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My Old Confederate Home

My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans

Rusty Williams
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 352
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    My Old Confederate Home
    Book Description:

    In the wake of America's Civil War, hundreds of thousands of men who fought for the Confederacy trudged back to their homes in the Southland. Some -- due to lingering effects from war wounds, other disabilities, or the horrors of combat -- were unable to care for themselves. Homeless, disabled, and destitute veterans began appearing on the sidewalks of southern cities and towns. In 1902 Kentucky's Confederate veterans organized and built the Kentucky Confederate Home, a luxurious refuge in Pewee Valley for their unfortunate comrades. Until it closed in 1934, the Home was a respectable -- if not always idyllic -- place where disabled and impoverished veterans could spend their last days in comfort and free from want.

    InMy Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans, Rusty Williams frames the lively history of the Kentucky Confederate Home with the stories of those who built, supported, and managed it: a daring cavalryman-turned-bank-robber, a senile ship captain, a prosperous former madam, and a small-town clergyman whose concern for the veterans cost him his pastorate. Each chapter is peppered with the poignant stories of men who spent their final years as voluntary wards of an institution that required residents to live in a manner which reinforced the mythology of a noble Johnny Reb and a tragic Lost Cause. Based on thorough research utilizing a range of valuable resources, including the Kentucky Confederate Home's operational documents, contemporary accounts, unpublished letters, and family stories,My Old Confederate Homereveals the final, untold chapter of Kentucky's Civil War history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7379-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In the 1940s, as the United States entered World War II, our nation recruited or drafted sixteen million citizen soldiers. We trained them, armed them, and sent many of them into combat. At war’s end we discharged them, provided transportation back to their homes and farms, and gave them a booklet explaining their rights as veterans.

    “By your service in this war you have done your share to safeguard liberty for yourself, your family and the nation,” it said. “The nation salutes you.”

    The booklet listed privileges the veterans would enjoy for having spent years in service to their country....

  5. Chapter 1 The Cripple and the Banker
    (pp. 7-20)

    Attorneys, banking officers, city officials, presidents of manufacturing firms, and other members of Louisville’s business elite crowded the downstairs rooms of Billy Beasley’s tiny rented home for his funeral on a late winter morning in 1898.

    A hundred mourners, shoulder touching shoulder, listened in respectful silence as the Reverend Charles R. Hemphill, pastor of the city’s prestigious Second Presbyterian Church, spoke a brief memorial tribute to Beasley.

    The day was unseasonably warm. Every window of the small house at 227 East Madison Street was open, but the humidity from earlier rain showers and the close quarters caused the men in...

  6. Chapter 2 The Private and the Clubwoman
    (pp. 21-36)

    The afternoon air smelled of blooming dogwood, fresh-cut flowers, and raw pine lumber on Saturday, June 10, 1893. Fourteen men and women sat in folding chairs on a wooden speakers’ platform erected the day before on a hillside in the Confederate section of Lexington Cemetery.

    A thick carpet of greenery and cut flowers encircled the platform. Some of the flowers were formal arrangements; most were snipped from gardens that morning, gathered into proud bouquets and laid against the others. Blue, white, and red ribbons fluttered from the arrangements. Outside the colorful perimeter a patient crowd of some two thousand people...

  7. Chapter 3 The Boat Captain and the Bank Robber
    (pp. 37-52)

    Captain Daniel G. Parr had been a hearty man in his earlier days, but at seventy-six years of age, his arms and legs were as thin as dowel rods. Barely balanced on a scrawny neck, old Dan Parr’s head started as a broad, bald dome, then tapered to a pointed chin with wispy white chin whiskers. Between brow and beard were a pair of dark, piercing eyes with just a touch of confusion about them and, below, an expressionless slice of a mouth with thin and bloodless lips. His was a triangular face, gaunt, and beginning to show the skull...

