODF:Catalyst #8

Dixie and the Franco-Prussian War Part 2

The Ramifications of French Defeat

     “With the defeat of the Second French Empire, the South lost a close ally and friend in Napoleon III. In 1871, the Third Republic was founded, and with the new form of government came new ideals in Paris. Before the close of the war a separatist movement called the Paris Commune rose, with proto-Marxist ideas implemented in the city. Though the rebellion was crushed in due time, their ideas were not, and though it lie dormant for 40 years, it would be back with a vengeance. In the mean time, the new government was not as friendly to the Confederate States because of how close it was to the now ousted Emperor, among other reasons.”
     “The second shakeup happened south of the border in Mexico. Emperor Maximilian, appointed to his position by the last Bonaparte, was highly aggrieved his benefactor had been deposed, and angry at the country for abiding by the decision. His personal views, coupled with the Mexican population thinking that if France could lose at home, how could they puppet a country so far away, started a move out from under France’s sphere and into more independent thought.”

The CSA gains land and loses friends

     “In 1874, 3 years after the defeat of France, republicanism was fermenting in Mexico with the help of letters written by Juarez in Confederate prison in Texas. The former president of Mexico had been captured by Texas Rangers in 1865 trying to sneak in to the US where he had support from the Lincoln and later McClellan administration. With small but frequent rebellions, the coffers of Mexico were slowly draining away. France, having to pay reparations to the new German Reich, was unable to subsidize their puppet, so Maximilian had to take matters into his own hands. The Emperor knew Breckinridge wanted to build a trans-continental railway like his northern neighbors had built, so for C$7 million, he offered the states of Sonora and Baja California to Richmond. The deal was kept hush-hush between both countries’ foreign offices, and wasn’t made public until Congress passed the bill for purchase. International reaction was quick to respond. France, who was still feeling embarrassment, responded negatively at both it’s wayward pseudo-colony and the perceived back stab by an ally. The US was wary of CS expansion, and losing a monopoly on rail from coast to coast. Washington made an offer on Baja, but it was rebuffed because of its support for Juarez. 

     “In 1875, the Sonora Territory and Baja Territory were added to the CSA, with domestic and international funding going into a railway from Ensenada to Galveston, which would then link up to the East Coast. This would not be completed until 1882. Fortunately, due to the Railway act of 1869, all major railways deemed vital for military applications, further exampled by the Prussians in the recent war, were standardized to the British 4′ 8.5″ rail. The rail network would be the key to increased trade with Asia and the allies of the South until the Nicaragua Canal in 1904.”

A Falling Out

     “After the purchase of Mexican lands, Paris was none too pleased with either country. Trying to climb out of a financial hole made by reparations, the new Republic was in the process of patching up relations with the US, whom was still sore about its helping the South secede. Things came to a head when the French Ambassador was overheard at a gala saying that French President Mac-Mahon “regretted his country’s interferance” and “cared little for their inherited ally”. Whether it was frustration at the events that had occurred or how the French leader and his advisors truly felt, the damage was done. Richmond summoned the French ambassador to the CS for an explanation, but Paris recalled him after the inquiries. A few weeks later, the Kaiser’s family was formally invited for a state visit.”

“A 15 year old future Kaiser round the time of his visit to Richmond”


Lefaucheux M1858 pinfire revolver

Manufactured in France in the late 1850′s or early 1860′s and imported by the Confederates States during the American Civil War, serial number 247404.
12mm pinfire, double action, six-rounds cylinder loaded through a loading gate, manual extractor rod.

The M1858 was simply Eugène Lefaucheux’s 1854 revolver design, with few modifications like the grip for its French Navy service. The gun would go on to be an iconic design in Western Europe and be copied by various French and Belgian gunsmiths well into the 1870′s. The power of its 12mm cartridge is roughly equivalent to that of a .25ACP round today, cause black powder and all that.
Note the ledge protecting the back of the cylinder to prevent accidental discharges from hitting the cartridges’ exposed pins.


pileus–close-fitting, brimless hat worn by Roman free men.

Why isn’t the statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol building in Washington wearing a pileus?

In Roman times the pileus was worn only by free men to distinguish poor commoners from slaves.  When a slave was freed he was entitled to wear the distinctive brimless felt cap.  Centuries later during the classical revival of the 1700s and 1800s the pileus was confused with the Phrygian cap which differs from it in having a more conical shape with a pointed crown that curls forward.

The nation of France is represented as a woman called Marianne wearing a red “Liberty Cap” in the Phrygian style.  The red Phrygian cap, confused with the pileus, was adopted as a symbol of liberty after the French Revolution.  Statues and pictures of the personification of Liberty generally wore the Phrygian Cap thereafter.

The statue of Liberty on the Capitol building was originally designed to be wearing a pileus, but the then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, later President of the Confederacy, objected to it as a symbol of abolition.  He insisted that it was inappropriate to a nation that was born free and would never be enslaved.  A crest of feathers was substituted.  At first the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor was supposed to have a pileus, but the objection at that time was that the statue should be appropriate to America and not too much look like the French Marianne.

Word origin:  The Latin word pileus is from the Greek πῖλος, pilos. which referred to the same style of cap.  In ancient sculpture and painting, the Phrygian cap is an indication that the figure is either specifically from Phrygia or in general from somewhere in Asia or the east.  


The Liberty Cap in the Art of the U.S. Capitol

Kissed by Fortune: Freedmen in Ancient Rome

Tricoteuse—women who knitted Liberty Caps beside the guillotine

French National Symbols: Marianne

Confederate First National “Stars and Bars” flag, CSS Alabama.

This flag would’ve flown from the stern of the Alabama while at sea. There were several variations on the First National Flag, from 7- to 18-star versions. This flag bears 14 stars, one for each of the 11 states in the Confederacy, plus Maryland, Missouri and Kentucky.

I saw this at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA.

Historic Southern United States. The Confederate States have historically been regarded as forming “the South”. States shown in light red are considered “border states”, and gave varying degrees of support to the Southern cause although they remained in the Union. (This image depicts the original, trans-Allegheny borders of Virginia, and so does not show West Virginia separately. See the images above for post-1863 Virginia and West Virginia borders.) Although Oklahoma was aligned with the Confederacy, it was not an official state because at the time the region was Indian Territory, not a state. Drawn by Nicholas F Source en:wikipedia