Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861
Christie’s is auctioning Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861. The “Silk Stocking Regiment” was one of the first to arrive in the nation’s capitol after the firing on Fort Sumter. The painting has been in the collection of the New York Union League Club since 1871, when it was acquired from the artist. The work is fascinating on many levels: as a historical artifact; a visual representation of the early months of the Rebellion, when it still seemed possible that it would be over quickly (First Bull Run was still two months in the future; note the relaxed poses of the individuals in the scene.); and oh yes, as a work of art. We focus so much on the photographers of the Civil War–Brady, Gardner, et al–that we sometimes forget that it was the painters and sketch artists who gave us much of the war’s visual representation. One can see the unfinished U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument off in the distance.
This work by the Hudson River School artist has been exhibited generously many times over the decades. Sunday Morning was also on loan to the White House from the Ford through Reagan Administrations as well. The auction of this and other American art will be on December 5th. The previous auction for a Gifford is $2.1 million. This work is expected to sell somewhere in the range of $3-$5 million. Someone is going to have a nice Christmas.
William M. Evarts, 1818-1901
Earlier in the week an obituary for a William M. Evarts Jr. caught my eye. For those who may not know–and it is entirely understandable why one would not–the “original” William M. Evarts was an attorney and political figure from the nineteenth century. Among other things, he was part of Andrew Johnson’s defense team during the president’s impeachment trial. Evarts also represented the United States in its lawsuit against Great Britain when the U.S. was seeking damages over the Alabama incident during the Civil War. Theodore Roosevelt’s uncle, James Bulloch, had been one of the Confederate agents conspiring with the British. Later, Evarts represented Rutherford B. Hayes during the electoral dispute that followed the 1876 presidential race. Hayes would later appoint him Secretary of State. So, you could imagine my surprise when I was that a William M. Evarts Jr. died this week.
A cursory search revealed that this was not the statesman’s son. Evarts died in 1901; Evarts Jr. was born in the 1920s. My curiosity piqued, I went to Ancestry to see what I might find. I do not know how the “Junior” thing works. Maybe you are not a junior if you share your father’s first, but not middle, name? It turns out the man who passed on this week was the great-grandson of the statesman mentioned above. There was the original William Evarts, whose son was Prescott. Next, in the 1880s, came the second William Evarts, who evevtually begat William Maxwell Evarts, Junior.
It seems Evarts led a full and productive life of fun and service. Here he is in the Harvard yearbook, standing next to a Julian K. Roosevelt no less.
William M. Evarts Jr. and Julian K. Roosevelt: Harvard crew team, 1948 Varsity 150 pounds
Evarts played hockey as well.
Harvard hockey team, 1946-1947
Evarts Jr. was married to his wife for sixty-five years.
Jefferson Davis’s Beauvoir
It is hard to believe it is now 2 1/2 years ago, but at the start of the sesquicentennial there was a great piece in the USA Today about the descendants of various Civil War protagonists. If memory serves, they spoke to the relatives of Frederick Douglass, Jeb Stuart, and a few others asking them about their ancestors and what the Civil War means to them today. Last week Ulysses Grant Dietz and Bertram Hayes-Davis met at a professional gathering in Mississippi. Yes, as you may have figured, these are the great, great grandsons of U.S. Grant and Jeff Davis. Dietz is a curator at the Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey, one of the great cultural institutions in the Northeast. Hayes-Davis is the executive director of Beauvoir, the Confederate president’s estate near Biloxi. Apparently the two men are talking loosely of collaborating to whatever degree in the future, which would make sense given their shared histories and professions.
Update: Some of you may remember this excerpt from a post I wrote back in July. Well, the wheels of justice sometimes grind slowly but it is good to know that they are still grinding. Today I received news that my request to do research at the site mentioned below has indeed been approved. I am really happy that this is now going to move forward. I wish I could be more forthcoming at the moment but the time being I think it’s for the best that I not discuss the institution itself, as it is a private organization. The final product will hopefully be a book about New York City’s role in the Civil War. I had all but given up on this particular project.
Yesterday I had an appointment at a cultural institution in one of the five boroughs of the city. This is an organization that goes back to the nineteenth century and maintains a strong sense of institutional memory. The purpose of my visit was to seek permission to research said institution’s archives this fall. It is hard to believe Labor Day is just five weeks away. My host was very gracious and knowledgeable, and showed me not only items that may be of interest on my subject but also gave me a quick look at some of the artwork and Americana on display. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. Officials will not be making any decisions until they meet in mid-August. It would be a privilege to research at this organization, and I am really hoping it goes through.
The grave of Quentin Roosevelt, France. Lieutenant Roosevelt later received the Croix de Guerre.
As many undoubtedly know, Veterans Day began as Armistice Day. It was on this date in 1918 that the carnage at last came to an end during the Great War. Nearly ten million people were killed in the conflict, and the Roosevelt household was not immune to the suffering. Theodore and Edith’s youngest child, Quentin, was among those who lost their lives. The young lieutenant’s fighter plane went down on Bastille Day 1918 during the Second Battle of the Marne. He was twenty.
Theodore Roosevelt was always proud of his son, but in many ways he never recovered from his son’s death. Already weak from numerous ailments, the former president died just six months later. He too died young, a mere sixty. The history books do not put it quite this way, but in a very real sense he died of a broken heart.
West Virginia . . . waiting for AAA
We were halfway to Antietam yesterday, driving through West Virginia on what was a gorgeous fall day, when alas our friend’s car broke down in the middle of nowhere. The idea was to have breakfast in Shepherdstown, see the remnants of the last battle of the Maryland Campaign there by the Potomac, and then make our way to Sharpburg. Fate had other ideas, however. The most important thing is that we all made it home safely.
I promise more posts here this week.
From the “War that never ends” department, a curious story is emerging in Florida in which people are getting angry about a proposed Federal monument to be placed at the Battle of Olustee state park. It seems there are three Confederate, but no Union, memorials at the site. I have never understood these imbroglios. Here is a small piece, complete with video, explaining more. Olustee is actually one of the places I will be visiting as I retrace the steps of Joseph Roswell Hawley in the writing of my biography of him. I really want to see what comes of this story.