  8. Chapter 4 The Auditor and the Stockman
    (pp. 53-72)

    On September 24, 1902, General Fayette Hewitt sat at the oak desk in his office at State National Bank of Frankfort, reviewing the morning’s correspondence. Sunlight pouring through the large windows fronting Main Street illuminated the neat stacks of paper and bundles of envelopes on his desk.

    Hewitt disposed of the usual banking business first—loan applications, title reports, a daily balance sheet. He was nothing if not good at processing paper and money. He scanned the balance sheet, noting yesterday’s cash receipts; he initialed the loan applications and checked the title reports for the proper seals and endorsements. He...

  9. Chapter 5 The Governor and the Prisoner
    (pp. 73-89)

    Aboard a special train approaching the Pewee Valley depot, thirty-three-year-old Governor John C. W. Beckham was as nervous as only a politician facing uncertain reelection could be. His formal campaign wouldn’t begin until spring, but on this trip rode a hope that he would be more than an accidental governor.

    Normally self-assured for a man his age, today he was nervous. He needed the respect and support of the Confederate veterans waiting for him in Pewee Valley.

    Waiting with the rest of the welcoming party on the platform of the Pewee Valley Depot, seventy-eight-year-old Lorenzo D. Holloway had time to...

  10. Chapter 6 The Druggist and the Sheriff
    (pp. 90-107)

    Three inmates approached the door of the superintendent’s office on the ground floor of the Kentucky Confederate Home and knocked politely. The man who answered was dressed in work pants and an old shirt, his spectacles coated with the same dust that seemed to cover every horizontal surface in the Home, a result of ongoing carpentry, scraping, sanding, and minor renovation projects.

    The inmates handed the superintendent a formal resolution, the wording of which had been debated the evening before, then written on a crisp sheet of Home letterhead stationery. A second sheet, this one with the signatures of eighty-four...

  11. Chapter 7 The General’s Sister and the Stockman’s Wife
    (pp. 108-122)

    A breakfast reception preceded the formal opening of the seventh annual convention of Kentucky’s United Daughters of the Confederacy chapters in Owensboro on October 14, 1903. At tables decorated with roses, chrysanthemums, tiny Rebel flags, and hand-painted place cards, the 50 delegates representing 3,500 members of the state’s UDC chapters exchanged social pleasantries over plates of sweet breads and toasted mushrooms. This was an event for mannerly conversation, but from time to time one woman might catch another’s eye and share a brief glance and a nod to signal their support of The Motion.

    The formal meeting opened at 2:00...

  12. Chapter 8 The Knight and the Icemaker
    (pp. 123-140)

    Andrew Jackson Lovely and Otway Bradfute Norvell shared Room 52 on the third floor of the Kentucky Confederate Home. Approximately fifteen feet wide by twenty feet long, their room had a washstand and chest of drawers built into one corner of the room and a small closet in another. On warm days, the room was sunny and well ventilated. The east-facing window at one end of the room overlooked the laundry building at the rear of the Home; on the opposite wall, a door and transom opened to the hallway.

    Furnishings in the small room were necessarily spare. Muslin curtains...

  13. Chapter 9 The Railroad Man and the Barber
    (pp. 141-156)

    William S. Gray deserved his Saturday night toots. He had worked day labor for the railroad most of his life, Monday morning to Saturday afternoon. For Gray, Saturday night was the workingman’s night for a little carousing, a little drinking, and a little howling at the moon. It made no matter to him that he lived under the rules of the Kentucky Confederate Home.

    On Sunday morning, October 9, 1904, Gray staggered downstairs to the dining hall for breakfast, still drunk from the night before. He was loud and boisterous, and the other diners tried to ignore him. When George...

  14. Chapter 10 The Socialite and the Editor
    (pp. 157-173)

    According to the story told later, Confederate veteran Charles W. Russell contacted Bennett Young sometime during the summer of 1905 about a New York socialite who was visiting Louisville. The visitor was Mrs. L. Z. Duke, a wealthy widow and native Kentuckian, who desired to pay a call on the Kentucky Confederate Home. Russell was careful to explain that she was not directly related to General Basil and Henrietta Morgan Duke of Kentucky; it was rumored that her late husband was one of the Carolina tobacco Dukes. The New York woman had money, and it was thought she might be...

  15. Chapter 11 The Fiddlers and the Indian Agent
    (pp. 174-191)

    The audience knew to wait for the handshake.

    Colonel J. A. Patee and his Old Soldier Fiddlers were performing their feature act on the stage of L. Z. Duke Hall. This was the full thirty-five-minute act, the one that topped the bill on vaudeville stages in Trenton, Little Rock, and Billings, not the ten-minute opener for the larger legitimate houses in Chicago, Philadelphia, or New Orleans.

    At Florence Barlow’s suggestion, Virginia Parr Sale and her husband had arranged with John Patee to bring his act to Pewee Valley in February 1911 for a special morning show during his weeklong booking...

  16. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  17. Chapter 12 The Farmer and the Daughter
    (pp. 192-210)

    At the February 1919 meeting of the board of trustees, for the first time in the history of the Kentucky Confederate Home, three women representing the United Daughters of the Confederacy—Mrs. John L. Woodbury of Louisville, Mrs. Russell Mann of Paris, and Mrs. George R. Mastin of Lexington—sat with Home trustees at the boardroom table. If some trustees expected the officers of their new Ladies Advisory Committee to make trivial recommendations that could be easily sloughed off, Charlotte Osborne Woodbury would set them straight with her first report.

    Midway through the meeting, Mrs. Woodbury was asked to speak....

  18. Chapter 13 The Trainer and the Undertaker
    (pp. 211-226)

    Inmate George C. Wells of Scott County was no outdoorsman, but he had cleared enough land, fired enough forges, and boiled enough coffee over enough open campfires in his eighty-five years to recognize wood smoke when he smelled it.

    It was supper time at the Kentucky Confederate Home on Thursday evening, March 25, 1920, and George Wells was clomping his way toward the dining hall about as fast as an old man with one leg could ambulate. Midway along the second-floor verandah, however, Wells stopped, sniffed the air, and tried to figure out where that smoke was coming from.


  19. Chapter 14 The Reverend and the Rector
    (pp. 227-243)

    On a day several months before the fire at the Kentucky Confederate Home, the Reverend Dr. Alexander N. White entered the room in which the charges against him were to be read and discussed. Having spent twenty years in his wheelchair, the inmate could maneuver expertly, and he rolled to the edge of the carpet in front of the table where members of the executive committee and his accuser, Commandant Daughtry, sat.

    Daughtry handed a copy of the charges against the inmate to board president William A. Milton, who read them to the gathering. The commandant’s rage was palpable in...

  20. Chapter 15 The Engineer and the Little Girl
    (pp. 244-260)

    For children growing up in Pewee Valley in the mid-1920s, the Kentucky Confederate Home grounds was a huge neighborhood playground: eight acres in the center of the village, sloping lawns crisscrossed with broad walkways, neat landscaping, tall trees, and well-tended buildings. During the warming days of spring, the grounds made a fine place for boys and girls to ride a bicycle, fly a kite, or just run for the sheer joy of running. On summer evenings, especially, there were always other children ready to put together a quick game of Red Rover or Swing the Statue before mothers began calling...

  21. Epilogue
    (pp. 261-268)

    Three of the five ex-Confederates who moved to the Pewee Valley Sanitarium in July 1934 passed away before the end of the year: Charles K. Morris, George Crystal, and William Sutherland died of causes not unusual for men of their advanced age. Though bedridden, William R. Hardin thrived for another two years until an April morning in 1936 when the nurse was unable to waken him.¹ The Reverend Dr. Alexander. N. White, still wheelchair bound and losing his sight, was occasionally reprimanded by the management of the sanitarium for the enthusiasm with which he shared the Gospel message with other...

  22. Notes
    (pp. 269-296)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-306)
  24. Index
    (pp. 307-314)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)